Monet’s Garden

Monet’s Garden

New York Botanical Gardens Monet's GardenWriting a novel consists of a lot of sitting at a desk, pacing the office floor, looking inside yourself.  So when my latest women’s fiction Beach Colors hit the shelves, a friend and I hit the NYC botanical gardens.

The NYBG is located in the Bronx and covers 250 acres.

Our trip this day was to the Enid Haupt Conservatory which currently houses an exhibit called Monet’s Garden.  The conservatory is the nation’s largest Victorian style glasshouse. It was designed by the leading greenhouse company of the time, Lord and Burnham Co and was modeled after the Palm House at the Royal botanic Garden at Kew (London) and the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park which housed the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Haupt Conservatory opened in 1902.

It might seem like a non sequitur thing do on a release date, but since Beach Colors is about a fashion designer, known for her stark cutting edge designs, who returns to the shore to rediscover the joy or color, a trip to a painter’s garden seemed perfectly reasonable.

So it was off to Monet’s Garden to enjoy the French impressionist’s interpretation of color through his other passion, gardening. The original Monet’s garden is in Giverny, France.

The exhibit fills the Enid A. Haupt conservatory, and the colors are so vibrant that I  couldn’t find words to describe them, but I did take some photos.  It was quite busy with people stopping to talk along the narrow paths, artists camped out on stools with their easels and sketch books. Everyone leaning closer and closer to get a better view or read the names of the flowers.

The mood was one of wonder and joy.

The first surprise was a plant that held everyone spellbound, tall and soft with willowy arms that might have adorned a creature from Pixar.The first plant to greet you at the entrance.  It turned out to be Verbascum.

 

 

 

My favorites were the delphiniums.  So many blues and pinks.

 

 

 

And speaking of pinks, check out these hollyhocks and snap dragons.Hollyhocks and snap dragons

 

 

 

And this was just the beginning of an explosion of colors, texture and scents. Later we took the trolley to the Mertz Library and saw pictures and paintings of the original Monet Garden.

It was a lovely day, calm and beautiful.

The exhibit runs through October 21.  And November 19 through the middle of January the conservatory is home to model train exhibit which runs through a vast New York City made entirely of natural materials.

Whether experiencing a special exhibit or just wandering the gardens, I always feel rejuvenated, inspired and  thankful each time I enter the magical world of the New York Botanical Gardens.

Romantic Suspense author Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels

Elizabeth Peters from AmeliaPeabody.com

I’ve been busy guest blogging, but I didn’t want to leave my look at gothic romantic suspense authors without  touching on Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters.

I first discovered Elizabeth Peters when I was taking an archaeology class.  I tend to do immersion thinking whenever I start something new, so along with studying and taking tests, I was reading histories, memoirs, biographies, anything I could find about Egypt, I listened to Egyptian music and read nonfiction and then stumbled onto a mystery series about a Victorian spinster, Amelia Peabody—mystery and Egypt— the best of all possible worlds—and the rest is history.

Since Crocodile on the Sandbank, I’ve stayed fascinated with Elizabeth Peters because  besides the fact that I love her writing, she has made a successful career writing both mystery and  romantic suspense, creating for each genre a distinct voice, and within her mysteries, both historical and contemporary.

Crocodile On the Sandbank Cover

I write in more than one genre and use more than one name, and I find that it can be exhausting, especially if everything happens to come due at once, and you’re spending your days alternating being inside different characters’ heads.

There are many writers who write under more than one name, but I have a special regard for Ms. Peters/Michaels/Mertz.  Egyptology, mystery, romantic suspense, a few ghosts and malevolent forces, charming rogues and eccentric villains.  And so many varieties of heroines and heroes, from the Victorian Amelia Peabody and her irascible but brilliant archeologist husband, Radcliff Emerson,  to the flamboyant ex-librarian, Jacqueline Kirby, the blonde and intelligent Vicky Bliss and the endearing, slightly tongue in cheek and elusive, John Tregarth.  (Who appears much earlier in a Barbara Michael’s romantic suspense, The Camelot Caper, and who is linked to the Emerson’s in the Vickie Bliss, The Laughter of Dead Kings.

The Camelot Caper

Which is another thing I really like about her writing.  She always seems to be having so much fun.  (Now, we all know this can’t be true.  There have to be times surely that she worries a plot point or questions a motivation.)

And she is able to switch between humor and  seriousness seemingly effortlessly. Some of her suspense stories are tragic, Stitches in Time  in which past and present intertwine.  And frightening. One of the scariest for me, is Ammie, Come Home, I’m not even sure why.

The Master of Blacktower

Then there are the gothics, Black Rainbow and The Master of Blacktower, Greygallows. Just thinking about them makes me want to read them all over again. Whether charming us, making us laugh, or scaring us senseless, her books are totally engaging.

What are your favorites? Mystery or suspense or both? Or maybe her nonfiction works?

The Lone Ranger and Tonto

Two all American heroesThe Lone Ranger and Tonto

I meant to continue my look at gothic suspense writers  this week, but I was feeling kind of blah yesterday. So I made myself a cup of tea and stretched out on the couch to watch some television.  My choices were bleak as I scrolled through my 200 something channels, until I hit on The Lone Ranger, a feature film made in 1956 featuring the television series actors, Clayton Moor and Jay Silverheels.

It was pretty much like the television episodes, consisting of the same elements.  I watched the whole movie, and paid attention. Why?

Here’s a hero, whose possibly thick black locks are always covered by a big cowboy hat, except when it falls off in a fight, at which time they are covered in dust, straw, and dirt, and stick up like a fright wig.  No suave James Bond.  No debonair romance hero. Half his face is covered with a mask, the other half is fairly expressionless as is his voice. He definitely has the narrow hips and wide-ish shoulders of the romance hero, but nothing out of the usual.  He does wear a tight stretchy cowboy outfit, matching shirt and trousers in gray? Baby blue?  The movie is in black and white, so it’s hard to tell.

He’s accompanied by a native American side kick- scout, Tonto, who was given lines like, “Me go now.”  And, “Him say no war.”  And one can only wonder what Jay Silverheels, (who was born Harold J. Smith and was a member of the Six Nation Tribes of Canada), thought about that.

The rest of the characters were the typical cardboard cutouts, the good, but ineffectual sheriff, the evil, powerful rancher who wants to start an war with the “Indians” because he covets the silver lode that is contained in Spirit Mountain on the reservation.  In order to rile up the locals, he has his men dress up in feathers and war paint and attack his neighbors, he even sends his young daughter out so that she will be captured by the “Indians” and he will have a further excuse to gather outraged citizens for the attack. Oh, and there’s the dynamite he’s bought in another town. There was a minor subplot about Angry Deer attempting to usurp the power of the ailing chief. There wasn’t a romantic interest at all. The strongest supporting roles were played by Silver and Scout, their trusted steeds. Smart , loyal, strong.

So you’re beginning to ask, what’s the point?  Why was this guy so popular? These days we expect three dimensional characters, subtle emotions,  sophisticated action scenes.

True but in spite of this, I was glued to the action.  In spite of the clichéd characters, the standard plot, the predictable ending, it worked.   Thanks to the emotion, pacing, tension,  timing and stunts.

Something I as a writer took to heart.

Watching men ride single file through a narrow pass knowing full well, the warriors were waiting to ambush them, knowing that the evil rancher knew this and had his men waiting with dynamite.  The pacing was steady, the tension  building and tightening,  increased by the cutaways to the Ranger fighting it out with the guys with the dynamite.

Both stars did much of their own stunt work, and I have to say it was pretty impressive.  I winced more than once. A lot of rolling down rocky, dusty foothills, not all of which was accomplished by dummies.  And none of which was replaced by computer animation.

You knew who the bad guys were

By the time it was over, I was rooting for the cavalry to get there in time. So with all its faults what made it appeal to me?  Right winning over wrong.  Good over Evil.

It reminded me how important it is to tap into those universals when telling a story.  And to beware falling into two dimensional extremes while doing it.

Sometimes you need a down day, away from the strees and routines or your work day.  I probably would have never have been inclined to watch an old cowboy movie. But I’m glad I did.

Gene Autry Gets his Man

I’m thinking those cowboys had a special something that we can appreciate even after they’ve gone out of style.  I just did a Google search and I’m amazed by the variety and number of westerns. I remember some of them, heard of others and plan to expand my knowledge.  There were the Mavericks, Cheyenne, Roy Rogers, before the roast beef, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Shane . . .