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Behind The Words

A journal by Barbara Wood

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Palm Trees and Snow!

by Barbara Wood last modified Mar 25, 2008 05:55

(image of snowy mountains))

Everyone awoke this morning to a spectacular sight that I believe is found only in Southern California.  Snowcapped mountains with palm trees in the foreground.

A winter snow storm swept through SoCal the last few days (yes, it really does rain in California), blanketing the mountains that surround Los Angeles and neighboring towns in snowy splendor: peaks with exotic names like San Gorgonio, San Jacinto, San Bernardino (not all of our mountains are so beautifully named for saints – we also have Mounts Shasta and Baldy).  But they are breathtaking sights, made all the more astounding by the fact that one observes them through the fronds of tropical palm trees.

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Exercise and the Writer

by Barbara Wood last modified Jan 22, 2008 05:17

(image of woman on treadmill)

Like most people with desk jobs, I have to make sure that I get up and move my body every now and then, or I will sit here all day and turn into a spud.  My favorite exercise is walking.  Outdoors, indoors, all around town – however I can get my daily five miles in.  But – and this is the crucial part – only for a long as I am entertained or can put the time to otherwise good use.  I listen to books on tape or old radio shows, or I dictate a chapter, a character sketch, or letters to family and friends.  After about two miles, however, my attention drifts and I start getting itchy to return to my desk. 

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Setting the Record Straight

by Barbara Wood last modified Jan 15, 2008 06:04

(image of nuts)

Much of the fun of writing a novel, for myself at least, is doing the research.  I have a passion for history and I especially love discovering odd facts (did you know, for example, that Mata Hari’s real name was Margaretha Geertruida Zelle and that she was executed for espionage in World War I?).  And I am always eager to share these nifty discoveries with everyone, which is why I am a stickler for accuracy.

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A Nice Cup of Tea

by Barbara Wood last modified Jan 15, 2008 04:53

(image of cup of tea)

A few days ago, some rather remarkable material began to fall from the skies over Southern California.  We all rushed outside, of course, to discover what this wondrous stuff might be, and we later learned on the news that it is something called “rain.”  Marvelous invention, rain!  Overnight, those brown hills out there have turned green.


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New Year's Promises

by Barbara Wood last modified Jan 15, 2008 04:41

(image of happy new year)

I love fresh starts and new beginnings.  The clean slate that every January 1st brings.  An opportunity to let bygones be bygones, a time for sweeping away old grudges.  As civil rights leader Bishop Desmond Tutu said, “Forgiving is not forgetting, it’s actually remembering – remembering and not using your right to hit back.  It is a second chance for a new beginning.”

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Happy Holidays!!

by Barbara Wood last modified Dec 23, 2007 06:46

(image of person raising hands to sky)

Happy Holidays Everybody!

May all your wishes come true.



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A Christmas Carol

by Barbara Wood last modified Dec 18, 2007 05:58

(image of person raising hands to sky)

The other night I watched what is possibly the hundredth version of the Charles Dickens classic, starring, of all people, Tori Spelling!  I loved it.  Although the story is always the same (a miserable, curmudgeonly person is visited by ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, and is ultimately changed by the experience) the myriad recountings of this beloved tale doesn’t always involve the usual “old man” Scrooge (although the most recent version starring Patrick Stewart is the best of that particular lot).  In one version, Cycely Tyson plays miserly Ebenita, and Vanessa Williams does a great mean-spirited diva named Ebony Scrooge in another.  My personal favorite is Susan Lucci as “Ebbie,” and now we have Tori Spelling in A Carol Christmas.

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Alex Trebek

by Barbara Wood last modified Dec 13, 2007 12:02

I was very sorry to hear that one of my favorite TV personalities suffered a heart attack on Tuesday.  Mr. Trebek has brought hours of enjoyment into my home by way of the popular quiz show, Jeopardy.  Alex (I feel I can call him that as he has appeared in my living room thousands of times) has always struck me as a very nice person, warm and amiable and gracious (well, he’s Canadian so that tells you a lot.)

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Two For the Price of One

by Barbara Wood last modified Dec 11, 2007 05:28

(image of person raising hands to sky)

I am frequently asked for advice on how to write.  And just as frequently, I get requests for inspiration.  So here are two for the price of one.

While I do not write non-fiction, I do nonetheless strive for accuracy, realism and truth in my writing, because people believe the printed word.  And so my advice pertains to both genres, fiction and non-fiction: be sure of your facts and be prepared to back them up.  Don’t do shoddy research.  Be meticulous.  Readers are placing faith in you.

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Lucky Number 13

by Barbara Wood last modified Dec 04, 2007 04:49

As this is the thirteenth entry in the Blog of my newly upgraded, refurbished, re-designed, updated, modernized and beautified website (thank you Sharon, Carlos and Johnny!) I thought an exploration of “luck” was in order.

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"Raw Oysters and Whiskey"

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 27, 2007 05:51

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, but says instead, “I understand.  Raw oysters are an acquired taste.”

As I wrote those 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.

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"Where To Begin?"

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 20, 2007 12:41

(image of page and pen)

People frequently say to me, “I want to write a novel, but I don’t know where to begin.”  Surprisingly, the answer is not always, “Start on the first page.”  There are no rules in writing.  Whatever works for you is what you should do.  If you can’t muster up Page One, then start in the middle (if you know what your characters are going to be doing at that stage).  Or start with a description, or dialogue, and build upon it.

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Shanghai Surprise!

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 13, 2007 04:31

(image of Shanghai reading group)

No, Shanghai Surprise isn't the name of a fruity drink with a little umbrella in it. Although it does refer to something just as sweet. An amazing event took place in my life last week and it involves my living room, a reading group of Latin American ladies, my book GREEN CITY IN THE SUN, and the Chinese city of Shanghai.

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The Devil Is In the Details

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 12, 2007 13:04

(image sea captain)

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 good enough job of making me see or “feel” the characters and settings.

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"Trick or Treat"

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 12, 2007 13:05

(image of children tick or treating)

It’s Halloween again and, once more, I am mystified. 

This is one holiday I just don’t get.  All other holidays – from New Year’s to Christmas – have warm, fuzzy connotations.  Valentine’s Day is hearts and flowers and love, Easter is about bunnies and new hats, Memorial and Labor Day honor heroes in the military and the labor force, (even Fourth of July tempers its fireworks and implication of martial violence with Mom’s apple pie).

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My Battle With the Adverb

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 12, 2007 13:06

(image of woman frustrated with computer)

I confess, I was addicted.  Many beginning writers have a problem with adjectives.  This is a universal given.  My problem had always been with adverbs.  (To refresh: an adjective modifies a noun and an adverb modifies an adjective and a verb)  In my early works, if anything could be done, it could be done happily, sadly, smashingly, haltingly, poorly, smartly.  No verb in any writing of mine was left without a description, and if one adverb worked well, then two must be twice as good! 

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Lessons from My Favorite Actor

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 06, 2007 04:58

(image of pumpkins)

I adore Michael Caine.  I have been a huge fan since the fabulous epic, “Zulu” (1964), in which he played the toffee-nosed Lt. Gonville Bromhead, so brilliantly (and nasally) delivering the line: “Who told you you could use my men?”

To coincide with the debut of his new movie, “Sleuth,” a remake of the 1972 film in which he shared billing with Laurence Olivier, last Friday’s Los Angeles Times carried an interview with Mr. Caine (October 12, 2007, by Patrick Goldstein).  While the actor had many interesting things to say about his life and his career, what jumped off the page for me was his advice to aspiring actors, because it is spot-on for aspiring writers as well.

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Words That Are Like Children: seen but not heard.

by Barbara Wood last modified Oct 29, 2007 05:29

I was chatting with a friend the other day and he commented on the current halcyon weather.  While he went on about the wispy clouds and endless blue sky, I found myself stuck on “halcyon,” and it occurred to me that this is one of those words you always read but rarely hear.

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October Light

by Barbara Wood last modified Oct 29, 2007 05:29

(image of pumpkins)

Believe it or not, Southern California does have seasons, and fall in SoCal is my favorite! Our leaves change and drop to the ground, like everybody else’s, our days grow cool and our nights chilly, but we also have those lovely Santa Ana winds at this time of the year, that sweep down from the northeastern deserts and clear the air so that, as we say, you can see all the way to Catalina.

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The Harry Potter Phenomenon

by Barbara Wood last modified Oct 29, 2007 05:31

Newspaper journalists and radio hosts often ask me what I think of the Harry Potter sensation.  Many published authors, it seems, are resentful of the attention and the money that goes that way instead of into “literary” works.  My response is: kudos to J.K. Rowling!

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A Little Encouragement

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The Perfect Pair



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Copyright © 2007 by Barbara Wood. All rights reserved.