Kissing Games of the World


Usually this is the time of year when I start grousing about being too cold, and how the leaves are blowing off the trees in great numbers, and the yard is full of pine cones and I can’t go to the beach anymore. But this year, I don’t know…There seems to be goodness—even wonderfulness—everywhere I look around me lately. Here’s a list, because I think it’s important to write down these things, even if all it means is that I can go back and read the list some other time when I’ve forgotten.

So here goes, in no particular order:

  • First of all, it stopped snowing, and we got our rightful autumn back. It’s even been sunny and 70 degrees a few times since that fateful day a few weeks ago when we had all the snow, and I was sure we would never have any warmth at all.
  • My cousin Jennifer, who moved to California a few years ago and started her own life, is coming back for a five-day visit. And for once, we don’t have to do a whole bunch of other things while she visits—like attend funerals or try to see each other between her work schedule. We are going to talk and talk and talk. (Note to self: Lay in a supply of throat lozenges.)
  • Oh! GOOD PUBLISHING NEWS! My book—Kissing Games of the World—comes out in paperback next week, which means that it is now somewhat affordable. The average person doesn’t have to choose between eating a plate of beans and buying a book. (You can even order it on this site—just cast your eye over to the right side of the page and click on your favorite book-buying venue.)
  • And even better news:  Target has named it a Breakout Book, meaning that it will be on display in all Target stores, beginning Dec. 27 until Feb. 14.
  • Oh! And even more interesting Kissing Games news. My publisher is sending the book out to bloggers who might want to review it on their site or hold giveaway contests. It was recently reviewed (most favorably, actually) by a woman who writes the blog Baba’s Farm Life. Read her review here. She may become my new best friend.
  • My writing workshops have been the most fun things ever. The fact that three times a week now, I get to sit with writers and help them with their manuscripts while we all eat the blueberry scones I’ve made—well, that is just the best reason to get up in the morning I can think of.
  • Lyle Lovett has a new CD, and a song called “Keep It In Your Pantry” keeps making me smile.
  • And the most important thing: IT IS NOT SNOWING.

Lately I’ve been editing the final version of my new novel, which is going to be called The Stuff That Never Happened, and I’ve kind of lost touch with Kissing Games of the World.

It’s a little like tending to a new baby while your toddler plays in the sandbox and doesn’t need so much attention.

So how sweet, then, to get invited to come to Newtonville Books in Newton, Massachusetts (another state, even!) to read from the toddler-aged book and get reminded once again of how much I once loved those characters and all the trouble they got themselves into.

Even better, I get to see one of my new dearest friends, Holly Robinson Cookson, whose new book, The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter, is coming out in just a few weeks. I wrote a blurb for her book, which is such a delightful memoir about growing up amid quirky, unpredictable adults and…well, their gerbils. And then she came through town the other day on her way to visit her editors in New York, and we ate lunch and talked about a million things…and now she’s going to come to my reading since she doesn’t live so very far from there.

It’s very good, as you might imagine, to have Actual People at readings. A writer’s worst fear is that not one member of the public will show up to be read to, and you will have to slink away in embarrassment for the trouble the bookstore people went to even just to write the sign with your name on it. You will vow never to trouble the public again with the illusion that you wrote a book. WAIT!  No, no! I just remembered. That’s NOT the worst fear. The VERY WORST fear is that there will be ONE PERSON there to hear you read–one singular, baffled human being who is probably somehow related to the bookstore owner and who was BEGGED to come–and so with one audience member in the sea of chairs, you will actually have to DO the reading, and will not be permitted to crawl away and start trying to put the whole thing out of your mind, if you can.

So, anyway, all this is by way of saying that if you happen to be within striking distance of Newton, Massachusetts, on this Thursday (April 30), at oh, say, about 7 o’clock, and you would like to come to the VERY delightful bookstore there–well, I would be there, and I would jump up and down with joy.

AND, as an added bonus, you would get to meet my wonderful son Ben and his delightful wife Amy, who happen to live in the neighborhood and have agreed to saunter on by and clap very loudly. (You’ll know who they are because they will be the people in the back, whispering, “NO! No! PLEASE don’t read the sex parts!”)

Newtonville Books is located at 296 Walnut Street in Newtonville. The phone number is (617) 244-6619. Tell Jaime I said hello!

My famiSandiShelton-jlb-11-06-08-6326fly keeps laughing at me when I explain to them that I am actually on a book tour right now and therefore should be treated with the utmost respect.

But I am.

It’s just not a tour of bricks-and-mortar bookstores, where I put on decent clothes and stand up in front of a microphone and read from my book, the way I did when this picture was taken back in November. (My friend Judy Barbosa took this picture of me reading at R. J. Julia Booksellers in Madison.)

Trust me, this is NOT how I dress for a virtual book tour. Right now, for instance, I am wearing a stained, torn sweatshirt with yoga pants, mismatched socks, and mucklucks. My hair does not look like it does in this picture.

So, for those of you who don’t know and who keep asking me what I’m talking about, a virtual book tour is where I go visit people’s blogs and web sites. They invite me over and let me either post something about my book on the blog, or else answer their questions, or get interviewed by them. It gets posted, and then I go back and answer comments and questions that their readers have.

What is the point of this, you ask? I can hear you asking this.

As with any book tour, it’s to get information out there about my new book, to bring it to the attention of people who might not have bumped into it in their regular lives. Some of the blogs I’ll be visiting are often visited by readers looking for new books–and it’s good to get to tell them about mine.

I didn’t create my own virtual book tour. A young woman named Jaime Sylver, who works for www.pumpupyourbookpromotion, run by Dorothy Thompson, made all the contacts and the calls and recruited bloggers who might be interested in having me come for a visit. I’ll be doing this all month, and linking to the blogs where I have landed.

Today, for instance, I wrote a guest post for The Plot, in which I interviewed Nate, the main male character of Kissing Games of the World. Even though I thought I knew him very well, having spent the past year writing about him, I actually learned a few things in the interview. You can read the interview with him here.

I have to say, it’s fun being on tour this way. Last time I did it–back when A Piece of Normal came out, I made lots of new friends in the blogosphere.

And that’s the best part of all. That, and not having to put on real clothes.

 

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Yes, it is that time.

My deadline beckons me, and I have to stop doing all the fun things I’ve gotten accustomed to doing lately and go finish this book that is now on its (ahem) THIRD DEADLINE. This one is January 31st. (I think when you set the third deadline for yourself–or worse, your editor sets it for you, then you really do have to go and finish the damn thing.)

I know, People of the Internet. This means I have to stop doing fun things like opening presents and drinking wine and meeting friends for lunch and talking on the telephone and taking baths and sleeping eight hours a night and eating candy and cooking dinner. (Sorry, honey, no dinner for a while.)

I may even have to give up some of the not-so-fun things I’ve been doing a lot of lately, like shoveling snow and ice off the driveway and folding laundry and washing dishes. I don’t think my book will let me take down the Christmas tree either.

In fact, I think I’m just pretty much going to move to Starbucks and emerge right around the time the groundhog comes out. They have an armchair there in the corner that already knows me well, from last year when I was camped out writing Kissing Games of the World. My plan is to live there throughout January, living on Zen tea and iced tea (I find if you drink the two things simultaneously and alternately you are never either too hot or too cold. That is my tip for the day.)

Already I am practicing saying “no” to things, a word which is not in my native language. But it is good for me to practice…and to tell you the truth, there is a wonderful sense of purpose when you know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, and it’s not just hanging out and reading the Internet every single day. I’m taking my inspiration from Nova and BlogLily, both of whom have just undertaken and succeeded at massive writing and revision projects, despite the fact that they both work full-time and had to get up early in the morning, work in coffee shops or trains, and stay up late at night to get it all done.

This is the only way I know to really, really complete a novel: to be immersed in the finishing of it, to bat away all the distractions and focus the mind completely on what comes next and next and next in the plot, even when you think you might go insane.

To tell you the truth, I am happy and grateful for this moment–to put away the candy and the telephone calls and the overindulgence–and dive back into this book, which I love, and be for a while with these characters of mine who are right now so screwed up and pained and confused, and they are waiting and calling out to me to come and solve everything for them.

It’s so nice that I already know how I’m going to do just that.

I’ll be checking back in here and recording how it’s going–the blog is an indulgence it’s hard to give up. And also! Almost forgot!! I’m going to be showing up at various blogs here and there this month, doing guest posts (don’t worry–I already wrote most of them) and answering readers’ questions and comments about my work. I’ll keep you posted in case you want to come visit there, too.

In the meantime, hope all your resolutions are resolving themselves. My resolution is to…well, you know.

The Book Lady, aka Caryn Caldwell, is one of the best reasons I know to live in modern times. She’s one of the friends I’ve met here in the blogosphere. Yes, we now hang out.

I have no idea what she looks like, but I know her humor, her sensitivity, and the fact that she has the funniest cats in the world. Also I know that she’s working on a Young Adult paranormal novel, and also that she’s hilarious and brilliant. I’ve been meaning for some time to link to this fabulous post she wrote about what to do when you have writer’s block. She actually came up with 41 things that can help you get beyond the panic, and find your way back to your book. So many of them are delicious and wise, and if you are writing something (or worse yet, NOT writing something) you should go immediately to her post and read them all…but here are two of them that I thought were particularly wonderful:

  • Skip ahead to what you do know and write that. Sometimes you’ll find that the scene you agonized over really doesn’t need to be there, or in the meantime you – or your subconscious – could think of a good way to fix it.

 

  • Think of ways to make your characters’ lives worse, then implement them. It’s hard to have a book if you don’t have conflict.

 

And so, the other day she asked me if I would like to do a guest post on her blog–her newly renovated, fresh, clean blog–and I said yes, and to make a long story short, I got to hang out over at her place and talk about my characters, Jamie and Nate, in a post called, “Where Do These People Come From?”  So if you’re ambling around on the Internets, stop on by. I’m vowing to answer all comments!  

I have spent the last few days following my poor old blind golden retriever around the back yard, serving as a kind of Seeing Eye Human. (Really, I ought to get me one of those little outfits that seeing eye dogs wear.) My job is to keep him from slamming into trees and from tripping on little pieces of grass. And because he is dizzy still, he holds his head at an amusing tilt, which often causes him to walk in circles. We make quite a fine pair out there. It is a little like following Mr. Magoo, who is pooping.

But with all this dog-tending, I have been neglecting to say that good things are happening for Kissing Games of the World, my new book…which I would like to talk about for a moment, if you wouldn’t mind so much.

I was just reading on Nova’s wonderful blog, Distraction No. 99, about that let-down feeling that comes once you’ve finished a novel and how much that is like postpartum depression. (Maybe this is why I’m not letting myself finish the novel I’m writing now–it’s been too soon since my last bout with postpartum book depression!) And it made me realize that sad to say, there is something similar that comes once a book is out there in the world, too. If finishing the writing is like postpartum depression, then what follows its publication is probably like the day your kid heads off to middle school. All you can do is sit back, watching it go, knowing it’s going to be judged and criticized and bullied in the playground. And somebody is sure to point out that its ears are too big, and that it could have been so much more interesting and delightful if, say, J.K. Rowling or James Patterson had written it instead of you. Or–as one man so aptly pointed out about my previous book, A Piece of Normal, and I quote: “Call it dysfunctional I have no other name for this kind of thing.” (I have no other name for it either.)  

But oh, yes. I was going to talk about the good things! (Sorry–just got back from running in the pouring rain, in my bathrobe, through the woods behind our house, following the dog who just discovered that if he actually RAN as fast as he could, he had a 50 percent chance of missing some of the trees, roots, pieces of grass that had tripped him up previously.)

Good things are these:

  • BlogLily, who is a talented writer who manages to write even though she is working full-time as a lawyer and has three boys, wrote the most amazing, kind, lovely review of the book on her delightful blog. She wrote these words which I am going to read whenever I feel again as though I can’t write another word:

The great thing about Sandi’s book is that it’s both fun and beautifully written.  You never feel like you’re being cheated when you’re in her generous hands — the characters are interesting, full of life, troubled, funny.  And my goodness, that woman can pull you in.

You can read her complete review here. (I, of course, am too shy and modest to include any more of it.)    

  •  Ravenous Reader (Becca Rowan) also posted a great review, for which I am undyingly grateful. She said:

Shelton has a pitch perfect ear for dialogue, and  I particularly enjoyed her characterization of the two little boys, Christopher and Arley, each with his own lovable, quirky personality.   Jamie is the perfect combination of gentleness and strength, while Nate–well, he’s one of those guys you gotta love, even when you feel like giving him a good swift kick.  The chemistry between the two characters is palpable, and you can’t help but root for their relationship to flourish. 

Most of all, I loved watching the process of Nate’s growth, and it struck me that sometimes our lives seem fulfilling and satisfying, and then – BAM! – something happens that sends us careening in unimaginable directions which take us to the place we were meant to be all along.  With the real world around us so topsy-turvy these days, it was rather comforting to see that change can be positive and exciting.

  • It also got a starred review in Library Journal, which said:

Shelton’s third novel is an engrossing, charming, and often funny exploration of love and the relationships that result. Though the slow-building and complicated relationship between Jamie and Nate plays a role in the story, it is the relationships between Nate and his son and Nate and his deceased father that allow the author to explore love in its different incarnations.

Today–drum roll–it’s ELECTION DAY! And, oh by the way, KISSING GAMES OF THE WORLD is now officially available in stores.

The whole concept of a Publication Date is interesting. Before I ever had a book published, I imagined that Pub Date would be, like, the Best Day Ever. You know, along the lines of brass bands and balloons. Flowing champagne, barrels of monkeys. At the very least some puppy dogs.

Turns out that Pub Date is pretty much like any other day, though. You wake up and brush your teeth, feed the dog, check your email. Drink a cup of tea. The marching band doesn’t show up. The faucets are not flowing champagne. Later, when it’s obvious that lobsters and caviar aren’t going to be showing up, you leave the house to go out to buy something for dinner.

That’s when you see a bookstore. A bookstore! Your book will be on a shelf, FOR SALE. Perhaps, you think, you might even see a real customer picking it up and considering whether to buy it. How cool would THAT be!

DON’T DO IT. I repeat: DO NOT LET YOURSELF GO LOOKING FOR YOUR BOOK IN A REAL STORE. Your book is not on the shelf. They are sorry, but they never heard of you. They look at you as though you are a pitiable wretch, someone who’s obviously delusional. Perhaps an escapee from a nearby mental institution.

"You have a BOOK out?" they say as though they are speaking to a very dim kindergartner. They go over to the store computer and push a few buttons and peer at the screen. Why, yes, there IS a book there with that name on it, the name you’re claiming is yours. How interesting. But no, no. They don’t have any plans to order it. Sorry. They can’t order EVERY book that comes out, you know. They give you a pitying smile and turn to the next customer, a REAL customer who is not making rude demands.   

You go back home to throw back some jello shots before you get back in your bed. Later your friends from all over the country start phoning to say that they looked for your book in every bookstore in practically the entire nation, and it was to be found NOWHERE, and what happened? Was there some mistake with the date?

You disconnect the phone and get under your bed. Pub Date has claimed another victim. Too bad you didn’t plan ahead and have something else to think about.

But today! Today was my Pub Date, and the nation was kind enough to provide a wonderful distraction. It was as fine a distracting day as you are going to find. An entire election happened. And a more exciting election a person couldn’t ask for! I went and voted, went out to lunch with friends, went for a walk downtown. I didn’t pass a bookstore. No one called to say, "Oh, I didn’t see your book ANYWHERE."

I’ve had two glasses of wine, and OH MY GOODNESS THEY’VE JUST CALLED THE ELECTION FOR BARACK OBAMA!!!!

Now THIS is the best Pub Date EVER!!

Oh, I have to go. I’m crying.