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 FRESH FROM THE INKWELL 

W: WONDERLAND

The Hickory Bend production of “Alice” is a new interpretation with a Texas twist by a local writer. Wonderland is re-named Tumbleweed Land. The play mixes events and characters from cowboy history with those of Lewis Carroll’s two books.

Jandy‘s encounters at her new/old school parallel those of Alice down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass. She gets lost in the warren of hallways joining the buildings. A good student made to feel stupid, she can recite Persian poetry, but has missed out on American classics. Friends leave her behind with their chit-chat about fashions and film stars.

Down is up, and up is down. People talk in riddles. Nothing makes sense. Jandy must find her own ways to navigate the landscape. After a weird and wonderful adventure, she will emerge at Tamam Shud (the Very End in Farsi), with renewed confidence and relief that it is over. Read More 

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U: UNITY

What makes this book hold together like glue? Like staples? Like saddle stitching? Not literally, but figuratively speaking. I named it RIDDLE OF THE SAMOVAR. So, the samovar has to take center stage (or at least make its presence felt) throughout the story. The discovery and decoding of its contents must drive the plot. Maryam, Tammie, Grant, cousins, teachers, and the “Alice” cast, if they are to participate at all, must somehow fit into the unifying principle – the riddle of the samovar. Read More 

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A IS FOR ART

Art is Jandy Graham's obsession. The first chapter of Secret of the Seventh Gate showed her walking home from school, hugging a sketchpad. Its sequel, Riddle of the Samovar, begins in a similar way. But now the Grahams are back in Texas, forced out of Iran by that country's Revolution, leaving behind her best friend, Maryam. The only bright spot for Jandy, as she readjusts to American life, is the opportunity to take art as an elective - but only if the counselor approves. Characters are not based on real people, but I do see a bit of myself and my daughter in Jandy's passion for art. It will drive the story and may help her solve another mystery with her brother, Calvin. Read More 
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EVICTION NOTICE TO MY INNER CRITIC

Dear Sybil Womberly-Jones:

I regret—no, let’s be honest, I rejoice—to inform you that as of midnight tomorrow you will no longer reside in any property of mine. You have outstayed your welcome, by breaking the terms of our contract.

When you signed our lease at the launch of my writing career, I blissfully envisaged a partnership in which I would write to my heart’s content, as I did at age six when my teacher affixed a blue star to my re-telling of “I Saw a Ship A-Sailing” in my News Book. You, meanwhile, were to stay in your half of the house, or take long walks, whatever you desired that would keep you away from my office until called for.

Instead, you snooped in my apartment window and showed up on my doorstep at ungodly hours, determined to undermine my confidence with premature advice concerning my first draft. Who are you to tell me this kind of story will never sell? What makes you the ultimate authority on character creation, or plotting devices?

Please have your mahogany desk with its rows of red ink bottles, along with your hairsplitting, syntax-quibbling spectacles, packed up and ready to leave the premises by the aforesaid time. Failure to comply will result in a sharp nib in your ribs or worse. My best friend’s husband is the county sheriff.

Sincerely,

Rita Writer 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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