Saturday, July 26, 2008


The first thirty entries received that include their mailing address with the correct answers to the questions below will receive MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT bookmarks. ALL entries received by SEPTEMBER 1, 2008 with the correct answers will be eligible for a drawing of two lucky winners of $25 Amazon Gift Certificates.

Click HERE to send in your entry. Write your mailing address and answers to questions in the Message box. Addresses will not be used for any other purposes than for this contest.

Winners will be notified and announced during the first week of September on the News page at

MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT Summer Reading Contest Questions:

What is the name of:

1. Shinji’s girlfriend?

2. The American TV soap Midori becomes addicted to?

3. The guy Midori meets whose obsession is marrying Japanese women so they can get green cards?

Good Luck!

Monday, July 21, 2008


Jess Riley, author of the debut novel, DRIVING SIDEWAYS, is my guest on the Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit Lit Blog Tour. Jess got the idea for the book because of her fascination with cellular memory. Is it possible for our organs to retain our energy if donated to another person? Can we really channel someone else’s tastes in music, food, or hobbies? And what happens if you’ve had a transplant and simply convince yourself this is true?

Driving Sideways tells the story of Leigh Fielding, a twenty-eight year-old kidney transplant recipient who—six years, hundreds of dialysis sessions, and a million bad poems after being diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease—finally feels strong enough to pursue a few lofty goals she’s been mulling for years: find herself, her kidney donor’s family, and the mother that abandoned her over twenty years ago.

And what better way to do just that than a solitary road trip across the country? Well, maybe not entirely solitary, because Leigh suspects she may have inherited more than just an organ from her deceased donor. It’s this sneaking suspicion that takes her trip down some unexpected detours—and the juvenile delinquent who blackmails Leigh into giving her a ride is only the beginning.

DRIVING SIDEWAYS (Random House, May 2008) just went into its second printing and has been hailed as ‘hugely entertaining and genius’ by Marian Keyes, and “a hopeful and hilarious debut” by New York Times bestselling author Jen Lancaster.

Here are some other great blurbs:

“Smart and funny without being forced, sentimental without being maudlin, Riley’s funny, picaresque vision of America will make readers wish they could go along with Leigh on her next trip.”

“Brilliant…Jess Riley proves herself a huge new talent.”
--Kristy Kiernan, author of Catching Genius

DRIVING SIDEWAYS was also selected as a Target “Break-Out Book” for display June 19, 2008 – August 9, 2008

When Jess isn't reading or writing fiction, she'd reading or writing school grant proposals—which some would say are still pretty fictitious. She lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin with her husband and their neurotic terrier. Jess is currently hard at work on her next novel, but took some time off to answer a few questions:

Name three songs that would be perfect for the soundtrack of your book.
I actually put together an iMix of songs that comprise the soundtrack of the book. It’s a roadtrip story, so I felt I had to—what roadtrip is complete without a soundtrack? But if I had to pick the top three, I’d say “Driving Sideways” by Aimee Mann (of course), “Girl on the Wing” by The Shins, and “Missed the Boat” by Modest Mouse.

What is one thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry since getting your first book deal?
How different publishing is from the craft of writing. When it’s just you and your story unfolding, that’s a craft. It’s art. After your book is sold, that art becomes a commodity, subject to change based on economic indicators. Depending on how your publisher is positioning you, decisions will be made to maximize appeal to a certain audience and sell books. It’s a business, and you can’t get sentimental or attached to things like covers, titles, or even certain scenes in your book. (Wow, that sounds really harsh!) But really, it’s best to adopt a very professional attitude when it comes to publishing. Your book is now a product, and you are its best advocate in the market. All of that said, I still believe in the power of language and stories … I adore the writing and reading side of it all. The promotion and marketing end of things, not so much!

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum, The Girls by Lori Lansens, and a galley of Cancer is a Bitch (*or, I’d Rather be Having a Mid-Life Crisis) by Gail Konop-Baker. I love them all!

What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel published?
Learn everything you can about the craft, about making your novel the best it can be, first. Then move on to the agent querying stage. If you pitch agents too soon, you might burn some bridges. (I learned this the hard way with my ‘practice’ novel.) And never give up! It can be a heartbreaking, discouraging process, but the more you write, the better you’re getting, and with a little luck (plus your innate talent *grin*), your perseverance will land you that book contract you dream of.

What and where is your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?

Oh, great question! My favorite restaurant is Water City Grill, just a few blocks from my house. I love the atmosphere, my husband loves the Friday night perch, and they used to have the BEST roasted vegetable alfredo lasagna. I’m thinking of begging them to put it back on the menu. I’m a vegetarian, and it’s hard to find many options at local restaurants (other than a baked potato or fries and an iceberg lettuce salad). So when I find a restaurant with SEVERAL delicious vegetarian entrees on the menu, I spend a nice chunk of change there on a regular basis. And they have fabulous martinis.

Think I'll just set off on my own road trip and mosey on over to Jess' Web site and join her for one of those martinis.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Amy Wallen, author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, MoonPies and Movie Stars is my guest today on the Girlfriends’ Cyber Circuit Lit Blog Tour. Her delightful first novel, described as “Eudora Welty on speed,” has just come out in paperback.

Ruby Kincaid has her hands full these days. In addition to running the bowling alley after the death of her husband, Rascal, she has the daunting task of caring for her two boisterous grandchildren, since her daughter Violet disappeared without a trace four years earlier. It’s 1976 and Ruby and her nearest and dearest in Devine, Texas are watching their favorite soap opera at the bowling alley when they see Violet in a Buttermaid commercial. Expecting it will only take a little motherly guilt to rein in her wayward daughter, Ruby loads up the Winnebago and heads for Hollywood to try and bring Violet back to the Lone Star State.

Along for the ride are Imogene, Violet’s over-bearing and pretentious mother-in-law (who’s ready to assume the title of “celebrity-in-law”), and Loralva, Ruby’s wild sister who is itching to visit Tinsel Town because it’s where all the game shows are taped – and nothing’s going to stop her from making it to her favorite, The Price Is Right. Rounding out the group are Ruby’s grandchildren Bunny and Bubbie who are confused, sad, and excited at the prospect of finding their mother. They give Ruby the courage she needs to track Violet down and try to make things right.

While MoonPies and Movie Stars is great fun and a lot of laughs, it is also a poignant story of dreaming big, finding home, and coming to terms with family.

Amy has studied with a number of acclaimed writers, including Janet Fitch (White Oleander). She has taken those talents cultivated in the workshops of these great writers and brought them to her own creative writing classes at UC San Diego Extension. Amy also hosts an open mic night in San Diego, Los Angeles, and New York called Dime Stories Live, in collaboration with the National Public Radio show airing this summer. She is currently a Writer-in-Residence at the New York State Writers Institute on the campus of Skidmore College.

Amy took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for me.

Name three songs that would be perfect for the soundtrack of your book.

Patsy Cline’s CRAZY
The theme to the Price is Right.

What was the inspiration behind the writing of MoonPies and Movie Stars?

I started with a monologue I wrote in which I was imitating my grandmother. She was a wild and crazy woman who owned a honky tonk (beer joint), hair salon, café, convenience store/gas station and various other businesses in a a small town in Texas. The character and story grew into something that was only a slight resemblance to her, but my aunts and cousins could see her in there after all.

What is one thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry since getting your first book deal?

It’s a revolving door of editors. But mainly I’ve learned to focus on my writing and not get caught up in the business side. That’s why I have such a great agent. I’m the writer and that’s what I should be doing at all times.

How do you approach writing your novel? Do you outline the plot? Start with a character or...?

Most definitely character is what gets me started. But plot is what gets me through to the end. Just like reading, I’m dying to know what happens to my characters and I don’t know until I write all the way to the end.

Who are the top three writers who have influenced your writing style?

Roddy Doyle, an Irish writer who writes humorous and poignant novels about the hardworking, never get a break Irish. Janet Fitch of White Oleander was my writing teacher and mentor for at least 4 years while I was writing MoonPies and Movie Stars. Mary Gordon who wrote Pearl and many other wonderful books has been my writing teacher and mentor for many years also and she has always referred me to Flannery O’Connor when I get stuck or have a question. She’s always been right.

What are you reading now?

Manuscripts from students at the NY State Summer Writers Institute where I’m a writer-in-residence for the next few weeks. I have 4 student manuscripts I’m reviewing. The one I just finished had beautiful language and a gorgeous tale. Very dark with an ironic narrator, which I love. I just finished reading Rachel Shukert’s memoir called HAVE YOU NO SHAME. I reviewed it for the LA Times. It’s hilarious and a must-read.

What is your writing schedule like?

Anytime and all the time. Stephen King said in his memoir and book about writing that a writer should be reading every chance they get—the bank line, while they chop onions, in the shower, etc. I try to do that, or if I forget my book, I rework scenes in my head.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read. I’m also an avid walker and hiker, but I use that time to mull over my story’s scenes and situations in my head. I push through to the next thing I need to sit down and write. That way the page may be blank, but my head is spilling over.

What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel published?

Write the best damn thing you can possibly write, then revise it again, and again, before you even think about sending it out.

What and where is your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?

Mexican. Rancho’s vegetarian restaurant in South Park San Diego Because it’s always fresh, I love Mexican, and it’s near my house. And they make the best avocado enchiladas.

Thanks, Amy! Check out her Web site at: