These days of pandemic and protest, I'm never really sure what new tragedy will shake my optimism. Each morning seems to present new challenges. What keeps us hopeful?
For me, family and friends -- online and nearby -- make the difference, even when we don't agree and especially when we do. That nurturing community keeps me motivated, except when the news is so outrageous, I cannot do anything at all. I feel helpless to bring about any real change and saddened by the grief of families who have lost everything through senseless violence.
I do try to follow a routine of writing every day and have made a commitment to post each Wednesday here. You might have noticed I missed last Wednesday. That's OK. We still have Wednesdays to come.
Today's post is a little gift, an excerpt from my latest book, The Seventh Tapestry. I hope you enjoy -- even as you persevere with challenges in your own life, to be safe, yet involved, to be creative and committed to your own dreams. May the coming month be a good one for us all.
The Seventh Tapestry -- An Excerpt
SANDRA’S OFFICE PHONE chimed, interrupting her study of museum holdings. “Director Hadley would like to see you upstairs,” said Margaret. “Now.” “I’m on my way.” Sandra rolled the kinks out of her neck and stared at the low-hanging ceiling in her office. She loved working for the Museum of Medieval Art, but she wondered what he wanted. She hotfooted it through the basement employee lounge, closed the door to the tiny, iron-scrolled elevator with a click, and hit the button for the third floor. She tucked her honey-blonde hair behind her ears and wished for the gift of clairvoyance. Margaret ushered Sandra into the inner office overlooking an expansive view of Princes Street Gardens below, but Sandra’s attention was on Mr. Hadley, impeccably dressed in a gray suit with matching vest, and his guest. Both rose as she entered. “Sandra, please join us. This is Neil McDonnell of Scotland Yard’s Art Crimes Unit. I’ve told him you are relatively new to our Curatorial Affairs department.” The tall man next to Mr. Hadley nodded, his face still; his hand reached out to shake hers, firm and warm. Sandra automatically catalogued him: Hair a little long, tall, lanky, sure of himself, well dressed in a casual way, sweater vest and tie with a gray tweed jacket. Perhaps too good looking? She sat on the edge of one of the chairs near a settee and waited. “Tell us what you think of our main storage area.” Mr. Hadley’s eyes looked bloodshot; his expression not as welcoming as it was on her first day at the museum. “The storage area seems adequate, so far.” Sandra paused, not certain what to say. “Were you alone in the storage area,” Mr. Hadley glanced at his notes, “on the nights of Tuesday and Thursday last week, after museum hours?” “Yes, sir. I was working on my preliminary collections report for Roger, I mean Mr. Ferguson. I was assured I could do so.” “And your findings?” Mr. Hadley glanced at the man seated beside him. “I’m still working on my report, but . . .” “Can we see your findings?” Neil interrupted, his sharp green eyes missing nothing. “Yes, of course,” said Sandra. “The report is little more than a list of artifacts and locations just now. I can go downstairs to print them out.” Mr. Hadley shook his head. “Tell Margaret the file name. She will print it out for you.” Within minutes, Margaret handed out copies of Sandra’s database report. “I haven’t finished my review of the first floor storage unit,” Sandra explained. Mr. Hadley waved his hand to cut Sandra off. “We can see your progress. Notice this, McDonnell.” He tapped on something in her report. “Do you have any other comment on the Saxon axe hammer than what is here?” Sandra shook her head. “No, I don’t think so.” “Was the hammer in Case 24 when you last visited?” “Yes, sir.” “Ah,” said Neil. “Can you explain why that item is no longer in its case?” “What? It’s missing?” Sandra’s stomach lurched. While not a major item in the collection, the hammer was still priceless. But nothing should be missing. “What do the surveillance tapes show?” Mr. Hadley and Neil exchanged a glance. “The cameras were deactivated,” said Neil.
And this month's question is: Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?
My secret life is very much hidden. Only in recent years, have I begun to talk about my childhood, perhaps to finally heal. Tall, nerdy, quiet, and, yes, with glasses, I tended to stay close to the door of any classroom. Ready to escape.
My favorite mode of escape? Books I chose from the library (fiction of every kind and history). The thickest ones I could find. Two Years before the Mast was a favorite -- which led me to fantasize about running away to sea. Later, much later, I met DH and we pretty much have traveled on every continent, except Asia, Micronesia, and Australia/New Zealand (though that's on the current list).
How would readers know about my childhood? I'm not sure. Perhaps the themes underlying my first four books: abandonment, violence, economic upheaval. In each book, my main characters struggle for survival. Thankfully, I believe in happy endings.
Though I don't easily talk about my childhood, some of the healing has come from writing my memoir. Yes, all the details, though this memoir may never be published. Perhaps I've learned to accept my past.
With my latest book, The Seventh Tapestry, just out May 1st as an e-book, this story takes readers right into a mystery about a theft from a museum set in Edinburgh. Sandra, a curator, and Neil, an art crimes investigator, attempt to retrieve a priceless tapestry with its own history.
This one was so much fun to write with settings in Edinburgh and Paris (and the 15th Century), that I'm already knee-deep in research for Sandra and Neil's next adventures in Egypt and the Pacific Northwest.
That's my update for the month. Even with the coronavirus (Day 86 of staying-at-home), and these latest rounds of protests to call for change following the tragic death of George Floyd, we all need nurturing, compassion, and hope for the future.