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Thursday, December 19, 2013


Today, I have the honor of welcoming one of my favorite authors to my blog. I loved Lindsay Edmund's first novel CEL & ANNA, which I almost didn't read because science fiction isn't usually the genre I'm interested in. But I liked Lindsay's blog posts and I figured I'll give it a try. I am glad I did. I loved her interesting and quirky characters, the humor, and the funny jabs at modern government and society. But most of all, I realized that behind those imaginary beings are real people with real human feelings and problems. Besides, who has ever written about a computer who falls in love with its owner? What was even more intriguing was the fact that I fell in love with Cell, the computer. But enough preamble. Here is Lindsay. Take it away!
Good People Doing Their Best

Your family trilogy is about good people doing their best. Karla Bocelli and Andreas O’Reilly and their three children do not have trouble-free lives, but their approaches to trouble are heartening. These people fix things. They also make things: Karla is a painter; Andreas, a stonemason. This is heartening.

 I read EMILIA on a summer Sunday, and it was a pleasure to hang out with these folks. The armchair tourist in me also enjoyed the locales of Switzerland, France, Peru.

Scratch the surface of an ordinary life and you find there is no such thing as “ordinary.” It’s a myth, and a lazy myth, that a person can be reduced to a cliché.

In this blog announcing my new novel WARNING: SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING, I want to
focus on the human characters and how they solve their problems.

Living Life No Matter What

In October 2013 I spent a happy long weekend in Chicago, Illinois, aka the murder capital of the United States. In the murder capital of the United States, people were out walking, driving, shopping, chatting, sightseeing, running businesses, and walking dogs. Even in the most dangerous parts of the city people were out living their lives, heroically though no one will give them medals for it.

The characters in WARNING live in an unstable society under an overstretched, unraveling government. The United States was ravaged by another civil war and has been reassembled under the name of the Reunited States. The country is showing signs of coming undone again.

In spite of the hard times they endure, people get on with their lives. They have relationships, they do their jobs, they cope with the harshness and weirdness of their lives. They chase their dreams. They unravel mysteries. They pray. They make mistakes and correct them. They adapt, adapt, adapt.

Computers have turned us into a nation of typists, but computers will never turn us into computers. In the end, as novelist Russell Hoban put it: “the things that matter don’t necessarily make sense.”


WARNING: SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING is Lindsay Edmunds’s second science fiction novel. It is a dystopian fairy tale, populated with Networld e-beasts who feel about humans the way natives feel about foreign invaders. Its regular price will be $3.99. but it is on sale for $1.99 through January 19, 2014, at Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Lindsay Edmunds blogs about machine intelligence, books and independent publishing, movies and TV, and life in southwestern Pennsylvania at Writer’s Rest. Drop by, say hello, and share a story or two. She is newly on Tumblr, looking for people to draw her e-beasts and sometimes blogging about old movies, and on Twitter.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Journey of Writing

Every writer knows the feeling of elation when he or she finishes a book. "I did it. It's done!" Then comes the moment of truth. I realize that although I am pleased and happy to have arrived, the book I wrote is not the book I intended to write. It falls short of my initial expectations.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mean to be negative. I don't mean to belittle what I have achieved. It is more than I ever dreamed of. But I am not there yet.

What keeps me going is the process of writing, the insights I gain, the joy and (sometimes) the despair I experience. It's a journey and I may never get to the ultimate destination. But I will reach milestones and enjoy the vista from a mountain top, from where I can see the next, higher mountain. I rest and then go on ...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Enchanting Tuscany - Part 3

Grocery shopping at the local markets in the small town of Cecina is fun and interesting.

Here you find almost anything you need for your wardrobe, your household as well as your kitchen.

Meats, cheese, the famous Prosciutto di Parma, as well as fish and seafood along with freshly picked vegetables.

On the right side: that's how prosciutto looks before it's sliced. Quite a hunk!

I hesitated to post the photo above for fear of offending my vegetarian and animal-loving friends. But, hey, that's how it's done here to attract pork-hungry customers. They put the whole roasted pig on the counter and you get to chose from which part of the animal you want your cut. I'm not a vegetarian, but I have to admit, I didn't linger in front of this stand.

Courtesy of Kconnors, MorgueFile
Just to let you know, there was plenty of vegetables as well and the kind farmer even tossed a few extras in for free.

We ended the shopping spree at a local coffee/liquor bar with one of Italy's perfect cups of espresso.

Now comes another part of my "serious" research for my WIP (work-in-progress) novel: winemaking and winetasting! Here we are at one of the many hill-towns in Tuscany. This is Querceto, a small town near Cecina. The only tourists here seem to be those who have heard about the excellent wine that's being produced in the local wine press house. Queceto is much smaller than Volterra and, perhaps because of its size and lack of tourists, even more charming.

 View from Querceto at the Tuscan scenery.

A castle, a church, one restaurant with lodgings, the winery, and plenty of friendly, helpful people.



And here is where it all happens, the magical transformation of vines into wine. In these huge steel vats, the grapes, skins and some stems, sit, simmer, sizzle until just the right time and then ...

... after a few months or years sitting in the barrels, the wine is syphoned into bottles ... and ... after some more time, it can be enjoyed. Sounds magical? In reality it is hard, backbreaking, and often dirty, sticky work. And the risk of a bad harvest when Mother Nature doesn't cooperate has ruined many small vineyards and winemaking outfits. You really have to love this process to continue. I haven't met a vintner or winemaker who wasn't passionate about it.

 Cheers! By the way, that young boy is NOT drinking wine, just smelling it!

If you want to know more about this charming hill town and its vineyards, here is a link:
Even the best things have to come to an end. The week in Tuscany is over and we have to say good-bye. It's been fun and enlightening. One last look at our paradise.



 Goodbye Tuscany!
Welcome Switzerland! Yes, it was quite a shock. From the swimming pool to the snow-covered mountains. In the meantime, there had been an unseasonably early snowfall.

Fortunately, the snow is gone again in the lower areas and we are able to enjoy some gorgeous fall weather.


 Now, that's better. Wait with the snow until I leave!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Enchanting Tuscany, Part 2

Volterra, one of my favorite hill towns, and the surrounding vineyards and olive groves are a feast for the eyes. Here I'm doing some "serious" research in the environment in which my WIP takes place. My heroine spends some time in a town like Volterra and the nearby vineyard.

The walls surrounding Volterra are a mixture of Etruscan (about 700 BC) and medieval architecture. Situated on top of a hill and protected by thick walls, the towns were in a perfect position to fight off roving aggressors. A fiercely independent city-state, Volterra has tried to prevent the hegemony of Florence but had to eventually accept its dominance. Inside the city, the narrow cobble-stone streets are lined with a multitude of shops, coffee shops, small restaurants, and art and crafts galleries. Volterra has fewer tourists than the more famous hill towns such as Siena and Pisa. The majority of the people are locals and the town has a vibrant life of its own.

I love Volterra and wouldn't mind living here for a while.

Piazza dei Priori is the central plaza with city hall and other government buildings as well as a tourist office and a few coffee shops/bars typical of Tuscan towns.

Here we are on Piazza San Giovanni, the religious center of the town with its octagonal baptistery and the cathedral. Also in this square is a building that was a former hospital and there used to be a cemetery as well. These four buildings are present in most Tuscan or Italian towns and form the Christian idea of the cycle of life: the baptistery symbolizing birth, the cathedral where everyday life takes place, the hospital, where you end up when you are sick, and, last but not least, the cemetery, the last resting place.

The most interesting part for me was the symbol of on top of the building above. A skull flanked by two wings. It is the Christian symbol of what is left after you die: bones and the soul. Everything else, all your possessions and your achievements are gone. So the wings are arranged in the shape of a V for Vanitas or vanity to remind man to care for his soul rather than his vain ambitions.

I learned all this from a well-known American tour guide in Volterra. Annie Adair lives in Volterra with her Italian husband who is a sommelier. Here are a few links to some very interesting videos by Annie, where you can find out more about the history and present life in Volterra.

And here are a few more pictures of Volterra and the view of the surrounding landscape.


At the bottom of the hill are the ruins of a Roman theatre.

 Outside Volterra, about twenty minutes away, is a vineyard, called Podere Marcampo or the small farm of Marcampo. I was hoping to see the vendemmia or grape harvest in action but the grapes were already harvested and the place was closed. Well, perhaps next season. It was still great to see the small family farm and the vineyards.

What a fun idea to start a row of vines with a rose bush!

What about having breakfast on this nice patio?

The warm weather made the flowers bloom again in fall!

We were driving back to our villa, enjoying a beautiful sunset.

Next time a visit to the local market as well as some wine tasting. Yum!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Enchanting Tuscany - Part 1

We (my nephew and niece with family and friends) decided to visit Italy, Switzerland's southern neighbor, and spend a week in one of my favorite parts of the world: Toscana or Tuscany! It was a vacation for my family and friends and for me it was also an opportunity to do a little research for my WIP, a novel that takes place, in part, on a vineyard in Tuscany.

We started in the German part of Switzerland at 4 o'clock in the morning. Getting up that early was a little tough, especially because it was pouring rain. And it rained all the way to Tuscany. Rain storms in Tuscany are not unusual in October and they can be fierce. If you have seen the movie Under the Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane you know what I'm talking about. When we arrived in the villa on a hill outside of Cecina (near the Tuscan Mediterranean coast), it was still raining. Since we were a fairly large crowd (ten people), we rented one of those large Tuscan villas. We unpacked and went shopping for groceries and when we got back, the house was flooded and we had to move. That was only a minor wrinkle in our vacation because the agency, from which we rented the house, moved us to a more elegant villa for the same price. What a treat! And the next day, it was sunny again.

Here it is: Villa Bacio, a two-story house with a big yard and swimming pool.

A view from our house. All around us fields and hills stretched into the distance. The main vegetation aside from the cypress and Mediterranean stone pine forests: vineyards and olive groves as far as you can see.

Relaxing next to the swimming pool after the long drive--the water was a little on the cold side but we braved the waves anyway.

Here are some pictures of the inside of Villa Bacio. I love the Tuscan architecture with its vaulted ceilings, stone and mosaic floors, and the huge fire places.

Getting ready to cook! Swimming, hiking, or simply relaxing makes you hungry.

Cooking together with everybody pitching in was fun.
Dinner time! 
Relaxing after an action-packed (or lazy) day.
Brunch outside, surrounded by a lush and beautiful landscape. What more could one wish for?

No Swiss kid is ever far away from a hearty portion of chocolate. Our two youngsters, Severin (in the picture) and Megan decided it wasn't worth buying those small cans of Nutella. They got the real thing!

Pineapple bits topped with chocolate. Even Dad likes it!

The braver ones among us (my nephew and the two kids) went for a swim at night. Brrr!

I definitely preferred swimming during the day.
One of the many Tuscan hill towns nearby--Casale Marittimo.

A truly beautiful landscape--both charming and mysterious
On one of the days, my nephew and I took a trip to Volterra and a small vineyard nearby. This was part of the research for my novel with the working title The Italian Sister. More about that later.
Volterra, one of my favorite hill towns!