A List of Ten of Another Sort (not Best, not Worst, just Mine)

Favorite Reads of 2013

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt  I rooted for Theo Decker through every word of every page, all 771 of them, and then was so sad when it was over that is was hard to begin another book, and for me that is saying something.

Me Before You, Jojo Moyes  I knew it would end badly, of course it ends badly, but it was a marvelous journey anyway.

We Need to Talk about Kevin, Lionel Shriver  This one scared me so horribly that I cannot look at a high school gymnasium without shivering.


The Paris Wife, Paula McLain  It is certainly not a flattering portrait of Ernest Hemingway from the perspective of his tremendously patient first wife but a fascinating one nonetheless.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn  Another scary one, and I am not a horror reader generally, this one had me wishing ardently for the death of a main character, no spoilers on which.

Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher  Take a trip through the mind of a high school girl on the brink and remember to be nice to everyone. Everyone.

Biggest Book Disappointment

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson  Perhaps it was because I ADORE Jackson Brodie, her series protagonist and anti-hero extraordinaire, and he was nowhere to be seen, but one Life would have been more than enough for me.

Most Anticipated Reads of early 2014

Into the Still Blue, Veronica Rossi  I started four dystopian series last summer and finished three, and I liked this one second best thus far, behind Matched, Ally Condie but ahead of Divergent, Veronica Roth and Delirium, Lauren Oliver. What is up with Veronicas writing dystopian? (Also, so tired of dystopian--am I the only one?)

Lost Lake, Sarah Addison Allen Her books are magical (magicial realism, duh), but they really are. It's like every page comes with glitter and sparkles embedded in the very best way.

Okay, I lied, but it's only nine. These are what came to me, and I'm sticking with them.
stack of well-thumbed books from Wikimedia Commons


It's coming (but not what you might think)

One of my favorite days of the year is coming, certainly my favorite day of the season, and it's not the one that you might think. It's not Christmas, nice in its own way. It's not New Year's Eve, since for me the year runs on an academic cycle beginning in September and runs through the following summer. It's not even Hanukkah, past I know, but closer in spirit to what I'm talking about since it is also called the Festival of Lights. Give up? It's the Winter Solstice, the evening before the daylight begins to creep back in the "right" direction, even if it's only by a few minutes a day. I have never been a night owl, though I hear there are many of you out there, but for me it's all about the light. Perhaps it was growing up on Cape Cod, where the light is better and more lovely than any I've yet seen (generations of artists have agreed); perhaps it's that with the light comes the warmth, which I also cherish; or perhaps it's simply the celebration of something so elemental and ancient as the turning of the Earth on its axis in relation to the sun, rather than the commercial frenzy that the other winter holidays have become that appeals to me. In any case, and maybe it's for all those reasons at once, I slog through the weeks when the clock falls back until the light comes again. There are so many other references to light in this season: the "great light" in the Old Testament, the "star in the east" in the New, and on a more pedestrian but also charming level, the proliferation of lights on people's houses and in their yards this time of year, to me signaling the coming of the great light, faith of whatever sort appeals to you aside. Enjoy the season of light, as I will when I drive past house after lit house, and then we can all move one day at a time closer to the best light, the summer light, of course, summer girl that I am.
Dawn, from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository


How to get a buzz (besides that)

First, let's define buzz. Besides the obvious, the drinking buzz. Yeah, I'm over that. What are we talking about here? For some, that's literally what the buzz is: what we are talking about. And the way to get talked about in our current society seems to be to act as outrageously as possible and tell everyone you know about it via all possible social media outlets. Then, with any luck, it goes viral. Okay, so there's that. For me buzz is a little more. Buzz is a physical feeling that I get when I like something, that little jolt of adrenaline when I interact--sight, smell, touch, sound, taste--with something good. This has happened to me a few times recently, so I'll share:

I started reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, 771 pages, and zing, I was hooked on page 3.
I had two bites (long story) of key lime pie at Thanksgiving. Yum beyond belief.
I heard "Red Rag Top," the new Tim McGraw song, and it threw me back to high school in a flash.
I touched a crazy soft cashmere sweater in Theory, yup, sand-colored, and yearned.
I got an email from another blogger saying she loved my book. Yay!

The buzz is important because it shows us we're alive, really participating in this life. Sure, I'll take the viral one (anyone making the YouTube video for me?), but I'll also take the everyday hits.

What gives you the buzz?


28 ways I'm grateful, begun on 11/28

The posts on Facebook, the time of year, and the mantra of a dear friend to "be grateful before you put your feet on the floor in the morning" prompted this list. Thankful or grateful? Your choice, 28 ways, since Turkey Day was November 28 this year.

In no particular order I am grateful and thankful that:

1. My family is healthy. And awesome. Just saying.
2. I decided to self-publish my book. I have talked to many interesting readers already and look forward to many more.
3. My parents met and decided to marry, much fascinating fallout there.
4. I live in the time that I do with all its glories and its foibles.
5. I see the sunrise more days than not. That's what it's all about, the world going around the sun.
6. I have the family that I have.
7. Words have usually come easily to me.
8. People write books. And I can read them. And do, about one a week.
9. I like my work.
10. My colleagues are excellent.
11. The students, ditto.
12. I knew three of my four grandparents well enough to remember them vividly.
13. Mother Nature hasn't decided to fully fight back for all the indignities and travesties we have visited on her. We should, however, feel amply and rightly warned.
14. I have all my original, working body parts, unless you count the tooth I knocked out in second grade. (Cap doing fine.)
15. Dr. Jacob figured out what was wrong with me.
16. My friends from grade school are still my friends. We know each other's history.
17. Ditto my friends from college.
18. I've made friends since college and continue to do so. Growth is good.
19. I've seen as much of the world as I have (42 states, 1 US territory, 8 countries). I hope to see a lot more.
20. Brown University taught me how to think for myself.
21. Tufts did, too.
22. My teachers have believed in my abilities and encouraged me to develop them.
23. Musicians have provided such a fine soundtrack to my life, the tragic and the ecstatic.
24. Also artists.
25. The seasons continue to come (yes, even the horrible one).
26. I am still capable of learning.
27. Teaching as well.
28. I am.

And you? What are you thankful for?


Now in paperback!

For those who like to hold an actual book in their hands and turn the pages, No Alligators in Sight is now available in paperback. I confess that I, too, love the feel of the pages themselves, the sound of pages turning, and even the smell of new books. It's available in my own little e-store (kind of like shopping local!) and will be on Amazon and available for bookstores and libraries to order shortly.  If you have book lovers amongst your friends, please consider sharing this post.
The image is from the 2013 National Geographic Photography Contest, winner #29.


A rainbow in my pocket

My brother and I used to collect these square little cards of rainbows when they were handed out on the streets of Provincetown.  They were our childhood's trading cards, kind of like today's Pokémon, but with very little commercial tie-in and free!  I would give a good bit to have one back.  If you are like me, there is so much of your childhood that you've either heaved voluntarily or lost somewhere along the way.  To me rainbows symbolize the transience of the moment, of childhood itself, a feeling I've tried to capture in my book. Thanks to Randy Blaustein for posting it. You can see it on my Pinterest board here. What image sends you a "blast from the past"?


In defense of reading

"According to a HuffPost/YouGov poll  asking 1,000 U.S. adults about their reading habits, 41 percent of respondents had not read a fiction book in the past year; 42 percent had not read a nonfiction book." This is one of the saddest statements about the state of our country that I have heard in quite a while, and lord knows, there are plenty to choose from: the size of the deficit, the inability of the members of our government to work together, the number of children living in poverty, and on and on. Why does the reading one so disturb me? I am worried because reading is powerful. Reading, and speaking about and acting on what you read, can impact all of those other sad states of affairs. This is not to mention the stress level in this country. So, we are all crazy busy, but remember how great it feels to read a book that you actually enjoy, one that transports you somewhere outside of your own life, lets you think about other people's lives for a while, in fact demands it? Well, the good news is that the experts agree that you do have time to read.
And while we're at it, let's put aside how much time we spend doing other, much less fabulous things than reading, you know, like work, and the dishes, and buying toilet paper, and in case we've been pretending it's not true, admit how much time we waste watching TV or playing video games or surfing the web for who knows what. Remember when reading was fun? Before it was an assignment for school or for work that had a deadline and a consequence, reading was, for many of us, a true pleasure. I'm not saying there aren't people for whom reading has always come hard, but I know a lot of readers who say they miss it but can't find the time for it. Well, here is the answer, loud and clear from the experts, Yes, you do have time to read!
If that's not enough, here's how to remember how much fun reading was and could be again: Entertainment Weekly has made reading into March Madness, or in this case, I assume in honor of national novel writing month, November Madness. You can vote for your favorites in each bracket and see how they do. I think you'll be surprised by how many you've read or want to read again (and how many titles make you smile just looking at the cover): Best YA Novel Round One: You can vote here!
In case you thought it was a fluke that reading is so much in the air, even CNN has weighed in, asking people what book most influenced them. Because we all know it's true: a book can change your life. A book can make you see the world differently or change the way that you interact with the it. Here are the ones that got picked: Readers sound off: Books that changed YOUR lives.
What would you pick? Mine's not on the list, but its author made me think as no book had before, the eternal question, what if? Quickly followed by, what then? And we are off and running, solving the questions, the pressing issues of the day. See? Not so hard.


The ABCs of Provincetown, a key setting for No Alligators in Sight

Each of these letters came from somewhere in Provincetown over the course of one week last summer. It's like a visual tour of Lettie's trips around town on her bike. If you go there, it could be your own personal scavenger hunt. Let me know if you find a "better" letter! You can see my whole board here Provincetown Blues Key West Limes.


Neil Gaiman has everything right here

Like the man says, Read, read, read. It's like travel without the strip search at the airport and the bad sunburn because you forgot to pack your sunscreen. Reading has saved my life, remade my life, improved my life more times than I could ever count. Reading will show you the world. Reading will expand your mind. Reading will make you a better person. You get the idea. Read on Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming. And in case that's not enough of an argument, the Huffington Post wants you to read, too, for entirely other reasons 7 Unconventional Reasons Why You Absolutely Should Be Reading Books


Why I went the independent route

Since many of you have asked, I thought I'd share why I decided to self-publish, to go "independent," instead of the more traditional publishing route of getting an agent, which leads to an editor, which leads to a book on the shelf, not to mention a big advance and a media blitz. Right? Well, that's not how I found it to go, and not how many authors are finding it these days. Fewer publishers are even offering advances now to new authors, never mind publicists and publicity campaigns; these tend to go, along with publishing contracts altogether, to already-established authors, those with a proven track record and a "brand" or a "platform," as the lingo goes. So here I was, writing away, and reading, too, always reading, and I read a book called Wool by a man named Hugh Howey. I liked it and wanted to know if he had written others. When I searched him, one of the links that came up was an article from Salon about how he got started, and wouldn't you know it, he had self-published his first seven novels before the eighth one really began to get attention. This article certainly caught my attention. I decided to give it a try. As he said, what did I have to lose? So now my book is out there in the world and has sold way more copies than it would have gathering the proverbial dust on my hard drive! Check it out. Hugh Howey, "Self-publishing is_the future and great for writers" Maybe you have a book in you, too.


"If I Loved You" Delta Rae featuring Lindsey Buckingham

This song is a novel in 3:38 minutes--awesome! I heard it and loved it so much that I played it five more times in a row. Hear the story for yourself (and you can like their Facebook page like I did):
"If I Loved You" Delta Rae feat. Lindsey Buckingham


Best Recent Reads 1

That Summer by Sarah Dessen
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron

How about you?


My first interview as an author, by noted author Brendan Halpin

My friend and fellow author Brendan Halpin interviewed me for his riotous blog. When you follow this link, you can read it!

DIY Author Spotlight: Kirsten Feldman

You can, and should, also read about his many fabulous YA, adult, crossover, and horror novels (with the cool pen name of Seamus Cooper). Two of my favorites are Forever Changes and Long Way Back, but it's hard to choose because I enjoy them all. I just ordered the new one, Enter the Bluebird.


It's Here! It's out in the world! It's NO ALLIGATORS IN SIGHT!

Available as ebook HERE

In this coming of age novel, Lettie and Bert squeak by in a tiny town on Cape Cod, one parent an alcoholic and the other absent. After a string of bad decisions on Lettie’s part, their father ships them to their barely remembered mother for the summer, where they will learn hard lessons about themselves, their family, and their future by way of the Florida swamp. Throughout Lettie keeps her biting humor flowing, her razor-sharp pen at the ready, and her eye on her quest for a “normal” life.