Amazon Bashing: Zzzzzzzzzzzz


I couldn’t be any more sick of this amazon-publishing theater than I am of , say, Olivia Pope’s overly large handbags.

Now, writers are even doing it at the National Book Awards? From the podium? Come on. This kid has more dignity.  Of course you’re a writer in a room of publishing executives and you want to tell them what they want to hear because that is who you are. But you shouldn’t.

To indulge in any kind bashing on a night celebrating art is just not the right thing to do. Many have been hurt by some of amazon’s tactics. They still love to read: the art and the business are not the same thing.

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Was it this one? BHS1979GuyFeste

or was it this one? BHS1979JackVentle

The late 1970s were so confusing. But I remember what I was reading. The coat hanger. The frozen facial expressions. The evil. Unknown

Mommie Dearest was not the first time I understood a mother could really screw it up, but a rich famous mother? It seemed impossible. So lurid.

I read it twice as I remember and chased my Mom with a coat hanger until she got mad. The dudes? I think the first one was named Peter and the second Jim.

The 1970s man. What an eye-opener.

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Paper Books Must Die Because of This: E-readers Forever

That’s right. That’s a bookmark. I don’t know if it was handmade or you sent away for it like those blankets on QVC with pictures of your grandkids fused into the fabric. I have a fair picture in my head of the woman holding the book; the man we can plainly see.

The world of bookmarks was a dangerous one: mothers and distant female relatives got involved. Unicorns and sparkles, the kitten staring into the mirror and the lion staring back; I’ve been given them all.

I got bookmarks in my stocking each year, handmade, often with googly eyes because my Mom stuck them on every homemade project she ever touched. I hated them on pinecones.   images-3

Later, I just stuck anything between the pages of a book: dry cleaning stub, jury-duty notice, gum wrapper. I’d jam anything in there into anything I was reading at the time, and the books and bookmarks became a story: a note on a napkin in Buenas Aires telling me to meet my husband in the bar, complete with his special little “drawing of   images-4 love,” he always left me, the boarding pass from a flight to Havana, an envelope from a once-loved friend.

Ah, the bookmark. The life it holds.  And as it is with everything that moves forward and changes, something is lost and something is gained.

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1 in 13 Americans Conceived in a Library. Maybe.


A recent post about the sex I had in the library at Vanderbilt University led to an avalanche of sex-in-the-library information coming my way.

First, I thought I was special. The internet is here to point out I am not. Seems everyone does it in the library. It is even the preferred location of rousing phone sex at certain universities, perhaps because the threat of discovery in such a quiet place makes all the muffled cries so much sweeter.

Imagine half-murmuring, half-barking  “COME TO DADDY!”  in Medieval Japanese Arts. Imagine the cell phone recordings everyone on the floor make of you and post on YouTube. Imagine the jillions of other spots for phone sex that are better than this.

After winnowing out “college library phone sex” on Google, I found some 22 million, nine-hundred thousand mentions of f@cking in the library.  I then took my complete lack of reason and mathematical skills and divided the population of the United States – 316,000,000 – by the library-f@cker internet boasters and came to the conclusion that 1 in 13 Americans were probably conceived in the library.

This begs the question; If so many of us were made atop piles of information, wisdom and books, why’s everybody so dumb?

I just don’t have the answer for that.

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Above: Aisles at the Library of Congress


Don’t Wear T-Shirts about Fonts. Ever.

I thought I’d hit the edge when I saw a young man from the Subcontinent, an NYU student no doubt, walking down my block in a a purple tshirt with a yellow silhouette of a pole dancer. Beneath this image were the words “I WAS OUT ALL NIGHT LAST NIGHT.”

Inside, I thought, “THAT’S IT.” I stepped in front of the young man, raised myself up to all 6 feet 2 inches, and said “I am a child of the 1970s and IN WHAT WORLD would a guy like you get to do that all night?” He ran.

I stopped paying as much attention to stupid t-shirts after that. I had hit rock bottom. No more “I heart my boyfriend” to send me into a spin. I mean really, girl, why not a ring in your nose? Oh, ummm, sorry. She had one of those too.

Then I started noticing stuff like this:
images-4 and more odious, embarrassing shirts like this images-6-1

And this guy? Who is ever going to talk to him at a party? He’s gonna tell anyone who will listen all about his plot. Then he’s going to either ask if you know any agents or brag about his self-publishing numbers. Either way, it’s bad. images-5 I’ve even picked him out a shoe.


Enough is enough. Wear something with Woodstock or Hawaii on it. Writing demands humility and degrading it to a t-shirt line will not please the Muses. In fact, those Muses might find the bragging untoward and leave forever.


If College Libraries Go, Where Will Future Students F#CK?

Just looking at it makes my heart thump, even thirty years later. The 70s and 80s. Expanding consciousness. The intensity. Long hours alone with similar travelers looking for rest. The nooks and crannies. Swinging light bulbs illuminated my high white cotton panties as I zipped past the European History, 1600-1800, aisle towards geology of the lower Americas and my awaiting lover, the boring, big-dicked Dan.

The Vanderbilt University library was my Studio 54; the sex was amazing. I’d go to the floor below the main entrance, all dank and small. My study partner would be at the table next to me. Hours passed. A couple of Coke breaks created deeper intimacy. Hands moved under the table.

The smell spurred us on: decay of paper and lack of moving air reminded us our Grandparents basements. Our Grandparents reminded us of death. Fear of death lead our thoughts to sex. That’s right Mom and Dad, it never was the drugs that made us do those things.

We’d spend hours with no intervention: What librarian with any dignity would clatter down those stairs back then and yell “Are you kids f@cking again?!”

No, they were upstairs with earnest students who asked legitimate questions. They were interested in a real life of the mind. Martin’s fevered, “where’s the clit!” shouted up the stairs at them perhaps caused disgust. No answer came back.

College libraries going all digital pains me, and I am an aspiring eQueen. Something is gained and something is lost. But for as long as I live and there are libraries, I will pass thinking with an organ besides my brain.

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Raising 21st Century Writers


When you first see your baby across the room, you’ll know instantly if he or she is a writer. This one is. Pick the right writer name for your baby: Thomas King, Bob Dickens, Jill Grisham, Margaret anything. Lofty, yet accessible. Short for tweets, yet holds some gravitas.

Next, your writer baby will need some deprivation, some hardship that makes good story. This kid won’t soon forget his empty shoe box of pacifiers, a recurring thread in his fiction 25 years later. img_0021-1

Let your baby begin programming their own publishing platform IMMEDIATELY upon birth. They will be born just knowing how to do this. Provide tools and support. Unknown-2

Get your baby used to the tools of a writer. Public readings,images-4 filming book trailers, the works.

Your baby should be encouraged to stay up writing all night until the book is done. images-6 They can grow and play on their own time.

A baby writer also needs a writer “look.” This one is taken.images-7

Now your baby has a book and is ready to cut a deal. Find the right agent for your baby, one that listens and believes in the art form. Make sure the chemistry is right.

Meet with as many publishing companies as you, your baby and your baby’s agent can stand. People will look at you blankly. But a baby is marketing gold and don’t you let anyone tell you otherwise. Let them know you’ve been building your baby’s twitter followers since birth. Cite Facebook numbers. Say Reddit and StumbledUpon just to keep your hand in the big game. Unknown-3

The publishing companies turn your baby down.

Then, just when all believe that your baby’s career as a great writer is lost, here comes AT, AMAZON TERRESTRIAL, who, for a few Skittles, will publish your child’s book. images-9

Money is made. It’s dumped directly into the family account. The 21st Century famous writer buys his family a car and they drive off, a happy writing 21st Century family. images-10

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Reviews and books on


images-4 is giving away a free Kindle in #dreamreads, the contest that matches traveler with book in a perfect reading/vacation fantasy.

Our choice? Big Sur above and 51HkVnGW-6L._AA160_ during that peaceful rest on a big thick blanket in the sand,  we’ll read this hair-raising adventure. It’s the perfect balance.

For so many, four hours on an airplane means READING! as does a week of vacation. Planning what you want to read is almost as fun as picking out maxi dresses and bathing suits.   So, we want to help you have a really good time when you finally do get to adventure and do the things you love.

Go to twitter @shadowteams and tell us your #dreamreads

Our judges just may give you a Kindle.
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TAKE THE SHOT: Reading Fierce Women


by Beth Wareham

What is more courageous than entering a world of powerless females and raising your gun at men who want to kill you?  She is thrilling.  She is relentless. As colleagues look askance at her pronouncements, afraid of her “mental issues,” there is only one problem: she is the only person in the room who will do what it takes.

 She is also the one person in the room who is most always right. Always.  (Let’s not explore the need for society to call women who are right “crazy.” Let’s reserve that for the next Presidential campaign.)

 In Showtime’s Homeland last week, Carrie Mathison ascended to the ultimate throne of female fierceness when she screamed TAKE THE SHOT! over and over, ordering death by drone of the highest level of Middle Eastern terrorists and her favorite boss and mentor, former CIA Director Saul Berenson.  Her male colleagues pulled her from the room, shot untaken, as she asserted her authority in between more screams of “Take the Shot!”

 Some choices are bad no matter which one you make. This was one of them. But it seemed reasonable to eradicate these killers AND keep the CIA’s secrets intact. Cold, yes. But hey, boys, war is hell.

While none of the women below stared down a drone, each one was a fierce, clear-eyed witness in their pursuit of life above and beyond gender. Some went into the wilderness, others bedded evil men and slit their throats in the night.  These women did not care what anyone thought of them, and had they been in that room with Carrie, their voices would have probably joined hers in a chorus of TAKE THE SHOT:

 1. Alexandra Fuller’s Scribbling the Cat  – She blasted into readers’ vision with  Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, but this short read 90-minute read is a reality so vivid, you can almost smell the blood drying on the overalls of white Afrikaners in the Zimbabwe bush. Her search for the mercenaries that fought Zimbabwean rebels, scourge of her youth, bring her finally to a compound of drunken madness where she finds broken old white men, telling war stories and taunting an equally insane old lion, chained up on the lawn.


2. Sula by Toni Morrison – Toni Morrison’s took down slavery in a book of such power and poetry, it seems almost criminal to be American and not have read it. (It also earned Ms. Morrison a Nobel Prize in Literature.) But in Sula, Morrison goes way down into the belly of the individual, in this case two women, and shows the wheel of love and hate turning round and round inside of them. The women love each other. The women hate each other. The women don’t understand each other. The women want what the other has. The women destroy their bond and their love as so many other women have before them have done: over a man.

 3. West with the Night by Beryl Markham:  Every true reader has a book that falls into his or hand hands at an impressionable age and gives off a hint of what life might be.  Until the grave, the reader never shakes this book off completely and, in the back of her or his mind, the dream never dies. For a young suburban teen, West with the Night seemed unimaginable; a woman pilot in 1900s Africa, soaring over that Continent at will, having affairs with the great white hunter Denys Finch-Hatton and writer-pilot, Antoine Saint-Exupery.  Imagine those two ecstatic souls – Saint-Exupery and Markham – soaring over the volcanic East African landscape, shouting at each other over their biplanes’ engines as they dipped, circled and rose.  Beryl raised racehorses and rarely paid a bill.  Some would call her a sociopath.

A woman who knew how to live feels a more appropriate label.


4. Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen – Many fierce women blow through Africa, as can be seen in the entries above. Dinesen’s most famous work came out of that experience (may the young Robert Redford always be there to wash your hair), complete with lion-whippings and scenes of swollen bellies.  When Dinesen returns to Denmark, she produces a lifetime of great writing which includes these creepy little short stories, rife with paranormal suggestion, mystery and dread. Seven Gothic Tales belongs on the shelf with Poe and proves that she whether confronting a Zulu or a ghost; Isak was up to it.

5. Lucky by Alice Sebold – In her freshman year at Syracuse, Alice Sebold walked home from campus one the evening. She passed through a tunnel and when she comes out the other side, all life as she knew it is gone. Inside, she was attacked and raped violently, an act of such viciousness the first cop on the scene is amazed she is alive. He calls her “lucky” because just last week, the cop tells the ripped bleeding Alice, a woman was murdered and dismembered in that very same tunnel.  Sebold would go on to write The Lovely Bones several years later, a publication some compare to the success of Gone with the Wind.  

Alice’s understanding?

“Save yourself or you remain unsaved.”


Now that’s fierce.

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imagesOnline self-publishing, or “digital pioneers” as I like to call them, were born of the huge wall built by commercial publishing. Now that the mighty Jeff Bezos, the Che Guevara of book publishing, has set us all free, new companies are springing up left and right. And guess what? There’s no sign over the door.

Book publishing has gone virtual. I set up on just such a premise. You call me, I connect you with the right editors, line editors and designers, and we make your book. We need a laptop and a WiFi connection. We do not have any overhead. We get to play with our cats as we edit.

Companies are rising left and right.  Blurb is a new one, connected to #NaNoWriMo, the Survivor-like reality show that hits every November.  Reedsy, Bibliocrunch and Book Machine also have self-publishing templates with the added benefit of hiring experienced editors, etc.

I set up with no templates. I want authors to call.  For it is my experience that one of the most important aspects of great publishing is CHEMISTRY. I had it when I edited Temple Grandin and understood her completely. I also had it when I edited the material in Woman Food and God. Humans need to play off each other when it comes to writing, and that’s a lot of the fun part.

Check us out. We like to talk. No templates. That’s boring.

Come visit.

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