Monday, February 29, 2016

A Leap of Faith

Happy Leap Day! 

In celebration of the twenty-ninth day of February, my peach tree took a leap of faith and opened its blossoms, which may well mean it won’t be producing any peaches this summer.

Optimism is a risk. Too many warm days may have lured the tree into blooming, but it’s too early to not to expect more frost. Still, the first bee of the season was hard at work, pollinating the flowers. Maybe Mother Nature knows something I don’t. Maybe we’ll have a bumper crop of peaches. And if there are no peaches this year, the tree will try again next spring.

Releasing a book is a leap of faith. It’s always scary for writers to let go, to let their babies out into the world of agents and editors and readers. Maybe it’s too early. Maybe it needs more work. Maybe everyone will hate it. But if we never bloom, we’ll never bear fruit. And if it that story doesn’t make it – if we’re met by nothing more than frosty rejection, we can learn from our experience and write another. 

When next spring comes, we can bloom again.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Week in London

I just returned from a week in London, and despite jet-lag, sore feet, and blustery weather, it was fun. The temperatures were relatively mild, with spring flowers in the parks, but the gray skies and strong wind made it hard to spend time outdoors. The sun peeked out a few times, but quickly hid behind the clouds. I guess there's a reason it takes so few frequent-flyer miles to get to London in January. 

Fortunately, the museums are indoors. My favorite exhibits are in the Victoria and Albert, but I can't resist the Natural History Museum, with its warm stone arches and the giant dinosaur in the entrance hall. And of course there's the British Museum. Touring it properly could take weeks. We saw movies and a play, toured a clipper ship, saw how Beefeater Gin is made, and of course we ate. Full English breakfasts, cream teas with scones, chicken tandori, fish and chips, pasta - I don't know why the British get such a bad rap about their food. Yum.

Having always lived in relatively young areas, I'm struck by the history of London. In the center of the city, historic buildings abound, but London isn't a historical time capsule. It's a modern, bustling city. Everywhere you look is a juxtaposition of modern and ancient, traditional and cutting-edge.
-A Victorian humming-bird collection in the V&A, as compared to a new shock absorbing wheelchair wheel in the Design Museum. 

-Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London, backed by (right to left) "the Egg, the Cheese Grater, and the Walky-talky." 

-Modern energy-efficient City Hall and Dragons

The present is built upon the past. That's true of people, too. When writers create characters in our minds, they come with a history. Most of that history doesn't make it into the story, but it's in our minds. That's how we know how the character would act, what she might say, how he walks. The more we know about the character's history, the more real that character is to us, and eventually, the more real he feels to the reader. 

Collectively and individually, who we are is built on who we were, and helps determine who we will be.  

It's all about our history.