Monday, October 25, 2021

Sorry I Missed You Goes to Russia!

 Last week, my Russian publisher sent me the proposed cover and promo text for their translation of Sorry I Missed You—or, as it'll be titled over there, Sorry, But I Miss You


This might be one of my favorite parts of publishing. It's super fun to see your work described in another language, what elements of the book they pull out to put on the back cover, how they translate the title—your own name made of symbols you don't understand. 

I posted the cover on Instagram and some friends wanted to know about the behind-the-scenes process of book translations and foreign rights from the author's perspective. It's very long and complicated and involved, so I thought it deserved a whole blog post. Are you ready? Here it is:

So first of all, you sit there and wait for an email from either your agent or your publisher (depending on who holds your world rights) to say that someone wants to buy your book and translate it into another language. And then you sit there and wait for a contract to sign. And then you sit there and wait for the foreign publisher to send you the cover and promo text. And then you sit there and wait for your pub date, which will likely be a surprise (they might tell you which month they're considering, maybe). And then, someday, you'll see your book on Instagram or someplace and go, Oh, hey, it must be out there now! and you'll get some physical copies in the mail, if that's in your contract, and you won't be able to read them but you'll put them on your shelf and say to yourself, "Neat!" 

Phew. Lots of work. Very grueling. 

Are you interested in seeing the promo text? Sure you are! 

“Three women. Each has an intimate question.

One letter - it contains all the answers. Who will get it?

Larry inherited a mansion, but in order to live in it, you need to follow a bunch of strange rules. For example, not listening to modern music or planting flowers nearby. Since Larry is already full of problems, he decides to rent the house. 

It is occupied by three women, Maud, Sunnah and Mackenzie. It soon turns out that each of them had a person in their life who disappeared without explanation.

 

Therefore, when they find a tattered letter in the mailbox, where only one thing is clear - they want to meet with someone in a coffee shop - everyone hopes to see a "ghost" from their former life. 

 

But Larry is not interested in this, he has a lot of other concerns, and he is also convinced that ghosts, and real ones, have settled in the attic. Anyway, in their usually quiet city, something amiss is going on. Someone threatens to smash the gallery where he works. There is certainly no time for mysticism!"

 

Is this a good time to mention that, with Halloween just days away, Sorry I Missed You has ghosts in it but is not too scary for wimps like me who don't love being toooooo too scared? Because, contrary to the Russians' promo text, there is certainly time for mysticism, and the time is certainly now. So if you or someone you love wants a Halloween-appropriate read that won't keep you up at night, you know, I'm just going to drop some buy links here. (I don't really hustle much, so please bear with me when I get the urge...)

BOOKSHOP / BARNES & NOBLE / CHAPTERS / AMAZON.COM / INDIEBOUND / TARGET / PENNY UNIVERSITY (local to Regina) / FOUND (local to Cochrane, AB) / 

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Out of Gas—But Also, Some News!

The kids' bus was a half hour late this morning, and for a minute there I thought it wasn't coming at all. Which would be fine if it were Monday or Wednesday or even Friday, but not today. 

Not. Today.

Today is one of two days I have, every week, where both kids go to school, where I have a glorious seven and a half hours of alone time. Where my house is silent, except for the occasional sound of me talking to...well. The appliances, mostly. (Don't pretend like you've never told your coffee grinder to hurry up or accidentally apologized to the fridge when you banged your toe into it on your way past.) 

If you're a mom who works from home, you know how valuable seven and a half hours can be. You know how much time that is and also how little time that is, how helpful it is and how greedy it makes you, how it's never enough, no matter how much it is—like a serving of lasagne. Yes. Seven and a half hours is exactly like a serving of lasagne.

Anyway, the bus came, much to my utter relief, and I put my kids on it and I waved at them through the window as they disappeared down the street, and I went into my house and I yelled, "HALLELUJAH" because that is now part of my daily routine on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I made coffee and baked one of those pre-baked-but-not-all-the-way croissants and I sat at the kitchen table and smiled at the wall. Alone with my appliances and thoughts. At last.

Oh no! My thoughts!

That's the problem lately. My thoughts. 

I used to really enjoy being alone with my thoughts. Even when they weren't particularly positive, I still enjoyed the room to hear them out, move them around, write them down. Often, that would lead to little bursts of creativity, and I could take the things I was thinking about and put them into fictional characters' heads and build stories around them. 

But one day I stuck the key into the ignition of my brain and it made a sad little trying noise but wouldn't turn over. No sparks. No interesting thoughts, nothing inspiring, nothing creative.

It's probably a combination of a lot of things, and I've been troubleshooting in my head—is it the pandemic? Is it the lack of quiet time? Did I grow out of creativity? (Is that a thing?)

I think I've figured it out though: the thing it boils down to, mostly, is that I am more creative when I believe in myself, cheesy as that sounds. I'm more creative when I take myself seriously, as counterintuitive as that sounds. I am more creative when I think of myself as being creative—which, come on, brain. How do you manufacture a feeling about the way you are when you're not that way? 

The thing is, I have never felt less sure of myself, less confident in my writing ability than I have since publishing that first novel. That was when the brain ignition thing happened. I don't know if this is a super common writer thing or what [feel free to weigh in if this applies to you] but it's not something I anticipated. I always thought that getting an agent would make me feel like a 'real' writer, and then I would never struggle with self-doubt again. And then I got an agent and struggled with self-doubt even harder and thought that getting a book deal would be the thing that legitimized me in my own brain. Then it was actually holding a physical copy of the book, and then it was selling another one (because maybe the first book was a fluke?). The goal posts move so fast it's like they're on wheels, and I am realizing that I'm probably just going to feel, always, like I'm not a real writer, unless I can figure out a way to make myself less dependent on my feelings about myself. 

Which...help.

ANYWAY. That's a problem I'm having. And I have to confront it every time the kids leave me alone in my house to go to school. Which is probably not a bad thing? And until such a time as my thoughts become friendly and creativity-sparking again and I learn to rely less on external validation, I am trying very hard to celebrate the milestones that give me even a temporary feeling of being "a real author." The proverbial equivalent of taking a taxi since my car is out of gas. This week, it's this:


Sorry I Missed You was translated into Estonian and is now on sale there! And if you click on the screen shot above, it'll take you to an article or announcement or something of the sort which I can't read because it's not in English. Hopefully it doesn't say, "Suzy Krause is a big phony and not a real author."

...

...hopefully.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Jeg Elsker Deg

The Prince of Wales Library isn't on Prince of Wales Drive, it's on 14th Ave. There is a library on Prince of Wales, but they've named it Sunrise. It's as though someone got the signs mixed up and then didn't want to admit they'd made a mistake. I used to go to the Prince of Wales branch a lot, in the winters, to find a quiet corner and write. It's in my neighborhood, sort of. It's not too busy, but busy enough that I'd always bring my headphones and something to listen to.

I'm thinking of one Monday morning in particular, a couple of years ago, sitting in a quiet corner at that library, working on my book and listening to the radio, turned way down so I wouldn't be distracted by it—I like to listen to unfamiliar music when I'm working so my brain doesn't snag on lyrics I know. That's why it was so strange when, in the middle of a song I'd never heard before, a lyric jumped out at me as though the music had been temporarily cranked up. Even stranger: the words weren't in English, but I knew what they meant—knew intrinsically, the way you know the phone number of your best friend from elementary school. You know it almost without knowing you know it, without trying to know it, and you'll probably always know it even if you forget other, actually important information. 

At first, I wouldn't have been able to give you a literal translation, I just knew that it was a phrase that meant something affectionate, something you'd say to someone very, very important to you. 

Jeg elsker deg.

I love you? 

I checked the name of the song—Norway

A memory came to me like my eyes were adjusting to a dark room. Sitting in my grandparents' living room on my Grandpa Glen's lap, him teaching me to count in Norwegian, teaching me an old Norwegian prayer, saying to me, "Jeg elsker deg," all in his deep, rumbling voice that I could feel reverberating in my spine. 

I loved his voice. It was familiar and comforting, one of those distinct, constant, grounding things from my childhood. He talked and laughed just like he sang, and I heard him sing often. He sang bass in a band with his brothers. They did hymns and old country music, and there was even yodeling sometimes. They often did this old Jim Reeves song called Suppertime; the chorus goes, "Come home, come home it's suppertime, the shadows lengthen fast. Come home, come home it's suppertime, we're going home at last."

He passed away yesterday, and ever since I got the phone call I've had that song in my head, on repeat, like a sweet gift, sung in my grandpa's familiar, comforting voice. 

I've been thinking about how beautiful it is that the words you say to a little kid can mean so much to them thirty years later, that they can remember what you meant even if they don't consciously remember exactly what you said, and that if you sing to someone enough when you're with them, they'll still be able to hear you long after you go away. 

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

The Voicemail

It's 11:45 on Sunday night and I'm doing that thing you're not supposed to do where you burn your eyeballs out on your phone screen before going to bed. Barclay is reading Dune, because Barclay is always reading Dune, because Dune is a migonstrous novel that would take any reasonably literate person ten years to finish.

I'm watching a funny video on Instagram and I turn my phone to Barclay so he can see it too, because don't you love it when you're reading a difficult book and someone keeps interrupting you to show you mildly funny videos of strangers from a social media realm in which you've specifically chosen not to partake? Barclay loves that.

As I turn the screen to him, he says, "Oh, someone's trying to call you."

Which is interesting, as it is 11:45 on a Sunday night. Generally, at this time, all the spammers, the scammers, the telemarketers, and appointment reminderers have gone to sleep. Generally, you don't call someone at 11:45 PM unless it's an emergency. So my heart beats a bit faster and I check the number. Local, but not a number saved in my phone. Which is interesting as, if you are having an emergency, you would generally, generally call someone you know, who would have your phone number saved in their phone. Right? I think.

I ask Barclay if he knows the number, and he says he doesn't. He shrugs. "Probably a wrong number."

So I watch the phone ring. The screen goes black and then lights up with a new voicemail.

Curious, I access the message and put it on speaker phone. Barclay has set his book down; he's probably thinking, too, about how people don't call at 11:45 PM on a Sunday night unless they have a very good reason, and he wants to know what the very good reason is.

It's a man's voice, not one I recognize. "Hey Suzy," he says, "I missed your call earlier today."

Which is interesting, because I didn't call anyone earlier today. I swear. 

I think. 

Did I? I rack my brain. It's funny how someone can make you doubt yourself. I know I didn't call anyone today; I spent the entire day with Barclay and the kids. But this stranger on the phone says I called him and why would anyone lie about that? 

But wait, it gets weirder.

"I can't wait to meet up," he says. "I know I messed up before but I really want to try this again."

WAIT WHAT.

"Since the moment I met you, I just thought you were really cute and—"

It goes on like that. Rambling, weirdly intimate, apologetic. On speaker phone, with my wonderful husband lying beside me looking completely bewildered. Understandably so, I'd say. If the roles were reversed I don't even know what I'd be up to at this point. Climbing into that phone to drag some lady out of it by her hair.

He ends with, "Okay, call me back. I love you," and the phone beeps at me, same as it does after every old innocuous message. 

"End of message. To erase this message, press 7."

"Okay," I say, completely gobsmacked. I might be asleep, I think. "So first of all—" First of all what? There is no first of all. There is nothing. I'm just more confused than I've ever been in my entire life. But I should probably say something to reassure Barclay that I'm not, like, cheating. I should say something reassuring. "I don't know this, I didn't call this, I don't know who, I'm just as, I'm not sure what..." This is probably not reassuring. This sounds super guilty, actually. But I'm legitimately questioning my sanity at this point, checking my recent calls screen to see if I made any phone calls earlier today, as though I could possibly have done something like this without knowing it. 

Barclay's cool though, save for those first few moments of looking like my phone had grown legs and kicked him in the face. 

"I know," he says, "I believe you. Spam?"

"But...he called me Suzy," I say. "If it was spam, wouldn't he have used my real name, not my nickname?" I have changed lanes very quickly, from trying to reassure my husband that I'm not having an affair to brushing off his plausible explanations that it's anything but. If my name were Susanna or something like that, I could see a spammer calling me Suzy. But my name is Elena. How...?

So then we spend a bit of time trying to figure out if there is a place on the internet where my nickname is connected to my phone number (there isn't, as far as we can tell). We reverse look-up the number, but come up with nothing. (I reverse look-up both mine and Barclay's phone numbers and come up with nothing there too—is reverse look-up a thing that actually works for anyone?)

Finally, Barclay's like, "Welp, I guess we'll never know." 

And he rolls over and goes to sleep.

But I, even though I know for a fact that I did not recognize that voice and do not know that person and did not call that person etcetera etcetera, just lay awake and keep being stumped.

So now I come to you, dear internet. Is this a spam call? Have any of you received one like this? What is the end game here? How did he know my nickname? Have I lost my mind? 

Plz advise. 

And may we all learn to be as chill as Barclay.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Lesson to Share

 I was sick this past weekend! It was so weird! Where did it come from? (Costco, I think, actually, come to think of it.)

Pre-pandemic, Sully and I used to catch colds every month or so. It was fairly predictable and, in retrospect, maybe a sign that our immune systems suck? But this past year we've been cold-free and loving it. I know a lot of people are like, "Burn the masks! Bring back the handshake! Let's lick stuff!" But honestly, I'll be pleased as punch if I don't have to touch strangers anymore, if I could minimize the number of times a person literally hands me a virus that's going to knock me out for four days. What even are handshakes? And why? Let's normalize warm, effusive, full-upper-body nods and believing people when they say it's nice to meet us without having to shake parts of each other's bodies to affirm it.  

Anyway.

My first instinct, upon realizing that the tickle in my throat was real and not, once again, my overactive imaginary-symptom-amplifying imagination, was to get a covid test. It was negative, which made sense. I'm first-dosed, I'm conservative with my in-person visits, and the community numbers are super low. It's a regular old common cold which, like I said, I probably picked up at Costco. I'd forgotten how rotten common colds are though; I've forgotten how to tough them out. I've forgotten how your head gets so close to feeling like it's going to break open and how claustrophobic I get when I can't breathe out of my nose. Like I almost wish my head would break open so I wouldn't feel so confined inside of it.

I also feel like this past year has turned the cold into a creepier thing than it ever was before. It's like I always thought of the cold as a cheesy 90s movie villain—bumbling, disgruntled but not evil, easily foiled after a couple of hours of setting up the appropriate traps (liquids, naps, vitamin whatever)—but now it's gotten more sinister in my mind. You just hear story after story of, "I had a cold, and it felt like a normal cold, and then it was COVID AND I COULDN'T BREATHE AND I SPENT THREE MONTHS IN ICU ON A VENTILATOR" and I guess, after a year and a half of that, we're all primed to think that a tickle in a throat is a big huge hairy deal.

Anyway. 

Scarlett, who is four and hadn't seen me sick in, like, a year and a half, literally didn't remember what "being sick" even meant or what it looked like. She kept eyeing me, bewildered and skeptical, asking me to explain myself. Demanding it. "Why do your eyes look like that?! Why do you sound like that?! Did you swallow a jalapeƱo without chewing it?! Can you stop doing that [coughing]?!"

Sully was a bit more sympathetic, but he is still seven years old and his sympathy isn't as helpful as, say, Barclay's sympathy. I woke up on Friday morning to the sound of clattering and shuffling in the kitchen, and I slowly became aware of two little voices discussing butter—specifically, how to soften it. 

"We could put it in this bowl and pour boiling water onto it?"

"We could blow it with a hair dryer?"

"We could put it in the oven?"

Sully had, apparently, decided to make me breakfast in bed. He had enlisted Scarlett to help him, and they had a stack of magazines, all flipped open to the recipe pages. They had narrowed it down to Very Berry Smoothies and Candy Cane Christmas Cookies and then, because they are 7 and 4 and nothing if not ex-treeeeme-ly practical, decided on the cookies. Heartwarming, TO BE SURE. But that is how I ended up baking myself cookies at 7 AM on a morning where I was so sick I could barely see straight and eating them even though all I wanted was warm honey water. 

I just kept thinking to myself, "This is very cute, and it's a story I'll tell Sully when he's older and we'll laugh about it together and it'll be good for our relationship and stuff."

Anyway. 

The next morning, I sprained my neck (just existing, nothing fancy; I am a very tense person and if I get stressed out I sprain my neck, it's fun). If I thought I couldn't move before that, I really couldn't move after. So I spent the rest of the weekend on the couch, in the bed, and on the patio furniture. Finished two books and started two books (I am, suddenly, a person who has about five books on the go at a time). Did a lot of Sudokus. Did a lot of just laying there staring up at the trees. Watched a thunderstorm roll in and out. And now I feel better—but not just physically. I feel rested mentally in a way I haven't in a very, very long time.

So maybe that's the upside of getting sick—the laying down and chilling out. There's probably a lesson to be had about laying down and chilling out even if you're not being forced to by your crappy immune system so, here, I pass this lesson along to you. Go outside. Lay down. Chill out. Stare at the sky as though you physically cannot move. 

Go! Now! 

And then bake yourself some cookies. Sully's got a good recipe he can share with you.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Call Me Garden Girl! Call Me Plant Person!

Plant people: I get you now. It's fun. I see it. 

Years ago, a friend brought me a succulent. I didn't know how to take care of it and I told her that and she said to me, "It's okay! These are hens and chicks and they're impossible to kill. You don't have to be good at plants. Just water them sometimes, and that's it."

I got excited. I had never, ever, not ever, not once, been able to keep a plant alive in my house. Or outside of my house, for that matter. 

Exhibit A: The Garden.

The lady who lived here before us kept an immaaaaaculate garden. She was, like, really into it. She left me a binder full of details about it—what the plants were called and what they wanted and how I should, what's the word you garden people use, tend them. 

Well, I destroyed that beautiful garden. Decimated it. Enjoyed a few years of dazzling, fragrant blooms, and then watched stupidly as the whole thing fell into ruins like an old Scottish castle. A few of the lilies still poke their heads up, year after year, cautious and pessimistic, but they're ghosts of their once glorious selves. Straggling up through the dirt like zombies, mourning over their lost kingdom, hopelessly beholding the dandelions that have begun to advance across the sparse lawn toward them. I am fairly certain they're hostile, the lilies; I think they know I'm the problem, think I should fix it all and banish the weedy dissidents, restore the flowers to their rightful place as illustrious rulers of the block, just as their previous gardener would have done, but, you know. Alas and alack and everything.

So anyway, the hens and chicks. I thought to myself, sure, I couldn't manage a whole garden, designed and grown and cared for by an older woman who had, no doubt, years of experience and knowledge under her belt and years of dirt under her fingernails. But a tiny clay pot of hens and chicks? I could probably—

It was dead within the week. 

So I...gave up? The other option was to buy one of those ridiculously big books about gardening and try to learn how to fix the problems, and I didn't have time to do that. Giving up is always the easiest thing. I did buy some very realistic-looking fake plants to hang over the piano, and one of my more planty friends congratulated me on them, thinking they were real. A win! 

But then. 

I met this person on Instagram who lives in my neighborhood and they offered me a little houseplant (thanks, Steph!). I almost said no, because I felt bad in advance for killing it. But then I thought about how much I wanted that particular plant. 

It was very cute.

So I said yes, and she brought it over and gave it to me and I put it in a place of honor and respect in the kitchen windowsill and whispered to it, "I'll try so hard to keep you alive but you're going to have to be pretty forgiving."

I think the plant understood, because it has now been three weeks and one day and the plant is not dead. THREE WEEKS AND ONE DAY AND THE PLANT IS NOT DEAD. 

Furthermore, the plant is getting bigger and making more leaves. I'm no expert, but I think this means I am taking such good care of it, that I am doing it exactly right. 

So suddenly, after three weeks and one day of doing it exactly right, I'm just really super overconfident. I went and bought seeds and I'm growing vines for my fence on the windowsill and I'm nurturing a brand new apple tree in the backyard and I planted flowers in the front...I am a whole new lady. I get excited to come home and look at dirt because what if something sprouted something? What if something bloomed? What if something grew? 

And I think there's a moral to the story, and I think the moral is that it's okay to decide that you hate something and that it's not for you and that you never want to give it the time of day and that the thought of it makes you tired and grouchy but then to decide on a whim and for no particular reason that actually it's your favorite thing EVER and is, in fact, your entire personality now. 

Friday, May 07, 2021

Stuck in a Loop

 This morning I read an article in The New York Times titled, 

Heads Up! A Used Chinese Rocket Is Tumbling Back to Earth This Weekend.

Basically, there is a 10-story, 23-ton piece of rocket tumbling out of control in orbit, expected to fall to earth in an uncontrolled reentry on Saturday or Sunday. It's traveling at 18,000 miles per hour and a change of mere minutes can shift the debris (such a polite word for a 23-ton piece of anything) by hundreds or thousands of miles, so it's impossible for them to be able to tell where it's going to land until...well, until it's a few hours away from landing. 

I don't know how many of you read this blog on the regular and remember what exactly it is that you read, but let me quote a post from July of 2020 real quick:

"It's July! We made it to July! 

Maybe you're like, whoa, Suzy, none of us thought we weren't going to make it to July; did you think we weren't going to make it to July?

Well I don't know. Kind of? It's been one of those years, and you can't tell me it hasn't. I had a dream the other night where I looked up into the sky and saw a glowing ball of fire headed straight for earth and I knew we were going to die, and in the dream I just sighed as though I were a little disappointed and calmly said to Barclay, "I'm not even surprised, with the way this year has been." Like 2020 was my disappointing teenaged child who had, yet again, failed me in some major but not unusual way.

And then we just stood there with our arms around each other and stared into the huge night sky as the ball of fire grew bigger and bigger...

So my subconscious is, like, over it, right? My subconscious is like, WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE AND I'M NOT EVEN GOING TO BE SURPRISED JUST TERRIBLY, TERRIBLY DISAPPOINTED IN YOU, 2020.

But look at us! July!

Okay! 

So now that I've jinxed us good, on to the blog post..."

I still think about that dream often (my dreams are always extremely vivid; I remember them afterward as much as—or better than—I remember actual events). We were standing in this crumbling ruins of something that felt familiar but was now unrecognizable, as though whatever was coming had already come and we were stuck in a loop of anticipating terror and beholding destruction with no space between the two—which probably accounted for the subdued reaction to our imminent danger. The feeling was less, "WE'RE GOING TO DIE!" and more, "Welp. Here we go again."

And I don't mean to be dramatic (it's my default setting; I can't help it) but if this isn't the perfect metaphor for this past year or so, I don't know what is. It's been a year of feeling like we've just lived through something big (and I'm not talking about the virus alone, but also the debris: financial damage and relational damage, loss of trust in things and people and tensions that have finally and fully split into gaping chasms) but also like there is always something terrible on the horizon. Not something new though, just more of the same. Standing in the ruins awaiting our demise. 

So.

All that to say? I don't anticipate being smack dab in the middle of the Long March 5B rocket debris' uncontrolled landing path, but if I am then, I guess, let it be known that I KNEW IT LAST JULY. This is what blogs are good for, I guess—saying I told you so if you're too dead to say it yourself. 

Happy Friday!