Let It Snow – no more!

Now the fun is over and the tough part begins – digging out.  I’m no good at math but if you are then multiply 30 yards long x 12 yards wide by 2ft deep to get an idea of how much snow we have to move! That doesn’t count clearing the house doors (escape routes if needed) edged shut by about a foot frozen solid under the porch and drifting up to three feet at the back over the steps. Actually I tried clearing one lot of steps yesterday but they were covered again by this morning thanks to the wind and some errant snow falls that weren’t supposed to be hanging around!

I’ve cancelled doctor’s appointment and breakfast for tomorrow – just don’t see that we’ll have moved that lot by then. Husband has triple A (Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm) so that’s the second battle – making sure (or trying to) that he doesn’t go overboard and do too much at one time. I tell myself the exercise is good for me – gets the blood flowing and all that – and perhaps I’ll lose weight (ha!) but the problem remains. What looked so romantic, exciting and beautiful yesterday, now looks like an enormous, irritating chore.

Now is when I could do with a bevy of strong young men – where have they all gone I wonder??

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Please Reblog!

B.W. Ginsburg

Hi everyone! As an author, I’m constantly trying to increase my reader base. Please do me the favor of being so kind as to spread the word about my new novel. Simply click the ‘reblog’ button. I greatly appreciate all your help!

Thank You,

B.W. Ginsburg, author of Rest in Piece


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Hug – what an unlovely sounding word for a lovely action. Derived from the Norwegian word ‘hugga’ – which sounds better. Amazing what that second syllable will do!

I think a hug is one of the most beautiful gestures we can offer. Hugs aren’t confined to humans either; many animals hug each other and us if we give them the chance. Unlike language which is open to mis-interpretation, hugs are universal – no chance of using the wrong word, saying the wrong thing, putting your size nines in the wrong place. Perhaps we could even offer a hug to the aliens when they arrive from their far-flung planet? Actually, wouldn’t it be interesting if they too had hugs?

Hugs express joy, compassion, comfort; warmth, love, pleasure; welcome home; safe passage; sympathy. When there are no words suitable a hug will fill the gap with a universal message.

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Cold Hand Luke

Some years ago as part of a program inaugurated by our local library, I volunteered to read to an elderly lady who was losing her sight.  After some initial reservations due to my English accent, we settled into a comfortable relationship.

The first book we read was Wings by Danielle Steel, a story based I suspect on the life of Amelia Earhart. It’s a good story and we both enjoyed it. When it was finished, May told me that her husband had had a small plane and she had flown with him to Canada and other places for holidays. Somehow, I had made a good choice for the start.

Sadly, May’s husband had died not long after they had moved into a residential care home and before I met her. Now, with her vision failing fast she was lonely and didn’t like the long wait between my weekly visits for the next installment of her story. With help of the library, we arranged for her to receive a player and regular supply of tapes from the local society which supplied books for the blind. May loved anything by Danielle Steel or Westerns – she particularly liked stories by Louis L’Amour.

Although my weekly visits were superfluous to requirements now she had her audio books, I continued to visit her and we both enjoyed the chats about the differences between England and America. Sadly, once her sight finally closed down altogether and because she was also completely deaf, May had to move to a nursing home.

May has a wonderful daughter who visits her almost every day but she asked me to continue to visit her. Now the circumstances are much different. I had always introduced myself to her when I entered her room because she confided in me that often she didn’t know who was in the room with her or what they were doing. Now, in this new place where she was disorientated and unhappy, this small courtesy seemed more important than ever.

We had a joke between us that I always had cold hands and she would place her own over mine until I was warm; I began to introduce myself as Cold Hand Luke as a nod to her love of Westerns and she knew immediately who it was.

The small joke continues although May is confined to bed now and cannot manage the headphones amongst the oxygen tubes; she is often in pain and sometimes her hearing aids are not working properly. But I still touch her hands and, on a good day, am rewarded with a small smile as I whisper in her ear: ‘Hi May, Cold Hand Luke is here’.




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Words 2

This is the first of several posts which I plan to write over the next few months on my personal favourite poems and poets and I hope you will join in with your own selections.

As writers, I think we can consider ourselves word-smiths  or word-wrights,  hammering and tweaking words to convey our intentions but surely poets have to be even more skilled. Poetry, whether  traditional  or  modern, is usually more tightly written than prose, painting its pictures with fewer words.Poets must pay closer attention to the music of the words, the lines, the stanzas because that’s what poetry is – a song. I hope to write more about the poetry and songs that have comforted and supported me over the years in future posts.

At last count, I had about twenty three poetry books sitting on my shelf – that doesn’t include several larger, illustrated versions, coffee-table items I suppose you could call them. No – these are just the workaday ‘complete works’ that accrete, barnacle-like around us when we study English Literature. Some I rarely dip into these days; maybe use them as reference books to ensure a quote is correct but some are dear friends.

One of my best friends is Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. It has been a loved companion since I was a child. This slim volume bound in blue leather has accompanied me on many journeys, across many oceans and several continents. When I travelled a great deal more than I do now, it was always packed in the suitcase.

Fitzgerald made several translations of Omar’s verses. I prefer the first  edition (1859) for the sheer glory of the words. Mine is quite a scholarly edition; it contains three of Fitzgerald’s translations and comparison notes of all five, a short biography of Fitzgerald and another of Omar:

“It is written in the chronicles of the ancients that this King of the Wise, Omar Khayyám, died at Naishápúr in the year of the Hegira, 517 (A.D. 1123); in science he was unrivalled – the very paragon of his age.”

Who wouldn’t want to read the words of a paragon?

At first I just loved the words, the sounds, the pictures, only later in life did I understand that I also loved the tone of the messages: world-weary, sardonic, realistic and in some parts fierce: “What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?”

Is all this only in Fitzgerald’s translation or is it in the original Persian? I can’t tell. I just know that the quatrains spoke to me from an early age and continue to do so. Who can fail to be stirred by the opening?  No gentle transition this but a bold wake-up call to impel you on the journey.

AWAKE! For Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! The Hunter of the East has caught
The  Sultán’s Turret in a Noose of Light.

Can you go back to sleep after that? Say, no, Shout it aloud and hear the vowels echoing the words, the crispness of the ‘t’s, the energy in the verbs. The Stone isn’t thrown or tossed but flung with strength and intent.

But the poem isn’t only words; it holds wisdom, truth, compassion. Perhaps it is the compass of all those things that have made it my friend for so many years. Kháyyám suggests that the only way to cope with life is “.. .a Loaf of Bread …, a Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou …”. Well? Who am I to argue with him?

The Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám and other writings by Edward Fitzgerald, ed. George Maine, Collins 1953


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“There is always so much talk about the sins of the fathers, but it is the sins of the mothers that are the most difficult to avoid repeating.”says  Melanie Benjamin in Alice I Have Been. (discussed in last week’s blog).

It is a yhen-thumbnailear since Henrietta the first book of my trilogy, Sins of the Mothers, was published. I wish I could say it had been a runaway success but I can’t! Like many  first-time authors, I am inept at promoting and selling my works and not tough enough to say “Please buy it” when people ask me to give them copies because their friends enjoyed it.

A recent article in Digital Bookworld Daily (DBW) identifies three points to consider in order to promote your book successfully on a blog. The second point rang several carillons for me: Define What Your Books Are Really About. This is probably so obvious to most of you that you are wondering what’s wrong with me but I confess it is something I have wrestled with for some months.

Initially, I wanted to write a fictional story about the women living in a particular house which had taken my imagination hostage. I intended it to be an easy read to while away a plane journey or bus trip but as I began to write I realised  I was concerned with two things: the effects one woman’s mistake has on her daughter and how the daughter reacts and develops as a result.

Hetty succumbs to one moment of temptation and pays a terrible price. The effect on Henrietta is a miserable childhood, a sudden hope of escape, followed by a crushing disappointment yet she rises to all the challenges and is strong enough to take extremely unconventional actions so one expects her  to be a successful mother in her turn. But is she? With no experience of being mothered, how can she mother her own children? How does this, in turn, affect them?

That is what I wanted to come out of the books – but did it? I think perhaps not, or not clearly enough. So next time, I will work on defining what I really want to say before putting the words out in the great, wide world!

Today’s edition of The Writer’s Path carries an article by Jordan Jolley, The Sweat and Tears in Writing. In it Jolley writes:

Once your book is published and out in the world, there may still be regrets you have to your book. It’s not the end of the world if you have these regrets. Now you may still have mistakes even after publication (see Printing is Not Perfect). You may still have errors, whether if you had an editor or not. Just remember to look beyond your mistakes and learn from them. If you know your weaknesses, you can focus on them next time and turn them to strengths later on. It’s simply the process of learning and experience.

I found these words heartening, comforting even. The adage says one learns more from failures than successes! I do hope so.

Henrietta and the two following books are available at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and amazon.de
The Writer’s Path:  https://ryanlanz.com/2017/01/18/the-sweat-and-tears-in-writing
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Life has a strange way of turning in circles. Last week I wrote about Alice in Wonderland. It’s one of those books that hover in the back of my mind and memory, perhaps because so many quotations from it became part of my literary life from an early  age. Both my parents were well-read and could use and recognise quotes from many different sources: ‘curiouser and curiouser’ and ‘cabbages and kings’ were natural  childhood chants in our household but I’m not quite sure why the book  insisted I wrote about it for that blog and then …

A few days ago, I needed to find something to read. I’d just finished Genevieve Cogman’s  The Masked City, the second book in the Invisible Library series and decided  I wanted something less ‘fantastic’  (in the nicest use of the word; it’s a great book).  It was too cold to venture to the library so I  was thumbing through my Kindle when I saw the title Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin. I couldn’t remember what it was about or why I had downloaded it but Fate decided that would be my selection – or maybe my brain was still processing the word ‘Alice’.

Well, there was Alice!  Again! The book is about the real little girl who became Alice to a whole world –  a ‘blend of fact and fiction’ according to the synopsis on amazon.com It’s fascinating and I was  anxious to learn how she coped with the fame. Wanted? Unwanted?  Or was it ignored by family and society?

Charles Dodgson changed not only her life but those of her family and almost everyone in their circle, including his own. Was he an inactive paedophile? I’ve always thought not, just a lonely man who felt more at home with children – and one child in particular – than his contemporaries but this book certainly suggests that Oxford society of the time believed he was and ostracised him accordingly. Benjamin portrays a sad and lonely melancholic who was banished to the fringes of the rigid Victorian society of Oxford. She also paints an unpleasant portrait of John Ruskin as a pathetic schemer who finally loses touch with reality and descends into dementia. I hadn’t realised previously that Ruskin had a role to play in the story of Alice.

And Alice? How does she cope with all this? As a well-raised, upper-class Victorian child she was ignorant of the nature of the slurs against Dodgson and herself, only aware of some dreadful sin inadvertently committed against Society but not knowing what it was. I felt sorry for her bewilderment at the loss of the friendship; the lack of empathy from her mother, and later the loss of her second love to yet more of the rigid mores of Victorian Society.

I don’t want to give too much away but if you like to peek through the keyhole to see what other lives were like and the havoc which can be wreaked by suspicion and innuendo, particularly of the famous, I would recommend this book. It is certainly thought-provoking. Benjamin skillfully blends the factual with the fictional so it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.









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