Sunday, September 28, 2008

SNL Makes Another Funny!

The hits just keep on comin' thanks to the softball that is Sarah Palin.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Faith And Science by John Green

John Green is an exceptionally talented writer and I am a big fan of his work. I am lucky to have a cyber-acquaintance with John. He recently wrote an article for YA for Obama, an article that I love. John was gracious enough to allow me repost on my site.

Faith And Science by John Green

I don't talk about it very often, but I'm a religious person. In fact, before I became a writer, I wanted to be a minister. There is a certain branch of Christianity that has so effectively hijacked the word "Christian" that I feel uncomfortable sometimes using it to describe myself. But I am a Christian.

So I'm going to write this blog post as a Christian. I'm not going to write (yet) about the time I met Senator Obama, or how proud I felt to cast my vote for him for the U.S. Senate in 2004 as a citizen of Illinois. I'm not going to write (yet) about how Obama's economic plan offers our country the best opportunity to avoid what will be a long and painful period of economic stagnation no matter who becomes President. But I want to explain three reasons why I feel that I am called not only by my conscience and values but also by my faith to support Barack Obama.

First, there is the question of loving thy neighbor as yourself, which Jesus states clearly and irrevocably is the second most important law for his followers, behind only the love of God. Our healthcare system is profoundly broken because we have failed to live up to this high calling--because most Americans have been willing to live in a nation where tens of millions go uninsured. For all the uninsured (my brother Hank and his wife were among them for many years), bankruptcy is an accident or a diagnosis away. Money they've saved to send their kids to college must instead pay for chemotherapy, and not because they made poor choices or failed to work hard, but because they own or work for small businesses, or because they're unemployed, or because they've been sick before and so insurance companies refuse to cover them. (My father, a cancer survivor, couldn't get health insurance for fifteen years after his recurrence of bladder cancer.)

Making health insurance available to all isn't going to be easy, and it isn't going to run smoothly, and it will require sacrifice by all Americans. But I would have happily made the sacrifices involved for my brother or for my father, and so as a Christian I must be willing to make them for all my neighbors. John McCain and Sarah Palin have already said they will not bring meaningful reform to our health care system. Barack Obama, with the support of the U.S. Congress, will.

Secondly, the world in which we live. Apocalypticism has always been a part of Christianity. Early Christians (and some argue Jesus himself) were convinced the world as we know it would not survive for more than a generation or two. For much of recent history, this has meant for many Christians that we don't need to worry too much about what some Christians derisively call "the World." Evangelical leaders (and Governor Sarah Palin) have said that man can't possibly affect the climate, because God made it and humans could never destroy it. (To which I would say: Um, okay, but didn't God make the passenger pigeon?) We are unquestionably called by the Bible to stewardship of the land, and right now that means Americans must make drastic changes in the way we use energy and how we find it. Our failure not to have done this earlier owes to the tremendously powerful oil lobby and an administration that has always protected them over the long-term interests of Americans (and in doing so, has financed a tyrannical regime in Saudi Arabia that has long denied religious freedom or the freedom of expression to its citizens). Climate change is the greatest issue of our time, and if we fail to recognize it, we will be remembered by whatever people remain as the prideful gluttons who said to future generations, "Let them eat cake."

Finally, science. Sarah Palin has repeatedly stated that she wishes to see creationism taught in our schools. I believe that every Christian (and indeed every American) should be opposed to this. What science has taught us does not invalidate religious faith, and to those evangelical Christians who believe otherwise, I would respectfully say that you are placing too much faith in the power of science. Not that science isn't powerful: We now know, thanks to rational thought and the testing of hypotheses, that evolution was the driving force behind the breathtaking diversity of life in the world. And we know that the earth has existed far longer than we have. Science has given so much to the experience of being a creature on this planet. But it does not render our spiritual lives irrelevant.

The anti-intellecutalism that has become the hallmark of religious conservatism in contemporary Christianity (and many other religions) will only set us back--not only economically and politically but also spiritually. We must invest in science; we must teach our children the scientific method; we must share with them the myriad discoveries that scientific method has brought us. And we must do all of these things in classrooms that are in the business of teaching children how to learn, and not in the business of teaching that faith in God is incompatible with the intellectual rigor and creative innovation that have been the glory of our nation's past. Christianity loses in that bargain, and so, too, does America.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Asking For Murder by Roberta Isleib

My fellow GCC'r Roberta Isleib is out with a new book. Roberta was kind enough to stop by and answer some of my questions.

Tell us about your latest book.

In Asking for Murder, when a Connecticut sandplay therapist is found beaten and left for dead, Dr. Rebecca Butterman is determined to help search for answers. With a would-be killer on the loose, she can only hope the clues are buried within easy reach. Besides the mystery, the book is about best friends, craziness in families, and the mysteries of sandplay therapy.

What pulled you into this story, and as a writer made you think ‘I have to write this’?

Tongue in cheek: I had a contract! But for real, I love this character Dr. Butterman. Because I was a therapist for many years, I really understand her work and the way she thinks about the people she tries to help. And I enjoy thinking about her history and personal life and how that will wind through the story. I stumbled into the sandplay angle, but luckily found a wonderful therapist in New Hampshire who walked me through the process of how clients use the sand trays and the figurines and what it all means.

I love what I’m writing now. I can highlight my background in psychology and write about folks in that field who are competent and caring, rather than the idiotic and downright hurtful professionals you often see in movies and on TV. I’m very proud of the time I spent working as a clinical psychologist, but happy to be writing now.

Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline or are you more

I'm getting better at outlining because I find it makes the story much easier to write. Not so many black moments when I have no idea what's going to happen next...

What is a typical writing day like for you?

As I begin a book, I look ahead to the due date and figure out how many pages I will need to write each week in order to hand it in on time. I build in time for trips and family and time for my writers group to read and critique, and then time for me to rewrite. Then I have a page goal for each week. I write until I’ve hit the goal, sometimes even getting a little ahead. For practical purposes, I do write most days. And mostly in the morning, saving the promotion and other “easier” work for when I’m less alert!

If you could only own and read 5 books for the rest of your life,(excluding your own) what five books would you choose?

Very hard question because I don't do much rereading. Here goes: GONE WITH
THE WIND,THE MONK DOWNSTAIRS,THE JOY OF COOKING,BIRD BY BIRD,TRACKING DESIRE (written by my sister!) That's a terrible question!

If you had to watch only five films for the rest of your life, what five
films would you choose?

This one's easier, because I do like to watch my favorites over and over:

Do you have a vice that you’ve given up, but long to continue?

None that I want to go back to, thank you!

How do you promote your books? Are you going on tour for this book?
Any upcoming signings?

I always throw a book launch party at our local independent, RJ Julia in Madison, CT. and I visit other bookstores and attend Sisters in Crime events through our speakers bureau. I blog (my own and Jungle Red Writers.) I send out press releases, keep a mailing list, attend mystery conferences, network like crazy. And keep up to date with my website. I bet I'm missing things...My signings are all listed on my website. This time around I also commissioned a book trailer.

For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?

The business part is hard--the part I have no control over. I can produce a fabulous book, but unless the publisher is really behind it and I have a bit of luck somewhere along the line, it's unlikely to be a commercial success. That's why I do as much as I can to promote, as long as it doesn't interfere
with my writing! I want to be able to say I gave it my all...

What do you love about being an author?

I love looking at what I've written and feeling excited about it. I love seeing the new book in all its stages. I love meeting fans and talking books. And I simply adore the friends I've made along the way.

What’s next for you?

I'm thinking, I'm thinking....

Monday, September 15, 2008

I Can See Alaska From My Front Door

Perhaps the funniest thing I saw this weekend....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Professors' Wives' Club

Joanne Rendell is a fellow member of the GCC and a terrific author! Her book The Professors' Wives' Club comes out this week and I am thrilled she stopped by to answer some questions.

Is that a great cover or what!

Tell us about your latest book.

The Professors’ Wives’ Club tells the story of four women who do battle with a ruthless dean at Manhattan U – a university which looks a lot like NYU where my own husband is a professor! The power hungry dean is set to bulldoze a faculty garden which may be hiding a secret about Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poem, “The Raven.” What he hasn’t bargained for, however, is the guts and will of four professors’ wives who are determined to halt the demolition plans and save the garden which has become their meeting place and their refuge. Through their fight with the dean, the women expose the dark underbelly of academia and find the courage to stand up for their lives and their dreams.

Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline or are you more organic?

A little bit of both, I’d say. I always have a good idea where the book is going and usually draw up a loose chapter outline, but then while writing things change and I allow myself to go with the flow.

Do you have a vice that you’ve given up, but long to continue?

I’ve just recently given up Diet Coke. It’s a shocker, as I was seriously hooked and I often needed my “fix” to get any writing done. I definitely yearn for it still, but then I remind myself of what those Skinny Bitch authors say about Aspartame (the artificial sweetener in diet sodas) and I resist.

For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?

Procrastination. It’s always so hard for me to start a scene, or a chapter, or to pick up where I left off the day before, and that’s when procrastination rears its mean and ugly head. Usually, because I’m sitting at my computer attempting to write, the easiest form of procrastination is the internet. Checking today’s top videos on You Tube, or looking at my friends photo albums on Facebook, or seeing what people are Twittering about, always becomes endlessly fascinating at the same moment when I intend to start writing! And after a hour or more of such procrastination, I’m always filled with regret that I wasted precious writing time.

What do you love about being an author?

Getting all those people, stories, and ideas that live in my head out onto paper. If I wasn’t a writer, my poor brain would get a little crowded!

Also, I love the writing communities I have found myself a part of. I am in writer’s groups on and offline and, I have to say, I have never experienced the isolated-writer syndrome that so many people speak of. The exact opposite, in fact. Since I started writing fiction, I’ve never felt like I have so many like minded and supportive friends. Some of these I’ve never even met face-to-face. We correspond only through email or online forums. But it doesn’t matter, because if I’m struggling with a scene, I can shoot an email off to a friend and say, “argh, don’t you hate it when…?” And usually, because they are a writer like me who constantly checks email like I do, they’ll email right back and say, “Yes, I hate that too.”

What’s next for you?

My second novel is also being published by Penguin and comes out next year. The novel tells the story of two women, professors this time, who work an English Department. One of the women, Diana, is older, very serious, and extremely established in the academic world. She’s only interested in very serious literature and has written books about Sylvia Plath. The other professor, Rachel, is new to the department. She’s young, bubbly, and enthusiastic and her scholarship looks at popular women’s fiction. Her research ruffles a lot of feathers in the academy, in fact, because people see the books Rachel looks at as throwaway and trash. Diana is particularly adamant on this point and really doesn’t like it when the young professor comes to the department.

The novel basically looks at the tensions between these two very different women and shows all the repercussions in their department and in their lives when they are pitted next to each other. A handsome visiting professor from Harvard and some high-profile misbehaving students only serves to make sparks fly even more between the two women!