Books & Reading

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,

Seventh Newsletter: An Auspicious Day

I send out a monthly-ish newsletter (more like bi-monthly-ish). This is the the seventh one, sans photos that accompany it when it goes straight to your inbox (apparently copying them from the original newsletter is technologically beyond me). If you’d like to see the whole thing, pictures and all, sign up here!

An Auspicious Day
I like to think of January 28th as an auspicious day. It’s the day the kid was born, and now, holy cow, he’s five! There we are (bottom left) a couple days after he was born, because I’m too vain to show you the pictures of us in the hospital. Exactly three years later, entirely coincidentally, I Shall Be Near To You hit bookstores. There we are (bottom right) celebrating with party horns (the kid’s idea) at our local Barnes & Noble.

Both times January 28th changed my life, most notably by bringing new people into it. One of the greatest surprises about I Shall Be Near To You making its way out into the world has been all the lovely people I’ve met or re-established connections with because of it, including many of you. All those years I dreamed of the book being at Barnes & Noble, I never dared to imagine that I might make new friends, or share intensely personal conversations, or chat on Twitter, or sit down for coffee with actual readers. It’s a marvel really, how a book can create a community, and I feel incredibly grateful every day (but especially January 28th) for the way you readers have taken Rosetta into your hearts and let me be a part of your lives.

A Little Novel News
Since January 28th feels so auspicious already, and I didn’t quite hit my goal of having a draft of my new novel ready in 2015, I made it my goal to send it to my agent on January 28th. You all are among the very very first to know that Josie is now officially in Agent Dan’s hands. I wish I could say that I feel amazing about this, but in truth I feel nauseous. It happens every time I send something to Agent Dan, because what he thinks of this manuscript is hugely important– crucial, really. I keep telling myself it’s actually a good thing I feel sick every time I think about him reading it, because it means I truly care about these characters and this story. I very much want them to have a life beyond the printed pages in a three-ring binder you see above.

An Invitation to Distraction
Now that Josie is out of my hands, my best cure for nausea is keeping busy in other ways. One thing I’m doing is buckling down on researching my next next novel (some of which is that pile of books pictured above). It’s a relief to know I have something else to work on and I’m excited about making room in my head for some new voices (does that sound too creepy?). I’m also binge-reading a bunch of novels I’ve had on my To-Be-Read pile, because most of the time I seem to only be able to find time to write OR read. I’ve been posting pictures of some of those books over on Instagram and Facebook and reviews over on Goodreads, if you’re curious. (Spoiler: I really loved Vengeance Road and I think Rosetta fans will too. Also, that cover!)

I’m also gearing up for #BookClubFix, a new book club I’ve launched with two of my favorite book bloggers (wonderful friends I’ve made thanks to I Shall), Ellice and Leah. We’ve chosen our first book, The Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi, by Alyssa Palombo and I just started reading my Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of it last night (the actual cover is much prettier than the one in the photo above!). If you’re passionate about anything creative (especially music), curious about Vivaldi, or in love with 1700s Venice, this might be just the book for you. You can learn more about how #BookClubFix came to be here, some of our future plans, and how you can join us here. I really hope you’ll put February 24th on your calendar and help distract me while I wait for Dan’s verdict on Josie.

Meanwhile, I’ll be crossing my fingers a lot and wondering what 2016 has in store.

Here’s to the New Year, new books, and new ways to connect!
P.S. As always, if you’d like to reply to this email, it’ll go straight to my inbox. I’d love to hear if you plan to read The Violinist of Venice!

Diverse Historical Reads

In case you missed it over on Paper Riot last month, here’s my guest post on Diverse Historical Reads, in honor of the first #HistoricalFix TwitterChat. You can join the fun for the next one, coming up in July– more details here.