Monday, September 30, 2013

Meet the Author - Booktober 2013!

Can you believe it's almost October?  Time has flown, and that brings us to a whole new page on the calendar and a few new chances to meet in the real world.  This October, you'll find me at the following events:


Sat., 10/12/13 - Teen Book Fest – Los Angeles, CA
LA Public Library Central Branch, 630 W. 5th Street Los Angeles, CA 90071

  11 - 11:45 AM - "Historical Fiction" Panel - I'll be moderating a discussion with
  2 - 2:45 PM - "Other Worlds" Panel

Sat., 10/19/13, 12 - 4 PM - Inspiring Authors for Teen Girls Author Fair – Los Angeles, CA
Barnes and Noble, Manhattan Beach, 1800 Rosecrans Avenue, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
This event is a fundraiser in support of  For Women Only whose education program, “Passport to Life: A College Bound Project” is an Education Program helps prepare young women aged18—24 to pursue their academic goals.

Wed., 10/23/13, 6PM - 7PM - LitCrawl YA "Book and A Movie" - North Hollywood, CA
Republic of Pie, 11118 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood CA 91601
Join me and my fellow YA writers for this Los Angeles Review of Books hosted portion of the new, exciting LitCrawl as we team up our books with movie trailers, clips, and a reading from our latest novels.  Includes:
What's LitCrawl, you ask? 
"The nationwide phenomenon known as the Lit Crawl debuts in Los Angeles’ North Hollywood (NoHo) Arts District this fall on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Mark your calendars now!
Restaurants, bars and other hip NoHo venues will host an evening of thrilling readings with the best of L.A.’s writers in a sampling of some of the greatest ongoing readings series from throughout Los Angeles County. Multiple literary genres will be represented spanning fiction to poetry. It promises to be a magical, vibrant literary night for all!
Los Angeles is home to one of the largest, fastest growing, and most diverse literary scenes in the world. An incredible array of local reading series and literary organizations are expected to participate in the first Lit Crawl LA: NoHo Arts District for a uniquely Los Angeles literary night."---
Phew!  That's a lot.  And there will be more.  Look for a panel at Comikaze the first weekend in November.  But for now, 'nuff said.  See you out there!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fried Egg On Teflon: Holding a Story

Okay, maybe I should have used a different image.  Picture a bear scooping salmon out of a stream.  Or rather, picture a bear trying to scoop salmon out of a stream.  That was me yesterday and today, trying to grab hold of pieces of a story that has been swimming through my mind for a couple of years.  You see, I started a project about three years ago.  My lunch time project, I called it.  No matter what other book I was working on (ORLEANS, as it turned out, for much of that time), I also worked on another story.  But I only wrote it long hand, and I only wrote at lunch time.  You could find me sitting outside a fast food Mexican plate eating way too many chicken nachos, and scribbling on a yellow legal pad.  I wrote without an outline (unheard of for me, like parachuting without a parachute!), and just asked myself "what would I do next if I was her?  If I was him?"  And I wrote a book.  I typed it up, patted myself on the back, and gave it to a friend who pointed out it wasn't a book so much as a novella, and what did I mean by this, that or the other?

Clearly, she hadn't been eating the nachos.  So, my brillance was just a diamond in the rough.  And I worked on it some more and at the end of a while I had my version of a noir novel.  It excited me and I thought, why not write a cycle?  Why not write an American Gothic novel to go with it, since it had some of those undertones?  Only this time I'd go whole hog and have it all-- the big spooky house, the characters drifting into madness, the heat, the confusion, the violence.  I even have a title.

But I don't work that close to the nacho place anymore, and I can't seem to find my legal pads and, if you read this blog you know I'm supposed to be working on Something Else.

But, yesterday, I found myself on the freeway driving past my location and I thought about the story.  A lot.  And decided I'd outline it this weekend.  If only I could get a grip on more than just the idea of it.  A gist is not a story.  It's a gist.

Sometimes you see images of a story.  At least I do.  Pictures flash in my head.  If I'm very still and have a pen and pad (or a receipt or gum wrapper) I can capture those images and coalsce them into a story.  And then, sometimes, you get the flashes, you have the pad, and all that comes out is a shopping list of what you want the story to be.

So, instead of an outline, here it is Sunday night and I am left with an image of an egg sliding out of a teflon-coated frying pan.  This is my brain.  It's empty.  Maybe that's a sign.  Time to replenish the creative well.  I will try to look at art this weekend, and hear music, and maybe read ABSALOM! ABSALOM! again  (that Faulkner, what a nut). 

And maybe one day my brilliant cycle of Southern Californian Gothic Noir will be a real live salmon/egg/story on a plate in front of you.

In the meantime, back to that Something Else.  I swear, it's coming along.  (It is!)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Writing Exercises, Deep-Fried, On A Stick.

There's this writing exercise in Natalie Goldberg's innovative book on, Writing Down the Bones.  Part memoir, part workbook, there are lots of great prompts and exercises to get the creative juices flowing.  The one I'm thinking of asks the reader to make a random list of items, then choose a profession and write down verbs associated with the profession.  Now, use the verbs with the nouns.  The goal is to find innovative descriptions.  Her example uses chef-related cooking verbs, resulting in a sentence about dinosaur bones marinating in the earth.

The L.A. County Fair (yes, we have one) is going on this month.  It is a magnificent land of carnivals, games, pig races, living libraries, craft villages... and every food you can imagine, dipped in batter and deep-fried on a stick.  (For a complete list, click here and choose the "fried food" category.  There's deep fried cereal for cryin' out loud!)

It's like a culinary school drop out played madlibs with the phrase, "Deep-fried (noun) on a stick."  For example (and these are real things), insert:
  1. Watermelon
  2. Cheesecake
  3. Pineapple Upside Down Cake
  4. Bacon-wrapped pickle
  5. Snickers Bar
  6. Reese's Peanut Butter Big Cup
  7. Ribs (okay, not on a stick, unless you count the bone.  They are described by a new word, "fry-b-que.)
The game has also been played with "Bacon (noun)":
  1. Cotton Candy
  2. Nutella Bun
  3. covered in chocolate, sprinkled with sugar
And "Krispy Kreme (noun)":
  1. Double Cheeseburger
  2. Sloppy Joe
Now, the list is not as shocking broken up like this, but when you say:
  1. Deep fried watermelon on a stick
  2. Bacon cotton candy, or
  3. Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe
... it hits you like a heart attack, or heartburn, or worse.

If you could put any random food items together and deep fry them, what would you pick?  And how would you describe the flavor? 

I watched a young woman take her first bit of watermelon on a stick.  It looked like a giant, triangular chunk of battered fish drizzled in streaks of red (presumably watermelon) sauce.  Her first bite was all batter, which she said she liked.  The second, deeper bite resulted in something resembling a fried raw meat pocket as the pink interior fruit was revealed.  She began to laugh, covered her mouth to keep her tasty treat from escaping, and stopped laughing long enough to say, "It's good."  I asked if the watermelon was still cold.  Nope.  "It's hot... and that's weird.  I like cold watermelon.  But it's good."

Is it?  Really?

Now, you're probably wondering, where does the writing come into this?  Here, a simple exercise:  What non-food item can you insert into the above phrases to come up with a new way of expressing things?

  1. Jed left Marla with nothing but an old sock and a case of deep-fried heartache on a stick.
  2. It was what Stevie called a bacon blind date-- started out good, got even better, 'til you wondered if it was too much of a good thing.
  3. She wrapped him up in one of those Krispy Kreme hugs, soft, sweet and a little nauseating.
Hmm.  Not too bad.  Like the deep-fried watermelon.  Now, if I can use "hot watermelon" in a sentence, you'll be the first to know.

Oh, wait:  Turns out kissing your best guy friend after discovering he has a crush on you is kind of like eating hot watermelon-- weird, but you know, still pretty good. 

Thank you, and good night!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Where I've been

I've been missing from the blogosphere for a couple of weeks now.  Want to know where I've been?

In Seattle.

Being a tourist.
Getting down to the basics:


My inner self.

 And the things that really matter.

 I've also been at Hedgebrook.  Celebrating 25 years of the most wonderful place.* 


Oh.  And I've been writing.  In the woods.

*In 25 years, Hedgebrook has housed, fed and inspired over 800 women.  Won't you help them continue their amazing philosophy of "radical hospitality?"  Somewhere, thousands of women writers will be saying "thank you" from the bottom of their hearts.