Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone and may the new year bring you whatever it is that makes you feel good about you! Me, I'm going to shoot for enjoyment of my surroundings and loved ones.

Maybe I'll quit writing completely, or publish one of my completed manuscripts, or tackle a new manuscript. I don't know what is in store for me and for some strange reason I'm not worried about anything. I recently stepped away from my local romance writing group, and I've decided to forgo my prior intensive drive to get published again. I'm thinking of taking a few interesting classes, doing some volunteer work, travelling, mixing it up.

I'm taking back the bit of me that I kept in reserve to get the writing done and to pursue that dream to have a career as an author. It's been five solid years of learning the craft of writing, completing six manuscripts and getting nowhere. As each year has passed I've recognized the increased difficulty for new writers to get published with large publishing houses. Most likely I won't give up writing completely as I do enjoy it, it will however take less of a role in my life. I figure I'm not getting any younger and the years are slipping away, there are so many adventures yet to be had and I can't embrace them while glued to a computer chair. So look out Tibet, Machu Pichu, The Amazon, Corsica, that Mediterranean Cruise I've always wanted to take ... I'm saving my money and here I come.

So raise your glass with me in a toast to 2008 and new adventures! May we all have as many as we can comfortably handle and may they bring us intense happiness.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Regardless of what you celebrate, or if you choose to celebrate nothing, you must admit this is a lovely season of the year. I don't think of it as religious just as connecting. I drove through the gates of the development that I live in tonight and admired the palm trees around the lake, which are wrapped with twinkle lights. Many of the houses are decorated, people stop their cars to shout out Merry Christmas, and even though I haven't truthfully celebrated Christmas in years, I open my car window and grin and shout the greeting back. It feels good.

In recent years I've chosen to ignore the holidays. I converted to Judiasm when I married my ex-husband and raised our two kids in the Jewish faith. Whatever I knew or believed in from my upbringing, which was Anglican, changed with that decision. After our divorce I was in limbo for a long while. What did I really believe? The answer was, a little of everything. My children grew up and chose whatever life partners and beliefs they wanted. I accepted their decisions.

The only time I ever think about things like this is at the holidays. I have such a mish-mash of understanding when it comes to religion and am open to everything. I love to attend Temple, yet I'm blown away by a Catholic High Mass. When I studied Neo-Paganism for a story I was writing I could totally relate, I even told my daughter I wanted a scrying ball for my birthday. And she very nicely bought me one. When I read about Zen Buddism it makes sense to me. When I read about Quantum Physics I understand. However, a few years ago, I stood in the middle of Notre Dame and cried bucket loads because of the sheer overwhelming beauty of the place and the way it spoke to me. Then I bought a St. Christopher medal and wore it on a bracelet next to my wristwatch. I wouldn't even take it off to shower. Weird huh?

I can't fathom what has gotten into me this year. I even accepted an invite to Christmas Eve dinner at my best gal pal's home. She said, "We're by ourselves. The kids aren't coming this year. It would please us immensely." My friend's husband is of French birth and loves to cook. He put on his black apron from the Margaux district and set to work, loving that he had an audience as he chopped and basted and mixed. Nothing pleases him more. We, my friend and I, sat at the table in the kitchen and drank fine wine and nibbled on cheese and watched him and kept him entertained with our chatter. He doesn't have an accent, having lived here since his late high school years, but man can he speak French beautifully. I know why she fell in love with him. That language is like catnip to this cat. He spoke of growing up in France pre-world war two and scoffed at my description of a chicken recipe I learned to make from a Frenchman I dated several years ago. My date had assured me one should always use a good white wine, and the entire bottle, none of that cheap cooking wine for him.

"In France we drink the wine," my friend's husband said. "Who would waste a good wine by pouring it on food?" I laughed and took another sip of the buttery-smooth cabernet sauvignon and had to agree. Nobody was getting my wine to pour over a chicken.

Today I took my dog over to the Polo grounds and watched a few players put their horses through their training. My dog was fascinated. We love to watch them, man and beast fused as if one. It's a great game. Can't wait for the season to start. Then I came home and prepared a mini-feast for one, well, one and a dog. I had long conversations with friends and family, wrote emails and read emails.

Tonight I'm alone but I don't mind that one bit. I've had invitations but prefer to be here savoring the peace and quiet. Giving doesn't have to rely on a season, or a day, or family, or company, or giving of gifts. We can make it what we want. We can derive simple pleasures from the day and give silent thanks, or talk to our dog, or think up ways to give to others in small non-commercial ways. Like giving a French Chef the praise and attention he needs to perfect a grand meal.

Happy holidays to all, and a very happy, healthy, and creative 2008!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What are you Reading?

The Island, by Victoria Hislop, was my last truly amazing read. This story is Hislop's debut novel. The book was published in Europe and the U.K. in 2005 and has been acquired by Harper Collins, I believe it has either just come out in the U.S. or it will any day now. I had the opportunity to read an arc or advanced reader copy.

The story is set in Greece in the 1940's on the island of Crete. It starts out in contemporary London where the heroine is drawn to trace her family roots in Greece. She knows there is a mystery in her mother's past, something her mother refuses to discuss. When she arrives in Crete she is told the story of the town, of her mother's relatives, and the history of an island, Spinalonga, which was once a leper colony. A colony where her own relatives were sent. The story deals with the complexities of mother/daughter relationships, sisters, forbidden love, disease, and prejudice, and all with a deft hand and a sensitivity that is evident through the author's beautiful prose.

After reading this novel I had a yearning to read books from earlier times, historical romance, classics, I couldn't get enough of the lyrical prose that had filled my thoughts when reading The Island. Last week a friend gave me an early Christmas gift, Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer, it was originally published in 1953, this one is a 2007 release from Sourcebooks Casablanca, the cover is gorgeous, the paper is fantastic, the interior design simple but elegant. It has a really good feel to it and I love that.

I'd never read this book, although as a teenager I loved Regency and Gothic novels best of any. I've been swept up into the Regency period again and loving it. I read until almost two a.m. last night, unable to put this story down. It's a slow start and if I were writing it I'd start from the protagonist point of view in chapter two and weave the tedious male conversation in chapter one throughout the novel, but that's a contemporary author speaking. For the period, the story works, but for many of today's readers it's a slow start. Stick with it, it's a great read.

Both books are beautiful to look at, a total luxury to read, and would make excellent holiday gifts for any lover of romance.