Saturday, February 15, 2014

Words, Words, Words

Photo by robenmarie
Among the better gifts I've received was a quote journal. My friend Marge Anderson, a poet by temperament and taste, presented me with this journal after having launched its first pages with pieces by Emily Dickinson, bits from "The Hobbitt," and excerpts from T.S. Eliot's "Wasteland." 

The rest of the journal she left empty, awaiting my choices.

For several years, the quote journal lay fallow. Lately I've been inspired to relaunch it since subscribing to Words for the Weekend, a terrific blog that not only dispatches soul-stirring quotes each week but includes images by great artists such Vladimir Kush (one of my personal favorites). Also, playlists to go with the quotes. 

So the quote journal and the iPod get stocked. What could be better?

This week, with Valentine's Day, Words for the Weekend focused on Love. Plenty of great material, of course. But in light of losing a loved one, I particularly appreciated reading this:

“It isn’t possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.” 
                                         ~E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

photo by cohdra
Being human, we tend to forget these important things, which is why books are so important. And why I recommend subscribing to Words for the Weekend. You'll be surprised how often some just-right quote slips into your life, exactly when you need to hear it.

And maybe it'll even inspire you to start a quote journal. If so, be sure to share what you find. 

We need good words.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Wind in the Door

Someone very very dear to me died yesterday.
Although he was given a good long run--98 years of robust life --I wished even longer for him.

Once again, I'm reminded that I'm not God. (Thank God).
For many years, I've prayed daily for this man's soul. In the last six months, my family and I prayed his heart would open to the truth, that he would renounce his adamant atheism; that God would have mercy on his soul (which at least one atheist now acknowledges is necessary).

But this side of heaven, I'll never know what my dearly departed decided during his last days on earth.

In my heartache, which is severe, my hope keeps returning to something like this:

     A man on his deathbed turned to his physician and mumbled, "What is Heaven like, Doctor?"  
       How could the physician describe Heaven in such brief moments? As his mind searched for an answer for his friend, the doctor heard his dog, scratching at the door. 
        "Can you hear my dog, scratching at your door?" inquired the physician.
        The sick man assured him that he could. 
       "Well," the doctor said, "Heaven must be like that. My dog does not know what is in this room. He only knows he wants to be with me. So it is with Heaven. Our Master is there. That is all we need to know!" 
 -- James Jeremiah, The Place Called Heaven

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Say What?

How do writers come up with dialogue?

Eavesdropping, that's one way.

But some genius just put together an entire break-up scene using only movie titles.

Brilliant and witty.

Here's the video.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Top 10 Reasons: #1

This is it.

This is your last day to grab The Mountains Bow Down for $2.99.

Tomorrow the price shoots up 81%. (Don't blame me. I can't set these prices).

I've been posting my Top 10 Reasons for writing this Raleigh Harmon mystery, the fourth book in this series. And now we've reached (...drumroll, maestro...) Reason #1:


In my last post, I mentioned my family's Alaska roots that reach back to 1885. Most pioneer families didn't manage to stay four generation because, frankly, Alaska's a tough place to survive. Winter sunlight hours can be counted on one hand; summer lasts about 70 days. 

But yesterday, after the Seattle Seahawks won their first Superbowl (just had to get that somewhere), quarterback Russell Wilson said the team's guiding philosophy all season long was: "Why not us?"

I knew exactly what Wilson meant. Not because of football. But because I grew up among this country's tallest peaks, in the only rain forest in North America, eating the biggest fish, the hugest crabs, in the coldest temperatures, with the most colorful human characters. 

Alaska owns the patent on superlatives. And that landscape inspires writers to push farther, aim higher, go beyond all limits. From John Muir to Robert Service to Jack London--even your humble mystery writer--we chose to write about this place because it's like nowhere else on earth. It must be told.

The Mountains Bow Down. 

It's why I chose to open the novel with a favorite poem:

        "There's a land where the mountains are nameless,
        And the rivers all run God knows where;
        There are lives that are erring and aimless,
        And deaths that just hang by a hair;
        There are hardships that nobody reckons;
        There are valleys unpeopled and still;
        There's a land--oh, it beckons and beckons,
        And I want to go back--and I will."
                                                    -- from "The Spell of the Yukon" by Robert Service

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Top 10 Reasons: #2 and #3

Here's the deal--and I do mean deal.

Until tomorrow, February 3, Amazon is practically giving away my fourth mystery.

A mystery starred by Booklist. Rated 5-stars by nearly 40 reviewers. And you get to tour Alaska by cruise ship. 
For $2.99.

Try buying a real ticket for that price.

In honor of this amazing Amazon deal, I'm posting my Top 10 Reasons for writing this Raleigh Harmon mystery. 

We're now at duel reasons #2 and #3:

                                                       MY GRANDMOTHERS

When I was 16 years old, I rode up the ski lift with a complete stranger who gazed down at my skis, read my name, and said, "Sibella, I know your grandmothers. They're amazing."

Yeah, it was like that. All the time.

My grandmothers, Belle and Frances, also happened to be my best friends. A late child, I was the last of their ten grandkids. And the only girl.
Departing Juneau 10 pm, first week of May

Although my grandmothers appear in all of my books, one way or another, I fully reveal their importance to me in The Mountains Bow Down.

Without these two women, my family wouldn't be able to call Alaska its native country. 

This novel is dedicated to these Alaska pioneers. In the acknowledgements I also reveal a bit of their remarkable lives:

"In 1885, a family of fierce Othodox Jews carved their way from Russia to Juneau, Alaska. That same year, the Goldstein family opened a mercantile on the town's muddy docks and welcomed their eighth child, Belle. That daughter would live one hundred years and see Alaska change from a distant US District into a Territory into our 49th state.

"In 1934, amid the Great Depression, a young actress and widow named Frances Kennan Connor sailed to Juneau by steamship. Classically educated, from an affluent mid-West family, Frances was completely ill-suited for the rugged atmosphere of a gold-mining town. And she stayed.
My grandmother's store on an Alaska postcard

"Perhaps more than anyone, Belle and Frances are responsible for [The Mountains Bow Down]. They were my grandmothers and they poured stories into me. Belle talked about her life, which was epic and included a kidnapping by Tlingit Indians when she was five years old and a thiry-year feud with her eldest brother, Charles, who rescued her from that kidnapping. (In Juneau the buildings that Belle and Charlie erected continue to glare at each other across Seward Street.) 

"Meanwhile, Frances--ever private about her own personal tragedies--fed me books. A city librarian, she designated a shelf behind the front counter and left adventures there. Lloyd Alexander, Joan Aiken, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle. Better still, she was eager to discuss them.

"Whether writers are born or made, I can't say. But it certainly helps if their tribe cherishes stories."

How much of the story began...