Friday, December 30, 2005

Mission accomplished.

Well, thanks to my dear husband, I finished Dead and Berried the day before yesterday. Four thousand words in one sitting... but boy, did it feel good! The ending came out even better than I hoped; now all I have to do is read it through and pass it on to my agent. (And start cooking, of course; time to do the fun stuff -- refining recipes!)

So, now what?

Well, first of all I start planning out my next projects (I have three already in mind, but we'll see which one is first through the chute) and focusing on the launch for Murder on the Rocks. And doing all the laundry that's piled up over the frenzy of the last few weeks. And finding room for all the new Xmas presents in my not-so-big house. And excavating the refrigerator. Ah, the glamor of the writing life...

As I was tossing and turning and getting up and jotting ideas down last night, I was thinking that the between-book time is weird one. Carole Nelson Douglas says that writing a book is like pushing a raft out onto the rapids and go, go, going until you hit the end. And it is -- exhilirating, scary, fraught with perils (snags and big ol' rocks) -- but a wild, wonderful ride nonetheless. And when you get off, you miss it, and the impulse is to start back up again immediately. But you have to be careful to pick the right place to get back on, because once you start something, if you're like me, you've got to see it through to the end. Kind of like a marriage, come to think of it. ;)

So now I'm on the banks, sipping a Pina Colada, snacking on bon bons, and deciding where to go next. Sometimes, when you have no idea what to write as a follow-up, it's a panicky moment. I've done that before, and I don't like it one bit; so this time, I started grooming my ideas months in advance. Which helped a lot. Although I am experiencing a bit of what Lawrence Block calls the post-partum book blues, they're not as bad as they have been, since I've got new ideas that I'm ready to push out onto the rapids. The question is, will they be the same kind of raft?

Stay tuned, and keep writing...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Well, everything's wound down, except for the last frenzy of wrapping, the tearing of paper, and the eating. Don't forget the eating. Tonight we had friends and family over for cheese fondue, a chocolate fountain, and three bottles of Prosecco... the way I see it, there's plenty of time to eat celery sticks after Jan. 1!

Anyway, despite the warm weather, our Christmas Eve has been magical -- with a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old, the air here has been swirling with anticipation and excitement. Our house is so lit up Santa will be able to see it from space, and the kids are tossing and turning in their beds! I hope your holidays are wonderful, and if you have snow, make a little snowman for me! (Then snap a picture and send it to me so I can show my kids what a snowman looks like!;))

Happiest of Holidays!


Thursday, December 22, 2005

As promised... a few words on figuring out what to write...

I promised a few weeks back that I would talk a bit more about narrowing down the fictional field. Since I've been doing that very thing recently, I thought I'd tackle it today.

A lot of writers know they want to be writers -- they just can't figure out exactly what it is they want to write. (I know -- I spent 15 years in that particular rut.) If you fit this description, then maybe I can help.

Have you ever read a book, put it down and said "I could do that!"? If so, then that may be your starting point. My epiphany came while I was reading a cozy mystery. Since I had read and loved scores of that kind of book and pretty much knew what constituted a good cozy, I decided that would be what I would write.

After a lot of dreaming and thinking, I came up with my character (Natalie), a scenario (the Gray Whale Inn in Maine), and a potential murder victim (odious developer -- although there were other candidates). Then I took a few of the cream of the crop cozies and used them as reference tools as I started writing. How did they open? How many characters were there? How were the scenes structured? How did information come out? How were the characters interconnected? I didn't ask all these questions at once, but I did refer to the book again and again in the course of the writing, as questions came up. (It is important to read a lot of books of the kind you want to take on before beginning -- it helps you 'internalize' the way that kind of book works.) You'll also want to check the word counts -- 65-90K words is a normal count for mysteries, and for the ones I was reading, 75-80K seemed to be the range. I shot for 75K, and that's what I got.

And one more thing... when you're creating your world, make sure your main character has lots of conflict outside of the main plot line. This can help flesh out that yawning gap between chapters 3 and 23 -- and if you can weave the smaller conflicts (I call them subplots) back into the main plot, it makes for a more satisfying read! If you're not sure how to structure your novel, you might want to take a book apart -- figure out what happens in each chapter, in fifty words or less -- as you start organizing your own.

So if you're thinking of being a writer but can't figure what to write, I challenge you to make a New Year's resolution... pick something and go for it! (And don't think you have to create the Great American Novel the first time out, a trap that's easy to fall into. But more on that later.) After all, if you write a page a day, you'll be done by next New Year's!

Hope your holidays are wonderful... and keep writing!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ho, ho, ho.

Well, the last week is over, and I have survived.

So much for the non-infectious bug wish. My husband is just pulling through the tail end of one of the nastiest stomach bugs I've ever seen (I had it Friday and both the kids had it earlier in the week), we've had twelve parties (give or take a few) since last Saturday, I have written maybe six sentences total, and at least one of my children is on antibiotics. The floor of my living room? Treacherous. The floor of the minivan? Downnright frightening. In fact, I don't remember the last time I actually saw it.

On the plus side, I think I got most of the Xmas gifts ordered in time. And I am in the 74-75K range on Dead and Berried (if you read my jolly little Dec. 5 entry touting 1K words a day, don't bother doing the math.;))

Now we just have Xmas vacation to get through. If I get up at 6 a.m. and sneak to my computer every day, I can finish by New Year's. Which is my new goal. New year, new book. So while I'm baking up those turtle cookies (I did, by the way, and promised you the recipe, so I'll go pull it out now), I'm dreaming, dreaming, dreaming... who knows what will be next?

Anyway, hope you're all having happy holidays, and those of you with children, I empathize completely. I know Xmas morning will make it all worth it though. Right?

And as promised, the famous Butter Pecan Turtle Cookie Recipe. (I found this in a Dallas Morning News recipe section I picked up in an Austin Starbucks a few years ago; it's by Carol McCallion of Farmers Branch. Carol, thanks for bringing more butter and chocolate into my life.)

Butter Pecan Turtle Cookies

2 c all-purpose flour
1 3/4 c firmly packed brown sugar (divided use)
1 1/2 c butter, softened (divided use)
1 c whole pecan halves
12 oz milk chocolate chips

(With a list of ingredients like that, how can you possibly go wrong? Anyway...)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, 1 c firmly packed brown sugar and 1/2 c butter in a mixer bowl; mix at medium until well mixed and crumbs are fine, about 3 minutes. Pat firmly into a greased 9X13 inch pan. Press pecans lightly into unbaked crust.

In a heavy saucepan, combine 1 c butter and 3/4 c firmly packed brown sugar. Cook over medium, stirring constantly, until entire surface begins to boil. Boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Pour caramel mixture over crust. Bake 18-22 minutes or until caramel layer is bubbly and crust is light golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chips. Allow chips to melt slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Swirl them slightly as they melt; leave some chunky if desired. Cool completely, cut into bars, and pour yourself a big glass of milk; you'll want it! (Makes 24 bars unless you cut them small like I do, in which case you can get maybe 36 bars.)

More updates soon... and if you've got a holiday recipe favorite of your own, bring it on! My oven awaits...

Blog Tag!

Well, since fellow Midnight Ink author CANDY CALVERT was sweet enough to tag me, I'm going to tag her back... she's a hysterical mystery writer whose first book, Dressed to Keel, is coming out from Midnight Ink in May... if you like cruises and love a great sense of humor, check out Candy's blog. (She's also got a great web site.

And also KIT FRAZIER (another Midnight Ink author); her first mystery, Scoop, will be out in 2006 from Midnight Ink... her blog is called the Road to Publication, with lots of good and juicy tidbits... check her blog, The Road to Publication. And who else am I going to tag? Why...

SARA ROSETT, author of the soon-to-be-released Mom Zone Mysteries. Check out her fun -- and very active -- blog, or to find out more about the first Mom Zone Mystery, Moving is Murder, go to Sara's web site.

And now for fifteen random things about me and my book...

1) I like chocolate.
2) I like writing about chocolate.
3) I often eat chocolate when I write.
(break for trip to kitchen here)
4) Although I love writing mysteries, I don't read them as much these days... I guess it's because I'm always trying to analyze them!
5) Despite the fact that I love mysteries, Tolkien is my favorite author... I admire the way he created a whole universe.
6) Diane Mott Davidson is my favorite mystery author; her character, Goldy, is so real I want to invite her to coffee someday! (And enjoy some of her recipes... particularly if she bakes them instead of me.)
7) I love writing about Maine... I can escape there just by flipping open my computer.
8) Although I live in Texas, I'm really a Yankee. :)
9) I almost went back to school to become an ecologist. That's why Natalie (of the Gray Whale Inn) used to work for the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife before she threw it all up to become an innkeeper.
10) My first rule of writing? When you have an hour to yourself (or five, if you're really, really lucky, DO NOT DO HOUSEWORK.) I guess this explains my living room.
11) I almost never write at home -- instead, I go to a particular coffee shop near my house (which is attached to a great bookstore).
12) Although I am unable to keep my own house (with four people living in it) neat, I've often fantasized about moving to Maine and... you guessed it... opening a B&B.
13) I believe that the secret to writing is to continue to write. And read.
14) I have no idea what my next project will be. And I'm excited about that!
15) I'm currently re-reading Taltos by Anne Rice.
16) (bonus) I'm off to bed now!

Sweet dreams!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Book: 1 Children: 0

Scoreboard for the day (so far)...

Words written: 1650
Miles run (sort of): 3
Newsletters written: 1
Hours children ignored: 2.5
Pounds chocolate consumed: 0.75 and counting (it's still early)

Ah, December. I haven't sent Christmas cards in six years now, I'm way behind on Christmas shopping, I've committed to baking six dozen cookies for two school functions, I need to send out invitations for my son's birthday party by Wednesday, and I missed my 'lunch duty' at my daughter's school last week... but I hit the 70K mark on Dead and Berried, and the end is in sight! (With my 1000 word a day formula, I'm hoping for next Friday... keep fingers crossed that all vomiting and otherwise infectious agents avoid my threshold for at least 12 days). Why next Friday, you ask? Because my kids are out of school for THREE WEEKS.

That's right. Twenty-one days.

So, dinner chez MacInerney is meatloaf tonight. Mmmm. BUT I do have a fabulous caramel turtle cookie recipe that I will be making in bulk soon... I'll share it here once I pull it out of the recipe file!

Happy Holidays. Time to break out the eggnog (and rum)!