Thursday, September 26, 2013

Early Review for Buried Pasts

Over at LibraryThing, I was selected to be an Early Reviewer for George Stratford's novel, Buried Pasts. Below is my review posted to LibraryThing:

In this historical fiction novel, the reader is taken back to WWII and the Berlin bombing raids of 1944. Mike Stafford, a Canadian pilot with the RAF, leads a crew on a dangerous night mission. After a harrowing flight to Berlin and home, the plane is crippled and the rear tail gunner, Geordi, is badly injured. Faced with a landing that is fraught with danger, Stafford makes the decision to order the crew to parachute out to safety while he lands the plane alone. The decision proves fatal to one crew member - which haunts Stafford for the next 20 years. 
In Berlin, a young woman watches as her city is bombed. Siggi is forever changed as well on that night as her mother dies in the basement of their destroyed home. 
In Chapter 4, we jump forward into the 1960s and see how this one fateful night played out in the lives of the surviving crew members and Siggi, the young German woman. 
The plot was interesting, with plenty of twists and turns. The author clearly did his homework on the research. However, the story would have greatly benefited from a strong editor. The overly thick prose distracted from an otherwise enjoyable story. Also, at times, there seemed to be a lack of focus - too many characters with too many backstories vie for the readers' attention. Finally, in an effort to tie up many loose ends all very neatly, the ending felt contrived and forced.  )

Saturday, September 21, 2013

When you hate the assigned topic - write what you want anyway. . . Or how I wrote about horses when I was supposed to write about music

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”

I spent 3 weeks in a panic, from mid-July until August 4. Months ago, the pony club (of which I am the leader) made a $500 deposit to Daniel Stewart based on the early enthusiasm within the club and area to bring in a top notch clinician. But as the date approached, that early interest had galloped away. We could accommodate 12 riders each day. And I had firm commitments from exactly . . 6, and one of those was iffy. The balance due Daniel was $1800, plus I needed to provide lunch and dinner, copying costs and we’d agreed to split profits with the host location. I had to laugh, profits? We were going to lose our shirts and I knew no one was going to offer to split the losses. The club would have a tough time absorbing it and I was losing sleep trying to think how we’d deal with this horrible decision.

Daniel was unworried. When I called him to give him the bad news, he shrugged it off (easy for him to do – he was getting paid either way). “I’ll just do a really great clinic on the first day and everyone will want to come back the next.”

I cringed inwardly. He had no idea how hard I had worked to find those few pitiful riders for the first day. Yea, right, he’d just wow them and my clinic would be full and we’d stay financially solvent and those lawyers from Kentucky that I’d heard stories about wouldn’t be knocking at my door. And pigs might fly.

So after a long night of nail biting (and pasta cooking – because I had to save money somehow and a freshly cooked midnight pasta salad was cheaper than buying anything from the Stop & Shop deli the next day) my daughter and I put her pony on the trailer and headed down to the clinic. Early.  And you don’t know what early is until you become a Pony Club mom.

Daniel spent 45 minutes pumping up our little contingent of riders and auditors. He talked about the importance of the “mental” game, of developing strength and purpose and habits that lead to success. He peppered his presentation with Olympic anecdotes and duck stories. When the first group went to tack up, one of my auditors pulled me aside and asked if she could go home, load up her sister’s horse, and ride in the later session. Her sister was at camp. The horse was idle. I agreed.

Daniel did as he said. He had everybody in that arena smiling and excited. People were riding in ways they couldn’t imagine doing. Our mental game was sharpening. We couldn’t stop talking about the things he’d taught us.

Other parents asked me if their kids could return, another auditor decided she had to ride, and suddenly, my clinic was full.

We finished the 2 day clinic at a profit – even after paying for copying costs and a platter of cold cuts.

One of Daniel’s key messages was the importance of music – of creating a playlist of songs with motivational messages. That we should play our best, most inspiring music 5 or 6 days before an event. That we should inspire our selves and use music to help us achieve our dreams.

Since August 4, I’ve been listening, gathering and creating playlists that inspire me. The first song I play, when I need to face a challenge, when I can’t sleep, when the words fail me, is Brave by Sarah Barailles. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Kitchen

This was a 10 minute writing exercise - Using Repetition for Effect.

She heard the gentle tap tapping on the kitchen door. So quiet it would never be heard out in the main ballroom. Out there where laughter and forks scraped against china. Out there, the people carried on, they'd paid for the evening, the food, the entertainment.
In here, the kitchen staff prepared to feed. In here, those who didn't belong ate alone, quietly, hiding from those out there.
A young girl opened the door to the musician. She was fourteen, the daughter of the head cook and restaurant manager. She waited tables out there and washed dishes in here.
Out there they'd never know what was happening in here. The musician smiled a clumsy, awkward byt charming grin, all bright white teeth in a perfectly round face.
He would eat well in here. She and her mother would see to that. Then he would go out there and shake the house down with that famous jazz trumpet.