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The Resolutions I’m Not Breaking

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I hope y’all had/are having a Merry Happy Festivus Christmukkuh , however you acknowledge (or spell) your favorite holiday celebrations.

festivus

This week I received two early bird publication notifications.  Translation: due to the mysteries of publishers’ scheduling, stories that were slated for publication in 2014 instead just made it in 2013:  My story “Souvenir” is featured in the December/Winter 2013 edition of Hospital Drive and “Requiem” is in the Voices From the Porch anthology.

K is home from college on semester break until MLK day. All four of us (MH, Belle, K and moiself) carried on with our tradition of having Christmas Day lunch at Jake’s Grill, after which we walk (or waddle, depending on the Jake’s menu) to Powell’s Books. Another if sporadic Christmas Day tradition is going out to a movie, which we fulfilled by catching the last matinee [1] showing of Frozen.

There is much to like about the latest Disney Princess Movie ® (insert appropriate groan- gasp), aside from the stunning animation, memorable songs and several genuinely funny sidekick/comic relief characters. [2]

 viewer-approved sidekick Olaf

viewer-approved sidekick Olaf

Belle and I talked afterward, about how refreshing it was to see an animated (or any kind of) movie that featured than one main female character (gasp again), and also to find that finding a prince for the princess was not the main plot point…and how pathetic it is that we have to consider those things “refreshing.”

If they can see it, they can be it.”

Mere words cannot describe how much I love that quote.  Really elaborate ones might help, but I’m trying to savor one of my favorite times of the year – the span between Christmas

XMAS

and New Year’s –

NYE

 and it would require too much concentration to get all sesquipedalian on y’all.

Instead, I’ll let the quote-generator herself, Geena Davis, actor and founder of the Institute on Gender in Media, do the talking. Best known for her role as Thelma and Louise‘s avenging assault victim, Davis is a righteous warrior when it comes to battling inequality in her chosen field.  Thelma Davis takes aim at gender disparity in the movies in her recent guest column in the Hollywood reporter, Two Easy Steps to Make Hollywood Less Sexist.

THELMA

The basics are that for every one female-speaking character in family-rated films (G, PG and PG-13), there are roughly three male characters; that crowd and group scenes in these films — live-action and animated — contain only 17 percent female characters; and that the ratio of male-female characters has been exactly the same since 1946. Throw in the hypersexualization of many of the female characters that are there, even in G-rated movies, and their lack of occupations and aspirations and you get the picture. 

It wasn’t the lack of female lead characters that first struck me about family films. We all know that’s been the case for ages… It was the dearth of female characters in the worlds of the stories — the fact that the fictitious villages and jungles and kingdoms and interplanetary civilizations were nearly bereft of female population — that hit me over the head. This being the case, we are in effect enculturating kids from the very beginning to see women and girls as not taking up half of the space.

 Moiself has long thought Hollywood [3] has a bit of what I call an Islamist sensibility when it comes to simple gender demographic representation.  Watch a “crowd scene” filmed in an Islamist country, whether it’s a documentary on daily life or a breaking news clip of a demonstration outside of an embassy.  What you will see is a sea of male faces.  Where are the women?  Somebody with lady parts had to make all those bearded boys.  Oh, wait – what’s that?  A moving, mummified column?  Could be a female, but it’s hard to tell under all that casing.  We know they are there but they are cloistered, whether mentally and emotionally inside the home as well as literally when they are “allowed” outside.  They are…infrastructure.

*   *   *

But I digress.

On to a new segment I call

Happy New Year – and you do know it’s gonna be 2014, right?

A special Welcome to the nineteenth Century – whoops, that should be twenty-first, where did the time go? – to those Wacky Elders of the LDS.  Yes, the Mormon church, always Johnny-on-the-spot re human rights, has come out as no longer being officially racist, with their declaration (way back in 2013) that dark skin is no longer a sign of god’s curse.

It will be interesting to see if, in the coming year, the continuation of the church’s “I’m a Mormon” print and media ads, [4] will bring about the revision if not the elimination of other LDS whackadoodle other beliefs, including:

1.  The American continent was originally settled by ancient near easterners.
2.  Native Americans are descendants of ancient Israelites.
3.  The Book of Mormon [5] is an historically accurate work, translated by Joseph Smith from gold plates buried by the prophet Moroni.
4. The Osmond Family – now, that’s entertainment!

mouthfuls of enormous, white teeth are a sign of god's favor

mouthfuls of enormous, white teeth are a sign of god’s favor

*   *   *

New Year’s and Resolutions Ruminations

*  Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to.  (Bill Vaughan

* New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. (Mark Twain

* Happiness is too many things these days for anyone to wish it on anyone lightly. So let’s just wish each other a bile-less New Year and leave it at that. (Judith Crist

* I can’t believe it’s been year since I didn’t become a better person. (Anonymous) 

* The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad. ( Friedrich Nietzsche) 

* Those who break New Year’s resolutions are weaklings.  Those who make them are fools. (Anonymous)

The only New Year’s Resolution I’ve successfully kept was the one I made way back in the 1980’s, which was to not make New Year’s Resolutions.  But that was so…well…80’s. [6]  Perhaps it’s time to give it another try.

In 2014 I resolve to:

1. stop making lists
B. be more consistent
9. remember to count
F. never again use the word “Osmond” (at least in public)

Whatever you resolve, may you leave ample room for the hijinks to ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Also a tradition: see the movie at the cheaper show times.

[2] Such characters are difficult to pull off, and often trip over the line between amusing and obnoxious.  Jar-jar Binks, anyone?

[3] Meaning the film industry, whether it’s a blockbuster filmed in the actual So Cal soundstage or an indie on the streets of Portland or Austin….

[4] The LDA-s million dollar pr campaign a multi-million dollar marketing campaign about “ordinary Americans who are also ordinary Mormons.”

[5] The LDS hold scripture, not the musical. Although there is more rational evidence for the historical accuracy of the musical.

[6] Are you picturing harem pants for men, Valleygirl mallrat side ponytails and Miami Vice designer stubble?  You know you want to.

The Monthly Novel I’m Not Writing

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November 1?  Gotta get this out of the way. National Novel Writing Month.

SOAPBOX

Reality check re this write-a-novel-in-month jive.  This is from the Authors Guild Bulletin Spring 2013, Along Publishers Row article: “Temperance Hasty-Gonzales (not the author’s real name) wrote a 50k novel in 30 days.  Five years and 15 drafts later, the novel, he The Quick and the Dead (a real novel, but not written by TH-G), was published in February.

She wrote a novel in 30 days!  Except that she didn’t. The very second sentence of the blurb reveals that she didn’t write a novel in 30 days, hello.  She had some kind of first draft that was awful/incomplete enough, by her own description, that it took her FIVE YEARS and FIFTEEN DRAFTS to get into publishable form.

National Novel Writing Month. I smite the concept as well as the acronym: NaNoWriMo.  It sounds as incomplete and shoddy, as baby-talk dribbly, as a novel “written” in a month is likely to be.  But wait, there’s more.  The author featured in the blurb goes on to say that she considered herself a perfectionist, and that NaNoWriMo forced her to ignore her incapacitating inner critic and keep going: “It forces us to lower our standards.”

Just what the literary world needs: lower standards.

Have an idea for a story?  Don’t fall for trendy/”motivational” stunts.  Take  time, make time, invest time.  Chances are you can get your final draft in two-three years rather than five.  And, yes, the world is full of crappy novels that took much, much longer than 30 days to write (Atlas Shrugged, anyone?)  Still. It doesn’t need any more. At any speed.

*   *   *

Less than one percent of the total published books released in a year get reviewed via a traditional book reviewing outlet; i.e., a reviewer hired and paid by a newspaper, journal, magazine, book review tabloid. [1]  When my publisher forwarded the reviews for The Mighty Quinn, MH asked whether they were “good.” Knowing the stats, I reminded him that TMQ was ahead of the game [2] by even getting a review in the first place.  It was gravy to me that the reviews were good – a quibble here and there, but mostly positive, and some downright glowing.  Even so I had to force myself to read them, force myself to drum up interest, which I did by thinking of my publisher (Good for them; they’ll like this one.).

It was peculiar to me, comparable to having an out-of-body experience, looking at myself looking at the reviews.  I knew what I’d written, how “good” I thought it was, and how good others whom I respect thought it was (enough to publish it, at least).  When it comes to considering my own reviews or publicity, composure and perspective, plus a dose of humility, are my mantras (keeping in mind the sage advice of Golda MeirDon’t be humble; you’re not that great.).  If a negative review won’t rock my boat then why should I let a rave review rock my world?

My ambivalence toward reviews stems from many facts, including what I know of writers and human nature. [3] Also, there’s the pesky fact that I moiself have never cared for book reviews and rarely read them. [4] I rely on choosing reading materials through my own particular triage of browsing, both in stores and online, and friend-talk.  Other than being alerted to the reviews by my publisher, I don’t check my own press.  I am also not one of those authors © who obsessively tracks her book’s sales rankings on the major online book sellers.  There’s not a strong enough antacid on the market to help me do that.  What I need to know about that stat will come with my royalty statements. [5] Gulp.

automatic_wine_drinking

And then.

I was updating a website posting and checked The Mighty Quinn’s links to the major online booksellers: Powell’s, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. The Amazon page featured a new industry review, or at least one I hadn’t seen, and had put it as their lead review (one of the reasons [6]  I’m going to steer readers toward Powell’s.)  Although the reviewer had some bits of tepid praise, the same supporting characters described by other reviewers as “memorable” and “delightful” she dissed as  “too cute” and “unnecessarily highlighted” (whatever that means).  The same dialog and action she found “cumbersome” and “drab” are cited by other reviewers as “engaging” and “fast-moving.”

I see no reason to alter my long held if not entirely original philosophy re reviews, which I privately (well, up until now) I referred to as the Rectal Theory of Criticism:

Opinions are like assholes – everybody’s got one.

bad smell

As for the worth and relevance of online consumer reviews, my suspicions re their validity and potential for abuse [7] have oft been confirmed, most recently by this creepy story. A vengeful merchant, peeved at a less-than-stellar review posted on yelp  from a would-be client, googled client’s name, discovered client was a novelist, and took it from there: “When your book comes out on Amazon, I will personally make sure our entire staff reviews it in kind.”  Bad Merchant went on to threaten the novelist by getting people to post a “deluge” of “scathing reviews” for the novelist’s upcoming book.

Oy vey.

*   *   *

The Wisdom That Cometh With Age

Dateline, Monday afternoon.  I’d was in downtown Hillsboro to mail a manuscript, enjoying the opportunity/excuse [8] to do an afternoon walk on a crunchy autumn day, kicking through the leaves carpeting the sidewalks.  I rounded the street across from the Washington County Courthouse and fell in step behind two gotta-be-lawyers-to-dress-like-that-on-such-a-fine- day men walking side-by-side.  Or, I could describe them as “two men walking abreast,” but that conjurs up too many memories of fifth grade droodles.

DROODLE

My pace was faster than theirs but there was no room to pass them, so I slowed down and checked them out from the only view I had.  Both were of similar height and, from the rear view at least, attired almost identically, in tailored, expensive-looking, dark brown suits and white dress shirts and dark brown shoes.  I noticed that the one on (my) left wore bad shoes.  His shoe’s heels were very noticeably and unevenly worn down, toward the inside of the foot.  So incongruous with the rest of his lawyer suit.  Lawyer dude on the right had nice shiny shoes with no VHW (visible heel wear).

What an odd thing to notice.  Still, it bothered me.  I really, really wanted to say something to him, even as I was chiding myself for wanting to say something.  As a public service announcement, of course. Hey buddy – your over-pronation is, like, to totally ruining your Serious Lawyer Look.

At the end of the block they both moved to the curb, pausing by a brown (yes!) car that I assumed belonged to one of them.  I passed them. And said nothing

LAWYERS

*   *   *

Stand back, I’m Going to Try Science

Calling all budding evolutionary biologists:  I can’t remember the prompt, but I recently woke up with an interesting first morning thought [9] :  How is it that omnivorous species came to “know” they were omnivorous?  How did our hunter-gatherer ancestors get to the hunter part? Or bears, for that matter.   Foraging through the meadow, by the stream, chewing on leafy greens and berries///who-what had the lightbulb moment:  “Hey, I bet that leaping salmon/hopping rabbit is more caloric and nutrient-dense than these camas roots, plus, no cud-chewing aftertaste!  Win-win!”

I posted that question on my FB page, and got many many hallow snarky speculations a few thoughtful responses and suppositions (okay, I got one).  I’m still wondering.

*   *   *

“If you talked into your hair dryer and said you were communicating with something out there in the nether space, they’d put you away.
But take away the hair dryer, and you’re praying.”  -Sam Harris

DRYER

Dear Lord, please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket. [10]

November.  Already.  Like a pair of K-mart undies, the holiday season is creeping up on us.  Let us note that which is to come.  Back by popular demand, my favorite ode to the joys that are to come, courtesy of The Dropkick Murphys.

May the ho-ho-ho hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Statistic from Publisher’s Weekly.

[2] Sadly, that’s what the publicity-review thing is: a game. With really scary rules.

[3] It’s way mo fun-ner to flaunt your devastating wit by writing snarky pans than heartfelt paeans.

[4] Unless it’s a particularly scathing review forwarded by friend/fellow author (and New York Review of Books reader) SCM, about an author we mutually loathe.

[5] And when people wish to inquire about such matters they often ask, “How is your book doing,” a seemingly innocuous, probably meant-to-be-supportive query, until I ask what they mean by that, and then they usually  ask about sales figures, at which point I have to refrain myself from perkily chirping, “I’ve no idea – how many copies did YOU buy?”

[6] Aside from the fact that Powell’s is the grooviest bookstore in the world. And yes, I’ve visited them all.

[8] A few years back I’d have the opportunity to do that walk every other day, but most editors and publishers take (and prefer) email queries and manuscript submissions.

[9] Other than the usual laundry list of feed the cats and get them to eat slowly so they don’t barf it all back up….

[10] Three cheers sci fi nerd noogie for those who got the Firefly reference.

The Nose Hairs I’m Not Weed Whacking

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Tuesday May 14 was the Official Release Date ® for The Mighty Quinn. May I have some trumpets, please?

Ah, shucks.  Thank you.

The book’s ORD coincided with a Children’s Book Week excerpt reading/book signing event at Powell’s Books on Tuesday evening.

The event went well, despite the fact that I would rather trim my nose hairs with a weed whacker than do anything resembling public speaking.  Seeing all the beautiful, friendly faces in attendance, including RB, LAH, SCM, JG & TG, CC & SC, helped calm my cotton mouth jitters.[1]

I was totally surprised by an intended: the presence of two cherished, Bay Arean [2] friends.  MH and Belle managed to keep a secret, that the lovely and talented  LH & DA were flying up from the Bay Area for the evening.  They honored me not only with their fabulous presence but also by bearing the favorite victuals of acclaimed authors everywhere a token of their appreciation, [3] a four pack of orange Jell-O. jello

*   *   *

We shall return to Great Moments in Self-Promotion Literary History  after this word from our Feminist Free-Thinking sponsors.

Sometimes, someone else says it better.  And sometimes they said it better some time ago.  (in this case, over 140 years ago).

Reason & Science lead to atheism. Reason & Science lead to feminism. The National Women Suffrage Association was formed this date in 1869 in New York city. Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, “You may go over the world and you will find that every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded woman… I have been traveling over the old world during the last few years and have found new food for thought. What power is it that makes the Hindoo woman burn herself upon the funeral pyre of her husband? Her religion. What holds the Turkish woman in the harem? Her religion. By what power do the Mormons perpetuate their system of polygamy? By their religion/ Man, of himself, could not do this; but when he declares, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ of course he can do it. So long as ministers stand up and tell us Christ is the head of the church, so is man the head of woman, how are we to break the chains which have held women down through the ages? You Christian women look at the Hindoo, the Turkish, the Mormon women, and wonder how they can be held in such bondage.”
FEM
·         The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Official)

*   *   *

Consider yourself a recipient of the Pretty Purple Toe award if you can guess which two of the following five are legitimate reviews of The Mighty Quinn.

An easy-to-use guide for bird owners looking to train their pets to perform simple tricks such as flapping wings, to more advanced tricks such as playing dead in the owner’s hands or ringing a bell, The Mighty Quinn walks the reader through a step-by-step process with explicit instructions and full-color photographs.
(Midwest Book Review)

 A new classmate helps fifth-grader Quinn Andrews-Lee re-evaluate longtime friendships and stand up to a bully….Parnell creates interesting child and adult characters and confronts them with serious issues, including child abuse, care for the environment, ethics and even skin color… humorously interrupted by the realities of family and school life.
(Kirkus Reviews)

Every surgeon who carries out rhinoplasty procedures will benefit from The Mighty Quinn. The beginner is guided through the performance of a standard rhinoplasty…with the latest breakthroughs in the management of difficult cases, such as saddle nose, skin sleeve problems, and dorsal grafting.
(Aesthetic Surgery Journal)

 “An absolutely delightful read and such memorable characters! Tweens will identify with both Quinn and Neally and will still be thinking about them long after they close the book.”
(Sandra McLeod Humphrey, Clinical Psychologist and children’s author).

It is curious how incest, impotence, nymphomania, religious mania and real estate speculation can be so dull.
(Richard Findlater, Time and Tide) [4]

This toe's for you!

This toe’s for you!

*   *   *

Thursdays are our pickup days for our weekly CSA share.  We’ve been CSA patrons for five years; this is our first year with La Finquita del Bujo (“The little farm of the owl”).  We get an email on Sundays which lists the likely contents of the coming week’s harvest. This week’s share will include (lots of) lettuce, plus beets and greens, carrots, kohlrabi, Chinese broccoli, dill or cilantro and chard or kale.

Daughter Belle’s AP Environmental Science class had a class project/party at the farm on Thursday.  They made and baked pizzas, topped with veggies from the farm, in an outdoor brick oven. I told Belle I’d try to time my share-picking-arrival so as not to require any M4 [5]awkwardness for her.

In anticipation of the wine and broth braised root veggies I planned on making for dinner, I started a batch of mushroom stock on Thursday after breakfast.  It made for a sensory-sensational morning.  The savory, umami (or as I like to think of it, yo-mommy) aroma of  mushroom broth wafted into the office as I performed what would otherwise have been the mundane tasks of checking manuscript submission status and fiction market listings.

No-Fuss (or a little, if you’re prone to botheration) Mushroom Stock

Hint: Keep a bag in the freezer for stockpiling the mushroom stems that are often not used in recipes.  Shitake, porcini, button, crimini – no need for varietal separatism.  A United Nations of Shrooms is best. Throw ‘em all in there. [6]

1.  take a pound (~ 4-5 cups) of stems, along with a handful of dried mushrooms and perhaps some frozen whole ones, too.  Heat a medium-sized stockpot over medium-low heat, add a small amount of EVOO and brown the stems a bit (no need to thaw first), along with a small peeled & roughly diced carrot.  That’s all you need: shrooms and a carrot.  If you’re a Stock Fundamentalist who believes that the only true path to Broth must involve the trinity of carrot/onion/celery, you can add small diced portions of the latter two veggies.

From the Book of Aromatics:  in the name of the Carrot, the Onion, and the Holy Celery

From the Book of Aromatics: in the name of the Carrot, the Onion, and the Holy Celery

2. Add ~ 8 cups of water, or enough to cover the shroom bits by at least two inches.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer until stock is reduced by one half (or more, if you want a really rich flavor).  This will take at least 30-40 m.

3. Strain the stock through a very fine sieve (or colander lined with cheesecloth), pressing on the veggie solids to extract every last bit of shroomy liquid.  You now have ~ 3 – 4 cups of stock.  Use immediately, or frig and use within a few days, or let cool and freeze.

*   *   *

Several years ago our all-white cat, Nova, discovered the cache of Lego pieces in the upstairs bonus room.  We in turn discovered Nova’s proclivity for a certain kind of Lego piece, when MH put on his shoes and yelped as his instep pressed down on a hard piece of plastic.  Somehow, a Lego helmet had gotten into his shoe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We are a barefoot-in-the-house family, and so there is always a motley assortment of shoes and sandals on our front door rug.  I was the next to step on a helmet while putting on my shoes.  A subsequent stakeout revealed that Nova, when she thought the coast was clear, would come downstairs, little white helmet in her mouth, and most definitely and deliberately drop it into a shoe.  We began to remind each other to shake out our shoes before putting them on.  We were not always consistent in passing on this reminder to guests.  I’d like to think we just forgot about it, but must admit to the possibility that our omission was intentional, as we enjoyed the delightful (well, to us) expression on a visitor’s face – the mild eyebrow elevation of surprise morphing into confusion – when they went to put on their shoes and discovered they had been honored with Nova’s footwear  enhancement.

Nova eventually tired of the shoe-game, and discovered the joys of Human-aided Helmet retrieval.  We’d be sitting at the breakfast table and she’d bring a Lego helmet [7] and drop it by one of our chairs.  A Lego helmet makes a distinctive clicking noise when dropped onto tile or wood flooring.  She’d drop the helmet, we’d pick it up and lob it into the kitchen or down the hall.  Its distinctive shape caused the helmet to skitter and bounce in an erratic manner Nova found irresistible, and she’d chase it, bat it around, and eventually pick it up and return it to us for another round.

She has done this, off and on and with variations in the game, for years.  And with no other Lego pieces; only helmets. [8]  We’ve found stashes of helmets under various pieces of furniture, and have rescued many from the central vacuum dirt canister in the garage.

Her latest variation is to find a helmet and bring it to the office.  The office carpet muffles the helmet-dropping announcement, so she has devised another routine to get my attention.  Helmet in mouth, she enters the downstairs covered litterbox, which is under the “kid’s” computer desk.  She pees in the litterbox, or sometimes just pretends to – either way, the sound of her pawing about in it alerts me to her presence.  She emerges from the box, drops the helmet in front of it, then dashes into the hallway, looking back at me with an I’m-helping-you-keep-your-promise-to-yourself-to-be-ergonomically-smart-and-take-frequent-breaks-from-the-computer expression. [9] I, of course, dutifully pick up the helmet and throw it for her.  It will be at least six rounds of fetching until she decides I need to get back to work.

Or sometimes, I come into the office and see a helmet outside the litterbox, with no kitty in sight.  Her calling card, I assume.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

Remember to check your shoes before you put them on, and let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Along with the zen-like calm that can only come from knowing that I carry a whoopee cushion in my props bag.

[2] Not Aryan, but Arean, as in, “of the Bay Area.”  They flew in from San Francisco, not Berchtesgaden.

[3] A “souvenir” of sorts, from the shenanigans at MH’s & my wedding reception…which is a story best told in person, over something stronger than orange Jell-O shots.

[4] This was critic Findlater’s actual review for Lillian Hellman’s Toys in the Attic.

[5] Meet My Mother Moments

[6] Except morels.  Oregon foodies are supposed to adore morels, but moiself thinks they taste like what muddy socks smell like.

[7] It seems we had an endless supply, from years of buying Lego Classic Space sets.

[8] She will play fetch with wads of paper, but only on the staircase.

[9] Really, that’s exactly what her kitty facial expression means.  We’ve had it translated.

The Fish I’m Not Licensing

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Dateline: Tuesday afternoon, driving to lunch/errands. I change the radio (I cannot abide a certain Taylor Swift song unless it is the goat version) and land smack dab in the middle of an advertisement for Northwest Surrogacy Center.  A suspiciously animated-yet-serious female is talking about how fulfilling it was for her to serve as a surrogate for a gay couple.  Her story ends with a brief/odd comment on how handing over the baby was “…the easiest part.”  An official (male, ahem) announcer takes over, and talks about how the center is looking for women between the ages of 21 – 40 who have already had one “easy” pregnancy, and how surrogates can make “up to $27, 000.”

“HA!” I hear myself say, [1] as I pound the steering wheel.  “Like that’s a reasonable reimbursement.”  I must pull over to the side of the road and do the math.

Gestation is no 9-5 show.  It’s not even back-to-back swing shifts. When you are pregnant you are pregnant 24 hours a day (and during the last month it can seem like 48 hours a day).  Forty weeks of pregnancy = 5,720 hours; thus, being paid $27k for the gig works out to less than $5/hour, less than minimum wage.  Even less than that, when you factor in what the post-preggo Pilates [2] are going to cost. The never ending story, of how anything considered “woman’s work” is undervalued.

angrypreggo

 My short story “Maddie is Dead” has been reprinted in a new book: Joy, Interrupted – An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss.   The anthology is released…uh…just in time for Mother’s Day?  Rather peculiar timing, considering the subject matter.  From the book’s press release:

 Joy can be interrupted – but not lost. Most people think of motherhood as a joyous experience, but for some it can be an experience of interrupted joy. This anthology delves into the subject of motherhood and loss from different perspectives of authors and artists from all over the world. This anthology includes Short Stories, Poetry, Art Work, Essays, Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction and more. Contributors explore such topics as Adoption, Death, Infertility, Disabilities, Illness, and Estrangement. Various themes addressed include Coming of Age, Identity, Recovery, Connections, and Forgiveness.

 But wait, there’s more:

The internationally acclaimed contributors are: (snip snip of a whole lotta names that are not mine), Robyn Parnell, (more snip snip)…

Internationally acclaimed?  This is news to moiself.  But if it’s in writing, it must be true, right?

Still, I await the multilingual kudos.  Having heard none, I’ll furnish my own:

Συγχαρητήρια [3] Ole!   Felicitations! Chúc mừng! Pongezi! Gratulerer! Cestitke! Kung hei lei! Donadaliheligv! Comhgháirdeachas!

joy i_

May 13 – 19 is Children’s Book Week.

Get ready to Get Mighty! 

The Mighty Quinn, that is.

The Mighty Quinn is available now at Amazon , Barnes & Noble  and other online booksellers, in both paper and eBook formats.  Starting May 14 it will be available at your regular brick and mortar bookstores.

Of possible interest to you locals (local as in Portland metro area): As part of the celebration for National Children’s Book Week I’ll be doing a reading-book signing event with another local author at Powell’s Books Cedar Hills Crossing (Beaverton) on Tuesday, May 14, beginning at 7 pm.  Another Local Author is Heather Vogel Frederick, who’ll be reading from her newly released book, Once Upon a Toad. [4]

After the reading and signing my family and I will be de-stressing celebrating at Peachwave Frozen Yogurt afterwards (Cedar Hills Crossing Mall, enter by the Starbucks) – stop and say howdy if you can!

"Caveman Matt" Chapter 5, The Mighty Quinn

“Caveman Matt” Chapter 5, The Mighty Quinn

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From their halcyon days as America’s sweethearts to their current status as superstars who pioneered a genre, The Go-Go’s preside over an amazing three-decade reign as high pop priestesses….
(from The Go-Gos website, re their upcoming concert tour)

That is what I want to write, and get paid for doing so:  hyperbolized press releases.

I’m trying to imagine phrases like “halcyon days” and “amazing three-decade reign” – not to mention “high pop priestess” – being used in conjunction with my name.  Not to get all philosophical or nothin.’

I couldn't find a High Pop Priestess Picture.  But the green telephone is worthy of royalty, don’t ya think?

I couldn’t find a High Pop Priestess Picture. But the green telephone is worthy of royalty, don’t ya think?

 You may remember [5] the Halibut That Ate My Daughter’s Brain (April 19 post).  I have been experimenting with halibut chowder/soup/stew variations every Sunday since, with the apparent approval or at least toleration of our regular Sunday dinner guest, the lovely and talented (and patient) LAH.  I have been tormenting son K, a lover of all things seafood chowder-y, with information re my culinary concoctions.  Next week is finals week for K, and he’ll be home from college for the subsequent Sunday dinner, the 19th.  There is enough halibut and fish stock left in the freezer to make him his very own tastefully-sized tureen trough-full of whatever version I shall deem as the best-est. [6]

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Remember to get your pet halibut his fish license, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Actually, I hear myself say a stronger version of HA: the version that rhymes with, HORSESHIT!

[2] Or whatever exercise regimen you’ll undertake in a futile attempt to undo the damage done to your body in order to give someone else “the gift of life.”

[3] Acclamations are in Greek, Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Swahili, Norwegian, Croatian, Cantonese, Cherokee, Irish Gaelic.

[4] I have read this book and recommend it, especially for fans of Fractured Fairy Tales.

[5] Or, like my family, you may be trying to forget.

[6] Not many footnotes in this post, eh?

The Writing I’m Not Typing

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 “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”
(Truman Capote’s dismissal of Jack Kerouac’s work)

You, too can be an author! At least, you can share in the experience shared by authors well-known and obscure, established and wannabe: the rejection letter.

In the tradition of the preemptive strike, the literary journal Stoneslide Corrective provides a vital public service, the generosity of which cannot be overestimated.  The Rejection Generator Project eliminates the need for you to take the time and energy (and whiskey) to actually pen an emotionally searing short story, witty roman à clef or evocative poem.[1]  Simply type in your email address and a terse and snarky rejection, composed by Certified Rejected Authorial Persons, [2] will be winging your way.

drunkcapote

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Mark those calendars:

Middle Readers Night
May 14, 2013, 7:00 pm
Powell’s at Cedar Hills Crossing, Beaverton, OR

As part of the local marking of Children’s Book Week celebration, Oregon authors Heather Vogel Frederick and moiself will be reading excerpts from and signing copies of our books (The Mighty Quinn, in my case, and Frederick’s Once Upon a Toad).  I am told that attendees will may be able to receive complimentary Children’s Book Week posters and tote bags [3], not to mention the one-of-a-kind opportunity to be misted by the spittle [4] of a Real Life Author ®, should you be in the first row during the reading.

Mickey's pasta emoting (from The Mighty Quinn, chapter 4)

Mickey’s pasta emoting (from The Mighty Quinn, chapter 4)

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This Stupid Week In History…which happens to be this week

 A science project gone awry.

 From the Miami New Times :  16-year-old Kiera Wilmot, known at Bartow High School for being a “model student,” has not only been expelled from school, she faces felony charges for an “experiment” that went wrong. 

Wilmot reportedly mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil, causing the top of a plastic bottle to rupture and smoke to emit.  Wilmot says she did it because a friend told her to, believing it would only cause smoke. 

Bartow High School’s assistant principal called police when Wilmot’s science teacher said he wasn’t aware of any experiment. 

Leah Lauderdale, spokeswoman for the school district, calls Wilmot’s actions “grounds for immediate expulsion” because they violate the school’s conduct code.  Section 7.05 of the school’s conduct code, Lauderdale says, mandates expulsion for any “student in possession of a bomb (or) explosive device… while at a school (or) a school-sponsored activity… unless the material or device is being used as part of a legitimate school-related activity or science project conducted under the supervision of an instructor.”

A sixteen year old girl did something most kids do at some point:  mixed up common household products in a plastic bottle because they heard that something amusing might result (how many baking soda and vinegar “volcanoes” did you try to make?). She did this outdoors.  The resulting “explosion” was not even adequate to burst the bottle, but merely popped off the top and generating some smoke.

No one was injured (save for the plastic bottle, which, as of this reporting, is refusing to comment), the principal was quoted stated that Wilmot simply made a “bad choice” and wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, but Wilmot was still expelled because school administrators are spineless fear mongers who have abdicated their responsibility to judge actions in light of context rules are rules.  Wilmot, described by the school principle as “a good kid,” who has “never been in trouble before. Ever,” will now reportedly have to complete her education in an “expulsion program” and may face a criminal conviction.

Mandatory expulsion for being “in possession of a bomb or explosive device?”  There goes every high school biology, chemistry and physics classroom, or certain students’ digestive tracts after burrito day at the cafeteria.

The student in question didn’t seem to be knowingly in possession of or trying to fabricate a WMD.  Rather, she did a dumb thing.  The punishment should fit the “crime” – perhaps a suspension, or a week of after school detention at a plastic bottle recycling facility.

The overreaction of administrators in this story reminds me of something that befell daughter Belle during her sophomore year in high school.  Ah, but when this happens to the child of a writer….  I’ve taken notes for a follow-up book to The Mighty Quinn, which just may include subplot involving false accusations brought against Neally [5] by school staff.  Let me just say that the adults involved in the debacle will not come out smelling like roses – more like a science project gone awry.

Oh yeah, and no plastic bottles will be injured during the making of the book.

"Stand back…" from  webcomic xkcd [6]

“Stand back…” from webcomic xkcd [6]

Have a great weekend, and let the (non-explosive) hijinks ensue.”

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] works which will probably be rejected anyway, I mean, whom are we kidding, are you that good, huh?

[2] Including yours truly.

[3] Assuming you arrive early enough and snatch them from the hands of children.  It’s a “While supplies last” deal.

[4] Why did I put so many S words in my novel?

[5] The title character’s friend and (unintentional) mentor.

[6]Randall Munroe’s  xkcd is a webcomic of “romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” You’d be way cooler than you already are if you’d it on a regular basis.

The Fritatta (for my father) I’m Not Cooking

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Monday, February 11.  I headed upstairs (where the backup TV/DVD player resides), a glass of champagne in my hand.

“You’re going to watch something – what?” K asked me.

“Band of Brothers.”

“Oh,” she replied.  “Of course.”

Monday was the four year anniversary of my father’s death.  He’d called the night before, and we talked for a long time, longer than usual (we talked on the phone at least once a week).  He was in a reflective mood.  [1] One of the many things we talked about was the HBO series, Band of Brothers.  The year after the series came out on DVD I purchased the set for my parents – a Christmas gift, I think.  Besides being one of the greatest mini-series in the history of the genre, B-B was the impetus for many detailed conversations between my father and me, about his experiences as a paratrooper in WWII [2]  and also those of another paratrooper, his brother-in-law, my Uncle Bill. [3]

My family hears the elegiac, haunting main theme wafting down the stairway, and they know where I am.  And what I’m thinking about.

I don’t know how to describe the greatness that is Band of Brothers.  So I won’t.  Just watch it, if you haven’t already.  Were I ever to meet Steven Spielberg and/or Tom Hanks, I would thank them, profusely, for producing that series.  Not a word about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or The Money Pit would cross my lips.

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Tuesday morning I had leftover frittata for breakfast. Earlier in the week I’m made a kale,[4] potato, onion, Spanish (smoked) paprika, parmesan cheese frittata for dinner.  I don’t know if my father ever had a frittata, for any meal.  I do know he would have liked it.

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A great scene in a greatly underrated movie, Morning Glory:[5]  Grouchy, veteran, respected but currently unemployed television journalist Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford, in a credible Mike Wallace mode) has been essentially blackmailed into becoming the co-host of DayBreak, a ratings-poor, national morning show of the “infotainment” style Pomeroy despises.  Pomeroy tries to sabotage the show by getting drunk, refusing to banter with co-host Colleen Peck (a cheerfully acid Diane Keaton), and by making use of a clause in his contract that allows him to refuse assignments, like cooking segments, that he considers beneath him. Pomeroy eventually forms a mutual if grudging admiration with Becky Fuller, (Rachael McAdams), DayBreak’s new, “Energizer Bunny” producer.  When DayBreak begins to rise in popularity and ratings, Becky receives a job interview from a rival show.  Colleen tells Mike that his refusal to adapt has driven Becky away. He goes to the TV set kitchen where food segments are done, and Becky watches in shock as Pomeroy shows the viewers how to make a frittata.

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Always nice to have something to look forward to, and I – we – have May 13 – 19, which is Children’s Book Week.

CBW is the yearly celebration of “books for young people and the joy of reading.”  Every year during CBW author and illustrator appearances, storytelling, parties, and other book-related events are held at schools, libraries, bookstores, museums across the country.

Mark your calendars, if you are a local.  Tuesday, Tuesday, May 14, starting at 7 pm, moiself and two other authors will be doing a reading and book signing at Powell’s City of Books, at their Cedar Hills Crossing (Beaverton) location.  This event has just been scheduled; I don’t yet know all the logistical details it will involve (walking up and down the book stack aisles, wearing a sandwich board advertising The Mighty Quinn?), but you can be certain I’ll post further harassments reminders as the date approaches.

Powell’s is the largest independent new and used bookstore in our solar system, and if you don’t know this, well….  Even if you’re from waaaaay out of town (any New Hampshire readers out there?), you need to make a pilgrimage to Powell’s if you are any kind of a book lover.  If not for my event, then soon.  So, you can’t fly to Portland in May?  Not to worry, there is a Children’s BW event somewhere near you.

Whatever your favorite childhood book is, was, or will be, may the remembrance of it be worthy of the Pretty Purple Toe award.

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No political commentary, nor rehashes of the latest misogynist pinhead proclamations in this week’s post.  I am too focused on fathers and frittatas and positive memories to celebrate, say, the resignation of the leader of one of the most wealthy, opulent, hypocritical, corrupt cults on the planet one mere pope. Now, if we could get all priests, imams, preachers, lamas, gurus, popes — and the ovine followers who give them “authority” – to resign….  Yeah, you can wake me for that breaking news.

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, a reminder of that most romantic of date movies, When Harry Met Sally Snakes On a Plane Snakes In a Dish.

snake

Because I can only imagine that when Samuel L. Jackson gets serious about love – about anything – hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] The temptation, of course, is to think he had some kind of premonition.  No evidence or proof of that, on my part. Just gratitude.

[2] In his case, training for the invasion of Japan that never came, due to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

[3] Bill somehow survived actions from North Africa to Italy to D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge.  Not surprisingly, he was hospitalized after the war for what was then called “Shell Shock”, now understood as PTSD.

[4] Observant readers will note that it is bok choy, and not kale, in the picture.  What can I say – all the kale went in the frittata.

[5] I love Roger Ebert’s review of what makes the comedy so enjoyable: “It grows from human nature and is about how people do their jobs and live their lives.”

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