Monday, December 27, 2010
Book tour is fast approaching. I used to report my little book tour misadventures to my editor and publicist but I think I’ll keep any of those to myself this time. After all, they worry. Or maybe I’ll get lucky and won’t have any to keep anything to myself. It would help, I suppose, if I didn’t get lost jogging and have to climb fences. That way I wouldn’t become like Marissa atop chain-link with underwear flapping around like a flag of surrender. Marissa, at least, knew where she was. Give me the back of the dilapidated Heavenly Hotel over where I wound up any day. So yeah. I can work on controlling fence-climbing urges, but the weather? Not much I can do about that. Chicago in January is not somewhere I’m looking forward to being. There’s really no room for snow boots in carry-on luggage, so maybe I’ll just wear them and hope to not get stuck in Phoenix again. Who’s that crazy girl with a snow jacket and snow boots? It’s like, seventy-five degrees out. That would be the famous author on book tour. She’ll be stuck on a fence before nightfall. Anyway, I received an early copy of The Running Dream a few days ago. It really is a beautiful book. The design team did such a nice job on it. I feel so lucky! And after all this time it’s finally really a book. Happy sigh. Double-anyway, here’s the basic schedule of public appearances (Appearances—I love that word. It’s like poof you appear. No flight delays or fences involved.) The schedule is packed with other events (school visits, mostly) but these are the ones open to the public, starting on the official publication date: Tuesday 1/11: Atlanta--Little Shop of Stories, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday 1/12 Atlanta--Borders, Marietta 7 p.m. Thursday 1/13 Chicago--B&N Skokie at 7:30 p.m. Friday 1/14 Chicago--Anderson’s Bookshop 7 p.m. Saturday 1/15 St. Louis--St. Louis Library, 2 p.m. Sunday 1/16 St. Louis--St. Charles County Library @ 1:30 p.m. Monday 1/17 St. Louis -- Borders, Brentwood 7 p.m. (Tuesday 1/18—school visit and travel) Wednesday 1/19—Seattle--Third Place Books, 7 p.m. (Thursday 1/20—Seattle—no public—only school visits) Friday 1/21—San Jose--Hicklebee’s, 7 p.m. Saturday 1/22—San Francisco--Rakestraw Books, 11:00 a.m. Keep in mind that the city listed represents the vicinity, not necessarily the actual city the bookstore is located. I hope some of these places are near you because what makes book tour worthwhile is meeting the people who love your work…and if you check out this blog, I know you do! Hoping to see you on tour (with no Flag of Surrender showing), Wendelin
Sunday, December 19, 2010
I should have said this in a comment last week, but since I didn’t, I’ll say it here: I love how all you guys went with the (kinda loser) guy thing. Something about that was really fun for me and I just want to say thanks :) More about the (kinda loser) guy later, but what I’m wanting to talk about this week is birthdays. Those of you who read last week's comments probably saw that a (definitely nice) dad requested a little birthday wish from me for his (unfortunately sick) daughter whose birthday is today. So I sent a note, and since my son’s birthday was yesterday, it got me thinking how my son has been sick on some of his birthdays, and how miserable that was for him. It also got me thinking about fun birthdays. There were two from my childhood that I remember with great fondness. My mom always baked our cakes, and one year I thought she’d had a little trouble with the baking because my cake was oddly shaped. There was this weird top layer that looked like only part of a layer but it was…I don’t know, just strange. And when I went to cut it, it was like a rock (which was not boding well for the enjoyment of this cake). But then I realized that the top layer was an upside down margarine tub, and once I removed it I discovered that inside the tub was a jewelry box with a darling little necklace. So that was really unexpected and fun and I thought my mother was very clever. The other birthday was one I had after a long battle with my appendix (which ruptured and had me sick for way longer than I should have been). My parents converted our backyard into this elaborate Wild West Adventure Land with booths and gold nuggets and activities…I remember it as being just amazing. But I think the birthday that, uh, takes the cake, was my son’s tenth birthday. Food Fight Birthday! Mind you, this was not a spontaneous chucking (and thankfully not upchucking) of food. This food fight was planned and sanctioned by adults. (Well, at least by someone passing herself off as an adult and her poor accomplice...I mean, husband.) Yup, I got this idea in my head and once it was there, there was no stopping me. I made vast quantities of rice and mixed it with mashed potatoes. I bought huge bags of dinner rolls. I bought cases of whipped cream cans. I made a huge slab of Jell-o cake. There were boxes of cookies and crackers and bags of marshmallows. The kid in me was not thinking about starving kids in Africa. The kid in me thought it was the most awesome idea ever! The day of the party, Mark and I hauled the vats of food, a table, chairs, a boom box, shovels and shields down to the beach (which was deserted because it was cold and cloudy and threatening rain). First we made the kids play some obligatory games…beach golfing, balloon volleyball, ring toss….you know. But really, the ten or so kids who’d come were there for one thing: FOOD FIGHT! So we gave each kid a poncho (because we thought their moms would appreciate that). Then Mark and I split them into teams and cut them loose to dig their foxholes and ready their strategies. And when we finally said GO, those kids cut loose. They hurled food and darted in and out of enemy territory dousing each other with whipped cream. It was wild! Completely out of control! And such fun. The unexpectedly cool thing about the aftermath of this food fight was that the food did not go to waste after all. Not that it went to kids in Africa, but the seagulls swooped in and had the beach spotless before we could load up the table and chairs. The bonus being, no clean up! My son is now 17, and most of that same group of friends will be over tomorrow for a jam session birthday party. (I’m talking music here, not strawberries.) So they’ve outgrown the urge to hurl food (I’m counting on that, anyway), but to this day they all still talk about Food Fight Birthday. If you have a favorite (or least favorite!) party story you’d like to share, I’d love to hear. Meanwhile, may your days be merry and bright, and may at least one birthday in your life be…FOOD FIGHT!
Sunday, December 12, 2010
It’s always a mistake for me to think I can take a few weeks—or wow, maybe a month—off from writing to enjoy a sense of accomplishment—and maybe recover a little—from having completed a novel. Turning in Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls in November looked like good timing, too, because the last month of the year is always nuts. We hosted Thanksgiving, Mark’s birthday was shortly after, then we celebrated our “Dutch Christmas” which takes the first five days of December and requires a bit of work on my part, and the rest of the month doesn’t get much easier. Our younger son has a birthday in mid-December (which we strive to make unique so it’s not lost in the holiday shuffle), and then there’s the final ramp up to Christmas and New Year’s…by the time we cross the finish line on my birthday in early January, everyone’s exhausted and definitely broke. So I was convinced that it was okay to take December off from writing. After all, I haven’t received any official contract for the last Sammys. What was the hurry, right? So I got busy writing Christmas cards instead. Silly, silly me. Late last week my editor told me that the next Sammy is due in May. May! “June at the very latest.” Good grief. My head’s barely escaped the graveyard mayhem of Night of Skulls. And The Running Dream is coming out in January! I’m going to be away on tour! How am I supposed to get a book done by May? Or even June? But having been ingrained in my youth with my parents' indelible (and often damnable) Immigrant Work Ethic, I know I’ll give it my best shot. Which means buckling down and getting started. Which means an emergency plot-talking-session with Mark. Which means (because we have no road trips planned) going for a long run. Once the broad strokes of a story are painted, it’s not hard for me to fill in the details. But I have to really understand and like the broad strokes. So even though I’ve got the basic idea for each of the final four Sammy’s defined, I need way more than that to begin writing. It’s like the pot of paint is open, but the switch plates haven’t been removed and the trim isn’t masked and there’s no drop cloth on the floor. It is definitely not paint time until everything is ready, ‘cause if you start before everything is ready the cleanup is going to be enormous, and no matter what you hope, the job won’t come out pro. So early Saturday morning Mark and I set out on a ten mile run, and we talked plot. There’s something about the rhythm of running and the inability to do anything else that makes running the perfect vehicle for tossing creative ideas back and forth. The basic idea for Sammy 15 is that there’s this (kinda loser) guy who creates a (very lame) superhero persona and makes it his mission to monitor the mini metropolis of Santa Martina for evildoers. Officer Borsch, of course, thinks he’s a nutcase and a nuisance. Which he is. Sort of. The (kinda loser) guy, however, thinks Sammy is a star. Which she is. Definitely. But she's never actually had a "celebrity moment" before, so this is all a little strange. Maybe even creepy. Anyway, that was my starting point. And it may not seem like much, but that’s pretty typical for me. Sometimes I’ll write a Sammy Keyes book from the crime out, but most often it’s from the character in. The people have to fascinate me to keep me interested, and from them I fashion an event or crime that would fit in with their sub-world or psyche. This (kinda loser) guy—who has yet to be named—fascinates me. And I know I’ll have no trouble sustaining my interest in him through 250 or 300 pages. It’s the events surrounding him that needed to be developed, but after ten miles of running through back roads I'm happy to report that I have some really great (and funny) plot ideas for the mystery thread of Sammy #15. (I also have a huge blister on my pinky toe which I'm going to break down and pop.) Now, when I say that all I was starting with was this idea for a (kinda loser) guy, that’s not really true. There is, of course, the developing thread of plot lines established in previous books. Like the mystery of who Sammy’s dad is and the set-up for the Big Reveal in Book 16. There’s also the dynamics among established characters, and how all the threads will tie together. But after 10 miles on the road, I’m feeling a lot more ready to dip the brush. Which is a huge relief. But still. May? I have a feeling I’m going to be logging a lot of miles between now and then. Switching subjects—I’d promised to let you know when our CD (make that EP) was on iTunes, and it is now. It’s also on Amazon. Just search “Risky Whippet” and you’ll find us. (I’ll post the artwork so you know what it looks like.) Hope you think it’s fun! Post questions if you have them--I'm happy to answer what I can. Thanks so much for checking in. See you next week (when I hope to have details about my tour schedule)!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
For a day that I was kind of dreading, today turned out to be pretty cool. Random House arranged for a small crew of film studies students from a nearby university to do a video shoot for The Running Dream at my house today. The plan was for them to interview me about the impetus for writing the book, the research involved, and what I hoped readers would take away from the story. They were also to get B-roll footage of me working at my desk, and more of me running. All of this would be whittled down to 90 seconds (or so) and used for promotional purposes and available on Random House’s dedicated YouTube channel. The trouble with a video interview is that you want to sound unscripted, yet intelligent, but when that red light is on, what comes out of your mouth is either stuttery or stupid. At least that’s how my mouth seems to operate under the glare of the mini red light. The other trouble with a video interview is hair. It just knows. It’s supposed to be perky (or, at least, pleasant) so it becomes immediately sullen. Or rebellious. Or too tired to do anything but just lay there. I’d liken hair on important days to teenagers, but that wouldn’t be fair. Put on some good music and a teenager will come around. I tried that with my hair this morning and it remained sullen and flat. But whatever. It’s just hair. It’s your words that are important, right? What was nice about the guys who showed up—Tony, Aaron, and Kyle—is that they were seasoned enough to know what they were doing, yet young enough to still have that spark. You know—that enthusiasm people have when they believe that what they’re doing matters. So they set up their equipment and we went through the questions my publicist had suggested, but when we were done with that they had me just talk about The Running Dream. You know—a conversation. And I think that was when I forgot about the mini red light and finally relaxed. I love this book, and there’s so much to it and behind it that it’s easier to just talk about it than answer questions about it. An answer should have a beginning and an end and not a bunch of segues and sidetracks. A conversation…well, that’s different. Of course, it’s much harder to edit a conversation than a Q&A, but I’d personally way rather hear someone speak from the heart than hear them hit all the important talking points. Anyway! That was the interview portion of it. What was next was B-roll footage of me working in my office. I’d put all my usual desk clutter in a box and hauled it out of there so there’d be room on my desk for the prosthetic legs I’d borrowed. Let me back up here and say that it’s really cool to have gotten to know the people who have helped you research a book well enough to be comfortable ringing them up and asking, Hey, can I borrow a leg? To the wrong person, that could be a very insensitive (make that crass) question. But to these guys it was, Sure. We got you covered. So covered, in fact that right now there are five prosthetic legs in my office, including a running leg, and a flipper footed one for swimming. The flipper foot is awesome. More about these guys in a future post—I promise you’ll want to meet them. But now I’ve got to focus, not get sidetracked, so back to the mini-video YouTubey thing. The last phase of this adventure was getting footage of me running. Now, the truth is, I was not keen on them videoing me running but when they said it was fine for me to bring the whippets, well, I was suddenly a lot more okay with it. So we drove down to the local campground, and while I leashed up the pups, they hatched their plan—Aaron would ride a skateboard beside me, shooting footage as I ran. A skateboarding videographer? How cool is that? He had this clever counterbalance contraption attached to the camera which served to steady the shot. (It’s that backwards “C” shaped gizmo in the photo.) The dogs and I ran back and forth, back and forth, while Aaron rode beside me, pumping along, shooting video. It felt kinda like being out on a little adventure with Sammy Keyes. So even though it took about 5 hours to shoot what will become a 90 second video, the guys made it fun and interesting, and the day turned out way better than I’d anticipated. Now if they’ll just make me look good and sound smart!