Back in the USSR

I've had my head down over the last month, finishing up a new book that will be out in October. While my brain's been living 1977 all kinds of surprises have happened: Snowden's NSA leaks; the GOP's continued effort to outlaw abortion and take women back to the 1950s; another uprising in Egypt; hot weather, fires, and sadly, 19 dead firefighters; immigration reform—yes? no?—I can't make sense of it; and of course no gun control legislation but plenty of shootings.

I think I'll retreat back to the '70s, when life was simpler and we knew who the bad guys were—not us. I promise the blog will be back in a few weeks, so please check in again.

In the meantime, make a note somewhere to look for Camping with the Communists: The Adventures of an American Family in the Soviet Union, coming this fall. A reader/editor made my day when she called it "a treat to read. Smart, compelling, personal, deep, funny." You can hardly wait, right?

Electronic dithering

My writing time has been consumed lately by trying to get the digital version of Tea and Bee's Milk up on a site called Even though I've been using computers since the 80s and feel more than competent, the exacting process had me tearing my hair. Fortunately one of their techs took pity on me and I can now say with confidence that the book is available here in nine formats, with more to follow in a few weeks, including iPad, Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, Adobe, etc. So if you haven't read it and have an e-reader, now's your chance. And if you like it, go to and write us a smashing review.

The publishing world has changed dramatically since I started writing in the late 70s. And it continues to change at a blazing pace. Digital, on-demand printing broke down the doors, and e-books are assailing  the walls. While editors and agents search for celebrity names and multimillion dollar titles, more and more authors are turning to self-publishing and e-books as a way to get their words out cheaply and quickly. Economist Robert Reich's latest, for example, Beyond Outrage, is currently only available in e-book format—and it contains videos. What next?

I am too much of a traditionalist to give up on paper books, but I admit there is an advantage to being able to download and read a book anytime, anywhere. Those ten weeks in Costa Rica wouldn't have been nearly so much fun without the mysteries I downloaded. Not to mention the tree I saved.

But now I come to the crux of this post. The excruciating detail of electronic submission is complete and with it my not-writing excuses. The book in my head is demanding to be written, so I'm finally going to dig out the old audio tapes of our 1977 five-week camping trip through the Soviet Union and start listening. Then I'll reread our diaries, skim through the photos, and begin. It was a fascinating, out-of-time experience, and I hope I can do it justice. But as Tom Stoppard has so succinctly said, "The hard part is getting to the top of page 1."