Thursday, February 23, 2012

Diary of a Sheltered Girl

I've lived a sheltered life, apparently. Someone I know recently said that, and the comment, quite plainly, pissed me off. After reflecting a bit, however, I considered the source. For most of my family and many of my friends, independence, career, and world travel are considered Verboten for women. Most of my family and friends are not world travelers, and while a few have achieved college--even advanced degrees--most have been content to live their lives in what I consider stale conventionality. For most of my family, life means losing oneself in a spouse and children. I'm not criticizing that option, mind you, but I was not destined to live my life in that manner.
In some ways, I have traveled a very conventional road: college, work for a while, and then graduate school. For many of the people I knew, graduate school for a woman was an anomaly. A friend's mother said, "Five years? It's going to take five years?" She then rolled her eyes in disbelief. Hell, I was going to be five years older anyway. Why not work on a degree. Still others said, "You don't want to meet a nice young man and get married?" Still others said, "Why would you want to live in the outpost of College Station, Texas?" I did finish the degree, but I knew academia wasn't for me. Nonetheless, I loved the ride, the adventure. The most fun I had was living in a fourplex with engineering majors, foreign students, and a gay hairdresser. At night, I read Kant, Foucault, and Schiller with my British Romanticism and loved every second. Of course, many of my friends and family couldn't understand why I wasn't yearning for a house in the suburbs with a car, husband, and three children. Why, after all, would I subject myself to such rigorous brain activity? Why hadn't I just gotten the standard MRS. degree and popped out babies?
When I settled on teaching, I decided I would travel frequently. The sheltered girl has crossed the Atlantic several times and has visited many places in the States--even on my limited funds. The first time I crossed the Atlantic, I did so with friends who were determined to take in London theatre and night life. I worked my way through college, so why not? What the hell--it's always been my motto. One night, I dodged my friends for an afternoon out. (I always was a bit of a loner). New Year's Eve was in full swing, and on the way back to the hotel, I encountered many revelers at Trafalgar Square. Scores of people jumped into the fountain. I was in an amazing white coat, but then, my motto kicked in. What the hell? I jumped in, too. When I returned, my mother took one look at the coat and said, "I see you had a good time." I cold only sheepishly giggle and say, "Yes, ma'am." She raised her eyebrows, suppressed a smile, and said, "Take this to the cleaners, for God's sakes." Mama, God rest her. She had a sense of humor and knew me when many people did not--and apparently still don't.
I'm offering one of my giveaways. Go to my website at Check out the slideshow, interviews, etc. The first two people who post comments on the "Questions" section about my blogs or the website will receive a free PDF version of LOVE AT WAR. Be sure to post your e-mail.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Additions to the Website and reflections on life

Recently, my talented webmaster Judah Mahay added a slide show to my website ( As I combed through the family album in order to select the pictures, I began to assess my past, present, and future. Much of who I am has been shaped by those who went before me, but I also had to embrace my past in order to transcend it and form who I was.
The pictures brought the people I've loved and lost back in the bittersweet way only memory can. I love the pictures I chose of my parents. My father's signing a boxing contract. He was a trainer and manager at one time. Later, he was a horse trainer/bookie and a restaurant/bar owner who began life driving an ice wagon. My father was a survivor of the Depression. He would straighten nails to erect a new fence, and he never glorified the past. When someone would say he/she remembered when apples were a nickel, my father would quickly retort, "Who in hell had the nickel?" He learned early how to hustle and survive. Not much was left after his death, but when he was alive, we instinctively knew all would be well. My mother's in the slideshow, too, standing on Canal Street with her best friend Terry. They were so gorgeous and classy. I miss my parents so very much that it's sometimes like bile in my throat.
My most recent book is LOVE AT WAR, and the experiences of family members during WWII inspired me to write that book. The picture of my Uncle Willie in his Navy uniform brings back bittersweet memories. He began life as a merry prankster, loving women and life. He returned from the Pacific theatre a changed man, good-hearted but hardened by war. When I wrote the character of Nuala's brother George in LOVE AT WAR ( and Amazon), I initially didn't think that he would play such a huge part in the novel, and after I'd written a substantial amount of it, I realized I'd recreated my uncle in George. Not that Willie's experience mirrored George's, but he was a man like George--wild, daring, and brave. In the novel, George becomes as much a hero as Nuala and Keith. The picture of my Uncle Russell standing with his wife and baby rends my heart whenever I see it. I never met Russell. In fact, his only daughter doesn't remember him because he never returned from Germany. His wife was a widow at twenty-three, and their passionate letters to each other are more moving than any novel. His experience also doesn't simply mirror what happens in my book, but the spirit of these people permeates the book. The spirits of these people surrounded me as I wrote.
Those pictures, however, are my past. I had to find myself in the midst of genetics and family lore. Following the road of my own destiny is a long one, and I'm know I've not finished the journey. Th slideshow also contains images of my trips to places like Ireland and England. I've forged fond memories of those places, an they will figure prominently in future, coming novels. Stay tuned!