Sunday, June 22, 2014

Launch Week Recap

What a week! Unless you've completely blocked me from all of your social media, you may be aware that my novel, The Qualities of Wood, hit the bookstores IN PRINT last week. If you don't have a copy yet, you can buy one at any point--don't even feel that you have to finish reading here before you click over and do that. Really.

Still here? OK, well, it was a fabulous and exciting week. I was quite overwhelmed with the tremendous support and well wishes from family, friends and readers, both online and in the flesh. You guys are the best, all of you. And because you are the awesomest of the awesome, you may still be wondering what else there is to do, other than sharing a glass of vino with me from time to time. Here's a great post about ways you can help me or any other author:

10 Ways to Help Your Favorite Author

I would add to the list: Request the book if you don't see it in your local store. Especially an indie store.

So, to recap some of the very nice things that happened to me over the course of the week:

June 14: Check out this piece I wrote about ways to stay creative: Looking Inward, Opening Outward. And look further into the Debutante Ball blog, which has been celebrating debut authors since 2007. You'll find some great reads on their pages.

June 16: A lovely review from Elizabeth at Silver's Reviews, which you can read here.

June 17: The book's release date! Highlights: sneaking over to Barnes & Noble before the signing to see my books on the shelf, spending the afternoon with my lovely daughter, who also served as queen of the refreshment table that evening, and then...

reading from the book to all the lovely people who came out to celebrate with me:

June 18: I wrote a guest blog for Shelf Pleasure, another great source for all of your What-to-Read questions. What should you say when people ask Am I in Your Book?

June 20: A very nice review from Fiction Is Stranger Than Fact, written by Helen Hunt, who is not THAT Helen Hunt but still, obviously, a very astute reader of books. Thank you!

And yesterday, June 21, I drove up to Pasadena on a lovely, blue-sky-California kind of day, to the venerable and much-loved Vroman's Bookstore. If you live within 100 miles and haven't paid this store a visit, you've been remiss. It's southern California's oldest and largest indie, and it's fabulous. And when I walked upstairs to the room where they hold readings, I saw this:

This was definitely a pinch-yourself moment. And here I am in my authorial glory (more photos of both events at my Facebook author page).

Again, a HUGE cyber-hug of gratitude to everyone who drove out to see me this week, either from across the San Fernando Valley or down from the Antelope Valley, or across town here in the OC on a busy school night! Old friends and new friends, my loyal family and my great kids. THANK YOU. As I said at the beginning...what a week! And there's more to come, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour


You may have seen posts such as this one lately, writers discussing their writing process. It’s a good opportunity for we sequestered souls to poke our heads out and talk about what we do every day. And because the blog tour requires the passing of a figurative baton, it’s also a chance to introduce other writers we think are doing good things, often with insignificant praise or attention, from within the confines of their own sequestered place.

I was invited to the tour by David Abrams, author of the much-lauded Fobbit, a novel set in Iraq that the New York Times Book Review found “as funny, disturbing, heartbreaking and ridiculous as war itself.” You can get info about David’s novel and read his writing process post at his fabulous blog, The Quivering Pen.

Now, The Questions:

1)      What are you working on?

Right now, I’m working on keeping my sanity as all four of our kids graduate—one from middle school, three from elementary—while organizing all the social events accompanying these milestones and also, gearing up for my book’s release at the same time. Oh, you mean what am I writing? Currently, mostly articles, reviews, and posts such as this one. But in the back of my mind, in a softly lit room stocked with pillows and clean, white paper, there is a novel growing. It’s about a young woman and her changing world, and all the ways the people around her see things differently than she does. At this point, I’m mostly building characters and scenes, and thinking about what form the story will take.

2)      How does your work differ from others of its genre?

That’s an interestingly-worded question, as though you should be able to say what sets your work apart. My genre is literary fiction, which tends to focus on the inward instead of the outward, and my writing is no different. The last three things I’ve finished, though—the soon-to-be-released The Qualities of Wood, another novel, and a collection of stories—are all so different in structure and conception, that it’s hard to think of them as the same genre. I could probably write several hundred words on the problems of genre and classification and why it’s actually a very good thing that genres blur…but I won’t! Most of my writing is character-driven, with importance placed on setting and moments. That’s my genre, I guess.

3)      Why do you write what you do?

I write the kind of fiction I most like reading. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I don’t think. For me, writing is the very best type of catharsis. It starts with an idea, a connection, a character, and it’s just something I have to work out before I can be done with it. I have many bits and pieces of undeveloped ideas floating around, which isn’t pleasant! But when it all starts to come together during the writing process, there’s nothing like it. I write to make sense of the world, to make sense of myself.

4)      How does your writing process work?
Again, not an easy answer. Each project has been entirely different. TQOW was heavily outlined and planned, and the collection of stories I recently completed was not. But for novels, usually there is a long period of what I call “percolating.” I need a lot of time to think through things, to find the connections, to reason with the characters and get to know them. When I get to the actual writing phase, it’s basically in the chair, hours and hours a day. It’s exhausting, exhilarating and all-encompassing. I try to set daily goals and short-term deadlines. I keep going even if I feel like it’s all drivel. At some point with a first draft, you get to a point where you don’t even care anymore, you’ve just got to finish! Then, of course, the real work starts. And talking about all of this has made me anxious to get back to that part, the writing, the torture of it, the reward. Can’t wait!

And now I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite plugged in, writerly people. Three writers/bloggers you should know:

Katie O'Rourke is the talented author of Monsoon Season and A Long Thaw, and she's one of my favorite critique partners. She blogs at Telling Stories, and you can find more info on her and her books at Katie will post about her writing process next week on her blog.

Ashen Venema regularly posts inspirational, contemplative and endlessly interesting posts at her blog, Course of Mirrors. She recently participated in this blog tour, but I wanted to introduce her to you anyway, because you should be following her. You can read about her writing process here.

Casee Marie has one of the best bookish blogs on the web, Literary Inklings. Her reviews are always thoughtful, intelligent, and wonderfully expressed. A true booklover and someone whose reviews always get my attention. She'll post next week about her own methods.
"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka