Category Archives: reading

In one week I can take a bath

I have one more week of convalescence before I can get back to exercise and doing normal things bathing in a tub. I had not idea how much taking a bath meant to my peace of mind, or how crucial it was to my writing. I normally take a break for a quick bath if I’m a little stuck–I call it a thinking bath–and then get right back to writing. Showering is no good.

In the mean time, the blog tour has wrapped up, and I’m looking forward to supporting other writers for a while.I know it sounds weird, but it feels like my summer has just begun.

Last night we had more GPS adventures than we were prepared for as we headed out to Wonderland Ballroom to attend a Noir at the Bar event, hosted by E. A. Aymar. We missed the first set with Nik Korpon, but we saw the second which included Jen Michalski, and at the break we stepped out for some cool air before heading home. I’m not a huge fan of readings–either listening to them or presenting at them, but I have LOVED every Noir at the Bar event I’ve attended. The energy is super-ramped, and the stories are never boring or self-indulgent. Here’s the whole line-up from last night’s do:


Today I was inspired enough to finish a new short story that I’m calling “A Good Girl with a Hatchet,” adapted from sections of my New Royal Mystery novels, The Mean Bone in Her Body and The Orphans Court. Mean Bone is scheduled for release this year (fingers crossed), but Orphans Court is still in early draft phases. I did not extract sections of The Juliet and publish them as short stories, but I did for Death Wishing, and I realize I miss having fresh stories “out there” while I work on the long projects.


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Upcoming Events: Readings, Bloggings, and Thongs

Oh gosh, where to start?

Monday, June 13 I’ll be in Baltimore for the Ivy Bookstore’s Starts Here! Reading series hosted by the always delightful Jen Michalski, I’ll be reading with a stellar line up featuring Art Taylor, Tara Laskowski, Sherrie Flick, and Paula Whyman. 7pm at Artifact Coffee.


Saturday, June 18 I’ll be at Loudoun Co Library’s first Eat Local Read Local festival, which runs 11-4. I’ll have a table inside Cascade Library where I’ll be signing/selling books, and later in the afternoon I’ll give a short reading. Cool poster:

Eat Local Read Local Flier

Right now I’m quite busy preparing materials for my upcoming blog tour, which will take place  July 11-15. The tour is being arranged by TNBBC’s Lori Hettler, and I’m really excited by what she’s put together.

Also in the near future–there will be some social media changes in my life, including the launch of an author page on Facebook. I’ve resisted doing this for a while, but the time has come, especially since I’m doing so much promotion with Pandamoon Publishing. I’m sure my friends will be grateful for the relief in their feeds!

Finally, the marketing manager is playing with putting The Juliet art on items in the Cafe Press store. I can’t wait to show you what The Juliet underpants look like.

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Staycation2016: Days 5, 6, 7: “Women’s” Fiction Edition

Well, I wrapping up the “stay home and write” part of my vacation, and looking forward to some modest traveling next week. Friday and Saturday were actually chock full of exciting events, all of which have me ruminating a bit on the state of women in writing (more on that after the round-up).

Friday I moderated a panel at One More Page Books & More for the DC stop of She Writes Press 2016 tour, and we had a lively discussion with two novelists (Melissa Rea, Conjuring Casanova, and Jill McCroskey Coupe, True Stories at the Smoky View) and two memoirists (Dorit Sason, Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israeli Defense Forces, and Donna Cardillo, Falling Together). She Writes Press is another independent press that has discarded the notion of simply doing a miniaturized version of what the “Big 5” are doing, and much like my own press, Pandamoon Publishing, they are aggressively pursuing a very author-centered/cohort support model.

While at the event I had a chance to chat with Jenny Drummey, author of the novel, Unrequited, as well as this amazing post from last month called In Praise of Failure. Among the things we talked about was the struggle that a new, unknown author has in developing her platform, and the ways smaller, independent presses are having to adapt to get their books noticed.

Friday was also the “reveal” day for The Wigleaf Top 50 and the legendary Longlist both of which –if my crude, sexist estimate via naming conventions is an indicator–feature more than 50% women authors. As you may be aware, I’ve been helping out as a reader (on a large team of readers headed up very ably this year by Marcelle Heath as Series Editor and Matthew Salesses as the Selecting Editor) for the Wigleaf Top 50 for a few years now, but I’m taking 2016 off, seeing as the first book of The New Royal Mysteries will come out soon, and I need to get a draft of the second one done this summer while I’m not teaching. –As an aside, my head is so into my own books that I had forgotten I was a reader for the Wigleaf T50, and I was on the verge of correcting everyone who was thanking me  for my help when I started to recognize my picks on the lists. That’s right, I read the entire contents of about a dozen online journals, and selected several outstanding stories in January–and I forgot the entire experience. In my defense, that was at the same time that I was revising The Juliet per the 10 page, single spaced letter I received from my editor, Rachel Schoenbauer (SuperGenius), a process that I recall in excruciating detail.

And finally, Saturday night saw the Santa Fe Writers Project Launch Party and Reading, featuring four authors including Daniel Ford (Ordination), Elizabeth Hazen (Chaos Theories), Brandon Wicks (American Fallout), and my dear friend Tara Laskowski (Bystanders), whom I was privileged to introduce. It was a huge, catered party at the Waverley Street Gallery, but it was casual and fun, if a little cold and damp-the bar and buffet were outside. My favorite part was where the 4 year old son of two writers was explaining to a fussy toddler friend that it was going to be okay because there were “only four readers, and after that you can come to my house to play.” He had the routine down, except that he offered this explanation quite loudly during his mother’s reading.


In which I am suggesting my husband commit an art heist.

All of this writing & publishing action, plus the return of the rain, has made me contemplative about the ways we, especially women, categorize our work to reach audiences. Which brings me, albeit awkwardly, to the category called “Women’s Fiction.” Most of the official definitions refer the subject preferences of women readers, such as domestic dramas and emotional journeys, but I feel like this is one of those categories that achieves different goals for different constituencies. I have no idea if it was always a market term, but today it’s a very informative one, fully embraced by publishers, including my own, and the writers of Women’s Fiction at Pandamoon are producing highly literary work. However, that tag allows some critics to carve a lot of the work by women writers into a category that is adjacent to, but not fully, literary–leaving that term just as elusive/exclusive as it has always been, unless you’re comfortable being rude about it. If I’m being honest, one of my worries is that the term “Women’s Fiction” was coined as a pejorative (like “MFA Fiction”) that was rapidly transformed into a sales friendly keyword.

Certainly the authors of She Writes Press produce tremendously varied books, but the brand, quite clearly and proudly, is writing women and women’s writing. That’s a very successful selling point. It’s something I was thinking about, as I was introducing Tara and acknowledging the struggle in talking about a book with many identities. Though dark, suspense-filled, and full of characters who make very bad decisions, Bystanders is, at it’s heart, literary fiction, and that’s not very descriptive is it? As yet, I’m not aware of a market category for “bad decisions” or “poor impulse control” fiction. those might work as categories on America’s Funniest Home Videos, though.

I have not yet been identified as a writer of “Women’s Fiction,” but it could happen with my next book, The Mean Bone in Her Body, which is a mystery that begins with the tragic death of a young mother and her two small daughters.The majority of the characters are women, and the heart of the story is about mental illness, which may well be one of those “domestic” subjects that sends a woman author to a different line at the literary DMV. My only anxiety about that is limiting the appeal of my work, so I am hoping that the Mystery/Crime label is the stronger marketing term.  That said, a colleague of mine released a novel that was about generations of a European family fleeing war and communism to come to America, but because the main character unpacking the history is female, the publisher put a photograph of a woman swimming in flowers on the cover–not even the whole woman, either. Just her very shapely legs. And of course, the book is being marketed as Women’s Fiction. The era of the gendered cover is far from over, and gendered marketing is a double edged sword.

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The Juliet On My Doorstep

A box of print copies of The Juliet arrived at my home yesterday afternoon, and I’ve been celebrating ever since, but now comes the season of promotion. This morning I tried my hand at cheezy tweeting (tying my cursed emerald to St Patrick’s Day), and that fell flat–possibly because nothing can beat my dog’s photobomb that I posted last night: 12841328_10154653513439202_8325487644328745022_o Next week is launch week, though. I kick off Monday, the 21st, with a presentation about publishing for a graduate class that will also include potential MFA applicants. The official release DAY is the 22nd, I give a reading in DC at Upshur Street Books on the 23rd, and on the 25th I’m reading at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA.


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Reston Readings Series Launch Tomorrow

Feb 28, 5:30 is the start of a new local reading series at the Reston Used Book Shop, and I’m delighted to be taking part, reading along with two poets, Carina Yun and Gregory Luce. Though The Juliet is not out for nearly a month, I will have copies of Death Wishing to sell, and I’ll hand out some nifty bookmarks I had made. These are “special edition” book marks in that I’ll get new ones after my blurbs come in. Thanks to Nathan Leslie for organizing this event and inviting me to read at the debut. Best wishes for a successful series.



Here are pics from the Dames At Dusk reading, May 3 at Kramerbooks in DC. 1st set: Right-left, top-bottom: Sara Jones (jazz singer), Sandra Parshall, Jen Conley, Me. 2nd set: Diane Vallere, Meg Opperman, Meriah Crawford, and Tara Laskowski!

Dames 1 Dames 2 Emcee Lala

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Death Wishing for Cheap

I feel slightly awkward promoting the ebook version of my novel Death Wishing during Fall For The Book week, but yesterday I noticed the price dropped to $2.99 everywhere. I have zero idea how long it will be that cheap or why these things happen, but the fall out is that the book broke the top 100 in Amazon’s biographical fiction list (didn’t even know that was a category). DW made # 91. Last Temptation was #83. DW has Elvis content, so I guess that’s why it’s tagged biog.  I expect the reviews from this boost will be quite cruel . . .

In print news, I read at a “Noir at the Bar” event hosted by Fall For The Book & One more Page Books & More, and they sold out of copies of Death Wishing, so that was brilliant. Open Bar=book sales.

obvious thought

parking this here for a mo. I’m reading a very popular book that isn’t grabbing me,even after 90+ pages; it makes me feel like a tourist in the main character’s life, which is lovely but not really compelling. I think this is because there aren’t a lot of developed scenes so far, and they aren’t really dependent upon each other except by sheer chronology. There’s a lot of “X hadn’t seen such an X before, but somehow his instincts told him he needed to X just as soon as it was X-ing possible to do so.” (There’s lots of “to do so” diction flooding the story)

The other thing that struck me–and not as a criticism, necessarily–was that the 3rd person narration felt like 1st person, especially in its leisurely exposition. Which leads me to my obvy thought: what is the relationship of 3rd/1st person narration to scene-built fiction?

I know that with my latest novel project I deliberately worked in 3rd because I wanted a scene-built story, but that may be my quirk. I was also turning my back on the most distinctive element of my debut novel, Death Wishing, which was the main character/narrator’s affected voice.

Smokelong Quarterly Anthology Book Launch Party!

To celebrate the recent publication of Smokelong’s The Best of the First 10 Years print anthology, I’ll be one of the readers tomorrow night at the always delightful One More Page Books.


(My SLQ story is not in the Anthology. Le sigh). There will be cake and wine.

When: 6 p.m., Saturday, April 26
Where: One More Page Books, Arlington, VA

The line-up–

Grant Bailie
Jeff Landon
Laura Ellen Scott
Art Taylor
Virgie Townsend
Brandon Wicks

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