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If you’ve ever taken a trip on a train or ferryboat, you know what I mean. You’re forced off the grid, leaving you 2 choices: read or write. It’s singularly relaxing. This is known as reader (or writer) heaven. From Paris, we took the TGV (tres grande vitesse) train to Aix-en-Provence. 3 zippy hours in a comfy seat with France out the fenetre.

Paris gare de lyon

What did I write on the train?

Sometimes productivity is overrated.

Sometimes productivity is overrated.

And what did I read? An international bestseller called THE READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND… by Swedish author Katarina Bivald. It will be published in the US in January, and you’re going to love it.

I am on a working vacation. When you’re a writer, it’s not a contradiction in terms, because your job comes with you in your head wherever you go. So if you go someplace awesome, you’re still working. But trust me, it doesn’t suck.

First stop–Paris. I finished FAMILY TREE (coming in 2016) and started research on my next book. Here’s the Jardin de Luxembourg and it doesn’t look much like Paris but when I see beehives, I have to take a photo because, well, beehives.

paris-beehives

I love discovering strange shops that sell things like mushroom hunting knives. Here’s one on Boul’ St. Germain called Le Prince Jardiniere:

paris - le prince jardiniere

My amazing husband Jerry takes the best people-watching shots. Check out this French kid taking a selfie in Place des Vosges, aka the prettiest square in Paris:

paris-place des voges

So my awesome publisher has produced a nice glossy advance-reading-copy edition of STARLIGHT ON WILLOW LAKE.

Trust me on this.

Lakeshore Chronicles #11, but you don’t have to be familiar with the series to fall in love with this one.

I know all writers will tell you “this book has a special place in my heart,” but this one REALLY does. After you read the dedication page in the front and the acknowledgment page in the back you’ll know why.

It’s a good book club topic. The storyline deals with with tragedy, a person’s role in caring for a parent, and how exploring the past can lead to a whole new perspective on life. Just as bonus, there are dogs, comedy, Balinese cooking, a few cuss words. and love scenes that will curl your toes but not offend your mother. Swear.

You know what’s missing? A reading group guide. I’d love your help with this. What’s the most thought-provoking topic your group has every discussed?

I have 15 copies of the ARC (pub-speak for “advance reading copy”) to give away. Here’s how to enter. Send the name of your book group, along with a contact person and mailing address, to susanmwiggs (at) gmail dot com, and fifteen winners will be chosen at random on May 1. You’ll receive the ARC along with some other goodies for readers to enjoy long before the book gets published.

Sound good?

Yummy book

Thanks for the love, Shelf Awareness. Fictional Stories, Real Food
There has been a growing trend over the past few years to write novels and memoirs that include recipes, although now it’s no longer a trend, it’s a genre. Obviously, some books are more successful than other with this; really, how many recipes for chocolate chip cookies can the market bear? But when it works, it’s very good. I still make the banana bread recipe (to great acclaim) from Molly Wizenberg’s wonderful memoir, A Homemade Life. Check it out.

Recent months have seen many entries in the book-with-recipes category. Susan Wiggs’s latest novel, The Apple Orchard, about a California apple orchard, an unwilling half-heiress to same, and the pleasures of food and family, is a captivating and charming story. So are the recipes, like lavender scones, and apple chutney. She says, “It’s always lovely to come across a recipe that’s good enough to share. My criteria for including a recipe in a book is that it needs to work thematically with the novel, it has to be delicious and it has to be reasonably easy to prepare. I like to picture my readers having their book club over and preparing something from one of my novels.”

The Apple Orchard is published. It’s in stores everywhere, starting right now. My amazing literary agent send me a gorgeous bouquet, featuring pink-and-white apple blossoms. As an unexpected bonus, my friend Janet delivered the flowers. Most days, I love my job.

I have such thoughtful readers. Look what someone sent me, after reading Summer at Willow Lake.

I have such nice readers.

So I’ve been asked how to make a musical slide show to share. Like this one:

Believe me, I am not very technical. You don’t need to be. Get Picasa here (it’s free) and upload the pics you want in the slide show. Click the Download tab and then click “make movie” and open the movie in Picasa. Then click Upload to YouTube and there it is. To add music, click “AudioSwap” and you’ll get a list (huge list) of music you can add.

Voila, you’re the laptop Fellini!

“Wanted: A needle swift enough to sew this poem into a blanket.” –Charles Simic, Serbian-American Poet

I love the little detail on the title lettering.

I wrote The Goodbye Quilt because it was cheaper than therapy. Honestly, I did not expect my daughter’s departure from home to hit me as hard as it did.
The first draft of this novel came out fast, in a matter of weeks, fueled by emotion and a sense of urgency to get the feelings out. 

Several years ago, I talked to my agent and great friend Meg Ruley about the book, but the story, like me, was a work in progress. I needed the perspective of time and my cold writer’s eye to transform the story from a self indulgent rumination into a novel readers could truly embrace and relate to.

I also needed to find a way to conclude the story that felt true and satisfying. This is something I struggled with for a long time and when I finally hit on the right ending, it was glad day chez Wiggs. At last, I got it right. I proudly submitted the piece to my publisher, only to hear the dreaded words, “This ending doesn’t work. You have to change it.” After much gnashing of teeth and ritual smearing of ashes, I realized that this was true. Back to the drawing board. The perfect solution came from the perfect source, my own daughter, the ever fabulous Elizabeth Wiggs Maas, now grown and married and an author in her own right.

She didn’t give me the answer, but she reminded me of the true meaning of the goodbye quilt in the story. It is a record of one woman’s days as a mom, and as such, it was an unfinished story.

Whether readers of the novel will agree or not remains to be seen, but for me, it’s the grace note at the end if a long and beautiful piece.

IMPORTANT: You can enter to win a $500 travel voucher to bring your college kid home–or to take you anywhere you want to go. All you need is to find your favorite quote in THE GOODBYE QUILT and you’re good to go. Details to follow so stay tuned!

I’m so excited for people to read this book! I’ve put up a slide show of images here:https://picasaweb.google.com/susanwiggsauthor/TheGoodbyeQuilt# and a video with a beautiful song here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iFrBbydBAo 

At the end of the novel, you’ll fine a spectacular pattern for the original Goodbye Quilt, created by the ever-talented Joan of Cards.

years best

year's best

Everybody’s doing a “Year’s Best” — here’s mine, in completely random order:

 

  • best romance novel to re-read: The Windflower by Laura London (aka Tom and Sharon Curtis)
  • second-best re-read: Hummingbird by LaVyrle Spencer
  • best best-of list to feature a book by my favorite author (aka, me)
  • funniest YA novel: Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors (there is some big upcoming news on this book and I can’t wait for Suz to spill the beans!)
  • coolest Nora Roberts book: The Hollow
  • novel most likely to send you into therapy: Cost by Roxana Robinson
  • best sobfest: Last Kiss by Luanne Rice
  • funniest: Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
  • most inspiring fiction: Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber
  • best love-your-body women’s fiction: Bikini Season by Sheila Roberts
  • best category romance novel: a tie–The Princess and the Cowboy by Lois Faye Dyer, It’s That Time of Year by Christine Wenger
  • best reissued novel for kids: Looking for Bapu by Anjali Banerjee
  • most overused device in literary fiction: a dead or missing child 😦
  • best serial thriller: Tailspin by Catherine Coulter
  • best book you probably haven’t read but should: People of the Book
  • stranger-than-fiction nonfiction: Identical Strangers by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein
  • best photographs: Life: The Classic Collection
  • biggest slog but worth the effort: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
  • cutest photographs with coolest story: The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton
  • best ending: Run by Ann Patchett
  • best holiday themed novel: The Letters by Luanne Rice, tied with A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr
  • best escape: Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard
  • beach read most likely to make you forget you’re at the beach: The Secret Between Us by Barbara Delinsky
  • book that’s making all the “best-of” lists that people only pretend to have read: A Mercy by Toni Morrison
  • favorite best-of list
  • best-of list of books you probably won’t read
  • best first novel: Oxygen by Carol Cassella
  • best not-yet-published novel: Dog Days by Elsa Watson
  • best book about books: Book Lust and More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl

what’s on my mind right now:

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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