Gallery Bookshop, Mendocino, Now Has Copper Road!

On Wednesday, The Gallery Bookshop became the latest store to carry Copper Road.

Availability now stretches from San Francisco to Mendocino! Well, kind of. Here is the current list of shops that carry the book on consignment.

319 Kasten Street, Mendocino, CA
(image by Marion Deeds)

Gallery Bookshop, at 319 Kasten Street in Mendocino Village, can be reached at (707) 937 2665.

Four Eyed Frog Books
(image provided by bookstore)

Call The Four-eyed Frog at (707)884-1333, or visit at 39138 Ocean Drive, Gualala, CA.

Second Chances Used Books
(image provided by store)

Visit Second Chances at 6932 Sebastopol Ave, Ste E, Sebastopol, CA, or call (707) 827-8291. If you’re driving there, best parking is in or near the plaza.

Copperfields Sebastopol
(image by Marion Deeds)

Copperfield’s in Sebastopol carries it. They’re at 138 N. Main Street, Sebastopol. They have parking in a lot off High Street, behind the library. Call them at (707) 823-2618

Borderlands Books
(image from store)

Borderlands Books is at 866 Valencia Street, San Francisco, although they may finish up their move soon. You can reach them at (415) 824 8203. Check Bart; there are two stops nearby.

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The Virus Collaborator

There’s an eatery in Mendocino Village whose owner took pride in preventing his employees, or customers, from wearing face coverings during the long months we’re been facing the novel coronavirus. In the early stages of the pandemic he put up a sign that said he’d apply a $5 surcharge to anyone who came into his cafe wearing a mask. In smaller print, it said he might add a charge to anyone who “bragged” about their vaccination. I’m guessing he had to reprint his sign as things progressed in our reckoning with this disease.

I walked by the place on Monday. (For the record, I’m not going to link to it or say the name. I won’t have to; you’ll see his sign in the window.) Some male country singer was blaring out of the speakers; “I’m proud to be an American.” The sound reverberated a little bit, probably off the walls of the empty cafe. There was a person behind the counter and the Open sign was still up, but there wasn’t anyone inside.

The owner has put up a couple of other signs sharing his “philosophy” on endangering people’s health. It includes the statement that people have the “right to breathe,” (that’s about masks) and people have the right to make up their own minds about things (that’s about getting vaccinated). Apparently this second one is inconsistently applied, since people who made up their own mind and wore a mask were subjected to different treatment in his place, but… oh, well.

He also thinks people “have the right to travel,” which is apparently a reference to tourists.(As in, “tourists without masks, come on in!”) Apparently he likes tourists. You know who else likes tourists, or at least feels that they need tourists? EVERY SINGLE MERCHANT in the village of Mendocino, that’s who.

I stopped to take some photos of his signs, and the phrase “virus collaborator” popped into my head. He’s a virus collaborator. He isn’t like people in Europe who willingly worked with the Nazis, or even the people who stood quietly, pretending to look the other way while Donald Trump attempted to dismantle our democracy. He might not even realize he’s collaborating–but a virus’s mission is to colonize. The novel Covid 19’s mission is to colonize as many humans as it can so it can grow and thrive.

Before you ask, the county has fined him at least once, and maybe twice. Another of his signs is one saying anyone coming into his cafe without permission is trespassing, even if they are government officials. I guess he doesn’t like Public Health very much.

I do have to wonder, if he is so proud to be an American, as his choice of music would indicate, why is he so eager to help an alien invader take us over?

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The Way We Live Now #17: Litter

More and more people are now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. It’s starting to show in many ways. There are more people on the sidewalks, more traffic, more people going to the coast or taking trips.

And face masks are becoming a larger component of the litter I see when I’m out walking.

Sebastopol’s streets are pretty clean overall, but there is still litter, in specific places, and especially the Mondays after holiday or event weekends. It’s not uncommon to find fast food containers in the gutters, crushed drink cans (soft drinks and beer) and once in a while broken liquor bottles. Often it’s just scraps of paper–sometimes large scraps, like the shopper section blew out of the daily newspaper, or something.

And masks.

I see two kinds of masks in the street; the paper daily-use masks, and a second type of mask that is sturdier than paper, not as sturdy as cloth, and not designed for continued use although they can be worn more than once. I don’t know what the material is, but these are clearly disposable masks.

I don’t see many blingy, slogany, logo-stamped masks, or many handpainted fabric masks on the street. I suspect that if one of those blows off your face, you hunt it down. After all, you may have paid ten or fifteen dollars for it.

I do see some fabric masks though. Usually they are the plain black fabric ones, and usually they’ve been driven over or walk on.

Do masks fly out of cars? I’m not being sarcastic. Some people hang their masks from their rearview. If the windows are down, it seems like they could blow free. Or, if you’re riding in a car with the mask dangling from one ear, it could blow out the window too. Or maybe a cranky, itchy child pulled theirs off and dropped it.

I’m glad you all don’t need your masks so much outdoors. I’m glad we are making the progress we are making. But please, don’t litter! Pick up your masks.

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Worded Out

This isn’t about writer’s block. I may compose a post on writer’s block someday, because it’s an interesting topic. Personally, I think it is a term used to cover a variety of states. This post isn’t about that.

Sometimes I get worded out. No, not weirded out, although I get that way too sometimes! No. I just run out of words. I’m word-exhausted. I’m not out of stories–ideas and characters still swirl around in my head, but I lack the strength, or the will, to put words on paper.

Sometimes I adjust for this state, which is short-lived, by writing “lite,” or by revising. Sometimes the state is so profound I don’t even have enough words for that. This state has never lasted more than a few days.

The quickest fix is to do something else, unrelated to writing, that gives the word well a chance to refill.

Sometimes this is reading. Back before the pandemic, going somewhere (even for a day trip) replenished my words. Often, photography does the trick.

This week I was worded out. By Friday afternoon there was nothing I could write. Nothing I wanted to write. I needed to let another part of my brain have some fun. I spent Friday and Saturday taking pictures. I gave the busy tenders of my mental word farm a chance to work unimpeded, tending the immature crops that needed to ripen up a bit. In the meantime, I saw highland cattle, a mama deer and her twin fawns (no photos–I was driving); smelled the ocean and felt its breeze on my face. I studied a many-times-painted wall in our town and deciphered the ghost signs it held. I walked. A lot.

And by last night, the words were trickling back in.

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And Now a Brief Update

Today I will give Comeuppance Served Cold one more read-through before sending it back to my editor. This round of edits came after two authenticity reads, one for my Black American characters and one for the visually impaired character. With their help, I’m confident that these characters are as authentic as I can make them. I chose not to make some changes, ones that changed my character drastically, or would have involved completely reengineering the plot (especially because it does seem like there was a simpler fix.)

Any lapse or insensitivity is my own ignorance, and I’m in learning mode every single day.

Some people complain about authenticity readers, (also called sensitivity readers), and act as if they somehow infringe on personal rights, or even, heaven help us, “art.” To me, it’s the opposite. They are my characters, created in my head and fleshed out by my hard work, sure, but I want their daily experiences to ring with validity–not merely prop up the stereotypes and masks we’ve made up about people we have categorized as “other.”

Now stepping off the soapbox, thanks.

In this process an important secret was revealed to me (okay, it’s not a secret). I asked Emily, “Is is Tor.com like the website? It is tordotcom like the twitter handle? What? What exactly is the name of my imprint?”

They said, “And there is the existential question we’ve been wrestling with!” The imprint’s name is Tordotcom Books. And now I know.

No ETA on a cover reveal, but Emily said they would check.

So, more later!

I’m planning to post a short blog on Goodreads, on the third Tuesday of the month, through September. Most of the posts will focus on Comeuppance Served Cold. Beginning in October, when I think I’ll have more to write about, I’ll increase the frequency. Right now I’m talking mostly about the period and Prohibition.




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The Shook-Up Generation

I laughed when I saw this book on the table in Brandy’s store. I mean, that cover! So period! Brandy’s Crest paperback copy will cost you more than thirty-five cents, sorry. In some ways a perfect cover, showing young toughs in leather jackets and girls in (gasp!) jeans, the cover also misses the mark, I think. Or at least it does for me now. It might have resonated more in 1958 when it came out.

The paperback has a brief introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt, stating how important our families are, and how the problem of juvenile delinquency must be addressed.

Salisbury, the author, won the Pulitzer Prize twice. He worked for the New York Times, helming the Moscow Bureau for a while; he covered the Civil Rights movement and in the later years of his career worked in China, including covering the Tiananmen Square uprising. Obviously a serious journalist, writing a serious book. The hardback cover is a little less sensational and probably matched the book better

But isn’t this really a drugstore paperback, the kind of book you’d find on a spinner rack? Were they aiming this at suburban housewives? (I mean, wouldn’t they be checking it out from the library?) I have no clue who they’re marketing to, but I guess you’d buy it for the cover and learn about juvenile unrest before you realized what you were doing. It would be like packaging Jane Mayer’s Dark Money with a lurid cover and hiding it in the thriller section. Maybe that was the intent.

Another thing I can’t overlook; this book was non-fiction. With our fixation nowadays on genres, sub-genres, sub-sub-genres, demographic groups and so on, it’s even more amazing to see this cover on a serious work of journalism. Maybe that’s the best point of all.

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Debris

Debris currently airs on NBC on Monday nights. I usually catch up with on On Demand. It’s got a science fiction premise, and it’s a nice one. An extraterrestrial spacecraft drifted into our system, to orbit around earth (kind of interesting right there–we’re an inner planet after all. It’s almost like it aimed for us).

The ship degraded and entered the atmosphere (or entered and atmosphere and degraded, I don’t completely understand which). Chunks of it ended up all over the world. The chunks of spaceship have magical powers, and so every highly militarized government is out to track them all down and weaponize them ahead of the others, because that’s what we humans do, at least in science fiction TV shows. There is also a private-sector group, labeled as terrorists, called Influx.

Here’s what’s good about the show: the cast, the special effects, and certain visuals. In an early scene, the camera pulls back to reveal a huge open space, with a partially re-assembled cylinder hanging in the air. The space junk, er, excuse me, debris, is cool-looking.

As for the cast, Rainn Steele plays Finola Jones, a Brit (from MI5?) assigned to the American team, and Jonathan Tucker is the USA guy, Brian. Finola’s physicist father was deeply involved in the US Debris project, called “Orbital,” until he took his own life shortly before the show started, not before sending Finola a text that has baffled her even though I have a pretty good idea what it meant. Brian has a military background, and there are repeated hints of trouble. The implication is that he was a black ops guy. Norbert Leo Butz is wonderful as Maddox, Brian’s conflicted and treacherous supervisor.

The special effects are the star of the show. Whether it’s floaty things, glowy gold things, shimmery gunmetal things, translucent things or morphing things, they are all top drawer.

With a good cast and beautiful special effects, the show should be compelling. Somehow, it isn’t. I do think that, somewhere in this production, there’s a person who has a story to tell. I just don’t know where they are and what they’re trying to tell us. If I were watching Episode 2, I’d be fine with that, but the last one I saw was Ep 8. I know there are clues buried in the audio feed that runs behind the closing credits, but that isn’t enough.

As if the dragging pace and monotony of the relationships weren’t enough, the show devoted two (two!) episodes to the we’re-in-a-time-loop plot. Do these people understand that they’re showing on network TV, and their goal should be to stop people from surfing away? You know how to make people surf away? Do several montages of people running across a rock and jumping into the water, that’s how.

Jeff, a friend of mine, pointed out that the show contains zero humor. None. I mean, none. I never knew what a drawback that could be.

The stunning absence of any connection or chemistry between Steele and Tucker is an obstacle too. At one point, when each shares with the other information their respective bosses told them not to share, I was all, “Oh, finally! Mulder and Scully! Wonder-twin powers, activate!” Unfortunately, that went nowhere. In the Groundhog Day two-parter I mentioned above, Brian reveals his feelings for Finola, which come out of nowhere, are completely unsupported, and later (temporarily) erased by circumstances. This felt less like a plot point and more like some desperate showrunners dangling a shiny thing in front of me so I’ll keep watching.

I thought the show wanted to be Fringe, a weird, excellent SF show from early in the 20th century. (Many visual affects look similar.) Fringe also got off to a bit of a slow start, and had the same earnest, solemn tone, but somehow that show got the character of Walter on the screen pretty fast, and Walter held our attention. Debris doesn’t have anyone like that. Everyone is serious, everyone is competent–I mean, yaaay, I like that– every innocent civilian who encounters debris has a Life Changing Decision to Make at the end of the episode, and that sameness makes the show drift like a piece of space junk as far as I’m concerned.

Maddox and the Influx guy both have potential to upend the applecart, but they better start doing it soon.













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ConTinual Panel

Here’s a link to the second Con-Tinual Panel I participated in.

I was more relaxed this time, and it shows!


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Bodies in Motion

In Dashiell Hammett’s detective novel The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade goes to the hotel room of Caspar Gutman. Gutman is trying to persuade Spade to acquire the fabled falcon statuette for him. It’s an important scene, because we finally get the story of the priceless figure, and while they’re talking, Gutman pours himself a Scotch and soda.

I don’t remember the exact details and I didn’t look them up, but some things still stick with me, and one is Gutman fiddling with the soda syphon. It doesn’t mean anything to the plot, but somehow the white-suited criminal pumping up the cannister and squirting the carbonated liquid into the glass has stayed with me, (so much so that I stole, er, I mean, paid homage to it in Comeuppance Served Cold).

I love reading and writing dialogue. I love stories where I must weigh the characters’ words and decipher what they are saying behind what they are saying. I love clever turns of phrase, repartee, and banter. Having said that, reading long unbroken stretches of dialogue gets exhausting. With or without speech tags, pages of back-and-forth with no physicality makes me drift away from the characters, as if I’m hearing abstract voices, not participating in a story.

Even trying to add physical responses seem tedious after a while. People can only bite their lips, roll their eyes, glance away, clear their throats, etc, so many times. Strangely, dialogue, one of the things I enjoy the most about fiction, can float me right out of the story if it devolves into pure talking heads.

When a character in a dialogue has something to do, even if it doesn’t directly affect the plot (Gutman’s drink doesn’t), it brings them back into focus. Because my mind has to imagine the decanter of Scotch, the glass, ice/no ice, the silver cylinder of the siphon, the action engages more of my attention and pulls me back into the story.

It’s great if the activity does connect with the story, if your characters are trying to piece together the torn-up letter they found, if someone is studying the scrap of evidence under a microscope, someone is grooming a horse, cleaning a weapon, or mixing a healing potion, but it enlivens the dialogue even if they’re changing the oil in their car, chopping vegetables for dinner or fixing the hem on a pair of pants.

In the Brother Cadfael mysteries, by the late Ellis Peters, Cadfael is interested in herbs and acts as a healer. As he addresses the various mysteries, he is often in his garden, pinching back leggy plants, harvesting leaves, grinding dried herbs, stirring a tincture, tisane or syrup as he asks questions of the person with him, and bounces ideas back and forth. Usually, the particular potion he is mixing has nothing to do with the mystery, but it gives us a glimpse of 14th century medicine and reminds us that Cadfael is trying hard to leave a life of violence behind him.

In The Mask of Mirrors, M.A. Carrick centers at least one, and maybe two, important conversations between protagonist Ren and her sister Tess around clothing. Ren is carrying out a daring impersonation, and Tess, who is brilliant with fabric and fashion, is making her clothes. The scenes are visually and kinesthetically pleasing as the authors describe the feel of various fabrics; they remind us of the differences in dress among the various social classes, and they remind us how precarious Ren’s con is. And then there’s the actual conversation, which advances the plot.

Can you give your character or characters something to do? It’s a multi-purpose tool, and it enlivens your story. It may even inspire you. You might find, as so often happens, that those random acts suddenly click into something you can use in the plot. Give it a try.



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Small Plates

Brian Fies once used the term “tapas” for a blog post that contained a number of unrelated topics. I’m stealing the idea. Please enjoy a sample of tidbits today.

We put a helicopter on Mars, and it flies!

I’m reading an enjoyable middle-grade fantasy book this week. It’s called Oddity and it’s by Eli Brown. Clover is the daughter of a country doctor in an early 19th-century America filled with folkloric magic. Clover’s America is not ours. She soon sets off on a quest and in short order has acquired a hat that holds secrets and magical doll that would send the likes of evil-doll Chuckie running for cover. She is befriended by a talking rooster and a medicine-show performer, all on the way to uncover the mystery about her mother, who died in a fire when Clover was an infant.

This morning I went for a short early walk in Ragle Park. I brought my camera. A green heron was fishing for tadpoles in the artificial pond between the soccer fields and the bathrooms.

Green heron wading.
Green heron in flight.
Green heron in flight, wings on downstroke
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