Monday, September 28, 2009

Global Faces

Inspired by a jaunt around the world.

Where do your characters come from?

Thursday, September 24, 2009


As Pamela mentioned, watching movies is part of our job. There are plenty of movies I return to, like comfort food, whether for plot or character, but now I will look at them with a new eye.

In addition, part of my job is reading. My TBR list is ever-expanding and I find myself lately poring over blog posts, jotting down names of books I desperately want to read, buying or borrowing them, and then longingly staring at them on my shelf or counter or nightstand, as though they are chocolate bars; I always want to devour another, no matter how many I've just eaten.

I just finished The Sister, by Poppy Adams (psychological and haunting, reminiscent of Sarah Waters) and I'm currently reading: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (I'm not getting it, but I don't think I'm his reader), The Underpainter, by Jane Urquhart (I'm definitely her reader, thanks Kim!), and Noah Lukeman's The Plot Thickens (taking notes on this one).

I thought it would be fun to list a few of the books on my TBR list. Many I don't remember from who or why they were referred. Thanks to Stuck-in-a-Book, I've now got all the Bloomsbury books on my list (as one category: Bloomsbury).

I'd love to hear from you all (especially if I've got a title or name wrong!): Which ones should I tackle next, safely drop (in a nice way), read only when I want a good cry, read for a side-splitting laugh, study for craft, you get the idea. Some books haven't made it to my list yet and are still floating around on my desk or in my purse on slips of paper.

Here they are (over 100!), in no particular order, and unfortunately, not politely linked, because I've just run out of time.

Miss Hargraeves, Frank Baker
The Mathematics of Love, Emma Darwin
Saint Rimberg (The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg), Geoff Herbach
Ghostwritten, David Mitchell
Forever, Pete Hamill
Midnight at the Dragon Café, Judy Fong Bates
Shadow of the Wind, Ramoz
The Blood of Flowers, Amirrezvani
Away: A Novel, Amy Bloom
Open Me, Sunshine O'Donnell
Julia's Chocolates, Cathy Lamb
A Good Distance, Sarah Willis
Things Unspoken, Anitra Sheen
Shadow Baby, Alison McGhee
Mina Samuer, Sara Miller
Tarts & Sinners, Carrie Kabak
The Kommandant's Daughter, Bronte Villette
Goodbye I love you, Carol Lynn Pearson
The Long Walk Home, Will North
Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer
Achilles, Elizabeth Cook
Oh Pure & Radiant Heart, Lydia Millet
The Accidental, Ali Smith
On the Way to my father's funeral, Jonathan Baumsach
Last Night, James Salter
Unless, Carol Shields
The Welsh Girl, Peter Ho Davies
At War with Wind, David Sears
The Oracles of Delphi, V.A. Laurie
A Certain Slant of Light, Margaret Bonanno
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See
A Saffron Kitchen, Yasmin Crowther
Number to Count, Chris Reich
The Light Ages, Ian MacLeod
Literacy and Longing in L.A., Jennifer Kaufman/Karen Mack
Reduced Shakespeare, Read Martin/Austin Tichemor
Away, Jane Urquhart
Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
The Ghost at the Table, Suzanne Berne
Athena, John Banville
Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
In the Country of Men, Hisham Matar
The Secret River, Kate Grenville
Carry Me Down, M.J. Hyland
Mother's Milk, Edward St. Aubyn
Seminary Boy, John Corwell
My Enemy the Queen, Victoria Holt
Tin Box, Holly Kennedy
Pastries, Bharti Kirchner
My Mother's Island, Marnie Mueller
Sister Mine, Tawni O'Dell
Candy, Jodi Thomas
Red Leather Diary, Lily Koppel
Those Who Save Us, Jenna Blum
The Rule of Four, Ian Caldwell
Anatomy of a deception Lawrence Goldstone
The Lace Reader, Brunonia Barry
Housekeeping, Marilyn Robinson
Gilead, Marilyn Robinson
The Bronte Project, Jennifer Vandever
A Pidgeon and a Boy, Meir Shalev
Overture, Yael Goldstein
Matrimony, Joshua Henkin
Inheritance, Natalie Danford
The Septembers of Shiraz, Dalia Safer
All Whom I Have Loved, Aharon Appelfield
Perfect Happiness, Penelope Lively
Passing On, Penelope Lively
Cheating at Canasta, William Trevor
Lessons in Heartbreak, Cathy Kelly
Love Lies Bleeding, Kate Thompson
The Likeness, Tara French
Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourbain
Dresden Files, Jim Butcher
Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
Charlotte Sometimes, Penelope Farmer
Blind Assasin, Atwood
The Chatham School Affair, Thomas Cook
A Dark Adapted Eye, Barbara Vine
A Manuscript of Ashes, Antonio Munoz Molina
The Clothes on Their Backs, Linda Grant
The Northern Clemency, Philip Hensher
Dear Stephanie, Dear Paul Stephanie and Paul Duke
Machine Dreams, Jayne Ann Philips
London Nights, Stephen Graham
Tom Jones, Fielding
The Sealed Letter, Emma Donohue
The September Society, Charles Finch
The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan
The Aviary Gate, Katie Hickman
A Man of No Moon, Jenny McPhee
The Morville Hours, Katherine Swift
This Secret Garden, Cartwright
Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
Something by: Bryce Courtenay
The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton
War on the Margins, Libby Cone
Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffeneger
The Fiction Class, Susan Breen
The Echo Maker, Richard Powers
The Rose of Sebastopol, ????
The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford
Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford
The Sea Between Us, Amos Oz
The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, Carhart
Dreams of My Russian Summer, Adnrei Makine
The Keeper of Absalom's Island, Tom Nestor
The Secret River, Kate Grenville
Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel
How to Buy a Love of Reading, Tanya Egan Gibson
Lake in the Clouds, Sara Donati
Maiden Bride, Linda Needham
The Day the Falls Stood Still, Cathy Marie Buchanon
The Sugar Queen, Sarah Addison Allen
Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen
Julia’s Chocolates, Cathy Lamb
Everything else from Sarah Waters
Clarity of Night, Jason Evans
Kisses from a Postcard, Terence Frisby
The Laws of ??, Judith Ryan Hendricks
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larrson
?? Susan Henderson
The Ghost Writer, John Harwood
The Bolter, Frances Osborne
The Last September – Elizabeth Bowen Elizabeth Bowen
Miss Brill, Catherine Mansfield
The Crying of Lot 49
, Thomas Pynchon

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Little Stranger

Have you read The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters?

Just shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize, it's a cross between two of my favorites, House at Riverton and The Thirteenth Tale. The Little Stranger started a bit slow, but soon I was caught in its grips, and I realized, that was the point. The story creeps slowly, luring the reader into a crumbling house and introducing an equally crumbling family. At the end, my unanswered questions drew me back to the beginning, and I tried to piece it together. Were my conclusions right? I won't spoil it here, but if anyone wants a good chat about it, let me know!

I'm not sure why I haven't read Sarah Waters before, but now I'm on a mission to catch up with her previous titles. Just started The Night Watch.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Q&A with Author Sarah Stonich

Sarah Stonich’s first novel, These Granite Islands, became a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection, a Book Sense 76 Top Ten Pick, and a “2001 Friends of American Writers” Best Novel. Her second book, The Ice Chorus, is one of my favorites. Maybe it’s the alternating backdrop of a scorching Mexican beach and the cool, stony cliffs of Ireland. Perhaps it’s the tragic love story shot through a lens shrouded in misinterpretation and family secrets. More likely it’s the tightly-woven plot and multi-layered characters.

Head over to my other blog, What Women Write, to read the Q&A. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Living on the Lake

This past weekend, we enjoyed Labor Day at a friend’s lake house in northeast Texas. I’ve been accused of not being an outdoorsy type, but for three days under a sky puffy with animal clouds, I swam, boated, tubed, jetskiid, sunned myself, watched others play volleyball (let’s not go crazy, after all), read on a porch swing, cheered great friends over wine on an evening cruise, devoured s’mores over a crackling fire, and screamed while bouncing through the woods on an ATV (outdoorsy okay, woodsy definitely not.)

Soaring across the water, my hands clutched to the tube's grips, I didn’t have time to think about writing, blogging, querying, or focusing on the piles of revision notes on my desk at home. Instead I saw smiling faces egging me on from the boat, smelled fresh lake and a hint of fuel exhaust, felt sprays of water and the rush of the breeze over my face. So afraid of spring boarding off the tube, it took gallons of nerve to pry my hand for a thumbs down signal. Slow down.

Afterward, as I floated on a giant water trampoline and the sun toasted me like the marshmallows we stuffed in our s’mores, I watched my son tubing and wanted to give the thumbs down to slow his life’s pace a bit. In two years, he’ll go away to college. He’ll start his own tubing adventure, fraught with bumps and fears, tugging him ever so quickly into his future. I’m excited to see in which direction he’ll go—writer, philosopher, artist, entrepreneur—but do not want to wish away his now. I got such joy from watching him and his friends tube, ride jet skis, take on the adults in a volleyball tournament, and play chess and Catch Phrase. Living is the now.

And just as in life, as I navigate the road to publication, I can’t forget, writing is the now. It’s spending time with my family and friends, each one a different character with charming qualities. It’s floating on the raft, weaving in whatever direction the story will take me, getting lost in the flow of the words, toasting the plot to golden perfection.

At day’s end, dusky light dappled the water with glittery silhouettes, little ghosts of all who’d enjoyed their time on the lake, of those who slowed down to enjoy the now.

Photos courtesy of my talented husband, Rick.