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Friday, April 29, 2011

Pop Up In Pittsburgh, PA!

Attention, Pittsburgh, PA residents! On May 7, Fleeting Pages, a "pop-up" bookstore housed in a closed Borders. Get down there soon after it opens, because, as a pop-up often does, this one will fade fast and close within a month!

Fleeting Pages is a great way to support indie publishers and authors. Look at the "In Stock" section of the website closely and you'll see one Jessica Knauss. In the store, there are two, count 'em, two copies of Tree/House signed by the author. As with any aspect of Fleeting Pages, you can also shop for these online.

I'm especially pleased to get Tree/House involved with Fleeting Pages in Pittsburgh, PA, because the book is set in Pennsylvania and the haunting black and white pictures now in the print edition were taken in the wilds of that great state.

But, this store is a fabulous idea in any state. You can support this amazing project from any location at, where philanthropy has its rewards. Pledge now, because if they don't make their goal, they don't get any funding. Best of luck to you, Fleeting Pages!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

This Translates to a "New" TV

As you may know, my husband and I fled to Arizona to live with his sister. This was to keep her company, as her husband had recently passed away, and mostly because we couldn't afford a place of our own. Now, as you know, my husband has a job in the far south of the city, so we had to move because his sister's place was way too far north and we literally couldn't have afforded the gas, even before the springtime price increases. Even with the gas savings, we're just holding steady in a virtually furniture-free apartment, crossing our fingers for the day we can go back and get our stuff. Then we won't feel so gosh darn poor.

Now my sister-in-law has finally sold that house so far from town and is off this week to move back to California. (Arizona had been her husband's idea.) Good for her! My husband and I feel slightly abandoned to the rattlesnakes, coyotes, gila monsters, and burning sunlight, but her departure for a smaller place means we get even more second-hand stuff. You name it, we can use it. The one that's most drastically changed our quality of life has been that my sister-in-law gave us another TV set. She had given us one that she thought was decent, but it was anything but. The first TV she gave us was 12 or 14 inches, so I had to sit pretty close in order to see the questions on Jeopardy! Its remote control had been lost to the sands of time, and the cable guy didn't give us a cable box or remote because we got the cheapest package. I assure you, we pay for cable, but on this TV, it felt like we were stealing. The TV was really designed to be used with the now missing remote, so in order to use it, we had to take off the front panel and change the channels and volume with the little nubs. Even when I was single and at my poorest, I never had to endure such ignominy. The worst part was, well, it's visible in the picture.
In this picture you can also see the borrowed glass coffee table and a castoff lamp.
The channel number in the middle of the screen, taking up 25% of it, obscuring sight gags and making it impossible to recognize who's talking, never goes away! (This is apparently a common malady of older TV models -- I've seen Craigslist ads with this description!) You have the watch the lower numbered channels to get only half the obstruction.

The result of all this was that I never watched TV until my husband came home and needed to unwind. I think that's the reason I've gotten so much writing and Fireship Press projects done, so it actually added quality to my life ... until I had to look at that screen again.

The "new" TV my sister-in-law gave us is 32 inches or so (ginormous!), so I can see it across the room, read the Jeopardy! questions, and flip through the stultifying channels with the working remote. I feel almost like a princess. Or at least lower middle class. I'm still not watching much TV, but I do feel most grateful to my sister-in-law. I wish her all the best in California.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Out Now: Transformation and Transformación: Health Care in the US (Cuidado sanitario en EEUU)

One of my projects with Fireship Press has been to translate the short novel Transformation, which is about a subject of grave concern to many Americans. Senior editor Tom Grundner wrote it in order to provide an easy-to-read guide to some of the innovations being made in providing medical care in the US. These new methods, called Medical Home and Guided Care, enhance the doctors' ability to give consistent quality care to their patients, especially in the case of patients with multiple chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. Using a light and discovery-based narrative, the book addresses financial and emotional stress on caregivers as well as the specifics of how Guided Care works and where to find more information.

The book has been made possible by a grant from the John A. Hartford Foundation. You can get your copy from Fireship or Amazon by clicking on this picture. Also available for Kindle!

Tengo todo esto grabado en la memoria porque traduje el libro al español para los hispanohablantes en Estados Unidos. Compre esta versión, Transformación, para enterarse de los nuevos métodos de atención médica en desarrollo en este país que pueden proporcionar mejor atención, especialmente para los ancianos con más de una enfermedad crónica, a un costo más económico. La narrativa es fácil de leer y una manera amena de aprender acerca de lo que está pasando, tanto lo bueno como lo malo. La versión al español es disponible de Fireship Press o de Amazon. Pincha en la publicidad, o puedes pedirme una copia a precio muy reducido en at gmail punto com. Por favor, cite cualquier error o problema en este email, también, y los cambios pueden ser incorporados en una nueva edición. También disponible en versión Kindle.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Poetry for Mother Earth

I missed April 22 because we had a literarily great anniversary to celebrate, but I would like to nod to my favorite Spanish poet, Manolo García, and present his "Sabrás que andar es un sencillo vaivén" with my humble interpretation in English to start off Translation Week. Here, García's love for nature comes through loud and clear.

Being born, living, faces full of longing,
with expressions eager for life.
I see it in the streets,
in stopped time.
We’re all living, growing, exposed to love.
Exposed to crying, to nostalgia,
to laughter and to pain.
Willing for every moment
that we love life.

Living to love,
a blowing breeze. Life.
Any form of life
in the pitched battle
in a world that will sink
if we don’t champion every life form
in nature.

If a paved-over, lifeless world fails to worry me.

I’ll find that walking, feeling,
is a simple rhythm.
And at times, leaving myself behind
will make my baggage lighter.

You’ll find that waking up
to that simple rhythm
is just breathing and letting yourself be carried away
by ducks migrating, by an apple tree
or by the grandiosity of an iceberg.

Being born, living. A sparkle, a detour. Life,
the pull of life.
I see it in people,
in the present time.
Celestial body, love of the campfire.
Exposed to damage, to treachery,
to enjoyment and to forgiveness.
Willing for every moment, hungry for life.

I’ll find that walking, feeling,
is slowing down, stopping.
And at times becoming detached, since in the end
pure air satisfies lungs and anxiety.

I’ll know that waking up
to that simple rhythm
is slow; it’s arriving at serene limits
in a whirl of butterflies, towards a fjord
or in the cobalt blue of a hurricane.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday, Easter Edition

Happy Easter to all who celebrate it. Thank so much to everyone for their gratifying comments last week. You can find out what was happening in that clipping here.

And check out all the wonderful sets of six here.

We're celebrating the release on Kindle of the Sailing Italy series!

These six sentences come from near the beginning of Sail From Italy, when Noreena, now the queen, is interviewing the real Repual, Prince of Germany, for the position of King of Italy by marriage at a dinner party.

* * * 

Repual smiled a very large smile, considering the size of his mouth. He smiled more at that dinner party than ever before in his life, and perhaps it was just an illusion, perhaps not, his eyes seemed not quite as large and his mouth seemed not quite so small.
He liked Noreena.
Noreena thought he was sweet.
Everything was fine.
Until a dagger flew through the air and missed Noreena by a foot. 

* * *

Too thrilling for print! (Although if I reach a certain sales threshold, I will seriously consider a paperback version.) Get it on Kindle today by clicking the link above! Super cheap!

Friday, April 22, 2011

On This Day in 1616: Miguel de Cervantes

We have to celebrate Miguel de Cervantes's life on the anniversary of his death because his birthday hasn't come down to us with any certainty. Here is my tribute to a true literary inspiration.
Miguel de Cervantes’s life was just as extraordinary as any of his far-fetched plots. He was the middle child of seven, born in the university town of Alcalá de Henares on or about October 9, 1547. His father was a surgeon, a common occupation for a man of good family name who didn’t have the money for an education or leisure. The family’s income was meager at best, and whether Cervantes’s father was a poor practitioner or just an adventuresome spirit, he moved his family all over Spain. There are records of the family being in Alcalá, Valladolid, Córdoba, Cabra, Sevilla, and Madrid between the years 1547 and 1566. The family tried to keep up appearances by hiring servants when they moved to new cities. The servants never lasted long, and once or twice, Miguel’s father went to prison for debts.

It is said that the young Miguel had to satisfy his appetite for literature by reading scraps of printed paper he found in the street. His education was as erratic as his location, and all together he probably had six years of formal schooling, which he received from Jesuit priests. The knowledge he displays in his work far surpasses six years of primary education. He must have read whenever he could.

In 1567, Miguel published his first poem, which praised the queen, who had recently given birth to a daughter. Upon the queen’s death two years later, more of Cervantes’s poems in her praise were published in a collection.

In 1569, when Antonio de Sigura insulted his sister, Miguel wounded him in a duel in the royal palace, the penalty for which would have been to lose his right hand and be exiled from the kingdom for ten years. He fled the punishment and joined a Spanish regiment in Italy while he waited for the law to forget his offense.

Cervantes admired soldiers all his life, saying that there was no profession more honorable nor more profitable. To be a soldier meant to serve God fighting against the Turks who were trying to conquer Europe. Miguel was joined by his brother Rodrigo, and together they participated in the Battle of Lepanto, a naval victory much celebrated at the time. On the day of the battle, Miguel was sick with a fever and ordered to stay below. However, the call to duty was too strong. He demanded to be put where the action was thickest. He emerged from the battle with a serious chest wound and the loss of the use of his left hand. This wound, though debilitating, made him proud for the rest of his life, like a badge of honor.

He convalesced in Italy for six months, where he must have done a lot of his reading, and then participated in two more battles before he was sent home. Both he and his brother Rodrigo were going home on the galley Sol in 1571 when the ship was captured by Barbary pirates, and the brothers were sold as slaves in Algiers. The letters of recommendation Miguel was carrying on his way home made the Algerians think he was rich, and they set his ransom outlandishly high. He remained captive in Algiers for five years, during which time his sisters gave up their dowries and his mother begged the government in futile efforts to bring the brothers home. Conditions in captivity were harsh. Most prisoners were chained in dark, filthy rooms, and they had to work for their keep, performing any number of onerous physical tasks under strict guard.

Miguel attempted to escape four times. No one knows why he didn’t receive the official punishment for attempted escape: death by torture. The Algerian officials were noted for their cruelty, often lashing, impaling, and hanging offenders such as Cervantes by the feet until dead. However, they let him off every time with only a short prison sentence. Biographers suggest that they were impressed with Miguel’s courage and generosity. When questioned about the accomplices to his grand-scale escape plans, he never betrayed his collaborators, but asked to be punished alone.

When his family miraculously gathered up enough money to ransom one, but only one, of the brothers, Miguel allowed that brother to be Rodrigo. Finally, he was ransomed by a friar from the Order of Nuestra Señora de la Merced, which specialized in the rescue of Christian captives in Africa. As Don Quijote says, “no treasure the Earth contains nor the sea conceals can be compared to” the liberty known after imprisonment. Cervantes returned to his home country, having been away twelve years. He had left a criminal in danger of losing his right hand, and returned a hero without the use of his left hand.

Despite his numerous talents, he could not find gainful employment to support the family that had gone bankrupt trying to bring him home. He applied for a post in the Americas and was rejected. He published his first novel, La Galatea, a pastoral romance that had very little success; and a few plays that received mild public response. In spite of these disappointments, Cervantes felt optimistic enough at this time to take a wife. Some think he must have married Catalina de Palacios Salazar for her dowry, but she was his match in finances as well as social rank. The couple never had children.

Sometime after his wedding, Miguel secured a job as a king’s commissary, collecting provisions for the Armada. It probably wasn’t a very amusing job, because it involved long hours of riding alone through Andalusia, and when he did see people, they weren’t hospitable because he was there to take their grain. For a meager wage, he had the right to jail people who resisted his authority. He once exercised this right on a sacristan, and was excommunicated from the church. He later had the excommunication lifted because of the social impediments it represented.

Cervantes was often accused of financial chicanery because people were so reluctant to give up their livelihood in exchange for a receipt, but more often than not, Miguel was able to justify himself in a court of law. In 1597, someone’s bad arithmetic landed him in debtor’s prison. He was 50 years old and had more than his share of misfortunes. Rather than rotting away in prison, however, he took advantage of a time when he had no other duties and began writing one of the world’s literary masterpieces, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha. The work is a window into his thought. The tale of an aged hidalgo who goes insane reading too many books of chivalry shows the reader his ideals in contrast with a Golden Age Spain at its best and worst. The hero’s noble endeavors turn into disheartening mistakes, just as Cervantes’s youthful dreams and heroic deeds turned into disappointments and injustice in his maturity.

After seven months, he was released from prison, but was from then on unemployed. He traveled, following the roving Spanish court, wrote, and made friends with many of the literary figures of the time.

In 1605, Cervantes sold Don Quijote to the printer Juan de la Cuesta for a small price. There were no royalties for writers, so even though Don Quijote was a phenomenal success, requiring two printings in the first year, and was translated into all the major European languages, he remained poor. However, this was the turning point. Don Quijote possessed the nation. There was not a person in all Spain who didn’t know the story, for those who could not read had it read to them. In the second part, Cervantes writes with great humor about the success of the first, creating another level of metaliterature in addition to the already stacked layers.

Now Cervantes could spend his time writing instead of looking fruitlessly for work. He had another success, The Exemplary Novels, a collection of long stories that demonstrate the social and moral decay of the time, a true witness of the fall of the largest Western empire the world had ever seen.

Toward the end of his life, deaths in his family, poverty, and failing health caused Cervantes to devote himself more fully to the church. In 1609 he joined the Brotherhood of the Slaves of the Most Holy Sacrament, saying that he was at an age when “one doesn’t trifle with the life to come.”

In 1614, a continuation of the adventures of the ingenious knight appeared, but it hadn’t been written by Cervantes! Parody sequels of this kind, which capitalized on the success of a book while at the same time making fun of it, were common at the time, but this was especially offensive because in the prologue, the author of the spurious book, Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, insults Cervantes personally. While he had license to lash out verbally against Avellaneda, Cervantes reacted with dignity in the prologue to the real second part of Don Quijote, published in 1615, saying, “Let his sin be his punishment. With his bread let him eat it, and there let it rest.”

Though the second part was even more successful than the first, the novel wasn’t an accepted literary genre at the time, and Cervantes remained on the outskirts of the literary world. The merit of his work was not critically recognized until long after his death. He was frustrated that he wasn’t considered “great,” like many of his friends, but he wasn’t bitter. He was always able to joke about his supposed inadequacies, such as in Viaje al Parnaso, an epic poem in which all the great poets are gathered and Cervantes isn’t invited.

The last months of his life were relatively serene, characterized by illness and time to reflect. He knew that he had done well by his own standard, but was respectful that others didn’t share his standard. His only regret appears to have been that he couldn’t go on living, to write all of the other creations he had in his head. With an admirable acceptance of the inevitable, Cervantes died on April 22, 1616, from a prolonged illness he called “dropsy,” but which we would diagnose today as diabetes.

Cervantes probably accepted that not all of life’s questions can be answered. He sometimes leaves ambiguity in his work instead of trying to solve the problems he deliberately sets forth. He presents humans truthfully, with their good, bad, and indifferent qualities. In his re-creation of the story of the ingenious knight, Camino Real, Tennessee Williams sums up Cervantes’s idea: “Life is an unanswered question, but let’s still believe in the importance and dignity of the question.”

Cervantes was a good witness of human nature because he was both an outsider and an insider. He was accepted by society because of his heroics at Lepanto and his two successful books, but was rejected because of his poverty, his time in jail, and his lack of influential friends. The administration he lived under ignored his accomplishments, while severely punishing every minor transgression. A complete insider might have only seen the rosy aspects of society, while an outsider might have rebelled. However, his vagabond life and privations gave him a full perspective of the society in which he lived. Both his life and his work serve as inspirations for writers and people of all professions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Officially Released Today: Sail To and From Italy

Today the people who waited for the real bargain get their reward: Sail To Italy and Sail From Italy are out today in a package deal that saves you $0.49! All the adventure, romance, travel and silliness can now be yours in one neat package. Look at the previous two posts for all the descriptions you can handle, and click on this ad to go directly to the goods. Also in Nook!

In honor of this auspicious day, I've decided to share with you the playlist for the soundtrack to Sail To Italy: The Movie, as I devised it when I was first writing. Click on the links to hear samples.

First and foremost, "A Word in Spanish" by Elton John. This represents the undying love between Carlovita and Javier. I still think it's one of Sir Elton's best!

Next, Gloria Estefan's Spanish rendition of "Anything for You," "No te olvidaré." Although it's in Spanish, it represents Giovanni's continued devotion to Noreena, even in the face of her rejection.

Third, "More Than Meets the Eye," an underappreciated gem from the Bangles. The song has virtually nothing to do with Sail To Italy, but in my mind, it stood for Gofinick's masquerade, revealed at the end of the book.

My attention was drawn to "Family Man," because as well as describing Javier's struggles to do what's right, it pinned down his character with beautiful Spanish-style nylon-string guitar interludes.

"Boy Trouble" applies to the way Noreena feels about Giovanni in the first book, and the way Carlovita feels about Hugo in the second book.

"Music Box" is here because it's the most beautiful instrumental music I'd heard at the time that wasn't already claimed for a major motion picture. I had a plan to put a music box in the plot at one point, but it never came to pass. (The sample is Track 7 on Disc 3.)

I'm not sure what the logic is behind "Dust in the Wind." It might refer to the passage in Sail From Italy when the wind kicks up and the characters flee a storm. It might refer to the evanescent nature of power, as when Noreena gets locked in her own dungeon. It might be that I had the song deeply ingrained in my consciousness because our roving music teacher made us sing it in grade school, and it seemed so very "deep." Anyone's guess, really.

And the grand finale of the whole hypothetical album, "Set Your Sails," by Jem and the Holograms. I think the link to the title of my series is self-evident. By the way, I owe thanks to my mother for the evocative title of the first book. I hope you enjoyed this little jukebox. Thanks for traveling with me. Now, go preview and download the epic story it inspired!

For those of you who want to check out the first part before committing to the second part.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Officially Released Today: Sail From Italy

The sequel to Sail to Italy has more romance, more travel, more adventure, and most importantly, more Spain. Buy it today on Kindle!

What if the Queen of Italy and her best friend were the targets of a mad killer? What if the only way to save their own lives was to travel to Spain? Sail From Italy ties up the loose ends from Sail To Italy. Javier gets to visit his beloved homeland. Carlovita has to fight for her man. Tony confronts the secrets from his past that separated him from the Italian royal family twenty years before. We find out what Repual Gofinick is really like, and discover the soft side of Pirate Pierre. We also have an absurdist interlude in the finest hotel in Hortaleza and a thrilling chase scene in the harbor at Torreblanca.

Sail From Italy is just over 10,000 words long. I wrote it a year after Sail To Italy, so, although the writing is less simplistic, the same restrictions apply: no one over fourteen years old should be reading this book. It will be too lighthearted and fun for such people. And even fourteen is pushing it. Use of this book should probably be limited to people twelve and under, or people who still understand the wonder of one’s first trip away from home, and the innocence of falling in love for the first time.

Although the loose ends get tied up, in my dim memory, I can recall writing the first few paragraphs from a third part of the series, titled Sailing Italy. It was going to be about Italy's economic problems and the way Noreena and her friends triumph over them. The scraps are probably in a box in Pennsylvania -- somehow they didn't get scanned before we left. If I ever find them, I'll be sure to share them with you. 

Tomorrow: the economy combo pack!

The first thrilling book in the Sailing Italy Series is also available.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Officially Released Today: Sail To Italy

It's the one you've been waiting for!

What if the Princess of Italy had only the help of her friends to solve the mystery of her father's murder? What if the Prince of Germany wanted to marry the Princess of Italy in a coldhearted grab for power? This book answers these and other burning questions. Along the way, the reader journeys at sea, meets pirates, bankers, and cousins, spends some time in the dungeon and very nearly gets married. Sail To Italy is a silly story with exotic locations, pirates, mistaken identity, royalty, blacksmithing, romance, and adventure.

At just over 8,000 words, this book is a fast, fun read for people who have not developed beyond the emotional and intellectual level of a thirteen-year-old. Seriously, if you can't think like someone thirteen or younger, this book is not for you. Why do I put the cap at thirteen? Because that’s how old I was when I wrote it.

When I was thirteen, the only source material I had was The Princess Bride. That books remains a major inspiration to me today, so you will see a spark here that I hope I still display: love of words, love of silliness! The biggest debt I owe to The Princess Bride here is the name of the main character. There is a Noreena in Chapter Two: The Groom, but it's not a very flattering picture. Everything else about my Noreena came from my young head. I had quite a hard time finding names for all the characters, and it gets pretty random and creative in places. I hope you enjoy. 

Buy it on Kindle today! Buy it, easy peasy, by clicking on the link above. Okay, so the cover is kind of faint, but it's the best I can do for now. If I sell enough copies, I'll correct the problem, and there may be a print version in the future. 

If you like this book, look for Sail From Italy by the same author. That's right, Sail To Italy begins a series. Sail From Italy will be officially released tomorrow.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Six Sentences for Your Rhinoceros Pleasure (Newly Published Today!)

Thanks for all the comments last Sunday! I can tell there are a lot of people out there wonderful enough to read Sail To Italy! Those of you who indicated that they would like to be in the drawing for a free pdf have been thrown into the hat. There's still time to throw your name in, too: drawing takes place April 20. Just mention here that you'd be only too thrilled to get a free pdf of Sail To and Sail From Italy in your inbox, and Fate will roll her dice.

Today I've got a happy rhino (one of the sisters from the Phoenix zoo) because it's the release day of my flash fiction piece, "A Business Venture in Glue," in Stanley the Whale. I've written about my love for this piece and problems finding someone else who appreciates its quirks on this blog before. So I won't prattle on about it today, except to say that I'm honored by Stanley the Whale's acceptance, especially since I've really liked some of the pieces they've had in the past. Here are six sentences from it to tempt you into looking at the whole magazine.

* * *

“Hey!” I cried from my place on the edge of the highway. I ran toward him. “What did you do to that beautiful animal?”
He rolled his eyes at me, then held out his hand.
“The rhino’s fine, see?”
I peered into the lines of his hand. 

* * *

Update 5:20 pm Arizona Time: It's finally up! Click on this link to read the whole thing! I'll be sure to let you know when it's out in print. Thanks for stopping by.

Tomorrow: Sail To Italy! (Refer to last Sunday for six sentences from it.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sail From Italy Video Excerpt

In a scene from Sail From Italy that my husband calls "the most frightening in the book," Carlovita establishes her territory with Conchita, Javier's old girlfriend. They both appear to be in an office kitchen, and the casual atmosphere comes out in their performances. :)

Sail From Italy is the more silly, more adventurous, more romantic, more everything, continuation of the Sail To Italy story.

In just one week, you can buy both books on Kindle in the bargain of the century. Can you feel the excitement mounting?

You should!

Comment here and participate in a drawing for a free pdf of the whole series! (Well, almost free. I would hope with my deepest hope that the winner would post some kind of review on Amazon or Goodreads.) Drawing occurs April 20, and will draw from a pool on Facebook, here, and last Sunday's post, so get those comments in!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cover Changes for the Sailing Italy Series

I couldn't get the first covers introduced on this site to work in the publishing program. They were based on low-resolution pdfs of the original designs from when I was 13 years old. Those originals are now in storage in Pennsylvania and so is the scanner, so I spent a weekend redoing all the designs and scanning them at Kinko's at a higher resolution, but not too high, because there was some bizarre problem with the scanners on the sales floor, so the employee scanned them behind the counter for me, at only 600 dpi. They sure look great here:

I'm not sure they'll be any good in the publishing program, but we'll cross that bridge in its time.

Meanwhile, they do look great on mugs and t-shirts in my store! You can get items branded with the Sailing Italy series, Tree/House, and wonderful Americana here, or sate your appetite for Spain and clever slogans here. Thanks for stopping by! Any purchases will help fund more great publications.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tree/House Book Club

The Secret Society of Literary Divas of St. Helens, OR loves Tree/House!
Clockwise from left, the Literary Divas who were able to attend the momentous March meeting were Linda, Beth, Patty, Debi, Kay, Kailyn, Nora, Gail, and Mickey.  Oops, I hope I didn't wreck the secret! Many of the ladies read the book on their e-reader devices, and in this picture, we can see sly, brilliant Patty holding up a library edition. Anyone can and should request Tree/House for their local library. It's a great way to support literature at no cost to yourself.

Linda was nice enough to send me this picture and some of the topics the ladies discussed. I use them as a jumping-off point for a discussion on the interpretation of Tree/House, which you can find by clicking here. It will always be available to read as a page in the left-hand column, and I would like to take this opportunity to invite comments from readers to be listed and responded to on that page. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: Sail To Italy

Thanks to everyone who commented last week! To get some resolution on the pink kitchen sponge, look at this page. Scroll to the bottom of the post to avoid other spoilers.

Here are some silly sentences from my upcoming YA adventure, Sail To Italy.

In this scene, Princess Noreena confronts the man she believes killed her father, then realizes that the culprit was someone else important in her life, whom she never suspected.

* * *

It all hit her like a herd of stampeding horses. First, the realization that she had never liked Repual, anyway, and then the horrible truth: that he had wanted her father dead.
She started to cry.
“Oh, don’t cry. Did you ever look at that man? How could a good guy be so vastly ugly?”

* * *

Sail To Italy is available for purchase in a Kindle edition as of April 18. Look for the sequel, Sail From Italy, April 19, or wait for the bargain bundle deal, April 20.

When you comment here, indicate whether you would like to participate in a drawing for a "free" pdf of both books in the delightful Sailing Italy series. "Free" is in quotes because I hope the winner will take a few minutes of her/his valuable time to put a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Drawing takes place April 20.

Note: this book is not for you if you're boring or unwonderful in any way.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ron Knight's 100th Blog

In honor of his 100th blog post, author Ron Knight has decided to help independent authors even more than he already does and showcase a bunch of us. I'm there! Check us all out! Thanks so much to Ron!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Now Published in Six Sentences

The nice folks at Six Sentences surprised me this morning by publishing my little (of course it's little -- it has to be six sentences!) piece about what writers dream about. Check it out here. Don't forget to check the "six-tacular" box at the bottom of the story.

The inspiration for this is pretty clear. I will say that I first wrote it as more of a stream-of-consciousness with no real punctuation and all one sentence, something I had to change in order to aspire to being published in Six Sentences.

I hope "The Writer's Wet Nap Dream" shows readers why writers do what we do. Enjoy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Remembering and Unremembering Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure

She thought to herself, "This is now."
She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.

When, at eight or nine years of age, I first read these sentences from the end of Little House in the Big Woods, I was confused. Well, but that now is definitely a long time ago, now, I thought. But it wasn't long ago at all, because there I was, experiencing it, exactly the same now evoked in the book. So this Laura Ingalls Wilder was right, it could never be forgotten. Somehow, she had magically opened up a portal, a direct line between her childhood and her future readers. This strange and profound connection to people I'd never known, places I'd never been, and things that, in some cases, never existed (I found out later), were the track that kept me reading all the way through the series and beyond to the books of diaries and letters Laura never intended for an audience. Although I've gone on to do a lot more reading, I've always carried a little of Laura with me, in ways I never considered before I read The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure.

The book is a memoir of McClure's rediscovery of the series as an adult after a personal tragedy. She gets obsessed with trying to somehow recapture that long-ago life in some way, any way she can. In  the process she goes on an epic journey, always learning and developing insights along the way. No crazy idea, whether it's churning her own butter or camping on a farm in Illinois, fails to spark some kind of connection with the ever-expanding and lost world Laura writes about so lovingly. McClure masterfully sorts out her personal reactions to the book and compares "fact" with "fiction" to allow the reader to come to his/her own conclusions.

Topics addressed include:
• The hybrid nature of the books. Are they fiction? Are they autobiography? How can we reconcile the Laura we know from the books with the mysterious Laura who experienced all that and so much more?
• The people who know the books only through the TV series and how their expectations from the historical sites differ. Is the world of the TV series less valid than that of the books?
• The prototypes for ways of being feminine presented in the books. These are especially important to consider, as they influence girls at a formative moment in their development. Do you sympathize with Mary? With Nellie Oleson? Is Laura a "tomboy"? (I completely agree with McClure when she decides that Laura is not a tomboy, just a girl whose femininity encompasses an explorer's spirit and some rugged chores. We girls can do anything, like Laura!)
• The complicated political issues at stake in the West at the time, which is mostly played out when we discover that the Ingalls were one of many squatters on land that was clearly meant for Native Americans and only opened to homesteaders a few years after the Ingallses left.
• The views of Native Americans, which, whether positive or negative, are incomplete in the books, mainly because they're told from a child's perspective, and that child was never to experience Native American culture firsthand, even as an adult.
• The wide-ranging interpretations people put on the books, often to serve their own world views. The prevailing one is that the Ingalls' life was a "simple" one of self-sufficiency. As the homesteading issue shows, times were never "simpler," at least not in the last two millennia, and as McClure points out, the Ingalls relied on technology, like trains and conveniences like stores whenever they were available. Especially entertaining is the story about the serial killers who operated near the Little House on the Prairie -- were they more innocent times?
• The hotly contested role of Rose Wilder Lane in the creation of the books, and in her life in general.
• The way Farmer Boy fits or doesn't fit into the series.
• The way the series peters out, so disappointing for young readers, and so much more understandable for adults. By visiting some of Laura's home sites that don't appear in the children's series, McClure comes to a better understanding of where the story really goes.
• That incredible sense of identification readers seem to come away with so often. Is the reader actually Laura? Who is Laura, anyway?

Possibly the best feature of the Little House series is Laura Ingalls Wilder's talent for observation accompanied by wonder. McClure learned from the best. Her writing transmits a similar finely-observed reality colored with wonder and more often than not, joy. The book jacket claims that it's "hilarious," but my laughter was more about recognition: whenever she has a Laura geek moment or discusses the way the books impacted her as a child, I think, yes, I had exactly the same reaction myself. Of course, McClure is also a writer and an editor who studied in Iowa City, so we have more than one common frame of reference. But the beautiful writing and great research, executed under the aegis of unflagging enthusiasm, will pull you along, too.

And hooray for McClure's partner, Chris, who read the books for her sake, and had the good sense to wake up in the middle of a potentially deadly hail and thunderstorm in DeSmet, only to show concern for the crops. (Would the Ingalls ever see a wheat crop that didn't fail?)

I just happened to have "rediscovered" the Little House books at the end of 2010, when my mother mailed them to me in an effort to clear out the house. I hadn't even thought of looking at what Laura stuff there might be on the internet, and because this book includes so much information in such a fun way, now I never have to. The Wilder Life couldn't have come at a better time for me, and I think it's also appropriate for Americans in general as we face ever-worsening economic hardships. The Wilder Life reminds us all that normal people, like the Ingalls -- like us -- can make it work under the worst conditions.

The Wilder Life will be released on April 14. Click on the ad to pre-order the hardback. For Kindle, click here: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: Creative Participation Edition

How encouraging! I got the nicest comments yet last Sunday on the opener to Tree/House. Thanks so much, everybody! I really appreciate it.

As promised, this is the Tree/House excerpt that can be gross, but only if you want it to be! Please comment with an opinion as to what's really going on here. I'll re-post the suggestions that keep my blog PG. I might even add them to the Amazon descriptions if appropriate. (I've already had some suggestions from readers that are too scandalous.) And as always, check out the other participants here.

In this scene, if Emma wants to get home from college, she has to ride with her nasty Shakespeare professor (Franklin, whose cedar coffin we saw last week), who has invited her to see a new property he's invested in.

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As he placed her bags in the trunk, Emma quickly rifled through the contents of that mysterious, innocent-looking briefcase. On the bottom was a heavy, very dry book of Shakespeare criticism Emma knew only too well from her light-and-dark project, and her hand jerked away at its touch. There was also a collected sonnets and ten really sharp pencils (ouch!) held together by a rubber band. The dust from their erasers was getting all over three silk ties in varying shades of red and a day planner. Emma felt something wet and cold under the ties. It was a pink kitchen sponge.

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And don't forget to treat yourself or the reader in your life to Tree/House in paperback or Kindle!