An old friend comes to town to read from her new book at a local bookstore, but you're too busy with life to make it to the reading. You feel terrible about it (I know you do because you sent me that kind email with such a heartfelt apology).
The good news is that there are many other things you can do to support your crazy writer friends, some of them from the comfort of home. I recommend the following five, in no particular order:
1) Write a review on Amazon. It doesn't have to be long, and it doesn't even have to be positive. Just be honest and be yourself. Say what you liked and didn't like. When it comes to online book reviews, silence is more deadly than a bad review. Bonus points if you also post the review on Goodreads.
2) Give a copy to a friend. Movies are advertised on billboards and TV, but people learn about books by word of mouth. If you liked the book, pass it on.
3) Get your book group to read it. Many authors are willing to join the book group discussions and answer questions either live or via Skype or FaceTime.
4) Throw a literary party. Bring together a group of friends and invite the author to read and talk about her book. Your friends will be impressed that you have an honest-to-goodness writer friend, and your author friend will be deeply grateful.
5) Ask your local library to buy the book. Your library's website probably has a form to submit a request. Or just ask your favorite librarian.
I've been a bit busy lately, traveling, reading, and somehow finding time to fit in a bit of writing too.
On February 6, I read at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. It was a great chance to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. The Stranger listed my reading at one of the top five things to do in town that day.
Then I traveled to Charlotte, NC, in between winter storms to read on February 22 at Park Road Books, another great indie bookstore. I baked cookies (we authors aren't above bribing potential readers!), sold all the books in stock and had a great conversation.
As we reminisced about 1989, someone reminded us of another major event I hadn't remembered when I wrote my Year in Review, 25 Years Later blog post: Hurricane Hugo. Hurricanes don't usually travel so far inland, and this one knocked out power, tossed Charlotte's famous trees around like they were matchsticks, and left almost 100,000 people homeless from Cape Verde to Lake Erie.
Coming up on Sunday, March 8, my work is getting the New Short Fiction treatment on stage at the Federal Bar in North Hollywood. Professional actors - they have IMDb entries and everything! - will be reading four of my short stories. Click here for more info and to buy tickets. We're calling the event, Democracy and Other Stories.
I'll also be appearing on a panel on Community Supported Arts: A New/Old Way to Think about the Relationship Between Writers and Readers at the Mennonite/s Writing VII: Movement, Transformation and Place writing conference in Fresno on Friday, March 13. Rhonda Langley, Julia Baker and I will talk about our independent projects seeking to connect readers and writers, in the busy postmodern era. Rhonda and Julia have a couple of great projects that you should definitely check out if you can't make it to the conference. I'll be talking about GuerrillaReads and an essay I wrote about applying food movement concepts to literature.
In the more distant future, I'll be traveling to Chicago in early June for appearances at the Reading Under the Influence series and City Lit Books. More details coming soon.
Just before the big launch party for Love Songs of the Revolution, I was interviewed by Chris Burnett on the show Indymedia On Air on KPFK radio in Los Angeles. It was a sweet to be back in the studio where I used to be one of the hosts.
If you didn't get a chance to listen in live, here's a recording of the interview, which runs about 12 minutes total. We talked about the book, my publisher (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography) and current trends in the book publishing industry, and we give a shoutout or two to awesome indie bookstore Skylight Books. I also read an excerpt from the beginning of the book.
A big thank you to everyone who came and launched Love Songs of the Revolution into the stratosphere on Saturday. We had a standing-room-only crowd at the LA Central Library, and Skylight Books sold every book they brought with them.
If you weren't able to buy a copy, you can order it from your favorite local indie bookstore. You can always buy it online as well. It's also available as an ebook or handmade art edition.
Here are a few photos from the festivities.
Photos by Melissa Wall
We are going to party like it's 1989!
This year, August 23 marks the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Way, a massive independence demonstration that stretched across three countries, and serves as a major turning point in my novel.
So it couldn't be more perfect that the official launch party for the book takes place that day.
Please join me at 2pm on August 23 at the downtown LA Central Library for the party. We'll have live music and Lithuanian snacks, and Skylight Books will be on hand with copies of the book for sale.
Here are all the details. Hope to see you there!
Book Launch Party for Love Songs of the Revolution
Saturday, August 23 at 2:00 pm
Los Angeles Central Library
630 W. 5th St. (map)
LA, CA 90071
Meeting Room A (near the 5th Street entrance)
Reviews have been coming in for Love Songs of the Revolution. Of course I think you should read the book, but you don't have to trust me. Ask these fine people:
Vilnius might as well be a character, for Kudirka's relationship with the city is romantic, sensual, and redemptive. When Kudirka finds the body of his murdered wife, he grieves her death, calling her "beloved," which is also the way he repeatedly describes the city, "my beloved Vilnius," "my beloved city," "like an old lover." Both his wife and home are his lovers, and Kudirka seems to perform a bit of psychological displacement by trying his best (which isn't very good) to help the independence movement happening in Vilnius in order to allay his guilt over having been a fairly pitiful husband. Kirdurka admits as much, realizing that "if I believed in nothing else, perhaps I could believe in that. If Vilnius was to be an epicenter of a great uprising against the Soviets, then I had to be part of it. For Natalie, if not for myself" and "Vilnius [was] the only lover I'd ever been faithful to." This devotion and romance for his home is his redeeming quality, and it is the thing that pulls us through to the end of the narrative. However, the narrative is not the end of the story. In fact, what happens after Kudirka's memoir is where Mauldin's real genius shows itself.
by KC Kirkley at Curbside Splendor
All this changes when Martynas’ wife is murdered. The authorities are reluctant to investigate. He learns that his wife had secrets. He feels compelled to search for the truth. He becomes embroiled with revolutionaries, criminals and spies. All this against the backdrop of Vilnius, a city alive with political and cultural change, a city he writes about with all the passion of the exile.
by Goodreads reviewer Kate Vane
Solid take on the suspenseful thriller, suitably twisty, takes place in Lithuania in the late 80s, which gives (as is its aim) an intimate and relatable feel to big seemingly cold themes of political unrest and espionage.
by Goodreads author Leo Robertson
The good natured self-loathing of the main character is explained by the surprising twists introduced in the second portion of the book, where the story takes an unexpected and delightful turn. Overall, Mauldin's masterly prose, ability to create extraordinarily believable characters and brilliant insights into power dynamics, writ large and small, make her an author to watch.
by Amazon reader L. Lueders
While doing research on Lithuanian culture for Love Songs of the Revolution, I came upon a YouTube video that changed everything for me. Fuzzy images from a massive demonstration in 1989 are overlaid with a rock anthem whose words I couldn't understand, but whose meaning couldn't be more clear.
The Baltic Way was a major milestone in the Singing Revolution that swept the three Baltic nations in the late 1980s and ultimately led to their independence. No one knows exactly how many people showed up in the streets that day, but estimates run between one and two million people across the three countries.
Music and especially mass singing festivals have long played a major role in Baltic political movements. The rock anthem being sung in 1989 is "The Baltics are Waking Up," written especially for the Singing Revolution, in all three languages. The recording is sung by leading singers from each country:
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Way.
It's an amazing story and a historic moment in European history. We in the West know about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in China, both of which happened the same year, but have never heard about the Baltic Way. Once I learned about it, I knew it would have an important place in my novel. There on he streets of Vilnius in 1989, the crowds holding hands around them and singing for their freedom, the lives of Martynas and Indre are irrevocably changed.
Monday was Publication Day, when my novel, Love Songs of the Revolution, officially hit the virtual bookshelves. Soon to be literal bookshelves.
I really hit the jackpot with this beautiful cover designed by Ryan W. Bradley. He tells me he used covers from 1960s Graham Greene books as his inspiration. What a coincidence - I love Graham Greene.
The big announcement from the publisher, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP), describes my novel as an "unusually intelligent spy thriller." I sent out my own announcement of the book and the upcoming launch party on June 28 (yes, you are invited too!) to my legions of friends, family and fans.
Even in the run-up to the publication date, the book has already started getting a bit of attention like this review, a notice and this reader's list that places me near Kathleen Rooney's O, Democracy, which is also on my to-read list.
Love Songs of the Revolution is now available as an e-book, in paperback and in a deluxe, handmade hardback edition (can't wait to get my hands on that version!). You can order it online right now. Or if you're in the LA area, come pick it up at my launch party at Skylight Books. Buy it there and your purchase will also support one of the best independent bookstores in all of Southern California. Heck, it's one of the best in the U.S.
I thought about posting a picture of a cigar with this blog, symbolizing the birth of my book. Then I decided that was a little too obvious. Anyway, when is a cigar just a cigar? So instead I'll close this blog with a bit of graffiti wisdom I ran across on the drive through beautiful Wadi Mujib in Jordan. Happy reading!
I've always said that for every NaNoWriMo there should be at least three NaNoEdMo's. Churning out 50,000 words isn't all that hard once you get some momentum going. Editing your WriMo down to 10,000 words worth reading is what separates the w̶h̶e̶a̶t̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶h̶a̶f̶f̶ m̶e̶n̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶o̶y̶s̶ w̶i̶n̶n̶e̶r̶s̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶l̶o̶s̶e̶r̶s̶ benjamins from the bitcoin. (Or should that be the other way around?)
I probably love editing more than I love the struggle of putting one word down after another on a blank page. Sharpening up a workaday sentence that communicated the basics into one that glitters just enough to make you smile without distracting you from the story: that's what I love to do.
When I'm writing, I'm focused more on plot and character. When editing, I have Chekov's gun and Orwell's directive to never use a long word when a short word will do. I'm looking for every word that ends in -ly and asking it to politely (oops, there's another one) take its leave.
There must be a million and a half blog posts out there like this one, authors extolling the sublime pleasures of killing their darlings, hacking away at the words until the text is lean and ripped as an Olympic swimmer.
I'm currently in round three of line edits on Love Songs of the Revolution. It's amazing how you can find errors to fix or improvements begging to be made on every pass through a manuscript. Every single one!
A friend recently asked me how could I edit my own work. The honest answer is a rather dull one: practice. It also comes from knowing that the editing and even the deleting is the writing just as much as the original task was of putting those first words on virtual paper. The rather more metaphysical answer I'd like to give you is that I'm forever chasing an idealistic vision in my mind of the book I'm trying to write. Perhaps one day I'll get there.
One of the books I referred to while doing research for Love Songs of the Revolution was this little tome, a travel guide to Vilnius from 1981.
The book was written in Russian by Lithuanian author Antanas Papšys and translated into English by J.C. Butler. It was published by Progress Publishers in Moscow. Here's an excerpt from the introduction:
"Vilnius is a city whose rich past is marked by the most important historical events in the life of the Lithuanian people. It is rightly famed for its revolutionary and international traditions; its name is dear not only to Lithuanians but also to peoples of other nationalities living in Lithuania since time immemorial."
Some of what's in the guidebook is standard travel material: recommended walking tours, information about the opera and ballet, and what to see if you have only one, two or three days in town.
Then there is the uniquely Soviet material, like the full-color photo of a Shop in the Drill Factory. There's a two-page spread devoted to Lenin Square, with both a bird's-eye shot of the park and a closeup of the central statue of the man called Leninas in Lithuanian.
During the Soviet era, I learned, the Church of St. John, housed a Museum of Scientific Thought. In 1981, a bus ride from the airport to Vilnius city center would set you back 20 kopecks. If you preferred a taxi, you could order it on the plane from a stewardess.
The other great find in this book is this old library card and sleeve inside the front cover. I wonder if anyone else has checked it out since the last time I did.
The final page of the book is devoted to this rather charming request to readers:
"Progress Publishers would be glad to have your opinion of this book, its translation and design and any suggestions you may have for future publications. Please send all your comments to 17 Zubovsky Boulevard, Moscow, USSR."
I was sad when Google maps couldn't find that address, though I did stumble upon this little gem of a website instead.
Here are a few more images from this wonderful time capsule of a book:
Looking for your next book to read? I can recommend all these great indie press books.