The Miraculous Journey of Lisa Lester

I’m writing a memoir.

Not mine. This is for someone who is much more interesting: Lisa Lester. Lisa is a dear friend of many years, and the most inspiring person I know.

Lisa is a Canadian singer/songwriter from Winnipeg, loaded with talent and best known for her album I Have Arrived, recorded in Nashville. She is also is a wonderful storyteller who asked for my help in putting her words to paper.

And what a story Lisa has to tell.

Lisa I Have ArrivedOn January 6, 2018, Lisa was singing on stage in Winnipeg in front of hundreds of people when she suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. What followed was a harrowing night in and out of consciousness and then a seven-hour open brain surgery at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre, led by neurosurgeon Dr. Anthony Kaufmann to stop the bleeding and save her life. Lisa credits her faith in God and the power of prayer and angels for the miraculous journey to her full recovery.

Two weeks after surgery, Lisa went home from the hospital with a tender scalp that had been stitched back together with staples, “like a zipper up the back of my head” she said, but a full head of hair. “That was so considerate of the medical team.”

She needed no physical therapy, and suffered no permanent health repercussions. And though she needed months of rest and healing to get back up to her usual busy schedule and her duties as a marketing executive with Style Manitoba Magazine, she was back to writing songs on the very day she got home from the hospital.

“The words, the melody, they all flow together into me at the same time,” she told me. “And the first song that came to me is called A Bridge of Halos. That’s how I felt when I was in the hospital, like I was walking on a bridge of halos. I am deeply spiritual, and always have been. I felt people praying for me and sending me strength. I could feel those vibrations and knew that I was going to make it. I knew I was coming back.”

As a writer, I feel both humbled and challenged to play such an important role in helping Lisa get her story into print. It is also a joy to be working with her. Over the last year I  have recorded several hours of interviews with Lisa and will be sharing clips from time to time. In this one, recorded in Winnipeg earlier this month, Lisa recalls the process of choosing the songs for her first album, Take Me Away.  

Lisa is now on a mission to save lives by raising awareness of the warning signs that point to brain aneurysm.

Primary symptoms of a ruptured brain aneurysm:

  • sudden onset of the “worst headache of your life”
  • nausea and vomiting
  • stiff neck
  • intense sensitivity to light

Other symptoms may include pulsing pain behind one eye and blurry vision.

Lisa proudly serves as an ambassador for the Lisa Foundation, the  leading organization promoting awareness and education for brain aneurysms.

“I am deeply spiritual, and always have been. I felt people praying for me and sending me strength. I could feel those vibrations and knew that I was going to make it. I knew I was coming back.”

Lisa lester

The Battle with Perfectionism

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A Writer’s Log

Amazingly, I am hitting some kind of a stride in my novel about art forgery in 1914.  I am traipsing around in the world of Monet’s garden, Paris art supply shops, New York Auction Galleries and the Manhattan homes of some very rich people who have more money than taste. Finally the writing is flowing. It is a most satisfying feeling, and I will only take a minute to post this, then indulge in another 8 minutes on social media distraction before I get down to work again.

Writing fiction is freeing when it is not torture. Writing is easier when one resists the siren pull of all things around writing that are not writing: research, building an author platform, and reading great books.  It is so easy to justify getting lost, especially in social media. And then, once a writer musters the necessary commitment to advance the manuscript, there is the ever looming fear of looking like a fool.

Perfectionism lurks over our heads, polluting the landscape, filling us with doubt and driving us back to the time wasters, or the fridge. If you think too much about the quality of what is being written, your confidence withers and your writing session crumbles away.  What is a writer to do? In my case help came from trolling Twitter where I found a link to the inspiring and wise words of Anne Lamott, a writer who has much to say about writing and life in her book Bird by Bird.  Lamott advises us to remember that you can’t get to the third and fourth drafts until that first lousy one is down, and the first one is just for you.

So just write.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” Anne Lamott

Now back to writing.  I am having lunch with Claude Monet today. Can’t wait.

 

p.s.  A note about the picture: This is Flora Miller at her typewriter, taken in 1919, and found in the online collection of the Library of Congress.

Book Club Questions for the Author of Ravenscraig

Book Club questionsOne of the greatest pleasures of being a writer is the chance to meet with readers who want to talk about the story you invented.

I am fortunate to be  invited both in person and on Skype to talk with book clubs, service organizations, synagogues and history buffs about the story and to give presentations on the research I did to create Ravenscraig.

It is just a lot of fun to talk with readers who become deeply involved in the story.

The following questions came to me from a book club in Florida.  I couldn’t attend this event due to an ill-timed appendectomy and wrote out the answers to these questions while I was recovering.

Here then, is a little background on the writing of Ravenscraig.  Please do write to me if you have any other questions!

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Why did you decide to title your novel Ravenscraig? What other options did you consider? 

Finding the title was challenging. My first working title was the incredibly bland Willows on the Crescent.  After that there were a number of titles that related to the Titanic.  Finally I settled on Ravenscraig because it was the name of Rupert’s home (Rupert Willows is the lead character) and because it just seemed to work better than any of the other titles I had on my list.

Ravenscraig Hall (a fictional home) is located in the real neighbourhood of Armstrong’s Point which has a charming history and truly remains a sought-after residential neighbourhood to this day.  On the location that I placed Ravenscraig Hall there originally sat a mammoth home known as Bannatyne’s Castle.  How unfortunate that only the gates of that home are still in existence today.  I took the name Ravenscraig from Ravenscraig Castle in Scotland, which is big, ugly and was among the first built to withstand cannon fire.  Once I tripped across that, I knew it was perfect for the mansion.  Coming to the conclusion that it was the right name for the book took much longer.

Naming characters was a similar problem.  I learned all of the baby name sites on the net in my search for names that I felt would be most appropriate. I also did extensive searching through archival materials from Ellis Island, the Canadian Census reports of 1901 and 1911, the Jewish Genealogy website and City of Winnipeg archives.

What is your greatest pleasure – researching the historical underpinnings of the plot or creating the characters and dialog to communicate the historical elements?

I love the research.  The idea of writing a novel first came from stumbling across a great story about the scandals involved in building the Manitoba Legislative building a century ago.  Great story.  The more I learned the further back I needed to go.  What I learned about the conflicts between rich and poor, and English and everyone foreign during the height of the immigration boom (1896-1914) became so interesting that the focus of my story naturally shifted to the stories of that time.

There was such extreme poverty and so little political will to do anything about it that it just seemed unbelievable.  I read stories of 40 or more people living in boarding houses of 800 sq ft or less and thought it impossible that this had happened. Moreover it made me wonder that if it indeed had happened, how had I never heard of that before?  The 1911 census is an amazing document that lays out the truth.  Then, knowing the extent the overcrowding existed set a different colour to the many essays and memoires that I had read and new materials that I sought out.  What I had seen as perhaps exaggerated through a nostalgic memory suddenly came into focus as an undertold story of suffering. I wanted to bring that story to life.

This led to learning about the Typhoid epidemic in 1904-1905 when Winnipeg had the highest rate of typhoid per capita in the western world.  I first learned of it in a book by Dr. Alan Artibise, titled: A Social History of Winnipeg, 1874-1914.  There truly was a Dr. Jordan called in from Chicago to investigate the health crisis. I ordered a full copy of his report from the Manitoba Archives and was shocked to learn that he did not condemn the use of dirty river water being brought into the water mains for use in fire control.  He did say the water should be used “as little as possible”.  Equally interesting was that the Winnipeg newspapers produced no screaming headlines demanding to know the source of the typhoid.  It appears the city leaders just didn’t want the shame on a national scale.

Did Rupert Willows ever get on your nerves?  

Yes. But as awful as his behavior is at times, I admit to a deep affection for him. I enjoy his complexity.

Which is easier for you, description or dialog?  

Dialogue is much easier for me.  There comes a point where you spend enough time with your characters that you understand their morals, failings, strengths and misery.  I don’t mean to sound nutty, but I got to like a lot of them, especially the ones I spent a lot of time with.  So then, with the kind of research I did in Ravenscraig, you have a real story that you need them to react to.  You create a circumstance, place the people in it and then listen…and type.   There was one night I remember where I had had a particularly productive day.  I work outside on the patio most of the time when the weather allows.  I was working away and was quite overcome by what unfolded.  It was dark. The pool light was on, as was a lamp on the patio table. Katiana, my daughter, came out to ask a question and caught me as I wiped the tears from my eyes.  “ARE YOU OKAY, MUM?”

I think that when we think that these are not just stories, but that each of us has someone in our own ancestry who suffered, who fled, who persevered so that future generations would have a good life, it becomes something worth learning.  Each of us has a history worth knowing. Sacrifice is a big word and it counts for a lot.  It enriches your life when you contemplate the suffering that was done on your behalf.

Who do you imagine as your ideal readers?

Wow.  To be totally honest, this was a selfish endeavor. I wrote something I had searched out to read and couldn’t find. I thought if my mum read the book I wrote I would be happy. It pleases me to no end that the story has touched others and that it has sparked interest among some readers to learn more about their own histories. Historical fiction is not one of those BIG genres publishers are clamouring to publish.

As an author are you more interested in portraying the history of a period/place or in drawing “life lessons” from historical events and suggesting parallels to present issues?

I think there are life lessons in every circumstance and I wanted to tell a story that was historically correct.  I was very concerned about reflecting the attitudes of the day, particularly in the impact on women and the underclass. I like the idea that readers might learn something new that makes them think about the immigrant experience, whether it be a hundred years ago or in modern times.

Even in the most seemingly objective narrations of history, the historian has a point of view, a bias, a cautionary message.  As an author working in the genre of historical fiction, how would you characterize your moral slant or philosophical position.

I think it is very humbling to look at all of the difficulties that were borne by our ancestors.  I have little interest in anyone who might whine about not having the latest cell phone or tablet. Freedoms are too easily characterized as entitlements. I look back at that time a century ago, and imagine who or what I might have done or been. My heart goes out to the unfed children, the women who gave birth with their hair frozen to a wall in an unheated shack, and to all of the men that drove themselves to find any way possible to provide for their families. All of those who faced the tremendous challenge of putting down roots in a country where so many people were against them, simple because of a  name, a religion, or an ethnic background.  I think if I were to have lived in that time I would have thrown all my might behind Nellie McLung and the group of women who saw to it that Manitoba would be the first province in Canada to gain the right for women to vote in 1916.  Can you imagine we haven’t had the right to vote for a hundred years yet?

Why did you choose to conclude the book the way you did? Did you consider other options?

The ending came at the very end.  I had an earlier version that I was just not satisfying so I had to take some time away and just think about it. I have a deep affection for certain characters and it was very troublesome to learn what happened.  I was quite shocked, I must say, when I finally learned.

How does the ending reflect on or influence the themes of your novel. Family, Loyalty, Education, Integrity, Politics, Gender Issues (changing role of women, suffrage, etc.), Responsibility, Community, Work Ethic, Luck, Chance, Identity… personal versus social, ethnic, religious, economic, gender, family connections and expectations.-

Because the ending was the last of the book to be written, I cannot say it influenced the themes. It does influence thoughts of a sequel.  I am interested in the Great War and its impact on the city.  I am greatly interested in the work and strength of the women particularly through the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, and the suffrage movement.  Sam Bronfman became Canada’s best known Jewish leader after he became known for Seagram.  He and his family started out in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in a variety of jobs which ultimately led to the the hotel business. He became the owner of the Bell Hotel in Winnipeg when he was in his early twenties and ultimately became Canada’s most famous bootlegger. Lots to research in this area.  And then there is the matter of the 1915 scandal of the building of the Legislative Building.

Who are your favorite authors, particularly in the historical fiction genre?

Most of what I read is non-fiction, but I very much admire and enjoy: Chaim Potok, Ken Follett, James Michener, Allan Levine, Margaret Mitchell, Harper Lee, Carol Shields, Irwin Shaw, Alice Munro among others I have forgotten to mention.

Inspired by Tallulah Bankhead

0001aZInspiration for a writer comes from many places. For me, pictures and videos of real places and people are  primary triggers to inspire the plot lines and help color the characters who are dominating the development of the story.  So when I happened across this utterly fantastic photo of Tallulah Bankhead decked out in a feather headdress in the 1920s, I had no choice but to learn more about this fascinating person.

Tallulah-Bankhead-3Bankable Tallulah

Tallulah Bankhead, born in 1902 in Alabama, was an actress and wild child with a husky voice and a tremendous presence on stage and off. She partied hard, smoked marijuana and used cocaine.  She was a regular at the Algonquin Hotel in NY, and a participant in the Algonquin Round Table where writer Dorothy Parker sharpened her tongue.

Tallulah was said to be wonderfully outrageous and uninhibited, known to peel her clothes off to sit down and have a chat. Tallulah was a huge celebrity both here in the US as well as on the London stage and was known for calling everyone “Dahling”. She said it was because she never could remember names.

Tallulah Trivia

She tested for the part of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, but at the age of 36 she was considered too old for the part. Scarlett is 16 at the opening of the story.

Tallulah, witty and charming, is also an influence on a one of my characters. For now her name is CC, and she is an American heiress who marries a penniless count.

Now back to work…writing that is…

Research is such an appealing type of work avoidance. I really do have to be more disciplined about settling down to continue on with my novel, so please excuse my hasty exit. I’m writing about art forgery in 1914, (a novel yet to be named) and naturally that leads to the need to learn not just about art, the art market, the fabulous world of art collectors in New York society, but also the larger than life people of that era.  My story centers on a fantastically talented artist, Arthur Bryant of Paris, who makes fake Claude Monet paintings.  He cons one Mr. R. J. Wilkesbury into being his dealer in New York.  The material lends itself to an endless trail of delicious distractions in research. The novel is a sequel to Ravenscraig.

Storytellers: Author Mary Glickman on Marching to Zion

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Mary Glickman, author of Marching to Zion

Every once in a while you come across a writer whose stories continue to reside in your imagination long after the final words of the characters have been spoken and weeks after the novel has been moved from your night table to your bookshelf.

Such is the talent of Mary Glickman, a very fine storyteller with an exceptional gift for bringing us into the struggles, passions and challenges that must be faced by the vibrant souls who inhabit her novels. Her use of language and depth of spirit resonates truth in all that she has to tell.

3Glickman_MarchingToZionwebMary Glickman’s newest book, Marching to Zion, published by Open Road Integrated  Media, presents a complicated love story but gives the reader so much more.

The novel opens in St. Louis in 1916 as Mags Preacher, a young black woman, arrives in the city to make her future in the beauty business. Circumstances lead her to a job not in a hair salon but in a funeral parlor, owned by a Jewish immigrant. What follows is a broken road of dreams bringing us into the forbidden love between a beautiful young Jewess with a tragic past and a black man who fights his own demons.

Marching to Zion is being launched today to critical acclaim:

“Mary Glickman’s novels embrace complexity of the Jewish South.” -Southern Jewish Life

“This moving novel . . . handled with credibility by the talented Glickman . . . is sustained by the rich period detail and by strong and fully realized characters.” —Booklist

“Coincidence or not, the publication of Marching to Zion on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of The March on Washington is a powerful reminder of the discrimination and unspeakable hardships African Americans suffered. . . . Marching to Zion is a memorable story, with a very clear message that the journey is not over.” —Jewish Book Council

“Readers who are interested in Southern historical novels examining black-white relationships and those who enjoy good storytelling are the natural audience here.” —Library Journal

homeinthemorning_coverMary’s themes in all three of her novels are broadly concerned with how people manage in the face of adversity, loss and discrimination. She writes of the American South in times gone by, and shines a light on the experience of Jews, of blacks, of tolerance and of intolerance, all the while taking us into places and conflicts and sometimes even into the heart of shame in a way that is as complex as it is direct.

Her first novel, Home in the Morning is being made into a film. Open Road president/co-founder JeffreySharp will executive produce Home In The Morning for Open Road with Luke Parker Bowles and Peter Riva.

What I like most about Mary’s writing is that she carries a delicate touch and deep sense of humanity as she explores the troublesome parts of life that don’t fit into neat and moral solutions.

Mary has had her own complicated journey which she discusses in this video.

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I first discovered Mary at the Jewish Book Council. I had traveled to New York to present my novel Ravenscraig the same year Mary was listed with her second novel, One More River,  a follow up to her outstanding debut novel, Home in the Morning.  As I read through the catalogue searching for appealing summer reads, I decided that Mary Glickman would be the most interesting person to meet during my visit to New York. Unfortunately we were not scheduled to present on the same day, but social media later took care of all necessary introductions and we began a regular correspondence as a friendship naturally took hold.

I was greatly pleased when Mary asked some months ago if I would like to receive an advance copy of Marching to Zion.

The story immediately captivated me and it is a pleasure to share my thoughts in a five-star review:

Marching to Zion by Mary Glickman is a literary triumph, and easily the best novel I have read this year. Starting in 1916 in racially tense St. Louis, the story twines the lives and heartaches of a beautiful Jewish immigrant and a forbidden black “fancy man”.  The complexity of their love is wrought with a depth of understanding of human frailty that lingers long after the back cover is closed. 

As with all of Glickman’s novels, a quiet truth flows with strength and beauty through elegantly written passages that beg to be marked, re-read and quoted aloud. Marching to Zion is an excellent choice for book clubs that crave rich discussion material and an opportunity to learn about America’s less than shiny past. Mary Glickman’s story of hope burns brightly through the darkness, driven by characters fighting to maintain dignity above all else.

Sandi Altner, author of Ravenscraig (Amazon 5 star review)

Mary was kind enough to agree to an interview, facilitated by email

What inspired you to write Marching to Zion?

I don’t know if inspiration is ever one thing entirely and of course, Marching to Zion started out as something very different from the story that emerged. Its working title was “Women Alone”. I’d intended to focus on women from the first two novels, Home in the Morning and One More River, each of whom spent considerable time on their own without the support of a male at various decades of the 20th century. I thought it’d be interesting to investigate the different ways women coped according to their decade, age, class, and race. As a device, I thought I’d use the money-lender, bail bondsman Magnus Bailey as the thread that knit their stories together.

Then one of my readers observed that the earlier novels provided a view of African American and Jewish relations throughout the 20th century and this perception interested me. I considered what I’d left out and realized I’d not included the Eastern European immigrant experience. I came up with Mr. Fishbein and his daughter Minerva. Once I put those two together with Magnus, sparks flew. The whole novel changed. In the end, though, when I look at the characters of Mags, Minerva, and Aurora Mae, there’s a portrait imbedded in Marching to Zion of different kinds of women handling differently the challenges of being alone. The original intent bled through.

Glickman Alternate Author PhotoThere is so much depth and credibility in your characters in all of your novels that I cannot help thinking that you are writing from personal experience.  Do you know the people you are writing about?

Only in the sense that they live, fully fleshed, in my mind. I’ve always been interested in people. I like talking to people. I’m the woman that sits next to you in the bus or the train that you find yourself telling your life story to. I’ll probably tell you mine, too. It took me decades to achieve publication. I had a small freelance career. But I was married all the while to a very smart attorney and when we were out together, people I’m afraid treated me as an ornament or an appendage of my husband. It was irritating sometimes. But it also gave me a chance to observe, to investigate, to listen to what made the people around me tick. Sort of like being an undercover psychologist. Maybe that’s where the qualities you describe come from. But all my characters are very definitely fictional. Even when events occur that are inspired by what’s happened to people I’ve known, I go to great efforts to change biographies, down to such defining aspects as gender and race, out of respect for their privacy. Along the way of that process, the characters’ responses will vary from the original persons’ accordingly, sometimes quite radically.

Can you tell us something about your writing habits?  Do you outline your story before you start writing?

Oh! I never outline! I think that would cramp my style! Often I have an idea of what I’m starting with and a direction I’d like to go in. But I leave the story lots of space to develop in its own way, to allow the imagination to breathe. I believe character drives plot and, as Heraclites said, character is fate. No character springs from the creator’s mind fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus. How then can anyone see ahead and outline what a character is going to do?

Uncertainty gets my juices going, I suppose. I want the story I’m telling to engage me even as I’m designing it. If you can’t feel empathy or suspense for your characters, you’re unlikely to inspire the reader’s empathy or suspense either. The process of discovery enlivens language.

Everyone writes differently. I’m not saying my way is the right way. It’s just the one I’ve got.

Glickman_OneMoreRiver-lowres (1)What is your writing routine?  Do you set word goals? Do you have a specific time of day you like to write?

I like getting up early in the morning and after I’ve caught up on my online newspaper and such, jumping right in. I’ll work three hours or so and then, in the afternoon, the banalities of life interfere. If I’m lucky, I’ll find time to re-read what I’ve done in the morning and refine, refine, refine in the afternoon. Sometimes, I go back to work in the early evening for a while. If I’m on a roll, you can’t stop me. I plow away all day and night long. This doesn’t happen too often, but usually at the end of the story the pressure to complete builds up so forcefully the endgame is like a dam burst. I love that part!

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you get unblocked?

I don’t believe in torturing myself with the very idea of writer’s block! It’s a word with power, that one. I prefer to think I have periods when I’m writing and periods when I’m not. Usually, those periods of not writing occur when I’m between projects, so they might be simply periods of resting the brain circuitry. Eventually, I’ll feel restless and cast about for something new to do. Re-reading my favorite books helps. Music. Films. Walks or bike rides around my island. Then, as Woody Allen says, it’s all just a question of showing up.

How did you become a full-time novelist?

Practice. Practice. And a little help from my friends. I never seriously considered any other career. I did have a small freelance career in educational writing and public relations, fundraising for a time, but I involved myself in that only to (a) make money and (b) to validate myself as a writer. My best friend, i.e. my husband, Stephen, encouraged me to do so. The first writing job I was offered was writing copy for a museum exhibit, I think it was, and I thought: what do I know about that kind of writing? Stephen told me a good writer can write anything and that I should try. So, I did. It went pretty well, and afterwards, I tried every other kind of writing job I could chase down. I never made a mozza of money, but every word I wrote advanced my ability to write novels, simply by teaching me that each writing arena has its own rules and once you learn them, the rest comes.

Eventually, marital life and economics progressed, my husband offered me the opportunity to “just” work on my novels – I was probably on number four by then – and that’s what I did. Success came a few more novels down the line. But I do believe working on seven novels over 35 years without publication had its benefits. It enabled me to discover a unique voice and develop it without interference. And it grounded my identity as an author. I knew I would continue to write with or without success because that’s who I am, that’s what I do. I fully expected to write without reward until I died and I was ready to do so.

Your publisher, Open Road Integrated Media, is a relatively new company that is embracing e-book trends with a heavy focus on bringing out-of-print gems to a new reading audience.  At the same time you have become an “e-star” in the company, as a new author with a strong voice, and we see you frequently mentioned in articles about Open Road. How does their business model help new authors?

Unknown (6)Where to start? When former CEO of Harper Collins worldwide, Jane Friedman, launched Open Road Media, it was in response to the crisis in publishing that began in 2008. Publishing was in a mess, losing buckets of money, laying off a third of its work force. Jane identified endemic problems in the industry, where it was overspending, what it was neglecting, among them, the high cost of warehousing, returns, distribution, enormous advances for books which basically amounts to casino style gambling. So Jane came up with a new model. She’d focus on ebooks, which require none of the above, with print issues on demand. Instead of grand advances, she’d dedicate power and resources to full-court press marketing, something largely absent in traditional publishing today. And, she’d offer the author a 50/50 split on royalties.

When my agent, Peter Riva, first put Home in the Morning out there, there was interest from traditional publishers and Open Road both. Peter advised me to take the Open Road offer for many reasons but what attracted me most was the marketing budget because that marketing expertise is exactly what a debut author most needs. These days, new authors are required to spend $25,000 or more out of their own pockets on a freelance marketer to make up for what their traditional publisher will not or cannot provide. Or they have to learn how to do it themselves. That’s a full time job plus overtime I wasn’t prepared to take on.

I’ve not been disappointed. ORM’s marketing efforts on my behalf have been stellar and the results remarkable. My sales were ten times that expected from a new author! And that 50-50 royalty split didn’t hurt either!

What advice do you have for authors who dream of being published?

Develop your own voice. Listen to the rhythms and music inside you and let it be reflected on the page. You can have the most fabulous concept in the universe, but unless you tell your story in a powerful voice, it will be neglected. And that takes work.

But most importantly, no matter how many rejections you receive, no matter how great and deserving those novels are, and how depressed you get at continued rejection, don’t let that stop you. Keep going. Never, never give up.

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About Mary Glickman:

Born on the south shore of Boston, Mary Glickman studied at the Université de Lyon and Boston University. While she was raised in a strict Irish-Polish Catholic family, from an early age Glickman felt an affinity toward Judaism and converted to the faith when she married. After living in Boston for twenty years, she and her husband traveled to South Carolina and discovered a love for all things Southern. Glickman now lives in Seabrook Island, South Carolina, with her husband, cat, and until recently, her beloved horse, King of Harts, of blessed memory. Home in the Morning is her first novel. Her second novel, One More River, was a 2011 Jewish Book Award Finalist in Fiction. Her third novel, Marching to Zion, is the tempestuous, tragic love story of a beautiful Jewish immigrant and a charismatic black man during the early twentieth century.

Sequel Inspiration: Dinner at Eze in 1914

The Mediterranean view from Eze
The Mediterranean view from Eze

I am working on a scene in the Ravenscraig sequel which takes place at Eze, an incredible Medieval Village that is known as the “Eagle’s Nest” for it’s view of the Mediterranean.  We had the good fortune to visit this stunning place on the French Riviera some years ago and we enjoyed a most elegant lunch at the Chateau Eza.

Today I came across this beautiful video that will give you a sense of why I chose Eze as location for a very important dinner in 1914. Luxury is always inspiring. Eze is a few miles away from Monaco.

For someone raised on the prairies, like me, I can tell you it is a bit of a hair-raising ride up that mountainous road to get to Eze, but worth every pounding heartbeat.

Art Forger: Mark Landis

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Click image to see Avant Garde Diaries documentary on Mark Landis

The sequel to Ravenscraig has taken me down a fascinating road in the study of art forgers.

Many of them have similar reasons for wanting to pass fakes into the marketplace but Mark Landis is different.

Landis is a philanthropist who donates his works to art museums and other organizations for the apparent pleasure in being treated as someone of importance. He has been creatingmarklandis forgeries by copying works for more than thirty years and has never been charged.  He presents his works as gifts in honor of his mother’s or father’s memory.

He sometimes dresses as a Jesuit priest to heighten the credibility of his donations.

Learning about the world of art and specifically the world of art forgery is highly entertaining, and I have decided to share links to some of my finds from time to time.

Here then is the story of Mark Landis, as told by Alec Wilkinson of The New Yorker in his feature article The Giveaway.

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photo by Shane Lavalette

Thank You Reviewers of Ravenscraig in the UK

Ravenscraig coverFew things are more gratifying to a writer than to have someone say they like your story. Readers who share their comments about what they like, what they found lacking and what they are recommending to the world is the lifeblood of an author’s career.  We learn from the criticism and we are encouraged by the praise. 

This may seem like a small thing, but it remains remarkable because there are thousands of books sold before a review is posted.  I’m talking about your neighbor, your sister, your co-worker here, not the big time reviewers in newspapers and bloggers who get books in advance of publication.  It’s the reader who buys the book or who is given a copy by a friend, or borrows it from the library who matters.  A choice is made. A book enters your life to occupy your time for days. If you hate it you will drop it in four minutes.  But if you like it, you become invested in the world of the characters.  You come to know the people in the story and you develop opinions about them. Sometime you fall in love and it is sad when the book ends and you feel that the story should have gone on, just a little bit longer, or that there should be another book, or an entire series.

Once in a rare while, a reader feels compelled to share their thoughts.  That is gold for areviews writer.  For me, this has made all the difference and has created the desire to write the sequel to Ravenscraig. (This next one will be all about art forgery in 1914  being sold to millionaires in New York.)

Next time your book club gets together, ask your members how many books they read in a year, and ask how many reviews they have written in their lifetime.  It’s true that those who take the time to post those reviews are very special indeed to the authors.  Even the big names are likely to read your words when you post those reviews. 

So it is that I send out a big thank you today to the readers that have found Ravenscraig and have been moved to write a review.  Writers live off the kind words of people who love our stories. We know that not everyone will get what we are saying, but for those who do, there is no greater joy than a fab review on Amazon.  It drives us to keep going, despite it all.

So to Mazza who posted this review in the UK, I can only say thank you so much for your enthusiasm and for sharing your thoughts.

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Thank you Mazza!

Happy weekend everyone.

And by the way, if you want to send me a note, I will certainly write back to you.  You can write to me at sandikaltner@aol.com. Or connect with me on Twitter @SandiAltner.

Also please see the reviews on Amazon.com

Ravenscraig email L

Writing the Sequel to Ravenscraig

Summer reading
Summer reading

I am happy to share the news that at long last I am seriously at work writing the sequel to Ravenscraig.  This story is settling into the world of art forgery and starts in 1914. 

For me, fiction writing starts with serious research and for this novel, I have been learning about the exclusive world of art collectors, dealers and auctioneers.  I can’t believe it has taken me this long to get to such a  a fascinating field of study. Rife with scandal, and steeped in tradition, the art world makes for delicious reading.  Please feel free to share your reccomendations.

There is nothing quick about my approach to writing a novel, so I am not ready to say when this book might be available.  I can tell you that I am at my happiest on days like this when I can wander through history, and in this case luxury to see where the story goes.

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So as not to spoil the fun for the readers who have not yet finished Ravenscraig, I will tell you only that the new novel opens in Monte Carlo just before the Great War.  Gambling, luxurious living, and the particular challenges of the world of the fine art market set the path for the new adventures of some familiar characters and some new friends who join the fun.

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Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Like Ravenscraig, the new book will be based on historical truths and will be driven by the appalling yet frequently charming behavior of my favorite imaginary friends.

From time to time I will share some of the images I find inspiring, like these of the Monte Carlo Casino and the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, from a fantastic website on all things fashionable called Zsazsabellagio.

I have a small favor to ask:  If you have finished Ravenscraig, please don’t spoil the fun and tell anyone about the ending!  I recently gave a talk for a large group and one dear lady couldn’t help but stand up and blurt out some information that should not have been revealed.  Ugh.  No spoilers please!

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Monaco

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Hotel de Paris, Monaco

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Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Ravenscraig 100th Amazon Review

Sandi AltnerFew things are more gratifying for an author than to have people tell you they like your story.  Whatever you may think of Amazon and its dominance of the ebook market, I can tell you that there is a huge benefit to being able to hear from Amazon reviewers who take the time to share their thoughts on the books they’ve read.  Like many authors, I appreciate and read every review.

It takes a long time for a book to gain traction and to become known.  The reviews help people find books that are in the area that they like.  Ravenscraig is a family saga, historical fiction, with romance, a Canadian immigration story and of interest to people who like social history and particularly the Titanic.

So it is with delight that I saw the 100th review of Amazon appear this weekend.

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The 100th review was written by Mary K. from Minnesota who gave Ravenscraig 5 stars. Thank you, Mary!

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Here are some of the other comments from Amazon reviewers.

Click here to see more Ravenscraig reviews.:)

reviews