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I'm thrilled that my newest novel, The Dog Thief, is now available!

"Amazing! A gripping read that will have your heart racing from start to finish." —James Sinclair, Autistic & Unapologetic

Can she save herself by saving the dog she loves?

Canine rehabilitator Madeline "Mad Girl" Whitney stumbles upon a murder victim, thrusting her into the limelight of her small town. She makes a wild claim, hoping to help her struggling business, but it has the effect of drawing too much attention. When the hostile sheriff, her ex-girlfriend's twin brother, threatens to take away Maddie's former military dog, she's forced to work with him to establish a Search & Rescue team.

Now everyone, including a killer, is watching the girl who can't make eye contact.

The Dog Thief celebrates the special bond between humans and our canine companions and is set in a small Northern California town.

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"Acosta's talent is staggering...She shows readers all over again just how funny, ridiculous and thoroughly gifted she is at plotting."
-Romantic Times

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A New Look for Dark Companion

My young adult gothic novel, Dark Companion, has a new cover by designer Dar Albert of Wicked Smart Designs! I thought the original cover by Tor/Macmillan was beautiful, but I wasn't happy that my multiracial protagonist was "white washed." Is it a big or little thing? It was a big thing for me, because one of my recurring themes is being Other in society.

Which reminds me, my favorite brother informed me recently that there is no such word as "reoccurring." Seriously? I wish someone had corrected me before because I use that word all the dang time, and I'm sure my pals are cracking up afterward. I will have to interrogate them and find out.

I love Dar's design with the small cottage among the trees, the sense of danger, the red petals, and the girl who is looking straight out at the reader. Because Jane Williams is direct and serious.

Dar also designed the wonderful new cover for The Dog Thief.
"Did you try turning it off and turning it on again?" I often missing having a full IT department down the hall from me. I've been trying to clear thousands of unnecessary files out of my laptop and I came across this alternate cover for The She-Hulk Diaries. I also found a piece I'd written at the request of a big-timey publication. Marvel nixed its publication. Er, maybe because I was biting the hand that signs the check. Anyway, here it is.

Absence (of Girl Superheroes) Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Another summer is here and we’re deluged with big budget action flicks starring men, written by men, directed by men, and intended to entertain those of the male persuasion. I think it’s fantastic that men are creating a male cultural community without hazarding into drum circles—because no one wants that. The recent success of comic book superhero adaptations begets more superhero adaptations that are veritable sausagefests of CGI-generated fight-scenes, explosions, things going really fast, and then the fast things exploding.

That’s something I love about Hollywood: the industry’s dogged commitment to replicate what has been done successfully before. In fact, Hollywood might consider engraving “Did not try to reinvent the wheel!” on its tombstone.

Comic books have always served the underdogs, providing inspiration, drama, and vicarious thrills in epic battles of good vs. evil, rich vs. poor, powerful vs. resourceful. Worldbuilding and shifting dynamics can be as complex as Greek and Roman mythologies, and, indeed, comics carry on this tradition of storytelling.

Which came first, the superhero or the nerd? I suspect that someday archeologists will discover a cave wall with the earliest comic panels and nearby will be the remains of a proto-nerd, clad in a mammoth-skin garment, complete with a pointy stick protector.

What was I saying? Oh, yes, so more of the profitable-same. However, there’s one area where Hollywood does not chase the money: extremely successful movies starring girl heroes, primarily viewed by girls, have not been followed by copycat girl-herocentric flicks. If you look at Hollywood from a purely monetary perspective (how crass!) you see the cognitive dissonance. However, if you look at it from a social perspective, i.e., the incurable contamination by girl cooties, it becomes clear. Girls, born into a male dominant culture, are immunized to boy cooties. They can watch innumerable movies with entirely male casts, and at the very worst, the girls will experience temporary cases of ineffable ennui, which can be helpful when journaling.

Boys --so delicate and lovely!-- are easily contaminated. One day they’re cheerfully telling scatological jokes and smashing things with their buddies, and the next they’re chortling at a rerun of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.  (Cue Sarah McLaughlin’s “In the Arms of an Angel.”)

So, yes, there is gross inequity in films, and studies such as those on gender stereotypes by Dr. Stacey L. Smith at the Annenberg School of Communication merely obfuscate the real issue. The real issue is not that:

 “Examining 5,839 characters, a recent study of 129 top grossing G, PG, and PG-13 films theatrically released between 2006 and 2011 showed that less than 30% of all on screen speaking characters are girls or women.  The ratio of males to females on the silver screen is 2.53 to 1.”

Nor is the real issue the wild imbalance of men:women making movies, and according to Dr. Smith, “Women accounted for 4.1% of directors, 12.2% of writers, and 20% of producers. This calculates to a 2012 ratio of 5 males to every 1 female behind the camera.”

This imbalance is unlikely to change even when women filmmakers are successful because their work is seen as “flukes” and they aren’t asked to helm big-budget actioners. As Monika Bartyzel writes in Girls on Film, “Women [directors] with similar resumes to the men listed above aren't even considered for these high-buzz films—let alone given the opportunity to sign on or refuse.”

Because the real issue is girl cooties. Since women and girls buy half of all movie tickets, Hollywood power brokers are sacrificing enormous potential profits by ignoring this audience. I imagine that when their mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and girl pals beg them to invest in girl movies, they respond with a heartfelt, “I hear what you’re saying, but we’ve got to protect the most vulnerable members of society, our boys!” I applaud them for their moral integrity and courage.

Nonetheless, girls want superhero role models, too. Like boy nerds, many a girl nerd looks to the media for inspiration on how to deal with the challenges and vicissitudes of life. Writer Margot Magowen, founder of ReelGir1, a blog dedicated to "imagining gender equality in the fantasy world,” says:

“I have three young daughters, and almost every movie I take them to, they see males front and center. Females are sidekicks or not there at all, usually stuck in a role I call the Minority Feisty (which includes characters like Astrid from ‘How to Train Your Dragon,’ Jesse in ‘Toy Story,’ Colette in ‘Ratatouille.’) Reviewers will invariably refer to this ‘strong’ female as ‘feisty,’ a word that doesn't describe real power, but someone who plays at power. Would you ever call Superman feisty? How would he feel if you did?  The Minority Feisty is a modern invention that's supposed to make parents overlook the fact that almost all of the other characters in the film are male, including the star (who the movie is often titled for) and usually his best buddy as well.”

So what can be done? The power brokers in the media already carry a heavy gender-specific load, but that doesn’t mean girls should be deprived of superheroes. After all, it’s not as if women are powerless in society. Some of us are as powerful as Oprah. Okay, only one of us is really as powerful as Oprah and her name happens to be Oprah, but the rest of us don’t have to wait for change. We can make the change by making our own stories with our own superheroes. 

Girl nerds can put their enormous brains together to create, finance, and distribute comics and female superhero movies and shows.  Instead of trying to break the glass ceiling, we can walk down the block and construct our own damn skyscraper.

This is Lily, the newest addition to our extended family. She looks as sweet as a lily, but when I ask how she's behaving, my brother sighs and says, "Labs explore everything with their mouths...outlets, furniture." She's an English lab and as soon as she's old enough, we'll introduce her to my dog and my other brother's dog.

When I was a girl, I was passionate about cats and had several. The first was an almost feral alley cat named Jingles. Using the "what's your porn star name" formula of the first pet and first street you lived on, mine would be Jingles Francisco.

I was walking Lola and chatting with one of the neighbors, in the timeless tradition of local crazy ladies, and he asked what I did and I said, "Er, writer," and then I tried to get Lola not to yank on the leash, and I didn't mention that I'd written a novel about a dog trainer, because he would have laughed until he fell over.

The daft cliche goes, those who can't do, teach. There should be another: those who don't want to follow the rules, write.

Mexican Dahlia from Annie's Annuals
I'm always trying to figure out the best way to convey my books' messages to readers via covers. I have a hard time accepting that the covers I love most (quirky, arty, atypical) don't translate quickly to readers scanning dozens of images looking for their next great read.

So The Dog Thief has a new cover as you can see on my home page. I like it because it reminds me of the time that my beloved Betty decided to dig up all my vintage Mexican dahlias and eat the tubers. I miss her dearly and will think of her when I go to my favorite nursery, Annie's Annuals, and buy new ones.

My current canine resident, Lola, harbors no ill will to plant matter, so I am returning to gardening, which was such a passion that I considered putting more outdoor lights so I could garden into the night. I went through various manias, most notably the antique rose phase. To save special plants, I gave many roses away to friends in the country and to a community garden. I believe they're happier.

Spring, however, makes me yearn for a garden filled with roses. This is the delight: to walk out in the morning and smell those wonderful fragrances. The rose below, Climbing Sombreuil dates from 1880. I purchased mine from the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas. Some people dream of going to Paris. Well, I've been to Paris -- it was swell -- and I dream of visiting the Antique Rose Emporium.

Climbing Sombruiel in my garden.

Yes, We're All Snowflakes, Unique & Lovely

Like all insecure and nervous writers (i.e. all writers), I eagerly awaited feedback on my new novel, The Dog Thief. I received a thoughtful message praising the novel with one little comment: the single African-American character in the book knows about the drug business in the local town, fitting the stereotype. Like all insecure and nervous writers, I immediately became defensive.

I responded that drug business and drug use are common in my fictional town. The reader had said that it was his issue, of importance only to him, and that resonated with me because I have oh so many issues, things that annoy and/or anger me yet seem inconsequential to others. One of these issues is the representation of Latinos in the media. Latinos are highly underrepresented in the media compared to our actual percentage of the population. And when you see a Latina, she's generally a maid, a housewife, the mother/wife/sister of a drug dealing criminal. She's slotted into a narrow category that's easy for the screenwriters to imagine because they never look into the actual world they inhabit.

The character in question, my character, was inspired by the young men I know. They've lived in my house, had dinners at my table, jammed in the garage, raised their voices in joy, and shared their sorrows. This was a multiracial group, all friends, all bright and beautiful guys. Because I'm a suburban wife/mother, I was not privvy to all aspects of their lives, but I occasionally got glimpses.

So that was the inspiration of my character. But readers don't know that. Readers only see that the one African-American male character in the novel knows a lot about the drug business. It's irrelevant that other characters are connected or involved or knowledgeable about the illicit activity. Because they're the majority. When there's only one, that one has out-size impact and significance.

Like when there's only one Latina in a movie and she's a maid or the wife/sister/mother of a criminal.

"Snowflake" has become a pejorative term to describe someone too sensitive to a perceived offense. But perhaps the real snowflake is the person who reacts defensively and will not consider that he or she is being thoughtless or unkind or oblivious or insulting or any combination of the aforementioned.

I'm going to try to listen a little before becoming defensive. Being defensive is as easy as breathing; listening takes effort, so it will be a struggle.

One great thing about publishing as an indie author is that I could go to my novel and make a small revision that addresses the problematic bit. A bonus was that I discovered a typo and fixed it, too.

Friends gave me a mug that says, "Revise. You know you want to." Yes, I really wanted to.

If you have a website or blog and would like to review The Dog Thief or any of my other novels, please send a message!

Giving books at Christmas is as natural as having tamales on Christmas Eve. This year I shopped for books, new and old, by Latina authors for a fab young friend of mine. I kinda love the titles of both, because they speak to me. In the recently released I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez, a teen struggles with parental and societal expectations as well as dealing with the loss of her "perfect" sister.

I also looked for books by Michele Serros, who died too early in 2015. Because this was a gift, I wanted new copies, but was shocked to find that Chicana Falsa (1998) and How to Be a Chicana Role Model (2000) are both out of print and not even available as ebooks.

 Kirkus called How to Be a Chicana Role Model "a sly, hyperkinetic romp that's part story collection, part stand-up comedy, part self-help for aspiring writers," and Vibe reviewed Chicana Falsa, saying, "Witty, tender, and emotionally honest, Serros' words speak to the painful and hilarious identity crises particular among youth caught between two cultures."

I don't know why Michele's books have gone out of print or why her publisher Riverhead Trade doesn't have ebooks available or even any information about her on their website. I'm saddened that such a vibrant voice is not more easily available to new readers, including younger readers seeking someone who'll speak to their own sense of identity.

Jessica Langlois wrote a terrific piece about Michele for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Listen to Mandalit Del Barcos's tribute to Michele at NPR.

Listen to Michele talk about writing YA Chica Lit and her Honey Blonde Chica series on NPR.

Visit Michele's website.

THE DOG THIEF & Autism, Asperger's

My beloved Betty in her final days.
I received a very nice message from James Sinclair, writer/creator of Autistic & Unapologetic. He'd read about The Dog Thief and asked is the main character, Maddie, is on the autism spectrum because I hadn't said so specifically in descriptions.

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that I wrote Maddie as an individual with issues, including physical twitches and fixations, that make her an outsider. She says, “Don’t label me. Labels make others feel free to tell me what I should think, feel, do, and say, when my life is none of anyone else’s goddamn business."

I shared with James my concern that if I described Maddie has having Asperger's others would judge the character by their strict definition of the syndrome, which goes against the fictional character's sense of herself and also my own ideas about individuality and being an outsider.

Well, being a misfit who struggles with the desire for acceptance/home and the inability to be anything other than oneself is a theme that runs through my books and my life.

Maddie always says and does the wrong thing with other people. But she can communicate with animals on a level beyond all the complexity and subtext of human interactions. I hope readers will come to appreciate Maddie for who she is.

The Family Dog - We Can All Agree on This

"Why does your family always talk about dogs?"

When I was first going out with The Husband he wondered why conversations swerved to the topic of our dogs at family gatherings. We smiled and laughed as we exchanged well-worn tales about Max, Tara, Loony...

"It's because we can talk about dogs and not argue."

While my family doesn't argue much about politics, we argue about everything else. Loudly and earnestly, with irrelevant criticisms and unnecessary references to old conflicts. But we loved our pets.

I've been collecting old photos and among them are always pictures of the families' dogs. I wonder what tales these people told about their dogs, and what joys and experiences they shared.

My newish dog, Lola, sleeps on my bed as I write this. She has a gentle snore that I like, reassuring me that I'm not alone. When I meet with my family, I'll share a few stories about her latest activities and my brothers will tell me something about their dogs.

We may not agree on everything, but we agree on dogs. The next time an opinionated relative gets cranky at a meal, ask about his first pet. I bet you'll hear a great story.

It's only 12 days until the release of The Dog Thief. My main character, Maddie Whitney, has emotional and behavioral problems. But there's one way she can connect with others and it's through her deep love and understanding of dogs.

Free ebook of Happy Hour at Casa Dracula!

Russian Edition of Happy Hour at Casa Dracula
To celebrate the upcoming release of The Dog Thief, I'm offering Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, the first in the Casa Dracula series, as a free ebook! This is now available at Amazon, iBooks/iTunes, and other online stores.

My new book is about a dog rehabilitator and my first novel is a story about an aimless young woman who gets involved with vampires so where's the connection? One of my favorite reviewers said:
"I sort of love the way Marta Acosta tramples a lot of conventions. She writes messy love, screwed up characters, awkward situations and scathing diatribes." —Alpha Books
That's the connection. I also love to write in first-person with a slightly delusional, occasionally untrustworthy narrator. The fun is in conveying a story from one point of view, letting the reader observe things that the narrator sees, but doesn't comprehend or misinterprets.

Please tell your friends about my free ebook!

By the way, I was messing around with another version of the book covers before deciding to go with the illustrated covers. This is why you'll see another style on bookstore sites. Do you like them less, more, no difference? What do you think? I like both styles, but I also painted my bedroom hot pink and apple green, a decision I have long regretted.

Mil's favorite color is leopard print.

What's in a Name? Renaming a Book

"The consolation of imaginary things is not imaginary consolation."
—Roger Scruton

I had a wonderful editor at Gallery Books who loved my romantic comedy set in Pacific Heights. She thought it should be called something like "Miss Persnickety's Assistant" and I was set on "Nancy's Theory of Style." I wish I could find a list of proposed titles for a story about a snooty nitpicky young woman and her seemingly perfect British assistant. My editor eventually relented and had a wonderful cover designed. Then in the flick of an eye, my brilliant editor and several other senior editors were let go.

My new editor, a nice young woman, changed cover art to a very clever conceptual design...a design that did not succeed in conveying "romantic comedy, chick lit, fun and funny." My quirky title didn't help either. Someone should have explained to me that authors don't understand basic concepts of marketing because we spent our time reading novels and not studying business. Whatever.

I've republished the book as Fancy That with a cover and title which I think say "romantic comedy, chick lit, fun and funny." My favorite review of this novel was from The Book Lush:
"Have you ever read about a character that's so delusional and crackalicious that right from the get-go, she easily becomes your favorite? Well, that's Nancy to me!"
Library Journal named this a Women's Summer Reading Selection and SF Indie Fashion said:
"An ideal volume to throw in your beach easy, breezy read that managed to suck us in with its San Francisco references, chick lit 'tude and love drama-rama."
I've been thinking about Robert Scruton's quote (at top) because I love to write stories where there is some happy resolution, growth of characters, and hope. I've started working on a novel, Better, that will be an unapologetic romantic comedy about two friends who promise to do whatever it takes to have better lives. I intend to have this out in December 2018. I better get busy!