Christmas

xmaspic

When icicles hang on the wall, etc.

Christmas is here, a time of year when I feel inexplicably content and happy much of the time. As I’ve gotten older Christmas has become less about “getting stuff” and feasting, and more about memories. Somehow it all adds up so that Christmas is a satisfying time even if the joys are very modest and small. My most vivid memories of Christmas as a child are of the tree brought home each year by my stepfather and set in a battered red pail, which my mother filled with rocks to hold it up…then beautifully decorated it. And her banana bread, which she baked every Christmas morning and which we ate while we opened our presents.

I’m linking to an article by Garrison Keillor which is just lovely, and speaks to his memories of his own mother and her love of Christmas, even though her mother died when she was seven and she had no memories of her. Keillor’s grandmother died young of scarlet fever in the early 1920s, and so did my great-grandmother, around the same time, leaving two young children. As Keillor writes, “What you do for children is never wasted: this Christmas will live on and nourish them long after you have faded away.”

I’m grateful that my mother passed her love of Christmas on to us. That was the best gift she could have given.

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The Downhill Slide: Two Literary Biographies

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin
Manderley Forever: A Biography of Daphne du Maurier by Tatiana de Rosnay

Literary biography can be such a depressing genre, although I read it, I realize, to feel vicariously alive, to really immerse myself in a writer’s life. With a female writer, there is usually an extra piece of identification there.

However, a truthful biography of an artist’s life inevitably encompasses both the joyful and the sad, disturbing parts. Not just that, for every “triumphant” episode or period, there is usually a long “slide” towards the end of the life which can be difficult to read. In Blake Bailey’s biography of Richard Yates, for example, he is unflinching about the way Yates slowly destroyed himself through alcohol, undercutting all his past achievements.

A recent biography of Shirley Jackson and an upcoming book about Daphne du Maurier show interesting resonances between the lives of two women who never met and perhaps were unaware of each other’s existence.

Shirley Jackson bioRuth Franklin’s 2016 biography of Jackson has been lauded as being a sympathetic feminist portrait of the California girl turned Vermont writer. Born in 1916, Jackson came from a family on her mother’s side not of artists, but of wealthy architects in Gold Rush San Francisco. Her father, Lewis, was an oddity, though, an Englishman who remained secretive about his origins. He worked for a printing company, so the family moved east to Rochester, NY, in the early 1930s for his work. Jackson was a tomboy who became a chubby and insecure young woman. Franklin perceptively shows her trying on different “alter egos” in her diary entries as a teenager, and the early chapters of the book are very good, depicting Shirley’s struggles to fit in with the other girls in her freshman year. Poignantly, she was often ostracized, and was even viewed as a lesbian at the University of Rochester due to her intense friendship with a butch-looking French student. While this experience was clearly formative, Jackson turned inward, and for the rest of her life she remained an extremely private person. Continually heckled by her socialite mother about her weight and lifestyle, her lack of trust in other women comes through in her work.

While Franklin does an excellent job throughout the book of showing Jackson at work and exploring her writing career, which took off rather rapidly, the woman herself is veiled and suppressed. Married to her college boyfriend, Stanley Edgar Hyman, the couple hid away in a huge house in North Bennington, Vermont, after a brief period in New York that seems to have been quite happy for them. Although her parents unsurprisingly opposed the marriage to this Brooklyn Jew, Jackson wistfully hoped that they would be “mad bohemians” together. She took on motherhood with the same sort of “well, hell!” attitude, and her two books about her life in Vermont with her children have charmed many readers. She was clearly a good mother who didn’t pass her on problems to her kids, or expect them to become her sounding boards, but the emotional distance between Jackson and her family always seems quite acute. I finished the book thinking that her children probably never understood her—and indeed, she died so young, of a heart attack at 48, that it was unfair to expect them to. Jackson and Hyman were progressive parents, but Franklin makes clear that Jackson’s attitude towards her husband, a professor at Bennington, grew into one of great resentment and disappointment, even rage. She was the breadwinner and he professed sincere admiration for her work. But he continually romanced other women and seems to have expected Jackson to understand his need to do so, even rubbed her nose in it.

The image that I come away with after reading “A Rather Haunted Life” is of a trapped woman in the 1950s, her books celebrated and selling well, eating and drinking and smoking to excess for comfort, taking the heavy barbiturates her doctor prescribed, and drowning in fear. Yet despite her clinical anxiety, Jackson managed to push herself to go and speak at writers’ conferences. People in her own social group accepted her, and she could be a warm hostess. But there is no way not to see her as a tragic figure, especially as her husband married a 22-year-old ex-student of his a year after her death. I was particularly keen to see if that second wife, Phoebe Pettingell, had shared any insights with Franklin, and felt disappointed that there weren’t any. I wanted to know what kind of husband Stanley Hyman was in this second marriage, and whether he expressed to his wife any regrets about the way he’d treated Shirley. But we aren’t told. And I think this biography, well written as it is, doesn’t dig deeply enough into the traumas surrounding Jackson. Hyman is left an ambiguous figure: a bad husband, but not an evil one. There is enough material presented to even question whether he was that bad a husband, given the way most men behaved toward their wives in the 1950s.

All in all, not a happy tale, but Jackson’s work has passed the test of time and I’m curious to read her classics such as The Haunting of Hill House and The Bird’s Nest.

Manderley ForeverFrom wistful hopes to a woman with an iron will. Tatiana de Rosnay’s life of Daphne du Maurier, Manderley Forever (forthcoming April 2017, on Kindle preorder), is an astonishing read. It’s written in the present tense, and it wraps a stylistic spell around the admittedly dashing figure of du Maurier, born in 1907, who grew from a shy girl, the apple of her actor father Gerald’s eye (but not her mother’s!), to a vibrant “bright young thing” of the 1920s, enjoying a lesbian affair with her headmistress and the first fumblings of heterosexual passion in London with Carol Reed, later the director of The Third Man.

The book is translated from the French by Sam Taylor and there are occasional clunkers: a disappointment in Daphne’s life is labeled “a downer,” for example. But for the most part, de Rosnay’s style worms inside Daphne, allowing us to feel deep empathy and understanding. To the outside world, Daphne du Maurier was rather tough and cynical, an early success as a writer who invested an enormous amount of her energy into renovating an ancient house in Cornwall called Menabilly, which became the passion of her life. After a few flings, she married a soldier in the mid-1930s who became decorated during the Second World War, and so she was Lady Browning in her later years. Like Jackson, she had several children, a large house, and a husband from whom she grew apart.

But what a difference there was between the two! In this household, Daphne wore the pants and made most of the decisions. Oddly enough, I never realized till I finished the book that she and her sisters never went to college. They were educated by a governess and Daphne had one year of finishing school in France (where she seduced her headmistress, Fernande). Yet she doesn’t seem to have ever felt much intellectual inferiority. She spoke French fluently and was quite at home in the raffish world of the theatre. Her literary journey seems odd, then, as she got little encouragement from her family to be a writer. But she just did what she wanted to do.

It all started with a house in the Cornish countryside. Her parents bought a home called Ferryside in Fowey in 1927 and Daphne eagerly embraced it as a writing retreat. De Rosnay describes what it was like for Daphne to spend time alone there, aged 20:

The real miracle, though, is that Daphne has been given the green light by her parents to stay at Ferryside alone for a month, after the others leave on May 14. She still can’t quite believe this. Did they give in to her pleas out of weakness? Have they simply accepted her obsession with Fowey? Whatever the reason, it is a demonstration of trust. A woman from the village will come and cook for her and clean the house, but apart from this nice, honest Mrs. Coombs and Biggins the gardener, Daphne will be alone for the first time in her life. The car leaves, with Muriel, Angela, Tod, and Viola inside and the heavy wooden door closes. Daphne jumps for joy, stroking the rough walls at the back of the living room, formed by the cliff face, caressing their cool crevices, singing at the top of her voice, and going outside through the room on the second floor, which has a door that opens on to the garden. She gambols in the grass, turning her face up to the May sun, and thinks how wonderful life is. She turned twenty yesterday and she is alone in her favorite place in all the world. This is the best birthday present her parents could have possibly given her: this freedom, here and now.

Before she does anything else, she must master her new kingdom, get to know every nook and cranny of it. Daphne wakes early to the sound of seagulls and ship horns, eats a quick breakfast, puts on her sea boots and a pair of pants (she can’t stand skirts, which she considers impractical) and a blue-and-white-striped sweater, not forgetting the cap pulled down over her short hair. She looks like a sailor, and this pleases her. She walks, stick in hand, up the slope behind the house, turns right after the ruins of the St. John chapel, climbs the path toward Pont Pill, the peaceful estuary of the River Fowey that winds through the greenness of the ferns. A sign warns that the area is private, but she pays no heed and walks through the copses, intoxicated by the smell of damp earth, crossing through St. Wyllow and heading for Polruan. The sunlight filters through the dense foliage, a stream babbles close by, and behind a bush she discovers a shady, sparkling pond. She passes old quarries, disused lime kilns, barley silos, piles of coal. Down below, on the layers of mud that dry when the tide is low, she spots the framework of a schooner, with a figurehead still fastened to its hull. Fascinated, she rushes down the slope to take a closer look at the remains of this abandoned ship and reads the name still visible on its side; Jane Slade. What was this ship’s story? Where did it go? How dashing it must have been with this black-haired woman on its bow, her face lifted up in a smile, a bouquet of flowers held to her chest.

The prose is so mesmerizing here that only later did I wonder whether these details were coming out of Daphne’s diary. How could the author have so vividly reconstructed them? But de Rosnay, herself a novelist, did visit her subject’s haunts in Cornwall, London, and France, too.

Du Maurier went on to write her first novel, The Loving Spirit, about the Jane Slade character and her descendents. After her marriage, she wrote Rebecca, which became a massive hit. During the war, she had an affair with a farmer with whom she and her children stayed. Much later, she reconnected with a famous actress her father had worked with, Gertrude Lawrence, and the two had a brief affair while Daphne visited her in Florida, an escapade de Rosnay evokes rather vividly. Then came Lawrence’s sudden death, and Daphne was shattered. She embodied an active, positive spirit all her life (as seen in the excerpts above) and yet was constantly haunted by the past. Gertrude had reminded her of her father, whose charm and need for admiration (what we would now call narcissism) had overshadowed her youth.

So, Du Maurier gives up her freedom when she marries and has children, or does she?

“Gone is the time when Daphne could just dash off to France and spend a week with Ferdie in Paris or shut herself away in Ferryside. She no longer has any freedom in her daily life, but she preserves it in her head,” de Rosnay writes perceptively. Indeed, she continued to publish a book every year or two.

Du Maurier’s later years of marriage were difficult as well. Her husband returned from the war a broken man, and finally cracked up in the late 1960s. There were revelations he had been unfaithful. His health collapsed after an operation to amputate his leg. De Rosnay movingly describes his last moments, when Daphne’s blue eyes are the last thing he sees.

Even after that, I kept thinking as I read how lucky Daphne du Maurier was. Surely she would preserve this active, independent spirit right up to the end of her life. Surely she would have a happy old age.

But no… after she was forced to leave Menabilly, the grand house she had lived in for 25 years but never owned, her own health failed rather markedly. She spent most of her seventies as a frail old lady, taking Mogadon, a barbiturate, to sleep (I shuddered), no longer able to write. “Something seems to have died inside her,” de Rosnay writes. “That flame that made her life, that urge which drove her on, it is gone. Forever.”

It is a harrowing portrait of old age. “No matter how rigid the ‘routes’ that structure her days, Daphne is losing her taste for life. if this is what life is, she’s had enough of it. No more appetite, no more urges, no more desire. No more books either.”

She lived to be 81, but had stopped eating the last few months of her life. She basically starved to death.

Daphne du Maurier’s oldest daughter, Tessa, has said that her mother would have loved this biography, just as Shirley Jackson’s daughter Sarah Hyman DeWitt wrote that Ruth Franklin’s book “tells the truth without appearing to push any agenda or prove anything.” These generous statements are important. A daughter is supposed to carry a key to a mother’s life, to understand all the emotional undercurrents in the way a son can’t, quite.

So in the end I don’t feel so sorry for Shirley Jackson, carried off in the middle of her life. Those last ten or so years of du Maurier’s life, as described, seem dreadful. A nightmare. And yet, perhaps this is what the powerful person must always face. Power wanes, control must be given up… it’s a messy business.

These were two women from wealthy, oppressive families who achieved literary fame. Daphne du Maurier funneled her darkness into her books without analyzing it much, yet hated to be called a writer of gothic romances; Shirley Jackson’s work is polished and perfect, while her life was anything but. It amuses me that du Maurier is now published by Virago Press in England. I knew nothing at all about her when I read her as a teenager in the early 1980s, most probably getting her books out of the library near my home in Dublin, where they had been available for many years… The odd thing is that she was still alive then.

I’m glad both of these complex 20th-century writers have been granted literary posterity and (as sometimes happens) greater respect as time goes on.

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A Hell of a Year

2016 has been a hell of a year.

981246_10153834874322579_3497125513906326270_oIt feels too soon to do a retrospective, but it’s been the kind of year where I uploaded a picture of a Facebook friend’s beautiful young dog running through some snowy woods in the New Year as my desktop image, and by the end of this year, that young dog had died suddenly, riddled with cancer. I still look at his face disbelievingly sometimes. My friend was able to capture a very intent, serious look on her dog’s face, and I sometimes wonder if he was already in pain when she took the image.

–I just saw today that a longtime friend lost his father…from reading his blog.

–I got back into contact with an old friend from a long time ago. It seemed life was going very well for her from her website, but she told me in a Facebook message that she has stage IV lung cancer. And a friend of hers, a writer just a few years older than I am, died suddenly at the end of last year. She was very close to him, so the brutal news of his death was followed shortly by her own diagnosis.

–David Bowie’s death was hard.

–The Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, which stole 36 lives, mostly young and creative, was particularly tragic.

A lot of these deaths are coming to us as pixels on a screen rather than someone telling us over the phone or face to face. It gives the whole thing a rather odd quality.

Everything is distanced, it seems. We connect briefly over the bad news, but the very technology that allows us to connect diffuses the sharpness of the pain.

I have had my own “up close and personal” brush with a parent’s death, and there is only so many times you can do that. We all have to do it at one time or another. That is the kind of grieving that carries an immense cost.

***

The election was another unnerving, blindsiding kind of moment. Everything is still in flux, but the lines are clearer now: we’re moving towards an immensely corrupt oligarchy in the US. Now we learn officially—from the CIA!—that Russia hacked the election to help Trump. Grief and rage and fear are mingled as we draw closer to this trainwreck in motion. December 19 is going to be interesting, folks. That’s when the Electoral College meets to officially ratify the election. It’s just over a week away…

Each day feels as if it’s about 50 hours long now, what with all the twists and turns and new revelations coming at us.

I have been thinking about how I am going to keep my sanity, and my conclusion is that the healthiest thing to do is to cycle in and out of outrage and a kind of fatalism, to keep informed but to not get completely caught up in the madness of events.

My fantasy, and hope, is that there are many, many people working to defeat Trump, many different groups and forces, and even as he becomes president, these forces will work to defuse him and ultimately destroy him. And even his, or the Republican party’s, worst acts will probably have unintended consequences. Because I think that’s always the way.

I keep thinking of Richard Nixon. I was too young to understand anything about his administration while it was going on, though I did technically live under it for eight months as a very young child before we left for Ireland in 1969.

Nixon’s become a cautionary tale. But here we go again, folks… Although in this case the equivalent to the bomb of Watergate has already gone off and he has yet to be inaugurated!

Joe Biden echoed my own thoughts today when he said to Jake Tapper on CNN that he thought things would start to swing around in 2018. Let’s hope!

When Tapper asked Biden if he thought he would have beaten Trump had he been the nominee, Biden laughed ruefully and said, “I don’t know. Maybe he would have eaten me alive.”

I love that kind of honesty.

We’ll never know. We just have to go on. And yet, the feeling that a whole world of pain is just around the corner is pretty strong. Isn’t it?

 

 

 

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About last night…

Someone once told me that yellow roses symbolize hope.

Someone once told me that yellow roses symbolize hope.

Wow. A mixture of feelings here, but one predominates. After watching the increasingly grim CNN election footage for a number of hours and realizing that Hillary Clinton was not going to win, I went on Facebook and wrote, “I personally just want to go tend a garden somewhere.” It was a symbolic statement because I don’t have a green thumb, but perhaps that will come!

So Trump will be our next president. I had feared this in the early months of the election, after the nomination, certainly, and before the debates. I was lulled by the most recent polling data, but I still had bouts of anxiety. Last night all that pleasant complacency was ripped away.

Michael Moore was right. He spoke out early on Bill Maher’s show Real Time and said he thought Trump was going to win. Poor Bill Maher, too, who said he was “shitting his pants” last Friday night… he was right. (Having been the subject of one lawsuit by Mr. Trump, no wonder he’s scared.)

My feelings are less politically partisan than they used to be. I don’t blame Comey, for example, or Bernie. Bernie got a raw deal, actually, and I recognize that. I don’t know if he, or Biden, could have won against Trump. It’s not useful to get tripped up about all that. I do recognize that Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate. I wanted her to be president. But somewhere, deep down, I never really thought she would get it. I thought the forces against her would be too strong, and that she is an essentially tragic figure, brought down by her own baggage and compromises. Yet the polls seemed to show otherwise, and I allowed myself to hope.

Trump is just so much worse. I wrote on Facebook last night that I was  dry-eyed, chilled, sad for America and for the world. Profoundly sad and in disbelief. Many of my friends were getting very emotional on Facebook last night. It’s strange, I don’t cry over this stuff–I immediately go to a numb, stoic place that shields me a bit. I process traumatic events fast and I work through them fast. I don’t brag about this; it would be better to grieve more like other people, perhaps.

Anyway, I felt the sadness of my friends. I comforted one or two who were in distress. It was helpful for me to be among community, though God knows I feel that social media has contributed to our woes and divisions in this country. Pollster Frank Luntz said recently on 60 Minutes that he couldn’t believe how angry the people he brought together for focus groups on the election were, how they had stopped listening to each other. He blamed it directly on Twitter and Facebook.

I was helped this morning by an article on SFGate.com by Garrison Keillor., entitled “Done. Over. He’s Here. Goodbye.” This was my favorite paragraph: We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids and we Democrats can go for a long brisk walk and smell the roses.

It’s worth reading in full!

My friend David Fredrickson posted about how the election results plunged him into a spiritual crisis when he woke this morning. I found his blog post particularly powerful as well. As David writes, we need each other.

Many of us are hurting. It’s going to be a long four years. Let’s do the best we can, folks. If the best we can do is trudge on, that’s fine. Raising heirloom tomatoes sounds pretty good to me.

Let’s keep talking. And listening. I believe the pendulum will swing back.      

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Review: Paul McCartney, The Life by Philip Norman

Paul McCartney, The Life. Philip Norman. Kindle Edition, 2016, $15.99

I loved Philip Norman’s revealing biography of John Lennon. This hefty volume doesn’t quite match up, but that

A winsome Paul McCartney.

A winsome Paul McCartney.

may not be Norman’s fault. McCartney has lived 36 years longer than Lennon now, and is quite a different character. Part of what must have made the biography a difficult task is that it is very hard to pierce Paul’s shell and the people around him have been discreet. However, this book definitely washes away the silly stereotype of Paul as “the cute Beatle” once and for all. It replaces that caricature with a shrewd and nearly always cautious character (except for the 1970s drug bust in Tokyo!), who was also completely blindsided at certain points in his life and left reeling, confused, and vulnerable. The haunting picture on the book jacket shows that side of Paul.

I came away with an appreciation of McCartney’s immense talent and work ethic, as well as a greater understanding of what makes him tick. He’s someone who’s lost the three people closest to him (his mother, John Lennon, Linda). Norman skillfully shows that Paul’s first long-term relationship with actress Jane Asher was quite hollow in some ways and that issues of control emerge in his relationships, which is why I think Norman dwelt so much on the awful marriage and divorce to Heather Mills, who really exposed Paul at his worst. (But also it’s very revealing that Paul would have gone for a “bad girl” and apparently self-aggrandizing liar like Heather in the first place.)

Still, I can’t help liking someone who when asked if marrying Heather was the greatest mistake of his life, replies, “It would have to be a prime contender.” It made me want to know what his other great mistakes were–but such transparency is rare with this guy. Yet he “tacitly approved” of Norman as his biographer, which shows some good judgment. I wonder if he thought he would outlive Norman, so that the secrets that are inevitably revealed after his death wouldn’t be added to the biography! Sir Paul is a very calculating person, it’s clear, and Norman seems to deplore his actions much of the time.

But this is no hatchet job and there’s plenty of careful analysis that rewards the reader. It was good to fill in the gaps. For example, of course it makes sense that the “Paul is dead” period was after the Beatles broke up when Paul retreated in despair to Scotland, but I’d never quite got this before. In fact, Norman’s narrative of the Beatles breaking up *from Paul’s viewpoint* is fascinating. He does a fine job discussing Paul’s music as well.

After I finished I realized to my astonishment that Norman is the author of the memoir Babycham Night, about his difficult childhood with a narcissistic father on the Isle of Wight. More people should read that—it’s excellent. And my hunch is that Paul has read it. He would be someone who would do his homework, and the oddly compassionate, familiar way he treats Norman (despite Norman’s earlier rudeness towards him as a journalist) seems to prove this.

I think biography is such an intimate task, and Norman shows restraint and some empathy in his portrait of Paul. Recommended for Beatles fans.

PS. Norman is quite venomous about George Harrison, so any great fans/friends of George may be infuriated by his put-downs.

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This Is The Modern Publishing Business

Trenchant insights on the exploitative tendencies of the “traditional” publishing industry from a successful indie writer…

David Gaughran

asandfriendsnewScammers used to operate at the edges of the publishing business, but have wormed their way into its heart. And the entire industry is in denial.

An unintentionally revealing aspect of the tiresome Amazon-Hachette dispute was a series of statements from an organization purporting to advocate for authors’ rights. One of the heinous crimes Amazon was said to have committed was treating books like toasters.

With such a claim, Authors United was attempting to tap into a current of feeling about the commoditization of literature – as if Amazon was the first company to put a price tag on a book, and writers around the country were hitherto living off laurels and kudos. It’s tempting to suggest that other entities in the publishing business might be doing as well as Amazon if they also treated books like toasters and attempted to sell the bloody things, but I digress.

What this…

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Summer in California: Fire and Fog

An emu flees a raging fire in Potrero, CA. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

 

It’s what used to be called high summer, but here in San Francisco we are socked in by heavy fog. The pattern of terrible California wildfires also continues. Here is a photo by Mike Blake of an emu running down the road in San Diego County. It’s a pretty symbolic image.

I am also feeling the effects of the claustrophobic election season, along with the episodic terror attacks here and abroad. At least the election season will have a finite end point!

I watched both conventions. It occurred to me that Hillary Clinton’s story about her mother explains so much about Hillary’s life, even up to her choice of mate. A woman whose mother was so horribly abused and neglected would of course fall for a partner who had been abused and neglected as a child too. I think that if the Clintons do regain the White House, many of us will have the painful experience of viewing them with cooler eyes and a more jaded viewpoint. (I was only 25 when Bill Clinton won the election in 1992 and I remember how euphoric I felt that night.)

Still, when Hillary Clinton said, “The sky’s the limit,” I could get behind the optimism of that. Her candidacy is ground-breaking. Trump, on the other hand, seems increasingly unhinged and destructive. I worry about the ugliness of the next few months and the bitter hatreds that are being unleashed. But here we are, and I suppose we’ll get through it.

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A Happy Fourth…

I wanted to wish everyone out there in the US a happy Fourth of July! The weather is always chilly and foggy here in San Francisco. At night in our neighborhood, the air is filled with the sound of homemade rockets going off. It’s not fun, but someone’s getting something out of it! 🙂

The Pull of Yesterday is in several promotions this month.

The Pull of Yesterday is in several promotions this month.

I released a new book last month (The Pull of Yesterday). Both Pull and Connecting the Dots are 50% off in the month-long Summer/Winter Sale that Smashwords puts on every year (and Elsie Street is free). Just use the coupon provided on the book page at checkout. Two of my early ebook shorts, The Captain and Claire and The Doge’s Daughter, are also free! And many great bargains are to be had.

The Pull of Yesterday is also currently 99 cents on Amazon for a limited time, and will be featured in the Rainbow Shelf newsletter on July 8! Price will revert to $2.99 sometime around mid-month.

A couple of my indie writer friends and acquaintances have released new books lately. Clare Ashton‘s latest romance, Poppy Jenkins, looks delightful. Shannon Yarbrough has a new book out, Feeling Himself Forgotten, which is a sequel to Stealing Wishes. I will be reviewing it soon. Kate Genet has turned to writing crime fiction and has unpublished much of her previous catalog of lesbian fiction.

I have been caught up in the madness of Brexit lately. It has been an odd time, but I find myself feeling more of an Anglophile than ever. Providentially, The Great British Baking Show just came back on PBS. I’m loving it.

It is possible that Britain will have its second female Prime Minister soon. Or will the backstabbing Michael Gove prevail? My heartfelt hope is that Hillary Clinton wins here in November. As Bill Maher said, this election is a referendum on decency.

And that’s about as patriotic as I get, folks.

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Orlando, a week later

This vigil took place in the Castro in SF the evening after the shooting.

This vigil took place in the Castro in SF the evening after the shooting.

I woke up last Sunday morning to news of the Orlando LGBT club massacre on Twitter. It was a terrible moment. The first pieces of news said that 20 people were dead, which was unbelievable enough. I believe the last count stands at 49.

I won’t mention the shooter by name. He was clearly a sad, sick, twisted soul. The fact that he had visited Pulse on a regular basis and been treated kindly by the patrons there just makes things worse. 

What has made things better, at least for me: the images of President Obama and VP Joe Biden visiting the memorial for the fallen really helped a lot. What has fundamentally changed in America is that LGBT people are now being treated with respect. The dead and wounded victims in that nightclub were seen as young Americans and everybody’s children. And that’s a huge, huge change that has taken place in my lifetime.

Because the issues of gun control and gun proliferation in the US are going to be here for a very long time.

It seems weird to say it in this context, but happy Pride Month.

 

A march in London in support of the Orlando victims.

A march in London in support of the Orlando victims.

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Elsie Street Sequel Now on Preorder!

Sequel to Elsie Street on preorder now!

Sequel to Elsie Street on preorder now!

I’ve been busy writing this spring. The full-length sequel to Elsie Street, The Pull of Yesterday, is now available for preorder at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. It will be released on those platforms on June 5. Meanwhile, Elsie Street is currently free on all platforms, including Google Play!  

Update: Elsie is now .99 on most platforms. But talking about Google Play, I spotted two 5 star reviews there today that warmed my writer heart. In the latest review, a reader called Chris Webb writes:

“Addictive reading. Superbly written, beautifully drawn characters, totally addictive and absorbing.”

Thanks, Chris!

 

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