Category Archives: new book

Staycation 2016: Day One

Sorry, that pic is a complete misrepresentation–it’s a chilly day in NoVa, and the forecast is gloomy for next week when we finally do get to the beach. That said, I’m having a great start to Staycation 2016. This morning I went to Panera, and our usual counterperson whipped out a copy of The Juliet for me to sign! She tried to impress the other workers with my “celebrity,” but they weren’t buying it, lol. Nevermind, it was a great boost as I get going for real on the second book in the New Royal series, working title: The Orphans Court. My research has already given me one of my timelines; while Orphans Courts are common in Pennsylvania and Delaware, Ohio only had these for a very short period, meaning my “Clerk” will be writing his log circa 1800. Not to give too much away, but the discovery of this log will send shockwaves through contemporary New Royal, Ohio.

Hello Whiteboard, my old friend . . .


I’m writing in “Statcation” mode again because last year’s Staycation was so successful for me in drafting The Mean Bone in Her Body, Book 1 of the New Royal Mysteries. Now all I need is energy and creativity!

Tagged ,

the fiction of madness (Staycation 11, with theme)

I woke up this morning thinking of my mother’s roses. Or rather, I woke up remembering the two times her roses were destroyed. One time was when my sister was in the throes of breakdown, so she ripped up the roses, oblivious to the thorns that were shredding her arms and hands. Another time was when my great aunt, on the edge of dementia, plucked and destroyed every perfect bi-color bloom, convinced they needed dead-heading.

One act was an attack. The other a service.

There is actually a lot of mental illness in my family, and maybe one day I will write about the subject in a nuanced, sensitive way. In the meantime I write about madness, a fictive, gothic condition that too often may be the blackface version of mental illness.

Right now I am writing  towards a tenuous but plausible connection between the murders that begin my novel and the fractured psychology that had to precede them. I have placed a grieving young mother with an ever-deepening depression in a Dark, Cold House with another young woman whose own mental disorder (marked by narcissism, amorality, and false beliefs) is poorly diagnosed and improperly treated. What could go wrong, as they say.

I’ve become very aware that my fictional urge is to exploit the darkness, to blow it up and exaggerate it, rather than explain it. However, to write the relationship between these women I’ll need to stretch. I’m planning to use irl experience as a grounding (though in the end it won’t be recognizable, I’m sure). It’s not responsible research, but it’s a start. In a generation’s time I don’t want to be that old lady who defends her writing by claiming “it was a different time” as she clings to the rickety scaffolding of genre conventions.


Tagged , ,

The Juliet is Under Contract: Let’s Celebrate


First, apologies to anyone who saw my premature post/announcement back in October when I signed the contract to publish my novel, The Juliet, with Pandamoon Publishing. Yesterday was the official announcement, so now I’m a free to bore you to tears with how happy I am.

I was looking through my DV photos for the above image, and I was totally unaware of the Jameson bottle on the memorial to Mona Bell.  Or rather, I had forgotten it was there. This is from page 5 of the draft ms:

It was midnight, and Lily Joy’s gravesite was lit with candles. The glow gave away its hiding place behind a hardened dune of rubble. Rhys Nash brought a bottle of Jameson with him that cost eleven of the fifteen bucks he had left in the world, but since he’d be on a plane back to the UK tomorrow it didn’t matter. He’d spent the last three months in the States, and he couldn’t believe he had to leave.

I steal everything, even from myself.

Tagged , ,

2 years, 7 months in the life of a novel manuscript

Today I clicked the clicker, sending the edited novel ms to a very important person. In Feb 2012 I posted my last entry on my old blog, describing what I thought the book would be. I came close. Below, my notes then with what actually happened:

Working title: Willie Judy & The Mystery House

Actual Title: The Juliet

Tell the story in scenes, 3rd person, jumping into different pov for each unit–I think I did that.

keep it lean (70k?)–more like 106k

Plot. dominant story line, chronological, treasure hunt in Death Valley, world’s ugliest couture brooch (cursed? sure, why not)

err, sorta? the whereabouts of The J is one of several mysteries, like why the retired cowboy actor gives away the deed to The Mystery House

subplot1–the history of the brooch and its owners –check

subplot2–the cowboy actor’s career (western movies, tv cop shows, commercials, adult movie cameos) —there is some emphasis on the cowboy actor’s past, but I ended up spending a lot more time on his present


Willie Judy, failed NPS worker, animal lover who can’t stop killing animals. Now shuttles auto parts across the desert. Sometimes refereed to as weasel-girl, owing to sharp features.—yup

Scottie aka Rhys Nash, a Welsh ultra marathon runner, proprietor of the Alkalai Springs Resort (crush on WJ). Profound nose. Never really able to relax. Expects to be disappointed. has pot-belly pigs.–yup. part of my ongoing campaign for more large noses in literature

Tony Jackpot, celebrity gambler from the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, co-owner of Alkalai Springs Resort. Brains and a secret.–yes to all, but sadly no room for the secret. also I can’t remember what it was. 

Dawn, Tony’s niece, coerced to work in the ASR kitchens to keep her safe from boys (crush on scottie). –became two characters, Dawn, Tony’s recovering addict daughter, and Hilly, a worker at The Alkalai  with light brain damage. She’s seen a ghost at The Mystery House.

Rigg Dexon/Paul Lattanzi, retired cowboy actor. Convinced he is not long for the world, Dexon signs over The Mystery House to Willie in Part 1, mistaking her indigestion for starstruck admiration. –yup. I was supposed to kill him off in 15 pages, but I liked him so much he kind of took over. 


Death Valley during the Great Bloom of 2005

Alkalai Springs Resort, rustic accommodations, great food, greater bar. THE stop for the Outside Magazine crowd

The Mystery House–shack made famous in a 60s song

yup, yup, yup, plus the ghost town of Centenary (based on Rhyolite).


Tagged ,

Wendi’s Books

I’ll probably take this post down for being inappropriate, but right now  good taste  seems beside the point. I’ll never forget that day when the first box of my book copies was delivered to my door, and in about a year from now a dear friend will be experiencing the same delight when his debut book is published (more on that in a sunnier post).

On August 27, Wendi Harris Kaufman passed away after a long battle with cancer. Wendi was a very unusual force in the world, especially where writing was concerned. We were not close friends, but every time we encountered each other I managed to forget that because every conversation I ever had with her was powerfully intimate and energized, and I always came away thinking I was someone. That’s all the eulogy I have a right to express.

Also on August 27 the first shipment of Wendi’s debut book, Helen on 86th Street, arrived at the office of Stillhouse Press’s Director of Operations–an office two doors down from my own. I counted 16 boxes. I took a phone pic because I’m probably an asshole, but this was my view for a couple of hours before they were carted out of sight. In hindsight I can say that if Wendi were alive there’s be tons of pictures of every part of this process. I guess it’s foolish to attempt to make sense of this stuff.



Paul Laudiero’s ‘Shit Rough Drafts’ tumblr to become a book in 2014

He entered the Chronicle Books’ Great Tumblr  Book Search, hoping to win $100 worth of prizes and ended up with a book deal. They are expecting initial sales in the tens of thousands, and Chronicle is the only press with a dedicated rack display at Urban Outfitters.

Paul is my former student, set to graduate this May, and while other Seniors in the humanities worry about what lies ahead, Paul has brought everything he loves together–literature, writing, and comedy–to give one hell of an answer to that most annoying question of all: what are you going to do with a degree in English? True, we can’t all answer the same way, but Paul’s achievement is a manifest model of how this education-vision-vocation thing is supposed to work.

The book is due out in Spring 2014. The tumblr is here.

Tagged ,