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The Ninth Day

Berkeley, California, 1964. While the Free Speech Movement rages, Hope, a shy, stuttering teen scarred by an accidental LSD trip, plans to keep a low profile. Risk compounds reticence when she meets a time-traveler who claims that Hope must find a way to stop a father from killing his newborn son in 11th century Paris.

Companion novel to award-winning Blue Thread.

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“The story is riveting… and, speaking as someone who was arrested in the Free Speech Movement, the Berkeley sections feel true and authentic.”

—Margot Adler, NPR correspondent

“Reading this book… [reveals] constellations rich with story, myth, and magic.”

—Jen Violi, author of Putting Makeup on Dead People

Ruth's Blog: The Interlace Place



How did it get to be October? No matter. The Janey II guys (yup, all guys as far as I can see) are working away. I am working away. They make their usual construction noises; I make mine.

But then one day last week, I heard a series of screeches that forced me to separate myself from my computer and rush to the window. OK, I didn’t HAVE to. I was ready for a break. Be that as it may, I looked outside at the Janey II crew. And there was this flash. You can see it in the photo, that bright white dot at the corner of the building. Welding. The bond that stays bonded. The union of all unions. Zap!

I strive mightily for such a zap, a flash of literary clarity and beauty that says, “This is exactly what I mean to tell you, dear reader. This is the hub, the gem, the essence, the oh- baby-you’re-so-fine.”  I write hundreds and hundreds of words, and then rewrite two-thirds of them, and then maybe, if it’s a really could week, I might get a mini-flash, the kind that rounds out a scene or describes a character perfectly. […]

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Lay down steel. Pour cement. Repeat. The construction workers on the Janey II are getting up toward the middle of the building. And (ta-dum!) I am getting to the middle on my first draft of Book Three. They’ll have lots of interior work to do eventually, and I’ll have lots of revising. Still, Team J2 and Team B3 are both showing definite signs of progress.

But now our paths diverge. The construction crew aims to erect room after room and floor after floor with a certain sameness that works well with apartment buildings. My aim is to make the middle of Book Three anything but the same old same-old. Middles can be middling if you don’t watch out. The first part of the story has the advantage of newness (NOVELty, as it were), where readers discover who the characters are, where and when they live, and what drives them. The last part has the satisfaction of bringing everything together. […]

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So there I was, at breakfast today, chowing down my regular oatmeal and yogurt on a regular weekday with regular summer weather (unlike the recent scorchers). But something was oddly out of whack. No construction noise. I checked out the window and this is what I saw: lots of steel and concrete and not a living soul. Hey, where’d everybody go?

Builders build. That’s the way things are supposed to work. For months now, that’s what I’ve come to expect from the Janey II crew: five days a week, and sometimes on Saturday, from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. at least. Bonking, banging, clanging, whirring, slamming, whamming, and the occasional BOOM! This morning’s quiet was unnerving.

Builder’s block? The silence reminded me of remarks attributed to Philip Pullman about the dreaded syndrome known as “writer’s block.”

Writer’s block…a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. […]

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