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I am so excited about this forthcoming book review by FOREWORD REVIEWS.

FOREWORD REVIEWS is the Library Journal of Independent Publishing. It’s an excellent periodical that’s available in both print and digital format; it was founded by three women writers and magazine professionals who got together to found a trade review journal for the burgeoning independent publishing industry. They have a great story about it here.

FOREWORD REVIEWS chose to review BROKEN in the forthcoming Sci Fi/Fantasy issue, which will ship at the end of February to B&N newsstands. The review is absolutely beautiful and I’ve been given permission to quote from it. They’ve also chosen to feature Robert Ferri’s gorgeous LIBERACI DAL MALE, the painting from which the cover of BROKEN is taken. I’ve seen the spread and it’s gorgeous.

Here is the review:


Traci L. Slatton

Parvati Press

Softcover $16.99 (225pp)


Slatton has created a beautiful, heart wrenching tale of humanity during the Second World War. When her beloved Ariel is lost, the angel Alia chooses to fall, taking on a human body in Paris on the eve of war. She befriends the city’s artists, from Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí to Edith Piaf and Sacha Guitry, and experiences all of Paris’s human pleasures: drinking, partying, and having sex with wild abandon. Two men, in particular, catch her affection: bullfighter Pedro and openly Jewish musician Josef. As the war takes over, Alia also finds herself drawn protectively to Josef’s widowed sister, Suzanne, and her young daughter, Cécile. But as the Nazi’s march in, Alia begins to fear she cannot save them all.

Slatton writes poignantly, with lyrical prose: “I have been shattered, the shattering is still with me. I am only shards now. There is no core.” This is a gorgeous philosophical treaty on right and wrong, the “why” behind impossible decisions, and what remains when everything is gone. Slatton guides the reader gently through to the end, all the more heartbreaking for its inevitability, imparting powerful, resonant themes as she goes. Among them, “neutrality is an excuse to give free rein to a bully.”

I love this review! MANY THANKS to Foreword Reviews!

book reviews

Finishing the First Draft of BROKEN
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Finishing the First Draft of BROKEN

A post on Finishing the First Draft of Broken.

Things were bad in Occupied Paris and getting worse.

Then the first draft was done.

I’m always strangely nerved up when I finish the first draft of a novel. I’m wired and chomping at the bit and high strung. I need my husband to rub me down and I need a warm, lavender-scented bubble bath with Mozart and Enya playing in the background.

There’s still so much work to do on the manuscript–see Annie Lamott’s beautiful book Bird by Bird for a discussion on the value of shitty first drafts–but a first draft is something complete that I can work with. It’s a whole fabric that I can tear into and reweave as needed.

So I’m happy and excited because I’ve made my vision concrete, and because the end is in sight. I’m keyed up because I’m going to gallop to the finish line. Then, of course, I’ll saddle up for the next marathon. But for now I’ve made progress. That is joyful indeed.

I get a little blue when the novel is actually done, when it goes to the book designer to be laid out in book format. Then it’s over, and it’s time to leave that world that I created so lovingly.

Time to move to the next world that lies dreaming in my imagination, waiting to be spun onto the page….


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Sex in literature today

Reviewer Katie French of Underground Book Reviews sent me a smart list of questions for a blog interview that will run in the new year.

One of her questions was what I thought about sex in literature. Here’s part of my answer.

Well, that’s complicated. I like sex in literature. I like sex in general, you know, with my husband (or myself). Sex is good.
In fiction, I prefer intelligent sex, that is, well-written and truthful to the human experience. Kinky, sure, bring it; silly and implausible, no. 

If you are asking my take on Fifty Shades of Grey, I admit that I think it’s a stupid piece of crap that does nothing to help women’s sexuality be understood or embraced. The protagonist is a male fantasy: an inane virgin who climaxes effortlessly, no matter what he does to her. Why have women accepted this ridiculous character as some version of themselves? I do not understand, nor do I approve.
I’m not saying that sex has to be politically correct. The best sex I’ve ever had was extremely politically incorrect. It’s an unfortunate part of the human experience that sex that transgresses can be so darn good.

I also think that, for most women, to fall off the cliff into bliss requires surrender. Surrender is difficult, especially in the current climate, in which women are supposed to be star neurosurgeons as well as perfect mothers raising perfect kids and, at the same time, loving wives with the bodies of 23 year olds, because of all the time spent at the gym. That’s a pretty butch expectation of women. It sucks. So here we are supposed to be superwomen, yet one of the deep truths about our sexuality is that it requires surrender.
I’m not talking about climbing on top, throwing a leg over, and riding real hard. I’m talking about something else: an internal state of surrender. The payoff is huge, but the stakes are high, and this is difficult. 
For one, our culture often confuses surrender with submission, and the two couldn’t be further apart. For two, a man has to be strong enough to be a top, and gentle enough for a woman to trust him to be a top; that seems to be a big request to make of men. 
For three, our culture still has issues with female orgasm. It’s partly the residue of Victorian puritanism. It’s partly about control, because men seem to find the female orgasm mysterious and uncontrollable. They fear it; they fear not bringing it about; they fear what it says about their own manhood. And, my god, what if another man gave the woman they own an orgasm???
I think Wilhelm Reich was on to something: a healthy organism has a healthy orgasm. Is it any wonder he was imprisoned, when he was saying something so revolutionary as that women too should have orgasms? How could the male establishment let him run around freely spreading ideas like that?
But the plain truth is that women like to have orgasms. So Fifty Shades, which is very much, despite its stupidity, pro female orgasm, struck a chord with women. The gorgeous sexy kinky wounded billionaire spanks the heroine into orgasm: yay! It’s not her fault she had an orgasm, he spanked her into it. Or tweaked her nipple, or whatever. She can have her orgasm and enjoy it too.
Isn’t that something every woman wants?

Re-reading my response, I think I have an answer to my final question. 

What women want is to own their own sexuality, and to be able to surrender freely, as they choose.

That’s one of the problems I have with Fifty Shades. It appears, superficially, to empower women by allowing them to imagine non-vanilla sex. But what it actually does is deprive them of the power to surrender themselves into orgasm from inside themselves.
Meeting Tom Wolfe
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Meeting Tom Wolfe

The Newington-Cropsey Cultural Center Foundation held its annual award dinner last night. My husband Sabin and I are friendly with the ineluctable Jim Cooper, as we all share the same taste in art–real art, the kind that takes skill, talent, education, hard work, and an actual aesthetic to develop. Slow art, art that has meaning. Art that is beautiful to behold.

Beauty is the point, goddammit! The New York Times is irrelevant. Surf the internet for your news.
The Newington-Cropsey foundation also hosts political events sometimes, for the right. It is mystifying to me that classical art has found an audience among educated conservatives, though they don’t know what to do with it. Right now the whole political process in the US disgusts me. We don’t live in a democracy, that’s a myth carefully crafted for the unthinking masses. We live in a duopoly. “Public service” has become “public relations,” and our two parties are well-endowed firms for massaging, swaying, and shaping public opinion. And both of our monoliths have only one purpose: furthering the agenda of multinational corporations for whom the private individual is no more than a slave pocketbook for purchasing their usually deleterious products. To which end our government is printing money as if it were comic book pages, and setting us up for massive inflation and a debt that we can not possibly hope to pay off without bankrupting ourselves and our grandchildren, both financially and morally.
I loathe the Republicans and despise the Democrats, but some days I despise the Republicans and loathe the Democrats, just for the sake of fairness. Do I have a better solution? Not yet. I’m just pointing it out.
But I digress. Tom Wolfe received the award last night, and I got to meet him! Urbane and courteous, he smiled slightly when I told him I was a novelist. I hurried over that piece of embarrassment and mentioned that we were both parents from the same school. His daughter attended the school where my little one now goes. That gave us common ground, and he talked about how great the school was, and how much he and his wife and their now grown daughter loved it.
It was a keen delight to meet him, white suit and all. I was hard pressed not to swoon.
Jim read a long passage from THE PAINTED WORD upon introducing Mr. Wolfe, and I thought my husband was going to stop proceedings and embrace both Jim and Tom. Thirty five years ago, Tom Wolfe was writing about the inanity of separating art from meaning, of making art an illustration for the text of “concept” (that ugly, stupid word for which future generations will mock us.)
Tom Wolfe’s speech was wonderful, thought-provoking. He spoke of two kinds of art that currently, like a bad virus, infect the art world: “no hands” art, and tenure art. “No hands” art is the kind of schlock tchochkis made by, for example, Jeff Koons. The artist never touches it. Balloon puppets and glass figurines are made by elves somewhere, or by poorly paid grad students, and the artist sells it to his marks for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Tenure art is when some purported artist devises a stunt which he or she calls “performance art.” It will be something utterly ridiculous, such as filling two balloons with vegetables and tying one to each end of a length of chain. The “artist” then takes a group of suckers, I mean onlookers, to a pond to entertain them by dropping the whole apparatus into the water. It sinks like a… a length of chain. But a month later, the rotting vegetables emit gasses into the polyurethane bags which drag the chain to the surface. The whole thing floats. For this bit of chicanery, the “artist” is awarded a University professorship, quickly given tenure, and is therefore financially taken care of for life.
Yale is particularly enamored of this kind of … stuff.
Mr. Wolfe mentioned “deskilled art”(!), as in a sculptor who makes bubble-wrap suits of armor for protecting his psyche. It’s hard to convey the exquisitely drollery of Mr. Wolfe’s soft-spoken voice. But Sabin Howard, my maddening husband and the greatest living sculptor of male nudes, who takes a few years to complete a piece, shook in his chair with laughter. His face turned cherry red and tears welled up in his eyes. In eleven years, I have only once seen him so overcome. He indifferently started watching Napoleon Dynamite and then literally fell off the bed laughing. He could only gasp, “The visuals, the visuals are hilarious.”
Back to careful craftsmanship. I am put in mind of an Op-Ed piece written by Denis Dutton and published by the aforementioned, and largely irrelevant New York Times. My beloved eldest daughter sent me the piece; it was assigned in her Evolutionary Biology course at Amherst. The professor was telling the students that the human species will outgrow “concept” art. It’s surprising to me that the Times, that rag of concept, that self-proclaimed, self-important arbiter of taste, published his essay. Aware of the irony, I quote some of the relevant lines:
We ought, then, to stop kidding ourselves that painstakingly developed artistic technique is passé, a value left over from our grandparents’ culture. Evidence is all around us. Even when we have lost contact with the social or religious ideas behind the arts of bygone civilizations, we are still able, as with the great bronzes or temples of Greece or ancient China, to respond directly to craftsmanship. The direct response to skill is what makes it possible to find beauty in many tribal arts even though we often know nothing about the beliefs of the people who created them. There is no place on earth where superlative technique in music and dance is not regarded as beautiful….Future generations, no longer engaged by our art “concepts” and unable to divine any special skill or emotional expression in the work, may lose interest in it as a medium for financial speculation and relegate it to the realm of historical curiosity.
Dutton, Dennis. “Has Conceptual Art Jumped the Shark Tank.” The New York Times. Print. October 15, 2009.
IMMORTAL in Brazil
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IMMORTAL in Brazil

IMMORTAL in Brazil

The good folks at Bertrand Brasil sent me the cover to their forthcoming edition of IMMORTAL. “It was based on a painting of Leonardo da Vinci called ‘The Savior.’ We wait for your appreciation,” wrote the Brazilian editor.
I do appreciate! This cover is gorgeous, and I am grateful. IMMORTAL has been blessed with beautiful covers all over the world, starting with the US cover. My appreciation overflows!
Social Questions
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Social Questions

Last night at a pre-Sundance party in NYC I had the great good fortune of meeting the talented and impressive Anthony Whyte, whose work is being made into a movie.

He was there with his business partner Jason Claiborne, who runs Augustus publishing, “Where Hip Hop literature begins,” and fellow author Erick S. Gray.

They were an intriguing trio. Whyte has a background in the armed forces, as did my dad, so we had that to discuss, as well as books and movies.

This morning I did some googling around and learned that Whyte had trouble getting his first novel published. He then self-published, and people were so hungry for his message and his platform that he sold several thousand books quickly. Of course then a publisher jumped on the bandwagon, bought the rights, and republished… to sell over a hundred thousand copies. Pretty good! Whyte mentioned none of this to me; he was classy and unassuming, and left it to me to discover his story.

We talked about Zora Neale Hurston, author of the classic THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD. I remembered reading how Hurston had ended her life working in a library, and as a maid. It’s distressing that she died in obscurity, enduring financial struggles, when she’d written one of the masterworks of American literature. It left me thinking again about some questions that my oldest daughter had posed to me, over a year ago, when we discussed an African American Literature class she had taken: How did we in the U.S. create an underclass that left an entire group of people disenfranchised, struggling to find and authenticate their voice?

Is it enough that we have elected Obama as president? Is it enough that brilliant minds like Whyte, Claiborne and Gray are not accepting the status quo regarding their work, but are going out and creating new opportunities?

What does it take to create a truly equal society based on the hard work and merit of the individual, without regard to race, gender, sexual preference, and religion?

I hope none of these questions are offensive. I don’t know if they are politically correct or incorrect. They are the musings of a basically white woman of mixed genetic heritage who can not document her Native American ancestry because records were lost during the Trail of Tears. I’m just a mom with smart, irreverent kids, who ask good questions and expect me to engage them honestly.

And what else about the party? It was too much fun for the responsible parent I am, and included me introducing myself to a famous TV/movie actor who now believes I am sketchy. Because I did make a sketchy introduction, and he was far more gracious to me than I deserved. But I had to sally up to him with my big, tipsy grin–if only to be able to text my kids that I’d met him.