Holy summer coma, Batman, I haven't blogged in a month!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Holy summer coma, Batman, I haven't blogged in a month!
How did that happen, friends? Honestly, I cannot say. In the dim recesses of my (obviously addled) brain, I thought I hadn't visited with you all in a few weeks or so. Yikes! If not for the date posted on my last blog, I would have sworn it was only last month that I checked in. My only excuse is that summer finally--finally--came to the Pacific Northwest. In classic sun-in-the-green-darkness-world, of course, it stayed for less than a few days, but it was here for a few glorious hours. So, I guess I should tell you all what's been going on.

Hmmm...let's see. In May, I told you all about my son's college graduation--what a lovely and proud moment that was for all of us. Then, only a few days later, we took him to the airport and watched him board a Virgin Atlantic plane bound for London. I did not worry about him. Really, I didn't. Not even with the riots that were going on in Greece and the volcano that was spewing ash into the sky. I watched him (and his lovely girlfriend) board the plane and fly away with that same mixture of pride and emotion that came to me as he accepted his diploma. In the blink of an eye, I was transported back three and half decades (yes, Virginia, it was that long ago), to the day I went to Europe on my own. I was nineteen years old and scared and thrilled and certain I knew what my future held. It was pure magic hearing his stories of traveling, both to places I had been and to places I still dream of going. Yes, it was a little irritating to hear him talk about Florence and Corfu and San Sebastian and know that my twenty-two year old had beaten me to the punch, but that was handily overtaken by the joy of knowing that he was as dazzled by Europe as I had been. Honestly, every morning, I raced to my computer to see if there was a new message or a new photo. What fun! And now he is back, safe and sound, and embarking on his next grand adventure--getting a job and finding a place to live. It is so exciting to watch him spread his wings. I can't wait to see where he goes next...

After the rather lengthy celebrations in Southern California--the grad, the party, the family fun--my husband and I came back to drizzly Washington, where I found my latest manuscript waiting for me yet again. Copy edits. I don't know if I've described this process for you all, and you may have heard about it from other writers, but for those who are blessedly in the dark about this necessary evil, it is the last time a writer gets to view a novel before it gets typeset. It is also the time when someone with a keen eye and a sharp red pencil has gone through every word, looking for errors. And they find them, believe me. We want them to find those pesky mistakes so you don't have to. What's more irritating than finding a mistake in an otherwise wonderful book? It jerks you out of the story like a bungee jumper. In fact, I'm so keen on copy editing that I don't trust an editor who doesn't find A LOT of things to question. It makes me think he or she is watching tv while reading. :) Anyway, what it means for the author is that you have to read a book that, really, you're bored with. Of course, you're not really bored with it, but it sure as heck feels as if you are. By copy edit, I have probably written minimum twenty drafts of the book, and most of the paragraphs are practically memorized, so it's a real chore to read it all so closely again. One is sorely tempted to breeze through, but that would be a mistake. So, anyway, that fine-print read took me the first two weeks of June. And at the end of it, I was still waiting for the sun to show itself.

But it didn't, so what is a girl to do? Well, there I was, between books, with no idea in sight (got one, by the way? I'm looking--just kidding), and I thought. Wait a second. I have a big birthday coming up this year, and so does my friend, Megan Chance. http://meganchance.com/. As many of you know, Megan and I have been critique partners for more than twenty years. Wow, that sounds like a long time. In all those years, we have brainstormed together, edited together, laughed and drank wine together. Twice a year, we go away to focus on the books, but we have never, in all those years, just gone somewhere because we felt like it. So I thought, this is the year. I surprised her totally--told her to pack a bag and I'd pick her up. She's so cool, she didn't even ask where we were going...which was to Los Angeles, btw. We stayed in a gorgeous little bungalow on Santa Monica beach. We talked endlessly, watched movies, walked along the beach, and sat by the pool. We had an absolute blast. It was especially nice to put on bathing suits and sit in the sun. It was my very own Firefly lane Girlfriend hour. :)
Back at home, only a few days later, I started pacing and sweating. That's the usual routine when I need a new idea. Nothing came to me. Nothing. So I thought: I need to visit my dad and Debbie and my brother in Alaska. Why not? Within moments of the decision, Ben and I were on a plane again, heading North to the Future, to the Land of the Midnight Sun, where a great time was had by all. Above, you can see the photo of the eagle, sitting on eggs in her nest. Is that cool, or what? The lower pic is of the view from my dad's lodge, the Great Alaska Adventure Lodge. We sat around the fire and fished until one in the morning (easy to do when it doesn't get dark), and re-connected. I even visited with a wild and crazy book group. It was awesome!
The trip served several purposes: I got to see a state I love, visit with my beloved family, commune with nature. Even better, I had so much fun, I stopped thinking that I needed an idea, and as usual, that's when the magic happens.
Now I have a kernel of a thought that could grow into an idea. At least it feels right. Yippee! now, I just need to relax enough to let it grow. Wish me luck! I sure wish I were one of those writers who have a lot of ideas and can make anything work. That's not me, though. When you spend fourteen months writing a single book, you have to really love the idea. At least, I do.
While I was hanging out in the past month, I've also done a lot of reading. As you know, The Passage and Dark Places and Still Missing are all out now---books I loved. I also read The Descendents (a tragicomedy set in Hawaii), which I really liked, and The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent (if you liked the first book in her Salem Witch Trials book, you'll want to read this one asap), the Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, and (yes, finally), the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I have to say that Lisbeth Sander is probably one of the coolest characters I've read in a decade. What about you? What have you all read lately? What did you all think of Dragon Tattoo??
That's about all the news that's fit to print right now. I should have a cover for the new book in a month or two, and in September, we'll probably have an advance reading copy to give away. Any ideas on what kind of contest to run?
Thanks again to all of you who read this blog. I really love hearing from you!