Ninth Newsletter: I hate waiting

I send out a bi-monthly-ish newsletter. This is the the ninth one, sans the (frankly adorable) photos that accompaned it when it went straight to subscribers’ inboxes. If you’d like to see the whole thing, pictures and all, and get access to my special “subscribers only” warm fuzzies page sign up here!

** Goodbye Summer
This summer has felt like a time of waiting, of holding my breath in expectation, of holding off on turning the last page of a chapter I really loved.

This was the last summer before the kid started Kindergarten. For the first time since he stopped napping, I didn’t ask anyone to babysit him while I took time to work. I wanted to savor this last summer before he became a big kid, before summer would start to mean something different to him than just a season. With Kindergarten looming, I knew there would soon be a lot more time than I’ve had in years to work. So instead, we read in bed almost every morning (the kid has discovered chapter books! It’s glorious!). We went swimming. The kid went of his first trail ride. We went camping in the tiny coastal town of Mendocino, a favorite summer tradition. The kid attended Lego camp– and so did I (not exactly the plan, but oh well). As the summer came to a close, we got on each other’s nerves a lot. It made starting Kindergarten easier–which maybe was the point of all that arguing?–and now I feel a little like how I did when I Shall Be Near To You first hit the shelves. It’s
exciting and nerve-wracking that after five-and-a-half years (about the same length of time I worked on I Shall), the kid is now beginning a part of his life that I’m not really a part of.

** Plodding Along

This summer has also been filled with twinned moments of savoring and sadness and the kind of waiting I dread. This winter, our beloved sixteen year old dog Roxy had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor had gotten too scary to ignore. We hoped the surgery would buy Roxy enough time to live out the rest of her life comfortably, and she was so happy afterwards. But almost as soon as the incision healed (which took months), the tumor came back. Every day it is bigger and uglier and there are no good treatment options anymore. And yet every day Roxy gets up to go out on her porch. Every day she cruises the yard. Every day she wags her tail and asks for scratches and begs for cheese and sausage and I give her whatever she wants and look the other way when she steals cat food. I have been trying to come to terms with the idea that this will likely be Roxy’s last summer (and still, I can’t even write it as a definitive statement). The picture above is from the first time in months
that Roxy joined us for a walk down the road, one of her favorite pastimes. I wanted to savor it because I’m not sure it will ever happen again. I have been saying goodbye in increments and clinging to the goodness of these steadily shortening days.

** Plotting Along
AKA Same Old Workhorse Mode

I’ve also been waiting to send this newsletter because I wanted to tell you something like “I’ve finished the revisions of To Stay Forever and Agent Dan loves it!” But I can’t. I can tell you that when I sent him an outline of my proposed revisions back in June, he liked the complete restructuring I did but he still wanted me to work on a few more things. I was (am!) so itchy to put my new outline to use and see the next draft take its new shape– but Agent Dan was right. And I want this book to be good. So, I dove back into research mode to find historically plausible ways to implement some of his suggestions (yep, I read those incredibly dry books pictured above so you don’t have to). I cut and combined scenes to speed up the pacing in the middle of the novel because even in outline form it felt slow, and it has not escaped my notice that some critiques of I Shall Be Near To You say the middle drags (why are middles so hard?). I read through and revised the outline
multiple times (pictured on the left are what I thought were all the July versions, and on the right are two additional drafts I found today buried in my laptop bag). Then I read The Nightingale and saw how Kristin Hannah relentlessly ramps up the tension and stakes in that novel and I went back through and revised my dang outline again. I had this dream that by the time the kid started Kindergarten (on August 10th!), I would have finished the outline and gotten it back from Agent Dan with his stamp of approval. But everything always takes longer than I think (does that happen to you?). When it comes to little black dogs, I’m glad about that. When it comes to outlines and novels, not so much. I can tell you that last week I sent the latest outline of revisions to Agent Dan (yes, it made me feel nauseous to hit send, but no, this time I didn’t break out in eczema) and now? More waiting to hear his reaction.

** I Shall Steal
(but I’m not a thief)

Last time I wrote, I told you my publisher Crown was offering the ebook version of I Shall Be Near to You for a steal of a price and I mentioned that sometimes a crazy sale like that could push a book onto the bestsellers list. Well, I’ve been waiting far too long to tell you: it worked! During the ebook sale, I Shall Be Near To You landed on the USA Today Bestsellers list and was a number 1 Kindle bestseller (for about a minute–but look at the company it got to keep!). So THANK YOU for your help in spreading the word about the sale and about I Shall Be Near To You and helping show my publisher that people really do like books about women like Rosetta. As a way of showing my gratitude, I have a secret to share with you because…

** I Love Secrets
(well, certain kinds, anyway)

I’ve added a secret “Subscribers Only” page to my website. I wanted a way to give you all some extra Warm Fuzzies for being part of my crew. What are Warm Fuzzies? These ones are in the form of my All Time Favorites book list (I’ll be shocked if you haven’t read at least one of them); a deleted scene from I Shall Be Near To You depicting the moment that cemented Rosetta and Jeremiah’s friendship; and an offer for a couple freebies that will show up in your actual mailbox. I hope you’ll check them out. And if there’s anything you’d love to see on this page, let me know and I’ll see if I can make it happen!

Before I close, I also wanted to share with you a post I wrote the San Francisco Book Review after attending the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference (right after I sent off my last newsletter) about the secret super power of books. It’s called “How a Book Can Create a Community” and in many ways, it’s about you. Thank you for being part of my community– it has been one of the most wonderful and surprising parts of becoming an author, and it’s why, if you hit reply to this email, your message will go straight to my inbox. I love hearing from you.

All my Best,

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