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Friday, December 12, 2014
Soup has to be one of the most perfect foods. The most comforting of comfort foods. It’s soothing when you’re sick and delicious when you’re well. It can be light and nourishing or rich and hearty. Is it possible that there is anyone on the planet who doesn't like soup in some form or flavor?
I like all kinds of soups. My mother's chicken soup, naturally. Clam chowder at a restaurant in Mystic with my bestie or Top Ramen when I'm home working on a rainy day. One of my very favorites is Wor Won Ton. A promising looking recipe right here.
Remember that story "Stone Soup"?
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Friday, December 5, 2014
“Theater of the Absurd” takes on a whole new meaning when former high school teacher and literary scholar Grace Hollister is hired as a script doctor for a straight-to-cable film production of her own academic exploits. Although the film’s budget seems boundless, almost no one in the cast or crew seems to have any experience making movies. It would almost be comical in a Woody Allen sort of way…until history repeats itself for real, and it’s curtains for one of the cast.
“A film?” Peter’s voice echoed hollowly down the transatlantic line. “You’re going…
“I…um…believe it’s straight-to-cable,” I said.
Silence. Then, “And this is a documentary?”
“I think so.”
“You think so?”
“Roberta Lom, the producer—” I winced, hearing my own slightly self-conscious tone as I spoke the word producer, “—was a little vague. It was a short conversation. She was late for a meeting.”
Another of those awkward silences. I glanced at the clock on the bedstand; at night. Peter’s time. I had been so looking forward to talking to him; I always seemed to call at the wrong hour: either he wasn’t home or he wasn’t able to talk. But now, after three and a half weeks of phone tag, I finally had him on the line—and it was almost as though I were talking to a stranger. He seemed so…far away.
Of course, he was far away—over five thousand miles of far away. Peter was in the tiny village of Innisdale in the English Lake District while I was in Los Angeles, so maybe I was letting my imagination make too much of a bad connection. Bad in more ways than one.
He said flatly, “I don’t see why anyone would want to make a documentary of your book. Who, other than academics like yourself, would care whether or not Lord Byron fathered yet another bastard child?”
Now, I found that a tad irritating, but I’m the first to admit that when it comes to my passion—my passion for literature of the Romantic period—I’m not entirely objective. So, striving for sweet reason, I said, “Well, first of all, how we determined that little fact makes a pretty good story, I think. I mean, I was kidnapped—three times—”
My gaze wandered past the assorted silver- and pewter-framed photos of my parents, me, and my brothers, Clark and Colin.
Clark, four years older, had
the blond hair and wide green eyes—behind the same horn-rimmed glasses—of our
father. Colin had Mother’s freckles and red hair. As the middle child it had
fallen upon me to somehow manage a diplomatic combination of genetic traits:
green eyes and auburn hair—and if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s
“You can hardly count Allegra taking you to Lady Vee’s as actual abduction.”
Perhaps he was not defending yet another former girlfriend so much as being a stickler for accuracy. Still striving for sweet reason, but now through gritted teeth, I said, “I was held against my will. Never mind the fact that we were both nearly shot by that crazed—”
“A bit sensationalistic for a reputable documentary,” Peter drawled in that annoying public school accent, and if I didn’t know better, I’d have sworn he was deliberately provoking me.
“I assume the documentary will focus on the academic aspects of our search.”
Peter laughed. And now I was quite sure that he was trying to provoke me. “What academic aspects might those be?” he inquired as though genuinely interested. “As I recall, you were convinced we were searching for a lost manuscript.”
Now that was one for the books—no pun intended. For once I, Grace Hollister, was at a loss for words. In fact, there was the oddest prickling behind my eyes—as though I were about to suffer a dreadful allergy attack. What was happening here? We were very nearly quarreling.
This, after exchanging no more than a dozen words or so since I’d left the Lakes for a brief visit home. Or what would have been a brief visit if it hadn’t been for my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary, the holidays, the difficulty in arranging the subletting of my apartment, catching up with old friends and colleagues, and now this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see my first book made into a film.
I couldn’t understand it. Did Peter regret the things—those lovely, romantic things—he had said before I left, nearly three…four…six months…earlier? Did he not want me to return to Innisdale?
Into my silence he said, “If this is a documentary, wouldn’t I need to sign a release of some sort? You’re planning to use my name, I take it?”
“Are you saying you would refuse to sign a release?”
The hiss in the long-distance line seemed ominous.
“No,” he said quietly, at last. “I’m not going to stop you, if this is what you want.”
Were we still talking about the proposed documentary film? There was something in his voice…
I said uncertainly, “Is everything all right there? Was there—you said you had something to tell me.” I’d been so thrilled that he had called me, so excited about my news; I’d hardly given him a chance to get a word in until at last his pointed lack of interest had penetrated the bubble of my enthusiasm.
“It’ll keep,” he said.
Abruptly, I remembered the beautiful and dangerous Catriona—and the much less beautiful but equally dangerous Turkish prison guard Hayri Kayaci. I remembered three murder investigations and far too many close calls to count. Peter’s past was checkered at best, and the publication of my first book alone had brought results similar to poking a stick into a nest of cobras. Was it possible that he had valid reasons for not wanting this film made?
“Peter,” I began.
“Look, Grace,” he said at the same time. “Something’s come up. I’ll ring you later, shall I?”
“All right,” I said reluctantly, but I was speaking to a dial tone.
Slowly, I replaced the handset, fearing that more than a phone connection had been broken.
Monday, December 1, 2014
I love my readers. I really do. I love talking to readers. I love hearing their stories too: how they were in a relationship like A&J’s or how my books make them laugh or make them cry. How reading my stories can make a hospital waiting room bearable or offer company on a lonely, rainy night.
I’m a professional writer of commercial fiction. I don’t have any illusions about my role in the greater scheme of things. But if I can provide a few hours of intelligent amusement and entertainment in someone’s busy, stress-filled life, I am content.
And the fact that I can earn a comfortable living doing what I love makes me patient with the occasional rude and intrusive fan. But I have to say, I do see an increase in the number of rude and intrusive online interactions.
That’s not the only reason why I hired a virtual assistant – I hired a virtual assistant mostly because I couldn't BEGIN to keep up with everything – but it is one of the reasons.
Like this letter I got a few months ago:
I've been reading one of your books, which I'm enjoying a lot. Out of curiosity, are you a woman writing under a nom de plume? There is a similarity in your writing to another author I read. I've had the experience before reading m/m fiction written by female authors. The gender doesn't bother me at all, but I prefer it if it's out in the open.
Many thanks from a fan!
Ugh. So offensive on so many levels. I’d say misogynistic creeps like this guy/gal are one of the main reasons I’ve refused to drop the veil.
How is it even remotely your business?
But it’s the smarmy, chummy hey there! Just curious about something personal and private that clearly you don’t want to share but I prefer if it’s out in the open.
Oh! Well, heck, if YOU prefer it…*splutter*
The offensive part is the pretending to be a reader, let alone a fan. I’ve had several fans make the connection to Diana or Colin or Briony – in fact, so many that I have the bad habit of thinking everyone knows now. And that’s my mistake. But the vague “one of your books” and “another author I read.” It’s a fishing expedition.
Well, people are curious about other people. That’s why People magazine sells millions of copies of what amounts to inane gossip. That’s okay. I understand curiosity.
But this: m/m fiction written by female authors. The gender doesn't bother me at all
Sure. Except even though it doesn’t matter AT ALL, you really, really, REALLY want to know. So much so that you’re writing a complete stranger and asking personal, clearly private information.
Coz if I’m using a pen name, it's not an accident, right?
I started this journey so long ago – nearly twenty years ago now – with my original point being if you couldn't tell from the work, it obviously wasn’t relevant. Oh, if I were writing memoir or autobiography, if I were online with a fake photo and posting about my struggles or life as a gay man, sure. I could see it might be relevant. But I have said from the start I'm using a pen name and I am not writing my own experiences. I write mystery, fantasy, adventure and category romance. Sometimes with gay characters. Sometimes not. I write genre fiction. How is which restroom I use relevant?
The only people who want – need -- it to be relevant are bigots. They are outraged and insulted at the idea, but this is the truth. They are prejudiced. Biased. And if I won’t give them that crucial piece of the puzzle, they don’t know what to think. They can’t be sure and it makes them crazy.
And it makes them very angry. Because as much as they try to rationalize it, they know in a dark and moldy corner of their heart, that they are indeed exactly what they hate and resent in others.
But it’s different coz it’s them. And I’m the bad guy.
I despise them. And yet…I know that it usually isn’t fueled by malevolence. Some of it really is a product of being a reader in the Age of Entitlement. For some readers the books, the stories, aren’t enough. They want a piece of the author too. Attention, acknowledgment, recognition. And honestly, I love interacting with readers. I am happy to recognize and acknowledge readers and the role they play in my life. I have become close friends with many readers. I really do love some of my readers.
But. But in the end all I really owe any reader is the best book that I can write at any given moment. That’s it. That is the sum total. Buy my books or don’t buy them. The books are the only thing for sale.