TNBBC’s The Next Best Book Blog: Where Writers Write: JF Riordan

Exile desk

TNBBC's The Next Best Book Blog: Where Writers Write: JF Riordan.

TNBBC is a blog that features small press and indie books and their authors in varying playful question formats. Among these is the request for writers to show where they write. I was pleased to be asked, and was deeply tempted to discuss the drinks of choice for the characters of North of the Tension Line, but in the end I settled on a photo essay on where I write. I recommend heading to TNBBC for the chance to meet some great under-appreciated writers and their books. Believe me when I say we will all be grateful.

Heigh ho, the Glamorous Life

Barnes & Noble

So many writers have written about the humiliation of book tours: the awkwardness of sitting at a table waiting for strangers to approach. There are people who don’t want to buy a book and feel that it would be a form of rejection to stop and not purchase (and they’re right),  but I hadn’t realized how many people are actually just shy. I watched today as people carefully turned their heads so as not to have to see me sitting alone at the table at Barnes & Noble. For the people who didn’t care it was easy. I could hail them and offer a bookmark which they could take or not, and they could then wander on. But there were several people whom I knew perfectly well wanted to engage in conversation, but who couldn’t bring themselves to do it. They lingered agonizingly near, sometimes for nearly an hour, but could never position themselves in such a way that I could catch their glance or smile and thus invite conversation.

I knew them, because they were me. I remember sitting next to Beverly Sills at dinner for an entire evening and hardly knowing what to say to her. I was 18 years old, and wanted so much to be an opera singer just like her, but I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Ultimately she took pity on me, but it was an opportunity missed.

Today I am going to see if I can engage more people. If nothing else it will be a way to pass the time.

A Long Time Coming

I began this novel seven years ago. I didn’t know it was a novel then, and there were many times between then and now that I doubted it was anything at all. But here it is, a published novel, and tomorrow I will leave home–without dogs,and I haven’t explained that to them yet–to begin a book tour.

First autograph ever

I am nervous, excited, and have a certain wry awareness that the life I abandoned as an opera singer–living out of a suitcase in strange cities–has come back to find me. Why? I wonder. There are peculiarities about fate at work here.

Nevertheless, here we go. At least there will be no one with bulldozers to ask me about the water lines.


Saturday, September 20–Shelby Township, Michigan–Book Signing

2:00 pm

Barnes & Noble

14165 Hall Rd, Shelby Township, MI

Sunday September 21 Northville, Michigan–Book Signing

2:00 pm

Barnes & Noble

17111 Haggerty Rd, Northville, MI

Tuesday, September 23–Muskegon Michigan–Talk, Reading, Book Signing

Hackley Public Library

6:00 Pm

316 W. Webster

Muskegon, MI 49440

I have to admit that I am using this as an excuse for a four hour ferry ride to Michigan. Who wouldn’t?


Happy Launch Day!

Gratuitous Dog Picture

Regular readers of this blog (both of them) are familiar with my distaste for Facebook. However, as a sop to Cerberus I knew I had to have a page to promote my book, North of the Tension Line. My editor and publicist at Beaufort Books, lovely people that they are, having heard of my misadventures, assigned an intern to set up a page for me.

Interns, of course, are college students–mostly English majors–hoping to gain experience so that they may beat the odds and find a job in their field after graduation. So, when they were asked to enter my birthdate on Facebook, they cleverly put in today’s date–the official launch date of NOTTL, and the most likely year for an adult to have been born–which is, obviously, 1993.

I woke up this morning to three different birthday greetings, all from people who know perfectly well how old I am, and who, therefore, were rather smirking in tone.

So, yes. Today is the birthday of North of the Tension Line, now officially out in the world. So please go purchase a copy. (Gratuitous cover shot to follow.)

Novel poster

For my part, I will alter my daughter’s suggestion of the traditional 21st birthday shot of tequila and celebrate instead with some nice champagne.

Although I may wait until after noon.

(Photo of Moses and me by Manning Photography)

Lessons in the Modern Age

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I know. I’m supposed to have a Facebook page to market my book. But I have spent Facebook’s entire existence avoiding it. It seemed too intrusive; too much trouble; too…unrestful. But this morning, succumbing to earnest advice, I launched my page.

The first thing I did was omit to capitalize the initials in my name. I had managed somehow to type  J. f. Riordan.  So I went to edit it. You can’t. I couldn’t believe this, thinking it must be some personal failing on my part. But it wasn’t. You actually can’t. If you try, they want you to submit a copy of your driver’s license. I am not doing that. So I tried to ask Facebook for help. This was my first exposure to Facebook customer service. There is none.

Then, I thought, maybe I can put my author’s bio at the top of the page. I can’t. You can’t. No one can. You have to have the things they want on the top of the page. Like your favorite tv shows, and movies you watched recently. I went to the “about” section and removed things like favorite tv shows and movies I watched recently. But the tv shows were still there. TV shows have nothing to do with why I have a Facebook page. But it doesn’t matter.

Then I realized from my sister that my birthdate–which wasn’t my real birthdate–had been posted, even though I didn’t want to post my birthdate. “Oh yeah?” she wrote. “You were born only a few months before we were married? Hahahaha!” I don’t want to post my birthdate. Did I mention that? So I “hid” it. But when I look at the page it still shows in my timeline. I tried changing my birthdate. A Facebook message popped up: “You can only change your birthdate a limited number of times.” How many? I wondered. How often do people want to change their birthdates? And why can’t I change it whenever I want? Why would they care? What’s one woman’s vanity to them? (Answer: they are collecting data on you and want to tell their advertisers that they know everything about you.)

Facebook asked to access my e-mail contacts. Reluctantly, and against my better judgment, I allowed this. Should I send to business associates? I suppose. It’s marketing, right? To the vet’s office? Maybe. I write about dogs. The Dentist? Well, why not? They want me to like them on Facebook. A billion e-mails went out to people who will probably be wondering who this J.F. Riordan is who is sending random invitations to perfect strangers. 

By this time, my 1 friend–a relative–had increased to 7. I had friends! But the reason I had built the page was no longer visible on the time line–namely, my book. My husband informed me that (oh, fond hope) once you have 5,000 followers you can’t have a regular page. “You shouldn’t have a regular page,” he said. “You should have a book page. You’re an entity, not a person.”

This sounded about right. I was feeling rather like an entity. So I went back to Facebook to create a business page. It wanted to link to my other page, to J. f. Riordan. I really didn’t want my book going out with an error in my name. But nothing I did, from private browsing, to creating a new e-mail account with a different name enabled me to escape from the original page. I deleted the account and tried all this again. I got an e-mail saying they would delete my page forever in 14 days. Was I sure I wanted to delete this account.  I was sure. Very, very sure.

So I have spent my entire morning in my pajamas fruitlessly messing around with social media on the computer. I have become that person. My day is half gone, I am frustrated, the dogs are restless and unhappy, and I haven’t gotten one actual piece of writing done on my one actual day of writing. 

And billions of e-mails have gone out to invite friends, associates, veterinarians, dentists, and miscellaneous others to a nonexistent Facebook page. 

Facebook, I hate you.