By now, most of you must know I have a new book out, The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O’Neal. It’s one of my favorite books so far, a tale of four food bloggers who gather at a lavender farm in Yamhill Co, Oregon, which has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. (It is no secret that I adore lavender and it was a delight to do the research, let me tell you.)
One of the things I did to support the release of the book was travel to New York for a class discussion at Fordham with my editor, and while I was there, I went to Brooklyn for a signing. (Waving to Cassandra Mariano, from Staten Island, who came in with her mother. So much fun to meet Facebook friends in new cities!) My friend Therese Walsh, author of The Moon Sisters, had rented an apartment close to the bookstore where we were signing together.
It was a sweet little place, big by NYC standards, a fifth floor walk-up with essentially one big room and a well-appointed little kitchen with a big window and plenty of space. The bathroom was a triangle barely large enough to stand in front of the sink, but who cares with a kitchen like that? A pile of New Yorker magazines were stacked by the couch, and spying them, I felt time shift abruptly and intensely. No longer was I standing there, too hot in my scarf and waiting for everyone to go downstairs. Instead I was instantly transported into my twenty-year-old self, who was a very hungry and ambitious writer who dreamed of having exactly that life–the one I would live in this apartment. I would have some not-very-thrilling job in the city and take the train back home, dragging my stuff up all those narrow flights of stairs to the apartment at the back, with three windows and turquoise appointments on the walls, and books everywhere and a curtain dividing my day life from my night. For an iridescent moment, I floated there with Twenty, being both my selves, each image overlaying the other. Now and then.
As we headed down the stairs, I smiled to myself, because in a way it has all come true, my writing life, born when I lived in a second floor apartment in an old house on a busy street in a city where cars drove by all night long and I had stacks of New Yorkers and piles of books everywhere, and a big kitchen where I never cooked anything because I was working and studying and partying all the time. I read from The All You Can Dream Buffet and went to dinner with Therese and a couple other literary friends (all of us from Writer Unboxed) and we talked about what we’d done to make our dreams come true, to capture for ourselves a literary life. I drank wine in Brooklyn and thought of that girl, who was waiting for it all to happen. When I got back to Chelsea (taking not the train but a cab even if was expensive because I’d been on the go all day to meetings and lunch and then a long, long evening and maybe the train at 11 pm was more than I really wanted to deal with–plus one of the gifts of being Not Twenty is the liquidity to take a cab when one wishes), I walked out into the night to take one last look at the silvery finger of the Empire State Building sticking up into the dark sky. I walked to the store in the mild night and bought water and milk for my coffee. Twenty was pleased, and so was I, walking back on the quiet street, with the smell of garbage somewhere in a can not quite closed, and voices in an apartment, and a glimpse of a classroom in the school.
Have you ever encountered a younger self in the street somewhere?
A writing blog today…..
I’m in the midst of an enormously fertile period. I’m writing in several genres, including a non-fiction project. This morning I awakened to write the next scene in a book that will eventually become a Barbara O’Neal book. There is soup and a lost child and dogs, but the underpinnings of this work have been very dark and hard to digest. It suddenly seems ready, however, so that was where I poured my energies this morning.
I’m also working on a non-fiction book for a British publisher (to be distributed through MacMillan in the US) on writing romantic fiction. The offer came out of the blue, but as I’d been in teaching mode through the spring, it was exactly the right project for me to write on the side, coalescing some of my ideas into a form that can be digested more easily than my exuberant but scattered blogs here.
There is also the matter of Lark, who keeps coming up with new ideas and concepts for her ongoing work in two arenas, The Otherlands and Going the Distance. Look for more on both of those series in the near future (the 1st installment of The Otherlands will be published sometime in January, an exact date to be determined when I clear the decks and finally finish the line edits.)
All this work! You would think I’d be going crazy, feeling overworked and overwhelmed, but quite the opposite is true. I have not been so in love with work in many years, and as I was sitting in my chair yesterday, watching it snow and doing some research reading into foster children, I did pause for a moment to realize I feel like I moved to a new land. I’d been chiseling work out of the hard granite, chipping away a nugget at a time, and it took a lot of hard work and time to do it.
Suddenly, and I do mean suddenly—at the very end of May—I have moved to a completely different place. This is delta bottom farmland, rich with silt and sunlight and the perfect conditions for growing hearty fields of crops. My mind feels utterly engaged, my heart excited. I get up and go to work every morning at 4:30 without complaint, even with eager intention. My daily production rates have tripled and show signs of quadrupling. I’m back to the younger me who wanted the world to go away and leave her alone so she could write more, more, more.
And I don’t really know why it happened. Was it the switch to getting up early? I think that has helped. I am enormously productive during that 90-120 minute block. It’s as if I’m giving myself an extra work day, every work day. My evenings were never, are never particularly productive. I watch television. I might read, but am often too tired to do any serious reading. I putter around after dinner, and for ages I’ve been ready to go to bed around 8, but would hang on for whatever reason. For about a year, I’ve been practicing the early work, but it really took root when CR decided he wanted to try swimming in the early morning. Now we both want to be asleep early and get up early together, and on days we decide not to get up so early, we get those extra zzz’s. Healthy.
The other thing that I’ve done is give myself permission to totally play in my work, take chances, see what happens. I’ve done some novellas, purely for me, playing with the form, seeing what I like. I’ve made a big return to romance in the new adult and young adult series, but the books are very different from each other. The young adult is soft science fiction, highly romantic and with epic adventure undertones. The new adult is very sexy and lots of fun, but has a serious undertone, too: Jess has to find out who she is—and that means making mistakes, discovering her history and deciding what things matter most to her. It’s also set in part in New Zealand, which you all know I’ve fallen in love with. The Otherlands is deeply rooted in my love for the sff genre and I carried it around with me for ages before I realized that I could just….go ahead and write it. I also have an entire 5 (6?) book series planned as a tie-in/continuation of the St. Ives historicals, all growing out of our travels to England and New Zealand.
And don’t forget the women’s fiction. I love it a lot. My new book, The All You Can Dream Buffet, is one of my favorites so far. I love the characters and the setting of a lavender farm, and these women who have all had life challenges. It was engrossing and required a huge amount of research and recipe testing, and it went back and for the between my editor and I several times, but the end result is one I am very pleased with. I hope you will be, too.
I believe this fertile, wild productivity is the result of me giving myself permission to do that play. I can do it because of indie publishing, and I don’t have to worry that I’ll starve or that I’ll flop at a new publishing house. I can take big chances, play in a lot of different arenas. Because I’m the one taking the risks, and I don’t need to sell 50,000 books to break even. Because I am more in charge of everything, I don’t feel that creeping anxiety that plagues all working writers over how many books are selling here and there and everywhere. I am much freer to write the books arriving today. I am very deeply enjoying the balance between my work for traditional publishing and my own publishing, a luxury that I couldn’t have imagined even five years ago.
This is not everyone’s ideal scene, I get that. I have friends who need and like to focus on one book for a couple of years at a time. I also have others who like writing lots of books, but mostly in the same arena. That’s fine. My brain has always loved variety and mix-ups and new challenges. Sometimes I’ll fall on my face, but that’s fine, too. So far, the fields are growing very well, producing a good many crops. I hope I will be wise enough to recognize when/if winter arrives and asks me to rest.
Do you like to write in many arenas or focus on one? Do you find there are wildly productive periods in your life, and less productive ones?
PS I’m pulling away from blogging so much elsewhere and will be spending more time here. Hope you’ll join in the conversation.
Delighted to tell you that Lark O’Neal’s first book is live. Amazon Barnes and Noble iBooks Kobo Paperback.
Here are some of the things readers are saying about Random:
5 stars Wow that was an awesome story. I was completely sucked in from the first chapter and pushed my bedtime back a couple hours because I was so enthralled in Jess and Tyler’s growing love. This book constantly keeps you guessing and there are quite a few of twist and turns. Sade, Goodreads
5 stars An engaging story that captivates the imagination and resonates with readers of similar experiences. –Alexia Purdy
This was a great book to read because you’re constantly wondering what the heck is going on and what will happen. –Luisa, Goodreads
I genuinely liked this story. It is different and there is a lot of drama but the characters are real and very like able. Jess and Tyler both have major issues and it is interesting to see them try to work them out together. They both have challenges with exes, Jess’s ex is a real nightmare and both have family issues. The chemistry between these two is off the charts from the start and the sex scenes are well written and hot. –Steph, Goodreads
Have you visited LarkOneal.com yet?
I’ve been hearing a lot of funny grumbling about NaNoWriMo. I’m not sure why. There are certainly a lot of bad novels written during this month, but who cares? The pursuit of art is a joyful thing and brings a lot of good into the world. And if you are a writer who loves writing, what could be more fun than spending a whole month reveling in the joy of writing?
I’m playing this year. Not in public, as I did with The OtherLand Chronicles (which will be coming your way in January), but I am writing with the intent of breaking that 50K mark. We shall see if I am able. Today:
If you follow me on Facebook, you already know about this, but here’s a little background.
You may have noticed that I’ve been scarce this summer. So much has been happening behind the scenes! It all started when I went to Breckenridge with Christopher Robin in late May to have a long weekend for my birthday. It snowed. A lot. Which meant we didn’t do any hiking or kayaking as we’d planned, but read and napped and ate and rested. Also good.
On the second morning, the Girls woke me up at 4 am with a book idea. I told them to go away and turned over. They insisted I need to get up and write this down. Like, now. So I got up and made a cup of tea, and by the time CR woke up, I had an entire book outline. Characters, plot, story, romance. All of it.
Every now and then, I get a gift book. I don’t remember one coming to me so fully fleshed. Bemused, I set it aside and hung out with CR for breakfast. By afternoon, the book was bothering me again. I decided to take my notebook to the local Starbucks (which is so adorable and has amazing views). I realized halfway down the hill that I’d forgotten a pen. It’s not that easy to find something like that in Breckenridge and I really didn’t want to walk all the way back to the hotel. I was about to give up when the Girls said, “Oh, no you don’t. Go ask that boarder in the t-shirt shop if he has one you can borrow.” So I did. And he was like, “Sure, dude.” I said, “I’ll bring it back.” He waved me away. “No worries.”
I went to Starbucks. I ordered a coffee. An hour later, I had 67 scenes, in order. Basically, uh, the whole book.
I’m no idiot. A book shows up like that, I’m going to show up, too, and write. So write I did. The entire book over the summer. My fingers couldn’t keep up. I had no interest in doing anything but showing up for the book. It was like living in a movie for the summer. It is the most fun I’ve had writing in about 100 years, and you know me, I love writing!
The thing is, this is not my usual realm. It’s not even Young Adult, which I’ve been writing on the side for awhile. (More on that in a few weeks…yes, the OtherLands are finally going to be published.) This attack book is New Adult, a genre I’ve been reading but really had had no plans to write until this 19-year-old girl showed up. To keep the branding straight for those of you who want my women’s fiction–that’s still Barbara O’Neal. If you like the romances, that’s Barbara Samuel. If you want New Adult and Young Adult, come see me as Lark O’Neal.
Here is her first book. It will be out November 12, with book #2 to follow in the spring, 2014 and #3 in the summer, 2014. You can pre-order now at Amazon and Apple. Subscribe to Lark’s newsletter. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out the website.
Ta-da! Here is the cover and back cover blurb:
Life is random…
19-year-old Jess Donovan knows better than most that life is random. Her mom is dead, and she’s on her own, patching together a living as a waitress when a car crashes through the restaurant where she works. In two seconds, she loses her job, watches her best friend hauled away in an ambulance…and meets Tyler Smith, one of the hottest, most fascinating—and mysterious guys she’s ever met.
Both for the good and the bad…
Within days, Jess is swept up into the mesmerizing force that is Tyler. Their every touch sizzles, every kiss dissolves them both, and the sex is…fierce. But there’s more to Tyler than his hypnotic eyes. He’s adrift, too, and his body—and his soul—are covered with scars. How can she find herself with a guy who is lost himself?
Until you take charge….
Jess is determined to find her way, and make a life that is better than the one she was given. But how?
Pretty excited, I think you can tell.
Also, for those who are pursuing NaNoWriMo this year, come make me your buddy. I’m awriterafoot.
I’ve written a post about the creative personality for Writer Unboxed. This is a companion piece to that, a list of traits from Guiding Creative Talent by Paul Torrence.
Awareness of others
Always baffled by something
Attracted to disorder
Attracted to mysterious
Attempts difficult jobs (sometimes too difficult)
Constructive in criticism
Deep and conscientious conventions
Defies conventions of courtesy
Defies conventions of health
Desires to excel
Dominant (not in power sense)
Doesn’t fear being thought different
Feels whole parade is out of step
Full of curiousity
Appears haughty and self-satisfied at times
Independence in judgment
Independence in thinking
Keeps unusual hours
Lacks business ability
Not hostile or negativistic
Oddities of habit
Becomes preoccupied by a problem
Preference for complex ideas
Receptive to external stimuli
Receptive to ideas of others
Rejection of suppression as a mechanism of impulse control
Rejection of repression
Sense of destiny
Sense of humor
Sensitive to beauty
Not interested in small details
Sprited in disagreement
Strives for distant goals
Unconcerned about power
Somewhat uncultured, primitive
Unwilling to accept anything on mere say-so
Willing to take risks
Somewhat withdrawn and quiescent
What do you think of this list? Valid, or not?
Mysterious teaser: here is a lot happening behind the scenes, which I will announce in the near future.
Also, if you want to be one of the first to see the cover for my upcoming ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET, about four food bloggers at an Oregon lavender farm, sign up for my newsletter, because that’s where I’ll show it first. The book is also available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and others. Check it out! You can read the book description there, too.
I’ll be giving away Advance Reading Copies of The All You Can Eat Buffet via Facebook when I get back. If you want a chance to win, follow me there.
Finally, after a hectic summer during which I wrote an entire attack book (a book that shows up out of nowhere and drops in your lap), I’m off to the UK with Christopher Robin for a couple of weeks. Come back to see pictures and read about our wanderings.
And here is my favorite photo from my garden this week.
I am in bliss. On every black tarred pavement in every shopping center across the southwest, vendors have set up their chile roasters and spend the day roasting long green chiles for stray motorists who buy them by the bushel to take home and freeze for the long cold winter ahead. There is nothing I love to smell more than chiles roasting on a summer day. I am a chile fanatic, and this summer I’ve been experimenting with the most dazzling little chile pepper. I must tell you about him, darling creature. But first–
Everyone has their regional foods, and here in the southwest, we have Mexican food. Everyone has their opinions on Mexican food, right? These days, everybody eats burritos and tacos. They have corn tortillas in the supermarkets in the midwest and Maine.
But in the west, we are aware that “Mexican food” is not just one thing. KEEP READING >>>>>
It has been a traumatic period in the history of my city.
A photo I took the Friday before last at the Arcade.
Last Friday night, I watched the water pour through Manitou Springs, over the sidewalks and bridges, through the streets, through a café I love. The water is black and thick with debris and it’s wrecking things. Things I love. Things that feel like they define me.
Last summer it was Waldo Canyon. I know there was a lot of coverage of the loss of homes, and that was deeply tragic. But my loss was the hiking trail there. I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. There was a meadow by the creek where the trails diverged at the circle point. People camped there, though I never did. I would have been too afraid of bears wandering about to get the raspberries that grew thick along the ravine.
I hiked there, though, more times than I can count. I walked with my friend Renate, a charming German who made me laugh, and Chrysauna, a young teacher with ice blue eyes. Once, my friend Heather and I had to take the last of the hike at a .10 of a mile an hour pace to let an old dog rest. His paws had grown raw over the hike and he was too big too carry.
Mostly, I remember early mornings in high summer, with hot blue skies and a group of cheerful companions in good boots parking their cars at the lot and tromping up the stairs to the trail, laughing and joking and feeling good about ourselves because we were going to hike.
I loved that trail. The raspberry bushes, and the place where we stopped behind a bunch of boulders to pee, deep in the shade of Ponderosas. The switchbacks up the long steep stretch about a third of the way through, and the spot were we always, always stopped to admire Pikes Peak in full revealed glory, one of the best views in the county. I loved the high view of the city, hazy in the distance, and the spot where we stopped sometimes to eat a snack, on a long log that had fallen sometime ago. Once, Chrysauna and I got lost and ended up in Crystola, and had to call Christopher Robin to come get us.
There is some part of me that kept thinking, quite irrationally, that if I had a cheerful attitude that somehow the trail would be restored. That somehow, some miracle would happen and—It has come home to me lately that I will never hike there again. It is gone. It only exists now in my imagination. It was burned to nothing in that big fire. We are not allowed to go there, and even if we were, I would not know it.This is not easy for me. I know it is not like losing house. But it’s a pretty gigantic loss to me. It’s personal.
The Friday before last, I was restless from working too many hours and I texted a friend to see if she wanted to go to Adam’s Mountain Café with me. We sat on the patio by the creek and watched the creek rush by in its stony channel and ate grilled watermelon salad and a Small Planet burger and even indulged desert. Afterwards, we ambled through the arcade and I stopped to have my ritual sip of water from the ever-flowing fountain.
I have been wandering over to Manitou since I was a small child. It tugs me to its bosom when I am tired or confused or lost, allows me to dance on its streets when I’m celebrating. It holds my life like a prism, showing now the the wild me, the young me, the weary me, the Colorado native me. Every time I walk through that arcade, I am five again, with my father’s hand in mine, and I am looking down at the creek visible between the boards beneath my feet. I am sure I could fall through. My father assures me I will not.
I never have.
The Friday before last with my friend, I resisted buying salt water taffy from Patty’s, and instead bought a copper bracelet to see if it would heal my wrist. I shot Instagram photos of the old-timey signs. I thought, with gratitude, of how much I love the place. The hot sun burning my head. The arcade, the restaurant, the twisting streets. The hippies, the homeless kids, the tourists, the old timers with their grizzled long hair, the dogs.
Last Friday afternoon, an inch of rain fell on the Waldo Canyon burn scar. In a half hour, the water came roaring down the canyon, washing over a highway, sweeping cars ahead of its raging force. Houses were torn off their foundations, 40 cars were swept away. One man died, a woman is still missing. It’s chaotic.
This has all happened before, the fires and the floods. It will happen again. All of it. I understand—intellectually—that it’s a normal, natural process. Emotionally, I feel grief and exhaustion. Emotionally, I wonder what can really possibly be done to really stop the floods from destroying Manitou. That might seem unnecessarily negative, but those bold facts stand there, staring. The burn scar is naked and enormous. There are three canyons that feed into the town. There is no place for the water to go.
Eventually, maybe levees will be built. Eventually, there will be even more ideas that are better than that. In the meantime, every time there are thunderstorms over the scar, we are collectively looking at Manitou.
When the fires licked so close to the skirts of the town, I chanted under my breath, please not Manitou, please not Manitou, please not Manitou. And it was spared. What does not seem plain is how it will fare under this new threat.
The good news is, we are toward the end of the summer. The monsoons will slow. And we have all learned, in our beautiful city, that life is more precious than we realized. Things can change in an instant, when a spark ignites a forest. When a rainstorm arrives, as always, on a summer afternoon.
That’s the thing. Life is always random. We just pretend that it is not. Fire brings it home. Floods remind us. But it’s always like this. Ultimately, life is dangerous and unpredictable.
It is also so unbearably perfect. I am lucky enough to have the shady, fragrant trails of the Waldo Canyon trail in my mind, living and breathing in my imagination. As long as I live, it will live with me. Manitou, as it is right now and perhaps always will be, also lives.
Once again, I remember: be here now. What we have is today. This moment. In my world it is sunny and summer, cool enough with a breeze coming in through the window that I thought about putting on sleeves. My old cat is sleeping her box. A big fly is in the window. Clothes are washing.
Be here now. What is your here and now?
Over at REINVENTING FABULOUS today….
My brother had a dog named Loki, a black springer spaniel mutt, who loved the water and loved chasing balls. If you combined the two, say a lake and a ball, he would chase that baby for hours. Hours. Until his legs were shaking. Until the sun was setting. Until my brother had to leash him to make him stop.
That’s what exercise should feel like. Believe it or not, there is an exercise out there that will feel that good to you. Our bodies were designed to move and every single one of us has something that will feel like that spaniel and the ball in the lake
As I’ve said before, I was the anti-PE girl. And I’m still so uncoordinated that I wouldn’t dare pick up a tennis racket or try to throw a baseball. But this afternoon, I headed out to the garden. I kept thinking I should go swimming because I’ve been doing it a lot and my massage therapist said that my back looks great, and many of us are headed out to the national RWA conference next week, so I wanted something to keep looking good. Calves and back, that’s what I’ve got. (And forearms, baby. Let me flex my forearms for you sometime. Please?) Everything else is showing its age.
What I did instead of swim was drift out to the garden. READ MORE >>>>>