"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~ William Wordsworth

The Writing Life Too

And if you're reading this, it means you're not writing.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

No cloud cover again so the sky is pale blue. Yesterday the temperatures reached 99 and could only be described as punishing. Well, actually there were lots of other words to describe the heat, brutal, blistering, relentless, obnoxious.

I am one of those soft-fingered curmudgeons that usually advises writers not to self publish. Now I know this goes against the common grain, and I’ve heard David Morrell (no relation) suggest that writers try this option for publication. I tend to think of self publishing as a consolation prize or an ego trip and most self-published books I’ve seen are fairly dreadful. (I know, I know, there are always exceptions) I believe self-publishing should be a last resort after you’ve spent at least a year seeking representation and/or a publishing deal, which is also after you’ve plucked, pruned, and polished your manuscript to perfection.

I’m especially suspicious of outfits such as Publish America that have a bad track record of screwing writers and hate it when writing magazines and writing conferences publish ads for these sorts. In fact, these days Publish America is suing Editors & Predators—you might want to check out this flap at http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/ and contribute to their defense fund.

However, once in a while, a self-published book breaks out and is picked up by a publisher. Sometimes this is a real Cinderella story and such is the case of The Lace Reader by Brunolia Barry which is on its way to becoming an international bestseller. I haven’t read it yet, but the buzz is extraordinary and her book deal was for over $2 million which includes the advance for her second book. Barry is 47 and hails from Salem, Massachusetts. The story centers on a young woman who has the power to read the future in the patterns of Ipswich lace. Barry and her husband made the self-publishing decision mostly because they didn’t want to spend two years waiting for a deal to happen with a publisher.

Please note that they didn’t take the iUniverse route to self-publishing, but instead invested more that $50,000 in the process. According to a story at boston.com “They incorporated their company as Flap Jacket Press and planned to release "The Lace Reader" last September. They set up a website and hired a copy editor, jacket designer, and book publicist, Kelley & Hall of Marblehead. They attended bookseller conventions, handing out advance copies and buttonholing booksellers. Kelley & Hall sent copies to book bloggers and trade magazines such as Publishers Weekly and promotional announcements to 700 independent bookstores.” They then landed a distributor and then a rave review in Publisher’s Weekly.

The first printing was for 2,500 and the couple started visiting bookstores, asking them to stock the books. The first bookstore in Salem sold out after a reading was covered by local papers. Words spread and there were a few more intricate steps (they also had connections) before Morrow bought it in a bidding auction. So if you’re willing to go through all this, self publishing is certainly the road for you.

In her blog at http://www.lacereader.com/blog/ she writes: “For quite some time, I have been fascinated by the Hero’s Journey or the monomyth. Most stories that follow this pattern have a decidedly male orientation: a lone individual acts heroically and saves the day. I wondered if there might be an alternate form, a feminine Hero’s Journey. So I began to look at stories that featured female protagonists to see if they offered something different. What I found surprised me. Most of these women were either killed off or were ultimately rescued from their plight by male heros. Unsatisfied, I wondered if I could write a Hero’s Journey for women where the strong but wounded heroine must find a way to save herself..

With this in mind, I began to expose myself to archetypal images that resonated with female sensibilities. During this time, I had a dream that I saw something prophetic by looking through a piece of lace. This dream made such an impression on me, it seemed so vivid and real, that I felt that I must at least entertain the idea of using lace as the central image of the book. Soon after that, I found connections to other iconic feminine symbols: water, moon, tides, birth, etc.” Her fancy-schmancy website is at http://www.lacereader.com and if you’re planning on going the self-publishing route, you just might want to write her for advice.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Another pale blue sky and temperatures are supposed to soar to, gulp, 97 today. Last night I went out to hear two local jazz legends, Rebecca Kilgore and Dave Frishberg. Kilgore specializes in songs from the 30 and 40s and the lyrics are intelligent, witty, and fun. The odd thing about the evening was that the gig was in a restaurant that changed hands a year ago. When I walked in I was puzzled why it wasn’t packed since Kilgore is well known and has appeared on NPR and at Carnegie Hall. She also sings a lot on jazz cruises, which to my mind sounds like a fabulous way to make a living.

But I figured out the size of crowd after I ordered a spinach salad with salmon. Problem was that the salmon didn’t taste at all like salmon, the dressing was gluey and strange and there the whole thing was tossed onto the plate like an afterthought. As a former restaurant person I was appalled. If you ever get a chance to hear Kilgore, check her out.

Since writers need to focus so much on generating their own publicity these days here is news from Mediabistro about a book publicity blog: Yen Cheong, Assistant Director of Publicity at Viking and Penguin Books writes The Book Publicity Blog on which she posts tips/suggestions and publishing/marketing trends that may be of use to book publicists and others in the publishing industry to "do our jobs with greater ease and efficiency."

To subscribe to The Book Publicity Blog, email Yen Cheong at: bookpublicityblog[at]gmail[dot]com.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summer has arrived here and the morning sky is a pale blue. Later in the week, temperatures in the 90s are on the way. Yesterday I was back in the groove, well, sort of, because after a few hours of writing in the morning there was a long phone update on Liza, who was close to death on her 19th birthday (which was yesterday). So there was that sadness in the midst of things, and I keep thinking of the girls I know and how they deserve to grow up to become full-fledged women.

So troubled, after this call I went back to editing, then went out to run errands, including buying sympathy cards. When I returned home and was unloading groceries from my car, Janice, my neighbor across the street was calling my name, frightened because she was suddenly not feeling well. It’s a long story, but after I listened to her symptoms, I offered to drive her immediately to an ER because I was worried that she had a stroke. She seemed determined to deny that something serious was going on (partly because her insurance coverage had just changed and they were now responsible for 20% of their medical costs). After I called an emergency help nurse she was bundled off to the emergency room for tests. It turned out that what had happened was called a TIA. A TIA is a "warning stroke" or "mini-stroke" that produces stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage. Since then I’ve learned that recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce your risk of a major stroke. Here are the symptoms:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

So that was my afternoon and I’m suggesting it might be helpful for you to learn these symptoms.

Then I was back to editing, watering plants, dinner, and then went for a walk under a sky with pale pink stripes woven across it.

But on to bookish topics: I want you to know about BookRoast. “Each week we're open for business, Book Roast cooks up five authors from different genres. Stop by to hear about their books, jump in the oven and poke them with a meat thermometer to see if they're done. We slice and serve one author a day for fun and prizes and a good, old fashioned roasting. First, we whet your appetite with a short excerpt from the author's book, followed by three questions loosely related to the passage. Some questions are silly, others are straightforward and the rest are plain crunchy. For dessert, the author picks the winner who answers the most questions correctly – or the most creatively. We like spice, but some authors prefer things sweet, which makes Book Roast deliciously unpredictable.

The prize: a free copy of the author's book (and an occasional surprise!)
Each contest runs 9am - 9pm Eastern Time (U.S.)

Best of all, authors will pop into the blog throughout the day to answer questions, share a laugh and toss out some insider tidbits..”

So check out and support this blog at Book Roast.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The sun is poking through a sky scattered with cumulus clouds. I returned from teaching at the coast yesterday afternoon and promptly took a nap, then went out to meet friends. Checking emails this morning I’ve learned that my friend Jeanette’s granddaughter is probably not going to make it after suffering extensive injuries in a car accident. A few weeks ago the news about her was hopeful and I’m stunned at this horrible news.

While I was in Manzanita I heard Jennie Shortridge read and talk about her new book, Love and Biology and the Center of the Universe. If Shortridge is in your town, don’t miss a chance to hear her, she’s a great speaker. And—what fun—she’s created soundtrack of the tunes mentioned in the book. You can download it at http://www.jennieshortridge.com/music.php

NPR is on in the background and I’ve just learned that George Carlin died yesterday. The coverage discussed how Carlin’s obscenity case came before the Supreme Court and how he was arrested in Milwaukee for uttering the seven words you’re not allowed to say on television. I was at the performance in Milwaukee and remember first being stunned at Carlin’s audacity and how shortly after the police swarmed on the stage and then dragged him away, ending the performance. If memory serves me, he was handcuffed and we all booed. Since then I’ve always believed in the comedian’s role in society as truth teller and social commentator. Carlin says of being a comedian: "I found it was an honest craft and that art was involved," Carlin said. "I do like to point out that there is an artistic process involved in observing the world, interpreting it, and then writing something about it and performing it. It's the low end of the scale in art. Perhaps it's not fine art. But it is art. I found that out and it gave me a purpose and strength."

NPR has been running a series about memorable fiction characters. This week it’s Nancy Drew who stumbled on forgeries, robberies, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91753085. The story begins with Laura Lippman describing how reading Nancy Drew mysteries led her to write her own series.

It seems like so much has happened in the past few days that I’m still absorbing it all, but what I remember most was after returning from Jennie’s reading sitting in an old rocking chair writing in my notebook and watching the dusk as the longest day of the year ended in a huge wash of silver. Happy summer to all.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cumulus clouds are strewn across a field of blue. I’m going to bail out of the blogosphere for a few days because I’m heading to the Oregon coast for a few days to teach workshops. One workshop is on voice and details and this morning I was thinking about what I wanted to say.

Voice is the sound of you on the page, or in fiction, the sound of an individual character. For the nonfiction writer the best voice is “in harmony with your roots” as Arthur Plotnik advises. When I meet or talk to editors they often remark that while an idea for a book project might attract them, it is often the voice of the writer that compels them to read more. Your voice is shaped by lots of writing, careful reading, and taking risks.

Good writing haunts us. The best stories resonate and are spun of layers that linger in our mind the way the final notes of a symphony linger in the air like a whisper or a dream. When the story slips within a reader, it does so because a variety of techniques are employed such as vivid characterization, action that creates worry, and then that more ephemeris layer, the connections that lie beneath the track of words. Sensory details are part of that layer creating a deep reservoir of meaning.

Sensory description contributes to every part of fiction and nonfiction helps readers make connections and experience the story viscerally. Life is breathed into stories by translating the senses onto the page, producing stories rooted in the physical world. Action and dialogue arrest the reader’s attention, but sensory details assure the reader that they’re actually occurring.

Via the senses, readers are transported into the story world, where they develop intimate relationships with people and witness events; and through the senses they track the emotional developments in the story. Details, especially those that appeal to all the senses, in turn unlock the reader’s emotions and help him feel as if he has slipped into the story world.

Creating effective details requires developing a poet’s eye for detail. Description or details are not strewn across a story simply because the writer is offering proofs of an alternate reality. The best details evoke emotions in readers and make things happen in the story. They can describe the unfamiliar or unusual, but also breathe life into the familiar. Happy writing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sky is a silvery gray although most of the clouds should melt away by afternoon. Last night before I went to bed I turned on a talk radio program for a minute and a man who called in was named Witch Eye. His father was a Choctaw Indian and named him, and while it’s not a Native American name, he mentioned that his name seems to perplex most people he meets. I feel asleep after reading a chapter of Ann Patchett’s Run thinking about Witch Eye and what that name brought him, imagining the color of his eyes.

I also wanted to let people know about an organization called First Book. They put books into the hands of poor kids and open the door to the world of magic that books hold. I was writing recently about my memories of visiting the library in the small town I grew up. My older brother and I started these weekly trips when I was four and he was six. Part of the thrill of the library trip was traveling away from home and wandering through a lovely park next to the brick library covered in ivy. It sat next to the Prairie River and we’d stop to play along its banks and I can still see the soft shades of green of the weeping willows and oaks that dotted the river bank. Some of the first books I carried home were Flicka, Dicka, and Ricka and Snip, Snap and Snur by Swedish author Maj Lindman. Those books started me on a journey that has never ended and led me to writing.

At the First Book site (www.firstbook.org) you can donate to buy books for kids. They have also posted a link to Book Expo America and the 2006 podcast of Tim Russert’s speech. Please have a listen.

And keep in mind these words about Tim Russert at Storypeople.com:

“It is still so new & all we see is the empty space, but that is not how it is in the landscape of the heart. There, there is no empty space & he still laughs & grapples with ideas & plans & nods wisely with each of us in turn. We are proud to have known him. We are proud to have called him friend.”

Also, at the www.storypeople.com site you can buy a beautiful poster and the proceeds will be sent to flood victims in Iowa. The story people site is the work of Brian Andreas and the poster was originally created to help victims of Hurricane Katrina:

the water washed away everything
but the chance to begin again

so we came from cities & towns,
from long golden fields
& we stood side by side
until we made a bridge to dry land,

back to a place
we have promised to hold safe
for each other's children,

back to a place
called America

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The marine layer of clouds is shrouding the city in what looks like a layer of smoke. And did you hear Al Gore in his endorsement of Barack Obama, “Take it from me, elections do matter.” Gore blogs at http://blog.algore.com.People are still talking about Tim Russert—what he meant to news, how being a workaholic affected his health, how he was beloved by everyone who knew him, how he was Cheney’s go-to guy in the build-up to the Iraq war and occupation. When I mentioned the need for great journalists, I forgot to mentioned several prominent and veteran journalists among us: the graceful and brainy Charlie Rose, Jim Leherer of the Newshour who is currently recovering from heart surgery, and investigative journalist Seymour Hersh who mostly writes for the New Yorker, has won the Pulitzer, and exposed the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.

Also since William F. Buckley died probably the most influential conservative writer in the country is George Will. In his column today he blasts John McCain for his comments about last week’s Supreme Court ruling about habeas corpus. It’s called McCain’s Posturing on Guantanamo and begins: WASHINGTON -- The day after the Supreme Court ruled that detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo are entitled to seek habeas corpus hearings, John McCain called it "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country." Well.

Does it rank with Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), which concocted a constitutional right, unmentioned in the document, to own slaves and held that black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect? With Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which affirmed the constitutionality of legally enforced racial segregation? With Korematsu v. United States (1944), which affirmed the wartime right to sweep American citizens of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps? You can find it various places but here’s a site that people might be interested in that features it http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/06/was_it_really_the_worst_decisi.html

If you’re of a liberal leaning you might want to check out 101 Reasons to not vote for John McCain at www.billpressshow.com. One of my favorite reasons is #83: John McCain was part of the Keating Five. John McCain was part of the five Senators who were tied to dirty deal with Charles Keating. Then there’s #92: His bad "comb-over," that he won't admit to. He won't just be honest and admit he's balding - what else won't he be honest about?

In yesterday’s issue of Salon. com they weighed in for the last time on summer reading picks: In this fourth and final installment, we focus on historical novels: a gripping fictional portrait of Queen Elizabeth's early years, when she was still just "Lady Elizabeth"; a Victorian thriller featuring a mysterious housemaid and a gentleman obsessed with anthropometry; a juicy girl's-eye view of Louis XIV's court; and an intellectual romance that spans two centuries, partly set in Venice, where novelist George Eliot is on honeymoon.

The books are Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir, The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell, Mistress of the Sun, Sandra Gulland, The World Before Her, Deborah Weisgall

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The sky is a pale gray but the marine layer will move out later. Meet the Press is being moderated by Tom Brokaw this morning, with Tim Russert’s chair empty. The last few days I’ve been thinking about Russert. I was driving across town on Friday to join a friend for a movie when I heard the news of his death. Like so many people I was shocked and saddened and set back with thinking about journalism and politics and people who love the game. And people, like the bright-eyed Russert, who no matter the accolades and high falutin’ power broker status have something real and spunky and true and plain spoken in them.

Now, I didn’t always agree with how he handled his job as the Washington Bureau Chief and Meet the Press moderator because frankly he screwed up on the Iraq War along with most of the media, especially the Washington insiders, and didn’t ask nearly enough tough questions and that’s a big deal because this country is now as broke and lonely and scabby and outcast as a run-down junkie trying to face a Monday morning without a dime. And during his recent interview of Obama he spent the first 15 minutes grilling him about Jeremiah Wright. So Russert got it wrong at times.

And he should have come down even harder on Rumsfeldt, Cheney and the other creeps that had the cajones to face him on Sunday morning. But he got it right most of the time and was real and decent and smart and fair and loved politics. His legal and Jesuit training always served him and he was one of the last journalists around who had ready the questions nobody saw coming, who wasn’t afraid to run the tapes that exposed your lies, that proved your flip flop. Who in the world of journalism besides Bill Moyer and John McLaughlin are going to pass on the torch to upcoming journalists, the consummate pros who prepare, who know their stuff, who ask bulldog questions? Who among us has such passion and curiosity?

And I was wondering about how a few weeks ago he placed his father in a nursing home and the probable strain on his heart. His father, Big Russ, who he called after every show to ask his opinion about how it went. I was remembering back when my grandparents went into a nursing home and the pain like a crow’s shadow fell across my father’s face. They were in their sixties but my grandmother was terribly crippled from rheumatoid arthritis and my grandfather, a sort of bantam rooster Irish guy, skinny and tough and smart took care of her and seemed invincible. They meant so much to me although I didn’t know it at the time. And then a lifetime of Camel Straights snatched my grandfather and the surgeons started carving out his lungs and he went down so fast there was no stopping the horrible slide. Within a few months he was babbling and baffled in an institutional bed, his arms in restraints.

My parents had six kids and a house where there wasn’t room for grandparents with massive health problems and an income that couldn’t accommodate all the pain. My grandfather died when I was sixteen and at his funeral men from his old neighborhood carried the pewter-colored casket that was topped by a mound of miniature white roses. They paused for some reason about half way up the aisle of church where he’d been the janitor for years and that mass of lovely and delicate blooms slid off into a pile of petals onto the church floor. I have rarely seen a sight so sad.

We all know some men most definitely should not die before their time. Their big hearts should keep going. And didn’t the past few days make you think, oh man, we need more Tim Russerts around, not one less. And Sunday mornings he’ll be still around with that wide smile and twinkle, that gotcha, that laugh, but we won’t be able to hear his questions any more.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The morning sky is a pale blue full of promise So the sun came back here yesterday and while I always claim that the gloom here doesn’t affect me, once it arrived around noon, I was buzzing around here like a hummingbird. Cleaning up the spots on the living room carpet, dusting, scrubbing the dried carrot slime from a vegetable drawer, sweeping the patio, showing mercy to some of my plants that had been neglected, adding supports to the roses that I apparently didn’t cut back enough and dahlias that are finally showing some spunk, and practically whistling the whole time, except I don’t know how to whistle. Dashed over to New Seasons and bought strawberries and started thinking longing thoughts about more summer fruits. My flurry felt so good because I’ve been feeling ill and this burst of activity made me feel like me.

And speaking of birds, people who read my newsletter or other things I write, might think I’m sort of a nature girl. And it’s true, the sky in all its permutations and sounds and colors and the ocean and all the things I love in the Northwest factor into my mood and filter into my writing. But there is a pair of birds that have made a nest in some place above the eave and between the roof (actually, to confess, I’m not quite clear where the nest is because I cannot find it) outside my office, and I have no idea what kind of birds they are. They move fast, and whenever I spot them, flashing past, they’re whisking at about 89 m.p.h so I can barely discern their colors. And when they return, I swear, it’s even faster and they land with a soft thud. (To confuse matters there is a pair of bluebirds of about the same size that hang around and they’re noisy, but they live down the street—at least I think that’s where they live because they’re also buzzing past at amazing speeds)

Also, I often wear glasses (which, might I add, are usually smudged) for working at my computer long hours and these glasses aren’t good for far-away gazing at fast- moving feathered creatures. And, although I love birds and can recognize a fair number of species, and spend my days tuning into bird song, I’m a fat-assed lazy slacker when it comes to the hard work of avian identification. So I hear a bird and my heart soars and I make a mental note thinking—. I need to join the Audubon Society. I need to take a class. I need to buy a book. A CD. But so far, I have not and live in semi-ignorance tuning in as if I’m from some remote Russian steppe land and cannot understand English.

So these birds, larger than robins, with white breasts and grayish tops ( I know, I suck), tend to zip across the street in pairs and land in a three-story cedar, deserting their brood, and then after they hang out for about 30 seconds, one on the extreme peak of the tree, looking around in all directions, then take off on reconnaissance missions. I’m more apt to see them leave than return, and because it’s been cooler than a witch’s elbow around here lately, I haven’t been hearing any peeps from the nest region, but I’m going to try harder to listen now that the forecast is more promising and my window is open. And I might need to buy binoculars. Also, maybe I cannot hear the babes because my office radio is usually blaring. Shhh. Here comes David Bender---love his political assessment.

Update: I take back my last paragraphs. One of the bird parents returned and the feeding-greeting-hoopla or whatever was going on was heartily loud and chirpy (although not long-lasting. My eyes are peeled for parent # 2). More bird news to come.

And THANK GOD that the Supreme Court stood up for HABEUS CORPUS yesterday when they ruled that the prisoners at Guantanamo had rights! (Well, it was 5-4, so things aren’t entirely hopeful) Still, things are looking up, citizens, even though we are hanging on by the skimpiest of threads to the dear old Constitution. Long live the Magna Carta and Justice Kennedy. (the Magna Carta (going back to 1679)/habeus corpus (on which our 13 colonies were based) says that if your sorry ass is slammed in jail, you’ve got rights. It is the whole idea behind this republic. And this ruling serves notices that all powers in our government can be checked. This ruling, the Supreme Court's decision in Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. United States is incredible, at least these days. It means George W. is not a king and we might someday be able to return to a semblance of governmental sanity. It means government is accountable and liberty matters. It means a lot of people see through the pretend tribunals. Remember next year six Supreme Court justices are over 70.

For more on this significant ruling check out Dahlia Lithwick (one of my favorite legal nerds) at slate.msn.com/ id/2193468/ The Enemy Within. Who are we more afraid of: enemy combatants or federal courts? It begins: The Supreme Court's decision Thursday in Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. United States is—as all the big enemy-combatant cases have been—both enormously important and relatively insignificant. This is, after all, the third stinging setback and blistering rebuke the court has handed the Bush administration with respect to prisoner rights at Guantanamo. Yet you may have noticed that all of these setbacks and rebukes have mostly meant more hot days in orange jumpsuits, more solitary confinement, and ever more plus ça change for the detainees there. At his pretrial hearing in April, one of the detainees "lucky" enough to actually face a trial, Salim Hamdan, pointed out to the presiding judge that winning his own appeal at the Supreme Court in 2006 got him precisely nothing.”

Okay, just for balance: read the dissents. It was a narrow ruling and the dissents are freaky as all get out.

On to silliness: The annual Webby Film and Video Awards, which honor the Web’s best videos, for winners to accept their prize with a speech of five words or less. Here are some of the acceptance speeches:

”Five words is not enough,” Lorne Michaels
“Keyboards are full of germs,” Michel Gondry
“Contact me for voice work,” Tay Zonday
“Please don’t climb our building.” NYTimes.com
“Together, we’ll make reading obsolete.” The Onion News Network
“The revolution will be webcast.” - Getty Images
“Well, well, well, well, well.” My Damn Channel,
"Thank you very much. Good bye,” Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim

A list of all speeches — it’s fairly brief – can be found at: http://www.webbyawards.com/press/speeche s.php.

Has anyone out there joined novelaction.com? If so, I’m wondering if you can vouch for this site. After all, it sounds too good to be true. There slogan is “changing the way booklovers share books.” And the idea is that you can select any books you want from the site and send in an equal number of your books in exchange. According to their site “with $4.80 flat rate shipping for up to 6 lbs. of books, no transaction fees, and custom alerts for your favorite authors, books or genres, members save both time and money with Novel Action.”

Hhmmm. I just shipped a flat rate postal envelope yesterday and it cost $4.80 and it held 1 book. So I’m wondering about how much you can ship for $4.80. If they’re shipping media rate, that takes several weeks, not several days to arrive. Apparently they have a centralized warehouse of goodies….feedback welcome.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

There is blue scattered among the clouds this morning. Last night I was in my office avoiding things. I had meant to attend a poetry reading but because I’d taken a nap, needed to stay in and get some work done and also get in a walk. So I was sort of tidying up my office when the sun broke through—the first time in days, revealing dust on everything. So I dusted furiously and then went out walking while blue patches were still showing in the sky and it as usual, there was just so much to see and enjoy. I’m remembering two yellow cats sitting in a front window, turned away from each other, like book ends. And then of course there were flowers everywhere and dogs and people, but mostly gardens and sky to look at.

Back to summer reading: Yesterday my pal in Eugene, Dale Sturdavant sent me a notice about Carl Hiaasen’s latest book, The Downhill Lie. It’s nonfiction and it’s about golf. It begins: “In the summer of 2005, I returned to golf after a much needed layoff of thirty-two years.Attempting a comeback in my fifties wouldn’t have been so absurd if Id been a decent player when I was young, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. At my best, Id shown occasional flashes of competence. At my worst, Id been a menace to all carbon-based life-forms on the golf course.” Hiaasen, as usual, sounds witty and wise and I would guess full of surprises. If you have a middle grade reader in your life, I recommend his books, Hoot and Flush—fast-paced, funny and filled with an environmental consciousness that never preaches.

I was also planning to buy a new novel that has struck my fancy and I thought might be perfect for some long summer evening or day at the beach when I finally have some free time. It’s called Daphne by Justine Picardie and it’s based on the life of Daphne du Maurier. It begins when the novelist is 50 and her marriage is failing. As in real life du Maurier is fascinated with Branwell Brontë. Hhmm that might explain some of her gothic tendencies. I’ve wondered about ol’ Daphne who has brought us such chillers as The Birds and Rebecca. The story has two protagonists, a grad student and an editor of the Brontës manuscripts. The first review I read said it all came together brilliantly in the end and it was THE book to read on vacation. However, then I read a review in the Sunday Times online (UK) by Peter Parker that was so scathing that I was tempted to send the author a sympathy note. According to Parker, “Forgery, theft, adultery, lesbianism, incest and suicide ought to provide plenty of scope for fiction, but this misconceived book never really comes to life.” He also mentions that the author has an unfortunate tendency to use ellipses (one of my pet peeves besides exclamation marks!) “Far too many sentences and paragraphs end with a row of dots. These don’t indicate interruptions or omissions, but are a crude typographical shorthand intended to add “significance” or “tension.” And those were two of the nicer sentences. If anyone has read it, please drop me a line.

Forgive me for sneaking in a bit of politics. I don’t have much time to watch TV, but all day yesterday as I worked and then took a nap because I’m (still) not feeling too great, I was hearing radio sound bites from John McCain’s chat with Matt Lauer on the Today Show. Among other things, he mentioned when we withdrew troops from Iraq it is "not too important," as long as U.S. casualties in the Middle East fall to levels comparable to those in Germany, Japan and South Korea, where U.S. forces have been stationed for decades.

It’s not too important? Now, just call me fact checker girl, but last time I looked, we weren’t OCCUPYING Germany, etc. and the citizens of these countries weren’t scattering bombs along their roads that are shattering the lives of our troops. Of course, once he made this gaffe and there was blow back, his camp claimed his remarks were taken out of context. (code for I got caught being stupid again). So he’s not only out of touch, but he’s denying reality such as with this YouTube clip of his performance, which you might say underlines reality. He also said it was insulting to our intelligence to set a goal for how long we are in Iraq. Would someone please explain to me what’s wrong with a timeline for withdrawal?

News reported from Media Bistro: Litopia Daily is the world's first daily podcast for writers just launched by Litopia Writers' Colony, the online writers community created by literary agent Peter Cox. The team behind Litopia Daily are particularly keen to solicit news and contributions from writers everywhere - especially from non-traditional sources.

You might want to check out a story in the New York Observer, 60 Months in the Red Zone. One segment reports, “As the American press corps gets older, wearier—and simultaneously younger and more untested as the veterans leave—there are truths that some of the reporters of Baghdad have learned about the war in Iraq.

Chief among them is that even if you grab hold of a part of the truth, it has a way of becoming false. Second: If you manage to find a true story, don’t depend on anyone back home wanting to hear it.”

The story begins: “It’s the oft-stated phrase that truth is the first casualty of war,” said Michael Ware, CNN’s Baghdad correspondent, on the telephone from Iraq. “In this war, as in every other conflict, everybody lies to you. Your government is lying to you. The Iraqi government is lying. The insurgents are lying. The militias are lying. The U.S. military is lying. Even the civilians lie. Or in the best case, there’s confusion and exaggeration. The truth is the most elusive thing in war, particularly in an insurgency.”

Another fascinating observation is made by George Packer who suggests that books will be written in 5 or 6 years that will reveal truths that we cannot know now. www.observer.com/baghdad

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gray is smudged across the sky again although tomorrow the sun is supposed to return. Yesterday was a day of gray and sprinkles with snow falling in the Cascade and Blue mountains and in the passes with white-out conditions in eastern Oregon. The clever weather folks were calling it Junuary and a few weather folk tramped up to Mt. Hood to report on the new accumulations and stick a microphone in the faces of jocks who were trekking up to the mountain for bonus skiing and snowboarding. But tragedy also struck since a hiker died on Mt. Rainier and his companions have not been rescued yet. I always wonder why people climb when the weather is so volatile.

Have you been following Dennis Kucinich reading his 35-count indictment, Articles of Impeachment against George W. Bush? {It took him almost 4 hours) You can find it on C-Span and a bunch of places on-line (rawstory.com, huffingtonpost.com, wonkette.com) especially since he’s read the articles twice. It seems to me that we need to keep in mind that this isn’t a political issue; this is a legal and constitutional issue.

"Resolved that President George W. Bush be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate. ...

"In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and to the best of his ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has committed the following abuses of power..."

Don’t you wonder why the media isn’t covering it? They are barely yawning, and apparently have forgotten the Watergate scandals that pushed Nixon out of office. My memory isn’t as reliable as I wish it was, but I remember Watergate and how sometimes when people in high office commit crimes that they pay for it. Well, USA Today and The Village Voice made a brief note, but yesterday, nary a word from the Big Boys like The Washington Post (well, okay they ran something in their blog section) or The New York Times. Don’t you remember when they once covered the news? Not a word from NBC, ABC, or CBS. Nada. Makes me wonder why they didn’t cover his impeachment articles against Cheney either.

If you’re not worried about the state of modern newspapers and radio you should be. The Los Angeles Times was once one of the best papers in the country, known for their investigative journalism and top-notch writing. Since they were acquired by the Tribune, corporate think and downsizing has threatened to destroy this once venerable beauty. Now, things getting really ugly. This was reported yesterday in Revolving Door news:

Things keep going from bad to worse at the Los Angeles Times. The latest body blow? The publishing side has staged a coup at the paper's monthly magazine, replacing the entire editorial staff with new editors and designers answering to publisher David Hiller, not editor Russ Stanton. Stanton's bold countermove? He asked Hiller to change the magazine's name, so it wouldn't reflect badly on the actual newsgathering side of the operation. The new editor is Annie Gilbar, a Home Shopping Network host who worked for InStyle and has written advice books like Wedding Sanity Savers. The new creative director is Rip Georges, who held the same post at InStyle. (See where this is going?) Meanwhile, former LA Times op-ed chief and perennial gadfly Michael Kinsley weighs in on Tribune's insane plans to boost the productivity (and therefore profitability) of the paper: "If the average Los Angeles Times journalist produces 51 pages a year, as Michaels has calculated, this means that a 50-50 ratio will allow him to lay off 500 Los Angeles Times journalists, which is more than half of the current staff. Then, if he can persuade the remaining Los Angeles Times journalists to raise their productivity from 50 pages to 300 pages a year, he can dismiss five-sixths of the rest. That would leave something like 50 journalists to put out the Los Angeles Times every day. For now."

Meanwhile, Alt News is reporting that America's top 5 commercial radio station owners broadcast more than 2,570 hours of conservative news and talk every weekday. Yikes! In our age of Shameful Shock Jocks spewing hate talk be sure to check out the alternatives to these nut jobs. I especially recommend multi-published author and all-around smart guy Thom Hartmann and über brainy chick Rachel Maddow, both broadcasting with Air America. And if you want to hear a lefty radio guy who spews hate, there is always the crusty and enraged Mike Malloy these days broadcasting on Nova FM.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Even if you don’t belong to PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writer Association) you might want to check out their on-line magazine, Author

Today one story they’re featuring is A Day in the Life of a
New York Editor by Erin Brown

“7:15 am, 20 feet below Fifth Avenue: I hold tightly to the grimy subway pole with one hand, while flipping the pages of a particularly colossal manuscript with the other. As I struggle to retain the yoga-like triangular balance pose that I have mastered after a decade of riding trains in the City, the smell of the shower-challenged man next to me overwhelms the aroma of my café-mocha-latte-chino.

In an instant, the train lurches to a halt and the car goes black. I stand in the dark, feeling the pages of the manuscript flutter to the ground, where they await retrieval amongst unidentifiable—and sticky—substances on the subway floor. Shower-Challenged inches closer to me…. More at www.authormagazine.org

The sky is smudged in silvery grays. Do you remember how after the September 11 attacks everyone kept announcing that we now lived in a “new normal” and that we all need to be afraid, very afraid, that is, when we weren’t shopping to help the economy? Well, one of the areas that was supposed to suffer was the book publishing industry and it was speculated that people wouldn’t buy or read books in our not-so brave new world.

Well, besides a spectacular rise in POD titles the Bowker Reports U.S. Book Production Flat in 2007 that book publishing is on the rise: “Novels are clearly back in vogue, though, with 50,071 published in the US, up 17% from 2006. That is double the number published as recently as six years ago. And if you're worried about what sort of novels these were, rest assured there were literary ones in there. There was a 19% increase in "literature" titles to 9796, which is on top of a 31% increase the previous year.”

That tidbit bears repeating: there was twice as much fiction published in 2007 as in 2002 (and that doesn't include the POD publications). So good news for writers and readers.

Yesterday, June 9, at Salon.com they weighed in on memoirs for summer reading saying “these memoirs will whisk you away.” One which particularly interests me because a friend and I have been tossing around the idea of hiking the Pacific Crest trail (or at least a modest portion therein) is called The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost my Mind and Almost Found Myself on the Pacific Crest Trail by Dan White. Then, the always witty and surprising David Sedaris has a new book out (if he comes to your town on his tour, see him in person) When You are Engulfed in Flames which I cannot wait to read as I giggle out loud. The Importance of Music to Girls by Lavinia Greenlaw is a coming-of-age memoir and Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever by Joel Defner sounds like a few people I know…..Then Drunkard: A Hard Drinking Life by Neil Steinberg also sounds fascinating since Steinberg was a journalist when he landed in rehab. Happy reading, happy writing and if summer ever comes to the Pacific Northwest I’ll let you know.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The sky is a sullen mix of charcoal with blue peeking through and it promises to be a fine day. So here I am up way too early on a Sunday morning with several projects I need to work on. This past week I had a weird case of the flu and spent time shivering because even my bones felt frozen under a pile of quilts and blankets only to emerge pale and feeling a bit doomed. So having shaken off the flu I am even further behind in things and I’m fretting that I have a farmer’s market to visit, friends to catch up with, and I still haven’t seen the Sex and the City movie.

Yesterday spent the day in Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast ostensibly to see the annual sandcastle competition. However, there weren’t many, uhm, castles or structures in the competition. Still it was a good excuse for not working and instead strolling along the beach, gazing at Haystack Rock perched incongruously amid the surf and at the castles that were built in the sand and wondering how the makers created archways made from sand, since I have problems with staircases when I make sandcastles. Later there was the savoring of the first picnic of the season under a dusky sky that seemed to threaten a shower but didn’t deliver.

Still following Election 2008 with rabid interest and mulling over the happenings of the past week and wondering how the, gentlemanly, tough, and complex Obama is going to swim in the deeper waters against the frail, nutty, and rudderless McCain. Take this to the bank: there is something seriously wrong with McCain’s brain. Did you notice how much trouble he’s having with teleprompters and his memory and throwing words together these days? (Two words: Reagan. Dementia.) He’s the oldest 70-something on our political landscape. Really.

And hello, last Tuesday wasn’t it painful enough that we had to first listen to Terri McCullough (please file his name under über sore loser) introduce Hillary Clinton as “the next president of the United States” but then suffer through Hillary’s graceless “What does Hillary Want Speech”? It was snarky and tasteless that she refused to acknowledge Obama’s victory, and freaky when she started referring to herself in the third person and then begged her supporters to go to her web site so she can pay off Mark Penn and Harold let’s-take-the-fight-to-the-convention-so-we-can-really-screw-the-party-Ickes. Ugh.

And can I just say again how ungracious she’s been for many months now, but especially this week when it really counted? Another ugh. So her performance pretty much sucked ass and focused the media spotlight on her and not where it belonged and then we were all forced to hang around all week to hear Hillary speak again on Saturday to her devoted supporters.

Note to Hillary for her future politic profile: three words to add to your vocabulary—I was wrong. And as long as I’m on a rant, three more words: leave the stage. (If you wonder why Al Gore left politics and will never run against the Clintons, watch her Tuesday-it-was-supposed-to-be-a-concession-speech-but-wasn’t-speech again)

Now on a much kinder note: Thank you Hillary Clinton for opening the door wider for other women in politics. I know that you have many fine attributes and could serve in many places in our government where you could do a lot of good, just not as the Commander in Chief. So I wish you well in the Senate and (maybe Supreme Court) I hope that your steel spine and equally steely will along with your sharp intellect might be harnessed to help and protect the millions in this country who need a champion. So go Hillary, but go.

I cannot help but return to this past Tuesday because it was one of the strangest days in politics we’ve all seen in a long time---to make matters even weirder, McCain, who ALSO needs a course in political manners ALSO delivered a speech an hour before Obama gathered thousands in St. Paul for his victory speech. (by the way as opposed to 30,000 at Obama’s gig there were hundreds at McCain’s gathering and McCain’s handlers might need to start hiring homeless people or out-of-work actors or people who just cannot afford gas and groceries any more and need a few bucks to fill in the crowds….I can see a business in the making for McCain appearance extras…I wish I had time to launch it.)

Anyway, I digress….. I believe that when McCain won enough delegates to become the presumptive Republican nominee Obama phoned him with congratulations. He didn’t deliver a prime time speech in an attempt to usurp him. Tsk tsk. And another word to McCain’s handlers: never, never let this man appear in front of a green background again. He looks 82, not 72, or is it 71? and like he’s trying to insert a catheter and talk at the same time.

And I love that Obama is surrounded by Chicago operatives. I wish they were dirty enough to show film clips of McCain and Bush in Arizona eating birthday cake while people in the Katrina aftermath in New Orleans were begging for help from their rooftops and drowning in the streets. Now there’s a political commercial I’d like to see air about a thousand times. Instead, watch for a relentless campaign about how naïve and unskilled Obama is and how successful Bush and McCain are in Iraq. Now that’s fiction I wish I could sell because I need the money. Can we cue clips of the latest demonstration in Iraq demanding that the U.S. troops leave now? Oh I forgot, the Iraqi demonstrations are never aired by the US media.

Okay, enough politics, I told myself I was going to try to be a uniter, so let’s unite and say no to more Karl Rove tactics and Republican criminals destroying our country, our constitution, our economy, and our sanity. Happy Sunday to all and even though it’s almost summer, slip in some writing among the fine green times we live in. After all, we cannot afford to drive any place any more because all our money has been spent in Iraq. And come to think of it, the Iraqis cannot afford to drive anywhere either.

Note to my imaginary audience (I just saw one of you the other day in my favorite Portland coffee shop): as the election stuff heats up I will probably need to say less and less about how incredibly pissed off I am about what has happened to this country I scarcely recognize any more or the media that I once loved and now can barely stomach…with a few exceptions (Bill Moyer). The good news is that I have a book tour coming up so maybe I’ll meet so many fascinating writers in my travels so that I can talk about writing instead of politics, which is usually what I write about….

Friday, June 06, 2008

The morning sky is pale, blue grey. My interview with Diana Gabaldon is appearing in the July edition of The Writer. I culled through pages of notes to trim the interview and the editor at The Writer trimmed it further. Here are some segments that were left out of final draft.

I heard that you started in the comic book industry writing for Disney. How does that translate into writing complicated novels like the Outlander stories? Or doesn’t it?

There is definitely a relationship here. The front page of a comic book is set up as a large single panel, plus four small panels. The main character has to show up in that first panel. If it’s a Donald Duck story, Donald Duck is there in some situation that has to do with the premise of the story. It can be about Donald Duck being in conflict with his nephews about their bee-raising project. So it will show Donald reading a newspaper and suddenly seeing a bee fly across his line of sight.

Then the first three of the four panels underneath can be used to explain background or setup. But by the final panel on the page the characters must be up and about on their adventure. Which is a really good way of telling people how to start a book. Writers often have the problem of wanting to tell how the character got to the point where you start. This eliminates all the backstory that you don’t need.

And this continues, you just provide an explanation as you need it in a comic book. You keep the story moving. There is constant action. You can do rich background, but you just keep explanation moving along with the action. You can redeem a paragraph of static explanation if it just has one line of action in it.

Could you comment on switching from science to fiction? It seems like a giant leap or is the common ground that both require a great deal of analysis?

Both good science and good art rest on the ability to perceive patterns. When you do science, you set the limits of your study in terms of physical parameters: such as nest site selection by Pinyon Jays, say (the subject of my doctoral dissertation). Anyway, what you're looking at is all the chaos that falls within the limits you've set. You then proceed to make observations, gather preliminary data, and form a hypothesis, on the basis of what patterns you think you're seeing. You then devise a means of testing this hypothesis, to see whether the patterns might in fact be there or not.
Okay, when you write a novel, you also limit the chaos. You choose at a setting, and characters but you're entitled to use not only the factual chaos that pertains to your setting and the imaginary chaos that your character inhabits, but also your own internal chaos. It's boring and inaccurate to assume that writers can only write about their own lives. But it is true that writers use themselves; their emotions, their experiences, their perceptions of the world—all those form part of the experiential chaos that you use as raw material. But then, you look for the patterns—the thematic material of the novel is your hypothesis, and the novel itself is the experiment. When you release a novel to the world and it finds its readers, you see whether or not your hypothesis is supported.

What is your best advice for writers, especially those interested in writing historical fiction?

The basic advice for any writer is to keep doing it. My basic rules are: read, write, and don’t stop. As far historical fiction, you shouldn’t write historical fiction unless you have a taste for research and are fascinated by the past. It’s a lot of work and a labor of love. If you just want to write a book there are a lot easier kinds of ways to approach a novel than doing historical research. I also advise that you have a taste for accuracy.

What is the most difficult part of writing and how do you overcome it?
Beginning, every day. The fact that I knew how to do this yesterday does not mean I have any idea how to do it today. How do I overcome it? Sit down and start anyway.

J.K. Rowling is famous for knowing how her Harry Potter series was going to end as she wrote it. Do you have that same knowledge about your ending?

I know a few things. But because I concentrate on the story to such an extent and because I do such a lot of research, the patterns become evident to me. I’ll have these little lightning revelations. So I know just these little bits, but I never know how they’re going to happen, or where they’re going to happen, or what their prominence will be in the story.

To use another metaphor it’s like looking out over this trackless sea, and you see a little volcano coming up with lava rolling down the sides. And over here there is another one popping up spraying sparks and steam. If you get three or four of these popping up, and as the lava rolls down hissing into the water, these mountains begin to rise. And as you look, you begin to see that the slope of one mountain goes down here; the slope of the other mountain goes down there. You can see where they’re going have to intersect even though that part is still below the water. Well, essentially what you’re doing when you’re writing is raising this continent by adding this scene and so on and so forth. As the continent rises you get these mountains, you see the foothills and finally, when you have the whole thing brought up, you still have low-lying water forming the streams and lakes and so forth in your landscape. That water is the remaining ambiguity in your story and if the reader gets close enough and looks into the water, he should see his own face looking back.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Soot-colored sky this morning and rain continues. I woke in the middle of the night to a downpour drumming against the world. Unable to get back to sleep, I got up and read political columnists and bloggers and caught up on the news about BEA.

Yesterday afternoon I received an email from a friend in Canada. Her closest friend, Jeanette who has become my friend also is in the midst of a crisis. Her 18-year old granddaughter Liza was in a car accident in which the car went over a cliff and she was flung from the car. All her bones broken and a possible C2 fracture or break. She’s in an induced coma and everyone is frightened and grief-stricken.

After this news I was out walking in the mist last night, looking at gardens, especially the roses that are so profuse in this lovely town. And I was hoping for Liza, praying for a miracle. I was also thinking of my friend Jim, recovering from his third brain surgery, Senator Kennedy’s brain surgery, and how one of my heroes, 90-year-old Senator James Byrd, who these days is on the Senate floor speaking from a wheel chair, is ill too and now hospitalized. When I returned home I wrote for a while and one of my favorite lines from Shakespeare came to mind: “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart, and bids it break.”

When I’m scared, worried, or feeling thin as a playing card to quote Joyce Carol Oates, writing is my solace, my way out, my means to grope my way back toward hope. Like most people I have various means to cope with stress and sadness, but I know of few activities that are so healing and quieting.

Between 1998 and 2001 I taught writers on-line at iVillage.com. During those years I taught in live chat rooms and once a month invited a guest author into the chat room with me. I’d interview him or her and thus met Louise de Salvo and her book, Writing as a Way of Healing. She also introduced me to the research work of James Pennebaker of the University of Texas. He and his students are exploring the links between traumatic experiences, writing, and physical and mental health. His studies find that physical health and work performance can improve by simple writing and/or talking exercises. The point is that emotions must be translated into language

In his book Opening Up, Pennebaker says "Writing about emotional upheavals has been found to improve the physical and mental health of grade-school children and nursing home residents, arthritis sufferers, medical school students, maximum security prisoners, new mothers, and rape victims. Not only are there benefits to health, but writing about emotional topics has been found to reduce anxiety and depression, improve grades, and…aid people in securing new jobs."

Monday, June 02, 2008

The sky is pale gray and NPR has reported that now half the world's population lives in cities and Senator Kennedy is undergoing brain surgery. My weekend was an emotional roller coaster, overshadowed by friend’s surgery. He suffered two aneurysms in March and after being lucky to survive, a week ago he needed a second brain surgery, then Saturday he needed a third one. Problem was that he was frail and lost ten pounds last week and was unable to talk when he came out of surgery. On Sunday morning came news that he was doing better and so a lot of people are feeling relieved and hopeful.

I was at a birthday party last night where most of the guests and the birthday boy (34) were classical musicians or singers, some still in their formal attire from an afternoon gig. So the happy birthday chorus was an amazing rendition of harmony and the whole party was sparked by energy as if a group of five year olds were celebrating. Then I came home and started watching Masterpiece Theater’s rebroadcast of a Sherlock Holmes case but fell asleep on the couch before it ended. Before I fell asleep (and awoke with a kink in my neck) I was captivated by this version of Holmes and Victorian world in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking. The sexy, brooding Rupert Everett plays Holmes and Watson is played by Ian Hart. The casting is brilliant, and the story takes place in 1903 when Holmes is semi retired, and it begins with the great detective just returning from an opium den. At the pbs website you can find a suggested list of books under Holmes Lives! written by other authors such as Laurie King and Michael Chabon about the enduring sleuth.

Salon.com is weighing in with more summer reads: “In this second installment, we spotlight four novels that loosely fall under the category of chick lit. They range from a black-humored romp about a spurned MBA student seeking romantic revenge to the saga of New England belles living it up in a gothic manse on the Maine coast to a single city girl who sets off on a round-the-world adventure to a funny mother-daughter duo in need of some serious bonding -- and a good bat mitzvah dress.”

The books they’re suggesting are: This Is How It Happened (Not a Love Story) by Jo Barrett, Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons, How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo, Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner. Now, I confess if a book cover is pink and the woman on the cover is wearing red heels, I usually avoid these types unless one of my clients has written it. I think I never quite recovered from the trauma of reading Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada —the movie was cute, but the book was about as badly written as just about anything in print. Well, maybe not Bridges of Madison County, but I know how to hold a grudge.