Thursday, December 30, 2010

Three stories split into two different times


I found myself chuckling at coincidence. The last three books I’ve read have all been told with the storyline split to flip between two different times – the story present, and another pivotal story in the past. All three stories flipped back and forth between the two times. And, I didn’t plan it that way. Nevertheless, tic, tack, toe!

The first novel, Where the River Ends by Martin, was one I’d been planning on reading and preparing to read for half a year, since reading his When Crickets Cry (still the best novel I’ve read all year). It’s a serious read that requires focus – hence the preparation and planning for a time when I could give that devotion. While Where the River Ends did not trump Crickets, the story brought tears to my eyes. The story is of a couple at two points in their relationship: at the end, as one of them prepares to die of cancer and at the beginning, when they first fell in love. I’m not doing the novel or the writer justice in my description, but this was a marvelous book with action, romance, and lyrical prose. I’d find myself rereading sections for their musical qualities – but the beauty of the writing did not hinder the plot’s momentum.

The second novel, Rescue by Shreve, also split its story between a past first-falling-in-love section and a story-present line. The male protagonist in Rescue is unlucky/clunky in life – but not to the point I couldn’t bond with him as a reader. And the third novel, I’d Know You Anywhere by Lippman, not only splits up the novel’s place in time but also splits up its narrative voice, allowing readers into the minds of multiple characters. Some of those characters I wanted to see punished – and though revenge was not enacted, at least not to the extent of my desire, the end was more than satisfying. Even surprisingly satisfying, perhaps.

Breaking up a story into two different time chunks is tricky, I think (for as much as that’s worth), as a writer. And as a reader, sometimes this device irritates me so much I put the book down. But these three novels were fantastic reads, and I was engrossed in all of them, in all the different times. Compared with telling first one story and then jumping ahead and telling the other story, the back-and-forth created a type of drama, or tension, with the potential for surprise, which only enhanced the novels.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas!

...a few days early. But, with all the friends and family, holiday preparations and activities, and the really good book I'm ripping through (and is due back at the library before the new year), I don't intend to get back on this blog until after the New York strip is devoured and the wrapping paper is recycled.

I hope you have a very merry, joyous, Christ-filled Christmas, and that you get some good reading accomplished over the holiday break, also!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What a difference a year can make

Was it an epiphany? No, but my heart did skip a beat. A few weeks ago when I was blowing out my birthday candle (unlike my in-laws, my folks don’t insist on turning the cake into a delightful inferno by lighting a candle for every single year of age), I realized that this year I needed to make a different wish than the wish I wished for the last dozen or more years of my life.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. A novelist. Though I’ve known it was possible, I’ve also realized saying that is like saying I want to be a rock star or an actor. And finally, this year, I signed a contract for publication of my first novel. While technically I’m waiting for that book to be in my hands before completely exhaling, at that birthday candle I did have to pause and think up another wish, and quick, before the wax dripped!

Currently, Storm Surge is in design, and is to be released in early 2011 by a small, new publisher, Peak City Publishing, which is based out of Apex, NC, of all places. While no national book tour is scheduled (ha), it is a beginning, and I have to keep reminding myself it is real. The book will be available in independent bookstores and on Amazon, and perhaps a few other places as well. If you would like me to email you when the book is released and available for purchase, please let me know at tamara.ward@rocketmail.com.

Merry Christmas, and may your wishes be granted, too.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What do I really want for Christmas?

Besides world peace and a cancer cure? Besides affordable electric cars and pollution solutions? Besides the government controlling its spending? Besides bookstore gift cards with many, many zeroes? Besides the socks and other garment essentials I bought and wrapped and addressed to myself and placed under the tree just so I’d have something to open on Christmas day? (My husband and I this year are buying a car stereo with a CD player that actually works for our gifts to each other.) Yes, and besides having my first novel in my popsicle-cold fingers, and besides having it be successful beyond my wildest imagination? (I’m not asking too much, am I?)

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Really. This itty-bitty book about writing and grammar costs less than $10, is sized appropriately to fit in a stocking, and it’s been on my wish list for more than a decade. (Okay, yes, my list of wishes, and those of other family members, is written down and posted where my husband can find it easily.) The book joins other wishes like a glass cutting board and a mess kit for camping, dish towels and matching bedroom furniture and a ping pong table. Yet somehow, the book gets overlooked.

But my husband is not all to blame. When I get a bookstore gift card (usually there’s just the one zero, and I’m plenty grateful), I spend it on other books, fiction books by my favorite authors. And when I’m writing and need ol’ Strunk and White, I visit my local library, where the book is typically waiting for me on the shelf.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Help yourself to The Help


If you’ve not already, read The Help. Not only will you find the novel enjoyable, but you’ll never sample dessert in quite the same way. Seriously, though, I recommend the novel to anyone who wants a good read and who wants to ponder what life was like not long ago when husbands of housewives like me paid hired help to raise their children and take care of their homes. (The wives, in the meantime, enjoyed playing cards and discussing women’s issues – a.k.a. gossiping – leisurely.) 

Recently, I was reporting on a groundbreaking for a hospital and spoke to the only native local at the event. As often happens in the south, we got to talking about the past. I asked him what he thought about the groundbreaking and about the changes our town has undergone during the last decade. (I remember this local once saying he was tired of having to drive to a neighboring town when he needed a screw. Since then, Walmart located to town, alleviating that particular hassle for him.) Anyhow, he remembered when choices of physicians were limited and hospitals were segregated. The remark caught me off guard, perhaps because my early childhood was not in the south where racial issues still simmer. But also because I had difficulty imagining segregated hospitals – yet this was the norm – and not so long ago.

Thinking of the changes this man has witnessed and reading The Help makes me wonder what changes and cultural shifts I’ll see in my lifetime. And, it makes me wonder if my grandchildren will be appalled at anything I’m doing or believe.