Saturday, July 29, 2006

Gotta Love Yer Meat

In honor of the Overheard in New York blog I love so much, I've decided to start "Overheard Around The World" here at my blog onWednesdays. If I don't get enough responses, that's okay. It'll be from time to time.

I will begin with one we overheard last night when walking home from Thai food. A large man with a more than ample belly emerged with his spouse from the steak and ribs joint that literally serves only meat, patting said belly with a satisfied smirk.

"Sure am glad I'm not Muslim, 'cuz I love to eat meat!" he proclaimed into the deepening night as we passed by.

E. sniggered and whispered to me, "Muslims can eat meat; it's Hindus that don't."

But we let him believe the lie.


Do you have something that you overheard to contribute? Email me at: writelife (at) verizon (dot) net with the subject: "Overheard." Please let me know if you would like to be anonymous or go by name, and where in the world you're writing from!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Your baloney may have a first name, but my book-to-be has an official title:

Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time

The email I got from my editor at Writer's Digest Books was the first of the sort of emails I always wondered how it would feel to get, in which she said that they had been bouncing ideas around for the title and come up with a few. They included my original title in the list, too, of course, and gave it that nifty little sub-head. But I had just had a conversation with my friend Sheryl (of Bennington fame) two days before, and she had suggested the very first title I had given the proposal, as above. I eventually ditched it, wanting to sound more "professional," but as soon as I saw the suggestions list I knew that Make A Scene was more catchy than any of them. I suggested it, and the folks at WD loved it. So it is!

And I am now officially halfway through the 2nd Part! I only need to have the first half of the book done by November, that's 4 Parts out of a total eight (each Part has anywhere from 4-7 "sections" or chapters). I can definitely do that. Plus the two most exciting parts are coming up, character and action!

Even though right now my heart is fluttering with love for my recently completed novel, it really is starting to hit me that I'm writing an actual book, which will actually be published and available on all those places that sell actual books, like actual bookstores and actual

The same goes for Creating Space, which is now in the cover design process. Oh my god. Books! Books! This is what I've been waiting for my whole life, do you see? Actual books published by real publishers that I didn't have to pay to publish me, but the other way around. It's amazing, don't you think?

Sorry. Just got excited.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Today, to counteract my recent funk, I:

1. Signed up to volunteer at the public library four days in August (Possibly more if I enjoy it)

2. Inquired about employment at the local bookstore, which is soon moving to bigger digs (the owners are back tomorrow).

3.Introduced myself to the new employees at The Good Life Cafe when I went in to get coffee, which has been bought out by new management (Felix and John).

4.Asked the nice receptionist at my chiropractor's office if she would have lunch with me. She said yes. We have a "date" next week.

5.Researched and determined that even if a black widow bites you, it probably won't be fatal unless you are old, young or days from a hospital.

6.Sent my novel revision off to my agent

7.Let go of a publication that I have had consistently bad mojo with

8.Confirmed with our accountant that the gi-normous extra tax refund we got last month out of the blue was, indeed, ours to keep

9.Got the paperwork to set up my own retirement account for my business

10. Put money in the savings account.

11. Found out that the cool organic sandwich shop I've been waiting to open finally opened.

12. Remembered that if I want things to change, I have to change them.

I am very proud.

YES! This is good stuff:

"Recognizing the power of our minds means that even as unfortunate or terrible things happen to us, we can receive them in a more spacious and ultimately more enlightened way. The Buddha taught his students to develop a power of love so strong that the mind becomes like space that cannot be tainted. If someone throws paint, it is not the air that will change color. Space will not hold the paint; it will not grasp it in any way. Only the walls, the barriers to space, can be affected by the paint. The Buddha taught his students to develop a power of love so strong that their minds become like a pure, flowing river that cannot be burned. No matter what kind of material is thrown into it, it will not burn. Many experiences--good, bad, and indifferent--are thrown into the flowing river of our lives, but we are not burned, owing to the power of the love in our hearts."

-- Sharon Salzberg, in Lovingkindness
from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book

Okay friends, bear with me. This is my final cranky/self-pitying post for awhile. But I need the chance to get it all out and then I can go back to cheering and championing and being positive.

It's been a crappy week--since the middle of last week that is. I've been hyper emotional, with my mood swinging between anxiety and apathy (yes, I have PMS, okay??); the heat scraped my very soul of creativity; I've been feeling really sorry for myself and convinced that I will fail at everything I try. And just when things were on the upswing with the lifting of the heat, I woke up in the middle of the night with a lip the size of Florida after one of those little spiders I've been so nonchalant about took a chomp out of me. And for ten minutes, hypochondriac that I am, I was sure it had been the black widow I found in the garage and that my throat was in the process of closing up and my tongue was swelling and that I was going to die.

I am very lucky I have this livelihood, this schedule, because I would never have made it in the corporate world. I could not be a nurse or a teacher, because right now a little heat and a spider bite make me non-functional. I have barely been able to keep up with all that is on my plate, which only I am responsible for creating:

Writing two books of my own, one novel, one non-fiction, and ghostwriting another, and helping an elderly woman get her own novel self-published; editing two large, complicated manuscripts that sew doubt as to whether these people know the first thing about the English language; wrote a handful of feature articles; and read/reviewed a book for radio which I am supposed to record today with a lip that is like a small baby hanging off my face.

Meanwhile, it feels like I'm not doing enough. I picked up an application to volunteer at the library yesterday, because I think you must at least volunteer before you earn credits in the universe toward "free self-pity" days.

I wonder if some of this pressure inside me is coming from the pressure in the world right now. Because every moment I waste on self-pity, I try to remember that someone is clutching their loved one, maimed in a bomb blast, be it Iraq or Lebanon. Someone is on a plane or a bus with only as much as they can carry looking back on their home and wondering where they are going and when they can go back. Many someones, actually.

I sit here this morning feeling, well, I guess you'd call it surrender. But not surrender because I am noble and big of heart and able to lay my ego down. This is "okay, you win, I give up."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Previously I always believed that cold was the weather force that could wear you down the most. Extreme cold has the power to make you leave your body, numb and near shut down if you stay in it long enough. Too much cold for too long causes people to drink and sleep and despair too much.

So I've been schooled to realize that extreme heat is perhaps more wearing. In heat, you cannot escape your body, in fact you become encased in its sticky, bloated weight, becoming lazy and dumb as all the tissue in your body and brain swells. Heat makes you lethargic, unable to continue working, unresponsive to friends and loved ones. You melt into your furniture and growl at people for doing the smallest things.

Today, however, the weather is blessedly cooler. I'd even go so far as to call this morning cold.

And with the lifting of the heat, my sense of hope and joy has crawled ever so slightly back in.

But I still have nothing worthy to say.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Sorry, friends, for the downer last post. The heat was really depressing my spirits. It's slightly cooler, just enough degrees that I feel more optimistic today.

Anyways, I got to spend some time with one of my friends who I went through my MFA program at Bennington with. It's always fun to hang out with people who want to talk about writing with you from the same place--of one who also feels the need to create. As we talked, something occurred to me that felt sort of revolutionary to my way of thinking.

For the longest time, my biggest struggle with writing has always been revision. I would resist it and resist it and struggle with it, and in many cases simply abandon whole stories and even novels. I've also done my fair share of revision--you can't get anything published without doing it--but much of it was done out of a sense of obligation rather than joy. But after meeting with my agent in June and getting her suggestions for revision on The Night Oracle, which were EXACTLY what I wanted to do to the book, the revision came simply. So I asked myself, why? Why was this revision so easy? And then it hit me. Because I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

This seems to be the key. When you know HOW to revise, the revision is a joy. It's carving away the rough edges to reveal the beauty within. But when you are uncertain about how to revise something, open to all the varied possibilities, revision is overwhelming. And this is a really important distinction.

I made the major plot revision for my novel in about two weeks. But then there were other, smaller issues that I had to sit and ponder, just turn around in my brain the way you would suck on a jawbreaker. As soon as the answer for a particular issue came clear, i could write. Then I would wait some more. This is how my revisions have gone. Sometimes you know what needs to be done intuitively. Sometimes it takes feedback. But in the case of revision, knowing really IS half the battle. In fact, it's three-quarters.

Care to share your feelings/thoughts/attitudes on revision? Please do.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

I am trying to imagine how folks in Arizona, heck, even Sacramento are alive in 115-120 degree heat. Here in our town it has been about 103, which is the hottest temperature I've ever lived in. Nineties used to feel blazing to me. Now, when I step outside into a a solid wall of heat and must drink water every ten minutes to keep from feeling as if my throat is made of steel wool, I understand what the hundreds feel like. You can probably tell by my kvetching that we have no air conditioner, except up here in my office, since it's upstairs. And inside, with wall to wall carpeting throughout our place, I'm thinking it must be closer to 105. 105 is the temperature that, if your child had a fever that high, you'd be praying.

My former home town of San Rafael hit 108. It broke a record. Not since volcanos were cooling has SR ever seen 108, nor have I in all of my nearly 32 years of living near there. And all this on the heels of Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth (which I must confess I have not yet seen), and Bush's denial of all things global warming, and I just can't help but laugh in a "well, the joke is on us" kind of way. These temps this year are already hotter than last year. So shit, people, it's here. It's real.

And for the first time really, I'm scared. I mean it. Add to that the horrific situation in the middle east and I have my first intensive dose of mortal panic. I feel afraid for us humans right now. I really do. Whether our political/religious ideals do us in, or the sun does it for us, I wonder how much longer we've got left.

Right now, I'm using reading the way some people do drugs, to escape, to deny realities, to push away from my fear of what's to come.

Friday, July 21, 2006

All day yesterday, Thursday, people I spoke to or emailed with said, "Have a nice weekend." While I appreciated such a kind thought, I didn't understand it. Is not Friday the day you are supposed to wish happy weekending on? So then it hit me that fewer people work on Fridays than ever before. Friday is almost as dead an email day as Saturday, too.

When I worked day jobs, I, too did not usually work Fridays, and this always cheesed off my co-workers, who felt compelled to work five days a week. Fridays were my everything else days, though, so it wouldn't be right to say I did nothing. But I was free and on my own terms.

At any rate, here it is Friday and I am exhausted. I can barely force myself to sit here and write this entry, but I will at least feel I did something if I do so.

I am sure that my fatigue is very different from, say, my mother's husband who works in construction, or even MY husband, who deals with people and their problems all day. But don't let anyone tell you that writing isn't work. I am BEAT. I worked hard this week, and I got a lot done. The problem with writing is that you're never really done, and as a self-employed freelancer, that's especially true.

To make things more complicated, my beloved swimming has led to an excruciating muscle spasm that feels caught somewhere below my sternum but radiates in almost every direction. SO every way that I can move hurts. I'm seeing a chiropractor tomorrow, but I think this, combined with the heat and the working has made me want to lay my head down and just quit. Just go to sleep or drift off into a doze, you know what I mean?

Problem is, my punitive superego is having none of that. So instead I'm just sitting here staring at the computer screen, clicking around to different sites, waiting for something.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

The first and only time I took the Meyers-Briggs personality test was in my freshman year of college, when, I believe I was an INFJ. I just took it again today and I've come up as an ISFJ. This means:

Introverted (moderately expressed)
Sensing (slightly)
Feeling (distinctly)
Judging (distinctly)

Most people who know me would take issue with the introverted part, but as you can see above, it's a moderate form of introversion. I like people and I like social interactions, but in limited doses and on my own terms.

At any rate, when you compare this to my type via the enneagram, a type four, it makes sense as wells. Fours are feeling types, who integrate towards type one, which is a very judging type. Fours come and go from social interaction, and when we learn not to give in to the ebb and pull of our feelings, we can be fairly intuitive as well.

Anyways, i was surprised by how accurate the description of the IFSJ was. Things like these:

"One ISFJ trait that is easily misunderstood by those who haven't known them long is that they are often unable to either hide or articulate any distress they may be feeling. For instance, an ISFJ child may be reproved for "sulking," the actual cause of which is a combination of physical illness plus misguided "good manners." An adult ISFJ may drive a (later ashamed) friend or SO into a fit of temper over the ISFJ's unexplained moodiness, only afterwards to explain about a death in the family they "didn't want to burden anyone with." Those close to ISFJs should learn to watch for the warning signs in these situations and take the initiative themselves to uncover the problem."

And tell me that this description isn't the perfect set up for a fiction writer (it might take two reads to get through the strange jargon and sentence structure):
"As for ISTJs, the dominant Si is oriented toward the world of forms, essences, generics. Again, "for both of the IS_J types, the sense of propriety comes from the clear definition of these internal forms. ... A 'proper' chair has four legs," etc. (Jung saw IS as something of an oxymoron: sensing, which is a perceiving function, focused inward and thus away from that which is perceived (the "object"). In this light, he described this sensing as something removed from reality, full of archetypes/mythical figures/hobgoblins; sensing of one's own set of forms.)"

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Let this be a lesson to me: the day after I posted a pic of Pam Anderson, I lost two subscribers. What's up with that? Not enough talk about books? Not enough self-involved discussion of my own small foibles and turn-ons? Not enough literature on this heeeere lit-rary site?

Well so what? Literature is not supposed to be some unapproachable art for only the elite of society (at least, not in my view). Literature is supposed to reflect life, inform it, add to it. You should gain something from reading, even if that is only a little escape or entertainment. And sometimes, people, you need a little Pam Anderson and you don't even know it! Didn't she write a novel, after all? So there.

Yesterday my buddy Colin Berry and I presented at a writing class our friend Marianne teaches at CCAC. The class was full of students ages 17-19, most of them about to enter college. They're an arty bunch, with well-ripped t-shirts, ear-plugs and cool colored hair, the kind of kid I believed myself to be and was attracted to in high school( I, in baby-doll dresses and wildly colored tights) . They were very receptive and full of questions and I enjoyed myself, but I also confess (take no offense, kids!) that I never felt more relieved not to be 18 years old any longer! In fact, I feel relieved not to be 28, even. The thing about being 18 is that most kids don't really need full guidance any longer, and yet, at the same time, they're free-floating; the world is full of questions. Colin put it well when he said, "Most of the things they need to know, I can't answer for them. They just have to live it."

In other non-literary musings, I've become addicted to two new sites thanks to Gayle Brandeis for mentioning them at her blog, for my daily dose of humor, drawn from real life. Check them out for yourself. My personal favorite of the day:

Woman on cell: "Sometimes the most spiritual fucking thing to do is punch somebody in the face."

--33rd St & 31st Ave, Astoria
Overheard by: Wade

Overheard in New York
Overheard in the Office

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

On the topic of how insubstantial beauty is, let me provide exhibit A, below. Just because Pamela Anderson is attractive, does not mean she demands that her mate, the alluringly-named "Kid Rock" be equally attractive, nor even remotely attractive for that matter:

Monday, July 17, 2006

My friend Anne Mini, author of the forthcoming memoir, A Family Darkly: Love, Loss and the Final Passions of Philip K. Dick, has asked me to post this, so that her loyal readers can find her:

Her blog, formerly hosted by Pacific Northwest Writer's Association has been moved without warning of any kind, to her great surprise. She is setting up, which should be up in about a week, so check back for her there.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

My husband told me once, and I honestly can't recall whether this was his original idea or he got it from someone else, AND I am sure to make it sound far more crass than he would, but...pick something at random out of your mind: plastic flamingos, or jewelry made from tortoise shells or shoes or reindeer, and you can bet there is someone (possibly many) in the world who either wants to fuck it or is afraid of it.

I am serious when I say that my husband DID NOT use this language. The idea is that fetishes and phobias abound and those of us who imagine ourselves to be relatively normal might be surprised at some of the things that really do it for people.

Take signs for instance. I don't mean astrological signs. I mean signs that say things like, "Thank you for not smoking," or "25 Miles to Detroit." I think the proper term for it is "signage." That 'age' at the end somehow makes it important, serious. Something that one might, say, dedicate a trade publication to.

Well, my friends Joy and Marcia and I met one such sign-inspired fellow at a media mixer we attended this week by Mediabistro, which as far as I can tell--and yes, I'm a paying member and I still don't quite know what it is--is some kind of freelance media clearing house.

Picture if you will a room full of somewhat attractive, potentially interesting people. You are male, over fifty, sporting a funky goatee and a questionable cowboy hat. What is your best chance to have a nice evening? Holding people hostage talking about signage for twenty plus minutes, or actually asking people about themselves and not taking yourself so seriously? Yes, well, he was wearing that odd little hat, so what do you expect?

All I know is that at the moment when the three of us were physically worn down by the discussion, and could not be held accountable for any variety of snide things that might issue from our mouths, Marcia managed to say something that sounded SO straightfoward (something to the effect of: "So signs are basically the glue that keep us from degenerating into chaos), without the slightest hint of sarcasm (she swears sarcasm was intended) that the dude felt as if she totally GOT him! Joy and I were not doing a good job at refraining from laughter. It was deeply, deeply amusing in a "I am about to walk away" kind of manner.

Right when we got there, too, they posed us like Charlie's Angels for a photo. Sometime in the next couple weeks that embarrasing photo will be available and I will post it.

Plus, I ordered a beer. A regular Newcastle, or so I thought. It turned out to be enormous. it was THE BIGGEST beer I have ever held, much less drank. I did it slowly over the course of two and a half hours, but still, that was an enormous beer!

In other news, it is 100 degrees in my office and you know what my sweat smells like? Chlorine. That's wrong. Very wrong.


Monday, July 10, 2006


You remember how I was all nature-girl about bugs and stuff a couple weeks ago? Remember that? Yeah, well that was before we found a black widow...eating another spider outside our garage. Now I have the heebie-jeebies and can't even put my hand in any contained space without first having to attack it with a towel.


In happier news, I got my agent contract today in the mail. They even spent extra money to send it in this fancy bubble wrap. I like contracts. Most people fear them, feel bound by them. Not me. They make me happy.


I'm going to a media mixer put on by Mediabistro with Joy and Marcia tomorrow night and you know what a tizzy this sent me into? I have NO-thing to wear. Or rather, I have the same old things I always wear and somehow this makes me feel a little bit like I did in middle school when I could only afford to shop at Clothestime and the rich girls all knew it and teased me something fierce. The problem is, my wardrobe doesn't reflect my bank account anymore, but my attitude. Somehow I'm still afraid of fine fabrics and fancy things. I don't quite believe I'm allowed to wear them. People will know I am a pretender, that I never did know or care about fashion and that I'm always out of date. I hope they don't laugh at my shoes.

And then there's the whole business of "mixing" which can rub my slightly anti-social personality type the wrong way. Most of my friends don't believe that I'm anti-social because they've all seen me do the opposite. But what I don't show is how incredibly awkward I really feel, and how groups make me feel as though I must be winning and charming and say funny, smart things. Instead, I think I just come off like a snob or like some kind of insane social butterfly. I hate that. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't know.


The funniest thing to happen today? In trying to get our health benefits set up, we had to call this number that Kaiser gave us to get our cards sent to us. So I had E. call it. He starts laughing and gestures for me to come listen. I put my ear to the phone expecting bad muzak on hold and get..."I'm Tiffany and I'm here for your pleasure..." The woman who gave me the number had tranposed them and sent me to a phone sex line! Is that awesome or what?

Friday, July 07, 2006

If you are interested in Aquariums, the San Francisco Bay, environmental groups in the Bay Area or long articles, feel free to read my cover story in the Pacific's a taste:

July 7, 2006
The Pacific Sun

Water World

If the staff of the Novato-based Bay Institute could have one wish granted for its 25th birthday this year, the bay and all its inflows would magically return to a pristine state of health, unsullied by the human footprint.

In lieu of such a miracle, the Bay Institute has received the next best gift—a partnership with the only facility in the country that focuses specifically on the life and story of the bay—the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 in San Francisco.

For nearly two years the Bay Institute, a leading scientific nonprofit that restores and stewards the San Francisco Bay and its tributaries, has worked with the management team of the aquarium and countless partners and decision-makers to try to purchase it under a pressured time-line.

And against a corporate bidder.

Just when they feared they would lose their chance altogether, in stepped Bay Area businessman Darius Anderson, and his firm Kenwood Investments, who acted as a bridge and purchased the aquarium to preserve a legacy for current and future generations of Bay Area residents. In support of the Bay Institute, Anderson offered the funds at the final hour, winning the bid against the Ripley’s: Believe It or Not franchise. Anderson has given the Bay Institute an exclusive two-year option to acquire the Aquarium of the Bay and operate it as a nonprofit facility. In the interim, they will work as scientific collaborators to raise awareness and introduce people to the aquarium.

read the rest HERE

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I am beginning an on-going cumulative list of things I have newly discovered which were once popular, went out of fashion, came back into fashion and are out again because that's how long it takes for me to get around to anything popular:

Bananas Foster. I don't know who Foster was, but I thank him for lending his name or his culinary savvy to this divine dessert for the Banana-inclined (of which, i think, there are sadly too few). Bananas have a perfumey, custard-ready quality that makes them perfect as a pudding. I think that's cinnamon sauce at the bottom, but I'm not sure, as I ate it faster than I could actually look at it. I may be the only person I know that bought the Banana Bubbalicious gum when it was made back in 1978 or some such. I think it was only on the shelves for a year or so, but I never forgot it.

Sex and the City. Okay, so you were all right! It's great, it really is. I'm glad though to be viewing it at an age where I don't have to wander into the kitchen and ask my mom what things are (apparently this was a problem when I was reading The Mists of Avalon at age ten--"Mom, what does 'his meaty manhood' mean?").

David Sedaris. Where HAVE I been? I mean, I have heard the occasional essay on NPR, but for one of my trips up to P-town I rented his book on CD: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and just about peed myself. Since then, I can't get enough of him. "Six to Eight Black Men" has got to be my all time favorite (In the Netherlands, we learn that Santa used to be the Bishop of Turkey..."Hold on. Santa didn't used to be anything..." and my personal favorite line beginning: "Dutch parents have a hairier tale to tell their children. Tonight you might want to pack a few of your belongings. The former Bishop of Turkey is coming...with six to eight black men. He might leave candy in your shoes...or he might beat you with a switch, or stuff you into a sack and take you to Spain. We don't know, but we just want to be prepared...") See, I'm laughing again!

Since Leonard Cohen has come up in both a blog post and an email from a friend in the past two days, and my ipod has shuffled itself to one of my favorite songs by him just now (LC was introduced to me by my lovely husband, another reason he's so great), The Sisters of Mercy, I feel it is only appropos to leave you with the lyrics. I've put in italics my favorite stanza/refrain.

Oh the sisters of mercy,
they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me
when I thought that I just can't go on.
And they brought me their comfort
and later they brought me this song.
Oh I hope you run into them,
you who've been travelling so long.

Yes you who must leave everything
that you cannot control.
It begins with your family,
but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well I've been where you're hanging,I think I can see how you're pinned:
When you're not feeling holy,
your loneliness says that you've sinned.

Well they lay down beside me,
I made my confession to them.
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
they will bind you with love
that is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping,
I hope you run into them soon.
Don't turn on the lights,
you can read their address by the moon.
And you won't make me jealous
if I hear that they sweetened your night:
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I read two books this holiday weekend. This is what happens when I actually sit down to read in earnest; I can’t stop.

The first was an exceptional book by a fantastic author, Joanne Harris. She’s perhaps best known for her novel Chocolat, which became a movie, but this book, Sleep, Pale Sister was just an astonishing piece of goodness that apparently went out of print after its first run but got so much demand from the public that it was re-printed, thankfully. It’s precisely the tone of book I need to infuse my writing these days. It’s a sort of Gothic Lolita in reverse with a far different result.

Henry Chester is the delightful villain, a mediocre painter, ruined by some sort of early childhood experience with his mother, he wants nothing more than to find some essence of purity in the world and capture it and preserve it. Ten year old Effie becomes the object of his muse and he paints no one but her in all manner of absurdly passion-less tableaus. When Effie turns 17, he marries her and fully intends to keep her pure. Naturally his prurient passions get the better of him and he gives into her ‘seduction’ and gets poor Effie pregnant. Her baby is stillborn, but something else wakes up in her after she recovers from the loss--her sexuality, to Henry’s chagrin.

The plot gets wickedly complicated as Effie comes alive, takes a lover and gets involved in a vengeful brothel-mother’s scheme to pay back the murderer of her dead daughter. Channeling Effie’s sexuality, and playing on Henry’s sordid desires, they conjure “Marta” a seductress compared to the Arabian princess Scheherezade, who keeps Henry in thrall with her stories and her body while the diabolical scheme unfolds.

It’s a brilliant, sexy, chilling tale that reminded me why I write.

The second book I read was Tess Gerritsen’s Vanish. I like her Maura Isles series. Isles is a medical examiner and each book gives a visceral description of bodies unpeeled, open and vulnerable in death in medical precision (Gerritsen herself is a former internist). Maura Isles is also the quintessential tough, independent woman who doesn’t allow anyone too close. She’s Scully or Lois Lane in her field. Gerritsen’s books are quick, easy reads that follow a formula, but I like that sometimes. This book also tackles the weighty topic of girls sold into sex slavery, which I applauded.

I’m trying to fill up on a certain quality of darkness for the next book I’m going to start writing probably in the fall. I’ve got some Oates, Gaitskill and my absolute favorite, Sarah Waters, on my to-read shelf next.

For a long time I wondered where all the great books I have read “went” after I read them. What do I retain of them, do they change me? I finally realized that they form a kind of texture in my psyche, a kind of design that influences what I write. Lest anyone out there read that as me plagiarizing work, stop right there. I mean that the work of other authors influences me the way music plays on my mood or the smell of lavender recalls certain memories. I can comfortably say that my novel The Night Oracle is wholly of me and no one else, but I can nod to Pullman and Kostova, Gaitskill and Fowles for their influences nonetheless.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fourth of July in my new adopted town (heck, any public holiday/event as the Mushroom Festival proved) is primarily an excuse for the natives to get drunk. Last night after we got home from the movies we couldn’t help but notice the bright lights and people milling downtown just blocks from our home. So, since we are newbies here and no less fans of excitement than any other, we headed on down hoping for some kind of pre-4th light show extravaganza. What we encountered were people. Jammed elbow to elbow for about six blocks. A few paltry booths were set up and most people held in their hands those big plastic cups that are usually found at fairs and festivals, good for containing the beer that you would otherwise slosh onto the pavement as you throw your arm around your best friend and say, “YOU are the man, you know what I’m talking about?”

There was no order to the event, just people drinking in the streets. I turned to my honey and I said, “Get to know your community!”

We stopped at a booth to ask if there would be fireworks then or today. The woman inquired where we were from (because apparently if you are a native of this place the fact that you don't know about these events makes it obvious) and we told her.

“Oh, it’s so much better down here!” she said.

I wanted to agree with her, you know, both because it would be really cool to feel that way and, to be polite. But the truth is, I still have feelings for Petaluma. I’m not over it yet. I kind of miss how my neighbors would pull out this aluminum covered saw-horse they put together and light whizzing, screaming fireworks all night until all the neighborhood cats were huddled in closets and the rest of us were sweating from the repeated near-misses on roof-tops and in trees. I miss the river and the downtown, even with its gentrification taking place. If you could blend the diversity and old-fashioned homeiness of this town with Petaluma, I think it might just form a perfect town.

Now, just this morning passing by my window for the parade I have seen:
Two men wearing short shorts and red suspenders; men dressed in the fatigues of multiple wars--clearly some Iraq war demos and a couple of old Vietnam rags; three adults on little scooters you usually see kids on; a fat man in a Boyscout uniform (I pray he's the leader) and now someone is playing a very loud mandolin melody through a loudspeaker.

If the aliens were smart, they’d stop taking people out of their beds at night (wink) and start showing up at local American festivals where the crowds and giddy with spirit and so drunk you could probe ‘em till the sun came up and they’d never remember.