Life on the road — my mini tour full of surprises

Life on the road — my mini tour full of surprises

I’ve been on the road, first launching and promoting The Game of Hope in Toronto, then a long drive home to unpack, regroup, and repack before heading to Montreal for the wonderful first (of many, we hope) Montreal YA fest.

It has been fantastic. At the Penguin launch in Toronto, an older woman leaned in to whisper confidentially, “You’re my favorite writer.” Such confessions are sweet. At an interview following (I don’t yet feel I should mention names), the interviewer told me that she loved The Game of Hope and went on to read every one of my other novels. That made me speechless.

That isn’t to say that everyone loves The Game of Hope — there have been some readers who do not — but overall, I’ve been very, very pleased.

The Game of Hope cards

At the Penguin launch, I had each person who lined up to have their free book signed draw a card from a deck of fortune-telling cards of “The Game of Hope” (to keep as a bookmark), and read its meaning in a tiny guide. The expressions of recognition were wonderful to see: one young woman would be getting married, another would get a promotion. Both were quite pleased. Readers love it! Of course I did not include cards that might have a negative connotation in the deck.

It was a special treat to have my step-granddaughter, 11-year-old Ellie and her mother Cara present. Ellie is reading The Game of Hope and offered shyly to a group, “And it’s really good!”

The Montreal YA Fest: such a blast!

My experience at the Montreal YA Fest was amazing, but in an entirely different way. I only sold one book (!), but I met over twenty wonderful YA authors. I’m accustomed to writers of adult fiction; let me tell you, writers of YA fiction are a different breed altogether. They are loud and rambunctious, delightful! I couldn’t buy their books at the festival unfortunately — recent back problems have forced me to be very careful about luggage weight — but as soon as I got home I put in the orders, and they are starting to arrive in waves.

Two wonderful YA novels

Already I’ve read one absolutely wonderful YA novel: 32 Questions that Changed My Mind About You by Vicki Grant. Don’t you just love a novel that compels you to stay up way too late? That makes you teary and full-hearted? This was such a one. Witty and real, I adored it.

Now I’m reading E. K. Johnstons’s novel That Inevitable Victorian Thing, a futuristic novel set in the past. (Figure that one out.) I.e. Victorian corsets with technological sensors that ease up as needed. It’s delightful, and when I’m not reading it, I’m thinking about it and can’t wait to get back to it.

The wild and wonderful YA world

In general, this immersion into the wider world of YA has been like an explosion of creative imagination for me; in a YA novel, anything is possible.

The YA Fest was extremely well-organized, with many panels for participants to choose from, great food to eat, a fun photo booth (which I’m sorry I missed out on), as well as a button-making table. Here are mine:

How cool is that? I especially love the dismayed look on the face of Little Bo Peep. Moi.

The photo at the top is from A Novel Spot bookstore in Entobicoke, Ontario. Don’t you just love it? Indie bookstores are so great. The mystery woman is Katie Middleton, the bookstore’s owner. Her hair matches perfectly!

Highlights of my Shadow Queen book tour & blog hop … so far

actual NYTBR!

{Ad for The Shadow Queen in the New York Times Review of Books!}

Publication swirl: ups, downs, ups! A book tour entails a heady combination of fatigue and exhilaration. The challenge is not to come down with a cold. (Grrrrr.) Plus snow (!) today in Toronto, which I hope doesn’t affect the turnout at the reading tonight at A Novel Spot in Etobicoke.

My task today is to prepare for the talk/reading—my first full-on one. I never take this type of thing lightly. I think I have it basically plotted out, but I’ve not timed or honed it. That’s going to take time.

Plus, I need to get my talk printed out. This is surprisingly difficult on the road. I’m tempted to get a travel printer—but this would add to my already overly-bloated luggage.

Some guest blog posts I’ve written on my Blog Hop Tour:

Getting around to it—on why I became a writer, for Meg Waite Clayton’s blog.

Interview with Margaret Donsbach on (Margaret asks great questions.)

The Page 69 Test: I love page 69 of The Shadow Queen. I plan to use this scene in my talk tonight.

What I’m reading now: Are you a Penelope Fitzgerald fan? I am!

I was pleased with this review from The Free-Lance Star: Real life characters inhabit intriguing story, which concludes: “A remarkably different and very interesting historical read.”

There have been some excellent reviews on that please me very much.

Highlights from the tour so far: 

• The woman in North Vancouver who named her daughter Josephine after reading the Trilogy. She had a beautiful book her daughter had made a drawing in, and she asked me to sign the page opposite. I wish I had taken a photo.

2014-03-13 14.31.44

• Moderator Jen Sookfong Lee at the “Enlivening the Past” panel in North Vancouver asking me if I’d brought my clown nose. (No, of course not—but it does  make me wonder if I could pull off a reading wearing it. Doubtful!)

• Dinner in North Vancouver with writers Mary Novik and Roberta Rich. Shop-talk pals!

• The best highlight from tour so far: seeing my daughter and her wonderful family in Toronto. The wee-ones are growing!

Virtually: face-to-face with book clubs

Okay, the New Age has begun. Sort of. Sitting here in San Miguel de Allende, at my office desk, I chatted face-to-face with the members of the East Grand Rapids book club in Michigan. They had their glasses of wine and I had my glass of water. (Next time I set up a video visit with a club, I’ll ask: “And what will we be drinking?”)

We chatted back and forth for about 45 minutes: they could see me, and I could see them (or at least those who were in the line-of-sight of their computer camera-eye). Amazing … but it was not without a few glitches.

Here’s how it went:

First, we both had membership in (free), broadband computer access, and computers with a video capacity. This can be built-in, or you can buy a USB camera for very little.

We set up a time. This can be tricky because of time zones.

I fussed a bit before they called. My computer was on, Skype was open, I was “available”. All set. But I didn’t know how I would look to them, so I opened iChat and clicked the video camera icon. And there I was: in need of make-up, a better top, perhaps a scarf—and definitely better lighting.

It was rather like setting up a camera shoot. I tidied my office, propped the computer up on a book for better camera shot, closed my curtains, turned on a lamp. Reminded myself not to stare at the screen with my mouth hanging open. And to sit up straight (yes, mother).


And then the call, so like a phone ringing. I clicked answer, and we were connected. “Hello?” Only I could see myself, but not them. Humm. We decided to try again.

Hang up, quit Skype, reopen Skype, click the telephone icon. Aha: now I could see them, and they could see me—but their image was “frozen,” not moving. So, once again…

Hang up, quit Skype, reopen Skype, click the telephone icon. Ah! We could all see each other, and we were moving … and talking!

It was great—we had a real visit! It was very much like sitting and chatting with a book club, but different—both more remote (we were not face-to-face), but also more intimate, in a way. Because I was in my office, for example, I could show them the stack of papers I was working on: the outline of The Next Novel.

The technology was a bit balky—the video quality reminded me of shots of men walking on the moon. There was a bit of a lag, sometimes, both in sound and visually, and a few times there was a bit of a freeze. (This may differ depending on net speed and time of day.)

But all in all: fantastic! So thank you, East Grand Rapids Book Club, for helping me to figure this out. Brave New Worlds … here I come!

P.S. I love the way, when I open Skype, it says: Take a deep breath. I do, every time.

On the way home


I’m writing this in the San Francisco airport. I’m on the way home. The tour is over; it has been wonderful. The last event in Oakland at A Great Good Place for Books couldn’t have been more heartwarming. My dad was there (and happy to show everyone how funny and grand he looks in my wig), members of Books et Al, a book club that had critiqued Mistress of the Sun in manuscript, a number of family (aunt Dildar, brother Perry and sister-in-law Jenny), friends (Nina, Mary), writer friend Victoria Zackheim (plus her beautiful daughter and two gorgeous grand-daughters!), enthusiastic bookstore clerks, and, always so wonderful to meet: fans. I was smiling from head to toe.

I’ve notes on my other events, plus pictures and even a video. As soon as I’m back home and settled, I’ll post them. Some treasures!

Plane is boarding … I’m off.

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?