Tuesday
Mar112014

New Podcast!

Annette Lyon and I have started a new podcast devoted to making the grammar, usage, and mechanics of American English fun and understandable. Here's our first episode, and here's the blog!

Thursday
Feb062014

You people are AWESOME.

I'm delighted to announce the winners of the giveaway to benefit Rob Wells, but before I do that, I want to thank each and every one of you. You are fantastic.

You all spread the news. Some of you gave cash. Others bought books. Some didn't have any money to give, but put the word out anyway. Many of you donated lovely incentives to encourage even more widespread giving.

Every bit of your generous efforts helped. You have made a huge difference in one family's life.

I won't disclose a number, but know this. You have helped keep the wolf from the door. Rob's ever-stalwart wife Erin can put groceries in the fridge with a lighter heart. Rob's kids can sense an ease in the stress level of their parents. And Rob has had a lifting of the mind-numbing financial anxiety that is absolute poison to creativity.

You did all that, and I hope you feel in your hearts the warm glow of satisfaction that comes from helping a brother in need. Thank you.

So let's move on to the warm glow of anticipation! Thanks to RANDOM.org, I came up with the following:

The $50 Amazon gift certificate goes to Krystle Perkins!

The goodie box from me, including my books and chocolate, goes to Maizie Arroyo!

The signed Sarah M. Eden two-book set goes to Shannon C.!

The hand-covered journal OR query critique from C. Michelle Jeffries goes to Cindy Mackert!

The signed Annette Lyon books go to Rebecca Lamoreaux!

The first chapter and query critique by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg goes to Braden Bell!

The signed C.J. Hill books go to Peggy Allred!

The book submission package critique by Shallee McArthur goes to Jennifer K. Clark!

The signed Dan Wells book goes to Julie Frost!

The signed Heather Moore book goes to LuAnn Staheli!

The signed Christy Dorrity book goes to Shelly Brown!

The signed Stephanie Black books go to Kathy (Scout 917)!

The signed book and 10-page critique/edit from LuAnn Staheli go to RuthAnne Snow!

The Michelle Beauchesne CDs go to Chris Todd Miller!

The Braden Bell trilogy goes to Dave Stanworth!

The naming rights to a J. Scott Savage character go to PGW/@hataroni/Zennerd!

The critique and novel by Chris Todd Miller go to Margot Hovley!

The Redbox gift card and novel by Danyelle Ferguson go to Laramyn!

The Julie Daines book goes to Luisa Johnston!

AND the signed Brandon Sanderson book goes to Cindy Fisher!

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks again! I KNEW you would do me proud. 

IMPORTANT prize delivery logistics: If you already input an email address when you left a comment on this blog, I will pass it on to the person who donated the prize, and he or she will email you for delivery information. If you did NOT leave me an email address (or did not email me privately), PLEASE email me at

luisaperkins at gmail dot com

with your contact information! If I don't hear from you soon, I'll do another drawing and give the prize to someone else. Thanks!

Sunday
Feb022014

Give a Little Bit

I've blogged before about my awesome friend Rob Wells. He's a very talented and hard-working writer who has done a tremendous amount of service in the writing community. He's a devoted husband and father. He's an all-around great guy--and at the moment, he's going through trials that make the Perkins Family Janupocalypse look like a day in the park.

He's struggling with a whole host of mental illnesses. He's got little kids to feed. And he's looking down the black maw of a cancer diagnosis. 

EDITED on 4 February to add: Rob found out this morning that he is cancer free! He's got this other weird thing, but it's NOT cancer. (But he still needs your help.)

You, the readers of this blog, have amazed me before with the depth of your compassion, and I'm asking for your help again on behalf of my friend. Here are ways you can help:

1) Read this post and click on the Donate button.

2) Buy one of Rob's books. (If you participated in my Variant book bomb, check out its sequel, or his awesome new book, Blackout.)

3) Spread the word via Twitter or Facebook or a blog post of your own.

I want to reward you for your generosity. If you either donate directly OR buy a book AND Tweet or post to Facebook or your own blog about it, come back to this post and leave me a comment. On Wednesday, February 5th, I'll put all the comments in the hopper at RANDOM.org and draw a couple of numbers. 

  • The first commenter I draw will win a $50 Amazon gift certificate.
  • The second name I draw will win a goodie box from me that will include signed copies of my books Dispirited, Premonition, and Comfortably Yum; chocolate; and other fabulousness. (This prize is actually worth more than the first prize.)
  • EDITED TO ADD: The wonderful Sarah M. Eden has donated a prize! The third person whose name I draw will win a signed two-book set of her excellent Longing for Home series--the second of which isn't even out yet. SO awesome.
  • C. Michelle Jeffries will donate either a hand-covered journal or a query critique to our fourth winner!
  • Annette Lyon has donated signed copies of her amazing cookbook, Chocolate Never Faileth, and her compelling historical romance, Spires of Stone! Thanks, Annette!
  • YOU GUYS: Holy cow. Literary agent Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary has generously donated a query and first chapter critique as a prize. 
  • Fantasy writer C. J. Hill has donated signed copies of her hugely popular books Slayers and Erasing Time to one lucky winner!
  • Accomplished writer Shallee McArthur has donated one critique of a book submission package--query + first five pages + synopsis--to another lucky winner! Better than gold!
  • The highly decorated Dan Wells has donated a signed copy of one of his award-winning books! Awesome! 
  • Heather Moore has donated a signed copy of her new and suspenseful Whitney Finalist, Finding Sheba!
  • Christy Dorrity has added a signed copy of Awakening to the prize pile!
  • Multiple Whitney Award winner Stephanie Black has donated signed copies of her thrillers The Believer and The Witnesses!
  • The lovely LuAnn Staheli has donated a copy of When Hearts Conjoin and a 10-page critique/edit! 
  • Angel cellist Michelle Beauchesne has donated two of her fantastic CDs!
  • Renaissance man Braden Bell has donated a copy of his awesome middle grade fantasy trilogy The Kindling/Penumbras/Luminescence
  • The über-popular J. Scott Savage has donated a unique and VERY cool prize: he will name a character after one lucky winner (or a loved one of their choosing) and then (most likely) kill that character off! LOVE IT.
  • Professional editor Chris Todd Miller has offered TWO prizes: a ten-page critique and a copy of his most excellent Gold Quill-winning fantasy novel By Blood Bequeathed!
  • Danyelle Ferguson has donated a $10 Redbox gift card and a copy of her upcoming novel, Sweet Confections!
  • Julie Daines has donated a copy of her latest YA fantasy novel, Unraveled!
  • WOW! The world famous Brandon Sanderson has donated a signed copy of the #1 New York Times bestseller Steelheart

(If anyone else wants to jump on board and donate something else for the drawing, please let me know!)

Such a deal, right? Let's summarize:

1) Either donate (give whatever you can, even if it's just $1) or purchase; then

2) Spread the word linking back either to this post or to Rob's blog via Facebook, Twitter, or blog; and

3) Leave me a comment reporting your actions. Don't mention the dollar amount you donated. In fact, if you'd like to be relatively anonymous, feel free to email me privately. Then check back here Wednesday evening for the results.

Make me proud, people. I know you will.   

Friday
Jan172014

Top o' the Pops: The Best of 2013

Best Acquisition of 2013: Our darling Moneypenny--This was back in May; now she's a grown-up girl.

Long-time readers of this blog know that in years past, I've always posted a retrospective on or around January 1st. Well, my report on 2013 is late in coming, due to a series of unfortunate events we have dubbed "Janupocalypse" at our house, but it's finally here. 

2013 was our first full year as a family in the Golden State, and we've had quite a grand time exploring our new home town and its environs. Here's what I liked best:

Favorite Books Read: 

10. Joyland, by Stephen King

9. Callender Square, by Anne Perry

8. Mastering the Art of French Eating, by Ann Mah

7. The God Who Weeps, by Terryl and Fiona Givens

6. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne Valente

5. I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett

4. Dancing on Broken Glass, by Ka Hancock

3. Forever Chic, by Tish Jett

2. Night Film, by Marisha Pessl

1. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

(Once again, I did not rank books by close friends, many of which were superb.)

Most Disappointing (not the worst) Book:

Harrowgate, by Kate Haruyama

Favorite Movies Seen:

10. 42

9. Up on Poppy Hill

8. Man of Steel

7. Monsters University

6. World War Z

5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

4. Austenland

3. The Way, Way Back

2. Gravity

1. Blue Jasmine

I'm super way behind on filmgoing. One of my goals in 2014 is to see a lot more movies. I live in Movie Central, after all. Sheesh.

Favorite TV Watched:

5. Game of Thrones

4. Modern Family

3. Downton Abbey

2. Breaking Bad

1. Call the Midwife

And I have to mention Almost Human, which we are recording on DVR, and which I'm thoroughly enjoying. It features interesting science fiction-based plots and about the most attractive cop duo of all time. Give it a try.

Music: It's been a year of treasuring the old stuff: The Beatles, Great Big Sea, Niamh Parsons, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Bach, Brahms. I just haven't had a need or a desire for anything new, really. We'll see if and when that changes this year. 

Food, on the other hand: It's all about the new and fabulous. LA County is a motherlode of inexpensive, world-class Asian food, so we've hit that hard: Din Tai Fung, Vietnam House, Luscious Dumplings, Gin Sushi, Sweethome Grill, and many more.

We also found Da Pasquale, an absolute gem of an authentic Neopolitan restaurant in Beverly Hills, a stone's throw from the temple in Santa Monica, and it has been our go-to spot for pizza and the like. I keep heading back to Eagle Rock's The Oinkster for top-notch pastrami sandwiches and luscious fries with homeade aioli. For artisanal ice cream of the freshest and most delicious sort, we alternate between Carmela's in Pasadena and Mother Moo's right here in Sierra Madre. Awesome tacos abound; we love Taco Fiesta, conveniently an easy walk from our house. And burgers? The Counter, Hook Burger, and Pie n' Burger have all been on hand to satisfy the craving. 

Top Local Tourist Sites Visited:

10. Descanso Gardens

9. Chinatown/Olvera Street

8. Santa Barbara Zoo

7. Lake Hollywood

6. Bolsa Chica Beach

5. La Brea Tar Pits

4. The Norton-Simon Museum

3. Huntington Dog Beach

2. Huntington Library & Gardens

1. The Getty Center

We plan to do a lot more exploring in 2014. I don't know if we'll ever discover all there is to experience around here, but we'll give it our best shot.

Best to you in the coming year! Let's make it the greatest year ever, shall we?

Friday
Dec202013

12 Gorgeous Lesser-Known Christmas Carols

Right about now, you may have gotten tired of hearing "Silent Night" and "Sleigh Ride" ad nauseam -- at concerts, on the radio, in the stores. Fortunately, I can help you keep the Christmas spirit with some lovely music that may be new to you.

My husband likes to claim that I have a Ph.D. in Christmas. I roll my eyes at this, but when I look at my collection of over 60 Christmas CDs, I can't really argue with him. 

First of all, check out the post I wrote years ago about my top ten Christmas CDs; there's enough goodness there to keep you going for days. But if you want more (and really: unless you're some kind of Grinch, why wouldn't you?), check out the carols below. 

1) Adam Lay Ybounden -- The text dates from the early fifteenth century, and English choirmaster Boris Ord set it in perfect, ethereal polyphony in the early 1900s. I love the reminder that "as in Adam, all men die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:22.)

2) Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day -- Oh, you think you know this one? Maybe you've heard the text, but this is a newer musical setting that I adore. I treasure the memory of rehearsing this with the Manhattan Third Ward choir--forty amazing singers packed into our tiny apartment, making the walls shake with joy and music. 

3) The Huron Carol -- In 1643, a Jesuit missionary named Jean de Brébeuf composed this carol in the Algonquin language and set it to an old French folk tune, making it Canada's oldest Christmas carol. Jesse Middleton translated it in 1926, and I love the localized imagery--"a ragged robe of rabbit skin," etc.--that Brébeuf and Middleton use to bring immediacy and relevance to the story. 

4) Born on a New Day -- Welsh singer John David composed a secular version of this song in the late 1970s, and The King's Singers have made it famous in recent years. It's pretty in the original, but with Christmas words? Let's put it this way: I have never once made it through singing along to this piece without breaking down. "Fold around me where I fall...." Bliss.

5) Sing We the Virgin Mary -- American folk musicologist John Jacob Niles (who is famous for having collected "I Wonder as I Wander") claims to have collected this carol in Kentucky in 1933. If it's true, and he didn't actually write it himself, than this piece would be a near-miraculous preservation of the fifteenth-century carol "I Sing of a Maiden That is Makeless." Whatever its provenance, this carol's Appalachian lilt is a refreshing lullaby. The Taverner Consort sings it on its album "The Promise of Ages." That's the version you want. Or sing it yourself, using the music in the New Shorter Oxford Book of Carols. Brilliant.

6) "Come, and I Will Sing You" -- Also known as "Green Grow the Rushes-O," this ancient folk song is a cumulative carol (like "The Twelve Days of Christmas," with something new added every verse). It figures prominently in my novel Enthralled, and Great Big Sea does it best. 

7) "The Seven Joys of Mary" -- This carol wasn't originally associated with Christmas, but has come to be so over the last hundred years or so. It's meant as devotional literature, allowing the hearer to contemplate the fulfillment Mary found in witnessing her Son's divine mission. Great Big Sea rocks it, as does The Choir of King's College

8) "The Birds" -- My bosom friend and fellow Christmas music fanatic, Tina Fairweather, introduced me to this piece just this year. I swoon over composer Benjamin Britten (and lyricist Hilaire Belloc) in any case, and this is exquisite in its simplicity. 

9) "The Wildwood Carol" -- As far as I'm concerned, composer John Rutter IS Christmas music. He co-edited the Oxford Book of Carols with David Willcocks, and I need me a heavy dose of Rutter's considerable and fabulous output every Christmas. This is an excellent collection, which features the plaintive "Wildwood Carol," written as part of Rutter's musical adaptation of the childhood classic The Wind in the Willows.

10) Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains -- I was shocked when I found out that Wendy Hegseth, my best friend in third grade, had never heard this carol. It turns out that there's a good reason for that; it's the only LDS-written carol in the LDS hymnal. It's simple, but excellent for part-singing--and it makes an excellent accompaniment to skipping through puddles in the rain. Just ask Wendy Hegseth. 

11) A Ceremony of Carols -- Here, I cheat a bit, but it's Britten, so I can't help myself. This is a choral piece in eleven movements, any one of which makes a lovely carol. My favorites are "Balulalow" (<--- that kid'll make you cry, guaranteed) and "This Little Babe," but the piece as a whole gives the listener the best kind of goosebumps. 

12) Fantasia on Christmas Carols -- Yes, more cheating, but there's only one composer I love more than Britten, and that's Ralph Vaughan Williams. RVW collected carols all over Great Britain for decades, and here, he sets several of them in a glorious pastiche of Christmas joy. Patrick and I sang this in Manhattan years ago, with the marvelous Murray Boren conducting, the glorious Glen Nelson singing the baritone solo, and with genius D. Fletcher at the organ. I relive that memory every Christmas. Such. A. Delight. 

BONUS! You need a New Year's Carol, don't you? For when you re-read Dickens's novella "The Chimes," while eating leftover Christmas pudding, and are thus indulging in the best kind of Anglo-melancholy? I've got just the ticket: "Ring Out, Wild Bells," with words by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and music by the prodigiously gifted Crawford Gates. (Click on the link above, then select the proper song--and you'll unfortunately only get a slice of it, but here are the sheet music and midi files.) You're welcome.

Merry Christmas, and God bless us, every one!