Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
I love pink bleeding hearts, but am especially fond of the "Alba" (which I didn't get a shot of yet - they are pure white.)
Squash seedlings - volunteered from last year's crop. Wonder what kind they'll be?
Tulip, wide open and almost gone by.
Thanks, folks. Stop by again soon!
Monday, May 21, 2007
Title: The Liar’s Diary
Author: Patry Francis
Publisher's Address: 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
Publisher phone number and/or website address: http://www.penguin.com/
Author’s website: http://www.patryfrancis.com/index2.htm
Author’s blog: http://simplywait.blogspot.com/
The Liar’s Diary
by Patry Francis
Review by Aaron Paul Lazar
The Liar’s Diary, a psychological suspense novel by debut author Patry Francis, should be tooled in fragrant red leather with gilt edges, and placed on your bookshelf in a place of honor.
Be forewarned. When you buy it, allow for an uninterrupted block of time. Forget sleep. The lure of The Liar’s Diary is strong, for it will call your name incessantly, and your dreams will be filled with Ms. Francis’s characters long after you’ve reached the end of this riveting new work.
Full of subtle, twisting truths that bob and weave in a surf of lies, The Liar’s Diary is like a fragile raft on a swelling sea of denial. Carefully selected truths are masterfully revealed as we are thrust into the life of high school secretary Jeanne Cross. The raft soars higher – just enough to almost peer over the whitecaps. Jeanne glimpses half-truths so disturbing she retreats into the safety of her compulsively ordered life. Disoriented and in psychological turmoil, we twist and weave in yet another direction beside her, constantly on edge and guessing until the final page.
Jeanne strives to be the dutiful wife, mother, housekeeper, nurturer, and employee. But we quickly learn her perfect life is built on a severely cracked foundation. Gavin Cross, the debonair doctor husband, is a controlling father who bullies his son, feeding an explosive eating disorder that sends Jamie Cross to chocolate for relief. Scenarios of mockery escalate, with full blame for Jamie’s lack of academic success laid squarely at Jeanne’s feet. In her picture perfect house, we soon discover a supremely unhappy woman who lives in suburban hell, trying to defend her beloved son and keep peace in the dysfunctional family.
Enter Ali Mather, the new music teacher at Jeanne’s school who flounces into Jeanne’s staid world of responsibility with flowing strawberry blond hair, fragrant perfumes, and tight jeans, enticing the high school boys and male teachers, and providing hours of juicy gossip for the rest of the staff. Ali, flamboyant, passionate, and unabashedly sexy, is the antithesis of sedate, controlled Jeanne. Yet, through a circumstance not fully understood, Jeanne is drawn to Ali like a powerful narcotic.
Ali, married to George Mather, a most perfect husband, has issues of her own. Unresolved childhood traumas send her into the arms of two men in Jeanne’s town, shocking the quiet community. George, strangely forgiving and still madly in love with his philandering wife, cuts a figure of loving forgiveness. As Ali embraces her hedonistic experiences, including an affair with the school shop teacher half her age, Jeanne reacts with simultaneous repulsion and fascination.
But someone is stalking Ali, entering her home and leaving subtle reminders of their presence. Is it one of her lovers? A student? A jealous wife? Her music is desecrated, personal items disappear, but the police don’t take her seriously. Jeanne struggles to help her friend overcome her fears and abandoned relationships, just when Ali’s diary disappears and people start to die.
The story twists into another realm, shocking the reader multiple times, surging higher now with dark half-truths. Jeanne’s son is accused of ungodly crimes, and it’s up to her to uncover the facts. She must discover who’s lying, in order to save her son.
Patry Francis is a gifted deep thinker who knows people and paints them well.
Her writing style is engaging and smooth going down – like a big bowl of lime sherbet. First time novelists often try too hard, peppering their prose with ostentatious adverbs and adjectives. But Ms. Francis’s writing focuses on the compelling story as the movie plays in your head with a clever appreciation of the craft.
I highly recommend The Liar’s Diary to anyone who enjoys a good suspense, mystery, or psychological thriller.
Aaron Paul Lazar is an engineer by day, but his passion lies in writing. The first book in the LeGarde Mystery series, Double Forté, is an absorbing tale of love, intrigue, and murder; “a feast for the senses that will leave you breathless.” Upstaged, the second book in the series, features a disturbed stage mother, a deviant predator, and a twisted saboteur who lurks backstage, terrorizing the drama club with deadly, psychotic games. “Lush, vibrant, and delicious.” Lazar’s latest book, Tremolo: cry of the loon, a literary coming-of-age mystery, is available through Twilight Times Books.
Lazar has written a second series featuring paranormal mysteries with Sam and Rachel Moore, a retired country doctor and his wife who suffers from multiple sclerosis. Watch for The Green Marble, coming in October, 2007, from Twilight Times Books.
Lazar’s monthly columns are featured in the Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine, Voice in the Dark newsletter, and The Back Room ezine and his writing advice articles have been often published in Absolute Write. He lives in Upstate NY with his extended family. Visit his websites at http://www.legardemysteries.com/; http://www.mooremysteries.com/, and his blog: http://www.aaronlazar.blogspot.com/.
Friday, May 18, 2007
I've been offline for a while - visited my mom in Mass for a long Mother's Day weekend. Above is "Honey," my childhood teddy bear that my mom has kept all these years. I've also been recovering from a three week long bout with bad asthma, and am trying to get my garden in, even though it's slow and I've needed lots of help from the family.
I took a ton of photos on my trip, and will be doing some photo blogs soon. Also, I finished Patry Francis's The Liar's Diary and was completely hooked by it. I'll be doing a review here very soon!
Wish me luck with the premier (first ever) query for Lady Blues, coming up soon and going to a very good agent. Fingers crossed but holding my expectations at bay. It's the only way not to go nuts with this process!
Thanks and stop by soon for more photos. ;o)
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
by Aaron Paul Lazar
Spring has burst into color in Upstate NY. All of the flowers that were late, are now burgeoning with color.
The Tahiti Daffodils are my favorite variety. They stand strong, last long, and the colors explode from the vibrantly colored petals. I have three dozen, but I plan to buy many more. ;o)
The sun shone so brightly this morning. I was captivated by these hues.
Don't you just love the fiery orange fluffy petals that mingle with the yellow?
View of a Ballerina Tulip just starting to open, "from the top."
And from the side. These tulips go beautifully with the Tahiti Daffs.
So far, only the nectarine, cherry, and plum blossoms are blooming. We're waiting for the pear, apple, and peach blossoms. This is my Mericrest Nectarine tree, purchased from Miller's Nurseries on West Lake Road in Canandaigua, NY. They are a great company who will replace any trees that don't make it over the winter.
I have three forty foot rows of garlic this year. The funny thing is, I started out with two rows, but in January, when we had a really crazy thaw with very warm temperatures, a friend gave me more garlic that was sprouting in his garage, I planted it in the mud, and here it is, as tall and healthy as the stuff that went in in November!
Here's some of the kale that overwintered. I used it in a soup this week, and just noticed the seeds starting to form. I'll let it competely go to seed, dry the pods, then save them for next year's crop! This is how last year's seeds are doing.
I planted them about two weeks ago. Healthy little seedlings, aren't they? I planted a ten foot wide row. The only way to go with greens - they shade out all the weeds and do marvelously.
Thanks for joining me on the "tour" this morning.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
More Advice for Writers: Typing “The End.”
There is a time in every author’s life when he or she experiences a sudden pang of loss, and sweet sorrow descends like soggy tissues on a broken heart.
Man or woman, romance or action writer, sensitive poet or straight-shootin’ scene churner, it hits us one and all. It’s the moment we reach at the end of our long suffering days, those focused, driven, passionate hours, plastered with outpourings of words that evolved into our current work in process. The moment we type “The End.”
It happens to all of us. Sometimes, there’s a delayed reaction, and suddenly it sneaks up to slay us, the next day. Macho man or lyrical lady, none are immune. In my case, I don’t actually burst into tears. But my throat tightens, a lump forms, and I fight back moisture that puddles and threatens to overflow.
My God. It’s over. What will I write tomorrow?
Of course, I really know what I’ll write next. I have pages full of books begging to be written, and each vies for attention as the finish line comes into view, weeks before the ending is in sight. Articles crop into my head that have simmered there for weeks. Cover designs lure me like Sirens to the Photoshop Rocks, and I ache to try something new. Perhaps a psychological suspense, or a saucy romance?
What really happens is a tearing apart of a bond that forms between one’s heart and one’s work. It’s an invisible tug, a feeling of companionship about to be severed. This place that has become a refuge from life, this world with new friends, emotive scenes, and free adrenaline rushes – is suddenly balled up into a wad of virtual paper and tossed off the cliff into the next realm. The editing, or polishing phase. Which just doesn’t have the same allure, you know?
Last night I experienced this sensation for the eleventh time. It was a nostalgic kind of sadness, a choking momentary paralysis reminiscent of stolen memories from childhood or the loss of a loved one. I finished Lady Blues, the ninth in the LeGarde mystery series.
I admit I am obsessed. I hover over this parallel universe like a frantic father, controlling and finagling events for Gus LeGarde and his family to navigate through until they scream for help.
Sometimes, I’m kind. And sometimes, I’m not.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. Do you write series books that critics might react to with words like, “How can so many things happen to one guy?” If so, try this trick. Tell the naysayers they must “employ the suspension of disbelief.” It makes them stop for a minute to ponder, it is actually true for any type of fictional venue, and it makes you sound really literary. If that doesn’t work, tell them, “Hey. It’s fiction. It’s supposed to be entertainment, not a reality show.” Of course, our fictional works are often more authentic than contrived TV shows, anyway. If they’re still being jerks about it, tell them to go buy a manual on brake replacement.
Even though I am a series writer who gets to “keep” his characters from book to book, there is always a feeling of loss when I finish a novel, because I feature new characters from the local community in each successive work. The main cast of characters are ever-present. I’ll never lose them, thank God, and they do provide an immeasurable amount of comfort. I feel deeply for each one, I know them inside and out, and I treasure every scene I share with them. Okay, that sounds a bit hokey, but it’s true.
But the featured characters usually don’t come back. They flit in and out of Gus’s life, providing wonderful counterpoint or drama, need or redemption, and then… they’re gone. Oh, occasionally I mention them down the road, but it’s not my practice to bring them back. Just as my hero, John D. MacDonald never reintroduced Travis McGee’s lovers (he usually killed them off, much to my disappointment), each new episode thrust a needy client or vicious villain into our view for just…one…book.
And so, last night as I sat alone in the dark room with my sticky-hot laptop humming as it shut down, a sense of loss hit me. Hard.
I would spend no more evenings with Kip Sterling, the octogenarian who lost his memory on the night Glenn Miller mysteriously disappeared, the jazz era “music man,” shoveled from nursing home to nursing home for the past sixty years, with no family or real identity until Gus LeGarde befriended him and began to dig deeply into his past.
Or Bella Dubois, Kip’s Nubian black lover who crooned bluesy tunes in Harlem between secret trysts with Kip, her beloved piano player. I had fallen hard for Bella, just as Kip did, and imagined wonderful blue smoke-filled nightclubs with her purring at the microphone in a slinky green dress that sparkled and shifted like surf on the beach. Never mind that I hate smoke and can’t stomach the stench of it, I suppressed that little bit of truth to imagine the romance of the era.
And what about Debbie, the feisty, stout nurse who used to be a dancer, with penny red curls and a sense of righteous justice, who would not bend beneath threats from Novacom, the evil drug company? I grew quite fond of her fiery courage.
Or my most recent favorite, Lucy Sedgewick, the gay ex-FBI agent-turned-woodworker, who partnered up with Gus to save the lives of Debbie and Kip when the power of the mighty dollar turned against them. Gus and she shared the loss of their beloved partners through cancer, and the bond between them had just begun to cement toward the end of the book.
Maybe I’ll bring Lucy back. Or perhaps she’ll get her own book some day. It’s definitely on the list.
So, what do you do when you type “The End?” Do you put your work aside for a while, go out and live life for a few weeks? I’ve done that a few times. Sometimes it’s plain necessary to recharge the creative juices.
Or, do you immediately turn back to chapter one to polish the manuscript and look for inconsistencies before you send it out to your critique partners or inner circle of pre-readers?
Alternatively, do you put your manuscript aside for a year to let it simmer, while you blast through a few more novels? I’ve done it both ways. Normally, I set it aside for at least six months, and give in to my massive craving for “creating new.” Then, when I’ve forgotten most of what I wrote (don’t laugh, I’m serious!), I return to it and am both delighted and horrified at what I’ve written. That’s when the real roll-up-your-sleeves editing begins.
My advice is to discover what works for you through trial and error. There’s no hard and fast rule about dealing with this hand-off, and no unwritten rule that you must deal with it the same every time. Most importantly, whether or not you need a hiatus in which you reconnect to family or friends, be sure to return to writing as soon as possible. Whether it’s an article, like this, or the start of your next best-seller, keep writing. Don’t ever stop. Give us more, and steam ahead to forge those new bonds that will hopefully return you to the tissues the next time you type “The End.”
- Aaron Paul Lazar