Silicon Valley Reads 2013

It’s the new year and time for Silicon Valley Reads to choose a new book, or in this case, two new books. walk1 Minefields-of-the-Heart-lg

This year, Silicon Valley Reads will be focusing on an important subject: the aftermath of war, the human impact on those who return and the people left behind.

It seems to me that in the past, the primary casualties of war were on the battlefield. We mourned our dead and dealt with the rehabilitation of our wounded. But the wars of this century have been different. I’m not sure that they have taken a greater psychological toll than any previous wars, or we are more aware of it.

I think it will make for both compelling reading and interesting discussions and I encourage all of you to take part.

The kickoff event will be Wednesday, January 30, at the Heritage Theater in Campbell. Both of the authors,Brian Castner and Sue Diaz, will be speaking at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto on Thursday, Feb. 1 at 7pm.

You can find out more about all the events planned for this year at http://www.siliconvalleyreads.org

Post NaNoWriMo

I have to apologize for disappearing in November, but I was spending more of my time writing than I expected and I’m happy to say that I met my NaNoWriMo goal. The novel ‘In Transit’ isn’t quite finished yet, but the end is in sight and I’m excited. I managed to get my heroine, Rachel Havert, into and out of lots of trouble – sinking float planes, 16-foot crocodiles, corpse flowers and natives with blow guns, stowing away on a container ship, motorbike accidents and much, much more.

Now, I’m back and trying to keep up with everything. Hope your holidays are going well!

Cheers, Baird

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Nanowhat?

In just two hours and three minutes, give or take, NaNoWriMo will have started here in Mountain View. What is NanoWriMo?   Glad you asked.

It stands for National Novel Writing Month. November, to most everyone else.

NaNoWriMo    www.nanowrimo.org

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. If you do, you win. What do you win? Bragging rights. A little logo to put on your blog. A new addiction. That’s all.

I’ve known about NaNoWriMo for years. It’s been going on since 1999 and I thought about participating for several years before I did, for the first time, in 2010. I won that year, finishing the first draft of a novel.

I tried working on the second draft, which was a complete rewrite, in 2011 and got about half way, before family obligations and a few plot issues got in the way and I stopped.

I told myself that I didn’t have time to participate this year. But the draw is too strong. I think I’m going to try and fit it in to my already full schedule. This year I want to write a crazy novel that has lots of action, lots of odd things happening, lots of fun. I’m going to be a seat-of-the-pants writer and have fun with it. I’ll keep you posted about how that goes.

For anyone else who needs to work with a deadline, or wants to have lots of people keeping track of their ability to put words on the page, or who likes to hang out in coffee shops and Denny’s with other writers, or is just plain crazy, join us. Maybe you’ll get hooked, too.

The Next Big Thing

My good friend and writing partner, Heather Haven, who writes the wonderful Alverez Family Mysteries, has tagged me to be part of a blog game of The Next Big Thing.

Now, I get to tell you about my Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book:

The Dragons of Graham

Where did the idea come from for the book:

A few years ago, when my girls were starting middle school, I was having a conversation with my daughter, Grace, on the way to school. She was talking about dragons and the idea hatched from there.

What genre does your book fall under?

“Dragons” is a middle grade novel, primarily for readers in the 8-11 age group. I guess you’d call it fantasy, too, since the school is infested with dragons.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I think my daughter Grace, would be the best choice for the lead, although the character of Rosie, her little sister is patterned after Grace when she was younger. As for the other actors, I’d love to cast it with local Mountain View kids. We have a lot of acting talent here.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Katie thought the worst thing that could happen in middle school was losing her best friend, but she didn’t know that she would have to deal with a whole host of dragons, too.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

“The Dragons of Graham” will be the first book published by my new imprint, The Wives of Bath Press, which I’ve begun with my writing partner, Heather Haven.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The initial draft didn’t take too long, but overall, almost five years has passed as I’ve worked on the book, rewriting and getting feedback. I promised my daughters that it would be published before the younger one graduated from middle school, so it has to be soon.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I think my story is sort of a cross between “My Father’s Dragon” and The Magic Treehouse series.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wrote this book for my girls. I wanted to share my love of words with them.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

“The Dragons of Graham” is set in a real school, Graham Middle School, in Mountain View, CA. While the characters are fictional, I tried to make the story as real-life as possible.

Look for The Dragons of Graham to be available in time for Christmas, 2012!

The World Series is NOW!

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I watched the San Francisco Giants, my local team, win the first game of the 2012 World Series last night and I was ecstatic. There are few things more compelling than the games of October: the scent of fall in the air, the roar of the crowd and the crack of the bat.

Baseball fiction is a special experience for me, as well. I have several favorite baseball books on my shelves and I wanted to share a few with you. I know there are many more, so please recommend new ones in the comments.

An Old Favorite: “It I Never Get Back” by Darryl Brock, 1989

“Sam Fowler is taking a modern-day Amtrak home to San Francisco when an unscheduled stop somewhere west of Cleveland gives him the opportunity to stretch his legs. Instead, Sam finds that time has stretched and mysteriously transported him back to 1869.”

A veritable field of dreams, this book takes us back to the Cincinnati Red Stockings and lets us see the beginnings of baseball. I loved the old world charm of the story and the vivid characters and of course, the baseball.

A Real Baseball Story: “Wait Til Next Year” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, 1997

“Set in the suburbs of New York in the 1950’s, this is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s touching memoir of growing up in love with her family and baseball. She recreates the postwar era, when the corner store was a place to share stories and neighborhoods were equally divided between Dodger, Giant and Yankee fans.”

For Goodwin, it was all about the Dodgers. This memoir shows use her family through the lens of baseball and does it in a compelling and touching way. She writes “I was not just Doris Helen Kearns, but a Catholic, a resident of Southard Avenue, a Dodger fan, a Rockville Centre girl. Everything was wonderfully in order. But things would soon change, and when they did, I, too, would be different.” The book also has a number of photographs that help us re-live her story.

A Modern Miracle: “Money Ball” by Michael Lewis, 2011

In 2002, Billy Beane, the A’s manager, took a decidedly different path from traditional baseball. Short on funds, he used a different view of baseball statistics to sign the best skills he could buy on a limited budget. The ragtag collection of players were not ones that any pro scout would give a strong vote for, but together, they created a winning team.

Micheal Lewis writes so compellingly about business and finance, that he can find the magic in the numbers here. Baseball statistics, an often arcane and mystical science, yields up something amazing and the rests unfold as the season progresses. I really enjoyed rooting for this team and understanding what would go on to change the game of baseball.

Most Recently read: “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach, 2011

“At Westish College, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big-league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.”

This book involves the mystique of baseball, in the form of Owen Dunne’s reverence for his ‘bible,’ “The Art of Fielding” by the fictional Aparicio Rodriguez. The philosophy that Owen finds in the book is at turns simple (“147. Throw with the legs.”) and majestic (“The true fielder lets the path of the ball become his own path, thereby comprehending the ball and dissipating the self, which is the source of all suffering and poor defense.”) The stories of the five main characters are all coming of age  experiences, regardless of their ages.

Tidal Words

My head is full of words. The process is tidal. Sometimes, the tide is coming in; I read voraciously – at all different times of day, stealing moments here and there from my routine. I read multiple books at once – a mystery sits on the bedside table, a piece of historic fiction in the living room next to the couch, a thick, new sci-fi novel is in the couch cushions threatening to distract me from the writing I’m trying to accomplish. This pressure to read builds, particularly before I’m about to start writing in earnest. Then the tide turns, and the words flow out. Onto the page, onto the screen, out of my mouth. They fill my dreams and fight to be captured before they float away.

 

I would like to say that I have a careful, diligent writing process, but I don’t. My daily schedule is always inconsistent and I tend to flit from one project to the next as the deadlines occur. But, I also try to set aside longer periods of uninterrupted time to write. I just got to have a retreat weekend with my writing group, the Orcas 9, up in Canada, followed by a few days at my cabin on Orcas. The days have been  chilly and damp, and the phone and wifi are turned off for the winter, so there is little to distract me except getting up to put wood on the fire. I’ve been getting a lot of writing and thinking done.

Welcome to Local Words!

I consider myself a bit of a renaissance woman. I have had many different jobs in my adult life. I have explored many different arts and forms of creative expression. Most recently, I took a class in glass-blowing, which is something that I’ve wanted to try for a long time. It was great. A group of students and two very helpful and patient artists met at the Bay Area Glass Institute (www.bagi.org). I learned about the communal creativity of glass-blowing, and in the process, made a beautiful blue vase. I toyed briefly with taking a longer class, to explore the art of glass-blowing at a deeper level. But I don’t really have time right now, so that will have to wait.

My writing life is becoming more of a full time experience now, which is wonderful. I am writing, working on several editing projects, and soon will become a full-fledged publisher. The Wives of Bath Press is becoming a reality and it’s terribly exciting. This blog is part of that process, as well.

Here in Mountain View specifically, and on the Peninsula and all around the Bay Area, we are surrounded by a rich, active literary community. I have realized that there isn’t one place that pulls together all the different literary adventures available to us, so I have decided to start ‘Local Words,’ and try to create such a resource. From literary events like local book readings, as well as book reviews and interviews with local authors, I hope to shine a light on the literary happenings going on around us.

Last week was the thirteenth anniversary of the San Francisco literary festival called LitQuake. (www.litquake.org) I remember going into the Mission district for the Lit Crawl a few years ago. It was a warm October night and there were readings going on in bars, coffee shops, police stations and laundromats, as well as book stores. Thousands of people were crammed into dozens of public spaces that normally don’t attract that kind of crowd, to hear the work of writers, many of whom were not national names. As I walked from one venue to the next and saw the rapt attention paid to these writers, I couldn’t help but feel empowered. We are all hungry for words. Literature is a communal creative process. There needs to be someone to create the stories and someone to listen. I hope you’ll come here to find how you can join us.