Thursday, December 31, 2009
In some ways, it did. Because of a clerical glitch, I ended up taking a semester off from my teaching job, and so I began, last January, as a “full-time” writer for the first time in my life. I decided that my job was to write. And write I did. I revised a manuscript last winter and then wrote two new manuscripts over the course of this past year. The September Sisters came out in February, and in May I sold my first book for adults. I found myself staying up late at night doing edits on various books, writing blog posts, and responding to book-related e-mails. Although I’d been a writer for a long time, this was the year that I really felt like I became a writer.
And I learned a lot, about writing, about myself as a writer, about publishing, about publicity, about getting rejection (Yes, there was still rejection this year), and about time management, about how to be a writer and still be other things, too.
Because, yes, all these things changed, and my career had finally taken a vastly different and better turn this year, but everything else in my life did not change. I was still a full-time mom and a wife. Holding my finished book in my hands for the first time was amazing, but so was the birthday party I threw for my son around the same time. It was fun to be asked to sign a book during my son’s preschool party, but I was also thrown up on in public by my other son just a few short days later. And yes, I was ecstatic to get a great review in Publisher’s Weekly, but when I saw it for the first time, I was back in Philadelphia for my father-in-law’s funeral.
This was the year that everything changed, and nothing changed at all. It wasn’t a perfect year, but it certainly was an adventure, and isn’t that the kind of year that makes for the best stories?
Happy New Year!!
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
One can't reflect on an entire year without counting blessings. I couldn't be more grateful for my editor and for my agent. Not only are they gifted at their jobs but I'm even more happy to call each of them my friend. This journey has given us lots of time to get to know one another and my only regret is that I'm not their age! I wish I could fly up to New York and meet them for dinner, laugh about the stuff they laugh about and join in on their twenty-something conversations. I do try and to their credit neither one of them have ever once made me feel like I could be their mom.
What else? Let's see. Ohhhh, I'm still in shock over this one . . . I became an empty-nester this past year. My baby left for college! Now both of my boys are at universities and are working on artsy majors. I guess that means there's no hope for a business person in my home. Wall Street will remain as illusory as it ever was. Michael is majoring in photo-journalism and Will wants to be an audio-engineer. He'll hopefully be a record producer and Michael will either heed the call of the wild and jet off to Africa, work his way over to the action in Iraq (over my dead body he's been known to run forward while looking backward), or more optimistically he'll get a job with the Tennessean, stay close to home and marry and father a granddaughter especially for moi!
On the low side, I lost someone very dear to me. Josiah Berger, a lovely fun-loving and wonderful nineteen-year-old young man, was my son's best friend. He had watched me labor over every draft of Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter since he was a young boy. He never missed an opportunity to encourage me and his smile has left an indelible print on my heart and in my mind.
And finally, 2009 has brought new relationships that I never, ever expected and that's been thrilling. I have been richly blessed by so many people. Old friends and new friends, bookstore personnel, book reviewers & bloggers, and especially the lovely folks who have bought my book. To everyone who has written to me, encouraged me, edified me, invited me to be a part of your book club meetings or shown up at my book signings, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. To my fellow Novel Girls, I'm hoping to actually meet y'all this year. The RWA convention is in Nashville. What to you say? Let's meet there with a party after at my house???
Happy 2010 to all of our loyal Novel Girl Followers. I hope it's filled with more joy than your heart could possible desire. Thank you for sticking with us.
Much love and peace to you all! Lisa
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
My anxiety only grew as my book's release date approached. By the time June 1st rolled around, I was nearly certifiable. I guess it was because there were so many things that I couldn't control, like bookstore placement and Amazon reviews. And for the first few months after my book released, I remained a basket case. Now, finally, six months post-release, I think I'm sort of back to normal.
Until it all will start up again in a few weeks when I realize it's time to launch another book. Not that I'm complaining or anything, but I think I should start meditating, like, yesterday.
Despite all the nerves about launching my book, it was also the year I could truly officially call myself an author. I didn't have to have those awkward conversations where you tell someone you're a writer and have to say, "But the book won't be published for like two years" so they totally think you're lying.
This was a year where I launched my first book, turned in my second, wrote a third. (That I'm in the middle of revising. Again. Don't ask.) So yeah, by all quantifiable measures, I'd say 2009 was pretty kick ass.
Catch you guys in 2010!
Monday, December 28, 2009
We still have too many cookies and lots of leftovers in the house, but the kids are home all week, so nothing should go to waste. Next year, less cookies. (Though, I say that every year!)
This week's topic is what we're looking forward to in 2010. On the serious side, I'm hoping for continued good health, happiness, and success for my family and friends. On the less serious side, I can't wait for LOST to return (February!), and for the Olympics to begin (also February!).
I'm also looking forward to the release of A BREATH OF MAGIC (May), my oldest son graduating from high school (June), and my daughter completing her first year of college (she made the honor roll her first semester, so hopefully that will continue!).
Finally, I'm looking forward to another year of fun here on the TNG. How about you? What are you looking forward to in 2010?
So, this post is short and sweet, but we're heading out to the movies this afternoon (hmm, Avatar or Sherlock?) and then I have a ton of work to do.
I hope everyone has a terrific New Year and I'll see you next week!
Friday, December 25, 2009
That moment when cast and audience alike hold their breath and the world seems to pause for just a scintilla of time.
That's what a lot of this past year has seemed to me. Those 'magic time' moments. Those instants of stepping over thresholds, of hovering, suspended at the top of the rollercoaster, of watching the curtain rise...
I got them just before WONDROUS STRANGE came out. I'm still getting them. Every time something is just about to happen with the book. A new edition. The audio version. A new foreign right sold... sometimes it's just walking into a bookstore knowing I will see the book on the shelf. Sometimes it's waiting for a classroom to fill up with students that I'm about to give a reading to.
Or there was that moment before I first opened up the email that had my cover art for DARKLIGHT in it...
It's been such a remarkable, dizzying experience, all this magic. Not easy - you tend to get a little nerve jangly with all of that anticipation and build-up and holding-of-breath - but certainly extraordinary; dazzling in the light, sparkling in the darkness. All the best stories about wizards tell us that making magic takes as much out of the maker as it gives back. I think that's true. I also think it's a hell of a lot easier to make the magic at the time when you have a stellar cast and crew surrounding you. Like my fellow Girls here. Like my family and friends.
Which makes this time of year, when family and friends gather, ideal to ruminate on the magic of the past year. All of a sudden, I'm not a debut author any more. I've got a whole new 'show' - a whole new round of curtains rising and breath being held, of reaching out to the audience and having them reach right back. And I've got my cast and crew there to support me. That's truly magic. And for that, I wanted to say 'thank you'. From the bottom of my heart.
Another way I want to say thank you, is by giving away a fresh new hardcover copy of DARKLIGHT. And all you have to do for a chance to win it, is leave a comment. It's almost like magic! ;-)
HAPPY HOLIDAYS, to my fellow Novel Girls and to our faithful readers! All the best to all of you.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
The red eye, like most of the rest of my pregnancy induced worry, turned out to be nothing serious. My “high blood pressure” always turned out to be not high at all as soon as I’d lie down and take a deep breath. My baby, quite smartly, decided he wanted out way before Halloween. And shortly thereafter, The September Sisters sold.
But yesterday, as the doctor reviewed my chart and we chatted about how old “the baby” is now, and how my red eye has been fine ever since giving birth, I remembered back to that moment, that other moment of sitting in that chair, talking to that doctor. That moment of feeling worried and so uncertain about the future. I remembered back, and the feelings I felt then overwhelmed me once more. Then I felt this giant sense of relief, that I was never going to go back to that moment again, that moment of not knowing whether my baby was going to be born okay or whether I was ever going to achieve my dream of being published, whether I was ever going to be a “real” writer. Of course, I have new things to worry about now, but, sitting in that chair, I realized I felt completely different, an utterly different person.
Lesley asked us to write about magic, and though I know this transformation of my life, the way I feel, isn’t exactly magical, sometimes, it feels that way. It feels that way when I look at my children and think about the fact that a few short years ago, I wasn’t a mom. It feels that way when I think about having one book published and two more on the way in 2010, and think about the fact that a few years ago I was mired in rejection. I also know, there is a difference between magic and hard work, but sometimes, I think it took a little bit of both for me to have transformed from that women I was, sitting there, a few years ago, to that woman/author/mother that I am today.
A very happy release week to Lesley, who I hope continues to finds lots more magic in both her real life and her fiction! Don’t forget, Lesley’s giving away a signed copy of DARKLIGHT to one lucky person. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on any post this week.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of magic is the Police song, "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic." LOVE IT!! (My mind always goes to music.) Michael McDonald does another arrangement of it, too - very jazzy - on Lee Ritenour's album, RIT'S HOUSE. If you haven't heard it, please do yourself a favor and click over to ITUNES for a listen. Download it onto your IPOD. I personally guarantee that you will go crazy over it.
I think the magic of Christmas is what keeps us all sane this time of year. The magic in the smile of your child (no matter how old) when he is opening his gifts. The magic of barely opening your eyes and peeking out at your beloved while he's kissing you. There's even magic in sound of the logs popping in the fireplace. Take a moment to find magic in the little things. It's a sure-fire way of arousing a smile on your face and a butterfly in your stomach.
To celebrate DARKLIGHT'S release week, Lesley is having a giveaway this week. One lucky POSTER will win a copy of DARKLIGHT! Just keep the posts coming throughout the week for a chance to win her fabulous book. Even if you don't win, still go out and treat yourself to a copy of the book. Don't you deserve to buy yourself a Christmas gift?
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Folks, I think the holidays have finally gotten to me...
As Tracy mentioned, one lucky commenter will receive a signed hardcover of DARKLIGHT by our own Lesley Livingston. So comment early and often to be entered to win! The book is at the very top of my Christmas list, and I can't wait to devour it!
Lesley picked "magic" as the topic this week. For me, this has a particularly relevant and special meaning this week, in regards to writing magic. I'm in the middle of doing some agent revisions on my new manuscript, and, as always, the task seems daunting and unmanageable at first glance.
The writing process for me is very organic--just start writing, figure out the snags later. Of course, this often leads to lots of teeth-gnashing during revisions, but at least I have something on paper already. And yes, the jaw clenching and fist-balling has thoroughly commenced.
But as I'm going through my manuscript, deleting awkward sentences and throwing out subplots, I'm also discovering a bit of magic. It's the kind of moment when you read something you don't remember writing. When you stop, furrow your brow and eye the computer suspiciously as in: "I wrote that? But...but...it's so...GOOD."
It really is a case of channeling my muse, or possibly reaching some new emotional depth in writing that I wasn't sure if I could achieve. Whatever the cause or the outcome, I know I have a few key, perfect sentences buried in this poor little draft.
And that, for me, is magic and makes all of the work worthwhile.
Happy Holidays, everyone! Don't forget to comment!
Monday, December 21, 2009
To celebrate Lesley's release week, she's asked the rest of us Novel Girls to write something about magic. And I will...in a minute! First thought, Lesley is having a giveaway this week. One lucky commenter will win a copy of DARKLIGHT! Just comment to posts throughout the week for a chance to win this awesome book.
Now, about magic. You all know I'm really into magic. After all, I write a series about magic, so this topic is perfect for me. But rather than talk about actual magic, I'm going to go all emotional about the magic of Christmas.
Christmas has always been special and magical to me, for as long as I can remember. Sure, when I was young, that magic had to do with Santa and the brightly wrapped presents under the tree come Christmas morning. Now, though, the magic for me is about tradition, family, and friends. When I bake the same cookies my mother baked, I remember standing in the kitchen, helping her by cracking an egg or sifting in flour. When I hear certain Christmas carols, I think about the massive holiday gatherings we had when I was a child.
Even the foods I choose to serve for Christmas dinner remind me of holiday dinners from my childhood. The Christmas my children have, in nearly all ways, is a reflection on the Christmases I had, and there's a sort of magic there. A tugging of the spirit that reminds me of the traditions, connections, and celebrations of my family.
So while I love gifts (who doesn't!), and I love Christmas cookies (mmm), what I love the most about this season--what I find the most magical--is how it brings me back to a place of childhood innocence, Santa Claus, and the belief in magic itself. How awesome I get to share that with my kids each and every year, and someday, they'll share it with theirs.
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday! Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of DARKLIGHT by Lesley Livingston. Or, if you can't wait, it's out tomorrow! Go get a copy for Christmas--you won't regret it!
Friday, December 18, 2009
So we're chatting about Christmas traditions, eh?... seems a bit early in the year to me, but I suppose I have a few in common with my fellow girls!
You see... the closer it gets to the actual day, the further I tend to drift into my traditional state of denial that it's even December fer cryin' out loud. I guess I'm with Maureen ("Not as Big a Slacker as Lesley") on this one.
Then there's that traditional recurring eye-twitch I get every time I pass a mall - the one that tells me before I've even conciously acknowledged it, that Sleigh Ride is playing over the PA system - and the pathological urge to avoid parking lots (I don't even drive!). I'm with Jillian ("Too Cute to Be The Grinch") on these.
After the denial and the twitching comes the strange cravings to watch all my traditional holiday-fave dvds. I'm with Tracy ("The Christmas Elf") on this one. Although... my seasonal picks tend toward "Die Hard" (it is too a Christmas movie) and "I, Claudius" (don't ask - it's just a tradition in our house).
And then I get odd, panicky flutterings that tell me I should really haul my in-denial butt to the mall because maybe I should START SHOPPING... I'm really with Lisa ("Spirit of the Season") on this one.
These are my little internal traditions for this time of year. I'll probably start to ease myself out of the temporal disbelief by stopping off to pick up some pine boughs on the way home tonight... ("Nah," sez internal voice. "Stores won't have them yet. Too soon." See? Told you. Denial.)
Of course - one thing that, as of this year, is becoming a tradition for me - and one I'm rather less inclined to be in denial of (although I still can't really believe it's here already -- oops, that sounds like denial - never mind) is that little festive occasion known as a BOOK LAUNCH! Yup, just like last year, smack in the middle of the mid-winter festivities (whenever those are - some weeks away yet, I do believe), yours truly will be getting another one up there on the shelves. Sure... it's another thing to make me a little more seasonally crazy (ha! - "little") but it's something I'm willing to get used to!
And just in case the Holiday Season really is right around the corner (it isn't, is it...?), I would like to wish a Merry Yule, Joyous Mid-Winter, Happy Christmas, Cheery Hannukah, and all the rest to all the Novel Girl readers out there! Have a safe and fabulous holiday season!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
First of all, every time I leave the house this time of year, I regret it. My lazy morning errand runs to Target with my toddler, suddenly become a nightmarish fight for parking and a shopping cart, plus a super-long checkout line which usually amounts to a toddler meltdown. By the time I leave, I’m usually cursing the holiday crowds.
Then there’s the more-than excessive holiday music that plays constantly on the radio from Halloween onward. I actually like holiday music, but not that much of it. Not all the time. And the beautiful Christmas lights that adorn the houses on my street – pretty to look at, but not so nice when the lights across the street shine so brightly into my son’s bedroom that he realizes it’s more entertaining to peak through the window at the lights than actually lie down and go to sleep.
Of course I love all the holiday food and treats, but I hate having to start the new year with a resolution to lose those extra five holiday pounds. Those cute little iced gingerbread cookies I picked up at Trader Joes for the kids last week, are my worst enemy right about now.
I know. I know. None of this is what the holiday season is supposed to be all about. I know it’s really about appreciating what we have and spending time with our families and memorizing a child’s face as he unwraps a gift that he really wanted. And I do love these things. I do. But I tend to love them a whole lot more in January, once I’m able to walk back in a store, listen to the radio, and enjoy those dark starlit nights again.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Every single year I am still racing out to the mall on Christmas Eve.
Sigh. There is no indication that 2009 will be my year for change. So, here I am 9 days before Christmas making out my list. And checking it twice. Without fail I'll be wrapping into the wee hours of the morn on Christmas day. As for why I do it every year? I'm pretty sure it has to do with my genes. My sisters and I all have the same problem. Can I ever change? Probably not. But I'm happy anyway. This year, I've accepted my last-minuteness and I'm focusing on all the good things about me. I'm a cheerful person, I'm creative and I sure do love my boys. In the scheme of life, waiting to the last minute to Christmas shop is not the end of the world. So all of you who tend to live as I do (and I know there are plenty of you out there) have heart!
Or, even better, give of your heart! That's what this crazy holiday season boils down to, don't you think? Giving of ourselves. Whether it's through our time or our resources, let's give something special to someone who's not on our list. We're all creative people. It shouldn't be too hard to come up with a way to bless someone with an unexpected visit or gift. I have a particular soft-spot in my heart for old people. I think my sons and I should make a point to go over to a nursing home on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with a beautifully wrapped gift and spend an hour of our time with an elderly person who is all alone.
It's just a thought. I'd love to hear other suggestions of ways I could take the focus off me and put it onto someone else. And in the meantime show my sons an example of brotherly love. It's been a season of great joy in my home. My prayer is that I never forget from where my blessing comes. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays to all our loyal Novel Girl Followers. We are very grateful for the time you spend with us. God Bless you all!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I just sat down and made a list of gifts to buy. I still need to get my mom a list for my son. I just realized that if I buy anything online, I'll have to express ship it. Argh.
Normally, I enjoy the holiday season and savor Christmas shopping. I'm not sure what caused me to be so behind this year--maybe it was the fact that Thanksgiving was a week later, that my child suddenly morphed into a demanding two-year-old, or that I'm so wrapped up in promoting A Bump in the Road, getting Not Ready for Mom Jeans prepped for publication and finishing up my next book all at the same time.
I'm hoping that I can bang all of my shopping out at Target. Or, at least most of it. Of course, that would require my son to actually behave and allow me to examine shopping items before putting them in the cart--usually, we race through stores, stopping only briefly to grab whatever is needed and chuck it into the cart. The goal is to get in and out with as few casualties as possible--no dirty looks from strangers, broken merchandise, no red faces and certainly no bodily injuries due to being hit by an errant flailing toddler appendage.
But, I do miss being able to savor the season. So, right now, I'm going to publicly declare that I'm going to do my best to actually enjoy the next two weeks. With hopefully very little bodily harm.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I'm not sure if it's the lights, the food (yum), the music, or the all-around holiday cheer that makes me so happy, but I am completely in my element during the month of December. Actually, it's probably a combination of all of these elements, plus the fun I have shopping for others. Regardless, soon after Thanksgiving, I start listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas movies, and reading Christmas books.
In fact, over at my personal blog, I've been sharing some of my favorites.
Last week, I shared that Love Actually is my favorite romantic comedy holiday movie, along with my other favorites in this genre. I also talked about my favorite classic Christmas movies, with A Christmas Carol (1938) being top on my list. And on Friday, I shared my favorite online Christmas shopping destinations this year.
This week, I'll be giving my list of family and kid favorite Christmas shows/movies, and next week, I'm going to post a couple of my Christmas cookie recipes, and maybe a few other holiday recipes.
Between now and Christmas, my family will take one evening to check out some of the area neighborhood lights (we have a few that go all out), we'll take in a movie (probably Disney's A Christmas Carol, but not sure yet), we'll have one full day devoted to Christmas crafts (my kids love painting Christmas ornaments every year, and then the next year, they go on the tree), and a couple days of baking (probably next Monday and Tuesday!). Whew, I'm tired just thinking about it.
So yes, I love this season. This year, I'm hosting Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. This is a first for me, as usually we do the big dinner thing on Christmas Day, but for once, I'd like to have a calm Christmas where I might just stay in my pjs for the entire day. Or not. We'll see!
What about you? Do you like the holidays as much as I do? And if so, what are some of your favorite aspects?
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Like Maureen said, social networking makes writing a lot less lonely profession. I find myself chatting online with other writers that I’ve met, through e-mails or Facebook responses or tweets, daily. There are, in fact, many writers that I feel like I “know” well, though, I’ve actually never met them face to face. There are even a few local authors who I first “met” on Facebook, and then later in person, that I now consider close friends. We see each other in person a few times a year, but of course, we keep in touch regularly through Facebook.
Another really amazing thing about social networking is the way it can connect me to readers, readers I know I’d never hear from otherwise. For instance, I got a Facebook friend request a few months ago from a girl in Denmark who’d read the Danish version of The September Sisters. I was thrilled to hear she loved the book and also that she was doing a book report on it! How cool is that, that Facebook enabled me to connect with her, in a way I otherwise wouldn’t ever have been able to? I love that social networking makes me accessible in this way, and lets me converse with readers, all over the world.
And then there is the downside. Facebook is sometimes hard for me to navigate because I don’t completely use it just as a writing social networking tool. I also have Facebook friends that are real-life friends, close friends even, some that live far away, that I would like to share pictures of my kids and sometimes, snarky comments with, but I also have a lot of “friends” that I don’t know at all, readers, writers, fans. And, as I said above, I love that I can connect with them this way, but I’m also generally, a really private person. I don’t want people I don’t actually “know” to know about or see my kids or even, be offended by something I might say. So I often find myself thinking twice before updating my Facebook status or tweeting and try to keep things general, light, and book-related. I often have to remind myself that Facebook and Twitter are great networking/promotional tools for my writing career, and to keep more distance than I might want to. Before I post something, I find myself thinking about all the different people that will see it, and, as a result, I’ve deleted many a tweet/status update before I’ve actually posted it.
So I’m curious, how do you navigate between your "friends" and your friends with your social networking?
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Hence the problem with this week's topic.
I stink at social networking. I hope it gets better but for now I can't see myself as ever becoming a pro-Facebooker, not to mention a first-class Twitterer. I just don't see how y'all do it. I'll confess (as I have many times before here at the NG grog) that I'm not the best at time management. Or maybe it just comes down to distractibility. If I were to tweet all day about everything that's on my mind or what I'm doing, I'd be so aflutter that nothing would get done in my life. As it is, I'm lucky to ever get by the grocery store to buy cream for my coffee.
I often find myself cringing at the thought of the S.N. PoPo coming to arrest me. I'd tell you my hair is standing on end but it does that naturally anyway.
So, this is the deal. I'm trying as hard as I can to keep up with 3 email accounts (personal, author, & real job), three voice mails, facebook, twitter, blog, WORK, trim the tree, shop for presents, pay bills, clean house, manage two HM sons and one little dog, write another novel, promote first novel, bathe, launder my clothes, iron, make sure tires are rotated and oil is changed, AND try to squeeze in a little bit of a social life here and there. I'm in multi-task hell.
Oh, and I just remembered one more mandatory task for a girl my age . . . EXERCISE! More power to all y'all who have got this figured out. I'm telling you right now, I'm very jealous!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
On one hand, now that I'm writing full-time, social networking is a must for me. It keeps me connected to readers, to the "real world" and has truly helped foster wonderful relationship with other authors. I can't imagine how lonely writing life would be without my daily dose of friendship via the internet.
On the other hand, however, I know I would be so, so much more productive if I wasn't constantly distracted by all of the fascinating things posted on Twitter, Facebook and the like. So, for me, I've found the best way to balance all of the demands is to take mini vacations. Periodically, I'll ignore Facebook, only glance occasionally at Twitter, let my personal blog collect dust, and only post here at The Novel Girls.
For me, when I'm in the middle of a book, it feels like too much of a distraction to continually talk about it. I need to get lost in my own head for awhile. And when I'm writing, well, there's little else that I do. Or, I should say, there's little else that I do that would be deemed blog-worthy. I mean, trips to Trader Joe's and letting my house deteriorate into crack-den-status aren't exactly great blog topics. So, I often feel like my blogging is sporadic, with lots of gaps and a post that says, "Sorry! I've been doing XYZ."
With that said, I feel that social networking is absolutely essential for building buzz about a debut book. Thing about it--how many books have you heard about, that you never would've known existed, if you didn't read Twitter, Facebook or blogs? For me, it's nearly every book I've bought this year. And that, my friends, makes being pulled in a million different directions totally Worth It.
Monday, December 7, 2009
But in reality and in actual practice--I'm a newbie with a capital "N." See, it doesn't seem to matter that I *know* what I'm supposed to do, that I've done countless hours of research on the topic and the different forms (for the aforementioned ghost-written books), or that I can preach the benefits of social networking with the best of them...because when you get right down to it, I am NOT a social networking success story.
I get it. I really do. Take Twitter, for instance. I understand the appeal. I know WHY Twitter works (when it works). I even enjoy using Twitter...to a certain extent. But I'm lucky if I even remember to tweet ONCE a day, let alone find the time to use Twitter the way it should be used (which is, at the base, all about entering into conversations with other folks).
The same goes with Facebook...though, I will admit I enjoy Facebook a bit more than Twitter. I think that's because conversations happen SO FAST on Twitter, that I'm always behind the flow of information. But Facebook seems to operate at a slower pace (at least for me), and that pace seems to match my ideal social networking pace.
Blogging is another animal all together. Here at TNG, I'm good about keeping my Monday slot filled with some type of a post, probably because the other TNGs are counting on me so I don't want to let anyone down, but every time I try to get organized at my personal blog, I last a couple of weeks and then...well, a few weeks will pass before I even realize I've fallen behind--again.
So every week I'm on a new mission to update my blog at least three times in a seven day time frame (come on, it shouldn't be THAT difficult!), to update Twitter and Facebook at least once a day (Monday through Friday), and try to become more active in the social networking world.
But I continue to fail at this. It's not that I don't want to reach out and talk to folks. Heck, I LOVE talking to people! It's more that I have so much to do every day that the hours rush by and suddenly, I'm exhausted and it's bed time.
I'm going to try something new at my blog beginning in January. Somehow (ha!) I'm going to try to find time to pre-write about a dozen posts sometime this month. And then, on the days I just am too busy to come up with something new, I'll grab one of the pre-written posts. Of course, supposing this works, I'll then have to take time to replace whatever pre-written ones I use.
The weird thing is that I LOVE reading other folks blogs. There are a dozen I check on a fairly regular basis, and the majority of these folks have blogging down to a science. Their posts are interesting, timely, and I always learn something...or they make me laugh...or they make me think. Because they're so good at blogging, I always come back.
And that's where I"m failing on my blog. I think I come up with some good posts, but I'm not consistent enough to keep people coming back. My goal is to become as strong in practice at social networking as I am in knowledge...or heck, even half as strong!
For all of you social networking gurus out there...how do you do it? Where do you find the time? Or what tricks do you use to keep on target? I'd love a few pointers!
Friday, December 4, 2009
No, seriously. You see, I was facing down the charging-bull of a deadline (which I've mostly met now, barring a handful of pages I kept back to work on before sending) for... Book the Third.
And here's where it gets weird. I'm still a "debut novelist", technically. DARKLIGHT, the second book in my WONDROUS STRANGE series hasn't even hit the shelves, yet! And I'm worrying about finishing up Book Three!! All of a sudden, time in my universe has become some kind of weird, convoluted Star Trek: TNG plot contrivance. "Help me, Commander Riker! I'm caught in the vortex of a temporal anomaly!" There is the constant threat of explosion. Or implosion.
Tick tick tick. It's the subject of many a pop song, Time.
Songs to which I can now vividly relate:
"Time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin'..."
"Tiiiimme... keeps flowin' like a river..."
"Time time time... see what's become of me..." (yeah, see, I always hear The Bangles singing that in my head rather than Simon & Garfunkle...)
And that one song to which I quite simply cannot relate to AT ALL anymore:
"Too much time on my hands...."
So much has happened to me in this relatively brief span that, while I feel there is not nearly enough of the stuff (time), I've learned that - given the right impetus - you really can make use of it for all it's worth.
But, at the same time (heh), I've learned that, when something like this (becoming a debut novelist... and moving toward becoming a not-debut novelist) happens, you do really have to step back once in a while and make the world stop for you. Even if it's just for an hour at a stretch. Look around. Take a deep breath. Realize that something phenomenal has happened and let yourself appreciate it. Hell - MAKE yourself appreciate it.
Because, like Jillian said, once the book got out there... I, too, kind of thought it would be an ending of a sort. That the clock had counted down to the launch. And it had. But now there's a stopwatch constantly ticking that measures how I go forward from that point. It's a marathon. It's a series of sprints. I've learned to love the sound of seconds passing. Sometimes it sounds like a grandfather clock. Sometimes, a digital timer on an action-movie bomb.
My fellow Girls are wise. And they always get to this stuff before me. If you find yourself in this situation or one like it (and I hope you do!), follow the excellent advice they have given you below. What they have told is is all the stuff I have learned, and more. And I will add one more thing: it's not just time - it's YOUR time. Treat it as such.
And, know this: You're gonna miss things. And you're gonna screw things up because it all happens so fast. And you're gonna say things like "Dang, I wish I had more time!" You won't. And that's okay. You will just have to make the most of this finite precious resource. Me? Right now I'm on the west coast, hanging out with (regular Novel Girl reader) my mom. And looking out over the ocean.
I'm finishing my third book. I have a second book coming out in a few weeks.
A very short time from now.
An eternity away from this moment.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
And then I learned about making websites and diving into the world of social networking. Yes, there was a time, pre-debut, when the word “tweet” had never once entered my vocabulary, and now, it seems like a part of my daily existence. I learned about blogging and group blogging and blog tours and blog interviews and guest blogging. I learned about all the fabulous blog reviewers who wanted to read and help me promote my book. I learned about book signings and book festivals and how chain bookstores buy books. And that was just the beginning.
At a certain point last March, just after The September Sisters came out, I became so overwhelmed with book promotion that I might’ve gone a little crazy for a few weeks in there. I wasn’t writing (or sleeping much) either. And then I realized that I had to take a step back, take a deep breath. Every single thing was not going to go the way I wanted it to or expected it to. And that was okay.
But I think the biggest thing I learned was that my debut was just the beginning of my journey, the start to my career. And I started to actually believe it, that this, writing books, and all the work and promotion that comes with it is actually my career. As I watched the clock tick down to my debut release date last February, I mistakenly thought that when it hit 0, when the book came out, it would be the end of something. My book would be gone, out into the world. But no, really, it was just the beginning.
I didn’t do everything perfectly for my debut. There were things I wished I’d done after the fact, missed opportunities. Questions I wished I’d asked sooner. Blurbs I wished I’d gone after. Moments I wished I’d savored more. But just like anything thing else, this was a learning experience.
So my second book is coming out in two months, but this time I really do feel more prepared. I’ve got all the website/social networking/blogging stuff down, for starters. But most importantly, I’ve vowed to eat and sleep and keep writing. I’ve vowed to stop and enjoy the amazing moments. I’ve vowed to remember that this book is a step – a big, amazing, awe-inspiring step – in what I hope will be a long career.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Okay, I'll go ahead and confess right now my biggest surprise over debut book promotion. I wore myself out. I had no idea that traveling around promoting my book would cause me to lose sleep and forget what day of the week it was much less what date and what month! At one point, my adrenaline was rushing through my body so fast and furiously that I lost four nights sleep in a row. I mean I never got one wink's sleep in four freaking days!! This happened while I was in my home-town of Memphis promoting Whistlin' Dixie. In looking back on it I realize now that it was because I had not ever experienced that kind of a high.
The week was crammed with interviews and book signings (as well as a lovely launch party given by my childhood friends) and I was for a brief moment in time someone else other than myself. I was autographing books. Wow. What a new concept for me. For years I worked for a famous musician as his behind-the-scenes, right-hand person. I watched as he was hounded for autographs time and time again NEVER imagining that I would actually scribble out my own for anyone, anywhere, even one time. While I know the very few times I signed books are minuscule in comparison to that of my heroes Fannie Flagg or Pat Conroy, it still blew my mind that I would ever be asked to sign a book.
I've also learned that promoting your own book and not sitting back and expecting your publisher to do it all is also very important . . . especially when you're a debutante and no one knows who in the world you are. As a writer, you need to be prepared to promote your book, dream up ways to get the word out, use every contact or insider you can find and call in your favors!!
One other thing I learned is that I'm not the best at time management. I rarely had time to write while I was promoting my book. I remember distinctly Peter Wolf at Thomas Dunne Books explaining that very concept to me while we were sitting at lunch on a visit to NY. I heard him, but now I believe him. Don't count on being able to write much while you are in book launch mode.
Lastly, I learned to soak up the fun. Live in the moment. You only make ONE debut as a writer. You've worked for it, you've earned it and let no one deprive you of it . . . by all means have the time of your life.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Enjoy it. If you would've told me in January to make sure I sat back and relished some of the ride, I would've probably laughed. I guess I would compare it to people telling you to enjoy planning a wedding or being pregnant. It's so easy to get caught up in the details--the stuff that you feel like you "should" be doing, that you nearly have to force yourself to sit down and enjoy the scenery once in awhile. Truth is, I miss a bit of the wide-eyed, innocent perspective I had before my book launched. So, if you can, try to stop the forward motion for a few moments and soak in the good stuff.
Do as much as you can without going insane. I mean this in terms of promotion. Focus on what you enjoy doing--blog interviews, book signings, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and forget about the rest. It's so, so easy to get sucked into trying to promote your book everywhere and it usually only ends up burning you out. Sure, this might mean cutting back on a few things, but in the end, your sanity is worth it.
Let go. This is the most difficult lesson--one that I'm still trying to learn. At some point, you have to move on from your book and focus on the next one. Many authors publish a book a year, which leaves a very small window after one book is released before they need to focus on the next one. To be honest, I've just started to switch over into giving Not Ready for Mom Jeans my attention and it feels a bit like...cheating. Which is ridiculous, since the front list supports the back list and all of that. But still. It's hard to let your baby go and think about the next one. I guess it's kind of like having a second child--you know it'll be great and fun, but don't want your first baby to feel neglected.
Monday, November 30, 2009
What do I mean by that?
Here are a few things that aren't worth sweating over (trust me!):
- Which font to use for your manuscript. As long as the font is readable, it truly doesn't matter. Seriously. Courier? That's fine. Times New Roman? Yep, fine. I mean, I probably wouldn't choose Algerian, Impact, or Curlz MT (to name a few), but if you choose a traditional, easy-to-read, 12 pt font, you're good to go.
- Single or double spacing your synopsis. Again, no one really cares as long as it's easy to read with 1 inch margins.
- Which word count to use. Use the word count your word processing program tells you is there. Don't worry about trying to calculate the old way (Courier New font, double space, 25 lines per page = 250 words per page x number of pages in the manuscript). There is no need to calculate word count anymore...not when word processing programs do the work for you! Besides which, you'll get a vastly different number from the calculation method.
- Ignore the rules! Okay, don't ignore all of them. You want to follow submission guidelines, and you want to deliver a clean manuscript that is easy to read, has 1 inch margins all around, a header with your name and title of the book, etc. HOWEVER, you know those rules that say to never use certain words? Or that say you HAVE to plot, or you HAVE to do this or that or the next thing. IGNORE THEM and write your book the way you need to write it. However that way is. If you're a plotter, then plot. If you're not a plotter, then don't plot.
Naturally, if you're submitting to an agent who specifies the synopsis should be double spaced, then double space it, or if they state they want Times New Roman, then use TNR. Other than specific guidelines attached to submissions (whether for contests, editors, or agents), don't sweat this stuff. You'll drive yourself crazy for no reason.
I hope everyone had a terrific holiday weekend! I know I did, and most of my Christmas shopping is already done. I plan on finishing within the next week, so I can do something different this year and not have a six-hour wrap fest the day before Christmas Eve. THIS year, I plan on wrapping a few things here and there every day. I'll let you know how successful I am!
See you all next week!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
As a kid my family always used to travel from our home near Philadelphia to spend Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house in Pittsburgh. I loved Thanksgiving then for the same reasons that I do now, only then it was different family I was seeing, a different living room filled with laughter. When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of my grandmother basting her turkey in her tiny kitchen and my grandfather glued to his chair with the television remote. I think of my grandmother trying to stuff us with food until we felt like we were going to burst and my grandfather slipping all the kids money as we ran by him, I still think of these things, even though my grandfather passed away a few years ago, and my grandmother has Alzheimer’s which makes it impossible for her to cook now, or travel to be with us, or even remember from moment to moment.
I think of these things, and I am grateful, that I had them, these moments with my grandparents and my family, these moments that stuck out of my childhood as things to be cherished. And that now there is a new generation of kids to run laughing through the day, a new generation of grandparents to love them and smother them with food and hugs. I think of these things and I am thankful for all of them: good memories, good family, good moments, a lot of love in my life, and of course, laughter.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Now, I don't want to make this post a tell-all on my wacky family, but I can't resist giving a few hints as to the level of our family dysfunction. Never did we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner before 9:00 p.m., and never was it to a home-cooked meal. On the contrary the food was ALWAYS pre-ordered from the club we belonged to. And by that time of night my mother, God rest her beautiful soul, had inevitably had a few too many. (She grew up in the Golden Age of Cinema as a Hollywood actress when martinis and cigarettes came with the job). Once we'd finally sit down at the elegant table adorned with my grandmother's antique linen table cloth, fine china and sterling flatware, and upon discovery that the turkey was as dry as a bone from the extra hours it spent in the warming drawer, and that there wasn't enough gravy to go on both the turkey AND the mashed potatoes, my poor mother yells - well screams, "THIS YEAR WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A PEACEFUL THANKSGIVIIIIIIING."
Years of therapy later, here I am a Novel Girl.
I will say this about dysfunction. Dysfunction=Conflict=Great Writing Material. So that leads me to the chief reason I'm thankful for 2009. My dream came true after a very long fourteen years. I am finally a published author! I have no idea what 2010 will bring but I'm pretty sure it will hold its share of ups and downs. This past year brought my highest high and unfortunately my lowest low. But I thank God for His sovereignty and for the life of a beautiful young man, someone whom I've always thought of as my other son. My family has hope in knowing that Josiah David Berger is alive in Heaven and waiting to someday welcome my boys and me to his eternal home. Here's to you, Josiah. Never did you miss a chance to encourage me over the years while writing Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter and I'm so thankful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving Eve everyone!!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
This year for Thanksgiving, my husband and I are packing up the old Ford Explorer and hauling our two-year-old and dog down to Cincinnati, Ohio to visit the inlaws. I've been looking forward to the 24/7 help with childcare, I must admit. (Although I'd be much more excited if my son hadn't recently learned how to get out of a pack-and-play, which should make those four days pretty...sleepless.)
Thanksgiving is late this year, so it feels strange to celebrate it and then have it be December the following week. Not to be delayed, all of the stores around here have already put all of their Christmas decorations and presents out. And our local radio station has already started playing Christmas music 24/7. I'm loving it now, although ask me in two weeks if my ears are bleeding from hearing Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" eleventy billion times.
And since I just turned in my acknowledgements and dedication for Mom Jeans, I'm in a thankful mood. So here is a brief list of things that, in 2009, I am thankful for:
1. Writing full-time: A true blessing in disguise, the ability to not split my focus between writing, a day job and my toddler has been the most wonderful gift. Whenever things are a bit difficult, like when my son won't take a nap or has a meltdown in a public place, I remind myself that everyday, I get to do things that I love--spend time with my family and my writing. And that, my friends, is worth a little public embarrassment.
2. My family and friends: If nothing else, holidays and social outings always provide me with good book material and tons of laughs. Their love and support always keeps me laughing and confident.
3. My fellow writers: This past year has been an orientation into the writing world, and I couldn't have done it without the support and camaraderie of my fellow writers, especially The Novel Girls! Writing is fun, publishing is not always. It's so great to have a support system of people who truly "get it."
Now, I could go into a list of things I am NOT thankful for, like the Chicago Bears football team this year, but we'll just end on a positive note, OK?
Monday, November 23, 2009
When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was always at our house. The activity would actually start earlier in the week. My mom would cover our dining room table with slices of bread, so they'd stale in time to make the dressing. Then, the night before, we'd tear up the bread into chunks, bake a few pies, and do any other prep work my mother could think of.
And then, on Thanksgiving morning, I'd wake up to the smell of turkey roasting. That's because my mother would get up at the crack of dawn to get the turky into the oven, so it would be ready for an early afternoon dinner. Man, I loved waking up and smelling that turkey.
The rest of the morning was filled with tasks like peeling potatoes, cutting vegetables, and setting out treats (like pumpkin bread) for people to munch on while waiting for the actual dinner. Family would start pouring in late morning, and our house would almost burst from the amount of people.
It was noisy, crowded, and fun. Oh so fun. I loved every minute of it.
Things are different now. Some years, I host Thanksgiving. Other years, my parents still do. This year, we're doing both. Yeah, I know...crazy, huh? But my parents are having Thanksgiving on Thursday, and I'm hosting a second Thanksgiving on Friday. This sort of happened on accident. You see, I planned on having the turkey get-together this year, and went about setting everything up and making certain purchases (like, you know, a turkey). And then, just a few days ago, my mom announced that they were going to have the full dinner at their house.
So this year, we're having two. And I'm okay with that. Kind of. Other than all the cooking I wouldn't have had to do if I'd known earlier, that is.
Besides which, my gathering will be a lot smaller now, which means it will be much more relaxing than normal. So there's the silver lining!
How about you? How are you spending your Thanksgiving this year?
For a little Thanksgiving fun, check out the Turkey Fling game. It's weirdly addictive...
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I'm neck deep in the home stretch on book 3 - yes I know I'm mixing metaphors. Quiet you. I'm also dog-tired from a full day of recording for the audio book version of DARKLIGHT yesterday with another full day in the studio tomorrow.
As far as food goes these days, pretty much anything I have time for - and somebody makes for me - is awesome. That somebody, of course, is usually John. But on the occasions when we do eat out, and eat out somewhere other than the place up the street, I do have a few faves. I'll tell you about two of them that, really know how to "make" a meal.
There is a steakhouse in town called Tom Jones. It is absolutely Old School. It's been around forever and the piano bar looks like it could have been a shooting location for Ocean's Eleven. The original one. This place has career waiters and - if you have ever experienced really high quality wait-staff service, you'll know what I mean when I say that they make all the difference in the world. These guys make the meal. They also, not coincidentally, make the salad. Ahhhh... the table-side caesar salad. I can taste the garlic just typing this. They will remember, for instance, even if I haven't been there in months, that I usually like a glass of Pinot Grigio before dinner. And seriously. I don't go there that often. That makes a meal.
Another place I'm ford of is the The Stonegrill on Winchester. These guys don't make your meal. They don't cook for you. Rather, they bring you your food uncooked, on a lava rock platter heated to - I dunno - a billion degrees, and they tell you to cook it. Just the way you like it. It is awesome. The ingredients are simple and straightforward - slab of meat, hot rock - and of exceptional quality. And you control the cooking time. It's delicious. And, of course there's that element of danger! And, in this case, that makes the meal.
And now I'm hungry. Where's my pizza?!??
Thursday, November 19, 2009
But I don’t always eat healthy when I go out, of course! On the rare occasions I get to go out alone with my husband, I like going to The Melting Pot. I love the fondue, and especially the dessert fondue. Plus I love the dark, romantic atmosphere for an evening without kids. (Although, no matter what my husband and I do, somehow whenever we get a night out to ourselves there always ends up being a screaming child at the table behind us.)
I also love Mexican & southwestern food, and Blanco has a good combination plus the best fresh squeezed margaritas I’ve ever had. (The pomegranate grapefruit is amazing!).
And my favorite reminds-me-of-my-roots restaurant is Frankie’s Philadelphia Cheesesteaks. Everyone who grows up in Philadelphia knows that you can’t get a real cheesesteak anywhere outside of Philly. But I think Frankie’s is the exception. In fact, I had a cheesesteak the last time I went back to Philly to visit my parents, and decided that Frankie’s is actually better.
I love eating out, but these days, I’m much more a fan of take-out and cooking at home than I used to be in my pre-kid days. Half the time when we decide to go out now, my husband and I try to think of the quickest and/or loudest option. Because, yeah not having to clean up or cook is great, but trying to keep a toddler from jumping out of his high chair/letting out high-pitched screams/throwing crayons makes restaurants seem not quite as fun as they used to.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
But my ineptness at housework is not what we're discussing here.
Crab legs are my favorite food. And land-locked Tennessee is not the primo place to find them - let me tell you. So there is really nowhere in Nashville that I'm excited about eating crab legs. :-( Now take me to Florida and I'll stuff my face till I'm sick. One of my favorite places to dine is Bud and Alley's in Seaside, Florida. I've only tasted their crab cakes (for which they are infamous) and I thought I had reached an early nirvanna.
Check them out. You'll see what I mean. And if you've never been to Seaside, Florida - OMG, you have just been told about a little slice of heaven and one of the best kept secrets on the entire Florida Gulf Coast. It's 7 hours due south of Nashville and I had the good fortune of having a book signing at Sundog Books, smack dab in the middle of town.
They have one of the most amazing bookstores I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. Linda and her staff are amazing. Please tell her I sent you next time you're there!
But if I had to choose just one favorite restaurant I think my all-time-favorite is the Hula Grill in Hawaii. They have one on Waikiki Beach and one on Kaanapali Beach in Maui.
FAB-U-LOUS is all I can say. Imagine a tropical breeze blowing through your hair, cooling your sunburned skin, as you gaze out onto the most luscious sunset you've ever feasted your eyes upon. The decor is an old Hawaiian plantation home with old fans lazily moving with the tradewinds. The food is to die for but then again seafood is the kind of food that tickles my taste buds.
I've got one problem with the Hula Grill. Every time I think about it I start salivating. Inevitably that drooling turns into starvation - like right now - and I feel the need to run up to the seafood market and settle for a poor substitute. I'm just praying that one day I'll find my way back to the Hula Grill, but for now I'll just have to be happy with my HG tee-shirt.
By the way, if any of our NG Followers live in Dallas I'll be at the Chi Omega Christmas Market at the Dallas Convention Center tonight as well as in the morning. I'd love to meet you so please stop by the Barnes and Noble booth! www.chiomegaxmas.org
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
1. Russell's Barbecue With wood-paneled walls, picnic tables and plastic silverware, Russell's is about as down home as you can get. They also happen to have some of the best barbecue sauce and ribs I've ever had. It's been around forever--my grandparents used to go on dates here. They even used to have those little jukeboxes at each booth, which was just about the coolest thing ever when I was little.
2. The Sushi House. My family has been going here for sushi since I was a little kid. I always start my meal off with a serving of their miso soup and their goma ae salad--essentially spinach leaves with a peanut dressing. We usually all order a variety of sushi rolls and split it--anything from shrimp tempura rolls to california roll to tuna. The one pitfall of eating sushi (for me anyway), is that it adds up quickly! Each piece is priced pretty reasonably, but by the end of the meal, I always jolt a little at the total. But so, so worth it!
3. Lou Malnati's Pizza. This is my pick for best pizza in Chicago, mainly due to their awesome sauce. They top their deep dish pizza with a combination of stewed and crushed tomatoes and fresh garlic. It's hard to 100% accurately describe, but I've never had pizza that tasted more fresh and homemade.
4. Moto My husband and I recently ate here for my thirtieth birthday. We had a ten course, pre-fixed meal that was simply outstanding. Each course had a fun twist to it, starting with the presentation of menu, which was presented on an edible wafer. One of the courses is a "Cuban Cigar," which is basically a pork sandwich wrapped in grape leaves served in an ash tray. It sounds disgusting, and looked it, but it was amazing to eat something that your brain said, "NO!" but your palate screamed, "YES!"
I could go on and on, but I have to stop somewhere. So there you have it. Are you guys as hungry as I am? :)
Monday, November 16, 2009
My family doesn't go out to eat all that often, so when we do, it's a real treat. And while I don't have actual favorites, I do have preferences. If we're heading out for breakfast or brunch, my two top chocies are going to be either Bob Evans (they're not exactly local, but not exactly national, either. They have locations in 18 states), or Scrambler Maries, which only has locations in Ohio. Awesome breakfasts to be had, and prices that work for a family with four kids!
When it comes to lunch or dinner, though, my restaurant choice will be based more on the type of food we want than the actual place. For Italian, a favorite is Biaggi's. I love their lobster and black fettucini! For steak, Mancy's Steakhouse (a Toledo favorite for 85 years) heads the list in a big way. And if we're in the mood for seafood, and we have some extra money, we'll go to the Bluewater Grille.
Family-favorites, though, tend to fall into the national chains, such as Olive Garden, Applebees, and such. Places with enough choices on the menu to make everyone happy and prices that won't make my hands shake as I pay the bill!
I'm also a real fan of ordering out and having food brought to my door. I still don't have to cook, clean up is minimal, and um...yeah, I can dress for dinner in my PJs if I want. :)
So, what about you? What are your favorite restaurants?
Saturday, November 14, 2009
And this week, its been damn-near impossible where my darling city is concerned.
Oh, Toronto, with your whimsical Tower and your quaint streetcars and adorable junior subway (I can say that - I just had to navigate around the NYC subway by myself and - trust me - the TTC is Subway Lite!), and your unpredictable lake-effect weather that always assures that whatever I choose to wear on any given day is exactly the wrong thing. I do love you. I do. That's why I'm here. You are vibrant and cultured and polite and pretty. But this week, you have put my love to the test.
Well maybe not the whole city. Maybe just my immediate neighborhood.
I live right downtown. This has the advantage of putting me smack where the action is. I'm a seconds-long walk to 2 streetcar lines (which is lovely - except when there's an accident east of the bridge and neither of them are running...)
I have a local pub just up the street where I can go for a pint and a brainstorming session about whatever current plot problem is making me crazy.
There is shopping and entertainment on Queen Street.
There is the historical Distillery District a brief stroll away.
There is Leslieville with its up-and-coming funkiness and the creeping revitalization of Corktown which is slowly taking it from seedy to hip.
There is a lot happening in a very close radius to my house. Hence the love/hate attitude. See... I understand that for revitalization to take place, there must be new building. I just object to the fact that it has to be right in front of my house. My view of the aforementioned whimsical tower is gone now and I haven't slept past 7:00 am in almost a year (and I am NOT a morning person).
I understand that to accommodate the growth you need to do things like replace water mains. I don't understand why this needs to be done at 4:00 in the bloody morning. Yes. 4. Not a typo. (See - sleep deprivation, above).
I completely get the fact that living downtown means bustle and noise and craziness. But on Saturday? Every Saturday? Seriously?
So you see... this post would be much more elegiac if I wasn't so very very tired.
It's like this: it's tough to write a love note to someone who's kept you awake all night with monster-loud snoring. Mostly you just want to elbow them sharply in the kidney.
Also... the Leafs lost again last night. Love hurts, man. Love hurts.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
It felt crazy, at first, moving across the country from a place of luminous green and snowy mountains to a place of cactus and dry (but intense) summer heat and desert landscapes. But at the time, I figured it would only be two years, that it would be an adventure.
Yet something happened to me during those two years. I fell in love with the dry, dry air. I fell in love with the constant sunshine. I fell in love with the brown mountains that surround Tucson, that sometimes make me feel like I’m living in a postcard. And then it felt impossible to leave all that behind.
And thus my favorite things about living in Tucson are not so much the attractions you can visit, the things you can do or see or eat (although, I do love the Mexican food), but just the place itself. The dry, crisp air. The saguaro cacti that seem to stretch up the sides of mountains for miles. The winter weather filled with days that are perfect for long walks and taking kids to the park and eating dinner outside. I love that 60 degrees now feels cold to me.
I love the miniature hummingbirds that flutter in my bougainvillea and the jackrabbits that eat my teeny tiny patch of (irrigated, of course) grass. I love the real honest to goodness road runners and quail that dart in front of my car.
I love that the brown mountains turn purple and orange every day at sunset, and that the prickly pear cactus bloom with brilliant pink flowers in the spring. I love that often at night, when it is cool and dark and the air is clear, I can hear coyotes howling from somewhere not too far away.
Part of this landscape I tried to re-create in The Life of Glass, because living here, I think it’s become something I’ve absorbed, something that felt big and important enough to my life to become a part of a story. I hope that when readers pick up The Life of Glass, they’ll be able to understand, to see it, to imagine it, just a tiny part of this landscape that I’ve come to love.
And speaking of The Life Of Glass, I’ve got a “three-months-and counting contest” (because yes, it’ll be out in three months!!) going on over at my blog. You can click here to read about it and enter to win a signed ARC and a $25 Sephora giftcard!!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
What to do? Where to live? That question has been tangled up in my mind now for the last fourteen years. Both places have their strong-points. Franklin is a picturesque, quintessential little Southern town in Middle-Tennessee with a statue of a Confederate soldier on our town square greeting our town's visitors. Franklin holds the distinction as hosting the bloodiest battle ever fought on Southern soil, The Battle of Franklin, and while that's not so wonderful, the history here certainly draws wonderful tourist dollars to our adorable little town.
It's safe, it's clean, and the people are as warm as the climate. There are hundreds of antebellum homes still standing and if you're a lake person you're in luck. We've got plenty of those nearby and most of the kids learn to wake board and ski at a young age.
Now Memphis, the other side of my heart, is wonderful, too. You'll never find a prettier sunset no matter how hard you try. "Reds, pinks, oranges, and yellows streak the sky and you can watch the entire fireball melt into the cotton fields of Arkansas right across the Mississippi." That's a quote from Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter. The book is set in Memphis for the simple reason that my heart never left. Even though I've been gone for the past 17 years, I still cry every single time I leave. My girlfriends who live here are more like my sisters and it kills me to leave them behind.
If you like bar-be-que (and that's not a verb) it's the best in the world. And to prove it we have the annual Memphis In May International Bar-be-que Cooking Contest every year held downtown on the banks of the Mississippi during May. That's our annual month-long festival to celebrate our prettiest month of the year.
I'm hoping (well actually at this point I'm still dreaming) that one day I'll be able to live in both cities, become a famous full-time writer and own a house in each. But for now, I'm happy to live solely in Franklin. After all, it's where my boys call home and my friends in Franklin mean as much to me as my friends in Memphis. Like I said, I'm in a conundrum.
By the way, tomorrow night, Thursday November 12, I'll be in the wonderful Mississippi Delta at Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Mississippi. Please tell all your Mississippi friends and cousins to drop by and say hi anytime between 5:30 to 7:00. Until next week, have a great week y'all!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
First off, the city itself is beautiful. Situated on Lake Michigan, the entire skyline comes alive on a sunny day thanks to the reflections off the water. It's also a remarkably clean city, as we have the alleys that NYC does not, so there are no piles of garbage bags on the sidewalk. (I was in NYC a couple of years ago, in July, the day before garbage day. Just thinking about the smell still turns my stomach!)
Second, we have some of the best restaurants in the country. From Charlie Trotter's to Moto to the Gibsons Steakhouse, you will eat well when you're here. And let's not forget our famous deep dish pizza. It will induce instant food coma. At the American Library Association's conference in Chicago this summer, some fabulous members of the St. Martin's crew were asking me about Gino's East pizza, eyes-wide. They simply were astounded that people actually choose to eat a pizza as thick as an apple pie.
And finally, we have some amazing sports here in Chicago. Well, after the Bears game this Sunday, maybe we'll just say amazing fans. But seriously, we have two major league baseball teams, a football team, a basketball team and a hockey team. As I've mentioned before, my favorite sports team is the Chicago Cubs--who haven't won a world series in over 100 years, but still pack the stands 40,000 deep every game.
Which is not to say that everything is perfect. Our traffic will kill you, or at the very least take a few years off your life. In the winter, it's not insane to experience windchills in the -20 range. And I won't even get into all of our infamous former politicians such as Rod Blagojevich, our ousted governor.
But, my love for my city is what prompted me to set A Bump in the Road and the sequel, Not Ready for Mom Jeans, in Chicago. And you'd better believe that my hometown will be featured in future books!
So, tell me, have you guys ever been to Chicago?
Monday, November 9, 2009
I know. But it's the truth.
Where do I live? Toledo, Ohio. And I can also honestly say that every reason I love this city has nothing to do with the city itself. It's about the people I love. Not just my family, but my friends, my writing group, and...oh, wait...that's about it. Not that Toledo doesn't have anything great to offer, because it does. Here are a few of those things:
- The Toledo Zoo: Toledo has an amazing zoo. Seriously. We're "one of the world's most complete zoos," and the zoo has been in existence for over 100 years. So that's cool, and my kids definitely enjoy summer visits to the zoo, as well as the special Halloween and Christmas exhibits.
- The Toledo Museum of Art: Our museum is also globally recognized and has won many awards over the years. Because the museum remains privately-endowed, admission has remained free since the museum's opening in 1901.
- The Toledo Mud Hens: Toledo's very own Triple-A Professional Baseball Team that has been around for over 100 years, and whose popularity extends well-beyond this community.
- Toledo Botanical Gardens: Also free to the public year-round, the Toledo Botanical Gardens is a living plant museum that is a beautiful place to stop and smell the roses.
Oh, and there are a few celebrities who are from Toledo:
- Jamie Farr
- Eric Kripke (Creator, writer, and more of Supernatural)
- Katie Holmes
- Bonnie Turner
Hm, now I'm feeling a little guilty about my statement of only living here because of family, but I'm not going to delete and re-write. Mostly because while I love all of these things that Toledo offers, I'm still planning on moving to another city when we are financially able. But while we're here, there's a lot to do, and there's a lot to be proud of.
And yep, my family is still here too. :)
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Right. So. POV. (I love acronyms, btw: "Hey! I can't figure out my POV in this scene - it's like my characters have gone MIA! WTF?")
I've used a variety of 'em in my day. And I'm not sure I have a preference - at least not a general preference; I always, of course, wind up having a very specific preference for the individual work, even if it takes a couple of tries to figure out what that is...
Like my fellow Girls, I too am somewhat enamored of first person. The immediacy of thought. The intimacy of emotion. The "I" factor...
But... but... but...
First person, it does have it's challenges.
The first book I wrote was written entirely in first person. That was cool, because it really let me get deep inside the character, and - in this particular instance - I couldn't have written it any other way. Problem was, the main character was living a second life, had a complete set of memories from his first life, and - over the course of the story - had to tell his story from both a past and present perspective, often including key scenes from his past that had occurred after his death. I had to relate those things through anecdotal evidence from other characters, and everything was filtered through the main character's dual perception.
Yeah. I know what you're thinking. No wonder the damn thing took me so long to write.
In that particular case, plot, structure, characterizations... absolutely everything was a product of the POV I chose to write in. It was... challenging. It was also the book where I learned to write. A worthy exercise? Absolutely. I hope you get to read it someday, 'cause I personally think it kicks a fair bit of arse. (er... and probably needs a fair bit of editing - I was over-fond of adjectives in those days...)
Since that time, the projects I have finished have been written in third person (the book that landed me an agent), and third person close alternating between 2 POVs - those of Sonny Flannery and Kelley Winslow in, of course, my WONDROUS STRANGE trilogy.
The first project was interesting because it gave me a chance to get inside the character's head, while also retaining a degree of 'directorial' control and commentary. It still poses some of the same challenges as first person, ie - you can really only tell the story from one person's perspective, but it lets you focus in close or pull back into a medium or wide shot (to use that aforementioned director-speak) as needed. It's nice and versatile.
As for the WONDROUS books, writing in dueling 3-p-close perspectives, and alternating form chapter to chapter was a ton of fun, because I was able to attack the story from both my protags' perspectives. I was able to get so close, it was almost first person, but able to keep the big picture in view at the same time. It gave the structure and dramatic flow of the story a kind of drive that I wouldn't have gotten with only one perspective. But it was occasionally hellacious to write, if only from a purely logistical stand. Still - I couldn't imagine writing this story - the story of two people from two completely different worlds, who actually, unknowingly belong to those different worlds... it just wouldn't have worked any other way. Still. Oy. It was tough to wrap my head around some days.
In her post, Maureen kindly mentions that my chosen method for these books was not, in fact, madness. That it works. *And here we heave a sigh of relief!* I really appreciate that. Hearing from another writer that you pulled of a tricky bit of the trade (especially hearing that from a writer that you, yourself, admire) is balm to the writerly soul.
I haven't tackled anything major in second person or omniscient yet. Not because I don't appreciate these POVs, I just haven't found projects to suit them yet.
Second would, for me, take a very particular story. It is, I think, the POV where the story and the format are distinctly predicated each upon the other, more so than any other viewpoint.
As for omniscient - I may tackle that next. We'll see. But first, I think I'll need to get rid of this cold, in order to clear up some head space!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I have to agree with Maureen, that first person point of view is the only one I ever consider writing in. When I write I really try to get in the head of character, and I write the words as her – which feel impossible for me to do in third person point of view. I find third person distracting, taking me out of the narrative too much.
It’s not that I’ve never written in third person. Because I have. The first (failed) novel I ever wrote was told in third person from five different viewpoints. (Oh, and it even had a second person section in the middle!) Okay, it also barely had any plot, but I do have to say I learned something, something crucial about writing: point of view – regardless of whether it’s first or third -- is everything.
A writing exercise that I used to love when I was teaching creative writing was to pick a scene from whatever it is you’re working on, and rewrite it from all of the different characters’ points of view. It really makes you stop and think about what’s going in the main character’s world, and how what she sees says something about unique her.
And now that’s how I view that long-ago shelved novel, as a writing exercise. Because it really did teach me a lot about point of view. Mainly it taught to think about how every character sees and tells a story in different ways. It taught me, that when it comes down to it, point of view is really the eyes, the eyes we as writers get to look through as we tell a story. And it also taught me that who tells the story and how that person tells the story, is really what writing is all about.
When I wrote The September Sisters (shortly after shelving that failed novel), I thought a lot about point of view. I knew I wanted the book to be in first person, and I knew I wanted to use only one point of view. And to me, it seemed immediately like Abby’s story, the story of the sister left behind. But I also considered how the story would be completely different if I’d told it from Becky (the missing sister’s) POV. It might have still been a story about sisters, loss, and coming of age. But it would not have been the same story or the same book, not even close.
And I guess that’s what I’m really trying to say about point of view: the story you want to tell as a writer is important, but it’s probably only half as important as the person you choose to tell the story, as the eyes you choose to look through.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I've just arrived in Atlanta. I've been driving for several hours now! The reason for the trip is that I have a signing at the Barnes and Noble in Buckhead. It starts at 7:00 P.M tonight and if any of you live close, I'd love to see you there! I'll be in Knoxville, Tennessee tomorrow night at the Turkey Creek Borders.
Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter is written in first person narrative. Like Maureen, that POV comes the most natural to me. I never considered writing the novel any other way. I will say this. It has its challenges. For instance, in first person the protagonist has to be careful about what she says and the opinions she expresses. The reason is she runs the risk of turning off the reader. And after all, our goal as writers is to create a sympathetic heroine.
One of the drawbacks of first person POV is that all of the emotions of the other characters are left up to the opinion of the protagonist - or through the dialogue and body language. The readers are never fully aware of how the other characters are feeling.
I am looking forward to trying third person narrative with my third book. But for now I'm concentrating on book number two, which is a sequel to Whistlin' Dixie. And between writing that one, working at my day-job and traveling to promote Whistlin' Dixie, I've got just about as much as I can possibly handle.
Hope everyone is having a great week!