Last night I had an idea for a new cable television show.
It would be sort of like SuperNanny, except instead of convincing delinquent, tamper-prone four-year-olds not to flush Sparkles, the family hamster, down the toilet; quick-thinking publicists would jet off across the country to help authors faced with dire publishing emergencies.
Or maybe they’d travel in a nitro-powered bookmobile.
The show would be called BOOK TOUR 9-1-1.
Armed with only tic-tacs, a mega-powered Blackberry, and a case of duct-tape, SuperPubbies would step in to save the tour and bravely help authors in need.
When the microphone accidentally drops off your shirt during a live television broadcast, your SP would dive across the concrete floor like she was stealing home in the World Series — sliding under the camera line to retrieve your microphone before it became necessary to shout your interview answers into the microphone stuffed in the host’s bra, so that you could still be heard by all in TV Land.
The SP would psychically know if the bookstore where you’re scheduled to do a stock signing was demolished three weeks ago, and instantly re-direct you to a building that is still standing.
The SP would be infinitely more helpful if you happened to be late for the airport and the only route your high-priced navigation system could come up with was over the bridge that collapsed last winter.
The SP could casually stick a blueberry café muffin into the mouth of an enthusiastic heckler before he has a chance to tell you and the three kind people who came to see you about his idea for a novel. Again.
And of course, the SP could build a raft out of Sharpies if you’re ever caught in a flash flood.
SuperPubbies, where are you?
Deb Lisa is still out on tour.
Please welcome our guest author, Sara Rosett, whose novel GETTING AWAY IS DEADLY, her third book in the mom zone mystery series about a military spouse who runs a professional organizing business, comes out this week. Sara might be slightly in touch with her protagonist’s heart, being a military wife herself, though the comparisons stop when murder comes into play.
DB: Tell me a little about your book.
SR: Ellie Avery, a military spouse and professional organizer, accompanies her pilot husband to a training class in Washington D.C. She wants a little r&r in the form of sight-seeing and shopping, but her getaway turns deadly when she witnesses a murder in the Metro.
DB: What got you writing in the genre in which you write.
SR: I’ve always loved mysteries. I grew up reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon. I moved on to romantic suspense and devoured novels by Elizabeth Peters and Mary Stewart. Then I found mysteries by contemporary female writers like Carolyn Hart and Margaret Maron. Their books had modern “everyday” women as the main characters in American settings. I decided to attempt to write an amateur sleuth mystery with a mom as the protagonist. The result was the first Mom Zone Mystery, Moving is Murder. Getting Away is Deadly is the third installment in the series.
DB: Favorite thing about being a writer?
SR: I love meeting readers and booksellers. It’s so nice to connect with people who love books as much as I do! And I have to say it’s also pretty cool to open a box and see stacks of books with my name on the spine.
DB: Least favorite thing about being a writer?
SR: The day-in-day-out slog of writing the first draft, which is the hardest part for me. Once I actually get something down on paper I feel so much better. Revision is easy compared to the first draft.
DB: What is the most interesting thing that’s happened to you since becoming a published author?
SR: At one of my first book signings, a man asked me if he could have a kiss. I was thrown for a moment, until I remembered the chocolate kisses I’d put out to draw people over to my signing table. I guess they worked—maybe a little too well!
DB: Speaking of food, I like to ask guests this: What’s your favorite type of pie?
SR: Well, I’m more of a chocolate cake kind of girl, but if it *has* to be pie…cherry. J
Thanks so much for joining us today!
Just before we’re leaving for spring break, I hear back from my editor that her response to my edits will be complete two days after we arrive in South Beach. And would I be available for a phone chat? This is nobody’s fault; just the way things keep turning out for me. I sort of keep believing the myth that writers have control over their work hours. But even though I sent her my responses to her edits two weeks earlier thinking that was plenty of time for us to work out a few minor details, that was me thinking I’m the only writer and mine is the only book my editor has to deal with. Additionally, she tells me that the art department told her they would have a book cover for approval, which will need to be approved vacation week since the catalog is going out that week.
So I pack my laptop and we head to South Beach which is hot and sunny and full of people watching distractions. The first two mornings, running on the boardwalk with my daughter we pass: a bare-chested older overweight man speed walking in a pirate’s hat and doing Jennifer Aniston arms (that’s when you do little arm circles with your arms pointing out at 90 degrees from your body and we call it Jennifer Aniston arms because we read in a glossy magazine that it was the exercise she did to keep her arms trim); a body building woman in a hot pants and stilettos, smoking a cigarette; a Hasidic family with eight kids, the parents both talking on their cell phones; a dyed blond, botoxed and bloated lipped woman with gravity defying balloon-boobs carrying one of those little Hamster-type dogs (also in stilettos); as well as scores of Latinos and Europeans punctuated by aging hippies in frizzy gray dos.
The afternoons on the beach I toss a football with my son, do yoga with my husband and daughter (and a few of the cabana boys who ask to join) and then plop into a lounging chair and watch the seagulls and the man in the pink thong sunbathe.
The third morning I wake up and wave everyone off to the beach without me, wondering how they will adjust to me having to work on vacation, rolling my eyes as if I’m really put out that I have to stay in the room to have this phone meeting with my editor. Secretly? People needing to speak with me? Even on vacation? This is exactly the kind of affirmation I’ve been waiting for all these years. This means that other people are taking me as seriously as I want to be taken. (You might say I’m a little slow on this whole publishing thing being real. But, honestly, sometimes I believe it and sometimes that belief completely fades away).
But here in South beach, I sit facing the ocean with my computer open to my edited manuscript, the phone to my right, a glass of mineral water to my left (in case my throat gets dry) and wait for my editor to call. And for two hours I discuss tiny details of passages I have labored over and my editor has read so carefully that it matters to her whether we need an “and” instead of a “comma.” The nerd in me thrilled to be analyzing how the “and” subtly changes the emphasis in the sentence.
The next day I bring my laptop to the pool area. That way I figure I don’t have to keep running up to the room to see if my editor sent me the book cover. Although once it starts raining, I realize that plan isn’t going to work and it gives me an excuse to check the e-mail in the room without distraction. And there it is… an e-mail with my cover! I’m so excited and ready to approve it and get back to my family and the guy in the pink thong.
Except that the cover is AWFUL. Hideous. I don’t even want to waste your time explaining how bad it was except to say that the colors were like an Easter Egg. Quickly and nervously, I e-mail my agent. He e-mails back. Agrees it’s hideous. We both e-mail my editor and say, No!
In between waiting for e-mails from my editor and agent, I go down to the pool and the beach (the sky is clear now) worrying about the Easter Egg cover (but also thinking, I’m in South Beach and other people are so invested in my work, in words I never imagined two years ago when I wrote them in my journal would ever be shared, that I have to go back and check to see if there are more covers for me to approve, that I may have to engage in even MORE discussion about why one does or doesn’t work… does it get any better than this??). So while my son splashes in the pool with some boys he befriended and my daughter listens to her iPod and reads The Stranger in French and works on her tan and my husband reads Skinny Bitch (at my urging) and sips cools drinks in the sun, I run back and forth between the pool and the room and the beach.
Finally, 4 more covers come through. All of them MUCH better than the first one and one of them really good. Not perfect but more than good enough for the catalog. I’m so excited and relieved.
By the time I’m done and get back down to the pool, it’s late afternoon. I find my husband sitting with the Other Mothers who are all complaining about their husbands on their BlackBerries.
I nod empathetically, remembering all the vacations when my husband was distracted with work and I was at the pool alone with the kids.
Then I hear my husband say, “My wife’s been in the room on the phone with her editor and agent for two days.”
And I realize this vacation I am he and he is me.
“Really?” the Other Mothers all say. “That’s interesting. Are you a writer?”
I glance over at my husband and wonder if he resents being left at the pool while I work.
“Yes,” he answers for me. “She’s written a great book!”
“What did I miss?” I ask, a tad anxiously.
“The topless Venezuelans,” one of the Other Mothers says.
My husband nods and grins. “But I finished Skinny Bitch,” he says.
“And the guy doing Jennifer Aniston arms was wearing a cowboy hat today,” my daughter walks up and scootches in next to me on the lounging chair to say.
“Are you done, Mom?” my son pops up from underwater and yells from the pool. “Will you throw the ball with me?”
“Yes,” I say. “I’m done.”
And it dawns on me that the power may be reshifting in my marriage (a bit) and I think I might be the one who will need to do the most adjusting.
(click on the Gail to see new photos and new News and Events… tell me what you think!)
Deb Lisa is still on tour.
This week you can see her:
Tuesday, April 29 – 6 pm
Signing & Launch Party
Books & Books
265 Aragon Avenue
Coral Gables, Fl 33134
Fort Myers, FL
Thursday, May 1 – 7 pm
Barnes & Noble
13751 S Tamiami Trl,
Fort Myers, FL 33912
Saturday, May 3 – 7 pm
Launch Party & Signing
Sarasota News & Books
1341 Main Street
*margaritas & appetizers
*this is my “home” store, so we’re expecting a fabulous party!
Lisa has a some TV appearances scheduled this week — Be sure to tune in for Daytime (Monday – syndicated), CBS- Miami (Tuesday, 7:45 ish), South Florida Today (Wednesday, NBC – Miami) and ABC-7 News, Sarasota (Friday afternoon)
The Debs have been on the run lately so haven’t quite consolidated all of the news for the week yet but we wanted to be sure we announced a really cool guest author who will be dancing with us on Thursday, as well as a few other lovely guests this week.
Sex and The Debutante Ball
Evan Handler, who perhaps first came to the spotlight as an ongoing love interest who eventually married Charlotte (Kristin Davis) in Sex and the City and who now stars with David Duchovny in the acclaimed Showtime hit Californication, has led an extraordinary life. One that was expected to end well before it had a chance to take root: he’d been diagnosed with a terminal cancer some 20 years ago. And lived to tell about it, in his new collection of essays titled It’s Only Temporary: The Good News and Bad News of Being Alive. Evan will join us Thursday, May 1 as he gallivants about Manhattan on his publicity tour, so please be sure to stop by for his post.
Also this week, guest author Sara Rosett on April 29 and debut author Trish Ryan on May 3.
What the Debs are Reading
Deb Jenny is thoroughly enjoying Save the Cat: the Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder.
Please help me welcome Catherine Delors to the Ball. Catherine’s first novel, Mistress of the Revolution is a scrumptious historical set in the French Revolution, the cover alone made me swoon Welcome Catherine!
An environmental nightmare: Paris in the 18th Century
When Deb Eileen told me that the theme for my post here would be Earth Week, and that I should, if at all possible, make it relate to my book. I was a bit perplexed. Not that I don’t care about environmental issues, far from it, but at first I couldn’t think of a way to link them to my novel, Mistress of the Revolution, which is set during the French Revolution.
Though many political topics raised – and fought over – during the Revolution remain current to this day, I couldn’t find any discussion of environmental issues at the time. But then I thought again: there was problem that was of concern to many people at the time. It was the availability of water, and in particular drinking water, in Paris in the 18th century. I had found my topic!
A reader told me that what she liked in my novel is that I did not only depict the glamorous aspect of aristocratic life before the Revolution, and that I also showed Paris as it really was: an overcrowded, smelly, dirty city. The Parisians of the time complained bitterly about it.
The Seine River was everything to Paris. Barges brought essential merchandises from distant provinces. Often they went no further than in Paris, to be dismantled in the spot and sold as wood. One embankment specialized in the commerce of wheat, another was dedicated to the wine trade. The embankments were not the paved, clean ones we see now. At the time, they were muddy or sandy, depending on the location. Indeed the Roman name of the city, Lutetia, is said to be derived from the Latin lutum, “mud.”
In summer people went swimming in the river. They did it to exercise, and for many it was the only time of the year when they could enjoy a bath. With the onset of the Revolution, morals became more puritanical, and the Municipality of Paris passed an ordinance making it illegal to bathe nude in the Seine.
For those who could afford it, bathing establishments, installed on barges moored along the embankments, offered private cabins and showers. The poor were left with the option of bathing in their shirts or not at all. In any case, they washed their clothes in the river.
The Seine also served as an open-air sewer and garbage dump. The streets of Paris were only cleaned when it rained, and the runoff naturally flowed into the river. People also threw their solid waste in it since there was no organized garbage collection. In particular all of the detritus from the nearby slaughterhouses of the Chatelet district were dumped into the river. Contemporary accounts mention a pinkish scum floating on top.
People and animals often drowned in the Seine, and it provided the “safest” means of disposing of the corpses of murder victims. The bodies were sometimes recovered downstream, robbed of any remaining possessions and buried unceremoniously in the mud of the banks. Those corpses fished from the river within Paris were taken to the Morgue, also in the Chatelet district, where relatives could identify and claim them.
Within city limits fountains were rare and often enclosed within the private gardens of convents or mansions. Most were therefore inaccessible to the public. That left – you guessed it – the Seine! Water carriers filled their buckets in the river and for a few sols brought the water up many flights of stairs (six-story buildings were frequent within the city.) And yes, people drank it.
The rich, of course, could afford to have spring water brought from the suburbs. They also drank excellent wines, much the same as our best modern French wines. Poor people drank “wine” as well, or rather a liquid by that name, but it often had nothing to do with fermented grape juice. It was a toxic mix of various chemicals and purple dye. From a health standpoint, it would have been a difficult choice between Seine water and fraudulent wine.
At one point in Mistress of the Revolution, my heroine, Gabrielle, is arrested and imprisoned because of her former association with Marie-Antoinette’s Court. The turnkey brings her a bottle of cloudy water and, upon her question, confirms that indeed it comes from the river. Gabrielle, spoiled, sheltered, had never before swallowed “a liquid into which 700,000 people emptied their chamber pots and garbage,” as she puts it. The turnkey is not a bad man and seeks to reassure her. “Don’t worry about it, Citizen” he says. “Some say it loosens your bowels, but I drink it everyday, and I’ve never suffered anything like that. But then I let it stand for a while. That way the filth settles at the bottom. If you do the same, you’ll be fine.”
And I did not make this up! I read this advice in a book written by a contemporary. A helpful reminder that we often take for granted what may be our greatest luxury: clean drinking water.
Do you recyle?
Not bottles or cans, not cardboard or newspapers, magazines or glass. I’m talking about what writer’s throw away in volume- words. Yes, your rough drafts, the ugly drafts, the “who knows what I was going for there” draft. The stories that never got off the ground, the character details that were cut, or those those brilliant scenes that were sacraficed for pacing.
What do you do with your old writing? The writing that doesn’t make the cut? I’m here to advocate that you don’t dump it into the trash, but instead you word compost. Make a file where you keep these things either in a desk drawer or on your computer. Composting is a strange thing. You dump what feels like trash in there- and then magical things can happen. What was trash sometimes becomes something new, something useful. Sometimes those details can be used in a new work or they create a jumping off point for your muse. Sometimes the only purpose is a reminder that you are getting better at this writing thing, but I beg you- don’t just throw it away.
Writers have their own strange rituals. I know people who can’t write until they create a collage, some who have alters to their muse and others who can’t start a project until they have a detailed outline for every chapter. My weird thing is that I can’t really get into a new project until I know the first line. I seem incapable of jumping in and worrying about the first line later. I can spend weeks fretting over how to start the book. Now when the book is all said and done I may still change the first line- but I have to love it when I start. This past week I went through my compost pile and there, buried among the ugly drafts, was a line. Just one line. I changed it around- but the start of it was there.
“Last night I dreamt I dissected Lauren Wood during biology class.”
Now I’m off and running with my next work in progress. Recycling pays off.
What is your strange writer ritual?
The Oppressor and I have a love-hate relationship with living in the city. We hate the expense, the smog and the stress of rushing around all the time. We often rhapsodize about the acres we could live on in the country for the same $ we paid to live on our postage stamp piece of property in Toronto. The air would be cleaner and we would all run free and barefoot, grow our own vegetables, etc, etc.
Problem is, he’d have to commute (further polluting the air) plus we would suffer from a lack of coffee shops within walking distance and be totally without friends. Not to mention I am a plant killer and not much of a cook and we could, in theory, grow vegetables in the city if that’s what it’s all about.
So we’re stuck with Toronto with all the wonderful and terrible things that entails, including a whole lot of pollutions and bad environmental habits that need to be worked on by us and everybody else.
I don’t have much more to say but I thought I’d write a sonnet…
Polluted in Toronto
Poor polluted Toronto, on Earth Week,
A serious subject, no tongue in cheek!
We are a disaster from east to west,
Don’t kid yourselves that we’re doing our best.
Ontario’s lake: a disgusting mess
Never to be swum in, I must confess.
The longed-for summer is smothered in smog,
No air for the flowers, the kids, the dog…
We’ve got the recycling, the local food,
Fair trade coffee, if we’re in the mood,
The ugly light bulbs plus the Green Bin too,
Reusable grocery bags out the wazoo.
And our one windmill sure does look pretty,
But poor little thing won’t save our city.
Have a thoughtful Earth Week!