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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Six Sentences More on the Ill-Fated Wedding

THANK YOU to those of you who enjoyed my clippings the previous two weeks. Your comments are tremendously flattering, and it's nice to know I'm reaching readers, which is my greatest hope. I do my very best to comment on all of your wonderful sentences, too. I hope you'll enjoy this snippet, which comes right after last week's. Here I'm trying to achieve a balance between specificity and speed...

* * *

Ruy Blásquez took Lambra's shaking hands in his and looked into her wild eyes. She wrenched her hands away from him and shouted, pointing at Gonzalo, "Do something! Are you my husband by these nuptials or not?"

Doña Sancha shouted, "Brother! He's your nephew!"

While Gonzalo was looking at his mother, Ruy Blásquez struck him across the face with the sharp end of the lance. He fell onto his seat and blood streamed from a single streak that started on his cheek and went diagonally up the bridge of his nose to the opposite eyebrow.

* * *

More from The Seven Noble Knights of Lara next Sunday, but only if the comments demand it. I've been distracted from it lately, so I'm starting to run out of story!

Check out the other participants here! And have fun!

If you like my writing, and you like stories about women, please consider checking out my new short story collection Threads Woven. Thanks!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sweet Saturday Samples First Week!

What better way to end the month than with two -- count 'em, two! -- days of excerpts. Today is the first time around for Sweet Saturday Samples, a concept I truly appreciate. See the other non-violent, non-sexual excerpts here. As I wind down my promotions for Sail To Italy and Sail From Italy, I can think of no sweeter book ever written. :)

This silly scene is from the beginning of the first book, when Princess Noreena needs Pirate Pierre to find the fugitive Giovanni Redicci.

Pierre had come with an offer. “I know where your Giovanni Redicci is. I can get him for you, but it’s going to cost you dearly.”
“How much?” was all Noreena said, though she was taken aback. It was all she could do to keep herself from jumping up and down.
“How much are you willing to pay?” he asked.
“How much are you asking?” she insisted. Though she was willing to hock her new silverware, she was a bargainer at heart.
“Sixty five. French francs, please.”
“Oh? I suppose that means I have to go to France, then.”
“And that will cost me a fortune in itself.”
“Monsieur Pierre, I’m afraid you’ll have to take down your offer. I do not have adequate funds at the present.” Noreena was annoyed.
Does he think I’ve got French money growing on my courtyard trees?she thought.
Pierre was silent a moment, then said, “I’ll make another offer, but you may turn this down, too. If you sail to Ireland with me, I will detour to France where you can get fifty five, and I will then get this Redicci for you, then you give me the money and do whatever you wish with him.”
“Fifty five, hmm?”
“I won’t go any lower, so accept or find someone else who can find him. Your search parties weren’t doing so well, and only I know where he is. Weigh all this carefully, your highness.”
“Oh, but I do know where he is. You told me yourself just now. He’s in Ireland.”

See this and other excerpts here. I'll keep future excerpts shorter.

In Kindle, Nook, or paperback, this saga is not expensive, long, or serious. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Release: Threads Woven (Stories)

Now available by popular demand! Readers have been asking for a collection of my short stories, and I've responded by coming out with Threads Woven, a collection that includes only my most woman-centered tales. This is not because I don't think men are worth writing about or that men shouldn't read my writing. It just seemed like the most solid theme upon which to base a collection.

Included stories (click on live links to read the whole story -- the best preview ever!):

1. "Threads Woven" (never previously published). In this charming longer story, Miriam seeks artistic inspiration in a writing class. Feeling ever more alone, with her husband busy in a career and with a beautiful new running partner, her daughter unavailable and her classmates thirty years younger than she is, Miriam finds communion and inspiration in another drifting soul, in Chinese food, and in an old quilt.

2. "Justine"

3. "Job Fair"

4. "Calcium-Rich"

5. "Slippers"

6. "Club Love"(not previously published). Meredith works at a club where she must cater to her male clients' every whim, so her best friend thinks it's a good idea to take her to a club where the roles are reversed. It seems like a very good idea, for a while...

7. "Green Hot" (never published before). Sheila knows she deserves the promotion that her coworker gets. Her strong conviction literally burns her up from the inside out.

The cover is very blue. It was my husband's favorite of the ones I could get artwork rights for. We both really loved one painting, but I've had trouble contacting the artist. I'll show you the other possibilities and maybe ask you to vote on them in Monday's post!

Here's the buy link to get a free sample of the title story. Also available in Nook! For now, these stories are only in e-book, but one day a paperback will exist that somehow combines all the amazing stories I want to share with my readers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Treasure Quest: Discovery Lies Between The Covers: Mega Author Blog Hop Tour WINNERS

The winners have been chosen!

Grand Prize Winner of a signed paperback: Barbara (Babs) Hightower

First Prize Winners of digital copies: Avid book reviewer Saph of saphsbookblog and voracious reader Robin D

Congratulations! Enjoy your copies of Sail To Italy and Sail From Italy!

These are my two favorites out of all the wonderful suggestions I got for the coming year of my blog. (Thanks for the compliments! They make me feel like I have some idea what I'm doing!)

1. "I want to continue following your writing adventures!" Kay Springsteen. iluvkimi220 and Krystal Larson expressed similar (flattering!) desires.

2. "It's cool to put up stuff you like... what makes you you... whether it's hot guys or chocolate fantasy painting" Nikki. Robin D made a similar comment. Sorry to say, my interests outside of writing aren't that inherently exciting! But we'll see what we can do.

I'll address all the ideas I received either in an individual post in the coming weeks, or as a general modus operandi in the coming year. Thanks for the suggestions. I'm so glad I asked!

Happy blogoversary to me....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: Death at the Wedding and Its Consequences

These six come directly after the six from last week. Doña Lambra's about to hold forth at her nephew Gonzalo:

*  *  *

Through her tears, she exclaimed, “He was my cousin. He won the prize. Never before has a bride been so dishonored at her own wedding! Ruy Blásquez will repay this betrayal!”
Doña Sancha let go of Gonzalo’s arm to wipe at the tears coming down her own cheeks and plead with Lambra. “Oh, dear sister-in-law, he didn’t mean to do it.”

*  *  *

Thanks so much for stopping by and for whatever insight you wish to share here. I really appreciated the encouragement last week! What an amazing boost that was! The other six sentences for this amazing Sunday jaunt are here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

You Know You Want To

He's really upset about leaving the cabinet because he was in the middle of a great book: Tree/House
Go ahead, read it. Some strange urge deep within your psyche is telling you... you know you want to.
You are feeling sleepy, very sleepy...
Wake up with a good read! Really inexpensive, too.

Photos from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Expectations in Flash Fiction

I've been shopping around a piece that is dear to my heart because it's an ode to my marriage, both its misfortunes and its strength. At less than one thousand words, it's officially considered a flash fiction piece. I want so much to share it with the world! I think it's a funny little glimmer of joy in a sad world. But it seems not enough people "get" it. It's admittedly pretty unusual to want to celebrate marriage and love in an exaggerated, absurdist style, but if I'm not striving to write things no one's written before, am I not wasting everyone's time? (It's not a rhetorical question. Feel free to weigh in.)

I sent it for consideration for publication to Everyday Fiction, and wonderfully, helpfully, and unusually, they included the evaluations with the rejection letter. There were no less than four different reviewers (showing the quality of the venue!) Two readers seemed to really get it, which was heartening. A third called it "unique" (hooray!) but seemed overwhelmed by the tightly-woven sequence of action -- s/he used the word "packed," which I would have thought meant the reader gets a lot for their money/time investment. I always think flash fiction is short enough that the reader can look it over many times instead of just the once, so it's okay to really jam it full because they'll pick up on more details the second and third time, but I respect a differing opinion.

The fourth reviewer, in my humble opinion, was completely misguided. I think I made the exaggerated, absurdist style apparent in the first sentence: "It rained so hard, the wicker baskets were overflowing." How much would it have to rain to fill a wicker basket, much less to make it overflow? Pretty exaggerated and expressed in an absurd manner. Yet the reviewer seemed to think I was trying to be true-to-life when I talked about 200-mile-per-hour winds in Nebraska. Sorry, I was trying to exaggerate, which is not easy when you're talking about wind in Nebraska. So that was utterly puzzling, but perhaps his attitude can be explained by another comment, in which he worried about a flash flood coming through the ceiling. That's not what happens in the story, so I can only assume he wasn't paying attention. Totally misapprehended the entire plot at a basic level because he was expecting something else. It grieves my heart when that happens, but there's nothing to be done about it.

The other major flaw in his critique seems to be widespread among critiquers, so I'd like to take this opportunity to explain why I think it doesn't work for flash fiction. He wanted more of a "basis/description of the actual love between them." I just don't see how I could ever do that with the word count limitations of flash fiction. If I were to start really getting into what holds this couple together, it would become a novel, and I already have too many big projects on my plate. For me, flash fiction is all about small details to suggest a whole, so it relies on the reader to activate his/her imagination. If anyone can clue me in on how to achieve a balance between suggestion and explanation within one thousand words, please do so.

I've come up with this mental framework for flash fiction after years of reading the best of it and years of crafting some of my own, so it's not like I'm whinging like a baby over my first attempt here. And I want to express my sincere gratitude to Everyday Fiction for providing the readers' comments. It's the most basically useful thing a writer can see, yet we hardly ever get to see it.

In the end, the story is a love letter I wrote for my husband as we were packing up to move to Arizona with most of our belongings in storage, to show him we could make it though anything. I may not ever find a magazine that's willing to celebrate perfect love between imperfect humans in a vastly imperfect world. But I'll keep looking.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: Death at the Wedding Aftermath

Wow, I was thrilled with the response to my anxiety-driven question to you all last week! Thanks so much for all the comments! I've filed them with the chapter draft and will work with them during editing. I have ideas for all the observations -- yes, even the ones that are diametrically opposed.

These six take place right after the six from last week. Again, this is a first draft. Thank you for reading.

* * *

Doña Sancha reached for her son's arm and held on tightly. "Gonzalico, what have you done?" she whispered into his ear. He opened his mouth and shook his head in disbelief.

Doña Lambra began tearing at her fine silks, sending crisp ripping sounds through the thick air along with her grating sobs. Her whole body shook so violently that her hair flowed out of her headdress, which tumbled to the ground. She strode between the crush of people, wading through the blood and over the teeth, to face Gonzalo González.

* * *

What will she tell her nephew-by-marriage who's the same age as she is and gorgeous as well? Tune in next week!

In the meantime, check out all the other wonderful sets of six sentences here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Treasure Quest: Discovery Lies Between The Covers: Mega Author Blog Hop Tour July 18-25

In Sail To Italy and Sail From Italy, Pirate Pierre is always on the move, on an unending quest for treasure. If you happen to see him while you're about your princess business, it's probably a lucky fluke. 

Of course, the real treasure can be found between the covers of a book, but that's not where he's looking in this imagination of how he ends up getting in touch with his tender side:

Pirate Pierre and his crew were skirting the coast of Iceland. While they were in Greenland dropping off Victor Viterbo, one of the crewmen had heard a rumor about enormous treasure buried under the tundra in Norway. They had to stop in Iceland and stock up on provisions before sallying forth onto the frozen desert. They weren't sure what to expect, but Pierre had visions of wooden chests, perfectly preserved in the permafrost and overflowing with diamonds and rubies as cold as his heart.  

Suddenly the pirate in the crow's nest started ringing the alert bell. "Princess off the starboard bow!" Pierre looked down, and extraordinarily, a woman glittering with jewels was floating on a rickety raft accompanied only by a lap dog. She waved her hand at him regally.

They got her on board and she handed the dog to Pierre when he put out his hand in greeting.

"I'm Princess Christina of Norway," she said. "The Swedes tried to abandon me on Greenland all by myself, except for Muffy here, and probably hoped I would stay there. I put together that raft but had nothing to steer with, and the currents made it impossible to land on Iceland, which is what I assume that island is. I was hoping the Icelanders would help me against the Swedes. But I really can't rely on anyone, anymore, can I?"
"I'm not familiar with Nordic politics," said Pierre. The princess was wearing a tangle of necklaces with every gem imaginable, at least one gold ring on each finger, and bracelets and bangles that stacked up her arm and disappeared under her silken sleeves. If Pierre was staring, though, he wasn't staring at the jewels. Her eyes shone brighter than any gem, her hair glittered more than gold. Could she be the treasure he'd been looking for all his life? "My name is Pierre, and we'll be happy to take you back to your loyal subjects."

* * *

Ah, blooming love! 

The treasures on offer at this blog will go to two lucky first prize winners and one grand prize winner. 
GRAND PRIZE: A copy of the gorgeous paperback of Sail To Italy and Sail From Italy, signed by the author. 
FIRST PRIZE: A digital copy of Sail To Italy and Sail From Italy in pdf, epub, or mobi (Kindle) format (winner's choice).

HOW TO WIN: Take a look at this post. Please take a moment to let me know in the comments in that post or in this post (both will be considered valid) what you would like to see in the second year of this blog. Leave your email for full consideration. (I will only contact you to notify you of your winnings and ask for a mailing address for the paperback copies.) The best suggestions will appear on this blog. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting! 

This book is also participating in giveaways on Goodreads and Librarything, but your best bet for winning is right here!

To continue to the next blog in this hop for chances to win more prizes, join
author Tricia Schneider on a well-read treasure hunt!

1)  HAVE FUN!!!


3)  THIS TOUR STARTS:  Monday, July 18, at Midnight (Arizona Time)
      THIS TOUR ENDS: Monday, July 25, at Midnight (Arizona Time)
      Winners will be drawn and posted June 21st! *** 




***Authors have full discretion to choose an alternate winner in the event any winner fails to claim their prize(s) within 72 hours of their name being posted or after notification of win, whichever comes first. Anyone who participates in this blog hop tour is subject to these rules***

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blogoversary Approaching

Hard to believe it: I've been blogging for nearly a year. My first post as a Famous Writer appeared August 20, 2010. I set up the site so that I would have a central location to log all the stories I published and to let readers know about my current projects so they could get as excited about them as I was. Barely knowing what I was doing, I shared a little about the way the economic turmoil has affected my family, about the trials of publishing, and about my dream of starting a publishing company coming true. Through unexpected and wonderful connections, this blog has grown into something much bigger than I could have dreamed. I've had the privilege of interviewing some wonderful authors and even participating in blog hops and the incomparable Six Sentence Sunday. Thanks to everyone for making this such a positive experience!

I think the anniversary is a great opportunity to reconsider the blog's purpose and execution, and so I'm turning to you, my readers. Please let me know what you would like this blog to become for the next year. More interviews? More reviews? More musings on geography or money? Fewer? More excerpts? More literature and history lessons? Something else entirely? I'd love to hear any of your ideas. Thank you for your important contribution. Please leave a comment here and leave an email address if you'd like to be entered into the next blog hop drawing for a gorgeous signed paperback of Sail To Italy and Sail From Italy, further explained tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Interview Series: The Flower to the Painter Author Gary Inbinder

Gary Inbinder’s second novel, The Flower to the Painter, has just been released by Fireship Press. It’s a story about a young American woman artist in Victorian Europe who disguises herself as a man to advance her career. The author believes it will appeal to readers interested in the art and culture of the period. The novel also deals with themes related to gender identity and sexual sublimation, which adds complexity and interesting nuances to the characters, the narrative and the story-line. Gary is a member of the Bewildering Stories Editorial Review Board, and his short fiction, articles and essays appear in Bewildering Stories, Morpheus Tales, The Absent Willow Review, The Copperfield Review, Humanitas, Touchstone Magazine, Halfway Down the Stairs, and other publications.

A Chicago West Side native, Gary has worked as a copywriter, a purchasing agent, a retail music store manager, a credit fraud investigator, a paralegal and an insurance lawyer, but these were mere occupations until he could return to his true calling, writing historical fiction.

JK: It sounds as if, like Miguel de Cervantes, you led a full life before writing your first novel.

Gary Inbinder: For about thirty years or so I didn’t have much time for writing fiction, although toward the end of my legal career I did manage to have a few non-fiction pieces published.

JK: Both of your novels have been set in the nineteenth century. Do you find it possible to use your life experience in your fiction?

GI: I’m always observing and analyzing, taking incidents from life and weaving them into my fiction. My characters are often based on people I’ve known, or perhaps they’re composites of people. But there are certainly literary influences as well, especially in my historical novels which draw upon the past for inspiration. For atmosphere, I have to rely a good deal on research and imagination, especially when I’m writing about the distant past. As for plots, I believe mine are character driven. I try to create interesting, believable characters, put them in situations where there’s a potential for dramatic conflict, and let them work things out.

JK: You sound like a lifelong writer. When did you really get started?

GI: I started writing “seriously” in college, and I did it because I thought I had something to say. Thank God, none of that stuff survives.

JK: What are your reading habits like? Has your reading influenced your novels?

GI: I can’t name a favorite, but I do tend to read in streaks. For example, many years ago I went through a Zola phase where I read everything by Emile Zola that I could get my hands on. Then I went through a Japanese phase where I read works by Mishima, Kawabata, Tanizaki and Haruki Murakami to name a few. Recently, I’ve read several novels and stories by Henry James and Edith Wharton and I believe those stories from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries influenced The Flower to the Painter. In particular, I’d mention James’s The Aspern Papers, The Portrait of a Lady and The Bostonians and Wharton’s The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth.

JK: I can see those influences in The Flower to the Painter. What was the inspiration for it? I find it especially interesting that you chose to write a first person perspective for a female character.

GI: I believe many creative people feel marginalized, often to the point of alienation. Artists, writers, poets, actors, etc. tend to be “different” and that difference creates empathy with others similarly marginalized. Moreover, alienation can be exacerbated by bias based on gender and sexual orientation. I’m attracted to stories told by outsiders looking in, people who hide behind masks to enter a world that might not otherwise be open to them. I tried to imagine what it would have been like to be a young woman artist in a male dominated culture. I’ve given some thought to role reversal classics, like Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper where the eponymous characters trade places, and If I Were King in which the vagabond poet Francois Villon becomes “King for a Day.” There are also “Gender-Benders” like Victor/Victoria, Tootsie and Myra Breckenridge. And I recall social dramas like Gentleman’s Agreement, where a journalist posed as a Jew to investigate anti-Semitism in post WWII America, and Black Like Me, where another journalist posed as an African American to experience race prejudice in the segregated south. It’s quite a challenge for a man to write convincingly from the female perspective. But I’ve read two books where it’s been done successfully: Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha and Junichiro Tanizaki’s Quicksand. And I’ll also mention Alyson Richman’s historical novel, The Mask Carver’s Son, which she wrote from the perspective of a Gay male Japanese artist of the Meiji era (1867-1912).

JK: How much did you have to research The Flower to the Painter?

GI: I’ve read a good deal about the Victorian period, both fiction and non-fiction, including art books and biographies of artists. I also took Art and Art History courses in college, and I’m a lifelong museum addict.

JK: So the research was kind of an organic process for you. Was it hard to find the right language for narrator and the characters since they’re so far removed in time from the reader?

GI: In The Flower to the Painter I tried to capture the voice of an intelligent, creative, well educated young woman of the Victorian era. I had to rely on the literature of the period, historical fiction, films, further research and imagination to create Marcia Brownlow’s “voice.”

JK: Your writing is very put-together. It has a certain natural flow that I’m sure takes a lot of organization. How about your work area?

GI: I write in streaks, and my work area’s a mess. Not too inspiring, I’m afraid. With the aid of strong coffee, I like to work early in the morning when it’s cool (I live in Southern California) and relatively quiet.

JK: Are your family and friends supportive of your writing habit? 
GI: I have readers who give me valuable feedback, and I’m especially fortunate to have a supportive group of friends on the Bewildering Stories Editorial Review Board.

JK: Thanks so much for stopping by and talking about your enchanting new novel.

GI: Thank you for the interview. I enjoyed it!

Find out about Gary’s latest projects here:

Ever wished Frankenstein’s monster could have met with a happier fate? Gary’s first novel, Confessions of the Creature, imagines in vivid detail how the monster could learn what it means to be human and become an upholder of the society that so violently rejected him at first.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Flower to the Painter by Gary Inbinder (New Release from Fireship Press)

Gary Inbinder's second novel, The Flower to the Painter, transports the reader into the elegant, commercialistic art world of late nineteenth-century Europe. Through the sharp eye of protagonist Marcia Brownlow, we float along the canals of Venice, travel by train through the Alps, and meet John Singer Sargent, Leighton, Whistler, and other memorable painters of the time. We even exchange sketches with Renoir in Montmartre.

Marcia Brownlow was down on her luck when she came to Europe as a governess, a position that quickly became intolerable. Pleading her case before the wealthy aunt of her best friend, Marcia is faced with a risky but lucrative proposition. She accepts the challenge of working for a famous writer not as Marcia but as her brother, Mark. The combination of Mark's gender advantage and Marcia's artistic talent quickly propels her into a promising career. Her "unnatural" bent toward women allows to her romance her wealthy patronesses with pleasure, but only up to a certain frustrating point. Which will Marcia choose: her love or her art? Does it have to be one or the other?

Inbinder's intuitive sense of the sights, sounds, and smells of the period help the reader to feel that Marcia's conflicted, quixotic adventure is their own. It's not easy for a male author to convince the reader that he's inside the head of a female narrator, but even that metaliterary tension contributes to the success of this delightful novel.

In short, Inbinder's vivid language and memorable characters immerse the reader in the nineteenth-century European art scene. This book is a must-read for any art history fan as well as readers interested in a satisfying, gender-bending romance.

Tune in again on Wednesday for a compact but insightful interview with the author.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: Death at the Wedding

We're back to six sentences from the wedding celebrations in tenth-century Burgos in The Seven Noble Knights of Lara. I feel especially vulnerable about this snippet because it's the first death scene in a book that will have many more. It has to be right. I'm kind of liking the oblique way it's portrayed, but that may not be right for the inciting incident of a family revenge saga. What do you think? I'm open to suggestions. I may have to set this scene aside until after I finish the entire first draft, but I appreciate your comments so very much! Thank you. 

By the time we get to this scene, we've seen Álvar Sánchez's charming self spend huge amounts of time with his cousin, the bride, doña Lambra, so any affection the reader has for the character should make this all the more heart-rending. After this, we have a lot of reaction and turmoil.

To set it up: there has been a contest of the knights' prowess on the riverbank, after which male egos have raged out of control. (The sentences are long -- I'll break them up after SSS treatment.)

* * * 

Gonzalo drove his fist into Álvar’s face so hard that he collapsed at the feet of his horse, which reared noisily, bringing its sharp hooves down on its rider’s flesh again and again until Muño Salido seized the reins and led it, still kicking, away. Álvar’s teeth bounced and rolled on the soft earth or landed on people’s pointed shoes like fallen pebbles. Shining blood sprouted from under his body and raced outward, covering the ground with a steaming red plague. Doña Lambra let out a scream much louder than any of the lance blows had been on the scaffold as Justa dropped to her knees and took Álvar’s bloodied head in her hands. The little page stooped and touched Álvar’s limp hands and still chest. They looked up at doña Lambra and shook their heads.

* * * 

I've had a suggestion for hearing his skull crack, but I'm feeling squeamish about that possibility. If a guy was trampled by a horse and we saw his teeth fall out and blood everywhere, I would assume the worst without listening for the crunch of bones, but maybe that's just me.

Thanks again for stopping by my blog! Check out the other snippets here.

Tomorrow and Wednesday: Gary Inbinder's The Flower to the Painter.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Weather Updates

July third, at about 10 pm, my husband and I got to watch a monsoon burst together. We were joined by an Arizona native:
He was objectively three inches long.

On the fourth, my husband had to go to work for a few hours in the afternoon, so I had to watch this one by myself. It's hard to hear over such pattering, but there's thunder throughout this video.

Feeling soaked yet? We aren't. Even with bursts like this, which last about 30 minutes, the ground is mostly dry in three hours. Astounding place, this Arizona. We've been lucky because we haven't suffered from power outages resulting from falling trees, and we're nowhere near a place where landslides would be a problem. My husband had to take a different route home, because his usual road goes right through a "wash," basically a channel like a dry riverbed kept clear to collect all this water and send it out to sea, carrying silt, trees, and unlucky travelers with it. My main thought is: Hooray for Mother Nature, for making this place unique.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany

I normally shy away from "issue" novels, but Amy Hatvany's compelling language and accurate characterization, so firmly rooted in the real life of thousands of people, drew me along with such a firm grasp that I couldn't put it down. Through the magic of her honest writing style, the reader comes to genuinely like the main character, Cadence, as she tries and fails to cope with tremendous pressures. We sympathize with her when she slowly realizes that she alone cannot maintain a writing career to earn money and raise her son the way she wants to without help. But she feels utterly alone, in spite of the support of her beloved sister and the moms in the various groups she takes her to, who seem enviably "together," with no problems they can't handle. As she indulges too much in the relief of alcohol, her inevitable downward slide is just as surprising to the reader as it is to Cadence. Even as she researches the symptoms of alcohol addiction on the internet, she reaches rock bottom and loses it all when her ex husband takes their boy and sues for custody.

Although most of the readers of this book will be "normies," who don't drink too much, Hatvany's vivid exploration of Cadence's thought processes and the revulsion she feels even as as purchases and pours the wine and vodka forces us to see how her predicament is a possibility for so many everyday people who can't ask for help for whatever reason. This novel will help anyone with any kind of addiction to feel less alone, and anyone who knows an addict to learn what they can do to help.

In short: beautifully written, realistic, by a sensitive writer, and highly recommended.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday More, More, More, Sail To Italy!

Thank you for all the wonderful comments last week! You're fabulous!

Check out the other six sentence excerpts here.

And happy July 4th! In Arizona, we're not supposed to set off fireworks, and I hope people obey the law, since half the state is on fire already.

I'm celebrating the fact that Sail To Italy and Sail From Italy are independent from the digital format and can be purchased in a gorgeous paperback. ;) Still in both -- really inexpensive -- digital formats, too!

In this scene from Sail To Italy, Princess Noreena has set the terrifying Pirate Pierre the unexpectedly difficult task of tracking down her long-lost second cousin, who probably lives in Corsica. Witness the struggle and its silly resolution!

* * * 

Pierre was going mad. He resorted to the very last hope.
“Pardon me, ma’am, but do you know an Antonio Carlucci?” Pierre asked without much hope in the town square.
“Why, yes. I’m meeting him here, today, now. What do you want of him?” said the nice lady.

* * *
Next week: more from The Seven Noble Knights of Lara! ¡Olé!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Memoirs for Monsoon in Arizona

My most vivid memory of Arizona before my husband and I came to live here was a few seconds during one of my family's road trips. We were between the car and the restaurant and in the distance, over the mountains, beyond the palo verdes and creosote, a black cloud rumbled with sudden flashes of white electricity. At the time, I knew with the firmness only a child can feel that California was the only place to be. The dry electricity falling out of the sky to zap innocent girls was much more sinister to me than the natural, expected occasional realignments of the Earth that were earthquakes.

So we've come to the "monsoon season" in southern Arizona. That dry lightning I'd met so many years before rumbled throughout the valley and over the mountains. Wednesday, I watched with wide eyes as water came from the sky. A drop would evaporate off the sizzling pavement before another could come to replace it, and it wasn't that the rain was slow. In my experience, water only evaporates that quickly when it's boiling. It was astonishing to see outside of the kitchen! That night at 4 a.m., the loudest thunderclap I think I've ever heard failed to wake up my tired husband. I went to the glass doors to watch the downpour in the strobe-like light. This time, the parking lot was able to hold on to the precious fallen drops and after 81 days without rain, it looked like a swimming pool to me. I couldn't resist opening to door to test the air. It was like inserting my arm into a long sleeve made of mud and soaking concrete odors. The air surged so strongly into the apartment that my computer came out of sleep mode. Ah! Rainfall! Life! It was enough to make me cry, if I'd had enough water stored up. Thursday morning my husband commented that he should have left the car out in the open, to give it a wash, but there was no trace of the deluge only hours before.

I object to the use of the term "monsoon," which I became familiar with in the context of the truly incessant deluges that happen yearly in Bangladesh and Southeast Asia. Nothing that evaporates in the breaking dawn should really be compared to what happens there, even when there are mudslides and the washes fill up and drag debris and silly people's cars away to the sea. "Rainy season" would be more accurate than "monsoon," and perhaps we could go as far as "moister than usual season," for what's happening now, or the desert climatologists could advocate better for whatever technical term they've developed.

Because the Sonoran Desert at its wettest -- I'm guessing -- won't even approach a typical day in coastal Oregon (the location of my biggest fans). (If you're a fan, tell me where you're located!)