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

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My Last Word On This

In the past two days I’ve been called: a nitwit, pretentious, angry, mean, sour, a whiner, crazy, suicidal, insulting, a nightmare author, difficult, and have been told to shut up.

I’m sure I’m leaving some nasty name calling out, but I think any reader will get the general idea.  A lot of this bad-mouthing came from a blog called Miss Snark, the literary agent.  She/he might as well call him/herself Miss Anonymous. I doubt very much if this person is a literary agent.  I know my agent would never have the time to write a blog.  Not to mention the inclination. 

I had no idea what I posted would create such a brouhaha.  I was simply continuing to do what I state above this post.  All along I’ve taken the reader with me on this last book.  Losing my editor was another step.

I’ll continue my blog as before.  As of this moment this tempest in a teacup is over for me.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Never Write Scripts

Not the movie kind.  The ones in your head or that you write on a blog or tell your friends.  The best reason not to do this is because you are always wrong.

On Friday my editor called me.  I was surprised to hear from him as it was a long weekend and he doesn’t call me socially.  We chatted for a few minutes about Thanksgiving and even then I was writing a script in my head:  he was calling me to tell me they weren’t going to offer me another contract.  Again I was wrong.

The reason he was calling me was to tell me that he was leaving the publishing company. Not because he was moving on to a new job, but because he’d had it with the business.  He said he hated to use the term burned out but that’s what he was. I was stunned.  I told him I understood and I do.  He worked too much and he wanted a life.  He doesn’t know what he’ll do but whatever it is won’t be in publishing.

I asked him if this was the reason I hadn’t been offered a contract.  He said no.  It was because they wanted to see how Dame performed.  I know that can’t be the reason because Dame has done her performance by now.  If he’d been staying on he would’ve pushed for a new contract (if that’s what he wanted) but it wasn’t up to him, since he was leaving, to make deals.

This coming week he was going to sit down with the head of the company and talk about what authors should be with what editors.  That doesn’t say anything about my situation.

What worries me is the new book, Too Darn Hot, which will be published in June.  Even if a new contract hadn’t come my way, this editor would’ve still been on top of things and moved the book as much as possible.  As the book is finished and there’s nothing for a new editor to do on it, it’ll lie there like a lox.  Unless there’s a new contract and then it’ll be different.  At the moment my book is an orphan.

When I called my agent and told her he was leaving she said, “This is very bad news.”  Then she said she was very close with the head of the company and she’d call that person on Monday.

This doesn’t put paid to my earlier anxieties as everything I worried about still applies and in fact adds to my worries.  Who will my new editor be, if I’m going to have one?

Not to insult anyone, but this editor is the last of a certain breed…a gentleman and a man of experience.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d say he’s in his early fifties.  He mentioned the possiblitity of one editor and I asked how old the person was.  Twenty-nine.

I know any editor is probably going to be younger than I, but twenty-nine?  He/she could be even younger, not only at this publishing house but almost everywhere.  I’m not saying an editor of that age has to be horrible, in fact I know that someone so young could be the best editor I’ve ever had.  Still, it gives me pause.

So that’s it.  The next step will be hearing from my agent after she talks to the head of the company. 

I’m going to try to use this extension of my “vacation” to enjoy myself.  I’ll also allow my mind to be open to new ideas.  I won’t search but I’ll be open.

So, as you’ve already gathered, the moral of this story is, thinking you know all the possibilities is stupid and useless and makes you a bigger asshole than you already are.

Pardon me while I stand in the corner.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Galley Pages

I’ve finished doing them.  Not many mistakes at all.  I felt very cranky having to do this.  What will I be like if I have to go back to work again?  And what will I feel like if I don’t have to go back to work?

Still no news.


Friday, November 18, 2005

The Weekend is Here

And I’ve heard from no one.

Next week begins the countdown to the holidays.  Unless something is decided in the first part of next week I feel it’s unlikely that I’ll know anything before the 1st of the year.  Maybe I’m wrong about this, but it’s my feeling.  Yeah, I know: feelings aren’t facts.

The  Reader’s Digest sale made back in the spring for  This Dame came to life today when a copy was sent to me.  It’s strange to see my jacket cover on the book with three other authors.  And at the end of my novel there’s my picture and a bio.  Also they’ve taken material about me from my blog and website.  Of course there are mistakes.  I didn’t graduate from Columbia University, for instance. I guess they couldn’t believe it was Columbia High School. But that’s fine. Columbia University is a terrific school.

My galley pages have arrived but I’m not doing anything about them until Monday.  And I’m not going to think about the contract thing either.  It’s bad enough that I have to have a root canal tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Next Step

Email from editor:

This afternoon we'll place in the mail to you the loose galley pages of TOO DARN HOT.  I'm crossing my fingers that they'll be in tip-top (or close to tip-top) shape and that you'll breeze through them with very few corrections. 

However, whatever those corrections are, could you send them to Paul and me by November 28?  You need return only the pages on which you make changes.  In fact, if the changes really are few, you can just e-mail us:  page number, paragraph (or line number), and what the change should be.

Anyway, expect the package to arrive to you either tomorrow or Friday.




Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Wait Goes On

Still waiting.

I got the cover art back…the latest with the wrong hemline.  They corrected the problem by moving the figure down on the jacket so that you won’t know where the hemline is. Puhleeze.

However, I think it’s a nifty jacket.

Waiting some more.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Oh, Okay

January, the online magazine, gave me a great review.  I sent one to my editor and one to my agent.  I told my agent I wanted her to be armed when she talks to the editor.  This is what she wrote back to me:

Hey, thanks for sending this.  And stop worrying.  love, Agent

I wrote back and said I couldn’t change my whole personality at this point in life.  Laid back I’m not.  Surprise!


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Email

Hello, Agent

I got your voice message.

Hereabouts this week is jam-packed with launch meetings for next year--both the preparations for the meetings and then actually giving the presentations; so every minute is precious.

Once the dust settles next week and I can get people focused on something other than the launch, I'll set in motion the Sandra Scoppettone discussion.  Thanks for your patience.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Still Waiting

At 3:40 the phone rang.  I rushed to answer.  It was the trashman’s wife to tell me the pick up will be on Sat. instead of Thurs.  It’s now 10:20 pm and that phone call never came.

Target Day?

Yesterday I spoke to my agent and reminded her that it was November.  She said she’d call my editor today.   Six more hours to go.  Do I believe this will happen?  No.  And even if it does that might not mean my editor is waiting for the call so he can offer a deal.  Or the deal will be so hideous I’ll have to work at the library.  I guess there could be worse places here to work.  Now that I think about it, the library is looking good.


Friday, November 04, 2005


"No one says a novel has to be one thing. It can be anything it wants to be, a vaudeville show, the six o'clock news, the mumblings of wild men saddled by demons."

Ismael Reed

Sunday, October 30, 2005


A comment was left on my blog with this question:

In today's publishing climate where it appears that publishing houses themselves do very little promoting of most authors and their books, what role do you think writers themselves take on? Ellen Hart said that writers have to be their own promoters and take to the road. Could you address this? 

My answer to the first part of this question is that writers have to take on whatever they’re comfortable with and what they think will sell their book better than the publisher can.

In the past I’ve been sent on book tours (twice with Ellen) by my publisher and although parts of it were fun, I couldn’t see that it sold more books than if I hadn’t been in a bookstore reading, or on a panel discussing where we get our ideas.

There’s no data that says touring will sell books.  In fact, I’ve heard that it really doesn’t payoff.  If I had to go on tour because my publisher felt it would help I’d do it.  But I wouldn’t be happy about it.  I certainly would never finance my own tour.  That has to be a losing proposition.

Perhaps tours help bestselling authors, but I’ve never understood the need for those people to go on tour.  Just as I’ll never understand why publishers take out ads for books that are already on the bestseller lists.

Publishers say ads don’t do anything.  Really?  I think an ad in the right place might let readers know that a book is out there.  However, I know of an author who took out ads three days in a row to prove to his publisher that that would sell more books.  It didn’t.

Janet Evanovich writes her books, Random House publishes them and then her entire family becomes a production company, according to an article in the NYT’s. On her website there’s a cornucopia of things to buy…T-shirts, hats, key rings, and things to do…like puzzles, contests, casting the characters for movies.  There are even photos of reader’s pets.

I’m not making a judgment here.  It’s simply that I wouldn’t have the energy or desire to do anything like that.  I have this blog and I have a website. Nothing on my website moves or makes a sound or morphs into anything else.  It’s mainly about my writing as this blog is about my writing and writing in general.

If I did what Evanovitch does I wouldn’t have time to write because writing isn’t only the time I spend in front of that screen. It’s a full time job which requires me to be still when I’m not actually writing. This is so that I can think.

Evanovitch  goes on extended tours.  The longest one I ever went on was two weeks and I was exhausted afterward.

Maybe it’s me.  I didn’t become a writer to travel, sell things other than books, be an actor, or have webcams watching me work. I became a writer to write and because I couldn’t not write.  I’d love to sell as many books as those bestselling authors who tour and appear on morning television shows, but I’ll never sell that many books no matter what I do and television adds ten pounds.

So back to the original question, what role do I think writers have to take on to sell books?  This writer has to write a book and cooperate with what the publisher would like me to do.  That’s it.



Thursday, October 27, 2005


I spend my days buying tunes from Itunes to fill up my Ipod Nano.  Get out my CDs to transfer them to the Ipod.  I don’t write much email.  Haven’t felt like it.  Read.  Not as much as I plan to each day.  Stay in my pj’s until noon.  Talk on the phone.  Go to the library.  Then the library cottage…buy books…more books.  Order even more books from Amazon or through Addall.  Read blogs.

But mostly I wait.  For the phone to ring.  No, I’m not waiting to be asked to the Halloween party.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ladies Who Lunch

I just had lunch with my agent.  Besides having a good time, which we always have, she reasurred me about being offered a contract for the next two Faye Quick books.

“What are they waiting for?” I knew, of course.

“The numbers.  They need to know what to offer.”

“You mean they might offer less?”

“No.  The same or more.”

I’m home now and I know I’ll never be offered a contract for any book ever again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


"Unconsciously, you write to be read. If you want to write for yourself then you keep a journal."

Bapsi Sidhwa

Monday, October 10, 2005

So Much For What I know

Back in 2004 or early 2005 (I’m too lazy to look it up) I said I had on good authority that publishers were going to phase out mass market paperbacks.  A few people read that and were upset by it and hoped it wasn’t true.  Well, guys, I guess it wasn’t. 

But I did read an article that said mass market pbks were going to be a different size.  A little larger.  So maybe that’s what my impeccable source heard and managed to screw it up in the telling.

The reason I know I was wrong is because my own book, This Dame for Hire, will be published in June/July in mass market.  I’m glad about that.  I have to confess I wouldn’t pay 12 to 14 dollars for a trade paperback mystery unless that was the only version published.  In fact, I never buy any book in tpk unless it’s the only version available. I love the way they look and feel and, as stated before, I wish all books were published this way instead of in hardcover.  But I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.  I didn’t get that from any source, it’s only what I believe.

Friday, October 07, 2005


“When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand."

Raymond Chandler

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Arrival of Cover Art

The envelope arrived by FedEx yesterday morning. With great trepidation I pulled the tag and slowly reached in to pull out the two paste ups on black board. One was immediately discarded. I won't bother explaining why. Trust me.

The colors and background are great. An obvious New York street scene with period cars, etc. It’s all in red the way Dame was in turquoise…see below….and the font is the same with the same colors. That might sound awful but it’s not.

Obviously they’ve decided to keep the silhouette of the woman with the gun on every jacket. Every…will there be more than this one?

So guess what? The art director didn’t remember. The skirt length. Way down below the knee. And a flowing skirt that no self-respecting PI would wear to work.

What is wrong with this art department? Even though they don’t draw they must have stock photos from the Forties they can use. And once again they’ve put the gun in her left hand. She ain’t left-handed!

I wrote my editor this morning and gave my complaint about the skirt and the gun in the left hand. I also included a photo of a woman in the Forties wearing an everyday dress…hem just below her knees. He wrote back and said he’d pass my note about the skirt length and the photo on to the art deptartment, but said nothing about the gun in the left hand. I might have to let that go. It’s less important than the hem of the skirt.

Maybe if I’m lucky they’ll get the skirt right in one take, so to speak. Cross your fingers.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Cover Art

Yup.  Here we go again.  I think tomorrow my editor will be sending me: specifically two proposed covers--both variations on a theme (apparently two different silhouettes of Faye). 

I can hardly wait.  After last year’s fiasco I can’t imagine what this will be like.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of them was good?  Last time it was the length of the skirt I had to yell about for months. I wonder if the art director remembers that the skirts were short in 1943?

I can’t believe there won’t be some egregious mistake.  You see, they don’t draw anymore in art departments.  They have stock drawings and they put them together.  There’s nothing original.

The final jacket art of This Dame for Hire was great.  But nobody drew anything.  I guess that shouldn’t matter, but somehow it does.  It’s another example of how everything has changed in publishing.


On another topic that turned up on a listserv I belong to called DetecToday, people were writing about the fact that series writers have begun to leave out the mystery in their mystery. It seems to be happening in their 8th book or so.  I haven’t come across this in my reading but I stay away from long series because I think they become anemic.  And if writers are leaving out the mystery (also called plot) I think I’m right to avoid them.  The longest series I wrote was five books.  I believe the fifth book was the weakest even though I had a mystery. And if for some insane reason I was writing a 10th I’d sure make an effort at including a plot.  Anyone else notice a mystery series that doesn’t have a mystery?

Thursday, September 29, 2005


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

Elie Wiesel

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Delta and Numbers

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 15, 2005


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will become of me?


Friday, September 09, 2005

It's Here

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, September 08, 2005


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

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

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

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

I appreciate them both.

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

What kind of fool am I?


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Another Step

Yesterday my editor sent me the flap copy for Too Darn Hot. Part of it was good, but some things gave too much away. I emailed him about this (he’d asked for my input) and wondered what he’d think.

Same day he emailed me back, “I’ll make all the changes.”

I find it so strange that Ballantine does things so far in advance. Next week I get the copy-edited manuscript and I’m sure I’ll be getting jacket designs in a month. The book isn’t scheduled until summer 2006.

I would imagine that next week or the next, the negotiations for a new contract will begin.

Basically, This Dame for Hire is over until it comes out next summer in paper. Shelf life is incredibly short unless you’re a big name. It’s been two months and I’ll be lucky to get a few more weeks before the stores start sending the book back to make room for the Fall releases. On Amazon there are 52 used & new of my book. I’d buy one of those, wouldn’t you? And that, of course, brings me 0 royalties. I can hope that someone paid for all those books originally.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Writing for Television

Two people have asked that I say more about my television writing days. I didn’t do a lot, but I’ll try to remember what I did do.

A drama program named Playhouse 90 was on between 1956–61. My then agent got me a deal to write a tv play for the anthology show. It was a step-deal. I’m sure Lee Goldberg could explain this better, but I’ll give it a try. You were paid something on signing; when you handed in the script; then the rewrite (and there always was at least one); last on production. I didn’t get that far with this deal.

I did get to many meetings. The final one was in some upper east side restaurant with the director they’d chosen. He was Fred Coe. A very nice man. However, within weeks of this meeting the whole project was dropped. I never knew why. That’s the way it happened.

My soap writing experiences were awful (except for the money). The first was a short-lived soap called WHERE THE HEART IS. It had nothing to do with a novel by that name that came much later. The soap was on during the Sixties. I can’t remember a single thing about it. I don’t know who the head writer was except his first name. Bob.

The name for what I did escapes me. But I would get what was known as a breakdown for the script I was to write. Scripts were divided in five acts. Each act was outlined in a paragraph. I’ve since learned that most are pages long, but not on this show. I think I was given a week to do this, but somehow that seems too long. Maybe it was a week when I did 2 scripts per week.

I was meant to fill out each act in dialogue. And god help you if you tried to be funny. I felt I wrote pretty good dialogue, but it was always sent back to me with copious notes.

In the end I was fired. Everyone was fired. No one ever lasted. I did another later on and I can’t even remember which one it was, but it was one that was very popular. The head writer was a fairly well-known playwright but I’ll be damned if I can remember his name. When I quit he threatened me with a blackball so I could never write a soap again.

That was fine with me because I never wanted to write one again. Writing for a soap made me anxious, depressed and plain unhappy. I didn’t like the pressure and I didn’t like the idiocy of the whole thing.

One of the reasons I quit was because I got a deal for my last foray into writing for television. And that was for ABC’s The Wide World of Entertainment. This show came on at eleven and tried to compete with talk shows. My show aired the night some crisis (can’t remember what) happened in the world so it was bumped to a later time that night. As I said in another post the title was the best thing about it: A Little Bit Like Murder. I just tried finding a reference to it by googling the names of Elizabeth Hartman, Nina Foch and Sharon Gless who were all in it. Nobody listed my show. Getting the picture?

So that’s it.

My last experience of having a play mounted was in 1976. It was called Stuck and played in a theater way off-off Broadway. It was a strange part of New York City I wasn’t familiar with. It was called SoHo, but it didn’t mean anything to me then. In a few years I’d live there. Anyway, even though the last experience was a good one, I realized the collaborative life was not for me. And it was a good thing I was writing novels and enjoying it, because women playwrights were not sought after, and even though we’d had Lillian Hellman, no one broke that glass ceiling for years. Certainly not on Broadway. Even now the theaters on B’way are not filled with plays by women. Why is this still the case? I have no answer. Do you?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Television Possibility

Had a good talk with the woman from the TV channel.  She called it a preliminary talk. I liked her, but I count on nothing.

She asked if I wanted to adapt the books should they want to do it.  I said no. I have no interest in anything like that.  Once I would’ve.  But now I’m strictly a novelist.  The idea of writing for movies or TV is a nightmare to me.

I wrote a spec scipt long ago that was optioned.  Went to Hollywood.  Got bounced around like I was in a rough ocean.  Nothing happened.

I had a TV script actually made for a late night drama show. The network was trying to compete with talk shows.  It was the first time I actually saw my words come to life on television.  Dreadful.  The only good thing was a woman in a very small part at the end.  She turned out to be Sharon Gless.  I have to admit it wasn’t a good script.  The only good thing was the title.  A Little Bit Like Murder.

I also wrote for a few soaps.  That was hell.  But it paid so well.  Still, I always got fired like everyone else.  The last time I quit and never looked back.

And now I’m at a point in my life where I don’t have the interest or the stamina to write for TV.  I would like to see these books made into a series, but I’m not going to hold my breath.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Yesterday I was sent an email from a man at  He asked me if I’d send my phone number so the VP of original programming could speak to me. I’d never heard of this place.  But I looked it up, saw that it was real. 

Normally, I would forward a request like this to my agent.  But she’s in France.  So I sent the number and within moments the writer of the email called me.

The company is interested in my series of Lauren Laurano books.  He said she wanted to ask me some preliminary questions.  We set up a phone conversation for today at 11:30 am.

I don’t get excited about these things.  My friends do, if I tell them.  I’ve been at this juncture all too often.  It would be nice if this happened.  More than nice.  I’m sure it wouldn’t mean a lot of money, but I’d like to see that series on TV.  What writer wouldn’t?

I’ve always felt those characters would make a good series and would be different.  I knew the networks were out, but at one time I thought HBO might be interested.  They weren’t.

Now comes this nibble.  I hope she doesn’t ask me who I’d like to see play the main roles as I never cast a book in my head.

We’ll see.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Promises Promises

On the back of my galley for This Dame for Hire it states that there will be ads in The Strand Magazine, Mystery Scene and the NYTBR. None appeared. When I asked about it I got a bit of a runaround.

It’s too late for the magazines now as they publish 5 or 6 times a year. In fact, it’s too late for the NYTBR. I wouldn’t have expected an ad for the first book in a series, but I believed what the galley told me. Naive of me, I guess. You’d think I’d know better at this stage of my career.

One of the answers given me when I asked about it was, “The advertising department waits until there are reviews.” This excuse seems disingenuous, to say the least. What more did they want than a starred PW, a starred Library Journal and a good Booklist for starters?

Then I got print reviews from many places and they were all good. Call me crazy, but promising those ads to booksellers and then not delivering seems like lying to me. That’s who they’re aiming at when they print those words on the back of a galley.

Some things never change.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


"I have written a great many stories and I still don't know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances."

John Steinbeck

I'm Back

I have to confess I’ve been back for a week.  But I was exhausted and didn’t want to post.

There have been some comments that asked me questions.

When will TDH be published? 

Next June or July.  Ballantine wants to publish the paperback of TDFH to coincide with the hardcover of TDH.  And I still have to deal with the copy-edited manuscript.

Will you have to do fresh background material for each book in the series?

Not really.  I plan to stay in 1943 for awhile.  Which means I might have to look up songs or movies, but not much more.

What’s next?  Do you wait till October to start your next book?

As I may have mentioned, I don’t have a contract for another book. When agent and editor get back in September I imagine negotiations will begin.  Or they won’t.  Perhaps Ballantine won’t be interested in another two book deal.  But maybe another publisher will.  I’d like to stay with Ballantine because I like my editor there very much.  Still, I’ll have to go with whoever wants me.  But that might turn out to be no one.

It’s hard to imagine that no one will be interested because of all the favorable feedback I’ve gotten.  The reviews have been great. But publishing is mysterious.  So who knows?

The answer to the October question is not possible now. I won’t start a book without a contract.  We’ll have to wait and see.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Thursday, July 14, 2005


The edit is done.  As I expected, there was very little to do. I’ll mail it tomorrow.

Now I’m really free.  No contract.  I’m not worried.  I’ve been getting good reviews. I think Ballantine will want two more books.  But I don’t have to think about any of it.  It’s now in the hands of my agent.

I’m reading STRANGE BUT TRUE by John Searles.  So far I like it a great deal.

Tonight Yankees and Red Sox.  I can stay up.  Yes, I can.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

It's Here

The manuscript has arrived.  I was out all day so I haven’t looked at it.  I’ve taken it out of the envelope that leaked the hideous gray stuff all over me and my floor, but I haven’t taken the rubber bands off the manuscript and I won’t do that until tomorrow.

I don’t feel great apprehension because I don’t expect to be asked to rewrite whole chapters or even great chunks of a chapter.  I think my editor would’ve indicated that if it was the case.

The really good news is that I received a check today which is the last payment for TDFH.  Except when the tons of royalties start rolling in.  Right. 

I do hate the thought of having to go to bed at 10 and up at 7 even if it’s only for a few days.  I’m so spoiled.

Monday, July 11, 2005

This and That and New Rules

Saturday I did a reading and a Q&A at the Westhampton Library in New York.  It was a gorgeous day and I didn’t expect much of a crowd as it’s a beach town.  But a lot of people attended.  Not that it was standing room only, but there were a respectable amount of people.  I hate doing these things, but once I’m into it I like it.  I wish I could remember that before hand. 

My editor called on Friday to say I’d have the edited manuscript back by Tuesday.  He also said there wasn’t much to do.  That was the case with the first book so I tend to believe him.  Still, I didn’t want to see that book so soon.  They do everything very fast at Ballantine.  I’m going away next week for about five or six days and then looking forward to a vacation in August.  By that I mean a vacation right here where I live.  But I bet the copy-edited manuscript will wing its way to me sometime in August.

I’m enjoying my freedom now,  and not looking forward to having to do anything with TOO DARN HOT.

The reviews in various newspapers and in online magazines are beginning. So far there was only one lousy one where the reviewer went on and on about Hammett and said that I didn’t measure up, and that my PI was no Sam Spade.  Really?  Why compare me with Hammett in this way?  I don’t understand that.

It didn’t bother me because I thought it was so stupid.  Bad reviews in newspapers or magazines, or blogs that I respect are a different animal.  That certainly can make me feel bad.

As I said in an earlier post, I don’t have a contract for future books in this series.  So at this moment I have no plans to start writing in the fall.  That may change if a contract is made with Ballantine, or some other publishing house.  I hope the latter doesn’t happen.  I don’t want to leave my editor.

One thing I didn’t have time to mention during the gruelling days of the final draft, is that Ballantine sent out a new style sheet to all authors.  I had to change my font and one couldn’t have two spaces between sentences (as most people my age were taught to do.)  So I had to think of that as I went through my revision.  And a CD had to accompany the final manuscript.  I use a computer and back up on a CD, but what about writers who still use a typewriter?  Or those who don’t have a CD drive. 

Call me crazy but I don’t like the feel of it.  I liked my font and I like two spaces between sentences.  But when I write the next book, if it’s for Ballantine, I’ll have to use a font I don’t like.  I know it doesn’t sound like much, and I suppose it isn’t, but it annoys me.  I’ve never thought of myself as part of the corporate world. What orders are going to come next?



Thursday, July 07, 2005

From My Editor

Dear Sandra,

A quick note, post-lunch, to say that TOO DARN HOT is Too Darn Good.  And if I ever get free of these endless Group Meetings, I'll phone you to sing your praises.  Meanwhile, congrats on a great sequel!!!



Monday, July 04, 2005


"My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip."

Elmore Leonard

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I Can't Believe It

The damn thing is finished.  Think of all that we’ve been through.  And now it’s finished.  Tomorrow I print it and mail it to my editor.

And then…..he reacts….he sends it back with his suggested changes.  It’s not finished.

But for me…on this night and for the next week or so…that thing is done. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

It's June 28th, 2005

My publication day.  The big non-event.  Don’t believe me?

My day so far:  Got up, ate the usual breakfast. Read part of the NYT’s. Gave one cat her pills.  Cleaned the litter box. Made the bed. Got dressed.  Came into my study and began working on this book that you’ve heard so much about.

Tonight? The usual. Regular dinner.  Ball game.

No call or anything from my editor.  But there may be a good reason for that.  Yesterday I made a huge fuss about the title.  I didn’t want to use the one we’d settled on.  He was not pleased.  Some tart emails back and forth.  Then a phone conversation.  He made a strong case for the title.  I gave in.  Still, I don’t think he’d be too inclined to wish me anything today.

My agent is in France so no word from her.  Even if she was in NYC I wouldn’t hear from her about it being Pub day.  Listen to what I’m telling you: Non event.

I think I’ll finish this book tomorrow.  Then I have to print it out.  And get it the hell out of here.

The title is: TOO DARN HOT

Saturday, June 25, 2005

On and On

End of another week of this line editing.  Lousy mood.  Tomorrow is a day off but it won’t be enough.  Still, I’ll entertain myself by reading THE BURNING GIRL-Mark Billingham.

Monday it’ll all start again.  If I finish next week I’ll be amazed.

What will tonight be like?  We’re angry and tired.  We have the Yankee/Mets game. We have our dinner from the great take-out place that opened about a year ago.   We have a movie.  At least we won’t have to speak.

Why didn’t I get a dessert? 



Friday, June 24, 2005

It Never Ends

That could mean a lot of things.  And it does. The rewrite goes on and on.  And the rewriting of my dialogue by my in house editor continues no matter what I say or do.  But what I’m really referring to is the title of the next book.

I thought I had it.  I thought they were lyrics from a song. Now I’ve discovered that it’s the title.  So what? you say.  My last series used song titles tricked up. I don’t want to go near that again.

Now I’ll have to argue with my editor on Monday.  And I don’t have a replacement. Maybe I’ll find one this weekend, but the way things have been going I have my doubts.




Tuesday, June 21, 2005


I finally got the title for the book I’m working on.  This is a great relief.  As I’ve said I’ve never been in this spot.  I almost always have a title before I begin.  But here I am halfway through the final rewrite and I only had the title come to me today.

And my editor and the janitors love it.


State of Emotional Health

I feel I may go insane working on this book.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Saturday, June 18, 2005


"Rewriting is like scrubbing the basement floor with a toothbrush."

Pete Murphy

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Irritating Line Edit

Started this on Monday…the line edit, that is.  Although I don’t take everything that’s suggested by my first reader (I don’t have a second reader) she’s very helpful.  She’s also irritating, annoying and a pain in the ass.  So why do I let her do this?  Because ultimately she helps me make my book better.

She catches things I don’t see because I’ve been too close.  She questions things I’ve tried to get away with. 

I have one rule.  Don’t touch my dialogue.  Does she adhere to that?  No.  She tries to get  around it by suggesting dialogue above mine.  I pay no attention.  Mine is better.

Do I enjoy this process?  Yes and no.  So far (I’m on page 103 of 500) we haven’t had a screaming fight.  Perhaps we’ve grown up? 

There are about 400 pages to go.  I’ll keep you posted on the maturity level.

Monday, June 13, 2005


"There is no royal path to good writing; and such paths as exist do not lead through neat critical gardens, various as they are, but through the jungles of self, the world, and of craft."

Jessamyn West

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Rules Be Damned

For all my rules and good intentions, the big talk didn’t go too well.  First reader liked the book a lot.  But then she dared to make suggestions and criticise which led to arguments, then sulking.  It is a process from hell.

Tomorrow starts real editing and by nightfall, if things go as usual, we won’t be speaking at all.

Meanwhile, I have no title for this book.  This has never happened to me before.  I need one soon.  Like yesterday. 

Today is my last day of reading, watching the Yankees do who knows what, and generally enjoying myself for about the next two weeks.  And then I will hand it to my….oh, no.  I think I’ll stay in the day.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Big Talk

First reader has finished.  She likes it.  But now we go over the novel with her questions which she’s written on a yellow pad.  I’ve yet to see that and I fear it.  I know there will be pages and pages.

I’m trying to get myself in a mood that isn’t defensive.  Not easy.  I tell myself to simply listen.  I don’t have to do anything she says.  Who does she think she is anyway?

Not a good attitude.   I am taking a deep breath.  Here we go.


Friday, June 10, 2005

The Reading Continues

My first reader is still at it.  A death disturbed life and so everything has been delayed.  The reader will resume today.

Probably the BIG TALK will happen tomorrow.  Then I’ll start the third and final draft on Monday.

Meanwhile I’ll tidy up my work room.  I think I’d rather write.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

2nd Draft

I just finished printing it out.  And now my first reader is reading it. 

Panic grips my heart.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


"When I face the desolate impossibility of writing 500 pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day's work is all I can permit myself to contemplate."

John Steinbeck

Halfway Through

That’s it.  I’m halfway through the first rewrite.  And I’m quitting until Thursday.

Monday, May 30, 2005

No Holiday For Me

Hope you all had a good time.  I was at my computer all weekend while you were cooking hotdogs and swimming and playing whatever people play these days.

I did have one evening.  But my days have been right here at this keyboard.  I guess I’m about halfway through the rewrite.

I have to confess I will be taking Weds. off as it’s my birthday.  Don’t ask. Just know I deserve it.

I’m finding this process of my first rewrite very valuable.  I use that word because I’m learning things about writing as I go.  It’s never over, folks. 



Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Third Review

This is the most important one before publication. It’s in a magazine called Publisher’s Weekly. The other day, on another site, people were saying things like they’d never read a book that had a quote from PW and other negative stuff about the magazine. I don’t know if they were joking or not, but I hope they were because a good review from PW is used by librarians, bookstores, and very often gone over by the movie people.

I got a starred review. This makes it special. It was one of the best reviews I’ve ever gotten, if not the best. It’s made me very happy. It’s made my agent very happy. And it’s made my publisher ecstatic. This is good.

When I saw the fax I couldn’t believe it. I walked around the house. Then I ate a piece of candy. It was hard to go back to work but I did.

So waiting for the pre pub stuff is over. And I nailed two out of three. Not bad.

The Booklist review for This Dame For Hire is posted at Amazon. I imagine the PW one will be there eventually. Feast your eyes.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Terrible Noise on my Roof

Fortunately, the people who are putting a new roof on my house warned me that there was no way I’d be able to think while they did this. 

Today I’m beginning to put changes and make more changes back into the computer. I like this part of the process a great deal.  What I don’t like is having to do this somewhere else.  I’m lucky I have a laptop.

First I booked the Study Room in my library for today and tomorrow.  But it didn’t feel right at all.  So I called a friend who works at a normal job and I’m going to be able to work at his house.  It doesn’t feel great but it’s better than the library.

The roof people have started and I’m so glad I’m leaving.  No way could I think with all this banging and blue sheets wrapped around my study so I can’t have air and feel totally claustrophobic.

If this post is a mess it’s because I really can’t think.



Friday, May 20, 2005


"I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, 'To hell with you.'"

Saul Bellow

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Big Read

I finished reading the manuscript today. Good thing I like rewriting. I’ll be doing a lot of it.

I’ve convinced myself that at this stage with This Dame For Hire I didn’t feel so horrified by what I’d written. I’d sold “Dame” on the first 100 pages so it wasn’t that I had a “will I sell it or won’t I?” problem. In fact, I don’t believe I had any problem with it. But somewhere I know that can’t be true. One, I would’ve been worried about the rest of the book being as well done as those 100 pages. Still, I don’t think it was this big of a hodgepodge. Hodgepodge? I’ve never used that expression in my life. It’s obviously out of anxiety. Two, the first of any series is the easiest, I think.

This novel is also pre-sold. But it can’t be a mess. And I don’t want it to be. My first reader will help me a lot. And then I have a very fine editor at Ballantine, so I know I’ll get help there if I need it.

But most of all I have to calm down. It’ll work out. It always does.

Sometimes better than others.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


That’s what it is.  I’m almost finished reading it and the mistakes and repetitions are  horrible.  If I didn’t know better I’d think I’d written this drunk.  I’ll finish this phase of the process tomorrow.  And next comes putting changes in the computer and rewriting where I’ve indicated.

It really does seem to be an awful mess.  Except the dialogue.  But even that has me baffled in some places like this:

    “They only came up once when she told me they didn’t speak to her sister anymore.”           

    “She got any brothers or sisters?”


I mean really. The same page?  The next sentence?


You see now what I’m up against?


Monday, May 16, 2005

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Penultimate Chapter

Yup.  I wrote that today.  But the strangest part was I wrote 10 pages.  This after saying I can’t do that anymore.  Saying that I write maybe 5 a day and if I’m lucky 6.  It’s still the truth.  This was an anomaly.  I don’t think I’ve written 10 pages in one session since I was in my early thirties.

But the real point is that I have one short chapter to go.  I think it’ll be short.  If not I’ll do it tomorrow and Friday.  And I’ll be finished….

…. with the first draft.  Then I’ll have my outline.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Eking it Out

Why is it so damn hard?  The part I was working on should've been a cinch.  And it would’ve been if I’d been able to keep my focus.  I couldn’t.  I wanted to be sitting out on the deck; reading; answering email; talking on the phone.  Anything but writing.

I stayed at my desk.  I kept at it.  Wrote six pages.  I’m glad it’s over for the day.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Second Review

This one was great. It was published in Booklist, which is another trade magazine. Libraries and some stores buy from this.

What made me particularly pleased about this review was that the reviewer (signed this time) got the whole spirit of the novel. He got it and he liked it. What more could I want?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Week That Was

Basically it was a terrible week. The first two days were okay but then I was distracted by the review. More trouble came in the form of computer hell. Internet Explorer and other things on my Start menu stopped working. Here is a secret about me. It’s not thrilling. It’s a character flaw. When something goes wrong with my computer I can’t let go until I fix it. I think of nothing else. I wish I was this obsessive about writing.

I tried calling you know who and the annoying customer service woman told me I’d have to pay. Oh, no. So I looked for a program that might help me. Found one. It didn’t help that, but I got back my system sounds, which I’d lost about a month ago. The good news is that my computer problem didn’t affect my Word program so I can continue writing. Well, I guess it’s good news. If it had affected my writing program I would’ve had to get a new computer (this is the way I think) and then it would’ve taken me days to transfer and install stuff. No writing. Actually I’m glad that didn’t happen because I have no time to waste with this book.

On Friday Mr. Cooper did something I didn’t expect and would never have thought he was capable of doing. So now I’m not exactly in a hole, but I’m not sure where I’m going next. I don’t like that feeling. And, yes, I’m still glad I don’t have an outline.

Did you know one is now told in their contract how many words you have to have? In this first draft I’m going to come up short so that I’ll have to make it up in the rewrite. This disturbs me because I never want to put in filler. I’ve spent my whole career learning how to write lean and mean. And I think I’ve accomplished that now. But if I have to get to the right word count by adding unnecessary words it will make me unhappy. This trend to get writers to make their books bigger is terrible, I think. When my agent was negotiating my contract she (at my request) got the publisher to come down in the count by 15 thousand words.

Once again I dread Monday. As for the computer problem I’ve learned that I can live with it. When the book is finished I will get a new computer because it’s my reward. You have to give yourself rewards. I know, the finishing of the book is a reward in itself along with an acceptance and the next payment. Too bad. I want a new computer.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Quick Fix

I'm happy to say that by six o'clock last night all was well.  I no longer felt the little blow to my viscera and I was able to put the so-so review behind me.

I talked to several writers, read them the review, and they all said it was basically a non-review and don't forget it's Kirkus.  They also said that even after all the time they've been writing (one for about 50 years) they still felt bad when they didn't get a good review.

So then it was over and I could not only enjoy my evening but I was able to write this morning with no review hangover.

I suppose Publisher's Weekly is next.  That's an important one.  Cross your fingers for me. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

First Review

So the safety is over.  The critics are out.  I got my first review from Kirkus today.  Actually, it won't be published until next week, but my editor sent me a preview.

For those who don't know what Kirkus is, it's a publishing trade journal.  I've never seen an actual copy of it, but it has a reputation for giving nasty, unsigned reviews.  The joke is, if you get a good review from Kirkus you'd better watch out.  I don't think I've ever gotten a good one from them. 

Now I've gotten a review for This Dame For Hire and for Kirkus it's not bad.  It's not great, but I never thought it would be.  Mostly it lists the names of the characters, (for no reason I can understand) sums up the plot and is damned with faint praise at the end.  And there is really only one line in it that bothers me.  

Thank goodness I've gotten past the place in my career where a so-so review doesn't disturb me that much. And I have to remember it's Kirkus.

So why do I feel like I've been lightly kicked in my stomach? 

Saturday, April 23, 2005


"Great writing leads constantly into surprises, and the writer should be the first one surprised."

Bernard Malamud

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What A Difference A Day Makes

I kept my eye on the prize today and got a lot done. Advanced the story, brought in something to throw the reader off...maybe. Set myself up to meet with new characters tomorrow. And the writing wasn't bad either. I feel so much better than yesterday.


So what do you do when your editor wants one kind of title and you want another? I've explained to him why I don't want to fashion a title with a particular twist because I've done something like it with my Laurano series. He's still for me doing this even though he's given me the last word. Maybe I'm wrong. It's happened. I'm looking for some happy medium that will please us both. Haven't found it yet.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Today was awful.  I couldn't concentrate and wrote about 4 hideous pages.  I can't afford days like this now. I haven't got time.  No more holidays, no more Friday movies, no more I don't feel like writing today.  Tomorrow I have to stay focused.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Monday, Monday

Maybe I should loathe Mondays every weekend.  I wrote more today in a shorter time than I have during  the writing of this whole book.

But is it good?  I don't know for sure.  And it doesn't matter.  I'll deal with that when I rewrite.  What I wrote today advanced the story and that's all I have to think about now.  And thanks to Mr. Coleman I remembered to write more narrative.  I can always cut it later.  This was a good day.


Sunday, April 17, 2005

End of the Weekend

I loathe the idea of tomorrow. Another week of dealing with this book. On the other hand, quite a few ideas came to me in the last two days. And what I'm reading now is very helpful. A P.I. novel. It's made me realize what's missing from mine. I need to write more narrative and less dialogue. No. Not less dialogue. Just more narrative.

Yes, I know. You want to know the name of the book. Besides being a very good novel, it might not help you at all. It's The James Deans by Reed Farrel Coleman.

Friday, April 15, 2005


"I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write."

P. G. Wodehouse

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Reading and Writing

I know some writers who say that when they're writing a novel they can't read novels. Everyone has their own way, but I'd go nuts if I couldn't read fiction while I write it. That would mean I couldn't read novels for the better part of a year.

Writers who adhere to this self-imposed rule do so, they say, because they're afraid they'll be influenced by the style of the writer they might be reading.

I read all the time. And learn. I learn from good books what I should do, and from bad ones what I shouldn't do. I don't learn anything from some books, I just enjoy them or throw them across the room.

But reading others is the writing school I went to. And I haven't graduated. I hope I never do.

As I said, I learn from writers, but I've never found myself imitating a style. That's not to say that other writers don't have a legitimate reason for their ban on reading fiction when writing.

I believe writers all have different ways to accomplish what they set out to do.

For instance, those writers who say they write in coffee shops. I could never do that because I'd find myself too interested in what the couple across from me was saying, or listening to the waitress give her spiel.

Still, I have my way, too. I can't write anywhere but in my own house at my own desk on my own computer.

Rigid, isn't it?


I had a good five day week. I'm advancing the story as I should be and getting new ideas all the time. Some places are a mess but that's what rewrites are for. What did we do without computers?

I know I have to go back and change some crucial bits of information, but I'm not worrying about that now. I need to press on and get this first draft down.

I'm two and a half months away from my deadline. It's important that I meet it because the publisher wants to publish this second book in hardcover when the paperback (I think it's a tpk) of the first book is released. So no more days off, except for my birthday. I can hand in the book two weeks or so past my deadline but not much more.

I was late by that amount last year and that was due to illness. If all the stars are lined up right I'll make it this year.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


 "You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write."

Saul Bellow

Friday, April 01, 2005

Out of Control

Now why did Dolores go and do that?  She gave me no warning at all.  In fact, I was shocked.  And I'm worried about her.  I don't have a clue as to what's going to happen.  Will she live?  Will she die?  Will she be in the hospital for long? I guess she'll tell me Monday morning.

Five day week.  Yippee!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Got It!

As I said in my last post I'm halfway through the writing of this novel.  And today I figured out who, why and where.  I've had my eye on this suspect for awhile, but now I'm sure.  At this point I'm glad to know.  I often know earlier than this, maybe at around a hundred pages.  But knowing halfway through is very respectable.

Someone said he thought I didn't know who did what until the very end and then just picked the most likely killer.  Or tossed a coin, drew straws, picked a name out of a hat.  No.  That's not the case at all.  It's important that the killer turns himself into me by now because it will help me shape the rest of the book.

That doesn't mean it's clear sailing from here on in.  There'll be other problems to work out.  I don't know what they'll be right now...I just know that they'll happen.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Publishing Racket

Despite the enforced one day off, I was not subjected to reading Patterson. I wrote each of the other four days and I think I'm about halfway through. Of course that leaves me with the feeling: how am I going to fill the other half?

I didn't have any surprise characters appearing from under a bed, but I was surprised by how some of my characters behaved. They never tell me ahead of time and that could drive a writer crazy or it could be exhilarating. This brings me back to the topic of outlining or not.

If I did outline I'd know how to fill the other half today. I'd also lose all interest. Now I'm eager to see what happens Monday.

So about the publishing game. Last week I learned from good authority that things are about to change. This probably won't be big news to anyone, but some of it was to me.

No more mass paperbacks. The companies are slowly phasing them out. Barnes & Noble won't order any new ones. If you go to their website I think you'll see that the paperbacks they're selling are not current. When the ones they have are sold or returned to publishers, that will be the end of them for B&N.

Trade paperbacks are going to take their place for now. And eventually there'll be no more hardcovers. This might not apply to libraries. Although I've noticed in the libraries around here there are more and more trade paperbacks on the shelves.

So is this a good or bad thing? I think it's fine. How many people want to pay seven or eight dollars for a mass market paperback? Trade paperbacks are anywhere from ten to fourteen dollars. And they look nice and last longer.

Writers have always had a snob thing about being published in paper instead of hardcover. Many of them think they're not a real writer if they're not published in hardcover. I think that idea is nonsense not to mention very old.

The best example I can give is Jason Starr. He's published in trade paperback and if that weren't true I doubt I would've bought him in hardcover. That would've been my loss. I think he's one of the best writers around and there's no need for him to publish in hardcover. He may feel differently about it, but I hope he doesn't.

Don't we want to get the most people we can to read our books? I think trade paperback will fulfill that wish. If you've ever been to France or England you know that's how most books are published there. I guess they have mass paperbacks but I don't recall them. I certainly didn't buy any to have sent home.

So is it a good thing to drop mass paperbacks and go to trade? And how important to your sales is it to be published in hardcover? Or is the importance to your ego?

Saturday, March 19, 2005


"I think a little menace is fine to have in a story.  For one thing, it's good for the circulation."

Raymond Carver

A Five Day Week! And Another First

Yes.  I did it.  I wrote five days of this past week.  Even though I was interrupted by my computer man, I was able to go back to work.

I'm moving along now.  I keep telling myself to just get it down. I'm not going to worry at this stage whether it hangs together, makes complete sense, or even if it's good.  Well, I'm not quite that laid back.  By the end of next week I should reach the halfway point.

As I mentioned before, I do have to go to NYC on Wednesday to see a friend's play, which is performed at lunch time.  So next week is a legitimate four day week and I won't have to read James Patterson unless I lose another day by slacking off.

My other first is that This Dame for Hire was taken by the Mystery Guild as a July Alternate.  I've never had a sale to this book club.  This isn't about money (very small advance) it's about exposure.  I'm very happy about this deal.



Saturday, March 12, 2005

Not My Fault

So it wasn't a five day week.  Again.  It was four.  But only because I woke up on Thursday to no heat.  It was very, very cold in here.  My fingers couldn't type.  It's the truth!  Didn't get heat back until around noon.  And I couldn't start writing then because I just can't do it at that hour on the first draft.

I reached the end of my rewriting on Monday.  It's been all new from there.  I'm not exactly zipping along, but it's better than where I was when I stopped to start over.

I've decided that from now on, every hour I miss on my writing schedule, I 'll have to read that many hours of something by James Patterson.  This is the aversion technique.  Anybody have any ideas which one to start with?  Just the thought of it makes me feel that I'll have a five day week coming up.

The following week I have to go into NYC on that Wednesday.  This is a must.  So I'll lose that day.  And I don't think it counts re the reading of Patterson.  I'm not going to torture myself if my lost time is something I can't help. 

I've set myself up for the next chapter so I feel relatively calm about sitting down here on Monday morning.  I wish I felt a sense of excitement about it.  That happens from time to time, from book to book.  But it hasn't happened during the writing of this novel.  Well, I still have two thirds to write so there's a chance I'll get that wonderful jolt. 


Thursday, March 10, 2005


Don't you hate it when someone wants to tell you their dream?  Unless the teller says "I dreamt about you last night" you have no real interest.

The author of a novel is never going to have a dream about you.  So why must so many of them tell us dreams?  I've just finished two books loaded with dreams.  One of them I recommended below, but only because the rest of the book is so good.  Still, I wish he hadn't done it.

I hate dreams in novels.  Why should I have to interpret a dream?  I want the author to interpret it in the sense that she/he uses another device to give me the same information.

A line or two of a dream is acceptable if it's meaningful and easy to understand.  But pages of dream recall?  Never.  I think writing long dreams in a novel is the lazy way out.  Oh, I can hear you now saying, but complicated dreams on the page take a great deal of skill.  Skill for what purpose?  Perhaps to show off?  I wish I could put a ban on dreams longer than two sentences. 

Just tell me the story.

Monday, March 07, 2005


 "A writer's brain is like a magician's hat. If you're going to get anything out of it, you have to put something in it first."

Louis L'Amour

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Where Am I Now?

Intoxicated with the RD sale, I realize I haven't updated my progress with the novel I'm writing.  Once again, it's the second in the series and Ballantine will be publishing it in July 2006.  This will be coordinated with the paperback release of the first in the series.  That's the way publishers set a schedule if you're writing a series.

It was a four day week but I was very disciplined.  I thought I'd be through with the rewriting by now but I'm not.  The reason is because I had a lot more changes to make in the chapters I had already written than I thought I had.

This week there are only one and a half chapters to rewrite.  By midweek I should be going into completely new territory.  Actually what I'm writing now is new territory, because the person who is being interviewed was the one who was dead in the first version.  So I have a new voice to write.

Except for who did it, I couldn't tell you now, if you asked, exactly where this novel is going.  But I feel comfortable with that.  I believe I'll be able to move along without anymore headaches than I would have naturally. I tell myself the worst is over.

There is no reason this can't be a five day week. 

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Clearing Up A Misunderstanding

Anonymous asked me this:

Does this mean it will only be published in the Readers Digest format or can you publish with another publisher?
Was this your only option for the new novel?

The sale to Reader's Digest is a bonus.  Ballantine is publishing the book in early July.  And this is not the book I'm working on now.

This sale is known as part of subsidiary rights.  I'll share the money with Ballantine.  As far as I know RD doesn't publish anything for condensed books that hasn't come out earlier in a regular edition.

So don't worry Anonymous, this is good. My sale to Ballantine happened in early 2004.  And now I'm working on, and complaining about, the second book in the series.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Another First

My novel THIS DAME FOR HIRE, the first of the series, just sold to Reader's Digest.  It will be in one of those volumes of condensed books; the kind you don't even look at at yard sales.

But I'm not complaining.  This is not only an unexpected check, it's very good publicity I'm told.  I've never sold to them before.  I guess they weren't interested in lesbians or a serial killer who was knocking off nuns.

I'm not completely sure I know what it says about the novel.  I guess it doesn't offend anyone.  This is also a first for me.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The End of Another Writing Week

It was only 4 days.  And I'd made a vow not to distract myself with email, reading blogs or anything else.

Tuesday and Wednesday I failed.  I wrote, but switching to email and other things made it unsatisfactory.  On Thursday and Friday I prevailed.  No distractions.  I got a lot done and more links became clear.  No, not those kind of links.  Clue links.  Family links. Killer links.

Do I feel good about two days of complete concentration?  You bet.  There's nothing like it when it goes well.  I'm excited that the words and situations are making sense and it's beginning to read like a novel.

It may not be as startling as the first version, but what good was that when I couldn't make it add up?

Although I'm still rewriting there are some pages that are new.  By the end of next week I should be finished with rewriting and it'll all be fresh from there. 

Yes, that's scary.  My setup is done and I'll be continuing to interview suspects and unraveling histories with perhaps a surprise or two to the reader. Maybe even to me.  On the other hand, scary or not, I'll be glad to be writing new stuff.

It's not clear sailing by any means.  I anticipate hard days, mistakes, irritation.  Still, I don't think I'll discover again that I've got the damn thing all wrong.

So I count this week as a success. Even though there were only 2 days out of 4 that were what I wanted them to be, I feel I've broken a bad habit and that I'll now be able to write with discipline as I always have.  Three to four hours a day or at least 5 pages, whichever comes first.

I know some people write all day or all night.  I've never done that.  But when I was younger I'd get 10 pages done in those three or four hours.  Ed McBain would laugh at me. I think I read somewhere that he still writes from 9-6 and he's been doing this a little longer than I have.

Being successful this week makes me feel I deserve the weekend.  But I wish I didn't feel I deserve desserts.  More than I have in a long time, I'll really enjoy reading, viewing and whatever else I do.

Thanks to all who've been rooting for me.

Oh, one more thing.  If the Oscars on Sunday night don't end on time I'll be too tired to write on Monday.  I wonder if I'll ever work a 5 day week again.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


The revised cover art came to me this week. They shortened the hem and untwisted her body. Hooray!!! I think it's a very good jacket.

This Last Writing Week

I've now rewritten 6 and a half chapters.  The last 3 were almost a complete rewrite.  I keep telling myself that when the novel is actually completed I'll have less rewriting to do.  But that's the part I enjoy so it doesn't comfort me.

It's been a struggle not to go on the Inernet to ostensibly look up things.  We all know where that leads.  One thing to another.  Each day I promise myself that I won't do that.  I might have to check something out through Gurunet but I don't have to go any farther once I get my answer.  Still, I continue to do it.

I don't launch my email program but if I launch my browser, Mozilla, I can see my email from my home page.  Ok, so I don't answer it.  That's the only thing I resist.

I have to stop all that.  I have to get down to work.  I can't get distracted.  If I want to do these things I'll do them after I finish writing.  This is my vow for the coming week.

Even with all my diversions I think I know more than I did.  I might even know by now (page 80) who did it.  And why.  I have a lot of rewriting and changing of things ahead of me.  There are 5 more chapters to go before I get to write a new chapter.  Actually, there may not be that many because I took things from 10 and put them in 7.  And I may have to lose two characters all together.  But then I'll be adding a character who will get at least half a chapter.  She was dead in my first version.  How heady it is to bring someone back to life!

I know the prose I'm writing now is fairly lifeless.  I also know I can change that later so I'm not letting it worry me too much.  All in all it's been a battle.  I don't recall going through this before. Oh, I've been in despair at times, but I never had this kind of trouble. 

I just realized that I killed the wrong person again having done that once before in a YA book, Playing Murder, but I caught that one at around 100 pages.  This time I didn't know I'd done it until I started rewriting.

It's caused me a lot of trouble.  And other things have too...all those corners I got myself into.  As it stands now there aren't any. 

I keep wondering if ,without those corners am I writing a dull book?  And then I remember they were corners I couldn't do anything about.  I might get into some new ones as I go along and can only hope that they'll be ones I can write my way out of.

Those of you who've read my blog before know that I take any holiday I can.  I mean, how could I possibly write on Presidents' Day?

Is this book dull?  Is this book dull?  Is this book dull?