Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A writer's empty nest

For the last week or so, I've been in an odd mood and I couldn't figure out what was the matter. Life is basically good: the book is selling well enough to warrant another print run; I've turned in the Medici manuscript; and now I have that much-anticipated free time I've been craving to catch up on my reading and relax.

Instead, I've been restless. I am reading, but I always do that; as for relaxing, I'm not enjoying it as much I thought I would. Of course, I know this free time is limited and so I called a good friend who happens to be a writer and mentioned that I thought I might need Prozac. She laughed and said, "Do you feel depressed?"
I told her, "Yes, kind of. Not exactly sad, but just . . . you know, blah. And the worst part is, I'm guilty about it. So many writers out there are fighting every day to get published and see their book in print. I feel like an ungrateful cur. Why can't I just enjoy it?"
"It's writer's empty nest syndrome," she replied. "We all get it after the book comes out and we turn in the next one. You've let your babies go out into the world on their own and you're at sixes and nines over it. The only cure I know of is to start a new project. ASAP."

Now, let me just say that I've never referred to my books as "babies." I've heard other writers use the term and that's fine, but I personally can't do it. Books are words on paper: they are not flesh and blood beings. If they get lost or misplaced or stolen, I can always buy or print out another. But as I considered my friend's words I started to wonder. I was feeling "sixes and nines-ish", as though something was missing from my life. I realized I've been writing steadily since I sold these two books early last year, first with the revisions to The Last Queen and then cutting Catherine. And in between, I had copy edits, marketing plans, interviews here on the blog; in short, not a spare moment. Sure, I caught a movie and went out to dinner and lived, but I always knew in the back of my mind that I had work waiting. I realized that I thrived on the deadlines and now, without any, I was bewildered.

"It's a sickness unique to writers," my friend explained. "We aren't ourselves if we're not kvetching or rhapsodizing over our latest creation. We're Frankenstein. We must stimulate our brain daily or perish."

Just as an experiment (no pun intended) I finally went to my desk - now cleared of the atom-bomb explosion of papers and open books that comprised the Medici revision - and took out the spiral-bound notebook where I outline upcoming projects. The next novel is there, fully realized. I stared at it for a while, then started reading it. I then pulled out the research books I'll need and ordered on the shelf I reserve for books I use when I'm writing. I did all this rather tentaively, thinking as I did, "Am I nuts? I just finished a manuscript and haven't even heard back from my agent or editor yet. I should be catching up on Netflix."

Then I left my study quickly and went to make dinner. As I cooked, I felt at ease. Relaxed. I felt . . . like me. I had to chuckle. My friend was right. I'm just not myself if I don't have a book brewing. It doesn't actually matter whether I've started physically writing it; the ideas have to be percolating , the words disentangling and arranging themselves like threads on the loom. I must know, soon I will start to write. And if I do, I'm okay.

So much for free time. Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend, everyone!
No doubt, I'll be writing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In memory

I was deeply saddened today to hear of the devastating airplane accident in Madrid. Though no one I knew personally was affected, the horror of the event itself and the sudden loss of life that has plunged so many families into grief has been truly heartbreaking.
A mis paisanos, aunque estoy lejos, en espiritu estoy con vosotros en esta hora tan dificil.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Between the cape and the sword

Okay, I'm back from 16th century France.
At 10:43 on 8/15/08, I finally finished the edits/revisions to The Confessions of Catherine de Medici . This was without a doubt the most challenging edit I've ever done, not only in terms of the volume of sheer work, but in all the subtle adjustments that had to be made both mentally and emotionally as the novel morphed into its current incarnation.
At times, I honestly thought the book would crumble apart and found myself ruing the day I decided I could tackle such a difficult subject. Catherine led a long, eventful, and unbelievably complicated life; the decision during this revision rapidly became one that often put me, as they say in Spain, between the cape and the sword. I had to make very tough decisions between what must stay and what must go; and when you're writing a historical novel that covers an actual person's life, that is not an easy thing to do. In fact, I had an agonizing few weeks when I wondered if I could even do her justice, given the constraints.

Nevertheless, by the end I had cut 193 pages; wrote 10 new scenes and revised 35 others; removed 5 secondary characters and 2 major ones; and, much to my surprise, fashioned what I think is a far more concise and accessible book, one that can be enjoyed by every reader, including those without knowledge of the history of France at this time. Go, figure.

The manuscript is now off to my agent, who'll read it and let me know if I've done my job. I desperately need fresh eyes. Working so intensely on a book as I have these past months ends up blinding you to its flaws. Living with Madame de Medici has been an immensely rewarding, demanding, exhausting and exhilarating journey. Now, all I want for the moment is bad TV!

I also have some great news to share: THE LAST QUEEN will be going into a second printing. Also, I've posted event photos throughout this post for you to chuckle over. These were taken on 8/7 at Bookshop West Portal. We had a Last Queen cake, wine, cheese and lots of people celebrating the book's release. Wish some of you could have been there!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Appearances and radio interviews

Just to let you know, I'll be doing the following publicity in the next coming weeks. I'll be adding mp3s of the radio interviews to my website, as these become available. If you're in the area or can tune into these interviews, I'd delighted to meet you!

Tuesday, August 5
12:30 pm
In-Studio Radio Interview
KLCC-FM / Radio Alice
Contact: Liz Saint John,

7:00 pm
Talk & Signing
Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista
Corte Madera, CA 94925
Event Coordinator: Dana Kelly, 415/927-0960, x239 or

Thursday, August 7
8:40 am-8:55 am PT
LIVE Radio Phoner
KSCO-AM / Good Morning Monterey Bay
Host: Jeff Galipeaux
Contact/Co-Host: Rosemary Chalmers,

7:00 pm
Talk & Signing
Bookshop West Portal
80 West Portal
San Francisco, CA 94127
Phone: 415/564-8080
Contact: Neal Sofman, 415/225-6427 or

Saturday, September 27
2:00 pm-2:55 pm
West Hollywood Book Fair, Los Angeles, CA
Panel: “Global Connections: Exploring the World in Fiction”
Moderator: Lisa Teasley
Contact: Corey Roskin, 323/848-6403 or
3:00 pm-4:00 pm Signing

Tuesday, September 30
4:00 pm
TAPED National TV Interview
LaSalle Productions / Connie Martinson Talks Books
Contact/Host: Connie Martinson,
*Note: This show is nationally syndicated, to various stations in CA; NYC; Vail, CO; Coral Gables, FL; etc

Also: I just found an error in my Author's Afterword. Please note, it should be Charles V of Germany and I of Spain, rather than the other way around. This is entirely my dyslexia and will be corrected in subsequent editions. I apologize for the error!