I’ve been thinking about how I can help my readers, my writer pals, and booksellers during these days of isolation and uncertainty. I have come up with a few ideas. Here we go:
A lot of my author pals have had to cancel their book tours this season. Obviously, in the scheme of things, this might seem like a luxury problem. But we all work so hard on our novels, and then head out of the road to connect with readers and booksellers. It hurts the industry when business as usual comes to a halt. If there’s an author you love and want to support, go online and visit his or her website to find out where you can get a signed copy. This will help stores, authors, and ultimately YOU, reader pal and lover of books.
Meanwhile, speaking of support, I take my blurb requests very seriously. But I literally cannot read everything that comes across my desk. Or sometimes I blow a deadline. Here are a couple that got away, but that I wanted to share with you.
THE GIRLS OF BRACKENHILL by Kate Moretti
Kate was kind enough to send me an early copy of her stellar new book. And it did finally find its way to the top of the queue — unfortunately too late for her jacket deadline. Love a good ghost story? This one’s for you. Here’s what I finally wrote after a cracking read!
“A looming castle, a woman haunted by her sister’s unsolved disappearance, and long buried secrets clawing their way up to the surface — Kate Moretti deftly weaves it all together in a gripping gothic ghost story of the first order. GIRLS OF BRACKENHILL is full of chills, thrills, and dark surprises. You won’t stop turning the pages until the stunning end — and even then you’ll be sleeping with the lights on. Don’t miss it!”
NO BAD DEED by Heather Chavez
Unfortunately, I have not yet read this one about a mother desperate to find the connection between her stalker and her missing husband. When I missed Heather’s deadline, I had to go on to other books in my pile. But it just came out to rave reviews and I plan to read it just for myself — now that there should be PLENTY of time to catch up on reading. Lisa Gardner calls it: “A twisty, jet-fueled thriller… Don’t miss it!” and Liv Constantine says that Chavez has “constructed the perfect thriller.” Looking forward to this one!
DON’T LOOK DOWN by Hilary Davidson
The wonderfully talented Hilary Davidson is also a lovely, kind person. I’m sad that I have not yet had a chance to read her latest, DON’T LOOK DOWN. The second in her Shadows of New York series, this promises to be a smart, twisty thrill-ride, and it’s earning rave reviews. I can’t wait to dive in.
Wow, it’s hard to be creative during this madness! In addition to what’s going on outside our doors, many of us have our children and spouses at home for the foreseeable future. And though we love our little angels and our amazing soul mates, they are generally not the best writing buddies. Some of my author pals and I did some chatting about staying creative during this wild times. If you want to find the thread, it’s here on Twitter. But here’s my prescription for staying in the work when the world has gone haywire:
1. Write before they wake up — your kids, your spouse, the world. I have always been a big advocate of the early morning to get work done. You might be a night owl and find your space after your family has gone to sleep. That’s great, too. The key is to find a quiet, sacred space where you can lose yourself in your story.
2. Be kind to yourself. That page count you strive for may serve during normal times. But right now it’s going to make you hate yourself. And self-loathing is the enemy of creativity. Definitely DO connect with your story, your characters every day. Do some research, or some daydreaming about the book, read the pages you’ve already written — anything to keep your heart and mind in the story. But if you’re not making your page or word count, that’s fine. Whatever you can do right now is a win. And if it’s nothing, try again tomorrow.
3. The page is an escape hatch, a refuge. When you disappear into your story, you are in a world that you have created. It’s a gift to be creative enough to write. This is your craft, your passion, your happy place. Remember that it’s right and good to go there whenever you can. Writing — my characters, my stories — have carried me through the worst moments of my life. Let it do the same for you now.
4. Pay attention. What’s happening to us right now — on a global scale and on a personal one — all of this will inform your work later. Take it all in, even the worst of it, definitely the best of it. We learn so much about ourselves and about others in a time of hardship. You’ll never get a better lesson in human nature than you will right now. And truth is the lifeblood of good fiction.
5. Catch up on your reading. All writers are readers first. We all fell in love with story within the pages of other people’s books. And reading great books is a tremendous source of inspiration — you’ll learn, be transported, and get more excited about your own words. Don’t just mindlessly surf the web, obsessively watch the news, or binge watch reality TV shows. Return to the page, your first love, and let it inspire you.
Bookstores are such an important part of our community, and, of course, small businesses will be the first to suffer the effects of people staying home. Though many stores may have closed their doors for the time being, they are offering expanded online and delivery options. Here are just a few:
Tombolo Books has a downtown delivery service and curbside pickup for people in St. Petersburg, Florida, and is happy to take phone or online orders and ship. I spent some time on the phone with the lovely owner Alsace Walentine, brainstorming about how we could offer programs when their events have been cancelled for March and April. Stay tuned for more on that.
Murder by the Book is offering free media mail shipping on all offers over $50 and curbside pickup for Houston-area folks. They’re also happy to make recommendations over the phone.
The Mysterious Bookshop in New York is open, but with a reduced staff. They’re taking orders through their website, email, and phone, though.
Also, check your local indie bookseller websites to see what they may be offering. There are way too many to name them all, but here are some other faves:
Oxford Exchange Tampa, FL
Books and Books Key West Key West, FL
Vero Beach Book Center Vero Beach, FL
Murder On The Beach Delray Beach, FL
Hockessin BookShelf Hockessin, DE
BookMark Shoppe Brooklyn, NY
BookPeople Austin, TX
Tattered Cover Denver, CO
Book Passage San Francisco, CA
Bookends Ridgewood, NJ
Malaprops Asheville, NC
Poisoned Pen Phoenix, AZ
Third Place Books Seattle, WA
Powells Books Portland, OR
Vromans Bookstore Pasadena, CA
An Unlikely Story Plainville, MA
Mysterious Galaxy San Diego, CA
Writer’s Block Bookstore Orlando, FL
So, if you’re looking to catch up on your reading during these trying times, please order from your favorite bookseller — these or others. And don’t forget, though they don’t get a lot of love, our larger booksellers are important, too. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million continue to provide books in all formats. So, as long as you are reading, no matter where you are getting your books, that is a helpful thing.
I’ll be brainstorming with author pals to try to come up with some innovative programing — online chats about creativity, more ways to stay focused and productive in this difficult times, book recommendation chats, etc. Stay tuned for information on how you can be a part of that. And, of course, if you have any ideas for on what you would like to hear from authors, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are blessed to be readers and writers, because we can always lose ourselves for a little while in a good book. But don’t disappear altogether! And don’t forget to keep reaching out. Isolation doesn’t have to mean disconnection — stay in touch with loved ones, friends, and neighbors. You never know who is scared or needs to hear your voice. And if you’re scared, feeling alone or depressed or afraid, do reach out to someone you love and ask for help. Stay safe, stay sane, and keep reading!