Sunday, October 28, 2012


Ms Linda Morrison, Manager
Mr Peter Scott, District Manager
Barnes and Noble Northgate
401 Northeast Northgate Way # 1100
Seattle, WA 98125

Dear Ms Morrison and Mr Scott,
I attended your book signing with Ann and Nancy Wilson of the band “Heart” yesterday, Oct 27, at your Northgate store.
I would like you to know first that I have a Nook from Barnes and Noble, and that I am a member in good standing and regularly order books online from B&
Yesterday Ann and Nancy Wilson of the rock group HEART were supposed to be at Barnes and Noble in North Seattle at the Northgate Mall B&N at 2 pm to sign their book, "Kicking and Dreaming" which was written with the help of Charles Cross.
They were going to have a "conversation" with Mr Cross, after which they were supposed to take questions from the audience and then sign books, records, guitars, etc.

My husband, son and I live in Maple Valley, which is about 30 miles from Seattle, and about 40 from North Seattle. It should take us about 40 minutes to get there, but with horrible traffic in the rain, it took us an hour and a half to get there, though I had planned for this and we left early, hoping to arrive early so that I could show them that I had purchased my copy of "Kicking and Dreaming" from Barnes and Noble online, because I have a membership card and get free shipping.

We arrived at 1 pm (an hour early) to find that parking was almost non existent, and once Jim dropped me off at the door, I went to the counter to show my proof of purchase and get a 'wristband' something I was told I wouldn't be admitted without. The guy at the counter said "Oh, we don't have any more wristbands, so you're just going to have to try to get in by showing your book." Great. I approached the small area where the event was to take place, and noticed that there was quite a long, winding line, though they were allowing people in with wristbands, who sat in the few seats provided (WHY were there so few seats? Heart is rock and roll royalty in Seattle, you HAD to know there would be a huge crowd there for their appearance).

After they were all seated, the rest of us were told we had to stand in the aisles for the event. I was not expecting to have to stand, because I wore nice shoes and dressed up to see these two women whom I'd idolized since I was a teenager in Iowa in the 1970s.

I recall, clearly, the day I found the "Dreamboat Anne" album, and how I devoured the music on it, because my brothers were always playing Styx, Rush, AC/DC, Journey and Bob Segar albums, loudly proclaiming that only men could produce quality rock and roll. Then when I got "Little Queen" and listened to the glorious songs on that album, I felt as if they were singing to me, that they understood what it was like to live under the shadow of your brothers and father, who had no problem telling you how worthless you were, just in case you hadn't gotten that message from the many bullies at in high school who beat you down every single day. I wore out my first Little Queen album, and I saved up my money to buy another one, though I had all the songs memorized, even with the skips where the scratches were on the record.
I saw a Washburn guitar poster with Nancy Wilson on it and I pitched the first huge fit of my life (I was the easy, tractable middle child who didn't make trouble) when my parents got me a cheap guitar from Sears for my 16th birthday when I so desperately wanted a Washburn, just like Nancy Wilsons! It didn't matter that I couldn't sing like Ann Wilson, it only mattered that they were women, and they ROCKED, so well that I was sure no one could put them down. They gave me hope. Hope that, despite my size and my gender, that I could actually make something of myself, someday.
However, now that I am an old woman with Crohn’s Disease who is obese and has sore joints, my ability to stand for hours is severely compromised. But I tried to make the best of it, standing there, talking to the people around me, among them a young man who had brought a guitar for the Wilsons to sign, a mom with two daughters, (one about 7 and the other 13 and crazy for Justin Bieber), who had to listen to her tired and hungry daughters whine louder as the hours went by, and a senior woman who was wearing leopard-print spiked heels, and a guy with a Heart hat that he'd gotten during one of their concerts years ago, along with some treasured vinyl albums. There was also a senior lady in line who was hassled by a clerk because she didn’t have a book in hand. The lady explained that she had purchased a book previously and had gotten it signed, but she wanted to come to this event to hear the Wilson sisters speak. She was told she’d have to leave unless she bought another book. So this elderly woman had to get out of the standing room only line and walk over to purchase another book and then walk to the back of the line, which was patently unfair.

We stood for 3 hours, with the Wilsons arriving a half hour late, only to discover that the microphones either didn't work or couldn't be turned up at all, so those of us standing in the aisles couldn't hear anything that Ann or Nancy said. We could hear the smug Mr Cross rambling on about how well he knew the sisters Wilson, but no one really cared about his story, they wanted to hear about Heart, and the book.
The sisters and Cross talked briefly, but we could hear next to nothing that was said, and after about 15 minutes Cross threw it open to questions from the audience. A flamboyant black gay man got up from the seated section and blathered about how much he and his husband loved their music, which he thanked them for, but he really didn't have a question. Then a woman from the seated section asked another question, which we couldn't hear, and then we couldn't hear the answer that had those in the seats laughing. Another question was asked, and then they stopped the questions, after only 3 or 4 of them (if you count the gay black man who just wanted to blather) and said they'd be signing all the stuff people had brought with them, but of course they'd start with the seated section first. Note that no questions were answered from the standing crowd, though several raised their hands!

By this time, my feet had gone from numb to burning pain, my guts were starting to twist and feel like my intestines were going to fall out of my body, and I hadn't had the chance to seek out any of the books on the list I'd brought, or sit down, or go to the bathroom or get a drink.
My husband called from a nice pub across the street to say he was planning on just waiting for me to get done, but I told him he needed to get to the bookstore, take my place in line and let me go do some book shopping and sit down, even if it was only in the bathroom. 30 minutes later, husband arrives and they won't let him in until I charge forward and tell them that I need him to take my place in line, ostensibly for book shopping, because I felt that money was the only thing the clerks would listen to at this point. 
I charged upstairs, found someone who basically told me that she'd order me some books online because it would save me a lot of money over buying it in the store (I didn't tell her that if I wanted to get them online, I could do that myself at home, I didn't need to drive for hours to get to a store), then I went to the bathroom and then stopped by the B&N coffee shop to get a juice and sit down next to two seniors who had literally given up on standing in line waiting for their books to be signed.  I waited until my feet no longer felt like they were going to fall off, and I walked back to the line, only to see my husband saying that I was "next!"
Just as I handed my book to the B&N clerk, an officious man walked over and said, "No more signing of anything but books." So I couldn't get the two photos of Ann and Nancy that I'd been holding on to for years signed, because now that I finally got to stand in front of them, I was being chivvied along by the man who had said they couldn’t sign anything else. I do not know if he was a B&N employee or working with the Wilson sisters, but he was clearly impatient to get me away from them.
I tried to tell Nancy about the Washburn guitar that my parents finally ordered for me and purchased for $600, which was a heckuva lot of money in 1977, but it was clear that they just wanted me done. I took a pen and pencil set with me in a nice wooden case, as is my habit when I meet authors, to give them a pen as a gift. Unknown to me, my husband had taken the pen out of the case and not put it back into the case, hoping to get the sisters to autograph my book with my name by writing it on a note on the front of the book. They ignored that completely, just signing their names. And now I know that the pen/pencil set that I wanted to give them was incomplete, because of my husband removing the pen from the case. So I don’t even have the good feeling that comes from giving a heart-felt thank you, via a gift, to a couple of your childhood idols.

As we were leaving I noticed that the guitar guy had a signed guitar in front of him, and the guy with the hat had a signed hat on his head, so obviously I was the only person not allowed to have things signed other than the book.  Which is terrible, really, since I've been dreaming of the moment I'd meet the Wilson sisters since 1976, when I first heard "Dreamboat Anne."

Now I am left heartbroken, footsore and embarrassed, and feeling that Barnes and Noble really had no clue how to run the event properly. I wonder why members weren't given preferred seating, but at this point it doesn't matter, since I am sure I won’t ever get another shot at seeing the sisters Wilson.
I just thought you both should know that your event was a major disappointment for this fan, and several others who stood for a long time in the aisles of your store (not to mention spending a lot of money on gas to get there and money for the book itself).
I know that Barnes and Noble is a big corporation, so you probably don’t care if 50 or 60 people have a bad experience at a book signing, and a lone freelance writer writes to tell you about it and posts about it on her book blog.
But with so many bookstores closing and so few real bibliophiles like myself remaining, I think it should matter to someone.
Here's a bit from Shelf Awareness:

Robert Gray: Trick or Books
It's not the book ghosts; you're never afraid of them, even when the
shelves are full and all those authors, living and dead, whisper: "Read
us... Read us... Read us..."

"Did you ever notice how books track you down and hunt you out?"
Christopher Morley wrote. "They follow you like the hound in Francis
Thompson's poem
They know their quarry!... That's why I call this place the Haunted Bookshop Haunted by the
ghosts of the books I haven't read. Poor uneasy spirits, they walk and
walk around me. There's only one way to lay the ghost of a book, and
that is to read it."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Book News and Other Items of Interest

Emma Thompson on reading Peter Rabbit:
"Take it slow, much slower than you think. Give them plenty of time to
look at the pictures and sort of extrapolate from the pictures,"
Oscar-winning actress and author Emma Thompson
told NPR's Renee Montagne in an interview on Morning Edition yesterday,
where she talked about her new book The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit.

We loved her answer to the question of how the publisher, Frederick
Warne & Co., approached her about writing a new Peter Rabbit book: "It
wasn't a formal letter as such," she said. "It wasn't a 'Dear Ms.
Thompson, would you consider blah' from the publishers. It was a little
box with two half-eaten radishes in it and a letter from Peter Rabbit.
And the child part of me, I think, actually believed it had come from
Peter Rabbit himself. And that got past my defenses and my fear for long
enough for me to say, 'OK, well, I'll have a go.' "

These two books are getting such great reviews and awards, that I can't wait to read them, though I only have a copy of "Wolf Hall" in my TBR stack:

Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel's Man Booker
Prize-winning novels, are being adapted for the stage
by Mike Poulton. The Telegraph reported "the two productions are under
consideration by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the intention is to
stage the two plays over the same season.... A BBC Two costume drama
based on the books is also in the works."

"I went to a first reading last week," Mantel said. "There's still a
great deal of work to do but what we're hoping for is two plays--a Wolf
Hall play and a Bring Up the Bodies play--which, if you liked, you could
see on consecutive evenings."

While Mantel noted that the RSC is "not committed but certainly
interested," she added that a spokesman for the company said the plays
were "on our list of considerations."

Amen, Joe! "The world is changing, but I am not changing with it. There is no
e-reader or Kindle in my future. My philosophy is simple: Certain things
are perfect the way they are. The sky, the Pacific Ocean, procreation
and the Goldberg Variations all fit this bill, and so do books. Books
are sublimely visceral, emotionally evocative objects that constitute a
perfect delivery system.

"Electronic books are ideal for people who value the information
contained in them, or who have vision problems, or who have clutter
issues, or who don't want other people to see that they are reading
books about parallel universes where nine-eyed sea serpents and blind
marsupials join forces with deaf Valkyries to rescue high-strung albino
virgins from the clutches of hermaphrodite centaurs, but they are
useless for people engaged in an intense, lifelong love affair with
books. Books that we can touch; books that we can smell; books that we
can depend on. Books that make us believe, for however short a time,
that we shall all live happily ever after."

--Joe Queenan in a Wall Street Journal essay headlined "My 6,128
Favorite Books,"
which was adapted from One for the Books (Viking, Oct. 25)

So after 6 months, the new owner of Queen Anne Books has decided to sell the place again! Oh no!
Once again, I find myself wishing I'd won the lottery!

Katharine Hershey, who bought Queen Anne Books, Seattle, Wash., in April, has put the
store up for sale. An attorney and former King County Superior Court
commissioner, she wrote to customers, "This has not been an easy or
hastily made decision, and I thank all of you for your loyalty and your
commitment to Queen Anne Books during the period of time that I have
been a part of the store." She added that she will be "leaving Queen
Anne Books as of the end of November."

In April, Hershey said that the purchase of the store fulfilled
"a lifelong dream I've had
to own a bookstore, and most particularly to be a part of Queen Anne

Queen Anne Books was founded in 1988 and had been owned the last 14
years by Patti McCall (and part of that time by Cindy Mitchell). Last
year, the store won the WNBA's Pannell Award in the general bookstore
category. Earlier this year, McCall said that the store's lease was up
this month, with a five-year option.

Hershey may be reached at 206-283-5624 or
Having just seen "The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" at Book It Rep Theater, I found myself wishing that I could afford to subscribe to their whole, wonderful season. I am such a fan of theater, having been a theater major, and of course I love books, so anything that brings the two together is a winner in my mind.

Imagine my joy on reading this today on Shelf Awareness:
Seattle's Book-It Repertory Theatre Receives Grant
Book-It Repertory Theatre , an artists' collective
founded 24 years ago in Seattle to adapt short stories for performance,
will receive a three-year grant totaling $340,000

from Paul G. Allen and Jody Allen for educational performances and
programs. The Seattle Times reported that the "gift (the largest in
Book-It's history) will allow the company to expand its educational work
beyond the Puget Sound area.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Goodbye For Now by Laurie Frankel

My most beloved drama professor, Sister Carol Blitgen, used to say that all plays are about two things: love/sex and death. She would sometimes add a caveat that birth/growth could be added as a third, but that when it came down to it, the thing that most classic art of any form was about was death. "We are born astride the grave" was her favorite quote (from, I believe, Samuel Beckett) and she wasn't really as grim and depressing as that sounds, in fact, she was, and is, a vital, bristling-with- intelligence-and-life kind of person. Most of her students were in awe of her, myself included, yet my friends Monica Jenkins and Muff Larson and I would often mock her obsession with death in literature and in drama. We all thought it was because she's a nun, and her lack of love/sex meant that she thought too much, dwelled on, death.
Thirty-plus years later, after having lost my friends Monica and Muff, I can see what an oracle of wisdom the woman really was, and likely is still, though she's retired now.
In other words, I agree with Sister Carol, and I'd like to apologize to her for being a smart-ass theater major, all those years ago.
I wasn't expecting to have the above spring to mind when I read Laurie Frankel's new novel, "Goodbye For Now" this weekend.  I realized, after looking at the jacket copy that I'd read her first book "The Atlas of Love" a year or so ago, and I recall liking it, and thinking it wasn't what I'd expected it to be, either.
But the brilliant Ms Frankel seems to be full of surprises, and before I wander off in my ruminations and review, let me stress that this book is as perfect a novel as is possible for an imperfect human to write, and well worth 25 dollars to acquire a hardback copy to read, right now, (Yes, I mean immediately. Run, don't walk to the bookstore.)
 As with all great art, I laughed, I cried, I was amazed, dumbfounded and in love with the sheer beauty of the wordsmithing, the swift and sure plot, the characters who seem so real that I wanted to call, text or email them the minute I finished the book and commiserate that I was done with the story when I wanted it to last forever.
"Goodbye for Now" is the story of Sam the computer programmer (or "dev" short for developer, as they're called at Microsoft) who is a bored and lonely genius geek. He develops a computer program that intuits, from all available online information about an individual, who their perfect mate would be, and after being fired for it, he decides to use it on himself. He's matched with Meredith, who actually is his soul mate, and after he and Meredith move in together, her beloved grandmother Livvie dies, and Meredith is inconsolable. She begs Sam to write her a program that will allow her grandmother to continue to email her, and video-chat with her as well. Sam, never one to turn down a programming challenge (and I know a number of geeks like this), ends up creating a kind of artificial intelligence program that uses all the online information that can be found on that person, in addition to their saved emails/video chats to develop an avatar that sounds and reacts just like the deceased grandmother. Meredith finds being able to still have Livvie in her life a great comfort, and inevitably, Sam and Meredith's best friend from childhood Dashiel all decide to open up a company called "RePose" that allows others to see and speak to their deceased loved ones on the computer.
While at first all goes well, of course religious groups and the media descend on RePose, and attempt to cast the company as taking advantage of people's grief with 'fake' representations of their lost loved ones. Philosophical debates ensue, and when a doctor from a pediatric cancer ward gets involved, more than a little guilt and shame comes up, too.
Though there is a surprise death near the end of the book, it is handled with grace and beauty.
"You are the paragon of animals, my love. You aspire to such greatness, to miracle, to newness and wonder...but you forgot about the part that's been around since time immemorial. Love, death, loss. You've run up against it. And there's no getting around or over it. You stop and build your life right there at the base of that wall. There is no other side, but there's plenty of space there to build a life and plenty of company."
"We will do this forever. You will always write to me. And I will always reply. Great lovers imagine their love will outlive and outlast them in impassioned correspondence that survives in books, in museums. But in books and museums, their love is preserved, entombed. Ours grows and lives and breathes, moves and dances on the wind, becomes long after the museums have crumbled and the books have turned to ash and dust."
If you have ever lost someone you love, you need to read this book. The fact that it takes place in Seattle is only the watery icing on the cake.
I had the great fortune to meet the author, and she's as beautiful as her prose. The world needs more authors like this, more books like this. A solid A+ and a heartfelt thank you to Ms Frankel for a weekend well spent in her world.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey and Other News

I'm a fan of Jacqueline Carey's marvelous Kushiel's Legacy series and her Santa Olivia books, so I was thrilled to read on Facebook that Ms Carey has begun a new urban fantasy series, starring Daisy Johanssen, half-demon and agent of Hel, the Norse goddess.
Daisy's mother, a human who inadvertently summoned a demon via Ouija board, decided to raise Daisy in as normal an environment as possible, in Pemkowet, Michigan, which resides (not unlike Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Sunnydale with it's hell-mouth) on top of an underworld rich with eldritch-folk, from ghouls to fairies and vampires.
When we join Daisy, she's working as a liaison to the eldritch community (and designated agent of Hel, complete with a tattoo on her hand) in the Pemkowet Police Department, and trying to quell her crush on one of the local policemen, Cody, who happens to be a werewolf.
Unfortunately, after a local frat boy turns up dead under suspicious circumstances, Daisy has to work with Cody and her friends in the community to come up with the killer and bring him to justice.
A master storyteller, Carey charms readers from page one with Daisy's semi-tough attitude and tender heart that belie her terrible temper and tiny demon tail. Her Godmother and former B-movie actress Lurine, who is half-woman, half-sea serpent and all-gorgeous, has some great lines and is truly a fascinating character with whom anyone would kill to have as a connection. Stefan the European hottie ghoul, who feeds on emotion, is another character that will keep readers thrilled with his sensual attention to Daisy and his ability to help calm her by taking some of her anger and anxiety at a time when she desperately needs them gone, due to her ability to explode and break things when her emotions reach a fever pitch. I was particularly struck by Carey's bold choice to define her supernatural creatures in a more classic way, such as vampires who can't be seen on film or in mirrors and can't go out in daylight, water fairies like nyads who aren't at all kind, but rather nasty, seeking to harm/drown those who are lured into the water with them, and the king of the forest as a wise man with stag horns whose coloring blends with the colors of the autumnal trees. You can't take these characters for granted anymore, since authors like Stephanie Meyers and others have re-written supernatural history and have vampires that merely "sparkle" in daylight, and water fae who are harmless and pretty in other recent fantasy novels.  Supernatural beings in old folktales, legends and myths were most often frightening creatures whom humans were told it was best to avoid, lest they be harmed. The fact that Carey has put her creatures firmly back in place as frightening and formidable, at a time when so many other authors seek to nearly domesticate or tame them strikes me as a bold and brilliant choice that will make her new series instant classics. Meanwhile, this book was just plain fun to read, full of cultural references and engaging characters, plus many interesting facts about supernaturals that will keep fantasy geeks happy for page after page. The plot swooshes by in a blur, and the strong, clean prose is vintage Carey.
I must admit I laughed out loud when Sinclair the faux-Jamaican shows up to try and get a tour bus going to view some 'less harmful' fairies, and Daisy has to summon them and make a deal with the king of the forest/fae by using morning dew in acorn cups. The fact that Daisy now has dinner plans with Sinclair, who reads auras, has met Cody's family and has an open declaration of support and a request for a kind of partnership with Stefan the ghoul leads me to feel certain that Dark Currents will be a hit with fans of fantasy and SF genres, and will engender many a fan to breathlessly await the next installment in the series. A+ for this first book in the series.

In other news, I am so proud of my adopted city!
Describing Seattle as "a book town in an e-reader world,
proud of its devotion to real books and real bookstores," the Washington
Post's Diane Roberts explored a few traditionally bookish destinations
in the city where Amazon has its headquarters, noting that "despite the
Northwest's haute-techiness (Microsoft's headquarters is just across
Lake Washington, too), Seattle still loves paper and print."

Among the bookstores highlighted were Lion Heart ("an excellent
selection of children's books that goes way beyond Harry Potter"), BLMF
Literary Saloon ("Customers should not expect to be coddled.") and Left
Bank Books, which "stocks a T-shirt that shouts 'Read a [expletive] book!' "

Roberts "wanted to kiss the polished wooden floor the minute I walked
into the Elliott Bay Book Co. It smells
of ink and paper (and coffee and cherries--there's a good cafe in the
back), and it glistens with new books; books you've heard of and books
you didn't know existed."

Elliott Bay bookseller Alan Brandsted told her that the bookstore is
"hyper-aware of the Amazon empire. Sometimes people come in and look
around, then buy online.... We see ourselves as a resource. Come in
here, and something might be revealed."

Finally, a lovely tidbit of autumn poetry from
Mary Oliver: "Lines Written in the Days of Growing

"So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,
though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.