Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 3: Denial

Here are some things I did today that were NOT writing and/or promoting:

1. Read about Reese Witherspoon's new baby and mused on whether "Tennessee" is a redneck name or a literary one, eventually settling on literary

2. Watched the "Gangnam Style" video, again (twice)

3. Giggled through a sexy short story by my writing bud Allison Leotta

4. Ate a gyro (note: not part of my diet)

5. Googled myself and checked my Amazon number (more times than I will own up to)

6. Took my eldest kid to Starbucks and got a Frappuccino (note: also not part of my diet)

My youngest was home with a stomach bug today, and knowing that at any given moment I might be called upon to attend to this issue kind of threw a wrench into my creative gears. I swear, if it's not one thing it's another: my kid's got a fever, my husband's got his arm in a sling, the dog's on an antibiotic, my boss wants to know why I missed the deadline to submit to the bulletin, Verizon sent out their electronic thugs to remind me that I forgot to pay my bill again, and all that's just since Saturday.

But there are positive developments as well. I managed to make slightly brilliant progress on Wonder Girl despite the distractions, I'm getting some glowing reviews and good press opportunities on Heaven Should Fall, and my heart has been fuzzily warmed by the many eminent authors who wished me a happy bookbirthday on Twitter (check out my feed!). As for productivity, I'll do better tomorrow. No more K-pop. No more Reese. Back to the business of listening to my imaginary friends, and I mean it this time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day 2: My Tennis Ball Guru

I've been saying for years that I need a mentor. More recently, in my more confused and desperate moments, I have commented that what I really need is a volleyball with a handprint on it, a la Cast Away, that speaks in the voice of Stephen King. In my mind, I mean. It would scoff at my concerns over whether my prose is quite literary enough, what that reader said about my book on Goodreads, and whether I will ever feel worthy enough to dare to apply to the MacDowell Colony, because in On Writing he specifically (without naming it) jests about his own long-ago MacDowell fantasies.

From the photo above, you can see where this is going. I did it. After a somewhat fraught phone call with my agent ("You can always send your new manuscript to me before you send it to your editor," she told me, "I'll give you my honest opinion," to which I replied, "that's what I'm afraid of") I came home, grabbed a tennis ball that has never been used by my lazy non-retrieving "hunting" dogs:

Lightning. Today.

... and drew on it an artistic interpretation of Mr. King. He has a seat of honor on the bookshelf just to the right of my writing chair. Writing is a lonely profession, so how delightsome it will be that I now have someone to talk to. And this will be a relationship of mutual respect: no "#1 fan" jokes from me, no comments about how "The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition" could have maybe stood to be a little less complete and more cut, and in return he won't berate me for being slow and neurotic. Stay tuned as he doles out advice to me and hopefully offers me guidance on an upcoming sex scene.

Meanwhile, the blogger reviews for Heaven Should Fall are coming in slow but positive. One of today's: "a grim and compelling tale whose finely crafted characters reveal a thoughtful study of an insular family stunted by extremist views and shocking tragedy." Oh, grimness! The end is uplifting, I assure you! And on another uplifting note, it looks like I will be at the Baltimore Book Festival this Saturday after all. Please drop by and allow me to sign a copy of my shocking tragedy for you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Day 1: And We're Live

My Facebook post from late in the day said it all: "If you could see my true inner self at the moment, you would see Britney Spears shaving her head and attacking a car with an umbrella." Today I was the "First World Problems" meme come to life. Yes, my husband let me sleep in, and it's Book Release Day, and I got to go out to an all-you-can-eat taco buffet for lunch. But I also learned that there's a major snag in my plans to be at the Baltimore Book Festival this Saturday, and I spent much of the day fretting about my dog, Thunder, and taking him to the vet, who lightened my Visa by $172 and gave me more to worry about. Thunder-- fun fact-- makes a guest appearance in Heaven Should Fall, along with his sister Lightning, as Dodge's dogs. Here's a "special features" detail about our rescue dogs that you won't see on Shelfari: Lightning is the heartbreakingly sweet, emotionally needy beagle who turns up her nose at a kibble breakfast but will gladly eat out of the bathroom garbage can, and pees in random locations on a whim; Thunder is the Good Dog, the strong silent type who has turned out to be so medically fragile that he's more like a porcelain sculpture of a beagle. He suffers from back pain, for which he takes two pills, and now has a problem with a gland I can't discuss in polite company, which has so far required two gazillion-dollar antibiotics to address.

Other than dealing with those two different types of pains in the ass, I spent much of the day responding to the copious amounts of social media love offered by my friends and colleagues. Writers, by and large, are terrific people. So are friends. I hardly got any writing done on Wonder Girl today, so distracted was I by the outpouring of affection. As for the diet, that didn't go so well; there was that aforementioned taco bar (wow, was that good), but I did manage to get in a walk with a friend. The day can realistically be summed up with a screenshot from my calendar:

The latter appointment belongs to my husband, with whom I share a calendar. He deserved it. Not only did he let me sleep in and supply me with tacos, but he stopped by Barnes & Noble to take the pic at the top of this post. So after a long and eventful day, we're all enjoying the warm glow of a day well spent. I have a new book out, and he has, well... beer.

Monday, September 24, 2012

So my new book comes out in two hours. That's it up there: my 351-page sojourn into a world of grief, love, and right-wing nutjobs, with (I believe) literature's first homicidal Quiverfull fundamentalist mom. I like to break new ground.

I'm nervous. Pregnancy and birth metaphors are used lavishly among authors, so I hate to join the cliché, but it's true-- having a second book come out does feel a lot like having a second baby. With the first one, you have no idea what you're getting into but you have this written birth plan you're very sure everyone will stick to; you made copies in triplicate, to make sure you and the doc and the unborn child are all on the same page. And then you still end up hooked up to a bag of Pitocin, you're not dilating fast enough, and as a result the infant is not born onto the New York Times Bestseller List. It can be bewildering for any new mom. The second time, you know how wonderful it all will be, but also that you can hardly control a damn thing about it. That part is scary.

Here's what the book is about:

"When Elias at long last comes home from the war, Jill's first impression of her future brother-in-law is of a gruff and battle-hardened soldier, nothing like his charismatic and ambitious brother Cade. But the Olmstead boys aren't as different as they first appear: raised in rural New England in a family torn in two by extremist views, both aspire to something higher than the toxic environment of their upbringing. It's a family dynamic Jill doesn't understand, but as she and Cade retreat to the farm to wait out the birth of their child, it becomes clear to her that the family home is no less a battlefield than the one Elias left behind.

As the family's troubled history and the war's psychic toll churn to form a perfect storm, Jill is convinced that she and Cade have been brought here by fate to prevent a tragedy. But when their efforts fail, Cade's angry grief spawns a desire for revenge against the government he believes abandoned his brother. Jill believes his love for his infant son will set a limit on how far he's willing to go-- but in the Olmstead family, it's never safe to presume a person will be reasonable."

As you might imagine, it was tough to write. Really tough-- more so than The Kingdom of Childhood in many ways, because with that book I had lots of time and nothing to lose, and this one was more or less the reverse of that. I'm very happy with how it turned out, and now, as it finally hits the bookstores, I'm going to use this blog to take you-- my faithful readers-- through the next five weeks with me, day by day. In that time you'll get to see me:

1. Promote the new book (Heaven Should Fall)

2. Finish writing the work-in-progress (Wonder Girl) that's due to my editor on October 31

3. Obsess about the previous book (The Kingdom of Childhood)

4. Work my day job, raise my family, prevent my husband from giving up and leaving me, et cetera

5. And attempt to lose the thirteen pounds I gained in a sudden, frenetic burst of chocolate dependency last fall while revising Heaven Should Fall.

Stick around and join me for the ride. It'll be the Here Comes Honey Boo Boo of professional writing. See you tomorrow, and wish me luck.