Behind The Words
A journal by Barbara Wood
It’s a New Year and a time for giving thanks and blessings:
God Bless the person who invented the heating pad.
God Bless the inventor of beds and warm blankets.
God Bless the Ethiopian goat herder who found out you can make a drink from the berries of the coffee bush.
God Bless the cook who created the first tortilla chip.
God Bless the world’s first wine maker.
God Bless the nerd who invented Spell Check.
God Bless all the world’s pastry chefs.
God Bless the inventor of cup holders.
God Bless the Mom who thought that combining cheese with macaroni would be a good thing.
God Bless the makers of nice and easy root touch-up!
God Bless the folks who bring us LOLcats (cheezburgers, anyone?)
God Bless the creators and manufacturers of word processing and high speed connections that allow me to send off a 500 page manuscript with the tap of a key!
Most of all …. God Bless family and friends, and people who buy my books and are kind enough to tell me they enjoyed them.
As you know, I collect quotes. All kinds, for all sorts of reasons. Mostly they have to do with writing (the nuts and bolts of the craft) and many are motivational (after all, you can be the most talented writer in the world but you won’t get far if you aren’t motivated to write). I confess that my top favorite motivational quote is from Nike: “Just do it.” These three words are printed in bold letters on a piece of bright orange cardboard on my desk. It keeps me going, and, let’s face it, “Just do it” is something you can’t argue with.
To my friends around the World, wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year!
Glückliches Neues Jahr
Feliz Año Nuevo
Heureuse Nouvelle Année
Š?astný Nový Rok
Gott Nytt år Buon Anno
Happy New Year
You can often find unusual and interesting characters for your books in the most mundane places.
Years ago, when I lived in an apartment house in Santa Monica, I took my dirty clothes one afternoon to the building’s laundry room. The washer was available, but the dryer was going. I loaded the machine, started it and left. At my desk, I set a timer to go off after thirty minutes, as the rule of the laundry room was any clothes left in a machine could be lifted out by the next person needing the machines (I was writing “Hounds and Jackals” at the time and I often got so involved in my work that I forgot to look at the clock). At the end of the half-hour, I went downstairs to find my laundry done, but the dryer was still filled with someone else’s clothes. The cycle had ended, the clothes were dry, so I lifted them out and carefully placed them on top of the machine . . .
It’s the day after Christmas and we’re facing the task of tidying up the house after the partiers have come and gone. I recycle gift wrap, ribbons and bows. And I try not to eat all the leftover Triscuits and Dorritos. Indeed, there are a lot of leftover treats that, frankly, I would rather put to better use than sending them straight to my thighs . . .
Whatever your plans are today, wishing you Happy Holidays with your loved ones. Barbara
In my novel “The Dreaming,” Joanna Drury arrives in Australia in 1871 on a quest to solve a mystery that has haunted her all her life. During this quest, while experiencing adventure, danger and romance, Joanna discovers that, in order to get to the bottom of the mystery she must follow something called Songlines, the invisible pathways along which Australian Aborigines have traveled for thousands of years to perform their sacred and cultural rites.
Readers have asked me where they can find further information about these mysterious tracks that criss-cross the Australian continent, and I always recommend “The Songlines” by Bruce Chatwin (Penguin Books, New York). . .
I was writing a scene this morning in which a character is offered a plate of raw oysters. She politely says, “No thank you,” while trying not to look squeamish. The hostess does not take offense. “I understand, raw oysters are an acquired taste.”
As I wrote these words, I thought of the many times I have heard or read that phrase, and it never really made me stop and think – until now.
Although TV shows are a visual medium they rely ultimately on the written word, and so I don’t mind confessing that I enjoy watching TV. Especially the old shows that are available on DVD for a whole new generation to appreciate. And while I am thoroughly captivated by the original “Perry Mason” from the 1950’s and “Mission Impossible” from the 1960’s, I have also discovered, to my surprise, an interesting phenomenon. I am really enjoying the writing for those shows.
As part of my research for my latest book, I am reading the journal of an American missionary to Hawaii, Sarah Lyman, who lived in Hilo 180 years ago. It is quite an eye-opening account, with some rather extraordinary entries. But there are some amusing ones as well.
On Jan 25, 1834 Sarah wrote: “You have probably heard that playing on the surf board was a favorite amusement in ancient times. It is too much practiced at the present day, and is the source of much immorality as it leads to an intermingling of the sexes without discrimination. Today a man died on his surf board. He was seen to fall from it, but has not yet been found. I hope this will be a warning to others, and that many will be induced to leave this foolish amusement ….”
"Failures come to all of us. No matter how hard we try, sometimes things will go wrong. Success is usually gained through long striving, though occasionally it is reached with less difficulty. After all, the harder we have to work for the attainment of an object, the more we appreciate it when it is in our possession.
"Do not be discouraged because of failures; begin over. Throughout the entire world, people are beginning over; there is not a household but has learned the lesson. There is rebuilding done at all times of the year -- a pulling down of half-finished plans, a ripping out of false stitches, and a new start being made. Take fresh courage and try again, no matter how hard it may be." Ada Scott Taylor (aka Fanny Crosby 1820-1915)
I just finished reading a fine attempt at a historical novel that ultimately failed. The story was good – great, even, with lots of action and adventure, exotic locales, lovely little surprises, twists and turns. So why did it fail (for me, at least)? The author had not done a sufficient job of making me see or feel the characters and settings.
A major character, whom I will call Uncle Charlie, is a perfect example: at no point did the author give us his age, tell us what he looked like, in fact, not a single word to describe him other than “he was jocular.” She said he was a sea captain, but no shiny brass buttons entered his description, or a rolling gait after so many years on a ship’s deck, or the weathered, wrinkled face sailors get. I believe the author felt that designating him as a “jocular sea captain” was enough.
This blew my mind (so to speak). As part of the research for my latest book, "Rainbows on the Moon," I am reading the biographies of early American missionaries in Hawaii. Interesting stuff, to say the least. Much of the material comes in the form of letters, and I read one last night that startled me in its wording. In 1841, missionary Peter Gulick was on a boat going from Honolulu to the island of Kaua'i where he encountered a Catholic priest. He admittedly hated priests, Catholics and anything "romish." The boat being small, the two men couldn't help but get into a polite but guarded conversation -- the Roman Catholic and the Calvinist Protestant. Gulick writes in his letter: "It did not take him many minutes to mention all the prominent points of difference between us in doctrine & practice. Persecution of the Catholics & all. But I kept my cool ...."
There is an erroneous belief that once you publish one or two books, your publisher will buy anything you write. This is not true. Publishers are just as picky about your third or fourth, or thirtieth, book as they were about the first. I oughta know: I have five unpublished manuscripts in my closet. That is not to say they are bad books or poorly written – in fact, they
received rave rejections. The reason? They are different.
Let me explain . . .
I was browsing in our local bookstore and I saw a man wearing a T-shirt imprinted with the following:
Let’s eat grandma.
Let’s eat, grandma.
PUNCTUATION SAVES LIVES
We've all watched "The Wizard of Oz" on TV, or read the book. But how many of us know where the title came from?
According to Frank Baum's autobiography, he had drafted the adventure of a group of colorful characters (the Cowardly Lion, the Straw Man, Dorothy, etc) but had yet to name the wonderful land they were seeking. Baum said he wanted it to have an unusual name and he was casting about for possibilities when his eye caught on a filing cabinet in his office.
The three drawers were labeled, from top to bottom: "A-H," "I-N," and "O-Z."
And a title was born. :)
Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!
Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful day!
Ask any published author (or any UN-published author for that fact) what the worst part of the writing profession is, and he or she will tell you it’s the book reviews. I don’t read reviews of my own books any more. I used to, years ago, and it didn’t matter if I received a hundred raving praises for a book, all it took was one negative review to send me into a funk.
I read a review recently for a novel I was considering buying. The reviewer (for the Los Angeles Times) did not like the book. In fact, she so disliked it that she had this to say, “This book and its author should be drop-kicked out the nearest window.”
"If you go by other people's opinions or predictions, you'll just end up talking yourself out of something. If you're running down the track of life thinking that it's impossible to break life's records, those thoughts have a funny way of sinking into your feet." -- Carl Lewis, Olympic track champion.
Shakespeare said that brevity is the soul of wit. Samuel Butler adjusted that slightly by adding, "Brevity is not only the soul of wit, but the soul of making oneself agreeable, and of getting on with people."
Latin poet Horace (65-8 BCE) said it best: "Unless you are brief, your complete plan of thought will seldom be grasped. Before you reach the conclusion, the reader or listener has forgotten the beginning and the middle."