Skyping, the hard but ultimately successful way

I just had a wonderful Skype chat with The Book Club of Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Earlier this evening, I’d tried to call our daughter (in Toronto) and my father (in California), bout both calls — on our Internet Vonage line — had been garbled.

I feared that that would be the case for the book club Skype chat, and lo, it was: they could see me, and I could sort of see them, but our voice communication was impossible.

Fall back plan: I called them, and we carried on that way, managing in spite of a still-somewhat-garbled telephone line, together with fuzzy Skype visuals.

In spite of all that, it was a wonderful chat! I love talking to book clubs! 

What I learned: always have a telephone fall-back plan.

Have any of your had success with Skype chats? And when Skype is not connecting, how do you manage? 

Hortense as a teen — the subject of my next-next novel (surprise!)

Hortense as a teen — the subject of my next-next novel (surprise!)

(Hortense as a teen, at right, with one of her best friends.)

I have news today. (It’s already being tweeted on the Twitterverse!) I’m going to be writing two Young Adult novels for Penguin Canada. The first — and possibly both — will be about Josephine’s daughter Hortense, taking me back to the Napoleonic era. The books will be published in Canada as  part of Penguin’s Razorbill line and in the U.S. as part of Viking Young Readers.

I got the offer some time ago quite out-of-the-blue. It arrived on my agent’s desk in a ribboned box containing chocolates and the proposal.

I needed time to think about it. I’d been long planning to write another (adult) novel about the women in Molière’s life — this I will still do.

But YA? I was interested. For over a decade I was co-editor of a YA series for reluctant readers. Too, many teens are fans of my adult novels. The idea of writing YA intrigued (and challenged) me.

I spent quite a bit of time reading YA and re-researching Hortense’s life, imagining what her story might be. I wasn’t sure I wanted to return to the 18th century — but then I got hooked. Hortense is a very appealing character, and her teen years are dramatic, but also very sad. It’s a truly sweet love story, as well of the story of a girl having difficulty coming to terms with a step-father (Napoleon).

It’s going to be a very interesting few years! Somehow, I feel that I can do all of this all at once: finish This Bright Darkness, begin another adult novel set in the 17th century, write two YAs and a short novel for GoodReads, as well as launching my own e-book imprint.

A sense of reality, apparently, hasn’t clicked in with my advancing years.

I just got off the phone to a book club in Geneva — wonderful! The Skype connection was excellent. They were deep into the Trilogy and had lots of very interesting questions, a pleasure to chat with. (I told them secrets.) Thank you, Karen Smith, for organizing it.

If any of you reading this would like me to chat with your book club … just send me a note (sgulland AT sandragulland DOT com).

It’s so much fun!

A long day on tour

Saturday was a long and challenging day, but the excellent co-ordination of my escorts—Larry and Ken—made it effortless.

It began in La Jolla, checking out of my hotel in gown.

Then, to the La Jolla Arts Festival, where Warwick’s bookstore had a booth set up. They’d never tried this, and I was their first test case. As always, it only takes one ardent fan to make an event worthwhile for me. (Too, meeting a man who lovingly restores and then sells antique cars, and uses the money to take a family off the street —to save them—three families so far. So moving.)

I changed out of my gown in a Whole Foods washroom, and then my escort Larry and I headed north. After about an hour, at a Barnes and Noble between La Jolla and Thousand Oaks, I was “handed over” to escort Ken. Then began the long drive to Thousand Oaks, for an event at an extraordinary Borders, a bookstore and coffee shop/restaurant in a former bowling alley.

There—hugables!—sister Robin, Betsy and Betsy’s mom Alma.

And “Ladies of The Book Club” (Pam Clark, Shari Mark, and Brenda Alibrandi sitting, Barbara Schwartz and Dawn Drost standing):

It was a wonderful event, in large measure due to the vibrancy and energy of the wonderful staff and great food:

And then the drive to glamorous Beverley Wilshire hotel in the heart of LA, where they did not have a room, so I had to “make do” with a large and sunny suite. I’m in LA for three nights: time enough to have The Gown sent to the laundry and to recharge all the batteries, including my own.

The Bookworm in Edwards, CO


It was a two-and-a-half hour drive from Denver to Edwards, but well worth it. The Bookworm is one of the best bookstores I’ve seen, and they really know how to put on an event: great advertising, good wine, exceptionally tasty appetizers.

Okay, this may sound silly, but I discovered the first sign of their savvy advertising in the washroom:

What a perfect place for an ad! It’s a universal truth known to all bookstore owners that book browsing and the need to use a washroom are mysteriously yet biologically linked. (Seinfeld confirmed this in a skit.)

It was a great audience. Many of them had already read—and loved!—Mistress of the Sun.

There were 51 in attendance, a number of them from book clubs. Here is another mother/daughter portrait: Therese and her lovely daughter, Rachel.

Another mother told me that she was looking forward to going to Paris with her daughter. They had read the Trilogy and would be tracing Josephine‘s route. What did I suggest? I recommended that she read Walks through Napoleon & Josephine’s Paris by Diana Reid Haig. This is a gorgeous book, recently given to me by a very special person, Janet Park Datema (more on Janet later), in St. Louis. Another good guide I recommend to Trilogy tourists (of whom there are a number!) is You Go Girl Paris. The authors list many Josephine B. sites to see.

All-in-all, a fabulous evening! Thank you, Bookworms all.

I love book clubs

This book club in St. Louis has read both Josephine B. and Mistress of the Sun. They make a point to have food for a meeting that’s related to the book being discussed. They had brunched on crepes discussing Mistress of the Sun, and then came to see me at Barnes & Noble in Ladue, MO. One of the members had been to my reading years before—I’d been wearing my Napoleonic gown for that one. What will be next?