Category Archives: Articles Written by Authors

Learn American Sign Language

Written by Nancy

Why learn American Sign Language? Did you know that ASL is one of the most popular languages studied at colleges in the United States. Each country has its own form of sign language. That is why it is called American Sign Language in the United Sates. Even though it is called American Sign Language, I did not know that sign language is different in other countries.

If you are interested in learning American Sign Language, click here for the recommended books.

Nancy Drew Books

Article written by Nancy Eaton

Why did you read a Nancy Drew book when you were a young child? Maybe because it was the thing to do back then or maybe it was because you loved a good mystery!

I know when I was about 7, my interest really grew in the Nancy Drew mysteries. I could not wait for the next book to be released. I knew it was going to be an interesting story, with characters that I liked and best of all a mystery that I wanted to help solve.

A person as young as 7 could start reading the Nancy Drew books. The first 56 Nancy Drew books are considered to be the Nancy Drew classic books.

Nancy Drew books are very popular all over the world and have been translated into many different languages.

Click here to see my list of Nancy Drew books.

Best Classic Books for Teens

Written by Nancy Eaton

What is the definition of a classic book? A classic book is one that has stood the test of time. A classic book so one that people will talk about when the get together. A classic book is one where the characters come across to the reader as genuine. A classic book is one where the characters are in situations or live in circumstances that are believable. A classic book is one that people do not read only once but go back and read it again.

I’m sure many of us can remember when we were a teen and a teacher would recommend a book for us to read. Most likely, that book was a classic at the time or it turned out to be a classic in years to come. Many of us might have had a recommendation from our parents about a classic book that they have read. This recommendation could go on from generation to generation because classic books never fade away. If anything, they become more popular over the years. One example I can think of is To Kill a Mocking Bird. I know this title was mentioned when I was a teen and it is still very popular today.

Listed below is my recommended list of top 10 classic books for teens:

    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The setting for this book is in Alabama. A lawyer defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. How can he possibly get a fair trial?

    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A coming of age story about four sisters. The story follows them through adulthood.

    Pride and Prejudice by Anne Austen

Elizabeth Bennett is very independent and one of five sisters. She has to marry someone rich and this results in an interesting courtship.

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Read about the adventures of a young boy who travels down the river with a runaway slave.

    Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Two young people fall in love and end up dying because of their love.

    Tale of Two Cities by James Butler

This novel is set in London and Paris during and after the French Revolution.

    The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

A young girl flees her home and goes into hiding during Nazi occupation.

    Lord of the Flies by William Golding

A group of schoolboys are stranded on a deserted island after a plane wreck.

    Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

A young boy is an orphan and struggles with poverty.

    The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

This is the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his continuing battle with a giant marlin.

For more information on these books or to order any of them, click here.

Just by looking at these titles, I have rekindled by own interest in these classics. I am going to go back and read these classic books once again.

American Craftsmen: A Fantasy Techno-Thriller by Tom Doyle

American Craftsmen

American Craftsmen Blog TourAmerican Craftsmen
My debut novel from Tor, American Craftsmen, has been described as a fantasy techno-thriller. Ignoring the escapist elements of both genres, this sounds like a contradiction in terms. Fantasy is associated with magic, supernatural creatures, and a consciousness of the limitations of science and modernity. The techno-thriller is associated with gritty, concrete details of the latest gadgetry, weaponry, and military/intelligence practices; it’s excited by the newest tech and has little room for old-school magic. How did I go about combining these disparate story forms?

First, a quick summary: the craftsmen of American Craftsmen are magician soldiers and psychic spies. Two rival craft soldiers, Captain Dale Morton and Major Michael Endicott, must fight together against a treasonous cabal in the Pentagon’s highest covert ranks. They are armed with both spells and bullets.

Part of how I keep the fantasy elements in line with a “realistic” techno-thriller tone for my novel is by excluding any nonhuman magical entities. I’m as big a fan of a good vampire, werewolf, elf, or troll tale as the next fantasy reader, but some techno-thriller fans will tune out of a story that includes these preternaturally beautiful or grotesque creatures.

Another way that I keep the story tone appropriate for a techno-thriller is how I handle the magic itself. First, rather than contradicting what we know of the world, my magic system largely fits beneath the facts of science and history. Dale describes his spells as skewing the probabilities of events rather than running directly contrary to natural law. Certain uncanny incidents in American history, such as how George Washington’s army was saved at Brooklyn Heights, are almost as well-explained by magic as anything else.

Second, the magic in American Craftsmen has limitations similar to other armaments. It has logistical issues: craftspeople find it easier to recharge their power on home ground. Magic is also like a normal physical ability. A soldier’s craft improves with practice, much the same as her mundane shooting skill. A well-rested and healthy craftsperson will have more power than one who hasn’t slept or is wounded. Craftspeople in all-out combat will exhaust themselves within an hour at most.

Finally, the magic is largely separated from religious and occult belief and practice. Craftspeople come from the full spectrum of belief or non-belief. In terms of language, simple words in the native tongue of the practitioner seem to work best, so long as the mind is properly focused. The only ritual element that sometimes appears is blood, and that only for the direst spells.

On the techno-thriller side, I’ve changed some of the aesthetics and uses of the gadgetry to suit a more fantastic story. The tech that’s hybridized with magical power owes as much to alchemy as conventional science, with brass-colored metal alloys instead of stainless steel. The guns often have “Stonewall” chips that prevent a craft-confused soldier from firing at his own side. But overall, I’ve made most of my adjustments to the fantasy side of the story.

I hope that you’ll find few seams between these combined story elements of magic and technology. Arthur C. Clarke wrote that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” What my characters think, and sometimes worry about, is that any sufficiently advanced magic is also indistinguishable from technology. Indeed, the mundane soldiers on craft missions are told that the bizarre things they may witness are simply secret advanced tech, and no matter how scientifically improbable that may be, those soldiers usually believe it.

By the end of my novel, both characters and readers may wonder what will happen in the future as the powers of technology increase. Should my characters continue to restrain themselves from the exercise of abilities, particularly life extension, that may be available to everyone within a generation? This question will continue to haunt my second book, The Left-Hand Way.

Thanks to Bestsellersworld.com for inviting me here. If you like to find out more about American Craftsmen and my other stories, please go to Tom Doyle’s Website.

    About Tom Doyle:

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has hailed TOM DOYLE’s writing as “beautiful & brilliant.” Locus Magazine has called his stories “fascinating,” “transgressive,” “witty,” “moving,” and “intelligent and creepy.” A graduate of the Clarion Writing Workshop, Doyle has won the WSFA Small Press Award and third prize in the Writers of the Future contest.

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Keeping Reality Out of the Way by William Petrocelli


The Circle of ThirteenWhen I decided to set The Circle of Thirteen a few decades into the future, I didn’t count on the time-lag. During a time-lag, of course, you have events – lots of them. And with events you get reality. How dare the real world intrude on my fiction!

I pondered, plotted, wrote, and revised The Circle of Thirteen over a period of about five years. The basic rules of character, tension, and pace are the same for any fictional thriller, but future-fiction presents some unique issues. One of the most intriguing is the problem of creating a world that is familiar enough to seem real but unfamiliar enough to create the feeling that it is happening sometime in the future. The reader needs to be in a not-quite-comfortable place. This was a chance for my imagination to run – if not wild, at least at a controlled trot into the future.

Writers can have great fun predicting future technical innovations. My characters meet in hologramic conferences, project social-media messages on public walls, and have house-bots puttering around their homes. Will these changes occur? Probably, but fortunately for the future-fiction mood I was trying to create, none of them has happened yet.

But I wasn’t as lucky with some of the social and environmental changes that I projected for future years. Here, the time-lag nearly got me. Reality began catching up with fiction, and some of what I had described as happening in future decades threatened to look like recent history.

In one of the early scenes Jesse, the undisputed bad-guy of the story, is seated in the corner of a New York subway car, confronting a couple of young people whom he finds particularly distasteful. Suddenly the subway stops, the power goes out, and the water is rising outside the car from a hurricane that has hit New York. When I wrote that scene in 2008, it sounded like New York’s distant, dsytopic future. But by 2012 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it began to seem like yesterday’s news.

That wasn’t the only scene where I had to go back to the drawing board. In the book, the leadership of the Women for Peace movement – the “Thirteen” of the title – develop a strategy of “confrontational democracy” in which they surround the buildings of the bloated oligarchs who are running society in order to get them to listen to the popular protest. I wrote about that tactic in 2009, and in the book it occurs in 2032. But, of course, a similar tactic evolved in an intervening year – 2011 – when the Occupy Movement came on the scene.

The protest movements in The Circle of Thirteen focus on what is likely to be one of the most devastating results of the climate crisis: food shortages. That aspect of the environmental crisis hasn’t received much attention in the press – until now. This morning’s headline in the N.Y. Times read “Climate Change Seen Posing Risk to Food Supplies.

More about William Petrocelli and The Circle of Thirteen

How far do the ripples of violence go? The Circle of Thirteen begins with a mindless act of family violence in 2008 and spans seven decades, finally culminating in the desperate effort by Julia Moro, the U.N. Security Director, to stop a major act of terror. In this rich, textured thriller, Bill Petrocelli weaves the story around themes of poverty, political corruption, environmental disaster, and the backlash against the rising role of women.

In 2082, as a catastrophic explosion threatens to destroy the new United Nations building in New York, Julia Moro finds herself on the trail of the shadowy leader of Patria, a terrorist organization linked to bombing attempts and vicious attacks on women. One of those groups of women – the Women for Peace — was headed by thirteen bold women who risked their lives to achieve world peace and justice.

Weaving back and forth in time, this gripping narrative illuminates the unbreakable bond between strong women, providing an emotionally grounded window into the future’s unforgettable history. This is a thrilling ride that will mesmerize until the end.

William PetrocelliWilliam Petrocelli is co-owner, with his wife Elaine, of the Book Passage bookstores in Northern California. His books include Low Profile: How to Avoid the Privacy Invaders and Sexual Harassment on the Job: What it is and How to Stop It. He’s a former Deputy Attorney General, a former poverty lawyer in Oakland, and a long-time advocate for women’s rights. The Circle of Thirteen is his first novel.

More information about The Circle of Thirteen can be found on WilliamPetrocelli.com, including tidbits about the inspiration behind the novel and Bill’s event schedule. He can also be found on Twitter @billpetrocelli.

Rewards and Challenges of Writing a Series Character by
Leonard Goldberg

The rewards of having an ongoing series character are obvious. To begin with, the writer is intimately familiar with the protagonist and knows in detail his/her physical features, strengths, flaws, likes, dislikes, personality and emotional makeup. These are given qualities that are unlikely to change, and in fact neither the reader nor writer want them to change. Why try to create a new leading character when you already have one that captivates the reader over and over from novel to novel? Put another way, when the writer has a fully developed protagonist that sells tons of books, the easiest and most profitable path is to stick with his character and concentrate on the plot. And the lead characters can be incredibly heroic (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) or evil (Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter), as long as they fascinate the reader and give the reader an almost insatiable desire to devour books featuring the recurrent protagonist. So the rewards of having a series character are: 1) There is no need to create and develop a new leading character. The writer already has one that he knows extremely well. All that’s needed is to have the plot revolve around the character and present him/her with new problems, obstacles, and victims; 2) The writer has a built-in audience. Readers are obviously enthralled by the protagonist since he/she appears in book after book which the publisher would only print if they had continued to sell well; and 3) It’s profitable. Books with recurrent leading characters are almost always big sellers, so the royalty checks are quite substantial.

So what, if any, are the challenges of having a series character? Believe it or not, there are disadvantages. First, the writer can become glued to the recurrent protagonist. The publisher will demand that your novels have the same lead character because he or she sells books. If you have new ideas for a lead character, you have to put them on hold, unless you already have a huge audience (Michael Connelly in the Harry Bosch series) and somehow come up with another fascinating protagonist (Michael Connelly in the Mickey Haller series). Another challenge of having a series character is that your audience may grow tired of the same protagonist. Maybe the writer begins to tell the same story over and over, and the lead character responds in all-too-familiar fashion. I know of several authors whose recurrent protagonist seemed to die out after three or four novels, primarily because of the sameness in their later books. And finally, there would be an almost unthinkable third challenge of having a series character. The author may actually tire of the protagonist. Enough!, the writer yells to himself, now wearied and bored with the character and series despite phenomenal book sales. Would you like an example of this? Try Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, the greatest and most popular fictional detective of all time. Doyle became famous, wealthy, and was knighted because of his Sherlock Holmes creation. But he also grew weary of Sherlock Holmes and decided to kill him off in The Final Problem. The public outcry was so immense that Doyle had to bring Holmes back to life in The Adventures of the Empty House. There is surely not a writer alive who does not envy Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Sherlock Holmes was so beloved by the public that they forced him to revive Sherlock from his watery grave.

So the reader can see from my brief article that there are rewards and challenges in having a series character. All things considered, I’m certain virtually every writer would tell you that the rewards far outweigh the challenges.

Plague ShipLeonard Goldberg is a USA Today bestselling novelist whose medical thriller Plague Ship  was published on October 8th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Books I’ve Read This Season by Andrea Thalasinos

In this special post for BestsellersWorld, Andrea Thalasinos, author of Traveling Light and An Echo Through the Snow, shares her favorite books of the season.

Favorite books I’ve read this season:

The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye, (ArcaMax Publishing, 2012). All the right elements for me: Northshore of Lake Superior, historical struggle of people against the elements–a gritty tale of friendship, love, survival. Geye’s been referred to as the Hemmingway of the Northland and I think that may be true. The characters are so strongly developed in conjunction with the harsh landscape in Gunflint, Minnesota during the 1890s it made me ache to learn of the struggle of some of the Norwegian and other immigrant peoples. A masterful tale for all who love the history of the north.

Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks, (HarperCollins, 2011). Leave it to one of my favorite authors to knock me off balance yet again. Continental Drift blew me away, Rule of the Bone too, but who would have thought that a richly drawn portrayal of a colony of convicted sex offenders living under the overpass of an interstate highway in Florida would engender such humanity and gut-wrenching compassion that’s so characteristic of Banks’ writing. As in so many of his characters, they are debased into circumstances where life has brought them to their knees, only to soon discover that labels and (in this story) even a conviction are never what they seem.

The Snow Child by Eowy Ivey, (Hachette Book Group, 2012). A beautifully new take on the classic Russian Fairy Tale: The Snow Child. I got lost in the beauty of the snowy north country of this magical place, Alaska 1920, where a couple yearning for children of their own suddenly have a girl mysteriously appear one day outside their window. The couple is drawn to love and care for this child who eventually ushers in joy on the wings of sorrow.

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, (March 26, 2013, Random House). Strout is one of my favorite authors. “Amy and Isabelle,” and the iconic “Olive Kitteridge. And

While I found this at times a moving story of family dysfunction, several more times I found myself wanting to give each family member a good, hard smack to make them cut it out or else go to their respective rooms. A good, fast read, but miss the depth of “Amy and Isabelle” (my all time favorite of Strouts) and the snappy, cutting truth of Olive Ketteridge (which gave me hope for the middle age cry of “I ain’t dead yet.”)

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, (2012, HarperCollins). This book had me from the start. The main character, a too young mom married to the wrong guy, wrong circumstance, fixing to get into a whole lot of marital trouble, I loved it. The butterflies, the description of the forests and this rare event was amazing. But my interest waned once the preachy environmentalism began. I have to be careful of this in my own work. But overall, was beautifully written and compelling as all her work is. Would recommend it in a second—her characters made me laugh out loud.

travelinglightBelow please find some details about Traveling Light:

Paula Makaikis is ashamed of her marriage. Driven out of their bedroom by Roger’s compulsive hoarding, she has spent the past ten years sleeping downstairs on her husband’s ratty couch. Distant and uninspired, Paula is more concerned with the robins landing on her office window ledge than her hard-earned position at the university. Until a phone call changes everything.

A homeless Greek man is dying in a Queens hospital and Paula is asked to come translate. The old man tells her of his beloved dog, Fotis, who bit a police officer when they were separated. Paula has never considered adopting a dog, but she promises the man that she will rescue Fotis and find him a good home. But when Fotis enters her life she finds a companion she can’t live without. Suddenly Paula has a dog, a brand-new Ford Escape, an eight-week leave of absence, and a plan.

So Fotis and Paula begin the longest drive of their lives. In northern Minnesota, something compels her to answer a help-wanted ad for a wildlife rehabilitation center. Soon Paula is holding an eagle in her hands, and the experience leaves her changed forever.

Traveling Light explores what is possible when we cut the ties that hold us down and the heart is free to soar.

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A Story I Didn’t Tell by Maryka Biaggio

Parlor GamesConsidered a scandalous woman of the Gilded Age, May Dugas had many adventures—and run-ins with the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency. I couldn’t possibly fit all of her escapades into my novel, Parlor Games, but I do have a particular favorite among the untold stories. Here May puts her unique skills to good use and keeps a mother and her children together.

When a good friend of May, a Mrs. Hanna, decided to take her three children abroad for an educational tour, her ex-husband secured two court orders forbidding this travel. Defying his wishes, Mrs. Hanna stole away from Cleveland with the children. Mr. Hanna uncovered her plot to spirit the children to New York City and sail from there. He hired the Pinkertons to help him intercept her.

Mrs. Hanna’s pursuers learned she was staying at the Savoy Hotel in New York and surrounded the hotel to prevent her escape. Then they received a tip: Mrs. Hanna had managed to sail earlier that day on the Menominee. Mr. Hanna and his Pinkerton cohorts rushed to the pier and discovered that the passenger list of the departed ship did not include the Hanna clan. But one other ship, the Campania, was scheduled to depart later that day, and when they discovered Mrs. Hanna’s trunks had been loaded onto it, they boarded the ship and undertook a search. Upon reviewing the ship’s list they found that Mrs. Hanna’s name had been recorded but crossed out. They asked the Captain about this. All he would say is that she was no longer on the list and, furthermore, he was far too busy to stop and talk to them about the ship’s passengers. The Hanna family was in fact on board, and the Pinkertons even identified the rooms they were likely hiding in. But the cabins were locked, and they couldn’t force entry into the rooms of a ship sailing under the British flag.

May Dugas, however, was also on board, and when Mr. Hanna discovered her on deck he summoned the detectives, knowing she was a friend of his wife. He and the detectives queried her: “Is Mrs. Hanna on board?”

“If she is, I do not know it,” she replied.

“Did she sail on the Menominee while booking her baggage on the Campania?”

Carefully choosing her words, May said, “If Mrs. Hanna has left America by now, she must have left on the Menominee.”

The interrogators then asked May if she had concocted the scheme to get Mrs. Hanna’s children out of her husband’s reach, to which May responded, “I am not at liberty to say, for Mrs. Hanna is my friend.”

They had no choice but to leave the ship and watch it sail away.

Then they started wondering if or how Mrs. Hanna could have eluded their watch at the Savoy. They returned and interrogated the staff. There were two possibilities: Either they had been smuggled out in laundry baskets or had exited via a backside passage that took them through several shops before opening onto Fifty-ninth Street. But the hotel staff they questioned steadfastly declined to reveal how they had escaped under the watchful eyes of the Pinkertons.

And that is how the adventure ended. Not only had May succeeded in helping Mrs. Hanna and her children gain passage undetected on the Campania, but she had also assisted her friend—who was handicapped by an arm in a sling and had three sons aged seven, eleven, and thirteen in tow—escape from the Savoy Hotel while it was surrounded by Pinkerton detectives. That May: She was a clever one! I hope you’ll get to know her better when you read Parlor Games.

    About Parlor Games

The novel opens in 1917 with our cunning protagonist, May Dugas, standing trial for extortion. As the trial unfolds, May tells her version of events.

In 1887, at the tender age of eighteen, May ventures to Chicago in hopes of earning enough money to support her family. Circumstances force her to take up residence at the city’s most infamous bordello, but May soon learns to employ her considerable feminine wiles to extract not only sidelong looks but also large sums of money from the men she encounters. Insinuating herself into Chicago’s high society, May lands a well-to-do fiancé—until, that is, a Pinkerton Agency detective named Reed Doherty intervenes and summarily foils the engagement.

Unflappable May quickly rebounds, elevating seduction and social climbing to an art form as she travels the world, eventually marrying a wealthy Dutch Baron. Unfortunately, Reed Doherty is never far behind and continues to track May in a delicious cat-and-mouse game as the newly-minted Baroness’s misadventures take her from San Francisco to Shanghai to London and points in between.

The Pinkerton Agency really did dub May the “Most Dangerous Woman,” branding her a crafty blackmailer and ruthless seductress. To many, though, she was the most glamorous woman to grace high society. Was the real May Dugas a cold-hearted swindler or simply a resourceful provider for her poor family?

As the narrative bounces back and forth between the trial taking place in 1917 and May’s devious but undeniably entertaining path to the courtroom—hoodwinking and waltzing her way through the gilded age and into the twentieth century—we’re left to ponder her guilt as we move closer to finding out what fate ultimately has in store for our irresistible adventuress.

    About the Author

Maryka Biaggio is a former psychology professor turned novelist with a passion for history. Twenty-eight years after launching her academic career she took the leap from full-time academic to scrambling writer and now splits her time between fiction writing and higher education consulting work. More information about Maryka and Parlor Games can be found on MarykaBiaggio.com, including a discussion guide, historical information, recommended reading and a fun “Parlor Talk” feature. You can also find out more about Parlor Games on Facebook.

Click Here for a Chance to Win a Copy of Parlor Games

True Places by Brunonia Barry

It is not down in any map, true places never are.

Herman Melville

That quote is from Moby Dick, my all time favorite book. It was also the inspiration for the title of my second novel, The Map of True Places, which is out in paperback. As I embark on the paperback tour, I am talking with readers about the true places their lives, and so today I thought I’d share one of mine.

The maps of our lives have changed so much in recent years. There are the usual life changes: people are born, people die, families break apart, new families are formed. Change happens (to borrow a descriptive quote from Hemingway) gradually then suddenly. A few of our sudden changes have radically shifted our perspective: 911, Columbine, Katrina, the financial meltdown. We’ve recently suffered hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and a nuclear disaster. This last week the world was literally rocked on its axis.

So how do we navigate our lives when our old maps have become obsolete? The answer, I think, lies in finding our own true places: safe havens that are home to us and make us feel like our better selves. Sometimes these places are real. Sometimes they exist only in memory and imagination. Almost always, they are connected to the people we love.

The truest place in my life is a real one, a Victorian summer-house on a lake in New Hampshire. It was built by my great grandfather more than a century ago and has been handed down through the generations. The camp hasn’t changed much in those hundred years, which makes it easier to conjure images of the people who have touched my life there, some who are still with me, many who have long since gone.

Standing in the old fashioned kitchen, I don’t have to look far to summon a memory. Over there is the bucket my grandmother gave us to pick blueberries for the pies and muffins she always made. Here is the megaphone my father used to call us back when we swam too far from shore. There’s the soapstone sink in the kitchen and the hand-pump we primed at the beginning of every summer with water from the lake. I can still hear the creaky slamming of the back door and the laughing of children as they rush in and out.

In the washroom across the hall, the medicine cabinet door won’t close properly. I can see my mother’s compact on the glass shelf, and I can see her too, standing in front of the mirror, her lips pursed as she applies Revlon Fire Engine Red lipstick, blots it with tissue, then puts on another coat.

In my true place, my mother still gets dressed to go dancing. She is not confined to her RA wheelchair. My father doesn’t shake from Parkinson’s. I don’t find him scared and frozen in place in the back hall but rather out on the porch playing with the dogs or pitching horseshoes with the uncles. My grandmother, gone many years now, is still the outspoken matriarch who so frustrated her son-in-law, my father, that one day he locked her in the pan closet in the kitchen and wouldn’t let her out until she promised to be nice to him, which she was from then on.

In my true place, I can bring all of the generations back to life at once. My reverie supposes that time is non-linear, and that all the characters exist in their happiest moments. People who never knew each other gather together for a weekend celebration. A favorite uncle who read stories to me when I was little reads the same stories now to my brother’s grandchildren. My first dog, Skybo, rolls on the front lawn with my sixteen year old golden retriever whose hip dysplasia has miraculously healed. Pine needles hang from their ears, and moss sticks to their muzzles. My grandmother sits on the front porch shelling peas with the great granddaughter she never knew.

My true place is always sunny and warm, except at about 4PM each day when a quick thunderstorm follows the curve of the White Mountains and moves swiftly across our little lake. We giggle and run for cover. The storm disappears as quickly as it has come. There may or may not be a rainbow.

We gather for dinner around the big oak table in the dining room, under the clock that has ticked the minutes away since the day the camp was built. When I was a child, the sound seemed so loud that it sometimes kept me from sleep. These days, its ticking is just as loud, I am told, but I cannot hear it unless I’m in the same room. The sixteen-inch rainbow trout my grandfather’s brother caught when he was a young boy is still mounted above the door, and the piano, always off key from the cold that sets in after Labor Day, still sits un-tuned in the corner by the window.

After dinner is over, my grandfather goes to the piano and plays any tune we can think of, in any key, and my aunt sits on top of the piano belting out God Bless America in her best Kate Smith. After that, we play canasta or go for a late swim. The little children fall asleep on the rug where they have dropped from exhaustion and have to be carried up to bed.

My truest place, though real, has the luxury of fantasy. I am, after all, a fiction writer. Fantasy has always been easier for me than reality. Still, this place, with all of its reflected memories, is more real to me than anything in my everyday world, and I hold it in my heart. If all goes well, the family will gather here again next year, and it will, summer after summer, become a true place for the next generations.

Whether real of imagined, true places are more important than ever in these times of great and sometimes devastating change. I wish for true places, real, imagined, or simply remembered for all those who are suffering today.

I’ve told you about the place I hold dear. What are some of your true places?

As originally published on “The Lipstick Chronicles”

© 2011 Brunonia Barry, author of The Map of True Places

    Author Bio

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Brunonia Barry, lives in Salem with her husband and their beloved golden retriever, Byzantium. Barry is the first American Writer to win the Woman’s International Fiction Festival’s 2009 Baccante Award (for The Lace Reader). Her second novel, The Map of True Places is out now.

For more information please visit http://www.BrunoniaBarry.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

Barbarbara K. Richardson’s Guest Blog

guesthouseTangled Web—The GUEST HOUSE John Prine Connection

I love John Prine. The songs from his first album “John Prine” are little novels, every one. I just played the songs for the first time in thirty years and the man breaks my heart, just like before. Better than before. I’ve written a few novels myself, now, so I know what that takes out of you.

Kris Kristofferson said Prine’s early songs were so good “we’ll have to break his thumbs.” I’ve been singing “Sam Stone” incorrectly from memory on and off these thirty years. It surfaces all the time. My favorite song ever may be Prine’s “Paradise,” which romps into my consciousness almost every time I take a hike. I step onto some dusty trail and “Where the air smelled like snakes we would shoot with our pistols, but empty pop bottles is all we would kill,” sets the pace.

Music and novels. There is a link. When my nephew Jim and I were putting video footage together for the GUEST HOUSE YouTube trailer, we listened to “Roller Coaster Ride” by The Black Hens about a hundred thousand times. It was Jim’s childhood I’d borrowed for the Atomic City scenes, and Jim said, “That is not the song for this godforsaken place. It’s dreary it’s dour it’s broken down…” And he searched his iTunes library for some depressive song to suit. But I stuck with “Roller Coaster Ride.” John Prine taught me the dark goes down much better with a twang of light.

GUEST HOUSE is a dark little novel. I think of it like a song. The whole countryside of your youth may be pillaged, from parental abuse or coal extraction, but Prine assures you “I’ll be halfway to heaven with paradise waiting, just five miles away from wherever I am…” And that’s the gist of it. Amidst destruction, joy.

Guest House Video:

Links of Interest:

The Black Hens

John Prine

Barbara K. Richardson’s Website

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