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Behind The Words

A journal by Barbara Wood

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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.



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A Christmas Carol

by Barbara Wood last modified Dec 18, 2007 05:58

(image of person raising hands to sky)

The other night I watched what is possibly the hundredth version of the Charles Dickens classic, starring, of all people, Tori Spelling!  I loved it.  Although the story is always the same (a miserable, curmudgeonly person is visited by ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, and is ultimately changed by the experience) the myriad recountings of this beloved tale doesn’t always involve the usual “old man” Scrooge (although the most recent version starring Patrick Stewart is the best of that particular lot).  In one version, Cycely Tyson plays miserly Ebenita, and Vanessa Williams does a great mean-spirited diva named Ebony Scrooge in another.  My personal favorite is Susan Lucci as “Ebbie,” and now we have Tori Spelling in A Carol Christmas.

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Alex Trebek

by Barbara Wood last modified Dec 13, 2007 12:02

I was very sorry to hear that one of my favorite TV personalities suffered a heart attack on Tuesday.  Mr. Trebek has brought hours of enjoyment into my home by way of the popular quiz show, Jeopardy.  Alex (I feel I can call him that as he has appeared in my living room thousands of times) has always struck me as a very nice person, warm and amiable and gracious (well, he’s Canadian so that tells you a lot.)

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Two For the Price of One

by Barbara Wood last modified Dec 11, 2007 05:28

(image of person raising hands to sky)

I am frequently asked for advice on how to write.  And just as frequently, I get requests for inspiration.  So here are two for the price of one.

While I do not write non-fiction, I do nonetheless strive for accuracy, realism and truth in my writing, because people believe the printed word.  And so my advice pertains to both genres, fiction and non-fiction: be sure of your facts and be prepared to back them up.  Don’t do shoddy research.  Be meticulous.  Readers are placing faith in you.

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Lucky Number 13

by Barbara Wood last modified Dec 04, 2007 04:49

As this is the thirteenth entry in the Blog of my newly upgraded, refurbished, re-designed, updated, modernized and beautified website (thank you Sharon, Carlos and Johnny!) I thought an exploration of “luck” was in order.

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"Raw Oysters and Whiskey"

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 27, 2007 05:51

I was writing a scene this morning in which a character is offered a plate of raw oysters.  She politely says, “No thank you,” while trying not to look squeamish.  The hostess does not take offense, but says instead, “I understand.  Raw oysters are an acquired taste.”

As I wrote those words, I thought of the many times I have heard or read that phrase, and it never really made me stop and think – until now.

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"Where To Begin?"

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 20, 2007 12:41

(image of page and pen)

People frequently say to me, “I want to write a novel, but I don’t know where to begin.”  Surprisingly, the answer is not always, “Start on the first page.”  There are no rules in writing.  Whatever works for you is what you should do.  If you can’t muster up Page One, then start in the middle (if you know what your characters are going to be doing at that stage).  Or start with a description, or dialogue, and build upon it.

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Shanghai Surprise!

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 13, 2007 04:31

(image of Shanghai reading group)

No, Shanghai Surprise isn't the name of a fruity drink with a little umbrella in it. Although it does refer to something just as sweet. An amazing event took place in my life last week and it involves my living room, a reading group of Latin American ladies, my book GREEN CITY IN THE SUN, and the Chinese city of Shanghai.

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The Devil Is In the Details

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 12, 2007 13:04

(image sea captain)

I just finished reading a fine attempt at a historical novel that ultimately failed.  The story was good – great, even, with lots of action and adventure, exotic locales, lovely little surprises, twists and turns.  So why did it fail (for me, at least)?  The author had not done a good enough job of making me see or “feel” the characters and settings.

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"Trick or Treat"

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 12, 2007 13:05

(image of children tick or treating)

It’s Halloween again and, once more, I am mystified. 

This is one holiday I just don’t get.  All other holidays – from New Year’s to Christmas – have warm, fuzzy connotations.  Valentine’s Day is hearts and flowers and love, Easter is about bunnies and new hats, Memorial and Labor Day honor heroes in the military and the labor force, (even Fourth of July tempers its fireworks and implication of martial violence with Mom’s apple pie).

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My Battle With the Adverb

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 12, 2007 13:06

(image of woman frustrated with computer)

I confess, I was addicted.  Many beginning writers have a problem with adjectives.  This is a universal given.  My problem had always been with adverbs.  (To refresh: an adjective modifies a noun and an adverb modifies an adjective and a verb)  In my early works, if anything could be done, it could be done happily, sadly, smashingly, haltingly, poorly, smartly.  No verb in any writing of mine was left without a description, and if one adverb worked well, then two must be twice as good! 

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Happy New Year!!

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Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

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Copyright © 2007 by Barbara Wood. All rights reserved.