Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Stuff: Promotion, Reading and Reviews (and please don't be sick of me...)


  
Book jacket author photo,
THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO,
credit: Rick Kopstein



This book business is a funny thing.

When I thought of writing a book, only dreamed of getting it published, I never thought about the business side of things.

By trade, I'm a lawyer. While I was doing all of that writing and dreaming on the side, it was purely creative. My outlet. When I was thinking business, it was my current day to day work.

Oh, the things I know now. . . if only I'd known them then. . .

But this isn't about that, I'm not telling you those things here today (sorry), but suffice it to say, some of it has been way harder and lonelier than you would think, and some of it has been way more wonderful and inclusive than I could ever imagine.

But, I will tell you this: if you're not JK Rowling or Stephen King, there's a LOT self-promotion required. It's just how it is, and it's a delicate art, one many of us fail at on a daily basis.


For example, today is the one-month mark till the official publication release date of THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO, yet I feel many of my most loyal readers must be sick of hearing about it already, that I've been talking about it for years (I have!). It took me years (again!) to get the book deal after THE PULL OF GRAVITY, and another two years (!) for the book to be coming out. And, because of my involvement at last year's NCTE (I have a lot of wonderful teacher/librarian followers of my fist book), we got the ARCs(fn 1) out early and far and wide. So, hard not to be a little sick of it, right?(fn2)

At any rate, as the book comes out, and I (try to) steel myself for the reviews, I've been thinking a lot about myself as a reader, and trying to remind myself of the many different ways which we -- I -- read a book. The individuality and subjectivity of it all (fn3), if you will.

What I mean is this: There are books I love, that others don't feel the same connection to. Conversely, there are books people love, absolutely rave about, and I do not love them. Can't (or won't) even bring myself to finish them.

As my reviews roll in, this is (or, ahem, should be) helpful to me, especially when I see a reader voice that they haven't connected to my book.(fn4)

So, I was thinking today what it means to be a reader. How many different kinds of readers there are, and, maybe moreso, how many different ways there are to read (and love) a book.


This was one of those MUST books for me
in the past two years... 
so much so that I sought the author out
personally via email and we are now friendly.



















For example, there are about five or six books I am either actively reading or still in the middle of (or, let's face it, personally done with (did not finish)), and it occurs to me that even though some of these books are taking me forever, it's not because they're not (IMHO) worthy (that goes for the "dnf"s as well!), but rather due to other circumstances (everything from time constraints and distractions to actual physical placement [I left it in the car and forgot about it for weeks, or, it's in the other bathroom ;)). I will say, however, that there is, of course, the rare book that none of those tangents or interferences will stop me from reading, the MUST books, and, I suppose, as writers we strive to be that MUST book for at least a few of our readers.

But this morning, I was thinking about some of those "not MUST" books, and how, in their own way, they really are MUSTs.

For example, I have been reading, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (fn5) for well over a year now. There are a few reasons why it's been taking me so long. One is easily "technical" or logistical (is that word? It seems to be...): the print is dense and small. These days I often need reading glasses, but I forget I need reading glasses or don't know where they are. So, when I first started reading it, I often had to put it back down. Thus, I had no traction in it. Yet, every time (EVERY time) I pick it up, I am completely engrossed in it, and marvel that it's truly one of the most staggeringly well-written books I've ever read. And when I put it down (most often because there are other books I "need" to read or get to in the YA realm to feel like I am keeping up with the business side of my work as a YA writer), I can't wait to get back to it. All of this is reminding me that a really good book, one that holds your attention, can still take one forever to read.

There are the books where the writing is absolutely brilliant, but I don't personally connect to the characters, or where the characters and the writing are brilliant, but the story is too (insert whatever here: political, supernatural, dystopian, gory, etc.) for what I love to read. Whatever the case, the truth is, reading is such a subjective and personal thing.

So, as I head into my release and the inevitable less-than-glowing or "dnf" reviews, I remind myself of this. It's one reader. Good or bad, it's only one person's view. 


Charlie prefers to eat a book slowly, rather than read it.

Would love you to share in the comments what kind of reader you are and your MUST books.

And, stay tuned over the next few days for the special launch feature for THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO.

xox gae

footnotes:

1. Advance Reader Copies a/k/a Galley copies

2. please don't be sick of it, and if you read the ARC, please do consider buying the hard copy. It has been twice edited from the ARC and has beautiful shiny perks that the softcover ARC didn't have...

3. FYI, for example, those all-important (or at least very important) critical reviews from places like Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly, most of us don't realize that is just ONE
reader, often merely contracted out by the publication (ie, not even a staff writer) who reads the book and voices his/her opinion. That ONE opinion then carries a heck of a lot of weight, if not always with readers, then at least with gatekeepers, to wit: booksellers and librarians.

4. People often ask me how I deal with bad reviews, and my quick answer is that, for me, the bad reviews validate the good ones. If all I ever received were 5-star reviews, my mind would quickly discount them as people "just being nice." But when I am forced to see that people will, in fact, be readily (*coughs*) less than nice about their feelings, it allows me to accept the positives better, and, to some extent, to remind myself not to "own" either. Does that make sense? It is, however, always hard to deal with really mean reviews. Those are another story altogether. Luckily, there's a really fun series by authorMarc T. Nobleman where we authors get a chance to read our mean reviews loud and proudly (I'm somewhere in episodes 4 -6) which helps us to blow off some steam. ;)

5. I hear it was made into not-such-a-great movie. Don't let this sway you! The writing is simply brilliant!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Year-End Round Up, plus Sorry I've Been MIA

Kissing goodbye another year.

I know, I know, I've been MIA from this blog.

The loudest complainer? My mother.

Okay, fine. The only complainer. But still. Nice to know someone is reading.

Something happened to me around September of this year: I ran out of words. Okay, fine. Not exactly ran out, but they weren't coming, here, there anywhere, and I wasn't about to force them.

Sure, I've written some, and done writing-related stuff (first and second pass pages for THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO were in there, I think, and I'm muddling through a new manuscript, still). But the words felt stuck. They still do.

I blame the confluence of a few things for taking my words away, both physically and emotionally:

1. My oldest son leaving for college;

2. my younger son having escalating heart issues which have gratefully been resolved (thank you Dr. Levchuch, Dr. Hoch and St. Francis Heart Hospital);

3. my editor rejecting not one but two manuscripts (I'm not gonna lie, sometimes the No's do get hard) and,

4. first and foremost, this:

This is Charlie. He's a jackapoo. And a handful.
We got that for my younger son at eight weeks. See #1 and #2 above.

At any rate, I've felt totally bereft of both time and words, or at least good, descriptive, evocative words that are worth sharing, and I figured no one here would really miss me.

That's my dad, sister and mom with me a few nights
ago. My cheeks are pink from martini. Oh well.
Alas, my mother does, and to tell you the truth, that's enough for me.

The words still don't feel "here," but I'm going to force them, and in doing so, this is going to end up feeling like one of those rambling Christmas chain letters (sorry, people who send them, you know who you are. . .)

Anyway, with blame (and thanks) to my mom, here's a year-end round up since last I posted:

My older son is doing well up at college. He's a talented musician and, most importantly to me, he's coming out of his shell -- this boy who wouldn't play his music for anyone in the comfort of his own home, let alone get up on stage, is actually playing open mic nights and singing in his quaint little college town.

a favorite shot of Son One.
Here's the thing, though: I don't know how he already got to be a college kid. I know, I know, this is a refrain from mothers everywhere, and until it happens to you, there is simply no way to explain how it feels. How your home both feels remarkably empty, and yet, somehow, almost cruelly, the air and space fill in. We adjust, I guess. But there's a price. Tiny holes in our heart, that never exactly repair. The years we have our children at home are way too fleeting. But then, so are, just, all the years.

Speaking of holes in one's heart, Son Two, as I mentioned, had some heart issues. To be specific, he had a super ventricular tachycardia (SVT) that required an ablation to fix it.

He's amazingly all better now, but scariest few days of my life. Let those be the worst of them. From your lips to blah, blah, blah. . .

Son Two with the dog, the week he came home with us.
Does a picture speak a thousand words? I dunno.
The crazy thing is, my next book -- THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO -- that comes out in March, has a boy with a heart issue in it. Son Two did NOT have a known heart issue when I wrote it. Second time I've written a manuscript where something has come true soon after. Life imitating art or coincidence? Don't know, but I'm not giving my teen characters any more health issues. I'll leave those to someone else.

As for the rest of us? My husband, David, sang a lot this year. He and his friend/guitarist David, performed their first paid gigs as David & David. These were some of the very best nights I had this year:

This right here is the number one thing that keeps me
drawn to him. The guy can sing. Note to marrieds:
pursue the things that bring you joy. Don't stop striving.

video

And me?

With my friend Annmarie, and the few stragglers of the West Neck Pod we've dubbed the Polar Pod, we swam in the open water through mid-November when the plummeting air and water temps and my son's medical stuff derailed us long enough to lose acclimation. With water temps down in the low thirties, fear we are totally done for the season.

Last year, the coldest I swam was around 37 degrees, this year did 35 degrees, so at least there was that.

Now, I'm back in the pool for the winter, anxiously waiting for spring.

As for writing stuff, as mentioned, am mid-way through a YA manuscript. Trudging is the best word I can find for that.

THE PULL OF GRAVITY movie continues to be both Pie-In-the Sky and in motion. A few things have made the pie seem more reachable, the fork extended, if you will. A week ago, I had lunch in the city with the director. If anyone can make this happen, he will. Crossing my fingers for the New Year.



And, THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO is out in advance copy and getting some really amazing early reader reviews.



It comes out in March. If you're local to Long Island, I'll be doing a launch party and reading here, at Book Revue in Huntington on the evening of March 25th. It's hard to compete with the likes of Cameron Diaz and Snookie (both appearing at Book Revue soon), so, if you're around, I'd love for you to come.

** forgot to add that the audio rights to SUMMER sold to Highbridge Audio, and it will be released in that format in March, too. So excited!

And that's it, Mom. There you have it. What I've been up to since I posted last.

What's that you say? Tell you something you don't already know?

Meh. Make up something new and interesting yourself. Feel free to come post it here. As between the two of us, you are the far better storyteller. My books would be lost without you.

But truly, thanks for reading, and thanks for wanting to read more.

To anyone else who is reading -- to all of you: have a very happy, peaceful, healthy New Year.

I leave you with this link which is, IMHO, this week's imperative reading.

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/news/we-broke-the-internet?src=soc_fcbks

The world is a'changing. Some good, some bad. Never stop using your voice.

See you all in 2014.

- gae

Monday, November 11, 2013

To my father and all who have served, on Veterans Day

I am not a religious person, but a spiritual one. . . and yet, I pray. . .
I pray to the human spirit that one day, in the not too distant future,
compassion will always win out over fists, bombs and guns.

This is my father. . .

returning home from service in a MASH unit
Vietnam, Chu Lai, 1966 - 967. . .
how lucky we are that he came home.

This is the note that I wrote to him today, and the plaque for his bronze star that hangs on my son's wall here at my house:



This is an incredibly moving piece written by Laurie Halse Anderson today in the Huffington Post:


Read it and share it, then do more. Click on the links. Share the information. And donate, even $5 or $10 -- heck, even $1 -- to help a veteran who has done so very much for you.

With deepest gratitude to all who have served and continue to serve.

- gae





Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Riff Redux

Still love this one from 2011... resharing. Happy (safe) Halloween. :) 


Halloween Riff (Sugar Rush)


Me, last night, with the treat my sweet hubby delivered
Reeling from a sugar high (after weeks of not eating any) and inspired by a copy of Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven (reprinted way below) that serendipitously arrived in my email box this morning, I penned my own version of some early Halloween terror.

I invite you to join me in the comments and create a little Halloween homage of your own.

Definitely treat over trick.

- gae


Deprav'in
Once upon a Tuesday, teeming, with the thought that I was dreaming,
when consuming pounds of creamy, malted chocolate balls galore,
should my sugar-coated teeth, my growing thighs felt underneath,
this memory, now, so vague and brief, it barely lingers at my core. . .
“Tis only fair, you see,” I muttered, “to mix some sweet amidst the bore,”
only this: a sugar fix, and nothing more.
Ah, distinctly (I was sober), it was in the bleak October,
sent my husband like a gopher, to the aisle in the store. . .

Eagerly, no, not a Spartan, sent him for the whole damned carton
Tried to cease, but played my part on, part on asking, yes, for more --
Now, the fear of scale uncertain, holes in teeth will soon be hurtin’,
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating, of my heart, I stand repeating,
"'Tis some minor weakness leaving, exiting through every pore,
Calories to soon be leaving, through my every pore.
Twas only candy, nothing more.”


The Raven
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!
-Edgar Allen Poe

Monday, September 9, 2013

Broken record and other distractions

I like this photo. Sometimes, I feel
i could just dissolve into water. . . 

I keep going to write the post about my son leaving for college, about how that leaves me completely changed and lost and melancholy and heartbroken. How life is the same, while completely different. How people liken it to losing an arm, but to me, it feels like I've lost a lung, and I'm here struggling to learn to breathe this new way.


In fact, I've been having breathing trouble lately. Related? Maybe it is.

Anyway, I've been meaning to write the post, but the truth is I feel like it's all been said before. Those of us who live and breathe through it know how it feels, and those of us who won't and don't, well, there's no way to describe how disconcerting it is to drive away without a child, to walk past his room and know he (or she) is gone. To wonder where the years went. To wonder if you'll wake up, and they'll still be little. Still be there.

And, yes, I know, they return with laundry on vacations, but we know inherently this is not the same.

Brothers on the car ride up to school. . .
pictures do speak louder than words.

It's the lament that makes me feel like a broken record: Time is fleeting. Blink of an eye. Cruel how fast it flies. . . 

Blah, blah, blah. Shut up, Gae. 

What more is there to do but move forward?

So, we do. We move forward. We write. We swim. We distract ourselves. We get on with things.

And try to make the most of each day with the ones who are still here in front of us. Even knowing, yes, knowing, they, too, will way-too-soon head out on their way.

the heartbreaking truth: this one will be skipping off soon, too.

In the meantime, we delight in their successes, their moving forward, the happy reports from a college kid off and running! And take steps (oh, the things we do...) to soothe the ones remaining here.

Substitute brother? Not exactly. But well worth
the nearly 9 hr drive that brought him home to him.


- gae

Thursday, July 25, 2013

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Sam, in a funny room in a museum in Rochester
two springs ago.

My older son, Sam, is playing guitar in his room.

Frankly, there is a not a day that's gone by in the past few years, that he hasn't... that there isn't the sound of his guitar (or, sometimes now, a banjo) being strummed adeptly from behind his closed door. And when he is -- it is -- there's not a time that I don't stop whatever I am doing to listen intently, filled with the music, with his ability, and grateful for the fleeting chance.

This is one of the best small joys in my life, in a life blessed with small joys, to eavesdrop on my son making music.

In a few short weeks, the room will fall silent.

He will pack his guitar and his clothes and head off to college, and the next phase of his independent life.

That fact is like the funny room in the museum in this photo to me. No matter how hard I stare at it -- the words encapsulating it on the screen -- I can't make sense of it,
or find my balance.

Yesterday, my younger son and I were watching our dvr'd episode of America's Got Talent while we ate lunch together picnic-style on my bed (my room has the big-screen TV), and in a rare moment of joining in, Sam came in and watched the entire episode with us. He never does this. Or, at least, rarely.

During it, a commercial for that new Michael J. Fox sitcom came on and we were all talking about how good it looked, and I gleefully said, "We can all watch it together in the fall."

As soon as I said it, I realized.

In the fall, we will be three in the evenings, not four.

And even though his door is so often closed with him behind it, how I will miss his presence and the weeping, strumming of his guitar.

-gae


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Not One of those Weepy Moms

This is Sam a mere 5 or 6 years ago...
it's a trick - no way on earth it can be more... 

Today, my oldest son walked across stage to get an academic award, the lead up event for his high school graduation in two weeks.

As he crossed the room and walked toward the stage, I could see my husband looking at me, waiting for the tears to flow.

"Gonna cry?" he asked.

The truth is, I thought I would.

It's not like I'm not one of those weepy moms.

Trust me, I am. There's no one weepier than I.

But the problem is, I can't actually internalize that this day -- this moment in time -- is here.

video


I keep tossing around words like "unfathomable" and "impossible" and "surreal." The truth is, it does feel, very simply, impossible.

I don't know how the time flew.

I don't know how seventeen years can feel like five. Six, tops.

I don't know how time can be so cruel.


There is so much I love and admire about this child, and so much I worry about -- have worried about -- day after day. He's never been easy.

Darling? Yes!

Fascinating? For sure.

But he has always been a conundrum and a challenge, and so often I felt I didn't know how to rise to the occasion as his mother.

He's the cliche of the brilliant kid who has little sense of self, and less self-motivation.

He is in no way the child I imagined having when I fantasized about motherhood, when I walked around with him in my belly, when I read and sang and danced with him nonstop when he was a toddler. In many ways he was way more difficult, way less family-oriented, way less manageable. In many ways he was quietly disruptive, constantly forcing me to accept and rethink my idea of what and how my family would be. At times, he has been a disappointment -- NOT in who HE is, but rather in MY utter inability as a parent to figure him out -- and to figure out how to nurture him in the best way, which is truly what every child deserves.

If anything makes me weepy, this does. This I can feel, this I have internalized, day after day and year after year, in the very marrow of my bones. The fact that there are no do-overs, that there's not more time to try to do it better, to figure out the puzzle of this child. To hold his hand more, and read and sing and dance harder, to unlock for him everything he is and can be.

Alas, whatever I haven't done right, done well enough, done to my own satisfaction, he went to school this morning and walked across the stage to get an award. He's graduating. And he's going to a good college.

That's something, I remind myself. "He's done okay," but the word "done" feels utterly unfathomable,

impossible,

and wholly,

surreal.

 -gae