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Behind The Words

A journal by Barbara Wood

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I Remember Michael Crichton

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 18, 2008 06:49

(image of author Michael Crichton cover of Time Magazine)

I was saddened to hear of the unexpected, recent passing of author Michael Crichton.

When his first novel,  Andromeda Strain came out, I was working in the operating room at Santa Monica Hospital.  Although I was writing stories in my spare time, I did not have dreams of being published.  And then here came this fabulous novel from a man who was not only a doctor, but who had, it was soon revealed, financed his way through medical school by writing novels under a pen name!  I felt an immediate connection with Dr. Crichton – there I was in the hospital setting, working on the open-heart team (those were pioneering days!) and writing novels in the evenings (at the time, I was working on Curse This House).  That was when it occurred to me that I could do the same thing – work as a surgical nurse while pursuing a career in writing.

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Congratulations, Mr. Obama

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 11, 2008 05:54

(image of president elect Barack Obama)

Barack Obama’s victory in our presidential election has touched me personally in two ways.

When I was a teenager in the Sixties, I participated in civil rights marches.  We were thousands-strong as we swept down the broad avenue of Van Ness in San Francisco, carrying signs and singing “We Shall Overcome.”  Words cannot describe the incredible feelings of unity and brotherhood in those days – we were not just hippies, we came from all walks of life, we were all colors and ages, rich and poor.  Strangers who came together for a cause – it seems so simple now in retrospect: we thought black people should be allowed to eat at lunch counters and sit anywhere they wanted on a public bus.  It was such a big fight, but we were determined.  Some of us got clubbed over the head for it, many were carted off to jail.  But we continued to paint our signs and march down streets and sing freedom songs until we got our voices heard.

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What's In A Title?

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 04, 2008 05:50

(image of a stock of old books)

Choosing a title for the novel you have just written should be something given great care and thought. While a general rule of thumb to remember is that your title should be easy to read and to remember, and perhaps gives the reader a hint of what the book is about, you also want to make it intriguing and catchy.

Sometimes, however, the author is not always the best person to choose a title, as editors and publishers (and even agents) often come up with a better one.


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Which To Choose?

by Barbara Wood last modified Oct 28, 2008 08:49

(image of book titled Short Stories by Kevin Crossley-Holland)

People occasionally tell me they want to write a novel, but in order to get their feet wet, so to speak, they will start by writing short stories.  Short stories, however, do not necessarily lead to novels, because they are in fact a very different writing form.  While novels are by definition longer, they offer the writer greater leeway, room to breathe and explore, and require far less discipline than the short story.

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Happy Birthday, Kathryn Harvey!

by Barbara Wood last modified Oct 21, 2008 05:52

(image of quote asking when you are going to write your novel)

Twenty years ago today, a star was born.  My alter-ego: author of Butterfly, Stars and Private Entrance.  Ms. Kathryn Harvey.

I am often asked why I chose to write those books under a pen name.  The reason is because Butterfly was such a divergence from my other books, and also, frankly, because Butterfly is a little risqué (it is the story of a bordello where the customers are women).  My editor at Random House suggested I use another name so that Barbara Wood readers would not be confused or shocked (yes, she used those words).  And so I set about to thinking up a name.

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It's Never Too Late . . .

by Barbara Wood last modified Oct 14, 2008 06:33

(image of quote asking when you are going to write your novel)

At a book signing recently, I was chatting with a reader who confessed that she was thinking of writing a novel.  I gave her my usual pep talk and said, "Don't think about it, do it."  She then explained why she hesitated: "I'm fifty-five years old.  And I know the book will take five years to write.  So by the time I am done, I will be sixty!"  I agreed with her arithmetic, and said, "Yes, by the time you finish the book in five years, you will indeed be sixty.  However, if you do not write the book, how old will you be in five years?"

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The Magdalene Scrolls

by Barbara Wood last modified Oct 07, 2008 06:08

(image of Magdalene Scrolls cover)

With the re-release of all my older titles this year, thanks to the magic of Internet publishing and print-on-demand, I decided to hold one title back,  The Magdalene Scrolls.  Since I receive a lot of inquiries about the book, and since it is very hard to find (even on eBay) I decided to explain why I held this book back from my new Barbara Wood Collection.  (I speak now of English language books only.  All my titles, including The Magdalene Scrolls, are all available in French, Spanish, German and other languages.)

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I Remember Paul Newman

by Barbara Wood last modified Sep 30, 2008 06:55

(image of trees in the Autumn))

Years ago, at an elegant home in the hills of Bel Air, I had the supreme honor of meeting Paul Newman at a fund raiser for one of his many charities. His movie, "Butch Cassidy" was playing in the theaters at the time, and so it was quite amazing to be able to meet him in person and shake his hand. As famous and popular as he was, Mr. Newman was far from snobbish (as some celebrities unfortunately tend to be). He was the ultimate class act, chatting with everyone, sparing time for each person who had come to attend the event, shaking hands, offering warm smiles. He was one of those men who rose above his celebrity status and looked you in the eye and let you believe, for just a moment, that you were the only person in the room with him, and that what you had to say was all he cared about.

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My Favorite Day in the Year

by Barbara Wood last modified Sep 23, 2008 06:09

(image of trees in the Autumn))

As I write this blog entry, today is the first day of fall, and it is my favorite day in the year because it launches my favorite time of the year - the season of Jack O'Lanterns, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, culminating in New Year's Eve.  I also love the first day of fall because I welcome a change of season after a long, hot, and sunny summer (yes, we have seasons in Southern California, and some of our trees even drop their leaves!).  I always celebrate this day by displaying my beautiful pumpkin collection.  I have been adding to this collection for years so that my pumpkins come in all sizes and shapes, and are made of a wide variety of materials, from wicker to wool to ceramic - one is even crocheted out of yarn, and another has a furry teddy bear face.  (And let us not forget my needlepoint canvas of Garfield the cat popping out of a Halloween pumpkin.)

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Thank You!

by Barbara Wood last modified Sep 16, 2008 07:39

(image of woman's face))

It was wonderful to greet old friends on Sunday, at my Barnes & Noble book signing for my latest book, Woman of a Thousand Secrets, and to make new friends as well. Thank you all for coming and making the afternoon a very delightful get-together. I was pleased to see so much interest in the Mayan culture, and so I am happy to share my research and my own special theories with others.

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The Perfect Woman

by Barbara Wood last modified Sep 09, 2008 04:51

(image of woman's face))

A reader recently made the interesting observation that in my novel The Dreaming, the main characters of Pauline and Joanna seem to be the two opposite sides of a modern "super-woman" archetype, split into two people. If I put the characteristics of the two women together, this reader suggested, I would have a very unique "Utopian" figure. The reader then asked if this was my intention, and if so, how did I accomplish it? The reader also asked if I was aware of any symbolism in this?

An excellent observation and question, and one that gave me pause.

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The Thousand Secrets

by Barbara Wood last modified Sep 02, 2008 06:02

(image of Barbara on sofa))

What are the thousand secrets? I will share the first one with you here. Several years ago I had the pleasure of attending the spring equinox celebrations at the famous Pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichén Itza in Yucatan, Mexico. I wanted to see with my own eyes the "miracle" I had heard about for so long: the stunning phenomenon of a giant serpent materializing on the steps of the pyramid at exactly the hour of the equinox.

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Who Has It Easier - Men or Women?

by Barbara Wood last modified Aug 26, 2008 10:54

(image of sugar))

I was recently asked why I always make women the central characters in my books, and in particular, women in history.  While three of my novels feature men as the main characters (Magdalene Scrolls, Watch Gods, and Night Trains, plus two stories in The Blessing Stone), it is true that the rest of my books revolve around female protagonists.  Why?  Because I think women have more interesting issues and problems to deal with than men do (sorry, guys!), and especially women in history.

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Cat As Inspiration

by Barbara Wood last modified Aug 19, 2008 06:27

(image of Singapura Cat)

In a previous blog, I discussed the special affinity that exists between writers and cats.  But I did not mention that cats can also be an inspiration.

Two of my novels, in fact, were inspired by felines.  I keep a 365-page-a-day cat calendar on my desk (the dog calendar is in my kitchen, but that is a blog for another day), and one day a few years ago, I tore off a page to discover  the picture of an absolutely gorgeous cat.  She was haunting in fact, with sleek, graceful features, regal posture, serene countenance.  But it was her eyes that captivated me that day, and I found myself frequently glancing at the picture as I worked.

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You Are Invited

by Barbara Wood last modified Aug 12, 2008 06:29

(image of Barbara giving lecture at book signing event)

Greetings, all!  I would like to invite you to a book event I will be hosting here in Riverside on September 14, at 2:00 in the afternoon.  It will be held at the Barnes & Noble bookstore near the Tyler Galleria, and I would love to meet you.

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A Riddle

by Barbara Wood last modified Aug 05, 2008 05:41

(image of cat lying on books)

What's large and black and hairy and walks on eight legs?  (No, it isn't Bucky and her twin)

I'm looking at the answer right now as I sit at my desk with a view of my sunny patio.  It's a tarantula.  A common spider here in the desert southwest.  Interestingly, the name tarantula comes from the town of Taranto in Italy, although I can't find out why.  Africans call tarantulas "baboon spiders" for some reason, Southeast Asians call them "earth tigers," and Australians call their species "barking spiders."  I call tarantulas a reason to avoid my patio during the summer.

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The Literary Feline

by Barbara Wood last modified Jul 29, 2008 07:05

(image of cat lying on books)

Most of my author friends own cats (or are owned by them). I wonder why this is, as I too live with a wonderful kitty named Bucky. She loves to sit on my desk while I work, and when I step away, Bucky likes to walk on my keyboard - bless her! But what is the special affinity between writer and feline?

I recently learned, for instance, that the great French novelist Alexandre Dumas was a rescuer of stray cats. Not only was his home filled with them, but he formed a group in the 1880's called the Feline Defense League (sort of an early SPCA), and other famous writers - Baudelaire and Guy de Maupassant to name just two - were also founding members. Another famous French writer, Colette, was fond of cats and was known to have said, "There are no ordinary cats."

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A Tree Grows In Kenya

by Barbara Wood last modified Jul 22, 2008 06:56

(image of potted dwarf palm)

When I was conducting research for my novel, Green City In the Sun, my husband and I hired a car and a driver and spent six weeks exploring Nairobi and the Kenya Highlands, including coffee plantations in Karen, and nearby game reserves. We interviewed many people, from college professors, to British "old hand" settlers, to Kikuyu tribesmen who couldn't speak English (our driver, a native Kenyan, served as translator).

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My German Website

by Barbara Wood last modified Jul 15, 2008 05:43

(image of German flag)

I am thrilled to announce that my website is now available in German. Go to the homepage and click on the little German flag at the top. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I certainly was when the final version went online. I feel so posh and international.

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The Best Protest March Ever

by Barbara Wood last modified Jul 08, 2008 07:07

(image of lighthouse beacon)


I miss the days of protest marches.  The thrill!  The high!  Joining with fellow believers to carry signs and march and stand together for A Cause.  Anti-war, civil rights, impeach Nixon, I marched in them all. 

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Vital Signs and #metoo


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Copyright © 2007 by Barbara Wood. All rights reserved.