Friday, May 30, 2014

Stalking a 17th Century Genius

Gianlorenzo Bernini Sculpting in Clay
I'm writing a story about a 17th century artist and a 21st century art historian meeting, and the big question is, what does he have to say to her, and what does she have to say to him? My main character has done her Master's thesis on the sculptor/architect and meets him in person in St. Peter's basilica, thanks to a magic time-shifting gold pen. Is she kind of his time-stalker? Can she reveal to him things about his future, and what will that do to him and his art?

I'm having fun pondering time travel dilemmas, not to mention how to craft a romantic relationship between a man who's a pre-eminent male chauvinist and a career-oriented contemporary young woman. Big questions arise, but the ones that engage me are about time and history and whether or not history is truly fixed.

I'd love to hear thoughts about these issues, and also suggestions of well-written time-travel books that engage these questions. Ideas?

This photos shows Bernini's rare clay models for his magnificent marble sculptures. They're on view in the Franchetti Collection in the Ca d'Oro in Venice. The Metropolitan Museum in New York published a book, Bernini Sculpting in Clay, which had this to say about the bozzetti, or clay models:

"The brilliantly expressive clay models created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) as "sketches" for his masterful works in marble and bronze offer extraordinary insights into his creative imagination. Marked with impressions from the artist's fingers and tools, these models give the viewer a sense of looking over Bernini's shoulder as the sculptures were taking shape. Most the models—especially his sketches, or bozzetti—are executed in a loose style that conveys great speed and dexterity, as well as the artist's concern with developing the best possible design."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Time Travel Romance

I like that term better than "paranormal romance," which sounds like it should involve bending spoons, which is only slightly weirder-sounding than the term I ran across in Wikipedia searches of literary genres: "monster erotica." Alrighty then.

It's true that I am writing a time travel romance involving the great Baroque sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini (great is the adjective he insists on accompanying his name, like some people insist on their middle names). It's set in contemporary AND 17th century Rome, Assisi, Siena, Florence, and Venice and was liberally researched in an intensive art history tour of those cities I took awhile back. Plus many hours/months/years of fascinating research reading. I can't seem to stop reading about Italy. And I get to make an excuse for doing it by needing to know exactly what kind of wine glass my heroine might have sipped wine from in a tavern in 17th cent. Assisi while having a chance time-encounter with the great artist.

So how did this Rocket Kid start writing about time travel? My father was friends with Isaac Asimov in Philadelphia in the 1940s when they were both rocket engineers and neither one wrote science fiction. That's how I grew up: in a rocket scientist household liberally stocked with science fiction, especially Asimov's. And Fred Hoyle's The Black Hole. I developed an early interest in such things as time travel, black holes, and alternate universes. But what did I want to read? I wanted to read about girls, of course. Girls in Oz, girls solving mysteries, and girls in Gone With the Wind. It only took me a few decades to figure out about putting the two together. Fantasy/SF + girls = paranormal romance.

Who knew that the Twilight series would catapult this seemingly oddball genre to prominence. Actually, I didn't know until the other day, when I researched literary genres to see how my novel fits. I haven't read Twilight and think the vampire craze is silly. But time travel -- I think it's possible. If only in some of the most entertaining fiction I've read. (The Time Traveller's Wife, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life After Life, and of course Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair.) My favorite time travel device: a genetic disorder. Second favorite: a golden pen.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day - Whitman Witnesses

Memorial Day began as a way to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War. Coincidentally, Walt Whitman's birthday was a few days ago. One year, I wrote him a birthday poem, after having seen a play about him. The play movingly used his own lines to express his witnessing and nursing of the suffering soldiers. Today I'm grateful for Whitman's moving tributes to the hundreds of thousands who made their sacrifice in our Civil War to secure equality. Happy birthday, Walt Whitman.

Happy Birthday, My Captain
May 21

Poet, light a candle on a small cake
for Uncle Walt, standing on the road, hatless,
bowing to the President this dark night.
Every night our uncle bows
to the haunted man
who rides to his hilltop cottage alone,
past assassins, and past an old poet,
carrying grief under his tall black hat.
Watch him, your great

Uncle, reading letters
to soldiers falling into their lilac sleep.
How he goes home to write
in loping lines and to rove
the globe in dreams,
blending East and West
as America’s brothers
lie in ditches bleeding.

See him also as Jimi Hendrix,
mouthing the guitar strings,
rag tied around his head
a wounded soldier, wrestling
a lyric with a shredded flag.
Hear Uncle Walt in every beat
of drums, in dreams of peace
dying away as still soldiers
die, and lilacs
bloom in more guitars.

This May day we give you
a hat-raise, Uncle Walt,
our everypoet.
We wish you rockets
breaking into flowers,
singing that weaves into war’s
clattering omnibus wheels
to halt them. From the shores
of the great Myself, we wave
to you. Be rocked and roll
all day in your song’s long halleloo.

-- from Gods of Water and Air (Available at Amazon)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Poetry Book Giveaway and Midsummer Metaphors

Thanks to all who participated in my Great Poetry Book Giveaway this year! I picked names out of the numerical hat and sent a copy of my Gods of Water and Air  to one winner and Stanley Kunitz's book Passing Through. I noticed we all entered each other's Poetry Book Giveaways. It was a pleasure to read blogs I hadn't visited and learn about books I will now buy. In the giving spirit, I'm offering a discount on Gods of Water and Air during June: just $11 -- or 18% off the Amazon list price, if you purchase directly from me. Email me at and we'll make arrangements.

Here's a poem from the book. It's about Emily Dickinson:

Emily Takes the Stage

The Day that I was crowned
Was like the other Days --
Until the Coronation came --
And then -- 'twas Otherwise --

Like the Beach Blanket Babylon
lady who carries a city on her head,
some women walk to the soul’s well,
balancing with both hands the water
for their thirsty village,
but, Emily, you balanced
on your slender neck
a galaxy-wide diadem
that dropped jewels everywhere,
in field and town, in school and parlor,
in letter and note. Children, maids,
and innocents pounced on
the green, glinting stones you strewed.
in your wake. Unlike the Babylon lady,
you didn’t need props
to hold up your crown.
You only needed to lighten it
by sewing into packets your wit
on death, your living gems.