November 30th, 2009

Author of Geek Love takes a lickin', but keeps on tickin'

Katherine Dunn is my hero

First, she wrote Geek Love: A Novel. Second, at Wordstock, I got to meet her and she said she was an admirer of my work! I seriously thought I could die happy right then.

And here’s a third reason to like Katherine Dunn - she’s a fighter. Literally. And I’m not talking about the essays she has written on boxing. On Tuesday, she was walking home from Trader Joes when she was attacked by a purse snatcher. 

When a young woman grabbed her purse, she clamped down on it. The woman began to kick her in the shins and slap her in the face.

Katherine said [according to media accounts] "That's what gave me permission to hit her in the face." Her only regret? She was wearing flip flops and kicking seemed futile. "Next time, Doc Martens," she said.

But they were in a stalemate. "She didn't let go. I didn't let go." Dunn started to call for help from passersby. She yelled "Help, fire." Just like a character of mine in Heart-Shaped Box (A Claire Montrose Mystery), she had heard that passersby are more willing to get involved if they think it’s a fire.

When some people responded, Katherine yelled that she being robbed. But the robber yelled "please help me, she's trying to rob me." Katherine described that vocal countermove as "just brilliant. She was very sharp, I have to say." 

The passersby were confused. But then a neighbor came by and saw what was happening. At that point, all three women were tussling. Two employees came out of Trader Joes and said the attacker had just tried to shoplift at the store.

Finally, cops arrived. Katherine told reporters said the attacker must have been in a "really really desperate" state to attack her. She also thought she was under the influence of drugs.

“I had scratches from her fingernails, a bloody eye where she had thumbed me — it was a helter-skelter affair,” she told the Oregonian. “Getting a tetanus shot, it made me feel young again.”

She said she was proud of herself for putting her years of fight training to use, staying relatively calm and hanging on to her purse. She was a little disappointed not to bloody her attacker’s nose, but pointed out she was fighting with her rear hand.

“I would normally lead, as all good boxers do, with my left hand,” she said. “But my left hand was tied up in the purse.”

Read a recent essay about Katherine here.

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Love in Translation

About the book
Love in Translation: A Novel is for anyone who’s ever dreamt of finding love and family in an unexpected place...

After receiving a puzzling phone call and a box full of mysterious family heirlooms, 33-year-old fledgling singer Celeste Duncan is off to Japan to search for a long, lost relative who could hold the key to the identity of the father she never knew. Once there she stumbles head first into a weird, wonderful world where nothing is quite as it seems—a land with an inexplicable fascination with foreigners, karaoke boxes, and unbearably perky TV stars.

With little knowledge of Japanese, Celeste finds a friend in her English-speaking homestay brother, Takuya, and comes to depend on him for all variety of translation, travel and investigatory needs. As they cross the country following a trail after Celeste's relatives, she discovers she's developing "more-than-sisterly" feelings for him, although his mother seems to have other plans for her son. But when Celeste learns a Japanese song called “The Wishing Star,” things begin to change for her in ways she never expected, leading her to ask, what is the true meaning of family? And what does it mean to discover your own voice?

What the critics are saying
“Tokunaga... describe[s] Japanese culture in absorbing detail.” 
—Publishers Weekly

"Witty, lighthearted and charming story of finding love in an unexpected place."
—Fresh Fiction 

"A delightful plot with wonderful characterizations."
—Affair de Coeur Magazine 

"Four stars!"
—RT Book Reviews Magazine

I asked, Wendy answered
A. What's the scariest thing that's ever happened to you? Bonus question: have you ever used it in a book?
W. Seeing Wayne Newton live in concert was pretty scary. Oh, but I guess you don’t mean that kind of scary. Having my soon-to-be ex-husband threaten to kill my boyfriend (who is now my husband) with the gun he just bought was pretty scary. I haven’t used that in a book, but now that you’ve mentioned it... [April says: You’re not the first author I’ve heard talk about the scary ex with a gun - I hope it’s not a trend!]

A. Mystery writers often give their characters an unreasoning fear - and then make them face it. Do you have any phobias, like fear of spiders or enclosed spaces?
W. I don’t think you have room on your blog for all my fears and phobias. They include snakes, flying in small planes (big ones too), roller coasters, and fear of my car slipping backwards while stopped atop one of San Francisco’s famous hills, just to name a few.

A. Do you have a favorite mystery book, author, or movie?
W. I devoured Agatha Christie’s books when I was a kid. I also love many of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies: “Strangers on a Train,” “Shadow of a Doubt,” “Psycho,” etc.

A. At its heart, every story is a mystery. It asks why someone acts the way they did - or maybe what will happen next. What question does your book ask?
W. For LOVE IN TRANSLATION I’d say: a puzzling phone call, a box full of mysterious family heirlooms, then an unexpected trip to an overwhelming place where nothing is quite as it seems—Japan. What family secrets will 33-year old fledgling singer Celeste Duncan uncover as she searches for a long, lost relative who could hold the key to the identity of the father she never knew?

A. Is there a mystery in life that you are still trying to figure?
W. The whereabouts of all my socks lost in the dryer.

About the author
Wendy Nelson Tokunaga’s first novel, NO KIDDING, won the Literary/Mainstream Fiction category in Writer’s Digest’s Best Self-Published Book Awards in 2002. She is also the author of two children's non-fiction books, and has had short stories published in various literary journals. Wendy signed her two-book deal with St. Martin’s just as she was beginning the MFA in Writing program at the University of San Francisco in 2006. Along with her MFA, she also holds a BA in Psychology from San Francisco State University. In her spare time Wendy sings bossa nova, cool pop, jazz standards and Japanese songs accompanied by her surfer dude husband Manabu on electronic keyboards. They live with their cat Meow in the San Francisco Bay Area, a short walk from the Pacific Ocean.

Find more information at Wendy’s website at And look for her on Facebook at and Twitter at .

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What was the ad buyer thinking?

Okay, so I was looking at this video called "The Shaolin Cross Block for Basic Southern Shaolin Kung Fu Fighting Style."

But first I had to watch an ad. For a Web site called

Okay, I know if you have cancer, you might think of yourself as a warrior, but these things don't seem to go together.

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