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Friday, June 29, 2012

Be Patient, Dear Readers

I have enjoyed many classics over the years and I continue to read them. After our trip to Great Camp Sagamore, I realized I had never read The Last of the Mohicans. I've read many of James Fenimore Cooper's books, but not that one. I immediately downloaded a free copy into my iBooks. Yes, his style is--at times--slow. However, I've found with every one of his books it takes a while to settle in, but once there, you've got a good story.

The first line of the book is:

"It was a feature peculiar to the colonial wars of North America, that the toils and dangers of the wilderness were to be encountered before the adverse hosts could meet."

A little slow, perhaps. In today's world, writers are told to make sure their first line is intriguing enough to draw the reader into the story. In reading the reviews listed at Goodreads, I found a lot of readers who hated the book. There where many who never finished it and some who didn't think it had been written in English. :^(

I believe there are a lot of impatient people in today's world. They've been raised on too many crazy action films. Opening a book is not like walking into a theater. Slow beginnings are found in many of the classics.

Here's the beginning of Wuthering Heights:

"I have just returned from a visit to my landlord--the solitary neighbor that I shall be troubled with."

Go to Goodreads and read some of the negative reviews on that one. There are readers who thought it was horribly dark. Well, yes it is. That's the point.

Admittedly, there are many good reviews, too. There are still some patient readers in this world and I applaud them.

I enjoy light and breezy novels, too, at times. But I find it enriching to immerse myself in the past as well. Sometimes I may even have to use the dictionary and look up a word--and I love that! It's great to find some wonderful antique word that nobody uses anymore.

Here's the first line from The House of the Seven Gables:

"Half-way down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge clustered chimney in the midst."

Obviously, the reader can guess he or she will be reading about the house and its inhabitants. Again, if you look up negative reviews on Goodreads you will find plenty of dissatisfied readers, those who did not finish it or those who claim it took them an inordinate amount of time to finish it.

I find it terribly sad that some of our great classics are being disparaged by those who simply want something they can read in a few hours using very little cerebral action. Be patient, dear readers. Those old classics are time machines. Sink into the past.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Half-Way Up the Pyramid of the Moon

That's me, age 24, half-way up the Pyramid of the Moon in Mexico. I gave up climbing at that point. In 1974, I went to Mexico with my sister-in-law and one of her friends. My brother had died six months earlier, so my sister-in-law was a relatively new widow.

I had taken French classes in high school so I did not know any Spanish at all, but my sister-in-law spoke fluent Spanish. We went to several small towns of historical significance and then wound up in Mexico City. The small towns had been far more interesting to me for the glimpse of authentic Mexican culture. Mexico City was another big, international city and I had seen several of those by that point in my life. However, I had never seen pyramids so I happily hopped on a bus to spend the day climbing. But it was hot and I tired out fairly quickly. Reading about the pyramids was more fascinating than climbing them.

When I think of Mexico now, I think of the small towns with the plazas on Saturday night and the sound of a mariachi band drifting through the air. I think of the bakeries and the taste of fresh bolillos. I think of the bullfight, too. Poor bull.

But the pyramids. Well, I saw them and I climbed upon them. But I'd rather sit in a plaza, listen to mariachi music and eat bolillos.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

In the Style of the Vanderbilts


Hubby and I went on a Road Scholar tour of Great Camp Sagamore. This was our third Road Scholar tour. We've enjoyed each of the programs. In 2010, we visited White River Junction in Vermont. (You can read about that tour HERE.) Last year we visited Chincoteague in Virginia. (Check it out HERE.)

Great Camp Sagamore was a very different experience. For one thing, there is no cell phone service. It is in the wilderness--what was once known as the Dismal Wilderness. It is the land of no cell phone towers. However, there is a phone in the camp which visitors may use with a prepaid calling card.

There isn't any television either, which isn't a bad thing for me or hubby because we don't watch it anyhow. There is a large screen TV with a DVD player and there are some DVDs available for guests. There are board games and books for the use of guests, too.

There is wifi--not in individual rooms but in the dining hall and the reading room. Some people are happy to leave all the technology behind when they go into the wilderness, but I did not want to be cut off completely.

At Great Camp Sagamore, guests usually share bathrooms. Ours was a little way down the hall, but very clean, neat, and modern. We had a bathroom with a shower, but some visitors got old-fashioned bathtubs with feet. :^)

Meals are served buffet style in the big dining room and the food was great. We had to clear our own dishes off the table and put them in the kitchen to be cleaned. All guests took turns wiping down the tables and sweeping the floor. We had to make our own beds and take care of our towels and linens.

Great Camp Sagamore is not a luxury hotel. It is a living museum.

Hubby and I arrived one day early, which gave us the opportunity to visit the Adirondack Museum. That extensive collection was well worth the price of admission.

The one thing that bothered just about everyone was the black flies. It was black fly season. In New Jersey, we are annoyed with mosquitoes, but in the Adirondacks, the black flies swarm. I did not know this until the young lady who signed us in at the office suggested we borrow bug jackets. I had never heard of a bug jacket until that point, but I found it to be a very useful garment.

The jacket made me look strange. Maybe I scared the bugs away! Hubby preferred slathering himself with bug repellent.

Naturally, the Vanderbilts did not visit Great Camp Sagamore during black fly season. The Vanderbilts usually came for a month in August once the black flies were done swarming. The Vanderbilts also came for a few weeks at Christmas time. That was it for the most part. However, many dignitaries and even movie stars were invited to the camp. The caretakers lived there year round.

Hubby and I enjoyed rowing and canoeing on the lake. We played a game of croquet with another couple who knew the rules. (Croquet was a favorite game at Sagamore.) In addition to touring all the buildings at Sagamore, the Road Scholars toured Uncas, which is nearby.

In addition to lectures on the history of the camp and the Vanderbilts, we were treated to entertainment by Bill Smith, an Adirondack treasure!

We enjoyed the company of other Road Scholars who came from all over the country to learn about the camp. Road Scholars runs terrific programs and the prices are reasonable. You can sign up HERE.

Friday, June 15, 2012

One Good Father

This is a photo of my paternal grandfather. He lived to be 86. His mother came to this country from Ireland as a domestic, and for the rest of her life she never wanted to go back to Ireland. She met her husband here in the States. They married, settled in Jersey City and had nine children. My grandfather was the oldest. He was short, like the rest of his siblings--a veritable brood of leprechauns. My grandfather had a dry wit and was always poking fun at anyone and everyone.

He came of age as World War I erupted. Given the job of cook in the trenches, he also had to retrieve the bodies of fallen soldiers.

After the conflict ended, he got a job as a jitney bus driver. Then he met my grandmother. She wasn't Catholic. At that time, marrying outside the faith was frowned upon. My grandparents were not married at the altar, they were married in the vestibule of the church.

He became a milkman and in those days, even in the city, the milkman delivered milk with a horse and wagon, early in the morning. It was steady work--even during the Depression. He and my grandmother had three boys. My father is the oldest. The second son died in World War II.

My grandmother's father owned a chicken farm. When he died, my grandfather could have inherited the farm, but he did not like chickens. He said they were always dying. He continued to be a milkman until he retired--although after a while the horse and wagon were replaced with a truck. :^)

After my grandmother died, Granddad continued to live in his house in the city. He helped out the neighbors and had his job at the polls during elections. Some of his siblings still lived in the old family home a few blocks away and they sent him homemade soup or meatballs. But he could cook up a very good Western omelet on his own.

He got cancer and stayed with my parents for a while. Then he had to go into a nursing home, but he was not there for long before he died.

He was a good father. He remained faithful to his wife, worked at a steady job until he retired, and then helped those around him. His children became hard-working honest men, committed to their wives and families, too.

My grandfather was one of the best, but there are many other great fathers in the world today--like my own hubby, my father, his brother, my sisters' husbands, and so many more. I want to wish all of them a Happy Father's Day.


Monday, June 11, 2012

The Problem With Traveling


Here's a very young me overlooking Florence, Italy. A long time ago, I signed up for summer study in Italy. I got six college credits, plus I learned a lot about Italian history. Years later, I wrote a suspense novel with Florence as the setting, but I knew the story needed work and I never got around to fixing it. I feel I should really take another trip to Italy to see if I have all the details correct. :^)

I enjoyed Florence and I was there for six weeks, so after a while I did not feel like a tourist anymore. Nevertheless, I missed my home and my family. In those days, communication overseas was difficult. I wrote letters and my family wrote back to me. I still have those letters and they are a real treasure.

I have other books I finished that I know need work. There's one with Mexico as a backdrop because I once visited Mexico, too. That's the problem with traveling. I'll go someplace and then I'll want to use it as a setting for a novel. I've been to Florida a gazillion times and I have every intention of using it as a setting one of these days.

I sure wish I could write faster.

Do you have any favorite settings for novels?

Friday, June 08, 2012

Two Rings

We had one car when I was young and Dad used it to go to work. He worked in Jersey City, but he spent most of his career on the graveyard shift because newspapers are put together at night.

I commuted to college in Jersey City. However, my father's schedule and mine seldom coincided. As a result, I had to walk a mile to the bus stop and hop on board the Red and Tan Lines everyday. I arrived at Journal Square in Jersey City approximately forty-five minutes later--depending on the traffic. From Journal Square I caught a bus that traveled along Kennedy Boulevard and reached the college in about fifteen minutes. If I had a class that ended at 6 p.m., I had a more arduous journey home because the Red and Tan, which was an express bus, left at 5:30 p.m. So I would have to take the local bus to the Square, then catch a PATH train to Newark, and then take another bus home--or if it was really late, I'd have to take a train.

When I arrived in my hometown, I would use a public pay phone to call home. I put in my dime, let the phone ring twice, and hung up. That was the signal for Mom or my brother to come and pick me up. I would start walking home, and if the car was available I would get picked up somewhere along the way. If not, I walked the entire distance, which seemed a lot longer in the evening because I was tired and hungry.

For four years, I cheated the phone company by hanging up the phone after two rings and taking back my dime. There's some irony in the situation because I wound up marrying hubby, who worked at Bell Labs. As it turned out, he had commuted to college also. He would signal his parents by ringing three times before he hung up.

Nowadays, there are fewer pay phones. When my daughter needs a ride home from the train station, she sends me a text message. It's so much simpler and far more efficient, plus her cellphone carrier can't complain because they get their money every month.

Texting can be a good thing.

Monday, June 04, 2012

A Tale of Sleep Deprivation

I need about seven hours of sleep to function. I don't usually have a problem falling asleep. However, there have been many times in my life when I did not have enough hours in the day. The only way to find more time was to steal from my bedtime hours, but that did not help me work any better--or write any better.

Way back when I was a college student I worked at a glass factory. For two summers, I endured rotating shifts because the wages were great. However, I found it next to impossible to keep my eyes open. Mostly I stood and packed bottles into boxes, but every hour or so, I got a chance to sit down and watch the bottles twirl by the light box. I was supposed to be looking for bad bottles, but the twirling bottles quickly turned into lovely dancing ladies in long dresses as I started dreaming. I am lucky I did not fall off the stool.

I know many authors who do not get enough sleep. They get up early, write, and then put in a full day at their real job. I never did that. The thought of crawling out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to write never appealed to me. I love writing, but I like to do it with a clear head.

There are the writers who stay up late into the wee hours to write. I never did that either. I actually tried it a few times, but the next day I was not up to par.

I tend to do my best writing in the evening after supper. I don't watch television so I don't have that distraction. I have not written as many books as some authors, but I know my limitations. Not getting enough sleep will make my blood pressure go up and that is a bad idea. So I sleep when I am supposed to sleep and write when I can.

When do you write?

Friday, June 01, 2012

New Review for The Fiend of White Buck Hall

Yes, The Fiend of White Buck Hall was released in 2010, but it received a review from The Romance Studio just the other day. As an author it is always gratifying for me to know the book was enjoyed. It does not matter how long it took for someone to notice it or read it. Teresa T. said, "Ms. Marzec gave us a suspenseful and intense story!" You can read the rest of the review at http://www.theromancestudio.com/reviews/reviews/buckhallmarzec.htm

Many of the characters in the book are former circus performers, including the hero. Naturally, there is a reason for that. When my brother graduated from high school, he needed a summer job. The circus came to town and my brother signed up. He went traveling from town to town, putting up the big tents, living in a trailer, and getting to know the circus family. It was quite exciting. My brother came home with a tan and some impressive muscles.

You can find the book at New Concepts Publishing, where you can read the first chapter. It is also available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

If you want to win a copy of The Fiend of White Buck Hall, go to my website (HERE) and sign up for the contest. You might get lucky. :^)