Summer Break

I took a break from blogging this summer to enjoy the great outdoors.  I love to hike in the mountains, visit the state parks, and hunt for sharks’ teeth and other fossils along the Potomac River. The pictures below tell the rest of the story.  Can you find the black bear in the next to the last photo?

PotomacRiver

huntingForSharksTeeth

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Greeting the LordA friend asked me to say  hello to God when I reached the top of the mountain, and I did.

The earth is the LORD’S , and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it. (Psalm 24: 1 NASB).

 

 

SHADOW OF A DOUBT

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When I had this photo developed, I thought it would make a great cover for a mystery novel.  I even thought of a title: SHADOW OF A DOUBT.   Then I remembered that SHADOW OF A DOUBT is the name of one of my favorite films.

http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi148441369/

 

Creating Fictional Characters

No one creates characters out of thin air. They are bits and pieces of people you know, have seen, or read about. Sometimes the main character has a lot in common with the author. I’ve never read a Stephen King novel, but I know that his main character is often a novelist.

While writing THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER, I identified with several characters, especially “Effie Belle Butler,” an airbrushed image of me, with all of my strengths and none of my weaknesses. Writing a novel is like daydreaming about who you would like to be and who you would like to be with.

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Finding Inspiration in Quotes

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My favorite novel is ST. Elmo, by Augusta Evans Wilson (1835-1909). The book inspired me to write THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER.  Although my book is not a ST. ELMO remake, the similarities are not coincidental.

To pay homage to Augusta Evans Wilson and her best-selling novel, I introduced ten of my thirty-four chapters with a quote from ST. ELMO.  They are as follows:

“He is a rude, blasphemous, wicked man,” said Mr. Hunt as Edna reentered the shop.

“That passage leads to my son’s apartments, and he dislikes noise or intrusion.”

The expression with which Mr. Murray regarded Estelle reminded Edna of the account given by a traveler of the playful mood of a lion, who, having devoured one gazelle, kept his paw on another, and, amid occasional growls, teased and toyed with his victim.

She picked up from the spot where he had thrown his shawl a handsome morocco-bound pocket copy of Dante, and opening it to discover the name of the owner, she saw written on the fly-leaf in a bold and beautiful hand, “S.E.M.”

God help me to resist that man’s wicked magnetism!

“I go like Ruth, gleaning in the great fields of literature.”

“Mrs. Powell received a letter from a wealthy friend in New York who desires to secure a governess for her young children.”

“If she ever marries, it will not be from gratitude or devotion, but because she learned to love, almost against her will, some strong, vigorous thinker, some man whose will and intellect master hers, who compels her heart’s homage, and without whose society she cannot persuade herself to live.”

He strained her to him and pressed his lips twice to hers, then the carriage stopped at the railroad station.

“Edna, my shadow has fallen across your heart, and I am not afraid that you will forget me.”

HelpMetoResistStElmo

 

Romance and the Language of Flowers

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I found this copy of the POETRY OF FLOWERS (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.) in an antique flea market.  The inscription on the flyleaf reads in part, “Miss Carrie Lawrence, May 18th 1891.”

People who lived in the nineteenth century assigned meaning to each flower.  Choosing flowers for a bouquet was a delicate matter because you wanted to send the right message.

For example, if you wanted to say “Let the bonds of marriage unite us,” you would choose the following flowers for your bouquet: blue convolvulus (bonds), ivy (marriage), and a few whole straws (unite us).

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If you saw the movie KATE AND LEOPOLD, starring Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan, you might recall the scene in which “Leopold” shows “Kate’s” brother how to choose a bouquet for his girlfriend.  Sad to say, the language of flowers has faded with time.  I would like to see the POETRY OF FLOWERS in print again as a runaway best seller. 

Creating a Fictional Landmark

The church loomed before her like some aged monument preserving the memory of its founders.  Clutching vines of ivy encrusted the walls and  scaled the towering steeple, as if to hold the bricks in place and keep them from crumbling.  Like sentinels, a pair of massive, gnarled oaks guarded the entrance.

As Effie took the key out of her pocket, she recalled Mrs.  Baldwin saying, “I hope you’re not superstitious.  Providence is one of the oldest churches in Fairfax County.  It predates the Civil War.  Some say it’s haunted.  Can you imagine calling a church haunted?”

Timidly she unlocked the door and peered into the sanctuary, deluged with light from stained glass Palladian windows.  Each was part of a series depicting the life of Christ from the Annunciation to the Resurrection.  She walked down the center aisle, carpeted in red, towards the cross that loomed over the choir loft and dropped to her knees at the altar.  Surrounded by all the trappings of spirituality, she prayed and pictured the throne of God, the “sea of glass,” the cherubim, and “the four and twenty elders” clothed in white.

But the vision was short-lived.  Like a clap of thunder, the specter of doubt jarred her with a question:  What if her circumstances were accidental, not providential?  What if coming to Fairfax was a mistake?  She waved the notion aside and seated herself at the organ. 

A careful examination of the instrument found it nearly identical to the one she’d practiced her lessons on in Columbus.  “What harm is there in playing the organ?” she asked aloud.  Her words hung in the air, unanswered, undisputed, and soon “Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” resounded throughout the sanctuary. 

She poured herself into the composition, mindless of time and place, until a rapping sound arrested her attention.  Her eyes scanned the church before resting upon a stained glass window depicting the Crucifixion.  Like a metronome, a branch was tapping the pane. 

As she resumed playing, the melancholy fugue fired her imagination, bringing “The Phantom of the Opera” to mind.  A mental picture of Lon Chaney lurking behind one of the pews prompted the feeling that someone was watching her.  To counter the thought, she abandoned the organ for the piano and played a hardy rendition of “Oh Happy Day.”  But halfway through the song, a scraping sound sliced the air, immobilizing her fingers.

Excerpt from THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER (pages 7 and 8).

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St. Francis Methodist, Mobile, AL

St. Francis Methodist, Mobile, AL

When I started writing THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER, I wanted to give the story a familiar setting with historical landmarks.  I chose the City of Fairfax, one of my favorite stomping grounds.  Most of the landmarks mentioned in the novel are real, but Providence United Methodist Church is fictional.

The name “Providence” is not a coincidence.  Not only does it mean God’s will, but prior to 1859, the City of Fairfax was known as the village of Providence.

My description of Providence Methodist was partly inspired by the architecture of Berryman United  Methodist  in Richmond.  Truro Anglican Church in the heart of the City of Fairfax influenced me also.

Many Versions of WUTHERING HEIGHTS but Only One HEATHCLIFF

Which one of these three versions of WUTHERING HEIGHTS resembles the book by Emily Bronte most?

Wuthering Heights (1939 film)

Wuthering Heights (1939 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cover of "Wuthering Heights (1970)"

Cover of Wuthering Heights (1970)

Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights

Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (Photo credit: wikipedia)

Did you know that “Heathcliff” in WUTHERING HEIGHTS is a despicable character–I mean REALLY despicable?  If you saw the 1939 version of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, starring Lawrence Olivier and Merle Oberon. or the 1970 version, starring Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall, you might have found Heathcliff engaging.  But in 1992, Ralph Fiennes portrayed him as a handsome brute, with the emphasis on brute.

The first time I watched Ralph Fiennes in that role, I was horrified.  Heathcliff was nothing less than obsessively passionate–and obsessively cruel.  For some reason, I sat through the film a second time, but this time found the mean-spirited Heathcliff oddly appealing.  If I could define his performance in one word, it would be “intense.”  In fact, Ralph Fiennes gives the most intense performance I’ve ever witnessed in this or any film.

I had read the book as a teenager but forgotten most of the story.  So I read it again.   Was I surprised!  The film follows the book almost to the letter.  Ralph Fiennes’ “Heathcliff” is nearly identical to Emily Bronte’s description.

Here is an excerpt from the book of Heathcliff describing his wife, Isabella:

“She [is] under a delusion,” he answered, “picturing in me a hero of romance, and expecting unlimited indulgences from my chivalrous devotion.  I can hardly regard her in the light of a rational creature, so obstinately has she persisted in forming a fabulous notion of my character and acting on the false impressions she cherished.  But, at last, I think she begins to know me: I don’t perceive the silly smiles and grimaces that provoked me at first; and the senseless incapability of discerning that I was in earnest when I  gave her my opinion of her infatuation and herself.  It was a marvelous effort of perspicacity to discover that I did not love her.  I believed, at one time, no lessons could teach her that!  And yet it is poorly learnt, for this morning she announced, as a piece of appalling intelligence, that I had actually succeeded in making her hate me!  A positive labour of Hercules, I assure you!”

I urge women who haven’t seen this film to watch it.  You’ll love hating Heathcliff and hate loving him.