Research Rewards

This is one of the books I’m using to research my second book in the “Jane in St Pete” series. When I decided on an amateur sleuth series, I made Jane a retired art lecturer because I thought the research would be fun. And it is. I’ve read three books about Frida. A biography, then a book of her portraits, and finally this one, her diary. The diary plays a key role in the mystery.

But my interest in Frida Kahlo goes beyond researching my novel. I’m a devoted fan of her work and admire most everything about her short, painful life. There’s a painting, watercolor with colored pencils, from the diary that shows Frida consumed by fire in the midst of greenery. The title, Te Vas? No. Alas Rotes, translates to “Are you going? No. Broken Wings.” The diary Frida kept in the last ten years of her life, when for medical reasons she was mostly confined to her home near Mexico City, is a made thing. There are drawings, paintings, and poems along with some actual diary entries.

I’ve just ordered a few more research books, not on Frida, because in the Jane in St Pete novels, I don’t want to overwhelm readers with art. As with all research in fiction, you don’t want to do an info dump. This can be tricky, as I always find one more thing I want to say about Frida. A light touch works better for the reader and the book.

Galley Proofed

All was quiet. Al had gone golfing. I’d turned off my phone. And I read my book one more time. In galley, which is the final form before publishing. There are line numbers on every page as well as page numbers. This is the last chance to change or fix any errors. There was one thing my editor found (a song lyric) I needed to eliminate. I know my publisher does not run down copyright holders to ask if they can reprint a song lyric. But I seem to sneak a lyric or two into every single book.

Then there was the weird thing where a sentence starting with a number must be spelled out. Jane lives in unit 202 and sometimes I did the shorthand, and started a sentence with a number. Last edit, editor told me that rule and I said, okay well just spell it out then. But when I got the galley, it looked funny, so I changed the first word to Unit, which editor said was an option, so I could have the number not spelled out because “Two oh four” seemed ugly on the page. Especially phonetically spelling “oh” instead of zero.

So I changed those.

Then I spied a space between a quote mark and the word. Bored yet? It’s like that. With galleys I do not go in and revise unless I absolutely have to. I’ve been through three rounds of edits, all the major plot problems have been ironed out and the minor ones too. I still want to change a few things, but I don’t because that’s not what galley proofing is about. An author will always want to change things, but if a book is going to be published in a timely manner, it’s done when the galleys are proofed.

So, it’s done. Now I need to wait for what the publishers do next. Editor said “copy edit” and I am not sure why that is different than the other edits except maybe because it’s a galley? But whatever it is, I don’t have to do it. My job is done. For now. Still don’t have a pub date…but it won’t be too much longer. Meanwhile I can work on book two called (for now) Death on the Bayou. I looked and there are no other books with that title.

And then under the title, on the inside front matter, it will say “A Jane in St Pete Mystery” and maybe under that Book 2. I did see “A Jane in St Pete Mystery” Book 1 on the galley proofs. Should have taken a picture!

Gossip for Readers

Me before eye surgery.

I got lost on Twitter yesterday reading the feed of Marian Keyes, who I have long admired. She had a new book out (The Grownups–it’s so good! About four men who are brothers and their wives and kids and step kids and everybody has a juicy story. Things are perfect until one of them hits her head and starts revealing some home truths at a family dinner.) and I’d finished it and just wanted to see if other people had the same reactions to it…I started with Goodreads but nobody was mentioning what I wanted to talk about. So I Googled the names of the two characters who meant the most to me through the novel and the author’s Twitter feed came up. She has a good one and people were talking about the exact characters I wanted to discuss.

I don’t know. Goodreads…at one time it was the place to go to discuss books. Now everyone’s reviews are a plot summary and one thing they liked or disliked and a thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free read. I think that’s a clue. Free. Books don’t mean the same thing when you’re doing a review gig. That’s why I stopped and now pay a fortune to support my reading habit. Yes, the re-reading my library project goes on, but my eyes love the Kindle.

So while I was on Twitter, I checked on Sweet Tooth Pam, who is not a real person on Twitter, not even Duchess Goldblatt real. I found that out when I searched for her and found only other people searching for her and everyone going “Oh that Charlie!” Meaning Charlie Kaufman, film director, who wrote the best screenplay ever for writers (Adaptation.) I’d read Charlie myself that morning, as he was featured in the NYT Book Review, and he had mentioned Sweet Tooth Pam. Twice. He even said she had recommended a book to him.

Naturally those of us with a specific blend of Twitter/reader/writer/NYT Book Review in our personalities soon were looking to follow Sweet Tooth Pam. I was glad I was not alone, just as earlier I had been glad to find a cadre of other Twitter readers who wanted the same characters (Ferdia and Nell) in a sequel I did for Ms. Keyes new novel.

With those items off my “read” list, I turned to Duchess Goldblatt, author of Becoming Duchess Goldblatt. She has a fictional persona and an “anonymous” as her name on Twitter. Currently read how she put this persona together so Lyle Lovett invites her to his show and they meet in person! It’s a fun book. Lots of her tweets are reproduced and sprinkled like rose petals throughout.

And I thought…was Charlie being funny because the Duchess recently wrote her autobiography? So he decided to concoct Sweet Tooth Pam for those of us who gobble writerly gossip like candy? I’ll never know, but it was fun get the joke.

The other thing about the Duchess, as I’m reading her first chapter, is she created a persona and then started writing tweets. And people loved her. Famous people, even, tweeted back and they’ve got a whole thing going. That’s probably how she scored her book deal. I’m happy for her! I bought her book!

But of course there is a tinge of envy because I am not good at tweeting. That’s why I blog and post my link every week. Because I feel funny tweeting, and I have ever since I first joined Twitter and felt as if I were tweeting in a forest at nobody. I do have friends on Twitter now who I talk to and those are my tweets. Or I remark to other people’s tweets.

Sort of a strange post for me today. The eye doctor dilated my eyes this morning. It’s been nine years since cataract surgery gave me 20/20 vision, and it’s still perfect, albeit blurry right now. Although he had to hold up the flabby skin on my upper lids with his baby finger while he peered into the inside of my eyes. That was new, but I have deep set eyes so I have always been aware the day would come.

I have galleys to proof but can’t because of the blur. But I got my blog done, blur and all. I was almost ready to write it on my phone in the doctor’s office while waiting for eyes to dilate. See how faithful I am. If it’s Monday, there’s a blog post.

Jane’s Cover!

I just got the finalized book cover for Jane yesterday. I have been slapping it up everywhere I can. I used the larger jpg they sent on this page. (We get four sizes). With my publisher, authors fill out a art fact cover sheet. You can list three images and mine were blue sky, white sand, palm tree. The artist, Diana Carlile, did such a good job adding to that very brief description. I really like how she used all caps in the title and all lower case for my name. And the nice coordinated colors.

There’s another thing authors can do on our art fact cover sheets. We can check a box for “no people” on the cover. Which I did. A few times, when I had people on a cover, they came as a shock to me, like, that’s not who I pictured when I was writing the story. The shirtless man was really a disappointment because he looked nothing like my husband. Next book, I requested “no shirtless men” and got one in a wife-beater.

This cover is among my favorites. I love The Paris Notebook cover, which was my first with The Wild Rose Press. She’s a teacher so that apple just makes me smile. Paradise Fields is my only book of poetry (it was privately printed and is now out of print) and I have a photo from one of my sons on the front and another from my other son on the back cover. So that’s special, as is Sister Issues that has a post-it note with my daughter-in-law’s photo with her sister. And now this sweet Jane cover. Still no pub date but things should start happening pretty fast now 🙂

The Crash

I had been writing all day and didn’t stop for lunch. When I finally quit, Al was home from golf and I put the chicken in the oven. But I was so hungry, I couldn’t wait. While Al showered, I ripped into a bag of chips and ate a few cookies, I finished off the last little scoop of ice cream. Then I was full and I didn’t want dinner. Still I chopped up the salad while I waited for the chicken to bake. I was on a high from writing and probably had a sugar buzz as well.

When Al reappeared, I said “When exactly are we moving to Florida next year? Next summer?” He said “I’m not even sure I want to move to Florida.” I was upset, but I knew what he meant. It’s so difficult to think about moving from a place you’ve lived all your life plus we have a really nice house here in Michigan; it’s the nicest house I’ve ever lived in. Still, we made a plan, and I love Florida, and he was backing out! My anxiety kicked in big time. He talked about everything happening with the pandemic and the economy, about how he will move there, have no friends, and what’s he supposed to do?

The friend thing is very hard. All my good friends live here too. We’ve met people in Florida, people we really like, but wow, to leave those friendships forged through decades. That would be hard. Al went to high school with his best friends. They go to Deep Purple and all those other aging guitar hero concerts together. They go to Lions games and NASCAR together. Well probably not this year, but I knew how he felt. I felt the same. We will miss our Michigan friends. Lucky for me my bestie from high school lives in Florida now and another of my best friends recently bought in Florida and is mulling a full time move. Plus my dad lives there. Al’s dad is here. And he’s almost 89. He lives with Al’s sister, but still. We will miss him.

I thought we were all set and in perfect agreement and here we were at odds over a very major thing. The oven dinged. Chicken was done. I said I wasn’t hungry and admitted I’d skipped lunch and snacked a little. He said “You’re out of shape and eating crap. You’re going to die from diabetes.”

On top of the Florida discussion, that was just too much. It didn’t help that I heard “You’re fat and ugly and a pig…you’re going to die.”

I do that. I turn on myself, make things more negative than they are. I read later that same night that 70% of most peoples’ thoughts are negative. I believe it. As much as I try to be cool, calm and collected, sometimes I lose it. But instead of yelling and screaming, I went inside and shut down and berated myself even more. We didn’t speak until later the next day, after I had calmed down and thought everything out. All our 35 years of married life, Al has never mentioned my weight or my eating habits.

We talked about that first. He reminded me that he never said I was fat, but yes, he was worried when I had chips, ice cream and cookies for dinner, especially as we both knew I had a doctor appointment this week and she’d been warning me about diabetes, how dangerous my sugar number was, how soon I’d need medication if I didn’t manage my diet. And I have tried! I usually don’t eat like but I’ve let myself indulge more since the pandemic hit and then I’d let myself get too hungry.

Have I said that Al is a very healthy eater and he can have a bag of chips or box of cookies in the house for a month? Ditto ice cream. The way I keep a lid on my sugar addiction is to not have it in the house, but he’s retired now, and he can eat those foods moderately. Then with the pandemic, all my good habits went out the window. All my dance and yoga classes were closed. I was afraid to go for walks around the bayou, even though Al asked me every day. I’m sure I’ve gained weight but I am also afraid to get on the scale.

I asked Al a lot of questions about the way I look. I mean, I’m 65. I have grey hair. Most days I don’t do anything with it except let it fall into its natural curl. And I don’t wear make up plus dress more for comfort than anything. I hate wearing a bra, so at home I don’t. He said none of that bothered him and he said I’m pretty without make up! Shocking, because I am not. But it’s good he thinks I am. He also said he does not think I’m fat. He meant it. We talked about what exactly “out of shape” meant. He said “not getting exercise, sitting in a chair writing all day.” Guilty.

Then we moved on to Florida. I got him to promise we’d move there whenever this whole world, and especially the USA, gets a grip on this virus. Finally I said I’d stay with him here in Michigan if the housing market tanked and interest rates went sky high or any of the other financial things that can throw a retirement into chaos. Like disease. Like diabetes. He said he’d move and I said I’d stay, we are in this together all the way, either way. The truth is we just have to wait and see.

Writing about Al’s retirement has changed since the pandemic but this is the first time in six months we had a huge blow out fight. And we got through it. We even went to the park on Saturday and took a walk together. Because when he’s right, he’s right.