A costumer’s thoughts upon the recent appropriation of Safety Pins:

safety_pinSafety pins are not meant to be passive—a furtive steel prick of conscience—hidden on a lapel like a secret handshake. They are tools of healing, kinetic kindness given to strangers, a means to spring into action.

They are to be freely offered in the name of Girl-Code:
To secure a hijab slipping from grace, and pull up restaurant restroom zippers on skinny jeans stressed to self-destruction, to raise the brim higher on an Easter Sunday crown, and bridge that third button gap in every blouse designed by man.

A pin in stasis rusts closed.

Reattach a ruffle of a neighbor’s quinceañera gown, tend to a yarmulke where the satin has slid from the seam, extend the strap on the stiletto of a size fourteen queen.

Wear them with responsibility, with a woman’s vigilance, a first-aid-kit used long before the shine is noticed on a collar. Safety pins are not a dormant decoration to define your clandestine tolerance—they are a conscious means to a mend.

Elie Wiesel and a child’s fear

elieWhen I was little my father took me everywhere with him. I was a reasonably well behaved kid, and could be tucked in a corner with a book while he conducted a rehearsal or gave a voice lesson. Once, as we went to a meeting with someone about a concert his orchestra was playing, he gave me the usual spiel: please and thank you, sit still, don’t say fuck or shit, and if I was offered sweets, accept if I wanted it or not and say I’d save it for after dinner.
Fundraising is tricky. It is important to say yes, to welcome all gifts, no matter how small.

The man was thin and taller than my dad, with bushy gray hair and pale skin and an accent like a vampire movie. I thought he looked like a ghost, but the room was full of books, wall to wall to ceiling, and ghosts didn’t read.

When their meeting was over, the man offered me a doll.
I panicked–dolls had always scared me, with their dead eyes and lax limbs–and I misbehaved. “Daddy, I don’t want it!”
My father was embarrassed, and told him I had always been a little afraid of dolls, and the man smiled and said, “That is a good fear for a child to have.”

I never saw him again, or even thought about him, until high school and my English teacher passed out NIGHT, and there was his photo on the back cover, looking exactly the same. It was only after I read the book that I understood how lucky I was, that my kid fears were only of ghosts and dolls.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” -Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)

Personal Confessions and Tiffany gems.

41GtTg20zcL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_One of the things I love about Tiffany Reisz is how personally her writing hits me. Beyond the wit and the banter and the sexy feels, there is always a theme that grabs at a deeper internal level. Sometimes there’s a kink that pushes my curiosity and makes me wonder if my hard limits have cracks in their rigid walls. Sometimes I get a new understanding of doctrine and faith. Nothing is left untouched in her frank discussions of sex, feminism and religion.
THE CONFESSIONS delves into this almost exclusively. Two short stories-conversations with one of my favorite characters, Father Ballard (from POINSETTIA)-and an author interview. It’s a quick companion to the Original Sinners series.

The first story, THE CONFESSION OF MARCUS STEARNS is a lovely peek into Søren’s mind, and probably the closest we will get to his PoV. His interaction with his Jesuit friend and confessor-an insightful and liberal priest with good taste in music-is hysterical. The descriptions of Eleanor are melting.
The second story, THE CONFESSION OF ELEANOR SCHREIBER, is Nora’s unloading on the same priest, a look at choices and hidden desires that stabbed me sweetly in my barren guts as she discusses her decisions about childbirth.

The last third of the book, THE CONFESSION OF TIFFANY REISZ, is a conversation with romance critic Cyndy Aleo. The interview is hilarious, running the spectrum of Catholicism to kink. The two discuss the Church and the biblical parallels of the characters in the Original Sinners, gospel passages and other Christian Literature. They also talk about the distinctions between “safe consensual” play and “risk aware” play, and pushing the limits of dubious consent. Another thoughtful conversation delves into the age of teenage sexual agency-again, a topic hitting close to home for me-I’ve also written on that particular knife edge of moral discomfort.
This section was a special treat. I met Cyndy online in 2009, and fell in love with her writing, her endless pursuit of the sexy off-beat and sensually creative, and her acerbic honesty. Recently, she has edited four of my manuscripts, so in a fashion, she is also my confessor. Three years ago, Cyndy was also the one who said “You must read THE ANGEL, or I’m not speaking to you again.” I did, of course, and then looked up the author on twitter, and said, “Wait–I’ve met you!”
A few years previously I was at a book event at Joseph Beth, my favorite local bookseller, and a friend of the featured author was there-a vivacious woman, jubilant because she had just signed on with an agent for her literary erotica.
Turns out, Tiffany Reisz lived in my hometown. Fast forward to 2014-she invited me to a writer’s crit group at the library. Afterward I met her and her guy (Andrew Shaffer) and had one of the funniest, most encouraging and inspiring conversations over a cup of Starbucks I’ve ever had. (They promptly moved across the country.)
So I confess I have to agree with Cyndy, despite the author’s protests, when she says that Tiffany is the embodiment of Nora: petite, dark haired, clever and funny, with an unrivaled boldness about sex, God and writing. But that’s only a little sin, and I’m sure Father Ballard would forgive me.

THE CONFESSIONS is quite spoilery, (there’s even an Easter egg Fun Fact appendix at the end) so I would recommend reading the entire series before grabbing this little jewel.


loanaI saw The Name of the Rose when I was sixteen, in the theater, and so began my love of Umberto Eco and Christian Slater. The movie led to the book, which was-unlike the movie-about books, and their meaning and the written communication that can shape a culture.

The semiotics at the core of the book brought me to the terrifying and delightful realization that books have the power of time travel and telepathy. An author from centuries ago still marks the mind of those reading their words today.

Decades later I read Foucault’s Pendulum, during my Forgotten Year-so I shall have to read it again-but I do remember being struck by the notion that people want to believe conspiracy theories. We want our stories to connect, to have a purpose and great import, a life of their own.

A few years ago, I read The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, ironically enough about a man who loses his memory and searches through the literary mementos-books, magazines and comic books-that shaped him growing up, to discover what he has forgotten.

Umberto Eco’s books always give me a deeper understanding of the power of language, of words, the transference of thought through time. I am sad that there will be no more them, but I love the idea that his books, because they have shaped me, will have,  somewhere, a mark on my own.

Writing Advice

draftThis time a year ago, I started scribbling a goofy little story just for fun. I titled it “The Artist and the Architect,” because I’m literal like that. Six weeks from now, THE DIRTY SECRET will be released from Carina Press, an imprint of of Harlequin.

One of the promo bits I was asked to participate in was a Tuesday Tip for So You Think You Can Write, Harlequin’s new voices in romance project.

But who am I to give advice? I’m still a novice at this.
In the past six years, I’ve published nearly half a million words across various platforms, and every single process was different. My only constants:
I hand write my first drafts.
Climbing out of my research-holes requires Elvish rope, every time.
My love for the Shatner comma is epic.
But here are a few things I’ve learned in this crazy journey of words that might be useful to beginning writers:

ljjibpMGet involved with other writers.
Write in a fandom and get some feedback. Play on a forum outside your comfort zone, where you can learn something new. Go to a crit group at your library. Don’t do this alone.

Let your first draft be rough.
This is your gesture drawing, your first exploratory jog in a new park. Let it be messy. Spending a lot of energy in making it technically perfect can cut into the creativity, or worse, keep you from finishing. Get it down, and clean it up later.

Make it a sensory experience.
How do your words appeal to your readers physically? Are you describing what your characters feel? How are their thoughts and actions affected by a perfume, a texture on the skin?

Read your final drafts aloud.
Where your tongue stumbles-where you hesitate in the sentence, wondering which word needs emphasis-your reader will too. Rework these places so that your language doesn’t detract from the story.

Above all:
Enjoy yourself.
Write what you love.

And live, long, and prosper.


Midsummer on Öland

Tall stones marking a Viking burial at Gettlinge, an old stump windmill in the background.

Öland, (pronounced err-lahnd) is an island off the southeastern coast of Sweden, a magical place that time, and for eleven months of the year, most of the world forgets. Iron Age and Viking people settled (or at least died a lot) there, and the island served as the Royal game preserve for centuries of kings. Nowadays it’s a folksy artist summer hideout, with huge parties at midsummer that go on for days.

I first was on Öland—which translates to island-land, Swedes being rather literal like that–in 1991, and I fell in love with everything: the sea, the stones, the history, and the people. Everyone is beautiful in Sweden, from the craggy faced great grandmothers with laughing eyes, to brash boys that stare openly while not saying a word, and gorgeous women with the innate ability make really funky sweaters look fashionable. If you don’t believe me, have another shot of aquavit and tell me there isn’t something charismatic about that guy over there, the tall one who has been watching you all night and doesn’t look away when you meet his eyes.

The sunlight is amazing in Sweden in June. All the clichés of the “land of the midnight sun” are true; it’s as if the sun is too excited to set, and doesn’t want to miss the festivities. I lost track of the hour when I was there, and the day, it was simply summer. A Midsummer Flight’s Dream is an homage to the island, and the airports that take us there and get us home.

Dorian Gray

Playbill and a silver thimble, a spool of silk thread, and yellow tailor pins.

A 250 word flash dare asking, “When you are down to the wire on a project, how do you make it through?”


“Thank you, fourteen,” she mumbles, sniffing at yesterday’s armpits, Tuesday’s laundry, and the fresh coffee he’d left on the windowsill, still hot. Skipping the shower, makeup, and curling iron gives her enough time to hem Basil’s Act One frock-coat.

“Thank you, two,” she mutters when the text message bleats, clenching her fists around the hank of elastic, broken nails digging her palms. She’s jittering with the pulse of caffeine cruising through her veins; the fabric store clerk checks her ID twice.

Dorian loses his ascot, but her shirt is the same color as the one in his painting; she tears the bottom six inches off and loops it around his neck. “Thank you, House Open.”

“Thank you, places.” She winces at Sibyl’s panicked cry, and digs in her purse for her last tampon and chocolate bar. Lord Harry’s waistcoat pops a button. Her earring passes for a jeweled brooch.

They cluster at the mirror by the stage left door.
Her hair is a twisted disaster, snarl on one side like a bramble, and there’s her chalk pencil. The bruise over her eye (the dress-form lost the skirmish) has blossomed to a vicious plum, and her tattered shirt hangs sideways, caught on her failed bra. Her pants, stained with paint, are belted by a measuring tape charting how many meals she’s skipped this week.

She smiles, and her tooth–chipped from biting threads—catches at her starch and steam chapped lips. She might be gruesome, but the actors, they are beautiful.

Dirty Socks

Sock monkey with multicolor mohair hat.

Flash challenge: a story with three sentences. (I’m probably going to hell for this one.)

Dirty Socks:

Monkey’s brains are filled with cotton wool, the stuff that comes from yarn stores, though he once told Teddy that it came from the bra of a flat-chested stripper from Vegas, and that’s why he thinks the thoughts he does, and he’s made from socks worn by a lumberjack, too, so he could kick anybody’s ass, even the boy who sneaks out the window late, late, late at night.

He knows he’s a he-Monkey because when he wishes he could masturbate, he wants to yank, not to finger, not like the girl who isn’t little anymore, lonely quick movements under her covers, who doesn’t realize his button eyes see in the dark, sewn wide open, watching her, his tail stiff and quivering.

His red smile stretches wide, wide, wide, for he will be there long after the boy is gone, smothered up against her soft breasts as she cries; he’s not a jealous Monkey–after all, Teddy doesn’t have a penis either–and no one looks as good in a sock cap as he does.


Högalidskyrkan, Stockholm. Twin spires capped with verdigris copper, the gold topped Stadshuset in the distant fog.

When I visit my dad in Stockholm, I invariably get lost, but if can get to to the top of a hill, I can reorient myself when I find Högalid on the skyline.
The towers can tell you where you are. If I’m in Liljeholm, I look northeast, and the clock tower is behind the church, the vented one in front. If the clock tower completely blocks the view of the other, and the business end of the church goes the other way, I’ve gotten off the T-bana at the wrong stop, and I’m in Kungsholm. Again.
Oh, well. There’s a neat fabric store in Marieberg if I go straight south. See, I meant to do that.
I know where I am.

I grew up looking at towers–playing on the roof in Brooklyn Heights, in the park with the good swings at the end of Pierrepont Street, walking with Dad on the Promenade.
But my father left New York for Sweden twenty years ago, and I haven’t been back, and now I am afraid to visit, because I think I would get lost.

View of the Manhattan skyline and the World Trade Towers from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, 1989.

Sidewalk Cracks

Pink metal Hello Kitty lunchbox on cracked concrete.

Flash challenge: 100 words on the subject of revenge.

Sidewalk Cracks

“So Josie,” the thick-necked boy crooned. “What did Mommy pack for us on this fine Thursday morning?”

The tall skinny one pawed her backpack. “She’s got something hidden in here.”

“Ham and cheese,” crowed Freddy James, who apologized when the others weren’t around, “With mayonnaise.”

She stared at the quiet one in back. He watched her sometimes when he was alone, and his face grew tight and angry whenever his friends took her lunch, never hungry as the others tore her food in rough thirds.

Josie counted sidewalk cracks, walking with the hot sun behind her.

Ma packed that sandwich Monday.