Monday, June 29, 2009

It wasn't my fault...

Flower, Flower, Flower.

I am doomed.

Sister A is going to be furious with me. I'm serious. This could be it. I've locked myself in and I am not answering the phone.

This morning A and hubby K took daughter O to swim camp. O was extremely excited! She couldn't wait to leave. In fact my little O was so distracted by her efforts to rush her parents into the car that I got 2 squeezey hugs and a kiss from her with out begging or bribery. Yea me!

With their departure I got the twins for the day. Yea me again!

We had a great morning. We went to the beach park where after kicking their tiny buttocks in badminton I sat and read for a while (NewFoundLand by Rebecca Ray and it is a dee-light! I think I'll have a lot more to say about it later.) H and S threw anything they could lift into the river. Then it was off to our local bookstore where H picked out Pinky Pye (having read and Ginger Pye and loving it) and S was thrilled to get the next book in The Little House series, By the Shores of Silver Lake. Then it was back to their house where we had lunch and rode our bikes for a while.

This is probably about where the decision making started going south. Don't get me wrong nothing ended in tears (unless you want to count mine which should be flowing in about 18 minutes) or a trip to the emergency room but well, I am hiding out right?

The weather was beautiful and surprisingly summery. Hey! Cue the Beach Boys music and let's go in the pool. The pool was terrific. There was splashing, there was floating, they was interpretive dance. Two hours later we exit the pool. Now we're all logy and brain tired. You know that feeling? You're comfortably cool and feeling lazy and weak?

I'm not quite sure how what happened next happened. I swear it really is a blur. I know that we were playing Who Can Cheat The Best At Candy Land --a family favorite-- and then suddenly I had Sharpies in my hand. And. There was H next to me still in his bathing suit and with a lot of exposed, unmarked flesh. The perfect canvas.

I'll admit it. I'm weak and I guess S is too because she had a handful of markers and I had a handful of markers and H now has some "tattoos". There's a Mom heart with wings on his left arm, a hula girl on his right arm, a battleship on his stomach that he can make roll with the waves if you know what I mean, a pink heart of his left cheek--lower case cheek, and he now has brown chest hair.

This was when the phone rang. It was A to say that she and K were at our local exit and would be home in about 15 minutes. All of a sudden my life was an 80's teen movie. Man oh man did I snap back to reality with a vengeance. I hustled H back into the pool and S and I tried to scrub the Sharpie off him. I know, I know. It's a permanent marker. I was paniced. I thought that the chlorine might help fade him a little. When that didn't work I got him out and dressed. Everything was covered that could lead to questions and sentencing as an adult.

By now H and S both knew the amount of trouble we were about to be in and that it was going to go much worse for me. Confessing and throwing ourselves onto A's mercy was not an option. Hey we weren't raised to give in. You don't confess if there's any kind of chance you can beat it. The three of us worked out a little scenario where in H keeps his clothes on and tubs and scrubs himself before bed everyday for the next 5 years.

Did it work? I don't have a clue. As soon as A and K walked in the door I bugged out. I'll tell you I now perfectly understand how the insanity defense works. I do have a history of "tattooing" children without parental knowledge. When O was a baby I put a temporary tattoo of a rose on her bottom and a dove on her shoulder and then took her to meet A at the pediatrician's for a check up. I cannot tell you how angry A was after the examination. As I recall "you idiot moron" and "it's on her permanent record" were both yelled at me numerous times. This time it was not premeditated. It all happened in a too-long-in-the-pool induced haze.

That's it. I shall use the Pool-Brain Defense and maybe someday I will have unsupervised visitation once again with my wonderful nieces and nephew . If there is any incarceration-ing involved will you promise to bake me a cake with a file in it? And a hamburger too, can there be a hamburger in there?

On the lam,

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Blood Begets Blood

Maybe it's a little late for me to be on the Internet poking around but when I saw "Mr Darcy, Vampyre" ...well after my experience with "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" I had to call on my inner Nancy Drew and investigate.

Flower, where oh where will all this classics-meet-the-undead end? Will "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" be hungry for blood? Mother Goose? Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow and everywhere that Mary went the blood was sure to flow. To Kill A Mocking Zombie? Will Scarlett O'Hara be Scarlett for a different reason?

From the publisher's website:
Sourcebooks Landmark Announces New Major Release: Mr. Darcy, Vampyre
Sourcebooks Landmark, the leading publisher of Jane Austen-related fiction, is excited to announce a major release in the category: Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by international bestselling author Amanda Grange. Amanda Grange's style and wit bring readers back to Jane Austen's timeless storytelling, but always from a very unique and unusual perspective, and now Grange is back with an exciting and completely new take on Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. "Amanda Grange is our internationally bestselling author of Mr. Darcy's Diary," says Sourcebooks acquisitions editor Deb Werksman, "and we were so excited when she came to us last year with this brilliant vision for an altered Darcy. Amanda starts where Pride and Prejudice ends and introduces a dark family curse so perfectly that the result is a delightfully thrilling, spine-chilling, breathtaking read. A dark, poignant and visionary continuation of Austen's beloved story, this tale is full of danger, darkness and immortal love." Sourcebooks has announced an on-sale date of August 11, and a 75,000 copy first print run.


Wish Your Postcard Was Here

Holy Cow Flower!

That is the very best coincidence story I have ever heard. No Contest.

How on Earth did that little 3x5 piece of paper make it to the trade show? I would love to have seen Jane's face when she found it.

The closest thing I have to that magical tale (and mine is a weak, vest pocket imitation of your great story) was when sister A and I pulled a shopping cart out of the cart train at the supermarket and there in the bottom was the shopping list that A had given her husband K the week before. We were both equal parts surprised to find the note and disgusted that K hadn't thrown the list away.--Hey Man! Give a hoot and don't pollute!

I had no idea that postcard collecting was so big. I remember a few years ago a book came out called "Boring Postcards USA" from Phaidon. The title said it all my friend. We carried it at the bookstore because there was a postcard in there of a long out of business grocery store from the next town over. Can you imagine how happy the sales rep was to have that to point out? This book was actually a follow up to "Boring Postcards" which was all British postcards and presumably a whole different kind of boring than the American ones. Maybe the Brit version had a lot more savory pork pies.

Having a wonderful time,

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hi, Happy.

I have a story to share with you that may well be the most jaw-dropping "coincidence" tale I've ever heard, but I have no reason whatsoever to doubt its veracity. A couple of nights ago, we were sitting around the table at my sister-in-law Dee's house after having consumed with way too much gusto an excellent meal prepared with typical and delicious overkill by my brother-in-law. As is usually the case when our family and their friends get together, we indulged in one of our favorite pastimes: sharing anecdotes that are generally hilarious but sometimes veer off into "Can you believe this?" territory. This is one of those.

Dee's best friend of decades, Jane, had shared dinner with us. She and her partner Bill sell collectibles, both at trade shows and on eBay, with a particular emphasis on vintage postcards. This is one of those phenomena whose popularity you'd have no reason to be aware of unless you were directly involved in it or know someone who is, but apparently the market for old postcards of all kinds is ginormous. Not only that, but collectors often will specialize in, for instance, only cards that depict cats....and not just cats, but specifically cats lying on couches. Or they'll look for cards whose postmark coincides with a particular historical date or a certain year or maybe their birthday. A tiny taste of this parallel universe is available here:, here:,E.html and here: If that's not enough for you, mosey on over to eBay and search for "vintage postcards." You'll pull up almost 11,000 hits. Who knew?

Listening to Jane describe this whole other world where the quest to score another addition to your collection is an all-consuming enterprise was fascinating and weird in equal measure. But the truly astonishing was still to come.

Last year, Jane and Bill attended a huge postcard show, one of several they go to annually, where more than a couple of hundred dealers displayed their wares, a total of something like 200,000 postcards. Jane and Bill split up in order to cover the maximum square footage possible in the alotted time. The thought of wandering around in a warehouse-sized venue, flipping through thousands and thousands of postcards is....well, let's just say "to each her own" and be done with it. For Jane, it's pretty much down to a science now: she knows what she's looking for and will only flip the card over to look at the message, address and postmark if it's something that really catches her eye or her interest.

To hear her describe how she did just that and found herself staring at a card that had once been sent TO HER FATHER gave me goosebumps. No, it wasn't addressed to someone who shared her father's name, it bore her father's name and - get this - his address when he had been stationed many years ago in Greenland. Somehow, in this vast sea of 200,00 little rectangular greetings, she had stumbled upon a postcard half a century old that had once traveled to Greenland and eventually made its way back across the ocean to wind up - amazingly -in Jane's hand and, shortly thereafter, in her father's once again.

I can't remember who she said had sent the card originally, but that's irrelevant to the story. She brought the card to her father, who vaguely remembered having received it, but has no idea when or how it left his possession or how it possibly could have ended up as part of a dealer's wares.

So there you have it, the best coincidence story I have ever heard. And I doubt I'll ever hear a better one.

Peace Out.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Pride And My Prejudice Of It All

Good Morning Flower!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Jane Austen fan is a rabid fan. I am such a fan. I love Aunt Jane. The novels are as much of a delight to me now 30 years after I first read them as they were in their fresh flower of discovery. I've listened to them all on audio many times and by many different readers. I've seen all the movies, the miniseries, any adaptations that have come down the pike have found themselves before me. I will admit to not actively taking part in all the Austen fan fiction both published and web based. I have no problem with a writer imagining what the children Elizabeth Darcy might be like but for me since these novels are not written by Jane or even in the 19Th century and I do have other writers that I want to read, I'll take a pass and wish them well.

Can you feel the coming but?

It is so coming. Flower you know me. I don't want to be a hater or a naysayer. I seek to applaud creativity, vision, hard work, the effort of the mind to entertain. But Holy Cow I have to ask why is it that the one joke non-wonder that is "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" has sold so well?


--There's the Jane fan herself hungry for another version of The Story who buys one.
--There's someone buying it for the Jane fan, "Oh my gosh! She will crack up when I give this to her!" (That's how I got 4 copies of it.)
--There's the fan of Zombie fiction.
--There's the family and friends of the author.
--There's the jealous co-worker of the author.
--There's the wanna be author who is sure that this is a plagiarized version of his magnum opus.
--There's that guy's lawyer.
--Then... ? Who else is there?

I'm glad for the sake of the author, publisher and booksellers that P&P&Z has been successful. It's successful enough to be available in several editions. I wish success for all, but... I don't get it. I was gifted it (many times) and intrigued enough by the attention its received to try it as far as page 98 and then I was done. It's a way, way too long "Onion" story. As I was reading it I was picturing the author filling in his "Mad Libs" version of Pride and Prejudice and having all sorts of fun making all his nouns Zombie or blood and all his verbs kill and alarm. For me it was a bore. Once I read the first chapter I knew all and the joke was over.

Oh well. If there's a movie of it will I see it? Jane Austen meets "28 Days Later"? Um....there is the Austen lure, but no.

Are you dying to know a few of my favorite Pride and Prejudice things?

Fav movie adaptation of P&P?
--1940 version with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier.
--Greer Garson is charm.
--The supporting cast know their business and are fabulous. Edna May Oliver and Mary Boland I wish you each had made 30 more movies.
-- The costume designer completely abandoned the look of period and dressed everyone in an early Victorian style. That is so much more flattering that the look of 1812. Who but a 10 year old or a bulimic looks good in that Empire style of dress?
--The same goes for the hairdresser, except for the bulimic part

Fav Elizabeth Bennett?
-- It's a total tie between Greer and Jennifer Ehle who are so talented and able to close their lips when not speaking.

Fav Mr Darcy?
-- Matthew MacFayden. All others are too hammy and pouty.

Fav Audio of P&P?
--Glenda Jackson is the reader and it was put out years ago by Dove Audio. She's so wonderful that I love it even though it's an adaptation! I don't think it's available new any longer.

Fav book cover?
--This one is always in flux. The copy of P&P that I have held onto is an old out of print Oxford hardcover addition that my old bookstore got as a remainder years ago. I don't have am image of it for you, sorry. It's very plain with wonderful lettering over muted pastel stripes.
However, if you'd like to see a wonderful unpublished jacket for P&P that was done as a graduate project and hits all the right points without being the usual romantic portrait of 1 or 2 women that generally graces most Austen books, then go look here:


P.S. Happy Father's Day to MB!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Happy Angel's Game Day!

Good Morning Flower!

I've waited. I've been patient, used my time wisely, cleaned my plate and now the moment has arrived. The new novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, the author of "The Shadow of the Wind", is here. It's called "The Angel's Game" and it goes on sale today.


I am. I was working in independent bookstore when "The Shadow of the Wind" came out. I adored it. It was magical. One of those leave your life on hold and climb in kinds of books. Even loving it, it was a tough sale in hardcover. It was big (496 pages), had a uninspired cover and was written by a Spanish author being published in the US for the first time. We sold it OK, but not as well as we wanted to. And then came the paperback. In paperback, "The Shadow of the Wind" was huge.

It's such a great feeling when a book that you are in love with sells like the old house a fire. There's the making money for your business, great. There's the kick of keeping the bookselling community strong, great. The delight in discovering a new author to follow and read, super great. The real thrill though is knowing that you have successfully forced your opinion on more people. Seriously. There's nothing like it.

So? Will I or won't I be trying to force "The Angel's Game" on people? ....Oh indeed I will my friend.

I'll delight you by telling you that "Game" is prequel to "Shadow", but I'm not going to give you plot chunks. What drives this train is a young writer being offered a fortune to write a book that will change people's lives. To in effect create a new religion. Is it the Devil making the offer? Is the writer the villain? The victim? Yeah, I'm not telling. Not telling either about the 200 other fascinating characters, the wonders of Barcelona, how many times failure is snatched from the jaws of victory or whether or not we revisit The Cemetery of Lost Books.

Zafon's writing is lush and descriptive. Turn away if you don't like a well upholstered novel. However if you want storytelling, if you want the brilliant and beguiling, to be swept into a dark and fascinating world then find a comfy chair, put the kids up for adoption, turn off the phone and climb aboard.


P.S. As always (nag, nag) "The Angel's Game" and millions of other fab-o books are available in independent bookstores everywhere.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Gifts of War and you too Flower

Hello Flower!

First off I think that you and MB are tremendously brave for heading off to stay (not just visit, but s-t-a-y) with people you haven't seen in a couple decades. I know other, very dear Friends would be there too, but still... You're there and you're stuck. That's brave.

Now, do Roy and Laura have any plans to adopt an already potty trained, non-moody, all their vegetable eating 4th child because I am available.

Wow. Not to take away from the hard work that brought them their financial success, but I hope they know how lucky they are to be above money worries.

I have often wondered about the work that has to go into a lifestyle like what you've described of Roy and Laura's. True they aren't the ones mowing the grass or raising their kids (?) but making sure all that is done is work. Do you need to have all that to deal with? Obviously not so what makes you choose it?

Sure if I had a mountain of moola I'd have a beautiful home, someone to help keep it clean, a new car, lots of vacations and 100's more books and yarn, but I wouldn't have a house big enough for 2 families to live in and need a permanent staff to maintain it. That would only make my siblings visit more frequently. ~~shudder~~ I wouldn't want the effort of it or the people it requires. I don't want to be responsible for the livelihood of others unless there's a chance of taking the whole thing public at some point.

Seriously. I'd want that money to help my family and the charities I believe in.

Flower, I have been fortunate enough lately to read a bunch of books that I have liked very, very much. I think that you'll like "Gifts of War" as well. I'll hold onto it for you.

Gifts of War by Mackenzie Ford
I thought "Gifts of War" was a terrific read. It's a meditation on ethics cleverly disguised as a well written historical page turner! It's like the author figured out a way to hide the vegetables inside the cheesecake.

The opening section of "Gifts" is a powerful description of the supremely ghastly and the miraculous Christmas of 1914 at the front. Here we are introduced to British infantryman Hal Montgomery. Hal has the old school background and is the kind of traditional hero we can respect. So it comes a bit of a shock then that he is also a man who will justify commandeering someone elses attempt at a happy ending. When your future might only be the next 10 minutes do you have the right to beg, borrow or steal what happiness comes your way? Or should doing the right thing even though it has seemingly no chance to succeed be the rule of the day?

Once Hal decides to break his promise to a fellow soldier his life becomes the happiest it's ever been, but at what cost? Now despite his very real joy and the joy he is able to bring others Hal must guard every step to try and maintain his lie. As his life becomes more complicated and more populated his secret begins to rule his life more and more. When grief leads Hal to one careless moment his carefully incubated happiness is put in peril.

One of the best things about this novel is the sense of discovery that pervades it. Ford (the nom de plume of a well known British historian and first time novelist) is able to make all that is already know about life from 1914 to 1919 fresh and to bring that same freshness to his many characters. The twists and turns of their lives never feel contrived or soap opera-y. Their lives seem to naturally unfold from that one decision of Hal's.

While I was enjoying this novel I was struck by what an excellent reading group choice it will make. I can easily imagine both men and woman finding a lot to discuss here. The turbulent atmosphere, the lethal good intentions and a wealth of "what if" questions will make for great discussions.

"Gifts of War" goes on sale 7/7/09 at fabulous independent bookstores all across the universe and some other places as well.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hey, Happy. I've had a whirlwind five days and don't quite know where to begin recounting them, so let me share with you the impressions gleaned from a weekend spent visiting The-Other-Halfville.

Ok, backstory: we have been close friends forever with David and Millie (not their real names, obvy), who now live on the West Coast. My Beloved went to high school with David and we've been couples friends for decades and get along wonderfully. They married the same year we did and have kids the same ages as ours. David and Millie try to fly out to NYC at least once a year to visit family, including their daughter, who lives in Manhattan and works for Conde Nast. So.....

Now, Millie's brother and sister-in-law, Roy and Laura, are multi-millionaires. I am talking the kind of money where you can and do spend and spend and never feel the pain. Roy was in the same high school class with MB and David, although until recently he and MB hadn't had any contact since the 70s. But as David and Millie would be spending some time at Roy's home outside the city, the plan evolved that MB and I would visit there with them, MB would reunite with Roy, and we'd have a grand time.

And we did, for the most part. Let me say at the outset that Roy and Laura could not be nicer, friendlier, or more gracious and generous people, and there is not a trace of the kind of arrogance, self-importance, or snootiness that might accrue to one's status as monied and privileged.

That said, the contrast between their world (and how it operates ) and our current unemployed, uninsured reality could not be starker. And the freedom that financial abundance allows flows out into every aspect, large and small, of their lives. Here's what I observed and experienced:

First of all: two maids, a live-in nanny (they've had one since their first kid was born 18 years ago), at least one gardener, and a pool man. Two high-powered careers in finance: Laura's last BONUS was (don't choke on your iced tea): $1,300,000. Yes, that's 1.3 MILLION dollars. For a bonus. Clearly that won't be happening THIS year, and who knows if ever again, but remember that that number has been inching - sometimes hurtling - upwards annually for a couple of decades. The house is large and expensively furnished, although not particularly tastefully, but whatever. The gorgeous pool is lagoon-shaped, with its own waterfall (turned on and off with a switch!), and its surrounding landscaping beautifully maintained. The basement level of the house is finished off and a family of four could live there comfortably. The kitchen was recently remodeled with lots and lots of granite and dark hardwood. Giant recessed TVs abound.

All three kids will spend two weeks at their respective camps this summer AFTER a trip to Texas, but BEFORE two weeks in Hawaii, which will be followed by a stay in California on their way home. Europe is on the agenda (again) for next year.....oh, I forgot to mention an upcoming cruise at some point before year's end.

Laura is very type-A, with a high-powered, high-pressure job in the city with a bank that's had two bailouts so far. In constant motion and seemingly unable to relax and spend time with her guests, so we barely got to converse at all, which was disappointing.

In classic fashion, the oldest kid, a young man I'll call Mark, is the troubled, acting-out son of rich people, who fancies himself a misunderstood, dark, sardonic poet. My impression: I felt bad for him, as the parents clearly cannot relate to him (story of my life), but on the other hand, my attempt to engage him in conversation was met with barely-concealed hostility. Feh.

The true delight of our time there was 10-year-old Ali, their wonderful younger daughter (another girl is 14). So smart, unaffected, completely at ease speaking with adults, truly charming and engaging in every way. Sophisticated in an unpretentious way. It was a genuine treat to interact with her and I hope our paths cross again.

Here's one of my biggest take-aways from those two days, though: When you arrive at that level of wealth and comfort, your life becomes an ongoing struggle to maintain it. Look, don't get me wrong, that's probably a trade-off I would be more than willing to make at this stage of my life, and having lived on the financial edge for all my life, with the dark cloud of insolvency always looming on the horizon. I'm simply observing and certainly not passing judgment.

Now I'm back in the cold grip of my own reality. I'm going to go clip coupons.

There's more to this story, by the way, but not to be sent out into the ethernets. I'll do that over coffee with you next time.

Peace Out,

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hello Flower.

So we've both been following hard working Lance Fensterman's 2009 BEA. How do we feel about it? Aside from the distress of not attending I mean. I don't miss the massive amounts of whining that goes on at that show which could only have been multiplied by about 8,000 given, as they say, The Economy.

All the coverage I read about all the worries about the digital soon to be taking over the paper has made me think about many things. One of them is watches. I've never owned a watch, but I like watches. Now that everyone between the ages of 9 and 75 has a cell phone and they are always on and permanently attached to their left hand and every cell phone has the time prominently displayed on it are people buying watches anymore? Are cell phones killing watch sales?

As for books? I love books. There will never be a time that I will not lust after books. No matter how many I have read or how many I have waiting to read I will want more, more, more. And. I will always want to force books on others. So be warned.


P.S. Note to Book World--Why not find find a venue for BEA that might be a little cheaper than NYC or LA? Maybe then publishers will continue to attend.