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Friday, November 27, 2009


The Pie Inspector is back at the Otherworld Diner.

Check out what she has to say about the steam punk book, Soulless.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009


Life may be like a box of chocolates--which isn't very comforting as far as I'm concerned--but I hope your Thanksgiving is as predictable as you need and as surprising as you want.


Monday, November 23, 2009


Got my first epithet thrown at me for my Precious post. I was surprised. I guess you never know what nerve you'll touch when you write about race and religion. Mind you, I'm happy talking with folks who disagree with me. But I do object to anonymous name calling. Not only is it cowardly, it does nothing to further the discussion.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I saw the Lee Daniels movie, Precious, last night. I understand, via the NY Times, that the movie has engendered criticism in the African-American community. I can totally understand how difficult it is to see negative representations of "your" people. The whole Madoff thing made me cringe. Definitely NOT good for the Jews.

And it wasn't all paranoia either. One of my best friends, well-educated and the antithesis of conservative, made a joke about the religious background of the key players in the financial meltdown, and believe me she wasn't accusing them of being WASPs.

So I get it.

At the same time, Madoff IS a scum bag. And there are plenty more where he came from.

Just like there are plenty of bad people whose skin is dark. It's a fact. But it's also a fact that there are good people, too. And despite the horror that is Precious's life, she has an innate goodness that only needs a few good people to help bring it to the surface. And those people are also black.

In fact, I don't think the story is only about black people. Yes, it's set within the African-American community and all the characters are black (except, I suppose, the social worker, Miss Weiss, whose ethnic background is deliberately left unspoken but who is played by the multi-racial Mariah Carey), but it's also more universal than its particular setting. The damage parents can do, the brutality that family can become, the way one person's interest can change a life--these cross over all ethnicities.

So, no, I didn't think the movie was racist. I thought it was what great art is: powerful, thought-provoking, and above all, profoundly human.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mall Princess

I was in the mall the other day, getting money back on a pair of pants that went on sale 2 days after I bought them. It was the middle of the week and the place was almost empty.

Now this is what we call an "upscale" mall. Kate Spade, Tiffany, Versace. It's quiet, airy, and always smells good.

I was on my out when I realized something.

I love the mall.

It's peaceful, it has fountains, and when you're there you're surrounded by beautiful things.

Shallow? I'm not afraid to admit it.

But really, where else can you go and experience the fantasy of being a princess? The place is kind of like a palace, with luxury everywhere you look. Inside each door is someone eager to wait on you. And when you leave it could be with something that makes you feel special and privileged.


I know there are plenty of people who feel exactly the opposite. But maybe the malls they frequent are more rowdy than royal. (And yes, I enjoy those, too.)

But for my princess fix, I recommend the regal variety. And the best thing about it? No purchase necessary. You can sit by the fountain, enjoy the calming fragrance, and pretend you have all the money in the world. Who's to know different?

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Aack--It's That Time Again

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and even us busy writers have to stop and wonder WTF am I going to serve that day.

First off--organic or shot full of hormones? When I put it like that the choice is self evident. But have you checked out the price of organic turkeys? Sheesh, you'd think they were covered in gold. Then again, the health of one's family is priceless (yes, I'm full of cliches today...).

Second--inside or out? Stuffing or dressing? If you were raised in the north, it's the former. If you were raised in the south, the latter. So what do you do if you were raised in the former and live in the latter? You see my dilemma...

Third--sweet, white, or none. My nieces like sweet, I like white (since I almost never eat mashed potatoes and gravy any other time of year), and it would be a whole less caloric for everyone involved if there were no potatoes on the table at all.

Thanksgiving is a very complicated holiday.

Last week's NY Times Dining section led with an in-house duel between two of their food writers. One said Thanksgiving would be nothing without the turkey. The other said turkey shmerky, no one cares about the turkey. It's the sides that everyone looks forward to.

I'm a sides person myself, but you could take all the sides away and as long as you have the turkey it would still be Thanksgiving. Take the turkey away, though, and you just have another great meal.

So...here's a question (or two) for all of you out there: turkey or sides? Organic or the poor house? Stuffing or dressing? Orange, white or none? Share your holiday sagas (and recipes).

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Glow of Success

Over the weekend I went to a reception for Sue Grafton, the wildly successful writer of the Alphabet mystery series. Sue is a friend of a friend and she was in town for fun not business. But that didn't stop me and another local writer from seeking her advice. And she was gracious enough to talk career, agents, publishers, promotion and all the other woes us midlisters have.

It's a strange thing to talk to a writer who has reached the levels I aspire to. Strange because it lets you see the possibilities right there in flesh and bone (it can be done!) while also reminding you that you are nowhere near those heights and have no idea how to reach them.

Also at the same event were two young British men spending their Gap Year between high school and university in town. One of them wants to be an actor, but will return to England to take up the law at Cambridge. When I asked why he wasn't going to drama school he acknowledged that a successful acting career takes luck as much as talent. So he will study law and do as much acting as he can at the same time (evidently there's a lot of opportunities at Cambridge) and see what luck brings him.

Looking back, these two encounters form opposite ends of the success see-saw. For all the frustrations I've felt at the way my career has gone (or not gone) and all the things I've tried to do to break out of the midlist doldrums, there is a line beyond which I cannot cross. Or rather, cannot control. I can make sure my title, cover, back cover copy--my "package" as they call it in the industry--looks great. I can make sure the story inside the package is the best I can do. Beyond that is luck, and that, dear reader, is out of my hands.

Small comfort, I suppose. But comfort nevertheless.
So... here's to Luck. May she shine on all of us aspiring writers, and may the glow of success be your own.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

The other morning I was chatting away--about stuff that had happened to me, stuff that I'd heard on NPR, stuff that I was reading in the paper--and noticed my husband, who was on his first cup of coffee and pouring over the sports section, was going "uh huh" in a randomly listless way.

In short: paying no attention.

When I abruptly stopped and said I'd talk to him later, he laughed and pointed out that our circadian rhythms just don't jive. All he wants to do first thing in the morning is read the paper in silence. By the time he's perky I've slowed down and don't want to talk at all.

"We're just not made for each other," he says.

Now he tells me. After 35 years of marriage.

"Maybe we should get a divorce," I say.

He looks up briefly, then back down at the paper. "Okay, but you get it."

We've joked about this before. In patches far rougher than this. But it's always been too much work. Far easier to soldier through and find our way out of the jungle together.

I suppose if one of us was desperate enough we would have broken through what seems like a mountain range of tasks, paperwork and legalities to reach separation on the other side. In fact, I wonder that anyone makes it over those hills.

Given the divorce rate ( and despite what Neil Sedaka says), it would seem as if breaking up is easy to do. But from my perspective, it's not easy enough. It must take courage and cause and an armful of unhappiness to saw through those ties.

We've had our moments. But we've also had enough humor (his) and stubbornness (mine) to eventually see us through them.

Not to mention the fact that we're too lazy, too entrenched, and the alternative is just too damn hard.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Steam Punk

I know I'm late to the party, but I've just heard about steam punk. In books it's supposed to be the Next Big Thing. I gather it involves the 19th century, anachronistic technology--perferably steam-driven--and lots of metal doodads and goggles. I had trouble putting it all together until I picked up a copy of Gail Carriger's Soulless.

The books is set in an alternate version of Victorian England where vampires, werewolves and other supernaturals wander around under the auspices of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry, a division of Her Majesty's Civil Service. Ms. Carriger introduces the requisite "glassicals" on p. 10.

The book is fun and charming, though I'm trying to figure out how to translate the light touch and the humor to my darker, not-so-funny style.

I'm told that other icons in the steam punk library include The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, and the movie Wild, Wild West.

If you' re still having trouble picturing all this, check out some folks dressed up as steam punkers for Dragon Con, here.

So...anyone out there into steam punk? Read anything? Seen anything? If so, share. The whole thing has got me way curious.

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