The Saturday Creativity Quote

Let’s close out the month with one more quote from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

“So why does our writing matter, again,” [my students] ask.

“Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. . . . It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. Yo can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

— Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Be the song, my friends. Be the song.

The Saturday Creativity Quote

Turns out it’s harder to quote from Anne Lamott’s classic Bird by Bird than I thought it would be, because Lamott doesn’t dole out her wisdom in bumper-sticker size snippets. Instead, she embeds it into stories — which is itself a great lesson. But I do love this:

“Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.”

Speaks to the importance of writing honestly and with your whole self at any time, but especially now, don’t you think?

PEPPERMINT BARKED audio out today!

I love a good audio book, and I know many of you have been waiting eagerly for the audio of Peppermint Barked, narrated once again by the fabulous Dara Rosenberg. The cover is a little different from the paperback and ebook cover, and just as much fun!

By the way, if you’re a library user and you don’t see Peppermint Barked in your library catalog, please submit a request. Library staff LOVE to know what their patrons want to read—or hear!

Find it here (these links may take you to a different format, but will lead you to the audio — I’m typing with an injured wrist and giving myself a break.)

Barnes & Noble
Indie Bound
And your local booksellers!

Writing Wednesday — All the Scentses

Leslie’s desk

When I was writing Blind Faith, my second stand-alone suspense novel, I quickly knew that a secondary character named Irene Danich was very fond of roses. Irene was a strong-willed woman, born in 1919 in a small Montana mining town. Irene lost both her husband and her daughter early, leaving her to raise two young granddaughters—one of whom, Carrie, is a major character with her own story line and POV. Beautiful and with a strong personal sense of style, but without a lot of money, Irene loved pretty things but was rarely able to indulge in them.

What, I wondered, was Irene’s signature scent? My own mother, a little younger than Irene, was not able to help me, and the only department store in the area with a perfume counter had closed. I remembered that a Sister in Crime, Angela Saunders, had once posted on the group message board about her love of perfume. I tracked her down and peppered her with questions.

Angie helped me focus on identifying something simple, romantic and floral that would have been available in small-town drugstores in the 1930s to 50s. Drugstore perfumes flourished in that era and some, I learned, were knock-offs of pricey Parisian scents. We settled on an eau de cologne, Yardley’s Red Roses, a good brand but not fancy, also available in soap and bath powder. She might have flirted with other brands over the years, but always returned to this one.

And oh, those lovely bottles! I remembered how much I loved my own mother’s collection, watching her choose one to wear, and being allowed to dab on a precious drop or two myself. They changed over time, and Carrie keeps three of them, each different, on a display shelf in her bungalow.

The point of the cologne was not just to characterize Irene, whom we see in action just twice, but also to characterize Carrie’s memory of Irene and of their relationship, which is pivotal. Readers can’t smell the pages, of course, and they may not have any association with a classic mid-century scent. But my hope is that the mention of it, and the reference to the bottles, will help readers create their own sense of this woman, even if the scent that emerges from their memories is nothing like what arises in mine.

Maybe you can do something similar with one of your characters. A man who wears Gray Flannel is very different from one who wears Old Spice, just as a woman who dabs on a scent created at a custom perfumerie in Paris is very different from one who gives off waves of lavender and lemon grass essential oils.

BLIND FAITH, written as Alicia Beckman, is out this week in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

Long-buried secrets come back with a vengeance in a cold case gone red-hot in Agatha Award-winning author Alicia Beckman’s second novel, perfect for fans of Laura Lippman and Greer Hendricks.

A photograph. A memory. A murdered priest.

A passion for justice.

A vow never to return.

Two women whose paths crossed in Montana years ago discover they share keys to a deadly secret that exposes a killer—and changes everything they thought they knew about themselves.

Find it here: Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Indie Bound
And your local booksellers!

Read an excerpt and early reviews on my website.

Launch Day — BLIND FAITH

Blind Faith. It’s finally here, out today in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

Believe me, the phrase “blind faith” has a lot to do with the creative process, and with publishing! I started this book in the summer of 2016, worked on it between other projects, thought it was finished in 2019, and edited it again in 2020. Along the way, I questioned my ability to bring the characters to life, to handle the multiple points of view and the dual timeline, and to find the facts that would lead to the deep emotions that drive a novel of psychological suspense.

But I’d been thinking about pieces of the story for years. When I was a senior in high school in Billings, Montana, I gave a new girl a ride home. I never saw her again. Every few years, I wondered who she was, where she’d gone, and why. Blind Faith is one answer.

The novel draws on my own experiences growing up in Billings, in its Catholic community, but also on universal themes: imperfect justice, how we continually find or recreate ourselves, how we respond to obstacles, and as in many of my books, faith and women’s friendships.

Lindsay Keller, Carrie West, Father Michael Leary, and Detective Brian Donovan are all still so real to me, long after I finished writing this book. I hope that as you travel with them, while they confront deadly secrets that force them to make decisions with irreversible consequences, you too will find yourself in the forest of possibility.

Speaking of forests, my thanks to Nicole Lecht and Crooked Lane Books for the fabulous cover. And I know you audiobook fans will love the narration of Nicol Zanzarella. It was such a joy to work with her.

Blind Faith is available in hardcover, ebook, and audio from:
Barnes and Noble
Indie Bound
And your local booksellers!

If you’re in the Flathead Valley, join me this evening, Tues, Oct. 11, from 5:30 to 7:00 at the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center, in the Village (next to the library), for a party! I’ll be talking about mysteries, Blind Faith, and the creative process.

I’ll be appearing around the northwest this month and next to chat about the book, by myself and with friends. Here’s the current list. I hope to see you somewhere along the road.

Saturday Creativity Quote — Lamott and Polaroids

This month I’m sharing some of what struck me while re-reading Anne Lamott’s classic, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

“Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t—and, in fact, you’re not supposed to—know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.” But, she says, as the picture emerges, you see something else besides what you thought you were focused on. “Knowledge of your characters also emerges the way a Polaroid develops: it takes time for you to know them.”

I love this image. It’s true whether you consider yourself a planner or a pantser. Whether we start by making notes or by writing sentences, we’re all after the same thing: the images that emerge from the sticky green goo of creativity.

Friends, if you’re in the Flathead Valley, join me Tues, Oct 11, from 5:30 to 7:00 at the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center (in the Village, next to the library), for the launch of BLIND FAITH (written as Alicia Beckman) and a talk on the creative process.

Saturday Creativity Quote — Anne Lamott

When I travel, I often take a book on writing to dip in and out of — not a craft book, but something more personal and inspirational. For our trip to Switzerland and Italy, I decided to reread Anne Lamott’s classic Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. It came out in 1994 and my guess is I read it not long after, when I just beginning to write fiction. It was eye-opening to see how much of her advice has become articles of faith to me — did I first glean them from her, or do her suggestions resonate with me now because I’ve reached the same conclusions? Doesn’t matter. If you haven’t read it, or not in ages, I recommend it. It’s like having a smart, smart-mouthed, supportive older sister telling you what she knows, exactly when you need to hear it. I’ll be sharing a few of my favorite quotes over the next few weeks. For now, I want to say what strikes me the most — and this could be a reflection of my own stage and state of mind — is the importance of doing things that give you confidence, no matter what stage you’re at. It could be getting feedback on a WIP or a note from a reader, or simply knowing that you wrote a true sentence or signed up for a class or filled a page in your notebook with memories that you trust will feed the work.

More next week.

Friends, if you’re in the Flathead Valley, join me Tues, Oct 11, from 5:30 to 7:00 at the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center (in the Village, next to the library), for the launch of BLIND FAITH (written as Alicia Beckman) and a talk on the creative process.