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As I type these words, the release of my second novel, The Summer Son, lies just a week away. During the first couple of weeks of release, some friends and fellow book bloggers are going to be helping me get out the word about the new book. In exchange for their generosity in letting me hang around their sites, I’ll be giving away signed copies of the book at each stop.

Here’s the lineup. Please do these folks the courtesy of visiting their sites, now and during the upcoming appearances. My guess is you’ll find plenty to interest you at each one:

Monday, January 24: I’ll kick things off at A Word Please, hosted by author Darcia Helle, with an essay on the meeting of fact and fiction in The Summer Son.

Tuesday, January 25 (release day): Billings Gazette arts reporter Jaci Webb will host a Q&A with me at the 5:01 blog.

Wednesday, January 26: At The Book Inn, hosted by Natalie Wadel, I’ll write about fathers and sons, the major theme of the book.

Thursday, January 27: At Straight from Hel, hosted by Helen Ginger, I’ll write about the 20-month stretch in which I wrote and sold my first two novels, a burst of creativity that I’m not likely to mimic anytime soon.

Friday, January 28: The first week will wrap up with a visit to The Visual Side of Journalism, hosted by Charles Apple, where he’ll pitch some questions at a guy (me) who works in the production trenches of a daily newspaper but writes fiction on the side.

Monday, January 31: Cherie Newman, host of the excellent “The Write Question” on Montana Public Radio, gives me the keys to her blog of the same name and lets me hold forth on what it means to write in and of Montana.

Tuesday, February 1: This will be a little different. My friend Jim Thomsen will host a Q&A with me in the form of a Facebook note. But don’t worry: if you’ve so far resisted the siren song of the social network, the interview will be simulcast on two authors’ blogs: R.J. Keller’s Ingenious Title to Appear Here Later and Kristen Tsetsi’s From a Little Office in a Little House.

Wednesday, February 2: One Book at a Time blogger Page Eberhardt gives me the floor for an essay on where stories come from, as if I have any idea.

Thursday, February 3: The fellas over at 3 Guys, One Book let me pitch in with an entry in their ongoing series “When We Fell in Love.”

Friday, February 4: I wrap up at Coffee, Books and Laundry, hosted by Melissa Vasquez, where I’ll write about balancing readers’ expectations with following the muse wherever she leads.

So please (please!) make plans to follow along each day, and be sure to throw in for a chance at a signed book at each stop.

My friend and fellow author Kristen Tsetsi has put her considerable will and energy behind an intriguing idea: She wants TIME magazine to make the military family its Person of the Year. What’s more, she wants you to want this, too, and you can join her Facebook campaign by going here.

Kristen was good enough to take a few questions about the campaign:

What was the impetus behind this?

I was watching the announcement of the 2010 TIME Person of the Year on either Morning Joe or the Today show, and when they announced who it was, I thought, “They should make it ‘the service member.’ ”

Curious, I looked up the list of TIME’s people of the year, and I discovered the service member has been PoY twice: in 1950 it was “The American Fighting-Man,” and in 2003 it was “The American Soldier.” Naturally, my next thought was, “It should be the military family.”

Person of the Year is given to the person, group, or thing that has most influenced the culture or the news during the past year. The military family has easily had a cultural impact in the last year: every time the war, a soldier, or the military is in the news, so is a military family by extension. When a soldier dies, the media jumps to interview the family members trying to deal with the loss. (Or, they used to. These days, Lindsay Lohan’s rehab seems much more interesting to them. A few days ago, two soldier deaths in Iraq got less than 10 seconds of coverage, but Lohan was given a full feature story for getting out of rehab, or not getting out of rehab, or something to do with her drinking and drug habit or quitting thereof. I’m sure it was important, whatever it was.)

Additionally, the military family has had an incredible impact on pop culture. Army Wives is entering its fifth season this year, E! just aired a special on the military spouse, Oprah has done several episodes that recognize the military family, and in terms of larger cultural impact, how likely do you think it is that we’d have nearly as many volunteer forces as we do if there weren’t extended family members available to take care of soldiers’ children?

What sort of traction have you gotten so far?

New-tire traction. Since Dec. 16, the Facebook page already has 245 fans (note: It’s 281 now). Not enough to get media attention, but it’s a nice number for the length of time the page has been up. Military Avenue, created by a retired Air Force Colonel, Dale Kissinger, has interviewed me, I’ve been invited to write a blog post for a Kentucky NPR station’s website, and others are contacting me to ask how they can help.

Why this year? Is there a particular “hook” upon which to hang this?

Can you think of a time in media history in which a television show about military families has entered its 5th season (or even HAD a season)? That, and it’s already been over a decade since the conflicts we’re involved in began. Why not now?

You’ve had to wait out the deployment of your husband, Ian. What part(s) of that experience can those of us who’ve never done it not imagine?

People who have had family members or others they love in ICU know what it’s like, even if they don’t know it. It’s day after day of not knowing whether the person you love will die, to put it simply. It’s a constant, nagging thought, no matter what you’re doing. And it colors every minute.

How do you define a military family? Are we talking spouses, parents, siblings and children, or does it go wider than that?

Wider. When Ian deployed, we weren’t married, but I considered him my “family” and there would have been nothing worse than losing him. That we’re married now doesn’t mean I’ll suffer the loss any more than if we weren’t married. The military family, as far as I’m concerned, includes anyone who so loves the deployed service member that their death would have a devastating impact.

Okay, you’re sitting here, waiting, and your loved one is overseas, in the line of fire. How do you cope with abstractions as people here at home debate the merits of war or troop levels or whether they’re being given the equipment to do their jobs?

When Ian was in Iraq, I watched Trading Spaces when it was still on. A woman cried after seeing her newly decorated home. I thought, “People are flying and shooting and taking cover in a desert, and you’re crying over paint?” I also watched the embedded reporters sending live broadcasts of the war 24-7 when the Iraq business started, and on one hand I thought, “You think this is a war movie? Do you not know you might catch someone being killed and that person might be someone’s spouse/parent/sibling/child?” On the other hand, it allowed me to feel confident that because I wasn’t hearing about it, nothing had happened to MY person in the Middle East. (Until Asan Akbar of the 101st grenaded his own troops, which was immediately reported and had me in a panic until Ian, in the 101st at the time, called me.)

I listened to the various news-people debates and I rolled my eyes at their opinions because they were coming from a safe place behind a glass desk upon which sat fresh coffee and a stack of notes.

How do you cope? I guess you just get pissed off at the silly things people find “important,” envy those who don’t have anyone in immediate danger, and live on hope and assumptions of a safe return.

I’m going to play cynic for a minute: You have a novel coming out, Pretty Much True …, that chronicles one woman’s life on the homefront. So you’re just ginning up interest in that, right?

No, I’m not. However, in the interest of absolute honesty, if this leads to future sales of Pretty Much True…, I won’t be disappointed. I wrote it to paint an intimate picture of the personal, political, and psychological experience, and I think it’s one most people haven’t been introduced to, but should. That said, when I had the idea for this, Pretty Much True… wasn’t even a thought, and I have no interest in linking to anything having to do with it on the facebook page created for this effort. The most information I give about myself on the page is my e-mail address, and the writing I link to is written by other people.

I’m going to play skeptic for a minute: Person of the Year ought to recognize achievements toward peace, not the making of war. What do you say?

I say, as TIME says, that PoY isn’t an honor, but a recognition. Big difference. (And military families aren’t involved in the making of war. At least, no more than any other voter.)

How can someone who’s on board with this idea help?

By simply clicking “like.” I don’t want anyone’s money, I don’t want anyone to commit to receiving newsletters, and I don’t want anyone to do anything else that would cut into their day. All I want is a “like.” It’s the easiest possible thing to do, and what’s more, if it works, that very small, two-second act could actually have an impact. TIME editor Richard Stengel says of PoY, “The challenge is presenting something people know in a new way.” People think they know the military family, but all they know are yellow ribbons and crying families. There’s much more to know, and this can help spread that awareness.

Endorsements of The Summer Son have begun to roll in from authors and critics whose work I deeply admire.

Among them:

“Lancaster has crafted a novel that offers readers the most valuable gift any work of fiction can offer: an authentic emotional experience. The Summer Son will grip you with its pathos and insight, propel you mercilessly forward with its tension and suspense, and then wow you with an ending you won’t see coming. And when the experience is over, The Summer Son will stick with you.”
Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here and All About Lulu

Jon is having the kind of career I can only dream of. His first novel, All About Lulu, won rave reviews as a funny, deeply felt coming-of-age story. His latest, West of Here, will release on Feb. 11, 2010, and is already being hailed as one of the great books of the coming year. Chuck Adams, Evison’s editor at Algonquin, has called it the best book he’s worked with in four decades of publishing. I’m lucky enough to have an advance reader copy of it, and I can tell you that the multigenerational sweep, the sense of place, the writing all are beautifully rendered.

*****

“Lancaster’s characters drill into the earth in search of natural gas, and so too do they burrow into their pasts, hunting for the pockets of explosive angst that define who they are today. A compelling dose of realism and a vicious reminder that ancient history is always close enough to kiss us.”
Joshua Mohr, author of Termite Parade and Some Things That Meant the World To Me

Josh is the kind of writer who makes me wonder if the rest of us simply don’t have sufficient imagination. Consider the premise of his latest, Termite Parade: Three narrators — a woman, Mired; her boyfriend, Derek; and his twin brother, Frank — carry us through a story that starts with Mired’s being pushed down stairs, intentionally, by Derek (who, by the way, believes he’s being eaten from the inside by termites). And his much-heralded debut, Some Things That Meant the World To Me, centered on a 30-year-old man named Rhonda who is led through his troubled past by his own inner child. Some Things, published by tiny Two Dollar Radio, was selected by O Magazine as one of its “10 Terrific Reads of 2009.”

*****

The Summer Son is a superb and authentic exploration of family ties and the delicate relationships between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and the past and present. Lancaster writes from the heart in clear and powerful prose, exposing his characters flaws and strengths in heartbreaking detail and giving readers exactly what we want from contemporary fiction: characters we believe in from the first page, laugh and cry with throughout, and, finally, deeply understand at the end.”
Kristy Kiernan, author of Catching Genius and Between Friends

In a book world that demands that everything be classified, Kristy’s work often gets labeled as women’s fiction. While that’s certainly not a knock, it also misses half the picture. What she really writes is human fiction — beautiful, complex, redeeming, heartbreaking human fiction. All of her work — Matters of Faith, Catching Genius, Between Friends — probes relationships and choices and consequences with a deft eye and a hopeful heart. Fabulous stuff.

*****

“Craig Lancaster’s magnificent novel, The Summer Son, travels straight into the realm of broken hearts and hurt souls only to discover miraculous things at the core of each of us: grace and love. This is one of those rare novels that will live from generation to generation, offering sunlight to those who think the human race lives only in a stormcloud.”
Richard S. Wheeler, author of Snowbound and a six-time Spur Award winner

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Dick Wheeler, for my money, is our greatest living writer of Westerns, and along the way, he became simply a fine novelist, no qualifications necessary. He’s also a man after my own heart: a former newspaperman who stumbled into a literary career. (That he is married to one of the finest people on the planet, Sue Hart, essentially makes Dick the most enviable man I know.) Check out his latest, Snowbound, for a terrific example of Wheeler’s exhaustive research — the tale centers on explorer John Fremont — and his elegant prose.

*****

The Summer Son made me laugh, made me feel and even made me love a scoundrel.”
Kristen Tsetsi, author of Pretty Much True …

I love when great things happen to deserving people. Kris’ self-released debut novel, Homefront, was loved by nearly everyone who read it, and after years of shopping it to publishers, she’s found one who sees the possibilities for the book that all of us who’ve read it so clearly grasped. It will be re-emerging soon as Pretty Much True … and you pretty much should read it when it does. Check out her blog here.

*****

“Part family saga, part mystery, The Summer Son will grab hold of you and not let go.”
R.J. Keller, author of Waiting for Spring

I love when great things happen to deserving people, Part 2. R.J. originally released her debut novel through CreateSpace, priced it to move on Amazon’s Kindle platform — and reaped the rewards of her own good work and readers’ word of mouth. Waiting for Spring — women’s fiction for women who don’t live Carrie Bradshaw’s existence — has consistently been one of the best-selling novels on the Kindle, and sure enough, AmazonEncore took notice: It will re-release the book to a much wider audience next spring. A success story well-earned.

*****

“In this novel of power, psychological insight, suspense, and healing, Lancaster takes the reader on Mitch Quillen’s search with courage and emotional honesty. Moving and unforgettable!”
Carol Buchanan, Spur Award-winning author of God’s Thunderbolt and Gold Under Ice

What can I say about Carol? She’s one of my best friends among the Montana writers I’ve met, she’s a whip-smart writer and possibly even better editor (The Summer Son benefited greatly from her advice), and she wrote a self-published debut novel (God’s Thunderbolt) that won a Spur Award. She’s such a gifted writer that it was a no-brainer for me to team up with her and launch her follow-up, Gold Under Ice, as the first release of my small literary imprint, Missouri Breaks Press.

*****

“Craig Lancaster really knows how to tell a story. And in this deeply felt, keenly observed, beautifully structured novel he tells one older than Sophocles, about the tensions between fathers and sons and the secrets that shape — and threaten to destroy — their lives.”
Charles Matthews, former books editor, San Jose Mercury News

Charles and I go way back, although it would be a stretch to say that we really knew each other before the advent of Facebook. We worked together at the San Jose Mercury News several years ago, but that was back in the days when that newspaper had 400-some editorial employees (as opposed to the 120 or so it has now), and so I’m not sure we ever even had a conversation. But no matter. Charles knows his stuff, and I’m greatly pleased that he liked what he read from me. Check out Bookishness, his brilliant blog.

So there they are — eight testimonials that I hope will persuade you to give The Summer Son a try. But even better: I just gave you at least a dozen good reading recommendations. Check these authors out. You won’t be sorry.

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