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.

Life has been simpler since I have accepted certain things about myself. I know, for instance, that I will never understand how the electricity comes out of the walls, nor will I ever know exactly why it takes TWO REMOTES to run my television set, and why it is that even then you have to press a series of buttons in rapid succession and if you make a mistake and miss one, then someone (not me–oh God not me) has to get out the manual again and reprogram the whole thing from scratch. But there are certain things I CAN do, even things with technology. I know how to work my iPod most of the time, and I can operate my cell phone and write emails! Almost 100% of the time they actually go through.

Okay. So I have this book coming out. I may have mentioned this. KISSING GAMES OF THE WORLD. Comes out on Election Day.

I decided that I should use my skills to write to my family members about this book. I have a far-flung family–lots and lots of cousins I hardly ever see, an uncle or two, and an aunt–and I decided that I should, you know, TELL them about the book.

So they could, you know, BUY IT.

I made up my mind to write them an email, a humble, informative–okay, BEGGING email. In it, I pointed out that I have hardly ever whined about a book coming out before, but that I had chosen to whine to them now because the economy has gone to hell and these days people hardly have two $10 bills to rub together…but if they DID have two $10 bills, I said, maybe they would like to pre-order my book on Amazon. You know, in the name of family love and values. I even humbly mentioned that Publishers Weekly had said the book was an "absolute treat, filled with realistic twists, complex characters, and a moving conclusion."

And then came the whining. I said that according to the publicist for the book (who would, I’m sure, have me go stand in Times Square in my underwear if it would sell even one more book!), pre-orders are very important to the life of a book these days! Could be the difference between a book that is gingerly tended to on life support and one that is tossed into the scrapheap of history, she said.

I gave the link to pre-order. It is here, if you are interested. And I signed it with love and hope that we would all see each other again soon.

Then I did something I never did before. I gathered all their email addresses and put them together in one file that I called "sandi shelton." I have always admired that other people send emails without everybody’s addresses showing all over the place. How elegant, I have thought. How technologically savvy such a person would be who did something like that!

I pressed the SEND button with no regrets.

But then, as always happens, there came the middle of the night. I was up late, blogging away about blonde chicken chili. To make the entry interesting, I decided to search the internets for a nice picture of a chili pepper and perhaps some spices. I found one and emailed it to myself and then I found a picture of spices on a spoon, and sent that to myself as well.

And then I realized what I had done. I had sent all my relatives (some who barely even know me as an adult) a begging email, followed by a wordless picture of a hot chili pepper, followed once again by a photo of spices on a spoon. Would they see this as a warning? A definitive sign that I have gone crazy?

Clearly, I had to say SOMETHING reassuring to them. So I wrote them another email, this one at 2 a.m., insisting on my own sanity. I tried to explain about the problems of emailing.

Readers of this blog, I have to report that mostly they have not answered me. Oh, my aunt wrote back and said simply, "fascinating." My mother’s brother said, "I was wondering where your mother’s genes had gotten to."

So now that I’m a known crazy person among my family members, I’m contemplating other, more daring, ventures. Perhaps I should start sending them pictures of different objects every few days or so: a bunny slipper, an eggplant that looks like Nixon, or maybe a Q-Tip. It might be a sort of ransom note: PRE-ORDER MY BOOK OR YOU WILL CONTINUE TO GET PHOTOGRAPHS IN EMAILS FROM ME!


I just don’t know how to act anymore. I start out each day fine, reading the polls (which are good), and then looking at the stock market (which often starts out good and turns bad when some government official says things are actually quite dire)…and then I sit down to work on my book (sometimes good, but lots of days this novel feels like it’s just taken a turn in the spin cycle of the washing machine)…and YIKES, THE DEADLINE IS COMING.

I can get very hyperventilational easily–an unruly paragraph can do it, as can a 678-point drop in the stock market (even though, as a disorganized person who never quite got around to investing, I don’t have an awful lot of money there). But then, just like a child, I can get all excited and happy again simply by the fact of end-of-the-season tomatoes, which are so sweet and full right now that you can just stand at the sink and eat them like apples. And that reminds me that I bought a big sack of apples and will make apple crisp this weekend, and I am absolutely POWERLESS before apple crisp. Can’t resist it!

But then I wander over to the laptop again, having worked out a crucial scene in my head…and whoops, there is the stock market again, falling below credibility, and then I have to go read what all the economists think about it, and these days it may only be Kai Ryssdal’s casual, cheerful voice that is keeping many of us from freaking completely out. Today he came on the radio even when it wasn’t time for Marketplace, just to announce that this was NOTHING like the Great Depression. Nothing at all like it.

But good news came today on the computer! Yes! I received another review of KISSING GAMES OF THE WORLD, which is waiting in the wings for its debut on November 4. This one came from Romantic Times, a site that reviews fiction. And here is what they said, making me happier even than the ripest tomatoes:

"Shelton’s warm, sentimental love story is told with a tenderness of heart and a nurturing eye guiding complexly drawn characters. She effortlessly melds love and loss with heartrending care, exposing the layers of a budding romance with a deft hand.  It’s full of humor, flaws, and a togetherness of spirit fit for any modern love story where family is what you make it." 

And tomorrow I get to catch the train and go to New York and sit down with the publicist for the book, and we are going to figure out how to, you know, actually get the book into people’s hands! Involving perhaps readings and blog tours and calls to book clubs and oh, who-knows-what-all. If you have any ideas for any of this, I would of course LOVE to hear them!