Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I'll be on the Road and All the Winters After will be on the March Indie Next List!

As of yesterday, All the Winters After is now officially out of the nest, flapping its pages. I woke up to a really lovely review from the New York Journal of Books, which called it, "A winner read that should appeal to a variety of literary and genre tastes." And these lines revved up my heart even before my first cup of coffee: "All novelists strive for what all readers want: that moment when you open a book and it grabs you by the throat and pulls you in to another place and time, another person's reality. Thus opens All the Winters After, and it keeps you pinioned inside the covers until it's over and you emerge blinking and shaking your head."

I was the one blinking and shaking my head when I heard that All the Winters After is included on the American Booksellers Association Indie Next List for March. The Indie Next List! I am so honored. I love independent bookstores. The list includes writers I've admired for years, including Ethan Canin, Joshilyn Jackson, and Joyce Maynard. Here's the link to the ABA's full list, and here's what they had to say about All the Winters After:

"This is the compelling story of a damaged young woman, Nadia, who has taken refuge in a cabin in the Alaskan woods for the last 10 years after escaping an abusive marriage. Kachemak Winkel, the cabin's owner, returns to Alaska after a long absence, still mourning for his parents and older brother who lost their lives in a plane crash 20 years earlier. Two young, damaged souls are at the heart of this beautifully written novel, and the wild and dangerous beauty of Alaska is present throughout. Perfect for book groups!"--Patricia Worth, River Reader Books, Lexington, MO

Speaking of book groups, I've already started scheduling visits, either by phone or Skype (or in person if you live close by), so contact me through my website if you'd like to chat. And I'll be heading out soon to visit bookstores. Check out the tour schedule above. If I'm going to be in your neck of the woods, I'd love to see you!

Friday, January 22, 2016

All the Winters After Goodreads Give-Away and Publication Day in Germany

All the Winters After just came out in Germany! The title is Das Haus der gefrorenen Träume, or The House of Frozen Dreams. It's fun to see their cover design, so different from the US edition, but lovely in its own right. Those colors! Gorgeous.

My German publisher has done such a wonderful job with both Die Andere Seite des Glucks, which was a bestseller, and Das Haus der gefrorenen Träume. I feel very thankful to my editor Tanja Seelbach and all the hardworking people at Fischer Verlage. So let me just say, Danke. "Just" because Danke is about all I know in German, other than Ich liebe diche, which means I love you and is a good phrase to know in any language. Thank goodness for the translator, Helga Augustin, or this edition of the novel, though full of gratitude and love, would have been very short.

If you, like me, don't understand German but would like to get your hands on a US copy of All the Winters After before the pub date on February 16th, Goodreads is giving away ten advance readers copies. You can enter the give-away here.

Ich hoffe, du gewinnst! That means "I hope you win!" According to Google Translate. I sincerely apologize if I've just insulted your dog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

This Winter and All the Winters After

Happy New Year to you. The holidays here in our little house in the woods were sweet and busy and full of people I love. There was a lot of getting ready, which I actually enjoyed this year, and then the house came alive with light, with warmth, with too much good food and lots of games (we even dug out our 1985 edition of Pictionary) and then...whoosh...done. Just like that. 

The house feels a bit hollow. I feel a bit full. In other words, it's January.

But! Now that I've finally managed to pack up the 15,000 Christmas ornaments and seven miles of light strings, there's a lot to look forward to this winter: My second novel, All the Winters After, will be published by Sourcebooks in the US on February 16th!

I'm really, really excited to share this story with you. Here it is, ready to go out into the world. I absolutely love this cover. I love the little cabin, the trees, the mountains, the type. The hint of northern lights on the horizon. And that wonderful endorsement from the extremely talented Sarah McCoy, novelist extraordinaire.

The early reviews have been great, which is, of course, a big relief. You can find more information on my website and links if you'd like to pre-order. (Pre-orders make all the difference in helping a book get off to a good start. They're extremely important and so appreciated.) I plan to write here regularly (can she really blog more than once a year?) so please check back. 

In the meantime, wishing you much happiness in 2016 and in all the winters--along with all the springs, summers, and falls--after.

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?"

" 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.