Saturday, February 24, 2007

Friend's book does better than mine

But I ain't bitter! I fully congratulate Kemble Scott on his novel SoMa making it to the San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller List. His book deserves all this play--and you should check out his SoMa related video offerings on YouTube.

Now, I'll just place this wet kleenex over here... did my mascara run?

Upcoming Oakland event

This event is not about Woman of Ill Fame, but instead my book Oakland's Neighborhoods. I was given a grant from the city's Cultural Funding Department to write it, and so librarian Steve Lavoie has teamed me up with Jeff Norman, Ly Nguyen and Anh-Hoa Thi Nguyen so we can all talk about our grant-driven Oakland books.

Jeff's book is Temescal Legacies, and it has hit the SF Chronicle Bestseller List! It's about the history of this Oakland neighborhood, told through oral histories collected by Jeff.

Ly Nguyen and Anh-Hoa Thi Nguyen's book is called As-Is. They are two of the contributors to this collection that showcases art and literature from the Bay Area's Vietnamese community.

My book Oakland's Neighborhoods is a combination of neighborhood histories, A-Z, researched and written by me, and creative writing by residents about their neighborhood.

What follows is the official library press release.

Meet the Authors of Three Books Documenting Oakland


(Oakland, CA)—In an exciting evening celebrating our city in print, Oakland Public Library will host the authors of three fine books documenting Oakland’s diverse history, stories, and neighborhoods. Come hear from and meet authors Erika Mailman, Jeff Norman, Ly Nguyen and Anh-Hoa Thi Nguyen as they promote their books, each of which was funded through the City of Oakland’s Cultural Funding Program. Steven Huss, Acting Cultural Arts Programs Coordinator for the City of Oakland, will help to introduce the evening’s program and the city’s funding objectives. The event will take place Thursday, March 8, 2007 from 6 to 8 pm at Oakland’s Main Library, 125-14th Street.

The books will be available for sale and signing at the event. The titles are Oakland's Neighborhoods by Erika Mailman, Temescal Legacies by Jeff Norman, and As Is, an anthology of visual and literary art by the Vietnamese Artists Collective, which will be presented by editors and collective members Ly Nguyen and Anh-Hoa Thi Nguyen. Each book has been well received by critics and the public, and each will serve as a lasting resource to help in the understanding and enjoyment of our city.

The program is sponsored by the Oakland History Room of the Oakland Public Library. For more information, please call (510) 238-3222, or see the Library's Web site: Additional information about the authors can be found on the following Websites: (for Temescal Legacies),, and Please refrain from wearing scented products. To request sign interpretation, or other accommodation, call the number above or (510) 834-7446 (TTY) at least five working days prior to the event. The Oakland Public Library is a department of the City of Oakland.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Oakland Tribune blurb

In today's Oakland Tribune, reviewer Kathleen Geib says:

Mailman serves up vivid description, sparkling prose and a Gold Rush prostitute as scrappy as Scarlett O'Hara.

I like the reference to Scarlett. I love GWTW and I believe the melodrama of the movie has somewhat cheapened what is an incredible historical novel. I have always loved how unashamed Scarlett was--if she needed to steal her sister's fiance to put food in everyone's mouth, so be it. If she had to trick Rhett Butler into thinking she's rich so he'll marry her, so be it. I was definitely inspired by this headstrong heroine.

And there's more... throughout my novel Nora uses unconventional expletives. I had a great time making these up (and I have a list somewhere of the ones I had to agent who once represented the book thought it was overkill, rightly so)... my favorite is "Donkey's funeral!" I could just picture the sad circle of donkeys in the middle of the dusty street, looking down at their fallen comrade.

I think I was inspired by an expletive Scarlett uses: "God's nightgown!" The idea of the old-style big-bearded majestic God feminized by wearing a frilly 1800s nightgown; it just cracked me up. I still don't know if that was a typical irreverent exclamation or if Margaret Mitchell made it up; whichever, I was charmed.

I also remember my nana saying "Well, good night!" as her own interjection of surprise or disbelief.

Colorful language is so pleasurable... I once worked for a boss who would coin things on the fly while talking on the phone. I recall him calling someone a "son of a sea biscuit."

Next reading: Tonight!
Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007. Reading at Books Inc. in Alameda, 7:30 p.m., 1344 Park Street, Alameda. 510-522-2226

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Woman of Ill Fame cover art

Who is the woman on the cover?

She is a Dodge City prostitute, and her name is Timberline. More than that, no one knows. I found her photograph while doing nonfiction research on prostitution (the image appears in several books), and just felt a connection to her.

I loved her fierce expression, her defiance... and also her vulnerability. In a scene from the novel, the professor basically tells Nora what he thinks about her features, which echoes what I think. (And she responds that her jaw is like a shovel, which is partially true but doesn't diminish her looks!)

Luckily, I found the image early on, so that I had her face in mind as I wrote the novel. To me, she truly is Nora.

The photograph is in the collection of the Kansas State Historical Society, and I worked with that organization to get permission to use it. Heyday Books added spot color so she would have lipstick and a gory bloodstain.

It's odd to think that this woman posed for her photograph a hundred or more years ago, never knowing that it would wind up as an illustration in several nonfiction books, and the cover of a novel. Would Timberline approve of Woman of Ill Fame? Would she get a kick out of it? Would she be angered? If she's anything like Nora, she would undoubtedly be contacting me to get a portion of the profits.

Next reading: Sunday, March 4, 2007. Bird & Beckett's in San Francisco, 4:30 p.m., 2788 Diamond (cross street is Chenery... this is close to Glen Park BART). 415-586-3733

Monday, February 12, 2007

Feminists took notice

A friendly staffer at Heyday Books sent me this link with the note "I had a feeling feminists would take notice of your book!"

Please see this review posted at Feminist Review.

[Image is from here]

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Article in Nob Hill Gazette

I've written a piece on old-time prostitution in San Francisco, including info on Sally Stanford, the madam who became mayor of Sausalito, which appears in this month's edition of the Nob Hill Gazette.

The article is not available online, but you can visit NHG and order a copy, or find the magazine on sale at various SF locations. See their website for details.

My next reading for Woman of Ill Fame is Thursday, Feb. 22, at Books Inc. in Alameda at 7:30 p.m. The bookstore is at 1344 Park Street in Alameda, 522-2226.

Excited to report a new event has been scheduled with Black Oak Books in Berkeley: Wednesday, April 4 at 7:30.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

France and Japan are on the ball!

Well, Woman of Ill Fame has finally showed up on Amazon, albeit without the book cover image. Hooray!

It's still at Barnes and Noble online and Heyday Books online and best of all... in your local bookstore if you ask nicely!

If you liked the book, please take a moment to write a positive review. If you didn't like it, please forget you ever read it.

I'm also pleased to note the book shows up on French Amazon and Japanese Amazon...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Where to buy Woman of Ill Fame

First of all, please patronize your local independent bookseller! Even if they don't stock the book, they can easily order it.

Secondly, the book is available at Barnes and Noble online, here.

Soon it will also be available on Amazon.

The launch party last night was wonderful. There was a good turnout & lots of books sold! It was a nice chance to see a lot of my friends from the writers workshop that I haven't seen in a while.

Please read the really nice review of the book by Kemble Scott that appeared in the SF Guardian here, amusingly titled "Ill Fame, Worse Luck."