Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book club meetings, a sheer joy!

I had a lovely and interesting visit this morning with the Women Readers Book Club at B&N. Almost everyone had read EVIDENCE OF LIFE and the others had it on their TBR list. I'm always amazed and gratified by how much I come away with from a book club discussion, and it wasn't any different today. I was delighted when they asked me to come back again to visit when the second novel coming from MIRA is published next year, and I can't wait! Thank you so much, Women Readers & Lillian Reitz for arranging my visit. It was sheer joy!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

When giving is the gift. . . .

As often as there is talk that the e-book revolution will cause the demise of the actual book, that magical, hand-held kingdom that can be found between front and back covers, that might perhaps have a dust jacket and pages with deckled edges, there are clues that as a human race, we would never be so foolish. For instance, consider the advent of the “Little Free Libraries” that are springing up in neighborhoods around the world. From downtown streets to rural routes, these tiny book shelters house an assortment of books that
readers can’t keep but also can’t bear not to share. Near as I could discover, the trend began in 2010 and the goal was to have 2,510 little free libraries around the world, one more than Andrew Carnegie built. And now? Today? They are over 6,000 and the trend is still growing. So, while the publication of e-books and the readers to read them by has increased and continues to increase significantly, so does the proliferation of these small repositories that hold real books for those of us who can’t quite give up the desire for covers and printed pages to turn, a spine to balance against our drawn up knees, not to mention the lovely smell that is particular to an actual book.

I love the idea of these little libraries. They’re so significant, I think, of friendship and sharing and
community. Reading does that; it opens doors, it invites us to explore. It fires our minds and when your mind is on fire, can you keep it to yourself? I don’t think so. That’s what the little free library movement does. It gives us a chance to exchange books, which is like an exchange of ideas, which leads ultimately to greater compassion and understanding. At least, that’s what I like to believe.

So, recently, when my son David mentioned there was a Little Free Library in a Houston neighborhood where he once lived, and asked if I would like to donate a copy of EVIDENCE OF LIFE for it, I jumped at the opportunity. And I was thrilled when he took it there and then sent me this photo. Isn’t it cool?

Monday, April 15, 2013


When my novel, EVIDENCE OF LIFE, was given its birth date, March 26, 2013, I began reading and researching everything I could find on what to expect and on what I could do to prepare. It was a process similar to the one I went through when I was anticipating the birth of my children, but instead of a shower or a christening ceremony, a book receives a launch party. The two share the same spirit of celebration, though. They are the same in that they are welcoming of a new and precious creation, something with weight and stature and value.

I was very honored to participate in my launch event this past Friday, April 12. I had no idea what to expect. I prepared a reading. I’d chosen a passage toward the middle of the book, but changed that at the last minute when my very wise editor gently suggested I might want to entice those who attended the event with the first chapter. She was so right! After reading, I imagined I would offer to answer questions and then worried what if no one asked any. I worried, too: What if no one came? But one thing I wasn’t worried about was the location for my event. I was fortunate that it was the Barnes and Noble, Champions, in Houston, where Lillian Reitz is the Community Relations Manager. She is the soul of patience and serenity, and immediately on my arrival, she told me exactly what would happen and what I could expect. 

I wish I could describe how it felt to walk in the door of a bookstore and see my book cover and my own image as its author on an easel, billed as that evening’s entertainment. I’d dreamed such a thing; I’ve indulged so many flights of fancy, but the dream was incomparable to the reality. In fact, the whole evening exceeded anything I could ever dream or imagine. 

There was the location, that particular Barnes and Noble store just has a wonderful atmosphere, and there was the set up—the table with my books, the podium, even a microphone! And there was Lillian, whose presence I appreciated more than she’ll ever know, but what really amazed me were the people who came and sat down in the chairs, more than thirty, who then listened for eleven minutes while I read the first chapter of my novel. Mine! The one I labored over for so long. The one I loved and that other people, such as my agent and editor, loved as well, enough to bring it and me to a book launch event. But the audience—I still can’t quite get over that there was one. People drove in Friday rush hour traffic to be there. They gave up a portion of their weekend, their off hours. My family, friends, too, but there were people whom I did not know. It was amazing, surreal. I was so nervous, but I loved it, every moment. And I’m so grateful to everyone (especially Lisa Wray, Public Relations Coordinator at MIRA) who helped to make it happen. There is so much joy in this endeavor not the least of which was to be found at that Barnes and Noble store last Friday night. I think you’ll see evidence of it in the photos.
Talking with an friend and former critique partner, Linda Helman, who drove a ton of miles to be there. Plus, look at the sign! It gave me goosebumps.

The table was beautiful! The flowers are from my garden.

Lillian delivering a glowing introduction. I was nervous!

The audience - listening! I was a bit in awe.

I'm signing, really signing! Lovely.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Do the work and dress appropriately

A week ago today, EVIDENCE OF LIFE made it’s debut. It was a landmark day, a milestone, one I had imagined in dreams for years but was often not quite sure I’d reach. Before it happened, there was a lot of hard work. I wrote pages and pages only to toss them all out and write them again. I read hundreds of novels and loved and learned and was inspired by many of them. I was the artist learning from the masters. My mentor and dear friend Guida has always said the only way to learn to write is to write. Someone else, I don’t remember who, said you have to write a million words. I’m pretty sure I’ve crossed that threshold. The work at least for me isn’t much different than digging a new garden bed. You turn the soil, and turn it some more. You have a quasi plan—all right, some gardeners hire a landscaper and get a real plan. That’s not me, writer or gardener. Because I like flying by the seat of my pants—anyway, the quasi plan most likely doesn’t flow the way you thought it would so you dig up everything and move it around. Believe it or not I love all of this, whether gardening or writing. You rearrange everything. Some stuff gets tossed on the compost pile. You walk around studying the new design. Maybe it works for a while, but then, one day, looking at it, you get another brilliant idea. You have to see if it’ll work, so, yep, you dig up everything again. I always feel sorry for the earthworms, but that’s another story.

Here’s the thing, all this time, writing or gardening, I wear the same clothes. Old jeans, kid jeans from the boy’s department at Macy’s, or wherever, and t-shirts, mostly white with some kind of nature thingy on them. I write mornings, and I’ve learned not to wear anything good, because I might find I’ve wandered off at some point to think through something about the plot or a character, and I’ll find myself in the garden, scrubbing the dirt off my hands down the leg of my jeans. Or I’ll decide the hydrangeas need a shot of iron and stain my shirt mixing the solution. I ruined a lot of decent clothing that way. But last week, when I was well and truly published, you know, in paper and everything, I decided maybe I should dress better. I made a vow even, I would dress better for my work, like a real professional author. I would wear my nice jeans, the ones with no holes in the seat and knees and a shirt without stains. The trend lasted for several days. I wasn’t immersed in a project, really. I was in a holding pattern, waiting to hear from my editor about Book #2. Word came down from her just the other day. Hard copy edits followed yesterday. There’s a lot of work to do. A LOT. So, today I got up and put on my work clothes, the jeans with the holes in the knees, the t-shirt that’s stained. No make up. No nothing. Just me and the computer, my editor’s notes, and a burning desire to make Book #2 the best book I’ve ever written.

I’m back in the trenches. Nothing’s changed. It’s like Steven Pressfield said, best and briefest: Do the work. If you want to be a writer, if you want to achieve anything in life, Do the Work. Every day. Even if you’re as famous as Stephen King or any one of my idols, Anita Shreve, Caroline Leavitt, A. Manette Ansay, Anna Quindlan, Pat Conroy, you still have to do the work. I’ve had people ask me how I got here. How did I land this plum job. I even ask myself, but I know the answer … I did the work. I still do. Even if I hit every bestseller list in the world, in the universe, it wouldn’t change. Even if I changed careers, dreams, goals, if I want the joy of life, the satisfaction and contentment of a job well done, I’d still have to do the work. So that’s my best advice, do the work, and dress appropriately!