Stand-Alone Sarah

Sarah’s Survival Guide is a free 40 page story right here on my website. Anyone can read it, even attach it to their tablet or reading device. Makes it sound like I wanted to do something nice for my readers. I do, of course, but the real reason Sarah’s Survival Guide stands alone is because my former editor asked me to consider taking it out. I was writing romance at the time, and Sarah’s subplot was stealing the spotlight from the main lovers. Sarah is still very much a part of The Paris Notebook, especially the penultimate scene.

What Sarah does not have in the novel is a point of view. Sarah’s story is not filled out as I meant it to be. That’s okay, I’m a tough old writer and have been edited many times. I also understand the rules of writing romance. So I’m not saying my editor was wrong. She was spot on. The problem was me, I had not written a romance. The wonderful folks at The Wild Rose Press knew I was not a romance writer, and through two novels helped me become one. Then when I proposed a women’s fiction series, they said YES. They said that was where I should be, writing women’s fiction, with more going on than true love. Nothing against true love! I’ll always have a love story or three.

Almost the minute I learned I needed to cut Sarah’s story, I began plotting. I was able to pull it out almost seamlessly. I added a few bits into the book so it made sense and I took all spoilers out of Sarah’s Survival Guide. Then, after paying a friend a shamelessly small amount for a gorgeous cover, I was ready to roll.

I don’t know how many people have read Sarah’s story. I have never, in ten years, quickly going on eleven, looked at my page views. But I love hearing people tell me they wished there was more about Sarah in The Paris Notebook. And that’s happened at least a dozen times. Every time, I say “You’re in luck! Click on Sarah’s Survival Guide on my blog.” I think it’s a sweet love story. It works as a short story, but if you read it first, you might want to know what happens next. Well, that answer is in The Paris Notebook.


Just lately, I’ve come into a whole lotta luck. My famously frugal husband has opened his wallet and money, for the first time in our married life, spills. “Buy it.” “Get it.” “Take it.” These are words I’ve seldom heard.

I’ve always been jealous (also envious) although I didn’t always KNOW I was. The first time I saw a friends’ new house, a modest ranch, I tried to throw myself out of the moving car after we left. I was quite drunk at the time. And the action was more drama than a serious attempt at self-annihilation. For years I thought of that episode and couldn’t quite make out what had been wrong with me. (Besides the fact that I’d had one too many Cherry Kijafa and Coke.)

As our friends all moved into bigger houses with walk-in closets and jet tubs, we stayed put in our starter home, which I have loved all the more for being a little run-down, a little old-fashioned, and having entirely too many stairs. All my life I have wanted a nice tidy ranch, and what I got was a quad-level (with no window treatments) and a tri-level (tricked out with a splendid addition about ten years ago.)

We re-did the kitchen a year before the granite craze but managed to get in a nice wood floor in our big but cozy dining room. So, I have been content here. I have loved my house despite all it’s drawbacks. And I finally figured out what was going on with me and my friends’ more palatial abodes. I was envious of the friend who ordered new furniture on a yearly basis, jealous of the built-in bookshelves and the working fireplaces. I was jelly, as the California kids say.

This realization happened not over houses, but writers. There came a point in my life, maybe a year or so ago, when I knew I was never going to be Dan Brown. Not even Danielle Steel. I would not make money from my writing, it would not save me from a more conventional career (teaching), and nobody was ever going to say “I’m going to make you  a star!”

The star quote is something a popular writer actually told me her agent and editor, who had picked her out of Harlequin Alley, told her. Never mind star, New York ignored me. Harlequin was kind; I’ve learned a great deal from their various rejections over the years, from “you need to learn your craft” to “this is a bigger book than a romance.”

Full of jelly over a friends’ new book contract? Want the house Nora Roberts built? Wish you lived on the ocean in Kauai with a private plane to whisk you away when weather forecasts a hurricane? Here’s what you do. Make your sandwich. See how the jelly wobbles and squirts out while the peanut butter sticks to the bread? Jelly is sugar. Not good for you. Peanut butter is protein and it will make you stronger.

This is the last post I’ll be writing from my sweet old house. Next week, I’ll be moving into the ranch of my dreams. With a whole bunch of new stuff. And in late August, after finishing my next book, I’ll be back in the classroom.