WRITING REFERENCE #3 – This post is part of a series devoted to writing reference. This e-book, 70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes, uses what NOT to do as a guide to improved writing. This is an extensive resource, around 70 pages. So, it’s a worthwhile read to explore and find what works for your writing. Not all of it will be relevant to your creative process so pick and choose. The main ideas are as follows.
1.    Habits
2.    Ideas
3.    Plot
4.    Structure
5.    Character
6.    Re-writing
7.    Selling
8.    Publishing


The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco UnderworldThe Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld by Herbert Asbury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BARBARY COAST – Enter the seedy underworld of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, circa 1849; at the height of the Gold Rush. The Barbary Coast by Herbert Asbury is filled with scandalous salacious details – a hedonistic city falling off the edge of civilization- with money to burn. The red light district was bordered Montgomery, Washington, Stockton and Broadway. Particularly notorious was Pacific Avenue leading directly from the wharf to Portsmouth Square. There are tales of government officials on the take: from opium dens, brothels run by pimps, pick-pocket street urchins, coalitions of the wealthy and vigilante lynch mobs. With a less than flattering early history- social, economic and racial tensions between the Chinese, Italian and Irish – the very working class immigrants responsible for California infrastructure; transforming it into the economic powerhouse it is today. Asbury finds his voice as a crime historian in Barbary Coast along with other titles; Gangs of New York, Gangs of Chicago and French Quarter. This is a reprint from the original 1930’s version. One might think it dry or old fashioned. However, I didn’t find that to be true at all. This is a great book taking you deeper into the colorful history of an iconic city.

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LITERARY CRITICISM ON MAUPIN – This post contains a snippet from a sentimental reflective fiction review on Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City.
BACK TO THE CITY by Joseph Salvatore.  He (Armistead Maupin) began publishing short stories about Mary Ann and her friends, which in 1976 were serialized in The San Francisco Chronicle … naïve Mary Ann (Singleton, a fictional Midwesterner) arrives in San Francisco for what she thinks will be a short visit, falls in love with the city and decides to stay. She takes a room in a boarding house at 28 Barbary Lane, which is run by the droll and dignified Anna Madrigal, whose warmth and good will create among her tenants a sense of family. One of those tenants is Michael Tolliver, a young gay man who becomes Mary Ann’s closest friend and one of the series’s central characters.


NOTE – My novelette Weirder is inspired by the bearded lady and will be promoted at Serving Fish on Friday  5-4-12 @ 10 pm.

BEARDED LADY – Julia Pastrana was excessively hairy over her entire body. She had a jutting jaw and swollen gums. In odd juxtaposition to her physical appearance, she possessed graceful poise and a buxom feminine figure. Domestically civilized, she was linguistically fluent in her native language (from the Root Digger Indians) in addition to Spanish and English. Under her handler’s management, her exhibition was a resounding success. She sold out venues on the sideshow circuit and was a media celebrity in the middle 1850’s. During her performances, she sang romances in both Spanish and English; and danced to traditional numbers dressed in fancy costumes. Mr. Lent (her handler) was afraid of losing profits and married her. He forced her into physician examinations, prevented her from leaving home and barred her from walking about in daylight. She became pregnant and doctors were fearful due to her height and narrow hips. Julia was more concerned the child would take after her cruel husband. In 1860 her fears were confirmed when she gave birth to a newborn completely covered in hair. The child lived only thirty-five hours. Julia died five days later. Mr. Lent had the bodies of his wife and child dissected and mummified to put on display. The corpses- of the bearded woman next to the mummified infant- were dressed in a dancing costume and sailor suit. The sideshow performer’s sad story is a study in contrast. Ultimately, Julia Pastrana is remembered for her unusual physical characteristics but even more important is her intelligence, talent and sophistication.