Make your voice heard in a noisy world

I’ve been thinking about voices a lot lately, maybe because there are so many of them in the world, speaking so loudly and all at once, and only occasionally saying anything worth hearing.

The singer who sings with someone else’s lungs
Voices for the voiceless
Speaking with your knee
A voice recently fallen silent

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Telling the story about the story

A friend approaches an author at a party. “So, what’s your new book about?”

The author swirls the wine in her glass, takes a deep breath, and begins. “Well, there’s this woman, see, and she’s being held hostage in her kitchen by her son, and he tries to get her to listen to him but she doesn’t. He’s got emotional issues. He never really felt like his mother listened to him. So he’s going to make her listen but instead she ends up telling him all about her life. She grew up isolated in upstate New York and spent a lot of time alone and never learned how to read people or relate to them. Meanwhile her son is getting more and more agitated. But she keeps telling him the story of her life and the stories other people like her childhood sweetheart and her best friend and her son’s ex-wife…”

The friend looks over the writer’s shoulder. “Oh! I see Julie. I have to go talk to her about the carpool.”

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Astronomical diversions will eclipse you

If you were expecting information about Monday’s solar eclipse, you will be partially disappointed. I won’t be in the path of totality so I can’t give you 100 percent. You’ll have to settle for 76.


Unfortunately for science geeks and eclipse-chasers, the trivial has eclipsed the awe-inspiring.

I refer to recent and continuing political events. I won’t spend time on those here, except to say that their sound and fury* have grown so loud and distracting that the total eclipse of the sun merits only small mentions. Will things be different on Monday the 21st? I worry what a person who concocts outlandish diversions to distract from slightly less outlandish diversions might plan if he fears being eclipsed by something astronomical.

Here in the San Francisco bay area, we can expect about 76 percent coverage for Monday’s total solar eclipse. I’ve got my eclipse glasses ready.

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Leave your garret and come to my party

Nighttime on the road. Photo credit: Harrison Kalman

Being a writer can be hard sometimes. All alone in your garret, scribbling away. Not to mention the often depressing news about how hard it is to make a living in this business.

That’s why I’m having a party. I can’t take credit for this idea. Over the years, I’ve so enjoyed the drop-and-hop events hosted on Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride blog that I decided to steal her idea. (Thank you, Susie!)

Your invitation

Here’s how it works:

  • If you’re a published author, comment below with a link to your book’s marketing page, whether on your web site or an online retailer. Try to be succinct. Hook us with a few sentences.
  • If you’re an aspiring author with a blog, comment with a link to a post that makes you proud. Brevity will serve you well, too.
  • If you’re a humble reader (we love you!), comment with a link to your favorite summer reading material so far—book, article, someone else’s blog, etc.

Note that all the bullet points above mention ONE LINK. I’ll steal another idea from Susie: one link only please, or you’re disqualified!

I hope we’ll end up with a rollicking party and lots of new ideas for reading material. Invite your friends!

Resources on mental health

At the back of What Remains Unsaid I included a short discussion on mental illness/mental health issues with statistics and resources. If you’ve read the book, you know that mental illness plays a role in the lives of many of the characters. I’ve now added a resources page to my web site so readers can easily navigate to some of the many sources of support and information available online. You can find them here.

The summer of free books continues

Don’t forget to enter my Goodreads giveaway for one of five signed copies of What Remains Unsaid. (U.S. only, through August 8.)

In person

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, I hope you can come to the reading by local authors at The Main Gallery in Redwood City on July 26. I’ll be there reading from What Remains Unsaid.

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Grammar can save the world

“Some English that might strive thine ear to please” — John Keats, Sonnet to Spenser

I recently spent a week being paid to care very much that tenses agreed and singular nouns did not precede plural verbs. That is, I was copy editing.

And here I arrive at the limit of my ability to describe proper grammar. I am a whole-body grammarian, meaning that I learned grammar by osmosis, not by studying its rules. I can put a sentence together correctly. I can correct other people’s sentences. But I often have trouble explaining why something is right. I’m like a musician who doesn’t understand theory but plays a mean blues guitar.

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A weekend among the book people

I spent this past weekend on my feet talking about What Remains Unsaid to anyone who walked by. That’s not as weird as it sounds, since I was at the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley, California along with a handful of other authors published by Sand Hill Review Press.

Sand Hill Review Press Booth

We’re an award-winning bunch: ten over the last few years. Those little circles and rectangles on the badges below represent IPPYs and IPAs.

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Where do stories come from?

When I was searching for an upstate New York setting for my new novel, What Remains Unsaid, I couldn’t find the perfect town. So I made one up.

I grew up in a small—very small—town. One traffic light, one grocery story, a post office, and a population of 1,500 or so spread over fifty square miles. But the real town of Hillsdale wasn’t quite right as a setting for the book.

Hillsdale’s traffic light (from Google maps)

For one thing, it was too far from Syracuse, where much of the book’s early action takes place. Also, I wanted no confusion about the fact that this book is fiction, not memoir (you’ll see why when you read it). So I came up with the fictional town of Dyerville. I conceived of it as Hillsdale transplanted a couple hundred miles to the northwest, about halfway between Syracuse and Ithaca.

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