The Beauty of Failure

Posted on May 19, 2017

Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” -Neil Gaiman

Karen Rinaldi, author, amateur surfer and publisher of Harper Wave, recently wrote a New York Times op-ed titled “(It’s Great to) Suck at Something” discussing the validity of failure.

“Why should we pursue something that we’re not good at?” she asks.

It’s a compelling concept in an age where people mistake the well edited Facebook and Instagram pages of their contemporaries for real life. The truth is that no one can be perfect at everything and we shouldn’t expect to be.

There is a beauty in learning from mistakes, of not being perfect. In the repetition of failure or near misses we come to know ourselves. That “journey” to be horribly cliché, is often the key to finding real success.

If that is not encouraging, consider this: there are many stories of failure in the publishing world. Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was rejected thirty times before being published and becoming the iconic story we all know today. Jack London, acclaimed author of White Fang, was rejected over 600 times in his career. Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling was on welfare while writing what would become one of the top selling books of all-time, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Of course, not all of us will succeed. The proverbial blank piece of paper will win the day occasionally.  And that’s okay, Rinaldi writes. Smile while you fail. Because there’s freedom in futility.

“By taking off the pressure of having to excel at or master an activity, we allow ourselves to live in the moment. You might think this sounds simple enough, but living in the present is also something most us suck at.”

We live in a time when we’re discouraged from trying new things because our failures seem so public. But without the effort we can never be better as artists, writers, athletes, chefs, parents and/or human beings. So, let today be the last day you say no to some new experience, or an old favorite because you believe your performance will be less than perfect.  Live in the moment and do what you want.

As one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, likes to say, it’s time for your really, really shitty first draft.  


En Marche! Olivia’s Take on Current Events

Posted on May 10, 2017

For those of you who’ve read WOMAN KING and DARK HORSE, Sunday’s presidential victory would have been cause for champagne toasts all around. Gabriel Laurent, Olivia’s bon vivant of a father, would no doubt have been the first to open a bottle.

Emmanuel Macron’s victory over the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen was a much-needed triumph against a never-ending wave of nationalism pouring out of the United States and Britain. And yet, we’re still left with the sobering thought that 35% of the French electorate voted for a candidate whose views are clearly xenophobic and divisive. Le Pen’s father started the party straight out of the Vichy government and its roots in the Nazi Party, although buried deep thanks to modern political strategies, are not hard to spot.

If the Council, the organization Olivia works with were real, it would be going into overdrive to find a way to hold the European Union together and rid the world of this poisonous fever that seems to hold sway over the hearts and minds of so many.

And what to say about the US?

We barely had time to celebrate France’s victory, before Trump was at again, firing the man responsible for investigating his ties to Russia under scandalous circumstances eerily reminiscent of Watergate.

For Olivia this is the Council’s worst fears coming true. Trump’s campaign was won on a platform of fear. The president is ousting his opposition within the White House and his minions are seemingly gaining momentum. A wave of populist anger is fueling politics in the US and its taking our country to a dark place where traditional institutions are no longer trusted.

Who will be the hero in this story?

To an empath hoping to use her supernatural abilities and power to protect the world she loves, these events are signs that there is not enough good magic in the world. I joke that events are so strange, they couldn’t possibly be fiction, but if this was book three, Trump represents a tear in the fabric of the universe, a disturbance of the balance between good and evil. (Credit to Ursula Le Guin for my inspiration here…) Olivia’s nemesis, Stoner Halpert would be Trump’s right-hand-man, or chief of staff, a Steve Bannon figure.

These days, it’s truth that is stranger than fiction and worse …. dystopian fiction that has come to be true. All that remains is to see how the story will end and whether there will be a hero there to save us.


Libraries Deliver Democracy

Posted on May 3, 2017

Last month, I was honored to attend the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library Laureates Gala as a 2017 Library Laureate alongside many accomplished authors, poets and library advocates. We saw City Lights publisher and renowned beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti named Friends’ first Honorary Library Laureate and Peter Booth Wiley was celebrated as Honoree for his commendable work as author, publisher and Library champion.

Guests were decked out in bright tie-dye, flower prints and corduroy true to the night’s “Summer of Love” theme. But amid the laughter and spectacle, conversation inevitably turned to the sobering notion of the library’s future in today’s fractious political climate.

In a recent post on their website called “Libraries Deliver Democracy”, Friends describes services the library provides for children, young adults, job-seekers and seniors in our city, which includes nearly 14,000 free programs funded by the non-profit. As an information hub, community gathering place, event space and center for free education and literacy, the public library is the fuel that feeds our intellectual fire. As human beings, we need to be able to read, think, dream, explore, investigate and express ourselves – all without the comment or censure of others. That is what a Library is: a safe space to nurture our deepest desires, thoughts and needs. Frankly, given the illiterate leader running our country at the moment, we must stay vigilant to ensure people continue to have access to library services and programs.

Many, many thanks to Friends for naming me a 2017 Library Laureate. As a longtime library advocate, I was thrilled to participate in Friends’ annual fundraiser and support such an important cause.

If you’d like to make a donation or volunteer with Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, please visit their website:


The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library 2017 Library Laureates


“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”

Posted on February 9, 2017

The headline above is of course a quote from ANIMAL FARM, by George Orwell. Its one of a half-dozen books I bought the other day to read or just add to my library, somehow having lost my copies from high school and college.

These are strange times we live in and when things get weird and you want to know what might happen next, there is no better idea than to pick up a novel. It’s often said that truth is stranger than fiction. But what about when life imitates fiction?

The fact is, writers are astute students of human nature and they see the glimmerings of things long before others do and often put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to try to figure how people will react.

Writers have contemplated just about every kind of authoritarian and fascist ending for our country and the world, many of which have come true in one form or another. Since Trump became President there has been a run on sales of dystopian novels like 1984 and Animal Farm. 

Here are links to a few of the interesting stories:

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

1984 by George Orwell

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Dead After Dark by Sherrilyn Kenyon and J. R. Ward

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Lessons From the East by Bob Roberts

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

The Candidate directed by Michael Ritchie and written by Jeremy Larner




Behaving Like It’s 1942

Posted on February 1, 2017

It took a lot of cajoling but I finally made myself pick up the paper last Sunday, too afraid to read the headlines. It’s one thing to think your country is going to hell in a hand basket; it’s another to confirm it.

So, I gingerly made my way around the headlines, thanking the ACLU for its skills in court and the eight years of Obama during which time, he appointed judges that actually recognize civil liberties. It’s only when these very institutions are being beaten like a piñata and break and spill out upon the proverbial national floor that you realize how lucky we’ve been.

In need of a little light fare I skipped over to the Pink Section, where I indulge in my horoscope – assuming it says something good. In flipping through the pages, I managed to come across the paper’s “Time Machine” section where they print snippets from years past. This is the entry for Feb. 4, 1942:

            “Thousands of enemy aliens ordered out of California defense zones will be moved inland to farm colonies by the Federal Government. This was revealed today by Tom Clark, alien coordinator for the western defense command. It was the first indication of Government plans for the mass evacuation of Japanese, German and Italian nationals from 86 Forbidden Zones in California. The evacuees, Clark promised, would be given every consideration, but they will be moved without exception.”

So as you can see, we’ve been to this place before as a country. Never one for subtlety, Trump actually signed his Executive Order to ban immigration on Holocaust Remembrance Day. For those Jews still alive to commemorate the terrible carnage of those days (to use the word correctly for once), it must have been a terrible thing to perhaps also recollect that many of the survivors were denied entry to this country by the same xenophobic impulses overtaking us again today.

If our country were a patient, the doctor would be coming into the waiting room to say, sorry your cancer is back, only this time its worse. I’ve tried very hard to not feel as if the world is ending. I hate to give the creepy white power leaders the satisfaction of thinking they got to me, but I do feel a shadow coming over us.

1942 is a good year to remember as you contemplate presidential elections in France and Germany. France’s leading candidate is a far right anti-Semite whose cleaned up nicely, but hate runs through her veins as sure as the nationalist party candidate in Germany who complained that his country has too long been hanging its head in shame over the Holocaust. These folks see the fangs of a nationalist beast emerging in Washington, a place where a Presidential Advisor calls the press the opposition party, and tells them to sit down and shut up. And wouldn’t that jack booted thug Bannon love it if that happened. Be able to act without accountability and create his utopian society where every old structure has been torn down and then…what?? What has been built in its place?

That is the scary idea to contemplate because when World War Two was over, we’d defeated fascism and made the world safe and prosperous for fifty years. Now the fascist is in the White House.

Olivia goes to the Library Laureates!

Posted on January 25, 2017

I’m excited to announce that Friends of the San Francisco Public Library has asked me to participate as one of the 35 Laureates for its annual fundraiser. When I read the email with the invitation I almost fainted, as I have long wanted to occupy one of the tables inside the Main Library as something more than a guest and patron of the public library system.

For many years as a part of my “day job” I provided communications advice to both the Library and the Friends. [This is San Francisco after all…] Without sounding too dramatic, Libraries are a critical part of civilization. Free access to information is necessary for democracy (and so is a steady, dependable budget for the library system.)

As a writer, I rely on the Library for my research: one never know when they’re going to need to read about ancient weapons, Islamic poetry or fracking…

I hope you’ll join me at the San Francisco Public Library on April 7, 2017. Those who sit at my table will receive copies of both WOMAN KING AND DARK HORSE. You can learn more or buy a ticket here.

Stranger than fiction: the Manchurian President, and other zealots

Posted on January 18, 2017

I’ve been watching Trump’s twitter posts with a kind of giddy revulsion.  For the last eighteen months I’ve been working on a novel about a renegade CEO trying to overthrow the government in the name of patriotism. Trump’s ascendance is sort of an eerie validation of my writer’s sixth sense.

Of course that kind of thrill only lasts so long … I hate zealots, of every stripe. The more extreme the position, the more difficult it is to negotiate a compromise. Without compromise there can be no progress as a society.   And we’re about up to our necks in examples of how this kind of behavior impedes our ability to coexist.

My first two novels WOMAN KING AND DARK HORSE feature a secret group of supernatural beings that fight extremism in politics to try to save humanity from itself. 48 STATES, the novel I’m working on now, uses a mildly dystopian landscape to contemplate how little difference there is in zealots when mass destruction is their goal.

There has been so little distinction between fact and fiction lately that it can be hard to tell what the hell is happening. Are we watching a fiction unfold or the real actions of a man who will hold the office of President?  And then came Trump’s New Year’s Eve tweet in which he thanked his friends and reminded his enemies of how badly he’d beaten them…and my finger itched to send out a reply:

@The Real Donald Trump You’re the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

The quote is from The Manchurian Candidate, a 1962 political thriller featuring the brainwashed son of a prominent senator. Kidnapped during the Korean War, Raymond Shaw is groomed to do the bidding of China and Russia on command.  His task: kill off the current presidential candidate to make room for their stooge, who in this case ironically happens to be a rabid, communist hunter intent on naming names, no matter the cost.  With their man in the White House, there is no end to the communist’s influence on our policies and politics…

Weird eh?

As I said, it’s getting more difficult everyday to distinguish fact from fiction.



PREVIEW: 48 States, Chapter 1

Posted on January 12, 2017

Here’s a sneak preview of my latest project, 48 STATES. Enjoy!


Dark and cold.

That was North Dakota in a nutshell. Prior to the relocations, it bore the distinct honor of being the least visited state in the nation. Remote, desolate and unforgiving, it never garnered much regard from humanity. Now, stripped of its statehood, it was forgotten, a discarded landmass most were forbidden to enter.

River’s breath hung suspended in the truck’s cab like a ghostly specter as she ended her shift and eased her rig onto Route 85. Even with gloves, her fingertips rebelled against the touch of the wheel in the frigid darkness of January. She was alone, as usual, on the road with nothing but the gas flares for company, not a creature stirring in the night. In almost two years she hadn’t seen so much as a snail trying to cross the road on her way back from the fields. Even brainless mollusks know when to call it quits, she thought as she continued down the highway.

What’s my excuse?  Read more

2017: Getting Back on Track

Posted on January 9, 2017

I’m not sure how it happened, but I misplaced a year and a half.

In August 2015, I stopped blogging, put my e-newsletter on hiatus and left Facebook and Twitter for parts unknown. Well, not totally unknown. I was working on a first draft of a novel called 48 STATES, a stand-alone piece of fiction that has no connection to the DARK HORSE TRILOGY.  There may be someone out there who can run a small business, be a mother to a teenager, stay engaged as a wife, write a novel and simultaneously maintain their author platforms, but I am not that person.

The off ramp to this major detour came in the form of an agent encouraging me to complete 48 STATES.  It was a challenge I felt I had to take, even though it took me far away from The Council and Olivia.

By summer of 2016 I was able to submit what I thought was a killer manuscript. Unfortunately the agent decided the book was not for her, which could mean a thousand things – all of which I mulled over in the silence of many a sleepless night in the days that followed.  Rather than stew about it indefinitely, I decided turn the MS over to my editor for a critical review. The truth hurts as they say, but she’s given me a roadmap to a better novel, one that hopefully an agent will want to sell. We shall see as they say, but I’m prepared to dig deep and push myself.

Publishing “traditionally” does not mean I will give up on my self-published trilogy or the independent press I founded: Flesh & Bone Books.  I’m interested in doing a variety of things with my writing and this is just another challenge I am giving myself for 2017.

Thanks for your continued support. Keep an eye out for a sneak preview of 48 STATES in the next week.


Announcing 48 States!

Posted on August 14, 2015

To all my friends, fans, and family who have generously supported my writing career over the last couple years with Woman King and Dark Horse, I’d like to share with you some exciting news! Though some of you have long been awaiting the announcement for Book 3 in the Dark Horse Trilogy, this newsletter is not that announcement. Instead, I finally have the pleasure of sharing with you that I’ve been working with an agent to publish a brand new, stand-alone dystopian novel titled 48 states!

About 48 States

Your support is more meaningful now than ever as I endeavor to complete 48 States, a novel extremely close to my heart. It is the interwoven stories of several protagonists living in the not-so-distant future including River, a widowed veteran from a series of wars in the Middle East. Her husband committed suicide after suffering from PTSD, leaving her financially strapped and working as a truck driver in the far reaches of North Dakota to pay off outstanding debts. The book features several other women including a President of the United States. In their own way, each of these women has to deal with their longings, their responsibilities, and reality as they find their right path. It’s exciting as a writer to see how it unfolds!

If you’d like to read more about River and 48 States, I recently wrote a piece for Sandie Kirkland from Booksie’s Blog about writing women characters. The piece examines heroines River and Olivia (from Woman King and Dark Horse) as women discovering what empowers them to be strong leaders. You can check out the blog feature here:

What about the Dark Horse Trilogy?

I do expect to complete the Dark Horse trilogy. In the meantime, I will be providing periodic updates on social media. Stay tuned on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news, events, and giveaways. A small group of beta readers will be needed for Book 3 and I would love for loyal fans to have the first chance to sign-up. If you are interested, please email my publishing assistant, Sarah West at for more info.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebok to get the latest updates on Flesh & Bone Books, the Dark Horse Trilogy, and now 48 States! Many exciting things to come!


Flesh and Bone