Archives for February 2011

A blessing

When you get to a certain age, you start thinking about death. I think it’s the combination of seeing your own mortality drawing closer, and finding death to be somehow more inevitable than when you were a child. There is also the reality of having friends, parents, and loved ones die; writing wills; and seeing your body age and change. Death creeps into our lives until suddenly it is everywhere, and demanding our attention.

My family lost a number of pets this year, including our beloved labrador retriever Riley. Though the grief of losing an animal cannot compare to losing a parent or spouse, it did cause my children to ask the entirely reasonable question, “why did God put us here, if we just have to die?”

Which in turn forced me to come up with an answer.

I had to think about it for a little while, as parents sometimes do when asked hard questions. But in the end, the answer didn’t seem all that complicated.

I don’t think it really matters if you believe in a God, Goddess, many gods, or no god at all. I think that we are here to make the lives of people around us more loving. I think we are here to spread compassion and caring as long as we are able. I think we are here to create beauty, and when we die, I think it is the responsibility of those we leave behind to celebrate us and find grace in our living. To find the joy that we shared when we were here, and take that joy back with them into the world.

The world lost Lisa “L.K.” Madigan yesterday, and in losing her it lost a mother, wife, friend, and truly remarkable writer. I didn’t get to know her nearly as well as I had wanted, but what I did know was that she possessed a remarkable presence. She lived a life of grace and shared so much of the love that I think is our calling in this world. She was a beautiful person, inside and out.

In honor of Lisa, I would ask you to take a minute to breathe, to remember her with love, and then go on with your life with the intention of being more peaceful, more compassionate, and more joyful, at least for a little while.

And if you have another minute, please listen to the poet John O’Donohue read his beautiful poem Beannacht, which means ‘blessing’ in Gaelic.


Photo attribution: © Vilnis Lauzums | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Why I Don't Fear E-Books

You can find articles all over the blog-o-sphere describing the eventual demise of publishing. Many attribute this impending demise to the rise of e-books. Admittedly, things in the world of publishing are a bit dark. Bookstores are going out of business, publishers are cutting staff, and authors are finding themselves (and their advances) squeezed.

But here’s why I’m not worried: this weekend, I bought my first e-book.

(I know, I’m self-centered, what can I say? It really IS all about me.)

The book was Call Me Irresistible, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Now, this is an author I love, so it wasn’t a big surprise that I bought the book. I bought her last book in hardcover the weekend it was released. By purchasing the electronic version, I eroded a little bit of her (and her publisher’s) profit margin.

But you know what? I bought it, and it was a TOTAL IMPULSE BUY. I wasn’t planning on buying it. Though I might have purchased the book if I was in the bookstore, I wouldn’t have made a special trip to get it. In fact, I only bought the last one because I happened to be in an airport and there it was. This time, I had considered putting my name on the list for the library version. But given the chance to buy it AT THE VERY MOMENT I wanted it? For a little less than the hardcover? Ooo. Decision made.

I am a creature of impulse. If our consumer culture proves anything, the rest of you probably are as well. Will you make a trip to a bookstore to buy my book? Maybe…if you’re my mom. Will you wait for your copy to arrive from Amazon? Maybe…if you’ve got some reason to really want the book. But will you click and purchase just because it’s easy and you were curious and hey there’s some good reviews and wow it’s only $9.99 instead of $16.99?

I think you will.

(At least, I hope you will. Please! Please! Buy my book! Available NOW in Kindle! 🙂 )

So that’s why I love e-books. Because I am a spineless whimp, and when I want something, I want it NOW or I forget all about it and decide I want something else. I have a very short attention span. I’m childish and immature. And I hope you are too.

Are there lots of other challenges to publishing? Oh yes. Can we expect author advances to go up, publishers to start making big bucks and Borders to rise from the grave? I think not. Sorry. But do I blame e-books?

Hell no.


While Skyping with a book club this week, I was asked this question: “What did your editor ask you to change about the book? Do you ever say no to changes?”

I’m asked this question a lot, and I think it’s because some people think the editorial process is somehow adversarial. As if the editor is THE MAN and I am THE ARTIST. This is, in fact, not the least bit true.

First of all, editors are incredibly smart, talented people (very often women) who love books and are willing to work long hours for little pay because they want to spend their lives bringing stories to the reading/buying public. Yes, they have to worry about the commercial aspect of books. If books don’t sell, their publishing company goes out of business, and then they are out of a job and no books end up on the shelf. BUT, never think for an instant that these people are in it for the money. They are in it for the BOOKS. If they weren’t — well, rest assured there are many other jobs these smart people could do.

When my editor asks me to change something, I assume right off the bat that she thinks the change will make the book BETTER. More engaging, better pacing, stronger characterization…whatever it is, I know that’s what she’s after. I also know there’s a good chance her vision for the book is better than mine. She’s got the wisdom of distance, experience, and education on her side. I’ve just got a story idea, mad touch-typing skills, and a laptop. I generally assume my editor knows best, not that we’re somehow in conflict.

I’d also like to dispel any myth that I’m a starving artist, willing to sacrifice anything for some rarified vision of a story that I’m reducing to the written word. I’m just a practical, down-to-earth gal who likes to write. If I disagree with my editor, it’s usually because her version of the story and mine have started to diverge. I see it as my job to find a way to bring our paths back together. Ultimately, I have to write the story — if my editor sends me down a path I’m not comfortable with, I won’t be able to do that. So I’ve got to find a way to bring our visions together in a way that I can bring to life.

Now that I’ve been through the editorial process with two books (and three editors), I can tell you that there hasn’t been many things I wouldn’t change, but there has been a few. Example: Delcroix Academy was originally NOT a boarding school. My editor wanted me to turn it into one. I wasn’t comfortable with that, because I always thought Dancia’s life back home with Grandma was an important part of the story. So I suggested a compromise: boarding school during the week, Dancia goes home over the weekends.

Surprise! I bet you thought I just started with Delcroix as a boarding school because that was a common YA trope. Nope. My editor pulled me into the boarding school thing. Now, I like it, don’t get me wrong. There are some great things to boarding schools. But that’s an example how how: 1) editor suggests change; 2) I disagree; and 3) we find a compromise.

Hope this helps shed a little light on the editorial process!

Happy reading (and writing)!