: views from the Hill

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

[WRITING] Public Speaking

Writing and Public Speaking. Must the twain meet? I'm reminded of a library fundraising event I went to onceuponatime with Tony Hillerman as the guest speaker. Seems the event organizers had asked Robert Campbell if he'd be the event's draw and he'd said (paraphrased), "I'm a writer. I enjoy writing. If I enjoyed public speaking, I probably would be in a different job."

Campbell was, however, friends with Hillerman, who is nobody's shy violet, and talked him into coming out to Monterey, CA, to speak in his stead.

Karin Gillespie over at Southern Comfort blogs about public speaking and encourages writers who are loathe to speak before groups to get with the program, or on the program or in the program and promote their books.

Here's a collection of links from public-speaking.org that she includes in the blog post.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Wot's a pisco sour?

"Wot's a pisco sour?" Paula asks in the comment stream.

Funny you should ask.

The Pisco Sour is Peru's traditional drink, a brandy-based cocktail. I found out just yesterday (from an article in the Chronicle's Travel Section on Lima) that February 5th is National Pisco Sour Day!

Pisco is a Peruvian brandy that dates back to the Conquistadores. There's a bunch of history behind why it's called Pisco.

Pisco Sours are not created equal. The best Pisco Sours we had in Peru were at a restaurant/bar in Lima (the first Pisco Sour I'd ever had) and at a lodge on the Amazon where we stayed for a while. The ones in between and after were never to write home about until we ate at Destino the other day for lunch.

Basically, the recipe is, whip up an egg white in a blender until the egg white is frothy.

Add half a glass of crushed ice
3oz. Pisco
1 1/2oz. simple syrup (or superfine sugar to taste)
2oz. lime juice (or lemon in a pinch).

Bzzzz it up until the crushed ice has melted into the drink. Pour into a couple glasses and dribble Angostura bitters on top, or, as Destino does, sprinkle nutmeg on top.

The closest thing to it would be a batida or caipirinha.

I've never made one myself. I'd forgotten how good they are, but maybe it's better not to know how easy they'd be to make. At $7.50/ea at Destino, my intake will be limited by my parsimoniousness.

Have to keep an eye out for Pisco in the liquor stores.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Best buy (so far) this month at a Santa Clara County Goodwill

First edition. Dust Jacket.
BE COOL by Elmore Leonard


... signed.

Best buy last month at a Santa Clara County Goodwill was this which I found with a wonderful frame/mat job and bought for less than ten dollars for my sister-in-law for her bday.

I searched the Web so I could let her know something about the artist and gave the limited edition signed print to her even =after= finding out how much it was worth ... because she deserves it and I thought it was perfect for her.

When I gave it to her, I told her if she didn't love it as much as I thought she would, she was free to sell it and go off on Hawaiian vacation instead.

The house that Carmel built ... and Destino

We took the F-Line a week ago yesterday to have lunch (and what turns out to be perhaps the best pisco sours in the City) at Destino at 1815 Market (at Guerrero).

We left home earlier than we needed to so we could have time to check out the house that Carmel built, The Fallon House at 1800 Market St, across the street from Destino.

The Fallon House was named for Carmel Fallon, his nibs' grandmother's grandmother. The family history is all there on the site -- the spinster rich girl who married the dashing adventurer and wound up whacking him over the head (with what is sometimes called a fireplace tool, sometimes called a lead pipe) when she found him in "a compromising position" with the housekeeper some twenty-seven years into the marriage.

Carmel left San Jose with her children in tow and resettled in San Francisco, where she was a business woman and landlord.

Appropriately enough, considering our older son's gay, Carmel's house is now the home of San Francisco's LGBT Community Center. We need to support both the house and the center.

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And Destino?

January is Dine About Town month here in San Francisco. The San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau rounds up a list of restaurants that offer special tasting dinners and lunches for a fixed price ($21.95/lunch; $31.95/dinner). Sometimes these deals are more or less what you would get anyway. Sometimes these deals are real deals.

The idea is to get people into the restaurants during the usually slow month of January and to give all us folks braving the rain an opportunity to try some restaurants that we haven't tried before at a perhaps real deal.

Oh, and I mustn't forget Visa. You're supposed to pay with your Visa card in order to get the deal. I don't know what Visa tosses into the mix, maybe the money to pull the restaurant compilation together and advertise the event.

1815 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
phone: 415.552.4451

The Best Pisco Sours I've had since I came back from Peru and better than many of the ones I had in Peru.

And yummy food.

At Destino, their Dine About Town menu (for dinner) was identical to their DAT menu for lunch. $10 difference in price! $20 if there are two of you! We saved $20 by coming for lunch!

Of course the Destino pisco sours are $7.50/each ...

The restaurant is narrow and deep, and warm. The walls are a burnt orange and a perfect setting for the art on the walls: Spiritual Altars by Michael Oliver -- intriguing deep shadow boxes of different woods and sizes that frame collections of religious iconage, Madonnas and Jesus on the cross and a bit of this and a bit of that. The works reminded me of the home altars we came across in the hinterlands (and not so hinterlands) of Peru.

Our personable hostess started us off with banana chips/strips with a haunting minty sauce and our first round of pisco sours.

For the appetizer course, I had the Ceviche a la Peruana -- sea bass, red onions, cilantro and cancha (toasted corn bits that added an interesting crunch). The combination of the soft/tart ceviche with the crunch corn was tasty. The cancha was a great touch that took the ceviche just a step further than ceviche usually goes.

His nibs had the chile relleno, a poblano chile stuffed with ground sirloin and shredded sharp cheddar, topped with a roasted chipotle salsa and creme fraiche. Both appetizers were well worth repeating.

We both order the salmon for our main dish, which the restaurant describes as Panela Marinated King Salmon with Squash-Goat Cheese Puree, Sauteed Spinach, Medjool Dates. I can't swear to the Medjool dates. The salmon arrived on top of the squash puree. The spinach was to the side. The dish was tasty. I wished I'd tried something else off the menu so we could see whether we were just being lucky or whether everything was really just that good.

For dessert, his nibs had the "Dulce de Leche" Pumpkin Pudding Cake with Pepitas Crunch and Tequila-Cajeta Sauce. Delicious. I had the Aztec "Xocoatle" Flan which came served on a piece of Peruvian Cacao-Nib Shortbread. Um. Here for the first time was something I wouldn't order again. Even if the shortbread was made with cacao, I expected it to be shorter, more buttery, even, dare I say it, not so bitter. The cookie was flat, uninteresting and too there. The "Xocoatle" flan was okay, but not something I'd rave about to friends. I probably would've been better off ordering the Pear-Ginger sorbet with Malbec granita.

After lunch, we hopped the F-Line back home, stopping off at the Asian Art Museum to check out the current show.

After checking out the show, and before we were tossed out of the museum, we took the trolley, got off near Pier 23, and toddled up the stairs to home, where I promptly fell to nap in one of the living room chairs.

Idea for the Food Editor over at the Chronicle

Here's an idea for Miriam Morgan, the Food Editor over at the Chronicle.

I think Michael Bauer should be assigned to work as wait staff for a week and write about the experience -- the good, the bad, the ugly, and what he's learned about what makes a restaurant work (and how hard it is to make it work) from the exercise.

Have the restaurants he's critiqued for the past year join forces and vote as to which restaurant he gets to work for.

Had an interesting time last Wednesday evening. We walked over to the Ferry Building for a Commonwealth Club Forum. The forum was a panel discussion of the restaurant biz with

PHILLIP ANDRADE, Owner, Goat Hill Pizza
DOUG BIEDERBECK, Owner, Bix, Florio, MarketBar
ROB GOLDBERG, CEO, Plump Jack Group
SUZETTE GRESHAM, Chef/Owner, Acquerello Restaurant
ED LEVINE, Partner, Left Bank Restaurant Group

moderated by KEVIN WESTLYE, Executive Director, Golden Gate Restaurant Association

No one said nasties about Bauer -- would they dare? -- during the forum but there was some mention that reviews can't make or break a restaurant in a town with three thousand restaurants, that word of mouth was more important than a review in the paper, that if you've been open for a year or two and are still relying on reviews to drive traffic, you have problems.

Seems to me that it might've been Rob Goldberg making some of those comments. Hm.

Frankly, I think most people who eat at the restaurants Bauer reviews and who have seen the sideways shove that he sometimes gives restaurants that haven't sprinkled rose petals in his path take Bauer with a grain of salt. We've been known to eat at restaurants specifically because Bauer snubbed them in a review.

The panel discussion was interesting although I didn't much care for Westlye's moderation style. Given a question, he'd only ask one of the panelists to answer and then he'd move immediately on.

Several times another panelist would get the next question and say, 'first, I'd like to make a comment on something he/she just said' and would comment, then answer Westlye's question.

One of the audience questions was "Where do you go to eat? What restaurants do you like that aren't one of your own restaurants?"

Phillip Andrade answered The Balboa Cafe -- one of Rob's restaurants -- and then Westlye went on to the next question.


But no. It was not to be. ...

I came away knowing that I needed to get over to Goat Hill Pizza and Acquarello. Both Phillip Andrade and Suzette Gresham seemed like great people, passionate about their work and their community.

Did I mention that James Ormsby, who quit a while back as executive chef for the Plump Jack Group, has a new job?

According to the foodie scuttlebutt column in the Chronicle this week,

Ormsby has been hired as a private chef in an undisclosed home, with a view "like the Gettys'," he says, cooking for a family of four.

"It really worked out great," says Ormsby. "They want someone who can cook healthy food most days, but be able to entertain on a French Laundry level for guests."

Must be nice to have Ormsby cooking in the kitchen. I'd probably wind up like Christina Onassis though.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Kathleen Davey's progress

It's been two very long years for the Davey family. There's a click over there in the lefthand sidebar to the site that tells the story.

I have Kathleen's daily update on my bloglines list. When several days go by without Mike writing some quick note on how she's doing, I worry.

I think about them often, about Kathleen who seems to improve millimeter by millimeter and then falls back and starts all over, only not all over because she's not back at the beginning, about Mike who bears an unbearable load with far more grace than anyone would expect, about Samie and Rachie who are growing up in a household far different than Kathleen and Mike envisioned two years ago, about the family that was so happy together, playing in the sand.

I picture them at the beach on a better day when the girls were younger. I hope for beach days in the future.

Mike wrote about the two-year anniversary yesterday. People added comments. One comment was pretty hateful, I thought. I hope the community that gathers the Daveys close are more than enough to blot out the ugliness that sometimes rears its head.

Today, as with most days, I hope for a miracle. If not a miracle, more of those millimeter by millimeter steps and for the day Kathleen can hug her children back.

Best thoughts from here to there.

[WRITING] Victoria Strauss -- What Real Agents Don't Do

Latest from the Writer Beware blog and the Victoria Strauss half of the dynamic duo of Strauss and Ann Crispin:

               What Real Agents Don't Do


Since Ann has so thoroughly covered what real agents do, I'm going to spend a little time on some things that real agents DON'T do--practices and procedures that, if you encounter them, should make you very, very wary. Ann's already mentioned some of what follows, but I thought it'd be helpful to have it all listed in one place. Note that these aren't necessarily signs of a scam--they may just indicate that the agent doesn't know what he or she is doing. Inexpert agents are often sincere and well-intentioned, but their low level of expertise means that they aren't any more likely to place a book than a dishonest agent. So scammer or incompetent, the bottom line for writers is the same: no sale.


Monday, January 23, 2006

[WRITING] Should Authors Audit Their Royalty Accounts? Interview with Gail R. Gross

The Writing Show had an interview with Gail R. Gross, Chief Operating Officer of R & M Royalty Review, LLC, of New York City last September covering the subject Should Authors Audit Their Royalty Accounts?

Not surprisingly, Gross says, "Yes!" and she gives the reasons why, with stories to back them up.

R & M Royalty Review, LLC, handles royalty reviews on a contingency basis. You don't pay unless they find that the publisher owes you money, at which point you pay a percentage of the moneys they find for you.

Sound like a deal? More than you know. Gross says that most NY publishing contracts with audit clauses (allowing the author or the author's agents to audit the publishing companies royalty statements and payments) have audit windows covering six years. Anything you find going six years back is up for payment.

Gross tells the story of the royalty account audit that paid off big time: over $900,000 over the six year period. Big bux, eh? Unfortunately, the problem (a contract clause that hadn't been tracked by the royalty system) had gone on for far longer than six years. The losses were far more than $900,000, but those losses that were over six years old couldn't be recovered.

Do you need your royalty accounts reviewed? How often? If R & M Royalty Review, LLC, works on a contingency basis, and you wouldn't find the errors on your own, how could it hurt you to have them check things over every few years?

[via a Google hunt triggered by Miss Snark and a post on royalty reviews and the companies that do them]

Friday, January 20, 2006

Nan Talese. James Frey. Getting on these days?

In an article in the New York Observer, Nan Talese, James Frey's publisher, disputes Frey's claim on Larry King Live. Frey said:

We initially shopped the book as a novel, and it was turned down by a lot of publishers as a novel or as a nonfiction book. When Nan Talese purchased the book, I'm not sure if they knew what they were going to publish it as. We talked about what to publish it as. And they thought the best thing to do was publish it as a memoir.

Sheelah Kolhatkar writes in NYO, "When the manuscript of A Million Little Pieces was received by us at Doubleday, it was received as nonfiction, as a memoir," said Ms. Talese by phone. "Throughout the whole process of publication, it had always been a memoir, and for the first year and a half it was on sale, it was always a memoir with no disputation. It was never once discussed as fiction by me or anyone in my office."

Don't know if I'd want to be either James Frey or his literary agent, Kassie Evashevski, should Nan Talese say she needed to talk with me in her office.

Grovelling might help.

[WRITING] How to be in the Right Place at the Right Time: How I Got Published

How to be in the Right Place at the Right Time: How I Got Published by Katrina Kittle, Author of The Kindness of Strangers

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." -- Thomas Edison

Once my first novel was published, I was astounded at the number of people who asked me for advice. I want to be helpful. Many people helped me along my way, so I give my advice with all sincerity.

People think I'm being flippant when I say, "Write the book. That's my advice."

But I mean it. That is how I got published.



Update: Swopped out the roundtablereviews.com article link because it was turning up 404. This new link should hold.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pots of Gold

Met some new neighbors today.

Our place was a wreck. I was sorting through books and magazines that had accumulated since before Thanksgiving. Piles here. Piles there.

His nibs was off to the local post office to mail the younger nib's newly-repaired iPod back to Boston. ... and to mail some other stuff.

I heard voices yakking down on the walk. Neighbors chatting. Not unusual. Then I heard his nibs' voice. Next thing I knew his nibs was inviting neighbors up for a walk-through. Yikes!

Our neighbor two buildings down was leasing her space to new neighbors. They were signing papers today. She'd been doing a walk-around of the place and was in front of our front steps with "and this building ..." explanation when his nibs came in.

We showed them the space.

Rainbows from the deck.

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And don't forget the eraser!

Pencil Pages
The Pencil Place
Another The Pencil Place
Pencil Revolution
The Pencil Revolution flickr group
Timberlines blog - by Charles Berolzheimer (aka WoodChuck) "Musings from the Forest: Thoughts and discussion on the pencil industry, forest management, California Cedar Products Company and the artistic and written creativity enabled by the wood-cased pencil."
Pencil World - by Charles Berolzheimer
The Pencil World Creativity Store at eBay.

pencil artists:
Dalton Ghetti
More Dalton Ghetti
More pencil artists

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Trashy post

As promised, trashy pictures taken the other day as we were walking the streets of San Francisco.

Back when our Board of Supervisors was considering a proposal to charge $0.17/bag for plastic grocery bags distributed by the large grocery stores (we're not talking the vegetable stands on Stockton St. here), I dropped an e-note to our esteemed Supervisor and President of the Board of Supervisors.

San Francisco is a-wash with plastic bags flying in the streets, the San Francisco Commission on the Environment and others said.

Something must be done, they said.

Oh, hogwash.

My note said that rather than charging $0.17/bag and whining that people were tossing plastic bags into the recycle when they were not supposed to, it would behoove San Francisco to put some mechanism in place to allow folks to recycle their plastics with the usual recycle pickups, a practice implemented years back in the bucolic ville nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains.

We do not want to pay $0.17/bag for plastic grocery bags. We don't toss them on the street. We use our plastic grocery bags to line the kitchen trash bin. We use our plastic grocery bags to stash litter that we pick up and discard. We use our plastic grocery bags to dispose of kitty litter. Others use them to use to pick up doggy poop, as required by City ordinance. Plastic grocery bags are useful.

If you have bags you don't want or need, they should be easily recycled.

Did I hear back from our esteemed Supervisor and President of the Board of Supervisors?


Is his nibs on our esteemed Supervisor's e-mailing list even though he's never sent him an e-mail? Yes.

Am I? No.

Well, nevermind. I'm used to being ignored and whining in vain.

But re plastic bags. What a crock.

The problem in the City is trash, paper trash, and litter. Telephone books left out in the rain. Restaurant take-out menus left on door knobs. Blats (yes, blats like the Examiner) left unwanted on residents' doorsteps. Beer bottles, wine bottles, liquor bottles. Starbucks cups. Plastic spoons and ice cream cups. Straws.

The problem in the City is trash and litter, not plastic bags. Walking down the streets, it's not plastic bags I see, it's crap like this:

She's whining about Christmas trees now? you say.

Well, yes. The rules are, take your tree out to the curb and we'll pick it up and chip it for compost. Do Not Put Your Tree In A Plastic Bag. Oh, the number of trees we saw in plastic bags! Take All Glitter And Whatnot Off The Tree. Do Not Leave Flocked Trees Out For Recycle.

The tree I took a picture of still had the light strings on it. Yes, I know. Light strings are $1.99/ea and may not worth saving year-to-year, but trust me, chipped light strings do not good mulch make.

Strip the tree. Put the light strings in the garbage or give them to the Goodwill. Leave the tree at the curb. How hard is this?

The City has convinced the major supermarkets to voluntarily cut down on the number of plastic bags they distribute to customers in lieu of the $0.17/bag fee. As of last November, no more double bagging.

We'll see how that works out. Will it cut down on the trash in the streets and pushed up into the corners of doorways by winds? I don't think so. Plastic bags were never the problem.

San Francisco has to come up with some other way of cleaning up the streets. Perhaps the City could encourage residents to take the "one for the road" pledge.

A liar AND a thief?

John Dolan thinks James Frey lifted some um. bits from Eddie Little's Another Day in Paradise.

All Over Coffee and Paul Madonna

I am a huge fan of Paul Madonna's All Over Coffee.

[URL] Bancroft Library and the '06 Earthquake

Alls usns are gearing up for the 18th of April when San Francisco will celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library has pulled together the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Digital Collection Website.

The project is a joint effort of the Bancroft Library, the California Historical Society, the California State Library, Stanford University, the Huntington Library, and the Society of California Pioneers.

The site includes pictures, text, links, references, and search capability. Check out the very cool 360deg panoramic collage view of the devastated city. Bancroft Library created the collage from eleven photographs taken from the roof of the Fairmont Hotel at the top of Nob Hill.

The site also has an interactive map. Click the piece of the City you're interested in and the site serves up photos of the earthquake aftermath for that area.

Monday, January 16, 2006

One for the road ... and for the City

The city streets, sidewalks, parks and steps aren't going to get any cleaner without some help.

Walk down the street, what do you see? A tossed away wrapper here, a discarded envelope there. Old telephone books tossed out and left in the rain. We won't even mention the mattresses, fluorescent bulbs, broken tables, mannequins, and potted plants left out on the sidewalk with the hope that some scavenger or the DOT clean street folk will pick them up.

... and they do. ...

Walking up the Steps to Montgomery yesterday, I noticed someone had used a big wad of newspaper to wipe mud/poop/crud off their shoes and then tossed the papers at the bottom of the concrete steps where the steps jog onto a wooden pathway.

What's up with that?

At the top of the Steps people had dropped two takeaway coffee cups, a couple of wadded napkins, candy wrappers, some other paper, some plastic. Just dropped. Discarded. Left behind. What's up with that?

We finished carrying our Trader Joe's goodies in and his nibs was going back up the Steps to move the car back into the leased parking. I took a plastic grocery bag from the bundle we have in the kitchen, stuck my hand into the plastic bag the Chronicle always comes in, and followed him up the Steps, picking up the wad of newspaper, the coffee cups, the wadded napkins and what-all and stashing them in the grocery bag. I took the bag full of garbage back down the steps and tossed it in our garbage can.

I pick up litter because I figure if the litter is left, the next folk along will see the litter and think it's okay to drop their garbage too. The piles will grow. Best to clear it up and keep the place from looking like a pig pen or a dung heap.

Would be best, of course, if the City placed more litter bins at spots like the top of the Steps where people tend to drop their stuff. But litter bin maintenance would probably be too hard to manage and people might use them for household garbage in lieu of paying our local garbage folk.

Or maybe having more litter bins wouldn't be the answer anyway.

On our walkaround over to Fort Mason yesterday, we passed by the sitting steps outside the Maritime Museum. Folks had left bags, wrappers, food trash.

The seagulls were ecstatic. I was not. Look. The litter bin is right there, folks. Just pop that trash in the bin. How hard is that?

My "one for the road" pledge: I do solemnly pledge to refrain from littering, and, in addition, at least once a day, pick up at least one piece of litter.

If everyone would just refrain from littering themselves and daily pick up at least one piece of litter tossed by some bozo who won't refrain from littering, the City would be a cleaner place.

Next up! Pics of representative bits of litter and trash seen during today's five mile (RT) walk to Greenwich and Divisadero.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Beautiful day today. Time spent out and about.

Everyone was up by 6 a.m. to take the youngest to Oakland Airport with plenty of time to spare to make it through check-in and security. Thrilled he was to be flying Jet Blue because it meant he could watch the football games in-flight.

After we dropped him off, we drove back to San Francisco, intending (as long as we had the car out of the leased parking space) to stop off at the Trader Joe's near Fisherman's Wharf to pick up milk and single malt and other supplies.

We got to the store around 8:30 a.m. to discover that the store didn't open until 9 a.m. We had more than just a few minutes to wait, so we decided to drive down to the Marina and walk around and kill some time.

Today was beautiful, a perfect day, the sort of day you wish for tourists.

We walked along the edge of the Bay and over toward the yacht harbor, with me taking lots of pictures of boats and boats and crab traps and boats with the Palace of Fine Arts in the background and scullers and sea gulls, more boats and a guy rowing (not in a scull, in a rowboat!), and the GGB.

We spotted a huge boat anchored over by the Saint Francis and wandered over to check it out. The boat was the Sirenuse out of Kingstown. We continued walking past the Saint Francis YC, past the Golden Gate YC, where friends recently got married, and on to the Wave Organ, taking pictures of boats, the Wave Organ and Alcatraz.

We walked back, taking pictures along the way, and drove back to Trader Joe's. After we'd finished shopping at Trader Joe's and schlepped everything down from Montgomery, I was ready to take a couple pictures of the East Bay view and sit back and relax, read a bit or faff around on the 'net ... but his nibs was having none of it. The day was stunning, beautiful, so fine. His nibs wanted to be out and about.

We decided that the day's destination would be to walk down the Steps to the Embarcadero, then around past Fisherman's Wharf and over to Fort Mason and the Friends of the Library used bookstore, Book Bay, about two miles each way.

On the way, we stopped for lunch at Pompei's Grotto, one of my favorite, relaxing places to eat at the Wharf. His nibs had fettucine with crab and I had a hot crab sandwich -- open faced, tons of crab, delicious mornay sauce -- and fries. We split a bottle of chardonnay.

I bought a big bag of used books at Book Bay which we, of course, then had to carry home. I carried it most of the way before handing it over to his nibs before we started up the Steps.


[WRITING] Holly Lisle - A Baker's Dozen Antidotes to "Meh" Writing

Holly Lisle not only explains what she means by "meh" writing (not godawful, but not brilliant, just sort of ... "meh"), she gives a baker's dozen of antidotes.

from the site: Holly Lisle has a full article explaining each line item

Tambo has collected a series of painful editor confessions about "meh" writing. Anyone who is writing but not yet published needs to read these articles -- they're generally shocking to folks who haven't crashed head-on into the hard realities of publishing yet.

However, when you're finished getting good and depressed, here are thirteen antidotes I use to kill "meh" writing. These are techniques that keep my heart and soul in the books I'm writing. Maybe they can help you ward off the "mehs," too.
  1. Say what you mean.
  2. Find your themes.
  3. Reclaim your wings.
  4. Live in your skin, not your head.
  5. Claim your unique voice.
  6. (Ethically) steal what you love.
  7. Immerse your work in conflict.
  8. Ask the right questions.
  9. Make your scenes count.
  10. Pace your scenes to keep your reader moving forward.
  11. Explore your life's strangeness.
  12. Sharpen your talent.
  13. Embrace your fear. Don't deny it.

Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm ninety-five?

Wednesday at breakfast, his nibs was reading the San Francisco Chronicle. I was reading a magazine.

(Exciting life we live.)

"Kitty Carlisle Hart," he said.

"Is she dead? She must've been ninety-seven or so," I said, assuming he was reading from the obit page.

"Ninety-five," he answered. "And she's not dead. She's playing the Plush Room.

I would've liked to have seen her, but her show ran only Wednesday through today, alas.

Steven Winn, the Chronicle Arts and Culture Critic, liked the show.

What an inspiration she is for living a kick-butt life.

"I do my work. I still practice every day, do scales for a half hour and accompany myself on the piano."

[ref: the article his nibs was reading]

So this week, when Kitty Carlisle Hart toasts admirers with the classic Butler/Molinary song "Here's to Life," this remarkable woman will be speaking from the heart: "No complaints and no regrets/I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets./But I have learned that all you give is all you get/So give it all you've got."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

[WRITING] Writer's Digest

Lee Goldberg slams Writer's Digest for accepting advertising from POD publishers and vanity publishers and for sending out "special message" e-mails touting their "marketing partners."

The comments thread includes input from a number of folks, including Miss Snark, JA Konrath, PJ Parrish, and Kristin Godsey, Editor, Writer's Digest.

Interesting discussion, with wide-ranging points of view.

[WRITING] New lit agency: Folio Literary Management, LLC.

Folio Literary Management

Scott Hoffman (PMA Literary & Film Management, Inc.), Jeff Kleinman (Graybill & English) and Paige Wheeler (Creative Media Agency) have teamed up at Folio Literary Management, LLC.

No news as to what clients they might have lured away from their previous agencies. (Paige Wheeler owned her agency, so all her clients probably are still with her...)

The site has contact e-mails and snail addresses. Submission requirements aren't yet available.

Various sites have news bits:
Karen A. Fox

Friday, January 13, 2006

[BLOG] moleskinerie: Legends and other stories

moleskinerie is a blog for fans of Moleskines.

I've always wanted a Moleskine notebook. Archival quality paper. Smooth Moleskine cover. Elasticized band to keep it shut. So pricey, though, and how can I justify one when I have stacks of unused composition books in narrow rule, quadrille and blank? What style would I choose, if I were to choose one?

Should I walk over to the Blick Art store on Van Ness and browse the aisles ... and doublecheck one more time whether they're just really too pricey right now for me to justify the expense when I already have all these blank books?

I'm almost absolutely positive I'd get there and drool over the notebooks and then decide, nope, too pricey. Should I just get on with writing and promise myself a Moleskine as a reward ... some day?

The two mile walk over there would be good for me ...

Update: I walked over. Checked out the Moleskine notebooks. Bought some.

Hah! But I had a plan. I took our youngest with me. The Moleskine notebooks I bought were for him for an early bday present. I fed my yearning for Moleskine by giving some away. (No. I couldn't justify the cost of the notebooks, knowing how many blank composition books I have stashed away.)

Beat Museum opens on Upper Grant

Carl Nolte covers the Beat Museum at 1345 Grant Avenue, just a couple blocks up from City Lights bookstore.

Free admittance! Grand opening tonight! Carolyn Cassady (now age 82) will be there!

Today I Made A Difference

Alex Whalen on his recent stint of jury duty.

Another sunrise

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

[WRITING] Character charts

Mind you I have never once filled out a character chart, but I keep thinking maybe I should.

Over at her storytelling blog, Rosina Lippi describes a main character.

To do so, she uses the following profile.

Favorite foods:
Won't eat:
Favorite things to drink:
Favorite Music:
Likes to wear:
What her living space is like:
Methods of transport:
Magazine subscriptions:
Favorite Book:
Favorite TV Show:
Favorite Movie of the last few years:
Movie star crush:
Creative outlet:
Favorite Muppet:
Favorite ice cream:
Favorite desert:
The thing she'd never do:
The thing she's always wanted to do:
Childhood toy that's still in her room:

Sound interesting? Follow the comments thread to see what other questions readers want to ask about the characters.

Only comment, "Favorite Muppet"?

I don't have and never had a favorite Muppet. Sesame Street is way past my time and we didn't have television when the now-twentysomethings were young. I =know= most of the Muppets but was never involved enough to have a favorite.

Now, if you'd been asking my favorite Mouseketeer c. 1958: Cubby O'Brien.

Other character charts to peruse and use:
If you decide to use character charts, choose one of these, or make your own using elements from these.

Visions of the Seas

We've seen this ship down at the southern piers, where ships go for rehab and maintenance, for the last week or so.

Big! we'd say. What ship is that? But we'd be speeding down the highway and didn't take time to look.

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Whatever they were working on is finished. The Royal Caribbean Visions of the Seas left port this morning.


Room for 2,435 passengers. Ten decks. A rock climbing wall!

The priciest digs? The Royal Suite: "Separate bedroom with king-size bed, private balcony, whirlpool tub, living room with queen-size sofa bed, baby grand piano, refrigerator, wet bar, dining table, entertainment center, private bathroom, vanity area, hair-dryer, closed-circuit TV and phone. (1,140 sq. ft., balcony 131 sq. ft.)"

If you book the Royal Suite, you also get free (hah!) concierge service and access to a private lounge so you don't have to sit in a deck chair next to ruffians.

Monday, January 09, 2006

[URL] [WRITING] A novel in a year

Telegraph.co.uk has hooked novelist Louise Doughty for a new column teaching the art of writing fiction: A Novel In A Year.

Check it out.

[via Miss Snark]

[URL] [WRITING] 12 Baby Steps to a Complete Story

From Toasted Cheese:

12 Baby Steps to a Complete Story

This tutorial takes you through a twelve-month process to writing a story.

January: Characters
Exercise #1

Make a list of your characters. Remember, if you're writing non-fiction, you still have characters, your characters just happen to be real people.

Complete a full character biography for your main character(s). A character biography sheet can be found here or you can make up one of your own. Do a simplified profile for your secondary characters: e.g. name, age, appearance, job, etc. For minor characters, just list their name and why they're included in your story.

Post and ask for feedback on it. Do readers like your characters? Hate them? Are they eager to find out what happens to these people? Make changes/additions incorporating the suggestions you're given.

Note: All of the exercises/months assume you have a posse that will provide feedback.

[via the comments thread at Miss Snark]

The Smoking Gun sez James Frey fibbed a bit.

The Smoking Gun sez James Frey fibbed a bit.

The Man Who Conned Oprah:

"Book Club" author's best-selling nonfiction memoir filled with fabrications, falsehoods, other fakery, TSG probe finds

JANUARY 8--Oprah Winfrey's been had.


In 'A Million Little Pieces,' a crack-fueled Frey runs down a cop in a small Ohio town and a wild melee ensues. The Granville Police Department report on the 1992 incident tells a markedly different story.


... and the blogs is all a-buzzy.

On the subject of the truth or fiction of memoirs, I loved Haven Kimmel's A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana.

The memoir was a funny, funny book with a disclaimer up front that her family and friends might not quite remember the events and circumstances as she does, but this book is about her (probably embellished) memories of growing up.

What a voice Kimmel has.

Frey's problem is that the hype over his story was predicated on how absolutely rotten his lying, boozing, druggy, criminal life was.

... and he seems to have um. fibbed a little.

I'm interested to see what the consequences will be.

[via Miss Snark]

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Visit with the tree guy

We're headed down shortly to the bucolic ville, nestled in the verdant foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, to meet our real estate guy's tree guy.

Met up with the tree guy.

We also met the agent who was showing the place today. She said at least ten groups of people had been through, one or two of whom had been very enthusiastic, interested in where the property lines were, &c.

While we were there waiting for the tree guy and talking with our neighbors, two more groups came through.

Did folks make a New Year's Resolution to buy a terrific house in an award-winning, topnotch school district?

Or have they decided to buy a house now before mortgage rates go up again?

I don't know. Either way. BUY!

We had a good long chat with our much-liked neighbors next door. They'd been gone for a few weeks, visiting grandchildren over the holidays, and were gone on New Year's when the winds blew. She said that a friend said that the winds had been 50-60 MPH which, on top of the wet-wet-wet we'd been having, caused a lot of downed tree matter in the verdant foothills.

We were so very lucky.

The tree guy was great. He knew exactly what needed to be done. He'll take out the remaining crown and take the tree down below the section where the twin crowns split. He'll trim off some more branches. He suggested pruning back another tree that's close to the house and he promised to clear out dead branches in the eight or ten firs at the front of the property.

Only $1400. Only.

[insert eye-rolling thingy here]

The tree guy was giving us the particulars about someone he was giving as a reference. The tree guy had his crew doing work on Reid after the storm. Did we know Reid? ... Seems during the New Year's Day storm, a guy who lives about a block up from where Reid intersects the highway, over near the elementary school our guys attended, had a neighbor's tree snap and fall into his house ... the crown of that tree was in three distinct trunks. All three trunks snapped off in the storm, straight into R's house.

"RS?" I asked.

"You know RS?"

"Well, yes, we do. Cub Scouts. Boy Scouts. Little League. PTA. All that kid stuff. For years."

Seems R's neighbor had moved away and hadn't been taking care of his tree trimming like he ought to.

R has to deal with the result. The tree guy and his crew spent two days at R's house, removing tree debris.

We were so very lucky. The debris and tree trimming are easily handled. The house is fine.

Lucky us.

[URL] [Writing] storytelling: sex scenes

Sara Donati/Rosina Lippi's "storytelling: sex scenes"

Bookmarked for future reference. Packed full of useful information and examples.

This collection of essays on writing sex scenes is just a part of Rosina Lippi's site and her blog, titled storytelling.

New Year's Day 2006 Surprise

We're headed down shortly to the bucolic ville, nestled in the verdant foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, to meet our real estate guy's tree guy. We had a phone call from our yard guy right after we'd set the appointment with the tree guy that the yard guy had finished cleaning up the mess.

What mess, you say?

Our youngest is on break from university until mid-January. He's been driving south on a regular basis to see friends. When he does, he always spins by to see how the house is doing, especially this past week when we've been having wicked rain and wind. Check to see if the trees are okay, we say. Make sure nothing's happened to the house, we say.

He called Sunday night (January 1st) to say a huge branch or something had fallen in back and had taken out the phone line to my old office and was leaning up against the gutters. Luckily, he was using our car, which just happened to have a saw stashed in the trunk, so he sawed through the bit of tree enough to unleash it from the house. It was night time. He checked for leaks and couldn't see any, but, then, he couldn't see much in the dark.

We went by the next day, Monday, to see how bad things were. I spent a couple hours just raking the branches and deadfall off the driveway and putting the debris in the recycle yard waste bin and then, when that was full, into a big pile by the garage. The driveway was now clear, but the pile was BIG and needed to be dealt with.

debris pile

Out in back? We'd had a tall redwood with a split crown maybe twenty feet from the house. The two crowns were probably ten inches or more in diameter -- at the point they split from the common trunk -- and about forty feet tall. One side of the split crown came down in the wind and the rain.

debris pile

Bad as that was, as the piece came down, it knocked against the tree next to it, taking out every branch on one side (about fifteen) on the way down.

debris pile

No wonder our scout was puzzled by all the green stuff and branches and what-not all over the back patio.

We were lucky. If the tree top had dropped at a slightly different angle, it probably would've hit the overhang on the main house with uncertain consequences. We were also lucky that the piece coming down was slowed and buffered by the branches on the tree next to it. The house is fine. The roof held. No leaks. But the tree pieces were too large for us to handle. We needed someone with a chain saw.

debris pile

His nibs put a call in to our yard guy and to our real estate guy. Our real estate guy was gone for nine days for the holidays but would be back in the office on Wednesday. The yard guy was probably away too, as he didn't call until Thursday. By that time he'd been by to look at the project and said he'd need to hire a couple extra guys and haul everything out. He'd charge $700, including dump fees. We needed the place clear before the weekend open houses started up again.

I was pumping the pool cover on Friday when our real estate guy dropped by. He'd been thinking his nibs' phone message meant that one of the trees had lost a branch. (his nibs says the message had been a piece of one of the trees came down and the back is a big mess). The look on Chuck's face when he came out in back and saw the mess was priceless. Being as our yard guy is his yard guy too, he put in a call to light a fire under our yard guy. Get the mess out of the back patio, he said.

The sad bit is that the bulk of the tree top landed on my lovely decades-old azaleas which make a beautiful multi-colored bloom every spring. I fear the azaleas are totally crushed and there will be no spectacular azalea display to entice a buyer this spring. Now that the debris has been carted away, we'll be able to see how the azaleas are doing when we go down today to meet up with the tree guy.

Life goes on.


Charitable giving: ten over one hundred

Today's Chronicle Magazine also has an article about James Hong's latest venture: ten over one hundred.

James Hong and Josh Blumenstock, who works for James at HOT or NOT, started this venture -- based on an idea they brainstormed -- to encourage and facilitate charitable giving.

We'd recently been wondering how much we should be giving to charity. What's too much, what's too little? For those that don't belong to a religion that tells how much to tithe, it's a big question. We know how much we're supposed to tip the waiter, why aren't there similar rules of etiquette about giving?

James is a neighbor and a good guy. He's already made his pledge.

Check out the site.

DNA Direct or Dragon ladies rock!

The Chronicle Magazine has an article today on Ryan Phelan's newest venture -- DNA Direct. We often walk by the DNA Direct offices and the name had puzzled us.

DNA Direct: your genes in context.

Huh? Just what did they do? We'd tracked down the Web site a while back. Reading the article today, made us stop by the site to check it out again.

DNA Direct is, as the Chronicle Magazine puts it, Phelan's controversial new venture ... part of her quest to make life questions -- whether about our DNA or the species' existence -- easier for the rest of us.

DNA Direct provides DNA testing -- genetic testing -- for individuals interested in weirdnesses or abnormalities in their DNA.

Is this a good idea? There's some question. ...

Phelan is a dragon lady, of the best sort ... year of the water dragon.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Page 123 Meme!

Snarf'd from Miss Snark.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

The sentence is:
"Of course it is, in one sense."

The book is:
Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

I haven't read the book in years. I picked up another copy (the other is lost in the boxes of books) after we made pilgrimage to Charles Lindbergh's grave in the Palapala Ho'omau Congregational Church near Hana, Maui, last October.

Gift From The Sea is on top of a pile -- five feet east of where I'm sitting -- of books that haven't been read.

Tides of Light - Gregory Benford
The Fine Art of Literary Mayhem - Myrick Land
Robert's Rules of Writing - Robert Masello
Rising From The Plains - John McPhee
f2f - Phillip Finch
The All of It - Jeannette Haien
The Pleasure Zone: why we resist good feelings & how to let go and be happy - Stella Resnick
S is for Silence - Sue Grafton
Monster - John Gregory Dunne
The Spooky Art - Norman Mailer
The Savage Wars of Peace - Max Boot
The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
The Modern American Presidency - Lewis L. Gould
Ask Not - Thurston Clarke

... and that's just that pile ...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Steps will be taken

Laura Lippman wrote about dieting -- "Fat is a Feminist Issue" by Susie Orbach to be specific -- on her Memory Project blog yesterday.

She asked, "Is it better to eat ten rice cakes and still feel hollow, or to eat double-chocolate breading pudding and push the bowl away halfway through? Last week, I opted for the latter, and I hope you did, too. But what are you doing this week? Did you ever fast? Or do something equally stupid? Because I sure did."

I don't diet, but I do plan to drop some weight so I can get up and down the steps -- both inside (we have three levels) and outside -- easier.

People don't believe me when I tell them that every time I go out, I have to walk uphill (both ways!), but it's true. Our walking path heads uphill to the Filbert Steps and then it's either down the Steps to Sansome and the Embarcadero and wherever I want to go from there or up the Steps to Montgomery, then up Montgomery to Union and wherever I want to go from there.

Coming back from wherever I've been, it's always uphill, but that's what I get for living on a hill.

The closest I can get to the place by car is to doublepark on Montgomery at the top of the Steps and run stuff down the steps (42!) then over, then up the front stairs (18!) Carting anything in (or out) and keeping the kitchen stocked are minor challenges. The cars are stashed in leased parking a half-block down Union. If we aren't double-parked at the top of the Steps, we're toting things up from the garage.

We walk everywhere, which means I'm getting far more exercise than I used to. I'm in better shape and don't whine when I'm going uphill anymore, but dragging around any excess weight is nuts.

My plans for the New Year are to take some sort of walkabout every day it's not raining that ends with me walking =up= the Filbert Steps to get home until I'm in good enough shape that I don't make detours around the other side of Telegraph Hill just to avoid trudging up the Filbert Steps.

I don't know why but, psychologically, the trudge up those steps (223!) is harder on me than walking around the other side of Telegraph Hill and walking up Montgomery or Union or Greenwich. His nibs points out to me, in his oh-so-practical way, that if the Steps are there, coming home any other way than just straight up the Steps is a lot more work because I'm not only walking farther, I'm walking to a higher point and then walking down again.

Oh, well.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Offices Where Great Writes Are Written

So I heard through Alison Kent that Lee Goldberg was asking for office pictures.

Seems Lee was rattling on about Jill Krementz' THE WRITER'S DESK which has a boatload of photographs of the places writers write. He mentioned that Brenda Coulter had posted pics of her office. He decided wouldn't it be cool if folks took pictures of their writing spaces/offices and posted them to their blogs.


He has a picture of his office, of course, and links to Jennifer Crusie's office, Megan Crane's office, more ...

So, here goes. ...

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A picture facing northwest. Note the darling mirror-image IKEA desks. I sit in the chair with the smushed pillows. his nibs sits opposite me. How cozy.

When we set up the office space this past summer, we had to carefully figure out what we needed and how we'd arrange it. In addition to the living/dining/kitchen/powder on the first level, we have this room, a bath, a closet area, a laundry alcove and an atrium opening (topped by a skylight on the deck) on this level and the master bedroom and bath as well as the deck on the top level.

This room, then, also serves as the guestroom. People sleep on the floor of this room (or on the uncomfortable sofabed) a lot. Being as in actual practice, we usually let guests sleep in the master bedroom, we're usually the ones on the floor here and we wanted to be relatively comfortable. We arranged the desks so that we can roll out a kingsized foam pad on the floor between the edge of the sofa bed and the edge of the desks. Just barely.

The arrangement does mean, however, that when his nibs wants to get to the bathroom or into the closet area with the tall file cabinet, he has to wait for me to scoot close to the desk edge in order to give him enough room to get by.

Pain in the patootie, it is.

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Closeup of the pillows. The chair is one I bought at an office supply store for cheap back before the really cheap leather office chairs existed. This chair was cheap because it was a floor sample. I can no longer make the seat adjust, so pillows it is until I decide to break down and buy a new chair for $40 at some super duper office supply sale.

The PEACE pillow by Mary Engelbreit -- purchased at the Goodwill for $0.99, is perfectly shaped to push into my aching back as I sit cross-legged on the chair tip-tapping.

The mousepad was something I got from Powell's last year when I entered their Celebrate Ten Years of Powells.com writing contest. Still haven't finished using up the $100 gift certificate I got as runner-up in the contest. Maybe I'll buy Krementz' book with the remaining dosh.

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Assorted files, a rolling file drawer from IKEA. That wad of stuff on top of the red milk crate is mosquito netting I bought (at the Goodwill, natch) with intent to make some sort of rollup gizmo to cover some shelves in the office whose contents we wanted to keep away from small children's attention when they came visiting.

Still haven't figured out how to do it.

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UMAX Astra 2100U scanner. Not the latest, nor greatest, but works gud.

Combination scanner/printer/FAX behind on his nibs' desk area. We broke down and bought one for $30 when we realized we were FAXing a lot of stuff during house negotiations. (Still for sale! Good school district! Wooded! Acre lot! Build your dream home or just live in the house what is!)

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HP LaserJet 1200. Also not the latest, nor greatest, but works gud. I learned my lesson with the HP Pavilion from hell. HP printers gud. Pavilions, well. ...

And there you have it. A picture of the other half of the room would show cupboards and shelves and a sofabed. Not very interesting, and not related to writing. Boatloads of books and clippings and files and folders and stuff are stashed not too far away, but far enough away, I can't just wander down in my jammies if I need to find something. I try to keep only the essentials here.

A Resolution for the New Year: Get this space organized and get the stash space organized and figure out what belongs where. I feel half fish half fowl and unsettled these days.

San Francisco Dine About Town 2006

It's January! It's San Francisco Dine About Town 2006!

Time to try restaurants you might not otherwise try and support your local restaurateurs.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The party's over ...

I found a white feather party hat this morning as I took the garbage out. Some angel had partied too hardy.

We sat home last night, quietly drinking eggnog, watching the midnight fireworks from the deck. The younger younger guy and his friend went down after supper to check the action at the Lost and Found on Grant near Green and then walked down to the Ferry Building for a closeup look at the 'works.

They snoozed in this morning and carb'd up on pancakes before heading to Chinatown for some grocery shopping. The younger younger guy called as he and his friend left for points south with their vegetables and fish to say that the eastern lanes of the Embarcadero were closed due to wave splashage.

We'd been planning to get some fresh air anyway, so we decided to walk down to the arrow and see what the Bay was up to, up close and personal.

We cut across on Sansome to check out the rock fall from earlier in the week.

I never could figure what someone would do with one of the three lots that are for sale there at the end of Union at Sansome.

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Even less likely now, after the latest rock fall, that the Planning Department will approve any building plans for those lots.

As our esteemed Supervisor told the media, there's a reason there's high test fencing down at the bottom of the hill. It's an old rock quarry for pete's sake. Rock falls.

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We continued on down to the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building. Obviously, many others hadn't had such a sedate New Year's Eve.

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The fun started at Pier 14.

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We wound up at Gordon Biersch where we had a very late lunch and then walked home through a drenching rain that had blown in while we were eating. No umbrellas, of course.

The last stretch up the steps had me feeling like the Bogart character in Dark Passage, as he drags himself up the steps after his plastic surgery, hoping that Bacall will let him hide out in her place at the Malloch Apartments.

Arrived home soggy. Tired. Cold. And badly in need of a nap.

So I napped.

Happy New Year, everyone.

May each and every one of you have time to nap whenever you need to this year.