Monthly Archives: December 2013

On the Other Side of Publication

It’s been two weeks since The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte came out, and I’ve been learning what it’s like to be a published novelist rather than an unpublished one.

Some of the things I’ve been doing the last fourteen days include sending out review copies, scheduling signings, autographing books, and getting the beginnings of reader reaction. Two friends have already finished reading the novel, and their responses were very enthusiastic. The hardest thing about remaining unpublished all these years has been not having much of an audience beyond my beta readers. I always imagined what it would be like to have readers say they loved my novel, and now that’s starting to happen. Admittedly, so far I’ve only heard from friends, and they are predisposed to like it, but even so, the comments I’ve received so far have helped make all the years of effort seem worthwhile. Now I’m looking forward to getting more objective responses.

One thing has surprised me is how much I enjoy signing books. I’ve never really fantasized about giving out autographs, but I take a lot of pleasure in making a book personal for my readers. “My readers.” A phrase I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to say. One advantage of achieving this childhood dream a little later in life is that I appreciate it so much.

Sorry if this post borders on the gooey. I’ll be back to my usual self tomorrow.

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Lament (a poem)

A few months ago, I had a strange experience as a writer. I woke up on the morning of my birthday with this poem in my mind. Apparently, I had written it in a dream.

Lament

In the elongated shadows,
cast by the setting sun,
I stoop to pick handfuls
of beans for supper.
The rest of the crop have grown
bloated and fibrous,
the product of distracted neglect.
In the clapboard house behind me,
my sister sits by a window,
dreaming of some future escape.
Our father wants her to marry
a farmer as past his prime
as these beans,
a man who will never be
a strong support
for such a tender,
fruit-bearing vine.
And I, rooted to this land
by love and obligation,
am as mute and
helpless to intervene
as a stump.

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Book Review: Skinner’s Drift

I had not heard of Skinner’s Drift by Lisa Fugard until a friend gave it to me. It’s set in South Africa of the 1990s—after apartheid has ended and while the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is looking into old crimes. Eva, the main character, has been living in the United States since shortly after her mother died. Now she has come back to her homeland because her father, a white farmer whose land borders the Limpopo River, is dying. Once there, Eva has to face the past she fled from and its terrible secrets. The book held my attention even though I had to break halfway through to read something else for a deadline. If anyone has an interest in South Africa given the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, this book might be an intriguing place to start.

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Upcoming December Events

I have two book signings scheduled between now and Christmas.

On Saturday, December 14, I will be at the Good Garden Café in Kenosha, WI (5925 6th Ave) from 9:00 am to noon. I will be selling and signing books.

On Saturday, December 21, I will be at It’s All Good Coffee & Espresso in Zion, IL (2780 Sheridan Rd) from 8:00 to 11:00 am. I will be selling and signing books, and we will be holding a raffle for a free copy of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte.

Also, I wanted to let people know my autograph policy. I am happy to give autographs. There are three ways of doing this:

1. Ask me in person if you’re someone I see on a regular basis.
2. E-mail me using the contact form on the About page and ask for my address. Then send me the book to autograph. Please note that I cannot pay for return postage, so you will have to provide a return envelope with sufficient postage in the package.
3. E-mail me your address and I will send you an autographed bookplate that you can paste inside your copy. No charge for postage.

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Book Review: The Hare with the Amber Eyes

The book I’m reviewing today is unusual: part history, part genealogy. The Hare with the Amber Eyes traces a collection of netsuke through several generations of a family.

But first things first. What are netsuke? A netsuke is a miniature Japanese sculpture that was used as a sliding bead on the string of a container such as a pouch or box. They were intricately carved from wood or ivory into a variety of forms: fruit, animals, tiny human figures.

Edmund de Waal, a British ceramic artist, inherited this collection of 264 netsuke from an uncle who was living in Japan. De Waal grew fascinated with the tiny, beautiful little objects and spent over a year tracking their history within his family. The collection was amassed by Charles Ephrussi, one of the sons of a wealthy Jewish banking family that originated in Odessa but had migrated to Paris and Vienna. Charles lived in Paris, where he was known as an art connoisseur during the period of early Impression and the second empire. He never married or had children, so his collection was passed on to a nephew who lived in Vienna.

For me, the Vienna section of the book was the most interesting: the story of a socially prominent and fabulously wealthy Jewish family during the days leading up to the German takeover of Austria in the late 1930s. It shed a new perspective on a well-known story. The book also documents what happened to the family during World War II and how the netsuke collection miraculously remained in the family’s possession even as the Nazis confiscated everything else of value they owned.

I recommend the book strongly to lovers of both political and social history. It was beautifully written and a fascinating read.

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Great Blue

I am the heron
standing in the shallows
of a man-made lake,
balanced on bamboo legs,
feet splayed firmly
on a precarious bed of eroded stones.
Focused on the water,
waiting so intently for a sweet-fleshed fish
that I do not heed the humans
gawking on the bank.
Beneath the shimmering surface
just a flicker of racing shadow.
Plunge toward it, beak open…
Sudden displacement of water
stirs up a silty murk
yet cannot obscure the vision
of my future.

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What Inspired My Novel

Melinda over at Enchanted Spark invited me to be a guest blogger today. Please stop by her blog and read my post about the inspiration for my novel. And while you’re at it, check out her posts as well. She has some interesting things going on, including a writing contest!

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