July in Fiction

Origins and Symbols of “July”

Julius Caesar was born in the month of “Quintilis,” meaning “fifth” in Roman times. However, after the introduction of the Julian and later the Gregorian calendars, the fifth month became the seventh month and was renamed, Mensis Julius, in his honor.

Summer in the Northern Hemisphere officially begins on the summer solstice on June 21st; thus, July introduces the second month of summer while at the same time beginning the second half of the year. Astronomically, the constellation Canis Major (the Greater Dog) graces July, resulting in the expression “dog days” of summer. The planet Sirius, the brightest light of Canis Major, rises and sets with the sun during the period from July third to August eleventh. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy the summer heat, while looking skyward to see if you can trace the stars that form the constellation of the Greater Dog. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, July marks winter and rainy days for you.

How Does July Impact the Setting?

In a novel, setting a scene in July could play off this tradition of the dog days of summer. Of course, the description of the scene would vary dramatically depending on where it takes place. Chicago during July is extremely hot, thus crowds of people visit the fountains and the greenery along Grant Park. Heat, of course, can be associated with individuals’ tempers being out of control but also be linked to fun in the sun. Independence Day, usually the setting for family picnics or parades or vacations in the USA, suffered a terrible wound this week.

In the Rocky Mountains, July is a suitable time to head for higher elevations and perhaps take a slide down a glacier. But in the Southern Hemisphere, July is likely to be rainy and colder than typical tropical temperatures.

July in American Fiction

This selection from Mark Twain’s Sketches New and Old, Complete, seems particularly appropriate to quote this month given the state of the Union in the United States:

“But I must not stand here and brag all night. However, you won’t mind a body bragging a little about his country on the fourth of July. It is a fair and legitimate time to fly the eagle. I will say only one more word of brag—and a hopeful one. It is this. We have a form of government which gives each man a fair chance and no favor. With us no individual is born with a right to look down upon his neighbor and hold him in contempt. Let such of us as are not dukes find our consolation in that. And we may find hope for the future in the fact that as unhappy as is the condition of our political morality to-day, England has risen up out of a far fouler since the days when Charles I ennobled courtesans and all political place was a matter of bargain and sale. There is hope for us yet.” I do hope Americans embrace the best of our nation in the days before us.

In The Brighter the Light, by Mary Ellen Taylor, the setting is the barrier islands of North Carolina, where the tourist season depends on the months when the weather is warm. The author uses the names of the months, mentioning all but November and December, to create parallel timelines for chapters that occur over a period of generations. Ships, boats, and shipwrecks figure in the novel. One character likes to sail: “By early July the Maisy Adams would be ready to sail again, and she would move on to the next port.”

Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry: I am still editing this new volume.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

This month, I delved more deeply into the philosophy I am integrating into this book.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I sent pages to my critique group and read those of one of the group members. We had to move our regular meeting forward by a week, so we will be discussing our pages next week.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: This month, I co-hosted, on Zoom, our fourth BWA Poetry Circle with Art Goodtimes, the Colorado Poet Laureate of 2013. I also chaired one Steering Committee meeting. A member of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association contacted me about sharing a common social/happy hour each month. This will be a beneficial connection.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I read the newsletter. The new president, Diane Blomberg, is encouraging members to become more active and involved in the DWPC.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:  I read the newsletter. RMFW is preparing actively for the in-person conference in Denver in September. Also, the award-winning author, Pam Nowak is offering a workshop in August on doing research for historical novels which looks informative.

Women Writing the West:  I followed conversations in the listserv. WWW is holding an in-person annual conference in Oklahoma City in October.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:
Today is July 7, 2022, I am posting my seventh blog of 2022. We celebrated a July birthday on Independence Day. My wish for the USA is that all citizens support safety in our public venues, democracy, independence from tyranny over our bodies, and equality for all.

Today in History: Robert A. Heinlein the author of Stranger in a Strange Land was born on July 7, 1907. Curiously, July 7 is one of the 10 statistically most common birthdays in the USA.

June in Fiction

Origins and Symbols of “June”

Most sources indicate that the month of June took its name from the Latin word “iuniores,” which means “young people” or from the name of the goddess Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. Pearls and roses are associated with the month of June, thus brides often wear pearls and carry rose bouquets. Historically, most marriages occurred in June but recently September has garnered first place in the USA with June trailing only one percent behind. Common sayings about June weddings include: “Oh, they say when you marry in June, you’re a bride all your life, and the bridegroom who marries in June gets a sweetheart for a wife.” and “Marry when June roses grow, over land and sea you’ll go.” My husband and I did marry in June. Happily, both sayings resonate with our life together.

How Authors Use “June” in Their Fiction

In The Plot, by Jean Hanff Korelitz, on p. 7, the author describes the main character during a cold wet June, as having “mud on his shoes,” indicating that he is taking the wrong path.

In The Red Dirt Hymnbook (which won the 2020 Willa Literary Award in Original Softcover Fiction) by Roxie Faulkner Kirk, June is a time for dancing, “Maybe it was Leland’s encouragement. Or the relief of knowing that I wasn’t that far behind, after all. Or maybe it was the bumper crop of stars overhead, which have been known to make people way crazier than that on an Oklahoma June night…. Leland and I danced …until we just went plain nuts to whatever the DJ in Dodge City gave us.”

In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy refers to the month of June eight times while he mentions the other months not at all or at most three times. He focuses on the month of June partially because of the warm weather but also because of the feast of St Peter which is an important date in the Eastern Orthodox tradition and subsequently brings people together for celebrations: “Towards the end of May, when everything had been more or less satisfactorily arranged, she received her husband’s answer to her complaints of the disorganized state of things in the country. He wrote begging her forgiveness for not having thought of everything before and promised to come down at the first chance. This chance did not present itself, and till the beginning of June Darya Alexandrovna stayed alone in the country…. On the Sunday in St. Peter’s week Darya Alexandrovna drove to mass for all her children to take the sacrament.”

In the next four examples, Tolstoy uses June to tie part of the story to a historical moment: “But to the prince the brightness and gaiety of the June morning, and the sound of the orchestra playing a gay waltz then in fashion, and above all, the appearance of the healthy attendants, seemed something unseemly and monstrous, in conjunction with these slowly moving, dying figures gathered together from all parts of Europe.”

“Early in June it happened that Agafea Mihalovna, the old nurse and housekeeper, in carrying to the cellar a jar of mushrooms she had just pickled, slipped, fell, and sprained her wrist. The district doctor, a talkative young medical student, who had just finished his studies, came to see her. He examined the wrist, said it was not broken, was delighted at a chance of talking to the celebrated Sergey Ivanovitch Koznishev, and to show his advanced views of things told him all the scandal of the district, complaining of the poor state into which the district council had fallen.”

“Alexey Alexandrovitch’s characteristic quality as a politician, that special individual qualification that every rising functionary possesses, the qualification that with his unflagging ambition, his reserve, his honesty, and with his self-confidence had made his career, was his contempt for red tape, his cutting down of correspondence, his direct contact, wherever possible, with the living fact, and his economy. It happened that the famous Commission of the 2nd of June had set on foot an inquiry into the irrigation of lands in the Zaraisky province, which fell under Alexey Alexandrovitch’s department, and was a glaring example of fruitless expenditure and paper reforms”.

“The question of the Native Tribes had been brought up incidentally in the Commission of the 2nd of June, and had been pressed forward actively by Alexey Alexandrovitch as one admitting of no delay on account of the deplorable condition of the native tribes.”

In the following examples, Tolstoy writes at a level of departmental detail: “…another new scientific commission should be appointed to investigate the deplorable condition of the native tribes from the—(1) political, (2) administrative, (3) economic, (4) ethnographical, (5) material, and (6) religious points of view; thirdly, that evidence should be required from the rival department of the measures that had been taken during the last ten years by that department for averting the disastrous conditions in which the native tribes were now placed; and fourthly and finally, that that department explain why it had, as appeared from the evidence before the committee, from No. 17,015 and 18,038, from December 5, 1863, and June 7, 1864, acted in direct contravention of the intent of the law T… Act 18, and the note to Act 36.”

“On Monday there was the usual sitting of the Commission of the 2nd of June. Alexey Alexandrovitch walked into the hall where the sitting was held, greeted the members and the president, as usual, and sat down in his place, putting his hand on the papers laid ready before him. Among these papers lay the necessary evidence and a rough outline of the speech he intended to make.”

And, in this eighth example, Tolstoy returns to June as a symbol of home: “When Levin thought what he was and what he was living for, he could find no answer to the questions and was reduced to despair, but he left off questioning himself about it.…When he went back to the country at the beginning of June, he went back also to his usual pursuits. The management of the estate, his relations with the peasants and the neighbors, the care of his household, the management of his sister’s and brother’s property, of which he had the direction, his relations with his wife and kindred, the care of his child, and the new bee-keeping hobby he had taken up that spring, filled all his time.”

June in My Fiction

While in my fiction, I do focus on various months, particularly those with holidays, I have not yet created a scene that occurs in June. However, June in Colorado is often cool and rainy and the beginning of growing time, whereas in Tolstoy’s novel, he describes a warm summer season in June. Seasons vary by latitude.

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

My poetry collection now contains another eclipse poem because my husband and I watched the full lunar eclipse in May from our perch in the foothills of Colorado. Our view and the celestial display were magnificent. This manuscript still needs work before I send it off to my poetry editor.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

This month, I worked on dividing the story into fourths.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I sent 1863 words of my manuscript to my critique group for comments.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: Our BWA Poetry Circle is growing. I co-presented one workshop on performance/social justice poetry with a local performance poet, Gregory Seth Harris. I also held a Steering Committee meeting.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I read the newsletter and paid my dues for the upcoming year.

Women Writing the West: Our critique group met to discuss our draft pages. I also followed some conversations in the WWW listserv.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:  I read the newsletter and listened to a podcast about the upcoming conference keynoters presented by the conference co-leaders. I also paid my dues for the coming year.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:
Today is June 7, 2022, I am posting my sixth blog of 2022, marking the halfway point of the year. It has been fascinating to research the meaning, symbolism, and holidays that occur each month. Rereading Tolstoy made me pay better attention to the versatility of symbols and months of the year.

Today in History: Gwendolyn Brooks, the poet who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1950 and who published the novel Maud Martha in 1953, was born on June 7, 1917.

May in Fiction

One of the traditions of May whose loss I have always personally lamented is dancing around the Maypole. When I was a child, I saw photos of young women in white dresses dancing around the tall flower-covered pole. The dancers carefully threaded the ribbons together, eventually covering the pole as they danced around in a circle. I wondered why we no longer celebrated the same way. Although when we were young, we did make May baskets to deliver secretly to neighbors.

Later in life, I learned that May Day celebrations are an ancient European holiday celebrating the return of warm weather and nature’s fertility to assure a good harvest for the year. Even today, the Swedes continue to celebrate the coming summer with adults and children circling a pole decorated with flowers. Pre-Columbians had similar ceremonies. And, still later, I learned that a massacre of workers became the basis for establishing International Works Day on May first, eclipsing this meaningful ancient tradition.

Derivations of “May”

One derivation of the name of the month of May goes back to the name of the Greek goddess of fertility, Maia. It is uncertain but assumed that the name means “increase” because of the blossoming and growth of plants at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. The Romans called the month “Maius”. A non-complementary second derivation of the name known to Romans was “maiories” which referred to the elder generation. The following month, June, then, celebrated the “iuniories” or the youth.

In the Anglophone tradition, the only month that has its own verb is the month of May. In early England, “to go a-maying” meant to get up at dawn on the first of May, go out to the forest, pick flowers and branches, set up the May tree or the Maypole, and celebrate the return of the blossoms.

May in Fiction

While doing my research to write this blog, I was delighted to discover the work of Margaret Osgood Wright, an American writer from the Northeast who lived from 1859–1934. She wrote a fictional piece entitled, The Open Window: Tales of the Months. In the section about the month of May, “The Tree of Life”, she recalls the Maypole of yore. She begins the chapter with “One day, Evan and I played make believe and went a-Maying”. Wright’s use of the verb demonstrates the importance of this month in history. The text continues: “We wait for the first blooming of an apple tree to tell us that the springtide is at its height. Not one of the opulent, well-fed orchard trees, having all the advantages of a protected location, but a wayside, ungrafted scion of the old orchard standing alone in a field, on the north side of the spruce windbreak… When this tree opens its buds, we know that its kindred of the hill country will also be decked, and it is our time to go forth, for here the Maying is the festival of the Apple Blossoms…”

Another use of the month of May occurs in the novel Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. The novel progresses through a series of characters’ thoughts and actions with little punctuation and no capitalization. About halfway through the book on page 225, a paragraph begins “this late May afternoon/after the sound of a thousand pairs of feet have stampeded out of the building and down the drive leaving the school in a post-traumatic silence/Penelope addressed the issue of the school’s poor exam performance, declaring that half the kids are so thick and badly behaved they should be suspended or expelled from school”. I found this use of the month of interest because the author ties a habitual occurrence that all school children have experienced to the inequities that exist in the American social structure. The month of May means different things to diverse individuals if social justice does not reign.

May in My Fiction

One of my novels takes place from the late 1960s into the early 1970s. This novel has an important scene that occurs in May after the college students have returned to their homes for the summer vacation.

Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

The manuscript still needs work.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

This month, I read another book to learn more about the bucket that holds the story.

Continue to work on my other novels:

The first critique group met today. We workshopped about 1200 words of our novels.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: I presented one workshop on Professional Development for Writers and a second one on Lyric Poetry. I also held a Steering Committee meeting.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I read the newsletter.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:  I communicated with members that I know.

Women Writing the West: I attended the April planning meeting for the critique groups and the first meeting of our small critique group.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:
Today is May 7, 2022, I am posting my fifth blog of 2022. Because the weather finally turned cloudy with a bit of rain, this has been a good month for writing. While I did not go a-maying, I certainly have enjoyed the tulips blooming in my garden.

May 7th in history: The birth of Robert Browning, the English poet, occurred on May 7, 1812.

April in Fiction


In Colorado, spring truly springs in April. Flowers are starting to appear. We know the snow will surely return but after two early fires this year, we will not mind having the moisture.

April is special to me because it marks our daughter’s birth on a beautiful day after a deep wet snowfall. She was born on the same day as my grandmother who died before I turned one and whose absence always saddened me. On the afternoon of our daughter’s birth, her father reported that there were seven rainbows over the meadow when he drove home to feed the horses. We believed those seven rainbows announced the birth of a special person. Our little rainbow baby has grown into an elegant woman whose open heart and loving presence are true blessings—a reflection of the roots of the name of the month.

Origins of April

The English word “April” derives from the Latin name for the month, Aprilis. Some sources tie the name to the ancient Greek name for Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Other sources note that the word comes from the word for “opening” from the Latin aperire which means to open, and which reflects the reality of flowers, bushes, and trees budding at this time of year.

Symbols of April

April Fool’s Day took its name from the shift in the 16th century from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar when April lost its position and became the fourth month. Because the vernal equinox occurred at the end of March, the ensuing celebration continued into April. After the calendar change, individuals who continued to celebrate the beginning of April became known as “April Fools”. It became customary to play pranks on April first. In France, if you are not attentive, someone will stick a poisson d’avril (a handmade paper fish) on your back. In Scotland, friends send friends on fake errands called “hunting the gowk” (a symbol for fool). They may also pin a fake tail on a person’s behind, mirroring the French tradition. In the USA, any type of funny prank appears acceptable—today written pranks appear even on Twitter.

Most years, various holidays from Mideastern religions occur in April: Easter, Ramadan, and Passover. Each has its traditions and expectations. Showers, as the song goes, are also a symbol of April. They are known to “bring the flowers that bloom in May”.

April in Fiction

In Passing, a novel Nella Larsen wrote in the 1920s, the author uses the unseasonably warm April weather in December to elaborate and reflect the character’s internal state of mind and her sense of being out of control:

“Here the holidays were almost upon them, and the streets through which she had come were streaked with rills of muddy water and the sun shone so warmly that children had taken off their hats and scarfs. It was all as soft, as like April, as possible. The kind of weather for Easter. Certainly not for Christmas. Though, she admitted, reluctantly, she herself didn’t feel the proper Christmas spirit this year, either. But that couldn’t be helped, it seemed, any more than the weather.” (Chapter 1, p. 94)

Edna St. Vincent Millay, in her poem “Spring”, contrasts the beauty and promise of April with her disappointments in life and the shock of death. The poem’s first and second lines read: “To what purpose, April, do you return again? / Beauty is not enough.” After stating in the 14th and 15th lines: “Life in itself / Is nothing,” she ends with “It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, / April / Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.”

Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

This month I accomplished more revisions and read four poems aloud for one of my women’s groups.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

This month, I compared what I have been writing about the seventies with a current novel that addresses the same period.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I prepared the text that I will present for the critique group which begins this month.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: As president, I organized our new BWA Poetry Circle, facilitated the first session, and prepared a workshop on Professional Development for Writers to present in April.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I read the newsletter.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: I read the newsletter.

Women Writing the West: Critique groups are beginning to form. One fits my schedule. The planning session takes place next week.

Crestone Poetry Festival: I followed up with poets from the group. To my delight, they offered to help me with the BWA Poetry Circle.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:
Today is April 7, 2022, I am posting my fourth blog of 2022. On the first day of spring, March 20, it snowed. Then, on March 26, we had another fire in the foothills nearby and had to evacuate again for a day. To say the least, it was disorienting to have to pack up the car and scram in less than an hour. Fortunately, we had a place to land. Now I have written two “fire” poems.

April 7th in history: William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770.

March in Fiction

Origins of the Word “March”

The name of the month of March has different derivations. In English, “March” derives from the Latin month’s name “Martius” which came from the name of the god of war, Mars. The god of war was named after the planet Mars because it marked the spring season when the Romans began their season of warfare. Interestingly, “march” also derives from an ancient word, “mearc,” which means border or frontier—a meaning which subsequently gave rise to the meaning of the verb “to mark.” The two derivations may be related because wars usually occur across borderlands.

Markings of March

Various celebrations from different traditions mark the month of March. This year in the European-American tradition, Mardi Gras, celebrated with feasting and drinking fell on the first day of March. The day after Mardi Gras marks the first day of Lent in the Catholic tradition which requires believers to fast until Easter. I have friends who have a home in New Orleans and spend the spring in Louisiana. I’ve been able to enjoy the New Orleans version of Mardi Gras from the photos they send displaying the costumes, parades, and special dishes.

On the Roman calendar, the word “ides” simply indicated the middle of the month. Nevertheless, to this day, “Beware the ides of March” remains a somber warning phrase in the European-American tradition because of a line in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar when the soothsayer warns the emperor not to go to the forum that day. In real life, Caesar was assassinated on the ides of March in 44 BC.

March 17th which marks the feast of Saint Patrick in Ireland, has become a secular holiday celebrated not only in Ireland but across the United States with parades, beer, and Irish dishes. True to my own Irish roots, I always serve a dinner accompanied by Irish soda bread and Guinness. In Illinois, Chicago dyes the Chicago River green to celebrate the holiday. For years, an Irish pub in Colorado hosted the shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It was one block long.

Astronomically, the spring equinox, or the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, occurs in March and marks the day when the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west. In the northern hemisphere, the spring equinox brings earlier sunrises and later sunsets. The reverse is true in the southern hemisphere where my daughter lives and where it is now cyclone season.

March in Fiction

Because my 2022 blogs are devoted to the months of the year, I have been searching for examples of how authors approach the months. Do they just name the month, use the names of the months to delineate a time sequence, or is the month used to set a tone or a contrast?

Herman Melville, in The Piazza Tales, uses the month of March in an intriguing way to contrast the behaviors and lives of two men. The main character has bought a farmhouse in the country and after considering each direction, decides to build his piazza on the north side. His neighbor, Dives, ridicules him because Dives’ piazza faces the warm sun of the south. Dives chuckles and hopes that the new owner of the farm has warm mittens. Once the North-facing piazza is installed, the new farm owner is quite content to spend the warm days on it during the summer as he watches Dives suffer during hot days on his full sun piazza: “But March don’t [sic] last forever; patience, and August comes. And then, in the cool elysium [sic] of my northern bower, I, Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, cast down the hill a pitying glance on poor old Dives, tormented in the purgatory of his piazza to the south.”

Charles Dickens, in Barnaby Rudge, uses the month of March to set a bleak scene in a tavern. Again, this author equates the dour weather with the cold personality of the innkeeper who is willing to send his customers out into the pounding rain:

“The evening with which we have to do, was neither a summer nor an autumn one, but the twilight of a day in March, when the wind howled dismally among the bare branches of the trees, and rumbling in the wide chimneys and driving the rain against the windows of the Maypole Inn, gave such of its frequenters as chanced to be there at the moment an undeniable reason for prolonging their stay, and caused the landlord to prophesy that the night would certainly clear at eleven o’clock precisely,—which by a remarkable coincidence was the hour at which he always closed his house.”

March in My Fiction

One of my novels takes place during the era of Watergate. While the setting is not on the East coast, it would be appropriate to work news of Watergate into the characters’ perception of the government’s affairs.

My second novel takes place during the Spanish flu epidemic, first identified in the USA in March of 1918. While the epidemic is not the focus of the novel, it appears in the storyline.

My third novel takes place during the depression. Interestingly, March 5, 1933, was the day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed a four-day “Bank Holiday.” His goal was to prevent public panic and the withdrawal of so much money that the entire banking system would collapse.

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

This month I reworked some of the poems.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

I worked on sections of this novel.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I worked on sections of one.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: As president, I presided over my first Steering Committee meeting, presented an evening workshop on to topic of Goal Setting for Creative Work and Success, laid out four poetry workshops, and made the slides for my upcoming BWA workshop on Professional Development for Writers.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I advertised the DWPC’s Unknown Writers Contest to BWA.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: I read about the conference and speakers planned for fall 2022.

Women Writing the West: I followed a discussion on the email list about “sensitivity” feedback during the editing process.

Crestone Poetry Festival: Over the last weekend of February, I zoomed into the Crestone Poetry Festival which was presented virtually again this year. Art Goodtimes, the Western Slope Poet Laureate (2011­–2013), is the organizer along with the Crestone team. I particularly liked the Talking Gourds session in which poets read one of their own poems or a poem by another poet. I read one of mine aloud for the first time. More than 90 poets logged on over the two-day sessions, read their poems, listened to others read, and commented in the chat room. The sessions were refreshing and inspiring.

Document my writing progress through my blog to be posted on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:

Today is March 7, 2022, I am posting my third blog of 2022. Studying the names of the months, their derivations, and meanings is expanding my understanding of history while providing me with ideas for my writing. What I am learning or perhaps re-learning studying the months, is how changeable human categorizations are and how much they vary depending on the language, culture, and religion of groups over time.

March 7th in history: Amanda Gorman, poet and author of The Hill We Climb, Call Us What We Carry, and Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, was born on March 7th.

February in Fiction

The second month of the year in our current Gregorian calendar is called February. February is a wiggly month in several ways. Its name is pronounced incorrectly so often that newer American dictionaries list the mispronunciation (which omits the first “R”) along with the correct American English pronunciation. The British pronounce both “R’s” but reduce the word to three syllables. In the time of the Julian calendar, it was the first month, then Julius Caesar decided to put January into first place. Not only is February the shortest month of the year but for three years in a row, it has 28 days, and every fourth year it has 29. February also has a wiggly history and diverse traditions.

The Origins of the Word “February”

The English word “February” derives from the Latin month Februarius—the traditional month of purification, februm in Latin. In the early days of Rome, when Februarius was still the first month of the year, on the fifteenth day of the month, priests sacrificed a goat. A priest then marked young men’s foreheads with blood and wiped it off with goat’s milk. Subsequently, the men ran naked through the town tapping passersby with pieces of goatskin. Women who wanted to conceive or deliver a healthy baby stepped up to be touched.

Once the Christian era began and February took its place as the second month, St. Valentine’s Day was feted on February 14th. Eventually, the festival of love became more important than the ancient februm. The connection with purification was lost. Over the centuries, February’s link with love evolved into an exchange of flowers, candy, or cards. In the USA, it has become a commercial holiday that has spread to some other cultures, while others have rejected both the holiday’s commercialism and its tie to Christianity. Today the hearts and flowers of St. Valentine’s Day are traditionally red and white. These colors appear to reprise those of the blood and milk of the ancient februm.

Symbols or Historical Events Associated with February

Reading up on the historical events associated with the various months is fascinating. Since I am European-American, my knowledge tends to be focused on the very short history of the USA, the long history of Europe, with my knowledge of Irish, Ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian traditions being more limited. However, when I do follow the clues backward in time, I am always intrigued with how the so-called “pagan” holidays were transformed slowly and in different ways after Emperor Constantine was baptized as a Christian and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire around 325 BC.

As monuments that still exist in Europe and Africa reveal, the pagan holidays were directly related to the seasons and to the revolution of the sun, moon, and planets. Newgrange for example dates back about 3,200 years before the Christian era. The Egyptian pyramids precede the Christian era by around 2550 years. Britain’s Stonehenge dates to 3000-1500 years before the Christian era. I read recently that an African henge 700 miles south of Egypt, called Nabta Playa, is even older than the European henges, dating back to approximately 7000 BC. The existence and function of these sites demonstrate the ancients’ knowledge of astronomy and the practical application of mathematics. This means that for more than 7000 years, human culture focused on astronomy and paid attention to the rotation of the spheres and the seasons. Yet, for the last 2022 years, European and American cultures have consistently masked astronomical events with Christian holidays. Perhaps it would make more sense to return to an observational and scientific view.

February in Fiction

In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare, knowing that listeners would relate the character’s look to the cold weather of the month, refers to the character Benedick as having: “…such a February face, so full of frost, of storm, and cloudiness.”  No one would want to be in a room with a person who has a February face. Shakespeare’s expression reminds me of a French expression that describes an arrogant, rigid, and cold person as having “un visage funèbre”—a funeral face.

In The Paris Wife, Paul McLain’s novel about Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife, weather frames the mood of the couple. February is first mentioned as the time for Hadley and Ernest to escape Paris for the warmer clime of Italy, (p. 142-143) “February was a changeable time in Italy. Some days were hung with mist, blotting out the hills behind the town until we felt very remote… Sometimes the air was humid and drenched with sun. We could walk in the piazza or along the promenade to see fishermen on the concrete pier, dangling their poles out into the tide.” Later, when their relationship is on the rocks McLain writes:  “February in Schruns was a small kind of hell. Outside, the weather raged or flailed. Inside, things weren’t much better…”

In Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis (a novel that should be reread today as it is certainly apropos), the months November, January, and February are used in a series of short chapters to show the speed at which Gantry progresses from engagement to marriage to running his evangelical meetings with his wife as a soloist. Gantry moves quickly to establish himself as the evangelist in charge. He tries to motivate his parishioners by saying, “If old Satan were lazy as some would-be Christians in this burg, we’d all be safe.”

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

I have established connections with a publisher and a poetry editor. I worked on revisions.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

Over the last few weeks, I worked on one secondary character building in more accuracy for her motivation.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I only worked on one other novel, playing with the timeline.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance:  As president, I am working on increasing local participation and membership in the organization. On February 16, I plan to present a Zoom workshop on Goal Setting for Creative Work.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I sent feedback and comments on her manuscript to my critique partner at DWPC.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: I read the newsletter.

Women Writing the West: I signaled my interest in joining a critique group and read the email postings.

Document my writing progress through my blog to be posted on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:

Today is February 7, 2022, I am posting my second blog of 2022. The past four weeks have been trying with fires, floods, snowstorms, and cyclones affecting those I cherish and so many others. 50 Plus Marketplace published my poem about the fires in Colorado on page 7 (see link below):


February 7th in history: Sinclair Lewis, the first American novelist to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born on February 7, 1885. 

January in Fiction

In 2022, this blog will address the months of the year, what their names mean, what they symbolize, and how authors use them in novels. I am a ponderer, using writing to work through my thought processes and to make choices about directions to take. I use symbols, visuals, and language to build levels of meaning. I like to figure things out for myself. My goal in choosing this topic is to delve more deeply into how I am using the months in my own writing.

The Origins of “January”

In early Rome, the citizens venerated the god Janus, whom they believed opened the heavenly gates at dawn and closed them at dusk.  Janus thus ruled over all beginnings, gates, doors, and other entrances.  The god was depicted as having one head with a face looking forward and a second face looking backward. Rome was known for its “Jani,” free-standing ceremonial gates through which armies could leave the city or return. During this early period, the months were divided into Kalends—which marked the first phases of the moon, Nones—the next phase, Ides—the full moon of the month, and the remaining days were called market days. Eventually, the name January, derived from Janus, came to mark the first month of the year in the Roman Republican, Julian, and Gregorian calendars. It is a fitting name to mark the beginning of our current calendar system which is designed to include 365 days with a leap year every four years to make up for the differential in the time it takes for the earth to circle the sun.

Uses of January in Current Fiction

Months can be used to set the mood. Because January is known as “the cruelest month,” Jean Hanff Korelitz in The Plot, uses the month of January for the setting of a writing retreat in “a snowbound latter-day spa town.” When the protagonist, Jacob, drives into the parking lot behind the creative arts center, the roads are icy, his Prius is losing its power, the hill is steep, and he is not feeling optimistic. The reactions that the visiting writers have to the cold weather reveal both their bad manners and unwillingness to cooperate.

Months can also be used to set clues throughout a novel. In These Toxic Things, Rachel Howzell Hall uses calendar dates to mark murders that occurred over a long period: “The second result leads me to an even briefer article on Beverly Prescott from Galveston, Texas. Found January 1, 1979, she was discovered near the Framers Export grain elevator as investigators combed through debris after an explosion that killed eighteen people. But Prescott’s autopsy confirmed that her death happened before December 29, and that the initials DD had been carved into her back.” The dates and times provide hints about the murderer’s history of violence.

January can also be used to set a historical stage or demarcate endings and beginnings across cultures. In Finding the Bones, Avery Russell describes Americans’ general lack of awareness of the status of events in Europe during the early period of the First World War: “Resettled in the Village by early January 1915, Charlie had entered an intellectual and artistic milieu grown more conscious of itself as a cultural influence and, thanks to England’s having cut the cables between Germany and America, immured in a cheerful solipsism.”

January in My Fiction

In one of my novels, events that occur in January lead the protagonist to change her place of residence. In another, soldiers return from the war. I am still working out the placement of January in my third novel.

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

This year, I plan to publish my second volume of poetry.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

I am working on the secondary characters in this book.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I continue to do research and some writing each month.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: Kate Jonuska—the author of The Dictionary of Fiction Critique, Transference, and a collaborator on several anthologies—wrote an informative article on BWA for the December 2021, Boulder Magazine. At the end of December 2021, I was elected to serve as president of BWA for 2022.

Denver Women’s Press Club:

I provided a DWPC member with feedback on 25 pages of her work. In return, she will give me feedback on 25 pages in February.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: I read the RMFW newsletter and follow the links to other writers’ blogs.

Women Writing the West: I might join a WWW novel critique group in 2022. I follow their groups.io discussions.

Document my writing progress through my blog to be posted on the seventh day of each month, a blog per month in 2022:

Today is January 7, 2022, I am posting my first blog of 2022 which is my 49th blog on writing fiction since I began on January 1, 2018. I would like to wish my readers a Happy New Year, however, given the way 2021 ended for so many, I am inclined to share the Chinese blessing, “May you live in boring times.” 

Joy and Sorrow in Fiction

Throughout 2021, I have discussed a range of human emotions in this blog. As I have read novels over the past year, it has been enlightening to observe how different authors approach the emotional aspects of their work. It seems appropriate to end this series with a discussion of joy and sorrow. Joy abounds during the holiday season because we enjoy holiday music, visit with friends and relatives, and welcome the tradition of holiday candles and lights that brightens the dark days of December. Then again sorrow often flows below the surface, an underlying current of memories of loved ones who are no longer here, opportunities lost, or sad events which occurred. As authors choose their themes, characters, and plotlines, joy and sorrow present creative avenues to consider.

What Is Joy?

As I have thought about how to use joy in my fiction, I have realized that it is an emotion that is personal, interpersonal, and transpersonal. Joy is a state of mind, a goal, a realization, or a reward. At the personal level, a state of joy may be achieved through meditation. Meditative states of joy involve serenity, bliss, ecstasy, and potentially rapture. Interpersonally, joy may be a simple pleasure in another’s company. It may be the gladness or elation one feels when a friend or loved one returns home. Transpersonal joy goes beyond the personal and interpersonal to a consciousness of humanity, to the mystical, and even to the paranormal. Joy arises when one feels the thrill of celebration for athletes’ success at the Olympics. We experience joy when seeing the life’s work of an artist or hearing a musician’s new symphony.

Joy impacts different aspects of a person or character. At the personal level, joy is experienced as an emotion. As a simple personal emotion, joy is an experience of extreme pleasure, gladness, or bliss. It could be as simple as enjoying a beautiful sunset or sunrise. Joyful decisions may relate to finding what brings one a thrill of ecstasy from taking a risk and succeeding, to meeting one’s heartthrob, to finding one’s path in life. At the interpersonal level, joy is enacted through an exchange of responses. A joyful response may express gladness, celebration, or gratitude for something someone else has done. At the transpersonal level, joy is the result of decisions made in the act of figuring out how to live one’s life. Do we seek a life of service? Do we join a spiritual community? Do we explore a universe of possibilities?

What Is Sorrow?

Like joy, sorrow is experienced personally, interpersonally, and transpersonally. Sorrow is a state of mind that occurs from loss, disappointment, or torment. Personal sorrow may arise as simple sadness, feeling gloomy, or being in low spirits. A character who is sad because of unmet goals may express discouragement, appear to be morose, or be depressed. Tears may fall.

Interpersonal sorrow is often based on mourning the loss of a loved one, distress about what is happening in the world, or regret for one’s misdeeds. Depending upon the cultural norms of the group, interpersonal sorrow may manifest in silent grieving, formal laments, or outright wailing. Transpersonal sorrow might manifest as mental anguish, regret, or despair. This type of sorrow is evident during public mourning for the loss of a spiritual leader, a beloved leader of the people, or the failure of a national space project, such as the loss of the Challenger which killed a civilian schoolteacher, Christa McAuliffe, in 1986.

How Are Joy and Sorrow Used in Current Fiction?

In fiction, joy and sorrow may be used as themes that interweave, as intermittent descriptions, or to define characters. Joy and sorrow are often intimately linked or juxtaposed.

In All that Is Secret, a unique mystery novel set in Denver, Colorado, Patricia Raybon ties joy and sorrow together. Sorrow motivates the protagonist and drives the plot of the story. Annalee leaves Chicago for Denver to unravel the mystery of her father’s death. Her sorrow about losing her father is sincere and reoccurring. She experiences joy when she connects with Jack Blake.

In Have You Seen Luis Velez by Catherine Ryan Hyde, joy is expressed in the sense of a bodily memory of pleasure when Raymond takes Millie out for brunch. The blind woman tastes something she loves again for the first time in years. Raymond experiences joy at connecting with Millie. However, sorrow is very present in the book because a beloved person is murdered. The shock of her friend’s death causes Millie to suffer from a resurgence of the pain she experienced during the horrors of her childhood. However, the main character’s ability to connect positively with others ends up bringing joy to their new community of friends.

In a quirky collection of Japanese short stories, Where the Wild Ladies Are, by Aoko Matsuda, joy is attached to eating food—delicious creamy cakes. The juxtaposition of the joy of eating with the integration of ghosts in the stories is perplexing but intriguing.

In James McBride’s Deacon King Kong, the cop, Potts, experiences joy when he meets Sister Gee and realizes when she laughs that it is like seeing “a silent mountain suddenly spring to life.” McBride links joy with sorrow when Potts immediately senses that he wants to tell Sister Gee “every sorrow he ever knew.”

How Do Joy and Sorrow Manifest in My Fiction?

In one of my novels, I deal with transpersonal joy and sorrow. The main character experiences sorrow through the personal loss of loved ones, then joy in finding her path. In another novel, I deal with personal sorrow which becomes motivational for the main character. And, in my third novel, interpersonal joy and sorrow are at play.

My Writing Goals for 2021

Revise and complete a final edit of my first novel, sending it out for review by December 7, 2021: 

This month I revised some chapters that integrate joy and sorrow.

Complete a revised draft of my second novel by December 7, 2021:

In November, I reedited the most sorrowful chapter.

Add 25,000 words to my third novel by December 7, 2021:

In November, I reread chapters that I thought used joy or sorrow.

Publish the Moon Chimes Workbook: Arts & Sciences:

This month, I accomplished some minor edits of the workbook.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: 

This month I worked on increasing membership in the organization and identifying potential leaders.

Denver Women’s Press Club:

I decided to join a critique group with other DWPC members in January 2022.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:

I read the newsletter and other members’ blogs.

Women Writing the West: 

I filled out a survey for WWW.

Document my writing progress through my blog to be posted on the seventh day of each month, writing 12 blogs in 2021:

Today is December 7, 2021, I am posting my twelfth blog of 2021. This month I have been pondering what the New Year 2022 will look like for me. Will I continue writing this blog? Will I choose to do something entirely different? Will I finally finish the novels I have been working on? Will I set a poetry goal? Fortunately, I have most of the month of December to make my decisions.

Attraction and Aversion in Fiction

Humans use the five senses to determine if something attracts or repels them. The sight of a beautiful sunset is inviting while the site of a rushing flood elicits horror. The smell of a rose delights our senses while the smell of a skunk disgusts us. The sound of a church bell ringing invites our attention while the raucous blaring car horns causes us to shudder. The taste of chocolate is alluring to most people while the taste of fried liver is repugnant to many. Touching a puppy’s or kitten’s soft coat is appealing to most people while touching the rough skin of an alligator would be repulsive to most.

This sensory aspect of attraction and aversion contributes to our use of the terms in both physical and emotional associations. Interpersonal attraction refers to relationships between friends, colleagues, and romantic relationships. Friends might be drawn together because they share a fondness for certain activities, items, or geographical areas. Colleagues are drawn together because they have a predilection for a particular career, subject matter, or way of working together. Sexual attraction seems to have a magnetic pull on both individuals involved. Friends, enemies, and things that attract or repel us make good topics for fiction.

What Is Attraction?

Attraction is a concept with both scientific and emotional aspects. On the scientific side, the word is used in physics to refer to magnetism which occurs in iron, nickel, steel, and cobalt. Because the Earth’s core is made of magnetic iron, magnetism is an essential aspect of life on Earth. A magnet has an invisible magnetic field defined as a north and south pole. North and south are poles attracted to each other and draw together until they meet. Thus, the common statement “opposites attract.” The north poles of different magnets repel each other as do two south poles.

Writing on this topic has made me wonder if we humans carry a magnetic charge. I am curious as to whether some people experience an actual magnetic pull toward each other or, on the other hand, experience being magnetically repelled one from the other. Personally, I have experienced both unexplainable situations. I looked online and discovered that some scientists have identified electromagnetic forces in our bodies and that others carry out research on the possibility that humans are able to perceive magnetic fields as birds and insects do.

What Is Aversion?

Aversion is a synonym for repulsion, disgust, revulsion, nausea, loathing, repugnance, dislike, or abhorrence. In relationships, it tends to reflect either dislike or disapproval. I suppose there is a continuum of aversion moving from mild to extreme. For example, the dislike continuum might extend from simple disinclination or displeasure to distaste and disgust, to outright animosity, antipathy, hatred, or loathing.

Aversion refers to being repelled by something either mechanically, physically, or emotionally. Aversion is not conducive to relationships between friends, colleagues, and romantic partners. A hint of disgust is certain to cause cracks in a relationship.

How do Attraction and Aversion Play Out in Fiction?

In fiction, the aspect of attraction can be used positively as a motivator or negatively as a lure. If protagonists are attracted to success, it can become the driving force that motivates them throughout the story. If they are attracted to each other, romance becomes the engine of the story. On the other hand, if the antagonist wants to cause trouble, the story may involve ensnaring the unsuspecting protagonist into a trap or various intrigues.

Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s translator, says that one aspect of aversion is that it creates a negative cycle. This negativity could be reproduced in the plot, in relationships between characters, and even in the setting of a scene.  In fiction, this can be used to create negative feedback cycles with characters who don’t like each other or perhaps with characters involved in a relationship that is beginning to break apart.

Attraction and Aversion in Current Fiction

Martin Amis’ novel Inside Story depicts a scene of sexual attraction between a young man and woman who do not know each other. The man is simply passing by on the street when he spies a woman talking in a phone booth. He starts to walk past but is so attracted to her that he returns. He stands on the sidewalk waiting to engage with her when she exits the booth. His attraction is described through internal dialog.

Rachel Howell Hall’s novel, These Toxic Things, uses attraction and aversion regarding sartorial style, choices of technology, individuals of different races, and relationships between characters.    

In Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart uses aversion in settings, the most gripping being a scene in an abandoned mine surrounded by black greasy muck. Shuggie’s older brother pulls him out and saves his life.                                                                                      

In The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett, attraction and aversion are themes that flow throughout the novel. Bennett illustrates who is attracted to whom and why. One identical twin is attracted to a white man which enables her to escape from her aversive poverty. The other is attracted to a dark black man who fathers a dark daughter. Her husband’s violence forces his wife to leave him, take their daughter, and return to her family home. One sister’s daughter is attracted to a white transexual; the other sister’s daughter has a love affair with a black man from Africa. Bennet forces readers to make decisions about their own understanding of race and socio-economic conditions.

Attraction and Aversion in My Fiction

In my first novel, a young man is attracted to a young woman who is completely oblivious to his approach. In another, parents force a daughter to marry someone she finds objectionable. In a third novel, a woman uses her own sexuality to attract and cause mayhem. As I have worked on this concept of creating attraction and aversion in fiction, I have realized that it also applies to attracting or distancing readers, as well as forcing them to think about what is happening in the novel as Bennett so successfully did.

My Writing Goals for 2021

Revise and complete a final edit of my first novel, sending it out for review by December 7, 2021: 

This month I worked on the use of attraction and aversion in a scene.

Complete a revised draft of my second novel by December 7, 2021:

This month I edited a section to clarify elements of attraction and aversion.

Add 25,000 words to my third novel by December 7, 2021:

This month, I rewrote an important scene adding emotional aversion to the issue at hand. It worked. The rewritten scene gave me a stomach ache.

Publish the Moon Chimes Workbook: Arts & Sciences:

This month, I did not work on the Workbook. Instead, I worked on marketing my Moon Chimes poetry book in local book stores. It is already available on Amazon.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: I attended a Steering Committee meeting, took over some membership tasks, and met with our webmaster.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I am in discussion with some members regarding a potential critique group.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: Even though I didn’t attend the conference, I followed what was happening on FaceBook and Twitter.

Women Writing the West: The conference was held online. The sessions with authors, editors, and agents were excellent. As a first-time attendee, I felt included and participated in the discussions. The authors’ research-based knowledge of the Western USA was impressive.

Document my writing progress through my blog to be posted on the seventh day of each month, writing 12 blogs in 2021:

Today is November 7, 2021, I am posting my eleventh blog of 2021. This month, I have felt that I am barely hanging on as the roller coaster of life flies along. My writing helps to center me. It helps to shift my focus to practical questions of how to recreate reality in my fiction.

Peace and Violence in Fiction

Peace and violence are daily aspects of human life on this planet. Naturally, they both appear in fiction as themes, descriptions, and genres. Writers are challenged to figure out how to integrate opposite ends of the peace-violence continuum in a particular novel. Too much peace may bore the reader. Too much violence moves the story into the grossly absurd. Different approaches are particularly visible in films which the Motion Picture Association rates to communicate a film’s suitability for various audiences. “Peace” does not merit a rating, while even a G-rated film may have minimal violence. In PG-rated films, violence may occur if it is not intense. In PG-rated films some intense violence is admitted. In R-rated films the violence is allowed to be realistic and extreme throughout the film. Novels, on the other hand, are not rated according to such a system. It is up to the writer and the reader to decide how much peace and how much violence they can abide.

Peace in Fiction

How might “peace” be defined in fiction? Peace occurs during a time of tranquility, repose, or calm. It usually refers to an absence of overt action or movement, although mediation is action taken to assure peaceful transitions. It is a state that applies to individuals, groups, and the weather. A writer can use the concept of peace in different ways in fiction. Peace might describe a personal state of being, interpersonal relationships, or societal harmony. In fiction, peace might also be used to set a scene, a time, or a mood. I just read a quote by Ferdinand Denis that I liked: “Temperance is a tree whose roots are composed of contentment and whose fruits are calm and peace.” Thus, peace is a synonym of contentment.

A description of a peaceful character could apply to a state of being or to a state of action. A peaceful person might simply be enjoying a rocking chair on a warm, windless summer day. A character may prefer tranquility to going out to a bar. Another might embrace peace as a concept and a desirable social state of being. Such a character might be depicted as a participant in a peace march, as a pacifist, or politically as a peacenik.

Peaceful interpersonal relationships could refer to harmony or simply the absence of conflict within families, friends, or couples. Societal harmony could refer to periods that were historically peaceful, contemporary moments, or future utopias.

If a writer wants to set a scene that is peaceful, a description of a tranquil day uninterrupted by sounds or strife would suffice. The scene could be a calm morning with a gentle breeze or a still evening with lengthening shadows descending over the hillside. The purpose of the scene would be to create a tranquil mood.

Social harmony usually refers to a period without or between wars. It could also refer to a cease fire during a war. To write about a peaceful time, the story could be intimate or social. A couple could be enjoying a serene afternoon having tea. A family could be spending a pleasant Sunday afternoon gathered on the porch drinking lemonade. A historical scene might reflect the harmony that follows the end of a war or the celebration of an armistice.

Violence in Fiction

When related to human behaviors, violence is usually defined as a force used to injure, damage, destroy, or as extreme roughness of action. It also refers to unjust or callous use of power as in violating another’s rights or sensibilities. Violence is also used to mean a great force or strength of feeling, conduct, or expression, a twisting or wrenching of sense or form, as in “to do violence to a text.” Regarding nature, violence refers to an intense, explosive forces such as the wind, the rain, earthquakes, or floods.

My favorite French dictionary, Le Petit Robert, adds another interesting meaning to the word violence: to do violence to oneself is to constrain oneself to an opinion that is contrary to what one thinks spontaneously. It also adds examples of the violence of feelings, desires, and manners of expression. I love Le Petit Robert because it gives literary examples of the meanings of words. For example, Rolland wrote that “Violence is the law of brutes.”

Bernice King, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter, recently tweeted: “Starving a child is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical need is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence.” In other words, Bernice King clarified that discrimination is violence, as is a failure to act in peaceful, helpful ways.

In fiction as in life, violence occurs in family relationships, interpersonal relationships, and relationships between parts of society. When violence occurs domestically, it occurs along a continuum, allowing the writer to create different levels of tension among family members. It might be in the form of reserve rather than intimacy. It might be coolness, coldness, or bitterness between spouses or siblings. It might develop into physical abuse.

In more public interpersonal relationships, violence might be expressed through rejection or unsociability, a frosty expression, verbal antagonism, rancor, or deliberate inhospitality. Extreme forms of violence might begin with vicious words, forceful behaviors, then progress through various forms of aggression. A violent interaction might be verbally pugnacious, then progress to physical cruelty, brutality, or even savagery.

When a writer is depicting large scale societal violence, the continuum tends to range from local conflict between groups to area divisions to confrontations or actual battle between states. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an example of local violence that has societal implications. The societal violence in the story of the Alamo in the area that split Texas from Mexico has generated many different historical novels. Myriad examples of novels treat the violence of World War I and World War II. Science fiction novels tend to treat interstellar violence.

Peace and Violence in Current Fiction

Maggie O’Harrell’s novel, Hamnet, has beautiful examples of peace and violence. In one scene, Agnes returns to a peaceful, moss-covered hideaway next to a river she has loved since she was a child to give birth alone and unattended. The novel also has a scene of familial violence. The father has warned his son to stay clear and safely far away from his grandfather. At a crucial point in the story, the grandson is desperate to ask his grandfather something and enters his study. The grandfather lures the child closer, grabs him, and hits him, injuring his forehead.

In The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, peace and violence are threaded throughout the novel. Two family relationships, one between a father and his daughter and the other between a father and his adopted son, form the basis of the plot. Both fathers’ relationships with their respective children are based on psychological and physical violence that carry the plot through to the end. A secondary character finds peace and quiet only when he climbs a giant tree which gives him a broad perspective on the world and the circus.

Another novel I read this past month, Finding the Bones by Avery Russell posits a return to home as a way to find personal peace, although this bliss is shattered by a violent psychological act on the part of the protagonist’s former lover.

Peace and Violence in My Fiction

One of my novels takes place after World War I, thus the violence and damage of the war has scarred the characters. Another of my novels takes place during the Great Depression in the USA, as a result, the violence tends to occur between individuals who lack what they need. And the third takes place during a period of American violence abroad which instigates daily expressions of violence at home, both of which affect the characters.

My Writing Goals for 2021

Revise and complete a final edit of my first novel, sending it out for review by December 7, 2021: 

This month, I have studied more about the philosophy of this novel.

Complete a revised draft of my second novel by December 7, 2021:

This month, I worked on a violent scene that occurs in the novel.

Add 25,000 words to my third novel by December 7, 2021:

This month, I made a minor addition to this novel.

Publish the Moon Chimes Workbook: Arts & Sciences:

This month, I did not work on this project.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: 

I attended the Steering Committee Meeting. I also attended part of the Writers Who Read discussion of Maggie O’Harrell’s Hamnet.

Denver Women’s Press Club:

The DWPC sessions are in person this year, so I won’t be able to attend. However, I gained important information from the DWPC e-newsletter about marketing books locally.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: 

To my great disappointment, RMFW canceled the virtual portion of their October conference. However, the BWA newsletter team collaborated with the co-chairs of the RMFW conference to feature it in the Boulder Writers Alliance e-newsletter.

Women Writing the West:

I am looking forward to the WWW virtual conference this week.

Document my writing progress through my blog to be posted on the seventh day of each month, writing 12 blogs in 2021

Today is October 7, 2021, I am posting my tenth blog of 2021. Fall has arrived. The air is clear and bright. Fortunately, my brain always seems clearer in the autumn than in the summer. I spent some time this month marketing my poetry book, Moon Chimes. With other non-writing projects finally completed, I anticipate having more time to devote to my own writing this month.