Amazon problems

Sorry I’ve been so quiet. First, I’ve heard about a lot of problems when you try to post reviews of GROWING CHOCOLATE (thanks for doing so) or download the excerpt. Please contact Amazon and let them know. There’s nothing I can do and if I contact them, they just tell me to have to do it directly so there you are.

Received an email awhile ago that I was in the semi-finals of another contest, Summer Literary Seminars. First prize was a paid trip to one of their 2 week events in either Lithuania, Italy, or Kenya. Unfortunately, they dropped Italy. Anyway, even though I didn’t win, as one of the top 20%, they just offered me a fellowship to attend Lithuania. Thinking about it. (feel free to hit the tip jar!)

That’s it for now. Finishing an annotation then taking a break to go to Santa Barbara this afternoon. Enjoy your day.

odds and ends

For you BSG fans out there, cupcakes!

I like it that there are whole blogs about bacon

Thanks to my mentor and friend, Gayle Brandeis, for mentioning my Amazon entry on her blog. She’s so sweet and generous, plus she asks the best questions that lead me to improve my writing.

If you want to live vicariously in France, check out ceci n’est pas une blog

Also, Rhonda Mitchell,one of my fellow mentees at Antioch is getting much deserved recognition for writing about her experience in this recession. Check out Recession Daily

Need some musical inspiration? A friend of mine, see_thru, DJs at Blip.fm – check it out.

reading

Looks like I won’t be participating in next Friday’s reading after all. The venue isn’t quite right. GROWING CHOCOLATE deals with the death of child, cutting and other serious themes not suitable for family night at a Y! There will be other opportunities.

Brings up the question of when to say ‘yes’ to readings. Not all venues are suitable. You have to think about your target audience – who are your readers? Sometimes you have to turn things down.

Amazon

Thanks for the great reviews! For those I’ve heard from who have had problems, don’t forget to log in to your Amazon account first. Today’s a great day and I’m off to be in the studio audience for Dancing with the Stars. Please vote for my friend, Gilles Marini. We’ve been so blessed by our friendship with him and his family.

Quarterfinals!

I made it to the quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest! They winnowed it down from 10,000 to 500. Please help me out by posting a positive review here. The ones with the greatest number of positive reviews move on to be reviewed by Penguin Books. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it. Thanks for all of your support. Here’s the address:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001UG3CRQ.

Thank you!

sigh

Did not win the lottery after all. I’d probably be in the Caribbean if I had. No, I’d still be here trying to figure out where I’m going in the current novel. I entered the first 8K words in Narrative’s Story contest – mostly to force me to finish the thing. Did I resolve to write 3 pages a day? How foolish. No, there’s a lot of writing, deleting, writing, rewriting, adding a few words to a sentence, sometimes taking them out and general staring out the window. Right now it’s sunny and there are 2 small clouds to the left. A slight breeze ruffles the trees, well, the trees that are left. There are a lot of hacked off branches since the tree trimmers showed up a couple weeks ago. I like the light though, so no complaints. Gave up complaining for Lent anyway. Finished ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG and what a disappointment at the end. Come on, do the hard work and write a decent ending. Endings have been pissing me off lately, like the end of the profile on David Foster Wallace in the New Yorker. Really, a choice? You go right ahead perpetrate media stereotypes on depression and mental illness, New Yorker. No heavy lifting required.

Here’s a letter that was published in Salon about the poor use of language around suicide:

Suicide and ‘choice’

Discussing causality in suicide is a tricky business, both both in psychological and existential terms. Suggesting that David Foster Wallace “chose” to kill himself presumes that his choice-making faculties were intact, that he was David Foster Wallace as those who knew him had always known him. I didn’t know DFW and am only glancingly familiar with his work, but for those of us who study suicide and treat people who are tormented (and sometimes, killed) by suicidal despair, it’s clear that the emotional agony sufficient to lead to the suicidal impulse is also extreme enough to have, in the same process, undone that person’s ordinary problem-solving and choice-making processes. The person who engages in the suicidal act is not the person we have known in other contexts. They person who dies by suicide is, in over 90% of cases studied by retrospective ‘psychological autopsy’, someone suffering from a particularly virulent form of mood disorder or other suicidality-engendering mental illness. It is not “Bob (or David, or Jane) choosing to kill himself”, but rather, “Bob, unraveled by the agony of illness, blindly seeking relief from pain”. The act, perceived from outside that agony, seems without reason, or even, as some of the other letters have suggested, intentionally malignant; from inside the seemingly endless and intolerable subjective pain and hopelessness of the suicidal individual, it is, in the moment of unendurable suffering, the only exit visible. Those left behind to mourn in the wake of a suicide often struggle greatly to come to terms with what seems to be a heartless or sadistic ‘choice’. Their suffering, which can go on and on, is made just a bit lighter if our discourse can acknowledge that what looks like a ‘choice’ was, in fact, a person killed being by their illness. —

— drjonrichard

busy week

Writing took a backseat to real life, but I’m getting back on track. Worked on material for my senior lecture today, including a draft of the handout. 7 pages seems a bit long, but we’ll see.

Finished Carl Hiaasen’s LUCKY YOU. I played the lotto numbers that open the book today for laughs. Now that would be a great story if they hit. Next up is THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG by Muriel Barbery and LEFT TO TELL by Imaculee Ilibagiza about the Rwandan Holocaust.

Time to get back on track with the novel and 3 pages a day.

strange stories

It’s been a week for strange stories. Robert McKee, screenwriting guru, said that people do bizarre or awful things more often and worse than you can imagine. They also have things happen to them that would challenge the most vivid imagination. Add in accidents, mistakes and catastrophes, and real life usually outdoes fiction. The crash of Continental Flt 3407 took the life of a 9/11 widow. She died in a fiery crash – her late husband died on the 98th floor of the south tower. Would you add such a twist to a fictional story? A woman was allegedly beheaded by her TV exec husband. A chimpanzee tore the face off the friend of its owner. Bizarre twists, tragic stories. McKee was hardly the first to note that life is stranger than fiction.

The chimp story did remind me of elements for the novel I’m working on now. Keeping exotic pets is very dangerous and we have developed a naive hubris about them. They are not just like us. There’s some exotic pet-keeping in my book and I need to address the danger. The book’s tone is darkly comic. If you’re writing something lighter, then you have to pull back in some way from the danger or explicit violence – either not showing it or showing it in an absurd way. However, that doesn’t mean that the danger is not present.

Cinematic

Been catching up on movies this week. A friend is having an Oscar party so I may as well be prepared. Started the week with THE WRESTLER – good film, hard to watch for a few reasons. Yesterday, saw DOUBT and THE READER, both written by playwrights so it was interesting to see them on the same day. You could see the play in DOUBT. Both good, well acted. Today, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (book was better, which is usually the case). Once I catch up, I’m hitting the art museums to hopefully fill up enough to propel me to finish the novel (my 4th!). I have been waking up with ideas, better ways to tie elements together – so grateful when that happens.

Haven’t had the time to finish Carl Hiassen’s novel, LUCKY YOU, but he’s teaching me to push the envelope. He makes unlikely situations believable.

Rec’d chapters back from my mentor with comments. Never fails to amaze me that I can overuse a word in two paragraphs and not see it. For me, editing fiction is much like learning to listen to different instruments in a piece of music. I have to go over it and look at different elements each time.

the tea did it

…kept me up all night, that is. But mystery solved – same reason my shoulder has been going into spasm off and on for a few months. Back on this morning. It’s the caffeine. Now the search begins for an excellent decaffeinated Darjeeling. Art of Tea makes an amazing caramelized pear tea that I have every day. Chado in Pasadena has some very nice teas and I will stop in after the chiropractor unties my shoulder.

It’s been difficult to write lately. Even my walks have been less productive than usual. After Chado, it may be time to stop in at the Norton Simon. Paintings inspire my writing more than anything else.