later after we have unwrapped the raffia
poured the rose quartz colored himalayan
salt into the bathwater
eaten the last roses
and laid ourselves down in the white eyelet linens
left from my mother
then i will tell you how this one night in december i yearned for you more than any other moment
in these last fifty years
because at that time i had (finally) ceased to believe you would ever come
and the children from connecticut
they had been shot
and everyone was grieving
like it was the end of the world
which i think it was
and you will say
yes, yes, i remember that night too
i had stopped looking for you
i didn't tell anyone but i had given up
in some profound way
all those little children

but now you are nowhere
and i think of all those little children
won't let mine from my sight
the dark hedge along the path to school is full of armed zombies
and the bridge crosses sulfur water strewn with bones

once in newtown in the summer i spent all day in my aunt's meadow
wearing a pink and white frock
so lonely
waiting for something
rubbing clover leaves together to see if i could make one with four leaves
to ward off the danger of our lives Continue reading

1. It's Not a Young Adult Book.
Although the story is a coming-of-age one with a seventeen year old protagonist, THE ELEMENTALS is not published for teens but by St. Martin's Press for adults. Teens will probably be interested in it but there are some key differences between this and some of my other work.

Actually, a few of my "teen" novels were actually written for adults as well (THE HANGED MAN for example).

Many of my favorite adult novels feature adult protagonists (Karen Russell's SWAMPLANDIA, Alice Sebold's THE LOVELY BONES, Russell Banks' THE RULE OF THE BONE, Joy Nicholson's TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES etc etc).

The dark themes, erotic passages and twisted ending (see below) make THE ELEMENTALS a book primarily for older readers.

2. It's Not my First Adult Book
In addition to books like THE HANGED MAN, which was published as YA, I've had a number of books published as "adult" including NECKLACE OF KISSES, RUBY (with Carmen Staton), GUARDING THE MOON, NYMPH, QUAKELAND, and WOOD NYMPH SEEKS CENTAUR.

3. It's Not my First Attempt at Erotica
Any of you who've read NYMPH (see above) know this isn't true and that I've been writing sexy stuff since way before E.L. James.

4. It's Not Just for Girls
I've been pleased to receive praise from men in their twenties, thirties forties and fifties for this book. Check out writerscast HERE.

5. It Doesn't Have a Happy Ending
Without giving anything away, the ending of this book is not supposed to be happy, although some people have interpreted it that way (I intended the ambiguity). This is one reason THE ELEMENTALS isn't YA I suppose, although WASTELAND has a tragic ending and WAS published as YA. In THE ELEMENTALS Ariel seems to get what she wants but does she? Is it real? Is she losing her sanity? Is the world of the imagination a safe place to live?

Read and Find Out

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Hear my interview with David Wilk of Writerscast here

photo credit: Sara Turbeville Continue reading

Review: The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block

Justina Nemoy

There are those who make magic and those who are magical. Francesca Lia Block is both. A weaver of words, her shimmering prose wraps the reader in an enchanted cloak, embroidered with dreams. Through her eyes, cities offer a fleeting glimpse of the magic secretly pulsing through their veins beneath the skin of mini malls and suburban mazes. Block’s books are sensual delights. Reading them, I smell the tang of salt water, savor the delicious heat of Mexican food, feel the papery blossoms of Bougainvillea between fingertips, visually caress dusty cactus-lined canyons, and sense Otherworldly creatures flitting on the periphery. She returns me to the Los Angeles of my youth. As in any timeless tale, Block anchors fantasy elements with life’s darker truths. Her characters face eating disorders, addiction, sexual identity, or depression. They struggle with loss and recovery. Loneliness and self-doubt eat away at them. They ache to find love and acceptance. Her protagonists are strikingly real in their challenges, even more believable in the gradual revelation of their inner strength. I have loved Block’s work since I discovered a signed copy of Dangerous Angels, the collected Weetzie Bat novellas, at my local bookstore. Each of her books I read in a trance, devouring yet fearing its end, until I emerge from its spell, inspired and redeemed.

The Elementals, Block’s newest novel does not disappoint. Although known for her Young Adult books, this work is bolder in its undercurrent of sexuality and more graphic in its descriptions of sex. Thus, it is marketed as a novel for adults. However the narrator, Ariel’s, coming of age story will appeal to adults and older teen readers alike.

The story opens with the disappearance of Ariel’s best friend, Jeni, while on a college trip to UC Berkeley. This mystery weaves its dark thread throughout. A traditional college experience is turned on its head as Ariel searches for clues. Her mother is also fighting breast cancer. Instead of drawing closer, they push each other away. Lonely Ariel is pulled into the enchanted world of three enigmatic strangers- John, Tania, and Perry- living in their enticing home on the hill. As she becomes increasingly entangled in the fairy tale existence of her new friends, she grows detached from the more painful realities in her life. Block’s protagonist is alternately driven to find answers or to seek the various forms of oblivion offered her. A steamy romance with the intriguing and handsome John becomes addictive.

The narrative references the legend of Tam Lin and Fair Janet without becoming derivative. Will Ariel chose to remain in Fairyland? Is John the enchanted knight held captive? Is it Ariel? Or perhaps, it is them both. The Elementals successfully utilizes the mythos of shape-changing lover and human-stealing fairies in new ways. Block’s skillful writing transforms them into metaphors which satisfy and propel the story forward to its compelling conclusion.

I return to Block’s novels because, despite the magical elements, she does not sugar-coat. Her portrait of a woman battling breast cancer is heart wrenchingly real. Many times, my face was wet with tears. Not only was I caught up in Ariel’s mother’s experience, I relived the pain of watching my father battle cancer. Yet, there is true catharsis in this part of the story. At its end, I found that my grief had subtly changed. I felt stronger and the ache, while still there, hurt less. A good book opens worlds. An excellent one opens a reader. The Elementals is as much about transformation as it is transformative. Continue reading

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my lover is los angeles
like this city i haven't even begun to know all of him
he's as far away as inglewood from the san fernando
valley where i grew up
burning my skin in the smogged sun
enticing as that fallen star skyline as glamorous untouchable
and yet i'm touching him
curled up naked against the cellphone in his back pocket
"calm down" he tells me "breathe"
cradling my neck in his hand holding me so i can see us
he's the dodgers he's a palm tree
he's the mountains surrounding me
that brutal sun
and a large dark sea waiting at the horizon to engulf
and cool
i get lost on his freeways
his lights blind me doubling my vision
red green and yellow blurred by cataracts in my eyes

i see a rainbow on the 405
a house with room for everyone
there are little children dancing all around us
trees are inexplicably purple
sky defiantly pink
music in the hillsides
and wild animals roaming the periphery
a drunken girl wandering the underworld looking for her orpheus
she'll find him if it kills her
all she has to guide her
are her words

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Thank you for reading these and to those who participated in the 30 day challenge.

For Sam

earth tomy fire
horse to my tiger
right to my left
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For Jasmine

i don't own this beauty
but i will protect it like it's some white and girl-sized rose
walking around in tiny shorts and a high pony tail
feet slightly turned in
still (thankfully) aware there's something for us both to guard

this ferocity is not what i expected
when i put the picture of the blue eyed pink cheeked cherub
on the box of the cassette i made her father
for he and i to make love to
this ferocity that turns itself on me
"i hate you"
and i have to remember
even though i didn't say it to my mom
i was once just as fierce
imploding not exploding
i'd rather this
than anorexia and cysts

this height, this strength, this perfectly styled hair
none of it is mine
but all of it is mine
to guard as if i am a taloned beast
with sharpened teeth

and when the lights are out
pillow feet press
into my bony shins
the hand flung out across my chest
the sleepy words

i love you

this belongs to me
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The Doctors

the doctor took out my eye, buckled it and put it back
the doctor punctured the boils on my face with a syringe
the doctor pumped toxins into my face
the doctor removed the fat from my face
the doctor removed the cartilage from my nose
so my sinuses no longer functioned
the doctor only half removed the bump from my nose
the doctor removed my perfect bridge
put in one made of plaster that crumbled to dust
the doctors smashed my breasts between metal plates
the doctors pretty much left everything below the waist alone
except when i had my babies
and then they just helped me
see god

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