RWA 2013, Part 2: Baptism by Thunderstorm


Rain in Downtown Atlanta, photo by callison-burch

Contrary to the ’70s popular song, it does rain in Southern California.

But not like this.

Dumbfounded, I stood in the lobby of my nice, just-slightly-offsite hotel and stared out the sliding glass door at the rain bucketing down from the overcast Atlanta sky.  At the trees lashed by furious gusts of wind. At the bolts of lightning that occasionally flashed overhead.

It hadn’t looked like this an hour ago. I wasn’t sure it had looked like this even half an hour ago. (Memo to self: when you’re staying in a place where the weather is almost notoriously unstable, don’t go anywhere without looking out the window first.)

I was a five minute walk away from the conference hotel, where I was due to participate in a group signing within the next half-hour. In this weather, it might as well have been five miles.

An effort to raise the hotel shuttle driver and ask for a lift to the signing proved fruitless. Flustered but determined, I pulled on a plastic raincoat, grabbed my umbrella, and ventured out into the storm.

Within two minutes, my umbrella had turned inside out, my dress was wet from the thigh down, and my stockinged feet squelched in their sandals. My glasses, streaked with rain, were all but useless for visibility purposes. Buffeted by the wind, which was driving the rain sideways, fearing I’d be knocked flat on my face any second, I took refuge in the foyer of the restaurant next door.

My mind raced furiously, trying to calculate how much time I had to arrive at the signing; whether I had time to change into dry clothes before setting out again (don’t be ridiculous, my subconscious retorted, Outfit #2 will get just as soaked as Outfit #1); whether I could just ride out the storm and show up a little later–or not show up at all, since my absence would probably not even be noticed in a room full of authors (most of them far more well-known than I) and fans.

Call it gumption, stubbornness, or insanity, but I rejected the last idea almost at once. Committed was committed. This was my first signing ever, and I wasn’t going to blow it off, no matter how bad the weather was or how obscure I was. Come hell or high water–and Atlanta was currently providing plenty of both–I was going to that signing. And as close to the scheduled time as possible.

I couldn’t tell if the rain had let up at all, maybe infinitesimally, when I braved the storm again. The wind was still gusty, the precipitation pattering steadily down, but I was already so wet I didn’t notice if I was getting any wetter. My top priority was finding the safest, dryest way to get to the conference hotel.

pedestrianbridge_0110Fortunately, I knew about the skybridges, the enclosed walkways that linked several of the main downtown hotels, including the conference hotel. But which one was closest? I squinted and squelched my way across the street to a business plaza that had a skybridge that led somewhere (the person in charge of security had been somewhat less than helpful about that when I’d asked earlier). But I figured if I took the bridge I might at least end up in a place I recognized, and I could navigate the rest of the way from there.

And so it proved. Even a little better than expected, as I’d thought I might end up in the hotel next door. Instead, I found myself on the atrium level of the conference hotel, the very place where the signing would be held. And there was time for a brief stopover in the restroom to remove my rain gear and tidy myself just enough to eliminate the half-drowned-rat look. Umbrella and raincoat hastily folded and put away in my tote, I hurried into the ballroom with minutes to spare, found and took my seat. My dress was still sopping, the skirts clinging to my legs like sheets of fresh papier-mache. But my cardigan was fairly dry, so I draped it over my knees and pulled the skirt down to cover it. At least I had a bit of insulation now.

And I’d made it. I’d arrived–and on time (barely), at the place where I was supposed to be. That was a victory in itself. And I also had one hell of a “war story” to tell, to anyone interested in listening!

Then the doors opened, the people poured in, and I proceeded to be very busy for the next two hours. Even when you’re not signing many books yourself, you end up watching those who do–what they say, how they conduct themselves, how readers react to them. In all, it was a learning experience every new author should have–though I recommend skipping the thunderstorm part, if you can! (Apropos of which, every now and then, a rumble was heard or a flash was glimpsed through the window blinds. But by the time the signing was over, the storm was a distant memory.)

Recent events have had me reflecting on this experience–not nostalgically, but perhaps philosophically. Because there will always be storms, whether literal or metaphoric. Always things you can’t control, but which affect you anyway.
And when faced with those, sometimes the best you can hope for is a quiet place where you can ride out the storm until everything calms down.

But when that’s not an option, all you can do is fulfill your individual obligations, soldier on, and try to chart your own course through the storm–until you come out the other side, to the place where you’re supposed to be.Rainbow_At_Maraetai_Beach_New_Zealand

ARC of Triumph–Win a signed advance copy of A Song at Twilight!

ARCPhotoOne of the most exciting “author moments” is seeing the ARC of your book for the first time. Sure, it’s an uncorrected proof. Yes, you will almost certainly find a wince-inducing glitch or two when you start looking through it, some little or even not-so-little error that got past your red pencil the first, second, third time you edited your manuscript and will make you smack your head and wonder aloud, “How did I miss that?” And yes, you will thank your lucky stars that you get a final chance to expunge those errors when the page proofs/galleys arrive.

And yet, the moment when you open that packet of ARCs is still magical–because you’re finally seeing your book as a book, rather than a file or a stack of pages. It has a cover, it has back cover copy, it has promotional blurbs (if you were fortunate enough to obtain some), it has your back and front matter. When you look at the ARC, you know that your dream really is going to come true–and someday, in the not too distant future, you will see your book on the shelf of an actual bookstore.

As the author of only two books (so far), I freely concede that this is all still fairly new to me. But no matter how many more I write and publish (and I hope it’s a good many!), I can’t imagine ever finding that moment less than thrilling.

Apropos of which, the first few ARCs of my October release, A Song at Twilight, are here! I’m very excited about this book, partly because I worked hard to make it its own thing–and thus quite different from my first book, Waltz with a Stranger. The lovers are older, for example, and have more life experience, along with seemingly insurmountable obstacles to their Happily Ever After.  My heroine, Sophie, is a professional singer, a rising star of the Victorian opera and concert stage. My hero, Robin, is the man Sophie has loved since she was seventeen–and never been able to get over. When they parted four years before the story begins, their love appeared hopeless. But now Fate has handed them a second chance–if they’re brave enough and determined enough to take it…

This week I will be giving away a signed ARC of A Song at Twilight to a commenter below. The giveaway will end next Saturday, August 17, at midnight, PST, and the winner will be chosen by random draw. Please include your email address in your response, so I can contact you afterwards.

To get the ball rolling, I’ll start by asking: Do you have a favorite second-chance-at-love story, and if so, what is it?

Good luck and happy reading!

To Market, To Market

P08-01-13_11.41I’ve never been sure whether to consider August mid-summer, late summer, or even early fall, though stores sounding the dreaded “Back to School” alarm seem to believe the latter. And I have friends and relatives who teach, and thus find themselves a bit disgruntled at the way their summer vacations have been curtailed in recent years, as an increasing number of them get summoned back to work before Labor Day. And long before they or their restless pupils are ready to return!

Whatever August is called, though, I always feel that summer as a season is very much present. The beaches are crowded with surfers and sunbathers, and public swimming pools are still open, the chlorinated waters shining like aquamarines under the sun–a somewhat milder sun than we saw last year, and believe me, I am not complaining about that! People are still planning and embarking upon vacations, the ice cream truck can be heard trundling along the neighborhood streets, and the smoky smell of barbecues fills the evening air.

One of summer’s simple but enduring pleasures for me is exploring the numerous open-air farmer’s markets held throughout the city. Some are quite small, just a handful of stalls devoted to fresh produce, flowers, and the occasional baked treat. P08-01-13_11.43Others are much more extensive, offering not only beautiful flowers and gorgeous-looking fruits and vegetables, but ice-blended drinks, savory soups and stews, fluffy omelets and fancy crepes, grilled and barbecued meats–just about anything you can imagine wanting to eat on a bright summer day!


And that’s just the food. The larger farmer’s markets can also sell clothes–wide-brimmed straw hats, gauzy cotton blouses, and full, flowery skirts–and sometimes paintings and sketches by local artists, and offer live entertainment. Last weekend, I walked past a stall where a man was playing Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence” . . . on a set of panpipes!

That same market also featured a petting zoo, complete with chickens, geese, rabbits, goats, one stubborn-looking little donkey, and a couple of ponies, who were there to give rides to the kids. P07-28-13_10.27When I walk through the farmers’ markets, I keep my eyes and ears open, enjoying all the sights and sounds. And tastes! Ripe red strawberries, golden slices of peaches or nectarines, tiny exquisite champagne grapes, segments P08-01-13_12.14[1]of bright orange satsumas or purplish-red blood orange are generously provided for sampling. (Vendors are usually eager to provide you with tastes of their goods, in hopes that you’ll come back for more–and spend money this time!).

I admire the agua frescas, bright as jewels in their huge glass jars. P08-01-13_11.45I inhale the aromas of roasted corn and grilled sausages. And I observe with wonder the lunchtime crowds all lining up for Hawaiian barbecued chicken or lobster rolls.P08-01-13_11.46But finally, I get down to business and purchase what I came for, whether it’s fresh herbs, succulent corn on the cob, strawberries, or stone fruit.  Right now it’s the latter, and a few days hence, when the fruit is sufficiently ripe, there will be this.P08-01-13_09.33[1]A pie made with the best ingredients to be found that will, one hopes, live up to its potential! (This one did, by the way–all but one slice is now gone. But more will follow.)

To the joys of summer! May they yet reign–at least until Labor Day!