Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Iron Masters is Unput-downable

The Iron MastersThe Iron Masters by Graham     Watkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Graham Watkins' epic saga, “The Iron Masters” grabs the reader from the start, and doesn't let loose of them until the final words are read. Reminiscent of C.S. Forester in it's scope, the story is of the clever and ambitious Nye Vaughn, and follows him from the grips of poverty to staggering wealth, in the service of war in the iron works of Merthyr Tydfil. The depth of detail shows the due diligence Watkins put into his research for this unput-downable volume. This piece has something for everyone, but most especially for those who, like myself, have a passion for well-written historical fiction. Weaving real events and people into a rich tapestry of his own characters, Watkins doesn't fail to satisfy.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mardi Gras 2015

The day is almost upon us, less than a week away.
This is my first Mardi Gras since my mother passed back in November. It feels different somehow, if for no other reason than that link to my Cajun heritage is now gone. I often think, I want to go back to visit, but whom would I see now? Being single, I have no one to share this longing for home with.
Living up here on Whidbey Island (Washington) is a bit like being on the moon, celebration-wise. I often imagine floats making their way down sleepy little Pioneer Way, masked revelers tossing beads, doubloons, and favors, and that cheers me up. I wonder what the locals would make of Zulu coconuts. After 14 years here, shouldn't I be considered a local? A million years here won't take the Louisiana out of my blood, though.
I am throwing a party on the day. It'll be my first party in many years. I'm making my chicken and sausage gumbo--beef instead of andouille, which I couldn't find this year--shrimp boil, and a King cake I've ordered from Gambino's bakery. Randazzo's was sold out when I tried to place my order last week. That idea makes me somehow more homesick in ways I can't exactly explain.
I flash back to eating King cake at the tiny kitchen table in my then mother-in-law's house. I got the baby nearly every time. She liked to ignore the fact that I'm half Cajun. She preferred to call me a Wop, like the salad at Rocky & Carlos' down in Chalmette. That's okay, though. It's been enough years since she first did it that the sting is long gone.
I flash back to my first parade in the French Quarter--the Krewe of Clones. Of seeing flambeaus and a giant cow that was spraying the crowd from it's udders with God only knew what. I want to believe it was only water. It's one of those sights that makes you say, "Only in New Orleans."
I flash back to getting drunk on cold meds and Hurricanes at Pat O's with the ex, as if we were tourists and new comers to the city that care forgot. He told me you could always tell the outsiders by the way they sat, as if their wallets were too fat to sit their butts flat in a chair. He pointed out examples and that would always make me laugh.
Mardi Gras always makes me homesick for the early years of my marriage as well. Though my friend, Roxanne, says that such longing is for the things we wish had been, not what really was. I think she's right. Still, I'd pay good money right this moment to be standing, shivering in an unseasonably chilly night, watching a truck parade with the my mother, the ex and his mother, if for no other reason than to feel Mardi Gras one more time.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Proof is in the Pudding?

I'm always glad to see the UPS man, but today he brought something very special indeed. The proof copy of my novel, OVER THE RIVER, THROUGH THE WOODS.

All I could say was, "Oh my God," over and over again as I held it in my hands for the first time. Seeing my name on the cover has become a surreal experience. It doesn't feel real somehow as it sits here on my desk. I've had a byline for years in newspapers and magazines, but this. . .this. . .is something else entirely.

The cover art is more beautiful and apt than I could've ever imagined. The photo of the bridge as if Jenny had been there to snap it. The cornflower blue of the background. The blurb. It all comes together perfectly.

This leaves one last thing--getting the typesetting corrected--before it can go to print and be sold in bookstores everywhere.

Now that's a thought that just took the top of my head off.

I think as writers we all become so divorced from the final product in our passion for putting the words down on the page. In our need to tell the story. I want to ask Stephen King and Patricia Cornwell if it ever gets old, this getting a book into print. They're both on Twitter. I think I'll do just that and see what (if) they say.