Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Time for Lists

Everybody else seems to be making a 10 best book list so I decided to do the same. I read 61 books this year and I came up with about 20 bests, which surprised me.  But I had to narrow it down.  Very hard.  So I’ve made my list only fiction. They aren’t all crime novels  and they aren’t in order.  So if anyone cares, here they are.

1.) Case Histories – Kate Atkinson

2.) Die A Little – Megan Abbott

3.) The Washington Story – Adam Langer

4.) Magdalen Martyrs – Ken Bruen

5.) Strange But True – John Searles

6.) Bitch Posse -Martha O’Connor

7.) Deadfolk – Charlie Williams

8.) Taming the Beast – Emily Maguire (pub. US Jan 2006)

9.) The Bright Forever – Lee Martin

10.) The Wheelman – Duane Swierczynski 


Wednesday, December 28, 2005


The email below came to me today. 

Attention Sandra Scoppettone

I don't know if it is bad etiquette, but I have to draw your attention on a "faute de fran�ais" in your book "This Dame for hire" on page 91. It should read "ma�tre d'" with the "accent circonflexe" on the i and not on the a. Since the mistake is repeated four times (pages 91, 92, 93 and 97) the honneur of France is of course at stake. "Ma�tre d'h�tel" is a French name. You may want those mistakes to be corrected in the additional prints which this very good novel will surely have.
Please disregard the above if it has already been pointed out to you.
Sincerely, Jean-Fran�ois Landeau
I’m sure that’s the way I wrote it, but shouldn’t someone have caught this mistake?  Someone like a copy-editor?  A proof reader?  The writer of the email is kind to think there’ll be further printings.  There won’t.  Except for the paperback.  Should I send this email to my new editor and be considered a pain in the ass, or should I let it go and continue to appear uneducated to readers?
Fifteen years ago this would never have happened.  That is why I’m less than happy about some of the things that now go on in publishing.
I hope no one suggests that I should be so grateful to be published that I shouldn’t  care about so small an error.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Writer's Block

Some very nice people have weighed in with their ideas on how they get ideas.  Someone said something about me having writer’s block.  I don’t.  I’ve had that and this isn’t the same thing.

I’ve had it twice, in fact.  The first time was in the 80’s.  When I’d go to the typewriter I’d get a panic attack and I’d hyperventilate which made me feel as though I was going to faint.  Not exactly conducive to writing.  So I stopped going to the typewriter for a year or two or three.  When I went back I’d become Jack Early.

I published the last of my Laurano series in 1998.  I wrote one book between then and 2004.  The book in between those dates was rejected all over the place.  This was partly because I was doing something I always warn writers against.  I tried to write for the market and not because it was something I wanted to write or in the way I’d normally write.  It wasn’t a good book.  How could it be?

Over those 7 years I’d say I had a form of writer’s block.  I didn’t hyperventilate or faint when I’d sit down at the blank page of Word on my computer because I didn’t go at all.  Some of that was due to a clinical depression that went on for a full year until the right medication clicked in.  But some of it was because I didn’t want to write.  And I felt I couldn’t.

All of the above was very different from what I feel now.  I want to write.  I can’t afford to take time off.  The days dwindle down.  I don’t have a writer’s block, I just don’t have an idea.  Yet.

And I’m so glad people are leaving comments about how they get ideas.  I find it interesting and I might just try some of the suggestions.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I keep thinking about the question that so many readers ask when I meet them.  “Where do you get your ideas?”  I’ve always answered glibbly,  “Sometimes they come from a radio talk show, a newspaper article, something someone says, a line in a book I’m reading, etc.” 

So why can’t I use those things to get an idea now?  I’ve never gotten an idea for a book when I was actively looking for one.  Usually they’ve come to me when I was writing a novel and it made me anxious to finish said book and get to the new one.  I think it’s somewhat like looking for a partner when you’re alone.  I never found one while actively searching.

I’m trying not to think about it, but as you can see by this post, I’m not doing too well.  Some people count the days until Christmas, or Christmas shopping is over.  I now count the days until January 2nd, my self-imposed start date for beginning a new novel.  Eleven days.  Not even a full two weeks. 

Yes, it makes me anxious.   Aside from the finacial worries this gives me, writing is what I do.  I’m not at all happy when I’m not writing, even if while I write I complain and can’t wait until the novel is finished.

I have to remember that I didn’t have a contract when I started my latest series.  But, of course, I had an idea.  My agent has been able to sell my books on a 100 pages for quite awhile.  So that’s all I’ll have to write.

But I can’t write 100 pages if I don’t have an idea.  As I’ve said here before I don’t write outlines so she can’t sell it on a four page synopsis.  Even if could write those four pages, I can’t do that either without an idea.

As always the idea has to come first.  That sounds simplistic and it is,  but it doesn’t feel that way.  Let’s face it, I’m in idea hell.

How do you get your ideas?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Page Proofs

I finished them.  The timeline, which worried me, was fine.  The proof reader obviously missed a day and therefore thought the days were wrong.

Because the day missed is very clear, I didn’t need to change it.  At the beginning of a new chapter I wrote, “The ringing phone was my alarm clock.”  If you somehow miss that line and the one that comes next which makes it clear that the protagonist is getting up out of bed, then you could confuse the days.  I can’t see why a reader would miss this.

I was pretty sure my timeline was correct because I paid particular attention to that.  The other questions were easy to answer and 3 or 4 were good catches and I changed them.

I’m glad it’s over.

On Tess Gerritson's blog she writes about the grueling schedule of a book a year.  She also points out that if you miss a year it can be bad for you.  A book a year is very hard.  But I’m not going to have that problem because my publisher is holding off on giving me a contract.  I am, however, going to miss a year and should I get a contract for one or two of my series it won’t be a good thing.

I doubt that I will get a contract and I don’t believe another house would want the series.  My feeling is that this will be a series of two books.

The thought of starting a new series doesn’t interest me right now.  But that could change.  I’d much rather try a stand alone.  I’ve done many of those.

I’m not anxious yet that I don’t have an idea.  I wonder when that will start?  Anxiety, that is.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Last Step

I’ve received page proofs and the questions that go with them.  There are a lot of questions.  The kind I would’ve expected from a copy editor.  But these are from the proof reader.  I’m beginning to think that this part of the publishing experience has changed.

Obviously the copy editor no longer does the questioning of eyes blue on one page and those same eyes brown on another.  Or the timeline.  Or clothes that miraculously change from morning to afternoon on the same day.

This is now the bailiwick of the proof reader.  When did this change?  Or am I forgetting.  I have to have these in by 1/5/06.  I’ll try to tackle it tomorrow.

I’m very surprised that there are mistakes in the timeline.  When I write I try to keep careful track of that and write Sunday or Monday or whatever day it is at the top of the chapter.  I haven’t looked into it yet, but from my glance at the questions either I got it very mixed up or didn’t clarify.  If the proof reader got it mixed up then I didn’t make it clear, I guess.

I’m glad this is the last thing I’ll have to do on this novel so that I can have a free mind for what comes next.

Right now it feels as though nothing will come next.  Yet I know something will.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Good News and Bad News

Which do you want first?  I think good news should always be first because it tends to carry one through the bad news.  Of course in this case, both good and bad pertain to me so it doesn’t really matter to the reader.  Still, here’s the good news.

I’ve been assigned a new editor.  She seems very nice (we’ve only spoken on the phone) and she’s exactly who I would’ve chosen for myself. 

The bad news is that Ballantine is not going to give me a new contract until they see how well Too Darn Hot does.  Remember the numbers post?  It’s all about the numbers.  That means how well you sold.  Nothing to do with getting audio sales or book clubs and definitely nothing to do with reviews.  It’s how many copies of your book were sold.  As respectable as the numbers reflect my sales for the first book in a mystery series as I see it, it wasn’t enough for my publisher, and that’s who the boss is.

Since TDH will be published in late June, 2006, I probably won’t know anything before this time next year.  A little more vacation time than I wanted.  Or needed.

I don’t have a “dying to write this” idea now, but I plan to start hitting the keys on January 2nd. It’s a Monday, which is when any self-respecting author should begin a new novel.  I hope I don’t have to insert a smiley face everytime I make a little joke, because I don’t plan to.

At this stage in my career, I don’t have a lot of time to waste.  I’ll be open to a new idea and hope that something comes my way.  Even if doesn’t happen by Jan. 2nd I’ll sit down at this computer and face the blank page in Word on my monitor.  I’ll sit there my usual 3 to 4 hours even if I don’t type anything.  I can’t write if I’m answering email or surfing the web or reading  a book. 

For now I’ll read, blog, go to the movies and see friends. But I’ll be at my post on January 2nd, 2006.

I may be down, but I’m not out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I had a computer crash last Friday and ever since I’ve been dealing with the nightmare we all dread: reinstalling.

I didn’t want anyone to think I’ve abandoned my blog.

I lost my email addresses so anyone who has previously given me their email address privately, would you please do so again.

I have some news and I’ll be posting it here soon.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


"Close the door. Write with - no one - looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer."

Barbara Kingsolver