Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Royalettes "It's Gonna Take a Miracle"

The Joy of the Grind

Don't get me wrong. I love the holidays. I love the shopping and the wrapping, the cooking and the family time, and there's nothing like hanging with the kiddo watching A CHRISTMAS STORY or HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS for the hundredth time. But I've had a manuscript to revise, another to complete, and an Art Fact Sheet hanging over my head, and today was my appointed moment to get back to the grind.

I have to admit that I love it. I love starting off my morning with a goal and a purpose. I love ticking off a completed item from my list (the Art Fact Sheet, used in the creation of the book's cover by the publisher's art department, has been put to bed), and most of all, I love getting down to brass tacks and creating. In other words, I love my work, which is a real gift and also a darned good thing, since like most writers, I'm rarely really "off."

What I'm not enjoying is how far behind I've fallen in the past few weeks, which is why I've been so quiet here on the blog. I did want to take a moment, though, to revel in how great it feels to sink my teeth into a nice big bite of the routine.

What are you celebrating today?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

FREE today on #Kindle: Dwight Okita's deliciously quirky novel PROSPECT OF MY ARRIVAL

One of my favorite reads of 2011: Dwight Okita's strange and wonderful The Prospect of My Arrivalis available free for a limited time on Kindle.

I loved this book. The premise is genius, and the beautiful writing totally delivered the goods.

I was intrigued when I saw the trailer. It sounded like "Benjamin Button" meets "What Dreams May Come"; could the author actually pull that off? You're in some very dicey territory, endowing the unborn with a persona. I suspect a lot of editors and agents would look at that and glaze over instantly. Not gonna touch that with a vaccinated cattle prod.

This book is not a no-brainer. It's quirky and delicious. Like ice cream with bacon. But it's also profoundly uncomfortable in places. One moment two loving parents are tucking their child in under a magical lit up ferris wheel mural, the next moment something incredibly dark unfolds. (And here the editor who hoped for an easy trip to the acquisition committee coughed coffee and hit "delete"...) What keeps you reading is the austerely lovely writing and a compulsion to find out what Prospects decision will be when he's presented with the choice to live - or not - in this world that weaves magical realism with dystopian surrealism.

One particular passage that, for me, perfectly sums up THE PROSPECT OF MY ARRIVAL: Prospect asks his mother what happens in the Tunnel of Love, and she says, "It's just a sweet little ride that takes you to a dark place. After a while you get so turned around, you forget what's happening in the world around you. But eventually you come out into the bright light again. The cars are shaped like big swans."

Yeah. What she said. Dwight Okita has committed a valiant act of poetry here, and yes, he pulls it off.

Buy This Book: Coping With Transition, Men, Motherhood, Money and Magic

Transitions. Everyone goes through them, but even when they lead to something wonderful like marriage to the one you love or the welcomed birth of a child, they can be unsettling. Coping With Transition, Men, Motherhood, Money and Magic, edited by Susan Briggs Wright, is a memorable collection of memoirs from women who were born between 1935 and 1960. It was a pivotal era for women, a time when transitions, especially difficult ones, were seldom discussed. Women’s lives, family life, life in general was supposed to resemble the images Norman Rockwell captured on the pretty and serene covers he did for the Saturday Evening Post. The reality was often far different. Messier. Confusing.
Rules were numerous. Young women were cautioned to adhere to certain standards. “My father was strict about who I could go out with,” relates Suzanne Kerr in her memoir titled, Waiting For Marriage, Sex, and My Mother’s Life (In That Order). Suzanne’s dad went on to tell her as she was leaving the nest for college in September of 1962, that if he ever heard of her going to a boy’s apartment, he’d jerk her out of school. (Can you imagine handing down such a mandate to your daughter today?!) Her mother said she should marry a professional man, and oh yes, she should certainly be a virgin. Suzanne chronicles what becomes a long and circuitous path to the altar in a voice that mixes elements of wry humor and rueful irony.  And honesty. It’s the honesty and trueness of each voice in the collection that makes it such a compelling read.
Why do I not remember days, only moments? How do I start … with the end of my life? So begins Sue Jacobson’s haunting memoir, Why Have I Survived You? in which she tells of the loss of a beloved daughter. Donna Siegel begins her memoir, Crossing the Rubicon, with this notable line: Growing into who you are genetically destined to be can cause a lot of problems. Donna was married at 19 and divorced after a lifetime. Somewhere she found the courage to reenter school, to earn her master’s degree, but even better, she lives comfortably now with life’s questions, its mystery. In A Closet: Memories, Meaning, and Sometimes Magic, Mel Gallagher, confides that her closet (of all curious and imaginative places!) and all that it contains has given her insights into her life. Leslie McManis begins her short essay, Growing Up Outside, with this intriguing line: My mother was a forties beauty queen, and then renders the poignant details of an injured childhood, but the accent is on survivorship, not victimhood. What touches a chord throughout this collection is the amount of courage and resilience that was and is still demonstrated by this remarkable group of women. The collection is diverse, covering topics from a husband’s impending retirement to the pursuit of international adoption—at the age of forty-nine, no less. Talk about courage. And there’s long, intimate and wise talk about seizing love and the moment—at sixty-eight from Mary Margaret Hansen. No, she isn’t thirty-five, but she’s still very full of life with so much to do, to share and contribute as you will find out when you read her witty and smart memoir Seven Scenes From Shared Space.
Coping With Transition, Men, Motherhood, Money and Magic is truly a book for women of all ages, and the men who want to understand them—who dare to try! Reading it is like sitting down to have an intimate chat with dear friends and the conversation is one that leaves you feeling satisfied and hopeful. It’s life affirming. It would be great to see this collection digitized for e-readers. It’s perfect for reading on the go. A perfect delight all the way around.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fear and Loathing meets Ironweed in THE LONG DRUNK: a hilarious heroic journey on the skids

I hardly know where to begin. The most off-putting first chapter you'll ever be hooked by? The most offensive protagonist you'll ever love? The most revolting cast of wretches you'll ever stand up and cheer for? I just finished reading THE LONG DRUNK, and I honestly don't know which of us is more appalling: Eric Coyote for writing this bodily-fluid-soaked misadventure or me for loving it.

As a die hard Raymond Chandler fan, I was intrigued by the idea of an "ultra noir" novel about a homeless man in Venice, California who uses Chandler's books as a primer when necessity compels him to solve a mystery.

Coyote very wisely opens with a poetically vivid glimpse of Venice's soft underbelly before plunging us into the unfiltered conversations and filthy hand to mouth existence of Murphy, the damaged anti-hero, and his fallen crew. If I hadn't had that preface - that initial assurance that, yes, this is an incredibly talented writer - I wouldn't have made it through the first chapter.

Murphy, Bones, Dirty Maggie, Legless Joe and an assortment of other beach bums are rounded up by the cops in an effort to shake out any clue in a murder case that's rapidly going cold. When Murphy realizes the $25K reward being offered is the only hope for saving the life of his best friend, he sets out to solve the case. He comes up with clues the same way he scratches out his miserable existence: dint of industry, addled ingenuity and unwavering purpose.

Not a punch is pulled, not a fuck is given, not a politically correct construct is spared. Murphy is on a noble quest, but what makes this character impossible to quit on is the genuine (and heartbreakingly credible) dedication to his friend and the brutal honesty with which he recognizes his own impossibly effed up limitations.

As an editor, there are some passages and technicalities I would have loved to get my hands on, but the storytelling is sure and audacious, and ultimately, as difficult as it is to read at times, the physicality and pathos are exactly what's needed to expose the true soul of this novel: a grittily horrid heroic journey that made me laugh out loud, fight tears, hug my dog and take a long, hot shower.

Highly recommended but not for the prissy.

Buy it on Amazon

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Girl You Should Date

Someone on facebook posted this link, and I had to pass it along. Ha, I think the girl described in this post beats the Proverbs 31 woman hands down! (Oh, the blasphemy of such a statement!)

One of my favorite gems from the post:
If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.
Have fun!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Got Amazon Prime? Read SUGARLAND free!

My sophomore novel, Sugarland, is out of the vault and available to read FREE to Amazon Prime members. If you don't have Amazon Prime, it's one of the best values on the web. I ship all my Christmas gifts from Amazon every year, and it easily earns out the $79 price tag. Now Prime members can borrow one book a month (no due dates) on Kindle, Kindle Fire or Kindle apps.

Read a free sample and borrow or grab the ebook for just $2.99 through January 2012.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Best Laid Plans

As a writer, I am by nature an organic writer--or a "pantser," if you will, meaning that I prefer to feel my was forward one page, one sentence at a time, with plenty of backtracking for course corrections.

By practice, however, I'm forced to be more of a plotter, to organize my ideas for the book long before it's actually written. This allows me to work out kinks in the plot, avoid writing down 150-page blind allies, and sell books on proposal (since I'm an experienced novelist). It's a huge time-saver, allowing me to figure out which ideas have a shot at selling before I've invested the six months to a year it generally takes me to write a book.

But sometimes, it flat-out doesn't work, and I find myself second-guessing all my well-laid plans, reinventing everything beyond the bare bones of the story, and panicking that my pantser-plotter hybrid--a Frankenstein's monster of an amalgamation--will never come to life. This is stressful enough under any circumstances, but when I'm already on a tight deadline and facing the holidays as well, it gets even harder.

Right now is such a time, and only one thing keeps me going, the knowledge that if I keep blundering through the forest, chopping at the bad prose and weak motivations with my blunt-edges hand axe, eventually, I'll find my way into the light. Here's hoping I can manage it before my deadline!

Do you plot ahead, or are you an organic writer? For those of you who work from a synopsis, how often do you find yourself changing your mind as you go along?

Monday, December 05, 2011

A disabled writer's book unfolds a tap at a time

I've been feeling seriously stressed and challenged lately. Reading this story of Peter Winkler, the biographer forced by disability to type out the biography of Dennis Hopper using a single chopstick, reminded me of just how precious our ability to communicate, to touch others through the written word, is. And of the lengths to which some courageous souls will go to achieve it.

Read this and ask yourself, if Peter Winkler didn't give up, how can you? Do you want to achieve your dream this badly? If not, maybe you should move on to the next.

A disabled writer's book unfolds a tap at a time

Get to work! (The Cure "Just Like Heaven")

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Two terrific workshops happening at Beauty and the Book's Girlfriend Weekend

Perfect post-holiday excursion (and you know you'll earn it): Beauty and the Book literacy diva Kathy Patrick, founder/ goddess elect of the internationally known Pulpwood Queens book club, will host the 12th Anniversary Girlfriend Weekend January 12-15.

In addition to the Author Extravaganza and Greatest Show on Earth activities, two terrific workshops are being offered:

You're invited to Kathy's house Wednesday, January 11 for a first time memoir workshop with Robert Leleux, columnist for The Texas Observer and editor of LONNY Magazine in New York. Fee includes lunch and a signed copy of Leleux's latest book, The Living End: A Memoir of Forgiving and Forgetting.

Stay an extra day for a voice workshop with film, television and radio voiceover artist Elaine Clark, author of There's Money Where Your Mouth Is: An Insider's Guide to a Career in Voice-Overs.

For all the information, visit the Beauty and the Book website. Hope to see you there!


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