Being a parent is tough. Believe me–I’ve had a doozy of a day, thanks to my 9-year-old. But this father in Germany shows us all how a parent can meet a challenge with class. Wouldn’t it be great if all parents were this supportive?

I think one of the best fictional depictions of parenthood is, well, Parenthood, the Steve Martin film. One of the characters in the movie says it’s like being on a rollercoaster–and it is. One minute you’re riding high because your kid is the spelling bee champ, the next you want to throttle her because she sent 16,000 text messages in a single month. One day she’s amazing you by properly using the word “ironic” in a sentence, and the next day you’re getting a phone call from the elementary school principal. One of my kids becomes an official teenager in October, and then I expect the roller coaster will only become steeper and faster. Whee?

I think it can be hard sometimes to let your kids express themselves. My older daughter came home from a sleepover last weekend wearing black lipstick and black nailpolish and wanting to dye her hair black. Now, personally it’s not a look I mind–I went through a punk phase as a teen that I’ve never quite outgrown–but teachers and other adults can be judgmental. I’m not sure I’d want her to wear that particular ensemble to school (where she’s already been warned not to write morbid stories for classroom assignments). We found a compromise–the nailpolish stays, the lipstick is gone (at least during school hours), and the hair got streaked blue.

Nice donation!

A dozen grown men are currently gathered in my kitchen, eating pizza, drinking beer, and loudly debating who gets to pretend to have which player. Ugh. I hate fantasy football season.

So I’m going to make a much cheerier post instead. Later today I will be sending Doctors Without Borders a donation of $600. This brings this year’s donations to $1200, and we still have several months left. I am so excited to be able to give such a generous amount to such a worthy cause! And I couldn’t do it without you, because this money comes from the royalties from my Praesidium trilogy. When you–or your friends, relatives, coworkers–buy a copy of Stasis, Flux, or Equipoise, 100% of the royalties I receive gets donated. Individually, it’s not a lot. I get 33 cents from every copy of Stasis that Amazon sells for 99 cents. But it adds up very nicely, as you can see!

Guilty pleasure

I have a guilty secret–a shameful addiction.

It’s not books, although I have far more of them than I have time to read and most of my shelves are double-stacked with books. But I don’t feel guilty about that particular habit, nor is it a secret from anyone who knows me–especially anyone who steps foot in my house.

No, what I’m admitting to you today is that I love office supplies and school supplies.

I always have. When I was a kid my dad would bring home computer paper: the green and white striped kind with the perforations at the edges. I loved that stuff. I can still conjure the smell of it. Nowadays I can’t be trusted in Staples or the back-to-school section of Target. I’m not sure what’s so appealing about those pretty pens, those reams of paper, those multicolored binders and notebooks. I even love paperclips and staples. I like the way pencils rattle slightly in their cardboard box. And on the rare occasions when I manage to visit this place in San Francisco? Beware! I can spend many hours and do serious damage to my credit card.

I know at least two other people who share my addiction. They’re both academics, which may explain a lot.

How do you feel about office supplies? What’s your guilty pleasure?


Kids returned to school today. I had a zillion errands to run and work to do at the office, but decided to treat myself to Starbucks and Animal Magnetism on my iPad. It should have been good. I had a venti light caramel Frappuccino and the Ramones were playing over the sound sytsem.

But first the man sitting next to me was interviewing people for a job as youth pastor at his church. Interviewing them loudly, with much talk of the gospel. Then a large group of thirty-something moms–thrilled to have gotten rid of kids for the day–took up residence nearby, and they were even louder. And then the barista, who was sort of puppy-dog cute, came to clear the table next to me and decided he needed to strike up a conversation. “Did you like your drink?” (It’s a frigging Frappuccino, exactly like ten zillion others I’ve had.) “What are you reading?” Then he actually looked over my shoulder and, well, he got an eyeful. Puppy-barista blushed, stammered something, and moved away quickly.

I kind of wish I’d been writing something really explicit instead of reading.


The new school year is being celebrated in the usual way: with hours upon hours of mind-numbing meetings, in which administrators prove that their double-talk skills have not withered over the summer, and the same faculty members make the same commentary they’ve been making since time immemorial. How festive! When the students show up next week we will continue revelry with bouts of panic, confusion, and whining, peppered with charming questions (“Do I really need to buy the textbook?” “Oh, you mean I was supposed to take Chem I before I took Chem II?” “I’ve flunked this class three times. Can I take it Independent Study this time?”) and expressions of horror.

Okay, I will eventually come to terms with the fact that summer is over. But let me enjoy my last bit of denial. I think some photos might help.

Graz, Austria has the best graffiti and second-best cafe in Central Europe. To wit:

This cafe is located on a man-made island in the middle of the river that flows through Graz. There are regular tables as well as comfy stadium-type seating:

There is a play are for kids, a really cool and complicated rope structure that can keep them busy for a long time:

While the grownups relax with their glasses of Aperol spritz.

Okay. I feel better already. Ready to face the bright shiny faces and eager-to-learn minds of my students.

Miscellaneous thoughts

Yesterday my older daughter–the one whose 8th grade round-up I just survived–walked up to me and asked me what book I’m working on now. I told her I’m not writing a novel at this very minute (I just finished a textbook revision and I’ve been writing some short stories). She shook her head with disappointment. “Oh, Mom!” I think it’s pretty cool that she not only expects me to write, but seems to actually want me to. She writes a lot too and has taken to carrying a notebook with her wherever she goes.

But oh God, 8th grade. Being around several hundred of them this morning reminded me that that age is probably the epitome of awkwardness. My daughter’s handling it with more grace than I did. She’s quirky and happy to be that way. She has a lot of friends and a good head on her shoulders and I only want to strangle her once or twice a week.

Here are the most recent three pictures I took:

 Last year I had Eiskaffees in Viennese cafes. Vienna is a long way from here but I made my own Eiskaffee. Yum!

 A local factory, going (literally) full steam. I like it because part of the production line is outside, which gave me something to look at when I was stopped by a train. Can you guess what’s being made here?

 This was part of my research for a future novel. These don’t look especially comfortable to me.

Care and Rehabilitation released today!

Dreamspinner Press released the anthology Animal Magnetism today. The book is available in print and ebook versions, and contains 15 animal-themed romance tales. One of those is mine: “Care and Rehabilitation.” Here’s the blurb:

History professor Ira Mayer is having trouble moving on from the past. After the sudden loss of his lover, he’s left with sad memories, a garage full of boxes, and a dog with an embarrassing name. But then the dog finds a fallen nestling, and when Ira takes the baby bird to a wildlife care specialist, he runs into a former student, hunky Caleb Phillips. Can Caleb help rehabilitate more than an orphaned bird?

Favorite books

Today is National Book Lovers Day. I won’t ask you what your favorite book is, because if you’re like me, you have many. So I’ll ask instead, what book or books have touched you most, or which have you reread many times, or which would you recommend to everyone?

I’ll start. Markus Zuzak’s The Book Thief is one of the very, very few books that has actually moved me to tears. I remember being in the final chapters and running off and locking myself in my bedroom, yelling first to my family that I was Not To Be Disturbed.

I love all of Neil Gaiman’s works, but American Gods especially blew me away.

In the realm of nonfiction, I’d definitely recommend Eric Larson’s Devil in the White City. It’s about the history of Chicago, the 1893 World’s Fair, and a serial killer.

Jeez, I haven’t even mentioned some of my favorite authors–Allende, Twain, Garcia Marquez, Vonnegut–and I haven’t touched entire genres that I love. But this is a start.

Please, share. What’s on your list? (They can be fun reads or guilty pleasures too–no intellectualism requirement here!)