Torena O’Rorke is busy person. As a mental health therapist, her professional life is devoted to working with high risk teens. In her free time she has already authored two other books, Always Another Dawn which she published through SterlingHouse and Deigratia Prophecy. Shortly before the Fourth of July, I was able to contact Ms. O’Rorke and ask about her latest novel, The Duet Letters, a historical tale that focused on the real-life bond between Jane Macquarrie and the former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.
Q: How did you discover the relationship between Jane and the First Lady?
A: My best friend, Eve Macquarrie, is Jane's daughter and I have known about the letters for over 15 years.
Q: What kind of research did you do, and how long did it take?
A: I read every book I could get my hands on with regards to Eleanor Roosevelt. I also read through all of the letters several times. There are nearly 300 from Eleanor to Jane and then from Jane to her own family in addition to telegrams, photographs, invitations to the White House, etc. My research took about 10-20 hours a week for nearly six months. I also contacted the executor of the Eleanor Roosevelt estate, Nancy Roosevelt Ireland, to get permission to use the letters in the book.
Q: Since Jane was based on a real person, did you have any trouble separating yourself from the character?
A: I felt Jane was speaking through me as I wrote this book. One night at about 3 AM, I was awoken to a voice in my head that said, (when writing a scene) 'use the word 'frock' not dress." I felt as though Jane was with me much of the time when I was writing her story. There was no trouble separating except that I didn't want to misrepresent her in my friend, Eve's eyes.
Q: What was it like to put yourself back in the 40s?
A: I loved the 40s and believe I probably lived a life during that time. My first book, Always Another Dawn, also takes place in the forties as does the next book I am working on. The 40s were a great and wonderful time, despite the horrible war. People were brave and embraced integrity in many ways to overcome adversity.
Q: Was Eleanor Roosevelt a hero in your life?
A: My birthday is the same day and month as Eleanor (Oct.11) strange as that is and I have always hero-worshipped her. I believe she still is America's most important woman and one of the most important in terms of the world stage. Her work with the UN was astonishing.
Q: How did the writing process of this book compare with your previous publications?
A: The writing process was the same as for my other books, other than I had to weave the letters into the story, which was very tricky, especially choosing what letters to use. I normally do a minimal outline and story arch and then allow the characters to speak for themselves.
Q: If you don't mind my asking, what are you currently working on?
A: I am working on a book that takes place during the World's Fair in Seattle in 1962 about a burlesque dancer. The working title is Pretty.
Q: Is there anything else that you’d like everyone to know?
A: The only other thing I would say is that I am hoping this book brings new interest regarding Eleanor Roosevelt and her life to the American public.
Michael Farina is a English Major with a Creative Writing Concentration from California University of Pennsylvania.
As an extended celebration of the fourth of July (and because we just couldn’t let the party die) this week’s article is about good-ol’ American myths.
My first instinct was to write an intimate biography of Johnny Appleseed because, well . . . he’s as American as apple pie (pun not only intended, but pain-stakingly planned).
You know the drill; I’d tell you his real name was John Chapman and that squirrels ate out of his hand. We’d probably end by coloring all the states on a map that he visited and then cutting open an apple around its equator to see the star core. Maybe I’m confusing this with what we did in my first grade class.
If you’re like me, an elementary school introduction is all you ever learned about Johnny. You may be surprised (and slightly disenchanted with history) to learn that he did not, in fact, wander the wilderness from coast to coast spreading his wild seed (so to speak) and cozying up with some friendly bear families at night. In fact, I was most surprised to find out that he travelled and remained almost exclusively in such unromantic places as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.
When I realized that Johnny Appleseed was not only active around my hometown, but also in areas of Ohio where my boyfriend’s family camps for the summer, I knew I had my subject. I pledged to walk in Johnny’s steps, don my tin-pan hat, and taste the apples of his labor.
Although his first orchard is reported to have been along Brokenstraw Creek near Warren, Ohio, his second was rumored to have been in Venango County, Pennsylvania, specifically in the city of Franklin, more specifically at “French Creek.” I found this bit of direction particularly curious because French Creek, running through much of northwestern Pennsylvania, is a surprisingly poor indicator of exact location. Still, I would not be deterred and set off for Franklin, granola bars in tow, hoping to gain knowledge of the legendary man.
Thanks to a stately marker, I was able to identify a location where Jonny Appleseed had probably once stood. Okay, the plaque didn’t go as far as to claim that, but it did read:
John Chapman, an actual person as well as a folk hero, lived nearby along French Creek between 1797 and 1804. Records indicate he had a nursery there and one near Warren, Pa., before moving on to Ohio. Born 1774 in Massachusetts, he died in Indiana, 1845.
And hey, Franklin isn’t a very big area. Given the geographic surface area, I was probably standing where he had once slept. Accepting that I would have to take this on faith, I looked up across the broad creek and imagined an apple orchard nestled near its bank. It was beautiful.
Can't you just imagine an orchard here?
The next phase of my journey took me to Mohican Wilderness Camp near Greer, Loudonville, and other non-descript small towns in central Ohio. The area, having been recently hit with severe storms, was powerless. Trees remained downed along the road for longer than I would have thought possible in this day and age.
Finally, I made it to my destination – the tallest known Johnny Appleseed likeness in the states. The chainsaw-carved statue is an impressive 18 feet tall and has approximately the same bean-pole frame as my boyfriend.
Taking a bite out of a crisp apple (okay, it was a snicker’s bar) I shielded my eyes and surveyed the legendary man. Right then, a small bird alighted on his great wooden head, reminding me of Johnny’s most important message: his gentle animal-loving ways.
John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, first entered north central Ohio at the start of the 1800s. During the first quarter of the century, he established nurseries fro which he sold or gave away saplings to incoming settlers.
John lived in harmony and simplicity with the white settlers, the native Indians, nature, and the animal world. This orchard was planted to continue John’s work as a horticulturist and environmentalist.
His statue was carved of American elm by local artist Brenda Bubbard. At 18 feet, it is the tallest known likeness of Johnny.
In late May, Publishers Weekly reported that Judge Denny Chin rejected Google’s motion to reject the Authors Guild as an associational plaintiff, and granted the guild their case. In December, the Authors Guild filed a motion for class certification. With their motion in place, the long-running legal drama that started years prior, continued. It is expected that the case will not be resolved until September of this year, at the earliest.
“This litigation arises from Google’s business decision to gain a competitive edge over its rivals . . . by making digital copies of millions of ‘offline’ printed materials,” the Authors Guild’s motion states. “As part of this digitization project, Google unilaterally decided to copy not just works in the public domain, but also works still in-copyright, without seeking or obtaining authorization from their copyright owners.”
Chin accepted the Authors Guild’s motion that Google’s mass digitization is best dealt with through litigation.
Authors Guild President Scott Turow, was pleased with the outcome.
“We’re one big step closer to justice being done for U.S. authors,” he said in a press release.
Publishers Weekly and numerous other book lovers are considering the Judge’s decision to proceed with the case a win for the Authors Guild. After more than six years, the case will go to trial.
Robert Gottlieb, chairman of Trident Media Group, left his comments on the report, and shared his support for the Authors Guild.
“The idea that anyone can use copyrighted [material] without first getting the author’s approval files in the face of copyright law as we know it,” Gottlieb commented. “Google, as a dominant player on the internet, wants to reverse the practice employed under copyright law for their own business agenda. This should not be allowed…”
Fans continue to support the Authors Guild in their decision to fight for the author’s rights.
Ernie Zelinski posted his thoughts on the trial as well.
“Yeah, is all I can say,” Zelinski wrote. “It appears that large corporations such as Google, etc. would deprive authors of any reimbursement for their work if they could get away with it. If these companies were operating out of total integrity, decency and excellence, these types of lawsuits would not be necessary.”
Google’s liability for copyright infringement has not been determined, but they claim their actions are protected by fair use. Google Books remains confident that they are fully compliant with copyright law.
“Google remains committed to opening up access to the knowledge that is contained in millions of hard to find books,” a representative from Google said.
According to a press release from the Authors Guild, “If Google is found liable for infringement, copyright law prescribes statutory damages for willful infringement of not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work.”
According to the Publishers Weekly report, motions for summary judgment are due to be filed mid-June, and the trial will take place later this year.
Sarah Bell is a student at Waynesburg University and plans to live long and prosper.
“Hey you ladies…Come and look at these jackets, you know you want to! I give you very nice price, can’t beat it!”
My three friends and I continued to stroll along the Mercato Centrale in the shadow of Florence’s towering Medici Chapel, ignoring the heckling vendor. His jabbering gradually faded into the general bustle of people flowing down the street like water from an overturned bucket. The smell of leather lingered in a breeze that stirred the richly colored awnings—they fluttered against the warm, brown stucco walls punctuated with vibrant, green shutters and—
—“Hey! You American, yes? You play tennis, football?”
Another vendor shouts after us, his companion tilting his head back in a wide-mouthed peal of laughter; it didn’t help that they were young and gorgeous—untidy black hair, bronze skin, and smiles that would melt butter in a refrigerator. I glance at my friend, who rolls her eyes, and shake my head disparagingly in response.
Spring Break for study abroad students is an exhilarating rite of passage. Three full weeks of gallivanting around Europe—experiencing the beauty of the tourist-ridden hot spots while becoming experts on how to side-step Ryan Air baggage restrictions and how many days your male friends can wear the same shorts before it’s a health code violation. Anyone who has ever endured such travel knows that there is one necessity to survival: wearing comfortable shoes.
My group had learned this lesson the hard way. For the past few days, we had been running around Barcelona and Rome and—in an attempt to blend in to the more stylish European culture—the girls had been doing it in entirely insubstantial flats and sandals.
By the time we reached the dusty streets of this Florentine market, we had earned an athletic-shorts and tennis-shoes kind of day. But I couldn’t help the instant flush in my cheeks, or the way my eyes darted down to my sneakers as the laughter rang in my ears.
Later that night, when we headed out dressed to kill, I found myself wishing we would run into those impertinent Italians once more. A smirk crept to my lips as I envisioned our grand entrance into flashy nightclub, channeling the greatest of Julia Roberts’ moments as we—the pretty women—strolled up to them and proclaimed to their stunned faces, “Big mistake.”
First and foremost, I absolutely love being American—and I’m rather vocal about it. I’ve got my Mom’s southern roots, my Dad’s patriotic fervor and the blond-haired, bluish-eyed girl-next-door look and I revel in it. That being said, the infinite cultures and histories of this world still fill me with an awe-inspiring fascination. Whether reading enchanting Russian fairy tales, trailing my fingers along the stones of the Roman Colosseum, or listening to an 88 year old English woman relate her memories of air raids during World War II, these experiences fill me with a sense of purpose and possibility; they tug at my hand and pull at my heart and invite me run, laughing and stark naked, into the Mediterranean and realize that life is for learning and living.
My time abroad opened my eyes to many things; one of which is that, as Americans, we write how we live—almost like we are what we eat. And as much as I enjoy tearing into a good police-thriller novel like I enjoy tearing into a good steak on the grill, it’s not always healthy to stick with what you know. So this semester, I surprised myself—laughing aloud at Victorian comedy and discovering that Scottish literature goes much deeper than the fantastic worlds of J.M. Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson—and let me tell you, I feel even fuller for it.
I’m not saying you need to visit another country for inspiration, but as a writer, you can’t write yourself into the predictable, square corners of your favorite genre. Just like it’s healthy to read something out-of-the-ordinary every once in a while, it’s healthy to write outside your comfort zones, too; it may even push your writing to places you never expected. Once a text takes on a life of its own, it tends to write itself. When you set foot in a new place, it can fill you with that sense of possibility, until your writing shoots forward, pulling you along in its wake. What would a little romance do for your horror novel? How might a hint of sci-fi throw off the plot of your otherwise methodical mystery?
Recently, I read a book that I pinned as a typical crime novel from the get-go. Just as I was getting a little bored with the plot, about a third of the way in, a romantic plotline sprang out of thin air and hit me like a smack in the face. It revitalized my interest in the crime aspect of the book as the protagonist struggled to reconcile the two, and it maintained that interest through the very last line. In this way, I pictured the author marching up to me in the middle of my quick-to-judge crime-novel stereotype, waving two hands of exquisite romantic baggage in my face and saying, with a calculated smile, “BIG mistake.” (868)
Jamie Novak is a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, with degrees in English Literature, French, and a Certificate in Public and Professional Writing.
In this deliciously creepy gothic tale psychic investigator David Ash regularly seeks out phony psychics and disproves the theory of ghosts beyond the grave. Summoned by the enigmatic nanny of Edbrook House in the English countryside, he assumes the task of disproving an alleged haunting. In the process he uncovers the dreadful secrets of the ancestral home.
While admitting to the presence of a ghost, the nanny cautions him against taking the case. "My advice to you is to leave this house. No good will come of your investigation.” This warning only serves to intrigue him. As a skeptic working for the Psychical Research Institute, Ash has frequently turned the (Séance) tables on numerous frauds. He has brutally exposed mediums whose paranormal talents are completely lacking. But now, as he explores the house and meets the Mariell siblings – Christina, Robert and Simon– the tables seem to be turning on him. It takes but three short days to undermine his thinking about the supernatural.
Herbert sets the action in a brooding mansion complete with rotting weed-infested ponds and flowers, mysterious women in white flitting through the woods, mausoleums and a menacing dog who follows Ash everywhere. The pond scene where Ash is being dragged under the water amidst the weeds is particularly terrifying. While he is convinced a girl was pulling him under he is told, “You became entangled in … that mess. You panicked, you imagined someone holding you.”
There is a seductive aura of malevolence about the house and its mysteries that draws the reader in. Complicating his visions and an attack on him in the cellar, is Ash’s battle with alcoholism and his own familial ghosts of the past. Is what he is seeing real? While the Mareill’s appear to be adults, their vicious games are reminiscent of childhood pranks. At first they seem just eccentric, but as the book progresses they are more than a bit twisted. All these ingredients combine to create a classic story of terror and horror that I couldn’t put down.
This gripping tale is rich in description and simply presented. The author effectively injects doubt into the mind of Ash which limits his ability to think rationally. His relationship to Christina also throws him off track and undermines his investigation. When he finally realizes the true nature of the evil in this house, it comes as a complete shock. There is enough spooky goings on to create a nail-biting tension that is sustained throughout the book.
Haunted is a quick page-turner read that is a surprisingly complex ghost story with a great spine-chilling ending. Herbert is touted as one of England’s best-selling novelists. I was so impressed with his writing that I can’t wait to read the sequel, The Ghosts of Sleath.
Carlotta Holton is the author of Salem Pact, Touching The Dead,Vampire Resurrection, and Deadly Innocence and is a member of the National Federation of Press Women and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association.
Is it a bad idea to publish my novel and poetry on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Blogspot?
- Need to Get Published
Need to Get Published, To Post or Not to Post (this is a perfect example of a gratuitous Shakespeare reference). First of all, is posting your novel in tweets actually publishing? H-m-m. Call me a traditionalist, but I don’t think so. If you’re using social media as a way to promote and publicize your novel, that makes sense. I should think that if you decide to post your novel in bits and pieces on Facebook you’ll end up friendless. Blog anything you want but just don’t call it published. Regarding the poetry…why not submitted it to WritersNewsWeekly. Send it to Mike Farina’s attention, but don’t tell him I told you to. In the end, the publishing industry is a free-for-all, so do whatever makes you happy.
A lot of novels are being written about vampires, wizards and werewolves. It seems like the plots are exactly the same, but with different character names and a random twist every now and again. I intend on writing a fantasy novel but I don’t know how to make my idea unique. Any suggestions?
- I Don’t Like Sparkly Vampires
Sparkly Vampire, I don’t think you are going to like my advice, Sweetie, but to write effectively YOU gotta be sparkly. Nothing is new so you must shine on, dazzle the reader with you color and your style. Second thought, writing a well-crafted fantasy would be a really novelty.
Why is it that everyone and their brother think they can write? I have twenty years as a technical writer and I’m really good at what I do. Recently, I interviewed with a biotechnology firm to document their research and write their application for further funding. The doctor I spoke with didn’t see the necessity of hiring a writer because, according to him, “everyone can write.”
- Technically Speaking
Technically Speaking, if everyone can write, everyone can do biotechnological research. The result: Horrible writing and horrible research.
I’m a self-published how-to writer but I have a chance to ghostwrite the life story of a successful businessperson. What do you think is the best approach: Autobiography or how-to?
- Getting Paid to Write!
Well, Getting Paid, unless the businessperson is famous, has a hugely significant life-story or is an ego-manic with deep pockets I’d opt for the how-to. A how-to offers the reader information, knowledge, insight and advice about what you are telling them how-to-do. This category of book normally beats the crap out of yet another book a businessperson who thinks, because they made a few bucks, the world should suffer through…did I say suffer?...I meant read their life story.
Before 2006, birds tweeted, not people. However, a new social network released that year turned the word “tweet” into both a noun and a verb used by millions of people today. Twitter undoubtedly changed the way people think, write, and spread information and ideas.
While most people use Twitter for multiple reasons including entertainment, expressing themselves, promoting a business, and keeping up with/ stalking friends and family, many use it primarily as an easy and immediate way to stay up to date on the latest news. CNN’s official Twitter has over 3.5 million followers, while more than 6 million people follow CNN Breaking News.
Last month, Twitter announced the development of a new technology that could severely limit this news flow in certain parts of the world. Twitter recently announced the ability and right to selectively block the viewing of certain Tweets based on one’s location in the world and that country’s laws. For example, in France and Germany, laws prohibit any pro-Nazi messages. Twitter’s new technology would respond to these laws by blocking users in these countries from viewing any Tweets that could be construed as Pro-Nazi. Twitter’s policies will be strictly reactive, with each country’s government possessing the right to make censorship requests, resulting in flagged Tweets replaced by messages stating that the Tweet has been “withheld” in that country.
Twitter censorship is by no means a new consideration, as the British government considered shutting down the site in times of social unrest following this summer’s widespread UK riots facilitated largely by Twitter communication. Although officials ultimately decided to permit the site’s use, the incident proved the immense social and political power of the Twitter network. The new technology would have allowed the British government to selectively block the messages inspiring the disorder within England, making a countrywide Twitter blackout unnecessary.
Clearly, the implications of this new capability extend far beyond just the potential limitation of news flow, violating for many the essential freedom of speech component that Twitter has always extolled. Furthermore, Twitter’s global achievements – such as the significant role the social network played in the Arab Spring – may not have been so successful had the site limited the flow of crucial information to certain areas, placing control in the hands of national governments rather than individuals.
In response to these new potential policies, I can’t help but think that where there’s a will, there’s a way. If a large group of people wants to start a riot, or an individual wants to make a statement, they’ll find a way to do it. If not through a 160 character Tweet, there are still texts, emails, Facebook, iMessages, BBMs, and whatever new form of social media emerges within the next few years. Furthermore, in our rapidly changing and highly technological society, limiting one forum will only cause even more anarchical thoughts and dissent from supporters and users of the site.
In other words, rioters, celebrities, friends, families, and CNN readers everywhere won’t let Tweeting go the birds.