Thursday, February 26, 2015

Miami Memories: Sea Creatures

Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel is a story about Georgia and Graham Quillian’s and Charlie Hick’s tumultuous relationships in the summer of 1992, mostly in Miami—my hometown. Maybe I love this story because I’ve been away from Miami since 1977 with only two visits in 2002 and 2007 to show my husband where I grew up. In Sea Creatures, Susanna Daniel’s colorful descriptions of Miami made me feel at home; I could smell the sultry air and feel the sweat dribble from the crown of my head soaking my neck and back.

I never had a child but if I did I’m sure I would’ve behaved like Georgia did with her son, Frankie—overprotective, over-supportive, afraid to let him out of her sight except that eerie night on the eve of Hurricane Andrew. I would have taken my eyes off him exactly like Georgia did… at the worst possible time and for the worst possible reason.

Let me start at the beginning. The focus of Sea Creatures is a disintegrating marriage and the adversities faced by the protagonist, Georgia Quillian.

What once began as a promising life together slowly begins to unravel when Georgia's husband, Graham's rare sleeping disorder (parasomnia) scuttles his chances for receiving tenure at Northwestern where he is a professor. Parasomnia causes Graham to sleepwalk--occasionally into the outside world. All of this is more than unsettling but Georgia does not realize that he might not only be a threat to himself but to her and Frankie, their three-year-old son who stopped speaking at eighteen months. 

At the same time that Graham's tenure is denied Georgia's consulting business goes belly up. However, an old associate soon offers Graham a job at the Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Georgia's hometown of Miami. 

Georgia takes a part-time job for a recluse, Charlie Hick's, who lives in a stilt house on Biscayne Bay. The Arrival of Georgia and Frankie brings a bit of healing to the three of them as Georgia and Graham's relationship begins to disintegrate. 

My favorite line from the book came as Georgia and Graham fought to keep their relationship intact while on a kayak trip to The Dry Tortugas. They’d been speaking about how their relationship had changed since the birth of their son:

The stakes,” I said. “They’re higher now.”
“I understand.”
“Do you?” I said.
He didn’t answer. He loved me too much to say what I believed he was thinking: We used to have a different kind of marriage, and I liked that one better.”

What I didn't like about the book was too many minor characters who influenced Georgia all through her life. I really didn't want to know about all of then nor did I think the story needed to include so many. It felt as if Georgia was telling her (oft times boring) life story.

The over use of the cliche "and every so often" took me out of the story as did the monotonous use of he said/she said. When only two people are talking we can usually recognize who's speaking without being told constantly. A few "beats" or mannerisms thrown into the dialogue would have kept the story tighter.

In spite of what I believe to be grammatical faux pas I actually absolutely enjoyed this book mostly because it's not an ordinary story with a predictable ending. The main characters felt like friends and the descriptions of Miami, both above and below the ocean were spot on to this Miami Native. (Actually I was born in Toledo but Miami became my home just before my third birthday.)

Here's a photo of my husband, Bud, and me in Miami in 2002 celebrating the contract to publish my first novel (Child of My Heart) with Gardenia Press Publishing Company.

Disclamor: A portion of this post was supplied by a professional book reviewer, Gail Cook, from Amazon dot com.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Never Let The Magic Fade

Stephan J Myers is a best-selling children’s book author with the simple vision of creating books for children that bring the magic of illustration and rhyme to life. His ability to combine the two has won him a following of children and adults all over the world. Although Myers is a best-selling author, he gives most of his books away. Check out his website for purchase information. 

I was first drawn to Myers by his very haunting tale of Christmas, THE PRAYER. We became friends on Facebook and I’ve followed his creation of a trilogy of fairytales: The Book of Dreams which includes THE COLOUR RED, THE COLOUR BLUE, and THE COLOUR GOLD.

In THE PRAYER a homeless boy is invited by a ghost to view the opulence of Christmas. This is not the re-telling of Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL—far from it! The story left me with a much deeper and unforgettably haunting impression that I have so much and give or care so little for those in need. The illustrations beautifully convey the warmth and happiness this little boy so desperately covets. THE PRAYER is a children’s book beautifully written for adults as well.

THE COLOUR RED is a fascinating tale of a little girl (Loss de Plott) who loves to draw. When she draws a man with a red hat, he comes alive and presents her with a book of blank pages and encourages her to fill the pages with her dreams. “For when red you draw, in a book of dreams, a simple drawing is not what it seems.”

In THE COLOUR BLUE Loss meets a blue-eyed witch, a skeleton, and a boy made of straw. When she does not immediately draw in her magical book of dreams with the blue pen that was offered her, strange things begin to happen. Through all the magic, the lesson to be learned is that promises must be kept. "It was then Loss knew there were words unspoken: that promises made must never be broken."

In THE COLOUR GOLD Loss and her teddy bear “Ted” discover that books and words inside them are more precious than gold. This is my favorite book of the trilogy because as a reader and writer I know that books take us to unknown and magical places.

Stephen's books are available on Amazon as well as his website

Thank you, Stephen, for sharing your light and never letting the magic fade.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Writing Brings A Gift: Don't Let Your Critics Bring You Down

My friend, Marian Copeland, has a new and fantastic blog: Books. Food. Sex. What else matters? Right now she's attending The San Miguel Writer’s Conference in San Miguel, Mexico. Today she spoke a little about Alice Walker who is one of the many faculty to grace the conference: 

"Asked about the intense criticism she received when The Color Purple was published, she said the answer was simple. "Don't read the reviews!" You can't read the reviews while you're in the throes of creativity, she insisted. You yourself will figure it out. You have more understanding of what you're doing than your critics. "You bring a gift" and all they can do is sit on the sofa, eating chips, and "react."

Marian has many interesting things to say and she blogs DAILY! I can't even imagine that. Drop by once and you'll be hooked!

It's been difficult of late to think of my writing as a gift. I used to think that...way back in the day when I set out to "set the record straight" first in frontier Oregon and later in my own backyard. My goal was to tell stories about the down-trodden and show how many people are able to overcome the obstacles that try to trip them up. I'm most certainly sure that I accomplished my goals, especially when someone tells me that they stayed up all night reading one of my books.

For the past two years I haven't been able to write anything except "Ruby Red's Reflections" which is really my inner child's journal about losing my older sister and younger brother within three months in 2013. Some call it writer's block. Maybe. I don't know, But I do know this: Alice Walker told Marian Copeland that writing brings a GIFT. Alice's words and Marian's sharing those words has renewed my enthusiasm for writing. Look out! Here I come with my fifth novel, "All The Voices In My Head."