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Book Launch Party
I took this picture at about six in the morning earlier this week. I saw mist rising from the pond and ran to the top of the hill to take some photos. I don’t remember what I was wearing—whatever I’d thrown on after tumbling out of bed. I snapped off a dozen shots, waking myself up completely by inhaling the cool morning air. About fifteen minutes later, I strolled back to my house and breakfast.
How I enjoy that Geo and I live on a rise near a golf course! I get to walk on the course during the off-season and play on it in the summer. And all year long, I get to watch it go through the seasons. It’s a reassuring continuity in unsettling hectic times. This week was an especially hectic one for me. As of this week, my new book, She Who Burns, is officially published and available to readers. (Please visit my website here if you want to know how to obtain a copy.) I’ve been looking forward to this moment for a long time, but as it neared I faced a dilemma. A book launch was required.
Geo and I have changed cities since my last book was published in 2017. I’ve also changed publishers. And I’ve changed from the traditional publishing process to publishing independently through the professional publishing house that is Friesen Press. If you go to their website here, you’ll see that my new book is currently featured as one of their staff picks. I will be writing about my latest publishing journey in the weeks to come. For the moment, I’ll just say that steering this book through the independent publishing process with the expert guidance of Friesen’s professional team has been a terrific experience. Over the last year, my days have been filled with a few moments of “omg, what have I done,” but mostly with very satisfying “aha” moments and joy at being so involved in bringing the manuscript I’ve worked on for so long to readers.
So much has changed since my last book launch in 2017. So much more happens online now, and on Zoom. It was hard to know how to introduce my new book to the world. I could have decided not to have an in-person launch at all, and I briefly considered that approach. Yet that didn’t feel right. I wanted to mark the moment in a room with people. But how? Two out of the three and a half years that Geo and I have lived here were Covid years, spent mostly at home. We are still getting to know our new province and city.
I’ve been a writer since I was a teenager. I’ve been a golfer for over three decades. I’ve largely kept those two parts of my life separate. The only time I’ve ever written about golf was one chapter in my second book, A Year of Days. Writing and golf felt like the railroad tracks of my life. I had a wheel on each track and they ran parallel to each other, never coming together, until now.
It gradually dawned on me that there was no better place to celebrate my book’s launch than where I have sheltered and felt at ease as Geo and I made a new home, where I’ve spent so many hours working on my book’s final phases. So I decided to have a little party at the golf course: a Book Launch Happy Hour. I invited my golf friends and my book club friends to join Geo and I for a drink and a snack. What better way to celebrate a milestone than with the people who have been listening to me talk about this book for the last three years.
This is a selfie I took of me with all four of my book babies as we were setting up for the party.
Usually at a book launch, the writer reads passages from the new book to the audience, and I did a little of that. But first I told my friends the story of how this book came to be. I started at the beginning, back in 2012, when I was still working on my 2nd & 3rd books, both as yet unpublished. I had the beginnings of a new idea. I wanted to write a novel that had action. I didn’t want it to be an esoteric interior book where pages and pages go by set completely in a character’s head and nothing happens. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Sometimes I like reading those types of stories and someday I might try to write one, but for this book I had something different in mind.
I wanted to write a story about a woman (or women) on the move. I wanted my first novel to be a travel story (either in time or distance or both) about how women negotiate their way through a society filled with pitfalls for them. I wanted a female protagonist who was restless, but a little stuck. But that was all I had and it wasn’t enough to get started.
Back when these ideas were floating around in my head, one of my daughters joined Geo and I for a week in Arizona that year. When she arrived, she had an unusual request: she wanted to go to a psychic. So Geo and I took her up to Sedona for a day of red-rock hiking. I knew there were a lot of psychic businesses in the town centre.
We spent several hours hiking. It was glorious. We wandered around the town centre, which is fun and quirky. Our daughter found a psychic who was available to see her while Geo & I had a glass of wine. Then we all went for dinner. We didn’t question our daughter about her psychic experience other than to say, how was it? It was fine, she said, interesting. Over the next few days, she told me that much of what the psychic said was quite generic and could apply to almost anyone. But their session ended with a Tarot card reading and that’s when the psychic told her something unusual, something that would not apply to most people, but very uniquely did apply to my daughter.
I’m a very practical grounded person, not particularly attracted to the paranormal. Horoscopes and fortune-telling bore me. When I do research, I seek facts grounded in evidence. But my daughter’s visit to that psychic/Tarot reader made me curious. A few weeks later, I booked my own appointment with a reader. And it was, as my daughter said, an interesting, largely generic experience. My Tarot reader made numerous statements that could apply to many people. However, as with my daughter’s experience, that reader did tell me one thing very specific to my life, that would not fit most of her clients, that she could not have known simply by looking at me or anything I said. Now I was really curious.
Not long after that, I started hearing a voice in my head. This is not unusual. Writers often hear voices. They’re just loud thoughts. Many of my stories start out with one of those thoughts making itself known as a vague nagging in my head that won’t quit until I start transmitting it to paper. But this new voice was very insistent and specific. My name is Wanda. I’m a failed psychic. I’ve done something bad and I’m on the run.
Immediately, I knew she was the main character I’d been waiting for. But a psychic? In most novels, the fictional characters have to have some kind of job. When writers create characters, we have to become those characters for the time it takes to write the story, often years. Previously, my characters have been sales-people or teachers or librarians, things I knew how to be. But I didn’t know anything about psychics.
I went to the library and got a few books. I learned that psychics are mediums, transmitters of information from a spirit world to this one. That made my quandary worse. I didn’t think I could write a psychic character and I certainly didn’t want one living in my head for the next five years or so. I negotiated with Wanda and soon she agreed that she wasn’t a psychic. She was a Tarot card reader. I started learning the Tarot. I bought a deck and some books. I went to more readings. I started reading online blogs. And what I learned surprised me because it was so different than I thought it would be.
I’m not a Tarot card reader. I’m a writer who long ago stopped listening to the tired old cliché that says “write what you know.” I write about what I want to know, what I’m curious about. And I was curious about the Tarot.
I started writing Wanda’s story. And all went well for a few months, until I got about fifty pages in. And then, like Wanda herself, I got stuck. No matter what I tried, the story would not move forward. I couldn’t go any further. I put it away for several months. Then one morning, I sat down with it and just let my mind go. A fresh scene started to emerge, but it was a scene from a different time and a different place. I’d jumped back a century. My story had become multi-generational and a whole family of women came alive for me. I wasn’t stuck anymore.
My book launch party was terrific. My friend Anne offered hydrangeas from her garden for the table centrepieces. My friend Karin cut and arranged them in vases. And Geo was there every step of the way, carrying boxes of books and managing the book table. My golf and book club friends came. My neighbours came. They all listened to me talk and they bought books and we sat around chatting afterwards. What a wonderful way to bring a project out into the world! I am grateful to everyone who shared those hours with me. I’ll remember that lovely evening for the rest of my life, through hectic days and anxious nights and early calm mornings when mist rises from the pond.
Thanks for reading Me Who Writes. If you enjoyed this issue, please share it with a friend. I’ll be back in this space in two weeks.
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