Thursday, September 29, 2005


"There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don't see them."

Elie Wiesel

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Delta and Numbers

I got word this week that Delta Airlines has bought an excerpt of This Dame for Hire for their inflight magazine.  No, I’ve never had this happen before.  And I wonder if somehow they believe this will keep them out of bankruptcy.

My worry about a new contract was not completely paranoid.  Here is an exchange between my agent and editor.

Agent to editor: Do you want to talk about another 2 book deal? 
Editor to agent:  As for talking about another deal, yes!  I want to talk--but I'm told I have to wait another month (at least) for a clear picture of sales on Book One.  Can we make a date to talk at the end of October?
Didn’t I say that it was all about the numbers?  I did.  And this is what is meant above.  I will probably be offered a 2 book contract, but the offer will be dependent on the sales.  So they could offer me less money than what I got before.  If that happens, what will I do?
It doesn’t matter that all the reviews were positive; that the Mystery Guild bought it; audio bought it; Reader’s Digest and Delta weighed in.  Only the numbers count.
I’ve been publishing long enough to remember when numbers had nothing to do with a contract. 
So what will I do?
I have no idea.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I recently got a fan email in which the writer said, “ I'm interested in writing a mystery strictly for fun”.


Anyone who thinks it’s fun to write any kind of novel should be disabused of that notion right now.  Writing is hard work.  Research might be fun.  But even that, depending on what you’re digging for, can become difficult.  But writing fun?  Never.

Sure there are those days when everything goes right and I feel ecstatic.  But I never say to myself, gee I had fun at the keyboard this morning.

What one produces might be fun to read.  If you’re writing a novel that intends to be fun and succeeds, that’s a bonus.  But that novel took work.  It might look easy and breezy (and that’s credit to the writer) but it’s never easy and breezy to write.

A produced playwright once said to me, “I love mystery novels and I think I’m going to write one so I can give back something after all these years of reading pleasure.”

Have you ever heard anything more arrogant?  Well, yes, I have, too, but that’s right up there.  Incidently he never wrote a novel.  This was a case of a writer thinking he could write in any form because he’s a writer.  I’m sure he’d never be that cavalier about writing a play.  But a mystery novel is just so much fun because it’s not really writing, is it?  It’s fun.

Guess what. It really is writing.  And to write a novel you have to want to do it more than anything.  You have to know that it’s hard work and takes discipline.

Some of the finest  writing I’ve ever read is in mysteries and crime novels.  It doesn’t matter what kind of novel you set out to write…it’s damn hard.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


There were no yellow post its.  I’d forgotten that they don’t do that anymore.  The marks were on the manuscript.  And what a nightmare those marks were.

This copyeditor took it upon herself (and it was a she) to make everyone talk the same.  And she changed the spelling of words like: whaddaya to what d’ya.  This was in dialogue.  My main character often says yer for you’re and ya for you.  But many times, for reasons of awkward pronounciations, I don’t do that. She changed them.

I’ve had three days of putting everything back the way it was.

She did pick up on repetition from one chapter to another.  That’s what she’s supposed to do.  She is not supposed to change my dialogue in any way.

I complained to my editor and he said he’d certainly speak to the person in charge of hiring these freelance editors.  There was nothing we could do about it now.  I knew that, of course.

I got so confused by her changes that I’m not sure things are consistent now.  I wrote a note to my editor about this and sent it with the manuscript.  I hope he’ll take a look or have someone with a brain do that to make sure things are consistent.

Now I’ll have to gird myself for the inevitable argument about the jacket.

No new contract yet.  My agent said she has to check on the sales ( the publishers have these figures every week because of computers) before she goes into negotiations.

Why do I feel they’re not going to give me a new contract?  Paranoia? Pessimism?  Reality? If the book didn’t sell well it’s perfectly possible that they won’t give me a new contract.  My thinking is how could people know the book was out there when they didn’t take an ad anywhere?  But then maybe it just didn’t sell well, despite good reviews.

What will become of me?


Friday, September 09, 2005

It's Here

The copy-edited manuscript of Too Darn Hot arrived this morning.  I’ve put it on a table in my office, unopened.  It will stay unopened until Monday.

A reader left me a comment on my post in which I said I knew it was coming, I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I wasn’t wary because the last time I got the copy-edited manuscript from Ballantine it was fine.

Mapletree7 asked, “Fill us in.  What’s to dread?”

Any writer reading this probably knows.  For years I would get the copy-edited manuscript back and go nuts.  They put little yellow tags on a page when they’re questioning something.  When you open the package there seem to be hundreds of them.  And the questions they ask, for the most part, are ridiculous, annoying, stupid and enraging.  Example: What is an out building? What is a rep tie?  Who are Nick and Nora?  On and on. Some even rewrite your sentences.

But with my last book, This Dame for Hire, that didn’t happen.  The copy-edit was sensible and modest.  So I don’t dread it the way I have.  Still, you never know. It’s doubtful that  I got the same copy-editor I had last time.  If, when I open the package, I see a plethora of yellow tags my stomach will churn.  But I’ll try to be reasonable until I find something unreasonable.

I hope this answers the question.  I’d love to see outrageous edits from others.


Thursday, September 08, 2005


My agent called my editor about the advertising of This Dame For Hire that was promised on the back of the galley.  He called me.

He said he knows it’s a problem and he’s talked about it at meetings.  Not just my book, but the whole process.  He’s even said, “Why can’t we be honest?”  I’m surprised he wasn’t fired for that.

Apparently it’s a practice that’s widespread and the feeling is that the bookstore owners will never remember.  Maybe that’s true.  Or maybe, since it happens all the time, they pay no attention to what’s on a galley.

It had never happened to me before, which is why I wrote about it in the first place.  But I have to say that my agent was on the case when she returned from France, and my editor felt I was owed an explanation.

I appreciate them both.

Waiting for the copy-edited manuscript of Too Darn Hot. I think it will arrive tomorrow.  If it’s anything like the copy-edited manuscript of This Dame, I don’t have much to worry about.  I don’t look forward to it, but I’m not wary the way I was the first time.

What kind of fool am I?