You know how I love to bring you a book I love. As an author, I get asked to blurb other books. Sometimes, I can't do it (I don't love the book enough or I just don't have the time to read it). Other times, I'm quite happy to put my name on a book.
And sometimes I'm lucky enough to be thrilled to be one of the first few to read something amazing, something I can tell you about. The Gods of Second Chances is one of those.
I love the way Dan Berne writes. His voice, while matter-of-fact and succinct, is unique. For example: When you live on an island as small as Yatki, it doesn’t take long for folks to hear about the latest chapter in your life. Part of that is natural gossip and part is because we look out for each other. We have this natural contradiction of believing that people should mind their own business, but as soon as the winds shift, it seems like everyone is giving you the fish eye.
From the back of the book:
Family means everything to widowed Alaskan fisherman Ray Bancroft, raising his granddaughter with help from a multitude of gods and goddesses--not to mention rituals ad-libbed at sea by his half-Tlingit best friend. But statues and otter bone ceremonies aren't enough when Ray's estranged daughter returns from prison, her search for a safe harbor threatening everything he holds sacred.
I got a chance to interview Dan Berne, and Forest Avenue Press will give away a copy to someone who comments!
So happy to have you here, Dan! What I love about your book are the characters. They're real, vital, alive, and absolutely as flawed and vulnerable as real people. Even months later, I remember small details about them.
What was your favorite scene while writing the book?
Early on in the novel, after receiving a letter from his wayward daughter, Ray goes to his local tavern and, uncharacteristically for him, gets drunk. He wakes up in the middle of the night and wanders outside his house. Still feeling the effects of the alcohol, he falls onto his back and looks up into the night sky. He imagines one of the constellations looks like his deceased wife. He pours out his longing and desire, fueled by the pain of loss. The raw emotion of that scene still gets to me every time I read it.
What was the hardest part of writing it?
The ending was the toughest. I had lost my wife to breast cancer when I was writing the first draft. I couldn't see my way through to an ending at that point and had to put the manuscript away for about six months. I think that is also what fueled the raw emotion in the scene above, which somehow was more cathartic to write.
Holy cow, I'm sorry to hear that. That explains the raw intensity, for sure. Can you tell us about your writing process?
I start with a pretty good idea of my main characters: what's motivating them, what’s getting in their way, and how I can make them human. Actually, I like to torture my characters a bit, bringing out their foibles even when their intentions are good. That being said, I am often surprised at where a character will take me. I don't outline but I do ask myself, "What ten things need to happen in this story?" Then I try to turn at least some of those upside down. For example, if I think two characters must get together romantically, I will ask myself, "Well, what if they don't?"
As I go along, I always ask myself what needs to change in the particular chapter I am working on.
I love to read other novels when I am writing. It keeps me inspired. Last, but not least, I love language. I love the sound of words. This can make me a slow writer. I will worry over a sentence and revise it several times, even during a first draft.
*Amazon associate link
about being on book tour:
1. You can stay in New Jersey with your amazing agent (and her darling kidlets!) and then take the train to Manhattan in the morning and write in a cafe just off 6th Ave, and then take an Uber to go to fancy lunch with your wicked smart editor. (There are many awesome things about that sentence, including the part during which I realized New Jersey is a state and not just a large city. If asked, I would have told you that. But I didn't really know it till this trip. I liked what I saw of you, NJ.)
(Oh! I just remembered the first time I was ever in New York as a Real Writer. I had no book deal, no agent, but I did have a book being read by S&S as a result of that contest some of you remember me entering. I just reread that entry and it made me SO happy. This is why I write this blog, y'all. For that kind of memory.)
2. Another thing I like about being on book tour is that you can stay the next night at the Jane, which is a pod hotel made from the bones of an old mariner's hotel (it's where the Titanic survivors stayed, and I've blogged about it before). It's under a hundred bucks, and you get a wee room barely bigger than the twin bed it holds
(this is the whole room. The mirror helps.)
and the size of the room doesn't matter because...
3. ...because that night you're down the street having a drink with a friend and that drink turns into WAY too many drinks, and then you're tromping through the West Village (was there singing? There might have been singing!) and you're feeling so alive and you're in New York, and then you get back to the Jane and realize that you have to get up in five hours and there's no way you're going to live through the cab ride to the airport...
4. ...but it's not so bad because by all accounts, you should be dead of both a migraine and the shame, but instead your wife has brought all your migraine medicine to meet you at the airport (because you tend to get a migraine after even one glass of wine lately; this is going to be bad, so bad) and instead, you jump off the plane with a cheery wave and say, "Let's get In'n'Out! I want animal fries!"
Book Tour Wrap Up
Honestly, there was very little not to love about Book Tour, including the fact that it's over and I can go back to being a 911-answering word slinger. I like my life as is. It doesn't need to be fancy. It often IS fancy, and I'm grateful for that. But mostly I'm glad for health, and happiness, and early (sober, headache-free) bedtimes and pile ups that happen on the couch that look like this:
(Yes, the pit bull is hiding under the chihuahua and the cat -- the thunder scared darlin' Clementine)
I'm grateful for all of it, including the fact that Lala and I just celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary (can you believe it?). We're going up the coast for a couple of days and we're going to do a lot of nothing. I'm looking forward to it. And to what comes after it, too.
I wanted to tell you about book tour, but I don't think I can. It's been too much, too wonderful, too inspiring and humbling. I'll throw a couple of things at you, but mostly I want to tell you about Niagara Falls.
I got up at 5:30am yesterday in Indianapolis. I drove to Hudson, Ohio, and had a marvellous reading/gabfest/knitting party in the early afternoon at the Learned Owl bookshop. Then I got in the car and headed toward Toronto, another long, ambitious drive.
After about ten hours in the car on a day that was already busy, I decided it wouldn't be safe to go all the way to Toronto. I called my sister Bethany (of the 18 month road trip) and asked for advice. She said: Niagara. I said where? She said, "Call you back."
She did the research, which included two main points: Get to the Canadian side, and get to the Tower Hotel. I do anything she tells me to (this is true), so in the dark, I got Niagara.
I have to confess something: My image of Niagara Falls was apparently a postcard from the fifties. I'm not sure how this got so impressed upon my brain (probably from looking at postcards from the fifties) but this is what Niagara looked like: A large waterfall. At the top of the falls, to the right, stands a twenty-room low-slung pink wooden motel. At the edge, almost ready to fall over the railing, a buxom cartoon blonde waves at the camera, her arm draped around her newly-wedded cowboy husband. In my imagination, there are maybe a couple of other little motels in the area, but that one, the little pink one right at the falls, that was the one to stay at.
Instead, I drove up to the Canadian Vegas. Neon raced across the top of skyscraper hotels! Music boomed from nightclubs! There was a casino so casino-ish I could almost put a quarter in the side of the building and pull its slot.
Overwhelmed and tired, I almost checked in at the outskirts of town. The La Quinta, or the Motel 6 - those would have been fine. Then, in the morning, I would go look at the falls and continue to Canada Proper.
But I heard Bethany's voice in my mind. "Just go look at the hotel. It'll just take a second." It was Saturday night, I told myself. Of course I can't stay at a fancy place.
I found the hotel in a warren of tall boxy hotels. It was, actually, a tower.
My heart was racing at this point. I had to stay here. The gal at the front desk bit her lip when I said she probably didn't have a room, but could she check? "Well, I do have one left, actually. But it's kind of an obstructed view. I could do…" Pause. I mentally the math that I could afford. How much would I pay for an awesome view? Two hundred? Two fifty? (In a fluke, I'd gotten two comped rooms in Indiana due to an overbooking problem. I had a little extra in my hotel budget.) "I could do $89? Would that work?" She was practically apologetic.
"I WILL TAKE THAT ROOM PLEASE," I boomed as casually as possible. "THAT WOULD BE FINE."
I room up the elevator (the rooms start at floor 27 and end at floor 29). This was what I got.
Also: there was a jacuzzi tub which also had the huge windows and the view (I had a little single malt Macallan and two Cadbury creme eggs in that magical tub).
It snowed and the falls sent up steam. At 10:30, suddenly revived again, I ran to the elevator and then outside and watched the flakes swirl and the falls steam.
I slept to their roar and woke up thinking I could hear the ocean.
I took a picture of my face as I explored the room last night. This is how I felt:
That's not what this book tour is about. This tour has truly been about connecting with readers who are also friends. (I repeat: I am the luckiest.)
Chicago: A whack of knitters and these tulips, sent by my sister Christy (which made me cry) at Women and Children First, followed by dinner with friends. Oh, happiness.
Cedar Rapids: A tiny (really lovely) store in a tiny (honestly, not that lovely) town, and in a surprise twist, a whack of NON-knitters at New Bo Books. A town that cares about literature! It was humbling. Also, yarn was delivered to me (because I'd lost my own) by Perclexed (FROM WASHINGTON STATE!) and Catherine, local. Also humbling. Dinner with darling knitters and good friends Greg and Erick (I stole them from the FeralKnitter and I'm not giving them back).
Indianapolis: A surprisingly awesome town! I really liked it. Fun reading at IndyReads which was everything I'd been scared of. Only seven people came--something I'd thought would throw me, something I thought would make me want to cry. Instead, it was intimate and SO FUN. Two of my Rachaelista street team members came!
Hudson, Ohio: I have to tell you, Jeremy and I have been friends for a long time. I hadn't met him in person, though. Until WE RAN INTO EACH OTHER AT A REST STOP ON I90.
Our "cute meet" story will always be that: that we met at a rest stop. He was on the way to my reading. For that matter, so was I. That reading at the daring Learned Owl was also intimate (seven? Eight?) and RAUCOUS. Old friends and new ones (thank you, Rachel, for the g/f brownies -- they are breakfast today), and I was so happy.
Then the Falls.
I woke this morning to wonder how I'd ever work on my necessary book revisions in this room with this view, and then I just realized, I can't. I can write to YOU, friend, but not to my book. For that I need a beige wall, and the sound of housekeeping rolling loud carts in the hallways. I need an uncomfortable chair and a view of a dumpster. Not this heaven. So I'm checking out soon, going to meet the Falls in person (there are still occasionally flurries of snow floating past the great windows--last night I thought, why is there ash floating outside? THAT'S SNOW PUT ON CLOTHES PUT THEM ON AS FAST AS YOU CAN I MIGHT MISS IT!).
I hope to see the Torontoians (?) in the house at Ben McNally on Monday night, 6pm. The rest of you I'll see on the next tour, hopefully. This is amazing. I'm the luckiest one.
I've never been on book tour before. I'm having a problem not dropping it into every conversation I have.
"Why, yes, I do like artichoke soup. I surely do hope I can find some when I'm on BOOK TOUR."
"Oh, sure, I can lend you my favorite pencil (Papermate Sharpwriter), but only if you give it back to me before my BOOK TOUR."
"The cat threw up on the couch? Again? THERE ARE NO CATS ON BOOK TOUR."
But honestly, I think I'm going to love being on book tour. <---See? I just did it again! I can't help myself.
I've already done two gigs in the Bay Area and one in San Luis Obispo, all of which were AWESOME and nerve-wracking and embarrassing because I always tell too much about myself (like how NOW I'll mention (but didn't mention then) that at the beautiful Read Books in Danville (above), I forgot to turn off my phone because it's off 95% of the time and besides that, it never rings. So when it did (luckily, far away from me), I gave the area the ring was coming from a good glare. The nerve of that person!).
I'm going around the Great Lakes, and I'm sorry in advance to those of you I won't get a chance to meet. I can't afford to do more than five stops for this book, so I chose five cities in the region I sell best in.
And I have to tell you -- I'm so excited. There's a part of me that just KNOWS I set this up because I have some revisions still to finish before I turn in my next standalone book in at the end of the month. (On the flip side, who does that? Who accidentally plans a book tour right before her next book is due? Sheesh.)
But I'm going on a trip. Alone. I'm basically giving myself a writing retreat. Even with 5-7 hours of driving a day, it's still lots more time to write than I normally have, since I'm off work for eleven days. Lots of time by myself in plain, boring hotel rooms. Nothing to do but stare at my computer (if I were smart I wouldn't pay for wifi in the hotels but I don't know if I'm ready for that level of commitment).
So if you're in or near Chicago, Cedar Rapids (in Iowa! I keep writing it wrong, even though I know where I'm going), Indianapolis, Hudson (OH), or Toronto, please come see me. (I'm having that terrible fear that at at least one of these, no one will show up. Oh, my god, that might be better than just one person showing up, because at least then I could run away and hide in my hotel room. But if only one person shows up, well... then I'll just have to take that person out for a drink. See what I'm doing here? I'm BRIBING you into being the only person who comes to one of my readings, therefore ten of you might think you're the only ones, and then BOY OH BOY you'll be there for the reading!)
So, book tour. *gibbers*
(And if you've already read Pack Up the Moon and left me a review (anywhere, not just Amazon), thank you. They are, literally, a lifeline for me right now. The book I'm working on now is at that gangly adolescent point, going through a phase of lobbing as many f-bombs at me whenever I open its door to tell it to clean its room. Knowing you loved this last book makes me feel like a writer. And seriously, if you've been on the fence about reading it? Go read some of those reviews. I sure don't always feel I deserve them all, but I sure am grateful for every one of 'em.)
It's today! My book is out TODAY! If you haven't read my books, this is the one I want you to read. If you're already a beloved reader of mine, this one is a little different. It's both heavier and lighter at the same time, a bit more intense and quite a bit more emotional. This will require more Kleenex than Cypress Hollow does, but I'm hoping it will also bring you even greater joy.
In Australia and New Zealand, it has a different gorgeous cover (I won the cover lottery for both):
(Now, to whet your appetite, let me give you a quick sample. This is at the very beginning of the book, the moment Kate's life, off-track from a great tragedy, turns and heads in a new, wonderful, frightening direction.)
A girl pushed her head in. "Can I just have a quick word with Ms. Monroe?"
Kate had seen the girl--no, the young woman--during the talk. She'd stood in the back, her spine straight, the picture of an earnest art student. She wore a black, oversized tunic with red pockets and torn black tights. Her hair was multi-colored, stripes of blue and green cascading through her black curls. Kate had looked right at her, thinking she was a pretty girl who probably didn't know how beautiful she was going to be. An idle thought, that's all it had been.
Vanessa raised her eyebrows. "Maybe in a moment? We'll be out in a--"
Kate felt something twist in her stomach, an edge of nervousness, and she said, "No, it's fine," even while she wasn't sure if it was. She held the stem of her glass more tightly.
Something was about to happen.
Vanessa gave Kate a sharp, curious look and then nodded. The door clicked behind her.
"It's me," said the girl.
With Sophie Littlefield
Diesel Books, Oakland, CA - Book Launch Party!
Thursday March 6, 7pm
Barnes & Noble, San Luis Obispo CA
Saturday March 8, 11am
With Sophie Littlefield and Gigi Pandian
Read Books, Danville CA
Thursday March 13, 6:45pm
Women and Children First, Chicago IL
Tuesday March 18, 7pm
New Bo Books, Cedar Rapids IA
Wednesday March 19, 7pm
IndyReads, Indianapolis IN
Friday March 21, 7pm
Darling KnittedWit and my favorite wee thing, F.
The thing about Stitches West is that, like all yarn conventions, it's HUGE. The first time I ever went to one was back when it was still hosted in Oakland. My sister happened to mention she thought there was a "yarn thing" happening downtown. I thought I'd swing through and poke my head into the seven or eight booths that I'd find.
Instead, I found hundreds of booths. Tens of thousands of skeins of yarn (I know this because I bought most of them). I learned to spin at that first Stitches, on a drop spindle made from a dowel and a CD (I was terrible at it).
I had no idea there was so much yarn in all the world, and there it was, in my town, in a convention center.
Knitmores! I haz them!
Fast forward to 2010. My first book was coming out TWO DAYS AFTER Stitches. I'd been heartbroken about the timing, but I made flyers to pass out. Due to illness, one of my friends couldn't use her booth, and with her permission, I totally hijacked it. I had nothing but flyers, so I laid them on every inch of table. I passed them out to everyone I saw.
From my blog post, I'm reminded I got a lot of differing reactions, including this one:
Knitter, looking at the back of the excerpt, where my picture is: "Oh, I know her. She's from LA."
Me: "I'm from Oakland."
Knitter (suspiciously): "Hmm."
But people took them, and people bought the book that Tuesday in March, 2010.
I know this because I saw them all last weekend, four years later. I can't tell you how many people said to me, "Oh! I love your books!" Or "I met you when you didn't even HAVE a book, just those flyers!"
There is nothing as gratifying as hearing "I love your books." Nothing. I daresay the words "What a gorgeous child" don't compare. It's possible that the phrase "Your child is a genius" pales next to "When are you going to write another book like that one?"
I came home all three nights completely exhausted, worn out to the bone. I perched for the weekend at the Verb booth (next to the amazing Romi) and seriously, while I wasn't tied to the booth in any way, I spent most of my time there. I was desperately scared I wouldn't be there if a reader wanted to say hello.
A READER. That's the thing, dude. I have readers. Of my books.
Pinch me. Hard. Four years and six books later, it's still not real.
The most interesting interaction I had this weekend:
A woman approached me at a high rate of speed. She dropped into a crouch next to me. "You write books."
"I do, yes."
"So how do I finish the two novels I've started?"
"You write, and keep writing till the end. It's not easy to finish, but I know you can--"
"How do I make them good enough to publish?"
"You revise. I have a blog post that might be helpful…"
"No, no. I don't have time for that."
"I hear you. I work 60 hours a week at my day job…"
A raised eyebrow. "What do you do?"
A flap of the hands. "Oh, well, yeah. My problem is that I have an INTELLECTUAL job. That's why I can't finish my books."
What I didn't say was that after I got my MFA and found out that I sucked at teaching, I sat my ass down (literally, at a burger joint) and flipped through a trade journal looking for a job that wouldn't tax my creative brain. The writer friends of mine who were teaching or tech-writing weren't doing their own writing anymore. I picked 911 (not knowing then how creative you have to be on a second-to-second basis) in order to have a job I could leave behind when I took off the headset.
Maybe this woman couldn't leave her intellectual work behind her when she got home. I could give her that with a smile.
But the interaction made me realize something: I'd chosen the right path. I'd made a really long-range goal (get a day job that will pay for the writing habit) and I'd pulled it off. Fifteen years after that decision, I was at a convention, talking to my readers. MY READERS. That woman, as much as I laughed when she walked away, did me a huge favor by reminding me of that.
I haven't "made it." In my mind, I won't have made it until I'm making enough money writing that I can give up the day job (but giving up the chance to save lives? How does a person really give that up?). And if that someday happens, I'm sure I'll have a new goal that will equal "making it." I hope so, anyway.
Because a girl has to have a dream. And I have so many.
Bonus for reading this far: Lucky and Clara video!
I love how absolutely delighted Clara looks. LOOK! This chihuahua plays with ME! (You can see Miss Idaho looking on in disgust in the background.) Lucky goes back to his forever home tomorrow, and I'm going to MISS that little bugger. He's an absolute delight.
*And yes, I bought some yarn this year, though I managed not to for most of the three days. Right at the last minute, 25 minutes before the closing bell, I fell down and swiped my debit card on my way to the floor which was padded with cashmere so I didn't really hurt anything but my budget. I have no pictures of the evidence, but I'm telling you: the find of the year was Sweet Fiber. I can't tell you how awesome this is. People. Go buy this stuff. Right now. So soft. The colors, so saturated. Damn. AMAZING.
** Also, I hired an author's assistant to pick up the pieces I tend to drop. She's a knitter, and has been a friend for years. I'd tell you who she is, but then you might take her from me. DON'T DO THAT. Oh, okay, I'll tell you. It's FishWithSticks. She's already shining up my life, for reals. I feel so FANCY.
*** T-minus-6 days till Pack Up the Moon. *eep*
Sorry it's been quiet 'round these parts. I'm in triage mode of launching a book and turning in a new book (to be published next year), and if it's not spurting arterial blood from my To Do list, I'm having to pass things by with longing looks.
But some things are important. You remember Lucky Greg, the chihuahua who was hit by two cars? I'm babysitting him while his adoring forever family is out of town, and OH MY GOD. For the first time, I understand the appeal of a lap dog. I kind of want this cuddly, happy, leaping, spinning crazy nutjob of a dog in my lap all the time, wherever I am. (I kind of already have two lap dogs who live here, Miss Idaho and Clementine. But Lucky is so FIERCELY cuddly.)
The intro to the girls went as well as it could. All three of our female dogs have checked him, and the leg-humping is finally subsiding. Thank god. Kira K was over last night, and said, "I've been conditioned so long to think of a male's aggressive sexual advance as wrong that I want him to stop that! Right now!"
Here he is, being submissive (finally) to Clementine, and what I love is Clementine's WHAT THE HELL IS THIS NOISE look.
He really is the most darling boy, and he slept like a CHAMP last night in his crate.
(Driving home from the dentist earlier today I saw a wee dead dog at the side of the road near where I found Lucky and I was SO SAD and so angry at all the people who let their dogs run around in our busy area. We have two neighbors who let their dogs out every morning and every evening to run in the streets so they can do their business. We've talked to them--they're unwilling to walk their dogs on leashes. They told Lala, "Don't worry, they're fast." Those dogs won't last long. GRRRR SO MAD.)
On to happier things:
Did I mention I finished a sweater? I did.
It's Amy Herzog's CustomFit (take your measurements, make your sweater any way you like!) and I don't have any great photos of it, but here's one I just shot, with a Clara cameo.
Ravelry post HERE.
Oh! Let's draw a winner for Larissa Brown's BEAUTIFUL WRECK (which you have to read - check those comments, already full of people who read it and loved it). Winner: Maureen! I've emailed you.
And I just counted the days till PACK UP THE MOON launches. FOURTEEN DAYS FROM NOW.
*hyperventilates* *pant* *pant*
I have a BUNCH of places I'm going to be reading, and I'm going to be at Stitches West (not with MOON, sadly, since it won't be out yet, but I'll have Cora's Heart and Eliza's Home to sign) in the Verb booth, so come grab me and give me a hug!
BOOK TOUR 2014
With Sophie Littlefield
Diesel Books, Oakland, CA - Book Launch Party!
Thursday March 6, 7pm
Barnes & Noble, San Luis Obispo CA
Saturday March 8, 11am
With Sophie Littlefield and Gigi Pandian
Read Books, Danville CA
Thursday March 13, 7pm
Women and Children First, Chicago IL
Tuesday March 18, 7pm
New Bo Books, Cedar Rapids IA
Wednesday March 19, 7pm
IndyReads, Indianapolis IN
Friday March 21, 7pm
I've been dying to share this one with you, friends. It's a Viking time-travel love story, and it's AMAZING. Larrissa Brown is a knitter and a designer (especiall of lace) and she knows Iceland. This gorgeous, gorgeous book is what made me really want to go there (we will, next year!) It's stunningly well written, the plot is perfect, and the heat level--let's just say this, I haven't been dying for a first kiss like that since I was the one getting kissed.
More than that, it's an amazing and impeccably researched look at a community of women, and about a woman coming into herself while inside it. This was my quote for the book (I was lucky enough to read it early): “With a plot as exciting as it is bold, and with characters as real and important as family, Larissa Brown’s BEAUTIFUL WRECK weaves an intensely gripping tale about the strength of women and the love they carry. This is the story we’ve been waiting for.”
I mean it. You want to read this.
Today (Friday) you can grab the Kindle copy for $2.99 AND get free knitting patterns with it! See THIS post for details. Tomorrow the e-book will go back to $7.99, and it's worth every damn penny. Big and long and sprawling, you'll be irritated every time you have to put it down to go back to real life.
I got to interview Larissa so I could share her answers with you. And hey, I get to give a copy to someone lucky in the comments below! Keep reading!
1. Why Iceland?
For those who are not time travel romance readers, most of them are set in Scotland and involve men in kilts. I have to be different. So I set out to find a place and time where a Viking man might settle down and fall in love. What I learned was that settlement-era Iceland had a lot going for it romance-wise. Iceland has always been a place of rugged beauty, and – in its early years – of a kind of natural abundance that does not exist today. It was culturally isolated, with lots of room for creativity about day to day life and the developing Icelandic language. It was a time when the Christian values that drive most historical romances did not hold sway. And Iceland has some key romantic elements like lots of natural hot baths and angelica flowers to make mouthwash. I’ve always had a little trouble believing in the Medieval England time travel romances, y’know?
2. I know you traveled to Iceland for research for your book - what was the most startling thing you learned that you didn't know before you went?
I was stunned by how romantic the real Viking farm felt. When I began writing this book, I knew nothing about a Viking house except that it was covered in grass. So to imagine Ginn’s place, I loosely based it on a real Viking farm that was discovered in Iceland called Stöng. Much like my character, I studied that farm on a screen, wishing I could climb inside and see the real thing. I imagined it would be a stark place, where it would take the sheer force of a thousand years of love to make anyone want to stay.
I was so wrong. When I finally did arrive there, my small group of traveling companions and I walked around and simply came upon the most romantic spot in the world – a clear pool fed by two tiny waterfalls that turned into a stream and then joined a river that extended across the farm. I thought, no matter how hard life was here, someone cared about loveliness. Placing the house right there – that was poetry.
3. You're an accomplished knitter and knitwear designer, and I love your Viking collection, My Viking Love Song, six shawls and wraps. I've found in my own novels (which include patterns) that knitting a project while writing the connected piece makes each stronger. Were you working on the patterns while also writing the book?
Thank you for your compliments on my knitting work! Yes, I did create the book and the shawl collection at the same time. The shawls are inspired by my fictional farm, and not at all what a real person – or even one of my characters – would have worn. The designs are a second, different way of expressing some of my story’s themes. I designed and published the shawl collection as a series over about a year, and when I started, I had only a vague plan of what the six designs would be. They changed as I continued developing who Ginn is and what her farm is like.
NOW. Rush. Go buy this book. Tell me you love it, because I KNOW you will. Leave a comment below if you'd like to be entered to win a copy, too. I'll draw a winner next week!
OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS!
I just realized it's only 4 WEEKS (just 28 days!) until PACK UP THE MOON is out! Don't forget, a preorder gets you a free signed bookplate! Email me at yarnagogo at gmail and tell me you bought it and give me your address. I'll get it right in the mail (even if you order electronically).
In other news, I'm DYING for Vietnamese or Thai food today, and specifically, I want to make it. Any ideas for a good starter recipe?
I just realized something big about my writing process.
This is why I hate a first draft: It's the Who Cares? draft.
When I'm about 50,000 words into a 100,000 novel, you know what I start hearing in my head? WHO CARES? Who cares about these people? Do I? Not really, not that much. I've invested enough in them now (because by this point I've written 80k and thrown out 30k) that I do care a little. But I don't know the end of their story yet. That's the whole problem.
Until I know what breaks--and then fixes--my characters, I can't care all the way. They aren't totally alive. At the midpoint of a first draft, each and every one of the characters could turn around on the page, flip me off, and walk out of the book and my life.
When I write The End, though, I care so much it hurts. That's why, to me, revision is divine. I get to go in and play God, moving parts around and upping the stakes so that they really matter. So that the reader really cares. When I make myself cry at the computer (never during a first draft!) I know I'm getting closer.
It strikes me that maybe that's why it took me so long to actually finish a whole novel. I had three incomplete novels under the bed that I gave up on when I couldn't silence the Who Cares? I had no idea that was normal for me.
Maybe it's normal for you. Keep pushing, keep writing your way all the way through it, even if, for a large part of that time, you just don't care.
I bet you will.
Because who doesn't love a crock pot recipe? If you don't have a slow cooker, you should get one because there is nothing better than coming home after a long day and the house smells like it's been cooking for you while you've been gone. AMAZEBALLS. Also, they're like fifteen bucks if you catch a sale. And they don't heat up the kitchen. But you knew that already, probably.
But first: the lucky winners of the PACK UP THE MOON advanced reader's copy have been emailed and they are...
Pat L and Snow! <--- from comments
K. Barry, D. Hunt, and Shelda! <---- from my subscription list
Thanks for entering, y'all, and don't forget, you can still enter to win one of twenty-five copies over at Goodreads!
Speaking of Lucky-AKA-Greg, that wee chihuahua from two posts ago? He's doing really well in his hopefully-forever home. He's such a cuddlebug.
Much like Clementine and Clara are world-champion cuddlers:
Yes, though Clementine is the cuddliest dog in the world, she often looks that worried. You know what she's worried about? She's worried we won't give her roast beef in the next five minutes, because that's what she believes should happen. Cooked crab would do, too. Or prime rib! Shrimp! Or pineapple pork al pastor!
Oh, that last? THAT IS THE MOST AMAZING AND EASY PORK IN THE WORLD
Pineapple Pork al Pastor for Taco Night!
(A friend modified a recipe which I then threw around the kitchen, and I honestly have no idea where it originated, forgive me. But now it's yours. Don't let the pineapple throw you off -- the dish isn't overly sweet or tangy -- the pineapple containes bromelain which breaks down the pork and makes it soft and juicy. It's also fun to say. Bromelain. Try it.)
3-4 lbs pork shoulder, bone removed
One half to a whole pineapple, diced (it's not hard) or use a can or two if you don't have fresh (I use the whole pineapple)
1 jalapeño, diced
couple of cloves of garlic, chopped
1 white onion, diced
healthy dash of chili powder
4 tbs of cumin
salt to taste
some canned chipotle peppers, mashed, with their sauce (I use about half the can)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup OJ or white vinegar
Throw it all in the crock pot before you leave the house! Turn it on low all day! Come home and warm some corn tortillas (or just put your fillings on a plate because you can't be bothered with the tortilla, that works too). Fill your soft tacos with this heavenly pork, avocado, a little chopped red cabbage, a bit of sriracha mayo or cheese or both, and DIE of bliss. Okay, don't die. But enjoy.
Penultimate is one of my favorite words, mostly because the only reason it exists is because someone like me said, "You know what I love? Not just the thing itself, but I love the thing right before that last part."
I love the wedding rehearsal. That's when I cry. I love dress rehearsal, too, for the insane jitters and excitement. I loved my practice marathon even more than the real thing, even though both were 26.2 miles.
And I love getting the advanced readers copies of my new books in the mail. It's even more exciting that the actual real copies themselves. (If you have any interest in watching how freaking crazy I freaked right the freak out when I saw my first ARCs, you can click here.)
ARCs are Not For Sale. They are often not pretty, being wrapped in plain paper. They have typos, sometimes brand new ones! But they are you, when you wake up in the morning, unshowered, no makeup, really YOU, so incredibly gorgeous with those flaws in that fragile human body.
I feel so tenderly toward my ARCs, especially this one, the book of my heart. I'm sending Kate, such a flawed mother, out into the world. Nolan, sweet, broken Nolan, will be seen by the public. And their daughter Pree . . . *falls to the ground wailing* My babies! *clutches books to breast*
I'm giving my last five away, randomly drawn in seven days on Tuesday the 21st. Two will go to people who comment on this post and three will go to people drawn from my mailing list. Take care of them if you get them, would you? For me?
My publisher is giving away 25 copies of Pack Up the Moon! Make sure you're entered! WOOOO!
In other news:
Holy crap, y'all. My new word REST? Is working so well. I mean, I'm jumping the gun and all since it's only ten days into the new year, but consciously thinking "I have to rest today" means I'm kind of getting it done, even though I've been insanely productive, also. I've taken to flopping. I flop onto the couch, the floor, onto my back on the bed. Then I just lie there for a while. It's REALLY nice. Who knew? (Oh, well, I should have listened to you. Story of my life.)
Anyway, welcome to the newly designed Yarnagogo digs. I wanted a static home page with my newest book on it, so that's where you might have landed first. For the seven of you left reading RSS feeds, you might have to redirect your pointer here. I still use a reader, too, but I swear I forget it exists for months at a time (thanks for NOTHIN', Google Reader. RIP). The blog is not dead! It might be on life-support, though. I still love my blog a LOT, though. *pats blog*
Right now, I'm listening to Passenger's "Let Her Go" while the dogs bark at the workers outside. We're getting a new gate! And our fence reinforced! We have new neighbors, very nice ones, who have ENORMOUS dogs and Clementine would love nothing more than to get under our fence at them. Can't let that happen!
I just got home from the 911 job, and now I'm going to get some writing done before my darling friend Stacey Jay comes over to take home a wee chihuahua I found hit by two cars earlier this week. Story HERE.
He's such a darling cuddly boy, and I wish I could keep him, but we can't. Three dogs is enough. And Stacey's been wanting a chihuahua! Her husband said, though, that she could only have one if she, like, found one that had been hit by car or something. Ha! Take that, universe! I knew once he started throwing names out there, they were SUNK. Hopefully he'll get along well with kids (the chihuahua, not her husband) but we won't know that till she takes him home. Otherwise, I'll take the little dude back and foster him till we find a home.
Back at the words. And maybe a satsuma! And later, rest!
UPDATED TO ADD:
Meeting Stacey. He loved her immediately.
We went to New Orleans! We saw the dog parade! We had SO MUCH FUN.
I sewed a lot of dresses because I wasn't feeling the knitting mojo much. I wrote. I think--if I'm not wrong--I was working on Cypress Hollow #5, FIONA'S FLAME, which will be coming out in October(ish). I really like that one. I'd been trying to write Fiona's story forEVER.
Got bronchitis! Fun times. Worked too much.
I went to Italy with my little sister. HOW LUCKY AM I?
And I'll say it again: traveling with the kiddo is like traveling by myself only with someone interesting to talk to. It's pretty perfect. (Want to go here? Nah. Want to go there? Sure! See you later? Okay! Wine? Hell, yes!)
I was in my favorite city, Venice. I miss it right NOW.
Isn't that photo ridiculous? Like a painting! From an iPhone 4! We live in the future, people. I say it every day, but it's true.
We built a kitchen island from my old Formica table and salvaged kitchen cabinets.
Yes, we still feel very clever for this.
I wrote a lot, judging by my calendar. I also worked a lot (too much) and volunteered quite a bit. Not much time in there for much else. THIS NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED IN 2014, PEOPLE.
Penguin bought PACK UP THE MOON!
I'm still over it. The moon, that is, not the book. (I love this early review I got from Larissa Brown, whose own gorgeous book I'm totally going to pimp at you soon because it is AMAZING. Viking time travel love story. You will love it.)
Bookbookbookbook. So soon now!
And my marvelous and sweet agent sent me these earrings for Christmas. All packed up in a box. *sigh of delight*
We celebrated Lala's birthday in Mendocino. Lots of baths, eating, drinking, drawing, knitting, and sleeping. Pretty much perfect.
Prop 8/DOMA! We were still married!
RWA in Atlanta, dressed by Modcloth most of the month. My favorite dress of the year:
And I tried to make a lot of time for this:
but honestly, for most of July, I worked too much.
I got a Vitamix!!
Life changing, y'all. I use it up to three times a day, not only to blend green smoothies but to chop onions, make soup, etc.
Also in August, I realized why I couldn't eat much more than green smoothies. My gallbladder threw a fit and had to be taken out, and I spent three nights in the hospital. Here's to never having to dispatch my own ambulance to myself ever again! Or ever having to take off my clothes at work so coworkers can hook a 12-lead heart monitor to my chest!
Up side: lots of time while recovering for this:
This was the year Lala fell in love with opera. I think our favorite was The Barber of Seville. I don't love opera, but I do like it. Also, we get to dress up, so bring it.
There was some knitting while I was recovering, too.
Juliet Blackwell and Sophie Littlefield.
My favorite writing cafe closed, but I discovered that I LOVE writing at Mills College, where I got my MFA.
There is something thrilling about getting PAID to write at the tea shop where I paid so much money to get that degree. I also love with an unreasonable passion my alumna parking sticker.
Cora's Heart came out, the fourth in the Cypress Hollow series. YAY!
Still don't really want to talk about it. But you know what? Remember when he came back from the dead and I said he needed a CalTrans vest to safely cross freeways? My friend Tash made him one.
Also: NaNo! The most fun one in a number of years.
Also: Boise for Thanksgiving, to the in-laws! We had a GREAT time there (we always do) and spent time with the neph. Good looks run in the family:
Really, December was about working a HELL of a lot at both jobs and knitting a HELL of a lot.
2014: May we all rest as comfortably as Clementine does on her chair:
Last year's word was NOW. I learned about meditation and sitting in one spot. I learned how to lie down and sink into the bed, turning my brain off. That was good, and needed.
2014's word? REST. I think I proved to myself and everyone around me this year that working too hard just lands you in the hospital. I'm bad at balance, though, always have been. I work hard and then I rest hard. I'd like this year to bring more regular, planned rest. Fun rest. Chosen rest. Not enforced recovery.
What about you? What's your chosen word or theme this coming year?
Thanks, friends. I'm so glad and thankful for YOU.