Thursday, June 28, 2007

A little Bit of Everything

I usually prepare my weekly post over the weekend then not worry about it the last few days before it goes up. I like to do that with any deadline. I can cram if I have to but I was taught “work first, play later.” I try to stick to it. This week was different. I went to the Marlins game Sunday, thinking I had an easy week ahead. I’m working on a novel proposal and kept on schedule to hand in the opening chapters to my agent the end of this week.

I put off the blog knowing I had an easy day today and then life jumped in. I ended up working until late Wednesday night. It happens and I kinda like the change. The night has a different beat to it than the day. It was a simple surveillance and arrest of an armed drug trafficker. He was stopped and taken into custody without incident. All was right except I had no blog written.

So here are some general remarks:

First, I was quite impressed by the shirtless photos of Paul from his younger days. It looked like Mr. Levine had time to work out as well as practice law and write novels. The mystery of Rene may now be solved.

Here is a photo of me from the sixties. It was the only shirtless one I could find.

I’d also like to give a hearty shout of congratulations to two nice guys who have their debut novels come out this week. In no order :

Brett Battles who hits the streets with The Cleaner.

And Jason Pinter offers The Mark.

I’m looking forward to both.

How's that for a little different post from me? No whinning about my weight, the problems of writing or the dangers of living in beautiful Florida. I have one blog coming up I'm excited about posting but it is not ready. It's a photo heavy essay on people who annoy me. Not just the usuals like co-workers or neighbors but people I have no reason to dislike. Famous people who should be beaten but aren't.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Laissez les Pancakes Roulez

By Cornelia

Sometimes I get really walloped by depression--the nasty deep bone-crushing kind that makes the idea of brushing my own hair seem more daunting than a run for the South Pole with Shackleton.

The worst thing about it is that tiny things become huge--to-do lists, voicemail messages, sad personal stories heard on NPR in the car. Everything builds up into a great big pile of unmet obligations and deadline guilt until I wonder whether the answer might not be a giant IV of Geritol, like maybe that would snap me out of the desire to huddle on the sofa under a pile of blankets while berating myself with "I should go for a walk, I should take up swimmming laps, I should learn to conjugate irregular Portuguese verbs while simulataneously performing advanced tai chi and folding all this laundry, oh my GOD I never finished writing those last three wedding-present thank-you letters in 1988...."

I can go for weeks like that, and I always seem to forget what really helps stop it, every time: telling someone. Just saying out loud to a friend or two, "You know, I really feel like crap. I'm tired and beat and I don't think I'm too good at being a grownup. I am having trouble folding the laundry and brushing my hair, not necessarily at the same time, vey is mir."

And even though that can seem like the most awful selfish thing in the world to do, at the time, just saying it out loud helps cut things down to size. And if you're really lucky, your friend or two will say something like, "oh please, my mail gets dropped in my garage and I haven't looked at the pile since January," or "you actually know where your hairbrush is? You're way ahead of me. I think mine ran away with the circus around Thanksgiving..."

Last week I said to Patty in an email that I was feeling this way, and she told me something wonderful... that when she gets overwhelmed she thinks of Mary Harman saying:

“Everything's going to be all right, and afterward we're all going to go to the House of Pancakes.”
That's one of the finest spiritual truths I think I've ever run across. So if you're feeling bummed out and overwhelmed and your mail is piling up in the garage, here's a little something to meditate on, in the hope it will ease your burden:

And in the meantime, I want to know what you're going to say to James Lipton when you get invited to be a guest on Inside the Actor's Studio... here are the ten questions Lipton's borrowed from French talk-show host Bernard Pivot:

1. What is your favorite word?
2. What is your least favorite word?
3. What turns you on [creatively, spiritually or emotionally]?
4. What turns you off?
5. What is your favorite curse word?
6. What sound or noise do you love?
7. What sound or noise do you hate?
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
9. What profession would you not like to do?
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

As for me, I got interviewed by the ever-fabulous Sandra Parshall (author of the Best-First-Novel-Agatha-Award-winning The Heat of the Moon) over at Poe's Deadly Daughters today....

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Models, Strippers, Porn Stars Endorse Dave Barry for President. (So Who'd You Expect? Mike Huckabee.)

By Paul

Political pundits have been caught off-guard by Dave Barry's surge in the public opinion polls in Chattsworth, CA. In case you didn't know, that burg is the home of America's porn industry, where thousands of adult videos are shot.

Dave's star status came to light at Erotica L.A., sort of the Super Bowl of porn. On Sunday, after a luncheon meeting of the Mystery Writers of America, we headed over to the Erotica Show. (Didn't everyone?) Our little party included the lovely Renee and our friend Ted Habte-Gabr, who also serves as Dave's national campaign chairman.

Perhaps Dave's popularity should not come as a shock. He has an honest message for the voters: "It's Time We Demanded Less." He has a clearly stated platform and always answers questions directly.

Q: Dave, a lot of people are concerned about "No Child Left Behind." Where do you stand?
Ryan, La Grande, OR

A: I agree that no child should be left behind, except in the case of certain airplane flights.

Still, we were surprised, upon walking into the L.A. Convention Center, to see Dave's presence virtually everywhere.MANY YOUNG WOMEN SAID THEY WOULD FOREGO ATTEMPTING TO MODEL THEIR LIVES AFTER PARIS HILTON TO SUPPORT DAVE.



Clearly, the person who deserves the most credit for drumming up support for Dave is the lovely Renee. When she can't get cooperation from potential voters, well, she just takes things into her own hands. Here she is discussing the risk of inflation with Porn Star Jack Lawrence whose business card actually reads: "Don't let my big penis scare you. I'm actually a really nice guy." [While that may sound original, I think it was Bill Clinton's unofficial campaign slogan. Take note, Dave.]
Nice Guy Jack says he's one of the stars of "Desperate House Whores," "Hairy Girls," and "We Be Lez." But you probably knew that.

Jack spent the entire afternoon inviting female patrons to fondle a life-size silicone model of his penis dangling from his pants. Did Renee take him up on the invitation? Only the guy who cropped the picture knows for sure.

Our intellectually challenged dog Nikki helps out in the garden by fertilizing.


COMRADES IN ARMS (Left to Right) Bill Bryan, your naked scribbler Paul, John Schulian, and Ed Zuckerman, pictured here at Sunday's luncheon of the Mystery Writers of America, SoCal Chapter. We schmoozed with folks about the perils and rewards of working as writer/producers in network television.

Bill Bryan, whose first novel is the critically acclaimed Hollywood satire, "Keep It Real," is a comedy veteran, having written for "Coach," among many other shows. John Schulian, a famed sportswriter, has written for "Miami Vice," "Wiseguy," and "JAG" and co-created "Xena: Warrior Princess." Ed Zuckerman, a non-fiction author, won two Edgar awards for his "Law & Order" scripts. After a several year hiatus creating or running other shows, Ed is back on the original "Law & Order," now in its 117th year on television. Together, these guys have a ton of war stories and solid advice for entry level writers in the business. My own advice is much simpler: "Marry a blood relative of Les Moonves."

Many thanks to chapter poohbahs Les Klinger ("The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes") and our own Patty Smiley for putting the event together.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Men in Drag

Patty here...

The world is going to hell in a handbasket, so more and more I wonder how that might change if our leaders were women not men. Alas, I need wonder no longer.

"If you want a thing done well, get a couple of old broads to do it." —Bette Davis


"In search of my mother's garden I found my own." —Alice Walker

"For years I have endeavored to calm an impetuous tide—laboring to make my feelings take an orderly course—it was striving against the stream." —Mary Wollstonecraft

"I've been called many things, but never an intellectual." —Tallulah Bankhead

"It is not true that life is one damn thing after's the same damn thing over and over again." —Edna St. Vincent Millay

"The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything...or nothing. —Lady Astor

"The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends." —Shirley MacLaine

"I think these difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes around worrying about are of no importance whatsoever." —Isak Dinesen

"I wrote the story myself. It's all about a girl who lost her reputation but never missed it." —Mae West

"Always be smarter than the people who hire you." —Lena Horne

"The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat." —Lily Tomlin

"Elegance is refusal." —Coco Chanel

"I'll not listen to reason...Reason always means what someone else has to say." —Elizabeth Gaskell

"Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect." —Margaret Mitchell


We NakedAuthors now have our very own OFFICIAL BOOKMARK and it is FABOOOOOO! The front is similar to our banner above except our mugs are in color. On the back is "A cop, a Brit, a deb, a B-school grad, and a wise-cracking lawyer wrestle with the NAKED TRUTH about literature and life." If you can't wait until you see one of us to get one for your very own, simply send a self-addressed stamped envelope to moi at:

Patricia Smiley
P.O. Box 642504
Los Angeles CA 90064-7172

You won't be sorry...

Happy Monday!

To forward this post, please click on the envelope icon below.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fascinatin' Rhythm

from Jacqueline

Funny old thing, when Friday comes around, and you think it’s still Thursday – heck, where did that day go? Did anyone see that day, I lost it somewhere this week? This is what happens when the rhythm of your days is changed, things get out of line. I’ve come to really relish days having a rhythm since I began spending so much time on book tours and other events, and also flying to the UK several times a year, because my parents are getting older and I worry about them (sorry, Mum, but you are getting older, and I worry, OK? And you know who I inherited the worrying habit from, so don’t nag me, please).

There’s something solid about rhythm to the day, like a grandfather clock with it’s slow, heavy tick-tocking in the corner. Here I go, from dawn to dusk, I’m the clock, tick-tock, tick-tock. Having that rhythm, that knowledge that this is the time you do this, or that, gives the day a beat, so that if the rhythm goes off a bit – the unexpected guests just as you are about to start writing – you know where to come back to. Sort of.

I have two basic rhythms to my life, aside from the frantic hiatus when I’m on and off ‘planes: The hot weather rhythm, and the rest of the year. Here’s how it goes. In those months when California is baking itself silly, like cake left in an unattended oven, after I’ve walked the dog and checked my email, I begin my day with my riding, otherwise it will get so bloody hot I won’t be able to think straight. That’ll take me up to around noon, when I have some lunch. By that stage I could eat the proverbial horse. Sometimes I am so hungry I cannot stop to even wash my hands first, and eat my sandwich with dusty fingers, grit under my nails. I don’t mind this at all, in fact, it reminds me of my childhood (this is where my mum is thinking, “Oh, great, now what’s she going to say?”).

When I was a child my mother worked on the local farms. It was a rural area, and if you had children, the only job you could really do was farmwork. So, like many country kids, that’s where I started work, and at a very early age, earning my first wage at six years old. Admittedly, for much of the time, the kids would go off to play in the woods, while the women worked. There was Gladys, and Willie - the Dutch girl who’d married a British solder and was now was as Kentish as the rest of us. Then there was Flo, and Mrs. Bridgeland, who’s first name I can’t remember, and a whole clutch of women who were strong from working on the land, and all of them with an earthy sense of humor to match.

In the school holidays we’d take our bikes and off we’d go to the farm. It always makes me laugh, to tell you the truth, when I see mountain bikers (and I am one), puffing away up hills with their super-multiple gear bikes with aluminum frames, or titanium, or whatever. Each of the women who went to work with my mother had a bike that was essentially a gearless old boneshaker, usually laden with at least one child, plus a big basket with food, flasks of tea and water for the day – and you never saw them stop on a hill, or slow down on the other side, because most of those bikes didn’t have brakes anyway. And when it came to sitting down to eat, you might be able to wash your hands in the stream first, but more likely, you just wolfed back that sandwich with your dusty hands and that was that. So, I guess that’s why I like working outdoors – takes me back to the country, and that rhythm.

On the hot days, after I’ve showered, washed away the sand and sweat of the ranch, I set about my writing, and that’s me, locked away for hours until a snoovering (that cross between a sniff and a Hoover that dogs are really good at) outside my office door reminds me that it’s time to take Sally for a walk. Sometimes she’s in the office with me, but whatever the case, she makes it known when it’s time to stop this work business and get out. And there I am, outdoors again, coming back an hour later, to work until dinner, then watch a movie or read in the evenings. In the cooler months, I change things around – writing first thing in the morning, ride in the afternoon, then more writing and reading. That’s my daily round, with a tweak here, a nip and tuck there to account for the emails, the trips to the post-office, the car to the shop, the dog to the vet, the vet to the horse, and all those things that make up an ordinary life, my ordinary life.

But in the past month, as you know, the riding has been taken out of the equation, and I have found myself missing more than just the horse, more than just the art and the sport of it. Because I cannot even groom Sara, though I visit her daily, I miss the light ache in my body that follows work outdoors (I’ve had plenty of pain, but it’s different). I miss the way my food tastes when I am ravenously hungry because I’ve used a lot of physical energy in the fresh air. And I guess I miss that really close connection to the natural world, to my rhythm, even though I live in a quite rural area, by some standards.

Which reminds me of a conversation I had with my mother when I was a child. Despite loving where I lived, loving that freedom I knew my cousins in London didn’t have, I had the travel bug. I wanted to go to every country in the world, However, one thing struck me at a particularly early age, and that was that the old people who lived in our small community – and all of our neighbors were old – seemed to be really wise, but not one had ever traveled. I doubt that any of them had even been to London, with the most ambitious expedition being a summer day out by the sea, twenty-odd miles away, and hour and a half on the bus. And we talked, my Mum and me, about the business of rhythm in life, that all these people saw the sun rise in the morning, and go down at night. They knew spring would follow winter, that summer would come, eventually, and that in autumn, the leaves would turn and we would marvel at their colors. They knew that there was a time to be born, a time to live, to love and a time to die, and that one would follow the other when it was supposed to. They had, most of them, seen tragedy, they had lived through wars, and took it all in their stride. Something to be said for that.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about this morning.

Funny what you end up writing about, when you mislay a day because you’ve lost your rhythm. I was going to write about something completely different this week, a post based on the terrific show on BBC America, “The Trial of Tony Blair.” Set in 2010, the story covers events leading up to Tony Blair’s trial at an International War Crimes Tribunal, charged with the crimes associated with the invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent carnage. It was interesting, really interesting, alternatively comedic and raw, with the actor Robert Lindsay turning in a terrific performance as Blair. I guess, though, seeing as I didn’t write about that after all, it only needs to be said, as my Sally knows only too well, that every dog has its day. Something to do with rhythm.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Back to Writing Topics

I like to read. Novels, magazines, non-fiction, anything with words that even remotely interests me. I have subscriptions to Newsweek, The Palm Beach Post, four different computer magazines, Men’s Health, Florida Monthly, Runner’s World and Popular Science.

Aside from some of my favorite novels like Patty’s forth coming Short Change, Paul’s Deep Blue Alibi, Cornelia’s Field of Darkness and Jackie’s Messenger of Truth (Sorry have to plug my blogmates whenever possible), I like to read about writing.

It’s funny but I never read much about writing when I was learning through trial and error, but since my first published novel, I have made up for that lack of reading with a vengeance. I read everything related to the craft of writing and even a few books on the publishing industry. I enjoy seeing other people’s ideas and techniques. If a writer is not trying to improve the quality of each book there really isn’t any hope of continued employment, let alone growing a reader base.

Here are a few of the books that I got something from or just liked reading:

One of my favorites is The Lie That Tells the Truth by John Dufresne. It’s not a technical manual as much as a perspective on the writer’s journey. Dufresne is a professor at Florida International University’s revered creative writing program. This book is a little different but it moved me to write an e-mail to the author as soon as I finished it.

One that sounds like a shallow view of writing but offers some good advice for those starting out is Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel. Direct and to the point, this book can focus the new writer on some key issues.

Robert McKee’s aptly titled Story is not, strictly speaking a book on writing novels. McKee is considered more of a screenwriting guru but the advice on characterization applies to any writing. I know McKee is not the most popular guy and some writers are not fans of this book but I felt it helped me flesh out my characters. This is one book I read before being published and occasional review it for a refresher course.

My former agent, Peter Rubie, a good guy and good writer, has written several books on writing and publishing. One of them, How to Tell a Story: The Secrets of Writing Captivating Tales, is a fine essay on writing non-fiction books.

The finest of all these types of books is clearly On Writing by Stephen King. Part autobiography part master class in writing, Mr. King has created an accessible, intelligent book that no writer should ignore. Not only did I learn something of craft, I learned about one of my favorite author’s life, about the publishing industry and the hazards of drug use. He is honest, open and direct, something we should all strive to be.

What are some of your favorites?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My Favorite Things

By Cornelia

1. & 2.

Window seats and toile de jouy curtains, respectively. No doubt a double-X chromosome thing.


Heirloom tomatoes, and the way the plants smell when you're walking barefoot through warm humid garden dirt on a hot July afternoon to go pick some for dinner.


This photograph of a magnolia blossom by Imogen Cunningham, because she makes it look like a temple.

This photo of Imogen herself, with model Twinka, taken by Judy Dater in 1981. Imogen is the one on the left.

5. & 6.

Patsy Cline, and

Hank Williams SENIOR.

Because some days you just need twangy yodeling.


Robinson Jeffers' poetry--not least, these days:
Shine, Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic.
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains.
And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught--they say--God, when he walked on earth.



William Manchester's magnificent biography of Winston Churchill, which for me stands as one of the acmes of non-fiction writing, both for its flights of oratory:

England's new leader, were he to prevail, would have to stand for everything England's decent, civilized Establishment had rejected.... Like Adolf Hitler he would have to be a leader of intuitive genius, a born demagogue in the original sense of the word, a believer in the supremacy of his race and his national destiny, an artist who knew how to gather the blazing light of history into his prism and then distort it to his ends, an embodiment of inflexible resolution who could impose his will and his imagination on his people -- a great tragedian who understood the appeal of martyrdom and could tell his followers the worst, hurling it to them like great hunks of bleeding meat, persuading them that the year of Dunkirk would be one in which it was "equally good to live or to die" -- who could if necessary be just as cruel, just as cunning, and just as ruthless as Hitler but who could win victories without enslaving populations, or preaching supernaturalism, or foisting off myths of his infallibility, or destroying, or even warping, the libertarian institutions he had sworn to preserve. Such a man, if he existed, would be England's last chance.

In London there was such a man.
And for his ability to capture Churchill's wit:

He called Atlee "a sheep in sheep's clothing," and "a modest man with much to be modest about," and he drove a sharp needle into Labour policy one day when he met him in the House's men's room. Attlee, arriving first, had stepped up to the urinal trough when Churchill strode in on the same mission, glanced at him, and stood at the trough as far away from him as possible. Attlee said, "Feeling standoffish today, are we, Winston?" Churchill said: "That's right. Every time you see something big, you want to nationalize it."


Josephine's bed at Malmaison, because sometimes humanity requires a profound and absolute respite from all things IKEA, even though I think dusting is a massive pain in the butt and plus you'd probably have to have those sheets drycleaned every damn week or whatever. (See #1).


Holland and Holland shotguns.

I mean, how could you not love such an object?


"Cher Guevara," and whoever invented her.


Hanging out on the beach in Bali with an Aussie named Tony Ruwald who my sister Freya met while surfing there, in 1988.


The view from Nepenthe, in Big Sur, home of the "Ambrosia Burger."

Although I miss the old days, when they still had canvas director's chairs scattered around the terrace, instead of plastic.


Old VW single cab trucks. Just because.


Being able to make a Southpark self-portrait.

How about you guys? What's your fave thing du jour?