State of Self’s Novel-in-Progress

Self spent most of this year working on a novel about an 18th century priest who gets sent to a Philippine island to fight demons. It’s at 185 pages and she was extremely discouraged yesterday, thinking she probably had twice that many pages to write before she really knew what it was she wanted to say.

Then she went into one of her bookmarked food blogs, Kahakai Kitchen. And there is a review there of a novel called Water on the Moon, which is 244 pages. Hmmm, self thought: 244 pages seems do-able, at least it does to self. It would mean she only has to get 60 more pages in, and then she can review what her manuscript feels like.

Here’s the synopsis of Water on the Moon (Publisher: She Writes Press):

When her husband comes out as gay and an airplane crash inexplicably destroys her home, the mother of teenage twin daughters must rethink everything she knows.

In her debut novel, Water on the Moon, Jean P. Moore introduces readers to Lidia Raven, whose life begins taking seemingly endless wrong turns. Lidia and her girls miraculously survive the plane crash that destroys their home and are taken in by Lidia’s friend Polly, a neighbor with a robust collection of first-edition books who lives alone on a sprawling estate.

Struggling to cope with each of these life-changing events, Lidia discovers a connection between herself and Tina Calderara, the pilot who crashed into their home. In the months that follow, Lidia plunges into a mystery that upends every aspect of her life.

Dun Dun Dun! Sounds pretty interesting!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Good Review: Steven G. Kellman (San Francisco Chronicle) on Paul Theroux’s DEEP SOUTH

Self loves Theroux’s absolute adherence to his crankiness, and his courage. His youthful curiosity is still very much alive and present in him.

She remembers a scene in Dark Star where he has to ride in a jeep with various native Africans and they regard him with contempt because why would a man his age still be doing stupid things like taking the most uncomfortable way to get between Point A and Point B, riding with people who have no clue who he is and therefore focus on his age as a point of ridicule. To make things worse, Theroux himself is having the same kind of thoughts: Why is he sitting in this jeep/van with these rude people? Why? But then he goes on to put the scene in a book. That’s what makes him one of self’s favorite travel writers.

An excerpt from the Steven G. Kellman review in the Chronicle:

Theroux spends a year and a half meandering along the backroads of Dixie, primarily the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. He does not venture into either Florida or Texas, and Virginia is merely a stretch to traverse on his way south from his home in Cape Cod (Now self feels like embarking on a pilgrimage to Cape Cod). Theroux has no interest in the “New South,” the prosperous metropolises of Atlanta, Charlotte and Nashville that draw bankers and tourists. Instead, he deliberately seeks out the most neglected and squalid pockets of the region: the Lowcountry of South Carolina, the Black Belt of Alabama, the Mississippi Delta and the Ozarks of Arkansas, finding that its inhabitants, the “submerged twenty percent” are poor in their way — and less able to manage and more hopeless than many people I had traveled among in distressed part of Africa and Asia.

He is a travel writer after self’s own heart, one of the best.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Why Does Self Love This? Really Love This?

When you do for other people (Fran’s daddy said once upon a time when he was drunk, before he got religion) things that they could do for themselves, but they pay you to do it instead, you both will get used to it.

Sometimes they don’t even pay you, and that’s charity. At first, charity isn’t comfortable, but it gets so it is. After some while, maybe you start to feel wrong when you ain’t doing for them, just one more thing, and always one more thing after that.

— Kelly Link’s short story “Summer People” (from Get In Trouble: Stories)

“Summer People” : Story # 1 of Kelly Link’s GET IN TROUBLE: STORIES

Daddy in story wakes up his daughter (Sick in bed with the flu, she has self-medicated by taking four NyQuil the night before) by spraying her in the face with a plant mister. The girl notices her father’s packed a suitcase. By way of explanation, he says:

“I’ll be gone some time. A week or three.”

“Where you off to?” the daughter asks.

“Prayer meeting in Miami. Found it on the Internet.”

The daughter tells her Daddy, “I know you need to stay here and look after me. You’re my Daddy.”


The Daddy leaves, the daughter gets herself breakfast (“a spoon of peanut butter and dry cereal”), goes to school, where she dozes “through three classes, including calculus” and experiences a moment of high anxiety when a teacher sends her to the infirmary. Luckily, she is saved by running into an acquaintance named Ophelia Merck, who drives a Lexus.

Ophelia is “pretty, shy, spoiled, and easy to boss around.”

Naturally, painful hilarity ensues.

Dear blog readers, can you believe self heard Kelly Link read this story in a former church? Just last week in Cork, Ireland?

And when self went up to get Ms. Link’s autograph, the ensuing conversation included what it’s like to eat kosher?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of The Day: Kelly Link’s Story “The Summer People” (Which Link Read at the Cork International Short Story Festival)

Self’s idol! Ever since self read her story “Stone Animals” in Best American Short Stories (2005?)

When self found out that Kelly Link was reading at the Cork International Short Story Festival, she became immensely excited and determined. So off she went to the Triskel Art Centre, and did she ever make the right choice or what? Never mind that it was cold, that she’d just had a humongous dinner, and she just wanted to veg out in her room. No, self! Get your shit together!

Even though self swore, swore she would not buy a single book (Her arms are so sore from lifting: she’s taken at least 4 trains in eight days), she did buy Kelly’s just-published Get In Trouble: Stories (blurbed by none other than Sarah Waters, who calls it, quote unquote, A brilliant, giddying read.). Kelly wrote this on self’s copy:

For Marianne: Here are some terrible ideas. Love, K D Link.


When, after the reading, self went up with the book of Kelly’s short stories encased within her trembling hands (The use of hyperbole would not be completely unwarranted in this situation), Kelly was speaking to a very enthusiastic Irish lad. Self waited patiently.

Then, before signing self’s book, Kelly asked for self’s name.

Self demurred, saying, Oh you’ve never heard of me.


Finally, Kelly managed to worm it out of self. Whereupon Kelly said, with great sincerity, “I think I’ve heard of you.”

In response to which self said, “No you’ve never heard of me. I’m so small press, I’m not even.”


Anyhoo, here’s an excerpt from “The Summer People,” the first story in Kelly Link’s collection:

  • Fran had the flu, except it was more like the flu had Fran. In consequence of this, she’d laid out of school for three days in a row. The previous night, she’d taken four NyQuil caplets and gone to sleep on the couch while a man on the TV threw knives.

Unf. Self just loves the unexpectedness of the last sentence.

Plan for tonight: meeting up with playwright Barbara Guilfoyle. Going to hear Jaime Nanci Barron sing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Bane Chronicles: “Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale”

Self is so very into The Infernal Devices (as dear blog readers well know, from all her posts through the summer, leading up to her trip to London).

There are three books in The Infernal Devices trilogy, and self tore through all three while she was in Banff (Thanks much, Niece Karina!).

When she was in Banff, she saw stacks of the just publishedy The Bane Chronicles in the bookstores. The book is a collection of short stories about some of the characters in this universe, and there are three authors. Which means, not every story is by Cassandra Clare (Jury’s still out on this; Clare is a really good writer. But the stories she’s read are somewhat uneven)

Nevertheless, self read two of the stories in between trips, when she dropped by Kepler’s in Menlo Park. In Dublin, she hung out in a bookstore for a few hours and read more of the stories (She was trying hard not to add to her luggage, which is so ridiculously crammed with books, all the time)

But now, the friend she is staying with has a teen-ager who happens to own a copy of The Bane Chronicles. And now she can quote because she has the actual book in front of her!

Self must confess, she never bothered to read all the stories in the collection, just the ones that concern her favorite Shadowhunter family: the Herondales!

Which brings us to the first paragraph of the story “Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale,” which is co-authored by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan. And here’s the opening:

London, 1857

Ever since the unfortunate events of the French Revolution, Magnus had nursed a slight prejudice against vampires. The undead were always killing one’s servants and endangering one pet’s monkey. The vampire clan in Paris was still sending Magnus rude messages about their small misunderstanding. Vampires bore a grudge longer than any technically living creatures, and whenever they were in a bad temper, they expressed themselves through murder. Magnus generally washed his companions to be somewhat less — no pun intended — bloodthirsty.


Edmund is the father of her all-time favorite character in The Infernal Devices: of course, that’s Will Herondale. Do you even need to ask.

Self was in London in June when Cassandra Clare announced that it was the anniversary of Will Herondale’s passing and it was almost too much, the torrent of feelz she unleashed with that announcement. (Self wanted to ask Ms. Clare why it is necessary to remind readers that Will Herondale is dead, dead, deader than a doorpost. Aaaargh!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Juked: “First Life” (Multiple Choice)

Drinker says, Negative outcomes. (How did Big ever make it to Academy? Slow as slow)

Sunlight and glass, prisms and mirrors. My mind is floating out there, beyond the windows. Out there, where swish swish swish goes something, maybe the wind.

Drinker says, That’s the problem, right there. Hello? Dragon? Hey, Dragon?

Am so happy to have “First Life” in Juked this month (also self’s birthday month, Woot Hoot!).

Went live while self was in Ireland, hey good one.

Also love the tag: “multiple choice.”

It’s very amusing to go through all the pieces on the Juked website and try to figure out why they’re tagged the way they are. There’s a slyness involved in tagging. The best ones are brilliant.

Self got her novel-in-progress to a good 140 pages. She cut about 20 pages in the last week, so what’s left is pretty solid.

Bless for picking “First Life” as their Story of the Week and for tweeting about it:

Self loves that the post on “First Life” is tagged Uncategorizable — BWAH. HA. HA. HAAAAA — and that there’s a sentence “love the names, by the way.”

Dear blog readers have no idea — NO IDEA — how hard it was for self to come up with those names, and here self will list them for you for your elucidation:

Dragon. Her. Big. Drinker. Lizard.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Books Self Is Interested After Perusing The Guardian’s Summer “Text on the Beach” Issue, 23 July 2015

Self used to do this. A LOT. Post about books she was interested in reading after picking up a copy of The New York Times Book Review (which she used to subscribe to. Until last year), The New York Review of Books (which she also used to subscribe to), The New Yorker (which she still subscribes to, but hasn’t read in six months) and The Economist (which she no longer subscribes to)

Anyhoo, after that very lengthy introduction, here is self with The Guardian’s Summer Reading issue, and after going through the whole thing, self has culled just three books. She must be in some kind of slump?

Here are her three:

  • Grey, by E. L. James — What what what? Self actually read the first two pages in Hodges Figgis in Dublin. And what do you know, she liked it! But The Guardian review is so silly. “Come again, if you insist . . . ” Self still wants to read it.
  • My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante — “The first part of the Neapolitan trilogy in which almost nothing happens.” (OK, these reviews are one-note and boring. Sorry, Jim Crace, Reviewer. Self will read in spite of)
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins — Let self dispense with the utterly dispensable: i.e., the review. And let’s just say, if this novel is indeed a riff on Gone, Girl, she likes. So “Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl On the Train” is a barrel of laughs.

Just for that, self is popping over to the London Review of Bookstore (Hey, last AWP Book Fair, in Minneapolis, she actually saw a table for the London Review of Books! She’s not sure if they’ve been coming every year, but this year was the first time she noticed them)

Side Note:  Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is in every bookstore window, all over Dublin and London. So happy for her. Promise to read the book, at least five years from now.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Journey of Emigrant Women/ Csilla Tolday and Fil Campbell

Self visited Rostrevor because Csilla Toldy was performing in the Fiddlers Green Festival.

Csilla, a poet from Hungary, and Fil Campbell, a songwriter who grew up in Belleck, on the Donegal border, were telling stories.

Csilla came through the “green border” at 18.

Fil grew up during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The two women came together, decided to tell their stories as layered narrative: Csilla’s poetry and short prose, Fil’s memoir and her folk songs. The result was a book, The Emigrant Women’s Tale (Lapwing Publications, Belfast, 2015) that comes with a CD.

Yesterday’s performance: What. An. Event. Self can’t even.

And it happened in Rostrevor.

The two women are amazing.

Rostrevor is amazing.

Also, and self didn’t know this before: C. S. Lewis was born in Belfast; Northern Ireland was his spiritual home.

In Rostrevor there is a trail called The Narnia Trail.


Start of The Narnia Trail, Rostrevor, Northern Ireland

Start of The Narnia Trail, Rostrevor, Northern Ireland

How can one resist?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Live on Self’s “First Life”

The classroom of the future, according to self:

The first corollary: what is average is perfect.

Today I’m thick or something because thoughts are dark as dark.

I can hear Big arguing. He sits on Her’s other side. He’s telling Drinker, the formlessness. That’s what I mean.

Story’s live now on

Self does love these formless, voice-driven, futuristic imaginings that come more and more often since Ireland.

Maybe not such a surprise, for someone who adores Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker.

Stay tuned.

« Older entries


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,205 other followers