Monday, September 22, 2014

Banned Books Week

Well, this is pathetic. I was so pleased with myself because Banned Books Week is here and I'm a big fan of banned books. But this pile of innocents is all I could find on my shelves. We still have boxes in the garage so there's hope for me yet.

You can google Banned Books and find list after list of them. It's shocking, I tell you! However, I'm coming clean. Even though I don't dare keep them on my shelves, I have read many of the books on this list:

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I am the only person who doesn't like this book. I just read it again, and I don't care about anyone in it.

2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
I am the only person who hasn't read this book. I want to.

3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
I've read this. I'm sure I have. Or I saw the movie.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
I just read this for the first time! I wish I could do that again. To read a book like this for the first time is like floating down a river and enjoying the scenery while a wise and powerful guide does the rowing.

5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
I read this when it first came out. Loved it. Saw the movie and loved it, too.

6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
Nobody has read this book. Everyone says they have. My father might have read it. He had a well-worn copy.

7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Loved it.

8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
This one kind of freaked me out.

9. 1984, by George Orwell
This was already quaint when I read it in high school. At least I thought so at the time.

11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
Now we're seeing the first one on the list that perhaps should be kept out of the hands of children and pedophiles. If you don't fit into either of these categories, I suggest you sit back and let Nabokov row your boat.

12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
What a gorgeous book. The play, when done well, is a thing of heartbreaking beauty. The last time I saw it was at Deaf West Theater and they were brilliant.

15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
I'm putting this on my list with Catcher in the Rye. Haven't read it. Want to.

etc.

16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
38. All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
40. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
45. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
48. Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
53. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
55. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
57. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
64. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
66. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
73. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
80. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
84. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
88. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
97. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

You see I could go on. I'm sure you could, too. Do you have favorites here? Are there books you'd like to ban? Should certain books be banned or not? Why or why not?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Boz, One Year Gone


I've been thinking of today as a milestone, the day I'd stop grieving for Boz. I'm incorrect about this, of course. You don't just hit the one year mark and say, "OK! Done! Whew!"

In some ways I don't want to stop missing Boz. I'd feel guilty. Call me silly. And guilt is only part of it. I don't think I'm going to stop missing him no matter what.

Boz's all-time favorite thing was to run in water. It even beat treats and belly rubs. We took him to Hahamongna several times a week and he'd run up and down in the rivulets, biting the water and getting as muddy as he could.

The times we took him to the beach were just as joyous--more so for him, because the ocean stinks more than fresh run-off from mountain rain.

Boz wasn't always old.

We thought of walking at Hahamongna today and sprinkling some of Boz's ashes in the water to commemorate his time with us. But it's too hot to be outdoors, and anyway, there's no water there now. Maybe we'll take his ashes there in the spring. Only a little bit of them. Neither of us can part with the whole batch, the whole dog.

I don't know if we'll ever be able to let Wilma off her leash to run in the water. Wilma would love it and so would I; there's nothing like seeing a domestic animal running free. But her safety comes first.

John and I are dog people. We love dogs, love to be around them. I was eager to adopt Wilma and she's wonderful. But Boz will always be my sweetie. I wonder if all pet people are this way. Are you? You love them all, but there's that one, that special one, who will always be your love.

**********

Remember, the Pasadena Humane Society's Wiggle Waggle Walk is September 28th. You can sign up to walk or donate money at the PHS site, or do the same with my friend Paula Johnson's Rose City Sisters team (a.k.a. pack).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Wilma's First Three Months

Today marks 3 months since Wilma came to live with us. Together, we've:

graduated from the Reactive Rover class at the Pasadena Humane Society
 where we acquired evasion tactics for avoiding malicious fluff-dogs;
learned to walk politely on the leash (mostly);
not killed any squirrels;
and
begun to sort of ignore cats.

I don't know if Wilma will ever feel safe with other dogs or if she'll ever gain self-control around the squirrel concept. But isn't it amazing that a dog can learn self-control at all? She's come a long way.

In the house Wilma is more able to focus, and we're learning each others' language. Except see that blue toy in the picture? She ate it. We knew she had done so when one evening we were sipping our non-alcoholic beer by candlelight, and Wilma was gnawing away at her blue toy, and we were feeling all domestic and rosy. And we looked over and the toy had disappeared. Speaking of self-control.

The adjustments you must make to a new family member are real. Wilma requires more attention and training than Boz did because she's Wilma. Boz was an exceptionally easy dog because he was Boz. It's unfair to compare them, though difficult not to.

I was relieved when Wilma upchucked that little pile of blue cloth a couple of days ago. I imagine she was, too.


**********

Remember, the Pasadena Humane Society's Wiggle Waggle Walk is September 28th. You can sign up to walk or donate money at the PHS site, or do the same with my friend Paula Johnson's Rose City Sisters team (a.k.a. pack).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wiggle Waggle Walk

photo by John Sandel

Every year, the Pasadena Humane Society's Wiggle Waggle Walk unites families and dogs to raise funds in support of dogs that don't have families. There will be a fashion show and a look-alike contest.

I don't much resemble Wilma except in lounging posture, and neither of us is ready to be in such a big crowd. However, you can see by the photo above that Wilma wags in support of this cause. What you can't see is how her whole body wiggles when she wags. I've started wiggling and wagging right back at her. I think she gets it.

My friend Paula Johnson is heading up the Rose City Sisters team (a.k.a. pack) for the Walk. Here's what Paula says about the event:

I am thrilled to help support the animals at the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA by participating in the 16th Annual Wiggle Waggle Walk on Sunday, September 28, 2014 in Brookside Park in Pasadena. Your donation will help provide nourishing food, safe shelter and medical care to over 12,000 animals this year! Your contribution will also help fund the low cost spay/neuter program, the adoption program, wildlife services, humane education programs and more. Help the animals by making a gift today.

If you're looking for a team, you can join Paula's. If you can't make it on the 28th you can still donate money via her team, or anyone else's.

We have always had shelter dogs. They require dedication, just like any relationship, and like any relationship, the dedication is worth it. I suggest you don't make physical resemblance to you a requirement when adopting, but there's something for everyone.

Here are some photos from the 2013 Wiggle Waggle Walk. And check out this video, made by a favorite local celebrity in 2012.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Rain

Well, that was nice. For some of us.

A certain person named Wilma charged bravely out the back door to secure the perimeter against rain-crazed squirrels. Then she came in and crashed from the stress, curling up in her bed and moaning with disgust. Either that or she was snoring.

It's a good day to curl up, preferably with a book, but for some people that's not an option.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Poetry in a Train Station Bar

 
Ann Erdman asked me to follow up on Selfies, an event I attended September 3rd at Union Station's Traxx Bar

The best thing about it: we met some bright, smart people. The worst thing about it: a bar is not a great venue for literary readings. Some slob near us kept ignoring the readers and chatting away in full voice. A man at the bar took a phone call, with obvious concern that the person at the other end wouldn't hear him unless he shouted. (This was a fine moment, as poet Neil McCarthy took the microphone and wandered over to the bar, making the man's phone call even more difficult while the man was none the wiser. Catch Neil in a reading if you can. He is one hell of a poet, and his speaking was worth the whole evening.)

So, it had its moments. We authors were our own small but enthusiastic audience.

Just now I looked at Ann's blog to get her link. She posts a listing of all the great free things to do in Pasadena every week. (You should follow her blog.) The first thing on this week's list is a program at the library through October 9th called Dust, Drought and Dreams Gone By. It's about the Dust Bowl disaster of the 1930's.

You would think this would remind me of the drought we're having in California, but it reminded me more of my father.


He was born in 1916. In 1932 at the age of 16, he was the teacher at the local one-room schoolhouse, Fargo Dist. No 1. Everybody was poor where he came from in western Kansas.

As a boy he endured the Great Depression. As a young man he found work as a cowboy during those Dust Bowl years. In his late twenties he went off to World War II. It doesn't seem like he ever got to live for himself. He was always working for his family, or his country, or his kids. But he never talked to me of hardships.

He was a poet and a drinker, and he certainly would have appreciated a fine Irish poet holding forth in a drinking establishment. Maybe he worked so hard so I could enjoy such things for him.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Selfies

I have your instructions:

Hop on the train this Wednesday evening, September 3 at around 7 or 7:30 depending on where you're coming from. You can get on just about anywhere in the LA area, and your train will take you to Union Station. Join us there at 8pm at Traxx Bar for SELFIES, a showcase of self-published LA authors. Find out what the self-publishing craze is all about.

Or you can just ask me, but can you trust me?

This free event is put on by Writ Large Press and DTLAB as part of their #90for90 series. That's 90 days of writing events
every
single
evening
for 90 days straight.

Just #2for2 would exhaust me. These people are amazing.

I read an essay from Act As If for one of their events about ten days ago. This time I'll be reading from the pages of Camelot & Vine.

I guess that means I'll be #2for2 by the time it's over, which means Thursday, I'll be exhausted.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Boz Books Biz

This just in: I'll be reading from "Camelot & Vine" Wednesday, September 3rd at 8pm in Selfies, a showcase of self-published LA authors, at Traxx bar in Union Station. This is a fun, casual venue and it's easy to get there. Everyone will read a few minutes of their work. Come find out why best-selling authors are leaving their publishers to hop on the self-publishing bandwagon.
**********

Did I ever tell you that Boz Books is an actual publishing company? Yup. The company pays taxes and everything. And it's about to publish its second book.

Woohoo!


Act As If: Stumbling Through Hollywood With Headshot in Hand will be out very soon. I learned from experience with Camelot & Vine not to give an exact date until it's absolutely certain. But soon. I hope to have a coming out party this time so watch this space, you'll be invited.

There's also news for Camelot & Vine. It's now part of both the Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited programs, as well as Amazon's Matchbook program where you buy the paperback and get the ebook for 99 cents.


Kindle Unlimited is Amazon's subscription service for readers in the U.S. If you're a member you pay a monthly fee to read as many books as you want from a huge (ebook) library.

Not in the U.S.? Camelot & Vine is also part of the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL) available to Amazon Prime customers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Japan.
All you have to do is go to my links, or go to your account, and join.

Borrow, read, love, let me know...


**********
photo: The Mystery & Imagination Bookstore in Glendale, CA

Monday, August 25, 2014

Los Angeles Archives, III

In my previous post about the Los Angeles City Archives, I described an "organized room" and a "disorganized room." But that's not accurate. The organized room looks meticulous and tidy, yet it holds vast mysteries. And the disorganized room you see here, the vault, is very much in order in many ways. Yet there's work to be done.

Archivist Michael Holland cannot shelve, check and itemize every day. There are documents to be delivered, boxes to be retrieved, city officials to be informed. The job is immense.

I'd love to give Michael a staff to go through it all. But there's something beautiful about these old books as they are. In a way, I hope there will always be mysteries in the archives.

Then again, organization has its beauties, too.

**********

You can visit the Los Angeles Archives, too. (You even can see some records online.) If you want a tour, just call for an appointment. If you want to see a specific document, you need to call ahead for that, too, so the document can be found and retrieved for you.

Michael can often be heard on KPCC's Off Ramp with John Rabe, Saturdays 12-1pm and Sundays 6-7pm. Thanks to Anne Louise Bannon for setting up the tour and coming with me.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Los Angeles Archives, II

In my previous post I showed you an impressive room at the Los Angeles Archives. I think of that room as "The Organized Room." It's awesome in the true sense of the word.
Perhaps even more awesome is "The Disorganized Room." This one's a vault. Many of the files are ancient by California standards, some are of more recent memory. Some are in need of repair, some just need to be organized. There are photos, paintings, memorabilia and documents. Michael Holland, the Los Angeles Archivist who gave me a tour, has a big job on his hands. So did the Archivist before him. So will the Archivist to come after. There is so much here it will never be finished. "I'm in danger of learning something new every day that I come to work," said Michael.


Before 1877, all court documents were written in Spanish, by hand. This document is from 1850.

After 1877, legal documents began to be written in, or translated into, English.

 
I offered to take this old library shelving cart off the City's hands if it was taking up too much space. My offer was not accepted.

See that red tank behind the cart? It contains halon gas, a fire retardant used in spaces where a sprinkler system would do too much damage. If there should be a fire, the halon gas comes down from above and suppresses the oxygen in the room to keep the documents from catching fire. If that ever happens, the tanks would not be refilled with halon in the future because halon is now outlawed. LA still has it because it's never been deployed.

If you're working in the depths of the vault, you have 30 seconds to get out before there's no oxygen left. I couldn't forget that the whole time I was there.

More to come. I have a few more pictures to show you from the vault.

**********

You can visit the Los Angeles Archives, too. (You even can see some records online.) If you want a tour, just call for an appointment. If you want to see a specific document, you need to call ahead for that, too, so the document can be found and retrieved for you.

Michael can often be heard on KPCC's Off Ramp with John Rabe, Saturdays 12-1pm and Sundays 6-7pm. Thanks to Anne Louise Bannon for setting up the tour and coming with me.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Los Angeles Archives, I

In another life, a dream life, I was an archivist. I worked among the dusty files, cataloged and notated maps, learned to preserve the oldest books. I researched the answers to obscure questions. I found letters that had been lost and forgotten, and brought them back to life. I was a curator of the arcane.

This is the life of Los Angeles Archivist Michael Holland, who gave me a tour of the City Archives the other day. First, he showed me this room:

 

Neither words nor photographs can do justice to this space. I gasped quite a bit before pulling myself together to photograph Michael in the presence of 290,000 boxes of files. The shelves on the left securely hold box after box, from floor to ceiling. The shelves on the right are a vestige of those that were used before the Northridge Earthquake of 1994. To say the least, the quake showed the necessity for change.

The contents of boxes are known by the department that generated them, and not necessarily by Michael and his staff. Each box can be located by a bar code.


I love looking down this dark hallway of shelves. A mystery could happen there. An electric current runs through the line on the floor to guide the fork lifts. And a fork lift can raise a person to the highest shelves.

Michael told me many stories. My favorite: through a complicated bureaucratic process, some files become obsolete and are eventually slated for destruction. It's a cycle. Since the Northridge quake, some of those that were set to be destroyed remain undiscovered. They're still in the archives, possibly mis-marked or not marked at all. An intern is working to find them. A quarter of a million boxes is, after all, a lot to go through, and our Archivist does what he can with a small budget. Other things are of more immediate concern.

This is the original deed to Griffith Park. The original.

You can visit the Los Angeles Archives, too. (You even can see some records online.) If you want a tour, just call for an appointment. If you want to see a specific document, you need to call ahead for that, too, so the document can be found and retrieved for you.

Michael can often be heard on KPCC's Off Ramp with John Rabe, Saturdays 12-1pm and Sundays 6-7pm. Thanks to Anne Louise Bannon for setting up the tour and coming with me. There's another room and I took a lot of pictures so there'll be more in a few days.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reactive Rover

photo by Jamie Rosier

Wilma had not been with us long before we knew she'd need help adjusting. She's lovely in the house; obedient, eager to learn, knows her sit and stay, never poos or pees indoors and only barfs if she gets too excited. (We try to keep things calm.) One of my friends even called her a "perfect hostess," and it's true. Wilma will love you as long as you're not a squirrel.

Outside, Wilma she still likes people but as far as John and I can tell, she was never socialized with dogs. She's afraid. Her fear sometimes looks like whining, pulling on the leash or prancing from side to side. Or it can look like growling and some nasty barking of the "I will kill you if you come over here" variety.

The Pasadena Humane Society has all kinds of classes. We got Wilma into their Reactive Rover class as soon as we could. There the head of training, Roberta MacPherson, and her associate, Jamie Rosier, taught our family the essentials of daily walks, avoiding stress and fights, and how to make it all fun for Wilma. (Hint: it has a lot to do with hot dog bits.)

Last Thursday, to the stirring strains of Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, Wilma graduated. As we all know, graduation doesn't mean you've learned everything. It means you're stepping out into the world, equipped with the tools you need to continue learning.


If you know of a big, wide, fenced in space where we can let Wilma run free a few times a week, we'd love to hear about it. Girlfriend needs to use up some energy.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Housekeeping


Have you noticed? My blog is now my website—my Online HQ. I've been working on it to the detriment of my other responsibilities. Except Wilma. Wilma keeps me to a standard.

You can now type PetreaBurchard.com, CamelotAndVine.com, BozBooks.net or LivingVicuriously.net into the url field. They'll all bring you here.

Then there are the nifty tabs. See, up top, beneath the title and subtitle? Click a tab, any tab. Let me know what you think.

The process has taught me a lot about patience. And Googling. But Blogger is pretty easy. So far I'm pleased with the results but I'm not finished tweaking.

This is all in preparation for the release of Act As If, my new book, coming out this month. My next task is to get the book online and ready to go. Then I can give the dust bunnies all the attention they deserve.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Pledge of Independents

photo by John Sandel

Lately there's been a good deal of backlash against Amazon.com. The company's been called a "bully" for holding a hard line against giant publishing companies to keep ebook prices low. Probably for other things, too, I don't know. Let's face it. Amazon is BIG.

But this is a Goliath vs. Goliath fight. New York publishing companies are monumental and impenetrable, unless you're Janet Evanovich or Stephen King or another household name.

The publishing industry is pretty scared of Amazon, and you hear a lot of "if we let 'em get away with it, they'll own the industry" kind of stuff. I don't know if that's true, but so far Amazon hasn't "gotten away with" anything illegal. In fact, it was the publishing companies who got their hands slapped by a judge for price fixing and collusion.

Now, thanks to the Abbey Bookshop in Paris, there's a Pledge of Independents, to "recruit readers, writers and bookshops worldwide in the defense of diversity and fair practices in the book trade." 

"As a bookseller wanting to take the Pledge, you promise to not buy or sell any books through Amazon or its affiliates. Moreover, you are expected to give costumers (sic) that have taken the Pledge a 5 % discount..."

As a customer, "You can take the pledge if you believe in supporting independent bookshops and if you agree that most of your books should come from independent bookshops - and that no business that is dominating the market should get your support." 

This disturbs me.

I don't defend Amazon, they can take care of themselves. I defend the independent author/publisher like myself, and small publishers who publish only a few titles per year. Local independent bookstores don't always carry our books. My locals have been supportive, and I appreciate it. But most readers are not aware that it costs me actual money to shelve my book in many stores, and more actual money to get a reading/signing.

There's good reason for this. Everybody and his brother can publish a book right now. This, by the way, is thanks to Amazon's CreateSpace and other reputable self-publishing sites like Lulu and Blurb, as well as hybrid publishers like SheWrites Press and Lucky Bat Books.

But small publishers are not on the same playing field as the big New York guys.

In the old days (like, 5 years ago), if you didn't have famous parents or if some junior gatekeeper in publishing didn't think your book would sell, you didn't have a chance of getting published. (This explains conventionally published, grammar-free semi-porn, as well as the "literary fiction" that's really just tales told in a dull voice and a bad mood.)

Today, if you're willing to work hard to write, publish and sell your book, you can. If you're online. If you're on Amazon.

But you can't get your book into most stores, independent or not. It doesn't matter how well-reviewed your book is. I can't walk into stores around the world and pay them to stock my titles. I can't afford the travel and stocking fees. Even if I could, most stores would refuse because they don't have the space to stock everything.

If I can't sell my book online, I can't sell it.

I suggest you support your local store when you can. If you are in the Pasadena area, you can buy Camelot & Vine at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Hoopla! in Altadena, and the Pasadena Museum of History gift shop (it'll be back at Vroman's soon).

If you don't live in Pasadena, please buy my book from the bully.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Guest Author: Bonnie Schroeder

Bonnie Schroeder and I became friends when we were in the same writers group. This wasn't the kind of group that read and critiqued each others' work. We met to share our progress and our process. Here's Bonnie, to share what happens next:



SPEAKING OUT...IN PUBLIC

When my novel, Mending Dreams, was published, I realized I would be expected to go out into the world and talk about the book.

Oh, the horror!

I once read that people fear public speaking more than death. We'd rather die than give a speech in public.

One of the first things I did, and the smartest, was to join a Toastmasters club that focuses on writers. What a find! These people can make public speaking fun. Seriously.

My first chance to put those new skills to work came when Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse offered to host my book launch. I joined their Brown Bag Book Club years ago, but I never anticipated that my book would be on their radar!

So, how do you do a book launch, especially when you don't have the resources of a big publishing house? You do it with a lot of help, a lot of luck, and a visit to Costco.

My cousin Marilyn is a former event planner, and she jumped into this project and recruited her daughter-in-law Morgan to help. They advised me on the refreshment menu (simple things that guests could easily manage: cheese, crackers, white wine—so spills don't show up on the carpet—and of course plenty of water). The night of the launch, they set up the refreshment table and served up the food so I could be free to mingle and enjoy.

My pal Jayne is an accomplished photographer, and she signed on to photo-document the launch. The end result: a treasure trove of photos to savor—and to post on social media.

I promoted the launch shamelessly, handing out flyers everywhere. I posted it on my website, Facebook and Goodreads. I invited everyone I know: friends and family, members of my Tai Chi class and my dog club, my neighbors. I sent press releases to local newspapers, emphasizing the "local author" angle.

Then I drove myself nuts practicing my "speech," and finding just the right piece of the novel to read, then timing it all. I started to stress out, until this thought occurred: the people coming would be friends, even if I didn't know them. They'd be folks who like to read and would know or want to know about me and my book.

The launch itself was a crazy collision of all my different worlds, and I had the best time ever! I put my inner control freak on hold and looked out at all my friends in the audience. Then I took a deep breath and started talking about why I wrote the book, the challenges I overcame, my writing process.

I heard laughter and applause at the right places, and you know what? It was so much fun that I'm working like crazy to get another book published so I can do it all over again.

Bonnie signs my copy of Mending Dreams.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Guest Author: Désirée Zamorano



Désirée Zamorano has been a guest author here before. Her new novel is just out, and it may be something you haven't read before. Here's Des:

 Bringing The Amado Women to Life

When I cast about to commit at least two years of my life to my next uncertain project, there were a few of things I was sure about. I wanted to explore the lives of women, because our lives are multifaceted and filled with conflicting demands. I wanted to write about the women I knew, admired and loved: loyal, intelligent, funny. Married or single, mothers or not, loving and spiteful, petty and generous. Women as human beings in all our complexity.

The Pasadena/LA setting was automatic. Southern California is filled with ethnic and income diversity, conflict, beautiful settings and fascinating characters. Some of us hide behind gated communities, some of us go exploring. It happens to be where I live and what I enjoy knowing.

I also knew the complexion of my cast.

That’s where things get dicey, because as I looked around to pitch my completed novel, to potential agents, to potential publishers, there were plenty of marvelous family dramas by women, by gifted authors like Elizabeth Berg, Jodi Picoult, Ann Patchett or Ann Tyler, but none by Latinas, and none featuring a cast of aspirational or middle-class Mexican-Americans. I had done what Karen Joy Fowler had done with The Jane Austen Book Club, which was written a novel the author wanted to read. But would I be its only audience?

With each rejection I got more nervous. Even though Mexican Americans are California’s largest demographic, and the fastest growing across the nation, even though many of us have been here since before statehood, the lock on our portrayals in the media is fierce and limiting. I’ve seen so many hot mamacitas and inarticulate maids that when one shows up I change the channel or shut the book. The Amado Women could not be squeezed into either of these depictions.

I held my breath, crossed my fingers and made a phone call pitch to Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso. They wanted to see it. They ultimately published it. Hallelujah!

Now, many years since its inception, The Amado Women is out in public for total strangers to read. Like all authors, I’ve had my share of glowing reviews and not so glowing. What I did not anticipate was how many men would be moved by this novel. One of them wrote to me and said, “You’re the only person I’m going to tell, but I wanted to let you know that I burst into tears.” Never would this writer’s imagination have expected that. You see, I, too, have some preconceptions of who people are.


You can meet Désirée at one of her upcoming events

Wednesday, July 30 • 7 pm
Launch Party
Vroman’s Bookstore

Pasadena, CA

​Sunday, August 10 • 2pm
The Bluebird Reading Series​​
Avenue 50 Studio
131 N. Avenue 50
Highland Park, CA

Thursday, August 14 • 7 pm
Books Inc Opera Plaza
San Francisco, CA

Or find out more about her here. You can also follow here on Twitter @LaDeziree 

To read my review of The Amado Women, click on the cover icon to the right of this post.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wilma Acts As If

Act As If: Stumbling Though Hollywood With Headshot in Hand is my book of essays about the life of a journeyman actor in Hollywood, a life I lived for twenty years. It's not easy work, but it's hilarious if you bring your attitude.

The book comes out in August. In celebration, Wilma shows us how to Act As If

Here's Wilma with John, acting as if she's dangerous.

Here's Wilma with her bunny, acting as if she's a big time squirrel hunter. (I'm sorry, Bunny.)

Here's Wilma, acting like she owns everything in the house. She doesn't.
(Photo by John Sandel. Raised bowls thanks to Bellis.)

Here's Wilma with John again, acting like—actually, she's not acting here. She's being herself.

I discuss these techniques and more in Act As If, and I give each topic all the gravitas or hilarity (or both) it deserves. Wilma is a very good actor.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Harvest

There will be several more tomatoes and a few more onions. Maybe garlic, maybe not. Maybe lettuce, maybe not. This is the extent of the potato harvest, and let me tell you, it was a joy to dig this stuff out of the dirt.

I've found out this summer that deep down in my soil soul, I'm not a gardener. I had hoped I was. I love the idea of free food, and to just walk out to the back yard and grab a salad is all the excitement I need. But the weeding, the watering, and the planning ahead all defeated me this time around.

In case you're not from southern California, it's hot and dry here. For your own safety, and to make your water go as far as possible, you need to avoid the day's heat. Some people get out and pull weeds before going to work. They water the garden when they get home. People are dedicated to their gardens. I admire that, and I love the sharing when people plant more than they can eat.

(Hint to my neighbors: I've been watering the clementine tree. Remember that when you're wondering what to do with that extra tomato!)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Digital Book Day


(Update 7/13/14: Camelot & Vine is currently #1 on the Kindle free Women's Historical fiction list!)

Digital Book Day is a response to failure. No. Wait. It's a phoenix, rising from the ashes. Either way, I get to participate in what's sure to be a success.

For the last three years, World Book Night has given millions of free books to readers all over the world. Volunteers hand out donated books everywhere. These are not cast-offs that the second-hand stores can't sell. These are new books by best-selling authors, donated by authors and publishers.

Or I should say they were, because World Book Night is not going to happen this year due to lack of funding.

Enter bestselling thriller author C.J. Lyons to save the day! Digital Book Day, that is. Lyons is organizing it, and Camelot & Vine is a part! On Monday, July 14th just go to the Digital Book Day link and search for Camelot & Vine, or your favorite author (how could that not be me?), or just browse. Then download your free copy of anything listed there.

Oh--and, you lucky dawg, you get a bonus because you read my blog. Nobody knows this but you: Camelot & Vine is already free through July 14th at Smashwords, where you can download it free in any electronic format including Kindle. So you can have C&V now, and any book on the Digital Book Day site on July 14th (Bastille Day! Alléluia!)



Saturday, July 5, 2014

See


Well, hello there. I haven't seen you in a while.

I have excuses reasons. I'm working on the final production for Act As If: Stumbling through Hollywood with Headshot in Hand, my new book of essays about my experiences in Hollywood. I'm writing another novel. I'm making website changes. John and I are training Wilma, who is willing but has the attention span of a dog.

And I'm seeing differently.

When I started taking pictures, I began to see like a photographer. I saw the shape of the photo in my mind, with levels and shades, thirds and quadrants. I learned to frame the picture in the camera instead of in software. It became almost automatic. And every day, I couldn't wait to share my photos with you here.

Now I rarely see a photo like I once did. I wonder if this is the photographer's equivalent of writer's block, yet I don't believe in writer's block. When I feel a block, I keep writing. It's the same as grocery store worker's block. When you feel it, you still go to work.

I haven't been taking as many photos lately, and if I would just get out there with the camera I'd begin to see photos again. But right now, I'm doing other things and I can't wait to share them with you when they're finished.