Thursday, April 25, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Virginia Woolf

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Virginia Woolf

Dear Ms. Woolf,

I first read your books as a college student. First was Mrs. Dalloway, a book that is both about everything and nothing at the same time.  An entire life contained in the events of a single day.

I have to admit that I didn't instantly fall in love with your stream-of-consciousness style. But I was fascinated by your portrayal of the subtleties of a person's heart. You "got" sadness.

Unfortunately, you got it too well. You died at your own hand. People say now that you may have had bipolar disorder, something the medical establishment knew very little about in the 1930s and 1940s. Certainly they didn't know enough to help you. We lost you to suicide. I like to think it would have been different for you if you lived now. I hope it would.

I recently read To the Lighthouse, and gasped as I read, recognizing so many of the situations: the way men and women speak past each other, the difficulty of finding your way as an artist.

Your style may have been radical, but your themes remain universal. A Room of One's Own shouldn't be a radical idea, but so may of us still struggle for literal and figurative space for our art.

I wish you'd found a lasting place for yours.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Ursula LeGuin

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Ursula LeGuin
Dear Ms. LeGuin,

I haven't read enough of your work yet. A couple of years ago I was part of a book club that selected The Left Hand of Darkness to read.

I was reading a fifty year old book and yet the ideas felt fresh and new and so apropos to what was going on in the world. In a science fiction setting ostensibly about politics as much as anything else, the book explored gender fluidity before that was a term anyone knew.

I'm often not engaged by novels I'd called "idea books" where the concepts take precedence to character and plot, but all were so interwoven in this one. As soon as I set it down, I picked it up to read again.

I'll probably read a few times before I die. But in the meantime, I'm hoping to see what else you had to say. All the rest of your books are on my TBR.

Recently, probably because of your death, articles about you and your writing advice have been buffeting around the internet. It's good advice. No nonsense. To the point.

Even on the other side of the veil, you're still inspiring generations of women who write.

I already miss you.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Sojourner Truth

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Sojourner Truth

Dear Ms. Truth,

For the longest time, I thought poetry was supposed to be decorous and calm.

The classic poems I'd been shown in school as a child were probably selected for their inoffensiveness above any other criteria.  Not to put down Mr. Wordsworth, but "I wandered lonely as a cloud" is definitely on the sweeter side of things.

But then, I found you. I wish I could remember the context more fully. But I do remember that I heard your famous spoken word piece "Ain't I a Woman?" performed by someone costumed as you. It must have been at some kind of history event.

It blew me away.

It was raucous. Loud. Funny. Angry. Sarcastic. Definitely not decorous.

Completely new to me. I was enthralled.

Since then, I've become a fan of good spoken word poetry. There is something special about poetry that is performed (not read) by its creator, where the voice and rhythm, appearance and movement, and words all combine to create the experience. I wish I could have heard you speak.

Reading about you later in my life, I was amazed by all you had overcome and how tirelessly you worked for social reform. Truly you were a woman. I'd love to become half the woman you were.


Monday, April 22, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Shirley Jackson

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Shirley Jackson

Dear Ms. Jackson,

Hello darkness, my old friend! Any time I pick up one of your books or stories, I get this tingle just knowing that you're about to scare and disturb and thrill me again. Even for the books I've read repeatedly (The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle are perennial favorites), the effect lingers.

Your stories are all the scarier for the realization that the monsters are not supernatural in nature, but are just human beings exercising ordinary cruelty. The monsters are us.

Your most famous work is probably the short story "The Lottery." Thanks to its inclusion in many textbooks, most American schoolchildren have a chance to read it in middle or high school.

For me, that story shone, shocking me during a year where most things I was assigned to read bored me silly. Such an unflinching look at what people will do to one another if they believe it will protect them from pain themselves.

The worldview in your stories is dark and unforgiving, but deeply affecting and thought-provoking.

Thank you,

Saturday, April 20, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Jean Rhys

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Jean Rhys
Dear Ms. Rhys,

I've only read one of your books, but it was a doozy! Wide Sargasso Sea was the first book of its ilk I ever read: a book that stands as its own work of art, but which draws inspiration from another.

I've become a fan of the entire genre: I call these stories backdoor stories, because they slip behind the scenes of another story and reinterpret them.

I already loved Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. It still ranks among my favorite books.

But your book turned that book on its ear, exploring who Bertha Mason was before she became Rochester's dark secret. Brontë doesn't give much detail about Bertha, so she left you plenty of room to invent and you created a masterwork commentary on marriage, the roles of women, colonialism in the Caribbean, and so much more.

It was stunning story. Brilliantly insightful and moving. I only wish I could read it again for the first time, not knowing what was to come.


Friday, April 19, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Agatha Christie, Queen of Mystery

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Agatha Christie, Queen of Mystery (I know, I'm cheating a little to use her for Q, but I don't have a favorite dead writer whose name starts with Q).

Dear Ms. Christie,

My mother gave me your books to read many years ago. I'd long been a fan of Nancy Drew, and she thought I might be ready for some more adult mysteries.

So I spent a summer working my way through your impressive catalog. I don't know if I read all 66 of your novels, but I made a good attempt! I was an equal opportunity fan, loving both Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

I recently revisited your work when the new movie edition of Murder on the Orient Express was made. It was gorgeous, by the way--I bet you would have loved it! Even though I remembered that one well, it was still wonderful to watch the mystery unfold.

That was what I enjoyed in all your books: the chase. Not just the one on the page, but the one between me (the reader) and you (the writer). I'd try and try to guess what the twist was going to be, who the real murderer would turn out to be, or how they did it. And again and again, I'd be wrong.

But I never felt cheated. Sure, there were red herrings, but when the drawing room explanation finally came, the clues had been there all along. No information had been withheld; I just hadn't spotted the details that mattered. It was a kind of literary sleight of hand, and you were a master.

Thanks for the ride!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Dorothy Parker

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Dorothy Parker

Dear Ms. Parker,

I first came to admire you for your quick wit and unapologetic snark. People quote you all the time without knowing it's you they quote:

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone

Men seldom make passes At girls who wear glasses.

I hate writing, I love having written. 

If you were writing today, you'd be a superstar on Twitter for your brief and expressive poniards.Your Constant Reader reviews are works of art in and of themselves, though I'm glad my own work never passed under your laser eyes. I'm not sure my skin is quite that thick yet!

Your short stories and poems capture the brave front in the face of disillusionment. I suspect your black humor was a coping mechanism for a lot of pain. Your suicide attempts showed that "Enough Rope" --the title of one of your poetry collections--was not just a joke. Your struggles were real and difficult, even when hidden behind a witty remark.

Once you moved on to Hollywood, you worked on so many amazing projects, writing for A Star is Born and The Little Foxes, bringing your sharp tongue into play on some very memorable dialogue. Your words in Bette Davis's mouth? Whew!

I didn't really know about your political life until recently, but you were never afraid to take a stand, even an unpopular one. The world needs more women like you.

Thanks for teaching me that it's okay not to be nice sometimes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Octavia Butler

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Octavia Butler

Dear Ms. Butler,

I'm sorry that I didn't find you before you died. Yours was not a name I heard until I was older. 

Even though you had built a career by the time I was born, I didn't find you in the used book store where I bought all my science fiction and fantasy as a child and young woman. The shelves there featured lots of the "big names" of our shared genre, Isaac Asimov, JRR Tolkein, Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury, Jules Verne: white guys, every one of them. I read those, and thought I knew what was out there. I missed so much!

Because I'm a white girl myself, and I lived in a place where there were very few people who weren't, it was a long time before I even knew that my reading had been restricted, that I had missed whole other canons of work. It's hard to see outside a box when you're in it, especially when you're young.

Sometime in my thirties, I began to hear your name. I'd see a list of "must reads" and you'd be on it. I was curious, but it was still a few more years until I actually read your work. I met a woman through my writing life who was a big fan of your work. That was a recommendation that bore weight: she didn't waste her time on books that were not of consequence, and she admired your work.

So I picked up Wild Seed. Turns out that was kind of a strange place to start. It's neither your first, nor your most famous book. But I loved it. Sweeping and epic in scale, following immortals Anyanwu and Doro across time, and featuring fascinating powers, I was drawn in immediately. The best parts, for me, were the parts where Anyanwu used her ability to become different animals. I felt each creature with her through your words.

After that I picked up Lilith's Brood, intrigued by the title. Lilith, I figured was going to be the Biblical, mythological woman, a figure I knew little about. She was a whisper on the wind for me. And brood. Such an interesting word, with its implications of breeding programs and chickens and large numbers of children and at the same time a kind of pondering thought, lingering over melancholy and disturbing topics. Turns out that you couldn't have picked a better title for your exploration of the nature of humanity and the implications of gender through the story of a woman who helps humankind survive, in a manner of speaking, through integration with alien species. So much to think about in that trilogy!

You're still on my reading list. My daughter was assigned Parable of the Sower at college this year, and she had a lot to say about it, so I think that will be next. I look forward to learning what else you have to teach me.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Anaïs Nin

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Anaïs Nin
Dear Ms. Nin,

I found your work in college, as many young women do.

Newly freed from my parents supervision and the censorship of high school libraries, where work of a sexual nature was banned if it ever even found a way onto the shelves at all, I was instantly fascinated by your frank and explicit writing about eroticism.

I read your Delta of Venus alongside Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn. The movie Henry and June came out during my college years, and cemented my interest in you, your life, and your work. You me a vocabulary for feelings that were new to me, and a glimpse into a bohemian experimenting sort of life I would not have the courage to live myself.

You were so sexy and so smart at the same time, and it was important for me to learn that a woman could be both of those things at once.

It wasn't all just about sex, though. You had such beautiful language, and in the midst of your stories, there were such gems of philosophy and psychology, such deep understandings of the motivations of human beings. Your journals were fascinating for their insights as well as for the life they shared.

Thank you for sharing your life with me. I'm so sorry it ended in pain. F*ck cancer.

Monday, April 15, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Mary Wollestonecraft Shelley

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Mary Wollestonecraft Shelley

Dear Ms. Shelley,

Your biography is a full and varied one full of adventure. You traveled so much, and held your own with some of the biggest name writers of your era. But the part that amazes me is that you did it all when you were still so young! You were just 21 when Frankenstein was published.

Given the impressive nature of your family, it shouldn't be a surprise that you were brilliant. You had better access to education than was usual for a woman of your era, and the variety of your reading fed your mind and allowed you to create one of the most memorable stories of all time. Frankenstein is so instilled in our cultural memory at this point, that we all know the story, even those who have never read it.

I have read it. Several times now. And each time I am horrified not by the creature or the experiment, but by the inhumanity of his treatment by his creator. This intelligent and sensitive side of your creature was lost in early interpretations of your book for stage and screen, but has made it into the mainstream in recent years.

You lived a full and daring life, loving and living as you wished, even if it meant you life was more difficult and you struggled for money and position. I wonder what you might have been if you had lived in another era, one less constrained by limited views of women's virtue and freedoms.

You are definitely one of my literary heroes, one I'd love to walk with, listening to your theories and ideas. You amaze me across centuries.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Madeleine L'Engle

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Madeleine L'Engle

Dear Ms. L'Engle,

I often hear that readers, especially young ones, need both "mirrors" and "windows" in the books they read. They need to see themselves in the stories, and they need a peek into other worlds, a chance to see what's possible outside the boxes they've been raised in. Your books were both of those for me, at the same time.  

A Wrinkle in Time,  A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and A Wind in the Door were among the first fantasy books I ever read. Images from these stories have stayed with me my entire life. Who could forget the three wise women Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit? Not to mention Aunt Beast and The Black Thing?

More important to me than the story itself though, was Meg Murry, the main character. At this point in my life, I had never encountered a heroine in book like Meg. She wasn't hero material. She wasn't the bravest, or smartest, or most beautiful. Unlike Nancy Drew, another favorite of mine at the time, it wasn't clear that she would overcome every obstacle from the outset. Meg struggled.

So far as she (and we the readers) knew, she was just a girl, and an awkward one at that, one who didn't have a lot of friends and struggled to control her anger sometimes. No one special. Not a chosen one. Just a girl.

So many of us grow up feeling like Meg: lonely, ostracized, judged. Sometimes that just adolescence taking potshots at our self confidence, but it doesn't matter if the situation is the objective truth. It's how it feels. And you knew how it felt to be that girl.

Thanks for making me feel seen just when I was feeling very invisible.


Friday, April 12, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Helen Keller

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Helen Keller

Dear Ms. Keller,

I first heard of you when I was in second grade. We were learning about biography, and yours was one of the names on a list of people we could pick to write a research project about.

When I took the list home and asked my mom and dad about the people on it, I learned that you were deaf and blind, but you had become world famous as a writer and speaker. It was clear that my parents thought you were amazing, so I chose you for my project.

I wasn't really ready to read your autobiography yet, since I was only seven, so I read some children's books about you and watched the movie The Miracle Worker with my mom. The part of your story that struck me at the time was the part about the power of language. You'd always been a bright person full of ideas, but because illness had robbed you of language, you couldn't communicate. Once you learned how, the transformation was as good as any enchantment in a fairy tale.

Around this same time was when I decided for sure that I would be a teacher (and I'm a teacher today, so obviously the idea stuck!). I wanted to be that person who made that connection and difference for someone. Anne Sullivan is certainly an inspiration for the difference one person can make in the life of another.

Sometime, when I was older, I read your autobiographies, The Story of My Life and The World I Live In, as well as Teacher and some of your Journals. I came to admire you all the more for your deep thoughtfulness and your advocacy for the rights of others: women, workers, people with disabilities. You had such a way with words, and such strong opinions.

I admire you still today, for the courage of your convictions and your use of your fame to try and make a difference in the world. I hope someday the world rises to your vision of what it could be.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Jane Austen

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Jane Austen

Dear Ms. Austen,

Like so many of your fans, I started with Pride and Prejudice, and it's definitely a classic. Lizzie is so sharp and witty and self-assured, and I loved the kind of comeuppance you gave her. I've been that girl, who was overconfident in her information and had to eat crow later.

But my favorite of your novels is Sense and Sensibility. That sibling dynamic really spoke to me. Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are such opposites and yet are so much alike, both running with such deep passions, but in complete disagreement about how that ought to be expressed. Much like me and my own sister have been at different points in our lives.

Readers who don't understand your work talk about it being too polished, and dismiss it was drawing-room-drama. But what has always pulled me in is the universality of the experience of the women in your books. Even though they are set in a year and a place distant from my own, I feel I know these women, recognize myself and other women I know in the pages of your books. Smart women constrained by circumstance, trying to balance responsibility and love.

As someone who spent childhood in the contemporary equivalent of the genteel poverty many of your characters face, I appreciate the recognition of the stress that comes from knowing you and your family are one financial disaster away from ruin. Money is such a factor in all their lives, and that is part of why your books still speak to us here in the 21st century.

When I visited Bath during  graduate school, I didn't get to do the full "Jane Austen tour" (I know you'd be amused that you are a cottage industry of that town now), but I still loved walking around and picturing all the characters from your novels in the various settings. The place hasn't changed much since your day--you'd probably still recognize the place. I felt out of my place in my very American sneakers and shorts.

I just read Northanger Abbey earlier this year. I had put off reading it for a while because it was the last of your books I hadn't yet read. Your acerbic wit and affectionate satire of young heroines in gothic novels were a delight, and it fun to see your work at an earlier stage of development.

I like to think that if we were to meet for tea at the Pump Room that we'd be great friends.We could sit together and laugh at the pomp and circumstance of it all.

Thanks for all the literary friends,
Another strong-willed woman,

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Laura Ingalls Wilder

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Laura Ingalls Wilder

Dear Ms. Wilder,

History can be a hard sell, especially when you're trying to talk to the young. Though I've always loved story, I had a tepid interest in history, thanks to years of lackluster presentation. Elementary school textbooks in the seventies definitely left out anything I might have found interesting.

But somewhere along the way, I discovered historical fiction and you were one of my first loves in that regard.  I read all the Little House books when I was a kid, imagining myself out on the prairie alongside you. When the television show based on your books came out, my fascination only grew because the actress who portrayed you looked like me. After all, I was a slip of a girl with freckles and braids, too.

I know there's been a bit of controversy about your books here of late, in particular the portrayal of Native American characters. Since I read them as a white child in the 1970s, I didn't notice that at the time. Given the time you wrote about and the time you wrote in, it's not that surprising that contemporary readers would feel differently about some things now.

I've only re-read the first book as an adult, sharing it with my own daughter. She, like me, was fascinated with the level of detail. I remember us stopping after reading a part about smoking meat. The sheer amount of labor it took astonished us both and made us feel very spoiled and lazy in our contemporary lives, where you just go to the store and buy whatever kind of meat you want, cleaned, measured, and packaged for you. 

Your books will always be important for that: for showing children what your childhood was like, in a time and place very different than any of us live in now.

Thanks for helping me learn that history isn't boring if it's told right.

A fellow pig-tailed girl,

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

Dear H.D.,

It's hard, being a woman ahead of your time. Your life reflected that. A woman loving another woman and, at the same time, a man still has the power to evoke shock in the populace an entire century later, so I can only imagine how it must have been for you in the early 1900s.

Yet your poetry sang with exuberance. Everything you felt, your poetry seems to tell me, you felt fully, strongly. There were no half-ways and maybes with you. I think it was that passion that spoke to me.

Like Oread. You give yourself over so much to the power of nature, asking to be overtaken, overwhelmed. I've felt that, too.

You wrote it all, from tiny poems that pack so much into so few words, to wide sweeping poems that lay it out long-form. Your work captures so much of the era you lived in, fragmented, wounded, broken, and beautiful.

The more I read of you, the more of you I want to read. You had so much to say about gender, societal roles, and deep-rooted assumptions in our society. I wish I could have talked with you. I'm sure you would have opened my eyes to things I don't even know I'm still blind about.


Monday, April 8, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Gwendolyn Brooks

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Gwendolyn Brooks

Dear Ms. Brooks,

I came to your work rather late. I encountered your words in the 1990s, when I was a young poet and English major at Morehead State University, when I was young and naive enough to believe that the Civil Rights Movement was over, having accomplished its goals.

It took a while for me to realize that we'll still be fighting those battles for many years to come.

The first of your poems to catch me was your most famous one: "We Real Cool."

Deceptively simple, but so loaded. Such bravado in the voice and such fatalism. Laughing in the face of pain and hopelessness. Damn. You were so good.

I found so many heart-rending stories in your poetry. "The Mother." "The Vacant Lot." "A Song in the Front Yard." "The Lovers of the Poor."

These were poems that begged to be read aloud, to be held in the mouth, the ears, the throat.

This was all new to me, though I'd been writing poems since I was a child. The "spoken word" tradition hadn't made it to my little town in Kentucky and the English classes there.

 You showed me the power in expressing anger, and the importance of keeping a sense of humor in the face of utter nonsense.

Thank you,

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Guest Post: Celebrating a New Release with D.M. Burton

Hello regular readers! I'm handing over my blog today to show you what a writing friend and colleague has been up to. D.M. Burton's latest is a middle grades science fiction adventure! Read on to learn more! -SB


Her father is gone! Taken by the Queen of Compara’s agents. Mara has to rescue him before the Queen tortures and kills him.
Instead of the kind, loving father she’s always known, he’s become demanding, critical, with impossible expectations—not just as Father but also as the only teacher in their frontier outpost. Mara would rather scoop zircan poop than listen to another boring lecture about governments on Central Planets. Give her a starship engine to take apart or, better yet, fly, and she’s happy. Now, he’s gone.
Never mind, they’ve had a rocky road lately.
Never mind, Father promised she could go off planet to Tech Institute next month when she turns fifteen, where she’ll learn to fly starships.
Never mind, she ran away because she’s furious with him because he reneged on that promise. Father is her only parent. She has to save him.

Along with her best friend, eleven-year-old Jako, and his brother 15-year-old Lukus, Mara sets off to find her father. Her mentor, old spaceport mechanic, seems to know why the Queen captured Father. In fact, he seems to know her father well. But, does he tell her everything? Of course not. He dribbles out info like a mush-eating baby. Worse, he indicates he’ll be leaving them soon. And Lukus can’t wait to get off our planet. Mara’s afraid they will all leave, and she’ll be on her own. Despite her fears, Mara has to rescue her father.



At spaceport, the sound of voices, two male and one female, make me stop. They’re coming from the back side of ‘port and speaking Coalition Standard. Strangers. Nobody in our village uses Standard. After school hours, Father teaches those who want to learn Standard—like Lukus and Wilanda. He makes me stay, too, so whether I want to or not I’ve learned the language of the Central Planets.
The speakers pass within a meter of where I’m making like a statue. They’re so busy talking in low tones about the target and their mission they don’t even look my way. As they head toward the village center, I slip around to the back of the ‘port building. I gasp at what’s parked there. A sleek Gilean Cruiser. What a fine ship. Jako would go ballistic if he knew. I’d seen one before, just once when Magistrate from the Consortium of Mines came after the riot. Basco let me work on it.
Okay, not really. I got to hold his tools as he repaired a small leak in the hydraulics. Father thinks I don’t want to improve my mind. I sure do. I want to learn to all about starships like this. And fly them, too.
I linger for a moment, wanting to reach out and touch the shiny skin of one of the fastest ships in the galaxy. Only the thought that they might have left a guard on board prevents me. Reluctantly, I make for the hills and the safety of the scrub trees. They offer some concealment, especially now that the clouds are breaking up. Looks like no rain tonight. First Moon is setting behind the mountains. Soon, larger Second Moon will rise in the south. When it does, it will flood the farmland and illuminate the foothills.
Heavy footsteps come from the southeast. I crouch under the thickest scrub tree in the copse and hear grumbling. The Dunpus brothers. If they catch me out alone, I’m done for.
“. . . gonna get that Teacher’s kid, teach her a lesson.”
“Yeah, and the little brat, too.”
“It’ll take too long for that little brilium rat to come out of the mine tunnels. The girl is easier. We’ll wait outside her house, and when Teacher leaves . . .” The oldest one’s voice trails off as they stomp away.
I’m clutching the tree so hard I have splinters. Jako and I’d better make sure we see them coming or we’re going to be in deep planetary poop.
After I climb toward a mine that was played out years ago, I crouch behind a rock near the entrance. I don’t want to run into any packs—especially not the two-legged variety, like the Dunpus brothers. Gangs usually roam the village late at night, searching for anything people haven’t locked up or just wreaking havoc. I’m lucky I haven’t run into them. Whoa. Maybe that was why Lukus pulled a knife.
Jako lives in one of the tunnels. He would be good company. With Lukus at the café, Jako will be alone. Finding him is my biggest problem. I could search the tunnels, call his name. But then I might run into a gang roaming the mine. Or, the Dunpus brothers could return.
When I took off from home, I didn’t think about the dangers. I guess I didn’t think, period. Running away is a stupid idea. Coming up here alone is even dumber. It’s one thing to come with Father or to explore with Jako during the day. Everything looks different at night.
I square my shoulders. I can’t depend on anyone except myself now. Father forbid me to go to Pamyria, to the Tech Institute. I’m going anyway. I just have to figure out how.


About the Author:

The first time D.M. Burton saw Star Wars IV: A New Hope, she was hooked on science fiction and space travel. The Star Trek movies made her want to travel to other planets. Alas, she is still Earth-bound. D.M. and her husband live in Michigan, close to their two children and five grandchildren.

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She writes adult fiction as Diane Burton, where she combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides writing science fiction romance, she writes romantic suspense, and cozy mysteries.

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Saturday, April 6, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Anne Frank

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Anne Frank

Dear Anne,

I'm still so sad that you didn't get to grow up. Clearly, you were going to be an amazing person. Your kindness and thoughtfulness shone through your words. I'm so grateful that you wrote them, even while the circumstances make me sick. Your diaries have been so important to helping generations understand the experience of Jewish people during World War II.

It's a hard topic, especially for children. But your personality came through your diaries so strongly. Reading them, a child like me could easily find herself in the pages and imagine what it might have been like to go through what your family did. You could have been us. We could have been you.

You held onto hope in the darkest of circumstances. So many of us could learn from you in that way. We become bitter and ugly when we've faced so much less.  But not you. Hiding, at risk of your life, you still wrote things like:

"I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

"No one has ever become poor by giving."
"The young are not afraid of telling the truth."

I haven't re-read your diaries as an adult. I'm not sure I could take it, now that I'm a mother myself. It's too horrible to contemplate. I miss you. I grieve for you and all our people. I'm grateful for your words.

Another diarist,

Friday, April 5, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Emily Dickinson

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Emily Dickinson

Dear Ms. Dickinson,

I was only six when I met you--through your work. My first grade teacher, in an attempt to improve our minds and our penmanship had us copy and illustrate classic poems.

I don't remember for sure which of your poems I copied now. I remember that two of my early favorite were the one on solitude and one that starts "Because I could not stop for Death/He kindly stopped for me." I remember that I thought you were a kid because the picture of you provided in my book showed you looking so very young.

I was already a word nerd by age six, raised on Mother Goose, Dr. Suess, Shel Silverstein, and Amelia Bedelia, with a love of rhyme and wordplay. I was fond of puns and enamored of long, elegant and unusual words that felt nice in my mouth. Our librarian helped me find a collection of your poems and I loved reading them out loud. Something in the rhythm and diction made my heart sing even when the content was beyond my comprehension.

When I talked to Mrs. Alsdorf about how much  I liked your words, she said, "You know, if you want to, you can write poems, too."

I felt like the top of my head had come off. What an idea! So, I did it. I wrote so many poems. My relatives were probably tired of me asking if they wanted to hear my poems, but they were nice about it. A lot of them sounded like you: quatrains with an A/B rhyme scheme and a philosophical bent (as much of one as an elementary student can have).

Your poetry still speaks to me today, forty-some years later. I have several different editions of your poetry and more than one biography. When my mind feels unsettled, I can choose one of your poems at random, and I am instantly soothed, intrigued, and inspired. I'm so glad your words made it out into the world and across so many years into my young hands. It's part of why I write today.

Your life-long fan,

Thursday, April 4, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Daphne du Maurier

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Daphne du Maurier

Dear Ms. du Maurier,

My mother gave me your books to read, having loved them herself. They were dark and brooding and dreamy all at the same time. The settings were sweeping and emotions ran high. Mom was right. They were perfect for me.

Rebecca is the one I've read the most times since, though I have now read nearly everything you published. I have a hardback copy of Britannia, but I've been putting off reading it, because then I'll be out of your words to enjoy.

Recently, my classics book club read Rebecca, and there were some among our group who thought your book too light to be considered a classic, but I think they underestimate you, as unfortunately, critics long have.

The menace that emanates from the pages is astonishing, considering that the titular threat is dead before the first page of the novel. Rebecca is not a ghost in the traditional sense, but she haunts the halls of Manderley, and dogs the steps of her former husband and his new wife all the same.

Mrs. Danvers is one of the most terrifying villains I've ever read.

You were amazing Ms. du Maurier as were your books. I'm glad to see your work finally getting the recognition it has always deserved.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

IWSG: When part-time isn't enough, but you can't afford full time

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

This month's wonderful co-hosts are J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, Patsy Collins and Chemist Ken!

Be sure to check out their blogs (and others on this great blog hop) when you're finished here!

This month, I'm feeling the crunch of time.

Since I began to see my work into print (my debut was in 2015), I've been building a writing life that involves public appearances, judging contests, teaching classes, keeping up a social media presence and--oh yeah--writing!  I love nearly every aspect of it.

These little tastes of fame, like appearing as a guest on a talkshow or speaking as an expert on a panel, when they come are validating and invigorating. Coupled with my innate desire to help (it's in my DNA, and why I'm also a teacher), it's a beautiful thing.

A beautiful and exhausting thing.

I could easily fill all my working hours each day with my writing life. Unfortunately, I can't yet also fill my bank account with full time pay for that work. I don't yet earn minimum wage when you average it out as hourly pay.

I'm not a trust fund baby and my "sugar daddy" husband (whose support I'm very fortunate to have) isn't one either.

We have children, which turns out to be a very expensive hobby, especially when one of them grows up and goes to college.

So, I'm holding down a demanding (and underpaid) day job (teaching middle school in "Right to Work" North Carolina) for half what my husband makes for the same education level and half my experience, while also trying to build up my second career and occasionally play with my dog, talk to my children, or date my husband or something.

I was patient with getting this far, and I'm trying to be patient still, trusting that the balance will skew in my favor given focus and hard work. But it's hard, when it feels like I lose opportunities for my writing life because there are simply not enough hours I can devote to it each day.

So, that's my insecurity this month: trying to hold on to the hope that I can make my passion into a paying proposition that justifies the hours and effort I put in.

I'm starting by being more intentional and regular about submitting my work. After all, no one can read it and decide to pay me for it if I don't submit it!

How do you hold onto your dreams when they're seeming to take too long to come true? I'd love to hear your advice!

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Patricia Clapp

This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Patricia Clapp.
Dear Ms. Clapp,

I read your book Jane-Emily at the perfect impressionable age to set my tastes for life. I think I was about twelve.

Maybe I would have been a fan of gothic romance and stories with evil children in them anyway. Maybe it's just me. I also loved the Addam's Family and Dark Shadows when I was a kid, after all.

But I think you get at least some of the credit for my interest because of the vibrant world and wonderful sense of menace you created in that novel. I've read it twice since, and it holds up for me as an adult. That's not something I can say about everything I loved as a child.

The edition of Jane-Emily I read as a child came compiled with another of your books, The Witches' Children. That one came more from history, taking the reader with you back to Salem, Massachusetts, during the years that made that city a household name. It started a fascination with that case and that section of history that lasted many years in me.

But Emily! I still think of her every time I see a gazing ball in a garden. She was wonderfully malevolent, and because she attacked a child, it was so nearly a tragedy. No one ever believes the children in time! 

So, thank  you Ms. Clapp. You opened up a world of story for me that still bring me joy and cold chills today.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Charlotte Brontë

 This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Charlotte Brontë.

Dear Ms. Brontë,

Jane Eyre is one of the books of my heart. I loved her stubborn independence, her indomitable strength, and her fierce pride. When I read the book for the first time, probably in middle school, I was an immediate convert. The story gave me everything I loved in Gothic romance without a ninny as the heroine (a failing in too much of the genre). I've read it several times since, and I love it every time.

I didn't learn much about you yourself and your family until  later. As a college student, I studied a bit of biographical detail, enough to become fascinated by your family. I still have in the back of my mind some kind of book around your brother Branwell, the one Brontë who never seemed to produce anything of worth . . .and also the only boy.

Your life and your work are like that: mysterious and interesting. No wonder Jean Rhys couldn't resist writing a backstory for poor Bertha, the quintissential madwoman in the attic in her Wide Sargasso Sea. I also loved Romancing Miss Brontë, Juliet Gael's imagining of your life. I wonder what you would think of having become such an object of interest. Would you have enjoyed Rhys's reinterpretation of your work? It's hard to know. You were a private person, but not a recluse. You enjoyed a few perks of celebrity, I think.

Whenever I imagine you, you are walking out on the moors that featured so strongly in your work and that of your sisters. Wind is whipping your hair across your face and bringing unexpected color into pale cheeks. You come back home looking as if you've been mussed by a lover, but it was your muse who left you rumpled. I only wish you'd lived long enough to write more books!

Your fan girl,