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You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
Tonight at dinner Paige (my 10 year old) made a comment that 2013 felt so much faster than 2012. We collectively decided that’s because we did so much more. So, let me offer the highlights, as enumerated by Paige (10) and Georgia (7):
The best part of 2013? Everyone is leaving it healthy and happy: my children, my parents, my nieces and nephews and siblings. That’s really the best result you can wish for. I hope that everyone had a wonderful 2013 and if not, you’ve paid those dues and are on to 2014!
I read 125 books in 2013, which was a decent number given everything else I had going on, however it was still less than I read in 2012 and 2011!
Friends (and book club buddies!) know I am a very critical reader, which no doubt will come back to bite me in the ass when my own book comes out. Regardless, I read some truly stellar books this year and wanted to share them with you. I am a little hesitant, actually, to write this list now, because I am midway through “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt and am absolutely loving it. Maybe it will go on my 2014 list.
Anyway, in no particular order, my five favorite books of 2013:
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
The Good House by Ann Leary (if forced to pick a favorite this would be it)
Wonder by RJ Palacio
Very honorable mentions include: The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Theory of Opposites by Allison Winn Scotch, Safe with Me by Amy Hatvany, and Bodies of Water by T. Greenwood.
Happy reading – for the rest of 2013 and beyond! 🙂
I’d tell you I’ve been busy but at this point it’s just repetitive. I will say… four short months until The Paris Apartment comes out. WOW!
Anyway. Last night I was catching up on blog reading while watching “A Football Life: Marty Schottenheimer” (LT and MartyBall in one season?! It’s like this one was made for me!) I read this post from The Debutante Ball. Their posts never fail to resonate, but I was flabbergasted (in a good way) by the following quote:
When you’re ready to quit you’re closer than you think.
OMG! I might’ve yelled this out loud, not using the acronym. So simple. So clear. So true.
Now, maybe it seems like a platitude. Something along the lines of “everything happens for a reason.” A positive, friendly little jab in the arm but without substance. So, being the analytical type that I am, I thought about it. Really thought about the words and why they might or might not be true. Why did this sentence so strike a chord? If I could’ve run a financial model on it, I’m sure I would’ve. The answer is, it’s true. There is a logic behind it.
Think of when you start something. I’m going to use writing, but really most anything would apply. I think back to those first few queries I sent out years (and years!) ago. How hopeful I was! How unjustifiably optimistic! Yes of course every agent would love my work, and thereafter every publishing house. Contracts for all!
Needless to say it didn’t work out that way, for that book, or even the book that followed. Here’s the thing. When you are starting something, you can’t really feel like a failure. You’re a newbie! Fresh at this! Those people getting book contracts? They started querying years ago! Years ago you hadn’t even contemplated writing a novel.
Then a year passes. Two, maybe more. People seem to have publishing contracts falling into their laps. People much more newbie-ish. Suddenly, you start to wonder. Maybe it’s not my stage in the timeline but me. (By the way, one might have similar thoughts when trying to procreate, but I digress).
At the start of the process you’re thinking, I’ll be an anomaly! Yes of course it takes a gazillion years and lots of heartbreak to be published, everyone knows that! But I will be different. A few years in, you think yes, I will be different. But in the other way.
I got close – so close. There was a book deal. Then the editor was fired and the house shelved the book. Then there was an auction which fell apart at the last minute because though editors love, love, loved the book, people didn’t know what to do with a male narrator who was also dead (this book will be published one day – I swear to it! Even if I have to do it myself! I read it the other week and it’s still my favorite).
The *close* is what makes you feel like a failure. Like you can’t get yourself over the finish line. You can be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are terrible, or you can be the Chargers who almost make the playoffs every year, but just miss. Or, when they do make the playoffs, they go far but never all the way. My apologies but whenever I can make a Chargers analogy I will do so.
When you are closest, but not quite there, is exactly when you feel like it will never happen. You’ve traveled up the the timeline, but stopped just short. If I suddenly decided to become a professional figure skater and found little success (duh), I wouldn’t feel like a failure because it’s so out of the realm of possibility there’s no use fretting over it.
I have long believed, in writing and in life, the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is grit. It’s sticking with it, if you really want it, even when it’d be so much easier to give up (but really, would it? because probably it would not be). When you’ve put in the hours and the effort and every ounce of your patience and soul and you still can’t get there, oh my gosh, complete and total misery. I’ve been there. I’ve so been there. But here’s the thing. Because of the time and the tears you’re closer than you think. You’ve put in you 10,000 hours (or, 9,999). You feel like a failure. Because you are almost there.
Oh my gosh, it’s been so long. But, really, it’s been so long since I’ve done much of anything other than keeping my nose to the grindstone.
It hasn’t been all work, though! In the last month or so I’ve had some exciting book developments. Really, they’re all part of publishing logistics thus not “special” per se, but exciting for this newbie all the same.
First off, I finally got to see the cover art! I so wish I could show it…soon though! I loved (almost) everything about it except one small aspect- which they are tweaking. Otherwise, though, it has the atmospheric vibe I was hoping for and didn’t even realize. And the title font is pretty much the best in the history of books. Who knew I’d be so into fonts?
Also, I got to see the interior design of the book! Hopefully I am allowed to show it here. No one said I couldn’t so… 😉
Excuse the poor quality – it’s a screen shot of a PDF. I love what they did with the font and the entire interior in genreal. The book takes place both in the current day and in 1900s(ish) Paris, and I feel the design really captures both periods. So thrilled.
It’s also been fun getting various updates from my editor… they’re starting to sell The Paris Apartment into Barnes & Noble, which still seems completely impossible. Strangers are reading this thing?!? Really?!?!
I’ve had some very rough work days (weeks, months) lately and getting these tidbits has really been a pick-up, even though it is so, so, so weird to have people dealing with your “work” without out. Hearing about “big meetings” regarding your book is very strange for someone who is used to participating IN the big meetings herself! It’s definitely taken an adjustment of thoughts/expectations.
So, some really fun “high points” over the last month or so. Now, onto the low, fully recognizing my “low” could be viewed by some as a pretty decent day. Sadly, even remembering this doesn’t always lessen the stress level.
I’ve always had intense, time-consuming, thought-consuming jobs and wrote as a hobby-nights, weekends, 5 o’clock in the morning, plane rides, basically whenever I could get a single second in. Unfortunately, for the last six months or so, my “day job” has taken up every night, weekend, early morning…every second of “free time.” I pulled all manner of “all nighters” back in my investment banking days and often I feel like I’m back in banking now, but minus a 20-something year old’s verve and pluck.
Between getting ready for publication day (e.g. regular edits, copy edits, etc.) and this all-engulfing job, I haven’t had time for hobbies. I haven’t had time to write. On top of that I had a “procedure” to remove some pre-cancerous things from my face (pre-cancerous, I think, a catch-all phrase for anything slightly unappealing and also the dermatologist has Christmas shopping coming up).
So when you’re already feeling stressed and low and then you ALSO look like a snake-faced monster for two weeks, well, you just might find yourself crying in a hotel room at 2 a.m., with copy edits due in like three hours, and knowing you have to speak in front of a group of 100 people in 6 hours, all with painful, scary, peeling snake skin. I mean, what presentation shouldn’t start with “please excuse my face”?
That was about two weeks ago, and much like my face, it’s all looking a little better. Yesterday was Thanksgiving and I can truly, honestly say, I am thankful for it all. Even the crying. Even the fact both my daughters came down with a gnarly flu late last night. My seven year old, forever looking at things from a unique perspective, said, having gotten sick after a delicious Thanksgiving meal, “Finally my barf tastes good.” Disgusting, to be sure, but you can’t fault the girl for her positive attitude.
Finally, for all you writers out there, I have been watching my friend (and one of my writing idols) Allison Winn Scotch and the release of her latest book, which she decided to self-publish after having tremendous success in the traditional realm, if one can define success by being a NYT bestselling author, which OF COURSE YOU CAN. At this point, self-publishing isn’t for me. I think to do it right you really need to take a start-up, entrepreneurial view, which Allison certainly did. There is an investment there – of time, of money. It’s not just about typing up a book and hitting “upload.” I, for one, am not interested in entrepreneurial endeavors. Having watched my father run his own “start up”for the last 30+ years (and counting) I prefer to let someone else worry about my paycheck and sales growth. Give me a good salary and equity and that’s enough for me.
In any case, if you’re interested in writing or the publishing process in general, I highly recommend checking out her blog (and googling for the many recent articles she’s been featured in). Bonus: her latest is $2.99 on Kindle for Black Friday!
Have a great weekend everyone! Go Chargers!
I saw this graphic earlier today on Facebook and thought it was interesting:
Most fiction writers spend a decent amount of time, at least at the start of a manuscript, thinking about names. I personally try to balance naming fantasies (e.g. what my husband immediately nixed when we were naming our own kids…oh yes Georgia I desperately wanted to name you “Honor”) and what is realistic for the person’s age/time period. I’m sure a Madison or two was born in the 70s but I do try to have the name match the year the character was born.
My modern-day protagonist in The Paris Apartment is April and she would’ve been born in the late 70s, which fits. I knew some Aprils growing up. Side note: she was initially named Rebecca but I changed it during a major manuscript overhaul for no other reason than I needed to “see” the character differently. I still love the name Rebecca, though, so maybe she will reappear at some point. As the historical protagonist was a living, breathing person that was a bit easier. 😉
Last names I get from friends of friends on Facebook. I scan friends lists until one jumps out at me. So if you are second degree separated from me on Facebook, perhaps your last name will show up! Admittedly, I’ve stolen both first and last names from people I actually do know, including giving April a brother named Brian (like me!) and giving another protagonist the last name of my college roommate.
When naming characters I spend a lot of time on the site Nymbler, which somehow sounds like a repository for sexual predators but is actually not. That’s how I found April, I wanted something with the same “vibe” as Rebecca. My current manuscript has a mid-40s woman named Jillian, and a 21 year old girl named Katie. Though that is my editor’s name, and my Katie does some pretty egregious stuff, so we might have to “explore other options” as it were. The above link is making me wonder if I should sprinkle some Jennifers or Lisas or Jessicas in somewhere.
In other news, I found out Friday that The Paris Apartment will be coming out in Italian! Publisher Newton Compton bought the rights. Hard to believe I now have a U.S. publisher and an Italian one. It was a huge treat to hang up from a conference call and find an email from my agent waiting in my In Box. Sometimes it’s like she does all the work. 😉
Have a good week everyone! Less than six months until publication date!
This week was crazy. Multiple cities. Multiple hotels. All day long meetings which always mean all night working. I’m feeling much more stressed than I should for a Friday night. In anticipation of a weekend that will not slow down I wanted to review some of my favorite life tips. 😉 Here’s how to “do it all.”
It’s not about “doing it all.” A more appropriate question would be “how do you do a few things some of the time?” Doesn’t sound too hard, does it? We can all do a few things some of the time.
I also have a personal motto, which I adhere to approximately 17% of the time, but we’re driving adoption toward 50% by year end. This motto is “pay yourself first.” You know better than anyone what you need to do right now, what can wait, and what makes you happiest, and the trick is triangulating these three things.
Similarly, know when to say “no.” This is a hard-fought lesson for me and one my husband would argue I do not abide by. But your boss/husband/school board/kids will never say “wow, I’d like to pass this off on her/him but I fear he/she’s overworked!” No, they will keep giving you all you can handle until you’re crying in the corner, at which time they’ll leave you alone for approximately 24 hours and it all start over again.
One more thing…and this is not tongue-in-cheek, the secret to life is getting up before 6am. No joke. I am convinced of this.
In unrelated news, my book is officially available for pre-order! I’m not trying to brag or anything but you should note I’m ranked #827,562 in Books. Look out world.
Once again I apologize for the continued silence! My first round of editorial changes were due September 15 and it occurred simultaneous with busyness at work because of course it did. My job is very rarely not-busy, thus I don’ t know why I would’ve expected anything different. Also there are two small people in my home who demand love, attention, food, and to pitch softballs at me on a near-constant basis. It’s just weird. I don’t even know where they came from.
Thank you to my husband for the continued pick up of my slack. As Sheryl Sandberg says in her fabulous book Lean In there is no way for a woman to have success if her partner isn’t committed to being a true partner in the home. Indeed.
And so my days have involved all the usual stuff and my nights and weekends plowing through these edits. Here is me joyfully working during my cousin’s rehearsal dinner:
But I did it! And it was extremely gratifying. And if I’m going to not sleep I’d gladly do it for writing endeavors. By the way, I slept 10 hours last night. The beauty of having older children who read when they wake up. And the beauty of “Fall Ball” for softball. Games are on Sundays. Although that conflicts with my beloved Chargers.
Anyway, in other news, April in Paris has a new title… THE PARIS APARTMENT! I know, how did we ever think of it? It’s so poetic! Ha!
Seriously, though, it was my favorite of those being bandied about and it matches my writing style, which is fairly clean and straightforward. I’d say my biggest struggle is describing things in detail about people, the rooms, etc. because I just want to get to the story. A friend and mentor once told me “write descriptions to the point you’re cringing and think it’s cheesy, and that is probably the normal/appropriate amount.” Maybe I should’ve written a screenplay. Dialogue is my thing. 😉
Another reason I like the title (and, to be clear, I suggested it!) is when I went back and looked at my favorite books, a large portion of them are THE [SOMETHING]. To wit:
THE GOOD HOUSE
THE LOTUS EATERS
THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER
THE BOOK THIEF
THE PARIS WIFE
THE SOLDIER’S WIFE
THE NINTH WIFE
You get the picture. So I am quite happy with the change.
And, speaking of titles, I read something with a really great title and an even better story this week. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Flower. This is one of the most unforgettable books I’ve ever picked up. Put down the computer and read it. Now.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Hope everyone had a fantastic Labor Day weekend. Why are holiday weekends always so busy when they’re supposed to be a “break”? It was hot here in San Diego, hot by our definition which means it exceeded the window of acceptability, which is a generous 72-78 degrees. It was super humid, though, I swear!
Here’s a little breakdown of my weekend, by the numbers. Because numbers are my thing.
Football games watched: 2
Chargers jerseys ordered: 1 (#5 – our punter Mike Scifres!)
Books read: 3 (favorite was On the Come Up by Hannah Weyer
Pages edited: I dunno, like 1,000? (okay, 73)
BBQs attended: 1
Hours of tennis played: 2
Hours spent at the pool: 10
Sick children: 1
Maximum temperature achieved by children: 103.1 F
Old school arcade games discovered by 9 year old: 1 (Ms. Pac-Man; in a local restaurant)
Anniversaries celebrated: 1
Years married: 13
Have a great week – whether it’s back to school or just plain back to life.
Tuesday was back to school in our house. My daughters are at two different schools this year which, aside from causing no small degree of consternation for the little one (oh how she misses her big sister), has added some complexity to my schedule.
Compared to most we have it pretty good. I have friends in other parts of the country who would literally have to drive to see their next door neighbor. I live in a small little beach community where I could walk to any point in my zip code expeditiously and also probably in heels. The two schools are at most a mile apart, and that is rounding up. So I don’t have a lot to complain about. Not that this will stop me.
This new school rigmarole will add an additional 2.5 hours to my week (yes, I’ve done the math…doing the math is what I do). That’s a lot of time! And of course I can not help but think of all the crap I’m not getting done during that 2.5 hours. Like writing.
If I’m really cranking, writing-wise, I can bang out 1,000 words in an hour. That means 2,500 words in those 2.5 lost hours, or 100,000 during the school year. 100,000! That is a full-length novel! This damn two-school business just took a novel from me! (Ignoring of course editing time, research time, staring at your computer thinking it’s the worst book you’ve ever seen).
Yes I’m complaining but mostly trying to make a point. The situation is hardly unique. It’s not even unique among the people I hang out with on a daily basis. If you have two or more kids born in different years, at some point you will have to negotiate the dual-school routine (and dual-sports, dual-Spanish club, dual-on and on… side note: though I think older kids are easier in general, their schedules are WAY more difficult to manage! Bring back the days when all activities were defined by me).
Anyway, the point is this. We all chew up needless time during the day whether it involves kid negotiating, taking the scenic route home, accepting the fate of an egregiously long Starbucks line, looking through peoples’ Facebook photo albums from Christmas 2009-the list could go on. We don’t really think about it because it’s not that big of a deal. It’s what you do. The kids have to get to school after all. But when you add up all the little chunks well, it does exactly that… adds up.
I’ve read, and I think have mentioned here, 80% of people say they want to write a book. Most will not, not because they can’t, but because they just won’t. They won’t find the 30 minutes a day, the little spaces of time. This goes for any hobby or passion. Anyone can find the time. A few minutes here, a few there, and after a school year you have a novel (a painting, a portfolio, some awesome computer code).
Now excuse me while I go make some excellent use of my own time and look at the Twitter rantings of people I’ve never met.
Oh, man, sorry for the long delay in posts. I’ve been, as they say, OOO or out of office, figuratively and literally, while also at times being so far IN the office I couldn’t even see the desk. Between a crush of tasks at my day job, travel for both business and pleasure, the summertime kid craziness, and on top of that, a gigantic heap of edits from my editor, I’m lucky when my day involves sleeping and eating actual food.
As I’m deep into edits I was thinking about story beginnings. Every writer knows: start with a hook. You cannot begin a novel with a character admiring her beauty, or by waxing poetic about a meadow, or with anything resembling a dream sequence. The opening must grab the reader, give him/her the incentive to keep going. A couple of great opening lines…
From Waiting by Ha Jin:
“Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu.”
Or, one of my favorites, from T. Greenwood’s Grace:
“Kurt is suddenly aware of the way the snow looks like something living, like something with a purpose. He has always thought of snow as simply falling from the sky, at mercy to gravity. But now, as he marches out across the snow-covered field behind the house, his rifle drawn and aimed at the back of his only son’s head, he sees that it is intent in its falling. Resolute, determined, even calculated in its descent.”
[Don’t you want to read the rest…like NOW?]
I think newbies can mistake a very high-stakes action sequence (something or someone is killed, maimed, pillaged) for a “hook”, sometimes neglecting the hook of a good character. Of course said character can be doing something super “hooky”. Like, I don’t know, a woman stabs a guy, carefully slips the knife into her Louis Vuitton and then calls her husband to say the PTA meeting has run late, start dinner without her. But what about more ordinary characters? How are you going to get the reader to care right away? I don’t have the answer, by the way.
You see, there’d been this niggling problem in my manuscript, cited by my agent and editors and readers alike. The protagonist, April, is very sympathetic in the long run but is not all that likable at first. Huh. Okay. I could buy that. She’s a bit wry and snarky (I hate that word, but let’s go with it here). So I toned it down. I toned her down some more. I did a bunch of other stuff but, still, that niggling remained.
Then I got my editorial letter/redlined manuscript back (oh my gosh, my editor’s suggestions/comments are brilliant, every last one of them). And she put it so simply: “April comes across as a bit wounded in the first chunk of the book. Which, after reading the whole thing, makes sense. But for a new reader, who doesn’t understand either her work pressure or marriage strain (yet), she runs the risk of coming off as a complainer.” Eek! Yikes! And on the mark. The comment entirely clarified the issue and what I needed to do.
First impressions mean everything – at work, socially, in the opening pages of a book. You can start with whatever big or small event you want, but the reader is only just stepping into the cocktail party and laying eyes on your protagonist for the first time. Maybe this is obvious to most. Maybe this is entirely about my inexperience in this industry. But the hook is not only the hook, it’s the interest in the character too. [light bulb]