Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Because I've left it for so long, you get only a few thoughts from the many inspired blog posts I've written in my head this summer. Think of it as the Readers Digest version.

1. BodyBugg: Working. Down 10 pounds (me, not the device). Had one woman ask me how it monitored my baby--felt a drastic drop in esteem before I realized she'd misread the label as "BabyBugg".

2. WorldCon 2008: Or, as my friend Laura calls it, GeekFest. An enormous Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention held in Denver this year. Since Katie and I could stay in the same hotel we stayed in during Left Coast Crime, we figured what the heck. Saw lots of costumes. Men in corsets (okay, it was only one man, but he wore a different corset every day). Bought corsets of our own. Dressed up for the Costume Contest (as spectators, not participants). Heard someone refer, seriously, to humans as "The people from this planet". Attended my writer friend's panel on Mountains in Fact and Fiction. Bravo, Suanne, for making it fascinating! (You can read Suanne's take on it at Spectated at the Dowager Duchess of Denver's Ball. Ate good food. Read good books. Went to bed early. Best moment of the trip--the panel "Firefly: What Would the Second Season Have Been?"

3. Stephenie Meyer: A good summer for her--THE HOST released in March and BREAKING DAWN, the last of her TWILIGHT series released in August. In writerly circles, Meyer seems to be the next Dan Brown--envied for her fabulous sucess and despised for not deserving it. I say any writer who can sell out tickets to a signing in ten minutes flat and be greeted like a rock star by screaming fans is good for all writers. Love or hate her books, she's doing something right. (Oh, and I enjoyed BREAKING DAWN, but TWILIGHT is my favorite. So sue me for having no taste.)

4. Becca Fitzpatrick: This is long and shamefully overdue (in fact, I honestly thought I'd done this post already--but apparently only in the vividness of my imagination). If you haven't checked out her blog from my links, do it now ( She's the next Stephenie Meyer, only with deeper characters and killer dialogue. Her novel, tentatively titled HUSH, got Becca signed by a real live big-time New York agent this year. Becca's in the midst of rewrites and the agent wants to start submitting to editors this autumn. We're talking bestseller lists and movie rights, people. You heard it here first.

5. Tea: Technically this doesn't fall under summer, even though it happened in August. Last week Katie and I celebrated the first full day of school for our children by having tea in Salt Lake City at Elizabeth's Bakery and Tea Shop. Technically, I shouldn't call it tea, either, since we didn't actually drink tea, but Hot Chocolate hasn't become a noun yet. Plain scones with clotted cream, ginger scones with lemon curd, and shortbread just to send my BodyBugg into a tizzy fit. Then a ramble through the London Market next door, where one can buy anything from frozen Yorkshire puddings to Marmite to Harry Potter scarves.

6. Writing: This also is technically a non-summer activity, since I began last week when school did. I've started a new project, one that sprang to mind while attending the Dowager Duchess of Denver's Ball at WorldCon (hmmm, do you think I could write that off?) I'm not talking details yet, not to anyone, but I'm actually having fun, a concept I'd begun to doubt the existence of when it came to writing. I'm 4000 words in and writing every weekday. Good on me :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

ANSWER: I AM . . .

Ha! You expected me to put "writer", didn't you?

After my feeling-sorry-for-myself post about writing, I had a long talk with my best friend, Katie. (Actually, friend doesn't quite cover it. She's the sister I never had. And if she doesn't like it, too bad for her!)

Katie said, "Laura, in the deepest part of your soul, you are . . ."

(I expected her to say "writer". I really did.)

Here's what she actually said: "you are a wife and mother."

The moment she said those words, I felt as though an enormous weight was lifted from me.

I am a wife and mother. That was my choice when I married and had children--and it's even more my choice today. Nothing is as important to me as my husband and the four souls God has given into our care. Nothing. Not even writing.

I hadn't realized the pressure I'd put on myself until it was gone. Me, the woman whose motto is "You should do what works for you", I had loaded myself with a basketful of shoulds where my writing is concerned.

The irony? The moment the pressure was gone, the more I wanted to write.

Because writing, indeed, is a part of who I am. It's a large part of who I am.

But it will never be the most important part.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


A Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mystery. Gemma is asked by an elderly neighbor to help her find out how a family treasure from Germany has ended up in a London auction house. Duncan is called into the case when a young woman from the auction house is murdered. With flashbacks to post-WWII London and the murder of a German-Jewish intellectual, this is one of the best of Crombie's novels.

A children's story about a mouse who wants to be a hero, a maid who wants to be a princess, a princess who misses her mother, a rat who hates the dark, and soup. What's not to like?

Not Hawthorne's best (I would reserve that honor for THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE), but after visiting the inspiration for the house in the title, I had to read it. A young woman from the country comes to visit relatives who have secluded themselves in a supposedly cursed house. Lots of spooky atmosphere and old crimes to be uncovered with a happier ending than Hawthorne often provides.

LOST NAMES/Richard Kim/A
Seven vignettes about the author's childhood in Japanese-occupied Korea. The title piece is a haunting account of the men of the town registering their new, required Japanese names and their subsequent trek to the town cemetery to apologize to their ancestors. I knew a little about the suppression of Korean language during the Japanese occupation, but this book brought home the full cost and humiliation. I cheered right along with the 13-year-old narrator when the Japanese surrendered and the Korean flag was brought out of hiding to be flown once more.

Sequel to THE CHOSEN that I read for book club last year, I enjoyed this one even more. Reuven is studying to become a rabbi while his friend Danny is working with mentally ill youth. Some wonderful themes here, wrapped in a heartbreaking story about an adolescent boy who becomes increasingly, dangerously ill and the extreme treatment that Danny uses to try and reach him.

THE GREAT DELUGE/Douglas Brinkley/B
An in-depth, almost hour-by-hour, account of Hurricane Katrina in the hours before and the week after it struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I was left with the burning belief that there was plenty of blame to go around as well as plenty of heroism. It took me a while to plow through it, but that says more about my ability to concentrate this year than the book itself.

I SHALL NOT WANT/Julia Spencer-Fleming/B+
Almost as eagerly anticipated as Elizabeth George's CARELESS IN RED, this book didn't work nearly so well for me as a follow-up to unexpected tragedy. The Reverend Claire Fergusson has joined the National Guard as a helicopter pilot in the wake of the death of Russ Van Alstyne's wife. They've managed to avoid each other for several months, but the death of an illegal immigrant throws them together in solving the crime. I think what I liked least about this book is that it covered an entire year--skipping over much of the grief and mourning so she could get them together at the end. Not my favorite of her books.

THE BELL JAR/Sylvia Plath/A-
Plath's famous fictional account of her own breakdown during her college years. Esther is living in New York for a month when life begins to close in on her. When she returns home, mental illness descends like a bell jar, allowing her to see the world, but not engage with it. She ends up in an upscale psychiatric hospital and gradually recovers enough to leave. Plath, of course, went on to marry English poet Ted Hughes, have two children, and finally killed herself in London after the bell jar suffocated her once more. A powerful book, especially for anyone who has suffered from mental illness or loves someone who has.

The next two Simon Serailler novels, set in a fictional English cathedral town. I loved the first one, which knocked me sideways and kept me breathless for days afterward. Of these two, I preferred the second one, which had some beautiful writing that spoke straight to me (about hospitals at night and the moments when a parent's life changes forever). But by the time I reached the third, I had to push to finish. These had less story and more character angst. Now I'm all about characters, but only when they have a story to do something in. And it's a bad sign when I detest the protagonist. By the end, I wanted to slap Simon Serailler and tell him to grow up and act his age and stop feeling sorry for himself for being so handsome and artistic and such a woman magnet. Yeah, life's hard. Move along.

THE BOOK THIEF/Marcus Zusak/A-
Ever read a book narrated by death? If not, this is the one to read. Liesl makes her first appearance as a 10-year-old girl who watches her brother die on a train. At his burial, she steals her first book, The Gravedigger's Handbook. Sent to live with foster parents to protect her from the Nazis' persecution of her Communist parents, Liesl finds solace in books. There's a Jewish boxer who hids in her cellar, a German boy who the Nazis want to train, two foster parents who are loving in their own different ways, and a mayor's wife who has never recovered from the death of her son in WWI. This is a powerful book I would recommend to everyone.

OUTLANDER/Diana Gabaldon/A+
My friend Becca has been telling me for months I would love this book. I did.

Okay, maybe I'll say a little more. Claire Randall is in the Highlands shortly after the end of WWII. Although she and Frank have been married eight years, the war kept them apart for most of that time. While Frank is busy with genealogical interests, Claire winds up on a hillside in a circle of standing stones . . . and suddenly Frank, and her world, are 200 hundred years in the future. Transported to 1743 Scotland, Claire is swept into a tangle of politics and border fights and trying to keep herself from being burned as a witch. When she meets Jamie Fraser, everything is turned upside down and Claire will have to choose between her past in the 1900s and a future with a man she never imagined. I've bought the second in the series and I'm beyond delighted that I have several more to go.