This is what can be fun about the shift in the way books come to market. A Bed of Spices was my first historical. It’s a dark, wildly romantic Romeo and Juliet tale, and I loved it madly. It was, however, set in an unusual location, and it did not sell all that well. Over time, readers discovered it and bought the used edition to a point that I saw copies for sale for really enormous amounts of money.
Today it’s in the top 20 historical romances at Kindle. What makes that thrilling is that a book I adored and worked so very hard on can now find a new readership in a different market than the one in which it appeared.
It is the nature of the Kindle rankings that things move very fast, so likely it will not stay there long. You never know, though, do you? If you’re so inclined, post a review. Let’s see what happens.
Today, I harvested two handfuls of red potatoes from a black potato sack. I’ve never grown potatoes before, afraid of them for no reason I can really pinpoint, maybe just because they grow deep in the mysterious earth and you have to dig them up. How would I ever know when I should harvest them? What if I spent all that time growing them and they were rotten when I dug them?
But when we visited CR’s mother in the UK, she had potatoes growing in a soft-sided bag. The local garden club was having a contest and she was serenely certain to win over her neighbor Barbara (who tries not so show her aggravation with this serene certitude). Something about that little sack kindled my interest, and Gina gave me brand new bag of my own, along with a little flyer of instructions, to take back with me. It was late to start anything by the time I returned, late June, but I found some seed potatoes and followed instructions. They began to grow.
And grow. Every week, I gave CR the news to give to Gina: the plants were sturdy and strong, vigorous as we all know potatoes can be. I started too late to get much of anything, but a million strawberries and raspberries, but today it was time to harvest the potatoes. I marched to the back of the yard where the sturdy vine was growing, and stuck my hands in the dirt. Nothing. And then only a potato the size of a quarter.
Disappointment tugged my chest. I picked up the bag and upended it. And there, in the bottom of the bag were the potatoes. Tiny ones and medium size, and the size I would choose at the store. It made me laugh to see them all, so plain and vigorous and unmarred, their thin skins a color of pinkish red that I might have thought was dye if I spied it in the grocery store.
Fresh, local, organic. As fresh as you can get, from the ground to my table in less that twelve hours. We ate them with butter and salt, and they were as sweet and tender and perfect as any potato I’ve ever eaten. Next year, I’ll be planting more. Gina says they really should go in at Easter.
Do you like to garden? What are your favorite food crops?
In HOW TO BAKE A PERFECT LIFE, there is a young girl who falls madly in love with dahlias. Somehow, I am in love with dahlias, too, and this one is growing in my front yard. It makes me want to go exploring.
When I was a child, I loved going to summer camp. Girl Scout camp in canvas tents with wooden floors, or much more often church camp (probably because it was very inexpensive and my parents had four kids) in cabins housing 20 girls. It was the highlight of the summer—getting ready, gathering shampoo and following the list of “recommended” items to bring. I always brought dark green Herbal Essence shampoo, a heady smelling liquid that’s nothing like the watered down version they sell now
We were only there for a week, Sunday to Saturday, but it seemed that entire lifetimes took place during those days. Romances and friendships built and lost, discoveries about self and place uncovered, dreams forged and reinforced. On the last day, we all had our group photo signed, and hugged each other as if all was lost, and cried our eyes out. In the backseat on the way home, I was silent and distant, lost in memories, crushed that it was over for another year.
Back home, it was a slam back into everything ordinary. The ordinary green telephone on the wall. The ordinary food. No singing. No long deep discussions about…well, anything. For days, I would be lost in mourning, sure I would never, ever have a good time again.
As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate coming home to ordinariness, but I still love getting ready for a trip, making a list, checking things off, packing special totems, creating rituals. I learned during those weeks at camp that every journey was a lifetime and I was changed by each one. Sitting in the meadow at La Foret Camp (which is, ironically, only about a ten minute drive from my current home—it wasn’t even very far away in those days), I dreamed a life for myself. I learned to connect to other travelers—my fellow campers—and I learned to think outside of the box, challenged by counselors to make us do just that. (I also learned just about every folk and bible and church song known to modern woman—and you would think that my fellow pilgrims would have appreciated that on the Camino. Somehow, they liked listening to Bethany, the trained professional opera singer better.)
Before I left for Europe in June, my creative well was very low indeed. I wouldn’t say dry, but a voice shouting down into it would echo for a long time before hitting water. It’s a normal part of the process, and probably because of the loss of my Sasha and the long months nursing her, I was a little more weary than usual. I also had that nagging knee injury, which is not terrible, but is sort of…annoying, you know?
Whatever the reason, I was empty and sick of working by June. The great luxury of a writing life is the time
to go wandering. I went to camp, first with CR to England and then with a group of women on the Camino, and I still wasn’t finished, because then we went to Orlando, where I spent the first half with my dearest writing buddies, and the second half with CR, playing at Disneyland.
Not only did I wander and chat and think about life in small and large ways, I read like a junkie, popping one book after another in a wild lust for story. Australian writers, English writers, a bunch of Americans. Fiction and non-fiction. Adult and young adult. Spanish and English. Reading, reading, reading, reading.
What I did not do is write. I kept a journal, as always, and I wrote the odd blog post or Facebook missive, but other than that, nothing. I didn’t think much about writing, either, and when ideas started pushing into my imagination, auditioning for the next spot, I shoved them away. Once in awhile, I took a note or two on my phone. Once in awhile, I woke up and thought, “Hmm, that has some merit.”
Mostly, I ignored every single one of them.
The well is overflowing. I’ve been in a working frenzy, sometimes working on two different things in a single day because when I’ve reached the end of the juiciness on one project, I find there is energy and excitement left for another bout, so I change locations and start work on the other one. One morning, an idea I’ve been shoving away for about two years awakened me and dragged me to the computer and didn’t let me go until well after lunch.
It’s lovely. It’s like going to camp and getting the good stuff afterward, too. Filling the well is always, always worth it, and I haven’t been taking enough time to do that. Not at all interested in travel for a little while, you understand, but I am going to go to movies a couple of times a month, and play with my collages (which I realized recently don’t have to be about books all the time) and water color pencils. I’m taking cello lessons.
It’s all material, right?
Did you go to camp as a child? Do you fill the well with travel or by some other means? What hobbies give you that sense of exuberance, whether or not you are a writer?
I visited a pair of book clubs in Woodland Park on Tuesday night, and they gave me a gorgeous lavender plant. I had it in the sink to water and noticed the reflection. It looks as if there is another world inside that reflection, doesn’t it?
I have now packed the book off to my editor. This is my watch-movies-and-tv recovery weekend. I might take a couple days after that, too, because I have EARNED them. Love this book so madly. I hope you guys love it as much as I do. Can’t wait for you to see it.
Almost finished with the new book. In the meantime, I thought you might like this picture. The Book Babes book club read The Lost Recipe for Happiness and sent me some pictures of their feast. Thanks, Diane! (I love the attention to detail, don’t you?)
Last night, I happened to read an exercise in The Way of the Traveler, by Joseph Dispenza. In it, he writes about an exercise for potential travelers dreaming of a new destination. He asks you to imagine you have been handed an envelope stuffed with tickets and money. Where will you go? Where is your soul drawn?
Take the time to write down some of your dream destinations–and how being in those place would deepen your experience of living.
And this is from me: if you don’t have a passport, you owe it to yourself to get one. Make it a priority.