November 14, 2007

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It Never Gets Old... Posted by Lorraine (L.L.) Bartlett It's been almost two years since my first book was published by a small press and given a teeny, tiny print run. The book didn't get a lot of notice, which quite frankly broke my heart. Not surprising, anyone in that position would feel the same. I got some lovely reviews online, but it wasn't enough to get the book into libraries and the hardcover price was also a turnoff to readers unfamiliar with my name. Fast forward twenty-three months. In October the book was published in mass market paperback by Worldwide Mystery, an imprint of Harlequin. It's called a "limited edition," because it's essentially only available to their Reader Service book club and on the Harlequin website. Within three weeks of publication the book showed up on Amazon as "used." The prices are deceiving, though, because for the exact same money (possibly less--it's lower than list price), you could get the book spanking new from the Harlequin website. Go figure! Amazon had originally listed every one of the people I thanked in my acknowledgments page as "editors." Whoa! Untrue. I e-mailed Amazon and they told me they'd take it down, but that it would take a few days. So yesterday I decided to take a look. Yup, fixed! (Thanks, Amazon.) And low and behold, there's a review for the book. (Mind you, the hardcover edition has ten Amazon reviews.) This unknown-to-me reader said: "What makes the novel better-than-average is watching the awkward relationship between the two brothers develop into real trust. The older brother Richard is more complex than you think he is at first, and his willingness to help Jeff investigate, even when it appears he may be delusional due to his injuries, is proof that he loves his younger brother much more than Jeff realizes. I hope to be able to read another story involving these two characters." Reading that gave me a Sally Field moment: She got it. She really, really GOT it. (Can you tell I haven't received a lot of fan mail?) This new edition of the book is another shot at life for the characters, with (in comparison) a spectacular print run. The sequel will be published (again, by a small press) in late June 2008, and while it can stand alone, it'll have a lot more meaning if readers meet the characters in the first book. Maybe you'd like to meet them, too.
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Fall (almost) of the House of Smith posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken I just spent three weeks pet- and house-sitting for friends named Smith--really!--who went to Hawaii. The pets and I all survived. So did the house, more or less. That house had it in for me, though. (Insert evil music here.) I stocked up on simple food so I would not have to cook. I could (and did) microwave everything. That led to the first disaster. They have a stove-hood microwave, and we all know I'm short. So I had trouble keeping the glass microwave tray seated on those little knobs that hold it in place. I managed to dislodge the tray and it fell. It felllllllllll in slo-mo, while things ran through my head. "Oh, no!" my mind said. "If it hits the ceramic tile floor, it's a goner!" I didn't have to worry. It shattered when it hit the ceramic stove surface instead. I shut the dogs in another room and cleaned up. I turned off the turntable mechanism and all was fine. One bullet dodged. The next day, when one of the dogs had an "accident" (hah! It was raining and he didn't want to get his tootsies wet), I slipped a little on the wet floor, steadied myself on the wall, and knocked down a framed print. Glass shattered. When the dust settled, I was relieved to realize that the glass on the print had not broken. A pair of candlesticks on the side table were decorated with glass prisms. But they all looked to be intact. Then I saw that my friends had obtained some extra prisms, which now lay shattered on the floor. I shut the dogs in another room and cleaned up. After that things went just fine for a couple of days. Unless you count the situation with the freezer. They have a nifty refrigerator with a bottom drawer freezer. I noticed that frost was starting to build up on some of my microwaveable dinners. Within a few days, there was a lot of frost. After a week or so, it looked as if a blizzard had struck. By the end of my stay I was drinking my iced tea without ice cubes to avoid looking at the mess I'd somehow created in the freezer. Then one Friday evening when I was anticipating a quiet weekend writing, a godawful KEEEERASH sounded. The dogs, loafing quietly on the couch, sat up, looking all innocent. As the sound faded, I shut the dogs in another room and, with a lot of trepidation, opened the cellar door. If I say my friends have a lot of stuff stockpiled, I would be understating the situation. They have shelves and cupboards and pantries filled with canned and bottled and dry foods. A shelf in the stairwell had fallen. I was relieved not to see the cat anywhere in the disaster, but clearly I had a huge "cleanup on aisle cellar stairs" ahead of me. First I spent an hour shoveling barbecue sauce, salad dressing, pickles, and olives into a garbage bag. Then I drove a piece of glass into my finger, gave up and called home for reinforcements. I took the area rugs, sodden with a smelly mix of condiments and prickly with bits of glass, outside into the rain. My husband arrived with work gloves and more garbage bags. We literally shoveled glass and sauces for another hour, managing to clean the ceramic tile floor but failing miserably to get the mess out of the carpeted stairs, which resembled the aftermath of a particularly bloody encounter. When I went to move the rain-scoured rugs back inside, I noted that they were covered with glass bits, some of which had fallen onto the pavement among the leaves. Nobody is going to be going barefoot around that house anytime soon, and that includes the driveway. Later that week someone placed traffic cones blocking the driveway. We still don't know who did it or why, but surely some cosmic force realized the house should be isolated for the good of the neighborhood. A few days later the same framed print fell off the wall again. Nothing broke. I left it on the floor. It seemed like the safe thing to do. All in all, I did actually get some writing done, mostly organizing so I can pick up bits and pieces to work on the cancer book as I have time. Our friends are going to Hawaii again next year. I’m not house-sitting. I’m going with them.

Lorraine Bartlett

Five women, five weekdays, many surprises.

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