Wednesday, September 26, 2012

People are still reading The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  My debut novel, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, is the little book that could.

Rescued from the slush pile by my agent, Michelle Brower, refined and brought to fruition and to publication by my incomparable genius editor, Sarah Knight, this book about Becca Burke and Buckley Pitank is still shining a little light out there in independent bookstores and among the finest book bloggers and reviewers.

Thank you to A. B. Riddle for choosing The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors as one of her TOP PICKS, one of her favorite books.  Read more here!

"We've read some great books here at Underground Book Reviews. Our Top Picks are the ones that stood out above the rest. If you're looking for a book to read, you might want to check some of these titles out. Here's the books we loved, and why:"

And thank you to everyone who has read and loved the book and spread the good word.  Thank you Underground Book Reviews!    And thank you to everyone else for the love!

If you know somebody who hasn't read the book yet, loan them your copy or ask them to order a copy from their local bookseller.

I am hard at work on my next novel, tentatively titled FLIGHT, and due out To Be Determined.  This "little" book is not so little anymore.  It's growing, spreading wings, "taking off" really.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review: In One Person by John Irving

I'm in the business of writing books, not reviewing them, BUT...  In One Person is written with gusto and heart.  Admittedly and brilliantly heavy-handed, the book does what it sets out to do, and exemplifies the narrator's last spoken word:  "'My dear boy, please don't put a label on me--don't make me a category before you get to know me!'"

I am reminded of a few book clubs where readers told me they were "uncomfortable" at the sex in my debut novel.  "How do you decide what to include and how much to include-sexually speaking?"  "Does it have to be there?"  "Can't you just allude to it?"  One of my best friends, a fellow writer used to tell me, "Don't leave the audience without the payoff."  Well, rest-assured, John Irving does not leave you without payoff in In One Person.  

Although, like everyone else, man or woman, I am pining for the young, cruel Jacques Kittredge, aside from Jacques, there's not too much pining in this novel.  

As with all of Irving's books, there's a broad spectrum of nuanced characters, a scenic Vermont, bears or beers, Venice, Switzerland, WrEsTlinG, lust and love, with everything tying back and forward and back again to the characters' motivations.  No one is all bad, not even Jacques Kittredge's mother.  "What's a mom to do under the circumstance?" (Can't give it away...)

Irving captures the brutality of the AIDS epidemic in a manner that is not over-done.  It's just enough.  He trusts his reader to know WHAT happened and how it happened and how most of America distanced themselves, remaining "uninvolved", from the horror of what was happening.

This book, like nearly all of John Irving's novels, will replay and resonate with me for a long time.  And I hope that, as when Maya Angelou reminded me, 'If someone calls someone a nigger, you're guilty if you don't speak up and protest the racism,' I hope that this book helps to reinforce that we should not stand by and let people, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Question Mark, be called "fag" or "lesbo" or any other derogatory term.  Nor should we stand by and let our laws discriminate against anyone based on sexual identity.  

John Irving's book is an apt and timely work of fiction, relevant to today's decisive, often discriminatory atmosphere.  "We already are who we are, aren't we?"  

Aren't we?    


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Where I am born... part 3

rooted to Eve,
Madame Bovary
and Lady MacBeth.

censored and selfish.

Birthing babies, books, and birds.
Belly up on the tide.
"Who do you think you are?"
"I don't know."

"What do you want?"
"The whole world.  All of it.  I'm selfish like that."

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Where I am born, part 2

Painting pelicans last night and a red ibis today.  Jumping in the canal, swimming with blue crabs and fish and forgetting that I'm a grown up.  Because it's never too late to be born again, baptized in brackish water.

Mom called this morning to tell me that there are pots and pans on QVC.  She is worried because I only have one pot and nothing matches.  I steam vegetables in a colander, and my cookie sheets double as pot lids.  

I don't want non-stick pans.  I like things sticky, or at least I like Revere ware.  Gotta get to the thrift store, buy a pot and a pink dress.  Gotta get used to my new digs.  Gotta keep writing and painting.

When I was seven, born again in Chester, Virginia, I went house to house looking for friends.  I found some.

When I was 34 and my son was born, I was born again, looking for other mothers, trying to figure out how I would protect my darling boy.  Again, I went door to door, mommy group to mommy group, in search of friends.  And again, I found them.

So "here I am again on my own, going down the only road I've ever known," (How many times am I going to quote that song?  God help me!) seeking out friendships, but this time it's not for me.  This time, it's for my little boy, who is sitting with his own notebook, writing his own stories, reminding me that alone time is often a good thing.  A good time to work things out, to be creative, to find our inner selves.  I'm not really "alone" and neither is he.  But I'm still going to help him make friends.  Here he comes with "Fun Dip."  Good times.  Fun times.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Where I am Born


My birth certificate says Norfolk General Hospital but that ain't it, not in the sense of where my story begins.

I was born in a dank den, sitting at a stained writing desk, a pipe tobacco in the left drawer, red shag carpet underfoot.  It was 1978 and I was alone.  My parents were at work and my older sister had made friends.  I was born buck-toothed and fat with frizzy hair, wearing a T-Shirt that said "Bug Off."  Of course, there was a lady bug on the shirt.

I was born writing, imagining, rhyming, making up friends and other worlds to inhabit.  I was born without parental supervision.  Everybody had to work.  I was born baking brownies, measuring sugar, cracking eggs.  I didn't know anybody.  There was a willow tree in the front yard where I liked to hide and make up adventures.  There was a steep hill where I tended to fall down.

I didn't like being alone. be continued    

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Woman Seeking New Adventures

Are you STATIC or Are you Woman Seeking New Adventures?
I just had another birthday, and I am so grateful!  I quote Dylan Thomas far too often, but here I go again "on my own, going down the only road I've ever known..."  Oops!  That's White Snake!  Here we go:  "Do not go gentle into that good night/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Rage, I say.  RAge and RaGe and RAGE because with old age, you can think less about what others think of you.  YOU KNOW YOU.  You know what's good for you and what isn't.  You know WHO is good for you and who isn't.  
Oh, don't go gently into that good night.  Blaze and Dance.  Burn, baby, burn!  
Say "Fuck it!" more often... (Just not around small children.)  
Rage, Bitches!  Rage!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bird Calls from The Saints of Los Vientos

An excerpt:

Los Vientos, Florida
March 28, 1989
Prue sat on the white coquina sand of Los Vientos watching the pelicans dive into the water.  She was fascinated by all manner of birds. With binoculars pressed to her face, she was still and quiet, watching for Florida’s sand hill crane, a bird much rarer than the grey osprey.  The sand hill crane’s mating song, which Prue had heard only once, was two cheetah-like female calls answered by a long cheetah-like sound from the male, the calls repeating until the birds met.  It was a love song.  With their long legs and pointed beaks, the tall cranes soared through the sky with a wingspan of six feet.  Prue had seen a flock of at least fifty birds flying together.  Dr. Neal Carl, who worked at the St. Mark’s Nature Reserve, told Prue that the sand hill crane’s cousin lived all the way in Siberia.  “It’s a rare bird.  A sight to behold.”  What kind of birds do they have in Lithuania?  She couldn’t wait to meet her grandfather.  Does he like birds?  Her father liked birds.  He was the one who’d sent the binoculars: a Christmas present.  He’d written a card.  You are always on my mind.  It was a Willie Nelson song.  Did he mean it?  She was twelve the year the binoculars arrived.  Am I always on your mind?  She still didn’t know.  
              Her mother said, “Bird watching is for old people who have nothing better to do with their time.”
 “Then I guess I’m an old people.”
Her father had also written that he’d try to see her the next Christmas.  Five Christmases had passed without him.  You were always on my mind.  If I made you feel second best, Girl I’m sorry I was blind…
Today, Prue saw the Sand Hill Crane.  She got to her feet.  There were only four of them, two males and two females, majestic with long legs, their beaks a hundred blended shades of brown.  The first one flapped its wings; its feathers appeared burnt red in the sunlight.  Its wings billowed and dropped, billowed and dropped.  The next three ascended from the marsh.  Within seconds, the four birds soared effortlessly overhead.  Prue reached back and touched her scars.  Then, adjusting the binoculars, spoke to the sky: “I want to fly.” 
1941, Exact Date Unknown, Speculation, Conjecture
There’s a chance that Alexandra Zilius, Frederikas’ mother, who, as you know, loved birds so much she birthed one, saw the sand hill crane’s cousin in Siberia. 
There’s a chance that after the cattle cars had stopped and the dead mothers and babies were deposited into waiting mass graves… that Alexandra, who’d once sung arias, was showered and deloused, and after a wind-and-frost burned man pointed to a Soviet sign needing no interpretation: Work is an Honor, that Alexandra, Freddie’s loony-goony grandmother, spotted or heard one of only 10,000 sand hill cranes then inhabiting eastern Siberia.  It would’ve been a bird she’d never seen, and she would’ve been in awe of its size, in its ability to traverse continents, and of course, in its song.  There’s always a chance.  And my bet is that if she wasn’t rolling “wee” down that green hillside, she must’ve seen and heard that bird.