51PHThzD-2L._AC_US218_You would expect to find in a biography of a luminary on the scale of Da Vinci an enormous constellation of facts and insights and delights, and Walter Isaacson certainly provides those and then some. As with the two other Isaacson biographies I’ve reviewed in Carlrbrush.com–one of Benjamin Franklin (http://bit.ly/2CFj1zh) and the other of Albert Einstein (http://bit.ly/2CfgxM8)–I find Walter the most amenable of biographers. He’s not always the easiest to read, but he rewards a bit of effort more than, say, the more facile David McCulloch, whom I admit to enjoying as well.

So after exploring the intricacies of this archetypal Renaissance man’s life, what did I come away with? Perhaps the most amazing item was that he was no good at math. Never mastered long division or multiplication. It would seem as if a brain like that would find such mundane subjects–well–no-brainers. Of course, if he’d had calculus as a tool, he might have fared better, but he didn’t get around to inventing it, and Isaac Newton was still a few centuries in the future, so he did without. How? This is the most marvelous fact of all, and one I still don’t understand. When he had to solve a vexing puzzle of, say, perspective, he did it all geometrically. Same with learning to calculate the relative areas of a square and a circle, or the volumes of a sphere and a cube. Isaacson explains these operations in some detail, but read and re-read though I might, they are as beyond me as Einstein’s insights about the speed and shape of light.

Another thing. One of his most amazing paintings was in some sense a failure. He was an obsessive worker and reworker  materials and processes. So much did he insist on returning to his favorite works over and again that he couldn’t stand the thought of having to paint the fresco of The Last Supper on wet plaster and let the result stand. He painted on dry plaster, tried to find ways to make it fast. But it began to deteriorate quite soon. Thus, despite centuries of restorations, what we have is nowhere near the original.

What else? He and Michelangelo were pretty much enemies. Leonardo thought Mr. M. painted like a sculptor, all hard edges with no subtlety of line or texture. Michelangelo, on the other hand, had no respect for his elder.

So those are a few factoids to go along with what most of us know about this guy who could paint the Mona Lisa (whose smile was based on his observations about the muscles of face and lips gleaned from hours at the dissection table) with one hand (by the way, he was a southpaw) and draw fantasies of flying machines and submarines with the other, and stop along the way to give us the Vitruvian Man. One of the reasons, of course, was that he seems to have been totally ADHD, seldom able to concentrate on a single project for long at a time. So, of course, we want to beat that sort of thing out of our kids?

Go figure.





d0733422-e2eb-3165-9839-995f34e9327fI thought I knew a thing or two about the underground railroad, and I do. I didn’t, however, know that there were segments of actual rails with locomotives chugging along underground as they ferried their charges north. There are a lot of of “little known facts” scattered throughout Whitehead’s narrative, but it wouldn’t be a novel if that was all there was to it. In point of fact, there is far more than that, and far more than your conventional slave narrative in these pages. The heart of the book is Cora, raised in Georgia in the cruelest of slave conditions. The plantation owner has divided the land between his two sons, one a horrid martinet, the other a wastrel. Cora’s mother runs away, and Cora never sees her again (though we do) and she never forgives her for the abandonment. When Cora’s turn comes, she dithers, but finally goes ahead. In an old tale of cruelty masked as seductive kindness, we are treated to a Tuskegee experiment/eugenics community disguised as a betterment society for the colored. Then to a self-improvement society that allows escaped slaves and free colored to actually own and work their own land. You can probably guess how that all works out.

Thus does Cora’s journey to freedom mirror that of so many who have taken one form or another of the railroad only to find when they arrive that the station on their tickets have closed or been moved or blown up. Actually, this is not the bleak message I might make it sound like. There’s a lot of joy and hope here as well.

Furthermore, we needn’t despair, for the Orangeman has come to save us. Follow him. In his immortal words “What do you have to lose”?3289691d-3009-3ff6-8da9-6fc327abe590



th_id=OP.Ef8Qprt4Dw7opQ300C300&pid=21The delicious opening sentence of John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies is among the best I’ve read. I repeat it here without apology for those who don’t like spoilers because it bears re- and rereading:

Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoloeague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore. 

Actually, the priest did a bit more than denounce, he kicked Catherine Goggin in the backside a couple of times as she headed out the church door. Thus does the narrator’s mother begin her journey to Dublin, where she ends up rooming with a couple of young homosexual men, a species even more despised than unwed mothers.

It’s a yeasty opening, and the narrative doesn’t let up in tension and pathos as we follow our young story teller through the narrative. We pick up his story in his boyhood, circa early 1950’s, having been adopted by a strange couple who receive him from a humpbacked nun. He is well cared for, though not particularly loved. His adoptive mother writes novels which she shies away from publishing for fear someone will read them. His adoptive father is a financier of sorts who plays fast and loose with money, both public and private and spends much of our hero’s  life in prison. Both of them never fail to describe him and themselves as “adoptive.”

He lands a job as a civil servant and manages to make a decent living, all the while battling, mostly unsuccessfully against his innate homosexuality. It’s a battle worth fighting, hopeless though it might be, since the law prescribes prison as the penalty for it. It is hard to imagine the terror these folks must have felt every day during those decades, but Boyne makes the pain vivid indeed.

Along the way, we meet our narrator’s mother, watch him become somewhat acquainted with her. It’s a great Dickensian device, but handled with such skill here that one never feels manipulated.th


103808270This is going to sound like a cry from Jurassic Park, but here goes anyhow. Among the gripes I have about SoCal is the insistence on tacking a “the” to names of freeways. “The” 10, “The” 101, “The” 410 and on and on. The practice has crept its way north, too. I’m sure we will all be speaking the dialect soon. What’s my problem? Does anyone live on “the” Maple Street? Is the main boulevard in San Francisco “The” Market Street? Is the main West Coast N-S freeway “the” I-5? (Maybe it is or will be by the time I post this. What about the old days of 101, 280, 880 and so on? Are they lost and gone forever? Yes indeed. And so long, it’s been good to know ya.


Click on carlrbrush.com for a look-see inside Marie Lavender’s latest novel, UPON YOUR LOVE. I now turn the carlrbrush.com mic over to Marie for some  some insights into the mind and heart of this extraordinary author. 

Marie Lavender

A frequent question writers hear is, “Where do you get your ideas?” What’s your answer to that one? 

Well, I get ideas from new people I meet, or sometimes I’m inspired by something I observe in public, and other times I get inspired by a news article I came across. Most of all, I’d like to think that life experiences tend to store impressions in one’s subconscious. This jumble becomes a soup that eventually dumps itself out in other forms, and that’s when a new idea pops up.

You bill yourself as a Multi-Genre author, and one glance at your book list [carlrbrush.com note: see below] proves you live up to your billing. What do you love about switching modes, and what is it like? 

Honestly, it was never intended that way. I began with the aim of staying in the mold of a romance author. Soon, though, I noticed that my 119+ works in progress lent themselves to other genres, and it was simply easier for me to stop boxing myself in. I found that with an open mind, my creativity flowed better. I am often surprised by where the muse takes me (I never imagined writing a children’s fantasy or a science fiction tale, for example). Heck, recently I did an interview, and the host inspired me to try writing a horror scene. Quite interesting.

With all of my projects, I usually change things up and try a different genre than I just published or submitted a story for. Let me tell you, there’s never a dull moment.

You say that your upcoming Upon Your Love (Nice title, by the way) is the final book in a trilogy. How can you be so sure? What if you feel the urge to write a fourth? Will you be able to stick to stopping yourself?

Thanks! Excellent question, and normally I’d agree with you on a good day. I learned that lesson the hard way when I wrote Magick & Moonlight, and during the release party I told readers there probably wouldn’t be sequels. I ended up biting my words. Not even two months later, I had ideas for books two and three going.

However, with UYL, I pretty much wrapped up all the angles I could (I answered the questions readers had about the series and the characters in general, and I think it works well).

Here’s a chicken-egg question. Character or plot? Obviously, you have one in mind at the same time you’re thinking of the other, but do you like to give yourself an action outline and more or less follow it? Or do you keep it rather vague and let your characters lead you where they want to go?

I think I am a character-driven storyteller. I try to let the characters guide me as much as possible. If I try to affect the plot too much, it ends up sounding rushed or shallow. I write as many random scenes as possible, and then I fill it in with more character details. I also have to sit down and organize a full outline at some point before I continue writing. But I leave myself open to changes, in case the characters decide to take the story in a different direction.

Many writers and critics lay down prescriptions they think make for producing the best writing. Mark Twain famously suggested, for example, substituting “damn” for every time you want to use “very.”  Do you keep any of those kinds of things in mind as you create?

Have I learned techniques through the years? Of course. I think the key is that I’ve become comfortable with my writing style, yet I always make sure I know my characters deeply. No matter how short or long a story is. Obviously, a reader will never know all the tiny details about a character’s life, but a majority of it is important and will come out naturally on the page.

Some writers like to let the prose pour out, then go back and revise and polish. Others like to refine as they go. Do you belong to one group or the other? Or somewhere in between?

I do a majority of my edits after the story is already written. However, it is hard at times to hush a writer’s internal editor. So, of course, I correct some glaring issues as I go along. As a Libra, I’m always right in the middle on most things.

What’s your most productive time of day/night? Michael Chabon likes to write between about 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. He’s an extreme example, but most of us have our favorite hours. What are yours?

I am a night owl, so my heavy writing often comes out in the wee hours before I go to sleep. I often can’t shut my mind off, so there’s no way I can fall asleep if an idea is ticking away in my brain.

What do you do to clear writing time, and what are the environmental elements you need to do your best work?

Silence is usually helpful, though I have been known to play certain types of music softly in the background. When I’m heavily focused on a project, I try to work a little on an aspect of the book every day until it’s finished, even if I’m only researching.

All right. Here’s one I bet you can’t answer. Who are the three favorite characters you’ve created, and why do they top your list?

Oh, that is tough! I’m going to use two characters from the Heiresses in Love Series. Hands down, I must say Fara Bellamont (Hill) – she appears in all three books – has always been dear to me. Honestly, I think it’s because I’m a lot like her. I can totally relate. The second is Adrienne Hill from Upon Your Love. She is strong and totally fearless, a woman born out of her time (the Victorian era), but also has this secret vulnerability that most people, with the exception of those closest to her, never see. I greatly admire her. I only wish I was so brave.

The final character I need to mention is probably Caitlyn Johnson. She’s a very special young woman who has been through hell and back, but still manages to find enough courage to make a life for herself. She is very special to me. Caitlyn will be featured in a book I’m currently editing, titled Directions of the Heart, a modern romantic drama collection.

You’ve now reached the end not only of a book, but a whole trilogy. What’s next, and what genre will it be?

Well, I’m finishing up the writing on Blood Instincts, a futuristic paranormal romance/urban fantasy. It’s book two in the series. Second Nature, the first novel, came out in December of 2014. Beyond that, I hope to fully focus on a paranormal romantic mystery/thriller collection, Awakening, this year. And with my numerous works in progress, the muse always has a way of surprising me. I’ll just know when the next project comes to me.

Thanks, Marie. I’m grateful for your taking the time to stop in to carlrbrush.com. I enjoyed this interview, but most love your answer to that last question because it demonstrates that you not only create your characters  but live them. They are an organic part of you. Delicious.

Readers, I’m certain, will be hungry for more, so I hope the short bio that follows and links to your many, many publications will help satisfy their appetites.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 25 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several multi-author anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of Endhivar Series.

Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 24 other books. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title – winner of the “Broken Heart” themed contest and the “I Love You” themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers’ Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers’ Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on AuthorsDB.com. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors. Where can you find all this wonderful stories? Just visit the sites below.



Amazon author page: Author.to/MarieLavender