Monday, February 1, 2016

Talk about disappointment . . .

Last Saturday my husband and I made a sudden decision to hustle over to Daytona to watch (part of) the Rolex 24 race. Four different classes of cars roared around the 3 1/2-mile course for 24 hours, tires smoking around the curves, engines screaming along the straightaways. We sat in awe of the technology streaking past us, amazed that now each car sports a lighted number on each side of it displaying for the crowd its current position.

One prototype class car, the DeltaWing, caught our attention with its narrow nose and patriotic paint job ("God bless America" emblazoned along its side). We watched as lap after lap, it took the lead, slipped a bit, and took it back. Go, Car Zero!

We dove back into the monstrous grand stand to find another vantage point. As we passed a TV screen, we stopped in our tracks. There was the DeltaWing being towed off the track on the back of a truck.The race was over for Car Zero.

I considered: How must this feel for Katherine Legge, who drove the car to the lead during the first shift? How about the hapless second driver, Andy Meyrick, who slammed it into a stalled car shortly after getting behind the wheel?  Then there are the grieving owner and the entire pit crew, not to mention the two other drivers who never got their turns.

Myself, I do not handle disappointment well. When I have prepared for something with great anticipation and it gets rained out, called off, or just goes kaput, I do not bounce back quickly. You'll see me sulking (or worse) for some time, throwing dark looks around and muttering about my rancid luck.

I need to remember the DeltaWing. Professionals like that crew, although deeply disappointed, have a way of looking toward the next race, the next game, the next campaign. They can't get stuck. And though it left the famous Daytona track trailing pieces and parts, the DeltaWing surely has not run its last race and will show up again, even better. Hope I can learn to do that.

Photo: Two prototype cars take an infield curve at the Daytona Rolex 24, Jan. 30, 2016. Overall winner was Car #2, Tequila Patron ESM, shown at right. Photo by Michael Doyle.

Monday, January 25, 2016

"Agnes Somerset: A Victorian Tale" Is Now on Kindle

My novel Agnes Somerset is now available on Amazon/Kindle as an e-book. The whole story, all in one place, for the astonishingly low price of $2.99. I invite you to take a look

Once upon a time in the 1880s . . .

Set against the lush backdrop of the New York countryside, Agnes Somersest brings to life the tumult of life in Victorian America. Our heroine Agnes struggles to hold together the family estate following the death of her parents. Now comes one magical summer, distinguished by the arrival of young Lord Phillip, a failed missionary just returned from India, who kindles in her feelings she cannot deny. But romance with this unusual man is soon challenged by scandal and sabotage. What’s more, cousin Wilbur and his wife have done something they refuse to discuss—but what? And all the while, Agnes cannot know that her life is about to be changed forever by a shy Indian girl who dances for a living in a caberet in Marseilles.

Crooked relatives, wicked neighbors, and creeping time conspire to pull from Agnes her ancestral home, its beloved staff, and the love of a lifetime that seems to have arrived just a little too late. Peopled by a wide cast of characters, both honorable and evil, Agnes Somerset takes the reader down a winding road from exhilaration to agony, then turns again. (Appropriate for both young adult and adult readers.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In case you missed me

Just posting a quick word to apologize for having disappeared from this spot for so long. I had turned my attention to publishing my novel, Agnes Somerset, a literary tale of romance and skullduggery set in New York state in the 1880s. Unable to find a publisher (even with the hard work of my agent) who would put the tale between two hard covers, and unwilling to throw myself into the roaring and ever-swelling river of self-publishing, I decided to simply give the story its own blog and put it out for the reading public in serial format. Ah, how Victorian! A new episode is posted each Wednesday. I hope you might pop over there and try it out: 

I would be grateful for your comments--do leave one on Agnes's site. A synopsis of the story is available there at the top of the first posting (March 18, 2015). Happy reading!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Done with Downton

The ending of Downton Abbey's episode 2 did it for me last Sunday night. I had given Downton another chance, after threatening to not tune in at all this season due to the sloppy, implausible, and horrid death of Matthew at the very end of Season 3. But I missed my Downton friends. So when January rolled around, I turned on the premier with hopes that the writing had taken in energy and creativity over the break and we would be back on track with sensitive scripts and credible situations in the big house. 

The 2-hour opener was slow and labored. Nothing much of anything happened. Ah, but wait--Fellowes was just pulling us quietly along only to hit us with a sledge hammer the next week. 

It seems to me that the writer has run out of ideas for conflict or other elements of plot interest and is resorting again to the cheapest devices in all fiction. With poor Matthew, it was an utterly unbelievable fatal auto accident just as a rosy life with Mary and the baby-to-be are ahead of him. Now the audience abuse continues as Fellowes plays the rape card, and with probably the most lovable female character in the cast, Anna.

Violent rape is not a plot component that viewers of Downton, for the most part, count on seeing as part of the sophisticated story they have come to love. I for one don't watch "CSI," for example, because the ugly headlines of the daily news are sorrowing enough--I don't seek such tragedy in my entertainment.

Secondly, the rape was, again, implausible. Surely some aristocrats took shameful advantage of their maids, but those "gentlemen" had impunity. A fellow servant would not. Anna's attacker would have been out of a career as word leaked out--as it surely would--and punished summarily. And why would he have picked a self-possessed, married woman to attack? 

I am now downright afraid of what might be lurking in next week's script, and the ones after that. So I am saying good-bye to my Downton friends, sadly, in order to protect myself. They themselves need to band together, I should say, to protect themselves from the reckless pen of their creator. What a shame.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A woman for all seasons

I doubt you have ever heard Hannah Breece's name mentioned--a schoolteacher from Pennsylvania who, after some 20 years of teaching, felt a call to educate the native children (and their parents) in the great frontier of Alaska. I stumbled upon the story of this woman, written from her memoirs, in a used book store. The book only got published thanks to the great efforts of Hannah's literary niece, Jane Jacobs, who put her aunt's story into good order and added her own research about the time onto the end of it.

It was 1904 when Washington sent Hannah to an Alaskan village on her first assignment. This was a wild land of small settlements separated by great distances; and peopled by natives, Russians, and a few enterprising white folks from the States. Laws were only sometimes enforced, with much depending on the integrity of the local administrator. Hannah was 45 years old when she arrived to teach school at Afognak. She spent the next 18 years setting up schools in several villages, always improving on what she found, applying her caring but no-nonsense approach to teaching everything from reading to proper housekeeping.

Her adventures included falling through the ice, being beset one Sunday morning by a hundred howling dogsled dogs (which she fended off single handed until reaching the safety of the closest building), walking all day through rough terrain to reach her destination (at great cost to her feet), and suffering the scorn of the local whites after testifying at a hearing against one of their own for mistreatment of the natives and other crimes.

To say Hannah was bold, was determined, seems an understatement. Reading her story was a tonic to me, one who suffers too often from tentativeness and second-guessing. Hannah could quickly size up what needed doing and do it. She assigned the villagers jobs to help make the broken-down schoolrooms usable, taught the natives how to plant vegetable gardens, demonstrated that bathing a baby would not kill it, and overall achieved remarkable results. She did not bite her tongue. Hannah told one native young man, who repeatedly came to school dirty and disheveled, that he could not attend one more day of class unless he cleaned himself up. (Imagine saying that today!) The next day, and thereafter, he arrived washed and combed.

Hannah endured not only the grueling hardships of 40-degree-below temperatures, 24-hour winter darkness, and bear attacks, but repeated incompetence and indifference from many of her superiors. Nevertheless, she complained not once about the latter in her memoirs, and simply persevered in her efforts to procure needed supplies and simple justice for the people under her care.

I would like to see a statue built to Hannah Breece. Lacking that, I will erect a small one in my mind and look to it for inspiration, as an example of what one clear-eyed woman can do.
A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece, edited by Jane Jacobs, Vintage Books, 1995.