Writing in the Dark

A NOTE FROM SHERRY: In honor of WICKED BECOMES YOU’s release next Tuesday, Plotters and Manipulators United is running a contest. Leave a comment to this post on how much you love Meredith’s books and/or how eagerly you are looking forward to WICKED BECOMES YOU, and you will be entered into a drawing. Five winners will each get a crazy-becomes-Sherry tin of organic shea butter, with the grand prize winner also getting a $25 Godiva Chocolate Gift Certificate, which Sherry just rediscovered in her goody drawer. Best of luck.  Contest ends at 11:59PM (Standard Blog Time) on Friday, April 30th!

(Please note that while Sherry will ship anywhere, the gift certificate is only good for purchases in the U.S.)

Sherry and I both have new releases coming up – mine next Tuesday, hers on May 25th. You may have heard certain shocking rumors about these books. For instance:

His at Night has no flashbacks. (Not a one!)

Wicked Becomes You has no drug addictions. (No laudanum, no habitual heavy drinking, and not even a hint of opium!)

Disbelieving, you may have asked, What’s going on here? Has the sky fallen? Are pigs flying?

Okay, so I can’t comment with any certainty on the last question. I’m in India right now, and I often spot bands of roving street pigs doing very odd things.

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Ye odds and ye ends

I’ve been going through an Oscar Wilde phase, which has led me to some intriguing primary sources, all of them fierce Victorian debates about interior design. What with Ruskin and Morris et al convinced that beautiful architecture and interiors made for serene and beautiful minds, designing and furnishing one’s home was A Very Serious Business in the 1880s and 1890s. I am instructed by said texts that it is crucial to have a central focal point for a room — a painting or an object d’art (preferably Japanesque) to orient one’s attention and soothe one’s aggrieved sensibilities and draw the whole room into perfect accord.

With this in mind, I must admit that this blog post is officially Aesthetically Unsound. There is no unitary theme or accord to it; it is drawn from the drawer in my brain filled with random, rattling shiny bits. I suggest you gird yourself for the five-and-dime experience by spending a moment gazing upon this authentically Aesthetic objet.

Beautiful, no?

All right, on to the glitter: awesome sisters, book trailers, and bad music.

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Shana Abé Interview

Shana Abé is one of those authors who doesn’t publicize herself much, which is a bit of a shame, cuz she is such a lovely, fun person. On the occasion of her new hardcover release,
The Treasure Keeper, I hunted her down and forced her to do an interview with me.

Okay, I didn’t have to tie her down, then shove a mike in her face. (Is it just me or does it sound terribly dirty? *g*) But you get my gist. The Treasure Keeper hits the stores today.

Go get your copy.

You wrote six straight historical romance and one book of mermaid novellas (2 historical, one contemporary) before you burst on to the scene anew in 2005 with your Drákon series, beginning with The Smoke Thief, featuring an ancient race of dragons who have learned to shapeshift and pass as humans. I know, from a podcast you did with Sandy Coleman of All About Romance, that it had been a long-held desire for you to write romances with fantasy/paranormal elements. Did you also always want to do something with dragons? Or was it a case of “Hmm, vampires, no. Hmm, werewolves, no. Hmm, dragons, well, well, well?”

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Toward the end of December, I took a break from emergency revisions for NOT QUITE A HUSBAND and went to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

I shed my first tears within moments of the beginning, when the clockmaker’s backward-turning clock was revealed, and he spoke of how he wished that time could flow back and bring back all the young men (his own son included) who had perished in the Great War.

The tone of the movie was set. From then on, I was completely and rapturously enveloped in the gentle yet unsentimental journey of a man who ages backward. I’d read other aging backward stories, most notably in Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, so I already know it is a peculiar genre that moves me. But still, I cried and cried at the end of the movie and then went home–it was like 2:30 am when I got back–and cried for another half hour. Because it touched me so. Because for me it spoke so eloquently of the fragility of life, the inexorability of death, and the gallantry of love, knowing in the end that it might not even be remembered or recognized.

But I seem to be in the minority in my uncritical love of this movie. When I’ve talked to people about it, they feel the movie was too long and rather boring at parts. My mom in particular, from whom I inherited my shallowness, complained at length that there wasn’t enough young Brad Pitt for eye candy. 🙂

Now, what else do I love uncritically?

Some of you might know that I had a lot of trouble with DELICIOUS, that I had to throw out the equivalent of two entire drafts before my editor accepted the third version. (I am, without a doubt, the best edited writer in all of romance–bar none.) When I received the first final copies of DELICIOUS hot off the press, I sat down and read it through–for probably the very first time, since before that I always had to make changes. My verdict? “Powerful but imperfect,” as I wrote in an email to my editor, vowing to keep the powerful but get rid of the imperfect with my next book.

Some of you might also know that I had some major trouble with NOT QUITE A HUSBAND in the home stretch–namely, I sent it in and my editor sent it back with a few choice words that had me wander around my house shellshocked for half a day or so before I pulled myself together to redo the book in the three weeks. (Otherwise my pub date would have to be moved back to 2010.)

Having gone through three drafts with DELICIOUS, getting a sucky draft sent back shouldn’t be anything new for me, right?

Well, it was a new experience. Each time I handed in a not-okay draft of DELICIOUS, I sort of knew that it wasn’t okay. The first time I actually prayed that my editor wouldn’t hate it too much–she did, and I wasn’t too surprised.

This time I was really, really shocked. Even after I’d rewritten and resubmitted and had my new version accepted, I couldn’t stop wondering about it. Why was my assessment of the original version of NOT QUITE A HUSBAND so diametrical from that of my editor’s? The ability to judge one’s own work is an important quality to have for a writer, especially a professional writer. And I’d thought that I’d finally acquired that ability.

Then I read the new version of NOT QUITE A HUSBAND in anticipation of the line edit and the copy edits. I cried–and cried and cried. It dawned on me finally that NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, even the much-flawed original version, was just like Benjamin Button for me.

Have you ever read a book that hurts so good that you lose all critical faculties? A book of deep lovely pain that make you feel with such intensity and rawness that you cannot grade it on any objective measure, because you don’t care, because it just knocks you out in all the right ways?

That is NOT QUITE A HUSBAND for me. Me, not my editor, fortunately. The book as it originally stood had a couple of significant structural weaknesses which I completely ignored because I was an emotion junkie getting her fix with the rest of the story. My clear-eyed editor pointed them out and made me fix them.

And the new version gets to me even more.

It feels unsettling, almost, to speak of a book of my own that way. And I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I could very well end up in the minority here, as NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is not an easy story, nor does it have a secondary romance to lighten things up from time to time. But it is, in a way, a marvelous experience, to write something that jives with me so much that I’m utterly blind to its faults, that upon reading it I am incapable of anything but teary-eyed happiness.

The rest of you, prepare to be sorely disappointed. 🙂

Year-End Evaluation

Let’s take a look at the 2008 resolutions. Black is my comments from April, when I did a quarterly evaluation. Red is my end-of-year comments.

The Negative Goals

1) Have no tight deadlines

I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. The recent copyedits saw me rushing to Fedex at 7:45 in the evening to make the 8pm deadline for overnighting. And to ship a measly 5 lb of paper cost me $59.95. Why for a few more dollars I could fly myself, along with the copyedits, from Austin to New York City.

Again, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I thought I’d do great with NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, since the book has such a strong central conflict whereas with DELICIOUS we were looking for the conflict with a flashlight and a GPS system. But turned out I couldn’t get a good grasp on how my H/H would interact with each other, the research was troublesome, there was an election going on which I followed obsessively, and the book just progressed SLOWLY.

I finally turned it in on Thanksgiving Day. And my editor sent it back. And I more or less rewrote 70% of it over three weeks. Third Christmas in a row my hair was on fire. And this time it was so bad I did not spend the holidays with my family, but stayed home alone to type from morning to night.

His Hawtness totally came through for me. This whole fall semester he’d been getting the kids ready in the morning, taking the junior kidlet to school and picking him up whenever his schedule allowed. And doing the laundry. And lots of the dishes.

I’m beyond grateful and more than a little ashamed. I’ve been awful at time management. So in 2009, only one resolution: Use my time properly.

2) Not write 1,000,000 words to get a 100,000-word novel

Haven’t written any 100,000-word new novel yet. Stay tuned.

With NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, I probably wrote 150,000 words to get to an 80,000 word book. With DELICIOUS, it was 300,000 words for a 100,000 word book. So, an improvement. What can I say, my standards are not very high. 🙂

3) Not be constantly behind on laundry, yard, and house cleaning

Gah! At the end of the copyedits, the abode resembled what my suburban, disney-fied imagination thinks of as a crack house. Kidlets were scrunching for socks in the laundry chute. And I just finally mowed the lawn yesterday morning, with some portion of the grass up to my knees.

With His Hawtness shouldering much of the work, and my mom pitching in all the time too, the house has been in not-too-awful shape. Good Housekeeping it ain’t, but livable.

4) Not exercise only when I have trouble fitting into my clothes

Haven’t had trouble fitting into my clothes. Have been forgetting to eat rather than eating too much. But what awful shape I’m in. Rode bike the other day to kidlet’s school because he forgot something at home. Half a mile, and I was about ready to dial 911. Must exercise more.

Have not exercised more, is all I have to say for myself. 🙁

5) Not neglect this blog for months at a time

Gah again! If not an F at least a D. True there have been various updates in the past two months, but very little proper content. One reason is that all the contents have gone to other people–I guest-blogged at everybody and their great-aunt’s place during March. The experience was excellent, but my sluggish mind can only originate so many blog posts in a given time period. Guess whose blog got the shaft?

Looking a my list of posts, it doesn’t seem that I’ve neglected the blog terribly. But still there hasn’t been any serious content in a while, just miscellaneous updates. Will see if that can be ameliorated in the new year. Posts with themes, what an idea.

The Positive Goals

1) Spend so much time with Hubby that he runs away when he sees me next

He is still walking towards me whenever I see him. So must do better.

Honey if you are reading this, I love you tons! And the sexiest words a man can say to a woman in the English language are “You go write. I’ll take care of it.”

2) Get my bike repaired and serviced so that I never drive my car again for distances less than three miles, which should cover the grocery stores and the library and the most of the rest of my life when I’m not working my accounting job (which is 10 months out of 12).

Was all set to go Monday past, then it rained. And then the senior kidlet was sent home from school with a nasty bug and he’s been recuperating at home ever since. Will do next Monday.

Yep, did get bike fixed and did ride it. And then in the whole of fall I left my house three times. So stopped riding it. But then never drove the car either. 🙂

3) Improve my grasp of the languages I already know.


Read French in Action nearly cover-to-cover when I was at my sister-in-law’s in Bangalore (she used to take French lessons). That counts.

4) Learn Spanish.

Maybe next year.

Maybe in retirement.

5) Make some money from writing. I made a grand total of $1,450 in 2007, from the Russian sale of Private Arrangements.

Well, what do you know? A goal accomplished! The delivery&acceptance check for Delicious came last month and surprised the heck out of me. I had totally forgotten that I was owed any money for it; I was just so happy that the book turned out right.

Nothing to add. 🙂

6) To make 5) happen, I should sell 4 books on contract.

Sold two more historical romances to Bantam. And given the snail’s pace at which I write, I’m going to call this a goal accomplished too. Lots of people would lose sleep–not the least of which me–to know that I have more than that many books under contract. If I ever manage to write a book in under six months again, I’ll revisit this one.

Still writing at the speed of stoned snails. So again, nothing to add.

7) Have five foreign sales. I had three in 2007–Russia, Germany, Spain. Foreign rights sales are the awesome. Every one is like a little Christmas.

Sold French rights to PA in March. Not bad.

Sold both PA and D to Japan, which had me jumping up and down and sideways. And then a week later, sold both to Slovenia. Well, hello, Slovenia. So yes, that’s five foreign sales altogether. Goal accomplished!

8) Become a better person. I’m actually not a bad person at all, but there is always room for improvement. (And I wonder what it says about me that this resolution is way down on the list. Ha!)

Uhhh…no halo around my head yet, so still a work in progress.

Still a work in progress.

Actually, I don’t need to become a better person, I need to become a more attentive person. Because I’m pretty decent when I pay attention to what’s going on around me. 🙂

9) Buy a pair of skinny jeans. By the time this happens no one will be wearing skinny jeans anymore. But I’m patient. I’ll hold on to them until they come back into vogue again.

I actually went out and tried on a pair. I looked stupid in them.


10) Care enough to be upset when my resolutions languish from casual neglect. 🙂

Casual neglect, check. Casual indifference, check. Nope, still same old me. Well, I did hate that the house got so messy while I was on deadline. So perhaps there is hope for me yet. 🙂

In 2009 I will be royally peeved if I don’t follow through on my single resolution to use my time well. Every day during school hours I will write as if my hair is on fire, so that the rest of the time life is less crazy and His Hawtness doesn’t have to do so much.

And there will be a first draft of THE IDEAL GENTLEMAN in to my editor by the time NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is released. You heard it here first.

No Rest for the Deadline-Addled

It’s been a week since I turned in a pseudo-complete draft of NOT QUITE A HUSBAND and I feel completely out of breath. I’ve been running around the house trying to put some organization into our sadly disorganized existence, in front of the computer replying to all the accumulated emails, updating my website, and making a Xmas newsletter, and doing the usual mommy stuff, including freezing my rear off on the coldest day of this season–so far–helping out at the junior kidlet’s school trip.

And after a whole week of rushing about (okay, there was a day of writing in my contemp romp and a half-day of frowning over the next historical project), I look around and these are the things I have not done:

1)Send Christmas presents to agent and editor
2)Read either of the manuscripts I promised I’d read for possibly blurbing
3)Sort and shred the mountain of statements that have been accumulating since I was still in grad school
4)Put up our paltry few strings of Xmas lights, b/c junior kidlet delights in them
5)Laundry (His Hawtness dealt with the previous load, and since I’m not currently on deadline, I feel like I should do more.)

Boy, more and more I’m beginning to think people love historical romance for the abundance of servants! And maybe they read Harry Potter for the house elves. 🙂

Before I rush off to fight the neverending War on Dirty Clothes, let me point you to RT’s website, where you’ll find the video interview I did with the awesome Morgan Doremus during RWA San Francisco. You can also see the videos here and here.

I was rather wondering about the timing of the videos being featured on RT. Morgan Doremus had told me that usually they’d haul out the clips when there’s some news about me or my book. And then Meredith Duran told me that PA has been nominated for a RT Best Historical Debut award. I haven’t seen it posted anywhere so I’m going to have to trust that Meredith wasn’t just having fun with me. 🙂

Okay, off to the seasonal frenzy again.

Dec 10 Update: Sent presents. Put up lights. And did laundry. 🙂

Not Quite a Husband Update

The good news is I have a rough first draft. The bad news is that I still have to write the bulk of the secondary romance and that the 2nd half of the rough draft is truly skeletal. So much work still remains, but oh boy, does this book have a fantastic epilogue. 🙂

And here is the preliminary cover design for NQAH.

The cover isn’t final. The border might go, since it juxtaposes rather weirdly with the rest of the image. The background color might change to make the red pop more. The art department thinks the cover will feel bolder and sexier if the couple take the whole cover. And I’m all for it. I write pretty darn sexy stuff. And my previous covers, although gorgeous, didn’t reflect The Hawt.

So just a little news before I hunker down and go back to work. Until then, everybody vote! (And yes, I did already.)

One Last Post Before I Unplug

My wrap-up of my excellent Levy adventure is up at Dear Author.

The ladies at The Romance Roundtable review DELICIOUS.

And on Wednesday, October 1, I will be paying a visit to the Word Wenches, which is where the historical romance goddesses hang out. Mary Jo Putney, Patricia Rice, Jo Beverley, Edith Layton, Miranda Jarrett, Susan King, and Loretta Holy-@#$% Chase. Yes, I know I’m on deadline, but you tell me you have the will power to say no to THAT. 🙂

And here’s a picture of me signing. I love how harmless I look, given that my new nickname from the tour is the Imp from Hell. Hehe.

The September Offensive

The official due date for NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is end of the year. But because DELICIOUS required such enormous and pervasive rewrites, I told my editor that I would have the first draft of NQaH on her desk by the end of September, to give us three months to fix it, should it too be catastrophically off-track the way the first draft for DELICIOUS had been.

I have about 25-26k right now–need to delete most of what I wrote yesterday, therefore the uncertainty. So I’m looking at minimun 2000 words per day to finish the darn thing. Feel free to bet that my editor wouldn’t see anything until the first week of October is over–that’s just how I roll. But I do honor my deadlines in an approximate fashion so I will be going after it.

To make sure I’m honest, I’m going to post daily (probably) updates here.

In the meanwhile, here’s a recipe addendum to DELICIOUS, in case you are hungry. 🙂

September 1: The word count stands at 27k exact at the end of day. I spent most of it writing in the master bathroom (where most of Delicious was written, and you’d have thought it would have been the kitchen, wouldn’t you?), while His Hawtness spent a lot of quality time with the kidlets.

September 2: 27,500 words. Spent most of the time kidlets were in school getting together a mailing list for the published author network of my local RWA chapter. Need to do better tomorrow.

September 3: 28,800 words. Did do better, but not by that much. My favorite way to write is to have a 14 hour day and spend the first five or six hours doing nothing, and then get alarmed as the end of the day approaches and start typing. Alas, can only do that when the kids are away at Grandma’s. 2nd graders have to be picked up five minutes after they’ve walked to school, it seems.

September 4: 1,200 words progress; total, 30,000. Not impressive, but okay considering that most of my day was spent following politics, which I haven’t looked at since 2006, and most of my evening spent having fun at The PHADE.

September 5: 2000 words progress; 32,000 total. His Hawtness came home early in the pm and picked up junior kidlet from school. Then Mom had the kids for the evening. So I got my 14 hour day.

September 6: Eked out 1000 words; 33,000 total. Usually after a good writing day I’d be totally chillin’. But I guess this public reporting is making me stick to my goal better than I otherwise would. Not sure how much of everything I’d be keeping in the end. But this story in the middle sections has an actual external plot–H/H have to get from place A to place B in time for big trouble at place B–so it is the external plot that is moving.

Interestingly enough, I had several days of awful time moving the story forward–see the bit at the top of the post about having to delete most of what I wrote on 8/31. And that was because I was stuck trying to sketch something of a big picture of the political situation of the Northwest Frontier of India (today North West Frontier Province in Pakistan) in the summer of 1897, right before the lid blew off. You’d think that with all the information already at my fingertips, I’d have no trouble doing a bit of a summary. But no matter how I summarized it, it was boring, boring, boring.

Long time ago, when I listened to the commentary on Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the editor talked the big battle at Helm’s Deep, a few hundred men and Elves against ten thousand Urukhai. Their first cut of the battle was 28 minutes. And they thought it was awesome. So they expanded it a few minutes and expanded it a few more minutes. But with each expansion the fight became flabbier and less interesting. Their revelation? Just a battle, no matter how well shot, does not interest people. They had to keep the focus tightly on the protagonists and never leave them for more than a few seconds.

That’s a similar lesson I’m learning here. By itself, the danger that my H/H face isn’t interesting, even as we move toward the big fecal-matter-hitting-oscillating-mechanical-device moment in terms of the external plot, it still must be the conflict in their relationship that dominate the narrative.

September 7: 700 words today; 33,700 total. Writing barebones scenes can only take me so far. At some point, I lose my grip on my characters. I miss the little details that actually make a scene, and I cannot dig as deep into their hearts when I have not been dealing with their emotions, only their actions. So I took off much of the day to potter around the house, cleaning up stuff and cooking. Tomorrow I will be revisiting the half-scene I wrote today to put in paint on the wall and a rug on the floor, so to speak, cuz right now it’s just all bare plaster and concrete.

September 9: Aha, I took Sep 8 off totally. Read Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed instead. It’s my favorite kind of nonfiction, informative AND entertaining, with a strong narrative. (And besides, disaster stories have a certain fascination of their own.) Will have to read Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies next.

Yesterday sort of got back into the groove. Progress: 700. Total: 34,400. I can truly say even when I’m working, I’m not blowing anyone away. 🙂

September 10: Progress, 1,200; total, 35,600. It is the kind of day where I actually ran out of hours in the day, what with running errands and kids homework and what not. I stopped at a very easy point. So should resume tomorrow without much problem.

September 11: Very decent day of writing. Progress, 1,600; total, 37,200. And I got to chat with Janine. And I surf around a bit. And I did homework with the junior kidlet. And I went to sleep at 10:30. Tomorrow might be less productive with Ike breathing down our Texas. Would be cooking most of the perishables we have in the freezer in case electricity went out. Was in Baton Rouge when Andrew landed in Louisiana and we were without electricity for three days.

September 12: 600 words; 37,800 total. Spent a lot of time looking at Ike stuff–like I need to feed my already chronic case of blog-titis. Then cooked a few things to last us the weekend should power go out. Chances are nothing much would come to Austin, Hurricanes tend to turn east when they hit land, and Austin is way west of the Galveston-Houston area.

Had a thought today. The kind of historical romance I like to read and write is sort of analogous to old-fashioned painting, sometimes even like miniature portraits that require a lot of precision and very fine brush strokes. But when I try to go really fast, as I do right now, it feels like I’m pouring buckets of paint on canvas. Or rather, to borrow another analogy, the story as it currently stands is like an impressionist painting: okay when you look at it from a distance, a mess up close!

September 13-14: Progress, 2,200; total, 40,000. Yay, finally moved into a new 10k band. And I did something I rarely do. I jumped forward a couple of scenes to write a crucial turning point scene–again, thanks to that scaffolding of external plot.

As for Ike, it didn’t even touch Austin. A bit of breeze and no rain at all–we put out our wash in the backyard as we usually do. But it looks like the situation on some part of the TX gulf coast might be dire. Best hopes to minimal damages and the swift return to normalcy.

September 15: Progress, 900; total, 40,900. Good review day. Bad review day. The Chicago Tribune liked DELICIOUS. Mrs. Giggles did not like PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS. I am relieved she didn’t review PA when it first came out. I used to get much more affected by a negative review than I do now–if I came across a bad review then I’d spend the rest of the day googling anxiously. Yesterday I said “Oh well, maybe next time,”–cuz you gotta give Mrs. Giggles credit, she does give authors second and third chances, unlike moi–cooked dinner, and then went back to writing.

September 24: I had a blast on tour. Account coming soon. Now must stop most other kinds of voluntary online activities. Not Quite a Husband has just been given a June 2009 pub date. And it’s only half-done. So I’m freaking out and will be going underground any minute now. (Don’t worry, freaking out does good things for me.) 🙂

My First Book Signing–a Survivor’s Tale

When I was a teenager living in Baton Rouge, I sometimes went to a Books-a-Million–my mom would drop me off there and go to the K-Mart down the road. One fine, hot Saturday afternoon, I was there in the Books-a-Million, walking around, browsing.

Whenever I passed through the center aisle of the store, I’d see this man sitting there by himself behind a desk. I passed him probably five or six times before I looked at the little plaque in front of him: he was an author, there to sign his books. Once I realized that, I kept far away from him, because I didn’t have any money to buy his book and could not stand to see his wistful face one more time.

That non-encounter left a powerful impression on me: Most authors are not celebrities, and do not have fans clamoring for their autographs. And as a member of Most Authors, I would suffer the same fate were I so foolish as to have a book signing where people have to pay to buy my books, as opposed to the fabulous publisher-hosted signings at RWA which draw crowds because the books are free.

Well, somehow I got talked into having a book signing, at a romance-friendly local B. Dalton’s. I did not dread it in a sick-to-the-stomach way, but I did not relish the thought of it either. The bookstore is located in a mall, and I would be put on a table right at the front of the store, naked to the passing traffic.

Well, I needn’t have feared. My friends from the local chapter of the RWA were there from the very beginning. They chatted with me, so I wouldn’t be all by myself. They bought multiple copies for moms and moms-in-law. They brought kids and husbands and sisters. Some drove in from Bastrop and Fort Hood.

By the time my beloved sis-in-law showed up to my squeeing surprise and delight–she drove in from Dallas–I knew it was going to be a great time. Hubby arrived–looking very cute–with the senior kidlet and the camera that I always, always, without exception, forget.

It turned into a party. So much so that I was completely bowled over when strangers bought my books to be signed. One very lovely reader, who has 800 books at home and loves historical fiction, took the book on faith. A trio of gorgeous college students came to get a copy of PA signed for their roommate, who wanted to come but had to be in Dallas that weekend.

When Sybil and Lawson from The Good, the Bad, the Unread strode onto the scene, they triple-frosted my cake. Part of me still can’t believe that they took the trouble, driving in from San Antonio. Really, I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t deserve a whole lot of this support and warmth and just wonderful consideration from everyone who came. It was the loveliest feeling to be so grateful to all the good people in my life and to the world for just spinning.

After the book signing, I took Sybil, Lawson, and my friend Catherine to Viva Chocolato, a rather scrumptious little local establishment. Lawson and Catherine were carded when they ordered wine, and Sybil and I demanded to be carded too, even though we were only having gelato shake and Italian soda, respectively. We also demolished a little chocolate fondue.

(And Sybil told me on our way out that she’d harassed the bookseller at a nearby Borders to re-order my book–I need to be more like that woman.)

I went back home and started to clean house–and it was great to do so, to be once again just another anonymous suburbanite. But my signing for the day wasn’t over yet. My mom–who’d looked after junior kidlet when everyone else was at the signing–had bought a few of my books, and she wanted me to sign them for her so she could give them to her colleagues.

I show up at her house and almost fell backward. There was a very tall stack of my books on her kitchen table and she’d drawn up a long list of not only her colleagues, but her friends and neighbors to whom she wanted to give my book. This was the best moment in an already incredible day.

We are close, Mom and I. But Mom, for the longest time, didn’t understand why I was wasting my time on a seemingly hopeless endeavor–we came from a family of scientists and engineers, solid professionals who did not sit home and doodle. So it meant a lot that she was out there buying all the copies of PA from two different Wal-Marts and a Target.

I love you too, Mom.

So has my opinion of book signings changed? Well, no. I just lucked out. And I already wonder why I agreed to hold a book signing for Delicious–it’s only 4 months away, too soon to trouble everyone to come out again. But for now, I bask in the afterglow of it all.

Some people will always have Paris. Me, I’ll always have that Saturday afternoon.