Posts tagged with “What I’m Reading”


Friday, 1 September, 2006


Feeling a little anxious today. Turning the new project in on Tuesday and right now I am finding a million and one things wrong with it. Tomorrow I’ll love it and Sunday I’ll go back to hating it. Monday I’ll be ambivalent and Tuesday just before I email it to my reps, I will think it’s the best thing since chunky peanut better and snow-white KEDS. Not together. Separate and apart.

And since we’re talking about sneakers, you haven’t seen anything if you don’t know about THESE. I mean, really, how fly is UNDRCRWN anyway? Besides being hip, old school and ahead of the curve, they come in a black velvet jewelry box. So, if you don’t know, now you know.

Anyway, I can tell I’m anxious because I’m craving comfort food like a fiend. My mom showed me how to whip up SMOTHERED STEAK during my visit so I made it last night. The Crown Prince was horrified but by the time the rice finished cooking he was standing in the kitchen, with Kobe behind him, wondering if there was enough for him. But, what, I ask, is steak and gravy without a peach pie for dessert? You have to take it all the way to the wall when you fall off your nutrition plan so I baked the pie while waiting for my manuscript to print out. My anxiety attacks don’t last long, thank goodness. Otherwise, my friend, I’d be big as a house.

So, we’ll file this new book under the category of SHITTIEST TITLE I’VE SEEN IN A LONG, LONG TIME. I mean, really, why is all that necessary? And the subtitle is just as nuts. THIS IS NOT CHICK LIT: ORIGINAL STORIES BY AMERICA’S BEST WOMEN WRITERS. Really? Says who? I’m not in there and I think I can string together a mean motherfucking sentence. (Okay, not that sentence but you get the idea). Are there only 18 BEST WOMEN WRITERS IN AMERICA? Why not 27? Or 11? Or 992? America’s a big place. There might be 18 in Maine. . ., no, that doesn’t sound right either. There might be 18 in Bangor, Maine. No, shit, that’s too limited as well. Okay, look, there might be 18 in a three block radius in Bangor, Maine or maybe in a five block radius but I would still. . .

When the EDITOR came up with her list how did she narrow it down to those women. What was the formula for “black, white and Puerto Rican?” What about if you set your hair with rollers at night instead of working a perm? Did they all have to own library cards? Drive a Prius? And what about the whole issue of shaving your legs versus waxing? I mean, since we’re being so arbitrary where do those writers fall on the “like men with comb-overs” versus the “I like a man who can rock a bald head” school of thought. And, how, must I ask did Merrick just decide she was “literary?” Can we give ourselves titles? We can? Well, gotdamn, nobody told me. From now on I am Nichelle D. Tramble, Queen of the Universe.

Where’s Z.Z. Packer? Where’s Emily Raboteau? Where’s Elizabeth Gilbert? Where’s Grace F. Edwards? Edwards writes a mystery series these days but she still comes to play. Does the fact that she writes genre fiction automatically disqualify her? What about Ellen Gilchrist? Tayari Jones? Naomi Hirahara? T. Greenwood? Or, well, you get the picture? I admit to being a fan of nearly every writer involved in the anthology – and it’s a pretty impressive list of women – but that title and the motivation behind it is some bullshit.

If you want to read more, here’s a REVIEW and here is some DISCUSSION. And an opposing anthology, THIS IS CHICK LIT hits stores soon. You know, like an answer record from the early days of hip-hop but since we’re on the subject, I want all the women involved in this dust-up to remember the East Coast/West Coast rap battles and take it down a notch. That shit ended bad for everybody involved.

Now before I competely go off the deep end and bake another pie while throwing manuscript pages from the roof of my house, check out my girl PAULA, then have a safe weekend.

Until next time. . .


Thursday, 31 August, 2006


Back in Los Angeles. Looking to turn in the project on Tuesday once everyone returns from their holiday weekend. The Crown Prince and I drove back from the Bay Area yesterday. According to him we have our “best dates” on HIGHWAY 5. Hadn’t thought of it that way but it’s true. We laughed the whole time, told old stories and listened to the most random CD ever compiled.

My visit to the Bay was productive as always. I got a lot of writing done, spent time with my niece, my mother and my girlfriends. I also finished THE STOLEN CHILD by KEITH DONOHUE and I loved every minute of it. Great book.

Anyway, my first day back in town I headed straight for the library. I had another big batch of books waiting. Here’s what I got. . .

THE KEEP by JENNIFER EGAN. Opening: “The castle was falling apart, but at 2 a.m. under a useless moon, Danny couldn’t see this. What he saw looked solid as hell: two round towers with an arch between them and across that arch was an iron gate that looked like it hadn’t moved in three hundred years or maybe ever.” — Read a full excerpt HERE.

THE NIGHT GARDENER by GEORGE PELECANOS. Opening: “The crime scene was in the low 30s around E, on the edge of Fort Dupont Park, in a neighborhood known as Greenway, in the 6th District section of Southeast D.C. A girl of fourteen lay in the grass on the side of a community vegetable garden that was blind to the residents whose yards backed up to the nearby woods. There were colorful beads in her braided hair. She appeared to have died from a single gunshot wound to the head.” — EXCERPT.

CORONADO: STORIES by DENNIS LEHANE. Opening: “This thing with Blue and the dogs and Elgin Bern happened a while back, a few years after some of our boys – like Elgin Bern and Cal Sears – came back from Vietnam, and a lot of others – like Eddie Vorey and Carl Joe Carol, the Stewart cousins – didn’t. We don’t know how it worked in other towns, but that war put something secret in our boys who returned.” — EXCERPT.

JUMP AT THE SUN by KIM MCLARIN. (Thanks Miss Val for the heads up). Opening: “My mother says: Be careful what you do on New Year’s Day. Be careful because you’ll find yourself repeating those actions for the rest of the year. New Year’s Day is a template, a groove worn in twenty-four short hours, and thereafter impossible to escape. If you wake to find yourself licking the bathroom tiles, look forward to a year of drunkenness.” — EXCERPT.

MAKE HIM LOOK GOOD by ALISA VALDES RODRIGUEZ. Opening: “Fabulous, sweetie. I’m wearing super-tight Rock & Republic jeans with heels – expensive heels, okay? We’re talking Dolce & Gabbana, with a sparkly gold bikini top. and I feel fabulous. From my bleached, blown-out hair to my perfectly white manicured toenails (and coco-brown tanned feet) fa-bu-lous, or, as we say here in Miami, Spanglish capital of the world: requete, pero requete fabulosa.” — AUTHOR’S BLOG. (Check back for an excerpt).

DIE A LITTLE by MEGAN ABBOTT. Opening: “Later, the things I would think about. Things like this: My brother never wore hats. When we were young, he wouldn’t wear one even to church and then my grandmother would force one on his head. As soon as he could he would tug it off with soft, furtive little boy fingers. They made his head hot, he would say. And he’d palm the hat and run his fingers through his downy blond hair and that would be the end of the hat.” — EXCERPT.

LOST HEARTS IN ITALY by ANDREA LEE. Thanks to ARLENE for the heads up). Opening: “The call comes three or four times a year. Always in the morning, when Mira’s husband and the children have left the house, and she is at work in her study, in the dangerous company of words – words that are sometimes docile companions and other times bolt off like schizophrenic lovers and leave you stranded on a street corner somewhere. There are moments when Mira, abandoned in the middle of a paragraph, sits glaring furiously out past the computer at the chestnut trees in her hillside garden and the industrial smudge of Turin below in the distance and the Alps beyond.” – -

REMEMBERING JODY by RANDY SUE COBURN. (I recently enjoyed her second novel, OWL ISLAND). Opening: “I’ve never understood what people fall in love with – or what they protect after they do – if they don’t first fall in love with each other’s stories. Most of my own stories hinge on what I like to think of as rhyming events, and if somebody responds to one of them as nothing more than an interesting coincidence, I make up my mind pretty quickly that love isn’t going to be much of an issue between us.” — EXCERPT.

LUCKY GIRLS by NELL FREUDENBERGER. Freudenberger has been MUCH IN THE NEWS lately. And don’t forget the SITTENFELD article that started it all. Opening: “I had often imagined meeting Mrs. Chawla, Arun’s mother. It would be in a restuarant, and I would be wearing a sophisticated blue suit that my mother had sent me soon after I moved to India, and Mrs. Chawla would not be able to keep herself from admiring it. Of course, in those fantasies Arun was always with me.” — READ MORE.

EVERY SECRET THING by LILA SHAARA. Opening: “I had a dream on the clammy November day I turned thirty three. I was standing on the edge of a cliff, talking to my deceased grandmother. I was saying something to her to the effect that I was undecided about taking the plunge off the cliff. She looked at me with some disgust, grabbed my wrist fiercely, and flung me off the edge, saying, “It’s too late, honey, you’re already falling.” — EXCERPT.

THE PARTY PLANNER by DAVID TUTERA. Until next time. . .


Monday, 21 August, 2006


Alright, people, we’re back with another episode of WHAT’S ON YOUR DESK?

On the hotseat today is STEPHANIE LEHMANN, author of YOU COULD DO BETTER. Lehmann BLOGS over at HISTORY OF TELEVISION. You can also check her out at MOMLIT and read an EXCERPT from YOU CAN DO BETTER.

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My desk is a disgusting mess covered with piles of papers dating back to projects long ago finished or given up on. And on top of my desk I have a hutch that has more papers, various office supplies, magazines I think will have some relevance to me one day such as a TV Guide from 2002 with the SEX AND THE CITY girls on it. Also on the hutch I have a picture of my kids, my sister, a furry Tweetie Bird pencil holder, a Mickey Mouse shaped rice crispy treat from our last trip to Disneyworld that really should be thrown out, a row of books that are part of my collection of vintage young adult books from the 50s and 60s, the empty box that my digital camera came in, various extra reading glasses (most of them with broken hinges), various small boxes that hold things like high school photos of people I haven’t spoken to since, well, high school, a glass deco jar that used to be my grandmother’s (empty), a pink clay thing in the shape of a heart my daughter made that says “I love mom,” a Starbucks gift certificate my son gave me for Mother’s Day, a box of tic tacs, a small clock in the shape of a TV (that doesn’t work), two pieces of marzipan, a fake door sign that says “Dr. Zelda Fingerman” on it (a prop from a play of mine that was produced about 7 years ago) and I could go on, but I’m sure I’ve horrified enough people as is. Oh, and somewhere amidst the chaos is my computer.”

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So, here’s a little quiz I borrowed from TAYARI’S BLOG. It took me over two weeks to come up with these answers. I couldn’t decide on a few, changed my mind on others, you know the drill. Anyway, send me some of your answers if you feel so inclined.

One book that changed your life.

SARAH PHILLIPS by ANDREA LEE. I read this back in 1985 and it just blew my mind. It was the first time I’d read a book in which a young, Black woman had lost her way but was still insisting, in a haphazard way, to forge the life she wanted even if it didn’t make sense to other people. I cherished this book and the opening chapter – where Sarah Phillips lives like a slacker in Paris – made me realize that the world was way bigger than I’d ever thought. I’m using simple language here but Sarah Phillips was so different and counter to anything I’d been assigned in school that I took it as Bible. Previous to this work by Lee, everything (to me at least) felt like a slave narrative, southern field stories, civil rights diatribes, etc. etc. etc. Nothing felt familiar to a California girl who’d gown up on a small town island. While searching for info on Lee, I came across a webcast that has LEE and JAMAICA KINCAID IN CONVERSATION.

One book that you’ve read more than once.

That’s easy. THE GREAT GATSBY. Fitzgerald is my favorite author and I read at least one of his book every summer. GATSBY is the one I go back to most often, but TENDER IS THE NIGHT comes in a close second. On the pop culture front, I’ve read Anne Rice’s THE WITCHING HOUR four or five times. Actually, reading that excerpt made me want to pick it up again. I didn’t like the two (or three) sequels to the Mayfair Series but that first book is a slam dunk.

One book you’d want on a desert island.

My maternal and paternal family history that has yet to be written. There’s so much I want to know but the old folks still keep A LOT of secrets.

One book that made you laugh.

THE WISHBONES by Tom Perrotta. Here’s an EXCERPT. Not sure if this bit is actually funny but the book was so dead-on to a particular kind of guy that I laughed all the way through. Perrotta also wrote ELECTION which was made into that hilarious movie starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon.

One book that made you cry.

Ya’ll know I am all-day sucker and it doesn’t take much to make me cry. (Case in point, the opening sequence in last night’s episode of RESCUE ME. Whew!) But two recent books that brought out boxes of Kleenex were WHAT REMAINS by Carole Radziwill and THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion. Here’s the PROLOGUE to Radziwill’s book. If you’re a softee (like me) don’t read at work.

One book that you wish you had been written.

There are actually quite a few of these. I am just in awe of writers when they’re at the top of their game. And, of course, there are the blockbusters turned into movies, translated into 98 languages, assigned in schools, located at every airport, that guarantee the author financial easy street that might not be bad to have written for the monetary gain alone, but if I was held at gunpoint I would have to pick THE GREAT GATSBY, or maybe THE SUN ALSO RISES or maybe THE BLUEST EYE or maybe REBECCA or maybe. . .

One book that you wish had never been written.

Seriously, not being a chicken, but I could not think of one. Any book that is just that awful I probably never finished. Though I do have to confess that I recently picked up a popular title that had been paired with THE LAST KING a couple of times. The author commentated during the Kobe Bryant rape trial which, wrongly, led me to believe that he/she had something to say. WRONG. Man-o-man I just can’t understand how that book got published, how the author got a second deal, how he/she manages to get speaking engagements. Makes no sense, but, to borrow an overused expression, “don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

One book you’re currently reading

LIT RIFFS. Cool concept.

One book you’ve been meaning to read.

INTIMATE ENEMIES: THE TWO WORLDS OF BARONESS DE PONTALBA by Christina Vella. This has been on my shelf forever and the story is so intriguing. Here’s an EXCERPT.

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Lastly, I am in the Bay Area writing and spending time with my niece before she starts sixth grade next week. This is a big transition and I wanted to be here for her. Yesterday we hung out with my mom all day and it has to go down as one of the best days in the history of my life. Nothing special. Just the three of us driving around talking and laughing. She and I cooked dinner (she’s a great sous chef) for my mom and sister and it turned out great. Pretty fancy stuff for an eleven year old but she rolled with the punches.

In gratitude my sis made me an old school mix-tape (mix-CD?) that she dubbed “YOU KNOW YOU TRIPPIN’ NOW.” The title made me laugh and the first song, TEENA MARIE’S YOUNG LOVE made me realize she was telling the truth. She followed that up with PRINCE’S “THE BALLAD OF DOROTHY PARKER” which was a favorite of an old, stanky boyfriend. Some sense of humor, huh? Great title.

Until next time. . .


Tuesday, 15 August, 2006


Believe it or not, I haven’t unpacked my books since I moved into the new place way back in February. There are 18 boxes loaded to the brim with hardbacks, paperbacks, cookbooks, old magazines and Advanced Reading Copies. Bookcases – the only thing I haven’t been able to find on CRAIGSLIST – are either too expensive, too clunky, too dark, the wrong size or just plain ugly. I hate not having my books all around me. Their presence makes me feel like I am living with a bunch of good friends. The place feels bare without them hanging about and chatting amongst themselves. So, this afternoon, while taking a break I pulled out a random box and grabbed the first 11 books I could grab. Here’s what I found. . .

MILK by EMILY HAMMOND. First paragraph: “I wake and remember. A rushing sound, leaves being chased. Wind, and moaning. It’s the middle of the night at the Alta Vista, the residential hotel I took for a bed-and-breakfast. No couples making love here. People in pain, crying in their sleep. At the end of the hall lives an old man attached to an oxygen tank; he watches TV, watches me whenever I pass by, nodding and letting his breathing mask slip a little, like a gentleman tipping his hat.”

BREAKUP: THE END OF A LOVE STORY by CATHERINE TEXIER. The opening: “I will never forgive you. I don’t love you anymore. I will never make love to you again. Sometimes it’s best to perform the surgery without anesthesia, a clean cut, in and out, not a drop of blood, carve out the cancer. Sometimes the most cruel words hit home like a bullet. Sometimes the most cruel words are the most merciful. This morning when I empty the dishwasher, the pastel-colored Fiestaware sings in the gray light of a rainy morning. The cafe au lait in the bowl tastes of France. The yellow of the enamel table, the turquoise of the Nugahyde chairs. The bleached-blond maple of the kitchen cabinets. Colors and textures that I love, that I have picked myself. The solidity of the morning ritual.”

DISTANCE FROM THE HEART OF THINGS by ASHLEY WARLICK. The opening: “Edisto River starts somewhere up about Batesburg, South Carolina, starts itself up like a forest fire or a thread of cancer, pulling down through the flats and the orchards, through the hogs and the Herefords and the smell of rotten peaches in the sun. It will be cancer that finally puts my grandfather Punk in the ground, cancer like fine barbed wire they’ll keep pulling from his cheek and jaw for too many years of tobacco. He used to grow his own in the back parts of the pastures, down where the river snakes over his land. He cured it himself with cow dung.”

SWIMMING SWEET ARROW by MAUREEN GIBBON. The opening: “When I was eighteen, I went parking with my boyfriend Del, my best friend June, and her boyfriend Ray. What I mean is that June fucked Ray and I fucked Del in the same car, at the same time.”

SHOOTERS by TERRILL LEE LANKFORD. The opening: “They say history is written by the victors, the winners. Not this time. This bit of history will be chronicled by one of the greatest losers of all time, namely- me. But trust that you will receive the unfiltered truth, as only a true loser could deliver. Untarnished by the need to appear heroic in any way, shape, or form. I want to explain it all to you. Every last grimy detail. Every notion, every weak moment. I feel I owe it to you.”

THE PIRATE’S DAUGHTER by ROBERT GIRARDI. The opening: “Coming home from work one Monday evening in August, Wilson Lander found two tarot cards face up on a side street of the out-of-the-way neighborhood where he lived. They were the Emperor and the Page of Wands. In the peculiar light of that hour, the cards seemed to glow with hidden meaning, two bright rectanlge against the dull brick pavement.”

SOME GIRLS by KRISTIN MCCLOY. The opening: “She remembered leaving home as if it had happened to someone else, how she had wanted to stretch in the front seat while Paula drove her to the airport, wanted to fling her arms out and behind the seat, back arched, but she hadn’t because her sister would see. Would see and maybe guess what she was thinking – that she was better than this. That life was bigger than Alamogordo, than El Paso, than New Mexico, even bigger than Texas.”

THE APPLE’S BRUISE: STORIES by LISA GLATT. The opening (from the short story DIRTY HANNAH GETS HIT BY A CAR): “Hannah lives in a Southern California beach city without sidewalks, with lawns and flowerbeds that go right down to the curbs, and today, because it is Monday, trash day, those curbs are lined with fat green bags and reeking metal bins. And today, because her parents are fighting, she will walk across the street, stand on Erika Huff’s porch, and knock on the front door. And today, because Erika is sick, Hannah will walk to school alone.”

GHOST OF A FLEA by JAMES SALLIS. The opening: “After awhile I got up and walked to the window. I felt that if I didn’t say anything, if I didn’t think about what had happened, didn’t acknowledge it, somehow it might all be all right again. I listened to the sound of my feet on the floor, the sounds of cars and delivery vans outside, my own breath. Whatever feelings I had, had been squeezed from me. I was empty as a shoe. Empty as the body on the bed behind me.”

AN UNFINISHED LIFE by MARK SPRAGG. The opening: “The sapwood snaps and shifts in the low-bellied stove, and the heat swells up against the roofboards and weathered fir planking, and whole small building seems to groan.”

DANCE REAL SLOW by MICHAEL GRANT JAFFE. The opening: “Calvin eats dirt. He never actually swallows it, just places loose clumps onto his tongue and sucks, I think. It reminds him of the powder I sprinkle into his milk – dark, chocolaty. Often, I grab the back his head, forcing him to spit it out, squeezing his tongue like an anchovy and stroking it with the corner of my shirt. Mostly, I worry he may choke on a stone or stick, like his afternoon, where I found him coughing, hacking up muddy phlegm that clung like a web to his lower lip. I reached into his mouth, hard, pulling out a twig pressed against his uvula. He knows better, my son, but he is still young and needs to be watched.”

Until next time. . .


Monday, 24 July, 2006


Great interview with GEORGE PELECANOS. Completely agree with his take on the N-word in Tarantino films, particularly in PULP FICTION. The Crown Prince has always maintained that the JULES WINNFIELD character, as portrayed by SAMUEL L. JACKSON, would’ve busted somebody in the mouth for such careless usage. THE NIGHT GARDENER is the latest from PELECANOS. Thanks to SARAH for the link.

Nikki Finke has an interesting take on NINA JACOBSON’S FIRING over at Disney. FINKE references DAWN STEEL, a producer I worked for back in the 90s. Here’s a PICTURE of Steel on the cover of her book, THEY CAN KILL YOU, BUT THEY CAN’T EAT YOU. I’d read the book before I moved to Los Angeles, I knew Steel’s reputation, but it was still intimidating to meet her in person. IS THAT A GUN IN YOUR POCKET: WOMEN’S EXPERIENCE OF POWER IN HOLLYWOOD continues where Steel’s book leaves off. It even includes her final years when she battled a brain tumor. Both are interesting reads.

Just got back from a hellacious trip to the Bay Area. The power blew in my mom’s town and it was 101 degrees INSIDE the house. We were in a blackout from 4p.m. Saturday afternoon until 7 a.m. Sunday morning. I think I might have cried. Kobe was miserable but we all made it through. The drive home along highway 5 included three raging roadside fires and a blaze in the grapevine. I have never been so excited to see my own four walls in my life. Despite all the drama, I was able to get some writing done and even more editing. The book is changing once again but it feels more full-bodied and honest this time around. We shall see.

I also managed to read two new books while on the six hour trip. On the way up, THE BAD BOY’S WIFE by KAREN SHEPARD kept my attention from Los Angeles to Berkeley. Just loved it. The publisher did her no favors with that title (or the cover) but I urge you to look past both. Years ago, Shepard published one of my favorite SHORT STORIES in the Atlantic Monthly but this is the first novel I’ve read by this author. I just put in a request for DON’T I KNOW YOU and AN EMPIRE OF WOMEN at my local library.

On the way back, I jumped into KING OF LIES by JOHN HART. Southern murder mystery in the vein of John Grisham and Greg Iles. Perfect summer book. PAT CONROY blurbed KING OF LIES as well as BACK TO WANDO PASSO by DAVID PAYNE Payne wrote EARLY FROM THE DANCE which I’ve read twice. During my years at the WILLIAM MORRIS AGENCY, there was a huge push to get that book turned into a film but nothing ever came of it. Anyway, I just cracked open BACK TO WANDO PASSO. Here’s an EXCERPT to help you pass the time.

In other news, the Author Q&A will resume in a couple weeks. From here on out, I’ll post them once or twice a month. We still have some great folks coming up but with two deadlines the editing and formatting take up too much of my time.

Also, here are a couple cool new websites to add to your BLOGLINES.

INSIDE A BLACK APPLE is the blog of an artist that I found on another site. Her work is perfect for my nieces and the prices are beyond reasonable. I bought THIS for the 11-year-old aspiring writer in my family. And THIS for one of my best friends, my phone buddy.


I READ A SHORT STORY TODAY is the blog of a fella that reads a new short story every single day. Gotta love that.

And SCRIPT RADAR which tracks Hollywood script sales.

Lastly, my favorite mystery writer, JAMES LEE BURKE, has a new title, PEGASUS DESCENDING out this month. And GCC Author JENNIFER LYNN BARNES is on tour with her young adult novel, GOLDEN. She blogs HERE.

Until next time. . .


Thursday, 18 May, 2006


ACE ATKINS’ new novel, WHITE SHADOW getting GREAT REVIEWS. I just recieved my signed copy in the mail and I can’t wait to crack it open. Ace and I will finally meet in person (we’ve been email buds since 2000 when he blurbed THE DYING GROUND) when he arrives on the WEST COAST for his book tour.

Made it to the library (or “Chelle’s crack house” as the Crown Prince has dubbed it) just before I left town and I got a stack of new books. I frequent used book stores on a regular basis but I usually rely on the library when trying out a new author. A couple weeks back I read a review of Brian Shawver’s AFTERMATH and promptly put in an order. Here’s an EXCERPT and a Q&A with the author. On a side note, the NAN A. TALESE imprint does a great job with their author and catalog pages.

Also got Marti Leimbach’s DANIEL ISN’T TALKING. (Also, a TALESE book). Hadn’t read anything about it but it looked tasty sitting there on the new book shelf. I was a big fan of Diane Hammond’s GOING TO BEND so I’m looking forward to her latest, HOMESICK CREEK. Here’s an EXCERPT. I’ve been on the waiting list for Denise Nicholas’ FRESHWATER ROAD which has also received solid reviews. Elizabeth McKenzie’s STOP THAT GIRL has a funnier cover than the one shown on the Random House page. The first story reminded me of Ellen Gilchrist’s RHODA MANNING.

JAMES SALLIS’ novel CYRPESS GROVE opens with these evocative lines, “I heard the jeep a half mile off. It came up around the lake, and when it hit the bend, birds took flight. They boiled up out of the trees, straight up, then, as though heavy wind had caught them, veered abruptly, all at once, sharp right. Most of those trees had been standing forty or fifty years. Most of the birds had been around less than a year and wouldn’t be around much longer. I was somewhere in between.” The sequel to CYPRESS GROVE is CRIPPLE CREEK.

And though I am embarrassed to admit this, I have never read HENRY JAMES. I know, I know, shame on me. I am trying to fix that problem by starting with THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. I queried a few reader friends, and they were split down the middle between THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY and WASHINGTON SQUARE so I flipped a coin. On the fantasy front, THE STOLEN CHILD looks like a promising summer title.

We also have a new release by GCC author ALISON PACE. PUG HILL is Pace’s second novel after IF ANDY WARHOL HAD A GIRLFRIEND. She blogs about both books, her dog, the writing life and GREY’S ANATOMY HERE.

Don’t forget that applications are being accepted for the DISNEY WRITING FELLOWSHIP. Give it a shot! Also, have you guys ever been over to MOSTLY FICTION? It’s worth checking out when you’re looking for new books.

Until next time. . .


Tuesday, 18 April, 2006


Nice Southern California weather today but I tried to stay focused on my writing. Didn’t work. I tagged along with the Crown Prince to a meeting in Beverly Hills. I didn’t actually go to the meeting with him but I did occupy myself by window shopping, grabbing a long lunch – alone – and reading a magazine at a cafe. I didn’t beat myself up about the procrastinating, I just relaxed and enjoyed the sunshine. It worked. I came home and picked up the computer, my note pad and the comments I’d received about the latest writing project.

Anyway, while reading ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY I came across the review of SEBASTIAN JUNGER’S new book, A DEATH IN BELMONT. This is from the review:

“In the fall of 1962, when Junger was 1, his parents hired three men to build an addition to their home in Belmont, Mass. One of them, a blue-collar fireplug with a pompadour and an easy smile, was ALBERT DESALVO, who later confessed to being the Boston Strangler. A photo taken at the time shows Junger’s mother holding her infant son, smiling at the camera alongside DeSalvo and another worker. It’s a haunting image – the kind of random collision of time and place that leads one to believe in fate.”

That last line, the one about the “random collision of time and place” triggered a childhood remembrance of a funeral I attended with my mother and grandmother as a little girl. Like most memories it manages to be both hazy and vivid. I can’t remember, and neither can a single person in my family, why I wasn’t in school that day, and why I attended the funeral in the first place but I do remember wearing a dress. A dark blue dress. In the south that my mother and grandmother were raised in, women DID NOT/DO NOT wear pants to funerals or church, red to weddings, or eat while walking down the street, so the dress is a given but not the color. I remember the color for one simple reason – it was as close to the color black as I would get until I left home. My grandmother didn’t believe in young girls wearing black which is why I was denied a black prom dress but that’s another story.

Anyway, after slipping on the dress I jumped into my grandmother’s car and she proceeded to drive “like a bat out of hell” across the BAY BRIDGE into San Francisco’s FILLMORE DISTRICT. We entered a standing room only church but managed, somehow, (my grandmother was nearly six foot tall and she INSISTED on wearing heels and giving commands) to get seats up toward the front. The service was for a woman I didn’t know – a friend of my grandmother’s – so I felt no real attachment to the proceedings but the organ music (which still makes me sad) actually made me tear up a couple times.

But what I remember most about the service was the anger and fury that crashed off my mother and grandmother in big, looping waves. It was so hot there between the two of them that by the time we left I was drenched in sweat. Neither of them said anything beyond a whispered, “What kind of shit is this?” but my grandmother tapped her foot in a rhythmic cadence that just screamed out I’M ANNOYED, NO, I’M FURIOUS. I didn’t know why the two of them were so angry but I do remember wondering why everyone in the church was black yet the preacher was white and wearing sunglasses. In a family where a red dress at a wedding is cause for rioting, those sunglasses made me feel as if the choir was going to come out in hot pants. Once the service ended my mother nearly dislocated my shoulder pulling me up by one arm and out of the pew. On the way home the conversation in the car was filled with peppery dialogue and raw, salty language that included tasty bon mots such as “that shifty, untrustworthy m*th*r*uc**r sitting up there like some kind of king.”

It was a strange afternoon, one my mother talked about with my father until the wee hours of the night. Eventually, I forgot about the funeral but I never forgot the hot, cramped feeling of that church, the general creepiness of the afternoon, or the anger that made me feel as if another person was squeezed into the pew with us. Years later, it all made sense when my mother turned on the news and screamed for me to come out of my room. I joined her on the couch, and she kept pointing at the television and saying, “You remember him, baby? You remember when me and mama took you to that funeral in San Francisco? Remember that man? Of course, That Man turned out to be JIM JONES, founder of PEOPLE TEMPLE and the architect of the JONESTOWN MASSACRE.

I was stunned. It was the first time I realized that adults didn’t always know what they were doing and worst then that I got a stark, no-holds-barred VISUAL that proved that mothers and fathers sometimes hurt their kids. Until that point, the idea had never occurred to me and didn’t really seem possible. Sure there were bad parents in my neighborhood, and in my own family, but I’d never encountered anything as terrifying as hearing the newscasters report that parents had poured the Kool-Aid for their own kids. It rocked my world. Was it possible that adults didn’t really know shit and couldn’t be trusted? It was too much to process at the time but an ice-cold seed of fear and panic planted itself in my stomach that day. It also matched what I’d experienced during the service, and mimics the internal signals I get now when I’m around people, or in situations, that read as big, red warning flags.

I’ve never written about this before though I’ve talked about it a few times with friends. It’s hard to translate. Words fail me. “Ice-cold ickiness” is too juvenile to describe exactly what I felt but those three words are closer to what would’ve been in my arsenal as a kid. And, frankly, it still works. I’ve never read anything on Jonestown, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, but I might finally be ready to read a FIRST HAND ACCOUNT but I’m not promising anything. Those people, bloated and splayed on the ground, looked too much like family members or folks from the neighborhood for it to ever be just a story. And, when I think about it too long, I come to the realization that some of those people at the funeral probably went on to Guyana.

Lastly an interesting side note about Junger’s book. LEAH GOLDBERG SCHEUERMAN, the victim’s daughter, CHALLENGES Junger’s point of view in the Boston Globe, New York Times, Washington Post and on the sales page for A DEATH IN BELMONT on both amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Until next time. . .


Tuesday, 7 February, 2006


Afternoon. Blogger seems to have fixed their problems. You may have noticed the double post which should be deleted by now. Glad everything is back up and running in time for the next Q&A. As I said before, we have a man stepping into the hot seat this week and from here on out I’ll try to keep it evenly divided. Also, if you have suggestions as to which authors I should pursue – LET ME KNOW. Email your suggestions and I’ll try and track them down. As I said, we’re booked until August but I have an opening on June 9th for anyone who has a book coming out that month, a paperback release, or anything else they want to shout about.

Currently in the middle of reading ASHLEY WARLICK’S SEEK THE LIVING. Warlick is such a quiet, steady, self-assured writer that the slow, meandering pace is actually welcome. Here’s a PROFILE of the author who comes across as very private and shy. I’m trying to get her for a Q&A despite the fact she does very little press. MAUREEN GIBBON is the same way and I think that hurt her book sales.

Anyway, THE DISTANCE FROM THE HEART OF THINGS was the first book I read by Warlick and THE SUMMER AFTER JUNE was a favorite read of 2000. It reminded me, in a roundabout way, of DECORATIONS IN A RUINED CEMETERY by John Gregory Brown and ALMOST INNOCENT by Sheila Bosworth. Sheila Bosworth, another private writer who takes a long, long time between books. I haven’t seen anything by Bosworth since SLOW POISON.

I found DECORATIONS IN A RUINED CEMETERY (isn’t that a great title?) in a used bookstore in New Orleans where I’d collapsed upon entering the store. I’m ashamed to say that I underestimated the humidity, and the heat, and ignored a pointed warning from an old man sitting on a rain bucket. I passed him on the street and he shouted, “Stop walking like you in New York, girl. Stop walking like that, you’re gonna hurt yourself.” (Appropriate accent, of course). I was walking at my usual pace which was way too fast for the deep south in the middle of the July. By the time I reached the bookstore I opened the front door to find three people rushing toward me. Then I passed out. Cold. I woke up on a cot underneath an air conditioner in a back room surrounded by books. Heaven, right? The bookseller came to find me with a cold towel and a glass of water. She told me that her employees, and at least three customers, watched my wobbly progress up the sidewalk through the front window. Like a drunk I thought I was walking a straight line but, apparently, I was all over the road and sweating bullets. A nice man caught me before I landed flat on my face and placed me on the cot. I stayed there for about an hour and felt obliged to buy lots and lots of books before I called a taxi. DECORATIONS IN A RUINED CEMETERY was one of them as was MADELINE’S GHOST which I’ve mentioned here before.

ANGELA NISSEL, who wrote THE BROKE DIARIES, has a new book out called MIXED: MY LIFE IN BLACK AND WHITE. Angela and I share the same editor at Random House and she’s a writer on the TV show SCRUBS. Funny, funny girl but this book, I suspect, is mixed with humor and pain much like her first.

Now, I am off to find some paint. My walls are feeling green and I intend to oblige them. Oh, how many of you are glad to see Robert Scorpio back in play? How many of you will admit to knowing what that means?

Until next time. . .


Monday, 30 January, 2006


Wow! The author Q&A series is a huge success already. On Friday, when I posted the Joshilyn Jackson interview, we had 3,000 new visitors to the blog. I am thrilled that so many people were introduced to Joshilyn and Tayari. I am also thrilled that the Q&A series is booked until the second week of August. We have some great authors coming up and everyone has been extremely honest and forthcoming with their answers. There are patterns emerging already which I’ll talk about later.

Last Thursday, after recovering from that nasty flu, I spent most of the day crafting emails and letters to various writers. I explained the Q&A series, the blog, etc, then invited them to participate. Almost everyone said yes so I drafted 20 questions and sent them off. The authors are instructed to answer as many as they want – 10 being the minimum – and to let me know if there are any writers they’d recommend for the Q&A. I also got a few emails from authors who heard, or read, the Q&A series and asked to be included. So, if you’re a published author who’d like to step into the hot seat drop me a line at

I am also thinking about turning this space over to a Guest Blogger a couple of times a month. That will free me up to push on with the new book and keep things fresh on this blog. Let me know what you think about that idea.

In other news, while I was sick, The Crown Prince went to the library and picked up all the books I had on hold. I hadn’t been there in a couple weeks so the pile was RIDICULOUS. I got so excited when he walked through the door with my LORD OF THE RINGS book bag overflowing with fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, memoirs, etc.

At the top of the pile I found THE WRITING LIFE by ELLEN GILCHRIST. I’ve read every single book Gilchrist has ever written and I gobbled this one up just as fast. I also learned about THE FICTION OF ELLEN GILCHRIST: AN APPRECIATION by Brad Hopper.

Here are the others. . .

THIRD GIRL FROM THE LEFT by Martha Southgate.
PLAY IT AS IT LAYS by Joan Didion.
GOLDEN DAYS by Carolyn See.
SMALL ISLAND by Andrea Levy
AT HOME WITH BOOKS: HOW BOOKLOVERS LIVE WITH AND CARE FOR THEIR LIBRARIES by Estelle Ellis, Caroline Seebohm and Christopher Simon Sykes.
SEEK THE LIVING by Ashley Warlick.

I plan to save the KAY BOYLE for my next trip because it’s big and thick and I’d like to take my time with it. And AT HOME WITH BOOKS is moving in with me. I love everything about it and I envy some of the home libraries that are photographed. I have a birthday coming up in a few weeks so I just might treat myself to this one.

There are more but you get the drift. VERONICA MARS returned to TV last week with a stellar episode. That show is so well written. THE L WORD is all over the place this season with uninteresting new characters and strange dynamics between the core group of friends. THE SHIELD is back on its feet. Love the addition of FOREST WHITAKER. Remember him way back in VISION QUEST and FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH?

While I was sick I read a little bit but my head hurt too bad. I couldn’t write because, as my mother says, “My marbles weren’t rolling in the same direction.” I felt crazy. I did watch a lot of TV while bundled under blankets. One of my favorite 80s movies of all times URBAN COWBOY came on in the middle of the night. I think I may have seen this movie at least 18 times. Can never resist it if it’s on TV. And MADOLYN SMITH-OSBORNE as Pam had to be the cutest cowgirl ever on film. I also, got a heavy dose of WHEN METAL RULED THE WORLD and AMERICAN IDOL. Sometimes, nonsense is all I can take.

Lastly, I came across this great quote by Joan Didion twice in one week. “A writer is always selling someone out.” That made me laugh and it also figured into one of the questions I included in the Q&A. The “off-limit” stories are always the most interesting to me so I was curious to hear how other writers navigate the incidents that have been deemed off-limits by either themselves or their family members. I hope you enjoy their answers. Look for NAOMI HIRAHARA this Friday.

Until next time. . .


Monday, 2 January, 2006


Woke up sick as a dog this morning. I am writing this in bed while feeling low and watching the LAW & ORDER marathon on TNT. I also watched THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE. I remember that creepy flick from childhood. Worked perfect for a feverish, belly-aching morning. Anyway, I’m also reading GOTHAM TRAGIC by KURT WENZEL and LUNAR PARK by Bret Easton Ellis. I have to say that these two books go together perfectly.

Here are a few titles I am looking forward to in the new year.

THE GOOD LIFE by Jay McInerney. McInerney is one of my favorite writers, by the way. His acclaim comes from BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY but I liked BRIGHTNESS FALLS his 1993 novel. (On another note: Jay McInerney makes a funny apperance in LUNAR PARK).

A MILLION NIGHTINGALE’S by Susan Straight. (You all know about my love for Straight. I’ll probably pre-order this one).

WHITE GHOST GIRLS by Alice Greenway.

A KILLING IN THIS TOWN by Olympia Vernon.




APEX HIDES THE HURT by Colson Whitehead.

SAVANNAH BREEZE by Mary Kay Andrews.


THE GHOST ORCHID by Carol Goodman.


Until next time. . .