Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm it!

Quill tagged me for this Book Meme, and all I can say is, Thank Mickey.

I was at Disney World last week (hiya, Jason and Aine!), and have exchanged my writing brain for the insidiously catchy, It's a Small World refrain.

So here's something different...

1. One book that changed your life:

Jane Eyre

This was the first "grown-up" book I ever read. It was so much deeper, more textured, than anything I had known before. And of course, it was a captivating love story. When Jane confided, "Reader, I married him," I think my path was set as a writer, though I didn't know it yet.

2. One book you have read more than once:


One that stands out, though, is A Room with a View. In its pages, you'll find romance, rebellion, evocative writing, and laugh-out-loud humor. A rare, near-perfect, combination.

3. One book you would want on a desert island:

A notebook.

As long as I had a pen.

4. Two books that made you laugh:

A Room with a View

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book) Teacher's Edition: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction

Okay, one's more subtle.
And one has naked Supreme Court justices.

5. One book that made you cry:

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The ending, of course.

6. One book you wish you'd written:

A Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

I don't really wish I'd written any of my favorite books. But this one was a major inspiration for my own novel.

7. One book you wish had never been written:


8. Two books you're reading:

The Longest Journey, by E.M. Forster

Reading Lolita in Tehran,
by Azar Nafisi

9. One book you're going to read:

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, by Barack Obama

I won't tag anyone in particular, but if you're struggling for a blog post, feel free to dive in! And thank you, quill. This was a fun exercise. :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I guess I wrote a Chick-Lit novel...

Who knew?

I read my Publishers Weekly review today for Plum Blossoms in Paris. Every ABNA semifinalist received one, and here's mine:

Daisy’s high school boyfriend breaks up with her via email and she’s devastated, so, like any reasonable chick lit heroine, she decides to take a break from her university’s neuroscience program so she can flee to Paris to find herself, and pick up a new hunky boyfriend along the way. Daisy meets a charming, French stranger on a train who she later runs into at a museum. Soon enough Mathieu, who has mother issues, offers to take Daisy on an insider’s tour of Paris. He wants to "live freely" with her, he explains, which is French bachelor code for "let’s just fool around." The author’s witty banter and solid prose are a match for Sophie Kinsella or Cecilia Ahearn, and Daisy is more familiar and accessible than their protagonists. She’s certainly smarter too. But then again, isn’t everyone equally dumb when it comes to love?

I have never read a chick-lit novel. But I guess I'm good at writing them.

I recognize that this is mostly a favorable review, and yet it feels so different from the book in my heart. My Mathieu isn't "hunky." And he doesn't want to fool around.

Anyway, I'm bewildered, but...


HERE is something to be really happy about!

Jaye Wells, a fantastic writer and friend, just announced a 3-book deal with Orbit US for her urban fantasy series. Yay, Jaye! So get on over to her blog and congratulate her. She deserves it.

ETA: I suck at taking vacations.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On Vacation

I just wanted to let you all know that our family is going on vacation this week. We'll be back Sunday.

Have a great week, everyone! I'll miss checking in with you guys.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Get on the Blog: A Church Lady/Evil Editor Joint

Our beloved Church Lady is hosting a blog party for the release of Evil Editor's new book, Novel Deviations 3, on Thursday, January 24th. All the cool kids will be there.

Oh, and you're invited, too. ;)

In honor of this historic confluence of good and not-so-good, Church Lady has authorized me to reveal this top secret, never-before-seen photograph of the said Evil One:

Mind that backstory, gentlemen...

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Beneath the fountain dress and china smile, she is naked.

Her hands as rubbery as a toddler’s. Her ankles blush.

Beyond her toes, a collection of eyes glitters. Like coal in a mine, they are banking her light.

She clears her throat. Unfastens her tongue. Opens her mouth.

The darkness holds.

The pianist pauses, and circles back around the prelude, but warily, the chords kicking up dust.

Someone coughs.

He said he would come.
Saturday. January 19th. 1:00.

A cell phone shudders.

He said he would come.

The skittish woman in the front row bares her teeth.

He said . . . he said . . .

He said.

A heel clatters to the stage. Her hip swivels, and she lists to the side. The chill of the stage scales her leg, mounts her gut. She needs to pee.

The pianist loops again, his notes trailing red. The audience ripples like the spine of a caged beast.

Rescue me.

Her mouth gapes, but the melody is locked in her knees. Her heart flutters across the terra. There is no oxygen here.


The pianist relents. Silence rushes her from the wings. It sweeps her up and turns her upside down. Her eyes roll toward the ceiling.

The back door of the school auditorium blasts open as the stage lights flood her face. Her eyes snap to.


His sunlight frees them all.

Oh, Daddy.

The beast fractures into hundreds of birds, all flapping their wings for her, all buoying her small, honest flight.

She slips on her shiny shoe, straightens her hips, and smiles or sobs. Music swims through her marrow, as the pianist strikes a sunny chord. She opens her mouth, so finally happy to sing her tragic song.

While underground, her canary heart trills,
He said! He said!

He said.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ahem: A Little Groveling Is In Order


You like my words, right?

I mean, they don't make you physically and/or mentally wretch or want to suddenly speak in tongues, right?

Like if you were forced, at gunpoint (or something), to read 5,000 of them, all right in a row and without stopping, you wouldn't choose death instead, right?


And if you were compelled, by the ardor of my affection for all of you, to write a short review after reading these 5,000 words, this responsibility wouldn't make you crack and weep and bellow, "WHY? OH, DEAR LORD, WHY DOES SHE TORMENT ME THUSLY?" toward the heavens, even if you were, in all honesty, an agnostic/atheist/polytheist/Wiccan/other not inclined toward dramatic God appeals or using words like, "thusly"?

Okay. Good to know.

I entered my novel, Plum Blossoms in Paris, into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest a few months ago. The ultimate winner (to be announced in April) receives a publishing contract and a healthy advance. They have winnowed the 5,000 entries down to 800 or so semifinalists. And I'm one of them (whee!).

Amazon has posted the excerpts for their customers to read and review. I'm not sure how critical these reviews are to advancing toward the next level (in late February, they'll cut the pool down to 100), but I assume they'll matter.

So please, if you have the time, or desire, during the next few weeks to stop by and read my first couple of chapters, I would be very grateful. If you like what you read, and want to pen a review, that would be great. If you don't like what you read, and don't want to review, that would be equally great.

My excerpt is here:

It's a pdf, which is a little awkward to read, so if you want to print it out, that might be helpful. The powers-that-be were supposed to cut if off at a chapter break, but they went too long, and chopped it off mid-sentence. I can live with this.

Thank you so much to those who are willing to do this for me. And please only do so if you are genuinely interested in the synopsis. In all seriousness, I welcome your honest reviews, so don't feel an obligation to pad the rating. There's certainly room for improvement here.

Thanks again!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

And All That Lies Between

"Do you hate me now?"


"Not even a little bit?"

"Not even."

"I don't believe you."

"Too bad."

"So you love me without reservation then?"

"Generally speaking, and without reservation."

"Okay . . . I believe you."

"Uh huh."

"And so you definitely, definitely don't hate me?"


"I mean, I'm so relieved."


"Cause you know I was sort of ri--"


"Generally speaking?"

"Generally and specifically and all that lies between."

"So this little detail . . . you hate . . . this?"

"It's not entirely loathsome."

"Not entirely. I see. And this point of order . . . right over here?"

"It doesn't make me actually want to puke."

"No puking! Very encouraging. And this . . . this minor feature . . . down over here? How do you feel about this?"

"Well, I . . . well. I think I'd have to get a better understand--oh, to hell with you already!"





"You do love me."

"Didn't I say so, darling?"

"Words mean nothing. It's this."


"The space between."

[Reclining Nude, by Matisse]

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Clair de Lune

[This vignette is an homage to the Terrence McNally play, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. The characters are his. The moonlight belongs to all of us.]

“I’m in love with you.”

“That’s crazy.”

“You don’t believe someone can fall in love in four hours time? It took Romeo and Juliet . . . what? Maybe three seconds? If my calculations are correct then, milady, we’ve had exactly . . . lessee, carry the one . . . forty-fou--no! Forty six hundred times their good fortune. That’s a verible eternity in Shakespeare’s world.”

“Not in mine. I don’t think you get to like someone after four hours.”

“Man, your tits are dynamite.”

“My whats are what?”

“Breasts, then. Is “tits” off limits? I didn’t know. Things change. I thought it might be wrong, but I said it, anyway. So what of it? That’s what you do to me. That’s love. Makes me reckless. And tit-horny.”


“Was that out of bounds? See, I think—”


“I mean, I would hope—”



“Who says these things?”

“Me. I say them. We say them. Why shouldn’t we say them? This is real. We’re real. Right now. You. Me. And the moon makes three.”

“You’re . . . crazy.”

“But you like it. You love it, Frankie.”

“I don’t know. It’s . . . alarming.”

“I thought you'd say romantic.”

“No. It’s too much. I feel like you’re pressing me against a wall or something. This is a huge mistake. I mean, Jesus Christ, Johnny! I can’t fucking breathe!”

“There is no wall, Frankie.”

“There are always walls.”

“Don’t turn away. Don't cry. Look at that moonlight.”

“Moonlight. That’s a streetlight.”

“It’s moonlight. It’s heard about us—Frankie and Johnny—it’s seeking us out, as friends of fate. Watch it ease through your window now . . . massaging your tired ankles . . . there . . . and now it’s sliding up your lovely, lasso legs that I want to sling around my waist until—well, moonlight, I envy you that—and entering into the dark world between your hips, making you move like a cello string, making a low, gorgeous noise, though you can’t hear the music yet. . . and now your belly, which bulges slightly with a meal that neither you or I remember, since we ate unconsciously, like wild animals scared that something would be snatched away from us . . . and there . . . there . . . your dynamite tits . . . of which I will say no more, since we covered that subject thoroughly and with no help from Shakespeare . . . and now that light, that universe light, it stretches its fingers and wraps around your neck, like a choker no man can buy, but every woman should want to own, until finally, finally I say, the moonlight rescues your angel face—yes, rescues—because Frankie, my beloved, Frankie, my darling, you need rescuing from the darkness, from all them walls . . . and not just by me, and not by that moonlight, but by the all of us, this happy, dumb equation we've stumbled upon that's more beautiful, more true than anything Shakespeare or Einstein dreamed up in their laboratories of loneliness. Just us. Here. And now. Streaming across the stars.”

“It was forty-eight.”


Frankie fields Johnny closer, wrapping her legs tightly--more tightly than moonlight--around his waist.

“Forty-eight hundred times as long as Romeo and Juliet had. Probably a good deal more as far as that goes, after all your jabbering.”

“You liked it. You liked the moonlight. You like me.”

“No, Johnny."
Her face erupts in the clair de lune, and she smiles.


[video of Suzanne Godenne performing Debussy's Clair de Lune courtesy of theoshow2]

Sunday, January 6, 2008

somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond, by e.e. cummings

somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

[I have been marinating in the toxic world of political primaries this past week. My writing brain, not willing to share grey space with polls and punditry, seems to have flown. And I can't say that I blame her. So for now, I will lean on my Cummings crutch again. Hope you enjoyed this!]

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


She waited for over two hours to see the Botticellis. Standing before Venus’s half shell, she anticipated the swell of emotion that her guidebook promised. She waited a long time, becoming as still as the centuries. But no feeling materialized. Nothing was born.

She moved on.
Clutching some postcards.

Following her map through Florence’s streets, she reached the real David, and not the copy that would have been closer, but (somehow?) less desirable. But this David loomed too much like Goliath to her, and she left, dissatisfied. Her feet hurt now, and the sun blistered her eyes. She didn’t like the way the men on the streets looked at her. She didn’t want to be noticed like that.

She was no Botticelli.
They were not David.

On the Ponte Vecchio, she fumbled with the foreign money, draping an overpriced bracelet over her wrist, while a boisterous Italian lady oozed admiringly and caressed her moneybox with inflamed palms.

She had her limp souvenir.
That fool’s gold.

But it is difficult to clasp a bracelet with only one hand, especially on the most storied bridge in Italy. Tears filled her eyes, and she cursed, stumbling blindly to the rail, looking down into the smeary water of the Arno.

And remembering her Puccini.
George and Lucy, too.

These were her muddy motivations back in Dayton, when she had decided that change was necessary, that she was almost too old to ever turn new again. Other people’s stories. Old stories. All leading her to this bridge.

And here she was. Endings . . . beginnings. Could she not touch them? Possess them? But no—she muddled through more endless exposition, that bridge which stretched, infuriatingly, with her every step. This city was too old and terrible to return her slight caresses.

She was so sudden tired.

Her tears dripped into the river, which swelled to receive them. She tossed the bracelet into the water. Her guidebook was next. And then Venus, and the rest of the Botticellis. She would have flung off her clothes, revealing herself to be as naked as David before a league of Goliaths, but—

Signora. Signora,” a voice chimed.

She turned from the dark waters.

A tissue awaited her.

She wiped her cheeks with it.

The sun spoke brilliant in the child’s eyes.

She found some spark of herself within.

And it was that she heard the bells of the campanile, slingshotting her higher than Puccini’s sopranos, and peeling—

New! . . . New! . . . New! . . . New! . . .


(It can take others,
We magnificent bridges.)

[Video of Maria Callas performing Puccini's "O, mio babbino caro" courtesy of CantStandYaCostanza]