There are times when a single event can change a person's life forever. If it occurs in latter years, the impact, though not lessened, finds fewer days upon which to cast its shadow. Scattered Pieces begins on May 15, 1946 when eight-year-old Katie Harris feels her younger brother Jimmy's fingers slip from hers in a crowded train station. He disappears. What follows in this deftly penned novel is not as much an examination of the case, as a study of the effect of one split second on the lives of Katie and her family and friends. It is a book that I tried numerous times to put down at the end of a chapter only to find myself involved, concerned, and curious enough to keep turning pages. Lynn does a solid job of introducing complex psychological concepts and uses a well mixed and believable group of characters to portray human quarks and foibles akin to those we see in our own tribes. I was moved throughout the story by the depth of Katie's emotional struggles as she maneuvered through life with the weight of her enormous and painfully human guilt.
The above text is from a review I wrote about Alice Lynn's third novel, Scattered Pieces. It was also the third Lynn book I had the opportunity to read. I'll share more about those shortly. First, meet Alice Lynn.
A native Oregonian, Alice was born in 1937 into what she calls 'a marriage on the verge of divorce'. Within two months of her arrival, she and her four siblings found themselves living with their mother in Salem, Oregon. Though physically distanced by the break up, the family remained close. Alice recalls with gratitude that honor and courtesy were among the values provided by her parents, along with a love for poetry, art, music, and literature. Growing up in a small Willamette Valley town, Alice's interests ranged from horseback riding and amateur theatrics, to sculpting, gardening, and sewing. Her love of books was a gift from her mother, and her passion for writing began when after discovering Nancy Drew and Tom Sawyer, she wrote her first story. For Alice, writing came without effort, and although other interests, such as painting and drawing, provided creative release, the passion to write burned on. That passion helped her not only to create, but to survive the unimaginable, the loss of two children in separate, tragic accidents. Like that of the protagonist in Scattered Pieces, they were moments that changed her life forever.
From Alice's Blog:
My Joseph was a romantic. He was handsome, kind, and funny. He could tell jokes that made you laugh. He could relate a story so poignant it would make you cry. So today as I brought flowers to the place where his ashes are interred and looked at beautiful young face smiling from the photo beneath his name, I still could not believe he has truly departed from this world.
What do you say to a loved one who passed on? Can he or she hear what you say? Can they see your face as you say it? Nevertheless, I turned my gaze to the clear blue sky and asked that however far he has traveled in that mysterious realm that awaits us all, that he return to greet me as I cross that boundary. I could almost see him, a glowing figure surrounded by a nimbus of light, a vision to sustain me until that wondrous day.
As I write these lines, my classical radio station begins Danny Boy, one of the songs played at Joe's service. A message? I’d like to think so.
In what might seem a major shift from her creative inclinations, Alice went back to school and graduated with a degree in psychology from Marylhurst University in 1999. Today, she lives in Beaver Creek, Oregon with her husband and cats, and is working on her fourth novel to be released in 2012. It has been a gift for me to meet so many wonderful local authors, to read their books and discuss the painful, joyful, and often insane process of writing. Alice is a wonderful addition to that very special gift.
Alice calls herself a dreamer. Since all of her stories were inspired by dreams, I'd say that is a fairly accurate description. Her most recent title, Scattered Pieces, was actually derived from two separate dreams. One concerned a little boy who became separated from his father at a train station, and in the second, a little girl appeared wheeling an empty buggy and looking for her brother.
When Katie’s little brother is snatched in 1946 it tears her family apart. It’s only through her friendship with the irrepressible Marilyn and Marilyn’s handsome brother Tom that she navigates a lonely childhood. In college, studying psychology helps Katie understand her mother’s mental illness and her own fears. And it leads to a client who may know something about her brother’s disappearance.
The print book will be released soon. Digital versions are available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.
Wrenn, Egypt House
Wrenn, Egypt House is described by the publisher as historical romance, but to me, the story of Wrenn Bartlett is an adventure. She is a headstrong, passionate woman at the turn of the century, a time when those qualities were considered a detriment. The story takes place in Portland, Oregon and New York City. As a new comer to the northwest, I found the history of the area and the detailed descriptions of the Lewis and Clark Exposition in 1905 fascinating and informative. As in all Lynn's books, there are a number of unique characters who are believable enough to love or hate, whichever is appropriate, and skillfully constructed settings disappear into the background unnoticed.
Wrenn, Egypt House is a journey of romance and personal growth set in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Portland, Oregon. Wrenn fell in love with Egypt House as a child. Later, through a connection with the Hunters, who own the great mansion, she finds that relationships, however ideal on the surface, have hidden depths and secrets. You don’t always fall in love with the right man—at first. Wrenn’s adventures lead her to New York, where she is treated to the opera, riding lessons in Central Park, and finally to heartbreak when her dreams dissolve and reality intrudes. Returning to Portland, Wrenn struggles to resume her working-class life against the backdrop of the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition. It is there, in The Streets of Cairo exhibition, that she realizes her destiny. Print book at Amazon.com Kindle ebook at Amazon.com
Volunteer for Glory
I was not familiar with battles and events during the bleak time in our nation's history known as the Civil War, and to be honest, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy a historically accurate account. I couldn't have been more wrong. Volunteer for Glory is a well researched historical novel, but it is also, I'm guessing, an accurate glimpse into the hearts and minds of not only the volunteers, but those left behind who struggled to keep families and farms together. Lynn transported me to another time and place and once again gave me a great story and a well rounded history lesson.
Civil War historical data and battle scenes mix with scenes of life during wartime. When Rachel's husband, Stuart, joins the Union cavalry after Fort Sumter, she will have to find the grit and determination to survive on their small Illinois farm. What she doesn't expect is to fall in love with a handsome young neighbor. United in war, the two men are divided by love for the same woman. Who will Rachel choose? Or will the war make the decision for her? Available at Amazon.com Available at Barnes&Noble
Alice's thoughts and a few tips on writing from an interview with LJ Kentowski on L.J. Writes
I love seeing events and characters unfold in my imagination and take shape on the page. And it’s pure bliss when things come together in a serendipitous flow.
I think the first thing is to forget the great authors. Read them, yes. Admire them, yes. Learn from them, yes. Then forget them. Write out of your own heart and vision. If you are genuinely moved and intrigued by your story and characters, it is likely other people will be as well.
Last, never skimp on rewrites or edits. Join a critique group you’re comfortable with. Enlist fellow writers or avid readers to read your beta versions. Express yourself as well as you possibly can. Once your manuscript is relatively polished, you can install a voice program in your word processing program that will read each sentence aloud. It’s not great theater, but if you follow the script as the voice pronounces each word, you will more easily find typos, missing or extra words, and tense inconsistencies. You’ll hear and see it when sentences or paragraphs don’t make sense; or not the sense you wanted.
Why Alice writes
Maybe because I'm greedy. I want to live more than just one life. When I write, I can put myself into another person and explore their world and their thoughts.
It's a great way to time travel. You can live in the past, in different countries and cultures; you can even live in the future. It's all about adventure.
Connect with Alice online:
In the April of 2012 When Wise Women Speak, Alice will offer a guest blog on the remarkable story of her mother's immigration from Siberia. It is an amazing story. Please be sure to check back.