Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tomorrow is Chicago. T-4 for book launch!

Here's an article called "Wrangling with Characters."  The lovely editors of Glimmer Train Stories asked me to  write a short article on the creative writing process, so I chose something immediate and, I hope, potentially helpful to people participating in NaNoWriMo this next month.

I have to say, I'm indebted to Susan and Linda at Glimmer Train.  They have a gorgeous magazine, filled with beautiful stories, and it is, aesthetically, a beautiful magazine.  In addition, they pay their writers.  And if you don't understand the unusual and extraordinary nature of this fact, then...well, you're probably not a writer.  It's rare, I'll just say.  So, whether you're a reader or a writer, it's worth subscribing to this magazine.  It's great bedside reading.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Chicago, and I haven't packed yet.  I'm excited and nervous.  A little sad that my hardbacks didn't arrive by UPS yesterday so I could take them with me, but I'm unruffled.  How can a writer not be optimistic at this point in the game?  I'm looking forward to seeing my fellow writers at the Hopleaf on Tuesday, too.

I still have trick-or-treating to do with my son tonight, so I'd best get a move on....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Five Ways a Writer's Husband/Partner Becomes a Saint

You're probably thinking, "Anyone who's married to a writer-- the code word for insecure, egotistical, mood-swinging, impulsive artist-- on a daily basis must be a saint, de facto," right?  True enough.   Writers and artists have somewhat of a reputation for being histrionic and, well, in other ways "difficult" in their private lives.  This past week, I've been struck at how fortunate I am to have a lifelong partner who puts up with me and loves me in equal proportions.

I wonder how many of you out there have significant others who have found a way to live with you, "a writer," (published or not) without being transformed to ash by your bright fiery genius. Meaning you've both avoided divorce, flying saucepans, and passed-out-in-the-yard-alcoholism.  Although, that last one is one way of coping with living with a writer. Today, I'll tell you 5 ways my partner has transcended the sphere of mere mortal partner to French Patron Saint of Writers (in particular, Lori).

St. Francis de Sales: the other Patron Saint of Writers

For the past two years, I've volunteered to cook something for the Teacher Appreciation lunch at my son's elementary school.  This is not a problem for parents who aren't date-challenged.  Calendars hate me, even the computer ones that are supposed to remind me of events.  Both years, I brought a display of goodies one week BEFORE the event, potentially ruining the surprise lunch for the teachers and creating double-duty for me the following week.  This year, I placed the lunch date on the refrigerator AND on my computer calendar.  I got the date right (happy me), but I was too exhausted from all the writing and marketing and Internet research to make that Homemade Vegetarian Chili I volunteered to make on the Second Grade email list.

I resorted to something shameful: I went to the soup aisle at Tom Thumb grocery.  But dag-nabit if they didn't have anything remotely Vegetarian Chili-like.  When I returned home, I printed a random online Veg-Chili recipe that looked suspiciously like ordinary vegetable soup with a dash of chili. My French Partner (FP) offers me a glass of wine and says, "Why don't I make it?"

"Are you sure?" I ask. After all, he's the one who cooks our gourmet dinners almost every evening (1).

I didn't want FP to feel abused for his talents, but he says, "Sure," and just like that, my role is reduced to chopping a few cloves of garlic while brainstorming my next novel idea aloud (2). Saints always listen to our problems, and my FP is no different, except that he actually answers back within mere seconds.

Because Papa (when he's not traveling) takes our son to school in the mornings and Maman picks him up after school, my FP delivered both son and soup to school (indeed, Ms. Principal herself was there to take the crock pot of soup)  for the special day, allowing me to take care of writing and related business (3).  When I picked up the bag with the empty crock pot and a sealed card, I was darn proud of myself. It wasn't until we opened a very special "thank you for thinking of me" card from the principal that I realized, to my horror, that I had once again screwed up the date. 

Today, is the REAL Teacher Appreciation lunch.  My FP made another vegetarian chili, this one even more scrumptious than the last (c'est possible?), and this time, I delivered it, lest Ms. Principal think my FP was flirting with her.  He is a saint, for being my personal chef, my sounding board and supporter of my writing, a true partner in raising our son.  Oh, and for taking this writer to Paris next month, when I most need a small getaway (4).

I wonder how many other writers are as lucky as I am...
(And now that I'm about to start NaNoWriMo for the first time, I'm feeling grateful that this Saint will put up with this shenanigan (5).)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On the Madness of Schedules

I've been telling myself lately that I need to blog about what life is like in the penultimate month before publication with a small press.  After all, that is one of the main goals of this blog.  But I also didn't want to jinx myself by making a public announcement that I'll have to renounce a week later.  So, a little serving of my week:
  1. An email from a friend that begins, "I don't want to send you in a panic, but..." followed by some startling information that Barnes & Noble (due to a delay in the publication date) was canceling her book order for Song of the Orange Moons, unless she clicked a link within 24 hrs that stated, "I still want this book."  (I'm glad she still wanted my book.)
  2. Another email later in the day from another friend, referring to the same B&N email, followed by, "I hope all your readers don't have this much trouble getting their copies."
  3. A brief freak-out session in which I envision half the pre-orders through B&N are eliminated because of the pub date delay. 
  4. Panicked emails and messages to my publisher.  She has the presence of mind to ignore my calls.
  5. An evening with my dear friend, Malbec, and her sister, Merlot.
  6. To my long-suffering partner: pleas to take me to Paris for the weekend.  Must get away from the stress. He actually consider this: "If this is what you need..."  (This is one of the innumerable things about him that make him my angel.)
  7. An email from my publisher that says the books are printed and will be put in the mail to me, to her, and to the National Book Distributor early next week. (i.e., calm down, Lori)  A breath of relief, a few jumps up and down, and many kisses for the family.
Fellow Author-dears, don't even try to call the printers yourself to get updates.  You're just the author, and you cannot get information about your book no matter how anxious you are.  Unless, perhaps, you are J.K. Rowling.  So, for those who are interested in the process behind the scenes: Once the book is printed, it is shipped to the national distributors, who, aptly named, distribute the books to the commercial buyers. Then the commercial buyers, such a Barnes & Noble and Amazon, send the books to the folks who pre-ordered the book and to the physical bookstores.  (I think this is right.  I'm trying to wrap my mind around this as I go.)  All this delivery takes time.  But, I hope, not so much time that you won't get your books until December 16th, which is the delivery date that B&N states.

(important side-note: go check your online pre-order to be sure yours hasn't been canceled.)

I'll be visiting a class of graduate writing students next week. Then off to Chicago the following week to read at The Hopleaf Bar.  (Come see me, Chicago dancers!)  And back to Dallas on the 4th of November for the book launch party.  Please visit the Song of the Orange Moons Page for updates on time and location.  In the world of publication, you never know what will happen to the schedule!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Signing in the Waldenbooks by Parnell Hall

I have had fear, great fear, about scheduling a book signing where "nobody's there."  This video will ease the pain should our destinies align on a parallel path.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The thing about backaches is...

They are powerful enough to re-route your day, your week, your first appearance at the Texas Book Festival.

I'm going to make this quick, because #1, I'm on medication and I don't trust myself, and #2, this new comfortable office chair is killing my back.

I sent a quick email to Jan, asking her to transform my misfortune to some other Texas Writer's League member's good luck.  I offered up my coveted book-signing table to another writer. 

Good luck, writers!  And if you're close to Austin, stop by the festival with a wad of bills in your pocketbook.  Authors, books, book lovers galore!  I'll live vicariously through you this year.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mailing like a Wild Woman

I'm unpacking the arcs still and mailing them to appropriate places, which requires letter-writing and address-finding and repackaging and standing in long lines at the United States Post Office only to find my place at the counter in front of grumpy postal workers.

"Wish me luck," I say cheerfully to the blue-uniformed woman across me.  She stares at me blankly.   "These are for book reviews," I add, sweeping my hands proudly over the thirty packed envelopes. 
“How much extra for a blessing?”

More blank staring. “Book rate or first class?” she says deadpan, as though I’m a first class idiot.  

The US post office in Plano can take the joy out Christmas puppies.  

At this stage, I'm really glad I hired my outside publicist, Crystal.  I made a good dent in the submission list, but I'll rely on her for making widespread online contacts.

I really should be off this computer and get some more work done, so I’ll end here.  In the meantime, check out this interview posted online today.  Make a comment and win a book!  Fingers crossed for you.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Eagle has Landed

I'm all a flutter.  Galleys galore!  Thank goodness I've already addressed the envelopes to the reviewers and printed my cover letters.  Wish me luck.  And email me if you want to hook me up with a book reviewer from a newspaper!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ten Things to Do While Waiting for the ARCs

1.  Mow the lawn.  It desperately needs your attention, especially if you procrastinate pulling the lawn mower from the garage as vigorously as you do pulling up the novel-in-progress. Feel bad for your Garden-of-the-Month neighbor, who'll have to stare at the rows of cut grass piles because you don't have the will or stamina to bag it all.

2. Surf the web for the prognosis for throat cancer, which you are sure you have because you (and the rest of the Dallas metroplex) seem to have 80% of the symptoms.  It happens to be our second spring and flu season, but let's ignore that for a few days of histrionic self-diagnosis.

3.  Wash all the laundry in the house, which comes out to eight loads, before "hubby" comes home from Toronto.  I'm half done, and it's 10:15 on a Saturday morning.  Not bad.

4.  Get back to the manuscript that's been waiting patiently since last weekend.  Spend ten minutes searching for the most recent version, then two hours revising the first two chapters for major changes in the main character (from mother to barren wife).  This is, by far, the best way to wait for the UPS man to delivery your first baby.  But we can't be 100% good all the time.

5. Read other people's blogs and feel woefully inadequate and what's-the-opposite-of-prolific.  Spend ten minutes feeling bad for not blogging for more than a week.

6.  Blog.  'Nuff said.

7. Take out the trash and recycling that's been stinking up the garage for the past week. Realize afterward that one can walk to the car without jumping over anything.

8. Write a query letter to a magazine who may or may not publish an excerpt from your forthcoming novel.  Throw away a dollar in postage stamps (i.e., mail it).

9. Pour a cup of green tea with Agave syrup and walk outside to watch the construction guys in hard hats pour the foundation for a neighbor's house.

10.  Remember that you have a real child who hasn't had breakfast yet and may be permanently rewiring his brain from too much GameCube Pac Man.

All this on one gorgeous Saturday morning in October.  Not bad.  Not bad.  Now, on to those 40 essays that need fair grades and earnest, helpful comments.   Maybe I'll mop the floors first.