Oh, Those Accents: Scenes from the Fringe

 Written by Helen Currie Foster

 

Accents! Putting the accent on the right Sy-LLA-ble.

Okay, it was a dream trip–to the Edinburgh Fringe, 400 venues and a thousand dance/song/stand-up/improv/drama acts, each compressed into fifty minutes or an hour. Cabaret–Aussie powerhouses Ali McGregor, Stewart D’Arrietta. Drama I can’t forget: Midsummer, Underground Railroad Game, An Elephant in the Garden. We dashed from one improvised venue to the next (in lecture halls at the medical school, in churches, in large shipping containers). Then we queued, waiting for the doors to open. In every queue, we talked to those in line. “What’s the best thing you’ve seen yet?” In those queues, reserved Brits, silent Scots—they all talked. Shared their favorite shows. Asked, “Where are you from?” So did we, until a tee-shirted organizer gave the signal and we trekked in to find seats

Then—we suspended disbelief.

And reveled in accents.

Especially for the two-woman comedy teams, we reveled, rolled, rollicked in accents. One second: two competitive English upper-class matrons desperately competing for assurance that their volunteer activities had indeed left a beneficent mark on their village. The next second, two competing grandmothers with a new baby that only likes one of the two. Then suddenly, two Sloane Ranger types talking over each other about how they cahn’t stand a third friend’s constant DRAHma. Indeed, Fringe productions offer accents from men, women, Brownie scouts, manics, depressives, all ages and classes, trades and professions, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Yorkshire, Midlands, and London in all its accentual richness. The accents help tell the story: location, backgrounds, expectations. Add in the mobile faces, the roving eyes, the leers, the tight lips, the suggestive eyebrows, and the audience instantly “gets it.”

I was jealous. Jealous! In thirty seconds two women could create an entire scene with a ridiculous plot and leave an audience convulsed with laughter.

Contrast the lonely writer at her kitchen counter. No eyes, lips, voices, accents to help her out. Instead, a blank page. A blank screen. Letters of the alphabet. Prose.

Accents on the page can distract. In Five Red Herrings Sayers could pick just a few expressions for Scottish flavor. “Aye, weel.” But too much written “accent” can drive readers nuts. Instead, writers search for particular word patterns, particular locutions. I’ve tried mining written comments on foreign websites to find a helpful phrase. For example, in one website with comments on UK metal detectorists, I found, repeatedly, “If I’m honest, I’d say…”  I used it for my Scots pub owner.

No question, America has its own accents. The flat delivery and broad a’s of Massachusetts. Garrison Keillor’s earnest Minnesota delivery with its heavily voiced vowels; the South, rich in variety; Texas, offering accents from East Texas, West Texas, Spanglish, the distinctive nasal Houston-born UT coed accent, and more. But how to use them?

We mystery writers take refuge in consistent diction. We listen to the people around us so we can assign our characters a verbal “tell.” Our protagonist speaks like this, thinks like this, but his best friend has different and unique habits of speech. So does the antagonist. Maybe we use some regional expressions, though not every reader will “get” them. When I had a character say he was “horsed off,” a non-Texan was nonplussed. “I didn’t recognize that expression.”  Well, your loss, and now your verbal life is enriched.

Thinking again of improv: like those comedy pairs, we also assign our characters a physical “tell,” a repeated gesture, a posture. A way of hoisting the shoulders, fiddling with fingers, compressing the lips, messing with their hair. We assign clothing. Shoes. Car choices. Tidiness, or untidiness. Age. Eye movement. Yes, we writers have ways to create distinct characters. We do it on the printed page.

Still, it’s hard not to envy the richness of improv, which offers instant recognition of accents, of the implications of the actor’s roving eye, and the interaction between actor and audience. The actor builds the scene by playing off the audience’s reaction.

Lots to enjoy there. Plenty for writers to learn. And besides, it’s great material.

If Fate smiles, if ever you get a chance—take yourself to the Fringe!

 

 

***

Helen Currie Foster is the author of the Alice MacDonald Greer mystery seriesGHOST CAVE, GHOST DOG, GHOST LETTER, and GHOST DAGGER. She earned a BA from Wellesley College, an MA from the University of Texas, and a JD from the University of Michigan.

Having grown up in Texas surrounded by books and storytelling, she taught high school English and later became a prize-winning feature writer for a small Michigan weekly. Following a career of more than thirty years as an environmental lawyer, the character Alice and her stories suddenly appeared in Foster’s life. In her writing, Foster explores the interaction between history and the present and the reasons we tell the stories we do.

Married with two children, she lives north of Dripping Springs, Texas, supervised by three burros. She works in Austin, and she’s active with the Hays County Master Naturalists and the board of Austin Shakespeare.

 

A Dick Francis Race to the Finish

helen-currie-foster-hotxsinc Written by Helen Currie Foster

 Dick Francis wrote over 40 international best-selling mystery thrillers touching the world of horse racing. He won celebrity status as a British jockey, even serving as the Queen Mother’s jockey. In World War II he served in the RAF, flying Spitfires and hurricanes.

2018-08-23 HELEN FOSTER WWW- WIKI - pd - Steeplechase_(1257926029)
By Paul Holloway from Leeds, United Kingdom (Steeplechase) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
Many fans will recognize that he often uses a particular formula. The formula includes a young male protagonist with an offbeat background and some sort of hole in his soul, who winds up solving a murder. Let’s take just three examples: foreign service officer Peter Darwin in Comeback, movie director Thomas Lyon in Wild Horses, and architect/restorer of old buildings Lee Morris in Decider.

Each book uses first-person narrative.

Each man worries about something missing in his life. The young diplomat longs for love. The movie director fears he lacks the courage to take risks and make a movie his way. The architect fears his marriage no longer contains love, but knows he can’t leave his six children.

Francis uses his own jockey experience for horse racing features in each book, though these three protagonists do not race professionally. The foreign service officer, finding himself back in the small English racing village where he grew up, draws on childhood memories of the personalities and scandals of the village’s trainers and owners to find a murderer. The movie director, who grew too tall to race professionally, races real jockeys in his film to convince them he knows what he’s doing, and to persuade the producer to let him create the “wild horses” scene that caps the movie. The architect still owns shares in a decrepit racetrack owned by his vindictive father, who horribly abused the architect’s dead mother, and a cast of cruel and dysfunctional relatives who mistrust the architect. After an uphill fight the architect rebuilds both his family connections and the falling-down racetrack.

Each book depends on meticulous research on arcane subjects. Francis knows how to feed us this information without making us drink from a fire hose. With the diplomat, we try to determine who had both opportunity and skill to kill horses in a vet clinic without being caught—upholstery needles hidden in horse feed, the wrong anesthetic, the wrong blood plasma electrolytes during surgery. With the director, we see his cinematographic skill as he develops the climactic scene he has imagined, a scene revealing the solution to the long-ago death of a horse-trainer’s wife. We stand with him on the beach, filming as Norse horses led by one woman on horseback, her veils streaming, race along the dunes at dawn. With the architect, we determine who blew up the old racetrack stadium, why the proposed plans for a new stadium are bogus, and how to save the racing season with circus tents.

Of course, along the way, we worry with each protagonist. Will the diplomat find love with the bishop’s daughter? Will the director gain confidence enough to make the movie he believes in? Will the architect repair not only the racetrack, but his marriage? Plus, tension builds because in each book the protagonist’s determination to solve a murder imperils himself and/or those he cherishes.

In addition—and it reflects Francis’s genius in character development—Francis aficionados will recognize a recurrent scene in which the protagonist, viciously attacked, turns the other cheek (figuratively) instead of fighting back. This can perplex and frustrate the reader, who longs for revenge and the hero’s vindication. Francis makes us wait. The diplomat, slugged by a vicious horse trainer, backs off and drives away, seemingly cowed. The architect, beaten up by his own estranged family members, doesn’t retaliate. The movie director, after a first knife attack intended to scare him off the movie set, dons a home-made knife-proof vest and keeps filming, knowing he’s inviting further attack.

I think Francis ultimately uses these episodes for two reasons. First, he contrasts the villains’ nefarious motives with the protagonist’s disciplined determination to finish the job, to find the murderer. But the episodes are structural as well: the reader finally understands the protagonist must refuse to fight back specifically so he can maintain his disguise, conceal his knowledge, and succeed in solving the murder. These books aren’t police procedurals. The amateur sleuth protagonists can’t rely on police authority to win. These cheek-turning scenes demonstrate discipline and—ultimately—a gritty desire to win.  The thriller component comes as the protagonist’s desire to win also imperils him or his family.

By the time we’re identifying with the off-beat character (our first-person narrator), wallowing in the wealth of meticulous arcane research around the subplots, and turning pages rapidly to see the narrator safely escape peril—we’re pretty sure this formula works.

***

Helen Currie Foster is the author of the Alice MacDonald Greer mystery seriesGHOST CAVE, GHOST DOG, GHOST LETTER, and GHOST DAGGER. She earned a BA from Wellesley College, an MA from the University of Texas, and a JD from the University of Michigan.

Having grown up in Texas surrounded by books and storytelling, she taught high school English and later became a prize-winning feature writer for a small Michigan weekly. Following a career of more than thirty years as an environmental lawyer, the character Alice and her stories suddenly appeared in Foster’s life. In her writing, Foster explores the interaction between history and the present and the reasons we tell the stories we do.

Married with two children, she lives north of Dripping Springs, Texas, supervised by three burros. She works in Austin, and she’s active with the Hays County Master Naturalists and the board of Austin Shakespeare.

 

Return Journeys — by Helen Currie Foster

 Posted by Helen Currie Foster

Some write left-handed, some right. Some rise early, some stay up late. And in another human dichotomy—some read, and some re-read. We recidivists return over and over to favorite books. Why, when new books abound, waiting to be discovered (here I mention David Malouf’s Ransom), do we rummage the shelves for a book we’ve read and re-read?

Sometimes we want bedtime reading, or, as the Dowager Duchess puts it in Busman’s Honeymoon, disappointed by a recent book, “…will fall back on Through the Looking Glass.

I too “fall back.” I plead guilty to reading and re-reading favorite children’s books and books for adult children. Books that gripped me the first time I read them: Kim, by Rudyard Kipling. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Dark Is Rising trilogy by Susan Cooper, thumbed and re-thumbed. And then mysteries, sagas and spies: Dorothy Sayers, Reginald Hill, James Clavell, John Le Carré—especially Smiley’s People. Watching George Smiley retrace the desperate steps of old Vladimir across Hampstead Heath until he finds the hidden cigarette packet: Moscow rules! Mei-Mei and Struan, dodging pirates while steering a bullion-laden junk down the Pearl River: flaming arrows! Kim, caring for his Tibetan lama, learning the jewel trick in Simla, shouldering the Himalayan foothills as he embarks on the Great Game and with the lama finds the River of the Arrow. Hurree Baba reminding Kim not to use Muslim expressions when wearing Hindu disguise.

Why? One confirmed re-reader says, “I revisit these little worlds. I can’t change the endings. I have no responsibilities.”

Not that these tales teach no lessons. Kim learns love and responsibility. Lucy and her siblings learn hard lessons: stick to instincts, stay loyal and tell the truth—in order to save Mr. Tumnus. Young Will Stanton in The Dark Is Rising bears the responsibility of the four signs on his belt and feels the power of the dark as well as the light.

Happy endings?

Not totally. Children must leave the wardrobe, Struan must await the worst typhoon, Smiley must watch Karla toss Ann’s gold lighter at his feet. No, not happy. Loose ends remain, future threats loom. But we feel again the empowering of the characters as they become equipped for what they must face. We’ve felt again the power of a special world we loved.

But the fellow re-reader says he takes a different journey in re-reading what we call a great novel: “Each time I read a great book, it’s a different book. I see things I didn’t hear before, hear voices I didn’t hear before, experience something I didn’t experience before.”

I re-read To the Lighthouse at least every other year, always captured by Virginia Woolf’s ability to catch in two sentences the very heart of those characters and their relationships. This May I re-read The Waves, where she pushes the novel to a new form in her quest to understand human consciousness. This time Virginia Woolf made me ask myself the same question that Bernard keeps asking in The Waves, about individual consciousness and our collective lives. More on that next time, maybe.

Meanwhile, on to David Malouf’s Ransom. Malouf re-imagines Achilles’ furious grief over the death of his childhood soulmate Patroclus, his retribution on Hector, and then the visit King Priam makes to Achilles, seeking return of his son Hector’s corpse. Maybe Malouf brings this story to such vivid life by showing us how Priam chooses to make the visit in a mule-driven cart instead of a chariot, and learns from the simple mule-driver how to taste an olive, a griddle-cake, how to cool dusty royal feet in a small stream. Maybe he also does it by letting us see childhood through Achilles’ eyes. But no spoilers here.

New books abound, and this one, rooted in one of our oldest shared stories, is so worth reading. Now back to my waiting mystery draft.

***

Helen Currie Foster is the author of the Alice MacDonald Greer mysteriesGhost Cave, Ghost Dog, Ghost Letter, and Ghost Dagger. She practices environmental law in Austin and lives in the Texas Hill Country, where her books are set.

 

Never Mind the Villain!: Dorothy Sayers and Point of View

 Posted by Helen Currie Foster

Okay, you know writers have to make choices. I began writing the Alice MacDonald Greer mysteries from a single point of view—Alice’s. As you all know, whether in first person or third, making this choice in an amateur sleuth mystery requires the writer to figure out how the protagonist can acquire and understand all the necessary clues.

Bronze statue of Dorothy L. Sayers by John Doubleday, located on Newland Street, Witham, England. By GeneralJohnsonJameson [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons
The magnificent Dorothy Sayers instead adopted a disciplined omniscience in her eleven Peter Wimsey mysteries (1923-1937). In the first, Whose Body (1923), we meet not only the main character but his companion investigators: his unflappable butler Mervyn Bunter and Inspector Parker of Scotland Yard, who carry through the entire series (with Harriet Vane appearing in the fifth mystery). These characters both enrich the books and add structural strength. Parker provides the window to the police, while Bunter possesses useful technical skills (photography, testing for arsenic). Furthermore, the companion sleuths (and others) shed light on Wimsey’s character by their own thoughts and observations—necessary because Wimsey, though a chatterbox, is notoriously introverted, plagued by his war experience.

Omniscience also gives Sayers flexibility in setting the opening scene.  In Strong Poison (1931), after the bewigged judge’s dry summation of the evidence against Harriet Vane, we’re privy to reactions not only from Wimsey but also newspaper reporters and the public. Busman’s Honeymoon (1937) opens with letters describing Wimsey’s marriage to Harriet Vane, written to or from unknown society matrons, Peter’s butler Mervyn Bunter, Peter’s prickly sister-in-law Helen, and Peter’s mother. These multiple points of view enliven both openings.

But after such openings Sayers typically narrows point of view to the clue-finders. In Strong Poison we’re mainly in Wimsey’s head, feeling his growing emotional involvement: “Wimsey walked down the dingy street with a feeling of being almost lightheaded.” “For the first time, too, he doubted his own power to carry through what he had undertaken.” Sayers lets us abandon Wimsey to accompany his “team.” We follow the resourceful Bunter into the kitchen of a London mansion where we watch him toast crumpets while eliciting critical evidence from the cook and housemaid:

By what ingratiating means Mr. Bunter had contrived to turn the delivery of a note into the acceptance of an invitation to tea was best known to himself…He had been trained to a great pitch of dexterity in the preparation of crumpets, and if he was somewhat lavish in the matter of butter, that hurt nobody…Nothing goes so well with a hot fire and buttered crumpets as a wet day without and a good dose of comfortable horrors within.

Later our heart pounds with that of Miss Murchison, whom Wimsey has persuaded to take a job as temporary secretary in order to burgle a lawyer’s safe.  “Miss Murchison felt a touch of excitement in her well-regulated heart.” We follow the elderly Katharine Climpson to a village where, she’s promised Wimsey, she must somehow find and read a dying woman’s will: “In a single moment of illumination, Miss Climpson saw her plan complete and perfect in every detail.” And so do we.

Given their moments in the sun these characters develop richly. We feel Miss Murchison’s excited terror as she presses the panel that reveals the safe in the suspect’s office. We feel Miss Climpson’s anxious discipline as she waits for the kettle to steam enough to loosen the glue on the envelope holding the will. We love Bunter’s roast chicken recipe and ability to extract critical detail from the housemaid and cook. And when Wimsey celebrates their information the reader enjoys the teamwork as well:

(Wimsey) “Have you brought us news, Miss Murchison? If so, you have come at the exact right moment…Have you had tea? or will you absorb a spot of something?”

Miss Murchison declined refreshment.

(Wimsey) “Tell us the worst, Miss Murchison.”

Miss Murchison needed no urging. She told her adventures, and had the pleasure of holding her audience enthralled from the first word to the last.

In the earlier (pre-Harriet Vane) Clouds of Witness (1926) we travel to Paris with Inspector Parker, in search of a cat-shaped diamond brooch. After a fruitless day, Parker decides to buy his unmarried older sister “some filmy scrap of lace underwear which no one but herself would ever see.” He finds help in one Parisian shop: “The young lady had been charmingly sympathetic, and, without actually insinuating anything, had contrived to make her customer feel just a little bit of a dog. He felt that his French accent was improving.” Somehow we like Parker even more—a good thing, since later in Clouds of Witness he’ll propose to Wimsey’s sister.

In Have His Carcase (1932), the initial point of view is all Harriet Vane’s: she discovers the grisly body. Then Wimsey arrives, and we follow him as he tracks down alibis (“Wimsey shuddered at the thought of roast mutton and cabbage on a red-hot June day”). At the end, we’re  with Bunter as he doggedly trails a suspect to find the key evidence, then sees the back of a man leaving the movie theater (“He had not followed that back through London for five days without knowing every line of it”). By the conclusion we’ve enjoyed the inner workings of all three minds—Harriet’s, Peter’s, Bunter’sin a way we couldn’t with a single point of view.

However, there’s one point of view Sayers refuses to share, despite her omniscience. Sayers never admits us to the killer’s point of view. We hear dialogue from the killer; particularly where a death was unintended, we hear the killer explain what happened; but Sayers bars us from following the killer’s thoughts.

She’s taken a position consistent with the first rule of The Detection Club which Sayers helped found in 1930: “The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.” (Indeed, she even follows this rule for the accused killer in Clouds of Witness; he’s innocent, but still we never hear his thoughts.)

Many mysteries break this rule (see, e.g., Tony Hillerman’s The Ghost Way (1984), where we enter Vaggan’s mind), sometimes to great effect.

But it’s a rule Sayers kept.

On May 19, 2018, at our Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime meeting, Ed Martin  told in fascinating detail how he helped determine who murdered Madalyn Murray O’Hair, her son John, her adopted daughter Robin, and Danny Fry, a co-conspirator in their murders. As he ended, Ed mentioned that the murderer David Waters had told of a nightmare in which he saw Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s hand sticking up from the grave. Ed said, “No conscience, but he had a nightmare!”

That comment intrigued me. It opened an unwelcome door into the villain’s thoughts. It was already too hard to understand the murders in the first place. Hearing about the nightmare made the O’Hairs’ deaths more painful. And yet—the murderer had had that nightmare. Maybe that’s a different story.

***

Photographic images of covers of Strong Poison and Clouds of Witness taken from personal copies.

***

Helen Currie Foster is the author of the Alice MacDonald Greer mystery seriesGHOST CAVE, GHOST DOG, GHOST LETTER, and GHOST DAGGER. She earned a BA from Wellesley College, an MA from the University of Texas, and a JD from the University of Michigan.

Having grown up in Texas surrounded by books and storytelling, she taught high school English and later became a prize-winning feature writer for a small Michigan weekly. Following a career of more than thirty years as an environmental lawyer, the character Alice and her stories suddenly appeared in Foster’s life. In her writing, Foster explores the interaction between history and the present and the reasons we tell the stories we do.

Married with two children, she lives north of Dripping Springs, Texas, supervised by three burros. She works in Austin, and she’s active with the Hays County Master Naturalists and the board of Austin Shakespeare.

 

 

The Deep Dive

Today Writing Wranglers and Warriors
welcomes a new blogger,
Helen Currie Foster

Posted by Helen Currie Foster

I’m so used to the pressure of fast-moving fiction. “Does this scene advance the action?” “Should I pare down this description?” Now and then I’m reminded, though, of the need to take a dive. A deep, deep dive.

Interconnectedness is not something we always grasp. But in writing, we’re struggling to understand, to make sense of, the interconnections of people, events, timelines. A deep dive into nature can give new vocabulary. The Brits, never slouches at nature-writing, offer some virtuoso examples. One is Robert MacFarlane (The Old Ways, The Wild Places, Landmarks). My copy of The Wild Places is tattered at the back from mad attempts to scribble down just a few of his phrases. For instance, he quotes a friend’s description of the rare moment we’ve each sometimes felt while hiking, climbing, walking: the moment when “the great door, that does not look like a door, opens.” He reminds us that we must remember that “our minds are shaped by our physical experience of being in the world.” He urges exploration of “the undiscovered country of the nearby.”

And he can nail a description. Sleeping out one night in the moonlight he wakes to “millions of lunar photons pelting” onto his face, giving him “an eyeful of silver.” His description places humans right where we belong, on our planet and in the cosmos. A vivid, exact, resonant phrase.

Another deep diver is Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie. In Findings, fascinated one spring in the Orkneys by a pair of nesting peregrines, the male and female sitting separated by a dozen feet on their separate rock ledges, she describes the male: “when the sunlight glanced [on] his undersides they were pale and banded like rippled sycamore.” Yes, the mottled sycamore, silver, tan, gray. How did she seize that phrase, a tree for a bird? It is exact though. I see what she meant.

Salutary, a deep dive into worlds we can’t see. Behavior-changing, even. Never again will I plant a lone tree after reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. He calls trees “social beings,” where most individuals in the same species may share nutrients through their connected root systems. So J.R.R. Tolkien was prescient in describing the slow speech of his Ents at their Ent-moots:  apparently tree roots signal each other not only by chemical compounds sent through the fungal networks around their root tips, but by electrical impulses that travel at very slow tree speed: one/third of an inch per second, instead of the milliseconds humans would register. Beeches, spruce and oaks signal neighbors when bitten. So if an oak is chewed by insects, all oaks in the area begin to pump bitter tannin through their veins.

The Wildlife Management Plan we signed onto out here in northwest Hays County, where live oaks abound, requires planting native trees and oaks other than live oaks. The goal: reduce the risk of oak wilt. So, filled with virtue, we’ve planted one-offs of the chinquapin oak, eve’s lace, osage orange, etc., carefully fenced to prevent the deer from over-browsing. Now we know those trees have been pining (heh) from loneliness. Grab the shovel, sink the fenceposts, stretch the wire! Now the lonesome redbud has a new friend, not too far up the hill, and the lonesome chinquapin is sharing its little fenced enclosure with another chinquapin. Another deep dive into secret worlds. Trees have their own plans, their own slow conversations, their own social policies.

I’m seventeen, standing at the end of the diving board at Barton Springs, staring down at the bluegreen water. Yes, so clear, but also opaque. A brilliantly bluegreen surface, reflecting live oaks, bird flight, the endless blue sky of summer. Just a few feet out, the water shivers and shimmers, the only clue that from the door twelve feet down, opening the limestone floor of the springs, millions of gallons of water surge up to feed this pool.  A stray cumulus cloud passes over the sun as, one jump, two jumps, I dive, as deep as I can, until my face hits the uprush of water power, bubble power, shooting up from the door in the floor.

It’s a secret world, the water below the surface. The feel of that water opens the door to thinking about the depth of limestone with its chutes and ladders, cracks and fractures, caves and crannies, beneath Austin. This karst world holds such surprise that I could only blink when a matter-of-fact City of Austin employee—charged with spelunking and mapping the water channels—announced that though we’re in the Colorado River watershed, sinkholes in the bottom of the Blanco send water out of the Guadalupe watershed and all the way to Barton Springs.

At my back I always hear the reader’s impatience hovering near. But I long for the deep dive, the sitting still to watch and listen and wonder, and for a resultant precise resonant description that might connect a character with this minute and also cosmic star-time. Even, or especially, in a murder mystery.

***

Helen Currie Foster is the author of the Alice MacDonald Greer mystery series: GHOST CAVE, GHOST DOG, GHOST LETTER, and GHOST DAGGER. She earned a BA from Wellesley College, an MA from the University of Texas, and a JD from the University of Michigan.

Having grown up in Texas surrounded by books and storytelling, she taught high school English and later became a prize-winning feature writer for a small Michigan weekly. Following a career of more than thirty years as an environmental lawyer, the character Alice and her stories suddenly appeared in Foster’s life. In her writing, Foster explores the interaction between history and the present and the reasons we tell the stories we do.

Married with two children, she lives north of Dripping Springs, Texas, supervised by three burros. She works in Austin, and she’s active with the Hays County Master Naturalists and the board of Austin Shakespeare.

***

Photo of rock climbing via Good Free Photos, CC0 10, public domain.
Photo of peregrine falcon via Good Free Photos, CC0 1.0, public domain.
Photo of Barton Springs, Austin, TX courtesy of M. K. Waller,