What Goes into Creating a Novel?

FreefallTomorrow, January 1, 2019, Pen-L Publishing will release my third novel, Freefall: A Divine Comedy, and I’m as excited about its appearance as I was when they published my “debut” novel Fling! in 2015. My family and friends have all commented on how prolific I am, assuming that I wrote these books in the past five years or so. But the reality is very different. Anyone who has written a long narrative knows that a novel is not just long in length, but it also takes a LONG time to produce. Continue reading “What Goes into Creating a Novel?”

Venice’s Magic and its Relation to Magical Realism

venice-2647436_1920I visited Venice for the first time in 1994, and it was love at first sight. It reinforced my notion that our ego consciousness is surrounded by the waters of the unconscious, and I had found a city that demonstrated this perspective. Daily life goes on while the city’s structural foundations are rooted deep in the Venetian lagoon, just as our ego, our conscious perception of ourselves, floats on the collective unconscious, the inner sea that surrounds us. Continue reading “Venice’s Magic and its Relation to Magical Realism”

Do Female Relationships Hold Up Over Time?

absorbed-2409314_1280My latest novel, Freefall: A Divine Comedy, explores, among many things, female relationships and how they evolve over the years. As someone who has valued my friendships with females and males, it was interesting to explore how people can relate if they either haven’t seen each other for a long period or have connected only infrequently, as is true for three of my four major characters. They had been close friends in their late teens and early twenties, a time when identities are still fluid and forming. Continue reading “Do Female Relationships Hold Up Over Time?”

Becoming a Butterfly

My husband and I just returned from a month in Italy. It felt as though not only were we transported to another continent, but we also lived in a cocoon for that period of time. We ignored the news. We focused mainly on our new environment, immersed in the cultural differences, trying to become Italian for a short while at least.2015-06-11 17.53.58

When I think of cocoons, of course, I think of butterflies and the phases they go through in their evolution. The cocoon or chrysalis stage prepares them for the fourth and last stage.

Okay, I’m not going to imply that we returned from our vacation as butterflies, but I do think these trips offer us a chance to revise ourselves and bring back something of the culture(s) we visited, depositing whatever we’ve learned or discovered in our home environment.

The loveliest thing about being in transit was letting go of our usual routines and schedules. I didn’t go to the gym or work out regularly (except for climbing the endless number of stairs wherever we went). I didn’t meditate. I didn’t prepare meals except occasionally. 1980-01-01 00.00.14-1I let go of my daily practices, and that allowed another mentality to take root.

Will I be able to sustain this alternative way of being? Only time will tell. At the moment, I can’t stand to turn on CNN or any other 24/7 news channel. I long for a ride on a vaporetta. I even miss climbing so many stairs. Naturally there’s much more that I had to leave behind: the wonderful restaurant we found in Venice with the frenetic owner who also was the waiter. He did a dance for hours as he flitted between tables and kitchen, all contained in the same room (CoVino). The ancient sites with their echoes of former centuries (Pompeii was particularly disturbing and moving: to think that in an instant a culture was decimated) . The stunning Tuscan landscape that not even our Northern California hills can match.

Clearly, these memories will be working on me for a long time, and while I might not become a butterfly, I at least know what I’m missing.

Venice: La Serenissima

My husband and I are planning a month-long trip to Italy in June 2015, so an article about Venice in Border Crossings interested me. It has helped me to better understand why that city moved me so much.

In its description of St. Mark’s church, it says,”‘You are going to be shocked when you go inside,’ the guide said solemnly. It is very oriental.’ Pause. ‘You see, the mosaics were made by Greeks. You’re going to see Greek words on the mosaics. A surprise in a Christian Church’.”

My father was born in Central Greece, the village of Karditsa. Some years ago, I stopped in Venice before flying to Greece for ten days to explore that part of my heritage. Immediately, I felt at home there. Before that trip, I hadn’t realized how much the East had influenced Venice in architecture and design, a mix of ornate decoration and classical elements. It gives a unique feeling, a magical quality. The city is not exactly Italian or European but Venetian. Its own world. The bride of the sea.venice

The city has great symbolic value to me, the bridge between east and west, between my Scottish heritage on my mother’s side and my father’s.

Venice, a mix of cultures and peoples, is the opposite of more dignified Florence. There’s a dreamy quality to life in Venice. Slow moving—you can’t go that fast on the water, so the pace of life is easier. Seeing water everywhere also makes one feel reflective, suspended. It’s truly miraculous that men were able to build the town in water, in mud.

It was incredible to sit in St. Mark’s square, drinking a beer, watching the tourists amble by, some dancing to the elegant pop music, violins, accordions, sweet sounds. Not the clashing ones of rock. Venetian feeling. From where I sat in a restaurant, I could see a pigeon making a nest in the fold of a canvas curtain. The activity was touching in the midst of all that commotion.

The boat rides after dark also were lovely, spots of light illuminating the night and reflecting in the water, gondoliers snaking through the canal, paddles soundlessly cutting into the depths, passengers reclining and enjoying the ride. So many of the buildings seemed only partially inhabited, many windows dark. Of course, the shutters may have been closed against mosquitoes and noise from the canal. But it was dramatic to view the places that were illuminated, glimpses into elegant parlors, walls and ceilings ornately decorated. A woman stepping out on her balcony was silhouetted against the light. It was like being on a giant stage.

The day I visited St. Mark’s, I realized why this city is so important to me. I was looking at things saved from Constantinople, items Venetians had ransacked during that great city’s demise. I understood its impact then emotionally, not just intellectually: Venice is the gateway into Greece, into that part of my heritage. It has a strong Greek influence (the Greek cross is used in the sanctuary, the Greek Orthodox church putting more emphasis on resurrection than the crucifixion, on completeness).

Nearly everything about Venice pleases me—the ambiance, the beauty, the color, the art, the architecture. The mix of so many periods and styles. I like that kind of blending. There is also an assortment of races not found so much in other Italian communities.

The Border Crossing’s article also pointed out that “Venice herself is understood to be female, either La Serenissima or, to use Apollinaire’s nasty phrase, the ‘sexe femelle de l’Europe’ (the she-animal of Europe).” No wonder I felt at home there.

(Here are more wonderful images of Venice: http://shootingveniceandberlin.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/stillness/)