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Behind The Words

A journal by Barbara Wood

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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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Famous Last Words

by Barbara Wood last modified Jul 01, 2008 08:07

(image of lighthouse beacon)

Most novelists find that starting a book is easy. It's finishing it that can be a challenge. When Ernest Hemmingway was asked why he wrote the ending to For Whom the Bell Tolls thirty-nine times, he replied, "Couldn't get the words right."

Some writers enjoy playing with their endings. Richard Brautigan, whose comic genius and countercultural vision of American life made him a literary idol of the 1960s and early 1970s, once told a friend he had always wanted to end a book with the word "mayonnaise." And he did! The now-classic, international best-seller, Trout Fishing In America (1967)

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No Profession For A Lady

by Barbara Wood last modified Jul 01, 2008 07:47

(image of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell)

I am often asked if Samantha Hargrave, the heroine of my novel Domina, was based on an actual historical figure. She was.

During the years I worked as an operating room nurse, I developed a keen interest in women in medicine, and particularly women doctors in history. There was a time when women were barred from the health professions in the belief that they hadn't the mental capacity for the job, and also that it wasn't ladylike. This is the theme I explore in Domina, and in doing research, I read the biographies of several pioneering women doctors of the 19th century - a time when city streets teemed with disease, labor pains were considered a punishment for sin, lethal drugs were sold without prescriptions, and many men would stop at nothing to keep a woman from becoming a doctor - even to physically throwing a female medical student from the classroom!

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The Challenge of a Problem

by Barbara Wood last modified Jun 17, 2008 12:06

(image of pen and paper)

Here is another piece of advice I always give to aspiring authors.

Early in my writing career, one of my biggest problems was composing descriptive paragraphs - where the author has to convey a visual image of location and atmosphere within a story. I adore writing dialogue, but I balked at descriptions. However, as those passages were necessary to creating a fully realized novel, I plugged away at the problem, not always enjoying the process.

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Daughter of the Sun

by Barbara Wood last modified Jun 10, 2008 07:23

(image of pen and paper)

One afternoon, years ago, I stood in the heart of an ancient canyon in New Mexico, gazing upon the ruins and artifacts of a people long forgotten. And I learned on that day, beneath a hot sun as a lone hawk circled overhead, that not only was the race who had lived there forgotten, it was never really known, for those who had lived in Chaco Canyon a thousand years ago disappeared suddenly and without a trace, leaving no clues as to their identity - where they had come from, where they went, why they had left so abruptly.

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Lights, camera and . . ."

by Barbara Wood last modified May 27, 2008 06:12

(image of pen and paper)

I have learned that one of the key ingredients to success in any field, especially in writing, is enthusiasm.  As the great poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emmerson said, "Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success.  When you do a thing, do it with all your might.  Put your whole soul into it.  Stamp it with your own personality.  Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful and you will accomplish your object.  Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."

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Three Little Birds

by Barbara Wood last modified May 20, 2008 09:27

(image of pen and paper)

A few weeks ago, as I was working on my new book, BLACK OPAL, I was having trouble focusing. The distraction stemmed from some upsetting news from a dear friend, plus serious troubles that a close family member was going through. I wanted to fix everything, but could not. And worrying about these things interfered with my writing, making me even more anxious.

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Stopped In My Tracks

by Barbara Wood last modified May 13, 2008 06:40

Once in a while I come across a phrase or a paragraph that is so insightful and brilliant that it stops me in my tracks and makes me think.

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Benefits Of Research


Treasure Hunting


What Happended To Her Shoes?

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Aug 08, 2018

New Book in Germany: Das Goldene Tal

May 12, 2018

Hippokratova přísaha

Nov 27, 2017

My Next Book - The Far River

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Copyright © 2007 by Barbara Wood. All rights reserved.