In memoriam: Umberto Eco, 1932-2016

I hope you don’t mind, but I am foregoing my usual song lyric/post title format this time. In this particular case, I don’t feel it’s appropriate.  The importance of someone’s life shouldn’t be reduced to  song title.

Last night I logged onto Facebook and learned that one of my favorite authors had died.

Not Harper Lee — although To Kill a Mockingbird is indeed a classic of American literature.

I’m talking about Umberto Eco.

I went through the first twenty years or so of my life not ever having heard of Umberto Eco.  While I’ve always been a reader, until college I pretty much stuck with American or British authors. To my knowledge, I never read a book that had been translated from another language (aside from Beowulf or some obscure short stories in high school English class).

When I took my first job at the public library where I would work for over twenty years, one of my co-workers had worked in the publishing industry as an editor.  She seemed very intelligent and sophisticated to me, and I was impressed by her wide knowledge of the various authors in our collection.

One day, we were putting books on the cart to reshelve them when I spotted The Name of the Rose among the titles.  I recognized it as having been the basis for a Sean Connery movie that I had yet to see, and remarked that the book could be an interesting read.

“Oh, I don’t think you’ll like it,” she replied.  “It’s very intellectual.”

Now at the time, I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that, but it sounded a little like an insult (whether she intended it to be perceived as such or not). Feeling as if I’d been issued a challenge, I determined that I would read the book anyway, just out of spite.

And that’s how I discovered Eco — someone challenged my intellectual ability (or at least, that’s how I perceived it).

I’ve told this story to people over the years, and while most react the way I did at the time (“How dare she judge what you’re capable of understanding?”), at least one person challenged that reaction: “Did you ever stop to think that she was using reverse psychology to get you to step outside your comfort zone?”

Thinking back on it twenty years later, they could have been right.

At any rate, I am grateful to her.  Had it not been for Eco, I never would have discovered other authors I love, such as Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Arturo Perez-Reverte. Had it not been for The Name of the Rose, I never would have read Eco’s other books — Baudolino, Foucault’s Pendulum, Numero Zero.  I never would have developed my love-hate relationship with The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana.

Because of Eco, I broadened my horizons internationally.  I discovered foreign films (La vita è bella, La cité des enfants perdus, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain), and musicians such as Emma Shapplin,  Louis Bertignac, and the participants in the wonderful French annual charity concert Les Enfoirés.

Umberto Eco made me a better writer, a more creative thinker, and above all more aware of the world I live in.  Words are not adequate to express my gratitude. As he said himself in the postscript to The Name of the Rose: “Books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.”

Anything I say has been said before, and (most often) more eloquently than I could say it myself. So I will simply say this:

“Thank you. And may you rest in peace.”

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Money Back Guarantee

(Pigeon John reference in the title!)

It’s my birthday! And once again, I’m giving YOU a present.

If you haven’t read my books yet, here’s a special offer: until December 31st, all of my eBooks are FREE on SmashWords.

Welcome to Newtonberg is already free, so there is no special code needed for it.

To get All That Remains free, use coupon code UC98V at checkout.

For Back to Newtonberg, use coupon code LE86N at checkout.

Thanks again for all of your support this past year. Feel free to share this post with everyone you know to help get the word out about the books!

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Waiting For Such a Long Long Time

(World Party reference!)

When I last made a blog entry, I mentioned that I was “embarking on a new journey professionally.” That is true. I am doing something totally new to me, although it still involves helping people find the information they need.

While I learn the job, it is seriously cutting into my writing time. However, this is a sacrifice I believe I need to make right now for myself and my family. Once I know how to do the job right, and to the best of my ability, I will be able to get back to the work I am leaving unfinished for now.

For now.

I will get back to Newtonberg eventually. And as for that vampire book — well, they’re eternal, aren’t they? They’ll still be there when I need them, and vice-versa.

I’ll be back eventually. I promise.

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Liar, Liar

(Alexz Johnson reference!)

“Well, that’s it for this time. I promise it won’t take as long for the next update!”

Not quite, eh?

Not only haven’t I written a blog entry since then, I’ve barely written anything. This might not be the “Great Writer’s Block of 2005-2012”, but it’s definitely a dry time for me, idea-wise.

I am now embarking on a new journey professionally. I have left my library job of over twenty years and I don’t know what the future holds. Hopefully writing will keep me grounded. After all, my best friend is waiting for that vampire book she challenged me to write.

(The historical book I mentioned has been moved to the back burner for now. But it’s still simmering.)

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This Is What We Find

(Ian Dury and the Blockheads reference!)

Wow.  Has it really been three months since I posted?

Well, I haven’t been idle.  I have been challenged — sort of — to step outside my comfort zone and write a different sort of book.  So I am working on my first YA novel. Of course, I had to put my own spin on it. More details once I’m further into it and more sure of where it’s going.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to encourage said friend to get back into writing herself.  I think it’s working a little, since she posted a few questions on Facebook for her “writer friends”, asking about their writing habits, preferences, etc.  I decided I’d post my responses here for anyone interested.

CAVEAT: This is just “what works for me.”  Your mileage may vary. Find what works for you and go with it.


To all my writer friends out there, I’d like to be nosy & ask you all a few questions. Feel free to answer in as much or as little detail as you’d like via comments or even via private message. I’m not picky about what kind of writer you are either. Whether you write screenplays, novels, articles, blogs, or anything in between, I want to know your answers.

1. What tools do you use? Pen & paper. Word processor. Typewriter. Computer. You get the idea.
2. What is your process? Music on or off & if on, what kind of music? Do you outline first or just dive in.
3. Where do you feel the most productive? Home, work, Starbucks, etc.
4. Do you set goals for your writing? Daily, weekly, monthly, etc. And if you do, what is your ideal goal?
5. Do you ever participate in events like NaNoWriMo?
6. Do you belong to any kind of writers group or taking any classes on writing?
1. I will usually brainstorm with pen and paper, but I have a “Notes” file that I put it all into since I often can’t read my own handwriting if I go back to it later. I generally do my actual writing on a computer in Word.
2. Music definitely on. What it is depends on what I’m writing. (Sometimes where and when I’m writing affects this, too — see #4 below for particular writing situations.)
You can get an idea of some music I listen to on my blog under “Playlist”. Right now it’s a lot of 70s and 80s (or 80s-style). Stevie Nicks. Alice Cooper. Fleetwood Mac. Night Terrors of 1927.
Outlining doesn’t work for me. That “Notes” file I mentioned in #1 — I keep track of certain scenes I want to include and a general overall story arc, but outlining doesn’t allow your characters to take off and do what they want.
3. Anywhere I can put on my headphones and zone out. Honestly, I had one of my most productive nights this week in the lobby of the local Agricultural Extension Office while my sister was in a meeting.
4. No goals other than to write. The only time I keep a word count is if I have a preset word limit (like a magazine article). Failing to hit a word limit is still failure, and writing should be fun, not a guilt trip.
While I don’t put a goal, sometimes due to where and when I’m writing I have to put a time limit in place. When I write on my lunch hour at work I will sometimes listen to a particular CD because I know when it ends, I have to stop. Forever Changes by Love is just about 40 minutes long, so it was a good one for that situation.
5. Never done NaNoWriMo. It’s still a “word count” issue, you just have longer to do it.
6. I don’t belong to a writer’s group, although I know of a few local groups. I tend to write on my own, then get feedback from a few selected friends and family members.
“I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.”
Well, that’s it for this time. I promise it won’t take as long for the next update!

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