Thursday, October 27, 2016


Break out the champagne!

This year, Bookshop Santa Cruz turns 50!

Celebrations have been going on all year, as befits such a momentous occasion. To thank the community, BSC has commissioned and installed three "Artful Reading Benches" in parks and playgrounds around the county. Poured by concrete meister Tom Ralston, each bench is designed and painted by a local artist. The store has also been celebrating all year with monthly giveaways and raffles.

Santa Cruz's own Wallace Baine has just hit the bookshelves with A Light In the Midst of Darkness, a history of BSC in our community. Published by Steve Kettner, founder of the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods, it's a non-fiction memoir as told to Wallace by the people at the epicenter of BSC history — former owner Neal Coonerty, his daughter Casey Coonerty Protti, current owner of the store, and dozens of local lights and ex-employees, working with and for the Coonertys, who helped shape BSC into the cultural hub it is today.

Wallace, Neal and Candy appeared before an SRO crowd of well-wishers at a book launch at the store last week, to tell their stories. It was more of a love-fest than a traditional book-signing. Wallace read some entertaining passages from the book, and Casey spoke about growing up in a world of books.

Neal and Wallace: Boyz n the Hub
Neal's talk was mostly a heartfelt tribute to his late wife, and original business partner, Candy Issenman Coonerty: how they met at a Yeats festival in Ireland, married, moved to Santa Cruz, and decided to pursue their love of books by opening a bookstore. Little did they suspect the impact their decision would have on the Santa Cruz cultural scene.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away (okay, it was 1966, on Pacific Avenue), on November 6, the first incarnation of Bookshop Santa Cruz opened at 1520 Pacific Avenue — more or less where it now stands — on the site of an old post-beatnik, pre-hippie hangout called The Hip Pocket Bookstore.

In 1969, the store moved across the street and down the block to 1547, Pacific Avenue, where it stood for the next 20 years. In 1973, Neal and Candy bought the business from owners Ron and Sharon Lau.

Sharon continued to work at the store for years. Ron could often be found outside, on the deck of the first incarnation of Caffe Pergolessi (built in the courtyard behind BSC in 1974), holding forth on a variety of inflammatory topics.

Bookshop basement: way, way back in the day
The Coonerty family weathered the quake of 1989 — and were blown away by the subsequent show of community support when 400 volunteers showed up to move boxes of books out of the rubble to help the business relocate to a tent. The store faced down challenges from mighty chains like Crown Books, and Borders — and prevailed! But you can read all about it in Wallace's book!

Me, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for BSC. I worked in the textbook room, in the basement, from 1974 to 1976. (It was sheer nepotism; my brother, Steve, was the manager.) It was my second job out of college, after a 6-month stint selling popcorn at the former UA Cinemas (now the Riverfront) on Front Street.

Books and movies: two obsessions I never got over!

Artful Reading Bench by Terra Dawson, San Lorenzo Park

I loved it! There was no dress code — I got to wear my embroidered overalls and Monty Python T-shirt to work. (Hey, it was the '70s!) And we got to borrow books.

As long as we weren't too grubby, and left the pristine dust jackets in the safety of the storeroom, we could take books home to read! (Well, I don't know if we "could," but we did!) It was all good!

BSC will be throwing its own birthday bash in the store on Friday, November 4, starting at 8 pm. And you're invited! Music, cake, raffle prizes, and a proclamation from the mayor are on the program, and who knows what other surprises?

If you've ever bought a book, browsed through a magazine, or attended an event at Bookshop Santa Cruz — or you just want to say "Thank You!" — come join the celebration.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Look out, folks! Here comes another installment in the saga of getting Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge into print!

Due to publisher Candlewick reshuffling its release schedule, and some last-minute editorial decisions, my poor Beast has fallen off the Spring, 2017 publication schedule.

But fear not: as of this moment, he's set to come roaring back — bigger, bolder, and stronger than ever — on the Fall, 2017 list. Expected pub date is now September 12.

Stay tuned . . .

In the meantime, treat your orbs to this lovely Beauty and the Beast painting by Jynette Tigner, over at Deviant Art, which I just discovered and posted to my Pinterest page.

I love everything about this image — the romantic mood, the impressive Beast, and the woman smart enough to appreciate him as he is. (Did I mention that Beast, himself, not the "handsome prince," is the hero of my story?)

This is definitely my favorite Beast image of the month!

Find more of Jynette Tigner's fairy tale-inspired work here!

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Okay, friends, under normal circumstances, I prefer to blog about movies, book news, occasional travels, and other fun stuff. But these circumstances are so not normal.

The clown show that is the Donald Trump presidential campaign is so surreal, so much like a bad movie, it just screams for commentary. Who am I to resist?

I'll leave the jokes for the pros. (Besides, this campaign is such a joke already, it defies the job of satire to make it seem even more ridiculous.) I'm more interested in how we've come to this truly bizarro point in our collective public life.

Um, I have an idea.

For about the last 30 years, and certainly the  last eight or ten — in an effort to defeat Obama (unsuccessful), and control Congress (successful) — the GOP has not only admitted, but actively courted every nutsquad out there with a grudge: Tea Party loonies, birthers, homophobes, xenophobes, anti-abortion terrorists, racists, religious right fanatics, climate change deniers, neo-Nazis — you name it.

There are plenty of people who are mad as hell and not going to take it any more. They're sure somebody is to blame for whatever's wrong in their lives, but they don't know who. All they need a target for their rage, and if there's one thing Trump actually does know how to do, it's incite unfocused minds to rage.

("What are you rebelling against?" biker Marlon Brando is asked in The Wild One. "Whattya got?" Brando drawls back. Trump is a master at serving up a bogeyman-du-jour from one speech to the next.)

 Add this bag of mixed nuts to the traditional, conservative GOP power elite of Wall Street, Big Pharma, predatory lenders, real estate scammers, and corporate America — that is, most of the folks responsible for their problems in the first place — and you get an unholy alliance of epic proportions.

Trump is like the Toxic Avenger, the goo that rises up out of this muck to overwhelm the mad scientist (or party) that created him. And now that he's finally beginning to self-destruct under the weight of his own bloated arrogance, Republican leaders are scrambling to save what's left of their party.

But it's too late for that. The damage is so done.

As soon as the GOP grudgingly named Trump to top their ticket, they've been willing to overlook his complete lack of policies, his woeful ignorance of foreign affairs, his inability to prep for a debate, his refusal to release his damning tax returns, and the outright lies and other random things that come out of his mouth on the stump.

He'll tell his cheering fans anything. He'll bring US business back from China (but that's where he sends all his own manufacturing). He'll get Americans to work again — he just won't pay them. (Look at his own record of stiffing contractors and other employees who worked for him.)

It's taken the almost daily allegations of repulsive sexual conduct in these last couple of weeks to alert even the most comatose of GOP stalwarts that something might be just a little off about their so-called candidate. (Not because they actually think there's anything wrong with his "locker-room banter," so much as the dim realization that over half the voting population is, you know, female. Trump's response? Repeal the 19th Amendment.)

This is not Reality TV; this is supposed to be Presidential politics.Those thundering hoofbeats you hear is the stampede of party leaders trying to distance themselves from the Trump debacle while they still can.

It's not news that their candidate is an unrepentant sleazebag, an "octopus" (albeit small-handed) who drools all over pretty women like Kujo. Why are party leaders and supporters surprised? Why didn't the GOP quit him months ago?

Because they kept hoping to sway his nutball "base" back to their own agenda. Ha! As if Trump cared about anyone's agenda but his own. He wants to promote himself as a rich "celebrity," because then he can "get away with" groping unwilling women and paying off debts with lawsuits. All he wants to do is win this horse race, a goal that grows more laughable every hour.

The GOP is the horse he rode in on. The disastrous Trump campaign is going down in flames, and now it threatens to take the whole party with it. And it couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of folks.