Return to Thanksgiving

So, RETURN TO CHRISTMAS has been out a little than a week and I’m getting nervous (of course) but it seems to be doing well enough. There are all these rules and algorithms for indie publishing and I can only manage the bare minimum, but I’ll keep at it, and I’m hoping word of mouth will help. You all have mouths out there – go spread the word. I really love that book!

But it’s Thanksgiving, so I thought I’d list a bunch of things I’m thankful for. There are the usual suspects – my amazing husband, my two children, my grandchildren. I’m grateful for my friends, I’m grateful for my two surrogate sisters, Jenny and Sally, for the cats, Lille and Donnerpaus, for living in Vermont with our excellent services and representatives. I’m grateful there’s only a year of Trump left (please god), that Tom Hiddleston is doing a Loki series (hell, I’m just grateful there’s a Tom Hiddleston) and my sewing machines and my chair and did I mention my husband?

But most of all, I’m grateful for my gift. it’s my vocation, it’s my curse, it’s my joy. I started writing romantic novels in 5th grade (I’m serious – Troy Donahue and a round bed). Stories are everything to me, particularly stores where two people become partners, lovers and friends, and I can write stories that fill my heart. They’re not for everyone, but for me I can make them exactly what I want, and any time I feel put-upon or sorry for myself I think of that gift and said “Life’s not so bad after all.” (And trust me, there have been so pretty horrid times).

It really does make sense to count your blessings. My mother always felt that life had done her wrong, but in truth she was smart, a brilliant writer, she had wonderful children, a troubled husband who loved her. She had good jobs where she was appreciated, she had a rich life after retirement, and she had tons of younger friends who thought of her as a role model. And yet she felt bitter and resentful and it was everyone else’s fault (including the universe). If she’d ever stopped to think about the good things she could have been so much happier.

But yes, I’m even grateful for my emotionally-abusive, crazy-ass parents. They did the best they could. Never should have had children, but then, there would never have been a glorious me, and the world would be a poorer place (I’m not entirely facetious).

So I guess, most of all, I’m grateful for me, and I think that’s the sign of a well-lived life. I hope that all of you feel the same.

Er, grateful for yourself, not for me. But hey, if being grateful I’m me floats your boat then go for it. I’ll take all the help I can get.

IT’S OUT!

So RETURN TO CHRISTMAS debuted on Friday amid record-breaking temperatures (cold, of course) and more snow. When you write a book there are worlds you want to be in, world that feel absolutely real to you. Actually, the same is true for the books you read, isn’t it? Well, that’s how Return to Christmas feels for me. I’ve always loved Macy’s – when I worked in New York city and went home on the weekends I’d walk down from the Time-Life Building (just across from Radio City) and always, always head into Macy’s before I went two blocks down to Penn Station. They sold fabric on the 8th floor, and you couldn’t charge food (I guess they felt there was no way to collect) and the entire place was a wonder.

There was a great book called THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER about two children who get locked in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which always sounded like pure heaven to me. Only Macy’s is better. I know just what I’d do: sleep in all the beds on the furniture floor, try on the most absurd pieces of clothing, drape myself in jewelry. Macy’s has everything, except, I’m quite sure, fabric, since you can’t buy fabric anywhere but Joanns nowadays. Back then I made my own clothes, including some very strange concoctions like a red satin flamenco dress and an Yves St. Laurent tailored suit. I worked for the Rockefeller Foundation, and they were very tolerant. One day I showed up in hot pants and my mother’s graduation robe and walked the halls like Groucho Marx, and of course I wrote a vampire novel about the denizens of the 41st floor (the title, CORN IS THE GLUE, came from a report I filed that said “Corn is the glue that holds together the lives of the people.” I was so horrified by the clumsiness of that line I had to immortalize it. The business office printed off a bunch of copies for everyone to enjoy.)

No wonder I’ve hard a hard time with regular jobs since then – most of my employers never had a sense of humor.

I lived in NYC to go to rock concerts – I was a rock ‘n roll nun. I saw Iggy Stooge/Iggy Pop in a tiny nightclub singing “I want to be your dog,” the Who when the Fillmore caught fire and Pete Townsend kicked one of NYC’s finest in the balls on stage before being evacuated. I saw Janis Joplin and Tina Turner sing together at Madison Square Garden (before the Stones came on), saw Ray Davies of the Kinks fall on his amplifiers after drinking too much, Eric Clapton in his “Layla” tour. Man, I saw everyone, and for the longest time rock and Macy’s was enough to make me happy, but eventually I had an epiphany, moved to Vermont to a town of 700 hundred where I didn’t know how to drive, and wrote my first book, which sold.

And after all those years I have so many more books to write that I don’t think I’ll ever quit. In fact I can’t imagine not writing – it’s who I am. So there’s tons more to come, but for now, you’ve got RETURN TO CHRISTMAS, my Christmas present to you.

THE COVER

5 days till RETURN TO CHRISTMAS debuts. (I’m counting today and Friday, the day it drops.) I’ve got a cover I adore, things are lining up, but the most important thing is that I wrote a book I love, even if it wasn’t the “smart” thing to do.

Did I ever tell you how much I love “Tin Cup” – the golf movie with Kevin Costner? (No, I don’t play golf). For me it’s a perfect metaphor for my take on creativity, and probably the reason I don’t quite play in the majors. I never, ever make the smart choice. When it comes to writing I go with my gut, every time. I never had a career plan, I’m wary of the very idea, at least as far as I’m concerned. With the books I write, I always lead with my heart.

So here’s the cover. In fact, I’ll show you the three stages. This is the first one – nice mood, but Santa needs to take a hike, and the hero was intrusive.

So I said nix the hero, nix Santa, taller buildings, nix the hat (all those were my original ideas – my cover person is so good). So we next had Mollie alone, looking up at the huge building. I loved this one, but Macy’s isn’t isolated (and for copyright issues we couldn’t use artwork with the real Macy’s).

Nice mood in that, and I loved the trees. But this was the final try, and the winner.

So did I make the right choice?

RETURN TO CHRISTMAS

It’s coming! Winter, Christmas, and my first new book in more than a year, RETURN TO CHRISTMAS. I couldn’t come up with a title for the longest time – I was calling it 34th Street Time Warp, and More than a Miracle, and Macy’s Time Travel. With those clues you can probably guess what it’s about – my intrepid but troubled modern New York woman walks through Macy’s giant revolving doors and finds herself back in 1947, and she can’t get back out again. There’s a grumpy artist with PTSD who’s determined to look out for her, and just as determined not to fall in love with her. And Mollie, my heroine, doesn’t know what she wants (though she suspects it’s the artist).

I’ve had this idea for a dozen years, hoping to write it as a novella, and then when the market changed I thought I’d whip it up for Christmas 2017. Turned out it wanted to be an entire book, not just a novella, so I had the full mss. done by late fall 2018. Got mixed readings – adoration and “oh, no” (the latter from someone important, which was disheartening) so I put it to one side, worked on new stuff, and then decided I loved the book so much I’d put it out on my own. I trimmed the “Oh, no,” stuff, and I gotta say I adore it.

So it’s coming out on November 15th, eight days away, and I’m happy. Just waiting for the cover. and all shall be revealed.

Even better, Belle Books had just reprinted my RITA-winning earlier Christmas book, FALLEN ANGEL (there should be teaser chapter of RETURN TO CHRISTMAS in it, as well as vice versa). https://amzn.to/2Csc9Y5 So you can absolutely wallow in an Anne Stuart Christmas!

I’ll post the cover for RETURN TO CHRISTMAS as soon as I get it, but in the meantime, FALLING ANGEL is a treat and a half (and there’s always BEWITCHING HOUR for more Christmas delights. I’m an absolute sucker for Christmas, and dark heroes deserve Christmas just as much as Beta heroes do.

The Great Revision Game

So I wrote a really fabulous book. A book I adore, a book I thought my darling agent would fall on her knees in gratitude for. I pictured all sorts of glory – way up on the NYT list, a movie contract, praise and adoration all around, because I freaking loved this book.

Uh, no. My wise and supportive agent missed the glory of this masterpiece completely, so did two of her colleagues, and I slipped it back into the desktop (or into Dropbox) and, a la Scarlett, decided to “Think about that tomorrow.”

It’s tomorrow. Now some people (editors) seem to think I don’t work well with others, but they’re dead wrong. I’m always interested in thoughtful criticisms and suggestions because I have the blessed ability to choose what edit/suggestion is good for me and what doesn’t work, given the book in question. For instance, one publisher said I refused to write heroes who weren’t as dark as my usual. Not true — no one ever asked me to. What I can’t do is soften an already written character without rewriting the entire book. My heroes are strong, and people have strong reactions to them. Softening the hero would change the entire story and create a different book. It’s less trouble to start afresh, and my imagination is the gift that keeps on giving.

But I digress. It’s time to take apart 34th Street Timewarp (its terrible WIP title) and wrestle it into shape. And here’s how I plan to do it.

First, I’m going down to visit Crusie and Tom Hiddleston (Betrayal), so I figure when I’m out of the city Crusie and I will sit and talk and drink tea and coke and coffee. Crusie’s brilliant – and wonderfully analytical. She’s saved more than one of my books. and she loves the current, flawed mess that I love so much. I’ve got her, and notes from Beta Readers. That was the first step – send the mss. to beta readers to get their feedback. They found masses of flaws, most of which I agreed with, and they universally loved it.

So to get prepared, I’m going to break it down by scenes (Crusie does this all the time with flow charts and stuff, but it’s the rare book that demanded that from me). One choice is to use Scrivener – it’s got virtual index cards and I do love computer programs. The other is to take some of my stacks of color index cards, real ones, and do it by hand, which tempts me. Anything that breaks me out of usual thinking is helpful in doing revisions – otherwise I just tend to fawn over my good stuff and miss the bad. So different colors for different POV’s, I think, and then I can move things around like word blocks in an old tv game show. Make a list of darlings I won’t kill, but make sure they earn their place. Maybe print up the mss. in a different font so I have something physical to work on. Bring lots of binder clips and paper clips, lots of pencils and a pad of Clairefontaine for notes. Crusie and I will unite to do battle (and maybe do a round or two with her fabulous NITA who has not yet chosen her proper form) and we’ll cuddle the dogs and watch movies and have a glorious time. I’m so damned lucky to have her.

Gird your loins, children, I’m going in, and I will emerge victorious on the other side. We’ll see what happens with this baby, whether I submit it on my own to a few places. It’s possible that this brilliant, wonderful book doesn’t have a place in this current world. These things happen. In which case I’ll self-pub and those who want it and will love it will find it (I’ll drop some breadcrumbs in the wilderness to lead them home).

Aah, work. I’m excited. The only drawback is The Absolutely, Positively Worst Man in England wants me to continue his story too, but I gotta throw everything into 34th first. So many books to write, so many wonderful stories that I want to wrap around me like a worn flannel quilt with a rhinestone trim. That’s me in a nutshell.

Are you with me?