May 4th, 2015
Many know that Taos is a magical, historical, and stunning place. But why set the third novel in The Justine Trilogy there? After all, The Cairo Codex is set in Egypt; The Italian Letters in Italy.
Quite simply, D. H. Lawrence is buried in a little white chapel perched on the side of Lobo Mountain just outside of Taos. While he died of tuberculosis in the south of France in 1930, his wife Frieda’s lover brought his ashes back to Taos in 1936. Now, nearly 80 years later, the Ranch—owned by the University of New Mexico and closed for many years, has reopened.
When anthropologist Justine Jenner discovered letters from Lawrence in her great grandmother’s attic in Italy, she was compelled to follow him, to find out who he really was—and to find what he discovered about himself on the side of Lobo Mountain. In exploring the life of her great grandmother’s lover, Justine discovers herself as well.
One week from today, A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos will be released.
April 19th, 2015
It all began when, as a young girl, I hid Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence under my mattress (who didn’t?). Women in Love and other Lawrence novels, short stories, and poems followed, keeping my infatuation deep in my consciousness. But it was not until my husband, Morgan, and I wandered into a bookstore in an Etruscan ruin in Italy in the mid-80’s and discovered Etruscan Places that Lawrence became an obsession. His unforgettable perspective on the Etruscans explained the heretofore unexplainable about these mysterious people.
Years passed. After all, I wasn’t a novelist as yet. I was busy with non-fiction writing –then moving in Egypt. Cairo fully captivated us. Old crypts and earthquakes and religious tensions demanded my attention. It was inside the crypt that had allegedly been home to the Holy Family that the first novel in the Justine Trilogy took form.
After giving birth to The Cairo Codex, I discovered that D. H. Lawrence was still waiting in the wings. But it was not until my protagonist Justine climbed into her grandmother’s attic in Fiesole that I found The Italian Letters. I know this may seem strange, but I didn’t know what she would find until old lace began to rise from a trunk untouched for 80 years.
These letters led me into Taos, New Mexico, and A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos… to be released May 12. My life as a writer has been one serendipitous event after another.
Next week: Why Taos?
March 21st, 2015
The third in The Justine Trilogy, this sizzling novel is preceded by the award-winning The Cairo Codex and The Italian Letters. Anthropologist Justine Jenner travels to Taos in search of her great-grandfather, D. H. Lawrence, and her own identity. In Taos, she finds the peoples of the pueblo, archaeologists, Lawrence aficionados, and followers of Kateri, the Indian saint, who draw her into the riveting blend of cultures, including the pursuit of the migration patterns of the peoples of Mesa Verde.
Driven to understand the spirituality Lawrence found at his ranch on Lobo Mountain, Justine uncovers documents and letters in the subterranean tunnels and wild terrain of New Mexico that explain his mysterious journey. Her Egyptian lover joins her at Christmas, 2010, proposes, then returns to Cairo to lead the revolution. After witnessing the beating of Amir in Tahrir Square on television, Justine runs from this truth and is imprisoned by a massive avalanche. The stunning finale engages Justine in a life and death struggle with nature and herself.
The Justine Trilogy follows the quest of Justine into Egypt, Italy and Taos. Exploring bold themes of dominant human desires, fundamentalism, sexual awakening, feminism, and the pressures that lead to revolution, these novels form a spiral of interlocking mysteries and experiences, propelled by Justine’s increasing maturity and proactivity, her insatiable curiosity, and her sensitivities as an anthropologist.
The world release of A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos will be held June 12, 2015, at the Mabel Dodge Luhan house in Taos, New Mexico.
March 17th, 2015
I will never forget one thing. In Winter time, when you go to
Wounded Knee, never dig deep into the snow. All you will do is
find the blood left by your family before me. Think only of
them and say, it is a good day to die!
-Tashunkala (Little Horse), SihaSapa Lakota
February 3, 2011
Justine stood at the frosted window in flannel pajamas, an Indian blanket curled around her like a cocoon, curtains drawn to reveal an island of lights on the Taos campus of the University of New Mexico a half-mile away. A meteor streaks by and disappears into a palette of stars, a mere sliver of moon hung in the eastern sky. Barely 5:30 a.m., she hadn’t slept since Amir’s 2:30 call. In a couple of hour, the mantle of snow on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains would turn shades of mauve in the early morning light.
Revolution day all over again. She held her steaming coffee cup with both hands, the noise of the television in the background. Without turning, she listened to the sounds of men and women flooding into Tahrir Square in Cairo. It was Wednesday.
All Amir had said before the line went dead was, “I love you, Justine. It could be today. Then I’ll be home . . . . ” It could be today, which could only mean one thing: Mubarak was expected to step down. The revolution would achieve its goal: the end to a brutal thirty-year dictatorship. Justine felt a tension in her gut—could it be so easy? Could Mubarak be brought down in less than two weeks? Perhaps, but not likely.
The possibilities were promising, yet she was gripped by deeply unsettling fears for Amir, his leadership role with the youth of Egypt placing him at great risk of being arrested. The turmoil in the Middle East was unprecedented, clearly, so perhaps none of the old rules applied. This is a new game, in a new world bursting from the ground up, a popular revolution quickened by social media. But then what? She knew that if Mubarak were removed, Egyptians would still have the military and the Brotherhood, since no one else was as organized. Perhaps with Amir’s help, those who led the January 25th revolution would form themselves into a focused political movement. Perhaps.
Justine gripped the blanket more firmly around her chilled body and returned to the kitchen for the last dregs of coffee. On the couch, she curled her stocking feet under her and stared at the screen. Tahrir Square was crowded with thousands of Egyptians chanting, “Down with Mubarak,” arms flailing the air, placards in Arabic demanding the president’s resignation. The crowd throbbed, like a singular heart beating in concert.
Her vision was captured by a familiar-looking figure in the throng. While the images were nearly indistinct, she recognized his gait, his posture, even his profile. Amir! She smiled involuntarily to see that he was wearing the Kokopelli scarf she’d given him for Christmas. It must be Amir. She couldn’t be wrong, could she? He was facing west, toward the burned-out Hilton, leaning into a small group of four or five men.
From the edge of the screen, men rode swiftly into sight on sturdy Arabian horses and lanky camels, clubs swinging above their heads, then coming down to strike indiscriminately into the swarm of young people.
Suddenly, one of the camel riders rushed in his direction, charged with intent as though he knew his target. Amir didn’t see him. Justine jumped to her feet, spilling her coffee, turning over the coffee table. “Amir! Amir!” She was with him in the middle of the grassy square, screaming, warning him. Two men in the crowd pointed frantically and raced to pull the hoodlum from his camel, but too late. The club crashed against Amir’s head. She imagined blood spurting into the electrified air. As the rider lifted his club for a second blow, he was pulled from his camel and beaten into the ground.
Bloody Wednesday had begun.
March 1st, 2015
A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos is the sizzling third novel in The Justine Trilogy. Pre-order today
February 18th, 2015
My excitement mounds as I consider returning to Taos for the world release of the third
novel in The Justine Trilogy: A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos. In June, 2015.
Meanwhile, I gazed on with envy as the community threw a luscious tea for Frieda Lawrence’s great granddaughter this week at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. See the engaging blog and photos by Robert Cafazzo:
January 5th, 2015
Welcome to the New Year, which I welcome with optimism and anticipation.
This coming Thursday, January 8, I will be speaking about The Italian Letters at the extraordinary Book Passage in Corte Madera. I’m delighted by positive feedback about this novel, the sequel to the award-winning The Cairo Codex.
This year will also host the release of the third novel in the Justine Trilogy, A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos. The world release will be in Taos, New Mexico, in June, 2015.
My resolution…to read and write good novels!
December 17th, 2014
The identity, personal diary, and genealogy of Mary of Nazareth and her son, Jesus, are expressed in the first two novels of the Justine Trilogy: the award-winning, The Cairo Codex and The Italian Letters (release, October, 2014). Perfect Christmas presents. The third in the trilogy, A Rapture of Ravens, will be released in June, 2015.
November 11th, 2014
On Friday evening, November 14, at 7:00, I am talking about and reading from The Italian Letters in San Francisco at Books, Inc., Opera Square, 610 Van Ness. This will be a Champagne Launch and you are all invited.
Why is this so special? Books, Inc. is the West’s oldest independent bookstore with 11 stores in California. Amazingly, their “origin dates back to the Gold Rush Days of 1851 when Anton Roman struck it rich in Shasta City, California, and set himself up in the business of selling books. That small bookstore was moved, bought, sold, burned, rebuilt, renamed and became Books Inc., as we know it today, in 1946.”
On December 9, I’ll have the pleasure of sharing The Italian Letters with the community of readers at the Palo Alto Books, Inc.
Check out booksinc.net and join us.
November 2nd, 2014
I’m always seeking environments that offer moments of clarity. That one magnificent epiphany, that one true sentence, that pulse of reflective insight into self. A redwood forest, a beach, waterfall, or even a seat alone among a crowd of strangers. A few months ago, I wrote that Ernest Hemingway found that moment of clarity in front of a Cezanne. Doreen Carvajal’s romantic piece in the New York Times (10.26.14), entitled “Writing Retreat by Rail”, conjured up an enticing experience of traveling–and writing–by rail from Paris to the Riviera. She recounts the array of artists and writers who found their Eureka moment on the rails: John le Carre, Graham Greene, Matisse, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Anton Chekhov, J.K. Rowling, among others. What do they find there? The repetitive moment of the rails? The kaleidoscope of colors and light stirring those brain neurons? Perhaps we out to hold collaborative writing retreats on trains as well.