Countdown is on for my book launch — August 8, in Grass Valley, 6-8 pm, at the UUCM: Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains. I’m ordering cake! I’m placing ads!
You like cake, don’t you?
We’ve been collecting reviews, including this starred review:
Planning the book tour, writing essays and blog posts, and the like–it’s the kind of zany fun part of getting published. It’s midsummer, and ideally I’d be sitting out in the hammock with a book or a notepad. But not this year. Why, you ask? A couple of reasons.
Weird weather– it was chilly for most of June for some reason (cough–climate change–cough!)
I’m doing some research that involves reading old family letters and they would blow around outside.
We have a ton of ants and mosquitos this year, probably because of high rain and snowpacks over the winter. Too many bugs– on and near the hammock.
I must admit it — I have a small case of breast cancer. I was diagnosed in March after a wonky mammogram, had lumpectomy surgery in May, and have been undergoing radiation treatment over the past few weeks. Two more weeks to go, and I will be super radiated and ready to launch. My diagnosis was early, and it’s a Stage 1A, one breast, and they have high hopes for 100% cure. So my fingers are crossed as much as anyone can cross them. I haven’t posted about this on social media but it’s true. I was planning to post *after* I finish radiation. As in, fait accompli. So far, so good.
So bear with me as I go squiggly with book release excitement. Know that I am finishing up revisions on my historical novel slated for next fall release through Sibylline, and the letters? Research for the next novel, also historical fiction based on my an-sisters, as I like to call them. Won’t this look good on a cake?
Four women with extensive book world experience have launched Sibylline Press, which will focus on publishing “the brilliant works of women authors over the age of 50,” including memoirs, narrative nonfiction and fiction. Sibylline Press will release six books in fall 2023 and six in spring 2024 and will be distributed to the trade by Publishers Group West. The company also has an unusual publishing model, which involves Sibylline authors being deeply involved in the promotion of their books and other Sibylline titles.
The Sibylline founders are:
Publisher Vicki DeArmon, who has a publishing, bookselling and entrepreneurial background that includes founding Foghorn Press at age 25. (Foghorn was distributed by PGW.) After 13 years, she sold Foghorn to Avalon Books, now part of Hachette Book Group. She was also marketing and events director of Copperfield’s Books in Northern California for eight years, and has consulted to California independent bookstores, creating the “Everyone Gets a Book” holiday program that is still used by the California Independent Booksellers Alliance (CALIBA).
Rights and special sales director Anna Termine, who has worked in both trade and academic publishing for more than 30 years, specializing in rights and licensing. Termine and DeArmon established the Independent Travel Publishers Association together 35 years ago.
Design director Alicia Feltman, who is a web designer for the American Booksellers Association’s IndieCommerce platform and CALIBA as well as for Copperfield’s, where she worked with DeArmon on various projects.
Under the Sibylline publishing model, authors of all of a season’s titles will participate in shared tours, advertising and a promotional strategy that “celebrates the brilliance of women over 50.” Authors will contribute to the marketing budget and receive a generous royalty until their contribution is paid back at which time the royalty returns to a traditional one.
DeArmon commented: “We are a traditional publisher. But even as a traditional publisher, we’re pushing against some long-held lines, giving our authors unheard of support and access. We believe that the better an author understands the industry, the better she can work within it and with us to achieve success for her book.”
Sibylline Press’s Fall list includes three memoirs and two works of historical fiction and one mystery series:
These Broken Roads: Scammed and Vindicated: One Woman’s Story by Donna Hayes, the memoir of a Jamaican immigrant who gets scammed and robbed of her life’s savings by the “love of her life” met on an online dating site, but overcomes hardships to find success.
Becoming Maeve: Coming Out in Corporate America by Maeve DuVally, the memoir of coming out transgender in one of the most high-profile financial institutions in the U.S.
Reading Jane by Susannah Kennedy. After the suicide of her domineering mother, the author discovers diaries spanning 45 years that challenge and upend long-held truths in this memoir.
The Bereaved by Julia Park Tracey. In 1859, after her husband’s death, a grieving mother tries to support her children in New York City, losing them to the Home of the Friendless and the Orphan Train, then sets out to reclaim them. Based on the author’s family experience.
The Pocket Book by Patricia Reis. In this work of historical fiction, upon the death of her cold father, a suppressed 50-year-old woman begins an ancestral quest in Ohio in the 1800s, awakening secrets and herself.
The Rotting Whale: A Hugo Sandoval Eco Mystery, the first in a new mystery series by Jann Eyrich. Steeped in the noir of The City, the old-school inspector with his trademark Borsalino fedora, is a media darling, reluctant bachelor, and people’s hero fighting the good fight in a modern era that attempts to eclipse the old San Francisco Sandoval loves. In his first case in the series, he must find his sea legs before he can solve the mystery of how a 90-ton blue whale became stranded twice in a remote inlet off the North Coast.
Excited to announce that I have signed a contract and my historical novel, The Bereaved, will be in bookstores in fall 2023. Prepare yourself for nattering and humblebrags with a side of shameless self promotion.
I spend a lot of my time howling the cosmic yawp into the blue beyond. It looks, to mortal eyes, like I’m making lunch and beating a deadline and running errands and remembering to put out the trash cans. But I assure you, a goodly portion of every day is given over to caterwauling (mostly in my inside voice but not always) on the WHY of everyday living. The WHY of how did we get here? The WHY of how can X be happening?
I’m old enough to know better. I am hitting that midpoint in life. I have successfully raised 4.9 kids (just 1 year left on #5). We have a retirement plan (sort of). We own our cars (not new ones, God, no!). We’ve traveled around the world a bit (more when single than together) and we’re not on our first marriage (to each other, yes. In total, no.).
So you can bet that I don’t believe in fairy tales, magick, the Virgin birth. I do, however, believe in Something. It’s just too random that my husband and I met when we were both at the nadir of our love lives. I find Something in the spectacle of my own resurrection after that hairy divorce when I was a shadow of my ex, a skeleton of who I was and had yet to become, up to now, when I feel fully fledged and mighty as Aphrodite on steroids.
I have worked as a journalist for some 30 years now, writing poetry and short stories and a novel or two between times, trying to write the one story that was true. Reaching for Hemingway’s One True Thing. I have almost had it once or twice. Missed it by *that* much.
I was talking with my very elderly Aunt Doris about four years ago, telling her about my new story idea. I want to do a sort of “Diary of Anne Frank,” but a fictionalized version. Tell that teen girl’s story in a different way. Be in her shoes. Tell it sideways. Something like that. I told my aunt this on the phone, knowing I would see her the next day, and she encouraged me, as she always did, with alacrity. “Oh, that sounds wonderful,” she said. The next day I drove 70 miles to her house to see her, but she was gone. Still breathing, but the essence of her had slipped down, underwater, to where I couldn’t reach her anymore, and though I talked and talked to her, she wasn’t really there. We never spoke again.
So we held her memorial and sprinkled her ashes and cleaned her house, and my mother handed me a heavy old box of letters and journals. I took them home for later, feeling heavy myself, and wondering at the why, the how, the WTF of it all. We cleaned her house, and I brought home her desk, her martini glasses, her car. I slipped a ring onto my finger that had once adorned hers. I had her glasses remade with my prescription and one day opened that box. The diaries were there.
A few months later, I began typing up the diaries. I posted them on Twitter and Facebook, talked about it on the radio, made friends and followed trails back some 90 years. I’ve been working on this project for four years now; The Doris Diaries, her words, the diaries of a teen girl. Telling her story in a different way. I’ve slid into her shoes, a little sideways.
I’m not sure of the why. I only know that there’s truth here. I don’t know the right questions to ask, but the answers are somehow here anyway. It’s Something. Something I can’t explain.
I’ve come to that cross-road in a writer’s life where she has to choose between writing what she wants and writing what earns her bread. It might even be one of those modern five-way stoplights where several roads merge and one must decide whether to turn gently to the right, to join the path ahead, or — most alarming of all — veer to the left and go against the traffic, hoping for a break in the rush to slip across. What to do?
And I think I might go for the difficult and risky choice.
This is absolutely one of those moments where, if speaking to young writers, I might say, “Do as I say and not as I do.” Because who would counsel a writer to leave off the path toward Easy and instead push forth into the Difficult? You want success? Don’t do this.
But then I think of all the advice given to me, especially in the past few years, about “Follow your bliss,” and “Do what you love.” Let the angels lead you where they will. I think of the quote from poet Mary Oliver, “I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbably and beautiful and afraid of nothing as though I had wings.” Angels, again. So, I think, well, maybe I should. Maybe it’s time to chase this.
What is the this? It’s a long story, so to speak: My family history, reaching back into long ago when my people first put foot on American soil. Before it was American. Or after, just a century ago, before two great wars and women’s suffrage and Prohibition. I’m looking at my roots, of getting here, of what was left behind and what they came for, and what they achieved, and what it cost. And whom it cost.
So think of slavery and the Trail of Tears. Think of the British Raj and the Industrial Revolution. Think of the Orphan Train, of blood and bones. And — of healing, atonement, and mercy.
Oh, I don’t know how to write any of it, either. I’ll have to get there and see. But I’m finding myself obsessed with the vision I have for this story, and the possibilities. Maybe I’ll give it a year and see what happens.
Maybe I’ll be afraid of nothing as though I had wings.