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FRESH FROM THE INKWELL

Death of a Sequel

Those of you who followed the progress of my YA novel RIDDLE OF THE SAMOVAR via blog posts of 2014 (A-Z or Z-A) might be wondering whether the book has been published. I must confess that it was never finished. Less than halfway through, after an investment of several years' plotting, I admitted to myself - and to any who would listen - that I was flogging a dead horse.

For whatever reason - unfamiliarity with Texas high school culture in the '70s, being forced to fit events into a precise historical timeline (the Iran hostage crisis) or just plain busy-ness in my non-writing life - this was a failed romance. Much as I enjoyed researching the era and watching my characters from SECRET OF THE SEVENTH GATE start a new adventure, the time had come to close the drawer on all my notes for possible future use, or not.

This freed me up for other projects! I will have two books out this fall - a poetry collection, CATCHING THE TRADE WINDS, and an illustrated London alphabet, X MEANS TEN ON THE FACE OF BIG BEN. Read More 

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B: BIBLIOGRAPHY

Although I had lived there for a year, I needed to dig deeper into the history and culture of the land and people known as Persia, or Iran, in order to accurately portray a community of ex-pats in Khusestan province, at the end of 1978. My bibliography for SECRET OF THE SEVENTH GATE grew to 30+ books, as I eagerly gleaned tidbits to incorporate into the story. Then came the trickier task of keeping the narrative thread without bogging it down with too much detail. "Spread it thinly, like manure," is the advice often given at writers' conferences.

I thought a sequel would be easy! I knew most of my characters, and knew I was going to place them in a small town near Dallas, not unlike one I'd lived in. But again it would be set in a specific historical context. I should learn more about the immigrant experience for Iranians, which in many ways is different from mine as a GI bride from England. When the Islamic Revolution heats up, Jandy's friend Maryam flees her home and arrives in Texas, where it will be the Grahams' turn to help the Darabis feel welcome.

"Time for Tara Bahrampour!" I told the dogs as we headed for the day bed, a sunny reading spot in the spare bedroom of our last house, armed with my latest Amazon purchase, TO SEE AND SEE AGAIN: LIFE IN IRAN AND AMERICA. Then there was NEITHER EAST NOT WEST by Christiane Bird; PERSIAN MIRRORS by Elaine Sciolino; a couple more memoirs; and poetry by Rumi. My most recent research adventure was GUESTS OF THE AYATOLLAH by Mark Bowden - in case I decide to set the story in the fall of 1979, when the Embassy hostages were taken.

Sooner or later, I will finish RIDDLE OF THE SAMOVAR! I owe it to myself and all these authors who graciously shared their lives with me. Read More 
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GHOSTS OF THE MIDNIGHT OIL

RIDDLE OF THE SAMOVAR, CHAPTER SOGGY-MIDDLE-9-ISH
IN WHICH THE CHARACTERS TALK BEHIND THE AUTHOR'S BACK
(Based on an exercise that got me unstuck in my last mystery.)

Jandy: Does this author know what she's doing?
Calvin: I'm beginning to wonder that myself.
J: Did you tell her up front what you want?
C: Not exactly. Did you?
J: No, but I'm going to.
C: Will we get it by the end?
J: We must, or it won't be much of a plot.
C: Readers will hurl the book across the room.
J: And never pick it up again, if there's no--
C: Blood and guts? An explosion every five minutes?
J: Not necessarily, but some kind of danger.
C: As the lights dim.
J: Like in a play.
C: Yeah. They'll watch us squirm.
J: And root for us!
C: Wondering how on earth we can fight our way out of it.
J: Using weapons we didn't know we had.
C: Or hoped we wouldn't have to use.
J: But grab at the needed moment, like Lucy's arrows.
C: And Peter's sword.
J: Summoned across time and space by the bugle.
C: Yeah, except this isn't time travel.
J: Right. She's saving that for another book.
C: Are we going to risk life and limb?
J: Possibly. There has to be a sacrifice.
C: Our reputation. Or pride. Or worse.
J: For the greater good. Truth and justice!
C: Never quite sure of success until the last page.
J: Paragraph.
C: Sentence.
J: So, you reckon we can write this story?
C: Yep. High five!
J: OK. Now, who's going to tell her? You, or me? Read More 
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