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Behind The Words

A journal by Barbara Wood

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Writing Down the Bones

by Barbara Wood last modified May 06, 2008 05:05

(image of pen and paper)

I am often asked to recommend books on writing, for both inspiration and the mechanics of the craft. I can do no better than to recommend Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg (Shambhala Press), a perennial top seller in the field. I first read this book in 1986, when it was initially published, and I still refer to it now and then as a jump-start to my writing day.

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The Ten Second Pep Talk

by Barbara Wood last modified Apr 28, 2008 18:20

As someone once said of aspiring writers: “Everyone wants to be Jackie Collins on the Letterman show.  No one wants to be Jackie Collins at eight o’clock in the morning facing the blank page.”

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The Story of Tall One

by Barbara Wood last modified Apr 22, 2008 06:18

(image of early human woman with baby)

The title of this Blog refers to the first of seven stories in my book, The Blessing Stone. Tall One was a female human who lived a hundred thousand years ago on the African savannah. Not quite modern man, yet also not still brutish ape, Tall One symbolizes the transition of Homo sapiens from the animal kingdom to the unique human one. How would such an individual think and act? I wondered. What would her thoughts be? Her dreams? How about her emotions? And how big a part would her basic genetic structure play in her development into Homo sapiens ("Man the Wise")?

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What's In A Name?

by Barbara Wood last modified Apr 16, 2008 18:40

(image of William Shakespear))

I read an interesting statistic recently. The most popular first name in the world is Mohammed. The most common last name is Wong. And yet one's chances of meeting Mohammed Wong are very slim.

Whenever I am asked advice about creating characters, one point I always emphasize is, "Take care in choosing a name." This is because a name will tell the reader a lot about that character, probably more than you might think. If, for instance, I name a character Tiffany or Bambi, you can be certain she isn't out of a Jane Austen book. And she most likely is also not over sixty years of age. I would wager, too, that she isn't Jewish, Middle Eastern or African American.

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Bury My Heart In Sacred Ground

by Barbara Wood last modified Apr 08, 2008 16:12

(image of book cover)
(image of book cover)

I live in Indian country.

My town is surrounded by Indian Reservations.  Our local highways sport billboards advertising Indian gaming casinos, and our newspapers frequently run ads for powwows and other special Native American gatherings.  And so it came as no surprise to me when, one day, I felt inspired to write a novel chronicling the history and culture of the Native Americans here in Southern California, tribes whose lives and history were impacted so dramatically by the arrival of Europeans, and which I titled, Sacred Ground.

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When Is A Doctor Not A Doctor?

by Barbara Wood last modified Apr 01, 2008 06:26

(image of sugar))

A recent news article about Sen. Clinton's presidential campaign raised a question that I have wondered about for years.  It seems that Clinton's determination to shatter the ultimate glass ceiling is resulting in a backlash of sexism.  A lot of people (and not all of them men) won't vote for a woman for president simply because she is a woman.

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Shake, Rattle and Roll

by Barbara Wood last modified Mar 25, 2008 03:43

(image of sugar))

We've been experiencing a series of small earthquakes here in Southern California. It's interesting talking to my friends about it. Absolutely no one is concerned. Why should we be? Seismic activity is a way of life around here.

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The Unexpected Rewards of Research

by Barbara Wood last modified Mar 18, 2008 07:09

(image of sugar))

I battled weight problems for most of my life.  I joined every diet club and followed every diet plan known to humankind.  I listened to doctors, nutritionists and experts.  But I could never lose weight in sufficient numbers, and certainly never kept it off.  I was becoming resigned to my heavy weight when I stumbled upon a weight loss plan in a most unexpected place.

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Murder Most Foul

by Barbara Wood last modified Mar 11, 2008 06:30

In January 1941, the body of Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll, was discovered outside of Nairobi, Kenya - a bullet through his handsome head. His murder shocked British high society, and even more shocking was that evidence suggested his killer might be a member of the aristocratic colonial set.

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The Songlines

by Barbara Wood last modified Mar 04, 2008 03:29

(image of Ayres Rock, Australia))

In my novel The Dreaming, Joanna Drury arrives in Australia 1871 on a quest to solve a mystery that has haunted her all her life. During this quest, while experiencing adventure, danger and romance, Joanna discovers that, in order to get to the bottom of the mystery that plagues her - or she will never know true happiness - she must follow something called Songlines, the invisible pathways along which Australian Aborigines have traveled for thousands of years to perform their sacred and cultural rites.

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Life Is A Verb

by Barbara Wood last modified Feb 26, 2008 04:34

In many of my books, I explore the world of women in medicine (both historical and contemporary).  "Domina," for example, deals with the barriers facing 19th century women who wished to become doctors.  They were barred from medical schools, or if they somehow gained entry, were forced to sit outside classrooms and were forbidden to attend anatomy classes.  Women were considered mentally too weak to grasp medicine, and certainly not mentally or emotionally strong enough to make such important decisions as diagnosis and treatment.  Pioneers such as Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) were considered "unfeminine," and faced bias not only among her peers but in the public at large as well.

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Out of Africa

by Barbara Wood last modified Feb 19, 2008 04:44

(image of kenya safari))

I am alarmed by the news that is coming out of Kenya, about the chaos and mob-rule that has erupted after recent presidential elections there. The news focuses on the impact the upheaval is having on Kenyan economy (the tourism sector has been devastated by the crisis). And the Peace Corps has pulled out, after forty-eight years of operating there. My concerns, however, are on a more personal level.

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A Woman of Egypt

by Barbara Wood last modified Feb 12, 2008 05:31

(image of Jehan Sadat))

Readers who enjoyed my novel Virgins of Paradise often ask me to recommend further reading on the subjects I covered in my book. One title I always highly recommend, and which was one of the many references I used while doing research for my novel, is Jehan Sadat’s autobiography, A Woman of Egypt (1987, Simon & Schuster, New York), the intimate and personal story of her love for Anwar Sadat and for her country.

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Fresh Lessons From Old TV Shows

by Barbara Wood last modified Feb 05, 2008 07:48

(image of t.v. script)

 

I am attracted to anything that involves writing.  That even includes television shows which, although enjoyed through watching rather than reading, and which are therefore a visual medium, are built nonetheless upon the written word. 

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Palm Trees and Snow!

by Barbara Wood last modified Mar 25, 2008 05:55

(image of snowy mountains))

Everyone awoke this morning to a spectacular sight that I believe is found only in Southern California.  Snowcapped mountains with palm trees in the foreground.

A winter snow storm swept through SoCal the last few days (yes, it really does rain in California), blanketing the mountains that surround Los Angeles and neighboring towns in snowy splendor: peaks with exotic names like San Gorgonio, San Jacinto, San Bernardino (not all of our mountains are so beautifully named for saints – we also have Mounts Shasta and Baldy).  But they are breathtaking sights, made all the more astounding by the fact that one observes them through the fronds of tropical palm trees.

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Exercise and the Writer

by Barbara Wood last modified Jan 22, 2008 05:17

(image of woman on treadmill)

Like most people with desk jobs, I have to make sure that I get up and move my body every now and then, or I will sit here all day and turn into a spud.  My favorite exercise is walking.  Outdoors, indoors, all around town – however I can get my daily five miles in.  But – and this is the crucial part – only for a long as I am entertained or can put the time to otherwise good use.  I listen to books on tape or old radio shows, or I dictate a chapter, a character sketch, or letters to family and friends.  After about two miles, however, my attention drifts and I start getting itchy to return to my desk. 

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Setting the Record Straight

by Barbara Wood last modified Jan 15, 2008 06:04

(image of nuts)

Much of the fun of writing a novel, for myself at least, is doing the research.  I have a passion for history and I especially love discovering odd facts (did you know, for example, that Mata Hari’s real name was Margaretha Geertruida Zelle and that she was executed for espionage in World War I?).  And I am always eager to share these nifty discoveries with everyone, which is why I am a stickler for accuracy.

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A Nice Cup of Tea

by Barbara Wood last modified Jan 15, 2008 04:53

(image of cup of tea)

A few days ago, some rather remarkable material began to fall from the skies over Southern California.  We all rushed outside, of course, to discover what this wondrous stuff might be, and we later learned on the news that it is something called “rain.”  Marvelous invention, rain!  Overnight, those brown hills out there have turned green.

 

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New Year's Promises

by Barbara Wood last modified Jan 15, 2008 04:41

(image of happy new year)

I love fresh starts and new beginnings.  The clean slate that every January 1st brings.  An opportunity to let bygones be bygones, a time for sweeping away old grudges.  As civil rights leader Bishop Desmond Tutu said, “Forgiving is not forgetting, it’s actually remembering – remembering and not using your right to hit back.  It is a second chance for a new beginning.”

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Happy Holidays!!

by Barbara Wood last modified Dec 23, 2007 06:46

(image of person raising hands to sky)

Happy Holidays Everybody!

May all your wishes come true.

Barbara.

 

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Copyright © 2007 by Barbara Wood. All rights reserved.