Thursday, December 21, 2006

Changes

Those of you who have been long time readers of this blog might remember that last summer I had a few gigs and the publicity woman, Lindsey Benoit, was/is a favorite of mine.  Well, she’s left Ballantine. 

 At the time she was handling my publicity I said that if anyone ever got her they would be lucky indeed.  For the moment no one is going to get her…no book authors.  Although she’s staying in publishing it’s not book publishing.

I still have the paperback of Too Darn Hot coming out in May and although I don’t think they’ll want me to do anything you never know.  And if I have to, Lindsey won’t be there.

I’m happy for her because she’s continuing to do something she loves.  But she’ll be missed by me and those of you who won’t get a chance to work with her.

Good luck, Lindsey.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Quote

"(Writing novels is) like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

E. L. Doctorow

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why Not?

The publishing business takes a holiday from Thanksgiving through January 1.  At least that’s what every agent I’ve had has told me.  So what if I only had two?  I’ve heard it from others and I believe it.  So why not me?

Yes, I know it seems like I’ve had nothing but vacations.  Maybe it’s true.  Still, I’ve had one interruption after another and am going to next week. So why not take off the time?

 I started this book last January and when I get back to it (this January….why not?) I’ll have written less than 200 pages.  I’ve never had such a puny output in a year.  But this is the way it’s worked out and since I don’t have a deadline I don’t have to be hysterical about it.  There’s something to be said for not having a contract.

I think by this time we all know Ballantine isn’t going to ask me for anymore Faye Quick books.  I’ve known this ever since they said they had to wait and see how the second book did.

And if I needed confirmation about that I got it when the pb cover arrived and though it had the same artwork the overall color was purple.  The hc of Too Darn Hot had a red background denoting … hot.  What does purple say?  When I asked (and this was the BIG clue) why they changed it, I was told they had four other books coming out in red and they wanted to distinguish mine.  Thank you.  But why not change one of the other covers to purple since there was a real reason for mine to be red?  I think I know why not. So no surprises here.

Some worry that when I write things like the above, publishers/editors will think of me as a “nightmare author”.  I don’t think so.  First of all I accepted what Ballantine told me like a docile little writer because I knew it didn’t matter.  So what’s nightmarish about that?  And if I write a really good book I don’t think it’ll be turned down by an editor because I found the cover of my last book…well…not quite right.  If you want to see it go here.  But be sure to look at the hc jacket, too.  I mean, why not?

So back to the non-writing I’m doing.  Not doing?  I always take the week between Christmas and New Year's off anyway.  So that would leave me with 6 more days to write this year. Two of those 6 days would be interrupted with appointments. I don’t see much point in trying to write for 4 days. So I’d rather wait, get myself together and start fresh in a fresh new year.

2007 here I come.

Why not?

 

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Thursday, December 07, 2006

One More Time

My last post prompted the To Outline  or Not to Outline debate again.  You can see it over at Lee Goldberg's blog.

Yes, I did make a mistake in my manuscript as I said below.  But, for me, outlining wouldn’t have prevented this.  BTW it’s all fixed and it wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be.  It never is, is it?

I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it here again.  If I had to outline a book I’d be so depressed I’d never write it.  I can’t imagine that it would be interesting to do.  I’d know far too much.

And this particular book couldn’t have been outlined even if I’d wanted to do that.  I think I explained way back how I approached this one.  I picked titles of movies out of a box. This gave me a jump start for each chapter and I established characters that way.  Also story.  I stopped doing this about chapter nine or ten.  I know it sounds crazy but it worked for me and that’s the point.  Outlining obviously works for some people and not for others.  So why should there be a debate about it?

Should I say that the only way to write a novel is to pick titles or sayings out of a box?  I don’t think so.  But it’s one way.  I never did this before and most likely will never do it again. 

Now, can we give the outline thing a rest?

Monday, December 04, 2006

How Did This Happen?

In the course of writing today (yes, I did) I inadvertently discovered that I have two different men involved with the same two women who are trying to get the money everyone is after.  It has to be one man or the other.  Pages and pages must be rewritten.  Whole chapters.  Nightmare.

Did this happen because I took off so much time?  Or am I losing it?  I understand forgetting the color of a character’s eyes, but this is crazy.  And with one man I’m not sure I even did the set-up with the women.  I think these three just happen.  The reason I don’t know this is because I couldn’t go on with this today.

Tomorrow I’m going to have to trace backwards and find out.  And then I’ll have to write new scenes, rewrite others completely.

What ever made me think I could handle all these characters?  Thirty years ago in a novel called Some Unknown Person I didn’t have any trouble.  That novel has tons of characters.  And I even wrote it out of sequence the way a movie might be filmed.  There are two different stories in that book and I’d write whatever scene I wanted to each day. In other words in A story or B story.  In the end there was only one chapter out of sequence.  All this on a TYPEWRITER.  That manuscript was 800 pages long.  I had to cut 300, but that’s a whole other post.

Now I can’t keep track of characters within less than 200 pages.  It’s depressing.  Still, I have to fix this before I go on.  It isn’t the kind of mistake that you can wait to fix in the next draft.

So that’s my work tomorrow.  Bert or Andy? 

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Quote

"Story is far older than the art of science and psychology, and will always be the elder in the equation no matter how much time passes."

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Terrible Week

Of course it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.  I wrote half a page on Monday.  Half a page on Tues.  Then I gave up.

I know this will sound like an excuse, and it is, of course, but there was another death in my life. I’m not going to write about it here as I have some others because this person was not a writer. 

Her death colored my whole week.  I am left as the keeper of the secret.

Tomorrow I’m going to the movies as I do on many Fridays.  Monday I’ll try again to make some headway on this novel.  TRY.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Year Later

It was at this time last year that my editor at Ballantine called me and told me he was leaving. I wrote that here and it created a tempest in a teapot.  Still, it seemed awful at the time.  I, without knowing it because he didn’t tell me it was a secret, revealed his plans and in so doing betrayed him.

I also discovered that my blog was read by many people who were in the publishing world.  I had no idea.  I was naive about the blogosphere at that point.  And suddenly people were saying awful things about me and leaving provocative comments on my blog.  I didn’t know then that one could block Anonymous people.  I even made Nitwit of the day (or was it week?) on Miss Snark’s blog where people I didn’t know threw barbs at me.

Anyway, I’m still here and having expressed my concerns with who would be my editor and if he/she would be twelve years old, it didn’t do anything to my career as some had predicted.

I don’t regret it, except for hurting my editor.  I hope he knows I never meant to hurt him. Most likely he never thinks of me or that time.

Tomorrow I’ll go back to working on my book.  I’m not looking forward to it.  It scares me a little.  In fact, I don’t want to do it at all. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Quote

"I think I ought to be shot for writing such nonsense, but it's questionably good escapist literature and I think I should rather like it if I were sitting in an air-raid shelter, or recovering from flu."

Georgette Heyer

Monday, November 20, 2006

Back In Business

I’m not sure what business I mean here.  I guess the business of seeing.  Operation successful, patient lived to see another day.

Thanks to everyone who wished me luck.

This week I have more doctor appointments and then there’s Thanksgiving, so settling down to continue to write my book isn’t an option.  But it is an option next Monday.  I hate to give myself a starting date in case I don’t make it.  Still, Monday the 27th is what I’m shooting for.

Meanwhile, I won’t be reading Thomas Pynchon’s new book.  I wouldn’t be reading anyone’s book that is 1,088 pages long.  I’m from the school of less is more.  What could any novelist have to say that needs over 1000 pages to say it in?  I sniff narcissism.

I also don’t want to spend my time decoding whatever is in those 1000 pages.  I want to read books that tell me a story in robust prose.  I don’t mean that everything has to be linear but I do like a beginning, middle and end.  Most of all I like to understand what I’m reading. And I admit that I don’t understand Pynchon.  Yes, I tried once.  I was young and naive and I thought I had to read everything that was touted as literary.  Some I enjoyed.  Pynchon I did not.  I have no idea what V is about.  I tried more than once.  I had the time then.

Call me a philistine, I don’t care.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Quote

"I'd rather be a failure at something I enjoy than be a success at something I hate."

George Burns

The Eyes Have It and Other Things

I don’t write things here that are personal unless it has to do with writing.  But I think the fact that I’m having eye surgery on Tuesday qualifies.  This past week it has been impossible to write except for Monday as I’ve had one appointment after another.  I’ve never been able to write when I’m constanly interrupted.

The week before I did get two chapters done. And I liked them.  I still don’t know how I’m going to get where I want to go but maybe it’ll come to me after the surgery.  I have no idea how soon I’ll be able to see the computer screen again but I’m sure it won’t be more than a week or two.  Maybe not even that.  When I asked my doctor he said he didn’t know.  Very reassuring, as they always are.

Am I nervous about this?  Yes.  But I’m told it’s not a big deal.  Still, my niece, who is a nurse, says any surgery is a big deal.  I tend to believe her.  You never know.  Fortunately I won’t be under a general anesthetic so that cuts the risk way down.  But it’s my eye.  The doctor, to CHA I’m sure, told me that I could go blind, but that it happens in very, very rare cases.  Oh, good.

Meanwhile it’s been brought to my attention that Lee Goldberg sees my posts about writing as me being in agony.  I know I sometimes go over the top in writing about my troubles with writing so I guess I’d better make it clear.  I love writing probably as much as Lee does.  There’s nothing else I’d rather do except be able to sing like Barbra Streisand.  I’m not sure I find it fun…except on those rare occasions when it all clicks. And I certainly find it more fun than taking tolls on the thruway.  Any thruway.  Writing is more fun than working at a fast food place.  Or waiting on tables.  Or taking movie tickets.  Or being a stockbroker, or being in real estate.  Writing is more fun than being an electrician, or a plumber.  Or being in politics.  This is how it is for me.

But it’s hard.  I’m not a writer who hates it because it’s lonely.  I don’t find it lonely.  I like being alone.  In fact, having worked in the theatre and on a few movies that never got made, I know I’d rather be a novelist than a playwright or screenwriter.  I don’t like to collaborate.  But as Lee says, ( and I’m paraphrasing) I’ve been fairly successful and it’s never enough.

Some of you are at the very beginning of your careers, some in the middle.  I’m guessing Lee’s in the middle.  I’m coming down the homestretch.  Not that I’ll ever retire. But where once I wrote ten pages a day I now write maybe five.  And at the beginning and the middle I always had an idea I’d rather be working on than the one I was doing.  That doesn’t seem to be true anymore.  It’s harder to get ideas.  Harder to sit in my chair for three or four hours a day.  Still, I always made my deadlines right up to the last one I had.   Now I don’t have one.  After publishing 19 books I’m writing my 20th on spec.

Mark Terry on Lee’s blog says in a comment about all this “Sure. It's easy. Just like brain surgery. “  I love that.  Diana says “I suffer these insecurities about my writing every single day. At least she has been published!”  But that’s just the point.  It doesn’t matter that I’ve been published.  Of course it matters, I mean I’d rather have these troubles as a published writer than one who never has been published.  But the feelings don’t change.  And the idea that I or any other published writer should be through with these feelings doesn’t fly.  I’m sure when Diana gets published she’ll still suffer insecurities.  And Keith Snyder says, “Creative hell beats boredom. I've never been bored writing a book.”  Neither have I.  I don’t think anyone would find an allusion to boredom while writing, anywhere in my blog.  There are lots of other interesting responses to Lee’s post.  Take a look.

Now that I approach a possible time period when I can’t write I, of course, want to do it more than ever.  In a rational state I know I’ll get back to writing this 20th novel (20 was always my goal) and deep down I’ll love doing it, but I’ll still have problems and insecurities.  And I  know that’s okay.  That’s the way it goes for me.

I’ll be seeing you.

 

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Where Am I?

Last week I was in NYC.  I don’t get to go to big bookstores where I live so I went into a B&N.  Of course I headed to the mystery section which was fairly large.  I always look for myself first.  I didn’t expect to find any of my books except for the paperback of  This Dame For Hire.  Nope.  Nothing.  Nada.  I tried to tell myself it was because they’d sold out.  It didn’t work.  I knew that wasn’t true.  If they’d sold out why didn’t they reorder?

TDFH was my 18th published novel.  But where was I?  Not among all the other writers, some I’d never heard of, some self-published I was surprised to see.  I wasn’t the only working writer who wasn’t there.  Others were missing, too.  I’m not naming names.  But there were plenty of name brands, and why wouldn’t there be?

It was depressing.  Demoralizing.

I went back to work yesterday and did pretty well.  Today was a mess.  I feel like throwing the manuscript into the water and deleting all copies on my computer and back ups.  I know I won’t.  But I wonder how much of my discouragement is laced with my bookstore blues.

Still, I’m on page 178 and I feel I don’t know what I’m doing, where I’m going or who these people are.  My closest friend just told me she wishes she had a tape to playback to me because I always say these things. 

But this time it’s real.

 

Friday, October 20, 2006

Authors Earning Back Advances

Westvillageidiot left a comment the other day that a publisher was taking a risk on publishing Donna Leon and Fred Vargas in this country.  I countered by saying I didn’t think it was a risk to publish authors who had written 26 books between them.  Westvillageidiot wrote that Neither author has earned back her respective advances from previous English-language publishers.

Perhaps that was because the authors had been paid too much to start with.  Or none of those publishers had done anything to help the books along.  I say this with first hand knowledge.  Some part of that has happened to me three times.

In 1977 I published a book called Some Unknown Person. It was the first adult novel I wrote.  Putnam published it in hardcover and Bantam bought it for paper back.  They paid me an almost mid six figures.  That’s a lot of money now but it was an incredible amount of money then.

Putnam took out a full page ad (opposite the table of contents) in  the NYTBR.  What a thrill that was. Between that and the Bantam sale I was riding high.  But guess what?  Nothing happened.  When Bantam brought out the book they made the cover look like a modern slut novel.  It was all in pink and it had a young girl with long blonde hair doing what?  Nothing. This was a book that was set between 1901 and 1931.* 

No one knew the book existed.  I had already made back my five figure advance from Putnam so that was not a problem.  But there was no way that the money from Bantam was ever going to be made back.  First, of all, it was way too much money to pay me for that novel.  And secondly, the comany abandoned the book.  You’d think having paid that much money they’d want to get behind it.  You’d think.  But you’d be wrong.

And then it happened again with other publishing houses.  When you’re offered a lot of money (the next two times the amount was nothing like the first) you’re not going to say “No thanks.  I’d prefer you to give me less so I can be sure to earn it back and then you’ll want to continue to publish me.”  At least, I would never say that and I doubt that any author would. 

Of course I didn’t earn back either time. And the third time nothing was done to let anybody know that the books existed.   Was I dropped.  Naturally.   

I’m not suggesting that publishers offer authors impossibly low advances but doesn’t there have to be something in between?  Most writers I know are happy to be published.  They want a decent advance but don’t expect an insane amount.  Giving authors, who aren’t stars, six figure advances is destructive for both parties.

But if they do they should be willing to back it up.  How?  At least a small ad somewhere to let the public know the book exists.  I know that publishers say ads don’t help but I don’t believe that.  One small ad, I say.

I’m sure anyone reading this in the business is thinking that I’ve cut my throat.  Once again.  What do you think, Miss Snark?  Do I qualify for Nitwit of the day?

 *The second time the paperback of Some Unkown Person was published by Carroll & Graf the cover was much, much better.  And the cover of the HC from Putnam was wonderful.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Best Laid Plans

I was planning to start writing yesterday but I got sick over the weekend.  No, I don’t think it’s psychosomatic.  I think it’s annoying.

I’d like to write about a comment that westvillageidiot left yesterday but I don’t have the energy.  It’s about authors earning back advances.  A subject close to my heart.  I’ll do it as soon as I can.

Yes, I know, you’ll be waiting with bated breath.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Good Example That's Bad

I received an email from an old Bouchercon writer friend the other day. When I wrote back I asked her if she’d been writing as I hadn’t seen anything by her for a long time and I always thought she was very good.  This was her answer.

   I've been writing all along, but I haven't been published since 1995 (a non-fiction book) and  I haven't published any novels since 1992. Not that I wasn't writing them--no one was buying. I was at (name of pub. house) and then one day in 1993 my editor left to go to (name of pub house) swearing that I'd be in very good hands with my next editor. I never heard from him, and after five months I found out that he had just taken a job with (name of magazine) by reading one of the trade papers. The novel I was under contract for just disappeared into the void. And anything I wrote after that (about seven novels, I forget how much non-fiction) got a cold shoulder. I think my favorite rejection was "this book is too well-written to be commercially viable."  It's been pretty hard for me emotionally and psychologically--I was/am one of those people for whom writing was/is the be-all and end-all.

   The agent I had long ago retired from the business, and anyone I've contacted since has been willing to consider me as a client, but with one big codicil. I swear, every single one of them has said to me, "Write me the new Da Vinci Code!"  In the first place, I wouldn't know how to go about writing something like that, and in the second place, I can't write that badly. It's a knack, you know.
 
This breaks my heart.  Not just for her.  I know there are lots of good writers that were making it in the 80’s and the early 90’s who haven’t published a thing for years.  And I’m sure the reasons are exactly like the ones in the email above.
 
There was a period within that time frame when too many people were being published.  That may sound odd, but I believe it’s true.  This is what publishers do.  They get on to a good thing and then they do it to death.  I think it’s the same in all the arts. 
 
A lot of mystery writers who weren’t good got published during that second Golden Age. Some were unreadable.  Some were terrific and made it big.  They are, of course, still being published.  And some were good, very good, and there’s no room for them now.
 
I don’t know how many keep on writing.  I suspect the real writers do.  I hope so.  One day it may all turn around again. 
 
I do pray that The Da Vinci Code clones will disappear.  They aren’t real writers.  In my opinion they’re opportunists.  I don’t know what to call the agents who want/expect writers to imitate Dan Brown.  Maybe stupid is the word.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Death and Denial

Since my last post I haven’t felt too great.  The first week after Jerry’s death I managed to write a chapter.  But this past week was awful.

On Saturday I had a computer disaster and had to reinstall.  I backup so none of my writing was lost.  But if you’ve ever had to do this you know how long it takes.  Because I have backup drives I was able to reinstall  and recover programs I use.  Somehow this took me all week.

Now I know it was because of Jerry.  I couldn’t have written anyway.  I was far too sad.  I was able to deny this until the computer was back in shape.  The computer horror kept me busy and my feelings at bay.

I probably won’t be writing this coming week either.  I have other things I’m going to do. So when I get back to work I will have been away from the novel for two weeks.  It’s okay.  I don’t feel ready yet anyway.

Death sucks.

 

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Jerry DeBono R.I.P.

His is not a name a lot of people know.  He wrote mostly for television in the 60’s and 70’s, although he started in the late 40’s.  Episodes of Dr. Kildare, Marcus Welby M.D., Police Woman, Quincey M.E., Hunter and others were written by him.

Marijane Meaker (Vin Packer, M.E. Kerr) was the first working writer I ever met, and Jerry was the second.  The moment we met we were instant friends.  The thing was we made each other laugh like crazy.

At that time I wanted to write plays.  He convinced me I should try television.  So once a week he gave me and Megan Terry (Viet Rock) lessons.  I don’t remember a lot about it except that he had us do scripts for Lamp Unto My Feet.  It was a Sunday program for children, I think.

Neither Megan nor I became TV writers.  But not because Jerry wasn’t a good teacher, he was.  I think it was because we neither of us wanted to write for TV at that time.  I did later on.

After awhile he moved back to California where he was from.  We saw each other over the years…he would come east and I would go west.  In the 80’s he stopped writing and became a teacher of English in a high school. 

We lost touch for awhile. Then one day there was an email from Jerry in my In box.  I was so excited.  He’d gotten his first computer and had found my address. From then on we never stopped writing each other. He was retired and was occasionally directing college musicals.  But he wasn’t writing. 

During that first year of our email life we learned all about each other in a way we never had before.  Childhoods, teens, early adults.  Mothers, fathers, friends.

He told me he was so proud of me, of what I’d accomplished.  And he read all my books.  He didn’t like all of them, naturally.  But he really got a kick out of my latest two.

Our email correspondence got him thinking about his life in a way he never had before and he thought he’d like to write a novel.  But he wasn’t sure of the form and wondered who the hell would want to read a novel about his life. I told him I and many others would. So he started.  I tried to buoy him up when he got discouraged. I don’t know how much that helped but Jerry kept on writing.

When we reconnected I learned fairly soon from a mutual friend that he had non Hodgkin's lymphoma and things could go south at any time.

A few weeks ago they did.  He ended up in the hospital.  I knew nothing of this until I got a call from him.  He told me where he was and that all he wanted was two more months because he thought he could finish his novel in that period.

The next time we spoke he didn’t seem to know we’d spoken before and he didn’t make much sense.  It was the pain medication.  In the hospital he had a course of chemo to see if they could give him the time he wanted.  But it didn’t do anything except make him sick.

So last Sunday he went home.  Two friends kept me informed of what was going on.  Yesterday when I came home from the movies I found out that he’d died.  It went very fast and I’m glad for that.

Needless to say he never finished his novel, but he wrote a lot of it and most of all he wanted to finish it.  Once a writer always a writer.

l miss him terribly.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Good Words

What the editor said about the cuts I made in my story.

“Perfect!! I'll make the change in your original document.”

Okay.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Started

I read the book yesterday and I liked a lot of it.  Today I wrote 4 pages.  It seemed okay.  But I’m not sure how to achieve what I need to achieve.  I’m hoping for a lightening strike, I guess.  Don’t know if it’s going to happen.

Getting ready to write a romantic scene.  Not a sex scene.  Hate them.  But I don’t mind a flirting scene…that should be interesting since I can’t flirt in my own life.

Sent the editor the change she asked for.  Haven’t heard yet.

Two more days of writing and then Friday to the movies.  Hooray!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Not Perfect

I don’t want anyone to think my short story experience was totally perfect.  I got an email from the editor today, and after saying that she liked the story even more on her second reading, she asked if a certain conversation could be abbreviated.  Or not.  It was up to me. 

I feel fine about the request and I have to take a look at the story to see if I agree with her.

Tomorrow I start reading my novel in progress.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Quote

"Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself."

Truman Capote

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sent It In

Yeah, I did.  Sent it to the editor of the anthology when I said I was going to.  The next day I heard from her.  She said, “I love it.”  And other things.  I was amazed and very pleased.

From start to finish … being asked to do this to handing it in … was about three weeks.  I call this instant gratification.  And for anyone who likes instant gratification as much as I do, short stories are looking pretty good these days.

Whoever said I wasn’t flexible?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Short Story Day Five

I finished it today. I guess that’s fast, I don’t know.  It’s about 3500 words.

The strange thing about this story is that it came to me all of a piece.  What I mean is, I knew the protagonist and I knew the end before I began.  And then it pretty much wrote itself.  I never know the end when I start something.  The something is usually a novel.  So what do I know about writing a short story and how it develops?

Still, it was odd for me.  I’m not sure what to make of it.  The process, that is.

I like the story.  And I had to write it exactly as I did.  It had to go the way it went as if it had a life of its own.  I guess it did have a life of its own.

I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen in the middle and I had to go back and add specific material as I wrote.  Yesterday, after a weekend of letting it sit, I made some changes and printed it out.  Then I went out.

Today I made changes on the hard copy put those changes into the computer, printed it out and gave it to First Reader.  FR liked it but had some nits to pick.  That’s what FR’s are for, aren’t they?  Hate it when it’s a big section FR doesn’t like.  But this is a short story so my feeling is either you like it or you don’t and then you can pick.

Took some of FR’s suggestions and ignored others.  Put changes back in the computer.  Read it again on the screen.  Made more changes. Read it again.  Printed it out.  Put it in a drawer.

I’ll send the doc tonight…no …. now.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Third Day

I actually finished the first draft of the story.  I know I said I might, but I didn’t believe it.  I have no idea if this fulfills the requirements I was given.  This draft has enough words to be accepted.  But when I rewrite I usually get rid of words.

Monday I’ll start the rewrite.  Tomorrow I’m going to the movies.

First Reader asked me if I enjoyed writing it.  FR should know better.  I don’t enjoy the whole act of writing.  I enjoy writing when I come up with a wonderful line, or put something together that had eluded me for days or weeks.

What I do like about this short story thing is that it can be over so quickly.  Even if it takes me two more weeks to finish this story it’s a helluva lot faster than writing a novel.  Of course I knew this in the abstract, but now I actually know it.

Still, the novel form is my ticket.  And if the word enjoy can be used here then I’d say I enjoy writing a novel much more than a short story.

I do understand now why Kay Sexton urges people to learn to write the short story before writing a novel.  I still don’t think that’s necessary, but I can see why it would help.  You have limited space and you have to get important information in the piece early.  And the pacing cannot be liesurely.  One can be somewhat liesurely in a novel, but not in a crime novel, I don’t think.  Maybe in any novel because no matter what you’re writing you want the reader to turn the pages.

I’m looking forward to the rewrite.  Not that I’ll enjoy it or find it fun.  But it’ll be interesting.

Some might ask, if you don’t find it fun or enjoyable, why do you do it?  Because I can’t not do it.  I’d be unhappy if I didn’t write.

Maybe I do enjoy it.

 

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

First Day

I got up early so I started writing early.  I don’t have a title for the story yet, but I managed to bang out over 1000 words.  I always let it rip and go back later.  I feel very good about this.  I don’t mean the story because I don’t know yet.  I feel good that I was able to do what I set out to do.  No excuses. 

Monday, September 04, 2006

Last Day

Like many, this is the last day of my vacation.  Mine was a whole summer. Loved it. Part of me feels like I could keep on going this way.  On the other hand, I doubt that I would be happy never writing again.  And since I don’t have years and years to go, it wouldn’t be wise to keep vacationing.

So tomorrow I’ll get up to the sound of an alarm clock and get back into my daily groove.  Yes, I know, it’s not that daily.  I take my days off.  If Friday brings a movie for an adult I’ll probably go.  Which will make it a 3 day week.  We all know how much I love my 3 day weeks.

I’ll start my short story.  I’m nervous about it because it’s not my preferred form.  I’ve only had three shots at stories.  Yes, I sold them all.  John Baker says his always took him longer than he anticipated.  I hope that’s not true for me because I do want to get back to my novel.

I’m sure I won’t be able to write it in three days, but maybe I’ll get a first draft.  I don’t look forward to it but I don’t dread it either.

I have my opening line.  How hard could it be?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Short Story

I’ve read a lot of short stories in the past five days.  I’m surprised by them.  Crime stories aren’t anything like I thought they’d be.  I thought you’d have to solve a crime and I haven’t come across one that does that.  They seem to be more O’Henry type endings.

Now I’m sorry I said no to all those other offers to be in an anthology.  See what comes from not reading the manual.

Anyway, I have my opening line.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Quote

"There is only one way to defeat the enemy, and that is to write as well as one can. The best argument is an undeniably good book."

Saul Bellow

Monday, August 28, 2006

Reading

Whenever I try something new I first read things that are the same type.  I did that with Young Adults,  PI’s and Police Procedurals. This time I got a bunch of anthologies and am trying to read a few stories a day.  They’ve helped me already.  I think I’ll be able to do this. I’ll start writing next Tuesday instead of reading what I have of my novel.  That will come after I finish the story.  I have a germ of an idea. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Angst

The summer is almost over and I got through the few promotions I had to do after suffering both in life and here.

Instead of using these last two weeks before I hit the novel keys to enjoy myself I’ve done something to make my life a mess again.  After everything I said about short stories on August 18th I’ve agreed to do one for an anthology.

Why?  It’s true that the premise interested me.  But so what.  I’ve been asked to contribute a ss to many different anthologies that sounded promising and I’ve always managed to say no.  Managed?  I simply siad no for the reasons I’ve stated before.  I always wished that I could contribute, especially when asked by someone I liked and respected.  But I felt I wasn’t capable.

So why did I feel capable this time?  I have no idea, but now I don’t.  And that’s where the angst comes in.  Ever since I agreed to write a story I’ve been depressed, anxious, angry and miserable.  But I don’t want to write an email saying I’ve changed my mind.  I made a commitment and I always try to stick to them.

But what if I actually write one and it’s no good?

Isn’t it nice to have me back complaining about writing?  A new year (I always count September as the new year as if I were still in school) is about to start and before my complaints begin about writing the novel I’ll be here typing out what I’m going through over the writing of the ss.

I’m going to try to use this assignment (I know I gave it to myself) as a way to ease back into writing that peculiar novel I was working on before the summer.  Someone is waiting for the ss and that’s more than I can say about the novel.

I am, BTW, very flattered that I was asked.  The first thing I’m going to do is read some ss. If anyone has a suggestion of what crime story anthology I should read I would appreciate it.

No vampires, please.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Lists

It’s impossible to know how someone is going to read a post.  There are no nuances in either posts or emails so it’s all in how the reader takes what you’ve written.

Last night I stumbled on Working Title and found a post about what I’d written on Friday.

She’s very kind and says she likes my blog but hasn’t read any of my books.  That’s okay.  It’s the misunderstanding of what I wrote that bothered me.  Stacy Jacobs, the author of Working Title, thought I was saying my books were mediocre when I called myself a C-list author.

I meant where I stood in the scheme of published writers.  The A-list would be those writers who get on the Bestseller lists.  The B-list authors are those who don’t make it onto the Bestseller lists but are well-known anyway.  C-list authors, like me, publish consistantly and have their share of fans, but are never well-known and never make it onto any list.

A, B and C have nothing to do with whether the books are good or not.  Or whether the writing is excellent or the stories engaging.  For example, in my humble opinion some of the A-list authors can’t write a decent sentence and my mind boggles that some of the C-list authors keep getting published.

Do C-list authors ever become A-list authors?  I think so.  And ocassionally B-list authors claw their way up to A.  But it doesn’t happen too often.

Right now a particular B-list author is being pushed to become an A-list author.  I can’t imagine that writer jumping from B to A based on the new book.  On the other hand, as I said, quality has nothing to do with it, so the publisher might be absolutely right about that author.  I thought the book was awful, but then I don’t make or break an author.

Who does?  Nobody knows.  If the publishers knew we’d have exactly who they want on the A-list all the time.  Sometimes all the publicity and push in the world does nothing.  And sometimes there’s a strange phenomenen and a book gets to the top of the Bestseller list without any help from the publisher.  How does that happen?  Nobody knows.

So, in case anyone thought (like Stacy Jacobs) that I was saying that my books are mediocre, I wasn’t.  Some are better than others, but most of them are good.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Relieved But Sick

The venue was a small bookstore in Sag Harbor.  The kind of store that we used to have in every town. The place was packed.  That means four people.  Just kidding.  I didn’t count but every seat was taken and I think there were some standees.  Most were people I didn’t know.

After a very warm and informed introduction by one of the owners, I was on.  Yes, the dry mouth was there, but I think I read well.  I got some laughs and I only screwed up once.  After the reading came the Q&A.  Good questions.  And then it was over.  Since my trademark seems to be honesty I have to be honest about this.  I sold 3 books.  I felt awful for the owners but they assured me it was fine and they had no doubt they’d sell the books they had.

So what’s the point of these readings and signings?  Had I a Higgins in my name I would’ve sold tons of books.  But does it make sense for a writer on the C-list to do these things?  Especially when I go through such angst?  I don’t think so.  I never want to do it again.  It’s simply not worth it for me.  And if some editor reads this and won’t buy a book of mine because of it, I guess that’s the way it’ll have to be. 

On the other hand, should an editor say something like, we’ll give you x amount of dollors for this novel but you’ll have to do publicity or no deal, what do you think I’d do?  Right.

My fondest hope is that I’ll publish again but I won’t have to do publicity except print.

The reason I’m late on this post is because the day after the reading I got very sick.  And I haven’t had the energy to do this until today.  I’m beginning to feel human again.  So glad I didn’t get sick on Saturday because no one would’ve believed me.

The book has now been out for almost two months.  It’s been well-reviewed, but far less reviews than the first book.  I think it’s creeping up on over, if it’s not over already.  What I mean by that is the stores will make way for the fall books, the reviewers the same.  I’ve had my run.

Next June the paperback of Too Darn Hot will be published.  And other than that I have nothing coming out.

In two weeks I’ll go back to the novel I was working on before my vacation.  I don’t look forward to it…not the book itself but giving up this leisurely schedule.  I know I’ll get into the groove again.  It’ll take about a week.

Meanwhile, I’ve been asked to contribute a short story to an anthology that intrigues me.  See.  Never say never.  I’m not sure what I’ll do.  I have to feel healthier than this to make a decision. 

But you never know…you simply never know anything.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's Today

The final reading and Q&A of Too Darn Hot.  Six hours from now.  In seven hours the whole thing will be over.

I did a rehearsal about two hours ago and it was horrible.  I hadn’t looked at the piece since I did it at Borders.  The second time I read it aloud it was better.

I’m not as nervous as I was before the Borders reading.  But I’m nervous.  I know the dry mouth thing will happen and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

This time I have to take two ferries to get to where I have to go.  Sag Harbor.  For those of you who don’t know where that is it’s the South Fork on Long Island, New York. This is a resort town.  Crowded as hell.  But who will want to go to a reading on a Saturday at six o’clock?  Won’t people be having drinks at that hour?

Same old worry.  No one will come, but who cares because I’m terrified of reading to people anyway.  That’s not quite true.  Don’t feel terrified this time.  Still, I wish it was seven and I was going off to dinner with my friends.

Yes, I’m grateful and pleased that I was asked to read at Canios.  But I’ll be more pleased when I can look back on it.  Unless something awful happens.  Oh, no.  It won’t, will it?

I’m thinking of all the horrible things that could take place.  Use your imagination.  Awful, isn’t it?

Aren’t you glad this is the last one? 

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Last Appearance

Saturday night is the last time I’ll have to read from Too Darn Hot. The last time I’ll have to perform.  Yes, I know I’m lucky to have a venue, etc.  Still I don’t like to do these things as those of you who’ve kept up with this blog know.

I don’t want to spend this week wishing time away, but I find myself thinking things like by this time next Tuesday it’ll all be over. I promised not to go on about this until the day before and of, so I won’t.

The other thing I’ve been feeling is I like living the life of doing nothing.  There’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to go back to writing after Labor Day.  But writers don’t retire.  Sometimes they stop.  Or I think they’ve stopped because I don’t know that they can’t get published anymore.  Others stop because of writer’s block.  And, yes, there is such a thing.  But do writers stop because they don’t feel like writing?  Especially the ones who have no other job?  No other income?  And no interest or qualifications for another career?  I don’t know.

Stopping isn’t really an option for me.  And I’m sure I couldn’t do it anyway.  It’s my life.  I’ve never done anything else.  Don’t want to.  I’m a writer.  Yes, it’s my identity. Boring groups of people say you shouldn’t let your work define you.  Too bad.  I do and always have.  Therefore, if I stopped writing I’d have no identity.  Oh, I guess that’s why the boring groups say you shouldn’t let your work define you.  Still, it does.  Too late to change that now.  I could probably get away with a few years of not writing and still call myself a writer.  But I don’t have a whole lot of years left to play around with.

And then there’s that damn twentieth novel.  I have nineteen published novels and I promised myself I’d have at least twenty before I bit the dust.  So even though I don’t feel like it, and may not feel like it in September, I’ll most likely hit the keys once more.

Sigh.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Blog Mess

I just changed my template and lost all my personal stuff.  I have to go to bed so I’ll try to fix it tomorrow.  I did it once, I guess I can do it again.  What a pain in the ass.

Especially because when I went to change it I was warned.  What the hell is wrong with me?

Do Not Answer That

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Marilyn Wallace

Marilyn died yesterday. I feel a little strange writing about her because, although we’d been good friends at one time, we lost touch with each other about five years ago.  Still, this isn’t about me.

I met Marilyn in 1986 at the Baltimore B’con. I liked her immediately.  She was funny and smart and we clicked.  I think I’d read her first novel, A Case of Loyalties, and liked it, but maybe I read it after I met her.  She published seven novels and edited many anthologies.

I don’t think I’ve known anyone with highter standards.  Mostly for herself.  But she had them for you, too.  She wanted you to be the best you could be.  Though she was hard on herself in that way she never was hard on you.

She had a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh, which I can hear right now.

Marilyn and Bruce, her husband, and my partner and I became good friends.  They even spent a weekend with us here on Long Island.  I say even because we almost never have guests.  I recall that we had a wonderful time.  In NYC we had dinner together, our house or theirs, sometimes at a restaurant.

The last time I saw Marilyn was when she came here to see my new house with two other writer friends, Annette Meyers and Camilla Crespi.  And then we all went out to lunch.

I talked with her on the phone after that and then….then I don’t know what happened.  Nothing bad.  No fight or falling out.  Laziness, I think. Who can say?  I imagine she didn’t know either.  I kept meaning to get in touch, you know how that is, but I never did. It’s too late now.

I’ve learned a painful lesson.  Friendship is a precious thing and one has to work at it to keep it.

As a writer and a friend, Marilyn will be missed by many.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Short Stories

The English writer Kay Sexton wrote in a July 16th post on her blog, that “If you want to be a novelist … learn to write short stories.”

I don’t agree.  I believe they are two distinctly different forms and one has nothing to do with the other.  Not everyone can write a good short story.  It’s an art all it’s own.  And if you can’t write one that doesn’t mean you can’t write a novel.

Sexton says: “Yes, there are writers who manage to get a book published without working through the apprentice stages of short fiction, but believe me, they are rare.”

This can’t be true.  Naturally no one comes to mind at this moment so I shouldn’t be writing this now.  But I’ve started and maybe readers of this post can help me out.

I can talk about me, of course.  I’d written and published many novels before I tried a short story.  I’ve published two.  Both in crime anthologies.  They were anomalies for me.  I find the form incredibly difficult.  Especially a mystery short.

I don’t enjoy reading shorts.  Sorry.  I don’t want to take the time away from reading a novel which I feel will be more rewarding.  But there are always exceptions.  I’ve read and loved the Raymond Carver stories.  Also Amy Bloom.  A few Anne Beattie years ago.

I guess if you don’t like reading something you probably don’t want to write it.  I don’t read science fiction, fantasy or westerns and I’d never think of trying to write one of those.

So, Kay, I don’t think you have to write short stories to become a good novelist anymore than I believe you must write an outline before you write a novel.  I think it’s different for everyone.

Writing short stories won’t hurt you as a novelist, but it isn’t a requirement.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Don't Say A Word

Of course you have to say a word, more than a word, if you’re being interviewed.  I’ve been interviewed many times.  By phone, in person, through email.  So I do know that what you say can be slanted in a way that makes you sound cranky, arrogant and even mean.  But most reporters are great.  They take what you say and put quotes around your words.  And in between they write something they’ve learned about you.  Then there are the others.

I don’t know how many people will bother to go to the link posted on  Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind of an interview with me (well, probably now you will) or who will care or who will believe every word.  Some will and I want to set the record straight.

Mostly because I feel attacks coming.  I DID NOT DIS Mary Higgins Clark, or Janet Evanovich.  This sentence sounds like I did.  “They send those two on tour around the country, too.”  I was asked a question which was “who gets big ads and is sent on tours?”  I gave him an example.  Clark and Evanovich.  Now that’s when I should not have said a word I should’ve said something like “people on the bestseller lists.”  But I’m not a devious person, thinking and plotting and measuring every word.

The rest was slanted and twisted and garbled and there were tons of errors.  But I don’t care about that.  I simply didn’t want it getting around that I’d made some egregious remarks about two big names in crime writing.

So take this as a warning to be careful what you say.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Everything Doesn't Work

So you’ve had a great vacation.  Maybe you went to France for the first time.  Met some nice people there.  And after awhile you found out their secrets.

Or you had a weekend in the Hamptons with friends.  You never laughed so much in your life.

Possibly you had company for the weekend.  It was a nightmare.

You think to yourself, ‘This would make a great novel.’

No it wouldn’t.  Everything that happens to you doesn’t work as a novel.  Of  course some things do.  But these weekends or weeks of vacation probably don’t.  What you enjoyed or hated, and the people involved won’t be interesting, funny, or horrifying to others as a novel.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t use pieces of these experiences in something you’re writing.  Character traits may come from someone you met on your vacation for that one person you couldn’t get right on the page.  Or the way someone holds his fork.  Little things.

But don’t try to turn your whole experience into a novel because I promise you it won’t work.

And if you’re going to use a piece of something, please don’t translate it into a dream.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

After Borders There is Life

It’s over.  I didn’t post yesterday because I was exhausted. Didn’t even turn on my computer.  Not wiped out by the reading, but afterwards.  Went out with friends and didn’t get back here until 2 and went to sleep about 4.

So.  I was very pleased by the attendance and so was Lindsey,( publicity person) and the Borders’ s man, Richard.  Lindsey made everything as comfortable and easy for me as she could.

I continued to be nervous and anxious. I simply couldn’t shake it.  When the time came I was still shaky.  I sat at a table with a mic.  Dry mouth plagued me.  The first laugh calmed me down some. Then I bungled a sentence and I really got laughs, but I was laughing, too. And then it was over.  The Q&A was brief.  That disappointed me a bit as I think I do that best.  Afterwards I signed books. 

I didn’t feel great about the reading.  I felt all right.  Which is better, a lot better than feeling awful.  People said they liked it and some even bought a book.  Was all my worry and craziness for nothing?  In the sense that it didn’t change anything…yes, it was for nothing.  In the sense that my fears were real it wasn’t for nothing.

I’m grateful to those who came and I’m also glad it’s over. Now I have about a month to enjoy my vacation before the next reading.

Back to reading other people’s books.  Hooray!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

It's Here

The day of the night.  We’ll be leaving the North Fork about 2.  Depending on traffic we’ll get to NYC about 4:30.  We’ll park.  Then look for somewhere to have a very late lunch.  Nothing fancy.  Oh, God.  What if I drop something on what I’m wearing?  Maybe I shouldn’t eat.  But I have to.  I’ll be extra careful.

I don’t know what the weather will be like.  The sun is trying to come out here.  I don’t want it to rain in NYC for obvious reasons.  Imagine them.

One person has already called to say she double booked herself and probably can’t make it although she’ll try.  The reading is uptown, her theater is downtown.  Now I can be sure of 7 people.  I’m not counting the people from Ballantine or my agent’s office.  My agent can’t come because of a recent knee operation.  I know she would otherwise.  She’s like that.

How do we know what butterflies in our stomachs would feel?  That’s not what I’d call it.  And it’s not the weasel in there either.  The weasel comes when I’m depressed.  Now I’m anxious.  It feels more like little people dancing.  But how do I know what that would feel like either?  I don’t.  But I know this:  it’s a horrible thing to be sitting here with little people dancing with butterflies in my stomach.

Okay.  That’s it.  I thank you for listening to my worries all week and before.  Then next time I post it will all be over.  Except for the reading I have to do next month in Sag Harbor.  I promise not to start expressing my fears until a week before.  Maybe I can get it down to three or four days.  There is always hope.

 

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

One Day to Go

Actually, I don’t know how to count this as the reading is tomorrow night.  So is it  two days?

Whatever it is I’ve now reached the point where my anxiety symptoms are showing up.  A pain in the right side of my back near my shoulder blade and a breathing thing. I guess you’d call it accelerated breathing.  Sometimes that makes me feel faint.  I used to have to breathe in a paper bag.  I’m not there…yet.  In the bag, that is.

This is the worst day so far. 

I have to rehearse again today and put in the post-its so I know what to say when I skip over to the next section.  I got the reading down to 21 minutes last time I read it. This is acceptable.  I hope.

Does Sue Grafton go through this?  She probably doesn’t have to read.  I imagine she just does signings because that would take up an hour or more.  So what about other people who read?  Does everyone almost have a heart attack?  Now I’m going too far.  I’m not almost having a heart attack. 

Look, Sandra, if you screw up the reading, give the wrong inflection to a character, so what?  Are people coming to this thing to watch you fail?  Oh, no.  They aren’t, are they? Nah.  Who’d bother to do that?  I refuse to be that much of a cynic.

But I’m still anxious.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Borders

Before I start my fear meter I have to say that, yes, I know I’m a) lucky to have a book published b) grateful to have publicity c) not complaining.  Did I leave anything out that I could be attacked for?  If I did consider it an oversight.

Today begins the countdown for me.  Thursday night I’m reading at a Borders in NYC.  I have never read from one of my books at a chain store in NYC before. I’ve read at lots of independents all over the country.  I’ve been on book tours where I had to read every night (and sometimes day) for two weeks.  By the time it was over I’d gotten very good at it.  I had no problem reading from the Lauren Laurano books.  I’m not saying I wasn’t nervous.  I was.  Especially the first time.  That was in a small independent in the Village.  My friends owned it and they made me as comfortable as possible.  But my mouth was dry, my hands shaking and I read in a blackout because I couldn’t remember having done it.

But now I’m reading from a new series featuring Faye Quick.  The time is 1943 in NYC.  Faye is a PI because her boss has gone to war.  I’ve only read once from the first book, THIS DAME FOR HIRE. Thursday night will be my first reading from the second book, TOO DARN HOT.

And I’m a nervous wreck.  Yes, again.  I know I got through the Bryant Park affair.  And I know I did fine and wrote here that I should remember that.  But now it’s all a blur and I don’t remember that.  Besides, this is a reading not a panel.  I will be ALONE.  Reading.  Not alone in the store, I hope.  As long as I have to do this I’d like an audience.  There are eight people I can count on.  I know they’ll be there unless some catastrophe happens in their lives.  And I guess that would be okay.  Eight.  The thing is they’ve already read the book. 

If I have to do this (and I do) I want strangers.  People who I might make laugh.  Might get to buy the book.  Afterall, isn’t that the purpose of readings?

First Reader says I read too fast. The first rehearsal this moring clocked in at 33 minutes.  I think that’s too long for people to sit and have to listen to me.  In the past I’ve done about ten minutes, but now I think that’s too short.  I’d like to do twenty.  But if I slow down I won’t get what I want to read into that period of time.  You see the problems involved?

Getting the right thing to read and getting the right time is enough to make me panic.  Reading it the correct way makes me more than panic.  Was I born to be a writer or an actor?  I’ve acted in my past and I wasn’t very good.  And that was only playing one part at a time.  Now I’m expected to play many, many parts.

Sometimes I lose my concentration and then I don’t know where I am, which character I’m reading and I use the wrong voice.  Sometimes I’ll skip a line or a few words and realize it, then say something out of character like “oh, god”. The character in the book, that is.  I try not to lose it completely and use profanity.  That wouldn’t be out of my character, but it would be out of Faye’s.

Oh, what am I going on about?  It’s plain old-fashoined fear.  FEAR.  Why has this happened?  Why do I say yes to these tortures? Why can’t someone else do this in my place?  Okay, I’m short and have brown hair with a lot of gray in it.  Could Laura Lippman pass for me?  I just checked her blog and she’s got her own gig in Coral Gables, FL that night.  Besides, she’s tall and blonde.  How about Annette Meyers?  She weights about 100 pounds less than I and has red hair.  There has to be a short dark writer out there somewhere who’d love to read from my book. That’s ridiculous.  Why would any writer want to read from my book when they could read from their own?  This is a stupid tangent.

I have to face it.  I’m going to live with the rat gnawing at my innards for the next four days.

 

 

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bryant Park, etc.

It’s over.  As predicted I was a wreck.  Snarling at First Reader. Had no caffeine before boarding the bus.

Once in got some caffeine.  Still snarling.  Finally met up with the others at Coliseum Books.  I’d never met the other writers before.  Cynthia Baxter, Carol Goodman, Laura Lippmam and Gammy Singer, the moderator. They were all friendly and charming.  I had no idea Laura was so tall.  I also met Lindsey Benoit, my publicist.  Also lovely.

We trooped over to the Bryant Park venue.  I was still shaky.  First Reader had gone on ahead to get a seat.  It was hot.  But the setting was beautiful.  There was a very big crowd. We took our seats and we were off.  I made sure I wasn’t the first to be asked a question by not sitting at either end.  I didn’t have to knock anyone over to accomplish this.

Once I was into it I was fine.  Why can’t I remember this?  It all went well.  Everyone was smart and articulate.  There were questions from the audience and then it was over.  We all signed books for people and the store.

Even though it would be considered a success I was so happy to have it over.

And now I can dread July 13th at Borders.  This is worse because I’ll be alone.  And I’ll have to read from the book.

What if no one comes?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Interviews, etc.

It’s starting.  Yesterday I had to have my picture taken for the local paper.  It was hell.  I’m completely unphotogenic.  I’ve twice had pros, who do authors, take my picture and it took rolls and rolls and rolls of film to get one.

This photo will go with an interview that will appear on page 2 of this paper.  The interview is in two hours.  I’m meeting the writer at a cafe that has gelato so that’s a plus.  I know the writer so that’s another plus.  I think.  I’ve never been interviewed by someone I know.

At any rate, this is great exposure for me and I’m delighted that the paper wanted to do this.  So I’m not complaining even if it seems I am.  As always, what I’m trying to do is show what it’s like to have a book published if you’re in my league and not a star.

Speaking of stars, I read in the paper today that big name crime writers are getting gigs at casinos.  Now that I wouldn’t mind as I love to gamble.  Who am I kidding?  I’d be terrified to speak in front of 1200 people as Janet Evanovich did.  And just to ward off the comments I’m not knocking Evanovich for doing this.  I wish I had her smarts about these things. And, of course, I wish I had her sales!

Wednesday the 28th I’m appearing on a panel in Bryant Park in New York with Cynthia Baxter, Carol Goodman and Laura Lippman.  Gammy Singer is the moderator.  I’ve never met any of these writers.  I’ve exchanged email with some.  And I’m very honored to have been asked to appear with them.  But right now, as I sit and think about this, I’d rather be dead.

It scares me.  Simple as that.  You’d think after all this time, having gone on book tours, I’d be over that.  But I’m not and probably never will be.  It’s a fact of my life.

Some writers love this sort of thing.  I mean really, really love it.  I know there has to be some who feel the way I do, but I never seem to meet them.

I won’t even go into the Borders reading that’s coming up in July.  Not now I won’t.

So why do I do these things if I hate them?  Because I’m asked to.  I want to be cooperative and if the publicity person thinks it’s worth doing I have to believe her.  And btw, this new one is great.  Her name is Lindsey Benoit, in case anyone reading this is ever lucky enough to work with her.  I’ll actually meet her on the 28th.

This isn’t a reading we’re doing.  We’re answering questions posed by the moderator and then some from the audience.  Here are my fears:  what if I don’t know how to answer?; what if I sound stupid?; what if my mind goes blank? what if no one from the audience asks me a question?  Ah, see.  I’m of two minds.

Believe me, if I wasn’t asked to do this or other events I’d be mad.  I’d feel left out.  Abandoned. Dissed.

Still, I’d rather stay in my room.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Checking In

The Guilt Meter says I’m doing very well.  In the first week I’d be guilty in the morning (that’s when I write) and fine in the afternoon.  On Friday I went to the movies, but I often do that when I’m writing so guilt didn’t register.

This week no guilt.  A feeling of freedom.

But I’m still in the game because my new book is about to come out and I’ve been getting reviews both print and online.  So far all have been good.  And I’ll be making a few appearances, readings and panels, etc.  I’ll list them when I feel strong about working on the code.  Right now anyone who wishes to see them can go to my website.

The big surpise is that I don’t seem to have enough time to do everything I have to do and want to do.  How is that possible?  I did these same things before and wrote, too.  It’s one of those things that doesn’t add up or make sense. 

I’ve done a lot of reading but still haven’t caught up with email.   And my addiction to buying books has been arrested for the time being, I think.  I only have one book coming.  Hate that.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Quote

"My task...is to make you hear, to make you feel - and, above all, to make you see. That is all, and it is everything."

Joseph Conrad

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Decision and Guilt

Okay, I lied.  I didn’t go back to work on June 5th.  Or 6th.  Or today.  I made a decision over the weekend that I was going to take the summer off.  I’ve been wanting a whole summer for decades.

Maybe if I were on a roll with this book I’d keep going now.  But I’m not.  And as I’ve said ad nauseum, no one is waiting for this novel.

But what to do about the guilt?  I feel it in my gut.  If this is going to continue I’m going to have to write.  And I really don’t want to now.  If I have to go back to writing the book will suffer. 

I’ve published 19 novels.  I should get points for that.  I know Ed McBain published over a hundred (I think) wrote from 9 to 6 and never took off a day. I don’t think he did.  The McBain historians are welcome to correct me.  But even if I’m off by this or that, the man still wrote and published all the time. 

I’m not comparing myself to him in anyway, how could I?  I’m just using him as an example of someone who wrote and wrote and here I am having published 19 and thinking I need a vacation.

It’s not so much need as want.  But what fun is it going to be with a fist in my stomach?  I’m hoping this will go away.  I want to spend a lot of time reading.  And if it ever stops raining I want to lie in my hammock to do that.

Also, I’ll be able to stay up for the Yankee games if they run late.  I’ll be able to do a lot of things I can’t do when I’m on my writing schedule.  Not feeling the way I do today, however.

I’ll just have to wait and see.  Maybe I’ll ease into this thing.

I fully intend to start writing again after Labor Day.  Go back to work like everybody else.

I’ll continue to post here about things that have to do with writing.  And I’ll try not to whine about my guilt.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."

Thomas Mann

Monday, May 29, 2006

Death

I was listening to the author of The Book Thief on the radio this morning and it started me thinking.  Not about death because I think of that daily.  But rather that I make death happen all the time.  We in the crime field do it constantly.

I kill people a lot.  And I do it cavalierly. I hit some keys and it’s done.  I murder someone.  That character is dead. 

I read about it all the time, too.  Death.  It’s not hard for me to read.  Or write.  And yet I fear it.  So what are we all doing, we crime writers?  We dispatch people like we’re tossing away a candy wrapper.  It doesn’t mean anything to me. 

I’m always amazed by people who say “I can’t read Z kind of book because it’s too upsetting.  Murders and all.”  They’re talking about fiction.  I never get upset or frightened by death in a movie because I know it’s a movie.

But I do get upset by the idea of death.  Mostly my own.  Many friends have died over the years and that was hard.  It wasn’t fiction and I felt it.  Still, the idea of my own death can give me chills.

And yet I write about it.  Not my own, of course.  But death in all it’s guises.  Nothing is off limits for me to write.  Or read.  Except the graphic death of an animal or a child.  Don’t want to write that either.  Won’t. I’ve written about a child found dead, but I don’t want to go much beyond that.

Nothing scares me more than knowing I’m going to die.  Yet I’ve chosen a genre that relies on death.  When I’m writing a murder scene I never think about my own death.  Perhaps I use this as a technique to keep death away from me.  It’s very convoluted if that’s what I’m doing.  And stupid.

Because I’m going to die.  No matter what I do.  No matter how many times I joke and say I’m not going.  I’m going.  And so are all the crime writers in the world.  I think we’re all very strange.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Circumstances

Last Monday I finished the chapter I was working on.  That was the last time I wrote anything. 

This week I’m not writing either.  I have a lot of reasons…things I’m doing and having a birthday.  You see, this not having a contract leaves me pretty free to do what I want.

I’ll start again on June 5th.  Yeah, I will.  Even if I don’t feel like it.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Quote

"Writing fiction has developed in me an abiding respect for the unknown in a human lifetime and a sense of where to look for the threads, how to follow, how to connect, find in the thick of the tangle what clear line persists."

Eudora Welty

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

As Time Goes By

That’s what it feels like today. 

Last week I did pretty well with this thing I’m writing.  But, of course, as predicted, by this Monday I hated it.

I wrote a paragraph that day.  Nothing Tuesday. Another page today.  I feel stuck.  My mind is all over the place except on the novel.  Instead of writing a book I’m buying books. From everywhere. Especially England.  I know this is an addiction because there’s no way I will ever read them all.  But it isn’t the reading, is it?  Although I read plenty of them.  It’s in the ordering, the arriving, the opening, the smelling of the book, the reading of the quotes, the dedication, the first line.

The above almost sounds like a drug addiction.  I don’t know this first hand, but it seems that drug addiction has rituals unlike drinking.  Yes, drinking has some, but not like shooting up.  At least it’s not that way in what I read.  The drugs, I mean.  Heroin.  My heroin is books.

But I’m supposed to be writing one.  Today I feel that I’d be happy if I never wrote another word.  Maybe I won’t.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Quote

"Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those who have none."

Jules Renard

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Novel

Over the weekend I kept thinking, why am I writing this novel?  Who will give a damn about it?  I’m wasting my time. What’s the point?  Even if my agent likes it (unlikely) who will buy it, publish it?

Today I read what I have.  I think it’s good.  I liked it a lot.  The characters are interesting, the whole thing moves along quickly, I keep advancing the story and if I can pull off the main point I’ll really have something.  Whoopee!

Tomorrow I’ll start to actually write.  I can’t imagine that I’ll keep this optomistic view for long.  And even if I do, sooner or later I’ll go back to the questions above and probably add some.

Writers of other blogs sometimes mention that writers who blog are whining all the time about how tough this profession is.  I hope my postings aren’t mistaken for whines.  That’s not my purpose.  I’m simply trying to show what writers go through.  Ups, downs, highs, lows. 

I got my Kirkus review for Too Darn Hot.  Of course it wasn’t good, but it wasn’t that bad, either. Two picky, mean lines and the rest a synopsis.  It was annoying but it didn’t put me in a state or send me to bed with covers over my head.  Some will say I’m committing suicide with Kirkus to write that here.  If I didn’t write it I wouldn’t be playing fair as far as the purpose of this blog.  I have to mention the bad reviews along with the good and tell my reactions to them.  So sue me!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Past Two Weeks

Due to circumstances beyond my control I haven’t written for the last two weeks.  To some degree I  liked it.  But now it’s getting to me.  So, once again I’ll have to read that damn manuscript (because I can’t remember anything) and get back on schedule Monday.

I look forward to it.  Whatever it is.  Who are those people?  Where do they live?  What are they up to?  Where are they going? 

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Let's Call It Cheating

First we had one after another journalist making up stories.

Then came James Frey.

Now we have Kaavya Viswanathan at Harvard, who has admitted to plagerising parts of her novel from two of another writer.

What is going on?  If you can’t write a story or memoir or novel by yourself then perhaps you’re in the wrong career.  Writing should be an internal process that is original.

Original:

  1. Preceding all others in time; first.
  2. Not derived from something else; fresh and unusual: an original play, not an adaptation.
  3. Productive of new things or new ideas; inventive: an original mind.

Is that so hard to understand?

The mind boggles.

Quote

"Anything we fully do is an alone journey...you are alone when you write a book."

Natalie Goldberg

Friday, April 21, 2006

Advance The Story

I had a three day week again.  Monday, Wednesday, Thursday.  Going to the movies today. I can do my Friday movies as long as I want because….well, you know why.  Nobody is waiting for me to deliver a manuscript.

My lastest book comes out at the end of June.  I only have one gig so far.

Anyway, what I started doing this week was to get it down and to stop thinking of other things.  Nevermind the same two words in a paragraph.  The justs, reallys, verys, and onlys can come out later.  Advance the story.  This is all I have to think about at this stage.  The rest can come in the rewrite and the rewrite after that before it goes to my agent.  I can’t imagine what she’ll think about this novel.  I know she’ll be surprised as I”ve never written anything like this.  But will she like it? I can’t worry about that now.  Advance the story.

Keep moving.  Push ahead.  Advance the story.  This can apply to any kind of book.  It certainly applies to crime novels.  That isn’t to say forget about character.  Never for me. But I can fix that in the rewirte and the rewrite after that.

Advance the story.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Writing Again

I went back to the novel on Monday.  It was a good day.  I zipped along.  Tuesday wasn’t as good, but I got down what I needed to.  I have to remind myself that I’m going to rewrite and not to worry that I have the same word in consecutive sentences.  No, not I, the or and.

Which reminds me.  I picked up a crime novel in the store the other day and glanced at the first page.  There were five “justs” on that one page.  I use my search tool to get out just, very and really.  Yes, there’s a place for them once in awhile.  And I don’t mind them in dialogue, depending on who’s speaking.

Back to my writing on Tuesday.  I finished the chapter I started the day before.  And I knew where I was going next.  I still do.  But I didn’t write today.  Life interfered.

I plan to write tomorrow.  I would rather sit and read Sarah Waters’ book, but I’m not going to indulge myself.  Even though no one is waiting for the novel I’m writing I still have to apply some of my discipline on my daily schedule or I’d never do any work.

I’m going to go read that book now.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Quote

"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible."

Vladimir Nabokov

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Just Can't

I know I’m the first one to say that you have to sit in front of your computer (or whatever you use) for three hours a day no matter what happens.

Well, I’m not.

I don’t feel like writing.  I know, it has nothing to do with feeling like it.  But I don’t want to and I’m not going to.  I started.  Yesterday one paragraph.  Today two lines.

I’m not depressed.  Still, I feel sad.  You’d think I’d be happy today after getting that good review from PW yesterday.  Not.

I’d like to eat 4 or 5 Krispy Kremes.  Or a pint of  Ben & Jerry's Everything but…  It’s been a long time between pints.

So, more time to read.  I wish I knew why I feel so anti-writing.  I guess I’d better take off the rest of the week to think about it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

PW Review

I got my first review for Too Darn Hot today.  At least I think it’s my first.  There’s always Kirkus.  Usually that comes first.  But this review is a bit early this year, so who knows?

Is it good?  Yes.  I’m very pleased.  I just looked at this blog at this time last year and I was still writing the first draft.  One of my characters had done something I hadn’t expected.

I knew last week that this PW review was coming and then I kept forgetting about it.  This is new for me.  Last year I didn’t know when it was coming so I can’t compare.  I can only compare to early and middle days of being a published writer.  I’d be very anxious and then if it was bad I’d go to bed for the day.  Or week.

God, I’m glad I’ve grown older and maybe wiser.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Hundred Pages

Yesterday my First Reader read the 100 pages I’ve done.  I got a resounding yes.  FR is very honest and would never steer me wrong.  I’m more than pleased about this.  I almost can’t believe I did it.  Especially using the method I did.

I’m taking a week away from it.  I have to do some reading and since I have no deadline I can do what I want.

I need to think about where I’m going next and how to get there.  I’m heading into Act Two now which is always the hardest.  Of course I’m thinking about the three act play.  That’s the way it used to be.  The well-made play had three acts.  I don’t know when it changed to two. 

No more picking titles out of the wooden box. I have my cast and I have their goals.  I even have a few tricks up my sleeve.  But I don’t know everything nor would I want to.  I read yesterday that neither Elmore Leonard nor Donald Westlake knows the end of a novel when he starts.  That made me feel great because, those of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning, know that I have no idea either.  Believe me, I’m not comparing myself to either of these men.  But it’s nice to know I’m not insane.

Last year when I was having trouble with Too Darn Hot a lot of writers talked about writing outlines and how they couldn’t do a book without one.  I’m just the opposite.  I’d rather do almost anything rather than write an outline or a synopsis.  So it was terrific to read that about two heavyweights in the crime writing business.

 

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Quote

The kind of story a writer ends up telling is the result of the kind of person the writer is.

Chris Van Allsburg

Monday, March 20, 2006

First Reader

Last week ended up being okay and I thought I could finish rewriting the last part today.  I’d be caught up and could start new tomorrow with chapter 10.  The best laid plans, etc. I don’t usually say anything personal that isn’t connected with writing, but I have to.  I have a very sick cat and I’m waiting for the Vet to call.  Then I’ll have to take him about 45 min. away.  So I couldn’t write today.

I’ve been nervous about catching up with myself.  What if I don’t know where to go when I finish what I have?  Now that I’ve made important changes, shaping the book entirely, I should know what to do.  That doesn’t mean I will. 

I’m thinking about letting my first reader take a look at these 100 pages.  I don’t usually do that unless I’m giving that 100 pages to my agent.  Since I decided not to show my agent this book until I’m finished, should I give the first 100 to first reader?  I’ll have to think about this.

Hope I can finish up tomorrow.  Then I’ll read it and make my decision.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Books and Books and Books

I’ve had some news that makes me sick.  Yes, it has to do with publishing.  I’m not going in to it because there’s no point.  It would come out like gossip.  But it reinforces how this business has changed.

Yesterday I was totally discouraged about what I was writing.  Today I liked it.  Still, somewhere I know that I won’t sell it.  I don’t think I’ve ever written with that underlying knowledge since my first book.  It’s strange to be back in that position.

The world of print is overwhelming me.  I have the research books, new books from the library and the books that are coming in for the First Best P.I.  Also a book that I agreed to blurb.  And besides that I’m supposed to have a life.  I think the life has to go on hold.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Last Week

I rewrote the first four chapters this past week.  I think it makes everything better and is setting up what I want to do.  So why am I depressed?

I’m not sure.  I think I’m not staying in the moment, let alone the day.  I think about what will happen when I catch up to what I’ve already written and have to go forward.  I think about the fact that at this stage in my career I’m writing a book on spec.  I shouldn’t be thinking of either of those things.  It doesn’t help.

I am engaged in this book and find myself making notes as I read or watch TV or cook or whatever I’m doing.  But I’m not used to writing this way….knowing I’m not going to show it to my agent when I have 100 pages.  I have to write the whole thing before I show it to her.  This is my choice and I have to remember that.

I’m not whining! 

There is a new interview with me on Girl Detective.  See, there are some good things and some bad things going on.  The interview is a good thing.

Tomorrow I’ll continue rewriting.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Here I Go Again

Started writing today.  Or rewriting, I guess.  First chapter is finished for now.  I have it going in the right direction.  Other than that I have no idea if it’s good or not.  I’m not going to worry about that now.  I have to keep on going forward, making changes, shaping it.  Good or not can’t matter.

 

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

An Amazing Discovery

On Feb. 20th I ended my post saying I was going to read what I had written so far.  I didn’t do that.  I don’t know why.  Instead I continued to bluff my way through this novel.  That didn’t work.

On Feb. 24th I said I was going to read some books that might help me. So yesterday I sat down with some of the books that I’d ordered and received and my manuscript.  I thought, why not read it first.  So I did.

Part way through I realized that the key to what I wanted to write was a throwaway line in Chapter One.  I went back and looked at it again.  Yes.  This could work.  I went on and read the rest. 

I’d been right.  The small bit in the first chapter was what I’d been searching for.  I couldn’t believe it.  I can’t believe it.

Two things. 1. I’m still going to read some of these books.  I’ve already started that. 2. It’s not exactly what I thought I was going to write but it’s in the same vein.  And I like it better than what I’d started out to do.

I can’t say how excited I am by this discovery.  It means I have a lot of changes to make to what I’ve written so far.  Also a lot of inserts.  But that’s just fine.

I still don’t know how it ends, but I don’t want to know that.  This isn’t a whodunnit but it will come to an end and things will need to be sorted out, characters attended to, loose ends tied up.

I don’t think I’ll pick the chapter titles out of the box anymore.  But I might.  I’ll have to see how it goes.  Lots of work before the next chapter.  I probably won’t start writing until next week because I want to read some of the material I’ve collected.  I could move ahead now as the books I got don’t exactly apply to what I’m going to do.  But there are things I can learn, things I already learned about one of the character’s profession.

I find it completely amazing that I had it all the time and didn’t know it.  Will miracles never cease?

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Rotten Horrible Week

Nothing got better.  I continue to not know what I’m doing.  It’s frustrating and demoralizing.  I can’t get a real handle on this thing.

What I have to do is read a few books on the subject.  I’ve ordered some and hope they come soon.  Not fiction.  In other words, I have to take a course, a class. My own.  I’ve done this before.  When I was getting ready to write Donato & Daughter I read a lot of true cop books.  It was very helpful.  I couldn’t point to any part of the novel now and say “this is what I learned from blank blank” but the studying of the cop books gave me an understanding, familiarity and confidence that I hadn’t had.

Before I wrote my first P.I. I read all the P.I. books I could.  This time they were novels.

So, I’m going to try this method again.  It’s one thing to not know where you’re going in a form you know how to write.  Another to not know where you’re going with a form you don’t know how to write.

I hate having to stop to do this.  It gets me all off schedule.  But there’s no schedule to be on if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.  So if I’m going to give this book a chance to see the light of day, I have to go to school for about a week or two.

Good thing no one is waiting for this one.

 

 

Monday, February 20, 2006

What could I have been thinking?

I can’t write a book of this type.  Who do I think I am?  Just because I can write and I can get published doesn’t mean I can write this kind of novel.  I love reading them.  But that’s probably where it ends. 

Can I write a literary novel?  No.

A romance? No.

Science Fiction? No.

Fantasy?  No.

Historical (before 1900?) No.

Of course I don’t want to write any of those.  Still, just because I want to write what I’m slinging on the page doesn’t mean I can do it justice. 

I’m going to read what I have so far and if it isn’t completely awful I’ll continue to not know how to do what I’m doing.  If ya get my drift.