My Personal Sanditon Fanfic

I called this “Sanditon Fanfic” but, of course, any telling of Sanditon that goes beyond Jane Austen’s original 60-page fragment is fanfiction. The BBC/PBS disappointing eight-episode adaptation is no exception.

I guess I want to imagine fanfic of the adaptation though, which ends on a cliffhanger and no hint of a second season at this time.

Austen died after completing eleven chapters of Sanditon, which looked like a new direction for her in a number of ways. Instead of an established setting, the town (fishing village) of Sanditon is being gentrified, converted into a spa town by the entrepreneurial Tom Parker, and Parker and his two brothers, Arthur and Sidney, figure prominently. Additionally, Austen apparently added an heiress to a hundred-thousand pounds, the rebellious Miss Lambe, who comes from the Caribbean plantations and is of mixed race (“half-mulatto” is how she is described). While Charlotte Heywood, a gentleman farmer’s daughter, is the main character, Austen was exploring different kinds of stories, or so it seems.

The showrunner for Sanditon was Andrew Davis, who has a good track record with historical romances, and with Austen adaptations. I found the show frustrating because in some places Davis was clearly aware that he was a 21st century story-teller, and took liberties, and in other places, when he had the opportunity to do something daring and original, he suddenly ducked back behind Austen’s skirts, like, “Well, I can’t do that! It wouldn’t be Austen!” He deliberately casts heiress Miss Lambe as dark-skinned with natural hair, and her secret lover is also Black. Thus when Miss Lambe speaks lines like, “I am no man’s property,” they have a whole bunch of resonance. Davis might pat himself on the back for “foregrounding” race, but he can’t let the beautiful, dark-skinned Miss Lambe find happiness with the lover who was born in Africa, enslaved, and is now a freeman. In fact, Otis Molyneaux has to be chastened and humbled by the story. I can almost hear Davis saying, “Well, it’s the designated-scandal part of the story! They can’t be together! I’m not racist! It’s just the system!”

Step one in Marion’s fanfic for Sanditon: Instead of Otis disappearing, disgraced and all bruised from smashing his face into that glass ceiling, Miss Lambe tells him, “You’ve got three years. Three years to show me you can stop gambling and be a stable, successful merchant. Then come back, and I’ll give you my answer.” (Of course her guardian Sidney, eager to hand her off to one of the white elite, would have to agree to this, and in my version he does.) And at the end of three years, Otis returns triumphant. Sidney’s helping hand, and Miss Lambe’s faith, were just what he needed. Unfortunately, his continued political actions as he tries to end slavery in the Caribbean means he has powerful enemies. Still, he and Miss Lambe marry. With her smarts, her fortune, and his strength and passion, they become a powerful force for equality. And they have adventures.

Not Austen? Not canon? Hey, it’s fan-fic.

Sidney rides off to marry Mrs. Campion, the wealthy widow he used to be in love with, in order to get the needed financial backing for Sanditon. Back home on the family farm, Charlotte pines but gets on with her life. Mr. Stringer, the workers’ foreman who wants to be an architect, initiates a correspondence with her. She persuades him to consider, again, pursuing his dream of being an architect, and finally, he does. On the eve of the opening of his first building, he invites Charlotte down to London, and they admit their love for each other. I’ll be the first to admit that this is a troublesome plot for me. Both Mr. Stringer and Charlotte are upwardly mobile to the extent that concept exists. Charlotte only has the choice of marrying up, and marriage to Stringer does not give her entrée into the aristocratic circles. Still, Mr. Stringer is a better man than Sidney is, and they are a great couple together, so I’m going for it. They marry. Maybe Charlotte’s friend Lady Susan (no, not that Lady Susan) introduces her friend into society in some way. Or, you know what? Maybe Charlotte doesn’t care.

A few years after that, Sidney’s rich wife dies in an unfortunate flower-arranging accident. Flush with her money, Sidney seeks out Charlotte, to find her passionately, happily married. Sidney, rootless and disillusioned, decides to return to the Caribbean. On the way, his ship is wrecked in a storm. After days of floating adrift, he washes up onto a small island where an enigmatic woman nurses him back to health. Oh, wait, that’s the plot of Circe. I don’t care. I’m going for it.

Now, for those Parker boys. Sidney is stuck on his island, happily-ever-aftering it, or perhaps not so much, or whatever. You may have gathered that I don’t care much for Sidney. For Tom Parker, after the several setbacks we’ve already seen, he makes Sanditon a success, a bigger draw than Brighton. He and Mary plan a gala celebrating their fifth year, and invite Mr. Springer and Charlotte, because part of the festivities is the unveiling the model of a new edifice Mr. Springer has designed for them. The cream of London society come to the event, including a troubled but probably handsome young lord of something, who falls for the middle Parker brother, Arthur. Carefully, elliptically, the two admit their feelings for one another. (By the way? Not my idea. Arthur being gay is all Davis’s idea.)

Hypochondriac sister Diana Parker, who has sworn to live with Arthur forever, becomes, in spite of herself, fascinated with the healing arts as she works more closely with Dr. Fuchs. Soon she becomes his assistant. Reluctantly, she leaves Arthur, who promptly fills the absence in his house with his new lordly boyfriend.

Then we have the three relentless heirs of Lady Dunham’s fortune, Esther, Edward and Clara. Esther and Babbington continue on, and Ester is actually happy. Lady Dunham leaves most of her money to Tom Parker and the donkey farm (as hinted at) but she bequeaths a comfortable amount to Ester. I’m thinking that Babbington invested in Sanditon, because that’s the kind of guy he is.

Clara returns to London, penniless. She falls in with a crowd of thieves and uses her smarts and her complete amorality to shape them into the premiere gang of jewel thieves in Britain and later on the Continent. She learns how to fence and shoot a pistol, and few people ever know that the dread gang leader is female. She is never caught, and lives out her life in opulent luxury. 

Lord Edward continues his downward spiral from grace, couch-surfing with various friends and relatives, until finally he goes to America, heads for the western frontier, and disappears into history.

Why? Because it doesn’t seem fair to give Edward a bad ending, like dying in a duel after he’d caught cheating as cards (which is what I wanted). Edward is yucky, but he isn’t much worse than Clara. The difference between him and Clara is that he didn’t love Esther back – or, he didn’t love her enough. Clara never loved anyone, so her sins (which are bad) aren’t, in story terms, that bad.

There it is. There’s my happily-ever-after for the folks of Sanditon – or at least, that’s how I’d do it today.

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The Mission District Murals

24th and Mission

We climbed the path out of the underworld and emerged into a place of light, color, the smell of food, and music.

(Okay, it wasn’t really the underworld, it was BART, but allow me some literary license.)

This was the first mural I saw.

It turned out the music nearest the BART station was canned, not live, but within half a block we could hear a live band playing.

Donna was taking me to Balley Alley, which has a lot of murals, but there was wall art everywhere we looked. Some of this is graffiti and thus probably illegal but many of these artworks are sanctioned. And some of them fulfill an archival purpose.

This mural is an archival object. In the lower right corner are the names of the women depicted, who championed economic and social justice, equity and housing reform.

The air smelled like chiles, pizza and some kinds of pollen. It was a beautiful clear day and a Saturday, and lots of people were walking around. The Mission District is supposed to be a neighborhood with a lot of homeless people, but with a few obvious exceptions, like the guy with the shopping cart piled with belongings and a small, collapsed tent, I couldn’t single them out. Lots of young moms with toddlers were out enjoying the weather.

Donna found an alley before Balley, and we explored it.


An ethereal style.
The Virgen of Guadalupe painted on a door.

The alleys are a beautiful place for artwork (and other things, like a naked man standing looking out his window) but you don’t have to find the alleyways to admire the work here.

Both sides of this house were murals.

Bally Alley provided some political commentary with a two-part mural commenting on ICE and its treatment of city residents.

This is only “page 2” of one political mural. At the top left you can see I.C.E.
An artist at work

We had a slice of pizza at a small place whose name I’ve forgotten. It was very fresh, the thin crust was crispy, and very good! We sat by the window.

Nope, not a mural, just a happy succulent thriving in a pot in one of the alleys.
The faces in this one are compelling.

The work is painted on fences, walls, and gates of places where people live. I loved this experience but I do wonder how the people who live there feel about folks with camera traipsing through. (Apparently the naked man was unconcerned.) On the other hand, you can give an artist permission to paint on your wall or your fence, right? And then it’s not graffiti.

This is painted on an old wooden door. I love this one. I wished for a minute that I were rich so that I had a place to display it, and I could buy it… and then I remembered that it’s right where it needs to be.

I caught a Lyft from Borderlands Books to the ferry terminal. My driver went on at great length about the scourge of the homeless people in the Mission District; how they were unsanitary, they brought crime, and nothing was done about them. I don’t live in the city and I don’t have the authority to speak to its issues. This was my first visit to the Mission. I guess I’d say that like any small town or neighborhood, it has its problems and its beauty.

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Ridership Up

Here comes the train, up to the Rohnert Park platform

My youthful,cheerful Lyft driver lives in Sebastopol, and is a Bernie supporter, although he’s nice about it. I swore an oath before I left the house that I was going to request the day be an oasis from politics; my second question to him was, “So, did you watch the debate last night?”

He hadn’t, and I’d only watched some highlights, and that worked out perfectly.

Lyft’s GPS gives bad directions to the Rohnert Park SMART stop. It believes that there is an entrance on the Expressway side, and there isn’t. It worked fine because he was able to pull over to the shoulder and let me out, but it’s something someone ought to fix. I have no idea how that gets done.

South of Petaluma, the wetlands and a flock of birds.

My car is filled to standing room only, humming with cheerful conversation. In front of me a couple a few years older than me stand. I offer them my seat; they both decline. The man says, “It’s like surfing!” I say, “That’s a stretch, but your Hawaii T-shirt helps sell it.” He grins like a kid as he watches the scenery go past. It is, he says, their first time on the train.

There are lots of eager, happy children traveling with parents.

It looked like I’d have fog in the city.

SMART is offering a promotion through the end of February. If you’re taking the train into San Francisco, your SMART ticket will get you a ferry ticket at no extra cost, and returning, your ferry fee will get you a train ride at no extra cost. This runs on weekends and holidays only for the month. I think a lot of people on the train knew about that.

I’ve never understood the politics of the train, just as I will never understand how stations end up where they do. The Cotati Station is… what, two miles?… from the RP station. That makes sense; the California State University at Sonoma students use the train, and that station is close to the campus. The town of Novato has three stations, though, while Petaluma currently has one. This might be politics, or it might be that Novato is a spread-out kind of town. There are plans for a north Petaluma station.

I’m curious to get to Larkspur and make the walk to the ferry terminal.

Larkspur!

The website said that it’s a fifteen minute walk to the ferry terminal. To my surprise that’s about right. If you are with someone using a wheelchair or with other mobility issues,or you have a lot of luggage, it may take longer, so plan accordingly when making your travel plans. The walkway is well engineered, wide and smooth, and goes over the surface streets so you lose no time at stoplights.

The walkway.
This second image gives you an idea of both the length and the engineering. The left ramp takes you down to a parking lot and a cinema. The right curves around and drops you onto the street where you have a two-block walk to the ferries.

This is less that ideal, but it’s here and it works. As you can see, it’s not covered. While I enjoyed the fairly brisk walk over, I might not have quite so happy in a pelting rainstorm. Such is life.

But there it was. Fifteen minutes later I’m on the hydrofoil, on my way to the city.

A bit of a wake.
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Borderlands Books Now Carries Aluminum Leaves

San Francisco’s premiere speculative fiction bookstore and awesome champion of local writers is now carrying Aluminum Leaves! I am chuffed.

866 Valencia Street, SF, for now.

The store is a great venue for writing events, with friendly, highly knowledgeable staff. They will be moving in May/June to a new location o Haight Street — a building they own! Long may they thrive.

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Juliette Wade at Borderlands Books

Juliette Wade’s debut novel, Mazes of Power, came out last week. On Saturday, February 8, she read from it and answered questions at Borderlands Books in San Francisco.

866 Valencia Ave, in the Mission District

Juliette was interviewed by friend and fellow writer Deborah Ross, who is probably best known for co-writing several of the Darkover series books, and writing some of her own in the series. The two writers have been friends for a long time.

Juliette had a full house!

Juliette Wade with her book. She’s not happy about this at all, as you can tell.

When you are the main event at a look launch, you can read as long as you want to, and Juliette shared all of Chapter One with us. It’s told from one of the three points of view in the book, that of a smart, sensitive and conflicted teenager in the world of Varin. The chapter addresses some serious issues very early — like the uncomfortable increase in birth-defects and stillbirths among one segment of society, the ruling one — but it’s also about three adolescent boys on a social outing, and there is plenty of humor. We see a lot about the subterranean world of Varin, and about Tagaret’s complex family dynamic, in that opening chapter.

Wade with Deborah Ross

After the chapter, Wade talked about the world-building and how she imagines the many castes that make up the social world. She wants to push against the image of a caste as a “box,” a discrete thing, and plans to explore what happens when people born into a stratum with specific beliefs and values questions those beliefs, those values. She didn’t say this, but given the presence a high child mortality rate among the ruling caste and the rigidity of the caste system, it seems to me that she is questioning whether a society with such rigid rules can survive. For the ruling class, their biggest enemy is their biology, and a solution is right in front of them, but to employ it means losing their grip on power.

Borderlands is a great space, and a great champion of speculative fiction, horror and mystery. In late spring (May/June most likely) they will be moving from Valencia Street to an address on Haight Street, which is a building they will own.

My two big regrets about the event are that I didn’t have a chance to browse the store, and I couldn’t stay for signings because I had a ferry to catch. Otherwise, the launch event was a delight.

On the way home, the train was delayed for half an hour, giving me time to read into Chapter Two, and meet a whole new character.




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The Vacant Spots on Main Street

To my dismay, the wonderful kitchen and home furnishing store on North Main Street, Cultivate Home, is closing. The reason is sad; not finances, but the health of the owner. I went in on Thursday and already, with the discounts, the store was nearly empty.

Cultivate Home will probably be closed by the end of the week.

Next door, where Sole Desire Shoes sat for a brief time, it looks like someone is moving in. The bigger retail space close to them is still vacant, with an Available for Lease sign in the window.

The Interior of the old Sole Desire shoe store.

Near the west corner of Bodega Avenue (Highway 12) and Main Street, one door up from the live theater, the space that used to be Maizy’s Closet has morphed into an Italian cafe called Portico. I’m guardedly hopeful. It looks like a lunch-only place at the moment. (Update: Lunch and dinner.) I’ve peered in through the glass, and the big draw right now is the open kitchen, all gleaming and sparkling. There is a large fountain inside the place, apparently meant to evoke the sense of a piazza. I wish them luck.

In the south block of the Main Street “shopping district,” which folks on Nextdoor are calling” Old Town” (snort!), there are some vacant storefronts too. After many, many years as a fixture in town, Wild Things has closed. About two years ago, the owner was crossing Bodega Ave/Highway 12 in a crosswalk when a car hit her. It took her a very long time to recover from the resulting head injury. I don’t know if that time let her reestablish her priorities or if running a retail shop single-handedly was just too much, but the shop is closed. Retrograde Coffee hopes to expand into that space.

This used to be Wild Things
Retrograde Coffee, next door, plans to expand into this space.

Funk and Flash, the store with the most personality on South Main, has moved out of its home, the large 1950’s-style storefront with the double sets of windows, into a smaller space in the charter school building. This means that have about 25% of their wonderful inventory, and I fear it means bad things for their costume section, although the displays on the mannequins outside are still as outrageously fun as ever.

In their old place is… well. There’s a nail salon with several stations, that has been empty every time I’ve walked past.

On the other side is something from a time warp. It’s not open yet; it looks like it might be a indoor flea market or… something that would be in an old movie with a name like “Desert Gulch Trading Post. Next Gas 700 miles.” It’s got some tools, some… other things in the window, and a display of soft drinks. This should be interesting, if slightly depressing. What am I saying? It’s already depressing.

The nail salon is not making a big splash. Seated with her back to the camera, in the center of the sofa, is the owner.



Items for the mystery store.
And some beverages to go with your candies, and your tools.

I don’t like the vacancies on Main Street. They, like large encampments of homeless people and billboards offering to buy your house for cash, are symbols of decline. Two of these closures are not economically driven, but I still don’t like the failing-town look the For Lease signs and the windows covered with brown paper give the heart of the little town.

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40 Copies

It’s a good thing my first actual published book is skinny, so I can fit 40 copies on one shelf.

I plan for some of these to move into the world. First of all, thanks to the wonderful SF bookstore, Borderlands, some will be available at FOGCon, March 6-8, in Walnut Creek. I also plan to do a reading there.

I’ve reached out to a few west coast bookstores about consignment. After the ebullient encouragement I got from Borderlands, the change in tone from Book Passage, Marin County’s premiere book store and gathering place, was a shock, like getting a stream of ice-cold water down the back of your neck.

To be fair, they are probably flooded with emerging, self-published writers who don’t understand much about how selling books works. Book Passage champions local authors, and they did accept a review copy, so I’m guardedly hopeful.

Honestly, I think the warm responses I’ve gotten at the Copperfield’s stores and Four-Eyed Frog, and the great telephone conversation and follow-up email from Borderlands, spoiled me and gave me the wrong expectation. A bookstore exists to sell books, after all, not support fledgling writers.

I’ve also reached out to the delightful Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Washington. Elliott Bay Book Company manages to lay out a clear and thorough overview of their consignment process without making it sound like “you must answer this riddle correctly or you shall not pass.” I sent an email to Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. I could not find consignment information on Powell’s website, but I figure the worst that can happen is that they’ll tell me “No.”

I’ve reached out to one store in Eugene, Oregon, and have two more possibles.

Next, I need to gird my loins (do women gird their loins? And I typed “lions,” first and I like that better– I will gird my lions) and investigate southern California speculative fiction bookstores. I’ve reached out to the SWFA Book Depot which is part of the Nebula Event weekend, but haven’t heard anything yet.







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How Do Characters Come to Life?

I always say that my stories start with a character and a question, and that’s true. I always have an imaginary person in mind when I start. Often I feel like I know them very well. Sometimes it takes the entire first “zero” draft for me to get a grip on what/who they are. That’s largely what the rough draft is for. (Well, that and hashing out something that approximates a plot, but that’s another posting.)

Sometimes, though, usually with a secondary character, I’ll write a line or a bit of dialogue almost at random, and that will make the character click into perfect focus. Suddenly, I’ll understand them perfectly.

An example of this is a character who appears in the sequel to Aluminum Leaves. Ilsanja is Trevian’s Langtree’s jilted fiancé. She is, or was, a close friend of his younger sister. Ilsanja plays an important role in the sequel and in the third book as well, but when I first imagined her in 2013, she was a flat character, just an avatar of a social-climber.

Back then, I wrote a bad short story with an unhappy man named Trevian Langtree as the main character. Nearly all of the ideas for world-building and character conflicts that make up Aluminum Leaves and Copper Road are in it, just poorly-defined. Trevian is a rebellious, brooding young man at a crossroads in his life, although when the story opens he doesn’t know it. He, along with a childhood friend and his “pledged bride,” Ilsanja, is going to a fair in a small town close to their home. The fair, and the town, is the scene of one disillusionment after another. I wanted to show that Ilsanja and Trevian are at odds from the point the story starts; she is jabbing him with the social weapons at which she is adept, opening flirting with his friend, giving Trevian cool, polite stares whenever he speaks. To be fair, Trevian is sulking and he isn’t much better.

I knew that the marriage of Trevian and Ilsanja was not a love match; it was an arranged marriage, a way to combine two fortunes and two sources of political power in the boomtown where they lived. I knew that Trevian hated everything about that and felt trapped, but I didn’t really know how Ilsanja felt about it all. At first I was focused on decking her out in high-fashion clothes and making her cooly mean, which I achieved. But she was still… a suit of fancy clothes, not a person.

There was some action in the plot, when Ilsanja is kidnapped for ransom and Trevian, using his newly-discovered magical powers, rescues her. Ilsanja began, slowly, to swim into focus for me; she is drugged and abducted, but she’s not a passive damsel-in-distress, and once rescued, her intelligence and observational skills help Trevian and the sheriff identify the mastermind. The rescue doesn’t bring Trevian and her closer together, though. It cements Trevian’s decision to go where his magical ability takes him.

The two of them have an argument at the end of the story, and it’s only then that I really got a handle on Ilsanja. First of all, she acknowledges that Trevian saved her, and she’s not grudging about it. Then she goes on to say that he is a fool for leaving her.

“You don’t value me,” she says. And click! I knew who Ilsanja was.

She’s a woman who knows her own worth. Ilsanja is not a vapid social-climber. In fact, she’d not a social climber at all. Me typifying her that was at the beginning of the story was creative laziness. Ilsanja is near the top of the hierarchical heap in her society already and she knows it. There’s nowhere she needs to climb. She has a specific skill-set. She plans to put it into practice building a life and position for Trevian and herself, but Trevian’s vision doesn’t match hers. I might not have liked Ilsanja’s values, but she had some, and they were deeper than “must have this year’s stylish hat.” I may not have agreed with her goals, but she had goals, and Trevian’s actions create a crisis in her life just as much as they do in his. She is a secondary character, but in that argument scene I think I did capture the moment when she sees that her toolkit won’t work in this situation, gives up trying to persuade him, and moves on.

Now it’s years later, and Ilsanja is major character in the sequel to Aluminum Leaves. The way she and Trevian broke up was a thread in the first book and in the second, circumstances – another crisis—throw them together again. Ilsanja has moved beyond Trevian, though. Her teenaged “hobby” of raising trail horses had become a profitable business for her; she’s weathered (mostly) the scandal of being dumped and is still a social leader. And she is a woman who knows the worth of things. Now, as a better-realized character, she must decide whether helping Trevian and his family is worth the embarrassment and battered pride she risks by doing it. This creates genuine emotional suspense (at least it does to me, and I hope it will in the book.)

I’m so glad she said that line!

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In Which Marion Does a Bad Thing

I did a bad thing, and I still feel the effects of it hours later. I hope I bounce back, but this may have traumatized me for life.

(Trigger warning for icky sexual material.)

You know how in horror movies there are certain things you scream at the screen? Like “Don’t go down there alone!” “Don’t split up!” “Don’t open the book!”

I opened the book.

The book was a mass market paperback, fairly new, with a newish cover. I think it had a young woman, maybe in a white nightgown or dress, on the cover, but like many bad experiences, I don’t remember exactly. The author’s name was Virginia Andrews. (For some of you this will be a clue.) The title was Flowers in the Attic.

I assumed (never assume!) that this was some kind of reimagining of the creepy cult classic from the 1970s. (It wasn’t. It’s a reprint.) And so I opened the book at random, and before I could stop myself, my gaze lit on words in a row and I read them.

Oh, good Lord.

Holy Christmas Cake*.

Sweet Mother of God.

Who knew?

Who knew that the original, aside from being creepy and sick, was this bad?

The book opened, or I opened it, to a page where a woman is standing in an attic. A shadowy voice says — no, wait, that’s not fair. There isn’t a shadowy voice. There’s no such thing. A voice speaking in italics orders the woman to take off her blouse which she does. The first-person narrator notices that Mama doesn’t wear a slip or a bra, and as the blouse is removed, she sees why: Mama’s back is covered with whip-marks. Or, no, “puffy, blood-encrusted welts against her creamy white skin.” Most of Mama’s creamy white skin is covered with welts and most of them are encrusted with blood. It’s really lucky that none of that blood got on the blouse, especially since there was no intervening fabric.

Intellectually I know that the paragraph I read could not really contain both “blood-encrusted welts,” and “creamy white skin” seventeen times each. The paragraph wasn’t that long. It was probably only two or three times each. Or four. Or maybe five. It seemed like a lot. Especially “creamy white skin.” Especially in the sentence that reads something like “… Mama’s creamy white skin that Papa used to touch so gently.”

Oh, ick. Ick, ick, ick.

If the words had a scent, these would give off the stench of decomposing flesh released from a recently uncovered mass grave.

You know how, if you’re in an accident, like a fall from a horse, or something with your car, or maybe even just with a friend who gets hurt, you sometimes think you’re doing something very rational, but a couple of days or maybe a week later you look back and say to yourself, “Wow, I really wasn’t thinking clearly?” Well, I wasn’t thinking clearly, because I pulled my gaze away from the terrible,terrible words on the left hand page and let myself look at the right hand page and then I read another paragraph!

In this one, cackling, whip-wielding grandmama takes gleeful credit for whipping Mama, and then launches into a diatribe that explains what’s going to happen in the rest of the book, and her motivations. There’s a sentence that goes something like, “Shelter, food and water we will dole out… but no love, warmth or compassion.” Okay, fans of creepy overwrought sadomasochism, there you go. Because this is how people talked in 1979. Or 1957, when the story allegedly takes place.

Grandma tells us that she gave Mama thirty-five lashes, one for every year of Mama’s life. Here is a plot question; Mama is a grown-up. Now widowed, why has she brought her children back to her hateful mother and father? Why not, I don’t know, rent an apartment? Get a job? Whatever? But, no.

Um, okay.

I have, now and then, picked up copies of the various Fifty Shades books and read entire paragraphs, and I have to say in comparison, E.J. James should be a contender for the Booker Prize.

Never mind that the story itself is icky and disgusting… so are random sentences that snare the reader who carelessly opens the book.

And this book is reputed to have sold over 40 million copies. It’s been made into a movie more than once, and I think it might be a a TV show even now.

I opted out of reading this book when it came out. People where I worked told me about it. One of them warned me, earnestly, about the incest, which I thought at the time wouldn’t have bothered me. (That was before I read “…creamy white skin that Papa…” etc.) Another reader, a fan, told me about the doughnuts, though, and that helped me decide that, um, no, not for me.

I had no idea until today just how very Not For Me the book was.

But again, big cult hit, so big that when Andrews, who wrote the book as “V.C. Andrews” died, an entire stable of writers churned out gothic-incest sequel after sequel with titles like Petals on the Wind (that might have been written by Andrews herself), and Thorns in the Outhouse and Doughnuts in the Attic. They went on for years! Years and years, decades even!

(Okay, except for the “Petals” one, those aren’t actual titles.)

Ugh.

Anyway. I closed the book and put it down before the infection could spread any farther. I figure if I read a couple of really good books immediately, I may have a full recovery. But just… Wow.

Don’t go into the basement alone. Don’t split up. And if the book looks like a reprint of some disgusting thing from much, much earlier in your life, that you didn’t want to read then, don’t open the book. Learn from my mistake.

*Courtesy of Orphan Black, “Holy Christmas Cake” is one of Alison Hendrix’s expressions



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Cons I’ll be Attending in 2020

So far, there are at least 2 conventions in my immediate future.

I will be at FOGCon in Walnut Creek, Ca, March 6-8, 2020. More importantly, I think, Aluminum Leaves will also be there, courtesy of Borderlands Books, who will have it on consignment. Borderlands is longstanding genre bookstore in San Francisco with great staff, a great history and a tradition of supporting emerging and local writers. It took me two days to work up the courage to call them, and the experience was not merely painless, it was pleasant! They were encouraging!


May 28-31, 2020, I’ll be attending the SFWA Nebula Weekend in Los Angeles. I’m working with the convention bookstore manager to find out if they will carry Aluminum Leaves there.

I haven’t registered yet but I plan to attend ReaderCon again since last year’s was so much fun. And AtomaCon was a blast (pun intended.)

I’ll update you!






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