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01 Jun Hello, June

What have you seen and heard? What has been tucked away inside you?And look, there’s summer, right behind you. One of my summer projects (in addition to my wonderful new book that I’m madly in love with but don’t really want to talk about too much yet for fear of jinxing it) is refurbishing some beautiful old pieces of family furniture I’ve had in storage for years and years. I’m starting with this chest—four large drawers and then two small drawers on top. It dates back to about 1910, and as you can see, it has actual shelves inside for each drawer to rest on. Solid mahogany. Weighs a ton, as the Broadcasting Legend™ and our neighbor the Proud Father of Twins™ can attest, after wrestling it out of the storage unit, onto the truck, off the truck, and into our front foyer. My first step is to take out all the drawers and give it a good scrubbing with Murphy’s Oil Soap.

What has it seen, in the century or so of its life? What stories could it tell? I dream as I work on it. What was folded away in its drawers? One element of my new book is an object (not really a piece of furniture, but definitely a personal object) that passes through various hands and affects each person, on its way to its moment of destiny on the world stage, and then back to obscurity. What could be more intriguing? (Oh, and it has Nostradamus, too.)

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27 May Happiness = Dependable Clicks

I have a new “wireless desktop”—which sounds very futuristic but actually means only that I have a new keyboard and mouse to replace my old keyboard and mouse. The mouse had developed random click-itis—when I clicked, I could never be sure if I would get no clicks, one click, two clicks, or unknown multiple clicks. Drove me crazy. Took it apart, blew it out with canned air, replaced the batteries—alas, no improvement. And I had worn the letters off my keyboard anyway. Does anyone else do that? I’ve worn the letters off every keyboard I’ve ever used.

Anyway. Here I am with a beautiful new wireless desktop. When I click once I get one click. And I had a ten-dollar discount card to sweeten the deal. Life is good.

I know, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Heh.

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24 May Treat Please?

Treat please, Mama?

Who can resist beagle eyes? This is Boudin, looking up at me with all his beagle power as I look down at him with the camera. Did he get a treat afterward? What do you think? Heh.

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21 May Salt and Silver by Anna Katherine

Salt and Silver by Anna Katherine is way out of my usual reading comfort zone. On the other hand, it’s got a quirky, complex heroine named Allie; a laconic and swashbuckling (in 21st-century leather-duster terms, at least) hero named Ryan; and an Inanna-esque storyline of a woman’s descent into a multi-leveled underworld. Add in a rainy afternoon and a big bowl of popcorn, and who could ask for more?

I don’t often read urban fantasy. Am I the only person in America not intrigued by vampires, angels and demons? Apparently so. But in Salt and Silver Anna Katherine makes the most of it, placing precise and gritty details of contemporary New York side-by-side with blood, monsters and magic as if it’s the most natural combination in the world.

What I liked best was the mythology, the bits of folklore about demons and vampires (Salt and Silver has some very unusual vampires), werewolves and hollow-tree women, door-hounds and lamia; I also loved the details from the magics and underworlds of different cultures and societies throughout history. I am an absolute sucker for that sort of thing. It’s hard to tell what’s real (well, not real, but you know what I mean) and what the author made up, as my mother would say, out of the whole cloth. It’s seamless.

The cover blurb calls it a “fun and sexy romp,” but I’m not sure I’d characterize it quite that lightly. There’s humor, yes, and there’s sex, but romping? Not so much. Allie goes to hell and back and never loses her love for Ryan or her penchant for wisecracks, and in the end the world ends. Or as she says: “Some world, anyway.”

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18 May Reporter for a Day

I’ve mentioned the delightful Shrinking Violets blog before, and of course their May celebration of independent booksellers. Last week I put on my field-reporter’s hat and made a trip to my own favorite independent bookstore, The Book Carriage in Roanoke, Texas. The resulting story and pictures are featured on the Shrinking Violets site today.

Everybody go take a look! Leave a comment! Link one of Shrinking Violets’ indie profiles to your blog, and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a $100.00 gift certificate to Indie Bound.

In between taking pictures, sipping lattè and chatting with Angie Granados at The Book Carriage, I took a moment to order Anna Katherine‘s Salt and Silver. A huge change of pace from The Séance, and lots of fun. More comments to come later in the week!

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11 May The Séance by John Harwood

I just finished The Séance by John Harwood, and what a deliciously eldritch gothic tale it is. As a reader one must have a little patience through the first few chapters, but it all turns out to be important in the end and there are rewards to come. Constance Langton, orphaned and dependent on a single feckless uncle, unexpectedly inherits Wraxford Hall, a derelict manor house by the Sussex coast with—would you ever doubt it?—a dark history. A dark history entangled with Constance’s own past. Or is it her past? Told in multiple viewpoints and narratives, The Séance is like a crumbling scrapbook of mysterious apparitions, betrayal, blackmail and horror.

With a dreamlike photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron (see the post below on the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood) on its cover and the stuff of nightmares inside, The Séance brings late-Victorian England to effortless and mesmerizing life. One of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

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06 May We Love Independent Booksellers

Drop in over at the Shrinking Violet Promotions blog (“Marketing for Introverts”—who could help but love them?) and join the celebration of the SVP Third Annual Independent Bookseller’s Month. Spread the news and enter SVP’s raffle for a $100 Indie Bound gift certificate.

First up in SVP’s series of indie profiles: The Book Loft in Solvang, California, profiled by middle-grade novelist Sherrie Peterson.

Independent booksellers tirelessly hand-sell books and provide uniquely personal customer service. Go out and hug your local independent bookseller today! Well, maybe it would be better to just buy a book. Or three.

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03 May The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

My beloved Pre-Raphs are usually referred to as “The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood,” even though there were women peripherally associated with the group—the poet Christina Rossetti; the model, poet and artist Elizabeth Siddal; the model Jane Morris, the artist Marie Spartali Stillman; the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron come to mind. Here, however, is a way-cool website that turns the whole concept around:

The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

…and focuses primarily on the women involved in, and inspired by, the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The site is full of tidbits (a “Lady of Shalott” film!) and dozens and dozens of gorgeous images. I often call myself a Post-Pre-Raphaelite, and this site is definitely going on my must-read list. When I “see” scenes from my writing, I almost always see them as intricately detailed, color-saturated, intensely romantic Pre-Raph-style images.

I suppose you could say (as Alec Baldwin does in those funny Hulu commercials) it’s just the way I roll.

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02 May The Stars of May

The fickle Flower Moon of May, with all her starry suitorsThe Flower Moon of May 2009 will have lots of starry (and planet-y) companions. On the evenings of the third and fourth, look for Saturn close to the Moon. On the sixth, the bright star close to the Moon at nightfall is Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, representing the sheaf of wheat in the virgin’s hand. (“Spica” means “ear of grain” in Latin.)

On the tenth, the Moon moves from virgins to scorpions—it will rise together with Antares, the vibrant reddish brightest star in the constellation Scorpio. On the sixteenth and seventeenth, on the other hand, the Moon will team with Jupiter, which looks like a bright yellow-white star.

And as if the Moon hasn’t been fickle enough so far, on the twentieth and twenty-first it will line up with Venus and Mars first thing in the mornings. Venus is the morning star this month and so bright you can’t miss it. Mars is fainter and redder. Look for it just below the Moon on the morning of the twenty-first.

On the twenty-ninth, Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo, is just to the upper right of the Moon. If you want to amaze your friends with your astronomical knowledge, explain that what we see as the star Regulus is actually a system of four stars, the blue-white Regulus A and its white-dwarf companion, plus another pair, Regulus B and Regulus C.

In addition to being called the Flower Moon—April showers having theoretically brought May flowers—the full Moon of May also called the Milk Moon and the Corn Planting Moon. Look for it on the ninth.

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01 May Support Your Local Indie!

Indie Bound!Today is Buy Indie Day, and if you want to play, go out and buy a book—or two or three—at an independent bookstore near you. If you can’t make it today, well, according to the delightful Shrinking Violets, the whole month of May is Independent Booksellers Month. So you’ve got plenty of time. Write it on your calendar.

I have a couple of nearby independent bookstores I like to browse. One is Legacy Books in Plano, kind of the mother ship of independent bookstores, where one can easily spend the day and never notice the time passing. Another is The Book Carriage in Roanoke, which has a cozier vibe, a lot of local events going on, art by local artists displayed for sale, and fabulous espresso. Not quite a book store per se but still a member of the ABA and a breathtaking place to visit: the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. There is a book store in the museum, and I am presently lusting after Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, the magnificent catalogue of the exhibition of the same name, presently mounted at the Kimbell.

More later this week on The Book Carriage, and more later this month from Art and Love in Renaissance Italy. Stay tuned!