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Archive for February, 2011

The Grand Finale

RJ Julia is to books as Nordstrom’s is to shoes.  (My husband gets very nervous whenever I type a sentence like that, but it is true.) It’s filled top to bottom with interesting, intelligent people talking about books you never knew you wanted but suddenly just have to have, and I can never go home with just one.  Plus, the store has hosted just about every author whose work I love. Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Hoffman, Audrey Niffeneger….truly, just shopping there is a thrill.  Having a book signing there was unbelievable.

We headed to Connecticut the night before the signing to stay with friends.  Lovely friends, who have three cats and no children and gifted my son with a very speedy remote control car.  Do you see where I am going with this?  The cats certainly did, and vanished faster than Jimmy Choos on a sales rack.  (Even the three-legged one.)

My friends are also very organized, and put together a wonderful brunch and made people RSVP so that going into the signing we had a much better idea of who would be attending.  Even so, there were fabulous surprises — I walked into the store and saw a woman I’d lost touch with three years ago. For a second, I thought it was just some random amazing coincidence — she’d had the urge to shop at the same time I’d been scheduled to be there — but she’d actually come on purpose for the signing.  There was the friend from work, a librarian I adore but haven’t seen in years.  My old neighbors.  “New” neighbors from the beach.  Friends who had read drafts of the book.  Friends who had listened to me worry about the book. An aunt and an uncle I usually only see at funerals. My sister and her family, who drove down just for the day. Everywhere I looked, there were people I cared about looking back at me.

For me, that’s been the most amazing part of publishing a book.  Not just the book itself — although that’s amazingly cool too — but the connecting with people, with family and friends and even a few random strangers who cared enough to come out.  For me, that’s what books have always done — connected me with other worlds and other ideas.  Being able to share my own book at a place like RJ Julia is beyond a dream come true.

At almost the end of the signing, my son, exhausted by a whole 24 hours of being on his best behavior, crept down the aisle of the packed room, leaned up against me as I stood in front of everyone, and then slumped down my leg.  His timing was perfect — I’d just been asked how I balance work and family life.  “Just like this,” I said, gesturing to him, which made people laugh.  But what I thought, and did not say, is that I couldn’t have done it without all of you.

The event board at RJ Julia

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I was a reader well before I was a writer, and curling up with a good book is still one of my favorite activities.  I usually have a stack of books scattered around the house.  (And now that my daughter is just like me, those stacks are precariously high.)  If I had to choose between reading and writing, it would be hard, but reading would win.  (I could still TELL stories in this deal, right?)

Although I must confess I’ve downloaded ebooks (mostly when pressed for time) I still prefer to buy them in the old-fashioned format.  I like to wander the aisles of a bookstore and stumble upon an author I’ve never heard of before.  I like to open a new book and have the world around me disappear, to stand, barely breathing, until the voice or the shadow of another customer jostles me back to reality.  I like taking that book to the counter and hearing the clerk say “Oooh, you are going to love this.  And have you read X?” and then having a 15 minute talk about our favorite authors.  I don’t want that to go away.

That’s why I’m so happy that places like The Andover Bookstore and RJ Julia exist.  And why I was so happy to do my first two readings at these stores.

Sitting after wearing heels is a lovely thing!

Here’s the scoop on the first reading at the Andover Bookstore –  I was nervous.  So nervous that I could literally feel my knees shaking.  (The high heels I was wearing didn’t help much either.)   I looked out and saw so many people I couldn’t breathe for a second.  But then the big blur turned into individual faces — my family, my friends, my children’s teacher, my husband  — and I found that if I could look at each person, not at the crowd, it was okay.  And then I looked up — The Andover Bookstore has a second story with a balcony — and I saw my daughter and her best friend, waiting for me to start, and suddenly I was just a reader in the aisles, sharing a bit of a book with my favorite fellow book lover. And I took a deep breath and was able to begin.

If you came that night, thank you.  If you’ve been to the Andover Bookstore before, you know it is a cozy kind of place, with cookies and coffee, deep armchairs and a fireplace.  If you’ve never gone, do me a favor and check it out.  You may even find me there, hidden in the aisles with my daughter.  Make sure you come over and say hi, because we might not see you.  We’ll be reading.

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That missing chunk of ear just makes him more manly, right?

I know, I’m really stretching out my five minutes of fame here, aren’t I?  It is just that it’s been a little chaotic lately.  For those of you have e-mailed me, Harley is fine, truly.  His ear still splits open and bleeds, but I think it bothers me much more than it bothers him. And he’s still happy-go-lucky when it comes to playing with other pups — he did everything but stand on his head to get a little pug to pay attention to him today.

So, about last week … my second appearance on television was slightly more relaxing.  It was at the very civilized hour of 11 a.m., for starters.  And it was in a location I actually had been to, which always helps. (That geography thing?  I wasn’t kidding.) Finally, it was taped, which made me much less anxious.  (Although I did ‘borrow’ half of my sister’s closet looking for what to wear again.  Now I have an outfit for any occasion – thanks, sis!)

The hosts, Smoki Bacon and Dick Concannon, were gracious and charming, and my interviewer, Susanne, was wonderful — she had a list of interesting questions.  But the best part for me was after the show was finished.  Guests were treated to lunch (Lobster roll!  French Fries!  A COKE, for goodness sakes!) and encouraged to mingle and talk.  Given that my average lunch date is six years old, and my average lunch conversation revolves around Scooby-Do, this was quite a challenge for me.  However, I persevered.

Just listening to everyone was a serious treat.  Guests included human rights activist, author, and film producer Jen Marlowe, who has witnessed unimaginable acts of brutality yet still managed to remain one of the nicest, kindest people I have ever met.  She’s witty and funny and I cannot wait to read her new book, The Hour of Sunlight.

Dr. Susan Pories, a surgeon at Mount Auburn Hospital, was also there.  Her new book — Cancer, Biographies of Disease — is an accessible textbook-type resource, written especially for teens who might be interested in both the disease and the science behind its treatment.  She has another book out as well, which I thought sounded particularly interesting:  The Soul of a Doctor: Harvard Medical Students Face Life and Death. It’s a collection of essays written by doctors in training about the situations they face as they encounter real world medicine for the first time.

So yeah, between these two women, Smoki’s tales of Boston and society, and the other guests, it was a little intimidating, but really fun as well.  (And did I mention the french fries?  And the coke?  Two foods that never make an appearance in my house?)  And though it’s back to PB&J and conversations about Scooby -Do at lunch this week, I’m okay with that.  Although I have to admit, I do kinda miss the lobster roll.

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Good morning!  (See, my early tv show experience has made me perky before noon!)  I have lots more to tell you about last week, but today I am over at the fabulous Tartitude for the second part of my interview with Jan O’Hara.  There’s lots there about Harley too, and a cute picture in which both his ears are intact. (There’s also another chance to win my book!)  If you get a chance, please head over and say hi!

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Poor Harley came back from the kennel missing a small chunk of his ear.  Apparently he was rough-housing and it got a little too … rough. It’s very strange — he’s the third dog I’ve had of this breed (he’s a mix) and every single one has wound up missing a section of his ear the same way.  He now officially has ‘character’ (as if he didn’t already).

So, last week, I was lucky enough to do TWO television shows.  The first was for WTNH News 8 in New Haven.  (There may or may not be video of it floating around the web — I ain’t saying.) I have to admit, I was a little nervous about the whole thing, and tried to distract myself by trying on everything in my closet.  My  friend knows this, and called me up to see how I was coping.

Me: “Oh, fine.  It’s just a little television show, and it’s probably taped, so how bad can it be?”

Her: “Right.  You know it’s what we all watch here, right?  Plus, I’m pretty sure it’s live.”

Me: “No, no, it’s taped, I’m sure.  Otherwise somebody would have told me.”

Her: “You think that if you want to, honey.”

Of course it turned out that she was right on both counts, and I tried on more outfits in a mad panic and then perhaps devoted several hundred hours to practicing what I might say.  My friend and her husband were kind enough to take me out to dinner the night before, then tuck me back into my hotel room.  Around six a.m. the next morning my phone rang.

Me: “I think I’ve changed my mind.”

Her: “Yep, okay, too late for that.  Let’s go.  Let’s go. Let’s GO!”

And she stayed on the phone with me while I skated across the beautiful frozen sleeping city that was New Haven at that hour, right up until I walked in the door of the station. And I have to say, if you have to be on TV live for the first time, that station is the place to do it.  People were UNGODLY happy and perky and professional, even when the cameras were not pointing at them.  The crew behind the cameras were exactly the same way — all smiling and joking and way too competent for an hour when it is still DARK outside.  Seriously.

There was an adorable couple outside the station with me, and it turns out they were also guests.  They run a photography studio and brought some of their gorgeous photos – tiny little perfect moments captured on film.  I couldn’t stay to watch their segment but I looked at their website after, and it is so beautiful and romantic it made me want to get married all over again.

Then I was on television, and the Very. First. Question. the host asked me was a GEOGRAPHY question.  Geography, let us say, is not my strongest subject.  (If you know me at all you are laughing right now.)  But there I was, on LIVE TV, trying to explain where a fictional town was located. Nightmares do come true, people.

But I somehow survived, and the host was overall quite lovely, and then I walked back to my hotel room, and I SWEAR I got the fish eye from at least one woman who was heading off to church.  She looked at me, all made up and dressed fancy, and automatically assumed I was doing the walk of shame.  (Obviously she is not a fan of early morning television.)  And my friend called to congratulate me on surviving.  And I saw a beautiful fantasy dress in a beautiful store window that may or may not make it into my next book, we’ll have to see.  All in all, a lovely morning, and quite a change from tending to injured dogs, which I must go do now.

 

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A BIG THANK YOU

Last week was a crazy week.  I went places I do not usually go, and did things I do not usually do, and I will write about them (and post pictures) over the next few days.  But before I do that, I first have to say an enormous THANK YOU to every single person who showed me such kindness and support.  To everyone who told their friends about Evenfall, put my signing dates on Facebook, tweeted about me, let me hijack their blog, bought a copy of my book, came to a signing, put me up for the night, or simply told me as my knees were knocking that it would be fine, thank you so very much.  Being a debut author is turning out to be kind of fun, and the best part of it is meeting up with all of you.

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Where You’ll Find Me

My cyber self and I are both home, and happy about it.  (Not that gadding about hasn’t been lovely, but truly, I’m a homebody.)  Tonight though, I’ll be reading and signing books at the Andover Book Store in Andover, MA at 7 p.m..  There will be chocolate cookies with two solid pounds of chocolate in them (minus a few ounces that got misplaced in my mouth on their way to the bowl) mini bookmarks, and secret codes for my website.  And possibly the raffle of a large slobbering beast, depending on how the rest of the day goes.

Sunday I will at R.J. Julia’s in Madison, CT, for more of the same.  (Note:  Raffle of small active child may be substituted for that of slobbering beast.)  Perhaps I will see you there?

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Tart and Sweet

My cyber self continues to get around — would that I could log frequent flier points for these trips and escape the frozen tundra!!!  Today you can find me over at Tartitude, a blog I love to read.  Jan O’Hara asks the best questions of anyone — her interviews are always insightful.  (And boy, being on the receiving end of those questions is tough!)

I’m also over at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, a sweet and spicy writers blog.  The group there is so welcoming — please stop by and say hello!

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I am one of those annoying people for whom nothing is ever good enough.  YOU may be fine, but I am always too fat, too short, too shy, too whatever.  I’ll never parent well enough, run fast enough, or write successfully enough to be happy with myself. And nothing you can say will make me change my mind.

BUT.  SECRETLY.  I am vain about one thing — my research skills.  Silly, I know.  But several of my first jobs required copious amounts of research, which had to be done precisely.  And a later boss (with whom I am meeting this week — YAY!) was a stickler for research.  You might be dead, embalmed, and living in Peru, but he would still expect me to track you down for a direct quote if I mentioned you.

So tonight I am writing thank you notes to the many, many people who have been kind to me this week, and one of them appears to only exist in cyberspace.  Do I let this go?  Noooooo.  I spend an hour cross referencing every possible combination, and after researching college (!) job history (!) and phone bills, I do in fact find my person.

Husband:  So, did it ever occur to you that they may be hard to find for a reason, and will be freaked out by your note?

Me: Crickets

Husband:  I thought not.

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FlyBy

Shhh.  I’m still not here.  Instead, I am over at one of my very favorite places on the internet — author Joshilyn Jackson’s blog.  Stop over and say hi, then take a look at her post from a few days ago called “I Pinch” — my son now walks around quoting it.

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I am not doing writerly things this week.  (Writerly things roughly translating to mean hiding in my office in my pajamas until noon, attempting to put down words and surfing the internet in hopes of inspiration.)  I am out and about doing the opposite of writerly things, and I promise to share those things with you later this week.

In the meantime, my blogging self is also acting the part of gadfly.  Today you can find me over at Writer Unboxed, one of my very favorite writing sites.  I’m thrilled to be a small part of it.  Take a gander and let me know what you think.  I promise to return soon.

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I’m Mr. Snow Miser

 

I'm Ms. 10 below

We lost heat yesterday.  Around 6 p.m. I realized my fingers were numb and went to check the thermostat.  Calls were made, technicians arrived, and heat was restored temporarily.  Around 1 a.m. I woke up and couldn’t feel my nose.  The burner has given up the ghost and expensive parts must be installed, hopefully  soon.  Only one of us is not bothered by this problem, and I’ll let you guess which one.  (That would be the one with his own fur coat.) The fun has officially been sucked out of  winter.

 

It’s too cold to hang around here, so I’m somewhere else:  Over at Magical Musings.  Come on over and read about how the character of Frank in Evenfall came to be.

And when you are done there, head over to The Heroine’s Bookshelf.  Erin Blakemore is giving away a prize a day from February 1 to 17, and I am lusting after the portrait that is up today.  It’s beautiful and would look fabulous over my fireplace.  (I’m ignoring the fact that it looks as if Jane is heading off into the snow.  It’s overcast because she’s at the beach, right???)

 

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So if you’ve ever watched a television award show, you know what I’m talking about – those people who go on and on thanking everyone from their pool boy (“for providing an environment in which I can relax”) to their hair stylist (“for always making me look good!”) all the while completely forgetting to thank somebody important (their agent, spouse, or partner) who happens to be sitting right in front of them?  Sometimes it has to be on purpose — you know because they break up the next day.  Sometimes, though, the person is just a dumb @##, or somebody who is just overwhelmed by the moment.

I’m hoping I belong to the latter category.  If you’ve gotten your copy of Evenfall, you’ll see the acknowledgement section extends to almost two pages.  And while I managed to hit most of the highlights (Agent: Check;  Editor: Check; Spouse: Check) I did, with absolutely no malice in mind, manage to leave a few people off.  So herewith, my apologies and my eternal thanks to Julie Wu, who read and offered fabulous feedback multiple times (expect to hear lots more from her — her own book, The Third Son, will be coming out in the near future, and it is a wonderful read).  Also, thanks to Mary Akers and Katrina Denza, established writers who read early chapters. (And I love pretty much everything they write.  So there.)  Thirty whacks with a paper towel roll on the head for me.

On a happier note, we have a winner!  Shveta gets the copy of Force of Habit. (If you were intrigued by Alice, there’s more on her over at Tartitude — she’s very funny and I think her series is going to be a big hit.)  And there’s a fun giveaway that I’m coveting — go check it out!

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Evenfall's natural habitat

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