Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lucky 13

 I'm lucky #13 on the "Inspirational Cancer Blogs" list...or something like that!

And Leah...I still need to hear from you so I can send you Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Toasty Winner

Seamus has worked his magic. And we have a winner!!

Before we get to that....allow me to explain...or, er....blame. The reason Seamus is picking the winner of the contest for an autographed, hardback, hot off the presses copy of Sara J. Henry's "Learning to Swim" is...well, it's Quinn Cummings fault. She ran the same contest and had her cat choose the winner. And truth be told, although this kills me, the cat performed spectacularly. And really, you can't train a cat, so it's rather impressive. Well, I have news for you. You can't train a beagle either. And I can't stand to have dogs out-done by cats. So here, for the dogs, is Seamus picking a winner of our contest....(blame Quinn....)..

 Congratulations Leah! Please email me with your address, because I can't seem to find an email address for you. Also, Seamus would like to let you know where to send him his additional bribery money toast.

All in all, I think Seamus was more dignified than Squeekers the cat. He seemed to really consider his options and take some time properly selecting a winner. He didn't just leap at the first entry he could get his claws on. Here, you be the judge. Watch how the cat barely considers the options available....

Oh sure, you could call that decisive. You could say the cat knows what it wants. You could. But us? No. Seamus and I call that impulsive, frivolous, maybe even irresponsible.  Oh no, we're throwin' down.  Cats vs. Dogs? I'm just sayin' I think the dog wins. Sure, sure, Quinn had more comments and her nails were better done than mine, oh and whatever, la-ti-dah she took the time to print out your names all fancy on that Excel spreadsheet, but you know....I got home from work at 8:30, and Chris informed me our neighbor had called complaining about Seamus's barking today so he (Seamus that is) and I had a long talk about the meaning of bad behavior and Seamus was all subdued and whatnot, and I was all soaking in some unpronounceable red wine (Alicante Brouchet), and Chris was all "he's your dog," so basically,  I'm just happy I remembered to do this. And that Seamus can open an envelope. Now when the mail gets delivered tomorrow....something tells me I'll be less happy about this.

But for now...Leah wins!! And the rest of you should just go buy the book. My copy arrived in the mail today. So, I'm going to go read myself to sleep now (or stay up all night reading it cover to cover!!). 'Night all. Happy Reading!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Last Chance to Comment

Because Seamus's schedule is a little booked these days, he will not be doing the drawing for Sara J. Henry's debut novel "Learning to Swim" until the evening on February 22nd. Thus, you have until 5pm Pacific time to leave a comment below and enter to win. You can't win it if you're not in it. More cliche's to follow...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Free Books!

Sara J. Henry: Sara in Vermont: My Friend Ben is Ever-so-slightly Crazy. Or Maybe Not. But He's Giving Away Books.

Too good not to mention this even though I have to start with "A friend of a friend...." but hey, I get to end with " giving away free ebooks!" So, yeah, click on that link and find out more. Then of course you'll want to leave a comment below and be entered to win a free book here!! The free book here is Sara's own book "Learning to Swim"--a pristine, autographed hardcopy. You only have until February 22nd, so don't spend a lot of time thinking about your comment (I know how you writer-types can be).

Free book Friday. Now that's a good, good day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest

I haven't actually participated  in a blog-festy sort of thing before but this seems easy and fun. Launched by blogger Nicole over at One Significant Moment at a Time, it's the Actor's Studio questionnaire. I'll be honest...I'm just going to do it off the top of my head (there's a certain laziness to this approach, I know. Whatever.) If you want to join in the blogfest, better hurry...we're all supposed to be posting this today.

Also, comments here or in the post below will still enter you in the contest for Sara Henry's book, Learning to Swim.

  1. What is your favorite word? Beagle
  2. What is your least favorite word? Stitches (can't even stand to type that!)
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Coffee
  4. What turns you off? Lack of Sleep
  5. What is your favorite curse word? Ah, I'm a simpleton. It's just F*ck.
  6. What sound or noise do you love? Silence
  7. What sound or noise do you hate? Anything loud
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Literary Agent
  9. What profession would you not like to do? Doctor (see #2)
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? "All your dogs are here."
  13. Okay, I can't get the formatting removed...this is not part of the questionnaire. But if you'd like to join in the fun (which this formatting problem of mine is definitely not part of), hop on over to Nicole's blog.

Monday, February 14, 2011

(Not) Live From Vermont!

As promised, this blog is on fire with postings now! So here is my exclusive, one-of-a-kind, only on this blog interview with Sara J. Henry! (And that's us at last year's LA Times Festival of Books). And you, yes YOU, have a chance to win an autographed copy of her book, Learning to Swim, see details below!

My interview with Sara:

Teresa: Sara, you've read the blog enough to know this was readers, soon to be your readers, will definitely need to know what wine to be sipping when they curl up with your book. And then, what wine should they drink as the book concludes?

Sara: I’m going to let our mutual friend, writer Reed Farrel Coleman, answer this question, as my method of choosing wines (it does have to be red wine) is usually Oh, that’s a pretty label or Oh, there’s a bicycle [or dog] [or kangaroo] on the label.
Reed says: “To sip as you settle down to read Learning to Swim, I would suggest the 2008 The Boxer, an amazing Mollydooker (yes, spelled that way) Shiraz. To celebrate a great reading experience at the completion of the book, I would suggest one of the finest values in sparkling wines, a bottle of Gruet from New Mexico.”

T:  In your other interviews you mentioned this manuscript sat lonely in the bottom of a drawer before you dusted it off and the good folks at Squaw Valley convinced you it needed to see the light of day. For those of us with dusty, lonely manuscripts ourselves and for whom the squaws of Squaw may not yet be calling, what advice do you have? (At least this isn't one of those wide open-ended questions!)

S:  Hmmmm. I’d say, apply to Squaw Valley Writers Conference, seriously. It’s a fantastic place, you get admitted (or refused) on the basis of the first 5,000 words of your manuscript, and it’s open now for applications. It’s fairly reasonably priced, as far as week-long conferences go, and they offer scholarships and cheap housing.
Failing that, I’d say join a writing group, virtual or real-life. (I also belong to Backspace, a $40-a-year forum with lots of published author who will critique pages and query letters.)
But what you really have to do is decide if you can let the manuscript go. If you aren’t passionate about at least parts of it, it may need to be abandoned. The fact was I loved my characters and my setting and the core theme of my book, and I had pretty much the same opening chapter you see now. But the middle of the book was pretty bad, with a meandering plot, cardboard characters and absent ones, and a languid pace (not a good idea for a book that turned out to be a thriller). I knew it was bad (the folks at Squaw never got to see the middle) but didn’t know how to rewrite. For this I literally blockaded myself, a trifle more severely than I first intended: I broke my fifth right metatarsal, had it pinned back together, got on a plane a few weeks later for a five-week house-swap near Sydney, Australia, at the beginning of their winter. And there, doggedly and painfully, I learned to rewrite.
Reread, revise, rewrite. And repeat several times. And read it aloud, too. It's very very hard work, if you want a good book at the end of it. Worth every minute.

PS The drawer is metaphorical - it was on a computer disk. Yes, back in the olden days when we used disks.

T:  Writers, particularly published writers, often say the key to writing success is keeping your butt in the chair. My (totally imaginary) personal trainer says I need to get my butt out of my chair. My butt, and my brain, find this confusing. Please advise: Who's right?

S: They both are. Seriously. I get my best ideas and work out all sorts of scenes while walking, riding my bicycle, or – try not to laugh – painting walls. I love painting walls (what I hate is the tedious prep work, because I’m a perfectionist). The rhythm of moving the roller or paint brush lets my brain run, and I find it oddly relaxing. And if you aren’t living life, you have nothing to write about, and you’ll lose the spirit that makes you want to write.
But you also have to write – and realize there are times it is not fun – and make yourself do it.

T:  There is, as there must be, a dog in your novel. How important is the dog and why isn't it a beagle?

S: It’s not a beagle because it is modeled after the best dog in the world, my now-deceased German Shepherd-golden retriever mix named Tiger. I still remember the ad I answered to find her: Mother pure-bred golden retriever – father traveling man. Six of the pups clearly had a German shepherd father, four had a black lab father. Oops! But now Tiger will live on forever, in this novel and the sequels.
She’s important because she is the boon companion of our heroine, Troy Chance – providing comfort and love, as dogs do.

T:  What was the best and the worst day you had in this books' journey to publication (we'll accept answers anywhere from the imagining of the story to the moment you type your answer)?

S:  I can’t boil it down to one day, but I can to one feeling: that horrid sick feeling of knowing I’d written a novel that wasn’t salable and lacking the gumption or confidence to actually do something about it – and sometimes taking it out and glumly looking at it and and having NO idea how to rewrite. Or looking at book reviews and knowing that I should have my book done and out there, and I didn’t. Turning point: when a friend's 24-year-old son got a lovely novel published. At 24! Nothing to get you going like that.
The best was probably the day my to-be agent, Barney, called me. I was traveling and had just plugged in my Ooma phone device to a phone without caller ID, so I had no idea who it was when I answered, so I was quite relaxed. And it was one of the best agents in the business – who of course I had never really expected to hear from – who had read my query and opening pages and wanted me to email my manuscript so he could read it that holiday weekend. It was completely unexpected and unexpectedly perfect, and a moment where my life changed forever. (And he called me back the following Sunday to tell me he liked it and to offer to represent me.)

T:  Will we be seeing you at the LA Times Festival of Books this year and if so, how do you feel about its controversial move from UCLA to USC? Is this important to folks outside California??? Where else can your fans flock to see you live?

S:I’m sad to see it move because we had such a great time there last year, I’d learned my way around, found several fun restaurants and built some nice memories, and it was within walking distance of a nice and reasonably priced hotel! Even with just one visit, it felt like home. Plus there was The Mystery Bookstore there, now sadly closed. (Note to readers: independent bookstores are closing at an alarming rate - go now to your favorite one and buy something!)

I’d love to come to the LATFOB this year but I think with other book events that I won’t be able to make it. But I have a bunch of events planned and more to come – I'll launch Feb. 23 in NYC and will return to Squaw Valley for a panel and reading Aug. 9!

T:  And finally, who do you feel is the next up and coming "dog and I both had cancer" memoir-ist? And how excited are you to see his/ her manuscript published?

S: Ah, Teresa, you know it’s you! I found you through your cancer blog (because I was looking for someone who might be going to a specific writing event) so was reading your blog while you went through much of this – and met you when you still had your post-cancer rather short haircut! And I will be stupidly excited to see your book published! And will be cheering madly from the sidelines.

Phew. I'm glad she got that last one right. And Reed did an excellent job on the wine selection as well--the New Mexico Gruet sparkling wine is incredible! (Chris uses it in one of his Forgotten Grapes's that for unprompted coincidence?)

And now it's your turn. Run out (or online, if you are a "butt in the chair" kind of person) and buy her book! It's a great read. Like Sara says, support an Indie and order the book from an independent this one:  Powell's or this one Vromans or heck, just find one near you by using this link to Indie Bound. Just buy the book, people.

Oh, and Sara reads the blog. So feel free to leave her questions, comments or rave reviews below in the comment section. In commenter will be randomly selected by Seamus, to receive an autographed copy of Sara's book! Just leave a comment before February 22nd and you are in the running! (Sorry, US residents only...the shipping gets a little crazy otherwise!) Seamus claims he cannot be bribed, but he will accept offerings of steak. Also, toast.

Happy reading!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bumps, Beagles and More Books

You probably think I've been sleeping all this time, since the blog has been quiet. But no. That is not the case. And in fact, the blog will be heating up again soon.

I've been writing (you knew that). And traveling --I spent five days in San Francisco having fun and attending a conference. And  planning more travel--it's time for the Forgotten Grapes Paso Robles tour in March, and then there's Fiji in April, and plans for a Words & Wine France wine tasting tour in July and a Spain Words & Wine writing retreat/ wine tasting tour in August. Phew (oh, and click on the links if you're interested in joining us...except in Fiji; sorry, that one is a family trip! oh, and the France and Spain 2011 trips itinerarys aren't up yet but you can see the 2010 info; hey, I told you we're in the planning stages!).

And, I've been dealing with more doctors appointments. This time, it's for Seamus. Chris and I noticed a couple of new bumps. The kind of bumps that would pass for "old age moles" on any other dog. But as we all know, Seamus is not any other dog. So we took him to see Dr. Davis. Dr. Davis does not think it's anything serious and was quick to tell us that even if these are the mast cell tumors again, these were the kind that could be surgically removed and that's it. It's not a repeat of the ordeal we went through way back when (we've all blocked out that time). I have to admit...I was a little freaked out. It doesn't necessarily make sense (what does when you're dealing with cancer? Or potential cancer), but I have my health emotionally connected to Seamus. In my mind, the dog lived, I lived. The dog does not have a recurrence, I don't have a recurrence. So um, if the dog had a recurrence? Double devastation.

When Seamus goes for his surgery to have these bumps removed, they will also remove the little fatty bumps that have been there since shortly after he finished treatment (when they appeared and scared the beejeezus out of me), and clean his teeth. I have not wanted him to undergo anesthesia again for a long, long time. But now that he has too, well, we're getting it all done. So poor Seamus will have a stitch here and there in a few spots, and will have to be a cone head for awhile (he hates that!).  Chris and I had to figure out a date for the surgery where we knew one or both of us would be home with him all day (no doggie daycare or babysitter for this!). March 9th it is.  I'll keep you posted.

And stay I said, the blog is revving up again. I will have two author interviews coming up very soon. I'm excited about both of them! Sara Henry who has her debut novel Learning to Swim coming to stores near you very soon. And Susan Conley, a fellow breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed shortly after moving to Bejing with her husband and two young sons and has written a memoir chronicling her story. I've got both books on pre-order. And here's some previews for you:

The book trailer (love that) for Susan's book:

Quinn Cummings reviewing Sara's book:

and here's where you can read the first chapter of Sara's book, Learning to Swim.

Read up. We'll talk.