Wednesday, October 29, 2008

long time ago...

Okay, it's been long enough ago that I last posted that my address bar didn't recognize my blog address. Sad.

But you see, I've had to prevent myself from blogging. Actively. Because I had a bit of a secret, and I didn't know how to blog without telling the secret. But the secret is out now, so I can make it public.

I won something.

Not by myself. I'm working with a producer in LA, Anil Baral, to develop a screenplay on Marie Curie, called A Noble Affair. This is the "scientific story" I've alluded to many times over the past few months. He and I have been working on this project for a year now, and we submitted it to the TriBeCa Film Institute for consideration for a Sloan grant. (The Sloan Foundation encourages the depiction of science and scientists in film.) 130 entries, 5 prizes. And we got one.


So I'm excited. I found out a couple of weeks ago but they said it shouldn't be made public until they made their announcement. Can you say, "Sitting on your hands"? I so wanted to tell everyone I saw. I did tell a lot of people, more than I should have, but I felt guilty. But they did announce it yesterday. So it's official now, and I can tell everyone. I can even tell people what the screenplay is about, since they're also publishing our logline. Well, they're only telling half the story (we do show her pursuit of the isolation of the element radium, but we also show her personal life), but that's okay.

I will provide some links below. Not cleverly embedded in sentences, just bald.

I'm pretty darn excited to have my name in both Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. I did an internship at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and manned the Hollywood Reporter booth at the Palais des Festivals and the (SOMETHING) Hotel--why can't I remember its name? Starts with an M--and have wanted to subscribe since then, though I was put off by its price tag.

The articles basically say the same thing, but I thought I'd include them all. And I'll keep you updated on the progress as it comes.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Trains of thought

It looks like Stephanie Nielson's sister, Courtney Jane, is feeling a bit like I am, seeing the goodness of the world. Of course, she's directly involved in one of the cases that needs goodness, and much of it has been directed at her. Read her post expressing her gratitude here.

As of this posting, she has 91 comments. Wow. She gets a lot more traffic than I do. :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

guest post

No, not someone guesting on my blog, but me guesting on someone else's. This is the end of the month that has seen my TLC Book Tour. In the coming days I am going to post links to my favorite posts of the month. Meanwhile I find this guest post that I did...well, I like it. I hope you will too.
Much has been made of the death of Paul Newman over the weekend. Rightly so, I would say; the man was not only a film legend, a great actor, and a darn good-looking man, but he was also a class act off screen. He had a stable, loving, long-term marriage (elusive even outside Hollywood), he eschewed offscreen drama, and he oozed that aura that said, “This is one of the good guys.”

Now, all of these things in themselves are remarkable. But what made (makes!) Paul Newman truly remarkable is that he went above and beyond all these things and founded a mini-empire of various edibles, and that all of the profit went to charity. $175 million and counting, 25 years strong. Mr. Newman, with his strong sense of humor intact even when dealing with such an extraordinary deed, referred to the mission of Newman’s Own as “Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good.” (Look it up. It’s on their website.) But even with his tongue firmly in his cheek, Paul Newman’s good deeds affected thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people. Paul Newman, you might say, even while alive was a bit of an angel.

I don’t know if it’s just because I’m suddenly looking, but lately I’ve seen many, many people stepping into that kind of role in their everyday lives. They’re not movie stars, and the people they’re helping aren’t high-profile headliners, but they are decent, hardworking people making a difference in people’s lives. I am going to highlight three cases that I have been following for a while, to celebrate the goodness of people’s hearts and encourage you to contribute. If you can’t contribute money (and many of us can’t), contribute thoughts and prayers and deeds. If you can’t help these particular people (and yes, logistics get in the way) find someone else to help. Be an angel yourself.

The first person is a four-year-old boy with a rare kind of cancer, neuroblastoma. Read about this scary, deadly disease here. ( –in case the link doesn’t work.) This cancer has a 30% survival rate. And then picture the terror of having your two-year-old child diagnosed with it. Picture being a child with it. Honestly, what do you remember about being four years old? I remember running and playing and learning to tie my shoes and read and starting kindergarten. Cancer had no place in my life, and shouldn’t have a place in any child’s life. Particularly for neuroblastoma, the survival rate is low; the treatments are excruciating. The blog I have followed is written by the parents of Liam Witt, found at: . Liam is an active four-year-old who has been battling neuroblastoma for a year and a half, since before he turned three. He is brave, he is smart, and he knows a side of life no one ever should. Liam’s parents, Gretchen and Larry, write heartrending posts about the treatments, the crises, the ups and downs. They have formed a “Band of Parents” to try to get more money funneled into pediatric cancer (, and they have begun a 501(c)3 of their own, Cookies for Kids Cancer, which has raised more than $400,000 for pediatric cancer research. You can find out how to get involved with that at

Liam’s parents’ posts contain a lot of grim news, it is true. But they don’t hesitate to talk about the angels who have come into their own lives. Friends who occasionally bring dinner. The amazing nurses at the hospital, the local firemen who have befriended their son and sometimes stop in to cheer him up. Other parents in their same situation who offer invaluable support and friendship; other patients who buoy them, despite their own grim prognoses. It is inspiring to read about these people who have realized how important it is to play that role, the role of angel.

The second case is one that is out of immediate crisis, at least for the time being. A woman in Seattle named Carole Decker unexpectedly had a bout of sepsis in her 7th month of pregnancy and nearly died. They did a C-section and the baby is doing well, but Carole has been left with permanent damage: she lost both feet, her left hand, a finger on her right hand, and she is blind. Her husband Scott writes about this on his blog and gives updates on her physical condition. Now Carole needs prosthetics, rehab, and more time to heal. This story touches my heart for many reasons, and is personal because I had sepsis when I was two years old. I remember very little of the hospital stay (just memory flashes: my mom looking extremely tired and holding a Mr. Pibb; my dad walking into my room and holding up a little squeaky toy he’d brought for me; my sister running alongside my wheelchair when I was released) and for years didn’t understand the severity of what had happened. I am genuinely lucky (blessed) to be alive and whole. Another reason that this story affects me so deeply is that Scott has also written about the many angels who have stepped in to help him and his family. They have taken care of his children, and they have raised a great deal of money for the extra medical bills. A golf tournament was held that raised $18,000; a separate fundraiser netted them $60,000. A portrait photographer is going to donate 100% of her profits on November 1 to Carole’s medical bills. A silent auction fundraiser will be held at an art show. The list goes on. Amazing people are seeing a need and addressing it, saying, “My abilities are limited, but this is what I can do.” Angels, all of them.

The third case I originally heard about through the Today Show, of all places. A blogger named Stephanie Nielson was involved in a light-airplane crash with her husband and a flight instructor. The flight instructor was killed, and Stephanie and Christian were both severely wounded and hospitalized. Stephanie was burned over 80% of her body and has already undergone numerous skin graft surgeries, with many more to come. Both were in comas; Christian has come out of his, and his recovery is a little ahead of his wife’s. They are parents to four small children.

Stephanie too had a blog. She blogged about being a wife and mother to four rambunctious children and her daily joys. The big difference between this blog and other so-called “mommy blogs” is that she has celebrated the joys of her life. She focused exclusively on the positives of being a wife and mother. She actively tried to make life fun and wonderful and magical for her family and enjoyed doing it, and blogged about the results. She posted pictures of the little parties she held for her kids; of the dress-up games they all played together; of “acting crazy” for her daughter to take the shots. And her love for her life oozed through every word.

Stephanie got about a thousand hits a day when she was blogging. After the accident happened, and local media publicized it, the hits increased to about 20,000. Her sister Jane has taken Stephanie’s children home with her, to care for in addition to her own infant son. Jane has her own blog, in which she is now detailing how she has taken on angel duty for her sister, and others have also stepped in. On their fundraising site,, Jane and others have listed various things people have been doing to raise money for Stephanie and Christian Nielson, whose hospital bills will exceed the lifetime maximum on their insurance, perhaps by a million dollars or more. You will see a dance night, auctions, a ski day, concerts, a race. Angels know what they can offer and are offering it, and making a difference in the lives of one family that stands in desperate need.

Perhaps angels have been on my mind lately because of my book. In Did I Expect Angels?, which I published a year ago, a young mother named Jennifer loses her husband and doesn’t deal very well. She has angels in her life, people willing to help her out, and she ignores them because all she can focus on is her own pain. On the night the book takes place, she has made a devastating decision and is en route to carrying it out, when a Costa Rican man, a passing acquaintance, named Henry decides that tonight is his night to help her—to be her angel. Henry tells Jennifer his life’s story, and the reader can contrast her inability to deal with Henry’s life, which has been a hundred times harder than Jennifer’s. But Henry has recognized his angels and his blessings and been grateful for them, and his intervention just might help Jennifer get to the same place.

I believe in angels, both literal and the kind I’ve been talking about with this entry. I’ve had my share, and they have helped me more than I can say—and certainly more than they know. I want to pay it forward, and to that end, I’ve decided to donate my own little bit to the Nielson fund, and am giving 40% of the profits of Did I Expect Angels? for the months of October and November to their hospital bills. I feel strongly that people need to give what they can, when they can, to whomever they sense might be in need. Now, my sales aren’t on the level of, say, Stephenie Meyer, but hopefully no one will begrudge me this widow’s mite. I find it interesting that in my book, my character absolutely doesn’t deal with her lot very well, not until it’s almost too late—and I’m donating the money from this book to people who have risen to their challenges and then some, and that the world is full of those people. I admire and respect them and hope to be more like them. In honor of the passing of a legend, Paul Newman, and in honor of these amazing everyday people, I hope you will be, too.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Science Fatigue

I have mentioned my screenplay before (many, many times), and tonight I’m going to mention it again. This is what I have been working on for the last few weeks.

It’s a great experience. I’m working with a producer in LA and collaborating, which I’ve never done before. So far it has been absolutely great. Collaborations can be wonderful but they can also be a nightmare; get two conflicting personalities, or one partner who doesn’t want to work, or conflicting ideas and inflexible people, and it’s a recipe for disaster. So it is really lucky that we’ve done so well.

It’s not done, but we’re really getting close. We have another draft or two to go—polishes, really, more than major rewrites. It is getting exciting. We turned it in to two competitions for grants, leading to my current stress. (My bedroom is a disaster. I did laundry on Saturday and still it sits, unfolded, in the bag. On my floor.) I have never outright won a competition before, but I’ve gotten to be a quarterfinalist, semifinalist, and an actual finalist. Anil, my producer, has actually won grants. I am hoping some of his awards karma rubs off onto me.

Meanwhile, the book blog tour continues. It has been wonderful. I will list the links to the various reviews shortly (not tonight; tonight is going to be short) so you can see for yourself how I’ve been all over the internet. Pretty wild. And it’s all been pretty heartening. It is true that not everyone loves it, but…not everything can be loved by everyone. (I always go back to the slapping down that The Lovely Bones received by the New York Review of Books. Horrible, awful, mean review, of a book that spent about a year as #1 on the bestseller lists and redefined the way I wrote fiction.) And enough people have, in fact, loved it that I am feeling pretty good. It’s really amazing to meet people all around the country and have them say that you’ve touched their lives in a small way. This is the best part of the whole experience.

More to come. Soon.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Okay, it's a little bit squished (I have no idea why) but after all the fighting I've done to get this picture up at all, a little bit squished will have to do.

I was able to call a book group last night and discuss my book with them. There were 12 women from Herriman, Utah, who picked my book just off review sites etc and read it for this month's selection. I was super-excited to find out that they had picked it (thanks, Google Alerts!) and emailed the woman who'd blogged about it, Amanda Day (hi, Amanda!), to ask if I could participate by phone. (and how cool is it that my book cover occupies the same page as Stephenie Meyer's bestseller? Let's have some selling karma rub off onto me!) She said yes and last night I called and we had a *great* discussion. You always worry it's going to be a little weird, since you can't see faces and it's going to be a bit unnatural if you're just a phone presence, but it worked out really, really well. I was so happy to do it, and I think they hadn't had that experience before so it was great all around. (I did notice that I kept referring to September 11...a little too much. Maybe it's because of the anniversary coming up, and maybe because it really did have a strong impression on me and the writing of the book. Either way, I felt like Rudy Giuliani: a noun, a verb, and 9/11. Sorry!) I love getting insights that I hadn't thought of from readers; it's really a wonderful thing to gasp and say, "Yes, you're right!" And I had a couple of those moments last night. I think the best were when some of the women, mothers, told me that they wanted to hug their children a little more and appreciate their families more because of having read the book. That caused some serious warm-and-fuzzies. So thank you to all of you, especially Kristy Johnson (who hosted the group and emailed me--hi, Kristy!) and Amanda. Oh, and Rusti (I don't know your last name) who wrote an awesome blog entry today. Emily, who just left a comment on Rusti's blog, I'd love-love-love to call into your book group, too!!

They also asked to see a picture of chupacabras, so that's what's above. This is one that a young man from Costa Rica drew for me. His name is Edwin (the guy, not the chupacabra), and he was a lot of fun. At some point when I was in CR, in a little town called San Ramon, chupacabras started making headlines. I'm not sure exactly for what; I wasn't supposed to read or watch the news. All I knew was that suddenly a ton of little kids were asking me if I believed in chupacabras. The literal meaning of that word is "suck goat" -- they were supposed to be little noctural creatures that sucked the blood out of animals. "Do you believe in chupacabras?" Well, I'm sure I don't know. I asked Edwin what they were talking about, and he drew me the above picture (I've saved it all these years), which I describe as a mixture between an alien and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I can definitively say I do not believe in THAT.

Anyone who reads my book from now on, this is NOT what I am picturing when Henry talks about making chupacabra toys. Please don't let me spoil that for you.

Much to talk about! I have started a monthlong Virtual Book Tour on 11 different blogs. We've had our first stops already: The Friendly Book Nook and Booking Mama. I followed up Booking Mama with a guest post the next day, about angels in my life, and I will do the same with TFBN tomorrow (no link yet because...well, I haven't written it. That's next.) Both of these blogs are terrific and I have bookmarked them for future reading. This book tour is being put together by TLC Book Tours, founded by the lovely Trish and Lisa. Info on my book tour is here. (look at me and my links today!)

So that's that. I'm sure there's more to talk about, but there are more days in which to do it. Until soon...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Salon - The Sister

Time for another Sunday Salon! I'm feeling a bit more energetic and able to do thigns I've been meaning to do for a while, and that includes reviewing books. This is not one I have been reading for a month (I mentioned earlier that I'd been struggling to get through one, but it's one I decided not to review). I read this one in a week and am now going to write a review.

The Sister by Poppy Adams is a debut novel set in an eerie mansion in rural England. Ms. Adams does a great job of setting up a dark, creepy atmosphere for a story rife with mystery and puzzlement. Who is this woman, Virginia (the narrator)? Why has her sister Vivien not been home in fifty years? How did their parents die? Why is Ginny such a recluse? And what is going to happen as Vivi intrudes on Ginny's solitary existence, with her cheer and modern ways and little dog? Not one of these answers can be good.
I am fascinated by books with the "unreliable narrator." We as readers typically automatically trust the narrator unless things start happening to indicate we shouldn't. And they have to be pretty big things, really. I have tried to write "unreliable narrator" stories before, and often people don't get it if you're subtle. There have to be some grand signs.
Ginny gives a few signs, but a lot of them are stated. People avoid her. Kids in the town harass her occasionally because she's a hermit. She as an obsession with orderliness and clocks. But until Vivien starts telling her (and us) that there's something wrong with her, we aren't really going to get it. We do at the end, of course, when subtlety is thrown to the wind, but...somehow the ending seemed a little bit tacked on. It wasn't a crescendo or a climax; it was a novel building in one direction and then a very predictable-but-wanting-to-be-shocking ending.
There are some fascinating aspects to this book. I assume that Poppy Adams, a documentary filmmaker, has not studied lepidoptery (moths) but with the amount of detail in there, one would thinks she had a doctorate in it. In fact, there's a little too much. I kept thinking all the moths and details were going to be some kind of grand symbol, but it didn't work out that way. They were her obsession, but lots of people have obsessions. There are many people who actually obsess about bugs. I don't happen to like bugs, but the fact that they do doesn't make them crazy. So Ginny's entomology didn't really serve a bigger purpose. I know, I know, not everything in literature has to be a symbol or gateway to something deeper, but there was so much here about moths, I wanted it to do something.
I kept waiting for a big reveal about Ginny's condition. We get a big reveal about their parents, but while one of the central questions (why Vivien stayed away) is partly answered (unsatisfactorily, in my mind, since it didn't really involve Ginny, the protagonist), a bigger one (why she came back) remains forever a mystery.
There's a lot of good here. Ultimately, if you have spare time, I'd say read the book. Just don't break down any barriers to get to it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A day late and a dollar short

The title accurately sums up my mental state lately. Why? That's a good question. And I don't have much of an answer. I made it through another draft, but the ending is just not coming together yet. So I'm working, going to the gym (and I've started taking a running class, which I am enjoying), editing some articles freelance, and that's about it. And yet I feel like I can't get a handle on my life. Why? Is watching the Olympics really that taxing? Keeping my bedroom clean? Curious. I did get sick again this weekend, though I think I managed to stave off something much worse by taking Friday off work, sleeping nearly the entire day (literally 7 hours BETWEEN 8 am and 6 pm, after having gotten an okay-even-if-interrupted-by-a-sore-throat night's sleep) and much of Saturday and Sunday. I didn't feel 100% Monday but had to come in because I was the only assistant on the floor that day. But boy, that only took four days. Why has the rest of my time felt so harried?

There are a few publicity plans in the works for the book, but I haven't thrown myself into them fully yet. There is an upcoming blog tour (excitement!) in September and a few other things I'm planning. I mentioned before that this is a mountain to climb (the explanation for the picture) and I had decided to have a picnic at the bottom in the shade before starting the ascent; well, now I've taken two steps up and decided to rest. But I remain committed to scaling this mountain. It is probably the closest thing I will ever have to a real mountain climb. Freezing cold temperatures and oxygen tanks don't appeal to me.

I am now trying to import the cover of "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer, the tale of an Everest expedition gone horribly wrong, culminating in frostbite, amputations, and death. Blogspot will only import into the top of this post, however, not right here, where I want it. So much for the rest of my metaphor.

Anyway. My solemn goals: 1) more running. That does seem to give me more energy. 2) More writing. At the very least, I need to do some writing ABOUT the screenplay ending...hopefully to wriggle and twist myself into some kind of good ending. 3) More editing to get more money for 4) more publicity efforts.

I'll let you know how I do.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

a quick note...

Wow, things are still kind of happening. August 24 is the first anniversary of my publication date. As I've mentioned, I was told that I have to keep pushing the book for at least a year after publication in order to make it do anything. I had planned to do just that, though my plan dictated that (a) if zero was happening, I would reassess, and at the one year mark, (b) if things were still happening, I would keep going. So the big oh-one is approaching, and small things continue to happen. Nothing has propelled DIEA to the best-seller list yet, obviously, but the little things that occur are enough to tell me to keep going. Hmm.

I checked my Amazon ranking again this evening. As you may recall, I'm slightly obsessed with this number; it's really the only way to see if I'm selling anything. And I can't tell how many I sell, just whether or not it sells at all. The pattern lately has been that the number floats up to about 700,000 and then someone buys a copy and I go back into the one hundred thousands. I've never been higher than 800,000, happily. (I have seen books at the 3 million mark.) So I check once or twice a day, and the number floats: 150,000, 200, 250, 300, 500, 700, back to 150. Every time it goes to 150 (or thereabouts) I am relieved, knowing it's still floating. yesterday I was in the five hundred thousands, so imagine my surprise when I checked this morning and it was 76,000. Hmm. This is more than one copy selling. Okay. Then I checked this evening, just for the heck of it (right after determining that the Yankees game is on, so I can go to the gym and watch it, since I'm too cheap for cable and the Yes Network--yes, dear reader, I'm missing it right now FOR YOU!) and had to do a double-take: 28,634. Crazy! Besides my brief stint under 10,000 (8,698 if I remember correctly) this is the lowest I've been. Woo-hoo!

I ask again (regular readers can repeat it with me): a one-time thing, or are we starting to catch on?

I'm going to be doing a blog tour in September, arranged by the lovely and wonderful Trish Browning Collins. Trish, as you may recall, was my terrifically enthusiastic blogger/reviewer, and she is starting a business called TLC Book Tours, which is an answer to my prayers. I had been looking for the right people to arrange a blog tour for me, and it only makes sense that it be Trish (and her friend Lisa), with whom I just feel a bond and for whom I have such great affection--and I've never even met her! (It just warms my heart to find readers who really like what I wrote. It's a very primal thing!) I will gush more and further as we get closer to the blog tour, but meanwhile I needed to mention it to my faithful (tiny) group of readers. Check out their website here.

I will go -- the Yankees beckon -- but I just wanted to check in. My screenplay is demanding a whole lot more of my time and energy, and I'm wrestling with the ending like I haven't had to do in a very long time. I'm tired and working hard (and haven't even finished the book I've been reading for, oh, a MONTH for Sunday Salon), but things are good. And more yet to come!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Salon

Now, in an effort not to be too terribly irresponsible (though I have copped to that trait, fully), I am hereby posting my first Sunday Salon review, a mere one day late. And might I say, yesterday was not a good day for doing much of anything. I failed to take my sleeping pill Saturday night and therefore woke after four hours of sleep, at five a.m. I decided to get up, rather than wait it out (because it usually takes two and a half hours to wait it out), and worked on my screenplay. I actually finished this draft, through to the end, although the end still needs to be fixed. (Just a dangling plot thread that I have to figure out how to weave in. I suspect I'm close.) And then it was ten a.m. and I was at that point where I knew, if I went back to bed, I would actually sleep for several hours. But it was also time to get ready for church. It wasn't an automatic decision, sadly, but I did decide to go to church. Then I got home at 3 p.m. and went straight to bed. I went to a farewell party for a friend at 6 p.m., and normally I would stay for a long time but I was exhausted. Even though I had brought gym clothes with me, I did not go to the gym; I went home and worked on my TiVo list. I wanted to do my Sunday Salon review then, but my roommate was home and on her computer, which has a much higher-speed connection than mine. (I don't bother upgrading because I have a great high-speed connection at work; also, having dial-up is great when I'm writing; I have no desire to flip over to the internet to surf. Instead I get up and wander around and eat.)

So anyway. Here is my Sunday/Monday Salon review for:


A.M. Homes is an author I have only recently discovered. I had heard of her for years, because she's an alumna/sometimes teacher of my undergrad writing program. I remember when this book came out, and the fact that it got great reviews. I read her latest novel, THIS BOOK WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE, and loved it. So, on my way to Virginia to visit the nephew, I decided to pick up another.


I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, there is a lot of dark comedy. I do like dark comedy--I can even veer toward twisted--but I had a hard time getting on board with this. I absolutely hated the two main characters, Paul and Elaine. They are self-involved in the worst way; they are mean; they are hateful. Was their marriage ever a good one? Have they always been such lousy schmucks? No idea. But they are now. The book begins when, almost on a whim, they try to burn their house down with their outdoor grill. Funny: they can't even do that. They see a flame snaking up the outside wall of the house and gather their two boys into the car and go for a long dinner, effectively leaving others to clean up the mess.

In a way, there's a long thread of cleaning up messes, and leaving others to do it for you. Their house, while not burned down, is rendered uninhabitable by the fire. They go stay with a neighbor couple, who take care of them (in all sorts of *interesting* ways). They farm their children out to two other families, and those families take care of the children in even *more* interesting ways, one leading to the novel's devastating conclusion. Their marriage, their lives, their foundations are all falling down around their ears, and rather than fixing anything, Paul and Elaine embrace that and drive if all farther down.

I hated Paul and Elaine. And since they are the core of this book, I have to say, I hated the book. And yet...

It is brilliant.

I mentioned the devastating conclusion earlier. In a way, it comes out of left field. And in a way, we've seen hints of it coming all along. No one deserves this kind of ending, but if anyone comes close to it, Paul and Elaine do. And Elaine's final words, the last line of the book, sum it all up in every possible way.

If you're easily offended, don't read this book. If you like dark humor, there's plenty to enjoy. If you don't mind being unsettled, and perhaps having extreme negative feelings for characters, check it out.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Call me irresponsible...

I'm adding a new item to my weekly "to-do" list: blogging for the Sunday Salon. Hopefully I will be able to do this with some kind of regularity, since I have become less and less responsible over the past year or so. However, I do love to read and several Sunday Salon bloggers have talked about my book, so it's a great community to join. They'd like you to review a book every Sunday, though they are flexible; they have enough members now that if you don't blog on a Sunday the world doesn't end. I doubt it ended before, but you know. I like to exaggerate.

So...the question is, where to start? I'm in the midst of a book now, but really I just started it and won't be done by Sunday, not if I want to get some writing done too. I've finished a couple of books over the past couple of weeks and I could blog about those. I have some favorites that I always enjoy talking about, so I could start with those. I also have a pile of to-be-read books surrounding my bed, some of which I've started and not yet gotten back to. This all is not a huge quandary, I know.

The Fourth of July was fun; I went to Virginia to see the baby nephew again. This child is precious. That's all I need to say, as much as I'd like to believe that he is unique and no other baby in the world is as wonderful as he is. Any of you with babies you love in your life, you know what I mean.

I've gotten the ball rolling with another publicity push. Well, a small ball. Bigger than a Superball, but not as big as a soccer ball. Maybe a soft ball. Many steps yet to go. You'll hear more about it in the coming days/weeks. Meanwhile I'm getting another ball rolling (this one perhaps the size of a big Playdoh ball, like three or four cans of it) with my new book. And the science screenplay is coming along quite nicely. That one I would classify as a snowball, because I hope it will quickly become bigger and bigger.

Yes, I can get obsessed with metaphors.

And it's a beautiful, non-humid summer day on which I get out of work early! Let's get THAT ball going, shall we??

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Back from Nawlins

I just took an impromptu trip to New Orleans, city of beautiful antebellum homes, lush greenery, amazing food, and lots of mosquitoes. I have 21 mosquito bites on my left leg. Only 3 on my right; my right must somehow taste different.

I went down for work, strangely enough. My foundation is heavily involved in New Orleans reconstruction, and there was a party to honor the woman who has been the key player/liaison. another key player was organizing it, and she needed help. My foundation sent me.

This is the first "work" trip I've ever taken, and it was a glorious feeling to charge my meals and know they would be reimbursed. Of course, you also have to submit an itemized receipt, and there is a limit on what you can spend each day, but still -- this was a nice thing.

Being a Maughan (anyone who knows my dad will know what I'm talking about) I have to describe the food. It was amazing. Each time I looked at a menu, my first impression was that there wasn't anything on there I would want. Each time I ordered something, however, I was impressed beyond belief. There were the beignets, squares of fried dough mounded with powdered sugar. (Be careful when you inhale.) There were the crab claws in garlic butter. The seafood remoulade. The crab salad. The gumbo. Ah, me.

There was also the private jet. Now, I should state that my company did not pay for me to fly down on a private jet; our consultant is working closely with a woman who owns a private jet. This woman was in New York and flying home to new Orleans that same day, so it made sense I should "catch a ride." When Juliet (the consultant) first used that term I had a fleeting image of being picked up in a car, and thought, "But wait, we're not driving to New Orleans." Then she used the term "wheels up at four," and I thought, "Holy crap, this is a jet we're talking about!"
(and I want to point out that I was using the term "holy crap" long before the late Peter Boyle on Everybody Loves Raymond. This is my reputation we're talking about, here.)

Private jets come highly recommended. I have to add my recommendation to those. One thing that it does for you, though, is confirm a long-suspected but rarely voiced sentiment: air travel DOES NOT HAVE TO SUCK.

We arrived at the small airport in good time. We used the clean, fresh-smelling and lovely bathroom. We went into the waiting area and snacked on apples and popcorn (free) and eyed the selection of coffees and teas. No ID presentation, no security line, no body searches, just a friendly greeting. Then they motioned that the plane was ready, and we boarded a tiny bus that shuttled us the, oh, two blocks distance to the plane. We ascended a small flight of stairs and took our seats, each one of which was approximately four feet from another, in any direction. We could have sat on the couch, or even gone into the back room and reclined on the bed, but we were not that tired. Save that for international flights. Our hostess, the owner of the jet, gave us bottles or water or cans of soda, and candy bars or crackers. She offered us as much as we wanted, and pushed more on us after we'd each taken some. (She was a true Southern lady.) And we chatted pleasantly across the length of the United States until we landed, three hours later. My bag--which had been taken by the chauffeur before we went to the airport--reappeared right next to me in front of our car. Amazing.

All right, that's a long paragraph devoted to the trip down, but I don't anticipate flying privately again any time soon. I had to immortalize it. I flew back Jet Blue with a four hour delay, which promptly brought me back to reality.

I got a "destruction tour" of the areas that flooded and are in the proces of rebuilding. It was eerie to watch the water line get higher and higher as we went further into Jefferson Parish and Gentilly. Many lots are empty, and since this place was densely populated you know that each empty spot is a house that has been torn down and cleared away. Many homes were still boarded up, some with spray paint as to when the rescuers arrived (up to two weeks later) and who they were (eg the California National Guard or another unit) and what they found (one said "Five dead cats in back.") Other homes are destroyed and there's a trailer in the driveway; the trailer is where they are living. And then there are some nice, brand-new homes there too, fresly rebuilt.

I did not see the Lower Ninth Ward; we didn't have time. Jefferson and Gentilly are where the canals flooded and people drowned in their attics. Lower Ninth was destroyed by a storm surge that exploded through the levees; survivors said it sounded like a bomb. It wiped everything right off its foundation. I don't know how much has been cleaned up.

The higher-lying areas look pretty good. My friends said that you could tell there was a hurricane; immediately after roofs had been affected and trees were down, but that is relatively easy to clean. I stayed in the French Quarter, and you would never guess there was anything there. I also saw the Superdome, site of so much disastrousness. (not a word, I know.) And I was told the story of Amtrak calling Ray Nagin, informing him ahead of the hurricane that they were removing all their trains, and should he like to load those trains with those people who didn't have another means of escape, he was welcome...and him not responding to any of their calls. "Buffoonery," was how someone described it. Sigh.

But the New Orleans experience was great. I plan to go back some time relatively soon. It might be the site of a new work-in-progress. We'll see. Meanwhile I'll just entertain my memories of beignets.
I'll try to attach some pictures later. I didn't take very many.

Friday, June 6, 2008


There's a fine line between "low rise" and "falling off."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

In praise of science

It was a fantastic weekend. New York City hosted the World Science Festival, and though I wasn't able to attend most of the events I did go to a play and a reading at Columbia University, my alma mater.

Saturday night's offering was QED by Peter Parnell (who wrote Sorrows of Stephen) about Richard Feynman, a famous physicist who worked on the atom bomb and figured out why the Challenger exploded. It was almost a one-man show (one other character showed up a couple of times, with a fairly limited interaction) starring the legendary Alan Alda. I'll tell you, when someone as distinctive as Alan Alda is onstage almost alone for an hour and a half and you don't think even once of his iconic Hawkeye Pierce character, you know that's good acting. (I saw him in a wonderful play called Art many years ago, and it was the same experience.)

I went to see this play because of the new screenplay I'm working on. I don't want to give a lot of details, but it is based on a famous scientist and a certain time period in that scientist's life. (There will be no "creation of the person" story, even though the childhood merits its own movie!) So while this screenplay focuses mostly on the interpersonal trials of the scientist, it absolutely has to integrate a lot of science in it; we can't have them talk purely about 'their issues,' because science is such a basic part of their everyday lives. The question we're facing, then, is how to go about it? How often, and how much detail? Scientists talking to each other aren't going to dumb it down for the audience; they'll be speaking in terrific, deep scientific jargon that the average person doesn't understand. How long can we do that before we turn the audience off? How much is needed to give it a feel of veracity?

Watching QED Saturday night answered quite a few of these questions. The scientist character, Richard Feynman, talked about many angles of his life: how he learned Russian to be able to travel to a tiny area called Tuva; his bongo playing; his work on the Challenger explosion and how he refused to append a "nice job, NASA" at the end of their report; his work on the atom bomb; the death of his wife; his own battle against cancer. I've only touched the tip here, because this was an incredible man with diverse and fascinating interests and talents. The office set was interesting. He had a messy desk, a couple of chairs, a radio, shelves, and two blackboards, which were covered with equations. I stared at them blankly. In the Q&A period after the play was over, Alan Alda said, "I'm sure most of you recognize this as a Feynman diagram," and the audience (made up mostly of scientists) murmured their assent. I thought, "Holy cow. This is a case in point right here." I understood literally nothing of these equations, but I trusted them. They're over my head, and that's a good thing. The equations need to be correct for the scientists, but they just need to be *there* for the rest of us.

Earlier in my scriptwriting process, I wrote a scene where one of the scientists is teaching calculus to children. As I wrote it by myself, I wrote "Math math math" as a placeholder. "Math question?" "Math answer." Then I went home for a break, and one day grabbed my brother, who's been through several semesters of calculus. He brought in his elementary calculus book (the kind that would be taught to children...very smart children, that is) and we found an equation that could go on the board and figured out the exact questions and answers for the scene. I admit, even after Christopher had explained it all to me, I didn't really get it. (I felt my brain forming a hard, protective shell as he talked.) But reading through the scene after I realized how great it is to have those facts and figures. Ground it in reality!

Okay, so back to the Science Festival. The second night I went to a reading called "Dear Albert," put together by Alan Alda, which was a collection of Einstein's letters to and from his wives and a couple of their friends. He'd had to edit and select sections and tie them together to form the story of Einstein's life. Small factoids: In 1905, Einstein wrote *three* groundbreaking papers, so revolutionary that each spawned its own branch of physics. Max Planck, another legendary physicist, read one of them and said, "The world as we know it has changed." (That may not be an exact quote, but it's close.) Einstein plays only a peripheral role in my screenplay, but again I wanted to see what was done to make him accessible to today's audiences.

It was a terrific piece. He had an unhappy first marriage and an unhappy first wife; both came through loud and clear. And then some of his letters mentioned, in the most offhand way, his earth-shattering work that would change the scientific world. Wow.

After the play was over, people were milling about and Mr. Alda was talking with the audience members who approached him. I generally don't talk to celebrities, figuring they want to be left alone more than they want to talk to me, but he was being kind and talking with anyone who wanted to, so I got brave. I mentioned my screenplay to him, and who it was about, and he got really excited, saying he'd been looking into this same scientist and working on a project of his own. Wow! He asked me what my research plans were, and what sources I've been using, and I told him and he got more excited. At this point, the house managers were getting antsy and asked us all to leave, so Mr. Alda asked for my card. I only had my book card on me (which leads him to my km website, which could lead him to this blog! Hi, Mr. Alda!), and I gave it to him, and then walked out of there thinking, "Alan Alda asked for my card!"

I work at The Rockefeller Foundation, which helped sponsor the Sunday night reading of Dear Albert. Monday I approached Joan, the woman in charge of that department, and told her how thrilled I was that RF was part of that great evening. I told her about my meeting Alan Alda, and she said something I had already figured out: "He's such a wonderful man. So kind and gracious." Yay for good people.

A quick personal note only peripherally about Alan Alda: I am very close to my dad, and this is in a small way due to our nightly viewings of MASH after the ten o'clock news. He and I watched it together almost every night on channel 5. My mom and my siblings never joined us; it was just the two of us together. We watched the entire syndicated schedule, from the earliest Henry Blake episodes to the latest Colonel Potter-and-Charles (and BJ in a pink shirt) ones. It got to the point where we could look at each other within two minutes and say, "Oh, this is the one where Colonel Flagg calls himself 'the wind,'" and then turn back to the TV and keep watching. So I know I'm close to my dad for other reasons than MASH, but the two are very closely linked in my mind.

I am figuring out a few more book promotions, but nothing concrete yet. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, vive la science!

Friday, May 30, 2008


Summer Fridays! My office lets us go on Fridays at 1 p.m. That makes life that much more manageable, you know what I mean? It makes me feel like a real person. Now if I could just use that time productively (writing!) rather than pacing my apartment wondering what to do....

Friday, May 23, 2008

New Post...

Wow. I knew it had been a long time since I posted, but...two months? Holy cow. What can I say? Grand Theft Auto IV. (anyone who knows me is shaking his or her head right now)

The Utah tour was nice. I say, we ought to be able to take 3 weeks off our day jobs every two months. Five weeks on, three weeks off. It will do wonders for American workforce productivity.

So I did several events while in Utah: the Barnes & Noble signing, a signing at Wisebird Bookery in Ogden, a book club, an in-home reading, and two events at Weber State University--one a reading and one a visit with the creative writing majors. I spent a whole lot of time baking in preparation for my events, so it all was okay. The Barnes & Noble reading went well; they had set up about 20 chairs, and we had to get more, and that's a nicer feeling, certainly, than having four occupied chairs and sixteen empties. Almost everyone there knew me, and therefore already had the book, but that's okay; I can now say I have had a reading and signing at Barnes and Noble. That's not a small thing. They had a table for me to sit and sign copies, and a big sign announcing my name with the logo of my book. (I stole it and took it home.) I sat at the signing table, and mostly watched people eye me and the book and walk away, which was okay. One couple picked up the book and spoke to each other and then noticed the picture, and turned to me and said, "You look like her!" I said, "Well, the picture was taken less than a year ago." They realized what I meant and just lit up, and had me sign the copy and bought it on the spot. That was lovely.

Wisebird was more lovely. I had gotten smarter with this one, and sent invitations that said, "Signing between 12:00 - 3:00; reading at 2:00." With the B&N I hadn't been that specific, so a lot of people showed up after the reading was over. But I sent invites to everyone I could think of, and Wisebird is a lot closer to my parents' home and where I grew up, so a lot more people came. My fourth-grade teacher came with his wife; I instantly reverted to a 9-year-old and actually was excited to realize I am now as tall as he is. My junior-high-school principal came with his wife, too. I spoke with both him and my fourth-grade teacher and kept thanking them for coming. They kept thanking me for inviting them. I said I was thrilled to see them; they said they were thrilled to hear about it. Back and forth we went, with a little contest as to who was more grateful. It was wonderful. My first voice teacher came, and came to the dessert fest we had at home after. I hadn't seen her in at least ten years, and we caught up. (and she looks fabulous!) A lovely woman who has been a widow for 4 years now also came, and started telling stories about how awful it can be. My dad had given her my book a few months earlier (and when he told me that I said, "Really? Is that wise?" -- just because I thought it might be too raw for her), and she told me how much she related to the book. That was one of the best moments, right there, feeling like I had gotten it right.

My mother's book club came to a big gathering, too. They had all read it. I was told that their peak attendance is usually 5, but there were 21 women in our living room, all clutching the book and looking at me with wonder usually reserved for .... something exotic. It's just a lovely thing to sit there and listen to people talk about your book. So rewarding! They took my picture and had me sign their books and generally fawned. I did not complain. And they gave me chocolates! (Mrs Cavanaugh's milk chocolate nuts 'n' chews...nothing better! They had asked my mom what I liked, and Mom got it right.)

My friend Andrea also had a reading at her place, and that was wonderful. A few women I hadn't seen since high school were there, and another woman I hadn't ever met. I read a couple of passages (too fast, I was told; I am a fast reader, I know, and I need to slow down) and we talked about the whole process, beginning to end. One woman, Rhonda, wrote me later to tell me that the evening had made a difference for her in her writing of her own book. Andrea has been particularly supportive through this whole process, and I just can't tell her how much I have appreciated it. The best outcome of the evening, though, was that Andrea and Rhonda and I decided to form a new writing group. I am more than excited for this. I've been doing well with my screenwriting projects, but not so well with the fiction. Time to get back to the fiction.

Weber State was quite kind about the whole thing, too. I gave a reading in the special collections section of the library (attended by the President of the University AND the guy I took to the Sadie Hawkins dance my junior year of high school) and they did a whole article on the front page of their newspaper, the Signpost. The next morning I visited the creative writing majors and their very cool teacher, Vicki Ramirez, who will be publishing her own first novel soon. She took me for coffee/hot chocolate after and it was all very nice.

So that was my Utah publicity tour. Really not enough to justify three whole weeks, but oh, how glorious was that time. Now I'm planning to be there for four whole days at the end of June for my little brother's wedding. I wish I could have more time, but they weren't so eager to give me a lot of time off again. I won't see anybody except family, but family is always good.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Needs no headline...

here it is!! On the table, at Barnes & Noble. I sent my younger brother out with his camera to give me proof that it's there. I'm on the same table as Lionel Shriver's The Post Birthday World, (the teal cover near the bottom left corner, might be unrecognizable except that I just read it) which I feel honored to share space with. AND I'm right next to a picture of Johnny Depp!!
Other news: this same Barnes and Noble (Gateway Mall) has scheduled a reading and signing for me! Saturday April 12 at 3 pm. I am now busy trying to contact local reporters etc to get the story in the paper to get people to attend. A signing where four people showed up would be very painful. Especially because all four people would already have the book. Even more so because they would have the book because my dad gave it to them. Because they'd all be relatives. And we'd sit in a circle and discuss my brother's baby rather than have a reading, because they've already read it, and the B&N personnel would feel sorry for us but not sorry enough not to boot us out to make room, and then we'd have to go to Hires and drown our misery in root beer.
No, this is what I'm preventing. Utah friends and family, make note...
Saturday, April 12, 3:00 p.m. at the Gateway Barnes & Noble.
Bring your friends! Bring your relatives! Bring strangers off the street! I'll see you there.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Raindrops on roses

A few of my favorite things:

rain (when I am inside listening to it)
good hot chocolate while it's raining (or cold)
good chocolate, any time
baking, any time
good books, any time
AND...good reviews! All the time! Find another one here.

Armchair Interviews, another site I found, reviewed my book, and liked it. What a relief. They are a site that also puts reviews onto your Amazon page, so it's good that my pristine page will not be marred by someone who really hated the book. Whew. In fact, they will add a really positive one. Really positive. I am so happy when people get it. (This is not to imply that those who hate the book "don't get it," said with a derisive sneer, but they...well...don't get what I wanted to do. They're not on the same page as I was, I guess. Something like that.)

On that note: I welcome good reviews on my Amazon page! I only have 5 right now, so if any of you who haven't put up a review would consider doing so, I would be much obliged. To those of you who have one up, I am already much obliged. Thank you!

Still making progress with Utah things. I am contacting the local newspapers for stories (I'll let you know if that happens) and am possibly lining up a reading/signing at the Barnes & Noble where the book is stocked, at the Gateway Mall. This is a big deal for me, and for a self-published book. Tell your friends! I'll give details when I have them.

Meanwhile I have to prepare at work for this leave of absence. My boss is very kind, and has agreed to let me go, but he's got a lot of work to do while I'm gone and thus we have a lot of work to do before I go. So I'm off.

thanks everybody.....

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thank you!

Exactly one thing has happened:


Now, this number is fluid and fluctuates a LOT, so by the time you read this it will not be at 8,698. The last time I got really excited about my Amazon number it was right around 33,000 (the day before Thanksgiving), and it remained there for about half an hour and then started climbing upward. The inexorable upward climb, I now call it. And the Amazon number isn’t that informative, because it refers to your position amongst the 4 million–plus other books selling, and doesn’t tell you numbers of copies sold. At Christmastime a low number means more than in March, because everyone is buying books to give away (How many of them get read?? And how many go right to the “garage sale I’ll have someday” pile?) and more books are being sold overall, so you’re fighting and clawing for a higher number. In other days, you can sell two copies and jump a hundred thousand spots. I don’t know what sales are like right around Easter, but I know that when I looked at Amazon this morning my ranking had skyrocketed. Last week it wasn’t selling at all, and on Saturday it was climbing into the 500,000 range.

Bam. 8,698.

So again I ask, is this a one-time thing, or is it starting to catch on?

I know that Trish Browning gave me a whole lot more exposure than I thought I would get (THANK YOU TRISH!!) thanks to her giveaway and having people post about the giveaway on their blogs. (THANK YOU POSTERS!!) My parents’ church group is reading it for their book group, which I will meet with in April, and word of mouth has begun spreading with that; initially my dad sold them six books, and he has since had to place two additional orders, as people have read it and spread the word (THANK YOU DAD!! THANK YOU CHURCH PEOPLE!!). I’ve gotten a date set to speak to the creative writing majors at Weber State University in April, and a date to do a reading there as well, and it’s going to be in their bookstore, and they’re going to hold a signing. (THANK YOU WEBER STATE!) The University of Utah is also putting it into their bookstore, and I think it’s already at Sam Weller’s. My publicists are going to arrange media interviews (or try to) in Utah for the second or third week of April. And it goes into the Gateway Barnes & Noble in SLC ...tomorrow.

Oh, my goodness.

I love the fact that it’s in bookstores, even a small number of them. My cover is attention-getting and beautiful and completely conveys exactly what I wanted it to convey. Susan Koski Zucker designed it, and I thank heaven for her. (I should do a whole entry on the cover. It is a story worth telling.) This is the kind of cover that actually makes people want to read the book, so when they see it on shelves they say, “Hey, look at that!” and pick it up. With Amazon, it’s harder, because you have to find it—and to find it you have to be looking for it. You don’t just look at shelves and notice something. Well, at least one person happened to find it (he left a review: Sir Stephen of Kingsley. THANK YOU SIR STEPHEN!) when not seeking it out, so it’s not impossible; it’s just not usual.

All right, I just looked at the Amazon number again, and it’s back on its inexorable climb. But that’s okay; I’m glad I got to see it at 8,698. Some things are beginning, and I am happy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Chocolate bunnies and eggs and chicks...

and a happy Easter to those who celebrate it.

I feel especially grateful today to Trish Browning, whose support has been immediate and unwavering. I haven't even met her! Thank you, Trish, and your readers for your enthusiasm and support. Read a litle more about it here

(Look at me! I did the "here" link! That's a step in the right direction.)

I went to a seminar the other night called "Be Your Own Book Publicist." It was taught by Christopher Lee Nutter, who wrote a self-help/spirituality book for gay men a couple of years ago, The Way Out. He managed to sell 8000 copies of this little book using newspapers, magazine reviews, etc. The dirty secret is that, even though he published through a traditional publishing house, his book publicist did almost nothing of this. He did it all himself.

We had a very interesting conversation that night, with Chris and 10 other authors who attended the seminar. Several of the authors--fiction and nonfiction writers alike--have contracts with conventional houses, and all said that the publicity departments had told them absolutely not to do their own publicity; it would "cheapen" them. Chris looked aggravated and said "But they won't do it! They don't have time! That's the problem!" He encouraged us to work with publicity departments, but really take the burden upon ourselves. He said that he had met an author a few weeks ago who was "just wrecked," walking around feeling awful because he'd been promised so much by the publicists and the publicists couldn't deliver. So this author had put in years of work and anguish (I relate!!) and the book debuted with a big flop.

Now, it's important to know that these publicists are not deliberately neglectful; they're just overwhelmed. They often have outdated media lists, and no time to do research to update them, and they send their books to general addresses at magazines, and at magazines 90% of these books end up on the "giveaway table": extra books that no one wants. They don't really do targeted, customized campaigns, because they don't have time. A women's fiction book like mine shouldn't be pitched to the same publications as Chris's gay men's spirituality book, really, but they don't have time to be discriminating so they blanket all their sources with all the same books.

It was an extremely enlightening 3 hours, and though I walked away feeling a bit overwhelmed, at least I have some more concrete ideas as to how to get my book out there. It's all a slow process, and continues to be slow, but I really believe that if I can just find my audience, it will all be worthwhile. Reading some people's comments about how the book affected them, or how they believe they need to read it at this time because it can help them (someone even wondered if it was a "sign from above") makes me keep on pushing.

Again, to my supporters, a really deep THANK YOU. You just can't know what feeling like my work is appreciated means to someone who's been wondering if her work would ever mean anything to anyone. Thank you, thank you.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day to ye!

Another blog entry, as I eat grapes that taste vaguely like pickles. Yuck. And still I keep eating them. They’re better for me than chocolate, or so I keep telling myself. Maybe it’s time to start on the banana. Or the Twizzlers.

So my March Meet the Mac trip was wonderful. (see the entry below.) Babies are wonderful. Family is wonderful. And then I came back. Sigh. I suspect that if this baby were mine I wouldn’t be seeing things with such rose-colored glasses; after all, every night there I got to go to a hotel at 8 pm and swim in a fantastic pool, as the baby’s parents dealt with his decision on whether or not to sleep. But as it was, I had a fabulous five days with the majority of my family and a beautiful, happy baby who was just learning to smile (it doesn’t get much more precious than that), and cooed at us and made funny noises, and was just starting to see that people were there, holding him, and making eye contact etc. He is a poopy boy (a fact more than acknowledged by his mother), but I didn’t mind changing diapers every fifteen minutes, especially given that, as I said, at eight o’clock I went swimming. For our one touristy thing, we went to the Edgar Allan Poe museum. One word: boring. (and I love Poe!) Oh, and my dad and I also had some terrific crab cakes at the local Hard Shell pub one night. Happy times.

So, for book news. I’ve gotten a new review, this one from Trish Browning’s blog:
http://http// (I’ve been doing a lot of book blog surfing, and this one looked like a good one.) I contacted her and asked her to read the book, and she very kindly agreed. Then she read it in one day! Trish loved the book so much that she is sponsoring a contest for a free copy. Thank heaven for kind and supportive people! And the comments that have been posted so far are just as encouraging. Now I have to say to these people: if you don’t win, you can still have the book. A mere $13.95!!

I mentioned in another post that my magic number is 250. This is not quite the case. 250 is a milestone, but not the milestone. If I sell 250 (no more than 125 that I buy myself, so I can’t inflate my numbers too much) I qualify for “Reader’s Choice” designation, which is another symbol to get affixed to the back cover. On February 12, I achieved this designation. This is more exciting because as of February 12 I had purchased only 60 copies myself; 190 of them were purchased by you, dear readers! Thank you!

At this point, the only thing “Reader’s Choice” does for me is qualify me for their bimonthly marketing emails. I’m doing a whole lot of marketing on my own, so they aren’t that great. Well, I also get another graphic on my back cover.

The real magic number is 500. Again, 250 of them must be purchased commercially. So I could purchase 250 books myself and try to unload them at events and have those books count toward the 500 number, but I really don’t want to do that. I buy about 20 books at a time to send to blogs and reviewers and marketers and my publicists, but I don’t want to have a gigantic box or five under my desk at work. I certainly don’t have room for them at home. But once I sell 500 copies, I qualify for the “Star” program, which puts the book into “regional, and perhaps national” B&N placement. Yes, there’s a “perhaps” there, but...I’m counting on it. I have also been told that if you can sell 500 copies you might get the attention of a publisher. of February 12, we were at 190. Let’s keep going!

For my April Utah push, I’m slowly getting activities set up. I am going to speak with the creative writing majors at Weber State University (which I attended for a year) one day and hold a reading there, either later that same day or the next week. I am going to have a reading at my parents’ home, and my friend Andrea has offered one at hers as well. A dear friend in Rexburg, Idaho, is seeing if her book group wants to read it for April, and I have offered to make the drive up and attend the group, if they do. (You don’t get that same offer with Hemingway!) My mother also got her church book group to read it, again with the tantalizing author’s visit as the reward. The Salt Lake library has decided to stock a few copies, and I spoke with the people at Sam Weller’s, who will also stock it there. (They may hold an event, but not in April. Perhaps when I'm back for my brother's wedding in May or June. They still haven't decided.) The University of Utah bookstore is considering stocking it, as well. I’ll see if we can arrange some more events, also, to make a 3-week visit more worthwhile. I’m taking a leave of absence from work, for heaven’s sake; need to cram as much in as possible.

So that’s all for now. Happy St. Patrick’s day, everyone, and may the luck of the Irish be with us all!

I Met the Mac!

He sleeps a lot, and is happy just to look around a lot too.

And as you can see, he is beautiful ....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


A new post! Woo hoo! And a new picture of the Mac, at two weeks. He’s one month old today! How long can I keep myself from calling him Big Mac?

I have been meaning to talk about someone for a few weeks now, an author by the name of Therese Fowler. I mentioned her quickly in one of my other posts, but I have meant to do more and just haven’t. So here is my effort to make up for that. I met Therese briefly at the American Library Association conference in Philadelphia back in January. She signed an advance copy of her book, Souvenir, and I gave her my card. Then she contacted me the next week and we have corresponded a bit since. She is kind and generous and Souvenir has been chosen as a Target Breakout Book, which is wonderful. I read it in two nights, and would have done it in one, except I have this day job for which I have to be attentive and all that. But I have passed on the recommendation to friends, and now pass it on to you. (I would pass on the book, but really, you all should buy it. Come on, people!) Read the book! It’s got a very touching story (without being saccharine; previously noted, I don’t like saccharine) about choices and their consequences, whatever your intentions. Souvenir, by Therese Fowler. Pick it up.

It’s another gray February New York day (this year we’ve been stuck in perpetual November). We did have a great snowstorm last week, but that was wasted; they might have called it a snow day, but the schools were closed already for winter break. I eagerly looked at my work email when I woke up, hoping for a notice of a closed office. Instead they postponed the breakfast meeting by half an hour. What a gift!

Things have been going well. My dear friend Colleen had me come to Massachusetts for President’s Day weekend to talk with her book group, which had read the book. It was a wonderful experience. There were nine women in the room holding my book, who had read it, who had liked it. They really got it, it seemed, and what more can you ask for? We talked about Jennifer, the main character, and her troubles and her personality. I was concerned about this; in the past I had to work, actively, to make her more likeable, less cold. See, it has been important to me that this book mean something, but that it not be cheesy and saccharine, a trap that many “meaningful” books fall into. As a result, sometimes I pulled too far the other way, particularly with my main character. And since it’s a character-driven book, if you hate the main character, what will motivate you to keep reading? So I worked really hard to give her moments of vulnerability, some more self-deprecation, and moments of connection with other people. And the book group generally liked her, and they weren’t turned off by her depression after her husband died because they liked her enough before. Whew.

The women from the group asked a lot about my process, what I was thinking when, and what motivated certain parts. That was a lot of fun to recount. Some of it is on my website, but I can’t go into quite that much detail writing it out, and certainly not about lots of specific parts. It was great fun to answer questions about people, incidents, etc.

I’ve gotten another review that makes me happy, this one from Here’s the link: I continue requesting reviews and interviews at various sites, and getting some responses more quickly than others. These sites are deluged with requests, it seems to me, and it’s very nice that they take their time to do it at all. Thank heaven for people who encourage reading.

I finally have a date for my in-store promotion: March 25, at the Barnes and Noble in the Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City. I need now to contact my publicists again to arrange for Utah publicity efforts. I will be doing a lecture/class of some sort at Weber State University in Ogden in mid-April, and hopefully some Sam Weller events and possibly readings in libraries and/or friends’ homes. I am making my parents host at least one (I’ll make the food), and perhaps I can do something at Wisebird, which also stocks the book. We shall see.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sickness lingers....

Okay, I’m sick again. This time I cannot blame stale plane air. This time I blame the subway, because no one I know has been sick and, well, hurtling down tunnels crammed into this little nasty little tube with thousands of people at a time, there are bound to be some germs.

The big step forward is that I'm admitting it. I belong to the “I’m really not sick” denial club. The first couple of days I say, “This isn’t bad at all. I can do everything I want to do. I mean, it’s a cold, but it’s not that awful pressure-in-your-ears-and-face kind of thing, it’s just annoying.” I don't believe in echinacea, but I have started placing my faith in Zyrtec—no, Zantac—no, Xanax—no, wait, Zycam. It’s made chiefly of zinc, which made my mother crow triumphantly, since, when I bought it (over Christmas) she had suggested I just take zinc, and I insisted, “No, the commercials say 'clinically proven to shorten a cold'! I must have this Z medication!” So for the past few days I’ve been taking it every 3 hours, as directed, and it’s this nasty don’t-chew tablet that tastes, well, of zinc mixed with cherry. “I’ll really be fine,” I insist, over and over. I keep going to work. I continue going to the gym. (I eat too much junk not to.) I still write when I get home.

And three or four, I crash. This day occurred on a Sunday, last time, and mainly I lay on the couch of my parents’ basement and stared at a television. A television that wasn’t even on, for heaven’s sake. I haven’t reached that point yet. In fact, this morning I awoke and thought, “Oh, this cold is going to be a snap. It’s almost gone.” And as the day has gone by I have felt heavier and heavier, and going up and down in the elevator (I work on floor 21) seems, if anything, to have exacerbated it. Annoying. I went and got a peanut butter-chocolate sandwich cookie to make myself feel better. Sigh.

The practical effect of this cold, since I have not taken a day off work, has just been that I can’t go meet my friend’s brand-new baby. We are in a new baby boom, if you haven’t noticed, so in addition to the Mac who was born a week ago, I have a new Audrey to meet. I can’t very well go my friend’s house with a cold and sneeze on her newborn. Bad form. They sent out a video for people to watch, and I faced the inevitable technical difficulties and...did not overcome them.

This has been a running theme lately. I subscribed to an “increase your website’s traffic!” service, called Traffic Geyser, about two months ago. It seems perfect for me, because it’s advertising your website through video! Since my Unexpected Angel site is video, I thought...what serendipity! It has taken two months to convince myself I can actually try to tackle this thing. I began the process over MLK holiday. Slow, baby steps. I did well through the step of actually downloading your video. I talked myself into writing a script for one, and then I talked my roommate into being the spokesperson. (She did commercials, long ago, and she is a natural.) I filmed it, managed to get decent light and sound, and then tried to upload it.

Ha ha!

I cannot adequately describe the frustration; I will only say it involved a lot of bad words. I went to the Tech Support page and logged in and it rejected me. I got more and more worked up and finally wrote an email to their tech support with the subject line being “I HATE TRAFFIC GEYSER.” Happily they wrote me back and are willing to help me, if possible, but the guy noted that my video is in ASF format and will likely be rejected by most of the sites. It has to be in mp4 video, or mov format, etc.

How the hell do you do that?

That particular email question is still outstanding. I cannot address it, emotionally, because I am at work and need to reserve all my frustration for the consultant who is paid specifically for X number of days and cannot possibly remember the number of days he has actually worked, since 2004, so can I just go find that for him?

I will try to conquer the video thing tonight. Or maybe I’ll just go to the gym, come home, and read. That sounds easier. Actually, not going to the gym sounds even easier than that. I am sick, after all. Getting sicker as I write. Hmm.

On a happy note, this afternoon I called an independent bookstore in Salt Lake City, called Sam Weller’s, to ask about stocking the book. They told me to send one over, and the events coordinator said she’d consider an event, as well. Utah has nice people.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The real post for today

Ah, blogging. So much fun, so easy, so therapeutic—so easy to neglect. It’s not as if nothing has happened, either; as you may gather from the snapshot, my nephew arrived on January 26, making him, today, four days old. I assume he still resembles the picture.

Hi, Mac! I will meet you in March.

He is the first grandchild on both sides, and his parents live far from home base of Utah. So as you can imagine, many, many packages have made their way east. Even I have a package waiting to be sent. One item in the package is an adorable bib, which has been in my closet since September. I’m sending that this weekend, even though that means I don’t get to witness the reactions, which I am assuming will be just like mine, too goopy and shmoopy to describe on a blog. I also bought a tiny Beany Baby stuffed zebra, which I will save until my March Meet the Mac trip, because he’ll be almost 2 months old by then and maybe acknowledge it? I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. I am snookered.

Anyway. Back to book blogging. On January 12, I attended the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference, held in Philadelphia. Specifically, I attended one day of the Midwinter Conference, since the conference itself lasted, like, five or six. Enough to make your head spin. My book was featured in the Combined Book Exhibit because it was chosen as a Publisher’s Choice book, and at my sister’s suggestion I went down to the conference to try to flog it to librarians.

At the conference I met a man named Peter Birch, who was one of the people in charge of the combined exhibit. He was exceptionally kind and helpful and gave me all kinds of tips as to how I could best take advantage of this trip I’d made (a lovely hour and a half on Amtrak. The train is a nice way to travel). He recommended I go to the independent booksellers’ booths to get tips from them on how to sell books; after all, they’re almost in the same situation as I am. They’ve put out books which they feel are quality titles, but don’t have the power of the big houses to back them up. So some of the small publishers weren’t all that friendly, but one in particular was—I wish I remembered the name, but they publish kids’ history books. He suggested all kinds of review sources I could use, mostly for publications that go to libraries. It took a full week after the conference was over for me to follow up on all of these suggestions, getting their addresses and their submission requirements and writing the letters and sending off the books. I did this over Martin Luther King weekend—hooray for holidays!

I also met a lovely writer named Therese Fowler, whose awesome debut novel, Souvenir, comes out February 12. I will blog a bit more about her and her book closer to that time. For right now I will say that she kindly signed an Advanced Reader’s Edition of her book and then, even more kindly, reached out and emailed me the next week, since I had given her my card. Her website is More later.

The other thing I finished, which I am proud of finishing, is writing up my official marketing plan and sending that to iUniverse so we can get it into a brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble store! The one I requested was at the Gateway in Salt Lake City, to coincide with a Salt Lake City media tour (we hope—this could be at the whims and mercy of the local media officials). It should be on the New Release table for eight weeks, and I will take a trip out there to try to hold readings both in homes and at libraries. Dear Readers Based in Utah, if you would like to (or if not “like to,” will “consent to”) hold a reading at your home, I will bring a lot of good food! That’s my solemn promise!

Hey—that applies to any and all New York-based readers, as well. Just a little FYI.

I’ve also been scheduled for my first book group, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. It’s a bit of a hike but my dear friend Colleen got her group to read my book and promised an author’s visit, so an author’s visit they are going to get. I love visiting Colleen, with her spacious New England house and foliage-filled yard (space and yards have become delicacies to me, the New Yorker) and her and her husband’s kindness, and getting to talk with a group is icing on the cake. If anyone else has a book group, I’m more than happy to come speak or talk on the phone; either way is great with me.

Meanwhile, in New York, I got stocked at the Penn Station bookstore! Yay!

I will stop now. There’s more to say, but more entries in which to say it. Until then...


Although I know how to publish graphics on my blog (see the attached)--I don't know how to place them where I want to place them. I've done this about six times now. So rather than put the bibs up top in the last blog, I'm putting them in a separate entry. Here they are. The one I bought is blue, and the baby is obviously not the boy in the picture, but besides that you can get an idea of what I sent. (I got them from Kip's Kids, easily found on the internet at Lots of cute, cute stuff.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Most Definitely "in"

So, apparently I’m “in.”

All right, that’s a gross personalization (as opposed to generalization) of a trend, but I’m applying it to myself.

I am an avid reader of Entertainment Weekly. I subscribe to two magazines, the other being Newsweek, in order to feel connected with my world and surroundings. My job also has a nice program where they order magazines and circulate them through interested personnel; through this, I am “subscribed” to Time, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic, but with a bizarre irregularity. (I often get 3 copies of each at the same time and am not able to read any of any of them. Therefore I read the short stories in The New Yorker, look through Time for anything interesting, and completely disregard The Atlantic and send them all on to their other waiting readers.) I say this so that, even though I do love my Entertainment Weekly, you will know I am not just a pop-culture moron whose only worldly concern is whether Britney has yet gone the way of Anna Nicole. I will take this down if she does.

So Entertainment Weekly, for those not in the know, has a feature called The Shaw Report which labels trends In, Five Minutes Ago, and Out. One of her recent trend successions goes: “In, Widow Lit; Five Minutes Ago, Mommy Lit; Out, Chick Lit.”

My book definitely falls into the category of Widow Lit. Hooray! I’m “in”!

I have never been “in” in my life.

When I was a teenager I decided to buy those incredibly trendy Minute glasses, with the oversized round frames. Unfortunately the pictures I had seen of those very cute Minute glasses had very thin lenses in them. My lenses were...not thin. In fact, for anyone in the know, my prescription in high school went from -7 to -9. this is not on the 20/20 or 20/whatever scale, because it’s a comparison of what people can see at 20 feet; I saw zero at 20 feet. I literally could not see one foot (my own, or distance) or more than three inches. (This is not legally blind, because the definition of legally blind is that you can’t see 20/20, or anything close to it, even with correction. With correction, I had 20/20 vision, at least until I changed another whole diopter, which happened with frightening regularity.) So those adorable Minute frames were the diameter of Coke bottle bottoms, lending an awful literalness to the term “Coke bottle glasses.” My head and eyes were distorted and shrunken, and the lenses (Featherweights!) stuck out of those cute Minute frames by about half an inch. In my next pair of glasses, we decided “smaller is better,” especially since, by then, my prescription had gone to -11, topping out at -12.

I had Lasik surgery at age 23, which was before it was officially “in.” Maybe this made me avant garde, but I was not “in.” My prescription has edged up a little since the Lasik, and now I own a pair of trendy Tina Fey glasses (or as my brother calls them, “smart girl glasses,”) but I don’t wear them because most of my day is spent at a computer screen and I only need them for long distance. I wear them to drive, which I do about twice a year. I’m not “in.”

I don’t like diets, so I refuse to try anything that’s “in,” like Atkins or Zone or Marilu Henner’s plan. I won’t do Jenny Craig. So not in. (Then again, the celebs who pitch Jenny Craig are even farther from “in” than I am...because they were “in” at one time, and I wasn’t, so while I’m still just “not in,” they’re “out.” Hmm.)

I don’t buy trendy clothes, because quality trendy clothes are expensive, and if I sucked it up and bought the quality trendy clothes they’d be out within a year and I’d have to revamp my entire wardrobe once again. I could shop at H&M, but the few items I’ve bought from them (bordering dangerously on “in”) start unraveling on the second wearing.

I don’t have trendy hair. In fact, after my last haircut, I looked into the mirror and thought, “My goodness. My hair is now ‘The Rachel.’” “The Rachel” was 1995. Then again, when it dries naturally, it goes into “The Hillary.” This will never, ever be “in.” (I am temporarily solving this problem with copious amounts of gel.)

I don’t wear trendy makeup. Makeup tends to go in fads, like sparkly one year and matte the next...but all in various shades of pink. I can’t wear pink; I look like an old lady who buys Wet ‘n’ Wild on sale.

(So maybe I’m not “in”...but I did just get an email that said I have won the European lottery! I’m not in but I’m rich! don’t need to enter contests to win them, do you?)

All of these reasons why I am not “in.” But...I am the author of the book that, for whatever it’s worth, has been classified by Entertainment Weekly, as “in.” Line up! Get ‘em while they’re hot! Because in five minutes, they’ll be “five minutes ago.”