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New! My own bookstore.
Sometimes a silence builds up like a damn: I’ve so much to report I don’t report anything.
So here goes:
Today I sent my Canadian and U.S. publishers suggestions for the cover art for THE SHADOW QUEEN. (Wow: it’s really happening.)
This took all morning—during which there was an earthquake!—and entailed poking around in my old files.
It was moving opening up a file of the original images I had used for building my characters years ago. I’m in the process of “building” characters for The Next Novel (the Young Adult about Josephine’s daughter Hortense), and it was a pleasant reminder of how helpful it can be to scout out character images on the Net. (I used Morgue File.)
Here is the image I selected for Claude (Claudette), heroine of THE SHADOW QUEEN:
I KNOW: it’s a guy, but something in his look spoke to me of Claude, who is a masculine woman.
And then later I found a Rossetti painting that struck me as Claude at court:
I was shocked to see how much alike these two images were — compare their eyes, eye brows, nose, lips. Amazing.
This Sargent painting is my image of Claude at the end of her life: triumphant!
In a few weeks I will get the copy edit of THE SHADOW QUEEN. It will be entirely edited in Word. (With every novel the technology changes, in large part because I am such a slow writer.)
Then, after, I will plunge into writing the first draft of The Next Novel.
Juggling two historical periods is a bit of a challenge. I’m not having much luck making room on my shelves for new books.
The rest, in brief:
•The advance praise for THE SHADOW QUEEN—that is “blurbs”—has been fantastic.
•I’m reading Jane Austen in preparation for The Next Novel. More on dear Jane later.
•Both my husband and I are sick with colds only a few days in advance of a trip to New York. (Grrrr.)
•I began looking through the two boxes of the letters I wrote to my parents, found in their attic after my father died. I read through all of 1969: what a slice.
Lost in Memory Lane indeed.
I’m getting ready to pack up my winter office in Mexico and return to Canada. This entails going through piles of papers, journals stacked up, bills.
Instead of attending to that last stack, I’m quickly posting here from a page I tore off from Bookmarks Magazine (Nov/Dec 2011: note the year!), regarding an interview with Jeffrey Eugenides.
Question from Bookmarks: What is the most challenging—and rewarding—aspect of writing?
Eugenides: The hardest thing is getting it right. And the most rewarding thing. What I mean it, there’s only one task when writing a book: to seize the reader’s attention and hold it as long as you can. To do that, you have to make your story both compelling and credible, you have to sand down the rough edges …
Getting it right is so hard, and takes so many drafts. I’m pleased to say that finally The Next Novel not only went off (to be copy-edited), but it has a tentative publication date (March 18, 2014) and a title:
THE SHADOW QUEEN
It has also has been sent out to writers for quotes if they like it. I am absolutely thrilled that so far three have sent in glowing — glowing! — blurbs.
I not the sort of writer who ever thinks I’ve gotten it “right,” so I’m relieved, I confess, that writers I very much respect have been so swept away.
Frankly, it makes me teary!
We’d been at the beach for 2 weeks with poor Net connection, and it was too frustrating to try to post anything from there.
The first warning of trouble came while we were there: my father had had a fall and was in the hospital, but he was okay.
My father and I were close: I usually called him every day, but it had been difficult to call from the beach because the Net connection was so poor. I’d begun to use my international cell phone (when I could get a signal), which sends a call from the southern coast of Mexico, to London, England, to Oakland, California. The miracle of modern-day communication!
“I’m in the hospital!” he said, dismayed, and then he was overtaken by pain and there was nothing more I could say except “I love you!” I didn’t know then that these were my last words to him … at least words he could hear and understand.
And then, no sooner back home and unpacked than we got the call: he was dying. I flew to California to camp at Motel 6 and sit by his bedside with my family in the Kaiser hospital in Hayward. “Comfort Care” were the instructions on the white board: and that’s exactly what he got. Excellent comfort. (Such great nurses there.)
My dear 95-year-old dad passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of January 31. I wept in Motel 6 and on the airplane back to San Miguel.
Getting back to work is its own form of comfort, that and working on the memorial and mailings and all the busyness of death.
I knew that at 68 myself, I was lucky have a surviving parent, especially a dad who was so perpetually cheerful. He lived in the beautiful home I’d grown up in the Berkeley hills.
He was a ham radio operator all his life, and his ham radio buddies made a last call to W6UMP (my dad) and wished him well in his new life.
And so, if I’m a bit slow posting here now, it has a lot to do with catching up on my work and helping to prepare for my dad’s memorial (which is going to be wonderful, I know).
What I have done:
• Continued to update the facts regarding Hortense’s life into Aeon Timeline (in preparation for the outline: alarmingly overdue!)
• Made a final draft of my NET PROMOTION FOR WRITERS AND OTHER LUDDITES in connection with the workshop I will be giving on Sunday the 17th. I plan to publish this as an INK e-book soon. For the time being, if you email me with Luddites or some such in the subject line, I will send it to you free. Basically, it’s Everything I Know and then some.
• Sent in the “final” draft of IN THE SERVICE OF THE SHADOW QUEEN. Bar a few tweaks, it will likely go into copy editing now. I’d always been a little perplexed about the dedication. I had thought of dedicating it to my dad, but I’d dedicated a book to him before. But even so, two of the characters in this novel are so very much like him. And so: without a doubt, the dedication now reads:
(Cover of Do the Work by Steven Pressfield, an excellent and motivating book on writing. “Send!”)
I dreamt last night that I was tilling new ground. It was hard going, shovel-load by shovel-load, turning the hard, caked earth. Slowly, I worked the edges, moving toward the centre. I thought: it’s hard clots; I will have to break it down further. I will have to add mulch.
I woke realizing that that was a perfect metaphor for what I’m doing now, preparing the ground for writing about Hortense.
Of course I then got completely distracted by another sort of digging: revision of this website. There’s nothing quite like HMTL to get one’s brain in a knot.
And now: getting ready to leave for the beach for two weeks, taking my thick stack of plot index cards with me. And my computer, of course, with the amazing Mac plot software Aeon Timeline on it. (More on that later.)
So: off to clear the desk and finish packing. I leave you with this:
I especially love #10: Creativity is subtraction. What do you think?
I was just in a on-line discussion with a group of authors. One of them had lost his way in the novel he was writing, and a number of us, knowing the “lost realm” well, suggested the tools we used to help us get back on track.
I recommended Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. I’m using his system now to help me see the shape of the two YA’s I’m writing, and I used it last year, as well, to find my way out of the maze of The Next Novel. His book is irreverent, far-from-literary, but it gives you plot basics with a good dash of humour. Plus, it’s short and to the point.
Both these books are written for scriptwriters. My own conviction is that scriptwriters are story-specialists, and that novelists can learn a great deal from them.
I’m busy diving into the new year (as are you all, no doubt). So quick notes.
I have two blog mentions you might enjoy. One: what I have to say on Advice to Writers blog. (“Persevere!”)
And another, a charming article by novelist Randy Susan Myers for Beyond the Margins (a great blog): “Writers Wearing Costumes, Baking Cookies & Other Mad Men Tricks.” I bet you can guess which author will be the one wearing a costume.
And last, I love this photo a Twitter friend sent of her Trilogy in the Serbian edition.
I especially love how well-thumbed the books look: clearly read and reread.
Back to work! I’m delightfully lost in the Land of Research. (See this blog post on my discoveries.)
In my November newsletter, I announced that a television drama series based on the Josephine B. Trilogy was in the works, inviting readers to play “The Casting Game.” They responded with great suggestions!
Nancy Russell suggested Johnny Depp for Napoleon. Sister-out-law Wendy Milne said that a number of women would be happy if Depp played Napoleon, and according to Lee LaFont, he is short enough.
Nancy Russell also suggested Angelina Jolie for Josephine.
Paul Headrick suggested I use pull to get the role of Josephine myself. (I’m told that “Snerk!” is not a word, but I bet you know what I mean.)
Fran Murphy suggested “smoldering beauty” Sophie LaFont as Josephine. (Sophie, I can feel you blushing and smoldering from here!)
Marnie Mackay suggested Brad Pitt and felt that Johnny Depp was a bit too cute. Brad can do anything, she notes, and he might also be short.
Sue Lievers would like to see her daughter Jordy as Josephine.
Jordy, an actor, studied French for six years and lived in Paris.
Interior designer Bonnie Sachs suggested that David Straithern would make a wonderful Napoleon (unless he’s too old, she noted).
Novelist Roberta Rich suggests Jessica Chastain (above) for Josephine, but conceded that Napoleon was more of a challenge. (Yes!)
Another novelist, Lauren Davis, suggests Thomas Hardy (above) for Napoleon.
Debbie Pollock’s picks for Napoleon are Brad Pitt (Brad again!), Mark Ruffalo, Chris Pine, Josh Duhamel, Patrick Dempsey, John Stamos and Eric Bana—with Patrick Dempsey the favourite (above).
For Josephine, she suggests Emily Blunt, Jennifer Connelly, Kate Winslet, Julia Stiles, Hilary Swank and Natalie Portman, with favour going to the ever-graceful Kate Winslet (above), a suggestion son Chet Gulland seconds.
Soon-to-be-son-in-law Bruce Sudds suggests the great character actor Toni Colette for Josephine (such eyes!), and another great actor Ed Norton for Napoleon (below). Thumbs up from Chet on that one too.
Victoria Sorenson (shown below, before attending a ball at Versailles) is a direct descendent of Josephine. She has had wide theatrical experience and would love a chance to audition for a role.
Ivy in Germany would like to see Astrid Berges-Frisbey as the young, grown-up Hortense (a lovely suggestion, I think) …
and could very well imagine Olivia Williams (below) as “late” Joséphine.
Marie suggests either Marion Cotillard or Charlize Theron for Josephine (below) …
and Joe Pesci or Javier Bardem (who is 5’7″) as Napoleon.
Stephen Solomans has cast Kevin Spacey and maybe Giovanni Ribisi as the younger Napoleon. (I am struck by how much alike they look.)
Joanne Zomers feels that Helena Bonham Carter (above) would make a fine Josephine. “And how about the producer Kelsey Grammer as Napoleon?”
Now there’s a thought!
These are the 10 books I most enjoyed this year, in no particular order. An excellent year!
Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr was a first novel published in 1978, yet it won the National Book Award. This doesn’t happen often for first novels. It is easy to see why it won, for it is a marvel, one of those novels that delights on every level: sentence by sentence, character by character. I especially enjoyed it because it is set in Ibarra, a small town in central Mexico, in a landscape not unlike the region we live in during the winter. It’s a novel I look forward to passing on to friends. Ten stars!
Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I very much enjoyed this novel. Lovely sentences. Curiously, I read it on my iTouch, tiny screen by tiny screen, and that seemed right for this reflective novel.
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. In a word: incredible.
The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam. An epic story of a Chinese man, the headmaster of an English school in Vietnam during the Vietnam war. A fascinating and horrifying snapshot of the life of a civilian in those years of war and turmoil, a man who is himself an immigrant in a country occupied by Americans. A complex love story, a heart-rending family saga … all told in spare, perfect prose.
Web of Angels by Lilian Nattel. Set in Christie Pits area of Toronto—where the author lives—and about a woman who is “multiple” as a result of child abuse. It’s a brave novel about the child porn industry—which is huge—its victims and the DID (dissociative identity disorder) that results. A difficult and important book dealing with a horrific subject, but full of hope and love. Enlightening.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. (No, this is not the Shades of Gray you’re thinking.) An amazing novel for both young and old adults, the shocking story of Lithuanians deported to Siberia under Stalin.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I loved this! It made me want to hike, and I’m hardly even much of a walker.
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. Laugh-out-loud funny and wise. I want every woman I know to read this!
Surprise: the most successful self-published book of all time is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Read more about it on The Quivering Pen.
I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.
Their faithful Friend and Servant,
Don’t you love his opening paragraphs?
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
I also love this manuscript page, Dickens’ scribbled revisions:
I think I should have more Dickens in my life next year. (Resolution #1.)
Happy Holidays, everyone! Click here for my SmileyBox greeting.
Happy holidays everyone! (Click here for my Smilebox greeting.)
For years I dreamt of having a bookstore, and now I do! It was always going to be named “Words &”—and now it is.
My bookstore is also an Amazon store, simply because Amazon makes it possible. (Note that all of the books are available from other vendors, including IndieBound, but Amazon is the only site that offers this feature at this time.)
And, because my books are available in the US, Canada and the UK and beyond, I couldn’t stop with just one bookstore: I had to create three:
US store above: click here. This is the Mother Ship.
UK (Sandra Gulland INK titles): click here.
Canada (my own titles there): click here.
And, because my research titles are rather a different sort of store: I’m contemplating a fourth.
Let me know what you think. So far, it’s a work-in-progress. Many, many more titles will be added.
It has been great fun setting it up. If you’re inclined to create a bookstore of your own, click here, and Amazon’s Affiliate programme will take you through the steps. Look for the aStore tab. Not hard! If you do create a bookstore, be sure to let me know.
I’ve been having fun with the categories: Fantastic fiction, Historical fiction that awes me; Wonderful books on writing … It’s a pleasure putting all the books I treasure in one place.
AND … if you buy a book at Words & (how thrilling), let me know that, as well. I’m interested to see how the process works. I understand that there is very little money to be made on books sold through such bookstores, but I like making it possible for readers to easily check out the books I mention on my blogs.
I finally had a Skype meet with a book club at the Carteret Public Library, in Carteret, NJ. This meet had been scheduled long ago by Supervising Librarian Samuel Latini, but Hurricane Sandy conspired to make it difficult. Now, the library is once again up-and-running (yay!), and we were able to have a chat.
This time, however, illness had swept through and only three of the members were able to make it: Joyce, Gail and Stephanie. They had read MISTRESS OF THE SUN, and they had lots of interesting questions. It made for an intimate and lively discussion!
There were, of course, the usual technical problems: my image froze (fortunately not with my mouth hanging open), but I could see them, which was nice, and we could hear each other fairly well.
We kept it to 1/2 hour: and I think that’s a good rule-of-thumb. That gives them time to discuss the meet among themselves after.
All in all: it was just great. I’m always aglow after these Skype sessions. I’ve talked to clubs and high school classes in the US and Canada, and even one in Germany. If you’re in a book club and would like to schedule a chat, email me at sgulland AT sandragulland DOT com or through my website here: http://www.sandragulland.com/contacts/.
OMG, I nearly forgot to mention: I sent off the “final” draft of IN THE SERVICE OF THE SHADOW QUEEN this morning!
This is lovely:
I’ve been ill, slugging away at the “final” draft of The Next Novel in bed.
Yes: slugging. I find this final stage of taking a comma out and putting it back in (and more, I admit) somewhat tedious. I’m simply transferring my scribbled edits to a computer file, and I never (ever!) do this without thinking: could I contract this out?
The answer is: no. There are always mysteries that only I can solve. And, in truth, it is a pleasure to be so far along in the writing process to be obsessing about commas.
And just so you know: I’m fully recovered. Every time I’m in the final stages of a novel I become convinced that I will die before it’s finished. Now, when that end-of-life conviction comes over me (and I wasn’t all that sick!), I think: Ah, almost there.
How do you respond in the final stages?
[Illustration: "Cork," from the wonderful blog BibliOdyssey. Chosen for its many layers, so much like the process of building a novel.]
For those of you not on my newsletter emailing: here it is: http://bit.ly/11keASw
The response has been amazing: I answered over 70 congratulatory emails yesterday. There are more today (plus Tweets, plus Facebook comments).
But before I return to my inbox, I want to post the first email I opened this morning:
A friend, knowing my love for your books and consequently, Josephine, sent me this [newsletter news] via Facebook.
Almost a decade ago, I read your trilogy which excited a passion for Josephine and anything related. Read every book I could find on Napoleon, his family, the French Revolution, etc. a year later the Josephine exhibit came to my state, Louisiana. I drove to Baton Rouge from my city, Shreveport, several times and met mutually interested friends to be so close to this history.
Two years ago, my husband sent me and a friend on a long-standing dream to celebrate my 40th birthday in Paris. On my birthday, we visited Malmaison. Our private tour guide, Isabella, was precious and as she would begin to elaborate on any history, I would finish her sentences. She finally stated I could be the tour guide!
Interestingly, I just received a gift from a friend, a book about Josephine. And then this news arrived today of your mini-series! Yay! Look forward to following this journey with you!
I love it when readers are sparked to go deeper into the research, and I especially love it when they make the journey to lovely Malmaison!
Now: back to the inbox, and—hopefully—at some point today, back to the final revision of In the Service of the Shadow Queen. Good news can be so diverting!