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.