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


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?