Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mojito's Top Picks for 2011: Laura's Favorites

As with all year-end recaps, The Mojito Literary Society will reflect upon some of the best of 2011.

Here are Laura Valeri's picks of the best novels this year (stay tuned for a post on story collections):

The Family Fang: by Kevin Wilson

A quirky tale of a family of performing artists, each of them having managed to blur the boundaries of what is appropriate and what is necessary in the name of art. The story will make you laugh, balk, ponder, meditate, and even maybe weep a little. If only for the fantastical performances that the Fang family manages to contrive, the book should get an award.

Faith: by Jennifer Haigh

The story of a woman who tries to trace back the choices and mistakes that led to her brother's suicide. On the surface, the novel appears to be about the abuses of the Catholic church and its coverups of sexual molestation cases, but as the story deepens, the reader is treated to a delicate, heartbreaking story about love, self-sacrifice, and most of all, faith. One of the most profound and uplifting books I've read all year!

Animal Sanctuary; by Sarah Falkner

Check out the extensive review I wrote for this one on Fiction Writers' Review. Sarah Falkner's debut is a journey into the aesthetic complexities of film and performance art. The novel is written as a braided narrative, combining article clippings, film synopses, audio transcripts and other less-conventional mediums. You'll feel like you've just gotten a crash education in art criticism when you're done reading.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Animal Sanctuary: The Hardships of Art in the Novel

Sarah Falkner's debut novel Animal Sanctuary is the winner of the 7th Starcherone annual prize for innovative fiction. The novel is a complex rendering of the small injustices, abuses and incongruities that keep the art world going. It's a sad chronicle of the sacrifices artists will make to honor their art, and it's a study of the beauty and savage nature of art, and its ability to both maul and give new life to those who dedicate their lives to it.

It was tough to review the book because so much about it is different, and so much of it is also familiar. But Animal Sanctuary is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of the future of innovative fiction. Written in the form of a braided narrative, Falkner uses film synopses, audio transcripts, letters, emails and other narrative mediums that are seldom found in traditional fiction to piece together the adventures of Kitty and Rory Dawson, a film starlet and her son who, together, focus their art on the neglect and abuse of savage nature.

Check out my full review on Fiction Writers' Review, or else check out the book. Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tina's Review of VIPER by John Desjarlais

I am such a sucker for a strong (if sometimes flawed) female protagonist -- and VIPER by John Desjarlais delivers. Selena de la Cruz is strong because she's vulnerable, both contemporary and traditional at the same time, which makes for an uneasy road.

A former cop now working as an insurance agent, she's brought back into the world of drugs smugglers and homicide when her name turns up in the Book of the Dead. She's still alive, but the people whose names proceed her have all been violently murdered. Suddenly a marked woman, Selena must face an old nemesis -- El Serpiente -- while solving a series of murders that may or may not be part of a plan of divine retribution, and may or may not be a prelude to her own demise.

Exciting stuff, this. The mystery hits several themes — faith vs belief, insider status vs outsider exclusion (and how those edges cut both ways), justice vs retribution. I especially appreciated Selena's struggle to be an assertive, intelligent female in a culture that has traditionally valued a certain home-and-hearth-based passivity even as it produces strong women who buck that trend.

Selena may seem like a contradiction herself – she has Jimmy Choos on her feet and axle grease under her nails. She’s an insurance agent who can work you a fine home coverage package . . . and also chase down bad guys (and bad gals too) while she’s at it. But her character is big enough to contain all these paradoxes (which also serves to ask the smart question of why these things seem like paradoxes in the first place. Why must a woman choose between her car and her shoes?)

This book isn't just smart; it's also fast and edgy and laced with murderous tension. Read VIPER, and then do like I'm doing and go get BLEEDER, the first mystery novel by Desjarlais and Selena’s introduction to the literary world. Or better yet, do it the other way around. But don't miss these books.

Suggested food and beverage pairing: Desjarlais' description of home-cooked tamales had me wanting to crawl into the pages and snatch them from Selena's plate. So tamales, yes, and a nice cerveza, por favor.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Visit John at . He's also available on Facebook ( and on Twitter ( Visit his alter ego Johnny Dangerous at

VIPER is available at Amazon and through Sophia Institute Press.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hot Iron Age Lovin'

by Susanna Ives

You’ve read Regency, Roman, Victorian, Ottoman Empire, Western and Viking, but let me introduce you to a new romance setting: Iron Age Denmark. Because nothing says romance like sleeping in a thatched mud and wattle hut in sub zero degree weather, snuggled with Lars under your wild boars pelt, listening to the gentle oinks of the pigs in the other half of your hut and calls of the wild aurochs in the distance.

For starters, Iron Age Denmark isn’t as far away as you think. Just fast forward past those Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, and the beginnings of the Roman Empire to 1 A.D: that’s the Danish Iron Age.

Imagine your Iron Age Lars, sweat pouring down his rock hard muscles as he works over the clay furnace, smelting down some hot iron. He would build that furnace for two days and then fire it up for 5 hours using a cubic meter of wood. Then he packed down 70kg of charcoal and 50kg of the iron he dug up from the bog pit. He baked this for 24 hours to make sponge iron. Then he hammered the sponge iron into 1 kg of usable iron to make ten knives or an axe. Imagine his bulging biceps as he slung that hard hammer down. If that doesn’t turn you on…

When Lars wasn’t making you pretty axes, he was farming with the oxen so he could harvest barley, wheat, and spelt to for you to grind in your super modern grain grinder. Trust me, your man loves you when he gives you this grinder.

Your friends still have to use the old-fashioned hand and stone method.

And don’t forget the wool Lars sheared for you to weave your family’s fashionable clothes.

At night, when you’re sitting around the fire in your mud hut and your young children are playing with this wooden pig your husband carved, you tell them stories about how you and your hot iron smelting man met.You were still a virgin and it was the spring fertility festival. The elders placed you in the center of the dancing labyrinth. The village boys raced each other through the labyrinth and Lars reached you first.

You were a lucky virgin because they could have just chucked you in the peat bog as a sacrifice to the bog gods.

Also, your Lars fashions himself quite the artist. Look at the beautiful sculpture he made for you. You can see the beginnings of the phallic symbolism that would later characterize Viking art.

I think Danish Iron Age has great romantic potential. If, after reading this post, you have the burning desire to write some hot Iron Age loving please visit Sagnlandet or Danish National Museum

NOTE: The last Aurochs died in 1627. At Sagnlandet there are several Heck Oxen, a type of oxen created by the Germans under Hitler in an attempt to revive the Auroch. The Heck Oxen were very playful and chased each other around the grounds. Here is the only picture I took of them:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mojito Literary Great News

The Mojito Literary Society is proud to announce that writer Susana Daniel won the PEN Robert W. Bingham Prize in Fiction for her beautiful novel Stiltsville. Click here for the Mojito LIterary Society review of Susana's novel. Congratulations! The Mojito sisters toast to you!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tina's Review of A SPARK OF DEATH by Bernadette Pajer

Finding a captivating new mystery series is such a thrill — which is why I was so delighted to discover of A Spark of Death, the first novel in a new series by my fellow Poisoned Pen author Bernadette Pajer. Set in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Seattle, A Spark of Death features an appealing protagonist, Dr. Benjamin Bradshaw, an engineering professor accused of murdering his pompous colleague in a electrified metal contraption (think Dr. Frankenstein’s lab crossed with a birdcage).

Full disclosure: I'm married to an engineer. I find wire and metal contraptions that could kill people in my garage all the time. So I readily identified with this set-up, and with this protagonist. And I found both fascinating.

This book satisfied on many levels. The mystery was impeccably structured, the setting expertly rendered, and the story irresistibly involving (the science was cool too, especially the details of what was then the cutting edge potential of electric current). It’s the main character who had me hooked, however — I enjoyed every minute I spent with Professor Bradshaw. He's smart and funny and achingly likable, a man of reason tending a broken heart and a tragic past. I enjoyed watching him come into his sleuthiness, finding a spark of life from an unforeseen tragedy as he applied logic, science, and an empathetic decency in his search for a killer. The secondary characters made a fine suspect pool, but more importantly, they provided the context of Bradshaw's life, adding emotional texture to his existence. Scenes from his family life, from his professional life, and from his increasingly dangerous investigative life wove an intricate tapestry of emotional yearning and intellectual curiosity, with the Professor at the center.

I enjoyed every minute I spent in this book. It's an excellent beginning to what is sure to be a top-notch series, and I can't wait until Professor Bradshaw gets his next chance to practice electrical forensics.

Recommended beverage: a nice milk punch, or perhaps some sherry served in your grandmother's cut crystal cordial glasses. Something smooth and pleasant that will nonetheless leave you with a hearty glow. Sip it slow.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Bernadette Pajer spent her childhood in Seattle, surrounded by the beautiful Cascade and Olympic mountains and Puget Sound. She holds a degree from the University of Washington, Bothell, where she studied CLA (Cultural, Literature, and the Arts) in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Science program. Research is her favorite activity, and she happily delves into Seattle’s past and the early days of electrical invention as she plots Professor Bradshaw’s investigations.

For more information, please visit Bernadette’s website at

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tina Discovers Cocktails on a Stick!

It's been a hot one, as they say. Summer is having her way with us, that's for sure, which is why I am so deliriously excited to discover a recipe for Mojito Pops. That's just everything sweet and pure and right about summer all rolled into one.

For the recipe, visit Erin Cooks and look for the lime-mint goodness.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sex and the Sequel by Tina

Dana Stabenow, author of the extraordinary Kate Shugak mystery series, asked her readers an interesting question recently about their literary preferences (well, two questions, one subject, which you can find here).

How much sex is too little? How much sex is too much?

My own main character, Tai, is an adult woman of various robust appetites, several of them related to my other main character, Trey, who is a grown-up man with equally red-blooded ideas about the kinds of things two consenting adults can do for fun. Granted, they don’t do much about their mutual attraction in the first book. Oh, there’s a kiss, and they do make some very specific carnal plans, but they don’t end up in bed until maybe fifteen minutes after The End of the book.

But they do end up in bed, oh yes. Just in case you were wondering.

So here I am writing Book Two, which opens with the same characters, only now they’re officially a couple. There is some contention about what that particular designation means, some pondering and awkwardness, but one thing is for certain — they’re having sex. Lots of sex. There’s no more will-they-or-won’t-they for Trey and Tai. It’s all why-yes-I-absolutely-will from this point on.

Which works for me. Writing the sexual tension of a real couple in real relationship is a fascinating creative endeavor. It’s dynamic, it’s fertile, it’s revealing. My novels are traditional mysteries, but the emotional struggles of my characters run in parallel currents to the whodunit. Tai and Trey solve the crimes and save the day, yes, but they grow and change as they do it. And their sexual life together is an important part of this growth.

I’ll confess — I write every sex scene these two people share. For example, in The Dangerous Edge of Things, after Trey and Tai are interrupted in the middle of a long overdue kiss by Trey’s ringing phone, which turns out to be a summons he can’t ignore, he tells the caller, “Give me twenty . . . no, thirty minutes.” The line makes it into the book, even if what Trey does with that extra ten minutes does not.

But I know. Of course I know — authors are the ultimate voyeurs. We have an all-access pass to our characters‘ lives. And it’s important that I see these two in bed, that I make space for their sex life to exist in the universe of this series, even if those scenes don’t get a play-by-play in the book.

So here’s my pondering — while peeking into the bedroom is crucial for me as a writer, how important is it to you as a reader?  Do you want to see characters getting it on, or do you prefer the slow fade to the fluttering curtains?

Share share, please. I am rabidly curious.

* Photo Credit to Rutty on Flickr through a Creative Commons License.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tina's Review of Douglas Corleone's NIGHT ON FIRE

The beach read — it’s a genre unto itself. For me, such a book must be exotic, intriguing, and smart, with real dilemmas and high stakes. I prefer mysteries, especially those with elements of romance and humor, not madcap, just funny like life is funny, in that you-either-gotta-laugh-or-cry way. And I like characters that I can care about, people who are frustrating and decent in equal measure, people who try and want and fail and try again.

Bonus points if the book has an actual beach in it.

I am delighted to report that Douglas Corleone’s NIGHT ON FIRE qualifies on all counts. It’s the second in this series featuring defense attorney Kevin Corvelli, a former New Yorker who does what a lot of us dream about — he moves his practice to Hawaii. Of course he does it to escape a lot of unwanted attention and personal tragedy. Of course all the trouble follows him right into paradise.

In NIGHT ON FIRE, this particular trouble comes in the form of a dangerously seductive woman who might or might not be a murdering arsonist. Kevin knows better than to get involved . . . but I’m giving nothing away to let you know that he gets involved anyway, and not just professionally either. Soon he’s over his head — woman troubles, kid troubles, co-worker troubles, client troubles, somebody-trying-to-kill-him troubles. It’s hot in Hawaii, and getting hotter.

The plot ricochets from crime to crime and criminal to criminal (including one of the creepiest firebugs I’ve ever met — I’m getting the heebie-jeebies thinking about him). Arson, murder, theft, adultery — every flavor of vice, and every one of the seven deadly sins. It’s a roller coaster ride with fireworks and the ever-present possibility of a loose rail, so be warned. The atmosphere is flavored with a tourist’s dream of Hawaii, but leavened with a resident’s knowledge of its mundane realities from the weather patterns to the traffic annoyances. The supporting cast is strong — three dimensional and free from the annoying quirkiness that often substitutes for characterization in some crime fiction. Corleone doesn’t just assemble a bag of personality eccentricities and call it a character. His people are fully realized, not just plot points. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Turi, Corvelli’s happy-go-lucky small-time drug dealer client. The scenes with him in it felt like eavesdropping.

But the main reason I enjoyed this book so much is the main character, Kevin Corvelli. He’s the kind of guy I want really bad to dislike — bigheaded, reckless, a money-where-his-mouth-is hotshot — but because of his immense charm and often painful awareness of his own flaws, I can’t resist him. In this book we get to see his decent and caring side too (even if it’s a reluctant and grumpy decency). I’ve read in interviews that Corleone has woven a lot of himself in his fictional protagonist, supersizing his own qualities for the story’s sake. If that’s the case, then I hope Corleone’s life continues to give him inspiration for Kevin’s adventures. They make an excellent team.

Grab some sunscreen, mix up some mai tais, and pick up NIGHT ON FIRE. Plan on diving in and staying a while. It’s fast-paced, sharply plotted, smart but not smarty-pants, and there’s real heart at the center. I’m looking forward to my next outing in Kevin Corvelli’s Hawaii.

*         *         *         *         *         *         *
DOUGLAS CORLEONE is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series published by St. Martin's Minotaur.  His debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE won the 2009 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award.  A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Douglas Corleone now resides in the Hawaiian Islands with his wife and son.  NIGHT ON FIRE is his second novel.

You can find NIGHT ON FIRE at your local bookstore or through (find a buying link here). You can read more about Douglas Corleone and this award-winning crime series at

Monday, April 18, 2011

Minutes from The Mojito Literary Society meeting

These are the official minutes of the first official meeting of the official Mojito Literary Society, ascribed this day April 18, 2011. A Monday. Waning Moon in Virgo. Barometric pressure falling.

FRIDAY: Tina arrives at the official MLS Safe House -- The Casa de Sucre y Rum -- to perform the necessary ablutions and also some laundry. She also doublechecks to make sure that there is mint, sugar, sparkling water, and limes. Susanna arrives. There is much rejoicing and sharing of gifts, then much exclaiming over one another's exquisite taste and bounteous generosity. Tina doublechecks to make sure Susanna has rum.

Rum. Check.

Laura arrives. There is much exclaiming over her ethereal beauty and lovely dress. The traditional mutual admiration portion of the evening follows -- yes yes, we are all literary geniuses! Mwah! -- at which point Laura opens the white chocolate macadamia cookies. There is much rejoicing. 

Nom nom nom.

The rights of copyright are established for a television reality series tentatively entitled "Stop Talking: You're Ill." You did not hear about this here. And then the principals retire for the evening to their respective abodes.

SATURDAY: Susanna and Tina prepare for Katrina's arrival. They sleep, then sleep some more. Then they drink champagne from the bottle whilst standing around in their nightwear and watching the neighbors' backyard wedding from the patio.

Correction: They did not drink champagne from the bottle. They made mimosas in pretty crystal stemware. Really they did. The former is an outrageous rumor perpetrated by a certain disgruntled wedding party. Except for the standing around in the nightwear part, which has documentary evidence. They cop to that part.

Katrina arrives. She brings tortilla chips with no soy, no wheat, no dairy,and no cucumbers. Also she brings poetry, and a petite watermelon. There is much rejoicing and name dropping and general acclaim as to her overall wonderfulness.

The MLS must divide and conquer at this juncture. Laura, Susanna, and Tina engage the services of a local spa facility. There is a steam room. No, we are not going to tell you what we talked about in the steam room. Katrina held down the fort at the Casa -- no fires, hurricanes, or tornadoes, nor did she feel the need to even leave the house. It was a judgment call on her part, but after careful discussion, the MLS quorum voted to approve her decision with full approbation.

Here, here.

The MLS regrouped at our marsh outpost -- Casa de Laura y Joel. Even though a kayak approach is often recommended, we chose to use the Truman and a stick-shift Saturn for this particular rendezvous. There was garlic cheese and other savory goodies, and of course, fine handmade watermelon mojitos crafted by Joel himself. Prosecco with raspberries and blackberries and strawberries to follow and fig-filled cookies. To which all the members went damn! And then fell upon the repast.

There was much more rejoicing. 'Cause, I mean. Damn.

Then there was much praising of Joel, whom all members agreed was extremely talented in all relevant areas and much gorgeous and smart to boot, and they immediately tendered an offer of MLS membership on the spot.

NOTED: Tina would like the record to reflect that the MLS members offered this praise freely, and would have done so even if Joel had not referred to us as "goddesses." But he did. Which Tina would also like duly noted.

Then there was the offering of the Monty Python dramatic tributes. Then we watched the moon come up. Big fat buttermilk moon. Following of course the smashing of the peppermint pink pig and reading of the proclamation of happiness, prosperity, and good fortune. Mazel tov!

SUNDAY: Sleeping, meditating, writing. And then more of the same. More name dropping ensued, some of which involved Twitter and Pablo Neruda and handsy celebrity poets of various stripes. And then plans were made for the next meeting, which will be in a villa in Cozumel. Or Mozatlan. You get the idea. Said meeting will be financed through means that we are not going to tell you about because you should have been paying attention, especially during the steampunk part (which a certified engineer proclaimed doable, really he did).

That is all.

We know. We wish you'd been there too.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Review-Nearly Departed in Deadwood

You gotta’ love a book that starts out with the words, The first time I came to Deadwood I got shot in the ass. Yes,sirree, heroine and single mother, Violet Parker, has her work cut out for her selling real estate in Deadwood, South Dakota while worrying that, with little girls vanishing, something might happen to her own children, especially daughter, Addy. Never mind she also has to deal with a co-worker trying to get her fired and a secret admirer sending her daisies and creepy love poems. You’ll laugh out loud as this overwhelmed sleuth tries to discover who is abducting children while dealing with a daughter who keeps placing want ads for her mother’s next potential husband, drooling over two delectable men and having a weekly repast with a crotchety old man.

And just think, the sequel is out next week! Enjoy this fast read with a Mint Julep. It’s getting close to Derby time.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bobbye's Recommended Reads

Today I'm recommending science fiction reads in a number of different forms.

I don't know what I expected but I didn't expect this. Graham has written a unique and thought-provoking series of short stories. They're full of emotion, yet fun to read. I love the "programmer" touch but agree you don't have to be tech savvy to enjoy these. I am a biopunk/cyberpunk writer myself writing as Daryn Cross, so I'd recommend these to readers of the genre, but I believe they transcend all genres and can be enjoyed by a large number of people.

A war against the Darch has raged for years, and humanity is on the verge of extinction. Scientists have created biomechs to supplement as warriors, but it’s just a temporary fix on what appears an insurmountable problem. One desperate scientist injects JXS241, a biomech warrior, with what he hopes is the solution for mankind’s survival. But the biomech is captured by the enemy.
Raven Nirvanni survives on the fringes of a shattered culture. While on a self-imposed suicide mission to annihilate an enemy destroyer, she encounters the imprisoned biomech. Deciding the fate of humanity far outweighs the destruction of a single ship, she recues him and decides to ensure he reaches his destination.
With the enemy anticipating their every move, Raven is completely taken aback when she realizes she’s falling for JXS241. But can she really love a machine? And if so, can he reciprocate?

Captain Temesia Elysse has just steered her ship through almost certain death. With the help of her gifted crew, the Dark Nest has survived. Her newly evolved psychic people are targets of Homeworld genocide. Hundreds have been killed aboard the Light Nest. Back on Homeworld soil, her people are being hunted. Her lover may be dead, the gifted teacher Reyn Wolfe. It will take all Captain Elysse's restraint, with vast new psychic powers available to her and her people, not to let her infamous temper get ahead of her. But there must be a rescue mission for those still alive. And there must be justice. There will be a reckoning. And the Homeworld council has no idea their persecuted victims are alive, or just how powerful they’ve become.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


De-ter-mi-na-tion [dih-tur-muh-ney-shuhn]
1. the act of coming to a decision or of fixing or settling a purpose.
2. the quality of being resolute; firmness of purpose.
3. a fixed purpose or intention: It is my determination to suppress vice.
4. fixed direction or tendency toward some object or end.

"Okay, what is she up to today?" you ask. Just what it looks like. I finished writing a blog for Writers Fun Zone a couple of days ago and it really got me to thinking about my purpose and writing career. So here’s the question posed to you today. How much determination do you have?

Now, without giving anything away (feel free to read the blog at, posted Thursday, March 10, 2011), there are a lot of factors that go into being prolific and for being a success as well. Of course, quality of the writing is one important factor in whether or not a writer does become successful at selling books; but, how much does determination control direction and result?

I believe it has everything to do with it. You can be the best writer in the world, but if you lack the drive to sit in your chair to get a complete work on paper it doesn’t mean a thing. You may how to do something, but if you don’t do it, who cares? Calvin Coolidge said it better than I do: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”

I guess what I’m saying is, to me, determination is more than fixed direction or firmness of purpose. It is the drive that continues to the finish line. My mother used to say I was the most determined person she’d ever met. She said she didn’t know anyone who could look at herself in the mirror, and seeing brown hair and blue eyes, say, “My hair will be red and eyes will be green.” Okay, so that did happen, though I’m sure my hair was really auburn and just got lighter (without Mother Clairol at that time) and my eyes had some green and just got brighter. But the point is made. You have to be driven and focused and that all comes back to determination.

So buckle up! What are you going to achieve today?

Monday, March 7, 2011

My friend Tina has written the worst mystery ever

Why THE DANGEROUS EDGE OF THINGS is the worst mystery I've ever read. A poignant and touching book review by Rosanna, Susanna's evil (and less intelligent) twin.

For starters, the main character, Tai, owns a gun shop and previously gave ghost tours in Savannah. Then when her brother is a suspect in a murder, she starts her own investigation (okay, as a twenty year resident of Atlanta, I understand why you might want to investigate things yourself…so she gets credit for that. But I’m telling you, this book sucks.) My point is: what kind of protagonist is this? I want humorless, hard-boiled types with commitment problems and all sorts of neurosis. And besides, a fictional southern chick who isn’t oversexed or emotionally fragile or hasn’t an unhealthy dependency on rich older men is just weird. Tai isn’t stereotypical, I just can’t handle that. This isn’t safe. Anything could happen in this mystery. Completely unpredictable.

But worst of all is Trey, the supposed badass security expert. Fine, I’ll concede the hot looks and a Ferrari have their appeal, but from the description, I was given to believe that Trey possessed supernatural powers allowing him to perceive when people were lying. I thought this was so cool, because I love hot heroes who couldn’t possibly exist in real world, like vampires or werewolves. But then Tina goes and explains the specific parts of Trey’s brain that have been damaged, giving him this odd ability to detect lies (and he is not 100% accurate with it either. What the hell? There’s that damn unpredictable element again) , but leaving him with a nasty identity crisis. This sounds a little too close to reality for my tastes.

To illustrate my points, I have chosen this terrible passage:

I smiled up at him. “You’re Mr. Seaver,” I said. “And you’re kind of relentless, anybody ever tell you that?”

He didn’t reply. His eyes were blue, startlingly so, and he directed them like x-rays. The bartender pretended to be engrossed in mashing up mint leaves, but his ears pricked our way. I lowered my voice.

“Look, I know you’re watching me, so just do me the courtesy of admitting it, all right?”

After the slightest hesitation, he nodded once, crisply.

I smiled wider. “See how easy that was? Now we can be friends.” I patted the stool beside me. “Would you like to sit down, maybe have a drink? I’m putting everything on somebody else’s tab tonight.”

He shook his head. “I don’t drink. Except for water. And hot tea.”

“Water like in ice water.”

“Water like in Pellegrino.”

What kind of badass drinks tea and Pellegrino? Suck some blood perhaps, but fizzy water? Quick, I must grab some Charlaine Harris. I’m feeling a bit dizzy.

And another thing: the plot! Good heavens, it’s filled with all sorts of twists and turns. I couldn’t keep up. All these characters keep showing up and they’re, you know, different. A bisexual African American best friend, a Hispanic stripper and a new age healer. Look, I live in Atlanta and just because I see these people every day, they have no place in a mystery. No place at all!

Another example from Tai’s friend Rico - -the bisexual African American one.

Rico’s voice was serious. “This is deep shit you’re talking. You called a lawyer, right? Doesn’t your brother work for some fancy people who know a fancy lawyer.”

I made a noise. “Don’t worry about Eric, he’s good at covering his ass.”

“We’re not talking about his ass, sweetie. That’s your ass up there on 11 Alive News at Ten.”

“I didn’t even know this girl!”

Rico snorted. “Like the APD care. They got prostitutes to push, drug cartels to run –“

“This is ridiculous.”

“So say all the suspects.”


“I’m for real! And don’t think for a second they’re not looking at that assload of weapons you inherited.”

I probably shouldn’t have included that passage. It’s a bit suspenseful and might make you want to read this book. So, let me assure you the book’s ending is awful. I didn’t see it coming. I hate surprises. I don’t care that Tina showed how it all worked. Yeah, it made perfect sense in retrospect. And the worst thing, (and this is a tiny spoiler…although I don’t know why I’m bothering to tell you that, because you aren’t going to read this book anyway) the murderer is not a psycho killer!!! Look, aside from real statistical evidence, isn’t every murderer a psycho? Tina doesn’t even include one of those creepy first person monologues in the murder’s voice, you know, like in EVERY mystery book. I just don’t understand how she got those starred reviews in Kirkus Review and Publishers Weekly for this piece of claptrap. They say it’s well-written, but I’ll let you judge for yourself by including the following crappy passage:

I remembered Piedmont Park from the previous summer, when Rico and I had watched Casablanca one midsummer night, blanket to blanket with the soccer mom/buff gay guy demographic, drinking moscato straight from the bottle. At that time, barely a month had passed since Mom’s death, and I remembered feeling like I was in an overturned fishbowl, separate from the rest of the city. Every sensual detail had been as rich and distinct as an oil painting – the hazy islands of candlelight around us, the smell of crushed grass, the latent heat.

See what I mean. And they say Tina teaches writing classes.

So, in conclusion, if you want a mystery that supposedly makes logical sense and is solved by “real” people, you might like this book. My twin sister, Susanna, thinks the book is amazing. She keeps going on about great characters, witty dialogue, awesome pacing, and smart plotting. But she's an "intellectual." For me, I prefer psycho werewolf paranormal shape shifting fairy killers that I can spot from the first page and cozy secondary characters that are comfortably predictable in their quirkiness.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Editorial: Are You Addicted to the Computer?

I’m just throwing this out there, because I wonder about it more all the time. Is the average adult addicted to the computer?

Answer these questions:

1. After waking up, possibly using the restroom and making coffee (if you have yet another addiction like me), do you go to your computer, PDA, tablet, etc., and check your e-mail?

2. Can you go all day without getting on a computer or other similar handheld device?

3. If something happens in your life, happy or sad, do you get not a dozen but hundreds of e-mails from unknown and never met people telling you they’re sorry/glad/elated/you rock?

4. Do you have multiple e-mail accounts with different names and passwords for different reason, switching back and forth between them on any given day?

5. If you go on vacation and forget to go no mail, do you come back to several thousand unanswered missives in your inbox?

6. If your computer goes on the fritz, do you panic, not knowing what to do and immediately call your computer company or the closest computer guru?

If you have answered yes to most or a majority of these, you, like I, are wondering about your mental stability. I have a way of rationalizing my disease in that for now I live alone and it’s company. Besides, I’m a writer, and all my contacts and valuable information is there. I do write most of the day, so it’s not interfering with my daily activities.

But when does too much computer and not enough life mean you have been taken captive by our mechanized age?

Here is the definition from Wikipedia, and yes, anything there needs to be questioned, but read it and consider. I’d love to hear your comments.

Computer addiction, a loosely used term with Internet Addiction, or Video game addiction, is the excessive or compulsive use of computers to the extent that it interferes with daily life. This disorder may affect the following: social interaction, mood, personality, work ethic, relationships, thought process. It may also cause social disorders or possibly sleep deprivation. It is important to note that as of now, psychologists are not sure how to label this disorder. Many refer to it as Internet Addiction Disorder; however, computer addiction originated long before internet use is as common as it is today. In addition, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has yet to recognize this exact disorder, and are more likely to include a more specific term of addiction, such as Internet Addiction, or Video game addiction.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Romey's Order review

Poetry, at its most basic, is about language. It’s about sound and picture and rhythm and feeling and transport. The sounds and rhythm of the language create pictures and feelings that transport readers to places and times good and bad, easy and difficult. Such feeling and transport is hard to find in much of the poetry being written and published today. Sometimes, readers are rewarded and it sneaks in from the most unexpected places. In Romey’s Order, Atsuro Riley uses ordinary words to take readers on a rollicking ride, full of twists and turns and darkness. His mastery of onomatopoeia, diction, and verb choice, though, make it one of the best rides around. Told from the point of view of a young, Southern, Asian-American boy just after Vietnam, Romey’s Order shows the reader the not-for-tourists lowcountry, full of hard lives and hard love.

Made-up words, strung together words, childhood words, these are the bits that make up the picture Riley creates. The childhood voice of the speaker leaps out in lines like: "There was a trestle that carried the train that trusted the trestle that bridged/ the river that cooled the fish that fed the boy that watched the trestle that/ slow-cankered and -rusted and fell" from “Polaroid.” The familiarity of the repetition is reminiscent of the children’s ditty about the hole in the bottom of the ocean, but that’s where the similarity stops. Romey’s Order thrusts the reader into a world filled with county fairs and cast iron skillets and muddy rivers, which may sound comforting and pastoral, but this world is as gritty as the Carolina mud, make no mistake about that.

These poems, with all their grit and hard consonants, want to be read out loud. They want to be shared across the room, across the car during a road trip. They call out to the reader to remember, rethink, rejoice in whatever life gives.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Reader Recommends

It's the writer's curse -- you don't get to read. It's professionally irresponsible and just plan bad manners to not read, but after a steady diet of words, the last thing you want to put into your head is a bunch more words. Plus there is also the horrid time crunch thing.

So instead of writing the usual "reader" recommendations this week, I decided to ask a for a non-reader slant on all things literary . I interviewed Cloud, our Maltese who just turned 4 on Monday, to see what the canine set was finding irresistibly entertaining. His vote: DVDs of the TV series Life starring Damian Lewis as Det. Charlie Crewes and Sarah Shahi as Det. Dani Reese. Here's what Cloud had to say:

"This show sets a higher bar for police procedurals than any other show around at the time. Smart, funny, and emotionally satisfying, Life delivered the goods with complex characterizations and plots that hit one-two punches so fast that if you blinked, you'd be lost. It didn't play stupid, ever, perfectly balancing each episode's murder-to-solve with the ongoing unraveling of Charlie's own mystery -- who really killed that family whose slaughter he was convicted of? And who framed him for the crime? Visually stunning, its L.A. setting was so bright that it looked like you could squeeze juice out of it. Lewis' and Shahi's performances totally rocked -- in a relationship totally devoid of sexual chemistry, these two managed to make real sparks from the deep bond of partners, which was a refreshing change from most shows where the cops spend more time wallowing in romantic tension than solving crimes. Only two seasons exist, which is a shame, because Life gave this wistful doggie some of television drama's finest hours."

There you have it, straight from the horse . . . I mean, puppy's mouth.  I agree with Cloud. Life totally rocked. Look for it on Netflix. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bobbye's Recommended Reads

Time for some mystery Southern-style. It goes down much smoother with our mojitos. First we go to the small town of Last Chance, South Carolina:
Welcome to Last Chance will be released by Hatchette Books on March 1, 2011

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Ramsay's delicious contemporary debut introduces the town of Last Chance, S.C., and its warmhearted inhabitants. Down to her last five bucks, beautiful runaway Wanda Jane Coblentz heads to the town watering hole and picks up local fiddler Clay Rhodes, figuring that a night at the local no-tell motel beats sleeping on a park bench. When Clay catches her going through his wallet, he dumps her purse out and discovers ID for somebody named Mary Smith. Talk about getting off on the wrong foot! Jane, aka Mary, reveals that she's on the run from a shady, possibly dangerous past. Despite her sketchy behavior, Clay falls in love with her, and soon he and his mother are scheming in fine style to give Jane a last chance of her own. Ramsay strikes an excellent balance between tension and humor as she spins a fine yarn. (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From there, we travel South to Atlanta to highlight a fellow Mojito sister's book. No, Tina didn't put me up to this.

The Dangerous Edge of Things is available now.

From Booklist
The week after Teresa Ann (Tai) Randolph moves from Savannah to Atlanta—to run a gun shop she and her brother, Eric, just inherited—she finds the body of a young woman, Eliza Compton, shot in a car across the street from Eric’s house. The exclusive and secretive corporate security firm Phoenix, for which industrial psychologist Eric consults, attempts to take Tai in hand, offering the protective services of Trey Seaver, a crackerjack agent whose brain trauma suffered in a car accident left him emotionally insensitive but with an uncanny ability to detect lying. But Tai will not be restrained; with both herself and Eric of interest to police, she’s in full investigative mode looking for Eliza’s murderer. The convoluted plot involves money (of course), politics, and some of Atlanta’s movers and shakers. Whittle’s debut novel, clearly intended to be the first in a series, boasts a feisty if somewhat foolhardy protagonist whose relationship with the intriguing Trey bodes well for further installments. An overcomplicated story gets in the way a bit, but this has all the makings of a promising series. --Michele Leber

Finally but certainly not last, we wind back up to eastern North Carolina:

Sin Creek is available now.

A gruesome murder leads Agent Hunter into wicked waters.

Some call Gator Creek “Sin Creek”—where the Cape Fear River snakes through eastern North Carolina, past the stunning port city of Wilmington. A sliver of water where wickedness and decadence take precedence over decency.
When SBI Agent Logan Hunter discovers a dead UNC-Wilmington coed used porn to pay tuition, she tracks down and questions other coeds. Far too many of them have been coerced into the raunchy business and have the scars to prove it. Hunter battles dens of iniquity, zeroing in on a brazen but somehow elusive ferry to find a deranged killer and bring down the porn operations, while trying to keep her marriage to Agent Chase Railey from falling apart.

Even though she succeeds in finding the killer, the investigation changes her life in ways she never could have imagined.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Making History

"Well-behaved women seldom make history." —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I have loved this quote since the first time I came across it, years ago, and I was interested to learn that Ulrich is a historian and was talking about the funerals of Puritan women when she first said it. It makes me wonder what people will say about us when we’re gone. We have all, at one time or another, thought about being famous or making history. It’s human nature, I think. But, what do we really mean by making history?

I would love for one of my poems, or many of them, to be in a widely used anthology, of course. I’d love to write a book of poetry that changes lives. Both of those things count, to some extent, as making history, but they aren’t likely to happen. So, what do I really want?

I want to be the woman whose descendants--and by that I mean the children of my nieces and nephews—and friends and friends’ children and children’s children tell stories about me long after I'm gone: How I caused trouble when it was the right thing to do, and sometimes because it was the most fun thing to do. How I stood up for what I believed and threw the best damn party around. How I refused to quit just because it was hard and was the most loyal friend ever. How I loved fiercely and threw fits that were talked about in three states. When I am gone, or when I am old, I want people to say, “I wish I had known her.”

That's the history I want to make.
What about y’all?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tina's Review of The Best American Mystery Stories 2010, Edited by Lee Child

Happy Valentine's Day! As I've been reminding everyone, nothing says love like a nice crime fiction novel -- or in this case, story collection. Because as everybody knows, Love and Death walk hand in hand through this world. The well-muscled human heart is capable of reddish deeds both glorious and horrific, that's for certain, and nowhere is that clearer than in these stories, edited this year by that master of the taut bone-edged tale, Lee Child.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Best American series of series (and there are several, including short fiction, crime fiction, nature writing, etc.) each year a series editor chooses the best fifty among that 365 days' worth of  offerings, and then a guest editor (usually an honored writer in that field) chooses the best twenty. Cream of the crop indeed. Which means that even though there's not a Lee Child story in the bunch this year, his fingerprints are all over the choices. And they are choice choices indeed, most of them containing, right at the middle, the beat-beat-beat of love. Or something like it.

One of my favorite of these stories is "Ed Luby's Key Club" by none other than Kurt Vonnegut, a dearly departed whose genius still shines, and shines sweetly, in this tale of murder, set-ups, mafia assassinations, and vengeance (which is cold indeed, unlike the rest of the story). It begins and ends with love, though, true love. Which is the best we can say for our lives, don't you think?

Dennis Lehane has a story inside entitled "Animal Rescue" -- this one begins with a puppy, but not love, not at all. And I confess, I almost didn't read it because of that vulnerable lost puppy, destined for nothing good, and I wasn't sure I trusted Lehane enough with my either heart or a puppy, especially not all tangled up together. So I read it real fast, ready to slam it shut at any second. But I made it to the end. And then I went back and read it again for the writing, for words like this: "Somewhere, he was sure, two people made love. A man and a woman. Entwined. Behind one of those shades, oranged with light, that looked down on the street. Bob could feel them in there, naked and blessed. And he stood out here in the cold with a near-dead dog staring back at him. The icy sidewalk glinted like new marble, and the wind was dark and gray as slush." And I read it again because Lehane didn't let me down, but he didn't take the easy way out. A story I will remember forever as a masterpiece in a minor key.

High recommended. Each story demands its own libation, so I'd just keep the bar open. A stiff shot (or two) of something strong before tackling "Dredge," a warmed brandy and a cigar before meeting once again with a finely-rendered Sherlock Holmes in "The Case of Colonel Warburton's Madness," and a margarita (not too sweet) with "Charlie and the Pirates."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Being an Author Person

So I just got back from the Snowpocalypse in Chicago. I was attending my first writer's conference as a genuine, book in hand, published novelist (see the evidence to the right there) . . . but really, the snow was more fascinating.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the conference very much. I met some talented new and new-to-me writers, and I had some genuinely fascinating conversations, mostly wine- or coffee-fueled, about books, and writing, and The State of The Industry (which has passed the critical stage and is now in some mutant zombie rebirth stage worthy of a Stephen King novel, complete with marauding pitchfork-wielding peasants and prophetic doomsayers).
That's a wordy way of saying, the times they are a'changing, folks.

Joe Konrath made $40,000 dollars last month selling his own e-books.  You can read all about it here. He stopped doing everything he didn't like about writing and publishing. His list includes interviews, travel, and helping everybody who asks for help. Mine would include synopses.

But that's the business of the business. It can catch you off guard, like a mugger. So what's a writer to do?

I know what works for me, what keeps me sitting at the desk, pulling words from the air and putting them on the page. It's my friends, the ones who laugh and cry and share their chocolate. The people who maintain their integrity, their heart, and their sense of humor no matter what the industry flings at them, or tries to snatch from them, or offers as a shiny bribe.

Like my fellow Mojito Literary Society members. You are all awesome. And if you're reading these words, you're totally awesome too. A friend of mine was eulogized as a "keeper of the word." And yes, these are my people. Those who savor, those who share, those who keep watch and keep faith.

Thanks for everything, y'all. A virtual toast to each and every of you.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bobbye's Review: Eden's Hell by Dawné Dominique

Okay, I’m not a vampire kind of gal. Yeah, I know I write paranormal romance and fantasy, but always had a hard time understanding how a man who sucked your blood was sexy. Until now. I really sank my teeth into this one. Enter Addison, the hero of Eden’s Hell. He comes on as smooth, but not too smooth, compassionate, yet edgy, and oh, so sexy. By the way, he only feeds on criminals and derelicts. Now that's a nice way to get them off the streets.

What about Eve? She’s the beguiling heroine who follows a rotten boyfriend to the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up claimed as the pet of a female blood-sucker. But not just any female blood-sucker (I’ve known my share of those), but a vampiress. Thank *God* for Addison who has more power than his ex-wife and saves Eve when she escapes.

What sucked me into this book is the very beginning where it mentions Adam and his first wife, Lillith, in God’s newly created Eden (uh, did I mention Addison’s last name is Eden?). Well, I’ll stick my neck out and try something if it has mythology, religious texts and legend, so I was all in.

What transpires is two people thrust together against an evil neither wants to be associated with and a passion both clamor for.

You won’t be disappointed in this tale that twists and radically turns when you least expect it, leaving you waiting for book two—which thankfully is out now.

I give it four-and-a-half mojitos.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What you should be reading....

If you're looking for some books to really sink your teeth into, try these recommended by my favorite ABD.

She will explain why:
I have no time for fun reading, but with the justification that they are "postcolionial" in nature, I reread Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North and J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians. Both are gripping and chilling in their depictions of the type of deprivation that happens to certain oppressed groups of people and how many people adjust to their roles within these systems - becoming victims or bullies - while others find the strength to rebel, even if just in quiet ways.
Even better, I am rereading Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. I understand (again) why he is so acclaimed: layers upon layers of allegory all wrapped up in an intense narrative with characters you care about, roller coaster twists, and a surprising sense of humor.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We’re not assholes

I have to tell you a little secret: When I’ve had one or two (or three or four) mojitos, I love everyone. I achieve a temporary state of enlightenment. However, by the next morning, I find the “writing” world has come like some cat in the night and left a dead rat on my doorstep. (Cats are so proud of their dead rats.) My shiny enlightened moment goes bye-bye, and I’m sucked into the nasty ego world of criticism, jealousy, insecurity and all that cycle of suffering stuff.

However, the Mojito Literary Society strives to keep that happy buzz going. We love you and understand you. We think your art and writing is fabulous. We invite you to our parties and sit on the kitchen floor with the bowls of tortilla chips and guacamole dip that we stole from the hors d’oeuvres table and listen with rapt attention as you talk about your book, your art, your craft. You are fascinating. We think you are our coolest friend. We sing your praises all over Goodreads and Amazon and the blogsphere. We will set upon your enemies like killer bunnies (sorry, had to throw in some Monty Python).

In other words, we’re not assholes.

"That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!... Look, that rabbit's got a vicious streak a mile wide! It's a killer!"

So sure, go off to other blogs which tell you what you need to be a better writer, artist, mother, father, friend, pet owner, etc. Blogs who criticize your work and other’s and spew their catty witticism like acid rain. We are not as smart as they. We are the Pooh Bears of the literary world. Here, at our thinking spot/blog with our jars of honey and glasses of mojitos, we love you and your work and want you to be happy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Rhetoric of Hate, a piece of angry editorializing from Tina

"The misuse of language induces evil in the soul."
 — Socrates

Mondays are usually devoted to Reader Recommendations. But this Monday, I have something else on my mind.

A friend of mine, Sonya Huber, wrote a fantastic book – Cover Me. It’s a memoir about her struggles and successes trying to provide health care for herself and her family. It’s really good too, which is why I wrote a review of it on Amazon saying as much.

This morning she saw another review, also posted as a response to my review. I will not quote from it because it is violent, twisted, misogynistic, and vile. If it had been sent directly to her, it would have been grounds for calling the police (this is not an exaggeration).  But because it is in a public forum, all of us can only stare at it and report it as abuse and hope that someone at Amazon takes it down, and quickly,

I’m sick about this, and very very angry. Public discourse has taken a turn toward the violent and unhinged. We debate whether events like the recent bloodbath in Arizona are a product of this kind of language. I think it’s time we stopped debating and realized that yes, it’s connected. Very much so.

Say something loud enough and long enough, and the edges between the printed page and flesh-and-blood reality get blurred. Rhetoric influences our actions whether we like it or not. Here in America, we tilt too strongly toward the primacy of the individual. We like to think of ourselves as a nation of do-it-yourselfers, hard-working citizens who pulled ourselves into whatever niche we occupy by our own smarts and sweat.

But America is a collective, and we all stew in its cultural juices. Now imagine paranoid minds like Jared Loughner‘s or the hate-spewing reviewer’s on Amazon — what juices does America provide for brains like this to absorb? What actions might result from this unholy recipe?

Our right to free speech does not protect recklessness. It does not protect dangerous inflammatory rhetoric. It does not protect cries of fire in a crowded theatre, and it NEVER HAS. If your words provoke a stampede, then responsibility for that stampede’s all on you, fellow citizen.

UPDATE: After an outpouring of reports identifying the review as abusive and inappropriate, Amazon removed the offending post. Many thanks to everyone who took the time to step on this nastiness.

(A longer version of this post can be found in my Local Views column in the Statesboro version of The 11th Hour, soon to be available online).

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's 5 o'clock Somewhere

Ladies and gents,

I'm having a virtual cocktail party over at my blog! Come join! There are plenty of virtual drinks and yummy appetizers.  Let's dish about your week! Read any good books? See any great movies? Win the lottery?! The sky is the limit and the drinks don't have any calories.  What's not to like?

Come join!  Click here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bobbye's Recommended Reads

Broken Wings By Lora Leigh

Though Ms. Leigh is known for erotica, this one is not an erotica novel. My friend and occasional co-writer Linda Campbell recommends this one. She says it is a multi-layered fantasy/sci fi. According to Linda, although this novel stands on its own, her only regret was that Ms. Leigh made her name and career in another genre before she ever wrote book two of this series.

Here is the book blurb from Cerridwen Press, the publisher:
He is the king of a winged race steeped in honor and tradition. His blood runs fierce and pure with his Eagle Clan heritage. She is the general of a clan that should not exist. Her blood is diluted, tainted by that of the reviled Vulture breed. Now Dearn and Matte will come together, each fighting for the existence of their people and peace between them. But first, they must defeat not just the Vultures, but also the demented dreams of a human king and the merciless vengeance of Cinder, the demonic god he follows.

Snowfires By Caroline Clemmons

Take a stubborn woman and a determined man, each plagued with self-doubt and past issues but strongly attracted to each other, throw together on a trip to Dallas, stranded in a blizzard and mix well, in bed, until they turn into molten lava. These two keep the heat up when the heat doesn't work and make you keep turning the pages to see how they'll rectify their differences and save a corporation.

I enjoyed this book. This is Ms. Clemmons' forst foray into indie publishng. She really got down the cold windy conditions of the northern panhandle in winter. Her sex scenes aren't bad either!!
Available at Smashwords:

Books By Terry Campbell

I would be remiss to not take the opportunity to let folks know my backlist is now up on Kindle. All short screwball romantic comedies, look for these three books under my pseudonym, Terry Campbell.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Between the Sheets--Katrina's review of the 2010 McDowell book

Last summer, as I was perusing the new book section at my local public library, I came across a book in non-fiction whose spine declared it was Between the Sheets. I was intrigued enough to pull it from the shelf and read its entire title: Between the Sheets: The Literary Liaisons of Nine 20th-Century Women Writers by Lesley McDowell. Though I had no time to read it that week, or even that month, I added the title to my Must Read list. It’s my first read of 2011, and I couldn’t have chosen better.
Though the writing is sometimes choppy, McDowell’s argument is flawless. She brings a new perspective to the motivation and consequences of liaisons that have long been seen as only detrimental to the women involved in them. She dares to suggest that these nine women: Katherine Mansfield, H.D., Rebecca West, Jean Rhys, Anaïs Nin, Simone de Beauvoir, Martha Gellhorn, Elizabeth Stuart, and Sylvia Plath are not the victims scholars and biographers have painted them to be these many years. She even goes so far as to posit that they knowingly entered into these relationships, aware of the almost certain consequences in order to further their own writing in a time when women were still not being taken seriously as authors without an established male author to recommend them. Her research is thorough and extensive. She offers alternate explanations along the way, as well. She has no qualms about disagreeing with the standing interpretation of anything related to these women. If you are interested at all in 20th Century literature, you should read this book. If you are feminist, or care about feminism, you should read this book. If you enjoy a well-written, for the most part, engaging argument, read this book.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Revising our Lives

In business, there is a principle known as 5s. Those S’s stand for sort, set to order, shine, standardize, and sustain. The longer I know about them, the more I am inclined to incorporate in them into all parts of my life. Not only are they about getting rid of things we don’t need in business, or in our closets, but they can also be about getting rid of things we don’t need in our lives or our writing.
More and more, I want to have only people in my life who are good for me and things that help with the positive forward motion I so need. I have begun to sort the good for me people from the not so good for me, and I am purging the latter. The older I get, the less willing I am to spend time, effort, or energy on people who do not have my best interest at heart. The good Southern girl in me wanted to balk at this idea, initially, but then I realized that what Southerners do the very best is authentic hospitality and friendliness. Yes, we will bless your heart all day long before we’ll say something outwardly rude, and we might even invite you to our parties out of a sense of obligation instead of true desire. But, both of those instances can be written off to manners, good raising, I think. They aren’t actually about friendliness. Sorting not worth it to me people out of my life leaves me much more time to enjoy the people I love and who love me. It helps me focus my energies on being a better friend and a better person, which helps set my soul to order, which makes me smile. We’d all rather I were smiling.
Since the 5s’s are really about revision, it occurred to me that I could apply them to my writing as well. Again, I can do without people who want to just criticize to tear me down. I can send them to the recycling bin as easily as that empty Ben and Jerry’s pint container from last night. Maybe someone else can remake them into something more useful. I can also separate my words from myself, realizing that a just because I’ve written a beautiful sentence, it doesn’t have to be the sentence for that paragraph or poem or paper. I can sort it away, too. I can standardize my writing practice, bring more discipline to it. Once I see it begin to shine, I know I will be able to sustain it. After all, I love shiny things.
So, readers dear, what do you need to revise? How can the 5s’s help you?