Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ms Plum, Guns, and Urban Living

This is from Two for the Dough. Our heroine, Stephanie, is getting a manicure in order to get some scoop from the beauty parlor regulars that she hopes will help her find her man. While there she runs into her archenemy, Joyce.
"You know what I do for a living now, Joyce? I'm a bounty hunter and I carry a gun, so don't [tick] me off."
"Everybody in New Jersey carries a gun," Joyce said. She reached into her pocketbook and pulled out a 9-mm Beretta.
This was embarrassing because not only didn't I have my gun with me, but my gun was smaller.
Bertie Greenstein was under the dryer next to Joyce. "I like a forty-five," Bertie Greenstein said, hauling a Colt government model out of her tote bag.
"Too much kick," Betty Kuchta told Bertie from across the room. "And it takes up too much room in your pocketbook. You're better off with a thirty-eight. That's what I carry now. A thirty-eight."
"I carry a thirty-eight," Clara said. "I used to carry a forty-five, but I got bursitis from the weight, so my doctor said to switch to a lighter gun. I carry pepper spray, too."
Everyone but old Mrs. Rizzoli, who was getting a perm, had pepper spray.
Betty Kuchta waved a stun gun in the air. "I've got one of these, too."
"Kiddie toy," Joyce said, brandishing a taser.
Nobody could one-up the taser.
When I read fiction, I am often left wondering about certain aspects of life portrayed and how realistic a given portrayal might be. I grew up in a suburban area. Nice family oriented neighborhoods. No one I knew carried a gun. Or at least I didn't know it if they did. In fact, the only weapons I ever heard about were small pellet guns used for shooting neighborhood pets when they strewed trash from someone's garbage cans.

Later, after Joe and I were married, we lived for a year in Chicago. Actually in the near west suburb of Oak Park. But we were right on the Chicago-Oak Park border. Our apartment was across the street from the west side of Chicago. Within a few blocks of some not-so-nice areas.

We often took walks around our immediate neighborhood. And also ventured into some of the not-so-nice ones. I never felt endangered. I even walked the mile or so to church once with Jeremy in the stroller, and Matt not having yet made his appearance. But after getting chewed out by congregation members, I didn't try that again. Apparently I had passed by some crack houses unawares. I still walked nearly to the church on occasion, because there was park with a nice playground along the way to church. But I didn't tell the church members. Nor did I walk in the immediate vicinity of the houses of ill repute.

We noticed that although located in a purportedly crime-ridden area, the shop owners took pride in their little bit of sidewalk space. Although sometimes a lot of wrappers, cigarette filters, dust and other urban waste would build up during the day, each morning, the shop keepers would be out sweeping and cleaning up the space in front of their store-front.

But we also couldn't help noticing the apparent potential for crime exhibited in the gated doorways and barred windows.

Once there was even a shoot-out about three blocks from our apartment.

Comparing illegally concealed weapons was not a part of the normal conversation I encountered. Joe was privy to a few such conversations, however. As was Pastor Steve Schmidt, who served the same congregation after we left there.

So although the afore-quoted passage at first seems totally unbelievable, an excellent use of hyperbole, I know that such conversations do, in fact, take place.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Couple of Clerihews from a Reader

Thanks, Char. Great job. Can anyone guess from whence Char hails?
The star of Green Bay, Brett Favre,
Many football records he did carve.
But, alas, one day he retired.
Is excitement expired?

Or this one:

Good Fred Rogers
The nicest of all the old codgers.
He'd make us feel better,
Then put away his sweater.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Learn Something Every Day

I read once about a family in which the children were expected to learn something every day. (Was this perhaps in Cheaper by the Dozen?) Each day at supper they had to report to the father what they had learned. I have often thought this would be a fun way of generating discussion at the dinner table. But alas, having too quiet a supper table is not usually our problem.

Well I learned something new, and I think fun, today. I learned what a Clerihew is. I won't explain it any better than the given link, so you will just have to follow that to find out what a Clerihew is.

Here is my humble attempt.
A lifeguard who was called Ronald Reagan
When the water was fine put his leg in.
Was a fine sportscaster;
Told of football disaster.
Or how about...
Annie Oakley was a fine shot.
She hit the target on the dot.
Not like a certain DEA guy;
He hit his toe and not his eye.
It is not easy. You can probably do better. Please send me some of your attempts. I'd enjoy reading them.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Simple Pleasures

Before we moved up North almost six and a half years ago, we lived in Madison, WI, for a short time, around sixteen months. Joe and I had met in Madison a little more than ten years previous. I had lived there for five years at that time and Joe for three. So when we later returned for the second stay, we had many friends and connections still in that city.

On Sundays during that winter, our friend Ben, a bachelor, would often come spend the afternoon with us. It was just a nice relaxing, comfortable way to spend a Sunday afternoon. At that time we had five children, ages 1-7, so gadding about wasn't much of an option for us.

I would usually pull out a jigsaw puzzle after Clara and Elsie went down for their naps. Joe and Ben and I would listen to 70s and 80s music and talk about lofty things. Everything from theology to societal problems to reminiscing over old happenings.

Louisa and I would work on the puzzle with some help from Ben and a bit from Jeremy and Matt. Even Joe might periodically pop a piece in, but he is not much of a puzzler. By the time Elsie got up we were far enough along to find pieces here an there that she could help with and then when Clara joined the ranks after her nap, the puzzle was usually nearly done.

These days we don't do many puzzles. No particular reason, other than we just don't think about it. We are busy with different things and since we now live in a much bigger house, the puzzles are packed further away and out of sight.

But recently, as readers of Joe's blog already know, we have been rearranging and reorganizing the household. With switching rooms and general upheaval, it is a good time to go through everything. We have been sorting. Making sure all the bits and pieces of games and puzzles and toys are all packaged with their proper cohorts.

As a part of this process, the girls and I have again been doing jigsaw puzzles. With a bit of help from the boys. I don't know whether it is just my boys, or if in general boy brains do not enjoy puzzles. But the brains of us girls sure do. It is so nice to sit with my growing girls and see them progress in their spacial abilities.

But more than that, it is such a nice way to sit together with our hands busy and our mouths just chattering away. Most of my work as a parent involves the type of brain power that does not allow me to visit as I work. Please understand that while growing up one of my Dad's favorite phrases describing me was "Mary, you can't walk and chew gum at the same time."

So for a mom such as I, who can not walk an chew gum at the same time, it is especially nice to pursue an activity with my daughters that allows us to visit so freely. It gives me an opportunity to appreciate what fine young ladies they are, in a way that parenting through normal chores and school and sibling battles do not.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Winter Again

When I lived in southern Minnesota and Wisconsin, a good deep April snow was the norm. Everyone knew that winter was not over until we got that last heavy snowfall. In the six years that I have lived in northern Minnesota, I have not gotten the impression that this is usually the case. Yes, winter here drags on and on. But I have not noticed a pattern of a good thaw and warming trend followed by that one last April snowfall that is often 6-10 inches. But perhaps that is because the snow here blows around so much we never really know how much we get.

But this year we have had an April snow. Blowing. Drifting. Snowing. With our vinyl siding we really notice the scouring sound that settlers in Dakota Territory heard so much of during the winter of 1880-81 (The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder). But we know that winter will end and spring will come.

Here is a poem by my daughter, Louisa.
spring is here
let's give a cheer
hip hip hooray
4 spring today

A Book Not Worth Reading

OK, for Erica, a book I should not have wasted my time with. In her comment a while back, Erica mentioned books that, after reading the back cover, already frustrate. I would not, however, have been frustrated after reading the back of this book. The info there includes such deeply insightful descriptions as "wonderful," "rollicking, righteous," "offbeat, hilarious," "gross, quirky,"...Not alot of information. I guess it is in keeping with the minimalist design of the front cover, which is what originally caught my eye.

But I had not read very many pages before figuring out that Hoot, by author Carl Hiaasen, is a "save the owls" lecture under the guise of a light-hearted and satiric story.

The main character seems to have a normal life and family. Mainstream and well-adjusted. But everyone else is either very strange or totally inept. The book is filled with" 'cameo appearances" of characters fitting common stereotypes such as the drunken hunter driving a snowmobile. Anyone who is mean enough to hunt is also dumb enough to drive a snowmobile while intoxicated, right?

And we meet the frightened construction foreman who investigates a noise in his bathroom with his .38 special drawn and ends up shooting his toilet when a little mouse runs out. I guess anyone who owns a gun is obviously a stupid moron who keeps keep his finger dangerously on the trigger.

The book is riddled with this kind of humor. Sometimes it is mildly funny. But as you continue through the book it gets old. The president of the pancake house corporation is corrupt; the school counselor is naive, and biased against the good guy; the former football star is married to the former lounge waitress and they scream at each other all day- if they happen to be on speaking terms; the construction foreman's wife and mother-in-law are always shopping at the outlet mall...blah, blah, blah.

The only character that seems to not fit this stereotypical world is the father of the normal, well-adjusted family. He works for the US government as a justice department investigator. That seems a little off. Most of the people I have come across who hold dear the stereotypes that fill this book would also assume that any government worker is either corrupt or a simpleton.

I did finish the book. I kept thinking it would get better. It did have redeeming qualities. It compellingly tells a story. The plot is well spun. Really well spun. Lots of twists and turns and just the right amount of ambiguity to keep the reader turning the pages and thinking ahead trying to figure out how everything is going to tie together. It is a shame the characters are so one-dimensional. A reader might then be able to overlook the underlying message that everyone is out to get the poor little owls and we are all driven by greed and selfishness.

Did I mention that Hoot was awarded a Newberry honor?

Apparently the book is well-received; I notice there is a study guide available for classroom use. Oh, and it has also been made into a movie. Must have been a winner. I remember hearing lots about it. Uh, I guess not.

For more of the same see Flush, also by Carl Hiaasen, in which he addresses "illegal dumping of raw sewage from a floating casino."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Gruesome Phase

As I was heading to bed last night I noticed some papers on the dining room table. Upon closer examination, I found them to be drawings done by my son, Matt, while most of the rest of the family was watching Cirque du Soleil, Midnight Sun, during family time last night.

Matt was not interested in watching the circus, so he spent his time in more, uh, well, he occupied himself differently. Let's just say that he likes to draw. Matt is a very good drawer. (As in one who draws not that which is drawn from a cabinet.) For subject matter when he draws, Matt chooses things that are on his mind.

For instance, after his fire arms safety class , hunting season, and continuing on throughout the winter months, since his father and I both got handguns this winter, Matt has filled pages with sketches of various models of weaponry. Mostly guns. some drawings demonstrate various actions and firing methods. He has done exploded diagrams and drawings of exploding targets.

Well, it seems Matt has moved on to other ground. Matt has recently seen several versions of The Mummy. He has read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. He now draws monsters. Let's just say that I am glad no one from social services saw the sketches on my table last night. Truly a sign of a troubled youth.

I realize that most adolescent boys are pretty morbid. I am not worried. It does not bother me to have my son drawing bloody, oozy wounds made by frighteningly realistic monsters. In fact I enjoy seeing Matt's skills improve with his constant practice.

Matthew is good with emotion. I could just hear the terrified gasp and feel the trembling knees shown in the body language of the man who Matt portrayed entering a room as Frankenstein's monster was leaving the scene of one of his atrocities.

I am not a big fan of Frankenstein. I agreed with Matt when he commented that he thought Shelly included too much detail in parts that were not necessary to the story line. But the idea of a monster such as Dr. Frankenstein's appeals to the gruesome side of a seventh grade psyche, I guess.

As for me, at the time of this writing, I am totally occupied with Eric, the opera ghost, in Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ah, Spring!

I thought this picture was kind of neat. For those who are not local, I will try to create an appropriate visual image. We live in a very flat area. Very flat. Oh, did I mention it's kinda flat here? We also have lots of clay in the soil and a pretty high water table.

One of the survival techniques locals have developed is to incorporate low spots strategically around their properties so that during wet times, the water has someplace convenient to gather until it can seep into the ground.

And at this time of year there is also the fact that the ground is still frozen. The snow melts rapidly, but the ensuing water has nowhere to go.

So we have these low spots around the yard to collect the water. But these low spots also serve to catch blowing snow all winter long. The areas to which the water is flowing and in which the water is trying to collect are the last areas to melt because they also have the deepest drifts. So each year at this time we get some interesting designs in the snow.

I thought this year it looked like the bottom end of a glacier with the melting snow flowing from beneath it. I am not very technologically skilled, but I thought it would look cool if I could doctor the photo to have that slightly greenish cast glaciers have. But instead it just looked like a creme de menthe snowcone. Yuck!

Continuing on with more springly thoughts.
Like an army defeated
The snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On top of bare hill;
The ploughboy is whooping-anon-anon-
There's joy in the mountains;
There's life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!
These words are from a poem called "Written in March" by William Wordsworth. Yes, I know it is already April, but the poem expressed how I am feeling now. A week ago, when it was indeed March, it still felt like winter.

Joe and I took a walk today. Outside. Although it was a wonderfully warm 58 degrees, there was a gusty wind out of the WNW. We hunkered down and walked anyway. We went a half mile north and then another half mile west so that we could have the wind behind us later. The east-west road is minimum maintenance, so it is a dirt road that does not get plowed out in the winter. The areas that drift more deeply when the winter snows blow, are still melting, but there was grass at the sides and some in the center also which was dry enough to walk on.

I took a walk on this road two times earlier this year. I think it was late January or early February. Just after one of our extended below zero stints. If I remember correctly, that day was in the teens, so at that time of year it felt just heavenly to be out an about. Of course, then I was walking through and on drifts. In some places the snow was frozen and hard and I could skim across the top. In other spots I had to step out of snow each step, anywhere from just a few inches deep to knee high.

Joe came with me the second day I walked there. On that second day, as I was putting my foot down after one step, I went down into snow up to my hips. With just the one foot. It was quite startling, as you can imagine. After climbing out, we saw that I had stepped into a large gopher hole. We thought it somewhat ironic that with all the snow-covered stretch of road to walk on, I happened to find the hole. After seeing the same road today, with most of the snow melted, it is amazing I stepped in only one gopher hole. There is a crater every few steps waiting to swallow up the unwary.

After returning from our walk, we meandered throughout our yard, viewing the effects of a long winter and anticipating the time when we will start to see signs of new life. Lots of garbage where the snow has melted, broken branches in the bushes, gravel and asphalt left behind from the snow pushed off the church parking lot. These are not the things I long to see. Not do I enjoy seeing all the jobs that I did not get finished in the fall.

But the buds on the bushes signaling the leaves that will soon burst forth. Yes! and at last, what I am seeking, the first shoots of tulip poking up from the battle weary ground. This is what I love about spring!
I found the tulips in the in the bed nearest the house. Not only is this bed on the south side of the house, it also is sheltered on the west by the front porch. So each spring when I begin these annual expeditions, I always save this bed for last. The green shoots I finally find are that favorite piece of candy, saved for last, waited for and dreamed about.

I should also point out that tomorrow night we are supposed to get up to 8 inches of new snow. But it will be clean and white instead of gray. And better yet, it will not stick around long.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Do you enjoy graphic novels? What about silent movies? Stories of mystery and suspense? Do you like looking at beautifully done line drawings and charcoal sketches? Are you intrigued by gears and inventions? How about emotionally touching accounts of orphans?

Brian Selznick has amazingly captured all of this and more in his 533 page book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

In this novel, Selznick creates an action packed account that revolves around two Parisian orphans living in the 1930s, who who end up thrown together to solve a mystery. Unfortunately for them, they both are prone to secrecy and have developed some other bad habits. These things combine to throw continual roadblocks in their path.

Also included within this edge-of-your-seat storyline are the historical figure, Georges Melies, a pioneer French of cinema, and references to many well known silent movies.

In The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Selznick successfully combines many unique format devices. Although the 535 pages give the impression of a lengthy tome, much of the story line is told through drawings. And many of the pages of drawings are done in such a way as to imitate the progressive frames of a silent movie. Interspersed with these pages are a few pages of prose, sometimes entire pages, sometimes just a paragraph or two.

In all, the plot keeps the reader turning the pages. The artwork and stylistic elements are very appealing. There is just the right amount of emotion and moral dilemma to connect a reader with the characters. And best of all, the book leaves a reader wanting to learn something more. My 13 year old immediately asked to do a few library searches on Melies, silent movies and other historical facets Selznick included in his story.

I would guess that this book would appeal to a wide variety of ages. A middle school child would likely breeze through it independently. Younger independent readers would also have no problems with it. It would also work well as a read aloud if one or two listeners snuggle up next to the reader and look along at the same time. But if you have a larger number of listeners, as we do in our family, this would not be a good read aloud choice since the illustrations are integral to the story line.

Out of five stars this one gets a full five.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mysterious Benedict Sequal

Just wanted to pass this on to any who might be interested. I just heard from a reliable source (thanks, Char) that the sequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society is coming out in May. Eager readers will request their librarians get on the pre-release purchase list.

Toward More Picturesque Speech

When I teach my kids creative writing there come various lessons on using adjectives, adverbs and other literary tools such as metaphor and personification. I remember my own writing lessons in which I learned about such devices and how they can add color and interest to one's writing.

I also remember my inevitable tendency to overdo the literary tools I was supposed to be making use of. Like Charles Schulz's Snoopy in It was a Dark and Stormy Night. I would creatively and interestingly string together colorful, picturesque, meaningful modifiers so the the reader would glide on the lilt of my words like the King listening to Scheherezade's spellbinding, suspenseful tales. And so it goes.

I've recently read several books that got me thinking about a writer's use of literary tools. When are they well-done and when are they overdone. What is it that makes Jan Karon's images rich while those of Nora Roberts seem silly? Why can Janet Evanovich so successfully use simile to transport her readers and Roberto Saviano makes no sense at all with his metaphors?

Here are some samples.

From Out to Canaan by Jan Karon. The context is a beautiful spring morning in Father Tim's yard.
The morning mist rose from the warm ground and trailed across the garden like a vapor from the moors. Under the transparent wash of gray lay the vibrant emerald of the new-mown grass, and the unfurled leaves of the hosta. Over there in the bed of exuberant astilbe, crept the new tendrils of the strawberry plants whose blossoms glowed in the mist like pink fires.
And now from Nora Roberts, Affaire Royale. The main female character, Brie is looking out across the Mediterranean.
The sea wall was single-minded blue. If it had had its way, it would have consumed the land. The wall prevented that, but didn't tame it. Farther out she could see the ships, big freighters that were on their way to or from the port, sleek sailing boats with their canvas taut.
Now maybe just getting excerpts like this is not enough to make my point, but I will try. I noticed first that in the scenery descriptions the choice of words in the Roberts book are much more violent sounding. A visual image that portrays a feeling a angst. That is consistent throughout the book. Perhaps that is an intentional part of the art of writing a romance? Maybe a romance author tries to subconsciously portray the struggle against human entanglements within other elements of the story line. A bit now and then is ok, but eventually the repetition starts to comes across as somewhat hoaky.

I also noticed that the development of a character who might be seeing something the author describes changes how the reader perceives a certain visual image. For instance, the Karon excerpt when taken alone may actually seem the most contrived of the two I highlighted. But in the context of Father Tim's personality it is just right. Hmm. Now it sounds as though I am saying that his character in general is contrived and overdone. And that is not really the case either.

Another excerpt from Out to Canaan. This one occurs shortly after the first, on the same morning. Father Tim is remembering an experience involving a blackberry he picked the previous summer.
He remembered it distinctly, remembered looking at it's unusual elongated from, and putting it in his mouth. The blackberry burst with flavor that transported him instantly to his childhood, to his age of innocence and bare feet and chiggers and freedom.
I love how Karon is able to touch the reader's own memories with the concrete detail of he blackberry and the list of nearly universal childhood summer features of innocence, bare feet, chiggers and freedom. And also she is describing the universal experience of having some specific sense, a smell or sound, or in this case a taste bring back such a rush of memory. Good detail in writing has to involve the reader somehow.

And again, from Affaire Royale. This time the main male character, Reeve, an independent security consultant, analyzing why he had decided to help.
He'd decided to help her because she needed help, but nothing was ever that simple. The puzzle of her kidnapping nagged at him, prodded, taunted. On the surface it seemed as though her father was leaving the investigation to the police and going about his business. Reeve rarely believed what was on the surface. If Armand was playing a chess game with him as a queen 's knight he'd play along, and make some moves of his own. It hadn't taken Reeve long to discover that royalty was insular, private and closemouthed. So much better the challenge. He wanted to put the pieces of the kidnapping together, but to do so, he had to put the pieces of Gabriella together first.
He just sounds like a cowboy, a renegade. And although he is supposed to be a very honorable man, there is this tough guy, take control sort of thing a reader has to deal with. Again, perhaps a trademark of the romance genre?

Now on to metaphor. I tried to read Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano. This book sounded so interesting, that I was really looking forward to reading it and learning a few things. It is a non-fiction book sharing the author's experiences and insights from when he infiltrated the Napolitano organized crime syndicate.

But talk about overdoing it. This book is so full of poetic prose that the reader eventually despairs of finding any fact hidden within the picturesque language. I am sure it is there. I started it twice to see if that helped. I put it down for a few weeks and tried again. Both times I did find some interesting information. But both times I also got impatient with the fluff. Here is an example.
The port is detached from the city. An infected appendix, never quite degenerating into peritonitis, always there in the abdomen of the coastline. A desert hemmed in by water and earth, but which seems to belong to neither land nor sea. A grounded amphibian, a marine metamorphosis. A new formation created from the dirt, garbage and odds and ends that the tide has carried ashore over the years...
I put the ellipsis in because I got tired just typing it in. That is about 1/4 of the paragraph. All told the actual info from the paragraph could have been said in 10-15 words. But one has to muddle through all the pictures to find the meat.

I guess I don't have the time for it in my life. If I want to read poetry, I'll read Longfellow or Sandburg.

And I also invite the readers of this blog to refresh their memories with one of my favorite Janet Evanovich quotes. I included it in a former blog post. This quote very successfully uses simile to put readers on a stretch of urban highway.

I know this has gotten long, but thanks for bearing with me. And really, please let me know what literary tools work for you. What makes one author's contrivances seem so natural while another author's attempts just get in the way of the story.

Or send me a favorite excerpt, either good or bad. And let me know why you like or dislike it.

I'll close with this. Now, forgive me if this is wrong. It is just an approximation from a book Joe and I started during the months Matt, who is now 13, was colicky. One of us would walk baby and the other would read aloud. We were never totally engaged in this book, but were trying to stick with it. After this we kind of gave up on it. And so from The Silver Chalice, by Thomas B. Costain.
We were standing at the doorway to the threshold of the land of enchantment.
And since I am standing at the doorway to the threshold of that land of somnia I am going to be a rebel and NOT proofread this. Yikes. Some of you may recall the Christmas letter I did for the congregations here?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Self Justification

No, I do not make a habit of reading romance novels. I borrowed a few Harlequins from friends during high school. Jump ahead ten years and I think I read a romance that one of my younger sisters had along when she was visiting my house once. It was the sisterly thing to do. I had to make sure she was reading appropriate material, right? So, all totaled, I have probably read fewer than ten in my whole life.

But I accidentally read one this week. Here's how it came about. As I might have mentioned once or twice, I have been reading the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. In them there is some romance involved, and as I have previously mentioned a few of them are more graphic in the "romantic" descriptions than I would prefer. But primarily they are light-hearted adventure books. Great fun to read.

Other Plum fans have recommended Nora Roberts as an author with similar abilities. "If you like Janet Evanovich, you'll love Nora Roberts..." That sort of thing. I am so far removed from pop fiction that I had no clue what kind of writing Nora Roberts did and I had somehow gotten the impression she was a mystery writer.

So I picked up one of her books at a used book store the other day. Actually it was a two-pack. Two stories in one book. Although the books do contain what one might consider suspense, as in the normal "looking forward to seeing how the plot will work out", they most certainly are primarily romance novels. Yeah. I wouldn't have wanted any of my kids to look over my shoulder reading these babies. Had I read the imprint, Silhouette, and the publisher, yes, Harlequin, I would have been privy to that fact sooner; but, alas, I did not.

But I did continue reading them and I'll tell you why. I like to write. I would like to someday write something worthy of publishing. So as I read I am always analyzing the writing to see what works and what does not. And these Nora Roberts books intrigued me. The two I read were called, Affaire Royale and Command Performance. The setting of both was a fictional Mediterranean island, Cordina, in contemporary times. The books involve the royal family and a certain amount of political intrigue.

I wanted to study how a person would realistically develop an entire fantasy type setting. I liked how Roberts developed the setting and the the characters. Very nice for escapist reading. But the writing itself was kind of cheesy.

I know Nora Roberts is quite famous. And I with a little leg work I have discovered that as of 1999 she had published 124 books. Wow! Prolific! I can't even imagine having that many original thoughts! I also found that Time magazine named her one of 2007s most influencial people. Hmm. Interesting.

I also realize that these books I read were written in the mid-80s. So she has had lots of opportunity to perfect her art since then. After all, these were only like her 30th and 40th novels. But I don't think I will go out an find a newer one.

Oh, and I did also learn that she does write mysteries. Under the pen name J. D. Robb.

I will return to this topic in my next post, but I really am just so embarrassed to have been reading what I probably should call a smut book that I first had to post on my reasons for having ended up with it in the first place.