Archive for Journal

OMG, A Book Launch!

You write a book.

If you’re me, it’s your nineteenth. Nineteen! You’d think the daily task of writing would get easier. Nope. Now come on, on this one you had a co-writer. He handed you a complete plot, beats, highs, lows… Okay, that part was much better. But the actual day-by-day, word-by-word writing? Nope. The editing process? What? Changes? Are you mad? Yeah, yeah, okay, actually, the editor’s right when you look at it her way… So you make the changes.

Then you’re done, the publisher takes over, and there’s very little until you start waiting for the reviews. Arrggh.

But the reviews are good, or better than good, and you begin to relax, and then the LA Times, talking about the fight scenes, invokes Chow Yun Fat! Wheeee!

And then the launch. Worry, worry, worry. Will people come? Will the books come? Will the bookseller (P&T Knitwear) come? Are there enough books (for all those people who might not come)? Is the place (The Granddaddy Cafe) too small (for all those people who…)? Will the rain stop?

And then.

It looked kinda like this:

That’s John Shen Yen Nee (my writing partner), me, Master Paul Koh (our kung fu consultant), and Kristen Rosenfeld, Master Koh’s assistant.

And here’s the video, from Lia Chang of Backstage Pass.

Thank you everyone! For working on the book, for being there for me and John while we worked on the book, for coming, for lion dancing — it takes a village and this is a mighty one!

You can buy THE MURDER OF MR. MA at your local indie, at that big giant online store, or here.

Casualties of War

If I’m lucky this will be my last post on war for awhile. Whatever’s happening on the surface in the Middle East, furious unseen diplomacy is happening under it, and we’ll see its result more in the things that don’t happen, I think, than in the things that do.

And I hope so many things don’t happen.

But I have to say this: complaints and outrage from both sides — all sides — about deliberate viciousness, about pogroms and barbarity and contravening the Rules of War, are naïve at best, hypocritical at worst.

Truth is the first casualty of War. Civilians are the second.


Going back to the Code of Hammurabi, such written records as we have brim with rules to keep civilian populations safe. (Including the Islamic record devised by the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, so if you’re about to tell me about jihad, sit down.) These rules were written, and written, and written, because civilian populations weren’t  safe.


The image of two lines of brave young soldiers in identifiable uniforms exchanging fire across a disputed boundary while their respective civilian populations wait at a safe remove to learn their fate is bullsh*t and always has been. The invasion of Israel by terrorists from Hamas was for the purpose of killing civilians. Against the Rules of War! But why were the civilians there? Because the Israeli government had built settlements in the occupied territories to create a buffer zone inhabited by their own people. As a response to the invasion the Israeli military ordered the evacuation of northern Gaza, but Hamas told people to stay. Why? Israel has never shown reluctance to shell civilian territory, so it can’t be because they thought the presence of civilians would stop retribution. No, it was so that when the civilians got killed Hamas could point at Israel as monsters willing to kill civilians. Against the Rules of War! Both governments, using their own people as chess pieces.

Outrageous? Unacceptable? Sure. But what’s a siege but an attack on a civilian population? What was the Armenian Genocide but an attack on a civilian population? What were the forcible removal of Native Americans from their lands but attacks on civilian populations? Pogroms, the Holocaust, the Torreon Massacre, the wholesale murder of Rohingya? You know why castles had big giant courtyards? So civilian populations could shelter inside when enemy soldiers came.

I wrote earlier about how we’re hardwired to hate. But we’re not hardwired to kill. You have to be inflamed to do that, to be convinced those people you hate are so terrible they deserve for you to kill them. It’s damn hard to inflame people against soldiers only. War is for the purpose of wiping out the enemy. Including the enemy’s giggling toddlers. Anyone who thinks any war can be fought cleanly is fooling themselves.

Am I saying then that we might as well accept the slaughter of civilians because that’s how war is fought? God, no. I’m saying we need to accept that that’s how war is fought and stop the slaughter of civilians by stopping our default resort to war.

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I love New York/River report

Still chilly in the park by the river these mornings. Sharp waves on the water, though sunny and bright. The buffleheads are still here, and the Brants and mergansers, too. Snowdrops have been up about two weeks. Nothing else is blooming, but now that the snow’s gone crocuses, daffodils, and even tulips are slicing up through the soil as fast as they respectably can. Joggers and dog walkers are much more cheery and numerous than they have been for months. Today, I watched a guy with a dog setting up orange cones. He’d tell the dog to go ahead, the dog would sniff and then nose over one of the cones. The guy would take the treat the dog had unearthed and give it to her. They did this a number of times. They were both obviously having fun and I finally had to ask the guy what they were doing.

He told me, “We’re playing three-cone monte.”

I love New York.

Thirteenth Saturday

Young gull soars and dives —

Cold wind pushes him backwards —

Lands between two ducks.

Choppy waves rush south.

Mergansers bob up and down,

Under dull gray sky.

Red winter jacket:

Would that I could wash you now

And pack you away!

Trip to Dead Horse Bay

Went out to Dead Horse Bay Saturday with my buddy Jim.

jim being intrepid

Jim being intrepid

Our goal: to see the huge flock of scaup (20,000 or so) gathering from various places in NY harbor so they can head back north together. Also saw oystercatchers, brant geese, American black ducks, and a single merganser, looking indignant as only mergansers can. My camera’s not powerful enough to capture the birds at a distance, except for this one photo, when the flock came in close.

tiny fragment of scaup flock

tiny fragment of huge scaup flock

boulder and ghost tree

boulder and ghostly tree

The beach at Dead Horse Bay is famous for glass and ceramic debris going back a hundred years. New bits and pieces wash up all the time.

dead horse bay debris

dead horse bay debris

dead horse bay debris

dead horse bay debris

dead horse bay debris

dead horse bay debris

Also, about half a dozen boats are in various stages of dereliction on the sand, though it’s unclear whether they were abandoned there, or elsewhere and they washed up there.

barnacles on abandoned boat

barnacles on abandoned boat

graffiti on abandoned boat

graffiti on abandoned boat

It was a cold day, but boy, it was fun.

(Click on any photo to see more on Flickr.)

Twelfth Saturday

Merganser pops up.

Fishless, he looks indignant,

Arches, dives again.

Heavy wet white snow

Caps steel rail, blue walkway light,

Clings to tree’s north side.

Lone log bobbing north.

Gull slides down to take a look,

Circles and flies off.


Lawrence Block edited this anthology and I’m proud to be in it along with Jonathan Santlofer, Ed Park, Jim Fusilli, Robert Silverberg, Jane Dentinger, Thomas Pluck… Enough already. Here’s the point: I have an ARC to give away and I’m giving it to a random new “Like” on my Author Page.

So go on over there and hit the button, and maybe it’ll be you! Oh, there’s one catch — you have to promise to review it, on Amazon, on B&, on Goodreads, on your own blog, wherever you want. You don’t have to promise to like it, just to review it, though if you don’t find more to like than dislike in it I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

Eleventh Saturday

Bobbing buffleheads,

Aloof, floating mergansers,

Share prime fishing grounds.

Fog-grayed buildings, trees,

Olive water, iron sky —

Bright red umbrella.

Rain falls in river.

Circles in waves’ complex weave,

Swirled by strong current.

Eleventh Saturday

Bobbing buffleheads,

Aloof, floating mergansers,

Share prime fishing grounds.

Fog-grayed buildings, trees,

Olive water, iron sky —

Bright red umbrella.

Rain falls in river.

Circles in waves’ complex weave,

Swirled by strong current.

Chin Yong-Yun (Lydia’s mother!)

I wrote a whole slew of short stories last fall, and some of you were kind enough to ask where they were going to be published. Well, two are narrated by Lydia Chin’s mother, and this is where one of those landed.

eqmm march-april

And just in case your local newsstand doesn’t carry it, you can buy it here.