Web diary: 'One Author's Life'


A Quiet, Old-Fashioned New Year's

December 28, 2012

My grandparents lived on a farm, and New Year's was just another day to them. They went to bed at 8 or 9 p.m. and got up at dawn. They simply slept through New Year's Eve. My other set of grandparents (my dad's parents) were city folk but they, too, shrugged off New Year's Eve. On New Year's Day, they had a modest brunch at home and something called a "New Year's walk," in which the extended family went for a stroll, weather permitting. And that, as they say, was that. No regrets, no pressure, and no resolutions; no sentimental reflections on the year gone by. Just a good night's sleep and a humble start to the new year. Sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?

What Is the Ideal Publication Date? It Depends on the Book

December 21, 2012

The first date chosen for publication of my novel was November 6, 2012. Then someone in sales or marketing realized that this was, in fact, Election Day, and probably no one in America (except for my parents, I suppose) would care in the least about a new novel concerning a middle-aged mom from Boston who moves with her family to a small Southern town in 1962. Someone then floated the idea of moving the "pub date" (as we call it) to the Spring 2013 list. This freaked me out completely since I had told the universe that the date was fall 2012 and I had all kinds of invitations lined up. Adding to my concern was the fact that a book about Florida published, say, in April would be coming out at the END of the season there, which would be less than ideal. Fortunately for me, my publisher listened to me. Not only that, but the pub date was actually moved up, to October 2, 2012. I was thrilled, especially when I realized the book would be out in time for me to attend fall festivals such as the Southern Festival of the Book in Nashville and the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading. It turned out to be a good choice of dates for another reason as well: If my book had been published on its original pub date, Nov. 6, it would have arrived in stores while millions of Americans were suffering from the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

Flashback to a November Day in 1963

December 17, 2012

For the last three nights, ever since the horrible events in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday, I have had vivid nightmares - very specific ones, bringing me back to the exact feelings, sights, and sounds of being a kindergarten student myself. The day I keep re-living in my dreams is November 22, 1963. I was 5 years old, blissfully fingerpainting on an easel, when our principal came to the door and in a hushed voice, told our teacher to "step into the hallway." Our always-composd and cheerful teacher returned a moment later, weeping. These were the days when people didn't explain things to children, and we were simply told to stop what we were doing, put on our jackets, and wait outside for the school bus to take us home early. In front of the school, we strained to hear what adults or older kids might be saying. Finally a boy - probably age 8 or 9 - walked past and whispered that President Kennedy had been shot. Lined up on the sidewalk, waiting to board our bus, we cried silently. The worst moment, however, was when we climbed on the bus and realized that our bus driver was sobbing uncontrollably. This was disturbing because under normal circumstances he was a mean and scary old man who seemed to detest children. I guess we figured that if HE was unglued, whatever was happening must be bad indeed. When I got to my house, my mother was crying, so I knew it was all true, and it became etched in my mind as the day I found out that the world could be a cruel place. Sadly, it is a lesson we all learn.

Kathy L. Patrick, the Queen of Reading

December 13, 2012

She wears a tiara, and she hails from Jefferson, Texas, not Manhattan or Los Angeles, but when Kathy L. Patrick sashays across the floor at Book Expo America in New York, she is a star. The top publishers in the industry treat her like a queen, which, in fact she is. She founded the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, now the largest "meeting and discussing" book club in the world with more than 550 chapters. There is no question that Kathy L. Patrick is one of the most influential figures in publishing today. When she chooses a book for her club, publishers know they should increase the print-run. Her mission in life is to promote the joy of reading, and she raises tons of money for literacy programs. At the same time, this is a woman who knows how to enjoy life. She owns and operates the only combination book store and beauty parlor in America. She is an author herself, having written THE PULPWOOD QUEEN'S TIARA-WEARING, BOOK-SHARING GUIDE TO LIFE. "If it's not fun, I'm not doing it," is one of her mantras. In January, the town of Jefferson will be over-run by authors and readers for the Pulpwood Queens annual "Girlfriend Weekend." I'm looking forward to being part of it. And I'm deeply honored that my little novel, MISS DREAMSVILLE, is the January 2013 Main Selection of Kathy L. Patrick's Pulpwood Queens Book Club.

Bookstore 'Sightings' Make an Author's Day

December 8, 2012

A store in Kona, Hawaii. A bookshop at the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport. A Sam's Club in Missouri. These are some of the places that friends and family have reported seeing copies of my novel, MISS DREAMSVILLE. These reports always make my day. It reminds me that - wow! - my little book is out in the world, making its way into people's hearts. Thanks to the magic of smart-phones, there's often a photograph, too. My husband is probably the most dedicated chronicler of "sightings," as he calls them, as if they are UFOs. He not only takes photos, he makes a point of noting how many copies a particular store has in stock, how the books are displayed (spine or face out, low shelf or eye level) and if anyone buys one while he's hovering nearby. I find it embarrassing and will not be seen with him when he embarks on this behavior. I have been known to leave a bookstore and go hide in the car until he returns. Still, he's not as bad as my parents. My mom, who is 87 years old, admits that she has moved copies of my books so that they are displayed in a more favorable way. And my dad, now 88, once stood in front of a Manhattan bookstore and pointed out one of my books in the window, saying to passersby, "My daughter wrote that." And, believe it or not, some people actually stopped, talked to him, and went in the store and bought the book.

World AIDS Day: A Time to Remember

December 1, 2012

My generation was slammed hard by AIDS. I was in college when people started getting sick with a mysterious disease that had no name. We had no idea what was happening, or why, and it was terrifying. Like a lot of young women, among my best and dearest friends were a couple of gay men. They were part of my social circle. We'd often go to a concert or just hang out and listen to records. They were great companions, loyal friends, and fun to be with. If I had a late class and was scared to walk back to my dorm, I could count on one of the gay guys to escort me home. If I had a cold, they never failed to bring soup or fuss over me in some other way. Rejected by their families, they made their own. After I moved away, I stopped hearing from them, and that is how I found out that each one of them, over the course of about two years, had died of AIDS. They'd been infected before anyone knew there was such a thing as AIDS. They never had a chance. I remember them all on this day - World AIDS Day - and every day.