Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Gilmore Girls Night

Lauren Graham as Loralai and Alexis Bidel as Rory

(I wrote and posted this five years ago. In light of the stupendous news about four new Gilmore Girls episodes (!!!!), I thought it would be fun to revisit. Maddie and I are already planning the GG Revival Nights.)

About once a month, sometimes more, my niece Maddie comes over for a Gilmore Girls Night. She brings her complete DVD set of the show's seven seasons. We usually go for a walk, make dinner, get in our jammies, and eat a ton of junk food while we watch as many shows as we can before passing out in a sugarfied stupor.

Maddie is eleven. She's my husband's sister's daughter, and she was born into this family right about the  time her Uncle Stan and I started dating. She gave me the nickname Ree Ree when she was little because she couldn't say Seré, and now I'm Ree to the whole family.

So Maddie calls me whenever she gets the inkling and says, "Ree, how about a Gilmore Girls Night?" Or if we're leaving a family party, she'll raise her eyebrows and hold her pinkie and thumb to her ear in the Call Me sign. I'm always a little surprised and thrilled that my sweet, smart, and fun niece still actually enjoys hanging out with her fairly-old-and-sometimes-less-than-cool aunt. I know these nights with her are totally numbered, but still I allow myself to hope they're not. I hope, against all odds, we keep having Gilmore Girls Nights even when she's a teenager.

Oh, to be eleven again!

If you have no idea what I'm talking about when I say Gilmore Girls, let me give you a little context. The show aired from 2000 to 2007 and starred Lauren Graham as Lorelai, a young, mostly cool, single mom, and Alexis Bidel as Rory, her smart, mostly responsible, teenage daughter. They live in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, surrounded by a bunch of quirky characters. The show is extremely well-written, with dialogue that's a constant rapid-fire of witty word play and pop-cultural references, and at the same time, plenty of poignant teary-eyed moments for us softies.

Plus, Lorelai and Rory hate to cook, eat ridiculous amounts of junk food and of course, never get fat. Maddie and I eat lots of crappy food on Gilmore Girls Nights. We say we're doing it in honor of the Gilmore Girls. However, we understand that Stars Hollow is a fictional world and that the actresses would each weigh upwards of 300 pounds if they really ate like that.

We start with a walk in the woods before we take a dive into the junk food.

So most of the time we try to eat the healthy stuff. But never on Gilmore Girls Night. To eat tempeh spring rolls and quinoa salad while watching Lorelai and Rory eat cheeseburgers and fries at Luke's? Downright blasphemy.

I'm going somewhere with all this, really I am.

One night last year, Maddie's cousin, Kelsey, also my niece, joined us for Gilmore Girls Night. The nieces were lounging on the couches in their jammies, getting ready to start the DVD, and I was acting kind of goofy in my fairly-old-and-sometimes-less-than-cool aunt sort of way and said, "Hey, I just thought of something! I read that Lauren Graham is going to be in a new show called Parenthood with Peter Krause. And Peter has a home somewhere around here. You know what that means?"

"What?" Maddie asked.

"Lauren could become friends with Peter. Maybe they'll even start dating, who knows? They'd make a cute couple. (I swear I'm not making this up now, even though I was completely winging it at the time.) We'll be at Safeway, picking out treats for Gilmore Girls Night. And there she'll be. And we'll say, "Hey Lauren," and we'll tell her what we're up to and see if she wants to come over and watch it with us."

Kelsey said, "Ooooh, can I be there, too?"

"Sure," I said. Call me the Generous Psychic.

"Um," Maddie said, "Ree?"

"Yeah?" I thought she might say, I'm so there! and fist-bump me or add her own little details to the whole celebrity fantasy thing I had going.

"How about you get back to, you know," (the eye roll came right about here, I believe) reality?"

Uh oh. I'd blown my cover and now she'd realized what I was hoping to put off for a few more years -- that I really was very, very old and sort of dorky and well, kind of embarrassing.

But I laughed it off and said, "Hey, it could happen!" and handed her a huge bowl of popcorn and some Peanut M&Ms and hit play on the remote.

Then Parenthood premiered last season and I loved it. Lauren Graham was amazing, as was her soon-to-be-as-predicted-by-me beau, Peter Krause.

So one afternoon a few months ago I got a call from Maddie, talking so fast I couldn't even understand her. I picked out the words Mackenzie (Maddie's 15-year old sister) and Lorelai. I got Maddie to slow down until I figured out she was saying Mac and her friend Valerie saw Lauren Graham.

In town.

When they were buying ice cream.

I know.

At first I didn't believe her. (Call me the Reluctant Psychic.) But this didn't happen at Safeway, although the ice cream store does start with an S. And then there's the pesky little detail that the whole thing happened to two people who weren't actually us. People who were almost us didn't quite cut it. (Call me the Almost Psychic.)

Maddie wanted me to hurry and pick her up immediately so we go could run into Lauren/Lorelai, too. I explained to Maddie that now that I lived in the boonies, it would take me a half-hour to pick her up and another 20 minutes to get to the ice cream store, and since Lauren Graham was leaving the ice cream store when Mac saw her an hour or so before, the odds were not in our favor. Maddie took this news like a champ, but I could hear the massive disappointment in her sweet voice, trying so hard to sound upbeat.

I asked Mac, "Did you tell Lauren about your little sister Maddie and your Aunt Ree, and our Gilmore Girls Nights?"

"No. I just told her how much I loved the show and that we had the whole DVD set."

"So, you didn't mention Maddie's name, or my name, maybe once?"

"Ah...no? But this guy she was with took our picture."

Val and Mac (Stand-ins for Maddie and Ree) with Lauren

I know.

This would be a much more exciting story if I could say that since then, Maddie and I have run into Lauren numerous times, had her over for Swedish Fish and ice cream and Hazelnut Ritter Bars, had our own pictures taken with her, all three of us wearing really cute matching robes and bunny slippers.  Okay, matching, Maddie would tell me, is a little creepy. Maybe just coordinating...

But, alas, my psychic abilities are somewhat off-kilter. It's like my intuitive GPS system stands for Gone Psychic Sideways. Still, it was kind of...something. At the very least, I think I may have postponed any more eye rolls from Maddie for a while. The next time I make a nerdy prediction, the kid'll be all ears and awe.

I must tell you that Maddie went from feeling majorly bummed that it didn't happen to us, The Gilmore Girls' Truest Fans, to now saying, "Hey, I'm okay with it. If it happens, that'd be great. But it's not, you know, my life's goal to meet a celebrity. There are much, much more important things."

It is so good for me to hang out with such a mature person.

Still, I'm thinking that if my copywriting work dries up and I don't sell the novel I'm finishing, I might just hang out a shingle. Something like: Ree's Readings or Not-Quite-Right-But-Pretty-Damn-Close Psychic to the Stars

Because it's now official. Lauren Graham and Peter Krause are dating.

A little formally dressed for GG Night.
I know!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Returning to My Old, Abandoned Blog with The House of Frozen Dreams, Set in an Old, Abandoned Homestead

This is definitely a curl-up-with-by-the-fire kind of book.

HELLO...? Hello...? hello...? It's kind of cold and dusty in here. I've been gone a long time, off in my writing cave, working on a novel that takes place in Alaska. The House of Frozen Dreams will be out tomorrow, New Year's Day, in the UK. (It won't be available in the US until next January 2016, under the title All the Winters After.)

This is a story about a young Russian woman who fled her Old Believer village and has been hiding in an abandoned homestead for a decade -- alone and unseen -- and the man who returns home after twenty years to finally face the tragedy that drove him away.

Who are the Old Believers, you may ask, and why has this woman been hiding? How did she survive? What drove this man away for so long? Why the heck is he returning now? These are all good questions, but I won't be giving any answers away here. We authors must remain coy, you know.

I will tell you this: The House of Frozen Dreams (All the Winters After) is a contemporary family drama and an outsiders' love story that explores isolation and connection, mystery and danger, grief, guilt, and the magnetic pull of a place. I've been working on it for several years, and first began thinking of it way back in 1996. So yes. I'm very excited to finally be able to see it take its first step out into the world.

As you know if you've read this post, I have a long and deep-rooted love for Alaska. Some might call it an obsession. One of the best things about being a writer is that I can write about my obsessions, I can excavate them deeply and fully and call it work. I've worked hard on this novel. But it was work that, in a way, allowed me to experience my younger self's dream of moving north, my own frozen dream, if you will. It also renewed my respect for those people who followed their dream to live in Alaska, and especially the original homesteaders who pioneered the Kenai Peninsula and beyond.

Fortunately for me, research called for another visit to Homer, Alaska, which, with a bit of poetic license, became the fictional town of Caboose.

We stayed in this lovely cabin on the Kilcher homestead acreage.
All in the name of research.

We also visited the original homestead, kept as a living museum on the property.
Inspiration around every corner.

I sincerely hope readers enjoy this story and are inspired by it as much as I was while researching and writing it. I still feel very attached to Kache, Nadia, Lettie, Snag, and Gilly, and of course, Leo the dog. What a dog. If you happen to venture into their world, please say hello for me.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year, full of good living and good reading.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Win a Picnic for your Book Club

Today is the day The Underside of Joy begins its new life as a paperback. Paperbacks are great. They're inexpensive. They fit perfectly in Christmas stockings. (Sing it with me...The Underside of Joyyy to the Woooorld!) They fit in purses. They fit in picnic baskets. Book clubs love paperbacks. And I love book clubs.

Hanging out with Les Girls book club.

Book clubs are smart, and funny, and they often serve delicious food. They have passionate discussions about people who existed only in my head for six years. These readers have actually taught me things about my own book, which is pretty cool. Many of the groups I've visited have had a picnic theme to tie in with the Life's a Picnic Store in Elbow. How cool is that?

Towne Centre Books hosted this lovely picnic for their book club.


I'm truly grateful to all the book clubs that have read The Underside of Joy. It's been such a privilege to talk with you.

As all of this rolled around in my head, an idea struck me, as they occasionally do. I thought, "Hey, wouldn't it be fun to deliver a Sonoma County picnic to a book club so it arrives in time for our skype visit?" And then I thought, "Yes, that would be fun."

So that's what we're doing. Contact me to schedule a skype or phone visit to discuss The Underside of Joy in January, February, or March and I'll enter you to win a picnic--chock full of goodies and wine from the region--delivered right to your doorstep. You'll eat, drink and be merry, and we'll chat about Ella and Annie and Zach and the whole Elbow gang, along with step-parenthood, grief, joy, Italian-American Internment, food, vineyards, postpartum depression, childhood secrets, family, nature, and how every once in a while, life really is a picnic. Check out my website for more details.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pretty in Paperback

I took yet another break from blogging over the summer so I could focus on writing my new novel. Some people can do more than one thing at once. This is called multi-tasking, and I've heard that it's quite useful. Unfortunately, this skill doesn't come naturally to me. I am a one-track kind of woman. Oh, sure, life forces me to at least attempt the octopus approach on a daily basis (I did somehow help to raise four children) but it's never pretty. So if you ever see me with toothpaste on my eyelashes and mascara on my teeth, you'll understand.

And now that the kids are living out in the world and feeding themselves, when I'm deep into my work I become sort of useless. I avoid cooking, cleaning, shopping, and errands. (My husband might divulge that I avoid many of these things even when I'm not in the thick of writing, but this is my blog and I'm not giving him the password. He'd have to start his own blog, and that's not happening. The dear man is too busy shopping and cooking.)

So this summer, while much of the population took to the beach, lost in reading a juicy novel, I was trying my best to write one.

My new novel was relentless. It would not let me go. Every morning as I stretched, sipped my coffee, and pondered the possibility of say, planting flowers or heading out to the beach to enjoy the incredible weather, my novel would say, "Like hell you are. You're staying right here in Alaska, freezing your keester off with Kache and Aunt Snag and Nadia." And I obeyed. A writer never wants to tick off her novel-in-progress.

On particularly hot days, this had its benefits. I remember when it was over 100 degrees and I happened to be writing a snow scene and had actual goosebumps. See? I may not be able to multi-task, but there are times when a focused imagination comes in handy.

While I was trekking through Alaska in my head, the hardworking, multi-tasking folks at Plume transformed The Underside of Joy into this wonderful paperback edition, which hits stores November 27th and is now available for pre-order here.

I am in love with this cover. I love the vertical treatment of the horizontal photograph, the reflection of the sky and the little girl. And I'm extremely grateful for the stamp of approval from the talented Jennifer Weiner.

I may not have spent much time playing on the beach this summer, but whenever I look at this cover, I'm right there...with Annie and Zach and Ella. I missed them while I was gone.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

UK launch for The Underside of Joy

Beginning May 10th, this little girl will be perched on bookshelves in stores throughout the UK. And as if she's not sweet enough, here's a really sweet deal to add to the pot: For a limited time the publisher is offering the e-book here for a special promotional rate of a mere £1.99. Yep. Sweet.

My UK publisher, HarperCollins UK, has done such an amazing job. I was able to meet my editor, Sarah Ritherdon and my publicist, Liz Dawson, for lunch when I visited London last summer, and they were both so kind and gracious and fun that when we hugged good-bye, I felt like I'd known them for years instead of hours.

I'm extremely grateful for Sarah's and Liz's hard work and enthusiasm--along with that of the entire Harper team. Special thanks to: Heike Schuessler, who designed the beautiful cover; Harriet Sands, Laura Fletcher, Oli Malcolm, Sarah Collett, and Tom Dunstan, who've been doing a terrific job with sales; likewise Catherine Friis, who made great things happen with international sales, marketing guru Liz Lambert; and publisher extraordinaire Kate Elton. Everyone has gone to great lengths to see that The Underside of Joy finds its across-the-Atlantic audience.

So far, so good. Early readers have chimed in with truly lovely reviews, some of which are listed here and here.

So I'm excited to see how my book baby does on its first trip abroad. In the meantime, I'm heading up to Alaska as I write this (gotta love inflight wifi) to see my oldest son, Daniel, graduate from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. So proud of him for a million reasons. After graduation, we'll be traveling with Daniel on the Kenai Peninsula, where my novel-in-progress is set. If you've read this blog in the past, you know how much Alaska inspires me. Maybe I'll even have a blog post for you when I return that isn't about The Underside of Joy. Now wouldn't that be something?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ode of Thanks to Book Bloggers Everywhere

When you shade your eyes and look out across that great abyss between my last post and this one, it doesn't seem like I've blogged in a long, long while. But the truth is, I've been blogging my little fingers to the bone. I feel like the blogosphere's own Johnny Cash...minus the genius musical talent.

Here's my very corny attempt to send a heartfelt message of gratitude and a big shout out to all the bloggers who have read The Underside of Joy and featured it on their blogs, as well as those who organized the blog tour and BlogHer bookclub. Your support means the world to me. As an unknown debut author, I'm hoping that my novel finds its audience through word of mouth. And book bloggers play a key role in getting that word out. I don't expect you to read all of these at once, but do check out the blogs when you can. There are a lot of talented writers out there.

So sing along with me...(I apologize ahead of time. I'm better at writing novels than I am at writing songs.)

I've been everywhere, man.
I've been everywhere, man.
Sitting in my chair, man
Been from here to there, man
Of blogging I've had my share, man
I've been everywhere.

I've been to:
Leavittville and Laramie's and back again
BlogHer, Book'd Out, and the Bermuda Onion
Mommy's Memorandum, Charlotte's Web of Books
Fresh Ink, Fresh Fiction, She is Too Fond of Books
As I Turn the Pages, and Girls Just Reading,
A Novel Review... "Enough!" I hear you pleading.

But I've been to:
A Bookworm's World and Literary Mama
Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf, Mariana
Breaking the Spine and onto What Women Write
Chicklit Review and News, check out all these sites!
Chicklit Central, and finally Chicklit Bee,
I know, I know... you've heard more than enough from me.

I've been everywhere, man
I've been everywhere, man
Had to rely on the muse, man
And bloggers who wrote reviews, man
without giving too many clues, man
Joy's been in the news.

Joy's been reviewed by:

Diary of a Mad Hatter, Call Her Happy
Zelda Lily, Cameron D. Garriepy
Snarky Momma and A Magical Mommy
Maroc Mama and Notorious M-L-E
Isabelle & David and Comfortably Crazy
Bookworm with a View, and look! BookPage's top twenty!

The Book Chick, The Book Fetish, and Beth's Book Nook
Steph the Bookworm, Lou Graham's Blog, and Poof Books
Suz's Treats, My Reading Room, and Tracy's Nook
Kimba, Blueshelled, Random Musings About Life
Life After BagelsThe Literate Housewife
Books in the City and City Wife City Life

Joy's been everywhere, man
Joy's been everywhere, man
Bloggers do their fair share, man
About books they truly care, man
With a passion that's surely rare, man
Joy's been everywhere, like...

Boomer Wizdom and Reading 'Riting Randomness
Chicklit PlusAsha's AspectsAt Home in the Bluegrass
Cindy Roesel, Mom to the Screaming Masses
Woman Wife MomHonesty and Truly, Joanna Does it All
Alise Writes, but Luann's Writing on the Wall
I'm so full of gratitude, it means a lot, ya'll.

Wait, not so fast:

A Design So Vast, The Provident Woman
Mama's Manuscripts, Trees and Ink, Jen's Book Den
A Pile of Style, Whole Iron Woman
Stephanie at RMG, My 3 Little Birds
Have to say, what a way they all have with words.
Don't forget: That's What She Read and The Mama Bird's

Shire Bacon, Sarah's Cucina Bella
I Still Hate Pickles (But she still loves Ella.
Lovingly Thrown Together, Joe was Ella's fella.)
Tzer Island, Confessions, Home Between the Pages
Purple Sage and Scorpions, Turning the Pages
Texas Word Tangle, Pardon the Dog Hair, man, But I've been everywhere.

I've been everywhere, man
I've been everywhere, man
KMSPR ran the blog tour, man
Their hearts are gold that's pure, man
Penguin and BlogHer chose it for their club, man
I'll buy rounds at the virtual pub, man
Let's all meet there, man.
'Cause thanks to everyone, I've been everywhere.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Over-the-Top of Joy

Well, hello there, book.

Today is my official publication day.

So this is me. At our perfect local bookstore, Copperfield's, in Sebastopol, California. Yep. This is me, seeing my novel, The Underside of Joy, on a bookshelf in a bookstore for the very first time. I look pretty calm, but don't let that fool you. I felt like hugging and dancing with every customer and staff person in the store, and then running out to the sidewalk and doing the same with all the pedestrians -- and their dogs -- before leaping from hood to hood on the cars waiting for the light to change.

I'm a little excited.

What's even more overwhelming, though, is the gratitude I feel. You would not believe how supportive my family and friends have been. Friends I've known for years and years, and friends I've just recently met on the internet. I've never published a book before, but by the way they've all been shouting from the rooftops, you'd think that no one had ever published a book before. They have been ordering The Underside of Joy as if it were a survival kit and we had sudden proof that the Mayans were right after all.  (For many reasons, besides the fact that this is the year I'm finally getting published, I do so hope they were wrong.)

There is an amazing team of professionals, who have also become friends, working extremely hard to see that this novel finds its way into the world. My agent, Elisabeth Weed and her associate, Stephanie Sun. My foreign rights agent, Jenny Meyer. My editor, Denise Roy, my publicist, Amanda Walker, and all the people at Dutton. Kathleen Schmidt at KMSPR. And then there's all the foreign publishing houses that also took a chance and bought The Underside of Joy from an unknown author.

This was going to be short, but I'm on a roll. There have been many thoughtful reviewers, who really get the book and are able to describe it so much better than I can. Some of them are quoted here on my website. A great review just appeared on The Associated Press wire, which goes out to a ton of newspapers and websites. Lindsey Mead, a writer whose work I so admire, wrote a lovely, insightful review on her blog, A Design So Vast. More reviews are beginning to appear on blogs, which I'll post links to soon.

And my family! My relatives and in-laws have cheered me on for decades. My sister, Suzanne, and my sister-in-law Julie have been competing for chief volunteer publicist. I have an incredibly supportive husband, Stan, and four great kids, Daniel, Michael, Karli, and Taylor, who've lived so closely with my writing, it was like having another sibling they had to put up with.

There will be a book launch party on Saturday, January 14, at Copperfield's at 1:00. At the exact same time the 49ers will be in the playoffs. Have I mentioned that we have a Joe Montana Christmas tree ornament? My husband, smart man that he is, will be taping the game. If you're in the area, and you're not a football fan, come by. There will be picnic food in honor of the store called Life's a Picnic that's in the novel.

I could go on and on. I know. I already have. But the thing is? This doesn't even scratch the surface. My acknowledgement pages go a little deeper. But I would need to write another novel-length manuscript in order to thank everyone who has had a hand in this day. My heart is full, and so are my eyes. Thank you all.

My son Michael outside of Copperfield's.