Trying to pick an excerpt to read for my book launch at Octavia Books on June 1.

Notes Before a Book Launch

Posted on May 22, 2017

Last week a friend of mine asked me what it was like to have a book out in the world.

I told her the truth: It is a dream come true!

On May 11, I spoke to 100 Jesuit High School students with resister and Legion of Honor recipient Nicole Spargenberg. (Photo/Jesuit High School of New Orleans)

By the same token, I felt I had to dispel any storybook or Hollywood notions of what it was like to be a published author.  For me, the story is really the story. Not me. But in case you were wondering, here’s how author life is treating me so far: I’m a 44-year-old woman who has developed a bad yoga pants habit and I’m frustrated because I’m breaking out on my chin.

Plus? My 12-year-old thinks I’m a dork.

Basically, it’s Monday.

How are you doing?

***

One of the best bits of advice I’ve gotten from a fellow writer was to stay busy during the down or quiet periods that inevitably come during the publishing process. For example, when my book proposal went out during the summer of 2015, I planned a new class for LSU Continuing Education and spent tons of quality time with my daughter, who was out of school.  After various deadlines, I’ve poured myself into things such as my vegetable garden, a new book idea, and a long-talked-about plan to knit a unicorn (because I think the world needs more of them, only not in Frappucinos). These are just a couple of examples of how I keep myself out of trouble when things are quiet and my head starts playing “what if…” games with me.

At the end of the year, I decided to take staying busy in a new direction. My daughter was taking voice lessons and eventually I decided to do it too.

Now I’ve always been someone who sings along, or makes up songs on the fly. But my singing has been more earnest than good, so I decided that a little self-improvement couldn’t hurt. I took one lesson just to see what it was like, then loved it and took more. I have no visions of hitting the Broadway stage, or anything of that ilk, but I have been singing torch songs, show tunes, and…most recently…classical music.

In French, no less.

Here’s a clip of the latest song I’ve been working on, sung by someone who isn’t me (because I’m not quite ready to get that weird on you just yet):

 

***

Yes, I’ve been waiting lately, because although you can buy my book online right now, it is not officially out until June 1. If you have bought the book already, again, thank you so much for your support. When you’ve finished reading, please leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other online retailers, so other readers know what you thought. Reviews really help authors, so if you could take a moment to leave one, I’d really, really appreciate it. Many of you have posted pictures of the book in your homes, cars and offices. Please keep those shots coming and tag them #inthewild #thegeneralsniece when you share.

I’ll be on the road in June, so come catch me in these cities, or follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, if you can’t be there in person, or don’t see your hometown on my schedule yet.

Have a question about publishing, the book tour, The General’s Niece, or anything that may be on your mind? Don’t hesitate to ask me in comments and I’ll address your question in a future post.

Surprise! Amazon is releasing The General’s Niece early!

Posted on May 1, 2017

About a week-and-a-half ago, my mother-in-law texted me to let me know that Amazon would be mailing her The General’s Niece earlier than June 1, which is its official release date. Nervous, I asked her how much earlier she’d be getting my book. She replied that she’d basically be receiving it at the time I’m typing these very words (Monday, May 1 at 5:34 p.m.).

And then I thought “Whoa, dude. That is way earlier than I expected.”

This is what we call “Sophisticated Author Speak.”

After this, I got some emails from people who said they’d be receiving it at the end of April, and other assorted messages from people who said they’d be getting it at the beginning of May too.  Then people started getting it, and posting about it on their social media feeds and sending me emails and other messages.

I am overwhelmed by this, but in a good way.

I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am for all of this early support and interest. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart! It means so much to me. It means even more to read your emails and messages, and hear that you love and are inspired by this story about a little-known de Gaulle who fought to free occupied France.  Geneviève de Gaulle’s life story is special and my hope is that she becomes at least a little better known outside of her country, because that is certainly what she deserves. But I also hope to shine a little more light on the formidable women in her orbit, resisters such as Anise Postel-Vinay and Michèle Agniel, who were both kind enough to spend an afternoon sharing their wartime memories with me in January 2016. My afternoon with them was one of the most special moments in my life. I’ll never, ever forget them and I hope I’ve done their stories justice.

As for you, fair readers, so far, I’ve seen pictures of my book in your hands, next to your beautiful smiling faces, on the front seats of your car, on your desks and kitchen counters. I know Geneviève de Gaulle’s story is currently traveling throughout the Southeast, up the Eastern seaboard and over to the West Coast. Keep showing me where she travels and letting me know how her life story has touched your own. Your messages are wonderful, and I’m doing what I can to answer them all. In the meantime, please visit Amazon.com and Goodreads — two sites where I have author pages you can follow — to leave a review of the book when you’re done reading it. These reviews really help authors like me, and really help other potential buyers see that this is a story worth their time.

So thank you again for everything you’ve done to support this book so far. I’ll be out on the road this summer to talk about Geneviève de Gaulle, meet readers like you, and sign copies of The General’s Niece. Please keep checking my events page to see if I’m coming to your hometown. If you don’t see a date in your neck of the woods yet, please trust that I’m working on it. I do want to meet the people who’ve shown this book so much love!

Advance Praise for The General’s Niece

Posted on March 6, 2017

Writing and revising a book is one thing. The other thing: People eventually read what you’ve done and (perhaps) say something about it.

I am grateful to have gotten some wonderful early praise from writers whose work I’ve long admired.

I’ve love to share some of it with you here:

“This is such an inspiring story, written with clarity and conviction. Paige Bowers’s excellent biography reveals Geneviève de Gaulle as one of the bravest and most dignified among young French resisters. At last, women who resisted the Nazis in France are being given the long-overdue recognition they deserve.”
“At once exhilarating and heartbreaking, captivating and horrifying, Bowers’s account of Geneviève de Gaulle’s journey from cautious defiance to full-blown resistance operative, through the horror of a concentration camp, to the even longer fight for a modern, egalitarian France is a timely, much-needed story of patriotism, courage, and the all-too-often ignored role of women in twentieth-century history.”
“This stirring biography is a worthy epitaph for a woman who passionately believed that France should never forget its cherished values of justice and fraternity.”
“Paige Bowers delivers a story that is alternately pulse pounding and heart wrenching. With elegant style, Bowers gives Geneviève de Gaulle an independent identity, restoring her to her proper place in history.”
“A resistance fighter deported to Ravensbrück, Geneviève de Gaulle Anthonioz maintained her sanity through solidarity with her fellow female prisoners. After her return to France, she exorcised the psychological scars of her internment by dedicating herself to working with the unjustly marginalized. This book reminds one that a compassionate humanity is possible even in the face of unimaginable brutality. The General’s Niece is essential reading.”
Again, I am so grateful to these first readers for their feedback. My very best regards to all of them, and sincere thanks for all of their kind words.
Photo by Paige Bowers

Spring Things

Posted on February 24, 2017

A certain little groundhog says we have a little bit more winter ahead of us, but here in South Louisiana things are in full bloom. It’s the time of year when pleasant weather lures you outside for gardening, crawfish boils and any number of parades and festivals.

I spent part of this morning shipping a little bit of sweetness into the world because I figure it can’t hurt. Some of the goodies I sent away were jars of homemade marmalade. I learned how to make this recently because I have the world’s most prolific satsuma tree in my backyard and I can never give away enough of the fruit. Friends have offered to take some off my hands, but when I’ve gifted them heavy grocery bags full of the sweet citrus, they’ve looked at me as if they’re not quite sure what to do with my present. Right when I thought I’d given away the last of the oranges, a neighbor of mine brought me six dozen lemons from her own backyard, and said I could have more if I wanted them.

This citrus deluge made me realize I needed to take extreme measures.

So I learned how to make small batches of preserves.

My great-grandmother used to do this. Same with my paternal grandmother. As a matter of fact, my paternal grandmother used to make strawberry preserves that were so beloved that she had a secret hiding place for all the little Ball jars she had filled. People craved that stuff, and one summer my uncle put me up to finding her stash. Like a dutiful niece, I did, but in retrospect I realize I stripped away some of the mystery that made this stuff so special.

Oro Blanco grapefruit marmalade

Other than that, I’ve been cleaning up this website (I have my daughter to thank for the text treatment in the header) and arranging book-related events to coincide with the release of my book this summer. It’s exciting to think that readers will have their hands on The General’s Niece in just a few months, and I look forward to meeting them and talking to them more about this book.

To close: It’s Carnival season here and pretty much everywhere you go there’s a purple, gold and green King Cake. One of my favorite finds this year is a local bakery that makes these cakes in the traditional French way, complete with the collectible porcelain feve, or bean.

Forte Grove bakery’s traditional King Cake

 

Porcelain feve in Forte Grove’s King Cake.

At any rate, here’s hoping you all have a fantastic weekend ahead of you with your friends and family!

Keeping the Faith

Posted on February 19, 2017

The other day a writer friend of mine asked me how I kept the faith and managed my nerves as I had a project out for submission and then, thanks to Jane Dystel, a manuscript to complete for a publisher.

Here’s one of my secrets: During the eight-month period in which I crafted the proposal for The General’s Niece and revised it, I bought a fortune in self-help books. I’m not being smug or silly here. This is the honest-to-goodness truth.

The reason why I did this is because I had been through the submission process before and I saw how it, let’s just say, amplified my shortcomings. This time, I wanted to do better not only because I wanted to write this book, but because I wanted to do better in general.

As David Brooks writes in The Road to Character:

“…the inner struggle against one’s own weaknesses is the central drama of life. As the popular minister Harry Emerson Fosdick put it in his 1943 book On Being a Real Person, ‘The beginning of worthwhile living is thus the confrontation with ourselves.’

Truly humble people are engaged in a great effort to magnify what is best in themselves and defeat what is worst, to become strong in the weak places.”

Here’s a peek into my mindset via some (but not all) of the titles I purchased during this period:

Yes, I have a tendency to worry. I know this. My family knows this. My dearest friends know this. My agent, God love her, knows this too. I was on a call with her once and I remember telling her that I was worried about something. I don’t even remember what it was anymore, but she told me in her own inimitable way, “Worry accomplishes nothing.”

Then, as always, she was right. What good does it do to worry about things that either haven’t happened or are out of your control? What purpose does worry serve? Worry doesn’t write or revise or complete manuscripts. Worry doesn’t meet deadlines or answer your editor’s or agent’s questions. Worry doesn’t do anything but waste a bunch of energy that could be better spent doing something productive and enriching.

Like looking for another book idea.

Or road-tripping with your daughter to visit friends in South Florida.

Or working on your website.

Or learning something new.

Or taking a nice long walk (which I do at least four times a week) to clear your head and give you a break from your inbox.

Now I’m not saying I never worry, but I do make a concerted effort to stay busy, especially at times when I know my worst tendencies might rear their ugly heads if left unchecked. As author Marjorie Brimer says, “Publishing is all about waiting. And, waiting, I’ve found, is like that slow drag up to the peak of the [roller]coaster. For some of us, this portion of the journey is longer than others. And the longer it is, the more anticipation and anxiety that builds.”

Then you hit the peak.

I got the first hints of good news about The General’s Niece one July afternoon in 2015 when I was sitting at the pool, dripping wet, reading a book while my daughter and one of her friends swam. My cell phone dinged, so I checked my email. It was Jane, and she said there was interest in my proposal, but she needed me to answer a couple of questions.

I asked her to give me a half-hour. I don’t remember whether I told her I had to bribe two girls to get out of the pool so I could get back to my desk to find the answers she needed. But that’s exactly what I did.

“Can we have a sleepover?” they asked me as they bobbed in the water with big grins on their faces.

“You can have anything you want if you get out and dry off now,” I told them.

I’m generally not a rollercoaster person. I will confess to screaming “Oh my God, no” and various other things that I will not type now that I know my daughter knows that I have a blog. But as I drove two soggy girls back to my house that day, my heart began to pound with excitement instead of fear. I was not thinking “Oh my God, no.” but “Oh my God, yes! Bring it!”

The ride toward publication has been wild, but it isn’t over yet. For me, it has helped to work on better ways to manage the ups, downs, waiting and uncertainty that are so common in the publishing process. Resiliency is so important, and I hope this post has helped you in some way, whether you’re a writer or not.

Tell me: What are the things you do to help you weather uncertain times? What are the best lessons you’ve learned about resiliency? How do you keep the faith when the going gets tough? Please share your thoughts in comments.