Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dear Yukrainians

Manito Park, Spokane

I just checking the stats for slowreadtoasunburn and low and behold, eight followers from the Ukraine are reading this thing! Maybe it's a book group?   

Dear Ukraine Readers:
This is a photo of Manito Park in Spokane, Washington.  (Look at a map of the USA -- any version will do, as our borders don't change much.)  See Washington? Okay, Spokane is to the right of Seattle.

I don't know if you found slowreadtoasunburn while looking for a recipe for hot cross buns, but welcome!  When you read -- I hope Amazon reaches the Ukraine -- Hot Cross Buns, the book not the recipe, you'll read about Manito Park on Spokane's South Hill. Isn't it beautiful?  A bakery named The Manito is one of many Spokane locations in Hot Cross Buns, again, the book not the recipe.

Anyway, when you read Hot Cross Buns -- Do you have e-books? -- you will find a recipe for hot cross buns at the very front of the book, although I think you'll relate more to the parts of the book relating to scones and pies.  Am I all screwed up on my religion/politics?  I didn't think you celebrated Easter, which is when Catholics snarf hot cross buns.  Why are you looking for a recipe for hot cross buns. Please send clarification.

My co-authorette, Judy, and I would love to meet you.  Do you have book groups?  Book groups are when a group of people pick a book to read and then get together once a month to discuss -- or not -- that month's book.  Unless you're at my home, the food is usually quite good, too.  No hot cross buns, though!  (Ha, ha!)

I hope to meet you after you read Hot Cross Buns. Wouldn't it be funny if we ate hot cross buns?


Friday, September 28, 2012

THE Library

Not the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library

(The Library of Congress)

Hot Cross Buns now has a Library of Congress number to add to its chache of stuff that makes it legit.  Don't ask me what the hey having that special number means, but I know we fed a lot of information into a computer to get it.

I suppose we could have skipped over that step to find out what happens if you don't get a LOC number, but after six years -- now going on seven -- do we really want to step in that? I'm thinking my normal excuse for errors, (listed in order of usage) "I forgot." "Oopsie." "You don't say?"  "Who cares?" probably would not fly with the dudes and dudettes behind the big round desk in DC.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Find the Paragraphs


Humor me and watch this video.

(It's only a minute long.  We did this for seven hours.)
Ya really wanna know what it took for two of us to write Hot Cross Buns?
Well here ya go, an inside view of some of the really fun moments.  Oh oh, I sound cynical again, but I really mean it!  Days like yesterday were what brought out the best in our authorette friendship... a certain stick-to-it-of-ness interspersed with laughter. Heavy on the laughter.
Yesterday we were down to the wire, as in we were downloading (or is it uploading?) the guts of HCB to Createspace, which is supposed to put the book into a book.  We do the "On your mark, get set..." and holy crap, we press the button and all the paragraph indents vanish. I'm talking nada -- zip -- zero -- vamoose!

So what are ya gonna do?  We did what we've done at least a dozen of times over the past two years. You got it, one of us reads and the other puts it in the computer. We wade through 86,000 words.

Yesterday I got the reading end of the stick (Typically, I take charge of the computer, but no way was I messin' with this sucker at this critical point.) so I sat there reading the first word of EVERY paragraph of our 86,000-word book to Judy off my untainted version.  Judy makes the changes and puts them in the critical computer.

Now for the reward, you will notice by my video voice, the chore becomes a monotone drill (Judy isn't just clearing her throat repeatedly.), but every so often, the first words of every paragraph, when read at great rapidity, makes for funny blabber.

Consider it our first peak at the guts of HCB.  Well, at least you got some of the characters' names.

It was funny to us, anyway.  For the first 10 minutes.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

HCB Has A Cover!

Susan Aldworth, graphic designer and all-around go-to kind of gal.

Susan Aldworth, our graphic designer friend who has done the cover for Hot Cross Buns sent this ominous e-mail to me and Judy the other day:


Attached is the "final" proof. With all pictures doctored and text updated.

I have opted not to do a logo bug...Pennedpress in a san-serif type font
seemed more sophisticated alone than when the obvious pen art was placed
with it.

This pdf is suitable for printing on a desk top printer. Once you have
approved it I will create the various jpgs and thumbnails that you need.

This is serious you-know-what! And speaking for myself, I nearly had an accident in my big-girl pants!
I fully intended to download the cover, but Blogger won't accept the format I have, so the unveiling will have to wait until Susan sends me another copy.

Oh, and the photo above was taken about three years ago, when Spokane shut down because of an epic snow storm.  Susan, a Montana native, skied into work.  She's as talented as she is dependable.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Was Your Top Summer Read?

In less than 24 hours, the season of dock and beach books will close, which begs the question:
What was your favorite summer read?
What book did you sit on the dock or beach with this summer? When it was still a little light at 10 p.m., what book did you sit outside reading until the moths dive bombing the outdoor light drove you inside?
Okay, I'll go first.
Thanks to my book group, I discovered Shantoram. 
by Gregory David Roberts,
who is a scary looking guy who wrote a book about his dramatic, downright frightening life. When I was reading the book, I pictured him as being a skinny, kind of dweeby fellow. Wrong.
Weighing in at over 900 pages, Shantoram is the antithesis of beach reads.  (Hot Cross Buns ticks in at about 300-plus pages.)  Not only is it long, it's intriguing, complex and requires a good amount of concentration. The three-inch thick paperback I started in July bloated to a sun-yellowed, four-inch tome by the time I finished it. That's what happens to beach and dock books. Oh, and I also read a couple of 350-pagers -- legit dock books -- to rest my brain.
Okay, your turn.

Monday, September 17, 2012

If Only These Two Could Write A Book

I hope someday I can proudly wear lipstick on my teeth.

Meet Vivian and Marian Brown of San Francisco.  I don't know one from the other and I doubt many people do, but that's okay because their infamous twinship, along with their grounded personalities and not-so-grounded attire, is what really matters.
A quick backstory that was supposed to be the whole story for this blog.
Judy and I hauled ourselves to the San Francisco Writers Conference in February.  We spent a week at the la-dee-da Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill learning everything we could about writing, editing, publishing, agents, etc.  We were in the company of about 700 very published and some unpublished authors, agents, publishers and editors.  Our aspiration was to help Hot Cross Buns get some legs.

Yep, there are lots of stories to tell, literally and figuratively, but all are easily overshadowed by Vivian and Marian. The second I powered up my computer to banter a bit about the conference, I remembered the Brown twins. Time to shift gears.
About the third night into the conference, when they afforded us about 30 minutes to grab some food, Judy and I asked the hotel concierge where the nearest takeout joint was located. He didn't pause two seconds before announcing "Vito's."
So, Vito's it was. Judy and I blew the hotel fumes out of our over-conferenced lungs hiking three blocks downhill to the small, neighborhood Italian joint. We ordered our pizza pie to go and sat along a skinny walkway lined with chairs to do our waiting.
And then I saw them.  Vivian and Marion.  Despite the dark, this-is-an-old-Italian-joint lighting, the twins were impossible to miss. They were styling the exact same leopard print suits seen in this photo. Their deep, raspy voices were unavoidable as they paraded by us waving good byes to  everyone in the place but me and Judy.  Auntie Mame comes to mind.
Judy had just enough time to grab her iphone and steal a quick photo.  I think she got a blurry shot of a leopardskin clothed arm.
And then they were out the door. Gone.
Of course I Googled them. A twosome like this had to be known beyond the Sunday night usuals at Vito's. And yes indeed, various notices about them covered several Google pages. When I mentioned the twins to friends later, a few were quite impressed I had actually seen The Twins.
Needless to say, I had to use a photo of the twins in my blog. And of course I again turned to Google.  My search back in February produced a cache of photos of them wearing one their hundreds of matching outfits. Tonight, this topped my Google findings.

Iconic Brown Twins Face Life Apart

Sometimes I can be quite cynical. I'm pretty sure my report on Judy and Sarah's San Francisco Writers Conference Adventure would have been peppered with cynicism. But, this story about the Brown twins put a sock in it -- for now, anyway.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Misery Loves Company

 My New BFFs

(a.k.a. misery loves company)


After days, no weeks, of trying to figure out why your comments aren't showing up, I think I fixed the problem.  Don't ask me how.

In the process of trying to figure this thing out, I became a member of about four Blogger forums and have expanded my friendship base tremendously. Confused, frustrated people are quite friendly in their confoundedment.

Crossing my fingers, I again direct you to click on the Comment button. Next, it says "Comment as."  Identify yourself as whomever from the options they offer -- I think anonymous is safest. If you want to, put your name in the comment itself -- then click Publish.

Happy commenting!  (I hope.)

God bless forums.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bring It On Baba!

A Chat With Baba Wawa

We had our first "official" interview today.  As usual, I had difficulty staying on task, but Judy only had to tell me to hush up once.  (That's pretty good for us.)

The confounding thing is, I kept flashing on Gilda Radnor and her classic Baba Wawa skits from Saturday Night Live. It's hard to stay on task with Gilda's Baaaabaaa Waaaaawaaaa darting around your head.
We were at the Rockwood Bakery with Melissa Gish from Spokanesouthie (, a blog about the goings on about Spokane's South Hill. Could there be a better first interview for a Hot Cross Buns, which is set primarily on the South Hill? Of course not! And get this! The Rockwood Bakery was the inspiration for the bakery in HCB.  Yes, the stars were alligned for a great interview.
Not so fast smarty pants.

Once Judy and I gave poor Melissa, a sweet, quiet young mom, a chance to ask a question, we realized -- frighteningly -- she was interested in technique, as in how two of us wrote one book of fiction. Shoot, that's a serious literary type question. Dang!  Shoulda seen that one coming.

Refer to What Is Your Book About? July 24?

Standard mental picture that flashes in our heads when asked about HCB

Remember? This is how Judy and I picture ourselves when people ask what HCB is about. Apparently, it is becoming the mental file photo applicable whenever anyone asks anything related to HCB.  This could dramatically hinder out marketing efforts.
We need to perfect our schtick so when the real Baba Wawa comes jonesin' around for an interview and asks the really hard, soul searching questions.

"Judy, Sarah, at what point did you realize you were writing a book?"

For the record, and in our escilating panic to build some credibility with Melissa, we discovered a technique we'd never thought about while actually writing the book.  It's simple, we didn't think too hard -- which was embarrassingly easy for us.
It's fiction, for god's sake.  Quite simply, we let the characters write the story.  They knew themselves better than we did. We never had an agenda as to where they were going or how they would get there. We just wrote, looked at what we wrote, chucked some of it, kept the rest and wrote some more.  This technique can be a highly frustrating for people who despise loose ends, but it's swell for the likes of us. 
All I know is when we spewed this "deep" process to Melissa, the words represented the most intelligent words we've I've uttered about HCB.  I think we're on to something!
Sorry for going to school on you, Melissa.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Slow Read To Reality

Summer Reading Parlor Montana Style

It's hard to admit the first "public" reading of Hot Cross Buns occurred on a stretch of Montana landscape miles from a lake, pool, dock or beach. T'is true.

These bathing beauties -- sisters and cousins from my mom's Montana gene pool side of the family -- sequestered ourselves in Bozeman, Montana, a couple of summers back to trace our family heritage. We rented a fancy pants VERBO house in the foothills east of Bozeman and equipped ourselves with  enough food, vino, snippets of family lore we'd collected from our grandmother and the best companionship any cousin could ask for.

Now really, doesn't this scenario beg for a civilized first reading of Hot Cross Buns?  I couldn't resist. I packed a three-inch, three-ring binder of HCB and waited for just the right moment to pull it out for a group read.

About three days into the trip, numb from family history,  and probably just a little resentful Ted Turner now owns the family homestead, I seized the moment. It was HCB time! (See photo above.)

Dang, if that wasn't painful!

Tip to first-time writers:  NEVER have your hardly edited book read aloud to ANYONE!

It was decided -- probably by my elder sister, Shannon, to take turns reading the book out loud. Wow, I thought, this is going to be so cool. Yes, I dared to feel a little pride.

Shannon,  one of our most analytical first readers early on in the fledgling life of HCB, started reading.  I should have known Little Miss Bossy would stop to critique every sentence.  My sister, Ann (our muse), said something about being distracted by Shannon's incessant side remarks and mutinied the binder. Guess what?  First-grade teachers read everything out loud as though they were reading to first graders.

Next up, cousin Marny.  She's the one who taught me all about dock reads.  (She also taught me if you ran out of baby oil, olive oil was a good substitute as a sunbathing lotion.  Pricey, but useful advice in the 70s.)  As for Marn? A dock book reader does not necessarily make for a swell dock book orator, but she was a lot better than Shannon and Ann.

The 500-page binder -- with only 10 pages read -- was passed to cousin Annabel.

Very Talented Cousin Annabel 

Annabel, who really hadn't seemed too interested in the little read-a-thon, took hold of the binder.  She's an actress and if what I hear on Actors Studio is right, actors can't resist a challenge.  Believe me, at that point in time, HCB was a challenge. 

And that was when I knew Judy and I had a hey of a lot of work yet to do on HCB. Annabel gave it a good run. Her voice shifted from character to character with ease and even made them sound like they were going somewhere!  Alas, some of the time it was right over a cliff. My pride was thankful she didn't throw the book down in a huff and say "I can't possibly work with this!" and storm off the stage, I mean porch.

I politely interrupted Annabel.  Probably announced it was time for a trip to the historical society. I don't know.  I just remember feeling dashed. No way was I going to let the remaining cousins read a word.

And that was just the first of some 12 such binders.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Reveal


Judy and I have spent a great deal of time studying how we're supposed to release this book of ours, Hot Cross Buns.  I think the formal term is "marketing."  We did the workshop circuit, read and read some more -- copious articles by "People In The Know," (PITK), Googled a jillion "how to's", etc.

You name it and we've done it.
So, far, we're doing okay.  But, first let me note NO ONE has yet to mention in their how-to wisdom that you first need to WRITE A BOOK!  I don't know why that cracks me up, but it does.  Maybe that little chore is supposed to be a given. Not by me, though. Not after six years!
PITK frequently instruct writers to allow bits of the fabric of their book slip out to readers a month or so before the book is released. Eventually, we're supposed to slip an entire chapter out there for you to read!
So, here is the first, ever so tiny peak at Hot Cross Buns.  Look at the photo, now.
Yep that's it, my size 9 Converse tennies. That's our first peak.
I was goofing around at work today and noticed  -- how could I not? -- my string-bean feet. My first thought was, shoot, I wish we would have used these shoes in the book!  (The Importance of Shoes, July 15)  They're perfect for Jack, one of our characters! Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

So, there's my first little crumb of Hot Cross Buns

Ya think I need to confer a little more with PITK about this rolling out stuff?  Maybe so.

PS: Thanks for the comments.  They aren't showing up on the blog page, but they are showing up in our gmail account. I just unearthed about 60 great, funny, shocking comments!   Keep 'em coming!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Me Thinks This Desk Is Too Tidy

Judy ponders our banker friend's tidy desk.

I promise, but I also lie sometimes, this will be my last whine over the business end of publishing our novel, Hot Cross Buns. I think Judy and I have broken oodles of personal best records (PBRs) in simultaneously confounding multiple organizations like the IRS, City of Spokane, at least one bank and some organization I can't remember that dishes out book ISBN numbers and bar codes for a tidy sum.  (Did you know every book and every version of that book has it's own "fingerprint?" We do, now. And who really gives a rip?)
Oh, and soon we'll have an attorney who I'm certain will find us entertaining if not unteachable about partnership agreements, which our new best banker friend told us we need. The upside to the partnership agreement is that once we have it, the bank will take our money.  I didn't think banks were that picky. Huh.
We trundled into the bank armed with a file folder holding enough numbers, certificates, etc., to launch a small, very poor country.  We sat down at the very nice bank man's desk after firm hand shakes and a look in the eye all around ready to open our checking account. I, of course, ceased listening to a word the nice bank man said because -- being easily distracted -- I couldn't quit staring in wonder at his tidy desk.  (This reaffirms why Judy is the primary handler of the business end of things.  I'm often distracted, even by nothingness, like the bank dude's desk.) 
Here's the skinny. I don't trust anyone posed behind an ultra tidy desk, which pretty much includes anyone who makes more money than I do and is way higher up the workplace food chain than I.
Call me distrusting, but I would rather work this guy.

 Hard working guy with mess to prove it.

As opposed to this guy.


Guy who worked behind a frighteningly clean desk.

Extreme example for the tidy guy?  Maybe.  But you catch my drift.