Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving Thanks

I'm doing it.  Twelve people, one deep fried turkey and a boatload of sides.  This year it's all about family, friends and two-- possibly three-- kinds of stuffing.  Four if you include the "your face" variety.

How are you spending your Thanksgiving?

I'm grateful for so many things this year.  Grateful I can walk without crutches or a giant leg brace.  Grateful I write things people want to read! And so very glad to have loved ones to share the day with me.  I hope you are equally blessed.

One other thing I'm doing, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  It's called:

Author Sherman Alexie said, "hey, let's help out independent bookstores by handselling books on Small Business Saturday."  (That's what they call the Saturday wedged between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Sunday being a day of rest.)  And "Indies First" was born. 

Now, some authors do this sort of things all the time.  I know of at least one who haunts her local bookstore like a well-read, benevolent Miss Havisham-- but with fresh cupcakes instead of stale wedding cake.  (Hmmm.. maybe that sounds like an insult anyway, but that's the image that came to mind.  That or Edward Mulhare in "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," but I'm dating myself.)

I used to haunt my own bookstore, big box variety that it was.  Until it became an even bigger box drugstore.  Then I moved on to the next, slightly smaller big box store.  Until it became a discount clothing store.  Now I shop in airports and go to the library.  And, much worse, I download books on my secret love, the Kindle.  (Some decadent ladies lie in bed eating bonbons.  I lie in bed buying books!) 

Which is a shame, because I love bookstores.  I LOVE THEM.  As evidenced by my post about Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Delights (still gives me shivers, just typing it!).  I like to bury myself into corners with stacks of potential (read "inevitable") purchases.  I like to make eyes at the other shoppers in the SF/Fantasy section when they get close to picking up any of my favorite books.  It's an open invitation for a conversation, a recommendation, a connection in the tunnel-like aisles of Storyland.

So, I'm all for joining the Indies First! movement.  Lucky for me, Skylight Books, that gorgeous independent, well-lit, beautiful bookstore on the other side of town is willing to have me.  So, mark your calendars if you live in Los Angeles and its environs.  The details are below.  Join me.  I haven't lurked the aisle in a while.  This is going to be fun!

Sat., 11/30/13, Noon to 2PM – Indies First!Skylight Books, Los Angeles

Meet the author and help put independent bookstores first.  Do your Small Business Saturday shopping with Sherri at Skylight Books.  I’ll be making recommendations for your holiday gift giving along with several other authors.  Join us!

Gosh!  That reminds me.  There's one other other thing I'm doing the weekend after that,.  Another shop local event, but this one is not book related.  Remember me talking about Tired Girl Collective, my craft booth with friends?  Well, we're at it again, this time we're back with
Unique LA, December 7th and 8th.  Won't you come by and see us?  We've got gingerbread men rings, and fascinators, and a more adorable stuff, I promise! 

Clearly 'tis the season to be thankful and busy.  Hope to see you out there.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Touring the Backlist: SPARROW

Stop #2 on the backlist tour is Sparrow.  This is where I hit my sophomore slump.  Lucy the Giant had been well received and I was worried my second novel wouldn't be good enough.  I had two projects in mind-- one was an historical fantasy, the other was a contemporary called Sparrow.   The thing about Sparrow is, the heroine's grandmother dies.  My own grandmother was alive, but not in the best of health.  A bit of magical thinking had me afraid to write the death of a grandmother, for fear that it would happen.  So I didn't do it.  The book sat there, and my editor wondered what I was up to, and I Did. Not. Write. 

I pushed the book aside and life happened.  A year went by.  My grandmother passed away in her own time, and my family mourned.  Still, I avoided writing, until my publisher called me and asked if I had another book like Lucy.  The trouble was, they wanted exactly the same book.  Something about a girl with self-image issues (but not weight issues!) who goes somewhere and does something etcetera, etcetera.  All I could say was, "I already wrote that book."  But they were confident I would think of something.

I didn't.

Then my boyfriend said, "What about that Sparrow thing?"  I wrung my hands, and explained it wasn't up to snuff because of a million things.  He asked to read it.  When he was done he said, "This is it.  This is what they want."  Turns out he was right.  So I married him.  (Well, not right away, but that's another story.)

Writing death in YA is difficult.  There is so much romanticized (or ignored) death in kid lit.  It's either a matter of course-- Cinderella's an orphan, so is Snow White.  In fact, it's a requirement in fairy tales for one or both parents to die before anything interesting can happen.  But by the time you reach the teen years, there's a good chance someone close to you has died-- be it a grandparent, a teacher, a pet, a classmate.  As an author, you are faced with telling the truth about death, about how empty and helpless and angry and numb it can make you feel.  Because, face it, if you haven't experienced it anywhere but in a fairy tale when the real thing comes along, it's like a freight train.

So, when I lost my grandmother, I tapped into what that felt like.  In return, I got a letter from a reader who said it helped her feel less alone when her own grandmother died.  It made me glad I'd written the book.

Now, remember that other book I'd considered writing?  The historical fantasy?   That's what I'm working on now.   It's called Drosselmeyer.  I've struggled with this idea for years off and on.   The mother dies before the story starts, and I could not write it.  And then I lost my own mother, and I thought, "Maybe now I can write this book."

In Drosselmeyer, I'm trying to pay attention to the way I felt after losing my mother, the strange sense of denial that she's just in the next room because she always is, and the renewed shock of remembering that she is not.  Shortly after she passed away, I had a conversation with someone who had lost his mother a few years before.  He told me I would feel better over time, and then it would hit me all over again and suddenly, there I'd be, sitting in traffic, crying, even though it had been years since the funeral.  Grief is an emotion that is always fresh, it turns out.  But, over time, the crushing weight returns with less frequency, and for shorter durations.

Can you think of a book that depicts grief in this way?  The unwanted visitor that smothers you, then goes away for a little while, only to return again?  There's a place for that book.  But Drosselmeyer is not about grief.  It's an adventure.  It's about saving the world.  It's about first love.  It's about clocks and mice and the mysteries of the planet.  But it's also about how you face up to all those things when you are grieving, and how a young man saves himself from despair while saving the day.

If you are curious and want to learn more about Sparrow, you can read a synopsis on my website, or hunt down a copy of your very own.  If you want to learn more about Drosselmeyer, you'll have to wait.  I'm writing as fast as I can!

Monday, November 4, 2013

One Hundred

This marks my one hundreth blog post.  Given that the blog is called "The Middle Hundred," I should probably say something important.  But really, this is just the first hundred, and I've done a lot of writing lately, so I have nothing to say.  Let's save it for the two hundreth posting, when I promise I'll be witty and sage.  Today, we honor the centry mark with a tour, one that celebrates finding those first hundred pages.

Let's walk down this street.

And stop at this store.

And go in...

...choose a book from the tub...

...and sit by the fire.

And read.

This is Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, England.  Let's just say that again, slowly:  Emporium. Of. Reading. Delights.  (I want to go to Bath).  Isn't it lovely?  And even better, they have a reading spa.  Take note, you British gift givers.  In this holiday season, what book lover wouldn't want to:

...visit our gorgeous shop in Bath for a one-on-one book chat in our sumptuous Bibliotherapy Room with one of the Mr B’s team over a mug of tea or coffee and a delicious slice of cake. Your bibliotherapist will then gather and introduce you to a tower of books specially selected to suit your reading tastes. Each Reading Spa voucher includes an amount to spend on books, so that you can pick your favourite recommendations and take them away with you.

Tea! Cake!  Tower of books!  I don't work for Mr. B's and they didn't ask me to write about their store.  I just stumbled across the website on one of my internet rambles (what I do when I should be writing) and fell head over heels in bookish love.  They also do a reading year subscription (the very thought makes me weep!).  Since I live in a neighborhood with no bookstores, independent or big box, this is balm to the soul.

Have any of you been to Mr. B's?  Tell me about it.  In detail.  Squee!