A Covid Book Launch

“You let that dumb cat be in this book, too? What were you thinking?”

It’s that time. This Tuesday, August 25, is publication day for The Book of CarolSue and I will enter the horrifying world of covid-era book launch, which means that all “events” are online. Like on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and whatever else I’ve forgotten I’m supposed to be doing. (No, not Tinder! That’s not the one.) Some events are on Facebook Live and Instagram Live TV (like the first on Tuesday!) and right after those were scheduled, I went stupid with terror, as I realized that I didn’t even know how to turn on Facebook Live or Instagram Live TV. Two days later, I hired a social media instructor to coach me.

My whole first hour lesson was by phone, about how to find the Instagram Live show on which I’m to be interviewed and turn it on. I took copious notes.

How a Facebook Live professional props the camera/phone at the correct height… and waits for it to fall over while she tries to answer questions.

“Next week, we’re going to practice. A dress rehearsal,” she said before we hung up. “I want you in the top you plan to wear, do your hair and makeup, and have your book description ready to explain in brief, clear sentences, because any interviewer is going to ask you what the novel is about.”

A week later I washed my hair, put on makeup, including lipstick! And I’d bought—online, of course–a pretty, blue and white striped shirt. The call came and my coach only needed the first ten minutes to explain how I needed to turn my camera around to see myself and see her, too, for a Facebook Live practice session. Huh. That camera was not my friend. Those stripes were, shall we say, not flattering. I’d go so far as to say they were quite a surprise as I don’t believe I’m actually shaped that way. “You probably want to wear a different top,” my coach said tactfully. “Way different. And don’t forget about wearing makeup.”

I couldn’t make myself tell her I was wearing makeup. She went on to say, “You want color in your face. You know, blush. Do you have any blush? Eyeshadow. Mascara.” With each word, she was pointing on herself showing me where to put the stuff I was already wearing. This was not going well.

“Maybe try sitting closer to the camera,” she said. I did.

“Oh, no,” she said quickly. “Let’s try having you back up.” After that, I noticed she stopped suggesting I get a better camera. I’m not exactly sure what that means. “You’ll want to delete this from your page,” she said. I could practically see her stuff down the urge to yell, “NOW!”

She didn’t have to stuff it down twice. I hit delete.

Honestly, it used to be a lot easier when what an author needed to do was write a really good book. But I still hope that’s what I’ve done, and that you’ll love CarolSue and her story.

The Book of CarolSue is follow up to The Testament of Harold’s Wife—because I loved those characters and that setting so much, and readers did too, that CarolSue wanted a story, and oh my, does she ever have one. Louisa’s adult son, Gary, gets himself in trouble—again—because he fell for a scam run by “Brother Zachariah,” a fake religious cult leader. But the serious theme has to do with the plight of undocumented immigrants, what brings them here, what happens to them, how things spin out of control. In The Book of CarolSue, the realities behind immigration were what I wanted to learn about and dramatize simply by showing one human story, Rosalina’s.

I researched by watching YouTube videos and reading the published accounts by American missionaries, secular volunteers, and professional workers in Honduras, as well as the stories recorded by Honduran immigrants. I searched out news accounts and learned of the extreme violence by gangs who commonly kidnap and rape teenage girls in Honduras. Drug activity is often unavoidable, with young boys forced to join gangs, and the poverty crushing. The only way to survive may be to flee. But The Book of CarolSue isn’t primarily about Rosalina, though I needed her part to be authentic. I also had to research immigration raids and deportation, so I understood the entire picture and saw it with clear eyes and empathy for the people on both sides of the border.

CarolSue has her own story, of course, and she’s the focus. At the opening of the novel, she finds her husband dead, for one thing. Never a good day when that happens. And Louisa takes over to help her, which works for a while, but when CarolSue figures out how much Louisa has been hiding—easy enough to do when all your communication is over the phone—she’s really not hurt. But she is way more than annoyed. And then, Gary shows up. With a baby? Yup. A baby. Is his story credible? That’s for you to decide. And what about that county sheriff, Gus? Why does Louisa have him hanging around all the time? Hmmm.

There’s no need to read The Testament of Harold’s Wife to read The Book of CarolSue—but I end up talking about them together because CarolSue came about when I just wasn’t finished living in that world or with those people. I hope you’ll come to love them as much as I do. Chatting with readers is also something I love, and I’m always available to meet with book clubs by Skype, Facetime, or Zoom to answer questions, share a glass of wine or cup or tea—the tea with or without Louisa’s special ingredient. Most of all, I hope you and your families stay safe and well, and that my novels will bring you some escape, laughter, comfort, and meaning. I offer them from my heart.

(P.S. You can check out whether I got any better at Instagram Live TV or Facebook Live. The opportunities I’ll have to embarrass myself in real time are listed on my Events page. And one other piece of information: if you’ve not read The Testament of Harold’s Wife, the publisher is putting the e-book on sale for three days, starting 8/25 and running through midnight 8/28. Price is only $1.99 for those three days! The opening chapters of The Book of CarolSue have been added at the end, a bonus/teaser.)

26 Responses to A Covid Book Launch

  1. You’ve done a wonderful job of highlighting the new reality we authors face. I commend your good grace and self-deprecating humor. How else can one get through this. Having read CarolSue, I know you succeeded in publishing a great story. Now it’s showtime, and in the words of “the Merm,” “You’ll be great . . .”

    • Thank you so much! I’m so happy that you loved the advance copy of The Book of CarolSue and especially appreciate the great review you posted.

  2. I love your books! I laughed out loud about your facebook/Instagram travails. As you know, I’m the same way! Love, Tara

    • Thank you Tara. I’m so grateful for all the support you’ve given my work. I’ll continue to need it, since I don’t believe I have a brilliant career ahead of me in live television.

  3. Ineed a hard copy book-don’t like staring at a screen to read…but I know I will love the book as I have all of yours! WHAT? You didnt look good on the damned screen? Must have been the lighting !! Very amusing for those of us not in the situation. Go forth with vigor and wear a t shirt with political preferences on it. Hang in…love, Barb

    • Yes, it’s true. I’d planned to become a glamorous movie star, but my hopes have been stomped on. Very traumatic.

  4. What is it about those computer screens that make me look 20 years older? When I look in the bathroom mirror with my glasses off & the lights off, I look unlined, svelte & sultry. My laptop screen is cruel and vindictive.

    I love your posts, love your books, can’t wait to see you on FB live (if I can figure out how to find it.)


    • It’s definitely the glasses, Debra. My glasses are entirely the wrong prescription! If I knock the phone/camera off my carefully constructed system, it will be because I refuse to wear them. Too depressing. And to join the FB live at 8:00 eastern time, you just go to Facebook, type Great Thoughts, Great Readers into the search bar and it will take you right to it. Anything you want to say, you just put in the comments area. Thank you, thank you!

  5. Until last week I never took a selfie. Then I had to do a birthday message so that a friend’s daughter could make a tape for her Mom’s 90th. Horrors. Won’t someone invent a close up camera that is kind?
    I am looking forward to spending more time with Carol Sue. I will order it from my local independent bookstore, not Amazon.

    • Thank you so much, Karen! I’m so glad you’ll get CarolSue–and I’ll love hearing your reaction. I’ve decided that the trick for selfies is to actually have someone else take my “selfies” from about twenty feet away.

    • Thank you, Preston. I’ve already done that with my ankle last year, so I’ll stick to embarrassing myself on Facebook live. Just put the name of the group (tomorrow night it’s Great Thoughts, Great Readers) into the search bar on Facebook at the start time, and it will take you right to the grand “event.” Anything you want to say or ask just gets typed in the comment area. Easy peasy…for you! Thank you again!

  6. Take Barb’s suggestion- wear a political T.
    Wear your best smile and bring your affection for your characters.
    Tell us your story of your story+ all will be well.
    Thanks for the humorous peek behind the curtains.
    You’ll be great. Love, Condy

  7. Is Brother Zachariah a Tweety alias? Your description of the character–“fake religious cult leader”–somehow brought that born mugger, that would-be divine right monarch, that powerdrunk swaggerer to mind. Have been dreaming lately of his deportation to Antarctica. It would not be unkind; the climate would suit his polar psyche. The North Pole would do just as well, except I’d hate to stick Santa with company so at odds with his own purposes, which are to make others’ dreams–and not exclusively his own–come true.

    Short of a well-stocked underground bunker or sheer good luck, there is really no safe ground these days. Often those who do all the right things still get zapped. Life is replete with such ironies.

    I’m glad you sound okay anyway, and have no doubt that your new book–how do you keep churning them out?–will be as much of a pleasure to read as your last one. You have an enviable knack for humor. May your audience keep growing!

    • Well, that’s one creative and apt interpretation of Brother Zachariah’s personality! Thank you for thinking of it. After you read the novel you can write an essay for a literary criticism magazine and make a case for that. Brilliant, Tom!
      Thanks so much, and I hope you’re staying well up there in beautiful Canada!

  8. Have been living out of bags like a refugee since returning to Boston at the end of May. Coming back was unavoidable; things requiring my physical presence here needed to be done.

    Preparing for the trip was quite a planning project; I knew I had to pack for all seasons, since no telling when the border might reopen, and my status in Canada unfortunately doesn’t qualify me as an “essential person.” The thought of being cut off indefinitely from my adopted home, all my personal belongings, my customary and preferred lifestyle, and a person I am enormously fond of, well, you can probably imagine my mood. When I was preparing for my departure, I thought of something a philosophy grad student at Bryn Mawr once said to me: that returning “home” to Texas for mandatory family events always triggered a deep fear in her that she might never get back. I knew what she meant then, but I know it even better now.

    I fell and fractured my right knee about 4 1/2 weeks ago, another little wrench in the works. So another place I have been wishing I could get back to is the floor, lately so near yet so far, and where, until my fall, I had done physical therapy exercises daily for the past year and a half, because they seemed to help with relieving the discomfort caused in numerous joints by my nonexistent cartilage, and also with keeping me satisfactorily mobile. Kneeling has been impossible since my knee hit the pavement, although last night, for the first time, I discovered that I could do it–and even get back up on my feet again! So at least getting back to the floor is now possible. It may take longer before I can get back to Canada.

    I have written numerous ditties about Brother Zachariah, I mean the one who thinks of himself as emperor of the universe. I’ll share with you the shortest:


    Polly wanta cracker, Tweety asked,
    And Polly did.
    No parrot feels too overtasked
    To speak as bid.

    • Tom, I hope you are recovered–though I know the Canadian border is still closed, so you must be frustrated at being stuck and unable to return. Do take good care of yourself. I hope you’re turning out lots of new work.

  9. Just finished CarolSue and loved it! The online virtual stuff sounds super challenging but you’ll be a pro before you know it! Love you.

    • Thank you so much, Susan. I’m so happy you loved the story! Yes, the virtual book launch is proving to be daunting, but I’m getting a little more comfortable with it all. Still, I’m hoping that by the next novel, life–and book launches–will be back to normal.

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