Archive for the ‘Evenfall’ Category

Denim versus Dress Up

Collection lace dress

Collection lace dress from J.Crew

Twice this week people have asked me what I do for a living. That’s a question I always find interesting, and perhaps one of these days we’ll get around to the whole Mommy Wars discussion on this blog.  But today I want to talk about how I tend to answer, which I also find interesting and I hope you will as well.

My book Evenfall has been out for over a year now.  I love the story, love the cover, and am pretty happy with how it has been received. I recognize how lucky I am to have had a book in bookstores when publishing is going through such a hair-rending time.  And yet, when people ask what I do, do I say “Oh, thank you for asking, I’m an author?”

I do not.

My usual response is “Gah, babble babble babble, I’m a writer.” Sometimes they’ll ask what I write, in which case I reel off a list of my publishing creds, tacking Evenfall at the end. Other times (like this past week) I’m lucky enough to have my youngest with me, who immediately breaks into my babbling with “She’s an author. She’s been on television and she has a book named Evenfall and in it the dog (reveals entire ending of book).”  This may not help me with sales, but it is gratifying to my ego.

So why does a seven-year-old have no problem saying the A word when I do? I think the answer is in the definition. At my son’s age, writer and author are interchangeable. But I’ve been a writer so much longer than an author I can spot the difference.

Writer, to me, is an action word. It says dig in and get your hands dirty (or as dirty as you get  using a keyboard). It means to take notes, to research, to string words together and then take them apart, to do this again and again until they are as polished and smooth as possible. It’s craftsmanship,  denim and work boots and a soft, comfortable t-shirt.

Author is static. It’s a lovely word, too, but it says “look what I’ve done” not “look what I’m doing.” It’s dress up, don’t touch me, special occasion wear, high heels and sequins and maybe some Spanx. Author has its place, but it’s not for every day.

Despite my occasional attempts to appear otherwise, I’m strictly a t-shirt and blue jeans girl, and that’s fine. I’m more comfortable with a notebook and computer to hide behind. Maybe someday, when I have other books out there, the sparkly bits will incorporate themselves into my working wardrobe a bit more and the line between writer and author won’t be so stark. But for now, I’m still getting my hands dirty.

How do you define the words writer and author?

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Yes, I am referencing a Taylor Swift song in the headline.  Don’t hate me.  There’s nothing that soothes the pain of a poor review like blasting “Mean” and dancing around the kitchen with your daughter. Try it sometime.

However, today I am not writing about reviews, mean or otherwise.  Today, I am over at Women’s Fiction Writers, where Amy Nathan has kindly agreed to interview me despite the fact that I have been known to literally fall on my face when wearing high heels. Unfortunately, this does not seem to have stopped me from trying. Go there, and the non sequitur will become clear.

Also, I am working on my Harley post for later this week, but here is a photo to tide you over:

So sweet ... when he's sleeping.

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Summer Special

If you’ve read Evenfall, you know it takes place on a farm. I lived in rural Connecticut for ten years, sandwiched between two dairy farms, and it was an eye-opening experience for this suburban girl. It’s where I first tasted fresh (as in from the cow) milk, learned that newly laid eggs are warm, and discovered all the many things goats are good at. (Creating milk for yogurt, keeping the lawn mowed, escaping – the list is endless.)

A lot of what I learned made it into the book. And even though I’m back in the suburbs, I still love and miss the country life. Farmers are some of the hardest working people I know, and without them, I’d be pretty hungry.

I’m hanging out with some farmers this summer, starting this Sunday. I’ll be at the Salem New Hampshire farmer’s market. (See the news page of my web site for details.) It’s the first of four stops on my farm tour. There will be fresh eggs, honey, and me of course. I make no promises about goats.

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You know how I’ve written that I prefer actual paper books to these new-fangled electronic readers?  And I do, truly.  Except that, um, I may have seen the light a little.

I’m using my Kindle to read drafts by other writers, and my IPad when I need to read a book for my book club quickly, and that’s all fine.  But last week I read about the IPad app for Sandra Boynton’s Going to Bed Book.  Now, the Going to Bed Book is the book I read so often when the kids were small, the whole family has it memorized.  Even the dog we had then could probably have recited a line or two, if pressed.  It’s the book I give whenever anyone has a new baby, the book I’ve replaced twice because it’s fallen apart.  I love this book.

“Huh,” I grumbled to my husband when I heard about the app.  “Grumble, grumble, technology, ruin of us all, grumble,  grumble.”

“Yep,” he said.  “But have you actually seen it?”

The app was like two bucks, so I downloaded it so I could better articulate to him how we are going to hell in a hand basket because no one reads real books anymore.  But then, I forgot what I was saying because I was having so much fun.

Did you get that I love the book?  I love it even more as an e-book.  It’s taken the spirit of the story, which is fun and light-hearted and a perfect way to end the night — and made it even more playful.  You can hear the stars in the sky, hear the waves sloshing, see the eyes on the bunny close when it gets dark and hear him snore. It made me get, for the first time, the possibilities  of an enhanced book.

In my case, I’ve heard from some readers that they don’t see enough of Frank (one of my main characters who happens to be a ghost) in my novel Evenfall.  But he’s in every scene that shows the house Evenfall – it’s just that sometimes his presence is a subtle one.  How much fun would it be to have the words on a page form the shape of Frank whenever he’s there, quietly manipulating the scene? To have an image of Nina cue us to his presence?  To hear his theme music in the background?

I suppose you wouldn’t want to read every book this way — or even to read a book this way every time.  But having the option to read with sensory cues enhancing the experience — kind of like a director’s cut on a video — would be all kinds of awesome.  Although, ironically, in a children’s bedtime book it’s a little too exciting, particularly since I’ve had to arm-wrestle with my son so everyone (read me) gets a chance to do the ‘fun’ pages.

Is there a book you’d like to read this way?  Besides Evenfall, I’d vote for any of the Harry Potters or LOTRs series.  What would you choose, and why?

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I know, I know, I’ve been slacking.  I started out with such good intentions, but somehow my three posts a week have dwindled to an anorexic one or two.  I promise to be better in April.  It will be SPRING!  and WARM! and everyone will be HAPPY! (Those of us who live in New England are such optimistic fools.)

Anyhow, I have been busy.  I have finally established my Facebook Author page (or rather, my sister did it for me) and I would take it as the greatest favor if you would hie yourself over there and like it.  Or me.  Or whatever one is supposed to do on The Facebook. (Random  elderly relative story — a favorite aunt is in a nursing home, and periodically she would call us up and say “I played The WOO today,” and cackle like a maniac.  It sounded vaguely dirty and I always covered the children’s ears if we were on speakerphone.  Well, it turns out The WOO was Wii, the other bane of my existence because it is the joy of my six-year-old’s life.  So, around here we tend to stick a capital THE in front of any newfangled technology.)

Also, I am being interviewed by the charming and lovely Debra Driza, no mean writer herself, and among other things we are commiserating over our BAD DOG stories.  Because I didn’t want to horrify her too much, I left out the one where my 110 pound unneutered show dog took a, um, special liking to my 100 pound friend.  He would back her into a corner, then very gently reach out one paw to wrap around her shoulders….

Come back Thursday for a better behaved blog post.

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Can I just, for a  moment, reiterate how awesome my home town library is?  My advance PR team came along  (that would be my parents) and what greeted us in the lobby but a poster with Evenfall and my face on it? (It was a little bit horrifying, to be honest, but the librarian behind the desk did manage to recognize me, so the photo isn’t too off the mark.) I wanted to poke around a while, but my mother, who knows me too well, clearly was concerned I’d pick up a book and be late to my own signing, so she marched me downstairs, where librarians Michelle and Tricia had set out refreshments and even remembered a pen. (Yes, I forgot to bring a pen.  I was distracted.)

A fabulous crowd turned out, including my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. T — her smile is EXACTLY the same all these years later — and my fourth grade teacher.  Seriously, how beyond cool is that? (And see, Mrs. F — despite the fact that I still can’t do advanced math to save my life, I turned out okay. Mostly.) And then a bunch of people from my elementary school surprised me too, and we went out after and I ate too many French Fries and it was just like being in school again only without the math bits.  Which is to say, completely awesome.

Exactly the same. Only taller.

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Libraries.  I love them.  You go in, sign a piece of paper, and they let you take home books.  For free.  As many as you can carry. (And I can carry a lot.) How insane is that?

Not just books, either.  CDs, DVDs, even art.  Museum passes. Again, all for free. Show me your library, and I can tell you a lot about the priorities of your town (which is why the recent cutbacks to my city’s library are so upsetting, but that’s a whole other blog post).  Everywhere I’ve lived, one of the first things I’ve done is run to my new library to sign up for my card.  Sometimes, my kids and I will stop to check out  a library we haven’t visited, just for fun (do we know how to live, or what??). And if we’re vacationing anywhere for more than a week, it’s a good bet that somehow, we’ll manage to work in a library visit.

But no matter how wonderful your library is, it can’t compare with the one I grew up with. As a kid, it was one of my favorite places to be.  Back then, even though the building was a blinding white wedding cake confection, the children’s room was rather small and dark, with aisles of books you could wander.  You could take the book that made your heart thump into the back, curl up, and stay there until closing.   There was a long wooden desk, and the librarian would stamp the card in the back of the book with a resounding thwap before she let you take it home.  On rainy days, or if you were home sick, you could call up the story line and listen to a prerecorded tale for free.  There was a millpond out in back, and at night in the summer you could go with your grandparents and listen to big band music and spin around and around until you were dizzy.  If you were lucky, your grandfather would buy you a glo stick and you could use it to light up your room well after you were supposed to be asleep.

They did a renovation sometime in the 1980s, I think, and made the children’s room over into a light and airy space.  They painted the whole building cream, instead of the original white, and added a comfortable reading room for magazines, and put in skylights and study spaces and a big open staircase.  It’s beautiful and inviting, but I still remember the creaky old building my eight-year-old self fell in love with, all those years ago.  And when I read there tomorrow, in my heart that’s where I’ll be.

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I’m not talking about my real house today (although I should — it is in desperate need of a spring cleaning).  No, these are house keeping details of the cyber variety, so bear with me.

I’ll be doing a few more book signings this spring.  Next week on March 23rd, I’ll be at the Peabody Institute Library in Danvers, MA — my old hometown, and the most beautiful library I know. (At least that’s how it always appeared to my younger self.)  It is the library against which all others in my life have been measured, and I’d be thrilled to see you there.  (And can I just tell you how I wish I could time travel so I could go back and tell my younger self the news?)
And on April 9th, I’ll be at Well Read Books in Plaistow from 12 till 3.  It’s a fun, eclectic store — (although not as eclectic as this place). Stop by and say hello — I’ll be bringing my chocolate cookies and mini bookmarks with me.
Also: If I owe you a book, it will be in the mail as of Thursday.  If you haven’t received it in the next week or so, please let me know.
Finally, if you’ve read Evenfall but haven’t seen the secret backstory web pages, drop me a line (and maybe a picture of you with the book?  Pretty please?) and I’ll send you out the URL and secret password.

Finally finally, I have an author page on Facebook. (I know, I’m so progressive.)  If you are on there, swing by!

I’m off to sic Harley on the dust bunnies…

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This post talks about censorship, sex and drugs.  You’ve been warned.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what’s appropriate for kids to read.  Partly, it’s because I have a book of my own out, and I’ve seen Evenfall listed as YA (Young Adult) in a couple of places.  Every time I see that, or read about a high school kid wanting to read it, my Catholic school-raised innards give a very uncomfortable twist inside and suggest I  reach through the computer, snatch the book out of their hands, and hand them a nice copy of Little House in the Big Woods or Voyage of the Dawn Treader instead.

Part of it is because my daughter, at nine, is reading at a high school level, and we’re having lots of conversations along the lines of “Just because you can read something, doesn’t mean you should, and that particularly applies to my book, thank you very much.”

And part of it is that I’ve become more conscious lately of the books I’ve read that are coming under fire from parents who would like them removed from schools and classrooms.

If you haven’t read it, Evenfall has a love scene.  It’s short, but it’s definitely steamy.  It’s that scene I’m thinking about when someone I know says “I read your book!” and smiles at me in the carpool line at school.  It’s that scene I’m thinking about when I read that someone in high school has added Evenfall to their ‘to read’ pile.  And it’s that scene I’m definitely thinking about whenever my daughter makes moves to read past the first chapter.

But.  But. But. But. Growing up, my parents were strict.  Stricter than most of the parents I knew (hi Mom!  Stop reading now!) in every way but one – they never told me what I could or couldn’t read.  In third grade, my mom wrote me the note that gained me access to the entire school library.  (When I picked a book and Sister A asked me if it had any sex in it, I didn’t know what the word meant but I was smart enough to say no.)  By fifth grade I was exchanging books like Evergreen with my favorite nun, and The Thorn Birds followed shortly thereafter. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been reading pretty much everything I can get my hands on. Books with drug scenes.  With sex scenes.  With magic and profanity and time travel and murder and baseball.

Yet here I am, all these years after I picked up those books, a writer and mother and mostly sane person.  I don’t do drugs.  I don’t sacrifice animals.  I don’t time travel and I sure as hell don’t play baseball. (I apparently do swear, though.)

One of my favorite writers, Barbara Kingsolver, has a scene in which one of her characters is a teacher who decides to hold an impromptu, unapproved sex education class after one of her best students shows up pregnant.  She rationalizes by saying something like this: “Just because you know how to use a fire extinguisher doesn’t mean you’re going to burn your house down.  But if your house is on fire, kiddos, it just may save your life.”

And that’s how I think about books.  Just because you read about drugs, or sex, or baseball, doesn’t mean you’re going to go out and do those things.  But knowing those things are out there may help you make more informed decisions down the line. It might give you the vocabulary to hold a conversation with the adults in your life.  It might help you navigate the tricky waters of adolescence.  It might give you the life line you need to get through them.

A few months ago, my book club chose a book written by a young man about his experience as a drug addict. It’s graphic and although it in no way glamorizes drug use, it’s definitely realistic. When I went looking for it at my local library, I was a little shocked to find it in the YA section.  Would I want my daughter reading it as a third grader? No.  But for some kid in middle school with no trusted adult to talk to, it could be a life saver.  Just because a book isn’t right for my child doesn’t mean it’s not the absolutely critical book at that moment for someone else’s.

If you object to your kid reading about drugs, or sex, or baseball, that’s your right.  But insisting a book be removed or banned for everyone presumes to make that choice for MY child, and that’s stepping on MY rights as a parent.

Will I let my third grader read Evenfall?  Not on your life.  But will I let her read it as a sixth or seventh grader?  There’s a good chance I will, or that she’ll have found a way to read it no matter what I say.  (If  I’m lucky, it will spark a conversation about sometimes, when adults fall in love, they have sex.  If I’m unlucky, she’ll roll her eyes and refuse to talk to me for a few days for embarrassing her in front of her friends.)

So where do you stand on all of this?  I’m really interested to hear.  Comment before Monday and you’ll be entered to win Wake, a book that came under fire when a parent requested it be removed from school because she objected to the adult language and felt it promoted drug use and sexual misconduct. Her request was denied and for now, it remains on shelves.  (For the record: I’ve read it and in my opinion it does no such thing.)

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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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Evenfall's natural habitat

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Coffee and an Ex-Nun

So!  Exciting news!  The lovely and charming Coffee and a Book Chick has an interview up over on her website with me.  Hasten there and you could win a copy of Evenfall! (She also has an awesome pup named Roma who could be twin to the slobbering beast …you can search her blog for pictures.) A big thank you to Coffee and a Book Chick for hosting me!

Today’s the day for a giveaway here, too.  I’ve been talking about the different writing communities I’ve joined over the year.  Absolute Write is the most recent.  It can be a little feisty — I lurked there for a whole year before I posted one comment — but I’ve been lucky enough to find a bunch of big-hearted, funny and fast-typing writerly types.

Alice Loweecey is one of those people — and even better, she’s my ‘debut sister’ meaning her first novel is on the shelves right next to mine.  I thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions about her book Force of Habit, which features a nun turned P.I..  Alice, you see, is an ex-nun.

I attended catholic school with actual nuns for eight years. They were fabulous. Were you really a nun, or is this just a publicity stunt?

There must be a written rule somewhere in Heaven that if you lie about being a nun the ground opens up and the Devil drags you straight down to Hell. Yes, indeed, I was a nun for four years and have the pictures to prove it. There are four still in existence, one for each year, because I hand-shredded the rest. It was quite cathartic. The four I saved were all happy pictures: a group photo from the Postulant year, receiving the veil (that’s the white-veiled me ), taking vows (that’s the black-veiled me with the lei), and a posed picture with me looking holy and ethereal. *snerk*

As much as anything from The Sound of Music gives me hives, you know how in that movie Maria was always in trouble? That was my life in the convent. I got in trouble for whistling once! And we all played the guitar and sang at Folk Masses back then. Oh, and we perpetrated that crime against Cyd Charisse—the crime known as Liturgical Dance. Ah, the early 1980s.

My nuns wielded rulers and the almighty power of control over recess. What does your protagonist carry as a weapon?

Ex-nun with a gun!

When she was a nun she wielded a ruler too. So far in the series, she doesn’t carry a weapon. She’s athletic and knows self-defense, so she can fight off the bad guys when necessary. In later books, she’s going to learn how to shoot a Glock. To do this, her creator had to learn that skill. I am happy to report that I’m not a bad shot. The photo is me with my target from the lesson. With my first shot, I hit the target in the neck. Not bad for someone who’d only dabbled in archery before.  Alas for Giulia—so far she’s been a dyed-in-the-wool pacifist. But she wants to keep catching bad guys, so she’ll do what she has to do. There will be embarrassing (for her) humor involved.

Your protagonist sounds intriguing and very different. How long did it take you to find an agent, and what types of reactions did you get along the way?

I have this folder on my hard drive labeled “Passes.” It represents four solid years of work, three complete novels, and several layers of rhino hide.

The novels are three different genres: Religious horror, paranormal, and mystery. The mystery—that would be Force of Habit—has an interesting story behind it. I queried a well-known agent with the religious horror, mentioning in my query that I was an ex-nun and thus knew religion. He passed, but suggested that he’d like to see a mystery starring an ex-nun who solves crimes. I dismissed that suggestion initially, because “I wrote horror.”

However, the idea percolated in my head, and wouldn’t leave me alone. Eight months later I had Force of Habit. I queried the same agent with it. He asked for the first three chapters—and passed. In the politest way possible, too. Ya gotta laugh.

So I jumped onto the query-go-round, which immediately turned into a roller-coaster. I got requests for partials and fulls. I also got form rejections on requested fulls (ouch!). I got two offers to revise and resubmit on two different books. I had one agent love my characters and another say they were like watching beige paint dry. It truly is a subjective business.
Then in spring of 2009, I sent a “Why not?” query to Kent D. Wolf, an agent whose list of sales and genres he was seeking looked interesting. The next day, he called to request the full of the mystery. (Agents don’t normally call for that. I was a bit startled.) Two days later, he called to discuss the book, the characters, the convent, and how I felt about revising. (Is the sky blue? Of course I was willing to revise!) Two days after that, he called to offer representation.

That’s the long answer. The short answer is: It took me six days to find an agent. Okay, four years, 185 rejections, and six days.

So, last question — we debut at the same time.  I haven’t had my ‘real’ moment yet — the moment it all seems like this is really happening, the book will be published, and I’m not just making it up.  Have you?  If so, what is it?

I had my “real”  moment today—and it was a delayed reaction.

Some writers I know say their “real” moment was when they got their signed contract, or their advance check, or their page proofs, or their box of books. All of those moments were “oh, wow!” moments for me.

Amazon has started to ship my books already. The head of the company brought his copy in and I autographed it, then I went back to work. About three hours later, it hit me: I autographed my book for someone who bought it. Online. For real. It’s happened. I just sat there at my desk, and I got this huge grin on my face. Now I know it’s real.

Last Christmas, my agent told me that my book sold the day before I started a 4-city tour with Denver and the Mile High Orchestra, my favorite band. (I was part of a big Christmas choir backing them up). I’d been writing a series of articles on the rehearsal process for BuddyHollywood.com, and the rest of the choir knew about by dreams of getting a book on the shelves of brick-and-mortar bookstores. When I announced my three-book deal, a fellow singer said, “All your dreams are coming true.” Today I can say: They are.

Thank you Alice!  I’m glad to have you as my debut sister!

Leave a comment before Tuesday to be entered to win a copy of Force of Habit. (The Random Number Generator will choose, but perhaps karma will be swayed in your favor if you can include your own catholic school experiences.)

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Time is a little tight right now, so without further ado:

  1. Shameless is only available in the US for season one.  Now that I have become addicted to the Gallagher family’s travails, I can’t watch any more.  I want my BBC, dammit!  Paul Abbott, can you hear me?
  2. I will be having a book signing at the Andover Book Store in Andover, MA on Thursday, February 10th at 7 p.m..  Please come.
  3. I will be having a book signing at RJ Julia in Madison, CT on Sunday, Feb. 13 at 4:30 p.m..  Please come.
  4. If I can get my act together, there will be chocolate cookies, free mini-bookmarks, and passwords to let you unlock secret pages on this website at both events.

Bonus info:  I’m doing a book giveaway on Thursday.  And it’s a really good book, so come back and check it out if you can!

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Can You Hear Me????

So, guess what came in the mail today?

Guarding the book

Can you hear me squeeing from here?  (Open the window.  I’ll bet you can.)  Yep, that’s right — a single copy of my finished book. With an acknowledgement page.  And a photo.  Even a price!  After all this time, it just doesn’t seem possible that it will officially be out in the world in just 25 days.  I’m a little scared to let go of its hand and turn it loose — it’s a big place out there.  What if it gets lost?

Luckily, Evenfall will be in good company.  I’ve been very fortunate to stumble across several writing communities, and friends from these groups also have books coming out in February.   Some are debut authors like me, some have books coming out in new formats, and a few are old hands at this publishing thing.  Over the next three weeks, I’d like to introduce you to them.  They’re good people and good books, all. And to help make the introductions, I’ll be giving away some of those books as well.  I hope you’ll come by to meet them.

Now, pardon me.  I must return to my squeeing.

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