Saturday, December 27, 2008

Distasters Happen

There is never a good time for disaster. Put a disaster during the holidays and it seems worse for some reason. Maybe I'll rattle on about the philosophical, cultural, or emotional reasons for why disaster during the holidays is so awful, but for now, I just want to share a need with you.

One of my author friends, Linnea Heinrichs, lost her home to a fire last Sunday. She and her husband purchased the 50-year-old farmhouse in northern British Columbia several years ago to restore and run a small farm. She's blogged her small-farming efforts here. I'm unclear on the details of the fire, but Linnea said all was lost. Her son managed to save the computer tower and her laptop, but all of her research for her books, as well as all other household effects, were lost.

Several of us at the Backspace writing community are rallying around Linnea to help rebuild her life. Kim Stagliano suggested that anyone interested in donating to Linnea and her family consider sending gift cards, which can be used to purchase anything for sale on the world wide web.

Another thing you can do is buy Linnea's historial YA novel, THE FIRST VIAL:

Set against the backdrop of the inescapable horror of the fourteenth-century plague and medieval heroism and chivalry, The First Vial details the morbid reality of a time when the Black Death forced people to take the law into their own hands to survive the wave of chaos that was ushered in.

Katherine, Lady of Crenfeld Castle, pits her wits against the enemies trying to take over her castle. After surviving two attempts on her life by a land-hungry priest, she is forced to leave her castle just as the plague engulfs her village. The villainous priest seizes her lands, convicts the innocent, and burns them at the stake. As the plague rages on, the tension intensifies. Balanced with intrigue and action, The First Vial builds to a feverish pitch as death saturates the country and Katherine must battle not only for her lands and castle but for her life.

Heinrichs's categorical research into medieval town life, castles, and the Black Death, make the this novel a noteworthy companion to Connie Willis' Hugo-winning Doomsday Book and clearly mark Heinrichs as a new talent in this genre.

You can send Linnea Amazon Gift Card to her at this email address:

You can buy Linnea's book, THE FIRST VIAL at any of these online bookstores:

As an aside... my stepdad's business burned down a week ago. It's a copier and printer repair shop located behind his home--the house I grew up in. The heat burst the windows on the house, but thankfully, it didn't catch fire. We went over the morning after the fire and helped him sort through the ashes. There was nothing salvagable. All his tools from 40 years of business, his customer's machines, and all his records, completely lost.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jungle Journeys 101

Alternate title: What NOT to Wear in the Jungle

I joined a group of travel journalists on an adventure tour of the Riviera Maya coastline south of Cancun in September. The tour itinerary gave instructions like, "wear comfortable shoes." As far as I'm concerned, Teva flip-flops are the most comfortable shoes in the world. So I wore them during each of my adventure outings.

Here is my foot in the jungle of Punta Venado on the first day of the jungle journey:

Here was my foot after I got home:

Here is what I learned in between:

The Mayan Riviera is known for its gorgeous white sand beaches and private, all-inclusive resorts that offer so much on site that visitors never have to leave the property. The only view of Mexico that tourists see is from the airport, down the main highway, and through the guarded gates. I call this insular tourism.

There is so much more to Mexico than beaches, margartitas and tacos. Underground rivers flow through pavilion-like caverns. Freshwater pools, cenotes, fed by the underground rivers rise up and spread across the jungle. Mangrove forests cut with channels of freshwater currents lead to savannahs of grasses higher than your head. And the jungle. That verdant shag that covers the vast reaches of the Yucatan Penninsula is rife with wildlife, flora and mystic Mayan surprises.

I'll be spinning more Mexico stories more in the future, but one last word about The Toe. When I told everyone about my broken toe, they offered the prevailing myth that you can't do anything for broken toes, that all you need to do is tape it to its neighbor. Not so, according to my podiatrist, Dr. Roger Tsutsumi. The break was in the joint of the bone that connects to the foot. He advised surgery to pin the bones together. I now have a pierced toe. I'd post a photo, but Dr. T scared the toejam out of me with stories of infections in the bone, so I dare not unwrap it.

Jungle Adventure Tip: Always wear the kind of sensible shoes your mother would.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Promise in YOU.

This month in LitPark, Susan Henderson asked about Promise: "Tell me a story about someone seeing promise in you. What did they see, and how did this affect you?" Here is my reply:

My first grade teacher--the one who tied me to my chair because I wiggled and giggled too much in class--asked me to stay after school one day. I was terrified that I'd really done something bad. When all of the kids had left the room, she pulled out a paint-by-number set and told me that she was giving this to me because I loved to paint. She told me it had been her son's. Earlier in the year we'd learned that her son had been killed in a place with a weird name: Viet Nam.

While growing up I told everyone I wanted to be an artist, a painter. I wanted to pay back the promise Mrs. Jenkins saw in me. To do it though, I had to change the medium from paint, brushes and canvas, to letters, words and paper. Mrs. Jenkins will always hold a special place in my heart.

Go ahead and tell us a story about someone seeing promise in you, then skip on over to LitPark and share it there.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hollywood, Here I Come

My son and I are taking a Hollywood getaway before his new college term begins. We're staying at the Hilton Universal in Universal City, right there near the Universal City Walk.

After a quick lunch at Puccino Pizzaria, we headed over to the live taping of America's Got Talent to see my friend sword swallower extraordinaire Dan Meyer, aka Captain Cutlass, who was one of the wild card picks. We watched all of the finalists, including our favorite singer, Jessica Price, but alas, Dan didn't make the pick into the finals.

We went out with Dan and some friends from the show (pictured here is Dan, along with Miss Pussycat and me) to the Saddleback Chophouse at Universal Citywalk, where the burgers are huge, the fries hot and salty, and you can ride a mechanical bull until it throws you off. And it will. Eventually.

Tomorrow we're going to Universal Studios and then out to see the Broadway production of Wicked at the Pantages Theatre.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I love NY

This post first appeared in my Press-Enterprise travel blog, INLAND TRAVLER.

New York is a city of wonders. As many times as I've visited, I never seem to see enough. I've just attended the annual Backspace Writer's Conference, where I spoke in a non-fiction writing panel called, "Real Places, Real Faces, Real Stories."

I stayed at the Radisson Martinique Hotel on 32nd and Broadway, in an area called Korea Town and not far from Times Square. My daughter, E, came along to check out grad programs at Columbia and NYU while I was conferencing.

When you're in town for a conference, you don't ususally get out and about the city. Wednesday night we stopped in for pre-conference cocktails at the Algonquin Hotel, the legendary watering hole of NY luminaries of theater and literature.

Friday night we did the town with some author friends, beginning at a book launch party for FALLING UNDER author Danielle Younge-Ullman at the V-bar in the West Village. We walked over to the Peculiar Pub with a few other friends, where we ate french fries and drank Stellas. The walls of the of Peculiar Pub were lined with lined with brewing paraphenalia, bottle tops and all kinds of kitchy stuff.

We crunched six into a taxi for a ride over to Hudson Bar & Books, a classy cigar and wine bar lined with bookshelves and full of literature and encyclopedias. James Bond films played soundlessly on video screens, while the waitresses served up cocktails and wine in red-satin dresses. Our friend Ron Hogan enjoyed a cigar and the rest of us sipped a lovely Pinot Noir.

Saturday morning found us West Coasters finally adjusting to the three-hour time difference. E and I slept in, then rushed off for a NY deli breakfast with Jackie Kessler and Heather Brewer. Jackie, a native NYer, called my bagel of scrambled egg, bacon and cheddar cheese a "heart attack bagel." Glad I don't eat like that all the time.

E and I took the subway to Central Park for an afternoon walk before hitting the train for our ride down to Harrisburg, Penn., the next stop in our summer vacation. I could spend days and days exploring Central Park and some day I hope to. There is a lovely bridge that holds a special memory for me there. Not romantic, just motherly. The first time D and I took our kids to NYC, our son J, was about seven. The only thing he wanted to see in the park was the bridge where "A Troll in Central Park" was set. I revisited the bridge and remembered the seven-year-old boy, but not the film.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Are you a serious writer?

Two days in New York can really change a person. Especially if you’re a writer attending the Backspace Writer’s Conference.

The Backspace Conference is for serious writers. I don’t mean writers who write only serious material, but writers who are serious about writing. Serious about getting published. Serious about a career writing and publishing. Serious about finding and keeping readers. Serious about helping other writers achieve their goals in a relay of success.

I attended the first Backspace Conference in 2005. Built around an online writing community, the first conference was attended by many of the friends I’d made through my participation in the forums. Dozens of the people I met at that first Backspace Conference have gone on to publish in a variety of genres. I want to talk here about three of them.

Jackie Kessler. Full of sparkle, humor and quick wit, Jackie had written several novels and had not been able to get an agent. She loves urban fantasy, but at the time was writing a chick lit set in a sexy lingerie store. Jackie was already an accomplished storyteller and writer, but talking with other writers and listening to the success stories of published authors gave her a jolt of inspiration. When she got home from the conference, she laid aside that project and went full bore on an idea that gelled her love for urban fantasy with a sexy theme. Within months she’d written HELL’S BELLES, had five agent offers and a three-book deal with Kensington.

Jon Clinch. Imagine writing five novels and never landing an agent. When I met Jon Clinch at the first Backspace Conference I found it inconceivable that this brilliant, literate, intense person had not been published. He writes literary historical fiction and two agents he spoke with at the conference told him that men don’t read historicals and literary historicals don’t sell anyway. Jon went home from the conference and put his marketing hat over his literary mind. He began imagining the story of a figure almost historical, a character seen only in sketches through the eyes of an American literary icon so familiar he feels like a real person. I’m talking here about Huck Finn. Jon wrote FINN in a matter of months, got an agent from the strength of the first chapter, the book sold at auction and he announced at this year’s conference the sale of the film rights.

Karen Dionne. Tireless co-founder with Chris Graham of the Backspace writer’s site and community forums. Author with one book that didn’t sell. Along with running a household and family business, Karen took her time writing her second novel, FREEZING POINT. Her agent put it on submission and they waited through several rounds of rejections. Undaunted, Karen continued to believe in the strength of the manuscript and the experience of her agent. Karen has whooped with dozens of other authors when their YES came along, but when it did for her, you could hear her whoop all around the globe.

Success doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t land on you like a rare butterfly. You must go after it. Success comes from listening to the stories of those who have gone before you. It comes from applying what you hear in those stories. Jackie learned that you must write about what you love and she went home and did it. Jon learned how to position historical literature with commercial appeal and he went home and did it. Karen learned that no matter how many no*s come around, it only takes one yes.

Each of these three authors were at this year's Backspace Writer's Conference to share, advise and encourage. If you're a serious writer, next year consider spending a two days in New York City at the Backspace Writer's Conference. It's worth it every minute.

You can see more pictures of authors at the Backspace Conference here.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Casa Bass: Sofabed and Breakfast in So Cool SoCal

Casa Bass is located in a countrified SoCal township only an hour's drive from the beach, the mountains, the desert, Hollywood, and only 30 minutes from Disneyland.

Guests at Casa Bass enjoy views of Mt. Baldy over the housetops across the street, while planes descending into nearby Ontario Airport glide overhead.

In addition to the private sofabedroom without ensuite facilities, guests have full access to the refrigerator that is always stocked with foodstuffs of dubious expiration dates.

Happy hour is served each evening beside the pool, with complimentary pomegranite/cranberry martinis and salt-rimmed, lemoned-up beers a house favorite.

A gourmet dinner prepared by our celebrity chef in residence may include such gastronomic delights as salmon florentine with garlic-empowered couscous; beer-can chicken with lemon peppering and garlic-smashed potatoes; shrimp amedea with olive-garlic sauteed vegetables over radiatorre pasta over-dente.

Stimulating conversation is guaranteed from Casa Bass locals. Patriarch of the casa is BassMan, a former Marine officer with a shrine of artifacts brought back from his visit to the private island of Iwo Jima. Carolyn holds the distinctions of writer in residence, celebrity chef, clutter-keeper and chauffeur. UCR student Ellebelle (21), when not chasing or being chased by her boyfriend, provides musical entertainment on the piano and is conversant in English, Spanish and Farsi. Jondude (19) will keep you in stitches with his Stephen Colbert opinions, while also recruiting you to join his Wii Rock Band, Sun Fun Warriors.

Snuggle up in the evening before the big-screen TV with house canines Tank, an Irish Jack Russell who barks in a brogue, and Buck, a velvet-faced beagador who snores. Both dogs are available to guests for snuggling, ball-chasing, and toe-licking.

Summer is nearly over, so book your stay at Casa Bass today.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Five annoying things about me

This week in LitPark, Susan Henderson asked a simple question: What are your five most annoying habits. This caused me to sit back for at least ten seconds to consider mine. Here is what I posted at LitPark:
  1. I am a clutter magnet. I have a beautiful, roomy office with several storage cabinets and cubbies, but my desk always looks like someone dumped a box of assorted business materials, files, pens, and other unusual items all over it. As I gaze over at it, I can see the following:

    . A small can of Play-Doh (orange).
    . Broken things: two digital cameras, a cell phone, a watch, and a light bulb.
    . A flying fish car intenna flag from Catalina Island
    . My cartoon mentors: Gumby (flexibility); Felix-the-cat (resourcefulness) Rafiki (wisdom), and Sponge Bob (humor).

  2. I am a compulsive reader, especially when dining alone. I will read anything within eyesight and will get fidgety if there is nothing to read. When I am reading a novel, I slip out of this world and into the author's world so completely I lose interest in my own world--even my own writing, which is why I seldom allow myself to read novels when I am working on my own.

  3. I am a crackberry addict, who has been known to check email in business meetings, read blogs while dining alone (see number 2, re: compulsive reader) or write notes about the coming week during church.

  4. I am a computer geek to the detriment of my physical wellbeing. I would rather play at my computer than go to the gym with my husby. Because I also love to eat, this annoying habit is very noticeable to everyone who sees the extra fluff around my face and body.

  5. I accelerate fast, stop fast, and generally push my car and myself to the limit whether or not it's a hop across town or a long road trip. If you read between the lines, this is also a metaphor of my life.

What are your five most annoying habits? Tell us here and then swing over to LitPark and share them with the gang at the park.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Mexico City Surprise

Could this grand old city be the Mexican version of Seattle? After my first genuine red eye from California to Mexico, I woke up to find my plane descending into clouds. These weren’t fluffy cotton candy clouds, but thick marshmallow clouds that looked like they were held over the campfire too long.

I never saw outside the airport until my driver pulled out of the parking garage and headed onto the highway choked with morning traffic. A light drizzle fell over Mexico City, laying a slick shine that filmmakers like when they shoot roads.

Checking into the lovely Hotel Nikko, I headed up to my 18th floor room and swept open the curtains to survey the view. The city was enshrouded with mist, clouds hovered over the hills in the distance, while huge skyscrapers jutted up from above the cloud’s horizon. A zig-zag of lightning zipped across the sky at eye-level. A moment later thunder roared across the sky and rattled the plate glass window in front of me.

I spoke with a friend who lives here and she assured me this is typical weather for July and the city is known for its stormy weather. This was not the Mexico City I was expecting and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Mexico’s capital city.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's all good

I love first drafts. The excitement of the story unfolding at your fingertips, the flurry of what-if and when-do, and the passion of new love. First drafts are like courtship. Revisions are like marriage. Still, it's all good when your heart's in it.

I just posted this on my friend Allison's Facebook page, a congratulatory note to her for finishing the first draft of her new novel.

Af for me, I'm back in revisions with THE SWORD SWALLOWER'S DAUGHTER, but like I wrote to Allison, it's all good.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The day that almost wasn't my son's birthday

Today is my son Jonathan's birthday. He was born three days after the June 4th massacre at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. I remember this well, because the hospital in which I was set to give birth was the closest American airbase hospital to China and it was placed on alert to accept casualties.

BassMan was currently stationed southwest of Tokyo, at MCAS Iwakuni. Our little base didn't have maternity facilities in its clinic, so they routinely booked all pregnant women on a Medevac flight to Yokosuka Airbase, where they checked into a holding zone called "The Stork's Nest" and awaited the onset of labor. Jonathan was a big baby, and I'd had a C-section with my first child, so my doctor scheduled me for another. My surgery date was set for June 7th.

[Photo caption: My mother, Elnora, with newborn baby Jonathan. June 7, 1989.]

A week before the surgery, BassMan, our almost two-year-old daughter Elisabeth, and I Medevac'd to Yokosuka, checked into the temporary housing on base, then took the train into Tokyo to pick up my mom who'd flown in from California to be with us. We had a grand time visiting Tokyo, me with my giant baby bump, my mom warming to the Japan she'd only read about during WWII propaganda, BassMan pushing Elisabeth in the stroller and trying to keep under the radar of the Japanese people who wanted to reach out and touch her blonde hair.

The day before my scheduled surgery, the hospital called to tell me that because of it's proximity to Beijing and the instability of the region, the hospital was placed on alert. All elective surgeries were put on hold and I would just have to wait to see what happened next.

I was disappointed. Jonathan, snug inside me, had no idea his scheduled birthdate was on hold and showed no inclination to exit on his own. Yokosuka had a Mexican restaurant on base, so to commiserate we went out for tacos and enchiladas.

The hospital called me about 10 p.m. on the night of the 6th and said they got clearance for my C-sec first thing in the morning and could I get to the hospital and check in right away? BassMan and I packed up my things, kissed my mom and Elisabeth goodbye and taxied to the hospital.

Six a.m. the nurse woke me up, scrubbed me down, numbed me up and wheeled me into surgery. BassMan stood next to my head and held my hand as the doctor sliced me open. I felt a stinging burn along the way, but the doc assured me it would be over in just a few minutes. And it was. The doc pulled out Jonathan, exclaimed at his size, then sent him over to be cleaned and weighed.

Jonathan weighed in at a hefty 9lbs 15oz. The nurses nicknamed him Konishiki after the American-born Sumo champion famous at the time. He was the only boy in a nursery of about a dozen baby girls.

Happy birthday, Jonathan.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Mexico City Surprise

Could this grand old city be the Mexican version of Seattle? After my first genuine red eye from California to Mexico, I woke up to find my plane descending into clouds. These weren’t fluffy cotton candy clouds, but thick marshmallow clouds that looked like they were held over the campfire too long.

I never saw outside the airport until my driver pulled out of the parking garage and headed onto the highway choked with morning traffic. A light drizzle fell over Mexico City, laying a slick shine that filmmakers like when they shoot roads.

Checking into the lovely Hotel Nikko, I headed up to my 18th floor room and swept open the curtains to survey the view. The city was enshrouded with mist, clouds hovered over the hills in the distance, while huge skyscrapers jutted up from above the cloud’s horizon. A zig-zag of lightning zipped across the sky at eye-level. A moment later thunder roared across the sky and rattled the plate glass window in front of me.

I spoke with a friend who lives here and she assured me this is typical weather for July and the city is known for its stormy weather. This was not the Mexico City I was expecting and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Mexico’s capital city.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Memorial Day is for Remembering

Some people actually go away for Memorial Day weekend. Traditionally, my family has stayed home to attend picnics and the annual Memorial Day commemorative service held at Bellevue Cemetary in Ontario. Several of my family members are buried at that lovely old cemetary and my stepfather plays in the Chaffey Community Show Band during the services.

One of the things BassMan brought into my life when we married was a greater appreciation for this annual three-day weekend in May. He was an Air Force brat who became a Marine. He'd lost a couple of Marine buddies in aircraft mishaps through the years and so Memorial Day became more meaningful.

We have attended the Bellevue Memorial Day service every year since 1993, that's 15 years now. After the service BassMan walks around the veteran's section of the cemetary and salutes the graves of the Marines. Jonathan was only three the first year we attended and he'd follow along after his daddy saluting the graves.

Memorial Day is a wonderful weekend to usher in the summer. I hope that in your family celebrations you'll offer a moment of remembrance to the men and women who have given their lives in service to our country.

The above is a page from my family photo album. Do you have any photos of memories about Memorial Day that you'd like to share? Post them here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Quiet Mother's Day Morning to Write

My kids know I love to write early in the morning before anyone else awakens. So my daughter, who lives away at university, decided to give me a great Mother's Day present. An early morning writing session. Really early. It began like this:

I'm sleeping so peacefully I don't even remember my dream, when the phone rings on my side of the bed at 4:35 a.m. and my husby doesn't stir. I'm instantly awake at the sound of my daughter's voice. After the initial panic, I listen to what she's saying.

"Mom, can you come take the chain off the front door so I can come in."

I rush to the front door, remove the chain and deadlock, and there she is.

"Happy Mother's Day."

So we hug and she explains how she wanted to surprise me for Mother's Day. Then she goes to bed (mind you, her uni is only a half-hour from our home, so don't imagine she drove all night to get here, and having once been a college student in similar manner, I don't let my mind wonder what she's been doing all night, only that she's safe and sound). And I'm wide awake.

Three chapters later in my WIP revision, it's still only 6:30 a.m. in CA.
So what did I get for Mother's Day?

A quiet morning to write.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My New Bio

Contrary to common mythology, Carolyn doesn't burn bass. She is an experimental and proficient cook who has won numerous "Yummy" awards from the discretionary critics of La Famiglia di Bass.

Carolyn loves speed and drives like a demon. She has never won a NASCAR race, in fact, she has never even watched one. Still, when she buckles herself behind the wheel of her Camry SE, she's racing whatever is on the horizon. If she's the only car on the road--which is uncommon because she lives and drives in Southern California--she's racing the time from her last trip.

As the daughter of a sword swallower and a midwest fundamentalist soprano, is it any wonder she became a writer? Read all about her travels at Inland Traveler and check out her imaginary worlds at Carolyn Burns Bass.

Having recently met Carolyn in person for the first time, celebrity copyeditor Clive Verdant* remarked, "She looks taller in words."

*Mr. Winky to Backspace members.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Another Blog is Born

My long-awaited travel blog is now up at the Riverside Press-Enterprise. It's called INLAND TRAVELER. Go ahead and visit. Travel with me often. The coffee's always hot in the thermos and the shotgun seat is always available.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wine Flights Served Daily

This may not be news to many of you, but it was to me. Wine flights. These are not airliners serving wine while in flight, but a specialized grouping of complimentary wines offered in wine bars and fine dining establishments. BassMan and I were introduced to wine flight service recently during a superb lunch at the Catalina Country Club in Avalon.

Yes, that Avalon. The Avalon of song and legend. Avalon was once the brightest light on the Southern California holiday horizon and its star is ascending once again. As the Catalina reaches out to a new generation, it's bringing back top acts to the world renown Casino Ballroom, offering fine dining at several locations around town, running a host of adventure tours and activities that can take you nose to zoom-lens with a buffalo, snorkeling through a kelp forest, or hiking across a mountain ridge with Pacific Ocean vistas on each side.

So back to wine flights. We saw these listed in the wine list while lunching at the Catalina Country Club and had to give them a try. A trio of wines, such as a 2-oz tasting of three different cabernets, or three different wines paired to compliment your meal. I chose the California Selection, which included a sauvignon blanc, a chardonnay, and a merlot. Perfect compliment to my lunch plate of ham and brie sandwich with french-fried sweet potatoes.

The Catalina Country Club, which is open to the public, offers lunch and dinner year around in the very building that once hosted the Chicago Cubs when the team spent its spring training on the island from 1921 to 1952. While it may not have the view offered by some Avalon restaurants, its history and exquisite menu are worth making a trip to the island.

Now, if they would only begin wine flights on the cruise over on the Catalina Express.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Write here, travel there

I've probably said this here before, but I believe life is a synthesis of work and play. Through the years I've honed a score of skills that have moved me from place to place with greater personal satisfaction. Writing is one of my favorite pastimes and is taking over my work life to the point that I could be a poster child for the old adage that goes something like this, "Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life."

This Sunday the Riverside Press-Enterprise will run my first travel feature as the centerpiece of their redesigned travel section. I'll be writing a travel feature each week, so if you're among the 187,000 households within the circulation area of the PE, be sure to open up to the travel section to see what we cover next. If you're from out of town, here's a link to the online site: Whale Watching in California.

Then, later this month the Press-Enterprise's electronic edition will launch my new travel blog Inland Traveler. I'll post the blog link here once it goes live.

So anyway. My first travel feature for the PE covers the whale watching excursion BassMan and I took aboard the 139-foot racing schooner America in the ocean off San Diego. The America is an exact reproduction of the ship for which the America's Cup yacht race is named. It's now moored in San Diego Harbor and is available for whale watching excursions through mid March as well as other weekend sailings and private charters throughout the year.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Liar's Diary Update: Our Donation to ACS

My Valentine's Day challenge is over now and I'm thrilled to announce that eight of my readers bought THE LIAR'S DIARY by Patry Francis, which means I'll be donating $80 to the American Cancer Society in honor of Patry.

During the Patry Francis blog day on on January 29th, Patry's book hit the top of Amazon's mystery and suspense rankings, in addition to the top 300 in overall book sales. These were Amazon sales only, which doesn't include the sales direct from the publisher and other outlets like Barnes & Noble, Powells, and all of the wonderful indies.

The best news of all is that Patry is feeling better and has been busy working on her new novel. You can drop in Patry's blog, Simply Wait, to offer greetings and support.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Onto the Query-Go-Round

This morning I finished the revision to THE SWORD SWALLOWER'S DAUGHTER. I am now stepping onto the ride the publishing world calls the Query-Go-Round.

This is when you take your baby novel, wrap it up in a two page synopsis, tie it with a ribbon that says something like: Life is anything but a carnival when your father's a sword swallower, your mother's an Avon lady and their divorce sends you searching out family secrets. Once you have your baby wrapped up pretty, you then toss it out to literary agents and hope it doesn't get bucked off and sent back onto the next query-go-round.

I shall not speak again of this ride until I'm re-agented and ready for the next ride--the submission express. So say a prayer, light a candle, hum to the universe, cross your fingers, or think happy thoughts for me. If you'd like a peek at my query letter, you will get the gist of it here:

Monday, February 04, 2008

Loves Speed; Drives Like a Demon

I love driving fast. In fact, I love doing most everything fast. My mind is like an indy car fueled with ideas. I type faster than I can write, so I type everything. My handwriting, once studied to cursive perfection, now scrawls across the page in my drive to get it--whatever it is--out.

Maybe it's because I'm turning 50 this year, but I've noticed my foot pressing harder on the accelerator of my life. It's not that I'm in a hurry to get there--wherever there is--but there is so much I want to see, do, hear, tell before the years of my life are over.

This week LitPark is featuring Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser, editors of Smith magazine, whose book NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING releases today. Subtitled as Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, the book is the result submissions to Smith magazine for, you guessed it, six-word memoirs.

NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING borrows from the legend of Ernest Hemingway's challenge to write a complete story in six words. His result was brilliant.

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Check out the video trailer for NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING, then try your hand at your own six-word memoir. Post your memoir here and then hop over to LitPark and copy it there, too.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More Bliss

Update to THE LIAR'S DIARY/American Cancer Society challenge: If you are new to this thread, read the post below, A Double Shot of Patry and A Hit of Bliss.

As of this moment, THE LIAR'S DIARY is the #350 in overall sales at's all books: non-fiction, children's books, genre fiction, the whole rainforest of books. In the Mystery & Thriller/Psychological & Suspence category, it is NUMBER ONE.

Six of my blog readers bought the book, or are intending to buy the book, which brings my donation to the American Cancer Society to $60.

The challenge runs through Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Double Shot of Patry and a Hit of Bliss

Patry Francis woke me up last November with her blog post called Two Ounces of Bliss. In her quiet and gracious way, Patry revealed that she has an aggressive form of cancer and is undergoing treatment. I admit, the last thing I thought of was bliss.

Cancer stole my sister at the age of 29 and defeated a team of doctors treating my mother four years ago. I've lost several other family members and friends to this ancient enemy and the news that Patry was suffering put another shadow on the horizon. Cancer is a biological terrorist that plays no favorites, makes no promises, and can't be trusted.

I met Patry through Backspace, an online writer's community and followed her journey from waitress to published novelist. I met Patry in person at last year’s Backspace convention in New York, then later in the summer I wrote a short review of her novel THE LIAR’S DIARY in my post, “Books I Read On Vacation.” It was a small review, but the book and its author left a deep impression. Let me tell you why Patry is so special to me.

We are both former waitresses. I moved away from my parent’s home and to the beach one month before my 19th birthday and supported myself waitressing at a coffee shop called Jojo’s. I dropped in and out of college during my waitressing years, always searching for some way to party and study, work and play, live and exist. I met the most wonderful people working at restaurants, including Candy, my former roommate and lifelong friend. Candy met her husband, Howie in a restaurant, and like Patry and her husband Ted, has been married for more than 25 years.

There were times, though, when I thought I’d never get free of waitressing. I struggled to stay in college while supporting myself. I knew I wanted to be a writer and always felt I had stories inside me. People confided in me while I waited on them. A man and a woman who were married to other people always asked for my station because they knew I was discreet. I was the messenger of a marriage proposal on the patio of Orange Hill Restaurant, the most romantic overlook in all of Orange County. A Hindu Indian family always asked for me because I gave them cheerful service although they always ordered cheese enchiladas, the cheapest thing on the menu and the only vegetarian entrĂ©e.

I took a job as an intern for a magazine called CCM and left waitressing behind forever. But like they say about the Marines, I found it to be “Once a waitress, always a waitress.” I connected with Patry about waitressing and found amusement and inspiration in her blog Simply Wait.

The paperback release of THE LIAR’S DIARY, comes out today. Books don't sell themselves. Most authors do a tremendous amount of travel, book readings and signings, and just about any kind of promotion to help readers find their books. While Patry is recouperating and healing, a group of more than 300 writers and bloggers are joining together to promote on her behalf.
We want Patry’s book to fly off the brick and mortar shelves, we want Amazon, Powells, and the online sites to run through their stock. We want a second and third print run. We want today to be Patry Francis day. But most of all, we want Patry to be well.

If you'd like to see a complete list of blogs posting for Patry today, visit LitPark. You can hear an audio clip of THE LIAR'S DIARY courtesy of Brilliance audio, and a smart video trailer of the book.

I began this post with a diatribe against cancer. Now I’ll end it with a challenge: I will donate $10 to the American Cancer Society in Patry’s honor for every one of my regular readers who buys THE LIAR’S DIARY. To participate, leave a comment here with your intention, then email me a copy of your sales receipt. The challenge will continue through Valentine’s Day, when I will post the amount we’ve collected in the Ovations fight against cancer.
Update: Penguin Group, publisher of THE LIAR'S DIARY is offering a 15% discount if you order direct from them. To receive the discount, type PATRY in the code field. Here's the link.

Now for those two ounces of bliss.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Water For Elephants, Hay For Horses

If you've been reading Ovations for any length of time, you know I am an animal lover. I live in an area of Southern California known as Horsetown USA. My next door neighbor has horses who I visit every day. I would have a horse, except for the maintence it takes to care for them well. Some people have this gift. My gorgeous neighbor across the street looks like she could live on Wisteria Lane, but she'd rather be scraping her horse's hooves than cohorting with desperate housewives.

Recently two horse rescue organizations have come to my attention that have gripped my heart. My friend Carol sent me an email from a horse rescue organization in Maryland called HorseNet Horse Rescue that is in dire need of ongoing funding. On the same day a writer friend of mine, Sara Gruen, author of the bestselling WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and two other novels with equestrian themes, posted a note in our writer's group about the plight of horses in the drought-stricken South.

This is what Sara posted at our writer's group:

The Southern states suffered a drought this year that devastated pasture and created a severe hay shortage. Horses are starving--even people who can afford the vastly increased cost of hay ($2.50/bale, now up to $12/bale) are having trouble finding it.

Emaciated horses are being set loose on backroads, in National parks, and even left abandoned in trailers in parking lots. The horse rescues that are taking them in are suffering from the same lack of hay and are desperate to feed these animals. I and two other horsey/writerly types (another novelist and a screenwriter), and a really wonderful vet have created a hay fund. We personally financed the first load, and a big rig with 945 bales of compressed hay is on its way to Tennessee at this very moment and will arrive on Saturday. A high school class has volunteered to unload for us at the other end.

We're trying desperately to put together another couple of loads to send to other states as soon as possible. Come spring, if we get rain, some of the
pasture will come back, but right now, in wintertime, there is absolutely
nothing for these horses to eat. If you can help, please do! We are four people
working with laptops and telephones, so every cent you donate will go to hay and transport. We have no overhead (other than the fee that PayPal and the credit card companies charge). We are a 501c3, so all donations are tax deductible.

I believe we have a human obligation to care for animals--particularly those that depend on humans to live. If you agree, will you consider donating to these two wonderful organizations.

For emergency feed to starving horses in the South: The Hay Fund operated by Fairfield Equine, and spearheaded by Sara Gruen; Beth Helms, author of the soon-to-be released novel DERVISHES, and screenwriter, Dana Katselas.

To setup an automated monthly pledge or give a one-time-donation: HorseNet Horse Rescue of Maryland.

Your heart will thank you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What do you notice?

LitPark has an interview with Dan Passamaneck about observation. I found his remarks so true to the core that you'll just have to read them at LitPark.

After you've read Dan's Five five reasons why it's important to notice what's going on around you, leave a list of five things you noticed today (or yesterday) and then come back here and copy your list.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Faces of Beauty: Women in Art

This is one of the most brilliant digital compositions I've yet to behold. It was created by a digital artist who calls himself eggman913. After checking deeper into his YouTube profile, I discovered he has quite an impressive digital portfolio there. If you don't see the video box below, just wait for a moment; it should load momentarily.

Thanks to my friend Shari, who first posted this in Facebook, I've crawled out of my blogging cave to share it with you. Enjoy!