Friday, July 29, 2011

Hellooooooo Forty-Eight!

I have a dear friend, a fellow author, who says that us female writers of a certain age ought to stay mum about how old we are. That we'll benefit from a little confusion on the subject, a little conjecture that we might be younger than we truly are.

To that I say uh-uh. I turned 48 this week and I don't care who knows it. So far it's been great, and I have a feeling that this might be a big year for me. Later this month I'm going on my first backpack trek, six days in the mountains overlooking the Pacific. I'm wrapping up a book that pretty much wrote itself and I'm going to start a new one next week that is going to blow everyone away, including me. Oh, and I was propositioned by a 23-year-old last week. So I say, I'm not sure what I stand to gain by shaving a year or two or ten off my age - 48 is just fine.

Besides, I have these two as role models: Camille Minichino and Rita Lakin get saucier (that's a euphemism, friends, but it's not my place to tell a lady's secrets!) (other than, if I were you, I'd stay out of Camille's way when she's behind the wheel because she has a deadly windshield) every year! Julie and I were lucky enough to do an event with them last week at Book Passage.

A few other highlights from my big week:

I made Steve Hockensmith cry!!

I went to a Pens barbecue (and I'm not telling whose undies are on the line!)

Me and Julie at Book Passage hawkin' them books we wrote

I went to the Ruby Room - oh yes I DID! And you better believe I plan to go back

Birthday Cookies - which my friend Roseann makes for me every year and which are more delicious than Heaven itself

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Got a Craving

Y'all know I'm a chip gal, right? Mmmm, I've always got a bag of kettle chips open somewhere in the house. Crunchy, salty, yum.

But a woman cannot live on chips alone. Once in a while she has to venture out into the world and sample the cuisine out there, preferably in the company of good friends and a frosty IPA.

That's how I happened to stumble upon what I think are the perfect french fries.

It's a veritable fry tower, and you can find it at Astaria restaurant in San Mateo, where I recently found myself after - what else? - a book event at M is for Mystery. (Hi, Ed!)

So it's crispy fries that have been given a little extra time in the fryer, tossed with sauteed garlic and salt. And on top of that is a mountain of super-thin onion rings - so thin that batter-frying almost carmelizes them.

I'm not sure I'd go around kissing people after polishing off this awesome dish, but in practically every other respect it's perfect.

Jace, me, and Julie at Astaria not long ago

Cover Cookies

I think this is some sort of etiquette faux-pas - discussing one's own gift-giving skills - but I was so delighted with these cookies I sent the Canada branch of the Harlequin team** to celebrate REBIRTH's launch. Look close, there's little tiny pictures of my cover on every single cookie! I have no idea how they do that, but I think they're adorbs, to borrow my friend Martha's word.

** Nothing's too good for those crazy-creative people. They're the best.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Happy birthday, REBIRTH

You know what's a great way to celebrate a release day?

Reading with a friend, for one.

Dog isn't very enamored with the new book. Neither is Junior - she of the yellow manicure, above - but that may be because there are new issues of Teen Vogue and Wired competing for attention.

That's okay. I've taken it easy today, going out for tacos and enjoying a leisurely trip to the DMV (!) Plenty of time tomorrow to kick it all back into gear.

Thanks to everyone who wrote and called. You're the ones who make days like this special.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

SHAME: dig deep and write about it

At Thrillerfest, SuperAgent Barbara and I taught a workshop on Creating Emotional Depth. I made the point that the most powerful emotion is shame, a notion that took hold of me sometime last year and which I've been thinking about since. When an audience member asked me for clarification, I promised I would follow up here. (I am thinking of turning this into an article at some point so your comments are welcome.)

I've always been drawn to the theme of shame in my own writing. An earlier example is my short story, "Mortification;" a more recent example is the entire AFTERTIME series for Luna. I'm quite certain that I am not finished exploring shame in my fiction.

Shame is a human's self-limiting and self-correcting response to knowledge of wrongdoing or suspicion of inadequacy. There. I just tossed that out from the recesses; but let's see what the dictionary people say:

"A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness."

Yeah....I guess.

Neither my definition nor theirs takes me to the place I want to go here. Shame is crushing and nauseous and evasive. Shame makes you want to injure yourself and hug yourself at the same time. Shame is felt in the gut and in the most delicate synapses; it both bludgeons and sneers.

Shame is this: you knew it was wrong and you did it anyway.

And this: you know your desires and your hungers are not what NICE PEOPLE want, and yet you can't stop wanting them.

And this: you were born unworthy and none of the million attempts you have made to fix yourself in a thousand little ways has worked - they have sloughed off like so many raindrops or dandelion puffs and you are immutably, permanently as damaged and despicable as ever, but worse because -

- you have done something that has left you EXPOSED. I actually think this is where shame transmutes into mortification - that is to say, through action. The two words can be synonyms, but to me mortification has a more corporeal sense, it implies a physical manifestation of shame, which can be completely internal. Taken to its extreme mortification can include self-harm (as in the ritualistic abuse of the body practiced by flagellants) but in my fiction i have characters injure themselves in small ways, such as pinching skin in hidden places or digging fingernails into flesh. In moments of shame, transferring one's attention to pain can be an - perhaps the only - effective relief.

The fear of exposure is central to shame. Sometimes we fear that strangers see inside us. Sometimes we fear that those we love will learn the truth about us. Sometimes we can't escape God himself, His scrutiny, His crushing and eternal judgment. All of these are perfect for fiction, because humans - characters - will go to great lengths to avoid exposure. Like beetles on our backs, we writhe and twist; we'll commit acts of treachery and betrayal and violence to protect ourselves.

It might not be going to far to say that shame is at the core of many crimes. In fact, now that I think about it, it's a theme best suited to all dark genres like mystery and horror, because it can motivate a protagonist to act outside his own interests. (And a villain to act villainously, but that goes without saying.)

Feel free to add your own thoughts/examples in the comments, but recent books come to mind...CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER...Attica Locke's BLACK WATER RISING...both of Bryan Gruley's books...Megan Abbott's work...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Playing Nice at Conferences

I did a fair amount of schmoozing at Thrillerfest. Besides my workshop and panel, I volunteered at AgentFest (mad! absolutely a madhouse!) and hung out in the bar and went out to dinner and had lots of time to talk to other writers, many of whom are still aspiring. (Aspiring with everything they've got, which is why I love Thrillerfest - no dabblers here! Everyone's figurative sleeves were rolled up and they came to work, which was nice.)

And delightful. Really! Ninety-five percent delightful!

And...I had a few moments that made me think I should share some hard-acquired wisdom on What To Do when one finds oneself unexpectedly in the company of a mix of publishing people. Too often - perhaps out of nervousness - we all fall back on habits that don't really serve us all that well. We might drink too much, monopolize the conversation, ignore less-important people in an effort to gain the attention of the most important or famous person in the group (actually, I personally would NEVER do that one because I find it just so entirely rude), get nervous and don't speak at all, vent our frustration or complaints about the industry, and eat all the salty sesame bits out of the bar mix. (Okay, that last one was me. Yep. Guilty.)

There's something I would like to share with you. I have a little experience now, and I know a few people, some of them Kind of Big Deals. And I want to share with you what impresses them, because it impresses me too, and we, well, we talk about it. Now, you probably don't care what I think - after all, I can't get you any closer to your book deal. But you might care what that nice person I was with thinks, if you knew she was an agent or editor, which not all of you did.

(That is a DIRECT message to the awful woman who invited herself to sit at my table and then promptly insulted my friend, a very well known and revered literary agent. You know what you did. So do all my friends, 'cause I told them. Sorry, that's what happens when you don't play nice.)

What's impressive? It's simple, really: show a little kindness. Ask the person next to you what he's working on. Ask her how she's enjoying the conference. Offer to get someone a cup of coffee, as long as you're up. Let the person who's obviously having some mobility issues take your place in line. Share a kind word with the author who's alone at the signing table. Smile at the gal fixing her lipstick next to you in the bathroom. Introduce a stranger to your crowd, if you're lucky enough to have one - remember, there was a time when *you* were the newbie.

It's funny, little nag-y posts like this one always pop up before RWA every year, but I didn't see too many geared toward Thrillerfest-attenders. Maybe tuck this away for next year. And if you need a little more guidance, check out this great NYT article about how NOT to be the "death of the party."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ARC winners! - - and, I *still* heart NY

Hey y'all - - thanks to everyone who voted on my AFTERTIME covers. I think HORIZON came out as the favorite, but I appreciate *all* the positive feedback and will be sure to pass it along to the amazing art team.

The winners of the advance review copies, chosen by random number site, are JOSH P, NoraA, and Vickie. Would you guys please email me at with your snail addresses so I can put a signed copy of REBIRTH in the mail to you? It may be next week before I get them sent because I'm out of town at....

Thrillerfest! Landed early enough today to enjoy a long stroll around NYC. I just can't get enough of this city. Besides my curious yet heartfelt love of the JFKAirTrain...

one of the best ways i know to spend five bucks

I find this view of Queens (sorry, couldn't capture the Queensboro bridge thru the chain link...ahem) to be quite intoxicating...

not exactly in all the tourist brochures, surprisingly

and the view from my hotel is quite ritzy, considering it's me and all. (Seriously, there was this one time...oh, never mind. Suffice it to say I would have slept with a gun under my pillow. If I'd a had a gun. Or a pillow.)

And you'll be happy to know that I found a more-than-decent burger tonight so I got the red meat thing covered.

OK, tomorrow my super-agent Barbara and I are teaching "Creating Emotional Depth" at 11:00 during CraftFest. And my brother arrives too! Come find us in the bar? I just know you're gonna love us. :)