Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Item One: Check.

Item Two: Check.

Item Three: Check.

If only life were quite that simple.

I did run, I did cook, and I did write. Queries, in fact. The first queries I've sent out in several years.

For those who don't know what queries are, count your lucky stars. For those who do, rejoice with me. And for all of you (especially, say, anyone of my acquaintance who happens to be an agent but has never mentioned that fact) I present part of my query letter:

What happens when a 21st-century teen meets a 19th-century scoundrel? Murder, love, and dangerous dinner parties. Time and Sorrows is a finished manuscript of 80,000 words, a YA timeslip romance.

Seventeen-year-old Kierra Holt is inYorkshire in 2008 when she sees the manor house of Sorrows Court for the first time. Or is it the first time?
Kierra has odd flashes of memory at Sorrows Court and is drawn to the story of former owner Colin Langlie. History records him as a spy, killer, and suicide, but evidence is tantalizingly hard to come by. When Kierra explores an ancient tunnel beneath the house on the night of the full moon, she gets more than deja vu and history books—she gets Colin Langlie himself.
1800 is not all empire dresses and candlelit balls. In France, Napoleon is rising and more than alcohol is being smuggled across the sea. Colin has an endless supply of both enemies and secrets, but Kierra holds the darkest secret of all—the date of Colin's death.
Can Kierra change the past? Should she? Caught between times, Kierra must decide which to believe: history or her heart.

Now that I've faithfully reported my progress, I have an announcement: Bluestocking Impressions is moving. Same blog, same title, different address. I explain all about it at my new home here. Check it out and don't forget to bookmark the new page, where I explain the move. See you there!

Friday, July 24, 2009


1. I have 57 books on my To-Be-Read shelves. Two of those I bought yesterday, even though I had absolutely, positively sworn I would not buy another book until I'd read at least 10 of the ones waiting for me. "Hello, my name is Laura, and I'm a bookaholic."

2. I loathe cooking. Especially in summer.

3. I have gained back five pounds of the 15 I lost last year.

4. I am days, if not weeks, behind in my email.

5. Since running the 5K in May, I haven't done a single run of more than a mile since.

6. I haven't done any writing in the month of July.

And the deepest, darkest confession of all . . .

7. I don't care.

Well, I care. I just don't care enough to fix it. Any of it. (Except the books--I do continue to read, as well as buy, books.)

But everything else takes energy--physical, mental, emotional--to get started. And it's the getting started that I've always had trouble with. Overcoming the inertia of an object at rest always seems more trouble than it's worth.

Except that I know it is worth it. And then I feel guilty. Which is an energy drain in and of itself.

Are you seeing the vicious circle?

So if I'm going to confess publicly, I might as well take shameless advantage of publicity and resolve to jump start the inertia now.

So . . .

By July 31st I will:

1. Do a 30-minute run.

2. Cook something more complex than scrambled eggs.

3. Write. Something. Anything.

See you in a week!

(The exclamation point is an attempt to care.)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


The 3rd and 4th books in the series following Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire. KINDNESS takes place in Philadelphia where Walt has come to visit his daughter, Cady. But he arrives to find Cady in a coma after a beating and now Walt is after the men who did it. The western tone and atmosphere survives the East coast just fine and ends with a beautiful sequence in a city park. MOCCASINS is set back in Wyoming with large sections flashing back to Walt's first murder investigation 40 years before in Vietnam. When the body of a Vietnamese girl is found alongside a Wyoming highway, Walt has to dig into the past to find the killer of today. Johnson is a wonderful storyteller and if you ever have a chance to hear him speak in person--grab it. He's phenomenal.

The pen name that Ruth Rendell uses for her stand-alone psychological suspense novels. Ivor Tesham becomes a Tory MP at 31 and seems destined for stardom. But his propensity for sexual games proves his downfall. When a birthday gift for his married mistress ends in her death, Ivor spends months trying to pretend it had nothing to do with him. But his mistress had a friend who knows too much, a twisted and difficult woman who may or may not want to blackmail Ivor. Not my favorite of Vine's novels, but she would be hard-pressed to write anything that didn't satsify as a story.

INK EXCHANGE/Melissa Marr/A-
Leslie was once Aislinn's best friend. But since Ash has started hanging out with Keenan (whom Leslie doesn't know is actually a fey and the Summer King), Leslie has kept her distance. She has secrets of her own, painful ones she'd do anything to hide. But Keenan's friend, Niall, is watching and Leslie begins to think he might be her answer. Everything changes when she gets her tattoo--a symbol that links her to Irial and his Dark Court in a terribly personal way. Leslie's choices have been taken away--can Niall help her find her way to independence? This is easily my favorite of Marr's books and I hope she plans to bring Leslie back in future stories.

Wealthy spinster Rachel Innes is persuaded to take a country house for the summer by her wards, Gertrude and Halsey. Set at the turn of the last century, this story has things that go bump in the night, a dead body, ill-fated love, a bank scandal, and a possible hidden room. What really works in this dated story is the voice--Rachel Innes is marvelously sarcastic and self-aware and refuses to take her own fears seriously. It was a fun read for the beach.

Gotten lots of word of mouth and big promotions, but just not to my taste. Liz is the girl with tattoos (the dragon being just one) who does freelance work investigating security risks. When she's asked to investigate a journalist who has just been convicted of libel, Liz can't get him off her mind. The main story is Mikael's (the journalist) who is asked by a wealthy recluse to help him discover who killed his great-niece 40 years ago and has been taunting him with it ever since. It's a classic closed-circle mystery (in this case, an island in Sweden) and Mikael's work soon stirs up threats against himself. The premise is solid, but the execution didn't work for me. It didn't help that I didn't really like any of the characters.

SONS OF THE PROFITS/William Speidel/B-
A history of the first 50 years of Seattle, starring the profit-minded men in all fields who helped Seattle evolve from a mud-swamped camp to the Northwest's biggest city. The voice is distinct and brash, but mostly worth it for the funny stories layered in. Like the men lynched by a mob--on their death certificates, the coroner listed as Cause of Death "Irate Citizens."

INTO THIN AIR/Jon Krakauer/A
In May 1996, journalist Krakauer reached the summit of Everest just hours before a storm blew in and killed 7 people, 5 of them from his team. This is an amazing adventure book and a meticulous account of a disaster that should never have happened but is in the nature of attempting the world's highest mountain. Krakauer brings to life not just the people, but the conflicts and the mountain itself. Highly recommended.

THE LACE READER/Brunonia Barry/A+
Ah, a book one will either love or hate. Towner Whitney tells the reader in the first paragraph that she lies, setting you up for a fabulous story about the past, memory, and identity. Towner left Salem, Massachusetts 15 years ago after the death of her twin sister, Lyndley and Towner's own stay in a mental hospital. Now, at 32, she comes back home when her aunt vanishes. Coming home means confronting her mother, who takes in abused women on her tiny island, a past lover, and a police chief who suspects a cult leader of more than brainwashing. The title refers to the practice of lace reading, wherein gifted women could look through lace and see a peron's future. Read it! And then let me know if you're in the love it or hate it camp :)

Monday, June 29, 2009


Is it really almost July? I suppose I should just be thankful that the faster summer goes, the faster school comes.

Here's my month in random:

1. Fish Killer. Just carve it on my tombstone. My daughter caught me at a weak moment last month and begged for permission to bring home a bala shark from her class aquarium. So I bought a tank . . . and gravel . . . and plastic plants . . . and food . . . and water chemicals . . . about which time I wanted to scream, "This is why I don't want a pet!"

But I was trying to be A Good Mom. Poor fish, he didn't know what was coming.

We duly set up everything and got Chester home. He wasn't happy about it. He didn't eat. He darted around a lot--not happy, joyful darting, more like panicked, get-me-out-of here darting. By the second night, I had a dream that Chester finally ate and I was delighted. When I woke up I thought, "Dreaming about a fish? This is why I don't want a pet!"

My husband came home from a trip four days later and said, "I haven't seen the fish. Where is he?" We walked into my daughter's bedroom (she was gone with her grandparents) and I started scanning the tank for Chester. He wasn't darting. He was floating.

"That's a dead fish," my husband said.

And so it was.

When I told my sixteen-year-old, "I killed the fish" he said, "Accidentally?"

And that is why I Don't Want a Pet.

2. Three states and one trip to Mexico. By tomorrow night, I and my two youngest children will be returning from our second visit to Idaho in June. At least this trip doesn't require 12-hours in a car and a long drive through part of Montana. Though I have to admit that Coeur d'Alene was strikingly beautiful and we couldn't beat our lakeside condo. It was a fun week with the little ones, my parents, and my best friend and her two kids. But that 12-hour drive each way . . . there's a reason I like airplanes.

Especially when the airline bumps you to first class. On our flight home from Cabo San Lucas, our entire six-person family got moved into first class (due to my frequent-flying husband). I thought my second son would burst for joy--he's been deadly jealous that his older brother got bumped to first class on a flight last year. My daughter thought it was lovely. The seven-year-old, however, took it in stride. It's the baby you've got to watch for, I'm telling you. They fly first class, they stay in nice hotels . . . they have no memory of the early years of a family when you're just glad there aren't any visible blood stains on your motel carpet.

3. Books. I love summer. I love summer reading. And I love that my revised manuscript is finished, because now I can love my reading with a clear conscience.

4. 40 Days of 40. It's my husband's turn. He's not as excited as I was. He keeps moaning about refusing to turn 40 next month. I remind him that every insult he makes about 40-year-olds lowers the bar for anything he'll get from his already-40-year-old wife.

5. Portland. Next week I'm going to Portland for four days with two fabulous friends. We have our various reasons for going--getting away from the kids, sleeping without interruption, eating out and no dishes to do--but my primary reason is simple.


Simply put, the best bookstore in the world. Five floors of new, used, and rare books. I've been there multiple times during my trips to Portland over the years, but I've never been able to spend more than a couple hours. That is going to change. This trip, I plan to spend an entire day.

The only problem is we're flying, so I'm not sure how I'm going to get all the books home. Note to self: Find the nearest post office to Powell's and plan to ship a box. Or two.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


A relatively short but utterly fascinating account of the coming of Christianity to Ireland and the subsequent spread across Europe of Irish and Irish-educated monks and nuns during the Middle Ages. The title refers to the fact that the fall of the Roman Empire wiped out many libraries and even literacy itself and that, without the Irish monastaries, even more would have been lost forever. I absolutely fell in love with this book and have been talking up the Irish ever since.

This third novel with P.I. Jackson Brodie hinges on a series of odd links. As a child thirty years ago Joanna Mason was the only survivor of a knife attack by Andrew Decker. Now he's been released from prison. Jackson, after boarding the wrong train, winds up in Scotland in a train crash that nearly kills him. He's saved by 16-year-old Regina Chase, who nannies for Joanna Mason's baby son. And in the hospital, Brodie discovers that he has the wallet of paroled killer Andrew Decker in his pocket. Now Joanna and her baby are missing, no one can find Decker, and Detective Louise Munroe is confronted with Brodie at a time when her new marriage is crumbling. I loved the multiple storylines and characters--except for Louise. I just couldn't stand her in this outing. I hope she gets over her fits of self-righteousness before the next book.

There have been several "Bloody Sundays" in Irish history. This book recounts the one in 1920, when Michael Collins' agents simultaneously assassinated 19 British spies in Ireland and broke the back of England's intelligence service. Within a year, Collins had a treaty and the Republic of Ireland was born. This book was a little dry, but gives excellent background on the final push to Irish nationhood, including the Easter Rising of 1916.

The third Matthew Shardlake mystery, set in the reign of Henry VIII. In this outing, Matthew is asked to travel to York where the king is set to visit just five years after a Northern rebellion. His job is to make sure a recently-arrested traitor makes it back to London for questioning. But then a glazier falls to his death and Matthew finds himself in the center of a mystery that stretches back to Richard III and may shake the throne of England. The great strength of this series is its ability to make me feel that I am there, in Tudor England, in all its grandeur and misery.

DUBLINERS/James Joyce/A-
I picked up, fittingly, in Dublin, this collection of short stories by one of Ireland's most famous writers. Joyce is an acquired taste and not entirely mine, but I found these stories compelling in spite of the overall sense of melancholy. Araby is in here, a story that many read in English classes.

THE YEAR OF WONDERS/Geraldine Brooks/B+
Pulitzer Prize winner Brooks (for MARCH) writes about a 17th-century English village and its infection by the plague. They have a choice: run and spread the plague with them, or stay and contain it? Due to the charismatic nature of the village pastor and his beloved wife, the village seals itself off for one years. As people die, brutally and often, relationships change. The story is told by Anna Frith, a young widow who works for the pastor and helps his wife tend to the sick and dying. Nothing is as it seems in this book, especially the people. I did not like the ending, but otherwise it was a remarkably fine story.

In the 12th-century England of Henry II, four Christian children have been mutilated and killed in Cambridge. The Jews of the town stand accused. Enter Adelia, a trained physician and coroner from Salerno who Henry wants to read the secrets of the dead children and clear the Jews of the charges. Adelia hates England--especially having to hide her training from people who would burn her as a witch--but the case takes a personal turn and when royalty is involved, personal choice rarely enters into it. A strong beginning to a new historical mystery series.

Follow-up to her first novel, WICKED LOVELY, this urban fantasy returns to Aislinn who has now taken her place as Summer Queen. But she's finding it hard to balance her human boyfriend, Seth, with her duties to Keenan, her Summer King. And the pull isn't all professional--as summer warms, the temptation to be everything Keenan wants grows stronger. And as conflict threatens to become war, even Sorcha, Queen of the High Court, is taking an interest . . . in Seth. Quick read, the story worth overlooking the occasionally labored writing.

The return of Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes. Sigh of pleasure. I liked this one better than the previous two, which took place outside England and with long sections from Holmes' point of view. This book sticks almost entirely to Mary and is set firmly in England (except for the end, which takes place on a Scottish island). Holmes is asked by a Bohemian artist to investigate the disappearance of his wife and 3-year-old child. It's a request Holmes, for personal reasons, cannot refuse. But those same reasons make it hard for him to be objective. So Mary has the uncomfortable task of sifting facts her husband won't. A wonderful mix of Bohemians and dangerous cults and early airplane pilots, with the voice that only Mary Russell has. I just hope the next book doesn't take too many years to be written.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009


(And you know we have actual drums in our basement, so that's not an idle threat.)

What are you doing October 13?

I'll tell you what . . .

Picking up a copy of HUSH, HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick. Because you know you want to be the first to join the frenzy.

And if you want to know how to identify the book by its cover, then click away. Be sure and click on the cover itself for a larger view.

Now tell me, isn't that the coolest cover for a YA book you've seen in ages?

(Although I have to say my favorite detail is that Becca's name is in red. How awesome is that?)