Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Write...Edit...Publish August Challenge: Spectacular Settings

Thanks to Denise and Yolanda for hosting the monthly Write...Edit...Publish blog hop. Here are the guidelines:

This first challenge has two parts. You may do both parts or just one. Your choice.

For this challenge you will:
1.    Firstly share a paragraph from a novel, or an extract from a poem, or a photograph that stopped your heart with a spectacular setting etc. 

2.    Describe how your chosen 'setting' spoke to you. Why did you like it?

3.    Then you have the option to:

     a)     write your own 'setting' piece in any genre, or share a ‘setting’ from your WIP, or…
     b)     write your own poem which highlights 'setting', or 
     c)     share a photograph that blows you away every time you look at it and tell us why.
     d)     share an artwork that shows a 'setting' you love and tell us why you love it.
     e)     write a small playscript which highlights 'setting'.

I chose the opening of Hilary Mantel's Bringing Up the Bodies.

Wiltshire, September 1535

His children are falling from the sky. He watches from horseback, acres of England stretching behind him; they drop, gilt-winged, each with a blood-filled gaze. Grace Cromwell hovers in thin air. She is silent when she takes her prey, silent as she glides to his fist. But the sounds she makes then, the rustle of feathers and the creak, the sigh and riffle of pinion, the small cluck-cluck from her throat, these are sounds of recognition, intimate, daughterly, almost disapproving. Her breast is gore-streaked and flesh clings to her claws.

Later, Henry will say, `Your girls flew well today.' The hawk Anne Cromwell bounces on the glove of Rafe Sadler, who rides by the king in easy conversation. They are tired; the sun is declining, and they ride back to Wolf Hall with the reins slack on the necks of their mounts. Tomorrow his wife and two sisters will go out. These dead women, their bones long sunk in London clay, are now transmigrated. Weightless, they glide on the upper currents of the air. They pity no one. They answer to no one. Their lives are simple. When they look down, they see nothing but their prey, and the borrowed plumes of the hunters: they see a flittering, flinching universe, a universe filled with their dinner.

I enjoy historical fiction. Thomas Cromwell was a very complex character, a man from a humble background, abused by his father, who became a self-made man and Henry VIII's henchman. Henry could not have been a successful king without him. Yet Mandel also paints a portrait of a man who loved children, his own and many others that he took into his own household. He was fond of his daughters Ann and Grace. He wanted them to have the same education as the young males in his household. In this opening scene, we learn that he has named his hawks for the young daughters and wife he has lost to the "sweating sickness." With Cromwell you come to see a tender, sentimental side juxtaposed against a ferocious side.
* * *

And so for the second part of this challenge, I decided to post a painting I recently completed instead of something written. These two rascals are my grandchildren Jake and Kylie. When they are awake they are hell on wheels, but when they are asleep, well, they come pretty close to angelic. Their dual natures make me reflect back to the dual nature of Cromwell.


  1. Linda, this is great. That excerpt from the historical fiction is stunning--certainly caught my attention with the opening--'His children are falling from the sky.' And it continues in the same vein, redolent with imagery. There are so many poetic techniques to delight the eye and ear.

    Thank you for the wonderful share, Linda. And that painting, wow, Linda, I love it! So much character and love in those faces. I'm sure they're always angelic!

    Thanks for posting to WEP Linda. Great to have you back on board.

    Denise :-)

    1. Thank you. I am looking forward to visiting all the WEP LINKS WHEN I return home

  2. What a wonderful excerpt you have chosen. I keep reading it over and over. As to your delicious paining, how angelic your grandchildren look in sleep, storing up all their energy to rush around all day. You are very talented. It's a wonderful painting to share even more so because of the subject matter and being painted by your own fair hand. Lovely.

  3. What a lovely painting and fitting setting, for in their sleep they are "almost angelic". I love it. Thanks for the sharing the Cromwell piece. I don't read as much historical fiction as I should and fear I am missing out.

  4. Linda
    Your choice of Historical Fiction with Hilary Mantel's Bringing Up the Bodies with Thomas Cromwell was truly inspiring. The dichotomy of his personality, 'ferocious' to 'tender' is so well captured in this short excerpt. Eye opening!

    Your painting, though, masterful and peace filled. So many stories come to mind just gazing on those angelic faces. 'Dual nature' is a subject captured beautifully in both your example and your painting, a challenge for all writers in character building.

    Thank you for sharing your artistry for the WEP Spectacular Settings Challenge. Denise's decision to start with Spectacular Settings was genius. My journey to each entry, astounding, so much talent, and the opportunity to learn - what a blessing!

  5. Linda, what a charming painting. I can almost see them dreaming - about new adventures, I'm sure.

  6. Wonderful painting. The kids are adorable.

  7. Hi Linda.
    Your extract made me think of Robert Bolt's book A Man For All Seasons, a tale which paints a rather saintly picture of Sir Thomas Moore and his upright ethos. The story is based on actual letters and diaries.
    I studied it as a prescribed grade12 setwork... back in the day... long, long ago.
    Lovely painting. You are so talented.

    1. You will enjoy Mandel's take on Thomas More and his relationship with Cromwell.

    2. I loved A Man for all Seasons too Michelle!

  8. Incredible descriptions. I hope one day my writing will rise to that beautiful style. Thank you for posting.

  9. Oh, I love to go back into history. This was enjoyable. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Hi,
    Thank you so much for introducing me to Hilary Mantel. Another book has has just been added to my TBR List. I enjoy reading historical fiction. I also liked the short introduction about yourself. I have Sol Stein's book, Stein on Writing, and it is fantastic.
    As for your submission, it is excellent. You have a sharp eye for detail. The portrait looks as if they will wake up any minute and ask what you're doing.

    1. Had trouble posting to your link so here are my comments: I am definitely going to have to check out John Gardner. Great excerpt. I also enjoyed your fiction--tense, descriptive, intriguing. I agree with the comment about the mammoth. The image doesn't work. I want to see where this story is going.

  11. Lovely painting. Interesting fiction selection. I haven't read it before.

  12. I had this intake of breath reading about the falcons with blood-filled gaze and I held that breath to the end of reading.

    Thank you for it and thank you for sharing your painting of the innocents asleep.

  13. A gorgeous rendition of your grandchildren. They look as if any moment they might awaken. Well done. I love seeing art work. I also enjoyed reading the excerpt and learned a bit about Thomas Cromwell, someone about which I previously knew very little. Thanks for sharing your work!

  14. Hilary Mantel is beyond brilliant. Only thing I have against her is she's not completing the last part of that trilogy soon enough I am dying to read it :)

    Wowza on that painting, you can paint pictures not just with your pen but with brushes also!

    1. Thank you. I've come to really appreciate her writing. Very skillful.

  15. I'm glad you all enjoyed the Hilary Mandel excerpt. She is an amazing writer.