Friday, September 26, 2008


Remember a few posts back, My Summer in a Minute, where I told you that my friend, Becca, is the next Stephenie Meyers (only better)?

Behold my rightness.

Becca's got a deal. Simon and Schuster, two-book deal, and an eye-rolling advance. From Publisher's Marketplace:

Becca Ajoy Fitzpatrick's HUSH, HUSH, a sexy and dangerous romance about a teenage girl who falls in love with a fallen angel with a dark agenda to get his wings back, to Emily Meehan at Simon & Schuster Children's, in a two-book deal, for publication in Spring 2010, by Catherine Drayton at InkWell Management.

I can't believe I know her. I just hope she keeps returning my emails now that she's going to be all famous.

Of course, this is a huge boost for my own motivation. I mean, it's actually happened to someone I know! Someone whose drafts I've read! Someone who has gotten better in the last five years and never, never, never quit!

Becca, you're my hero.

And you deserve every bit of it :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Fashion: from the outside

Style: from the inside

Okay, you won't find those definitions anywhere but in my own head, but it's the conclusion I've come to after reading two books last months on style. However one defines those two terms, the distinction is important when considering one's wardrobe.

Fashion is something I've never possessed, and have only rarely wanted to. There were times in adolescence when I would try to jump on the fashion bandwagon, but it was almost always too little, too late. And though I had moments of it bothering me, it never bothered me enough to make the necessary effort to be truly fashionable.

Now I realize how very enlightened I was.

Because style is entirely different. It's not about what you wear--it's about who you are and how your choices in clothing reflect who you are.

(I'm not going to get into the whole philosophical argument that people should not be judged by their clothing--that may be nice in theory, but as any mother of teenagers knows, practically speaking people will make assumptions about us based on what we wear and how we wear it. So let's just take that as a given for the remainder of this post.)

I had help defining the issue with two books that I read last month: LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF STYLE by Nina Garcia and TIM GUNN'S GUIDE TO QUALITY, TASTE, AND STYLE by, not surprisingly, Tim Gunn. Both are part of Project Runway (Nina, an editor at ELLE magazine, is a judge and Tim is the, for lack of a better word, father to the competing designers, meaning he wrinkles his brow in concern, shepherds them through crises of confidence and tells them to "Make it work!") I picked up their books for several reasons, not the least of which was an upcoming shopping trip during which, lucky me, I would need some new clothes thanks to the success of the BodyBugg.

And I wanted to buy something slightly more sophisticated than jeans and t-shirts. Maybe it's my upcoming 40th birthday. In any case, I was hungry for information and Nina and Tim provided it in clear, easy to read style (there's that word again--it pops up everywhere!)

The salient points:

1. Quality beats quantity.

2. A deal isn't a deal if you'll never wear it.

3. Try on, try on, try on. Sizes differ from one label to another and you can never know how any particular item will look without trying it on. On a related note . . .

4. Don't get hung up on numbers. Tim's book had a revealing section on American vanity sizing (how mass market clothing has changed sizes downward in the last forty years to appeal to women's vanity--a size 12 then is now an 8.) I had a revelation on this point while driving across Wyoming with my friend, Katie. We are different heights, different weights, and wear different sizes. And it wouldn't necessarily match what you would guess from looking at us. If size 10 pants make you look 10 pounds heavier and size 12 makes you look 10 pounds slimmer, which size would you rather wear? If you must, cut out the size tags, but honestly no one will ever know the size unless you tell them.

5. Both Nina and Tim talked about inspirations--not to slavishly copy but more as an outline or beginning point. I found Tim's section on inspirations particularly helpful. And I was able to find mine, mostly as a process of deduction. After all, there's no chance that I'm Italian sexy like Sophia Loren or European chic like Jackie Kennedy. I really, really wanted to be Angelina Jolie--I can't even remember what her style is called but it quickly became obvious it wasn't mine. Join my husband in his moment of mourning.

Okay, moment's over. I know you're all dying to know what style I am. Ready?


Stop laughing. The waif style is not about body type, remember? The waif style as defined by Tim is classic and feminine. Think A-line skirts, cashmere cardigans, fitted tops, boot-cut trousers, and ballet flats. Waifs are rarely seen wearing high heels--this one threw me for a moment, but then I remembered that I certainly don't wear them every day and there's always room for slight adjustments. The waif style is epitomized by actress Natalie Portman and director Sofia Coppola. (In fact, I may just have decided I'm a waif merely because I love Padme Amidala and because I was beguiled by Tim's description of Sofia walking the streets of Paris in ballet flats and a patterned skirt.)

How did this information affect my shopping? For starters, I tried everything on, including items that caught my eye but that I would initially have dismissed as too small or not my style. I bought only what I loved, not what I merely liked. I bought classics with a twist, like a kelly green trench coat.

And I didn't buy a single t-shirt. Not one.

Fashion is beyond me. Style I can embrace.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

You know what's really great . . .

Falling into a good book after a string of disappointments.

I picked up Carol Goodman's THE NIGHT VILLA today and it was like breathing a sigh of relief. I've had this book on my shelf for months--why did I wait so long, I ask? Interesting characters, a riveting first chapter . . . this is the kind of book I want to write.

I've loved Goodman's books since THE LAKE OF DEAD LANGUAGES. They all have similar protagonists and themes--academic women, Latin and other classics, remote settings that are as vibrant as the characters, a breath of the supernatural, mystery and suspense and beautiful storytelling . . .

Aaaaahhhhhh. That's me being happy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


3 names I've been called
Stephanie Victoria (in my birth mother's mind)
Soeur Sudweeks (in Haiti)
J.K. Rowling (in my dreams)

3 places I've been in the last week
Hematology/Oncology Clinic at Primary Children's
Timpanogos Hospital ER
Park City Outlet Mall (definitely the most fun of the three)

3 languages I speak
Haitian Creole

3 favorite restaurant meals
Cafe Rio's fish tacos
Macaroni Grill's lobster ravioli
Porter's fresh fish pie (I don't get here often--it's near Covent Garden in London)

3 places I lived as a child
Wilmington, Delaware
Hagerstown, Maryland
Orem, Utah

3 places I've lived as an adult
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Hong Kong
Seattle, Washington

3 favorite places I've traveled
Aruba . . . oh, wait, that's more than 3

3 most-played songs on my iPod
The Reason by Hoobastank
Full of Grace by Sarah McLachlan
Good Riddance by Green Day

3 things I've done today
Bought fabric for Halloween
Spent an hour on the elliptical
Put enchiladas in the oven (note: I did not say I made them)

3 schools I've attended
Vineyard Elementary
Mountain View High School
Brigham Young University

3 favorite authors
Let's not even start

3 non-scriptural books I would take to a deserted island
THE SPARROW by Mary Doria Russell
THE COMPLETE WORKS OF JANE AUSTEN (okay, if you consider that cheating, than I guess I could confine myself to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE)

3 books I'm currently reading
FOUR QUEENS by Nancy Goldstone

3 current TV shows I watch (and this is stretching to get three)
Project Runway
Battlestar Galactica
Robin Hood

3 former TV shows I watch much more often than whatever is currently airing
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The West Wing
Sports Night or Firefly or Friends . . .

3 things I'm looking forward to
The end of my son's treatment
Finishing my new YA novel
Going to Maui with my husband for my 40th birthday

Sunday, September 07, 2008


BREAKING DAWN/Stephenie Meyer/B
The finale of the TWILIGHT quartet, this novel was greeted with midnight release parties all over the place. I didn't get to it on the first day, since we were still on a boat, but I did read it in two days flat when I got home. As I said earlier, my favorite of the series is and always will be TWILIGHT, but it was a pleasure to wrap up the storyline of human Bella and her vampire boyfriend Edward. I was surprised by several twists, which is always nice, and there was a happy ending which I always like. But the happy ending was a little too easy for my taste--not enough sacrifice, too much of Bella getting everything she ever wanted without having to give up anything--and I doubt I'll re-read it. But by all means finish out the series if you've started.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped buying all the new Perry Victorian mysteries and started getting them from the library. Still, this was more enjoyable than some of the her other recent offerings, with a tighter storyline and less jarring writing. (Or maybe it's just that the storyline was strong enough for me not to notice the writing.) When a prostitute is found eviscerated in the Prince of Wales' bedroom, Thomas Pitt is called in to investigate discreetly. His maid, Gracie, goes undercover in the servants' quarters at the Palace to help and the story is a rich one of Africa, ambition, and personal loss.

I keep picking up random Rebus mysteries to see if I'll like the next one better. I haven't yet. Not that I dislike them, it's that I really need at least one strong sympathetic character in a book and John Rebus just doesn't do it for me. He drinks too much, he has no close relationships, and he lives only for the job. I find his worldview depressing and only pushed through this book because of its interesting setting. Scotland is hosting the G8 in the summer of 2005 and Rebus is drawn into several murders that threaten to disrupt the forum. I did like his brief encounter with President Bush on a bicycle, and there was real emotional power to the London bombings that occurred that week. Rankin is extremely popular and his books are well-written. They're just not for me.

This was a book I got for free at Left Coast Crime in March and didn't read forever because I thought it wasn't my type of book. But I found out it was just what I needed for a couple of days--light and funny and a good story. Helen is on the run from her ex-husband and takes a series of Dead End Jobs to survive. In this book she's working in a bridal salon in south Florida and has to deal with the mother-of-the-bride from hell. Things look bad for Helen when the vicious mother is murdered shortly after Helen was heard arguing with her. To save herself, Helen investigates the downtrodden bride, her golddigging new husband, and a host of other eccentric characters. Great for a quick and fun read.

I'm kind of glad I put off reading this first in a series, because now I can go out and get the second one straightaway. Maddie is a journalist living in Syracuse during the 1980s, with an impeccable bloodline and none of the family money to back it up. When an old murder is raked up, Maddie is drawn into investigating by the fact that her favorite cousin's dogtags were found at the scene. Great characters, fabulolus first-person voice, evocative settings both scenically and culturally, and a wonderful mystery with lots of subtext. I loved it.

The second novel by the author of THE KITE RUNNER, which I loved. I loved this one even more. It's the story of Mariam and Laila, two Afghan women who are raised very differently but end up married to the same man while the city of Kabul disintegrates around them. From the Soviets to the Taliban, one sees a country being ripped to shreds while most people try simply to live their lives. Beautiful, heartbreaking, life-changing.

I'm not going to grade these here, because this whole style issue is going to gets its own post. Soon. I promise.

And last but not least, I went on a Vicky Bliss spree, to celebrate the newest entry in the series--the first Vicky Bliss book in 14 years. So I went back and read the previous ones:
From German castles to Roman villas, Swedish islands and lost treasure and Egyptian art, these books are the best for two simple reasons: Vicky Bliss, art historian, and John Tregarth, reformed antiquities thief. And after this orgy of reading, I was totally ready for . . .

The best thing I can say about this book is that I smiled the whole way through. I had fun, and clearly so did Peters. King Tut's mummy has been stolen from its sarcophagus in the Valley of the Kings and John is the prime suspect. Vicky belives him innocent--mostly. They set out with her boss, Schmidt, to prove John's innocence but his habit of silence and his increasingly frequent disappearances make it hard to put old suspicions to rest. Would you like it if you haven't read the rest? I have no idea. But when the rest are as wonderful as they are, why not start at the beginning and go on to the end? You won't be sorry.