Sunday, September 28, 2008

Last Night We Were All ONE Village

I love authors. I've said that for a long time. From the time I was a little girl, I loved the writers who filled my world. E.B. White. Judy Blume. Then Harper Lee. Later, John Steinbeck and William Faulkner. I thought they lived a level or two above the rest of us. Their words were magic.

And then, I became an author. (Quick disclaimer: I know I'm not, nor will I ever be, at their level.) And, I started meeting other authors. Each one of them reaffirmed my belief that authors are generous and kind and smart. Caring and supportive.

Late this past July, I e-mailed my author friends (some of whom I only know through the blogosphere), asking if they'd be willing to donate a signed book for a silent auction held as a community fundraiser for the victims of the Kirkwood City Hall shooting. (The fundraiser was last night and early reports suggest at least one-quarter of a million dollars raised. ALL money will be divided among the families of the 6 victims.)

And thanks to these generous writers, I was able to put together 8 huge baskets:

~Kristy Kiernan donated copies of Catching Genius for a bookclub; I added her wonderful new Matters of Faith and snacks for the club.

~Carleen Brice donated copies of Orange Mint and Honey (including the audio book!) for a bookclub. I added mints, honey sticks and orange tea.

~Laurie Viera Rigler sent copies of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict for a club, to which I tossed in a copy of Pride and Prejudice, English shortbread, and toffee.

~Bev Marshall sent signed copies of Walking Through Shadows, Right as Rain, and Hot Fudge Sundae Blues. I tossed in pralines, caramel fudge sauce, and godiva chocolates.

~Amy Wallen sent copies of Moon Pies and Movie Stars, including the audio version, for a bookclub. I added moon pies (of course) goobers and raisinets.

I also put together three mixed baskets, "Mystery and Memoirs", "When You Want to Get Away . . . Lighter Women's Fiction and Memoirs", and "Stories to Make You Cry and Smile . . . Serious Women's Fiction and Memoirs." I had at least one signed copy of each of the following books:

Murder Unleashed (A Dead-End Job Mystery) by Elaine Viets.

Isabella Moon by Laura Benedict.

Fairway to Heaven (A Golf Lover's Mystery) and Deadly Advice (An Advice Column Mystery) by Roberta Isleib.

No Place Safe (a memoir) by Kim Reid.

The Smart One by Ellen Meister.

Earthly Pleasures by Karen Neches.

Sleeping With Ward Cleaver by Jenny Gardiner.

Cancer is a Bitch (a memoir) by Gail Konop-Baker.

Souvenir by Therese Fowler.

Keeping the House by Ellen Baker.

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton.

Each of these women took the time to sign, package, and mail books to me to help people they will likely never meet. When I delivered my eight baskets to the auction organizers, they couldn't get over that writers from coast to coast would do that. "Authors are wonderful," one of them said.

Yes they are.

(And if you haven't already read these books, run out and buy a couple copies and start reading them.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Taking a Break from Baseball with Writers in Their Own Words

It's fall, the nights are crisp, the leaves are just beginning to turn; what better time to curl up with a mug of hot cider and lose yourself in a mystery with “Top-notch writing, meticulous plotting – and a heroine who is perfectly imperfect…” (Diana Vickery, the Cozy Library).

That's what you'll find as psychologist/advice columnist/sleuth Dr. Rebecca Butterman plunges into her third mystery in ASKING FOR MURDER by Dr. Roberta Isleib (Berkley Prime Crime, September 2008.)

When Rebecca’s close friend and fellow therapist Annabelle Hart is found beaten and left for dead, Rebecca is determined to help search for answers. But this time, no one wants her help. Not Detective Meigs, who thinks the crime was either a botched robbery or the result of a relationship gone sour. And not Annabelle’s sister, who makes it clear that Rebecca isn’t welcome in family affairs.

The only place where her opinion matters is the therapist’s couch. Rebecca's agreed to see Annabelle’s patients while her friend is hospitalized, but it won’t be easy. Annabelle’s area of expertise is sandplay therapy, which Rebecca knows little about. While she studies the images in the patients’ sand trays and puzzles through Annabelle’s family secrets, another victim is murdered. With a killer on the loose, she can only hope the clues in the sand are buried within easy reach.

Here's Roberta in her own words . . .

1.) How did you come up with the idea for this book? Are you more driven
by plot or by character? Who's your favorite character in this book and why?

Definitely, I'm driven by character. I love my main character Dr.
Butterman--it's such fun to think about the kinds of cases she might be
treating and how her own history plays into the story. Because I was a
therapist for many years, I really understand her work and the way she
thinks about the people she tries to help. I stumbled into the sandplay part
of the story, but I found a wonderful therapist in New Hampshire who walked
me through the process of how clients use the sand trays and the figurines
and what it all means.

I've really enjoyed writing this series. I can highlight my background in
psychology and write about folks in that field who are competent and caring,
rather than the idiotic and downright hurtful professionals you often see in
movies and on TV. I’m very proud of the time I spent working as a clinical
psychologist, but happy to be writing now.

2.) What's your writing process/writing environment like?

As I begin a book, I look ahead to the due date and figure out how many
pages I will need to write each week in order to hand it in on time. I build
in time for trips and family and time for my writers group to read and
critique, and then time for me to rewrite. Then I have a page goal for each
week. I write until I’ve hit the goal, sometimes even getting a little
ahead. I'm getting better at outlining because I find it makes the story
much easier to write. Not so many black moments when I have no idea what's
going to happen next...

3.) What's your favorite part of writing?

I love looking at what I've written and feeling excited about it. I love
seeing the new book in all its stages. I love meeting fans and talking
books. And I simply adore the friends I've made along the way.

4.) What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten about writing?

Get it all down, even if it's awful. You can always go back and fix things

Roberta also blogs here and here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Go Cubs Go!!

Hey, Hey Holy Mackeral!!

Let's Play Two!!

Here We Come October!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Maybe I Should Leave Town More Often

Well, I'm back from Vegas. Where we had a great time--good food, good wine, fabulous people watching--and, while I was gone I had a couple neat things happen in my "author" life . . .

First, I received a call from the Chair of The Big Read here in St. Louis (and the co-owner of one of the best indie bookstores in the world, Left Bank Books) inviting me to be on the fiction panel Saturday, October 11. Yes! I was thrilled to be invited and I'll be reading and speaking with Margaret Cezair-Thompson, author of The Pirate's Daughter and Jennifer Chiavarini, author of The Quilter's Kitchen: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel.

Then, when I got home, I had an e-mail waiting for me from the middle school librarian asking if I'd be willing to participate in their Author Days this coming December. But of course! (And not just because this is the school most of our kids attended, or because the librarian was my step-daughter's science teacher or because, of the other two teachers organizing this event, one taught both my sons in 5th grade and the other taught my younger son in 8th grade. No, those aren't debts that can be repaid by simply appearing at an Author Day!). Again, I was honored to be asked and will happily participate.

Finally, also waiting in my inbox was a lovely e-mail from a fellow Library Thing member telling me she was loving All the Numbers and would I mind if she reviewed it on her blog. Well, um, no, I wouldn't mind--I'd love it! Check it out here.

Also, I have a phone in book club visit tonight (one of 6 book clubs I'll be chatting with this fall!) with another blogger, the lovely Kristy over on Book Island.

So, just when I worry that my book is simply gathering dust on bookstore shelves (or worse, in bookstore backrooms!), I get hit with a flurry of reminders that it's not. And I'm tickled beyond belief.

And I'm reminded that even though I might not have come home from Vegas with big winnings from the casino, I'm richer than I ever dreamed possible in all the ways that matter.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Las Vegas, Redux

The first time I was ever in Las Vegas, February 2007, didn't go so well.

It began with me in tears, somewhere in The Venetian, dialing up my husband on his cell phone. He was there on business; I'd flown in to spend the weekend with him. I believe our conversation started off with me trying not to sniffle and whimper like a total girl, but failing miserably. I was completely lost, I'd been lugging my suitcase all over the fake Venice "marketplace" and I could no more figure out where the actual hotel started than explain the game of craps to you. My husband asked if I could tell him where I was. I looked around and then said, "Across from the Oxygen Bar." He told me to stay right there and he'd be there in a heartbeat.

Later, after a cocktail (Or, um three. Maybe four.), I apologized for my emotional meltdown. Then I made an appointment for a "raspberry sherbet pedicure." I felt better.

Then, the next evening we decided to walk down The Strip and soak in some of the ambiance. Ambiance that consisted of swarthy men handing my husband baseball cards which advertised "barely legal asian blondes." Hey, hello, I wanted to holler. Do you not see me? The blondish non-asian woman holding this man's hand? We're with each other. See, we have these rings which suggest marriage?

I decided a few more cocktails would help. They did.

By the time we left, I was referring to Vegas as "Disneyland on crack." And I'm not a big fan of Disneyland. Or crack.

So, why am I willingly hopping on a plane tomorrow to join my husband in Las Vegas? Well, um, it's practically free. There's that. And I believe in second chances. Plus, we'll be at The Bellagio, so maybe I won't get lost in plasticland.

But more than that, and more than two nights away with my husband (and no kids) in a fancy hotel with room service and beds I don't have to make and bathrooms with big plushy towels (and robes!! God, I love those hotel robes.), there's the fantasy aspect of it. (Stop. Wait. Get your heads out of the gutter.)

Specifically, Frank Sinatra.

Is there anyone cooler? (Maybe Springsteen. Or Dennis Quaid but they're not Vegas-y.) Now, I know that The Sands and The Stardust have both been razed. And I know Old Blue Eyes has been dead for a decade. But there's a coolness factor that he still knocks off the charts. (Or is that just me?) And I know that The Strip isn't the same as it was in the Rat Pack glory years. But I can pretend.

A cocktail will probably help.

p.s. Humor me this week, okay? Next week, I'll be back, nose to the grindstone, pen in hand, working on my next tome. But for now, I'm looking for Frank.

(cross-posted over at Channeling Erma)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Writers in their own words-GCC

Today I'm excited to be touring my fellow GCC writer friend, Joanne Rendell, author of The Professors' Wives Club.

Here's a short description to whet your appetite . . .

With its iron gate and high fence laced with honeysuckle, Manhattan University’s garden offers faculty wives Mary, Sofia, Ashleigh, and Hannah a much needed refuge. Each of them carries a scandalous secret that could upset their lives, destroy their families, and rock the prestigious university to its very core.

When a ruthless Dean tries to demolish the garden, the four women are thrown together in a fight which enrages and unites them. The wives are an indomitable force. While doing battle with the ambitious dean, they expose the dark underbelly of academia – and find the courage to stand up for their own dreams, passions, and lives.

And here are a few glowing recommendations . . .

"As an NYU alum, I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes escapades at the fictional Manhattan U. in THE PROFESSORS’ WIVES’ CLUB. Joanne Rendell has created a quick, fun read about a wonderful group of friends."
Kate Jacobs, NYT’s bestselling author of THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB

"The four women in THE PROFESSORS’ WIVES' CLUB who risk it all in pursuit of life, love, and green space in New York City are smart, funny and real -- friends you'd want for life. Rendell doesn't shy away from tough issues, but her light touch and readable prose make this charming first novel a delight."
Christina Baker Kline, author of THE WAY LIFE SHOULD BE

Finally, here's Joanne in her own words . . .

1.) How did you come up with the idea for this book? Are you more driven by plot or by character?

The initial inspiration for the book came amid a rather giggly, wine-soaked evening with one of my girlfriends who, like me, is a professor’s wife. After our usual catch-up, the cabernet began to flow and we found ourselves gossiping about other faculty wives. We talked about a wife planning a boob job; another pregnant with her fifth child. The best piece of gossip came last, however: a professor’s wife who’d just run off with one of her husband’s grad students.

The next morning I started to hammer out my first ideas for the novel. As I typed, the more I realized what intriguing characters professors’ wives would make. Even if they aren’t professors themselves (which many are), most professors’ wives are deeply connected and invested in the university where their husband or partner works. Like my friend and me, they live in faculty housing, they go to the campus gym, often their kids go to the same daycare. Yet these women often have little power when it comes to university decisions.

I liked the idea of pitting these seemingly powerless women against a dean who in his little kingdom of the university has so much power.

2.) Who's your favorite character in this book and why?

Probably Sofia. Sofia is a real firecracker. She speaks her mind, she stands up for her friends, and she let’s no one get in her way. Yet, as well as being fearless, she’s fun and loving too. I think she’s a friend most every woman would want.

3.) What's your writing process/writing environment like?

I write while my four year old son sleeps. He stays up late at night and goes to bed when my husband and I do. I know some parents wouldn’t be able to do this because they need their evenings to themselves. However, this routine works for us and means I get a deliciously long morning in which I go the gym, come home, make my cup of Tetley tea, and then sit down to write. I always try and write at least 500 words a day. I started doing this in grad school when I was writing my PhD dissertation. 500 words might not seem a lot but it definitely adds up and keeps you moving forward.

4.) What's your favorite part of writing?

Just writing itself. Nothing feels as good as when you sit down, open your laptop, and the ideas and words start flowing. After a good morning’s writing, when a scene has gone well and dialogue has come easily, I always feel refreshed and fulfilled. Of course, after a writing session which hasn’t gone so well, when I’ve been lost for ideas or decided what I’ve just written isn’t working, I don’t feel quite so good. But those “off days” are made worth it by the “on” ones!

5.) What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten about writing?

”Join a writer’s group.” There is so so much to learn from other writers. Not just about the craft itself, but also useful information about the publishing business. I started off writing fiction without joining a group and I made mistakes which I think I just wouldn’t have made if I had had other writer’s advising me.

Sounds like a great read for back-to-school time!