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In Creole, “lagniappe” means a little something extra, like the perfectly-wrapped chocolate truffle on your pillow at a fancy hotel.

As I’m working on a book, it sometimes occurs to me to offer a lagniappe to readers. Sometimes this means a memorable saying or aphorism on the epigraph pages of the book. (Epigraph = book geek speak for those pages that separate sections of the novel.) If I’m writing about a restaurant, or going camping, or a Polish family bakery, it’s likely to be recipes and anecdotes. Sometimes it’s an aphorism or memorable saying.

For Just Breathe, the lagniappe was a no-brainer because of the main character’s job. Sarah Moon is a comic strip artist. Come on, who amongst us didn’t want to be a comic strip artist as a kid? Didn’t we all draw cartoons with speech bubbles coming out of their mouths? I always try to give the main character of my books a “fantasy” job–one I’d love to have in another life. This is one of the perks of writing fiction. You get to live in a character’s skin.

I bet this drives comic strip artists crazy–people think it’s easy. Because the very best comics look effortless, like mindless doodling. You just sketch a few lines, write a few panes of funny dialogue, et voila! Instant art!

What I discovered is that, like any art form, comic strip drawing and writing is hard. And I found this out the hard way–by trying my hand at it. I had no trouble conceiving of the setup and and dialogue for Sarah’s strip, which is titled “Just Breathe.” A grown daughter, Shirl, experiences marital troubles and moves in with her bossy divorced mom, Lulu. Yet when it came to rendering these characters into drawings, I was hopeless.

I studied the careers of successful cartoonists, notably my favorite, Nicole Hollander, who created “Sylvia.” I traded e-mails with the ever-helpful Greg Evans, creator of “Luann.”

But I still couldn’t draw. At my wits’ end, literally, I told my editor we needed to find a real artist to draw Lulu and Shirl. Fortunately for me, my publisher’s creative art director, Sean Kapitain, is a fine artist in his own right. Burning the midnight oil, he made the fictional comic strip look exactly like the real thing, right down to the last detail.

So if you happen to pick up a copy of Just Breathe, please enjoy the little lagniappe–a series of comic strips created just for this novel.

Really, I do. You might think that you do, but you don’t. I do. When the Publisher & CEO, the VP & the sales director came to Seattle for meetings with Amazon.com, they paid me a visit, too. I was going to meet them in the city for lunch, but we came up with a better option–a nice catered lunch on my patio, then boating to visit an author on the mainland, Debbie Macomber. So I got to be a VIP for a day. Here we are after boating from the island to the mainland:

SW, Loriana, Donna, Craig
SW, Loriana, Donna, Craig

When the people you work with feel like friends, it’s a total bonus. It was one of those days when work didn’t feel like work. Oh, wait. That would be every day. I (heart) my job!

I can’t wait to meet you! Here are my two events in the area–a signing at Costco, and an event sponsored by the Sacramento RWA:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cal Expo
6:00 p.m.
Costco #471
1600 Expo Parkway
Sacramento, CA 95815
Phone: (916) 830-1078
Contact: Carl Golston

 

 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sacramento, CA
Open to the public starting at 1:30pm
Holiday Inn Sacramento North East
5321 Date Avenue

 

 

Sacramento, CA 95841-2597

Barnes & Noble has a section of their web site called B&N Studio, featuring podcasts with dozens of authors. I got sucked in for an hour and a half, hoping one of the writers would reveal the Secret to Making One’s Deadline (and surviving to tell the tale). No answers, alas. My podcast is on the site here.

Speaking of B&N, it’s Girls’ Night Out in Silverdale, WA on October 18. Mark your calendar:

Saturday, October 18, 2008
Girls’ Night Out – the all-day-Saturday edition!
12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m.
Kitsap Mall (by the Food Court)
Silverdale WA
Please join Kitsap authors Susan Wiggs, Sheila Roberts and Carol Cassella in a no-holds-barred, tell-all panel discussion, “The Story Behind the Story” — how a writer really turns her dreams into ink. Books will be available for sale at the event.Kitsap Mall’s annual Girls’ Night Out features a variety of activities, all oriented to women’s interests, including tables for non-profit, health-related organizations, fashion shows and speakers. This event benefits a women’s charity.Contact: Ruthanne Devlin
Community Relations Manager
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
10315 Silverdale Way NW at Kitsap Mall
Silverdale, WA 98383
crm2281@bn.com

 

Come see me in Ketchikan on Tuesday!

Cozy up with a good book.

Cozy up with a good book.

The deadline to sign up is September 15. The signing, at 1:30, is free and open to the public. Come see me!

The event will be at the Holiday Inn Sacramento, 5312 Date Ave. Check-in for paid attendees is at 9:30 a.m., followed by Wiggs’ presentation at 10:30 a.m., lunch at 11:45 a.m. and a booksigning at 12:30 p.m. The non-paying public is welcome at 1:30 p.m.  Full info here:

Between the Lines: Make a date with romance

Submitted: 2 days ago – In the super-competitive, overcrowded world of the romance genre, few authors have been as successful as the award-winning, multimillion-seller Susan Wiggs. Her latest is “Just Breathe” (Mira, $24.95, 400 pages), an emotional roller coaster centered on a cartoonist whose husband betrays her. Undaunted, she leaves him and returns to her California hometown, where new love blossoms.

» Full Story on The Sacramento Bee

We sure can! Here’s a podcast of a fun phone chat about Just Breathe. Enjoy!

One of my favorite backstories about Just Breathe has to do with my friend Glenn. In the book, Sarah’s father is restoring a Mustang at Glenn Mounger’s Garage.

Here is a shot of the real garage, which belongs to the real Glenn. Yeah, I know. You really can’t call this a “garage.” It’s more like the Taj Mahal of Cars:

rare automobile collection that inspired a bit of Just Breathe

rare automobile collection that inspired a bit of Just Breathe

 Here’s a slide show, including shots of Gene Autry’s limo and the amazing Packard. Thanks to Glenn for lending his name and a touch of class to this novel.

…is Chat With Women, featuring booklover Kim Ricketts. On Friday from 8:00am to 9:00am (Pacific), we’ll be talking about Just Breathe, giving away a free copy of the book and riffing on anything else the callers want to hear about. You can listen live here. And hey, call me!

So this is a first, not just for me but for the ENTIRE FREAKIN FERRY SYSTEM. I’m having a booksigning on the ferry Thursday, on the 4:40pm Seattle/Bainbridge run. 

Come to a booksigning aboard a Washington State Ferry!
Come to a booksigning aboard a Washington State Ferry!

I’m known for doing signings in unusual places. This one is to celebrate the publication of JUST BREATHE, and because there will be ads for the book on the ferry. Enter a drawing to win a gift basket filled with gourmet treats, a signed book and a certificate for an oxygen facial. There’s a nice article about the event in Shelf Awareness here.

All this scenery and a new book to read, too. You can’t beat that!

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