The Sunday Salon: October 26

The Sunday Salon

Because I missed last weekend’s Readathon, and because we didn’t have much going on this weekend, I had all good intentions to spend yesterday and today getting caught up on my reading. You know, sort of like my own private Readathon to make up for what I missed.

I wanted to try and finish Station Eleven for a review commitment.  On the heels of that, I have another review deadline for The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Instead, I spent all of Saturday in bed with a migraine. I woke up later than usual and felt like crap.  (I blamed it on the two slices of regular pizza I ate for dinner the night before because I was too cheap to order myself a gluten-free pizza.)  Within an hour, I was back in bed with an ice pack on my head- and I didn’t wake up until 4 p.m. What a complete waste of a day.

I managed to do a little reading last night and thankfully, today I felt much better.

When I did wake up, I discovered that my short story “Extractions” had hit #1 in its Kindle Short Reads category, which was pretty cool to see.

Extractions as 1

(Today is the last day for the free download, so get it while you can.)

Speaking of writing, this week I decided that I’m going to attempt NaNoWriMo again. This will be my third year (not consecutively). The Conversations and Connections conference inspired me to hunker down on this manuscript and start submitting portions of it to lit magazines and journals.

Anyway, the reading.

I can’t say too much about Station Eleven because of the pending review; however, I will say that I liked Last Night in Montreal and The Lola Quartet much better. Perhaps because of that, I had high expectations for Station Eleven.  Still listening to Drood on audio – I’m up to page 295.  And, I also have a few poetry collections that I’m dipping into.

What about you?




that time when a writing group exercise became an Amazon best seller

So, this happened today:

Extractions as 1

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,080 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

“Extractions” originated as a fun Halloween writing exercise two years ago in my writing group.


A Halloween treat in the form of Extractions, my short story, free this weekend on Amazon

Extractions Amazon

“Now, her vision wobbly because of the migraine, Kari grabbed her glasses and her Android on the nightstand. She pressed the ubiquitous blue and white icon. Not even six in the morning and there were twelve new notifications. She held her breath. Would Seth really respond that quickly? That wasn’t like him – he was always mysterious, unpredictable, keeping her guessing. Then again, what did she really know what he was like now after 22 years?

But in this small state where everybody knows everyone, Kari didn’t even know herself anymore. That much was obvious.” ~ “Extractions” ~ Melissa M. Firman

I thought you could use a Halloween treat on this fall weekend.

Which is why I’ve made my short story “Extractions” a FREE download on Amazon. Saturday 10/25 and Sunday 10/26 only.

Hope you enjoy!



hollywood nights

Hollywood.bombThis business of being-a-writer-while-one-has-a-full-time-job and parenting kids is … well, it can be a lot of things.

It can be a strange existence as moments from our nights and weekends are eked out and surrendered to our laptops in this too-solitary pursuit.  (Case in point: I’m writing this blog post at 11:30 p.m. on a weeknight, when I have a fairly busy day tomorrow.)

Still, we do the writing anyway because of … what, and why, exactly?

For the love of it, mostly. And because we believe in our story and want to share it with others.  Otherwise, we might as well just do something else – and get a hell of lot more sleep while we’re at it.

My friend Jason Cole sent me a message a few weeks back, announcing the debut of his first novel, Hollywood.bomb. He is married to my longtime friend Rachel, and together they are two of the most ridiculously generous people I’ve ever known. They also have a lot of wicked smaht thoughts, to imitate their Boston accents and the name of Jason’s blog.

Unbeknownst to me, for the past 10 years Jason had been working on a novel about the crazy world of software development. The adage “write what you know” applies here; Jason has worked in this industry for more than 15 years, so the man knows this terrain “full of intelligent, quirky, and painfully honest people who are more interested in solving problems than making anyone feel good about them.”

I admit, I haven’t had a chance to read Hollywood.bomb yet in order to give it a proper review (a couple of interesting things are happening with my own writing projects) . What I can do is tell you that this satirical look at the software development and entertainment industries is .99 on Amazon for only one more day – and even after that it becomes an affordable $2.99. 

While the writing of the book was a serious venture for Jason, Hollywood.bomb itself doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. It’s meant to be a fun read, says Jason.

“I know that there’s some stigma associated with self-published books, and I’ve read enough of them to know why,” he says. “I don’t know whether my book is good enough to rise above the noise, and in some ways I don’t care.  All I want is for people to read it, to share in a story that has kept me and my close friends and family entertained for years.  I want to share it, with the hope that it will entertain, that readers will laugh a little.”

Just like Hollywood itself.

Congratulations, Jason.

Book Review: Letters to Sam: A Grandfather’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life, by Daniel Gottlieb

Letters to Sam: A Grandfather’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life 
by Daniel Gottlieb 
Sterling Publishing Co.
176 pages 

There’s something powerful in a personal moment of vulnerability, of difference, of change or of broken spirit, when you find another soul who says, “Me too.”

Sometimes that person is a friend or a teacher. Sometimes it is a stranger. Sometimes, a relative.

Daniel Gottlieb is a Philadelphia-based psychologist, family therapist, columnist, and author. When Dan talks with his clients or writes about coping with life’s changes and unexpected turns, his insights come from a deep well of personal experience.

More than 25 years ago, Dan became a quadriplegic after an automobile accident paralyzed him from the neck down. As most of us would, he thought his career – and his life – were over, that he didn’t have anything left to give.

He was wrong.

Sometimes we don’t understand the reasons behind the circumstances in our lives. In Letters to Sam, Dan shares the moment he knew he would be able to continue living, but this memoir’s purpose is to show that there is sometimes even more of a greater reason than may readily be apparent.

For Dan, that reason is his grandson Sam. Like many grandparents, Sam is the very joy and light of Dan’s life – a reason to keep living in spite of adversity; however, theirs isn’t like most grandparent-grandson relationships. At 14 months old, Sam was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disability), a form of autism.

(My boy was initially diagnosed with PDD-NOS shortly after his 2nd birthday.)

Daniel Gottlieb knows a little something about the frailty and unexpected nature of life. While he hopes he has many years together with Sam, he knows more than others that things can change in a matter of seconds. Thus, the concept of Letters to Sam – a touching book that is exactly that: a grandfather’s words of wisdom to his grandson about how to survive (no, thrive) in a world that may not always be too kind to people with disabilities, about embracing life and keeping hope, about making peace with the past, and ultimately, about finding acceptance.


The Sunday Salon 10/19/2014

The Sunday Salon

Another jam-packed weekend comes to a close and I’m just getting a chance to step into The Sunday Salon for the first time today.

A few of you may be new to my blog, as a result of my hanging out with you during part of this weekend’s activities. If that’s the case, glad to see you here. This particular feature is The Sunday Salon, described as such:

Imagine some university library’s vast reading room. It’s filled with people–students and faculty and strangers who’ve wandered in. They’re seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they’re all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they’ll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon’s literary intake….

That’s what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it’s all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week’s Salon get together–at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones–and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another’s blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one’s earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.  We link up our posts on our blogs and on The Sunday Salon Facebook group.

I spent Saturday at Chatham University immersed in all things writing with Conversations and Connections, a one-day writer’s conference that brings together writers, editors, and publishers in a friendly, supportive environment. It was organized by Barrelhouse, a literary magazine based in Washington D.C., and these fine folks decided to bring this year’s conference to Pittsburgh for the first time. I’m so glad they did. I’ll have a wrap-up post for this week’s Readin’at feature, but suffice it to say, it was one of the best writing conferences I’ve ever attended.

Because of the conference, I wasn’t able to participate very much in Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon this time around. This is always one of my favorite blogging events and I was disappointed to miss it. I’m in desperate need of a Readathon, believe me, especially since I am trying to finish Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel for a freelance review with a looming deadline.

DroodI’m listening to Drood on audio in the car for #droodalong and am really enjoying this. It’s the perfect book for this season, especially blustery and drizzly days like yesterday. In fact, this was part of the dialogue in Drood when I was driving to the writing conference at Chatham yesterday:

“It was a pleasant day yesterday as well. Did you enjoy your outing to Chatham and Gad’s Hill?” (pg. 182)

Indeed I did.

Weekend Cooking: Drood Food

Several bloggers – myself among them – are participating in a Readalong of Dan Simmons’ mammoth novel Drood which is being hosted by Trish at Love, Laughter, and Insanity. At 775 pages, this one more than meets the qualifications for a chunkster of a book.

I’ve been listening to the audio version and when I got to this passage, I absolutely cracked up. Fellow novelist Wilkie Collins is the narrator of Drood and a good friend of Charles Dickens'; in this scene, Collins is having “supper at a club to which [he] did not belong but at which [he] had guest privileges.”

“I settled down to my solitary meal. I enjoyed coming to this club because of how the chef here prepared lark pudding, which I considered one of the four great works produced by my present age. Tonight I decided to dine relatively lightly and ordered two types of pate, soup, some sweet lobsters, a bottle of dry champagne, a leg of mutton stuffed with oysters and minced onions, two orders of asparagus, some braised beef, a bit of dressed crab, and a side of eggs.” (pg. 56-57)

Wilkie considers this to be a “modest repast.”

He then goes on about the culinary skills of Catherine Dickens, Charles’ wife.

Book Blogger Convention 2011 - NYC (86)

Cheese display at Eataly, New York City, NY May 2011

“…one of the few things I had ever liked about Dickens’s wife was her cooking – or at least the cooking she oversaw at Tavistock House, since I had never seen the woman actually don an apron or lift a ladle. Years ago Catherine Dickens had (under the name Lady Maria Chatterbuck) brought out a volume of recipes, based on what she served regularly at their home at Devonshire Terrace, in a book called What Shall We Have For Dinner? Most of her choices were visible on my table here this evening, although not in such plentitude or with an equal glory of gravies (I consider most cooking as simply a prelude to gravies) – as her tastes had also run towards lobsters, large legs of mutton, heavy beefs, and elaborate desserts. There were so many variations of toasted cheese in Catherine’s volume of recipes that one reviewer commented –

“No man could possibly survive the consumption of such frequent toasted cheese.” (pg. 57)

Half a page later, and with Collins still at the table eating the same supper:

“This night, I could not decide between two desserts, so – Solomon-like – I chose both the lark pudding and the well-cooked apple pudding. And a bottle of port. And coffees.”  (pg. 57)

Book Blogger Convention 2011 - NYC (108)

Meat display at Eataly, New York City, NY May 2011

Even though I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be trying this at home in my vegetarian/gluten-free kitchen, I couldn’t resist finding out what consisted of lark pudding. According to this post from the blog Victorian Gems, this delicacy includes “one pound of rump steak, three sheeps kidneys, one dozen larks, nicely picked and drawn, and all well seasoned with two of salt and one of pepper, and one dozen oysters blanched.” 

Yum. Save room for dessert, indeed.

No wonder Wilkie Collins had troubles with gout. I mean, obviously we know a hell of a lot more than our Victorian friends about the connection between food and health but … still.


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