Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010


A road bends more
with autumn days,
its apron bowed
under paint shavings
and whittled gold.

A fence does not convince;
eyes have a way 
of poking through
to say, "Hello!"
(or "Neigh, not you.")

The best things come
with a blur of intent,
too sweet to stick;
as I pin you
between wind and kiss.

These are the jewels
I'd take for a crown
if you were the boy
and I was a girl
 and the woods hid trolls.

 That we might rest
with a comfort of hands
and dangling feet
as the hinges squeak
and time sits down.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Locks of Love

I got a haircut today.  So this hair is now headed to Locks of Love, an organization whose purpose is as follows:

Our mission is to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children. The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need.

If you're thinking about donating hair, it needs to be at least 10 inches long.  Granted, this will take many months to grow out.  But here's a photo gallery of some recipients (Locks of Love doesn't allow these photos to be reproduced elsewhere) to keep you motivated in the meantime.  

Several ponytails are required to make a child's hairpiece.  Normally, these hairpieces will retail for $3500-$6000, so you can see how financially daunting this would be for most families, without some help.  Locks of Love accepts financial contributions, too.   

So.  Giving makes me feel good; having hair makes a child feel strong and confident.  Pretty much a win-win situation, wouldn't you say?     

(Oh, and most of their donations come from other children.  Just something to think about regarding your kids/grandkids, too.) 

(Because they asked me to.)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Labor Way

For those of you who stopped by before, thanks for reading and commenting.  I decided to delete that post because it didn't sit right with me. 


Need a book to believe in? Boy, have I got the one for you. Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom is a novel for the ages. The one phrase that keeps leaping to mind is Dave Eggers’ tongue-in-cheek title, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. But without the irony.

Franzen’s writing effortlessly illuminates this cross-generational story of familial break-up and fragile redemption, while the characters—real, flawed, heartbreakingly human—emerge in full brilliance. His canvas is large, and his stroke is sure.  I didn't read this book; I lived it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An Intangible Authenticity

The blog tour is back!  Just when you all were getting worried that I was tired of talking about my book.

Psh.  Miles to go, people.  In truth, I just needed a little breather. 

But I'm very happy that Abhisek Mohanty stepped forward and offered me a guest slot on his blog, The Intangible but Significant Part of Me.  I don't know Abhi that well, but he was so friendly and enthusiastic in his email that I immediately felt welcomed and at ease.  I like people who embrace life and radiate a positive spirit.  My impression is that Abhi does both.

Since Abhi's blog motto is "Silence Kills, Speak up," I thought his place was the perfect venue to write a piece about voice and authenticity.  And I gotta say--I really enjoyed writing this one.  So I hope you'll check it out. 

Big thanks to my host for stepping up!  And for reaching out.  I'm glad to have made a new friend. 

If you'd also like to speak, step, or reach out, in order to interview me, review the book, or offer me a guest post slot, please feel free to email me at Sarah.Hina@gmail.com.  I really appreciate every gesture of support I've received so far.  Thanks, guys.


Other stops on my Meet Me In Paris Blog Tour: Travis Erwin • Aniket's Plum Blossom Flash Fiction contest25 Questions for Author Sarah Hina  Author Spotlight 7SS with Aerin-Bender StoneJaye WellsPoem at The Walking Man'sPoem Blossoms at Joaquin Carvel's

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blowing My Whistle

(Photo Credit: Kirti Manian)

First, I posted a new story, "Tuesday," over at Aniket's Flash Fiction site.  This photo prompt only has two more days to go, folks, before the train pulls out of the station.  So have a look and be inspired!  Or wait until the next train.  Either way, I've been thrilled to see so many people register as authors over there.  Aniket's building a wonderful community. 

My blog tour has been a little derailed, but I'm eager to get back on track. (Sorry--the metaphor made me do it.)   If anyone would still like to interview me, or offer me his/her blog for a guest post, I'll be your best friend.  Or you could choose to review Plum Blossoms in Paris.  In which case, I'll be your BFF.

My email address is Sarah.Hina@gmail.com.  Thanks, guys.  

Speaking of reviews....here comes the tooting my horn blowing my own whistle part.  Forgive me, but you're only a debut author once, right?  So here's a brief rundown of what some obviously brilliant people are saying about the book:

Rich in fascinating details about the art and culture of Paris, Hina’s debut novel is a terrific literary love letter to the City of Light . . . The writing itself is imbued with a stylish sense of wit.”

~ John Charles, Booklist Reviews

"Readers will be 'pulled' into this book almost immediately.  The author has done a first-rate job with her descriptive passages . . . After this one, folks, you'll want to run--not walk--to the first available ticket agent and 'disappear' into the sumptuous Parisian world."

~ Amy,  Night Owl Romance

"I loved this book.  It's very witty.  Very smart, yet carefree and adventurous as well." (Rating: 5 out of 5 apples)

~ Debbie Lester, Debbie's Book Bag

In truth, it's nice to have people say nice things.  But more than anything?

It's a relief.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The White Sheet

(Venus by Henri Matisse)

He touches her through a white sheet.

“Your shoulder.”


The sheet hangs between them.

“And wrist.”


There is the illusion of warmth when her flesh touches the sheet and the sheet touches him.

“Your ear.”

“My ear.”

The sheet is a metaphor.

“Your neck.”

“My neck.”

The sheet is real.

“Your pulse.”

“So fast.”

She cannot see him, either, of course. But she understands those fingers. How they search, then retreat. How they play upon her laughter. How they see her more clearly than eyes ever could.

What they skirt.

“Your knee.”

“My knee.”

“Your . . . ”


She lists toward him. Begins to sink to her knees. He pulls his hand away.

But soon falls to a floor.

His breath is hot on her face. The molecules of his breath, passing through microscopic pores, are hot on her face. She presses her cheek against the division.

He does the same.

“How long?”

She can feel the muscles work the words.


“This thing comes down.”

She turns her face. A few degrees.

“I don’t think it can.”

He turns his face.



What passes for lips might be a kiss. For a moment, she believes it to be.

Until she pulls away and sees her lipstick. The red impression. Of an unwritten story.

They rise to their feet.

“Your shoulder.”

“My shoulder.”

She touches him through a white sheet.

“And wrist.”

The sheet hangs between them.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Birth Days

When he was young, he thought it was bound to happen.

When he was older, he felt that it never would happen.

The space in between is what they call growth, or maturing. Or coming to terms with the curve of reality.

But all that really means is you're closer to dying.

Believing is a brittle bone.  Exercise it daily.  Suck hard from the marrow.  Bend it to breaking.   

Monday, August 2, 2010

We Interrupt This Blog Tour . . .

. . . for something important.  Here's an announcement from author Erica Orloff:

In this little corner of the blogworld, most of us are book lovers. Book lovers and writers, people who say, "I've been writing stories since I could hold a pen," or "I was the kid holding the flashlight under the covers and reading past bedtime." In this little corner of the blogworld, we've also watched out for our own.

Merry Monteleone (Mom and More) and her family were in the midst of raging flood waters in Westchester that happened when heavy rains hit Chicago. The contents of the downstairs of her house were lost (it's been gutted), and though it's just "stuff" (lives were lost in the flooding), most of us can imagine how it would feel to watch photo albums and meaningful memories wrapped up in the "stuff" of our families . . . be carried off.

While big "stuff" can be replaced with insurance, Merry lost all her books, and a group of us decided to replace them--with Amazon gift cards, with books, with signed copies of books, with ARCs. We want to see the blogosphere flood her mailbox with good wishes and replace her library. If you love books and your TBR pile is as tall as you are, you know what they mean to her.

What can you do? Send books! Send Amazon cards! Reach out to your favorite authors and ask them to send her a signed copy! For her address or more information, contact: erica@ericaorloff.com

She has three children middle school and younger. Their books were in their bedrooms and most survived, but it would be great to get some books just for them, too!

Do something nice today. It will make you feel good.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Poem Blossoms at His Place

Why the different look?  Because I've got a guest poem at Lyrics and Maladies, that's why.  And today, I'm swinging with Bootsy and Macy, as we light up the Eiffel Tower with--what else?--an accordion song.  

But first, let me acknowledge something--I feel a little guilty.  See, Joaquin Carvel posts a new poem every Thursday.  And he has a very devoted following of readers, including myself, who looks forward to Thursdays for this reason.  This is not hyperbole.  It's just the way things are.  Joaquin is a poet of such considerable talent, of such rare, intuitive lyricism, that I've often thought it unfair that so few people have the chance to read his work.  So if any good can come from my usurping his place for a week, I hope it's to lead some of you to his blog for the very first time.  Stay awhile, and scroll down the page.  You will not regret it.  Of that I am certain (and I'm never certain).

Okay.  Again, if anyone else would like to interview me, let me guest post on your blog, review the book, or play with my postcard, send me an email at Sarah.Hina AT gmail.com.  Thanks.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sick Poetry and a Review

I've been sick lately.  How sick?  Just your common head cold, with all the banal misery that entails.  But throw in the stickiness of summer, and it feels, well, a good bit sickier.  

Not that a little phlegm is enough to stop my quest for world publishing domination, mind you.  Or even to keep me from writing poetry.  Which is what I'm doing this week on two different blogs.  First up is today's poem, Les Misérables, over at The Walking Man, which is run by Mark Durfee, a man who writes what he sees and from the strength of a heart he cannot hide.  While tomorrow I'll be at--

Well, no use in spilling all them beans.

I've also got a review up today over at Stephen Parrish's.  And a very nice review it is.  In fact, I'm so pleased with it, I'm thinking about having it tattooed on my forehead.  Or at the very least, this pull quote, "The prose is stylish, sensitive, and refined, the result of a natural born poet tackling a larger canvas. Plum Blossoms demands a second reading merely for the beauty of its language. The promise of the author's next novel, and writing career, is high."

Thanks, Steve.  And Mark.  I'm deeply grateful to both of you.  And that's not just the Nyquil talking.   

Remember, if you want to review the book like Steve, have me guest post like Mark, or interview me, then shoot me an email at Sarah.Hina AT gmail.com.  I look forward to it.  

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shouts and Murmurs

Today I'm guest-posting at Jaye Wells' place about what blogging means to me.  Included in the post is the very first vignette I wrote for Murmurs.  And reading it again, together with the comments it received, put a little lump in my throat. 

See, posting at Jaye's is a little like a blogging high-school reunion for me.  Although, if it were truly that, I'd have to go back to her original home, Jaye's Blahg.  

But there is good reason for Jaye to have new and fancier digs.  She has become the most successful of my writer friends, with her newest release, The Mage in Black--the second book in her crackling, Sabina Kane vampire series--hitting shelves this past April to great reviews and (from my nosy monitoring of her Amazon rank) great sales, too.  

And I can say this--nobody deserves success more. Jaye's wit, intelligence, and work ethic have always left me feeling a bit like a high school freshman who stares with awe at the senior who has it all together.  She alone has made my Twitter membership worth it. 

And I'm very honored to stand beside her today.  Thanks, Jaye.  

You, too, can make me cry!  Yes, you!  Just shoot me an email at Sarah.Hina AT gmail.com, if you'd like to interview me, offer a guest post slot on your blog, or review the book.  I promise to have tissues ready.  Sniff.   

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Interview with Aerin Bender-Stone

Today I'm in the hot seat for Aerin Bender-Stone's "7 Step Scoop" interview at In Search of Giants.  In our discussion, I confess to a pretty serious Coke habit, reveal my own pathetic history of being dumped via email, and admit to a passionate, Parisian affair with this mystery man: 

I'm pretty sure author-dom is turning me into an incurable liar.  In addition to all the raging narcissism, I give myself three months before the first nervous breakdown.  Exxxcellent.   

But seriously, check out the interview.  Aerin is one of those friends who will step up for you time and time again, and in truly unforgettable fashion.  I first met her through a Clarity of Night contest, where her entries consistently ranked among my favorites (no pressure or anything this time around, Aerin).  Intelligent, yet always deeply felt, her work is instantly recognizable to me and always touches the right nerve.  I'd also highly recommend ordering a copy of get born magazine's current Summer issue, where Aerin writes in stark and moving terms about her son's autism. 

So come on by!  And just so you know, my blog-tour dance card is still open!  So if, like Aerin, you'd like to interview me, review the book, or offer me a guest post slot on your blog, get your back off that wall, and give this a whirl.  I promise--I won't even step on your toes.  Much. 

Other stops on my Meet Me In Paris Blog Tour: Travis Erwin • Aniket's Plum Blossom Flash Fiction contest25 Questions for Author Sarah Hina 

She can read!  She can read!  Plum Blossoms excerpt read aloud. 

Buy Plum Blossoms in ParisAmazonBarnes & NobleChaptersBordersYour Local Independent BookstorePowell's BooksBooks-A-Million


I will be choosing the winners of Aniket's Plum Blossoms flash fiction contest on Friday, July 23rd!  I was very pleased with the number of entries and the quality of the work.  So stay tuned for the big announcement!! 

Friday, July 16, 2010

It's My Party...

....and I'll weep if I want to.  

Aerin Bender-Stone and Stephen Parrish are throwing me a launch party today, for the publication of Plum Blossoms in Paris.  They've put out the candles, poured some wine, and have gathered all my friends (and some famous faces) to celebrate this milestone in my life.  It's difficult for me to come up with the words to thank them for all they've done on my behalf (this is the tip of the iceberg), so I'll just say this:

Pee-Wee?  Seriously? 

Thanks, guys.  You are both amazing writers, but your talents for friendship--and the size of your hearts--are what impresses most.

Certainly not your taste in men.  

(Can I pay them to stay away?)


Buy Plum Blossoms in ParisAmazonBarnes & NobleChaptersBordersYour Local Independent BookstorePowell's BooksBooks-A-Million

Other stops on my Meet Me In Paris Blog Tour: Travis Erwin • Aniket's Plum Blossom Flash Fiction contest25 Questions for Author Sarah HIna


If anyone wants to offer me a guest post slot on my blog tour, interview me, or review the book, shoot me an email at Sarah.Hina AT gmail.com. 

People aren't sick enough of me yet.  With your help, we'll get 'em there. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

25 Questions from Richard Levangie

Today I'm answering Richard Levangie's "25 Questions" over at Telling Stories.  Other authors have gone before me; I wonder if any of them feared Oprah's couch quite as much as I.  Luckily for me, this interview was a pleasure to take part in.  And some of that has to do with the man asking the questions.

I haven't known Richard for very long, but I'm glad I know him now.  He's a sharp journalist and wonderful writer working hard to complete his first novel, a thoughtful environmental activist, a doting husband to his wife, Kristina (who designed the gorgeous postcard above), and a warm and generous friend.  Plus, he's Canadian.  His contributions to Travis Erwin's "My Town Monday" series have me itching to visit his beloved Nova Scotia so badly, I can almost taste the salt in the air.  

So come on over!  Find out about my undercover past as a Russian spy named Anya, that New Orleans night I showed Wynton Marsalis how to really play a trumpet, and the 5:41 mile I ran, while being chased by men with Kalashnikovs.*  

And if anyone else wants to interview me, offer me a guest post slot, or review the book, shoot me an email at Sarah.Hina AT gmail.com.  Thanks.  


5 more days until Aniket Thakkar's Flash Fiction contest ends!  Win a copy of my book before it's too late!!  Beep, beep.  


*what?  one is true.  sort of. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Meet Me in Paris"

Today, I'm kicking off my blog tour, in support of Plum Blossoms in Paris, with a guest post at Travis Erwin's place.  It's titled "Anatomy of a Writer," and describes my fledgling genesis as a writer, back when I was in med school.  And some icky stuff about gross anatomy.  But mostly--the writing thing.

If anyone out there is willing to interview me, review the book, or offer a guest post slot like Travis so graciously has, so that my book becomes an instant bestseller and I can finally become as insufferable as this guy, please send me an email at Sarah.Hina AT gmail.com. 

And if you'd like to interview me in Paris, why, just send a plane ticket instead.


Seven more days to enter the Plum Blossoms in Paris flash fiction contest over at Aniket's place!!  Beep, beep. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Then and Now

Night spreads its palm across the plains. Crickets lose their count, and start again. An owl opens its eyes with dread aim.

Darkness is a figure eight.

The girl lies on the blanket, clutching a book to her chest. The big toenail on her right foot digs at a mosquito bite. Her smile curves with the horizon, and her eyes clock shooting stars. Clouds blow wide, netting wayward constellations.

Wind is a careless laugh.

She doesn’t know. She doesn’t know, lying here, that this ground is sacred. That she will return to the place, in dreams and recollections, and run her finger around the cool, sharp lip of time. That she will reflect back on the strawberry skirt she wore, and slip that finger inside its hidden pocket—before it dissolves. That she will, one day—and sooner than seems right—pair bitter to the sweet now cradling her.

That she will shape the clay of now.

The moon is a pockmarked teenager.

Bats are birds with the song squeezed out.

Fireflies are star-crossed lovers.

And it comes upon her. With the urgency of revelation. He is out there. Somewhere. Even now. He. Breathing. Him. Reading. Or—

Looking up at a moon.

Like me.

Her breath catches on the crescent thought. She sets the book down in the grass, and extends her arms above her head. Growing herself a little taller. Feeling the warm flutter beneath the ghosts of breasts to come.  Making room.

Over the hills, fireworks begin. She hitches up her elbows to watch their frantic pop and stomp. And soon misses her quiet canvas.

“Lizzie! C’mon back to the house!”

Fear is a horse with too many hooves.

“It’s started, girl!”

She scrambles to her feet, and runs across the field. Her legs through the rushes are the pulse of someone else’s youth. Her small fists punch the night.  Her braids flap in figure eights.

The book’s cover, on the grass behind her, glows blue, then red, before falling to black.

“I’m coming, Mama!”

The owl spreads its wings and takes to air.

The art is Andrew Wyeth's Night Shadow.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


My wonderful friend, Aniket Thakkar, is hosting a contest at Flash Fiction during the next few weeks, in honor of my forthcoming book, Plum Blossoms in Paris.  I'll be judging, and I hope that many of you will take part in the fun!   

Here are Aniket's contest guidelines:

- Register yourself and sign in, on the login panel in the right sidebar (if you’re new to the site)
- Write a story/poem in 1000 words or less, inspired by the image prompt, and post it in the dashboard available to you, once you’ve signed in.
I will choose two winners at the end of the competition, each of whom will receive a shiny new copy of Plum Blossoms In Paris.

- Contest deadline is July 20th, 2010.

You know, I'm only beginning to get a handle on the promotional leg of my publishing journey.  But with friends like this, I think it'll be a cinch.  Thank you, Aniket.  Your signed copy is on its way to India.  Along with my gratitude. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


As writers, we should never fall back on clichés. 

 But this picture says more than I ever could with words. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I keep looking for him at the back door.

We had a name before we had the dog. Rufus. It was my fiancé's choice. What a dog’s dog name. A promise for the future, after we married and got a house of our own. In fact, one of Paul’s friends toasted us at our wedding by saying, “Here’s to Paul, Sarah . . . and Rufus!” Leading many to wonder, I imagine, whether ours was not a shotgun wedding.

Paul knew he was ours before I did. Immediately after moving into our new house, we went to the dog shelter (where all the good dogs wait) to look around. I briefly fell for a basset hound. Alright--I briefly fell for all of them. But Paul knew. That scroungy bundle of black fur marked by the white stripe down his chest, with the pup-tent ears and frantically friendly way, was Rufus. And so he was. We took him home soon after.

A dog is the heartbeat of a house. Quiet. Steady. Unflappable. There, drumming on, even when we’re not. Too often taken for granted. There were many times I came home and swept past a wagging Rufus, offering a mere pat on the head. I had stuff to do. Or thought I did. If only I had slowed down a bit more and taken the time to look in his eyes. To get lost, and be found, in them again. For a dog’s eyes are the heartbeat of a heartbeat of a home. They are liquid love. No wonder so many elderly folks have benefited from a dog’s companionship in nursing homes. In a world straddling the next loss, a dog will not despair. That tail will thump on. For you. In this way, and in others, they are the stronger species.

A dog threads himself so completely into the patterns of our lives. They are creatures of habit, and mark our days with their feeding, walking, and play schedules. Rufus nudged me out of the house every evening to take him for a long walk. It was good exercise. And unfailingly, I’d have my best brainstorms during these neighborhood strolls. The concept for Plum Blossoms in Paris? The inspiration was almost embarrassingly literal. I saw some daisies on the side of the road. Rufus peed on them. I thought of Daisy Miller. I imagined a young American woman, also named Daisy, traveling to Europe during the most rancorous period of the Iraq War, when the U.S. was pretty well hated by everyone. Voilà. But Rufus led me there, on a leash.

We lost our heartbeat last night.

And I’m writing this when I would normally be walking beside him. Pulling him away from some disgusting thing he’d try desperately to eat. Lately, as the summer heat intensified, he liked to lie down on the grass and rest for a few minutes. His pant turning up like a smile. And I’d sit down beside him, settle back in the grass, and look up at the clouds rolling by. Then I’d reach over and give him a belly rub, until his hind leg twitched and his paws raised in a blissful submission. I told him he was a good dog. He was.

I keep looking for him at the back door. Before I can stop myself. Yet I know it will pass. The roots of endings have a way of shooting off beginnings. And the earth spins us further from the past. As proof of this, our daughter is already looking ahead to the next dog. Which, if I’m being honest, makes my heart recoil. But then, she cried this afternoon that, “a part of my heart has died.” It's understandable she’d want to resurrect it.

I keep looking for him at the back door. Because I can’t imagine this house—this family—without him.

And right now, I don't want to.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Happiness is the surrender of need.

Like a kite takes to air.

It’s sitting in a field of flowers
that don’t aspire.
Daisies and other pretties
that bear no blood
or conscious throb.

It’s the butterfly,
the bees,
the caterpillar’s sticky feet,
the tattered ends of grassy reeds.

The silver threads of spiderwebs,
the rat-tat-tat of downy heads.

It’s a wind that swirls
and sits back down.
Resting for another round.

Happiness is the solitude
when ones you love
are tucked in rooms
or even

And the moment wants
no setting down
to keep its winged glory.


It lives,
with arms
wide open.

No tail
on which
to cling.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Parrish the Thought

Aerin Bender-Stone (whose writing I've long been a fan of, and whose adorable kids make my Facebook membership well worth the privacy violations) is throwing a week-long book launch/birthday party at Parrish the Thought. You may have heard about Stephen Parrish and his wonderful debut novel, The Tavernier Stones, on this blog once or twice before.  At any rate, Aerin didn't have to twist our arms too hard to take part in the festivities.  Steve is an amazing writer, great friend, and all-around swell guy.  It's nice to be able to give something back to someone who's given so much to the community. 

Plus (PLUS!) there are prizes to be had!  Including books, critiques and gift cards!  Questions to answer!  Games to win!  And my own pet project--a collaborative writing experiment, in which we put Steve INTO his own stories. 


What're you waiting for?  Swing on by Parrish the Thought.  Join the debauchery.  And make some new friends. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Requiem for the Living

We hide our dead
under verdant lawns
staked with stones
and spires of pine

Where birds may perch
and ply our ear
with strident songs
of insouciant youth

We hide our dead
whom we still guard
but in whose hearts
we're laid long

We say their names
as we drop a bud
mistaking vibrations
for what once was

We hide our dead
under verdant lawns
We hide the dead when
most sorely alive

with heartbeats
too like the birds’
but with footsteps
dusting earth,
a child’s plea:

Touch me
Talk to me
Remember me
Love me


Like many others, I spent some of my Memorial Day in a cemetery.  I hadn't yet seen my granddad's headstone, so I wanted to do that.  And while I didn't bring a camera (this is an old pic of a different cemetery), I did bring a notebook.  I jotted the main of this poem down while sitting on the grass, thinking of all that was below me, and what remained above. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider

They skirted the edge of the pond. Dragonflies flirted with water lilies, while a fountain stippled the surface with silver-dollar memories. College students drowsed on benches, backpacks wedged under their heads, arms draped over hangovers.

The day was summer warm on the couple’s arms, their necks. That pale, surprised flesh behind the knees.

“I’m sorry.”


A helicopter seed rained on her head.  She brushed it away. 

“Do you know how much?”

“I can hear it in your voice.”

“Good.” She swallowed. “Because I don’t know how to explain everything. Not now. The words won't—”

She pulled her sandal heel from a squelchy spot.


He took her elbow, while she lifted a foot to scrape off the mud with a leaf.

“We can talk about it later, then.”

She put her foot on the ground.  And looked at him. 

“So ‘later’ is still a . . . thing?”

He smiled and shook his head.

A duck led her little ones from the pond. The ducklings shook the water from their feathers. Waddling with a tender faith behind the mother, who charted a steady uphill course.

The couple followed.

She stepped over some goose shit. It splotched the flattened grass at regular intervals. Or maybe it was the ducks’ mess. At any rate—

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

At their approach, frogs popped like a chorus line into the murky water. She laughed and twined her fingers through his.

“Like there could be anything to fear on a day like this.”

He squeezed her hand in return.

“No,” he said, lifting his face to the sky. “Not on a day like this.”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Interview with Author Stephen Parrish

I'm very pleased to welcome Stephen Parrish, author of The Tavernier Stones, as my guinea pig guest today.  It's my first interview on Murmurs!  So just imagine that ticking clock from 60 Minutes and me as Morley Safer (love that guy), and let's get started . . .

A couple of weeks ago now, I finished Steve's remarkable book about a global race to find the lost, legendary Tavernier stones.  Having enjoyed every minute of this intelligent, compelling adventure (completed it in just two days!), I jumped at the chance to ask Steve some questions during his whirlwind blog tour. 

For those of you who don't know him, Steve's worked hard to come by the title of "author."  How hard?  Well, check this out (if you don't click, just imagine The Odyssey and substitute a 16th rewrite in lieu of the six-headed monster).  But now that he is an author, Steve's not satisfied with just putting his book out there, and watching it sink or swim.  Nope, Steve is doing something truly incredible--he's giving away a diamond.  Be the first person to find an image of this diamond hidden on the internet, and you'll win your very own precious stone.  The details of this armchair treasure hunt--including instructions and clues--can be found on his website.  But you need to read the book to have a chance! 

Now onto those questions . . . 

So c'mon, Steve.  How about that first clue?

Have a look:


It's called a rail fence cipher, for reasons that will soon be obvious.  Start with the first letter in the top row.  Then move down to the first letter in the second row.  Then back up to the second letter in the first row.  Then back down again.  And so on.  You'll have to figure out the word breaks yourself.

What you extract is a phrase.  All of the clues, when solved, yield letters, words, phrases, or even substantial blocks of text that, when assembled in the right order, comprise a coherent little essay.  Embedded in the essay, in a way that itself is clearly (if diabolically) illustrated on the website, is the web location of the image of a diamond.  Be the first to find that image, and you win.

Ohhh . . . right.  I had it all along! 

THE TAVERNIER STONES is so successful at drawing together elements of cryptology, gemology, and cartography in a satisfying, compelling way.  Did you have a plan to extend that intrigue into an armchair treasure hunt even while writing the book?

No, the idea to do a treasure hunt based on the book came after the book was written.  In general I'm dissatisfied with, and even suspicious of, conventional book promotion methods and truisms.  I believe in the Ries/Trout Theorem: "History teaches that the only thing that works in marketing is the single, bold stroke."  I sought a single, bold stroke to promote my novel, and it was only natural, given the substance of the story, that it would have something to do with diamonds and codes. 

Mmm...diamonds.  I know that your experience as a jewelry salesman informs the novel, particularly the sections with David Freeman, who's as passionate about gems as he is unscrupulous.  Which of the legendary Tavernier stones would inspire you to risk life and limb to obtain it?    

Let's inventory a few: The Great Mogul Diamond weighed 280 carats when examined and sketched by Tavernier.  The Great Table Diamond weighed 242 carats.  Neither has been seen since.  The Mirror of Portugal was a 30 carat table-cut diamond stolen from the French Crown Jewels during the revolution, and missing since.  The whereabouts of the Pigot, a 49 carat oval-shaped diamond, has been a mystery since the 19th century.  Likewise the Florentine, a 137.25 carat yellow double-rose, first described by Tavernier.  And the Nizam, a dome-shaped stone of 277 carats.  Would I risk life and limb to unearth any of these?  Take your pick: 

1.  Nah, they're just rocks. 

2.  If you happen to be standing between them and me, I hope you like maple syrup, because you're about to become a pancake. 

I happen to love maple syrup.  But not as much as carats.  So, basically . . . you're toast.  (alright, so Morley wouldn't have gone there)

You know what I liked most about your book?  The Amish stuff.  Your protagonist, John Graf, has been kicked out of his Amish family, partly due to his curiosity about the world outside the community, and becomes obsessed with the Tavernier stones. For me, this internal struggle he has between his integrity and his quest is the heart of the novel.  Tell me something interesting you learned about the Amish while researching the book.   

I spent 18 months in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the heart of Amish country.  People there still can direct interested parties to locations for the movie "Witness," starring Harrison Ford.  The setting is very much like the movie depicted it: semi tractor trailers waiting behind horse-drawn buggies stopped at traffic lights.  I was personally drawn to several aspects of Amish culture, especially simplicity (which I consider the underrated virtue), conviction to ideals, and a powerful sense of community.  This last aspect--the Amish don't pay into social security because they don't need it--is one the rest of society would do well to study. 

If there's one stereotype to dispel, it's that Amish people are isolationist.  It's true they don't like tourists wandering into their yards (who does?), but I was never treated with anything but open and frank courtesy. 

You had to cut a lot of this book to please the powers-that-be.  I know you cut characters you really loved.   Which one do you miss the most?  And does he/she haunt your dreams and/or threaten to kick your ass unless resurrected in another book?    
Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl.  Seriously, one prominent agent offered to represent the novel, but told me I'd have to cut a character named Lola, a professor of history at the University of Salamanca, Spain.  For that and similar reasons, I didn't sign with the agent.  Another agent, one who also offered to represent, told me Lola was her favorite character.  You figure it out. 

Ultimately Lola returned to Character Land to await a new role.  And I regret the deportation.  My instincts tell me I made a mistake by listening too trustingly to criticism.  Sometimes you're going to be in the minority, but nevertheless right.  Follow your instincts. 

Well said.  Ultimately, we have to believe in the story we tell.    

Alright, now for the lightning round, in which the questions go from frivolously frothy to shockingly shallow in the blink of an eye: 

Monet or Manet? 

Monet.  He was the best representative of the only truly valuable movement in modern art.  I never could understand Manet. 

Teddy or Franklin Roosevelt? 

No preference.  I have mixed feelings about both.  Oh, hell, Teddy, because of the bear. 

Katharine or Audrey Hepburn?   

These are hard questions!  I'll go with Katharine, because of all the rejections she faced early in her career (her autobio, ME, is very inspiring). 

James Joyce or A Sharp Stick in The Eye? 

A sharp stick in the eye, if you please.  And some rocks to chew.  And while you're at it, I've always wondered what it would feel like to be racked.  When you're done with all that, burn me at the stake, and take your time about it. 

Spin-the-bottle or Two Minutes in the Closet?   

The closet, naturally.  But I thought it was seven minutes.  There's something in Deuteronomy 28 about groping in the dark, but I don't think they had this context in mind. 

God or Being-unto-nothingness (nah, just pulling your leg)? 

What?  You're not going to ask about my tattoo?  

One last question to redeem myself: on your wonderful blog, you bring up your lovely daughter from time to time.  And there is a very touching dedication to her at the front of the book. How has she shared in this journey with you?  And what do you think it means to her to see her dad’s novel in print? 

I think if you'd asked me this question fourteen years ago, when she was born, I'd have predicted there'd be a permanent glow in her eyes and she'd wear the book on her head.  She did take it to school to show everyone, otherwise its publication met with little fanfare.  Because she was there during every stage; inking the pages was just the last step on the journey. 

A journey she's making herself.  It's probably inevitable that she would want to be a writer, having grown up in a house full of books and watching her dad go clickety-clack all day.  We often pitch plots to each other, sometimes just for fun, sometimes because we need help with one.  The pitch always begins with "What if  . . . ?" and the response, or criticism, with "Yeah, but how about if . . . ?" 

That's how you plot.  Work with beta readers you trust, make your story structurally sound before committing too many words, and ask the question "What if . . . ?" over and over, a thousand times if necessary, to pace the scenes and arc the gaps.  And if you're smart, you do it with your children, so they become famous authors, hopefully famouser than you, and support you in your old age.
I'm taking notes.  Thanks, Steve.  This was fun.  

Would it be too annoying if I linked to Amazon again?  Oops. 

In all honesty, Steve is the most supportive and generous of blogging buddies.  The reason so many of us are eager to help him promote his book has less to do with the book itself (though I genuinely loved it), than with the kind of person he is--warm, authentic, and always willing to step up for his friends.  So even if you don't buy his novel, I hope I've helped you make a new connection in our little community here.

Thanks for reading this far.  Now go get that diamond!!  

Sunday, April 4, 2010

About the Town

I have a new vignette titled "Sanatorium" to share with you all.  Only, it's not here.  Nope, you'll have to click on over to this new, super-terrific site, started by our good friend, Aniket Thakkar.  He has a cool idea for a community blog, in which all of us can take inspiration from a photo prompt, and work some magic via poetry or flash fiction.  Sounds like a good time, right?  Aniket is better than anyone I know at sharing his spark with others and embracing a true community of friends and writers.  I'm honored to take part.  So check it out. 

I'm not the first to take the plunge at Aniket's.  Joaquin Carvel already posted a poem over there.  I know that most of you are familiar with Joaquin's poetry.  But if, by chance, you aren't, then you're going to want to remedy that.  Like fast.  You can check out his blog, but I'd also highly recommend buying a copy of his poetry collection, Blood & Irony, either in book form or for the Kindle ($0.99? Really??).  Treat yourself.  Spring deserves some beautiful poetry.     

On the fiction front, Stephen Parrish's debut novel, The Tavernier Stones, can be pre-ordered before its May 1st publication date.  And now I'm going to let the reviewer from Library Journal take it away, because if I say anything nice about Steve, he'll just become more insufferable than he already is. 

L.J.: A reader wouldn't expect to find an Amish protagonist in an artifact adventure/thriller, but Parrish gives us exactly that in his debut novel. Cartographer John Graf, shunned by his Amish community for pursuing higher education, becomes embroiled in a mystery when the remains of 17th-century mapmaker Cellarius, the subject of centuries-old conjecture, emerge from a German bog. The discovery of his corpse and a ruby clutched in his death grip gives credence to the existence of the fabled Tavernier Stones, a cache of the world's most prized missing jewels. Graf joins forces with a gemologist-turned-grifter to solve a puzzle Cellarius encoded into his final and most famous map. As Graf approaches the solution, his life seems to unravel. Of course, Team Graf is not alone in its pursuit, and each treasure hunter has a story. VERDICT Parrish offers enough detail concerning cartography, cryptography, gemology, and Amish culture to satisfy the most rapacious fact junkie, and the puzzle is clever and the action plausible. If his subsequent novels are researched to the same degree, he could claim a legitimate position among the notables of this genre.

Kidding aside, Steve is a great writer and a natural storyteller.  It's tough to be both, but he's got it.  I can't wait to read this book.  And the next dozen or so, too.     

Okay.  Stay with me.  My long-time blogging buddy, Jaye Wells, is enjoying release week for the second book in her Sabina Kane vampire series.  This one's titled The Mage in Black and, from what I hear, is even awesomer than Red-Headed Stepchild, a novel that earned her many accolades, award nominations and slavish devotees. She's so big, she doesn't even really need me pushing her book.  But I like bringing up Jaye, so I can sigh sort of wistfully and say, "Yeah, I knew her back when . . ."

And finally, my husband, Paul, has gotten a head start on the e-book revolution presently shaking up the industry.  His three novels--Inexplicably, Love: Three Stories of Love in Real Time (my favorite), Haven, and In the Satchel, On the Train, Selling Dreams to Nancy--and his poetry collection, Such Deliberate Loveliness, are all available on the Kindle.  And for those of you lucky enough to have it, on the iPad, too.  You can also look for Such Deliberate Loveliness and In The Satchel, On The Train, Selling Dreams to Nancy in paperback.  For us old-fashioned types.   

And I know.  He's my husband.  So you can't believe a word I say about any of them.  But check them out, anyway.  

That's it!  Actually . . . that was a lot.  :)  But I think that the most rewarding parts of blogging are the friendships we make, and the support we can offer one another.  I belong to a vibrant and talented community that inspires me daily.  Thanks for being here.