Saturday, December 26, 2009

Beef Burgundy: 3-day Entrée

Delicious French cuisine: Beef chuck marinated pendant trois jours, with pearl onions, served over fresh pasta.

I can't think of a more appropriate--or arduous--undertaking for a listless writer and her home-vacationing military husband with a freezer full of top-grade beef.

Recipe courtesy of Stacey Moore Cilia, which I won't reproduce here--it's too long. But you can--and definitely should!--visit her food blog at
to check out the recipe for yourself, or just to look at the beautiful pictures.

Will post my own results, though Stacey's look absolutely delectable.

Very best,
Not meeting her December 24th deadline for Peter Srinivasan's screenplay--Lora Rivera

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Plug for Bill Lancaster's Story "Stuck" and Scott Lynch's THE GENTLEMAN BASTARD SEQUENCE

Just came out on Tumblr, official website of Texas State University Writing Center. December issue. An enjoyable read if you get the chance and have an itch for round, sympathetic characters.

Also of interest is a fantasy series by relatively new author Scott Lynch. The Gentleman Bastard Sequence is a series of brilliant, entertaining, high-suspense novels about a group of wicked-smart thieves in an exquisitely-wrought world of intrigue, decadence, and danger. Backtracking is worth it in these books, when the world is one big chess game.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Helpful Critiques

They're difficult sometimes, but worthwhile, right? When you're in the business to discover and cultivate good writers? But is there a fool-proof process, especially when the story/poem/screenplay you're reading isn't absolute genius?

Well, no.

But there are some processes out there that seem to make good sense.

Here's one:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chai Holiday Nog

Delicious and easy Chai Holiday Nog recipe. Great for parties!

Think 1:1:1:1

Holiday Nog brand egg nog
Chai Tea (from tea bag), chilled
1% Milk

Combine, chill, serve over ice, and top with nutmeg or cinnamon. Enjoy!

Eggs, Brother, and Poetry

My brother just came in--just a little jaunt down I10--L.A. to Daytona Beach, FL.

I poached eggs for him. Because I love poaching eggs. Because I love eating creamy delicious poached eggs. Because he's never had them and because everyone should try them at some point. I think.

(And because I just watched Julie and Julia! A nice movie, worthy of a relaxing evening and yummy wines and cheeses.)

To poach an egg:
Boil enough water to cover egg, add some vinegar, a splash or two. Poke a hole with a push-pin in the fat bottom of the raw egg. Boil in water for 10 seconds. Remove and crack egg open into water very close to surface. Draw egg white over egg gently with a wooden spoon, a few strokes. For a nice runny yoke, poach for 3 1/2 minutes to 4 minutes. For a harder yoke, boil for 5 minutes. (My brother prefers harder yokes.) Extract with slotted spoon and deposit nicely poached egg in a bowl of ice water, just to rinse the vinegar and to solidify the white. Remove. Cut off excess membrane if needed before serving, or it will look like an alien:

Mmmm. (Or rather: Hmmmm.)

On the down side, I'm writing a poetry final on Elizabeth Bishop whose poetry is WONDERFUL, btw. But I'm unfortunately not very good at poetry. And not at all good at writing about poetry. So my paper is four pages long currently, wishing it were much longer. How about ten pages. The length it's supposed to be. Yes. That would be nice.

They're lovely poems, though. Here's one: "The Moose." And another: "The End of March."

New Publications!

So, a few more updates on publications:

First off, Jersey Devil Press has accepted for its holiday issue "For Piano and Voice." It comes out Friday, Dec. 18.

What I distinctly love about this one? It's delicious. It's pretty. It's just darn pretty. And then there's the wonderful musical aspect to it, and the fact that there hasn't been a lot of experimentation with representing sign language in text expect in highly academic circles. Not much interest to a general readership.

Then there's "Very High Up" coming out in early January from MARY Magazine's Winter issue. A story about constraints and desire, military culture and the humanness of a failed attempt at a perfect marriage. I've a soft spot for this one if only because it's such sensitive material that I've tried to be true to.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Silhouettes and Shadows Forthcoming from Two-Bit

The "fam" has arrived, and what better time to find out that "Silhouettes and Shadows" has been accepted for publication in Two-Bit Magazine?! I'm quite fond of the story, actually. It may be my favorite, second only to "Calling Rain." The story originated from an anecdote my mother once related to me. She'd been living in New Orleans and had a tiny flat off St. Charles Street. One evening, she left a glass of water on the windowsill and in the morning found about a fourth inch of sediment sitting at the bottom. She told me this when I was young and it stuck with me. And S&S grew out of it. [Shrug] Who can fathom the inner workings of these things...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Week to Go

My husband is leaving for the Middle East on Tuesday next week.

I must make a few things clear, first.

He's an Air Force officer.
He's an EWO, meaning he jams communication signals.
He will only be over there for three months. That's apparently the length of time studies have shown airmen to maintain top functionality during flight.
He will sometimes be out on missions for days straight.
Sometimes, he'll wait around in the dorms for weeks.

We've been apart before.... About nine months. This was indeed a gestation period. For tension and resentment, bitterness, fear, longing, shame, frustration. But that squalling child grew up and is now a relatively sedate four-year-old.

Am I afraid of repetition? Not very.

Here, then, are some of the comments:

Are you worried?
How're you coping?
If there's anything I can do...
We'll be praying for you.
Oh, I'm so sorry.

There is not much to be sorry for, I respond to that last, since he will only be gone for three months... unless the person is generally sorry that soldiers fight and hurt other soldiers and try not to hurt civilians, though they don't always succeed. Then, I accept your apologies. (But who am I to receive them, really?) To the others, I don't always know what to say. Thank you, I appreciate that, Your prayers are so kind. But worried? Should I be? Everyone seems to think so. Or perhaps, they simply think that since everyone whose husband goes overseas is worried--whether or not she actually is does not come into mind--I should be worried too. I don't know quite what to make of it.

I will know if I should be worried when he gets back, I think.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pressed but not crushed...

Well, okay, crushed.

It's hard to be anything but when you do what you told yourself and everybody else you wouldn't do--get your hopes up about your YA book getting published--and then get rejected.

It was a nice letter, but it's still one of those moments.

Inbox (1)
You stare at it.
You hold your breath. You click on it.
You read it. Again. And one more time for good measure.
You stare away the moisture--those are not tears.
You decide not to tell anybody.
Then you decide to tell everybody.

A big long exhale, and.... Here we go again.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Dangerous Cocktail


--1 somewhat serious perusal of St. Augustine's Confessions
--1 rapt viewing of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight

Shake..... (Read the warning label)

What comes out? Well, if you're like me (it helps to dust the cocktail with a good helping of suspended disbelief), you get a tragic, mental, emotional, ripping noise that comes from your gut and ends up hanging, embarrassingly, in the room like a frumpy ghost.

The cats think it's all good fun.

Why exactly are love stories like that (Achilles and Patroclus, Romeo and Juliette, Troilus and Cressida, Layla and Majnun, or Clapton and Pattie Boyde, for that matter) so compelling?

And--forgive me, this is not systematic philosophical inquiry by any means--why does it seem like the story is, at bottom, that which moves us, and not sympathy for the individuals themselves, trapped by their tragedies? It is not the sweet, loyal face of Patroclus that we pine for. Clapton's "Layla" does not invoke a sudden desire to see (extend to the other senses) the object of his personal "brand of heroine." It's the idea of the story that draws us, hungry and battling some inner turmoil we can't quite articulate, to these fictions.

But I've stepped over a line, calling them fictions, as if positing that we don't respond equally to "true" stories. But then, retold, what story is entirely devoid of fiction?

Let that rest, though.

My question: Is it the idea that we cherish, the idea that two people can want each other so badly.... We've certainly felt it ourselves. But if the dream fails for us, as it so often does, was it the dream that we loved or the human embodiment that dream?

And poor Augustine, to hold sexual love as the basest of human desires. Well, it's certainly the source of great suffering; some romantics would give anything for a crack at such love.

So what if, indeed, it is the dream we long for? Are we not, as Augustine would say, blind to the true nature of our desires, which crave the invisible, intangible, unchanging things, the dreams that vanish upon waking, whispers so frail they splinter and dissipate when the story ends, and we are left hollow, seeking incarnations in the place of some divinity? In other words, are we crazy?

Ugh! *stupid cocktail* Why this wretched desire for this opium that wreaks havoc on our capacity to appreciate, er, pretty damned much anything during the time the mind succumbs to the dream?

And afterwards? A lingering throb, the bite of regurgitated bile.

Warning: (1) Serving size is directly proportional to the extent of hangover one wishes to endure days following. (2) Consumption of the above recipe impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Waiting on Debra Dixon

Debra Dixon, the fiction editor at Bell Bridge Books, has requested a "more detailed synopsis" of my YA Down the Twisted Lane. Hoorayack! Can't celebrate too soon.

Because this could mean one of two things.

1. Debra, like any good editor, one month ago put her newest acquisition under the "stack" (probably electronic but still going by the same old name) of manuscripts "to read." A month later, she finally finishes off Manuscript X and finds my manuscript, still unread, at the bottom. She thinks, "Hmm, the author--this... Lora Rivera--has been waiting for a while. I'll ask her for more to give me more time." So she asks for the only thing she doesn't have (having already the full manuscript, the author's bio, and a short synopsis): a "more detailed synopsis."


2. Debra, like any good editor, one month ago put her newest acquisition under the "stack," eventually got to my manuscript, read, oh, say, a third of it, and found it quite intriguing and quite complicated. (It is.) So she sends off for a "more detailed synopsis" to see if the thing is at all viable before spending her valuable time reading the rest of the manuscript.

Let's hope for option 2. It's the best.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

First-Ever Full Request!

As many of you know, I've received my first-ever full (manuscript) request from Bell Bridge Books for my YA Fantasy novel, Down the Twisted Lane. It's more like middle grade, with YA leanings, actually, as the characters are not romantically inclined, and the pacing is plot driven rather than character/conflict driven. I like the book a lot, mainly because it's simply fun--fun to read, fun to write.

Of course, although for me (a mainly unpublished writer) receiving a full request from an editor is a huge deal, chances are that they'll read it and say "not for us."

It does help, I suppose to be published elsewhere first. Over the transom submissions are barely scanned in the first place, as there're always so many; it's much more difficult to be taken seriously when your submission looks as desperate as everyone else's.

Hooray, then, for my short story, "Calling Rain," coming out in the fall edition of A cappella Zoo, a small literary journal with a focus on magic realism that pays in copies (1). Still, I can use it on my queries now.... "My most recent short story will be coming out in...." Persuasive, and not wholly untrue.

(One would think I'd be ecstatic: all these opportunities! But for some reason--and perhaps it's a testament to some sort of ambition-fed character flaw--I'm not at all satisfied.) 

I'm afraid there isn't much more news. Thesis time. A novel or a story collection? That's the question. Novels are more publishable. Collections are easier to put together. Plus, they have the added benefit of "chucking ease"; that is, you can scrap a story or two and not lose the collection. It's much more difficult to be told a character has to go, or two, or a subplot is weak, or the idea plain sucks.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Happy Endings

There's this note, a pitch, I should say, that "literature" (and do mind that the word has four syllables and two beats: lit-er-a-ture) has this singular pitch it "should" always end on. Not sour, not depressing, exactly, not wholly devoid of happiness, and not even quite final. It is like, at the end of a good long stare (for us contact wearers) when the world begins to blur because the plastic has gotten dry, we are forced to blink. But we don't finish the blink. We only know that we must blink. That is the note. And it makes me cringe, I have to admit, when I come across it. When I write it. And don't get on my case for so many italicized words, because I do know when I press Control+I consecutively, and I do (most of the time) do it intentionally.

In any case, there is this note that I hear over and over again, and frankly, I'm coming down with it, and that makes me turn a sickly gray. Because it's what we're taught, you understand. We are instructed in our narrative arcs, so that each one ends succinctly at that glorious pot of gold, which is not, I might add, considerably artistic, and is, actually, I feel, somewhat generic. At this time. It is tradition, though. And woe to the writer who confronts tradition and grimaces, and then smiles politely, hoping the grimace had gone unnoticed--or, if it was noticed, that tradition has such a big head that it assumes the grimace was aimed at some foul stench produced (but, of course!) by the writer h'self (my gender-neutral reflexive pronoun).

Well, yes, if you mention it, I am in a sort of mood. Because I just realized that that note is the one all my stories long for, as if they were addicts, as if they were star-crossed lovers. Pining! It's damned embarrassing!

So I'm looking for an AA (or some such) group that'll help them get through it. Each of them.  Because, dear Grimm, though I'm fond as the next of your poor princesses who end up escaping their enemies with the help of the Big Bad Wolf's intestines, it's just not my cup of fictional tea anymore, you understand. I'm keen on Wolves and Little Reds who come to their senses. I'm appreciative of bargains wrought between Cinder and Stepmother. Compromises, you understand. I mean, really. You don't expect to hold a continuing monopoly on story endings into the 21st century, do you? Times, my dear Brothers, have changed, and the world may not be as bleak and sorcerous and damned dismal as it was when you wrote of it. And certainly not as final. No.

Oh! where is the heart, my fellow writers? Have you left it pumping, bleeding somewhere in the hands of villainous education? And though your ending may not be happy, where is the lifeblood that should flow through it, and through it, and through it, so that the reader can never be rid of it, never be cut off from it, find it bursting through the most mundane moments of life and on into death and beyond into eternity! If there is not death, and not eternity, at least into the next moment, at least beyond the closed cover.

I am tired, tired of this one note, my friends. Do not be deceived as to its glory. Does it sing? Can you hear it afterward? Does it break something in your chest when you hear it? Is it the laughter of the nations that are to rise, the roar of the Eternal applauding, its rush of tears, the sound of forgetting . . . ?

(I am only a little inebriated.)

Oh, how I want a new song to sing.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reading List

An assignment for class: Make a "canon" of books/writers you consider important to contemporary literature. Addendum: Include your favorite 20 writers.

This is a compilation of fellow students' addenda, specifically to include those writers/books that received more than one mention (or that are particularly awesome, but mostly the former; particularly awesome books/writers shall be denoted by an asterisk).

In no particular order....

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ernest Hemingway*
William Faulkner
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Kurt Vonnegut*
Cathedral by Raymond Carver
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Virginia Woolf
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin*
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein
Madame Bovary by Flaubert
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William Gass
To the White Sea by James Dickey*
J.D. Salinger
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Conner
James Joyce*
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Micahel Chabon
Night by Elie Wiesel
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Feel free to add....