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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later: Tread Lightly On Our Memories, The Pain is Still Very Great

Lower Manhattan-Then And Now-My Scrapbook

9/11/01 struck like an alligator lurking just below the water. It grabbed every single person in New York City and the tri-state area, chewed us up, and spit us out--some dead, some mangled physically or psychologically, all changed--most for the worse but there are always glimmers of hope that get through the darkness.

It takes a lot to get a New Yorker's attention since we're always on sensory overload, scanning ahead, to the side and behind for the ever present threat of something unexpected. And since that day, there's even more to watch out for than the occasional nut waving something that looks like a gun or knife. We're used to that.

And it takes a lot to bring this City to its knees, though since 9/11/01 the schools close much more regularly for storms, the mass transit system was stopped and even Brooklyn was evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Irene. We're not taking any chances, especially in September when the lure of a sky, so clear so brilliant, so cloudless, a cross between periwinkle and Wedgewood, low humidity and bright sunshine brings back memories of suddenly being inundated by flames, ash, smoke, of incessant sirens and alarms, of screams, tears, and the world standing still.

A routine morning turned into one that everyone, including pre-school children, would never forget, since their parents couldn't get home to pick them up, take them home, hug them, and try to explain. Some of us were mandated to remain at our jobs in anticipation of mass casualties. Other couldn't get past roadblocks, over closed bridges, through closed tunnels and streets crowded with throngs running, walking, limping out of lower Manhattan, covered in thick white dust while fire trucks, police vans, ambulances rushed toward the burning Twin Towers.

 And some never got home because they were dead or dying in the attacks, including neighbors, friends, and family members of co-workers.I remember a kinder, gentler New York City in the days after the attacks. Bosses not worrying if you got in late due to roadblocks, and really wanting to hear the truth when they asked how you were doing. Petty politics on the job suspended, silly grievances forgotten.Flags everywhere, including the rear windows of every car. Less road rage, more patience on long lines. Spontaneous parades and candlelight vigils. I myself stopped to listen, hold hands and say a prayer with an evangelical something on Chambers Street when I made the pilgrimage to Ground Zero for the first time.

There were not a lot of smiles as we donned masks and gloves and emptied our mailboxes over the recycling pail--outdoors and away from the kids-- during a surprisingly mild, dry fall. It made it easier as recovery efforts went on, we watched for Anthrax, sent socks, lip balm, water, work gloves and other supplies to Shea Stadium for distribution to the heroes downtown--many of them now terribly ill from toxic exposures (including the police officer who gave me copies of images he took at Ground Zero). One police officer I know, a thirty-five year old singlemother, has died.

In addition to nuts, impaired drivers, rats and petty thieves snatching I-pods and gold chains, we did as told: "If you see something, say something." The campaign didn't bear fruit until years later when a multitude of terrorist plots and activities were uncovered, but we also learned to expect, and welcome, police and the National Guard, with weapons drawn, patrolling bus terminals, train stations and at times of high alert, the subways, bridges, and tunnels.I drive over the East River bridges almost every day, and there is never a time when I look at the hole in the skyline and don't remember. And in my own post traumatic stress disordered world, the sounds of sirens still shock my heart into a rapid rhythm, make me nauseous, and weaken my knees.

There are plenty of things to do this Sunday to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/1/01. Concerts, multimedia retrospectives, church services, ceremonies, dedications. I'm not sure what I'll do. My sons, 10 and 8 at the time of the attacks, are away at college. My daughter, who we adopted in 2003, was born nearly a year after and I'm trying to explain it before show her the pictures. Anguish spurned me into initiating the proceedings in November 2001, because there were just no more good excuses to put off all the things I'd always wanted to do.

I could also just do my routine Sunday things like take ballet class, or putter in my garden, or clean up the house, but I am feeling an even bigger sense of loss this year since my father's recent death. His construction company was a major contractor for the building of the WTC, and it was one of his proudest accomplishments and greatest heartbreaks.Even my favorite peaceful activities- kayaking or walking along the shorelines, seeing my childhood haunts, remembering how it was to be a kid is too painful these days, with the hole in my life left by Dad's absence, the hole in my heart left by the hole in the New York City skyline. 

I can still remember the fear, the confusion, the desperation, the camaraderie, the anger, the sounds, the smells--oh yes, that smell of smoke, burning rubber and plastic, and death diffusing over the world churning my stomach into a knot, keeping me on the verge of puking every time wind blew a certain way.On September 1, I took these images of the Freedom Tower rising above the space left for the 9/11 Memorial Pools over the footprints of the towers--a crypt for the unidentified remains and for those whose remains were never found. The DJ on The Circle Line was playing Usher's D.J.'s Got Us Falling in Love Again and it seemed like an appropriately upbeat way to sail past the new skyline toward the tenth anniversary of the attacks.

But as today approached, melancholy washed over me like the rains flooding the tri-state area. Natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornados aren't intentionally planned to spawn death, destruction and despair--unless your gods or God is more capricious than mine. I'm physically sick today, puked once already, and my right arm feels like it's been wrenched out of place. I don't want to hear any speeches, listen to any music. I don't want to read any "ten years later" stories. I don't want to do things I love: to dance, or to write. I don't want to do anything except hug my husband and my kids, crawl into bed, and wake up tomorrow morning.

Read part of the 9/11/01 chapter from Someday I'm Going to Write a Book

Read last year's retrospective The Twin Towers and the Lowly Parking Meter--A 9/11 Remembrance

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Crossing Genres-Marlene Dotterer and Her New Release: Shipbuilder

I am delighted welcome Marlene Dotterer,  a long time member of Online Writer's Workshop. We met a few years back during an online workshop and I had the opportunity to read some of her novel,  Shipbuilder, which has now been published. 

Imagine being there before the Titanic set sail.

Now imagine being there before she’s even built.

Sam Altair is a physicist living in Belfast, Ireland. He has spent his career researching time travel and now, in early 2006, he’s finally reached the point where he can send objects backwards through time. The only problem is, he doesn’t know where the objects go. They don’t show up in the past, and no one notices any changes to the present. Are they creating alternate time lines?

To collect more data, Sam tries a clandestine experiment in a public park, late at night. But the experiment goes horribly wrong when Casey Wilson, a student at the university, stumbles into his isolation field. Sam tries to rescue her, but instead, he and Casey are transported back to the year 1906. Stuck in the past, cut off from everyone and everything they know, Sam and Casey work together to help each other survive. Then Casey meets Thomas Andrews, the man who will shortly begin to build the most famous ship since Noah’s Ark. Should they warn him, changing the past and creating unknown consequences for the future?

Or should they let him die?

Welcome, Marlene. Crossing genres is a subject near and dear to me. Many times I am asked, what is this? And often I answer with a combination of three, sometimes four subgenres. This can make it hard to sell in traditional markets who want to know where the book goes on the shelf. My answer is put it on three or four shelves! Especially now that most of them are virtual ones. Give us your insights.

Thank you having me, Carole. I’m excited to chat with your readers about my book. Let me start with a question:

Is it Science Fiction if the story takes place in the past?                 

My answer:

Probably not. Not exactly, anyway.

There. Wasn't that easy?

Science fiction, as I understand it, involves technology. Usually, the story takes place in the future, with space ships, planets, and weapons easily capable of exterminating humanity. However, there are also present-day plots. These are usually Michael Crichton-type  doomsday scenarios with superbugs breaking loose and exterminating humanity. Or they can be aliens-visiting-earth, who either

a)befriend some kids and eventually go away, or
b)exterminate humanity.

Other stories take place in some variant of current or near-future earth, with just enough difference to show it's not our own present day. Computer related stories are a popular type of this sub-genre, with people lost in the circuits, or some role-playing game starts to take over the world. And exterminates humanity.

What about steampunk? Ah, now that takes place in the past, and is most definitely a type of science fiction. SF as H.G. Wells would write it, but with more martial arts. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials is an example of this, and I believe there was some danger of humanity being exterminated. At least, the kid part of it.

I wonder about this question because my book takes place in 1906 - 1912, and it's not steampunk. Yes, there's a scientist in it, and there's time travel. But the time travel is quickly done and never really explained, although it is clearly science-based. There's nothing supernatural going on.

Is this science fiction?

I feel safe calling it alternate history, but is alternate history a branch of SF? I've always thought of it so, but I could be wrong.

TTJ: Shipbuilder is also historical fiction, assuming you don't mind time travelers talking about space shuttles in your historical fiction.

It's also romance. So here is where I tie it all together by calling it...  get ready... Time Travel Romance.

To me, this says science fiction because of the time travel. It also says romance (obviously), and it probably means historical fiction, since (most) time travel stories involve going to the past. I consider this a neat package in which to tie up my book. Perhaps with a bow.

Feel free to search for it under any of these genres. I’ve tried to include them all in the keywords because the book could easily be on any of these shelves in a bookstore. But if I had to pick just one shelf, which would it be?

Science fiction. 

Thanks, Marlene. As I said, I've read some of this book and it's on my TBR pile in my TBR file. Take a look, folks. You won't be disappointed.
Anything else, Marlene?

YES! Must Have Give-Aways!
Ships are launched with a bottle of champagne. My book is about a ship, so...

Actually, perhaps it’s best if I don’t try to mail anyone a bottle of champagne. But how about a free book?

Throughout the blog tour, I’ll keep track of everyone who leaves a comment on any of the blogs and enter them into a drawing. At the end of the tour, I’ll pick three winners, each to receive an autographed copy of The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder.

So, read on! Comment!

And those stops are:
Sept 2 - Patty Jansen
Sept 3 - Amy Raby
Sept 4 - Anna Kashina
Sept 5 - Darke Conteur
Sept 8 - Sue Ann Bowling

Visit her website for a links to her other interesting articles. Here are buy links for all formats, including print for us dinosaur types.

Marlene Dotterer grew up as a desert rat in Tucson, Arizona. In 1990, she loaded her five children into the family station wagon, and drove north-west to the foggy San Francisco Bay Area. To stay warm, she tackled many enterprises, earning a degree in geology, working for a national laboratory, and running her own business as a personal chef. She’s a frustrated gardener, loves to cook, and teaches natural childbirth classes. She says she writes, “to silence the voices,” obsessed with the possibilities of other worlds and other times.

She is married to The Best Husband in the World, and lives in Pleasant Hill, California.