Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Rolling, rolling, rolling...

Just a couple of tidbits from my day.

First, on the way home from school, my son asked me if we could go and feed the ducks dead fish.

Dead fish?

Whatever happened to bread?

Second, a few minutes later, I saw a bumper sticker that read "I love my Chevy truck and I love my wife." And I found that I had a few questions about that. Specifically:

1) Why would anyone put that on a bumper sticker?
2) Why would anyone buy said bumper sticker?
3) Why would anyone put said bumper sticker on their vehicle? and
4) If I was his wife, I'd be a little worried about my position on the list. I mean, maybe it's just me, but if the garage was on fire my husband had to choose, I'd like to think the response would be something other than "Hold on a moment, honey, just gotta back the truck out."

But that's just me.

On the writing front, I hit 3,100 words today, which I'm thrilled with. (I decided, just for fun, to see if I could up the production to 1500 per day, and so far it's working out.) It's a pleasure to be immersed in a story again. I'm remembering a few things about steady production, mainly that when I get out of the way, the story kind of tells itself. All I have to do is sit there and be patient. Which is tremendously comforting.

Oh -- and I got one more bit of news -- apparently I'm the Barnes and Noble Austin author of the month for March. I was so flattered! I am definitely bringing donuts to the pre-author-of-the-month meeting.

I'm off to saute some fish now -- and no, it's not for the ducks.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Dead and Berried on a second printing... already?

Well, I'm on word 555 of the new book when I get an e-mail telling me that Dead and Berried is already in its second printing. Holy smoke. Its official release date isn't even until February!

Of course, the temptation is to go and write a third immediately, but am wisely resisting. Will perhaps increase daily word count, but think is bad idea -- though tempting -- to write two books concurrently. Risk of forgetting that innkeeping character is not werewolf, and therefore should not drink poisonous wolfsbane tea on hourly basis. Hmmm... potential plot point? Islander poisoned by faux mint tea? Werewolves scare off weekend wedding party?

Anyway, must rechain self to word processor. Will post final word count for the day later.


P.S. (two hours later) Topped out at 1,582. Only 78,418 to go!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Write a novel with me! (And why Lawrence Block is my hero)

So this morning, for about the hundredth time since I started this whole writing thing, I found myself picking up one of Lawrence Block's books for inspiration. Not one of his gazillion mysteries, although I find those riveting and inspirational as well. No, I picked up one of his writing books, of which, thankfully, there are several. Today it was Writing the Novel.

What amazes me about Lawrence Block is that every time I pick up one of his books on writing, I find something helpful. Maybe it's hearing that even LB, who has written more great books than just about anybody, has the same trials and tribulations as the rest of us. Maybe it's his honesty, or his fabulous, no-nonsense advice. Whatever it is, it sure puts things in perspective. And even better? When I put one of his books down, I invariably find myself at the word processor, starting work on another project -- or picking up where I left off two weeks ago. (Sometimes longer.)

As of this morning, I had about a gazillion ideas competing for space in my head. Should I try writing two books at once, I wondered? Which idea was stronger? Should I try something different? Should I take up ballroom dancing instead, and save myself all the mental agony of trying to figure out what to write?

I picked up my well-thumbed copy of Writing the Novel and dove in, and as always, found exactly what I needed. Hope, for one. A breath of sanity. And a revived sense of focus.

Then I put the book down and got to work.

Now, five hours and fifteen single-spaced pages of brainstorming later, I have outlined the first twenty chapters of the next Wolf book. And I am starting work on it tomorrow, with a proposed finish date of between May 19 and June 16 (I always do an over-under).

I'm sure the story will change as I go, and I still have to outline the last ten chapters, but for the first time in six weeks, I have a strong sense of direction. Which my husband will be very happy to hear; I think I'm a bit hard to live with when I'm between books!

I'll be posting about the progress of the book as it goes -- and that includes word counts and roadblocks. Although I'm sure they'll just be teeny-tiny speedbumps. Right?

If any of you budding -- or more experienced -- novelists would like to join me, please do; you can post word counts, problems, or whatever you happen to be dealing with. Feel free to put your targets down, too -- sometimes accountability helps. Whether you're 3/4 of the way through or just starting out, feel free to share what's going on in your own novel. I'd love to hear about your process!

My goal is 6/16 at the outside, which is approximately 6 months from start to finish. (I'm shooting for an 80K book.)

Let the rollercoaster ride begin!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Book Addiction

I don't know about you, but I have a book obsession. I love them. I devour them. My house is home to stacks of them, which I am perpetually trying to relocate to new homes. Ostensibly to keep the bookshelves from splitting at the seams, but in truth: so I can buy more.

You see, if you send me into a bookstore with my wallet, I cannot help but come out with a stack of new ones -- a few shiny, fresh-looking paperbacks, with titles in bright spring colors, a selection of thick ones with curlicue letters and covers like old parchment -- maybe even a hardcover or two.

It's an addiction.

Fortunately, I live two blocks from a library, and a friend of mine often teases me that I'm the satellite branch -- the Karen MacInerney annex. They tell you on the bottom of the receipt these days how much money you've saved this year. In 2006, I saved almost 8,000 dollars by going to the library. I shudder to think how much I spent at the bookstore.

The problem is, I often hit my book limit -- it's 50 per family -- and have to cajole my kids to let me take a few of theirs back. So I can get more books... for them, of course. Yeah, right. And the whole cajoling process is becoming increasingly challenging, which is yet another reason not to have a third kid. I'd have to split my library privileges further.

Even now, after I've read Ian his three books (Strega Nona, an Arthur book, and one of Cynthia Rylant's great Henry and Mudge books) and snuggled with Abby while she read Half Magic, any effort to turn off the hall light results in an outcry from both children. Why? Because they're reading, of course. So at least something good has come from my little obsession -- other than homes for several billion dust mites, that is.

I'm guessing a lot of you are with me here, but when I was young, I remember reading late at night by the hall light, by the closet light, by a flashlight I snuck into bed with me. Any source of light I could find; I'd have used fireflies if that was all I could get my hands on. I read in the car. I read at the dinner table. I finished a good chunk of Anne McCaffrey's wonderful Dragonrider series during geometry class. (It was a big class, and the teacher's style was less than riveting.) I read compulsively, really. And even now, my night table has about 35 books on it (a rough, and potentially low, estimate).

What's interesting, though, is that my tastes keep changing. A few years ago, I devoured mysteries. These days? Not so much. My current interests are medieval Europe, simplifying and decluttering (including book relocation tactics), historical fiction, and whatever jumps out at me from the shelves -- right now I'm reading a biography of Wodehouse. (I'm also back on an armchair travel binge, which is not unusual.) I even read a little fantasy recently, which I haven't done in years, and discovered that Robin Hobb is a delightful author.

See, that's the thing about books. There are worlds and people hidden between those covers, just begging for you to join them. Today medieval Germany, tomorrow modern-day Afghanistan, Saturday a jaunt to Paris' Left Bank.

Speaking of Paris' Left Bank, I picked up a book by almost that very name the other day, and I may just have to give it a whirl. If I don't finish rereading Helen Fielding's marvelous Bridget Jones sequel first... (Last night she had me spluttering tea all over my night shirt.)

Happy writing -- and reading, everyone. And I hope your weather is as marvelous as ours was today -- I'd almost forgotten what the sun looks like!


Monday, January 22, 2007

Dead and Berried is on the shelves!

So it's finally official; Dead and Berried is shipping!

I got my copies a few days ago; they're a bit thicker than the last installment, and just looking at that strata recipe makes me hungry. Yum. I'm setting up signings, and will post them as soon as they're set up.

I also got the word that publication of my first werewolf installment will not be until next spring, which is actually a blessing. Two books a year is enough already! (Beads of Doubt will be out in June; it's already up on Amazon.)

Right now, I'm plotting my next book in the werewolf series and cozying up with Jan Karon's Mitford books -- again. They're perfect for a cold afternoon with a cup of coffee and an armchair. And it has been cold here -- colder than usual, topping out in the 40s today. I had to force myself to get out and go for a walk, but it was worth it. There's something about the sun on a cold day; it's so bright and clear, and feels wonderful when the wind dies down enough for it to warm you up a bit.

And things here are not all bleak, even though it's winter. The narcissus in the front yard survived the ice -- I clipped one last week, a little pale yellow jonquil whose orange-spring scent filled the bedroom. I'm tempted to clip another; I think I'll enjoy them more inside than outside. I've also got some paperwhite bulbs I'm forcing on the kitchen windowsill, and the first one is about to bloom. I love their fresh scent -- springtime in January!

Now that the ice is gone, the kids, fortunately, are back in school. I just found out today, though, that Ian, my younger kiddo, will be released at noon all week long. Ack! I'm beginning to wonder if they will ever go back to school full time. And before I know it, it will be summer vacation... (We're going to Alaska this year in lieu of Maine. I'll miss the lobster, but am excited to see glaciers.)

I'm off to make a cup of tea and settle back down with Father Tim of Mitford. After I read Strega Nona to Ian, of course. And maybe hear an Uncle Wiggily story from Abby. I used to love Uncle Wiggily, along with Mrs. Goose; I'm thrilled that my daughter loves them, too. Maybe she'll share my fascination with Nancy Drew, too, someday!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Great Monkey Bread Debacle

Days kids home due to semi-inclement weather: 5
Dove chocolates consumed: 85 (approx.)
Monkey bread snarfed down: 1 gigantic loaf (minus three chunks for my children and husband)
Words written: 3,000 (hooray!)

As you can probably tell, I have (a) been stuck inside for several days with two active children and a pantry full of highly caloric foods and (b) been rereading Bridget Jones' Diary, which always makes me snarf coffee (or monkey bread, or Dove chocolates). Oddly enough, my jeans aren't fitting quite as well as they did last week...

Ah, well. On the plus side, I have been sneaking some writing in. On Tuesday, I set the alarm early and got up and parked on the couch next to my desk chair (which was occupied by my working-at-home-architect husband). And wrote.

About an hour later, I stretched, got up, and said, "Well, I'm done."

He looked at me from my desk and said, incredulously, "What? You just sat down!"

I told him it was a good day (which it was), but for the last three days he's been snorting and joking about what he calls my 'incredibly taxing work schedule.'

I, of course, responded that creative work takes time. And how can I help being efficient? To which he snorted again.

He does have a point, though. I could probably squeeze in a few more hours of writing a week. Heck, I could probably squeeze in a few more each day. But I'm superstitious about it somehow. You know what they say: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I've met a lot of writers who write up to 20 pages a day. I'm thinking I might up my 1000-word-per-day quota to like 1500 or something, which would take me from about 4 pages to 6. And would probably take me 2-3 hours instead of 1-2 hours, which is hardly a grueling schedule. (Of course, that doesn't count thinking, blogging, e-mailing and other writing-related tasks.)

Think of how many books I'd be able to write then!

At any rate, I hope your weeks are going great... now that kids are back in school, things are improving at the MacInerney household. (Although there are still two bits of monkey bread left, and a half-dozen chocolates... for now, anyway. Oh, and did I mention the yummy hot buttered rum recipe I discovered? I call it "Mother's Little Snow Day Helper.")

See you Monday, and have a great weekend!

Monday, January 15, 2007


Well, it's chilly here in Texas, amazingly: chilly enough that there are actually icicles outside! The top floor of the playscape is glazed with ice, and my kids -- who will be home and bored for the foreseeable future -- came in asking for ice skates. I ix-nayed that idea in a hurry. Can you say emergency room visit?

We don't have skates, of course, since we live in the subtropics, but then Abby started lobbying to create some out of blocks of wood and string. Which she would presumably attach to her flip-flops for a semi-aerial skating session. Needless to say, this plan did not get parental backing.

The streets are still wet, not icy, but the temperature is hovering around freezing, so all of Austin is shut down. And the forecasts keep mentioning that tantalizing four-letter word: SNOW. We're hoping, hoping, hoping... there's something magical about it, particularly if you never get it. Everything looks so different frosted in white! Even if it does melt by ten o'clock.

So we've walked the neighborhood twice now, crunching on frozen grass and touching the iciclets that have sprouted on trees and bushes. (Ian loves eating them, and I had to draw a firm line on consuming ice culled from trash can lids.) We've made two batches of hot chocolate already, and I think I'm going to make something called Cozy Cheese Strata for dinner. Yum.

I hope you are all snuggled in at your houses with big, fat, cozy books. I just finished What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller. I saw the movie last week, and was interested to see how the writer told the tale on the pages. Interestingly, the two were quite different in how they unfolded, but both were intriguing in their own way. So perhaps there never is one 'right' ending to a story. Which is liberating, don't you think?

I'm off to bake a strata now. Hope your evening is filled with fires (the fireplace kind), mugs of hot drinks, and good books.

See you Thursday!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

One down... two (and hopefully many more) to go.

So I turned in the manuscript for Diary of an Urban Werewolf today (let's just call it that for now), and it feels great! I'm taking next week to catch up with all the people I haven't seen in six months; then it's on to book two.

Woo hoo!

On a completely unrelated note, there's been a lot of synchronicity in my life these last two days. We have a rather derelict pond in our front walkway area, and I contacted a local pond company to come by and give us a bid on resurfacing it. Well, the owner, Janet, swung by yesterday, looked at me, and said, "You finished Barbara's book."

I was stunned. Of course I said that yes I had, and how the heck did she know Barbara? Well, it turns out that she and Barbara Burnett Smith were in a writing group together with Marsha Moyer (another fabulous author). So we talked for a while -- Janet is finishing up a private eye book -- and now today, after finishing my edits and strolling into the bookstore to see the display of my mother-in-law's new book (more on that soon), who should I run into? Why, Marsha Moyer, who was talking with our local Barnes and Noble CRM, Jo Virgil. (Coincidentally, it was Jo's brother who took my most recent author photo -- I had no idea they were related at the time.)

Can you say two degrees of separation?

Austin may be a big town, but the writing community is positively miniscule. Which makes it fun; you never know who you'll run into!

So like I said, tomorrow I'm off to the movies. Next week I'll have coffee with all the people I haven't seen in several months. And then it's back to the keyboard... which I'm looking forward to tremendously. All this housecleaning has given me a ton of new ideas! (And not one of them has anything to do with a vacuum cleaner.)

Oh, and I got the first copies of Dead and Berried yesterday; Midnight Ink did a fabulous job, as always. I'll be setting up signings for that soon; my designer Thea will be updating the web site soon, so stay tuned, and I'll be back Monday!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Revising my take on editing

So, my Wolf manuscript (What do you think of the title Diary of an Urban Werewolf?) is due January 15, and now that the kids are back in school, I'm editing.

Now, usually I don't like editing much; for me, the joy is in creating the story. Which is a joy, by the way. I love it when stories just flow out of the keyboard.

But as I go through the manuscript, I find myself smiling at the areas I did well -- and finding lots of opportunities to punch things up a bit. And I'm getting lost in the story, just like I do when I'm writing new scenes.

In other words, I'm having fun!

And when else are you going to catch all of your little snafus -- like calling Clinton of What Not to Wear Carson? Or changing a character's name halfway through the manuscript? Or discovering that half of your characters' names start with 'S'? (I usually have one letter I favor per book; last time it was 'M'.)

I usually mark all of my 'unknowns' with a triple-X, which makes for some interesting reading. And some interesting -- not to mention creative -- editing. Take, for example, this little excerpt, which I ran across a few minutes ago:

“What’s XXX for?” Lindsey asked.
“And this guy wanted a spell to XXX.” I looked at my mother. “And you agreed to do it?”
She shrugged. “What’s the harm?”
“Unless you’re the XXX,” I muttered.

Do I have any idea what any of those XXXs are? Nope. I hope I know soon. Like by Friday, because that's when I have to send it off.

So editing does have its place, particularly when you have a manuscript liberally peppered with Xs. As I usually do -- if I stop to look something up midstream, I usually lose the flow, so I just save it for later. In this case, much, much later.

Thank goodness for deadlines. And schedules. Or I'd never go back and solve the problem of the XXXs.

Speaking of schedules, many of you have probably noticed my presence here has been a bit scarce lately. Due to time constraints, I've been (a) writing (b) doing dull things like dishes and laundry and (c) posting primarily to the Cozy Chicks blog, which I encourage you to check out. But I have recently established a new schedule; I'll be posting here Mondays and Thursdays, with a second post on the Cozy Chicks on Thursdays.

For now, though, it's back to the editing board... I'll be back Thursday!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Taking stock

Well, 2007 is here. Time for a fresh start!

My house is clean for the first time in months, my laundry is (mostly) done, I sent off the final corrections for BEADS OF DOUBT, and I'm on the final revisions for the first Sophie Garou book. Whose title, hopefully, will be established shortly.


I've been thinking a lot about writing lately. The last year has been wonderful, yet chaotic. MURDER came out, I got a great contract from Ballantine, and I've got a few other projects on the back burner. Plus two kids and a house to keep up with. Which has left me a bit scattered.

I've been thinking recently about the need to find our centers and write what's meaningful to us, even though these days marketability is a big, big thing. (JB Stanley just did a nice post on that on the Cozy Chicks blog.) Promotion and marketability are obviously very important. Still, I think the stories that move me the most are the ones that are told from the heart.

I've been reading far and wide recently, feeling for story ideas that speak to me -- and some interesting ones have certainly popped up, often when I'm out for a walk or driving to the grocery store. It's interesting. Creativity sometimes feels like a river that flows deep within us. We dip into it when we're working, but even though we know it's there, it's sometimes hard to find -- and for me, anyway, it needs a good rainfall to fill up from time to time. (I live in Texas, where rain is a sometimes scarce blessing, in case you were wondering.)

Maybe I should call it the Creativity Aquifer, and mine has needed some refilling.

With writing these days, promotion is a huge part of it, and I enjoy going out and meeting people and doing signings and being on the road. It feeds my spirit in a way. But sometimes I need quiet, too -- little gentle rains, without all the exciting weather. So this year I'll be trying to find that elusive balance -- which will be tough, since I have three books due out.

But if Susan Wittig Albert can do it, so can I, right?

(And once again, any and all babysitting offers will happily be considered.)

Hope your 2007 is off to a great start, and that all your projects are doing well!