A big aloha to my e-friends around the world---

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Aloha friends and readers!
It feels as if I've been gone a long time, and I want to thank you for your patience in sticking with me. I am finally finding the time to slow down a little, take a deep breath, and relax with you. I am back in my beloved Hawaii, and you all know what that means to me. Long, lazy days in a beach chair, reading other people's books, mai tai Thursdays, watching one of my best friends dance the hula, morning runs along the shoreline, and hats. Lots of hats for a girl like me who shouldn't be in the sun as much as she is.
I have been waiting for a sunny day to write this post, actually. I've been on island for almost a week, and I wanted to take the perfect picture for all of you, to let you share my golden island. Unfortunately, it's pretty much been raining and cold--yes, cold, even for a northwest girl--for most of the trip so far. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the cooler weather, but I wanted to show you some sun. I even considered dredging up an old photo of warmer days. But then I thought--what the heck. Life is full of rainy days. As we say here in paradise, "no rain, no rainbows." Sometimes we have to make our own good weather to bring to the luau. So here's my shoutout from less than perfect Hawaii. I took the above picture last night, at a break in the rain. The gardenias are from my garden.
So, what have I been doing, you'll want to know. Boy, do I wish I could say "nothing." That's what I WANT to be doing. The truth is that I've been working like this is a real job. :) Just kidding; I know it's a real job, and in the last few months, it's been especially so. As most of you know, I finished the first draft of the book for 2011 in early January and sent it off to my editor. It came back like a boomerang with a lengthy revision letter. Between then and now, I have been revising...and revising...and revising. Which makes this a good time for a little chat about my wildly ineffective process. If I could go to the writer's process store and get another one, I certainly would. Sadly, for now, I'm stuck with the one I have.
It's not exactly productive, my process, and on the friendliness scale, I'd rate it somewhere between a serial killer and mad dentist. In other words, it can really bite me, and it does. Why is that, you ask? Here's the answer in a nutshell: I love to change things. For me, no paragraph or character or plot point is ever set in stone, not really. In any given book, I usually have one or two salient points that I want to make (in Winter Garden, it was all about Leningrad during World War II and the terrible cost of war on women; in True Colors, I cared about a particular injustice in DNA testing; in Firefly Lane, it was about a long term friendship and IBC) but beyond that particular point, I will consider any and all options. I will change lead characters drastically in the sixteenth draft, I will eliminate or change back stories, I will throw out whole plot lines. And as much as I often complain about my willingness to start a book over, it's the thing I love best, because every time I start over, I have a clearer understanding of what it is I'm trying to do. I honestly believe that when I begin a book, it is complete in my subconscious. My job, therefore, is to get out of my own way enough to uncover the story I want to tell. Picture me as an anthropologist with a tiny brush trying to expose the skeletal structure of the body in the dirt.
Lately, I've been brushing away a PILE of dirt. For some reason, this new book has been challenging. Honestly, I think it's because I loved Winter Garden so much. This is the first time in my career that I've had trouble following up a novel. But I can finally say--thank Heaven--that I'm closing in on the final draft. I better be. At this point, I've been editing for months and months. We even have a stunningly beautiful and different-looking cover, which I can't wait to show to you.
A few other things. I have been doing a fair amount of reading lately. Yes, when I'm stuck on my own book, I sometimes like to escape. A reader is a reader is a reader. Anyway, I'm thrilled to tell you all that I have read an absolutely PHENOMENAL book. It's called The Passage by Justin Cronin. Ballantine books is publishing it in June. I don't want to say too much--I'm no reviewer--and I wouldn't want to diminish anyone's enjoyment of this remarkable book. I'll just say that if you liked The Stand or Lord of the Rings, run don't walk to buy this book. It's a big work, but honestly, it's the best bit of commercial fiction I've read since Shadow of the Wind.
Well, I guess that's it for now. It's Thursday night, so I better get ready for my round of music and mai tais. Thanks again for sticking with me and I promise not to be such a stranger anymore.

Heading East of the Mountains...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hey everyone---

I'm sorry that I've been a little AWOL lately. I'm working HARD to finish the book for 2011 (I know, I know, you've heard that before). The problem is that books are never done. I think I'll share a bit about my less than straightforward process when I get home. For now, I'm off to the mountains for a speech and book signing.

Talk to you all when I get back!