Monday, September 28, 2009

Beg, Borrow, Steal - And Win!

MY OLD MAN was like Zeus's father Cronos: he couldn't bear the idea that any of his children might surpass him. Life radiated from the central pulse of his scrap-metal yard; the world beyond it seemed to make him defensive and nervous. Self-conscious about his lack of formal education, he took my bookishness as a personal affront. "What do you think is worth more," he once asked me, "a commodity or some goddamn idea?"

So is the theme established in Beg, Borrow, Steal - A Writer's Life (Other Press), the second book out by Michael Greenberg, This small treasure of 45 small, tightly woven tales of living a writer's life in the literary Valhalla of New York City quietly astoundone of my favorite memoirists. Less stories than vignettes, these slices of life are sensuous and bittersweet, tied together by a ribbon of yearning: for pasts, for compromises, for paths not chosen.

Last January, I selected Greenberg's memoir Hurry Down Sunshine to kick-off my debut author/Indy press review series. As with that book, the atories enthrall. Each chapter transports the reader to the intricacies of a life observed, one lived to follow his inner calling -- writing -- and the strugggles, mishaps, joys, and humor in keeping the integrity of that calling.

As a reader, what I love about Beg, Borrow, Steal is the total immersion in the physical environment that is New York; even as an outsider, the clamor of the family scrap metal business, the view of the Hudson from a derelict writing studio window, suffering the plague of rats, the rumble of the subway plunging through the bowels of the city all feel familiar. This world pores through his words, makes it real and vivid as a photograph, all told with economy and elegance. Which is why I love this book as a writer -- the prose, so tight, so bare of uneccessary words, yet so evocative.

Most of all, Greenberg provides flashes of making a living and a life as a writer, from selling counterfeit cosmetics from a vending cart to ghost-writing to sabotaging his own screenplay after being screwed by the director. All for the love of words. Read this book if you love New York, if you love excellent writing, if you are a writer.

Want your own copy of Beg, Borrow, Steal? Here's how. In 100 words or less relate how you have begged, borrowed, or stolen to live your dream. Leave your comment here or send your response to me via drwasy (at) gmail (dot) com. Put Beg, Borrow, Steal in the subject line. I'll swirl all answers in my magic hat and draw a random winner on October 15. PLUS... I'll publish the best five answers in a separate blog post.

Peace, Linda

Friday, September 25, 2009

Break Time: #fridayflash

Nausea pulses, a wave of jittering gray dots. The crash came so quick. But every stall’s filled; men stand three lines deep before the available urinals. Lemony disinfectant melds with ammonia piss and makes me almost gag. I lean over the sink, blast the faucet, wait for the place to clear but the door keeps opening.

Screw this. It’s too busy. I don’t have time to wait. I hurry out, resume my journey towards pre-op. Pale light filters through the atrium. Snow from last night’s squall dusts the glass of the domed ceiling. The fountain gurgles. Two kids toss coins, each penny dropping with a melodious ping. Making wishes no doubt: help my daddy get better, let my mommy bring home a baby brother, fix Grammy’s broken heart. If I had time and pennies to waste, what would I wish for?

Bette from ICU calls my name, snaps me from my daze. She waves, a tight curl of her hands, rubber clogs squeaking on linoleum. The smile plastering my face feels lopsided and too large, like it’s pulling my cheeks to heaven. I walk carefully but no one else seems to mind the wavering floor.

I stop before the Chapel. The hospital roar fades, replaced by airless silence. A lone woman kneels before Mary and Jesus, blond hair streaming down her back. For a moment I swear it’s Phoebe, but it’s not, it can’t be, Phoebe’s prepping anesthesia. I should be with her, but I’m in no shape to thread IV lines into veins.

Out of habit I genuflect before collapsing into the pew. My fingers tremble in the white jacket pocket under the ‘Kevin Sullivan, MD’ embroidered in black over my heart, searching for the packet I fished out of Mrs. O’s trash can. The foil crinkles.

The lady’s head lifts. I freeze. Her reddened eyes stare back at me. She doesn’t look like Phoebe at all; ersatz blond with sucked-in cheeks from too many face lifts. A lot of women look like this in Baltimore, the moneyed ones; I know their sort too well. I smile a quivery smile of sympathy and will her to turn back to the altar. She resumes her entreaties.

Say a prayer for me, baby - I need all the help I can get. I squeeze the patch between my fingers. Three drops, shiny and viscous, ooze into my palm like liquid crystals. Remorse pricks me, and disgust that I’ve come to this again, but then I greedily lick my hand and suck the foil. The initial alcohol taste turns sweet. Calm gilds my mouth and throat, spreads to my chest, my fingers, my world. The door opens, the blonde mourner’s soul floats in her wake. I surrender to the velvet-lined bench and the world cradles me.

Nothing else is more pure.


An excerpt from PURE, a novel currently under construction. Hope you enjoyed.

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Ghosts of Belfast - September Debut Novel

Maybe if he had one more drink they'd leave him alone. Gerry Fegan told himself that lie before every swallow. He chased the whiskey's burm with a cool black mouthful of Giuinness and placed the glass back on the table. Look up and they'll be gone, he thought.

No. They were still there, still staring. Twelve of them if he counted the baby in its mother's arms.

Gerry Fegan is a killer for the cause. But now that peace has descended on Belfast, the ghosts of those he has murdered haunt him night - and day: a schoolboy, a butcher, a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, a mother and her infant, and seven others. To appease them, Fegan will kill the colleagues who gave him his orders. He wants peace, and a new life, and thinks he may find some happiness with Marie McKenna and her young daughter. Cast out of the clan for once loving an RUC officer, she becomes the unwitting lure for the killer who stalks Fegan.

Stuart Neville's debut novel THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST (SOHO Press) is a fast-paced cross-breed of a story, blending crime fiction and horror with literary strokes. To sweeten the deal, the author provides a masterful and rare look at post-Troubles Northern Ireland, making the politics almost a character itself. Here, new-world consumerism has blunted the ferocity of past religious and secular differences, but not the drive for power.

Unlike most other stories in this genre, Neville provides a complex protagonist, a murderer riddled with remorse who hides himself in dark pints of Guinness and in the refurbishing of an old guitar. Yet Fegan has no qualms killing his former colleagues and friends. Fegan is deplorable, but the author manages to render him with sufficient sympathy to make me root for him to the end.

I'll confess my biases and conflicts-of-interest: THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST is not my typical reading fare. But I've followed the author over the past three years in his (well-deserved) quest for publication, and frankly, this is a damn good read. The writing is sparse and original, the characters unique, the political landscape compelling, and the plot intricate and well-paced. Readers who are not aware of the politics of this part of the world may need to read carefully to grasp the intricacies and nuances of the story.

The Press... THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST is published by SOHO PRESS, a house I've covered before. Many conside their crime portfolio to be one of the most eclectic and sophisticated in the business.

The Author... STUART NEVILLE is a partner in a multimedia design business in Armagh, Northern Ireland. This is the first novel in a series (YAY!). Read about his journey to published author HERE.

Peace, Linda

Friday, September 18, 2009

#fridayflash: Lifeguard Off Duty

Sun-kissed curls bouncing, the child patters through sea-foam. A shell glistens. Water surges, a wall of green and white. Sand shifts beneath her toes.

My small contribution to #fridayflash.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Food as Psychic Sustenance

Food is central in my life. Sure, I need food for sheer physical sustenance - we all do - but there is something about raspberries glinting in dew or green, yellow, and orange tomatoes sweating in olive oil and sea salt that thralls me. Nothing brings me greater happiness than creating meals from fresh ingredients, especially ones that are local, for the people in my life.***

I come by this love of all things edible from my parents. As a first-grader living in Solana Beach, California, I remember my tastebuds tantalized by corn-husked tamales and chile rellanos stuffed with cheese, sugar-dusted fry bread, Indian curries, and Chinese take-out. My eating horizons expanded when we trekked cross-country to the South and feasted on vinegar and hot-pepper basted chopped pork, Brunswick stew laced with squirrel, hushpuppies, and creole shrimp. Trips to the family birthplace yielded little necks steamed in broth, lobster rolls, Boston baked beans, hotdogs served in butter-grilled buns, and, of course, ice cream.

When any of us journeyed, be it to Chicago or London or , the first question always asked the traveler upon return, is, "What did you eat?"

Food is central in my writing as well. When Jimmy the Prince, fellow writer and dear friend whose fabulous THE DARK SIDE OF THE SOUL is now published, first read BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, he noted, "Your characters eat all the time. And drink too much coffee." Of course, I listened and removed most gustatory references. But not all. Mark Spencer, my first writing instructor, showed me how food and eating can be used to reveal characters' moods.

This past Friday, my father was admitted to the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center. He could no longer swallow. For weeks, his sustenance has come in the shape of cans of Ensure; the tumor made eating too painful to bring pleasure. Now his nourishment will not even pass his lips.

Food as my family lexicon is becoming a memory.


The Reading... Shhhh... my September debut arrived in the mail the day I departed to North Carolina. Still reading, but I promise you this - the story is a damn fine read, and a marked departure from the stuff I usually review. I'll post in a week or so. Also upcoming - one of my debut authors has a new book out, and I'll be giving away a free copy.

The Writing... PURE chugging along. My mind is pretty caulked up with all the emotional stuff going on; however, butt is in chair every morning. Drivel. Sometimes gems emerge from drivel. I'm happy just to keep the routine.

Other news... last week, this wee blog made the Top 25 Writing Blogs by popular vote at Editor Unleashed. I'm honored and amazed to be in the company of so many amazing sites, many of them my own favorite sites. Yay! Thank you readers! I adore you!

Keep writing. Peace, Linda

***Except, possibly, eating those meals and writing about them.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Perfect day dawned in brilliant blue,
shocking canvas of contrast: planes
fly black against far-flung heaven.
Even unbelieving prayer
muttered with quiet resigned breaths
could not foretell or forestall stains

gouging ground, splintering sky, staining
steel, scuttled lives, exhaling blue,
imploding in hydraulic breaths
screaming through city, hill, and plain...

Blue sky trailed by white plane flumes
marking a heaven all pray exists;
God’s breath stained by metal and fire.

Peace, Linda

Monday, September 07, 2009

Kreativ Blogging

Fellow blogger Jon Strother nominated me for a Kreativ Blogger Award. He knighted my wee blog last week. Thank you Jon - I am honored. Now it's my turn to pass along the prize. Without further ado, 7 favorite watering holes busting with creativity - hope you enjoy...

--Greta Igl @ FOR WRITE OR WRONG. Thoughtful contemplations on the process of writing, with a lot of excellent recipes thrown in to feed the stomach and soul.

--Paige @ PARADISE VALLEY 2 is a poet, photographer, paper maker, and all-around creator of beautiful stuff.

--Jodi MacArthur @ FICTION WRITER creates fantastical stories that amaze - and horrify.

--Michael J. Solender @ NOT FROM HERE, ARE YOU?. Funny, irreverent, and some damn fine writing to boot.

--Angel Zapata @ A RAGE OF ANGEL. This dude writes horror and (shhhhhh... it's a secret) poetry that makes the heartstrings sing.

--Melissa @ WINDSPIRIT GIRL. Poetess extraordinaire, she's mixing up words with images and getting "electroboy" results.

--John Wiswell @ THE BATHROOM MONOLOGUES. Pure, unadulterated fiction. Lotsa fun.

Part II of the KB award was a bit tougher - listing 7 favorite mystery writers. This was a stretch; I don't read much of this genre. Or so I thought. My picks tend to come from another century and have a decidely UK slant:

--Josephine Tey - The Singing Sands
--Daphne DuMaurier - Rebecca
--Wilkie Collins - The Woman in White and The Moonstone
--P.D. James - An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
--Carolyn Keene - The Nancy Drew mysteries
--Edgar Allen Poe - The Murder in the Rue Morgue
--Patricia Cornwall - Body of Evidence

The Writing... Ugh. Revamping PURE. Started off with 6 voices, then struggled with 3, now down to a single POV. I think I'll write several versions of the same novel, and choose the one I like best. I'm in no hurry...

The Reading... Just finished THE ADDERALL DIARIES by Stephen Elliott. Superb memoir. TOLSTOY LIED by Rachel Kadish also in the done read stack, and also superb - and very provocative for this ivory tower wench. Next up: THE SOUL THIEF by Charles Baxter, AVOIDANCE by Michael Lowenthal, and GRAVITY'S RAINBOW by Pynchon. That'll take up most of the rest of this year.

Hope your Labor Day involved very little laboring. Peace, Linda

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Life Is A Pomegranate

So much work, extracting those ruby seeds from the bitter pith, but so worth it when that sweet-tart juice squirts between your teeth.

Cold nipped at summer's heels, chasing her to some other clime. Is it any coincidence the temperature plunged to the 50s the day school resumed? Monday was a melancholy day, the end of a too-short summer. Rust tinges my garden. Hazelnuts have fallen to the ground, rejected even by the squirrels. The last of the raspberries dot the browned bushes, and the crickets' chirrups have replaced the incessant whir of the cicadas.

Two of my favorite Johns nominated my wee blog for 25 Best Writing Blogs over at Editor Unleashed. No, these dudes are not my customers (though I hope someday they’ll buy my books). John Towler, whose latest short LOTTERY WINNER, can be found in Your Darkest Dreamspell anthology, and Jon Strother, whose #FRIDAYFLASH has transformed flash fiction into a tweetable community event, are amazing writers and really generous dudes. CAST YOUR VOTE in the next week. Thank you guys!

Speaking of generosity, in addition to publishing books, DZANC Books also has Creative Mentoring Program where for a mere $50 for four hours, you get one-on-one attention from some of the best writers and poets around. I just finished a session with Peter Selgin (LIFE GOES TO THE MOVIES) and received excellent feedback on my current NIP (Novel-in-progress).

Upcoming: Look for a free book give-away after Labor Day – one of my debut authors has a second one on the stands! Plus, I’ll wax on Kreative Bloggers.

Write long and strong… Peace, Linda