Saturday, May 31, 2014



 When I first found out about Twitter, it felt like I'd discovered a delicious new toy.  Wheee!  Look at all these cool people I can follow!  Look at all these news sites, and editor sites, and snark sites, all MINE!  MINE!!!  True, the NASA site never followed me back, but what cared I?  I was young (shut up) and innocent, and what did I know of comparing number of followers versus number of followees?  Zilch is what I knew.  I just merrily went on my way, tweeting my clever little tweets when I felt like it.  And if anyone happened to follow me, I would look at his or her site, and see whether or not it interested me, and decide accordingly whether or not to follow back.
     You're guffawing by now, right?  Because of course, along with every other sentient organism, you've known for eons that Twitter is ALL ABOUT THE NUMBERS!  Forget what you like to read!  Forget what you like to tweet!  Think only of being followed by more than you follow!  Many, many more!  Amass followers as if they were all recruits to your personal army!  Follow back ANYONE who follows you, no matter whether all they tweet is incredibly stupid and insipid quotes from their own stupid and insipid books!  (Serious question: those are trolls, right?)  And if idiots follow you and you (having now been properly trained) reflexively follow them back, and then for their own mysterious troll reasons they UNfollow you, then you immediately UNfollow them back!  See how it all works?  The vast, terrible conspiracy?  Whether or not you ever tweet again is utterly irrelevant!  So is what you tweet!  Somehow, the trolls will find you and thrust themselves among your cache of followers, and life on Twitter will be Good!  Trust me!  I have been to the Twitter mountain and drunk the Twitter Kool Aid, and I know what I'm talking about!
     So, the other day I scrolled ruthlessly through the list of sites I follow.  I deleted most of the ones that don't follow me back, except for the few I can't live without.  I deleted the trolls whom I never sought out in the first place but I followed back anyway, only to be dealt the further indignity of being unfollowed (????)  So that now, I am proud to report to Big Twit Brother, I only follow 239 sites and have a whopping 146 followers.  This is the most acceptable ratio I've ever been able to claim.  Now, any editor who looks me up on social media and finds my Twitter account will not blanch, gag, and instantly blackball me forever.  I approach follower/followee parity and, please God, will someday achieve it if I keep my eye on the ball.
     So.  Wanna follow me?  I'm @unpubYA.  I promise I'll follow you back!!!

Monday, May 26, 2014


    ...and trust me, you do NOT want to hear me sing.  Every time I post about a book giveaway, I get lots of hits on the posts, but almost no entries, and I'm going to get to the bottom of this once and for all.  I keep trying to lower the bar on my contest requirements.  I used to try to get people to answer a specific question I asked in connection with the book I was trying to give away.  The results were lackluster at best.  Now I just asked for people to leave any comment at all, and I would choose my favorite.  Nada.  But I'm not giving up.  You know what Thomas Edison said about failure?  He said, "I haven't failed.  I've just found 10,000 ways not to do it."  Well, I may not make it to 10,000, but here's my next try.
     I'm offering to give away a copy of E. Lockhart's new YA novel, WE WERE LIARS.  You can read my review of it here.  It's a really good book.  And it costs almost $20 at a bookstore.  Do you get what I'm saying?  I'm saying, ENTER THIS CONTEST, YOU FOOL!!!
     Okay.  Here's how it works.  I'm going to stick with the "liar" theme:

     Here's what you have to do in order to win the book:
     1.  Look at this picture.
     2.  Leave a comment explaining what Jiminy Cricket is telling Pinocchio.
     3.  Make me laugh so hard I spit out whatever I'm drinking. 
     That's it.  And I'm not even going to say when the contest ends, because we've seen how that works out.  JUST DO IT.  Please don't make me go on to my next idea, which I promise will be even stupider than this one.
     Thank you.  I eagerly await your response.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


     I put in a volunteer stint at the Presby Iris Gardens today.  SO cool.  Thousands of varieties, mostly at their peak this weekend.  Here are just a few:

     I would have taken more pictures, but about fifteen minutes after my shift ended, when I finally had a chance to walk around and look at the flowers, a downpour began.  Good for the flowers; less good for volunteers who didn't think to bring raincoats or umbrellas!
     These photos should be enough to make you smile, though.  Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


     If you read this blog fairly regularly, you know that I think the world of Holly Schindler's writing.  I've interviewed her about her first two YA novels, A BLUE SO DARK and PLAYING HURT, and posted a video of her discussing her writing process with regard to her first middle-grade novel, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY.  Changing it up once again, Holly has now written a mystery/thriller, FERAL, scheduled to be released by HarperCollins on August 26th.  Per Goodreads: "THE LOVELY BONES meets BLACK SWAN in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know."  And to whet your appetite even further, here's a sneak peek of Holly reading the first few pages:  So now that you know you must read this book the instant it's available, here's a link to various ways in which you can pre-order your very own copy:

     I'm also planning to be a part of Holly's blog tour for FERAL some time between now and August, so keep checking back.  The more Holly groupies in this world, the better!

Sunday, May 18, 2014


     I love the way E. Lockhart writes, and I was breathlessly awaiting my preordered delivery of this book (Delacorte Press, 2014) for months.  When it arrived last week I devoured it in two sittings.   It's taken me a while to figure out how to blog about it, because I'm left with mixed feelings.  The novel is beautiful and mysterious and emotionally gripping.  Ultimately, though, I couldn't get past its logical inconsistencies, despite the fact that Lockhart makes it clear throughout that the story is a fable, a fairy tale, not to be taken literally.  I'm literal-minded.  Sometimes this is a blessing, sometimes a curse, but it's not something I know how to turn off, and it affects my experience with a book.
     Problem:  Lockhart pretty much demands that no one reveal the plot twists.  I actually don't think that's a fair demand to make of readers; once the book is out in the public domain, I believe that anyone is entitled to comment on it.  On the other hand, I want to run a giveaway contest with my copy of the novel as the prize, and I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone who wants to read it, but doesn't want to know any secrets.  So I decided to divide this post into three parts: 1. A partial review, without spoilers;  2. A giveaway contest;  3.  For people who don't care whether some of the top-secret plot twists are revealed, a fuller review ***WITH SPOILERS*** so that I can say everything I think.  Okay, got that?  Ready?

     PART I.  Cady Sinclair Easton is almost eighteen years old, and she tells us right up front about her blinding migraines and partial amnesia.  Both of these conditions began the summer she was fifteen, although Cady cannot remember why.  All she knows is that something very bad happened to her that summer but no one will talk to her about it.  Cady had spent that summer, as she had every summer before that, on the private Cape Cod island owned by her extremely wealthy maternal grandparents.  The island's summer residents are the senior Sinclairs; their three daughters, who are Cady's mother and aunts; and the families of these three women, in all of their various permutations.  Oh yes - and the staff, of course.
     Each of the three sisters has a separate house on the island.  Although during Summer Fifteen none of them has a husband, all of them have children.  In fact, the oldest children of each of the sisters were all born within a couple of months of each other: Cady, Johnny and Mirren.  Cady tells us that although these three cousins all live in different places and have virtually no contact with each other during the school year, they are inseparable during their summers on the island.   Oh yes - and there's a fourth member of their cohort.  Ever since Summer Eight, when Johnny didn't like to play with girls, his mother and her longterm boyfriend have brought along with them the boyfriend's nephew, Gat, who is Johnny's age and therefore also the girls' age.  It is these four who spend every waking minute of their summers together, and who have collectively become known by the adults as The Liars.
     As the story unfolds, Cady is back on the island for the first time in two years, having been taken by her father on a seemingly mandatory trip to Europe for the entirety of Summer Sixteen.  Some things seem exactly the same: she spends almost all of her time hanging out with the other Liars and falling even deeper in love with Gat.  But other things are puzzlingly different.  For example, her grandfather has torn down his grand old Victorian mansion, stuffed with valuable antiques and collectibles, and built in its place a spare, modern glass-and-concrete box of a house.   And the other three Liars seem unable to account for how they'd spent the previous summer on the island, when Cady wasn't with them.  But their presence is so familiar and so comforting to her that very slowly, shard by shard of memory, Cady begins to piece together what really happened on the island during Summer Fifteen.
     PART II.  I'm going to give away my virtually pristine hardcover copy of WE WERE LIARS to one lucky winner.  The rules will be very simple.  Leave a comment on this post related to any of the themes I've talked about above.  At the end of the contest, I'll choose the post I like best, based on my own entirely subjective criteria.  Make it interesting.  Surprise me.  The contest will end next Sunday, May 25th, at midnight Eastern time.  I'll send the book out to the winner, regardless of where he or she lives.  Good luck!  And may the odds be ever in your favor!

     PART III.  SPOILERS!  SPOILERS!  Okay.  This one isn't really a spoiler, but I thought I should save it for here nonetheless.  Despite the title, Cady never gives any real indication of why she, Johhny, Mirren and Gat are known as The Liars.  To the contrary, they all seem remarkably truthful, at least with each other, and there's no real indication that they act differently with anyone else.  In fact, the only one who's seen telling a lie is Mirren, and that lie is so painfully transparent that it only seems to demonstrate her lack of experience with lying in general.
     The only other lies are the Summer Seventeen attempts by the other three to convince Cady that everything is normal, but in this regard they're acting no differently than any of the other Sinclairs; by common agreement, no one is to discuss Summer Fifteen with Cady, because the doctors have advised that she must either remember what happened on her own, or not at all.  So to me, the whole "We Were Liars" premise is one prominent plot hole, a device that wasn't fully thought through.
     Which brings me to my main issue with the book.  HERE'S THE SPOILER!  In Summer Seventeen, Johnny, Mirren and Gat are ghosts.  All of them died in a tragic accident during Summer Fifteen, and Cady was partly responsible, which is why she's so traumatized that she suffers from selective amnesia.  But Lockhart asks us to believe both that Cady's mother is so worried about her that she obsessively watches her when she's sleeping and keeps lists of what she eats and drinks, yet has no problem with Cady's spending all her time on the island isolated in a house that one of her aunts has essentially abandoned to move into the main house.  Cady, the unreliable narrator, describes in detail how she spends all her time with the other Liars, returning to her mother's house only to sleep at night, but in the end, we learn that she's been alone.  The mother never once asks Cady where she's going, what she's doing, why she spends almost no time interacting with the rest of the family.  And Cady never casually mentions anything about Johnny, Mirren or Gat to her mother, for an entire month.  But why wouldn't she, since she believes that they're alive and real?   Are we really to believe that for a whole month, everyone on the island, including the two ten-year-old boy cousins, enforces the Code of Silence about the accident so rigorously that not one word is ever let slip?  There's no explanation given for any of this, and ultimately I find it all so farfetched that it interferes with my ability to wholeheartedly recommend this book.  As I said, Lockhart intersperses the story with accounts of fairy tales about kings with three beautiful daughters, as well as with the tale of King Lear.  The grandfather, we and Cady learn, is underneath all his surface benevolence a despot who pits his daughters against each other in competition to inherit his wealth.  He creates monsters, and then has to live to see the tragic results.  As I said, the story contains many deep emotional truths, but is marred by problems with its execution.
     THAT'S IT, FOLKS!  I'm looking forward to reading your comments and to sending this book winging its way to a lucky winner!!!  

Thursday, May 15, 2014


     Who is Jack Abramson?  Well, the one I'm referring to doesn't exist.  He only occupies an alternate universe in which he, and not his twin sister Jill Abramson, was appointed executive editor of the New York Times in 2011. 
     Not everyone liked Jack.  Everyone agreed he was talented and dedicated, but he had also been described as "polarizing" and "mercurial."  He made unpopular management decisions.  He pissed off some of the wrong people more than once.  But, his supporters reasoned, if he hadn't been aggressive, ambitious, and risk-taking, he probably would have never been named executive editor in the first place, would he?
     Jack's gotten himself in trouble over his almost-three-year tenure.  He's been chewed out by the publisher and even ordered to revoke some of his more controversial decisions.  But, in this alternative universe of which I speak, he's still there on the job.  He didn't get fired so summarily that an emergency meeting had to be called to inform the shocked newsroom, and to advise the assembled reporters to just carry on as though nothing had happened rather than speculate about what might have actually happened.  He wasn't told to clean out his desk and go, that his presence during the transition period wouldn't be needed, thanks.  Just leave.  Now.
     I don't know any more than any other outsider about Jill Abramson.  In fact, I didn't even know her name before this week.  But today I read that her promotion to executive editor had inspired many young women at The Times, and that she had personally gone out of her way to promote qualified women to leadership roles at the paper.
     Does this matter?  I believe that it does.  Her efforts remind me of something that happened to me a few weeks ago.  I've described my Back-to-Back State Supreme Court Arguments From Hell, but I didn't mention that the previous week, I had an argument in the lower-level appellate court.  Not nearly as big a deal, but still, it was the hurdle I had to get over before I could hunker down to prepare for the BBSSCAFH.
     I walked into the courtroom that morning and sat down in a pew to wait for the day's calendar of arguments to begin.  I looked around me.  There were maybe fifteen or twenty lawyers arrayed around the spectator seats, and aside from me, only one of them was a woman.  Almost every male attorney in the room was dressed in what I think of as the civil-attorney uniform: dark suit, white shirt, drab tie, close-cropped hair, grim facial expression.  All of them radiated competitiveness, tension, self-importance.  I felt conspicuous and slightly out-of-place in my blue dress and nonpower briefcase, although none of the other attorneys seemed to notice I was there.  They were either talking to their colleagues or intensely glancing through their notes.  The air around them thrummed.
     Then, all at once, the door at the head of the courtroom opened, the clerk jumped up and called "All rise," everyone leaped to their feet, and the three-judge panel entered from chambers and walked to the bench.  And - hallelujah!  O happy day!  All three of them were WOMEN.
     I know I was grinning as I looked around at all those pompous-seeming men, up on their feet in deference to the court, and I thought:  Ha! Hey, look, buddies!  Who's important now???  And I looked at those three powerful women sitting up there in their robes, smiling and calm, and I felt great.  And let's not forget - I've been a lawyer for 35 years.
     So: yes.  Yes, it matters for women starting their careers, or even halfway through, to look around them and see other women who have reached the top of their profession.  And it matters for women who have gotten close to the top to reach a hand out behind them and help other women when they stumble or feel unsure.  It really, really matters.  And so no matter how impolitic Jill Abramson may have been in her role, no matter how little she might have tried to play the game, I'm still troubled by the feeling that her twin Jack could have gotten away with it.  And I hate to see her go.

 p.s.  Here's a fascinating article on this subject:   

Saturday, May 10, 2014


     Author Jody Casella tagged me for a blog hop, entitled "The Process," and I'm truly honored to participate.  But just as an aside: Doesn't "blog hop" sound like a term invented by Dr. Seuss?   Blog Hop on Pop. Blog Hop Till You Drop.  Don't Stop the Hop! Not Until You Reach the Top!  Oops... Stomach Took a Flop; Gotta Get the Mop.

     Where was I?  Oh yeah.  I was just about to launch myself into my maiden blog-hop voyage.  But first, I want you to read these exceptionally wise words that Jody Casella posted to her blog a few days ago:  See how cool she is?  I don't believe that all good authors are also fantastic people, but Jody is both.  Her debut YA novel, THIN SPACE, has garnered wonderful reviews, all well-earned, and it's so exciting for me to see the patience of someone like Jody, who's been doggedly plugging away and learning her craft, be rewarded.  I love following Jody's blog, "On the Verge," because she's so honest, interesting, down-to-earth, and funny.
     On to the questions!

     1. What am I working on?

Truthfully, a more pertinent question for me these days would probably be, "What are you supposed to be working on?"  I haven't so much as looked at my current work-in-progress in a couple of weeks.  This is not good writer behavior, no matter how many valid excuses you might have!  But when I do get my ass back into gear, I will be working on my historical YA novel set in the late 1500's in an area in County Clare, on Ireland's western shore, known as the Burren.  This is what much of the Burren looks like, and has looked like for a thousand years or more:

     My story is about an eleven-year-old deaf boy who runs away from his abusive home and wanders through this desolate landscape until eventually he finds his way to Corcomroe Abbey, also known as The Church of St. Mary's of the Fertile Rock:

     There, he finds his haven and his place in the world...  until, years later, the British arrive under the leadership of Cromwell to dismantle all the abbeys and drive the "Papists" out of Ireland.

     2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

If the genre we're talking about is historical YA, it seems to me that much of that is set in the relatively recent past - within the last 150 years or so.  A novel set in Ireland over 400 years ago is difficult to write because the vast majority of the population was illiterate at that time, so there are few contemporary writings to refer to to learn about daily life.  On the other hand, because there are so few writings, who's to tell me I'm wrong when I make something up?   There are records of the major historical events, and there are rich stores of legends and folklore,  and aside from those I can pretty much do what I want.

     3. Why do I write what I do?

I write about things that grab hold of my imagination and won't let go.  I visited Ireland once about nine years ago with my family.  We spent a day in the Burren, and that rocky moonscape just stayed with me, and eventually I got around to wondering what kind of story might have taken place there a long, long time ago.  I bought a big, detailed map of the Burren and started trying to read anything I could find on the subject, and gradually the story began to take shape.  I don't know where in my mind this particular boy emerged from, but I would say that all of my protagonists are outsiders of one kind or another, probably because that's how I've always perceived myself, and that he is the second of my five to have a physical disability.

     4. How does my writing process work?

I usually start by doing a lot of reading.  Some of this is strictly research, and some of it might be fiction, or poetry, or anything else that helps me get a sense of a particular setting or society.  Then at some point, once I have an idea of who the characters might be,  I begin to see scenes enacted in my mind's eye, sort of like a movie.  Once I have several such scenes, which I think of as "chunks," I start to write them down.  I don't worry about the order they go in; I just try to get them down.  Then I start trying to imagine what came before each chunk, and what might follow.  In other words, my process is haphazard and chaotic, but it works for me.  Eventually, I have more chunks than there are gaps between them, and then I start thinking about filling in the gaps and creating a workable structure... you know, chapters and such.  I'm pretty sure most writers don't work this way, and I'm not endorsing or recommending it.  It just works for me, or at least, it works for me better than most other methods I've tried.

     That's it for the questions!  And now comes the "hop" part: I've found two writers who have graciously agreed to let me pass them the torch!  They'll answer the same questions I just did, on their own blogs, and then tag other writers, and so on, and we will all ride off into the sunset.

     Sylvia Ney is a writer I just "met" during the A to Z Blog Challenge we both completed in April.  She's a freelance writer based in Texas who has published newspaper and magazine articles, including a current series called "Ask the Agent" in Southern Writers magazine, photography, poetry and short stories.  She blogs at, she tweets at @SylviaNey, and she enjoys teaching and mentoring other writers.  I'm really looking forward to reading her hop!

     I "met" Tanita Davis when she left a comment on one of my blog posts.  Tanita and her pals blog at "Finding Wonderland" (yes, I've noticed the Wonderland theme for both Sylvia and Tanita), also known as   Tanita has published A LA CARTE (Knopf, 2008),  of which Kirkus Reviews said: "Davis's debut offering is as delightful and fulfilling as the handwritten recipes-in-progress included at the end of each chapter;" MARE'S WAR (Knopf, 2009),  of which the SLJ said: "A steady travelogue, realistic banter, memorable characters, and moments of tension, insight, and understanding make this an appealing selection;" and HAPPY FAMILIES (Knopf, 2012), which Richie's Picks calls "a book of excellent literary quality."  I'm very excited to see Tanita's hop too!

     Thank you, Sylvia and Tanita, for taking time out of your busy schedules to come and hop on!!  And have a happy Mothers Day, one and all!

p.s. In case you didn't already think this whole "Process" blog hop is awesome, just look who's in it!  None other than A.S. King!  I'm soarin' with the eagles!!

Thursday, May 8, 2014


     So, I survived the A to Z Challenge, but I can't figure out how to post the badge on my blog.  Big surprise, huh?  I refer you to my post on my technophobia if you need an explanation.
     But I can still reflect on my experience, badge or not, because dammit, I'm an American citizen and I know my rights.  So here goes.
     I completed the Challenge.  found a bunch of cool blogs I hadn't known existed.  I e-met some lovely people.  I learned that even I am capable of linking to a You Tube video on my blog.  I learned that there is such a thing as the Insecure Writers' Support Group.  And that an entire blog can be dedicated to panda cartoons.  And that it's possible to glean enough wise life lessons from a house full of adopted dogs to require a whole alphabet.  And I learned, to my surprise, that I actually have at least 26 favorite things in this world, and that doesn't even count people.  And that I can improvise on short notice, and post on the blog even when I don't feel like it and it can still turn out mostly okay.
     And I learned that you never know where or when you might stumble across a community that you want to be part of, so it's important to say yes to challenges, and to follow through on them.  Thanks very much to all the Challenge organizers and contributors.  It was fun.  Maybe I'd even do it again next year.  And special thanks to Yvonne Ventresca, who told me about the Challenge and encouraged me to do it - and somehow managed to complete it herself, the month before her debut novel was going to launch!  Now, that's dedication. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014


     First, the good news: my alltime blog hit count has now passed 10,000!  That's ten thousand separate views of any one of my posts, and honestly, very few of those were from me.  Is that not awesome?  I find it incredibly awesome!  Of course, if you break down almost two and a half years of blogging it adds up to close to 1,000 total days, but I didn't blog every day, now did I?  Not even close.  In fact, I have posted a total of 206 times, which means an average of about 50 hits per post, so - like I said.  AWESOME.
     Now: the promised whining.  This may help to explain why I haven't posted since completing (successfully, I might add) the A to Z Challenge, in case anyone has been asking him/herself: I wonder why she hasn't been posting since her successful completion of the A to Z Challenge?  Well, wonder no more, because I'm about to tell you.
     I'm a writer.  But I also have a day job, or more specifically, a day career.  I'm an appellate lawyer, and I've been doing that for a very long time, so most of the time I can handle it with a minimum of angst, although I wouldn't go so far as to use the word aplomb.  But most of the time, I'm fine.  However, this coming Monday and Tuesday, I have back-to-back oral arguments before my state Supreme Court (which is, as you might guess, the highest appellate tier in the state court system).  I have argued a whole bunch of times (25? 30? more? I don't keep an exact count) before this Court, but never once have I had to prepare to argue two different cases on two successive days.  Reader:  for the last week, I have been a quivering lump of anxiety.
     In case you've never argued a case before a state Supreme Court, and are curious to know what it's like, I will describe it to you.  The Justices sit in front of you at a long bench.  You stand at a podium in front of them.  You begin to speak, trying to put your best foot forward and eloquently sum up your position.  Two sentences in, you are interrupted by a question from the bench.  You stop in
mid-syllable, pivot on a dime, and try to answer the question.  That Justice may then have a follow-up question, or two, or three, but at some point, when it's quiet for a few seconds, you try to get back to your planned spiel.  One sentence later, a different Justice interrupts you with a completely different question, from a completely different angle.  Stop, pivot, answer.  This process continues more or less forever.  It is over, not when you've finished saying everything you want to say, but when all of the Justices run out of questions.  Are you getting the picture here? 
     Oh, and I should add that they don't want to know just about your piddly little case.  Oh, no, that would be too easy!  It's their job to make the law for the whole state, so what they really want to know is where you're asking them to draw lines.  And the best way for them to find that out is by asking you hypothetical questions, spinning out your arguments far past the point of absurdity to see where it is that you crack.  What if the events hadn't happened in that order, but in a different order?  What if this factor was removed, and this other factor added?  What if, what if, what if????
     I suppose there are some people that find this process exhilarating.  I must admit, I kind of do, when I only have ONE case - it sure gets the adrenaline pumping.  BUT NOT IF YOU HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN THE NEXT DAY WITH A DIFFERENT CASE!  That's when it begins to veer into the realm of torture, and I'm not a big fan of torture, especially not if it's happening to me.
     Okay!  Done whining!  Whew, I feel better.  Thanks for listening.  Now, back to work!