Monthly Archives: June 2014

Italy and Spain

Spain

Mid-October 1969: Other than brief layovers on our way to destinations afar, this would be my first real visit to Europe. Why my father chose Rome, Italy, and Madrid, Spain, as opposed to any other cities or countries, I never asked. With all the moving we had done, I had learned to go with the flow, and this attitude had served me well all those years.

I have vivid memories of Mass at the Vatican and our tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, both spiritually moving places. And I was both impressed with the Colosseum and amused by the multitude of cats that made the ancient ruins their home. But the sight that enthralled me most was the Victor Emmanuel Monument, a grandiose building of white marble with a massive curved colonnade.

In Madrid, I remember little of the city itself, but our day trip to Toledo stuck with me over the years, memorable enough that I would make a second visit decades later and two years after my father had passed away—a bittersweet return.

Next week: “Sailing the Virgin Islands Aboard the Schooner Mistress.”

The Ceres Earthquake: Wellington, South Africa

Wellington, South Africa, September 29, 1969

The Ceres Earthquake

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8270787@N07/6040711387/

September 29, 1969: Ten-thirty p.m. I shut my textbook with a loud snap and sighed. Tomorrow I’d take one of my last tests for graduation. English. I felt confident. I had studied hard. I stared at the blue textbook sitting alongside my notepad but didn’t open it. Yes. Algebra. I wrapped my bathrobe tightly around me to ward off the chilly night and puttered down the hall to the bathroom to brush my teeth.

I was washing my hands when a distant rumble caught my attention. A train? But no trains ran through the area. The lights went out, and the rumble grew louder. I spun, ready to make for the door, but suddenly the room shook so violently that I couldn’t reach it. Then I was thrown against the tub. Holding on to the towel rack for support, I finally made my way to the bathroom door, opened it, and tripped on the threshold, landing hard on the hallway floor. “Earthquake,” my father shouted. By then, I had come to the same conclusion. I jumped up and ran for the kitchen, where my parents and brothers had already gathered. We made a hasty exit out the back door, afraid the house might collapse.

Outside, we watched in astonishment as the ground shifted and a three-inch crack appeared in our driveway. This corroborated my brothers’ stories of the floors in their bedrooms feeling hot beneath their feet when they leaped out of their beds to flee from the rooms. Later we discovered the linoleum flooring in some parts of the house had melted.

Centered in the Ceres area, the 6.3-magnitude earthquake was the most destructive in South African history, damaging even well-constructed brick homes and cracking nearly all of the roads in the area. Fortunately, our rental home suffered minimal damage.

Numerous aftershocks shook Ceres and the surrounding towns, the most severe of which was a 5.7 on the Richter scale. However, when another serious tremor struck on April 14, 1970, we no longer lived in Wellington but had moved to Puerto Rico, where Dad had been assigned to a new job. Ceres was my second earthquake, (the first was in Mexico City), but there would be more to come, all of them occurring when I moved back to the States.

With sadness, we packed up to leave Wellington for the US. We had grown fond of the country we had lived in for just shy of a year and could have stayed there, quite happily, for many years to come. Because our return flight from South Africa to the US routed through Europe, Dad decided we should take a short vacation.

Next week: “Italy and Spain.”

Pat Krapf’s Blog Hop Post {Techno Thriller Author}

When my editor, Caroline Kaiser, approached me to participate in a blog hop not only had I never heard the term, but I had some reservations. I was already blogging on my website and blogging takes time. However, given the opportunity to talk about writing, especially about what I am currently working on, was hard to pass up.

1. What are you working on/writing?

At the moment, I am dividing my time between wrapping up edit corrections to Gadgets, the second novel in my Darcy McClain thriller series, and fleshing out the details for my fourth Darcy novel, which is set in Texas where I live.

In my thriller series, Darcy, my main character, owns a giant schnauzer named Bullet. In real life, I too have a giant as my constant companion. While walking him one day on the trails in Keller (the town I lived in then), he came across a trashbag floating in a nearby stream. I made the mistake of opening the bag. Horrified, when I discovered the putrid remains of something, I contacted the police. They informed me that someone had shot a deer out of season, butchered it, then discarded the carcass. Of course, my imagination ran wild and this is how my fourth novel came about.

2. How does your work/writing differ from others in its genre?

The Darcy McClain Series can best be described as a techno-thriller series since the backbone of my novels are centered on technology and science. The twist? On occasion, I do crossover into the science fiction genre if I feel that a certain element will enhance the storyline. For instance, in Brainwash, Darcy must face an army of telepathic humanoids and attempt to outsmart them or be killed.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I began my literary career writing romance, but soon discovered I wasn’t good at it, so I decided to write about what I did know. For years, I worked in the health care and aerospace industries, so technology and I were a good fit. A friend suggested I write a series. She loved following a “continuing character,” so I took her suggestion.

4. How does your writing process work?

I grew up overseas. When it came time to attend high school I lived in Liberia and the country didn’t have a good school system, so I enrolled in correspondence courses from the University of Nebraska. I would have my father wake me at 5 a.m. when he woke to get ready for work. I’d start my studies at 6 a.m. while my brain was fresh and worked until noon. During the afternoons I wrote poetry and short stories. I didn’t feel I had a book in me. Not then. This regimen has stuck with me until this day. The only difference, my normal quitting time is around five p.m., not noon.

My main focus before I begin any book is to nail down my technical subject: nanotechnology, genetics, cloning, etc.. I outlined my first novel, but as I polished my craft, I abandoned this idea. I felt it served no real purpose. After I write each chapter, I stop to edit the chapter. I have never written an entire book without reading and rereading prior chapters. This method, I feel, helps to move the story along, at least for me.

Sometimes, I have a clear view of a beginning and an end. Other times I do not know how I will end the book, but leave it up to my character to resolve. In one Darcy McClain novel I fell in love with a title, then wrote the book around the title. In every case, so far, the storylines in the series have come from real life experiences. In Brainwash, Bullet discovers a USB in an arroyo in Taos. A similar incident occurred in real life, but the USB was a floppy disk. From there, I let my imagination run the gamut until the entire book unfolds.

Rather than outline, I found synopses to be more helpful in locating the deficiencies in my storylines. While I hate writing them, they can be invaluable to a sound manuscript and excellent material to draw upon for back cover copy and other promotional materials.

Next week: “Ceres Earthquake / South Africa.”