I’m writing a mystery!

I’ve decided to write a mystery, set in England and therefore I’m doing some research.  And, if you read to the end, I’ll be asking for your help.

Watching The English, Kate Fox

I’m reading this wonderfully astute book by Kate Fox called Watching The English.  Ms. Fox is an English social anthropologist writing about her own people through the dispassionate lens of social science.  Well, maybe not always dispassionate but she gets her brilliant observations across quite well.   It’s page after page of great insight into the character of the English.

Write Away, Elizabeth George

I’m also reading this book – Elizabeth George’s Write Away.  I’ve always enjoyed Ms. George’s Inspector Lynley novels and have recently attended two readings of hers in Seattle.  Since I rarely read fiction – except for British mysteries written by women – I felt I needed some insights from a mystery writer herself.  She’s got a linear approach to fiction that is helping me because I rarely do anything linear.  I mean, I can hardly spell the word.  And would it be “linearly?”  Anyway, I look to Ms. George to help me think in a straight line.

So, here is the plea for HELP!

I need help with names.  I think a good literary English name is essential to the development of the character.  So, if you’ve got any marvelous ideas, please let me know right here.

Cheers.  Thanks a lot..

 

Spring

Today is the first day of spring. I’m sitting at my desk, looking out the window at how this delightful turn of the season is awakening life. Squirrels are running and tumbling with joy. Birds are peeping—wrens, finches, robins. The honeysuckle has sprouted leaves. The Japanese maple has begun sending out its frilly, mahogany leaves.  The white and purple hyacinths and the small fragrant daphne odora scent the air. It’s heady and exciting.

I see pictures of lambs and kittens and puppies.   Grandfathers are pushing their grandchild in a stroller to the nearby park to play. Neighborhood cats are running around our back yard, timorously coming closer for a little kitty treat.

This is the time for birth and renewal. I always find a bit of heartache with the coming of spring. As all new life comes forth in pain, as new mothers animal and human nurture their young, I think of birthmothers who have, through love, given up their newborn for someone else to raise. Trust, hope and faith collide in making that decision, but overall is the power of love and the courage to do what’s best for your new life. That, to me, is the heartache and hope of spring.

Here’s Wordsworth:

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the
day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass and white and red morning-glories, and white and red
clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the
mare’s foal and the cow’s calf,
And the noisy brood of the barnyard or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there, and the
beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads, all became part of
him.

Book Reading.

Full Front Book Cover
Come join me as I read from my book, White Lady, Black Sons: a memoir of adoption, abuse and awakening on:

Saturday, October 15, 2016 (tomorrow!), 1:00 pm, at Barnes and Noble, in downtown Seattle at Pacific Place, lower level.

My book includes themes of adoption and reunion, domestic abuse and recovery, white guilt and racial justice.

I would love to see you there, even if the wind just blows you in!

I Need Help! I think….

It’s books.  It’s always books.  This photo represents a mere fraction of books I haven’t read yet.  The new Bill Bryson just arrived today. I have at least three books going at the same time.  Where will I find the time?  Is there a job out there that will pay me a good salary plus benefits to just read books?

No?  Then I’m forced to admit I have no control over my book-buying habit.  I need to start a Books Anonymous group.

We could meet once a week and talk about how our lives are in conflict and chaos because we buy too many books. Our book habit is ruining our relationships, jeopardizing our jobs and our health.  We’re losing friends and can only think of the next book that looks too good not to buy.

Wait a minute.  That’s silly.  If I got a group of book junkies together we’d only talk about books, trade them, lend them, and then repair to our respective homes in search of a cup of tea and comfortable chair.

Are you with me?

How does this sound?  Instead of admitting you have no control, I’d like to suggest a few activities that will make you feel good about buying more books than you’ll ever in your lifetime have time to read.

Become obsessed with inventorying your books, or at least the first editions and the autographed ones.  This activity will require that you remove each precious book from your shelves, handle it and open it to check the “birthday page” for the holy First Edition insignia and/or the author autograph.  Have a glass of sherry to celebrate.Books - covers on sofa

Since you have the book in your hands and haven’t returned it to the shelf, why not start a general inventory.  There are even templates in Word and Excel for this very thing.  You can carry your obsession to near ecstatic levels.  Name of book, author, ISBN number, number of pages, topic, copyright, and, if you’ve read it, some sort of rating.  Pause to warm and enjoy a snifter of brandy.

Add a column to track who you might have lent the book to, although I don’t hold with book lending.  What if you look for the book on your shelves, can’t find it, realize you loaned it to somebody but forgotten who it was?  If you keep an inventory you could check the “Loaned To” column but frankly, if somebody is interested in a book you own, they can go to the library or bookstore.  Make that decision and seal it with a tankard of Guinness.

Next, re-shelve the book, but first ask yourself this question:  alphabetical by title, or author, arranged by subject or color of book jacket?  This an important point to consider as it will affect your ability to find the book.  I’m aware that certain designers think arranging books by jacket color is cool, but doing so doesn’t facilitate a quick recovery unless you remember that Mrs. Dalloway is reddish-coral and Yeats is yellow.

You can take a day or weeks to accomplish all this inventorying.  Well, actually it will probably take a whole lot longer, because of course you’ll pause frequently to flip through a book, reacquaint yourself with it or ask yourself why you haven’t read it yet.

There is no guilt here, only that rapturous knowledge that you’ll never want for something to read.

So, I think I’ve got it straight.  No Books Anonymous.  No lending of books.  I’ll probably re-shelf by topic.  I’ll learn to like stout and finish each day with a Dewar’s.  I’ll fall sleep or become numb on the toilet reading one of the books I’ve got going.  I’ll allow myself to browse any bookstore that happens to fall in my way.

I may eventually need AA.  But never BA.

And by the way, I happily accept gift cards.  Amazon.  Barnes & Noble or the lovely independent bookstore down the high street.  Just sayin’…….Book sides

Black Like Me

Black Like Me coverBlack Like Me, by John Howard Griffin

Many have heard of this book and many have not.  I was among the latter.  But I want to expand my knowledge about race in America and this book soared to the top of my reading pile.

Published in 1961, Black Like Me is the story of author John Howard Griffin’s journey as he transformed from a middle class intellectual white man to an unemployed, wandering black man.  Using medication to darken his skin, Griffin spent six weeks passing as black in Louisiana and Mississippi in 1959.  Not surprisingly, he learned some hard, foul truths about race, prejudice and bigotry in these United States of America.

As a black man, he ceased to be judged by white people for his accomplishments.  He was no longer an erudite white man but a stereotyped “negro.”  Yet, while his white brethren despised him because of his skin, he was accepted into the black community without question.     He was given shelter, food, friendship and solid advice.

A few years ago, I attended a dinner of union organizers and labor officials in Washington, D.C.  I was the only white person at my end of the long table.  My fellow diners asked me about my background, and I told them I’d been married to a black man and had two bi-racial sons.  With that revelation, it was like a dam broke and I was given one of the greatest gifts of my life—an impromptu insight into the lives of black Americans.

Each person told me a story that illustrated how prejudice had affected their lives.  A strong middle-aged woman said she would not drive through Mississippi on her way to Louisiana in the dark.  “If night starts to fall,” she said, “I find somewhere to stop near the border in Tennessee and then start out again at first light.  I simply won’t drive in Mississippi in the dark.”

“Even though you’re black?” I asked.

“Especially because I’m black,” she said.  Of course, I thought.  “What a stupid question to ask.  Forgive me.”

“But it’s not stupid,” she assured me.  “That’s why I’m telling you about it.  White people just don’t know.  How can they?”

A young man told me about driving across the country in a white Cadillac convertible with two white women.

“What?  Were you trying to get yourself killed?” asked the man sitting next to him.

No, he said, he just wanted to have an adventure with two friends who happened to be white women.   They were stopped by police nearly everywhere they drove, spending several nights in jail in South Dakota for no other reason than their skin color.  Police tried to charge him with kidnapping or pimping or drug dealing.  After all, for what other reason would a black man, driving a white Cadillac with two white woman, be doing if not something criminal?

Recently, I attended a memorial service and march for the nine black people shot by a white man at church in Charleston, South Carolina.  I spoke with a young woman who had given a moving speech to the audience.

“What can I do?” I asked her, feeling stupid and useless and inadequate.

“Look at what you’ve done,” she said.  “Look at each and every way white people have suppressed, tortured and killed black people.  Look at the innuendoes and unspoken cultural acceptance of slavery and its aftermath and ask yourself – how did I participate in this?  Because if you believe you’re innocent of prejudice, you are wrong.  You look deep inside yourself, find those ingrained silent beliefs and get rid of them.  Speak up when you see a wrong.  Speak up when you are confronted by someone’s racism.  Speak up and often.”

I cannot make myself black as John Howard Griffin did.  But I can listen and be ruthlessly honest with myself.  I can read books like Black Like Me and absorb the lessons.   But most importantly, I need to do what I can, on an individual, local and honest level to end racism – first in my home, then my neighborhood, my city and beyond.  I certainly won’t be silent.  I will speak up at every opportunity.

My First Book Reading

Grouping at launch

My son John, me, my son Fred and Ginny, the wonderful lady who raised him. 

My book launch on Saturday, June 27th was well attended.  It was also my first reading.  I wasn’t expecting to do so and quickly had to chose a short chapter to read.  But it went down successfully.  I am so thrilled that people are enjoying my book.  I’ve had consistent comments that readers “can’t put it down.”  That’s pretty high praise!  The wonderful Diane Venti donated her gallery space at Alki Arts Gallery in downtown Seattle.  White Lady, Black Sons:  a memoir of adoption, abuse and awakening is now available either through me or at Amazon in the USA, United Kingdom and Europe.  Thanks for your support and if you do read my book and like it, please leave a comment on Amazon.

This is the YouTube link to the reading.  Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwpZ8Om0-jc