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One of the most-asked questions of a writer: Where do you get your ideas?

I rarely know; my novels are stitched together with bits and pieces like a crazy quilt. By the time I finish, the inciting idea has morphed and changed so much that it’s virtually disappeared into the fabric of the story.

Not so Isadora. She appeared full-fledged before me, demanded her story be told and refused to morph. I don’t recall why I was paging through an ancient book about Boston, but I came across this illustration:

And…voila! Isadora was born. I knew she was miserable and smart and repressed, and had a fine story to tell. When I finished writing The Charm School, I sent a copy of this portrait to the publisher because in their art questionnaire, they wanted to know what the main character looked like. >>sound of art director howling with laughter<<

Here is Isadora in the illustrator’s imagination, along with a toothsome Ryan. It’s a before-and-after Extreme Makeover. Also note the butterfly, mentioned in yesterday’s post. It’s visible through the die-cut window.


And finally, in stores now, is the 2008 Isadora. She’s looking very fit indeed, Ryan is as flamboyant as ever, and I kind of like that their facees are left up to the imagination.

 What about you? Which cover do you prefer?

     The Charm School has gone through a few iterations in its lifetime. I thought you’d like to see the genesis of this book from the outside in. The concept for the original cover came from me. I can’t tell you how rare this is for me or any author. We’re writers, not art directors, and we generally do better when we stick with what we know.

A little background–my two covers prior to The Charm School didn’t catch readers’ eyes. So I was extremely motivated to help find the right look. Which I did in (surprise!) a book of Dover Clip Art. It was a little snippet (literally) which I sent to my editor (see above).

Here’s the sketch they came up with. It was faxed to me. Back in the dark ages of the 1990s, this is the way people transmitted images. The minute I saw this, I knew they cover was going to turn out great:

The addition of the butterfly was genius. Perfect for the theme of the book–a tightly-bound young woman finally bursting out of her cocoon. And when I saw the words “die-cut” I thought: Be still my heart. Why? Because a die-cut window in a book cover is a very expensive proposition, production-wise, so I knew this art was turning into a lavish affair. Here’s the final rendering:


 The “window” in the page is a peek at the inside art. I’ll post that tomorrow, and also show you the “real” Isadora, compared to the artist’s rendering.

Today you can get a brand-spankin’-new edition of The Charm School, complete with a special preview of Just Breathe.

More about Isadora tomorrow!

Here’s a rainbow over Blake Island, which I can see from my beach: 

Here it is, zoomed in:

And finally, here it is, reflected in the water. I love Rainbow Season, which also happens to be the name of one of my favorite romance novels.


Please watch this public service announcement from wonderful authors Mary Guterson and George Shannon. And support your local library! If you’re in the Seattle area, please join us!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dinner Reads: A Literary Affair
6:00 p.m.
Contact: (206) 866-1250
A fundraising gala to benefit the Bainbridge Public Library Dinner, wine and words with readings of their own works by highly acclaimed local authors, including Greg Atkinson, Suzanne Selfors, Natalya IlyinSusan Wiggs and David Guterson.

Beginning at 6:00 pm with socializing with the evening’s authors and a literary-related silent auction. Emcees: Bainbridge authors George Shannon and Mary Guterson

Wing Point Golf & Country Club
811 Cherry Avenue NE
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
$100 per person; $1000 VIP table of 10
RSVP at (206) 866-1250
Presented by: Bainbridge Public Library Board Premiere sponsor: Harrison Medical Center

This blog is supposed to be all about relaxation and my favorite pasttime, reading. Dog walking and home decorating. Delicious food. Photography and travel. You know, the fun stuff of life.

Keep kids reading!I’ve tried, really tried, to keep politics out of it, but I can’t keep my mouth shut any longer. There’s a reading-emergency afoot and we need to do something. THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION WANTS TO CUT ALL FUNDING FOR READING IS FUNDAMENTAL. This is the first time in the history of the program that any administration, Republican or Democratic, has eliminated funding.

Destroying this historic literacy program hits me where I live. Taking books away from children is the last straw. So I’m joining with fellow authors to urge you to send an e-mail message to your reps in congress in support of continued funding. The appropriation committee will be meeting in May and June to decide on budgets.

Let me be clear: This is not a controversial program. From its inception in 1966, RIF has been supported on both sides of the aisle because of its demonstrated success. Regardless of politics, thinking people know that we can either educate our children now, or pay later, when we’re dealing with the known consequences of illiteracy: poverty, increased crime, unemployment, dependence on welfare.

According to Publishers Weekly, “while President Bush continually overlooks the organization, both his wife and mother have held positions within the organization. Barbara Bush served on RIF’s board of directors from 1980 to 1988 and then on its national advisory board from 1989 to 1992 (chairing the advisory board for three of the four years.) Laura Bush served on RIF’s national advisory council from 1996 to 2001.”

So what’ll it be? RIF costs $1.63 per child per year. It costs us $22,650 per prisoner per year to incarcerate a criminal, and yes, there’s a connection. 70% of incarcerated criminals are functionally illiterate.

This administration always finds funding for massive tax cuts to corporations, the super-wealthy, and no-bid contractors. Yet when it comes to the education of low-income children, it’s happy to slash the budget to nothing.

RIF’s Web site provides a link for supporters to find their senator and representative and send an e-mail message in support of continued funding. The appropriation committee will be meeting in May and June to decide on budgets. 

Funding for RIF was cut from the 2001 budget, but there was such an uproar that it was reinstated. So roar again! Please! It’s a no-brainer.

Here’s the USS John C Stennis…from my bedroom. Interesting perspective. I was sure they’d come for me (note the contraband on the dog crate). I swear, I gave the mail bin back to the post office!


Submitted without comment:


The good: Online registration for the Field’s End Writers’ Conference has been extended until Monday, 4/21. Yay!

The bad: The conference is nearly sold out, so if you don’t pony up right away, you might miss out.

C’mon, you know you want to come and see what it’s all about. You deserve it.

I prepare to leave the litter.YO! Barkis is one year old today! Happy birthday to my shiny boy! Here are a few highlights of the Year of the Dog:

Barkis discovers the beach

The beach is scary. Run away!Here he is a year ago …

…getting more handsome every day…

sun worshiper(sometimes I’m naughty)




…. I’m in Canine Good Citizen Class

I\'m on my kitchen rug, waiting for a treat..

 … I love the beach!

…and I climb trees so I can look out to sea…




This from my e-mail: After a short stay in America, Michelangelo’s David returned to Europe as McDavid:

Join me on Facebook. You won’t be sorry.

I tend to spontaneously give stuff away to readers and libraries. Join the fun here. Really.

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April 2008