April 4, 2014

“All Things Buried” by Jenny Cokeley

It was the hottest day in July when the first puppy died.  Sweat poured over Braylee’s eyebrows and trickled down her chin.  Her blonde hair stuck to the back of her neck and her bangs fell into her eyes as she tried to force the shovel into the concrete-hard desert dirt.  Despite her best efforts, she could only scrape away the top layer of rock and dead fluff grass.  With each blow to the ground, fatigue and frustration gripped her arms and back. “Come on! Come on!” she groaned. She used the force of her scrubby fifteen-year-old frame to finally slip the point of the shovel into the stubborn dirt and pushed with all her might until flesh rubbed away from the palm of her hand when the ground finally broke. Braylee removed the last shovelful…

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March 11, 2014

A Night at Rodeo Houston

March 5, 2013. I’m attending the School of Energy conference, learning about drill-bit hydrocarbons and the shale revolution here in Houston, the energy capital of America. A conference perk last night was Rodeo Houston. Around a hundred and fifty of us attendees piled into two big buses and went to Reliant Stadium, where we had our own box replete with food and drink. The view of the rodeo arena was awesome (see photo to the left), and the place is as huge as you’d expect of Texas. Above the arena was a display device with half a dozen high-def screens pointing every direction for closeup views of the action: saddleback bronc-riding, calf-roping, barrel racing in four-horse wagons…and death-defying bull-riding. A bull rider grips a a bull rope with one hand and has to stay astride the bucking beast…

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March 4, 2014

Tucson Festival of Books – Coming Soon!

The Tucson Festival of Books is one of the top book fairs and author events in the country, and this year I’ve been invited to participate! It runs over the weekend of March 15-16 in – yep, you guessed it, Tucson, Arizona (where it is certain to be warmer than Boston, where I live). I’m not just looking forward to my three workshop presentations, but to meeting a few of my favorite authors from among the 2,000 who will be in attendance. Maybe you’ll drop in and I’ll get to meet you, too! I’ll be doing a solo workshop, “Writing Fiction for First-Time Authors.” I get to do this one because I’m not a first-time author any longer – not with the publication of Madrone, the sequel to Wild Blue Yonder, being published next month…

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May 29, 2013

The World’s First iPod?

    I watched a 1960 black-and-white Hammer Film, “Stop Me Before I Kill,” and couldn’t help but notice the main character, played by Claude Dauphin, donning this portable transistor radio.   It’s in a leather case and designed to be worn around the neck, as he’s doing in this scene in the kitchen with his wife, played by Diane Cilento.   I think he’s listening to a cha-cha.

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May 25, 2013

J. D. Salinger and the Cult of Celebrity

Did you know that once upon a time, books were published without an author biography or photo? Why do you suppose? The straightforward answer is that the work – the book – was intended to stand on its own. What the author wrote about, and the way it was written, was sufficient. We, the readers, appreciated – or rejected – a book for what it was, not who the author was, or how much of the author’s real life played a role in the story. The character was a character, and the author was the author. Of course, that’s all changed. Now, in many cases, a large number of people care more about the author’s personal life than what’s in the books they write. The exception being if it’s an autobiography or a memoir. If…

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May 21, 2013

What’s Your Favorite Coffee?

Welcome to the Fictional Café! Serendipitously, the New York Times published an article, “Coffee Rites and the Stories They Tell,” just the other day. The writer quotes from a book entitled Buzz by Stephen Braun, who writes that caffeine is akin to “putting a block of wood under your brake pedal.” I like that. I like guys who are funny and write books and drink coffee. Even those who write books about coffee. Braun says he sometimes takes “coffee vacations,” which I would never personally risk, but always has a cup of Peet’s Major Dickason’s Blend when he gets back on the wagon. That’s one of my personal favorites, too. In my little community, we have a Peet’s, a Starbucks, a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Panera, and a bike shop where you can get the best,…

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