We rent. We rent a tidy 3 bedroom, 2 bath house on an acre of land. This house is home to me, my husband, my six year old, my 16 month old. The kids share a room; the third bedroom is our office. It’s maybe 1,100 sq feet.
After a lifetime of travels, I am no longer a fan of putting things in storage. I’ve pared my life down to the basics (and could probably stand to pare down even more) – whatever we need or want needs to fit in this house. We’ve lived in this house for almost three years, and it’s kept us warm, dry, and happy (ok, the pigeons partying on the roof don’t make us happy, that’s a post for another day).
I have a lot of gratitude for this place, this space. It’s served me and my family, as well as our business and our writing, and it helped me realize the kind of home I ultimately want (land land land!). But is this the home we want to stay in forever? Nope. I’ll love it while we’re here, but I’m wanting something different. We’re starting to squirrel away money for a down payment (how soon can I write my next book? And the one after that? And the one after that? And bring on those movie options while you’re at it!) to buy something later this year or next year.
Here’s our dream home: 5 bedroom, 4 bath, with large living spaces totaling at least 3,000 sq feet, on three acres in our town of Waimea. Green, private. And there’s more: I am pining for a second home, a smaller property in the small town of Volcano (yes, in and ON our flowing volcano, Kilauea), one that I can use as a writer’s escape and small weekend getaways with my family, and vacation rental when we’re not using it.
What about you? What’s your living space like? Do you have a dream home on the horizon?
The topic this week is What am I reading and why should you care? – at least I think it is. Let me start by saying that I just finished Deb Tish’s TOWN HOUSE — but since it goes without saying that it’s an amazing book and you should run right out and buy a copy, I thought I’d write about another recent read: WHAT THE DEAD KNOW by Laura Lippman. From page one on I was drawn in completely and even though I finished the book two weeks ago, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.
Here’s the premise: A disoriented woman wanders away from the scene of a hit and run accident. Later, in the hospital, she claims to be Heather Bethany – the younger of two adolescent sisters who disappeared from a shopping mall thirty years ago. The unsolved crime has haunted residents of Baltimore for decades. How could anyone take not one, but two girls, from a busy mall on a Saturday afternoon? How could there be no witnesses? Not a single clue?
Is the woman in the hospital Heather Bethany? Or is it all an elaborate ruse? If so, why? And how does she know so many unpublicized details about the case and Heather’s life? And if she is Heather, where has she been all these years and why is she just now coming forward? All the leads she gives the police, her lawyer and social worker turn out to be dead ends. It seems no one can back up her ever-unfolding story. And there’s something not quite right in the way she’s telling it. Clearly, this woman is hiding something.
The story jumps around in time, showing us the sisters when they disappeared in 1975; what happened to their parents in the days, months and years following their disappearance; and finally, what happens when the woman claiming to be Heather returns to Baltimore. We also have the woman who claims to be Heather’s own flashbacks of living a series of lives under assumed names and hints at abuse by a mysterious man or men. She’s clearly a broken person, but is she Heather Bethany? And is the horrible story she’s telling about what happened to her and her sister true?
What I loved most about this puzzle-box of a book was that nothing and no one is what they seem. We’re shown scenes of a happy family, and only later do we learn their secrets. People are constantly reinventing themselves and their own versions of the past.
It’s a book that gets under your skin. Lippman is a master crime writer. She teases, drops bombs, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out, she gives you another clue that takes you in another direction entirely. And damn, the woman can write. More than a deeply satisfying mystery, WHAT THE DEAD KNOW is a beautifully done study on the nature of grief and guilt, and how we become who we are.
What is there really left to write at this point? After all the links on the book’s website, my own website, the book and my MySpace pages, the debut page here, and the interviews, what is there to say about debut day besides, Phew, I made it?
I’m writing from a beautiful, idyllic town in the mountains near Palm Springs called Idyllwild, where the most complicated thing you should have to do is learn how to spell the town name correctly (no simple task, as it turns out). I’m here with a friend to relax, to take walks and breathe clean air and, in short, not obsess over the fact that this book that I’ve done nothing but obsess over for the past 18 months (24, if you count writing time) is finally being released to the world.
Of course, the fact that I’m typing this, as opposed to walking through the glorious trails lined with pinecones, squirrels, a creek and rocks to get you across said creek, tells you a little something about how good I am at relaxing, taking walks, breathing clean air and not obsessing.
Yes, that was me in the gift shop that sells homemade candles that smell like chimney smoke (don’t knock it until you’ve smelled it, that one) screeching into my cell phone to my friend a request that she please try to get a copy of Newsday since they wrote something nice about the book and I clearly wouldn’t be able to find it in a town where the word “newspaper” only means The Town Crier (which, in case you’re interested, does cover the “San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains from Twin Pines to Anza to Pinyon”).
So what can I share about having a book come out that the other Debs haven’t already? Probably nothing. But I will say this: While most women my age are more commonly birthing babies than books, I’m proud of what I’m delivering to the world today. It doesn’t matter if the people across the nation embrace my book or don’t, if it becomes known across the globe or not. It’s my baby and no one else’s.
And I didn’t have to gain any weight to have her.
By the time you’re reading this post, I’m probably headed to New York where I’ll meet Patry Francis, author of The Liar’s Diary for an almost-week of book-related antics. Tuesday night, 7 pm, May 29th, Patry and I have an event at Borders at Park Ave. and 57th that will be attended by at least one person–my therapist. She’s already informed me she’ll be late–a good therapist always manages a patient’s expectations. It helps keep said patient off meds.
If you’re in the area, feel free to stop by to say hi. Patry and I can promise you much discussion about liars, diaries, anxiety and the color white. Not necessarily in that order.
Speaking about anxieties, did I mention I’m flying by myself for the first time in ten years? I’m actually less concerned for myself and more concerned for my mystery seat mate–who is probably hoping to catch up on some reading or have a lovely nap.
I’m hoping it’s a fatherly man, that he’s an offduty pilot, and that he did at least a few years of yogi training before deciding he could better serve society by developing a the world’s most successful conquer-your-fear-of-flying system. Which he’ll school me in the entire 55 minutes.
He can nap when he reaches his hotel.
I’ll recommend it.
The truth is–I’m planning to be calm. The flight is less than an hour. We climb up, plateau long enough for the snack cart to roll by, then we climb down. Gently.
I might even enjoy it. It’s happened before.
Besides, I’m bringing chocolate, books, my laptop and line edits for (new title, get ready for it) The One and Only Zoe Lama, magazines, and my lucky green scarf. But no carry-on. That would be too much. I plan to stuff all this in my purse.
Or ask my seatmate to carry some of it.
Like I said, he can nap later.
I can’t wait to meet him.
DEB DEBUT! It’s Party time! Please join us in congratulating Debutante Anna David, whose novel Party Girl now has its very own debut page on The Ball. Stop over, learn more about Anna and the book, and snap one up for yourself. Congratulations, Anna!
Viral Video Alert! Be sure to check out the viral video for Deb Anna’s PARTY GIRL. You are then both strongly encouraged to feel the nearly compulsive need to forward it to friends, and to submit your video to the Party Girl Viral Video contest.
PARTY rages on! Check out Newsday‘s Summer Book Preview, which calls Deb Anna’s PARTY GIRL one of the seasons “best reads” and notes that “David…comments wisely and humorously on addiction and recovery.” If you want to PARTY more, go see Deb Anna’s interview on author E.I. Johnson’s blog as well as her Q&A on the NovelJourney blog. You can also hear interviews with her in L.A. on Mike Walker’s radio show on KABC-AM 790 on Sunday, May 27th at 8 pm and, if you have Sirius, on the Playboy radio show on Thursday, May 31st at 1 pm.
Debs on Debs! Deb Mia speaks with Deb Anna at her blog, Mia Musings, this Tuesday, and gets a recipe that we’re fairly certain you’ve never tried!
Debs in Review! Deb Tish is thrilled with Town House’s review in Saturday’s Globe and Mail!
Debs Who Schmooze! Deb Jennifer had a fantastic time at the Harper party in New York City — and there is even photographic evidence posted at Galleycat!
Debs Who Are Up For a Challenge! Check out the Summer Mystery Reading Challenge at Reviewed By Liz! The SMRC challenges readers to read six new-to-you crime writers this summer, and yep, there are prizes. A different author is featured every day for inspiration and Deb Jennifer is scheduled for Saturday June 2 — stop by and say hello!
Friends of the Site! Gail Konop Baker’s last Bare-breasted Mama column is up at Literary Mama. We’ll all miss her beautiful writing, but not for long, Gail’s memoir CANCER IS A BITCH: Reflections on Midlife, Mortality, Motherhood and Marriage will be out in 2008!
Devastatingly charming, J.D. Rhoades, brilliant and hilarious blogger at What Fresh Hell Is This? has recently joined our friends at the wonderful grog Murderati. His second redneck noir novel starring Jack Keller, Good Day In Hell, comes out in paperback on Tuesday May 29th, and the third in the series, Safe and Sound, will be published in July!
There is a terrible and untrue rumor out there about moi, Debutante Kristy. The rumor goes something like this: “Oh that Kristy, she’s so organiiiized!” (Said in your best Cyndi Lauper voice.)
Let us put this vicious rumor to rest once and for all, shall we? You see, The Debutante Ball has a topic each week, and that has worked out quite nicely since we started dancing. But we’ve discussed some changes to the site and one of our projects is to streamline our topics. That was supposed to happen this month.
Yeaaah. See, things got away from me, and a last minute e-mail from the Debs asked me to clarify exactly what was happening. Is this week The Writing Life or Current Living Conditions?! My reply was something magnanimous and brilliant along the lines of, “Um, it’s whatever you want it to be.”
So today I’ll be blogging about My Current Writing Life Living Conditions. Because I know you’re fascinated and have been debating this amongst yourselves for months.
We thought we might put our house on the market a few months ago, so we did a lot…A LOT…of work on it. It was so spiffy and beautiful, all paint-fumey and white base-boardy. And we broke down our office/work-out room and made it into another bedroom, bought a dresser and everything. Then we had a big garage sale and sold all of the office/work-out room stuff, because we had no room to store it, and it was getting awfully grungy anyway.
And then everyone in the whole neighborhood put their house on the market.
So we changed our minds. Clearly, it was not the time to sell. During this time I was writing at my kitchen counter on a laptop. This is a bad idea. Because what happens is you start getting sharp, shooting pains down your right arm and you’re pretty convinced that maybe it’s a heart attack, but because you’re so backward anyway it’s obviously bothering your right arm instead of your left. And there’s also a lot of tingling and weakness.
Luckily, before a foray to the emergency room, cooler head (yep, just one) prevailed and said something like, “It’s because you’re sitting at your kitchen counter writing on your lap top…idiot.” Ahhhh, wisdom dawneth. And the cooler head was correct, because when I worked in bed for a couple of days, sure enough, the backward heart attack went away completely.
But then what happens when you write in bed? Well, for one thing your back starts to hurt, and for another, you start to fall asleep at odd times during the day, completely blowing your already tenuous insistence that, no, really, you’re working! Plus your feet get hot. I have no idea why.
So, what could the answer be?
You buy a new desk, break down your pretty new bedroom that you don’t need now anyway, and turn the room back into an office/work-out room. Which you’ll only have to completely reverse when you do finally put your house on the market.
So, can we finally extinguish this whole “organized” rumor? I mean, I have loads of these stories. I am a mess, a wreck, a bonehead.
But at least I’m not having a backward heart attack.
I don’t write because I want to be famous. I write because it is what I love to do. However, I am willing to admit I am okay with the idea of becoming famous should it happen. I didn’t set out for immortality, but I’m open to the idea.
The best part of about writing fame is your name is famous, but most of the time you aren’t. This means if you want the benefits of fame (say a free upgrade on a flight or a good table at a restaurant) you can name drop. “Perhaps you didn’t get my name spelled correctly; I’m Eileen Cook, the novelist.” Then give a shy humble smile. Of course you wouldn’t say you were Eileen Cook, you would insert your own name- but you get the idea.
Even with my favorite authors, I am fairly sure I could be sitting next to them and I wouldn’t have a clue. I could be in the bathroom with Barbara Gowdy and tell her she has tissue on her shoe and would have no idea. Dave Barry could pass me in the hall and I would think maybe I went to high school with him. I could be sitting across from John Irving at a party and I would be all: “I swear I know you from somewhere. Did you build our fence? no? Do you go to my gym?” Then if they said their names I would fall to the floor and roll over in submission.
Writers also seem, on the whole, to handle celebrity better. You never see JK Rowling getting out of her car without her panties. Stephen King doesn’t trash hotel rooms (despite the fact that he plays in a band and you know how those rock and roll types can be). Writers seem to keep their dysfunction on the inside and share it only with loved ones. We’re special that way.
For my day job, on occasion I have to sign stacks of forms. I am willing to admit that for years when faced with this chore I have closed my eyes and imagined I was signing books. Mumbling under my breath “Oh I’m so glad you liked it- Your favorite author? Really? How sweet-of course I’ll sign ten extra copies if you want to buy more.” I’m considering it practice for when I am mobbed by autograph hounds.
What do you think would be the best celebrity perk?