Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I am not in a coma. And my post office peeve.

Well, I hit 20K today, which is about 25%, and I just had a glass of wine to celebrate. It was Gruener Veltliner, incidentally, not the Riesling with undertones of turpentine and a strong plastic finish I tried to drink the other night. And it was quite nice with the lemon pepper salmon.

But word counts aside, I'm not exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. In fact, I am almost embarrassed to admit that I fell asleep sprawled across a metal mesh picnic table at Abby's school. I have no idea how many people saw me drooling, but I shudder to think. (Ian's been waking up in the middle of the night the last few nights, reminding me -- as if I needed a reminder -- of why I am happy with two, and only two, kids.) In fact, if it hadn't started sprinkling, I'm pretty sure I'd still be in a semi-coma at the school playground, with the kids seeing how much pea gravel they could fit into my ears before I woke up.

But with the help of the rain and a few shoves from Abby, I did manage to pry myself up (I still have mesh marks on my left cheek). And this evening, while I was frying up a flank steak and a couple of salmon filets -- it was another what-fell-out-of-the-freezer night chez MacInerney -- Maggie Sefton called, which was an unexpected delight. Truth be told, I forgot to call her this morning, due to my sleep-deprivation-induced haze. But she forgave me, and told me about her great trip to New York, meeting all the bigwigs and impressing the socks off them. Her books are selling like hotcakes. I'm so happy for her; she's worked so hard for so long, and it's wonderful to see good things coming her way.

And something about that last paragraph made me think of another thing I wanted to talk about. Why, I don't know, but since I spent a good forty-five minutes waiting in line (with mesh prints on my face and two bored and active children hanging from me like ripe fruit), I guess it's still a bit fresh in my mind.

Traditionally, there is a long wait at post offices. Like, twenty to twenty-five minutes at the least, if you go to the one I go to. What I want to know is, would it be too much to ask that one use this time for things like, say, selecting the envelope one would like to use for one's correspondence? Or, perhaps, writing the address of the intended recipient on said envelope? Or maybe even investigating the certified/return receipt requested options before approaching the desk with six piles of paper whose intended destinations include Tasmania, Hong Kong and East Burlington, Timbuktu?

Ah, well. Next time, I'll just bring a paperback -- and about forty lollipops for my kids. They can stick the half-eaten ones to the bottoms of the people with stacks of certified mail for Tasmania, who are on their cell phones trying to make sure they've got the right zip code.

I'm off to make sure my son doesn't drown himself in the tub.

How was your day?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

You know you're a mystery writer when...

Sorry to be blogging so late, but tonight was my critique group, and I just got home; they liked my chapter, thank goodness, and I liked theirs. (I'll tell you more about my writing buddies soon; they're interesting people with interesting stories.)

Today was a better day on the work front; I got in 1600 words -- hooray! Because I'm time-impaired, I also spent a good portion of the day thinking it was Wednesday, and that I only had two days left to catch up on yesterday's shortfall. Imagine how delighted I was at 4:00 when I realized it was still Tuesday!

Perhaps I should pay more attention to the calendar.

And what a Tuesday it was... after writing, I met with Melissa (you've seen her comments here before, and here's a photo I took of her at Lou Neff Point) for lunch at Schlotzky's and a walk on Town Lake. (She even showed me her son's short film, Diss the Miss -- what a treat!)

I met Melissa last year at a signing; she brought a plate of the most wonderful rhubarb muffins, which I'm going to ask her to give me the recipe for so that I can post it. Today, while we were walking, Melissa told me she'd spent the Christmas holidays in Connecticut, with lots of snow. Here's a snippet of the conversation:

Melissa: Anyway, I told everyone else I was hiking with to go ahead of me. So there I was, all by myself, and it was just gorgeous, with the evergreens, and the snow... a perfect day.

Karen: It sounds just beautiful.

Melissa: And I'm walking along there, thinking to myself, This is just like a scene out of a book. Only, if this was a novel, I'd turn the corner and find...

Karen: A dead body.

Melissa: (looking at me strangely) A dead body? Actually, no. I was thinking of a handsome man.

Karen: (chuckling uncomfortably) Of course. That would be great, too! Ha, ha, ha. A dead body. What was I thinking? Oh, look -- there's a woodpecker!

Despite my murderous inclinations, Melissa did agree to have lunch with me again -- and bake another recipe for my March 24 signing in Round Rock. So all's well, that ends well. Except for the dead guy in the snow.

Now I've told you about my day... how was yours?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Not the most productive day

Well, so far today I'm topping at around 500 words, which really wasn't where I wanted to be... BUT I did get to eat donuts with four wonderful Barnes and Noble Community Relations Managers, so that was a good thing. (Gosh, I'm starting to sound like Martha.)

Then I did some press release stuff. And ate lunch. And only then did I drag my sorry derriere to the coffee house to write for about 45 minutes before going for a walk. (Can't miss that walk!)

But the plum blossoms are blooming! They smell heavenly. I miss the apple blossoms, blowsy and pink, of my childhood... but now at least I have bluebonnets. And plum blossoms, of course. I do like spring blooms, but they are so brief, and when they go it is a chilling (perhaps that's not the word) reminder of the brutal summer to come...

I'll check in later. Hope everybody's day was more productive than mine.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Karen's handy wine tips

I know what you're thinking. Shouldn't Michele Scott be the one talking about wine? But believe it or not, every once in a while I do crack open a bottle... and even less frequently, I manage to open one that doesn't smell and taste like skunk-flavored vinegar. So here, for your edification, are two handy tips I've gleaned from my wine experiences of the past 24 hours:

Tip one: If you are invited to a church getting-to-know-you dinner, make sure you have something other than Il Bastardo or Menage a Trois on hand to take with you. (I didn't, and went for the Menage a Trois. Eric kept trying to pass it off as "Trinity" wine, but I don't think they bought it.)

Tip two: If you're in Sam's Club looking for a Riesling, and one of the people in blue smocks recommends a bottle with a screw top that's "a special offer" for $4.88, do not be tempted. I repeat. Do not be tempted.

I would type more, but I need to go wash my mouth out with bleach.

Oh, and word count? Zip. Zero. Nada. Zilch. The big fat O.

But tomorrow is another day...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The news

First, I did write about 900 words this morning (I thought it was less, but my word count meter was acting up, so that was a pleasant surprise).

And much more importantly, I got word two days ago that Murder on the Rocks was nominated for an Agatha Award for best first novel.

I am blown away.

Three-and-a-half years ago I sat on the futon on my office, screwed up my courage, and wrote the first few paragraphs of a mystery novel. I figured it would probably never see anything but the bottom desk drawer, but I decided to give it my best shot and write the book I'd always wanted to read.

And now, almost four years later, not only is that book (and its sequel) on the shelves, but it's been nominated for an Agatha.

I guess some dreams really do come true.

I hope to see everyone at Malice this spring. Wild horses couldn't keep me away. :)

May all your weekends are wonderful -- mine is shaping up pretty darned fantastically so far -- and thank you so much to everyone who put in a vote for Natalie and the Gray Whale Inn.

I'm honored beyond belief. And stunned. Did I mention stunned?

Off to go and pinch myself again...


Friday, February 23, 2007

Everything but what I really want to say

Well, I haven't written a single word yet today, which is ridiculous, but I hope to amend that in the next few minutes.

For now, though, I'll share with you a few notable events/discoveries of the past 24 hours:

1) Somewhere in Austin there exists a woman with the words VEGAN POWER tattooed on her shins. In red. In 1.5-inch type. (I saw her on the trail yesterday. Presumably she paid to have this done. Why? Why? Why?)

2) Tucked in my freezer, right between the niblets and the parkerhouse rolls, is a Tupperware bowl full of rubber bands. Why, you ask, are there rubber bands in my freezer? It was a mystery to me, too. But the answer, according to my five-year-old son, is that putting rubber bands in the freezer prevents premature spoilage. Who knew?

3) I got a phone call yesterday with some news I'm dying to share, but can't. Yet. But will as soon as I can. Like, the moment I get the green light.

Okay. Back to the werewolves. Which reminds me: what is it that Martha Stewart says? "It's a good thing?" I need to know, but have no TV.

Ciao for now,

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Back in the saddle

Well, I got back to Wolf 2 today (maybe I'll call it On the Prowl), and despite a slow start this morning, I am happy to report that I am at 15,064 words, which I think is an increase of around 1,900 words. I kind of lost track of the count somewhere. At this rate, if my kids didn't get sick and spring break wasn't hovering around the corner, I could have this book done in about a month! Of course, that won't happen, but it's fun to think about.

I'm going to keep this brief, because (a) it's my Cozy Chicks day and (b) I just wolfed down (har, har) about a third of a stale King Cake and need to do some kind of exercise if I want to be able to button my jeans, but I am thrilled to be writing again.

Now I just have to come up with a topic for my CC post. Hmmm. Maybe that post I had in mind earlier this week: When Bad Things Happen to Good Characters.

I might just do that...

At any rate, enough about me. How's everyone else? Debra, how's the editing? Laura, how's the writing?

UPDATE: I did post it: you can find it here. Ta for now!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Town Lake on a spring day

Well, today was glorious, I tell you. Just glorious.

After a lovely morning reworking Howling at the Moon (I only increased the word count by 600 or so, but plan to get back to Wolf 2 tomorrow), I put my running shoes on and decided to give myself a treat: a turkey sandwich at the Schlotzky's right next to Town Lake, here in Austin. So for almost an hour, I sat outside with a book of travel essays and a sandwich, the spring sun cascading down and the sweet and elusive smell of pansies all around (they were such a brilliant yellow I had to take a picture). Oh, and only after I ate a chocolate chip cookie did I notice all the people walking around with smudgy foreheads and remember that it's Ash Wednesday and that I had considered giving up chocolate for lent. Or is it Lent? Oh well, there's always next year...

Despite my chocolate faux pas, I then did one of my favorite things; I hit the trail around the lake, drinking in the sunshine. I don't know if you've ever visited Town Lake, but I've probably walked thousands of miles around it over the years; it's almost a sacred place for me. I know where the wild onions grow, and the dewberries -- and of course the poison ivy. (Men never believe me when I tell them they're standing in it. I swear. Women, on the other hand, usually thank me profusely for alerting them. Why is that?)

Anyway, in addition to all that natural beauty, I always find one or two things that are unusual. Today's standouts included a three-year-old boy with what appeared to be a large tattoo on his lower back (and I mean the real thing, not the Daffy Duck kind you get at children's parties). I also saw this dog dish. And the question that leapt to my mind is: was it really necessary to label it?

Despite the warm air (it hit 80 today), though, the flowers were few and far between. Even the clump of paperwhites that grows next to one of my 'thinking benches' is already played out, but the turtles were everywhere, basking in the warmth. I caught a bunch of them piled on a log (they all plopped off when they noticed me.)

A little later, I stopped at Lou Neff Point, another of my favorite spots, which unfortunately lost a lot of its wisteria during recent trail renovations, but is still a lovely shady bower in summer. It's a gorgeous, peaceful place to sit -- the water laps at the pilings, the lesser scaups and coots (the little black duck-like things you may or may not be able to see in the photo) dot the water in winter, and the sycamores and pecans frame the Austin skyline over the lake.

So it was a wonderful afternoon, and as I finished up and headed off to pick up Ian, I was thinking -- as P.G. Wodehouse wrote -- that "God was in his heaven and all was right with the world." Just as I was reflecting that I couldn't think of a more lovely place to be than Austin on this particular afternoon, a woman pushing a stroller passed by me and said to her walking companion, "I really wish I could go to Iowa."



Anyway, I'm hoping to hit the trail again tomorrow; but not before I write another 1500 words on Wolf 2. The edits are done (hallelujah) and I'm back in the saddle again, so Laura, keep those word counts posted!

I hope you all had a lovely day too, wherever you are...


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

oh, for a normal day

Although I like to consider myself a bit of a free spirit, lately I've realized that I'm very much a creature of habit, particularly when it comes to writing. My perfect day is this:

Get up at an ungodly (for me, anyway) hour
Drink coffee, make lunches, drink more coffee, take healthy children to school or drug them so that no one at school will know they're not healthy. (Ha, ha. Just kidding, of course.... would never stoop to such a low level, unless of course there was a major deadline.)
Go to coffee shop, write from 8:30 to 12-ish (or until 1500 words complete -- this includes chatting time, which is evidently an integral part of my morning writing)
Go home, eat lunch, check e-mail, blog, do other household tasks
Exercise from 1:30 - 2:30
Resume parenting duties until bedtime.

The problem happens when I schedule other events in there, or have things like page proofs due. Or children who start projectile vomiting. Like today, in fact! The kids, who were a bit under the weather last night, went to school late; right after dropping them off, I went to a marvelous talk I wouldn't have missed for the world, then gave a talk to my daughter's second grade this afternoon (I got to wear hats from the dress-up box). Then I picked everyone up and finished reviewing the page proofs for Beads of Doubt, which are, in fact, due today. (I just sent them.)

In short, my word count is a big fat zero, and I'm feeling more than a bit discombobulated. If that's the word I want. (I did, however, squeeze in a 20-minute walk.) Now it's time to read chapters for the critique group tonight, which fortunately is pleasurable work. And I can hear the dishwasher calling me...

But tomorrow should be normal.

I hope.

When did I become so set in my ways? And when do you all write?

Monday, February 19, 2007

almost forgot

I almost forgot... the web site is finally updated, thanks to my wonderful designer Thea Eaton!

Cross that one off the list...

(If I made any snafus, please let me know!)

Things to be thankful for

I was considering doing a post called "When bad things happen to good characters" today, but I just got back from the YMCA, where I spent two hours supervising my kids swimming, and something struck me.

As I sat on a rather hard plastic bench admiring my children's cannonballs and semi-handstands, a young man with very limited mobility was wheeled in by a young woman. After a bit of orchestration, she and another woman lifted him from his wheelchair into the water, saying, "Are you ready to move a little bit?"

The look of delight on the young man's face when they lowered him into the water was a marvelous thing.

I sometimes overlook what a great gift it is simply to be able to go to the kitchen and get a glass of water, or fold a load of laundry, or cook dinner. Or step outside and let the wind blow through my hair while I stroll the neighborhood. It's moments like the one I experienced this afternoon that remind me of that.

So as I watched the kids, my attention kept drifting to the young man, cradled in a kind woman's arms, being swirled around the pool, weightless. Moving in ways that are usually denied to him. And I'll tell you, his joy was contagious.

He also -- in his own way -- reminded me of two things: one, we are very, very fortunate just to be here, and can find joy no matter what obstacles life throws our way. And two, little things can really make a difference in others' lives -- as the assistance of the two women today did.

Now, having waxed philosophical for a few minutes, I'm off to do a load of towels -- and spend a few moments being grateful that I can. I'll write the post I had in mind this morning later on this week.

I hope you are all having a wonderful day!

Sunday, February 18, 2007


What a weekend. A mega-grocery shop followed by moving furniture in San Antonio yesterday, a trip to Temple today... and I've just now managed to find my living room floor. As you can imagine, it has not been a particularly word-rich weekend, at least as far as my manuscript is concerned.

Am taking a two minute break while dinner (Scarborough Faire chicken, which smells fabulous and involves -- not surprisingly -- parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) finishes up.

I am going to attempt to get up at 6:45 tomorrow to lock myself in my office and write before the kids get up. But I also have to reread the ms I just edited, to see if I need to do more.

Am also hoping to get to the gym at some point, but since I think the Y is closed (grr) I may be reduced to doing jumping jacks while watching Sex in the City in my TV room. Tomorrow night, when the kids are asleep, of course. I'd get another video, but the library will also be closed. Double grrr.

I was thinking about this; I think I'm unusual for a writer in that I have a bit of an extroverted streak. (Although the pendulum swings to the other end of the spectrum, as well, particularly after a busy, people-intense weekend like the one I've just gone through.) Where do all of you fall on the spectrum?

P.S. For those of you who asked for the book map, I realized just yesterday that it's mystery-centered. It is easy to adapt for other kinds of books, though -- tune in later this week, and I'll tell you how. I'd do it now, but the timer's going off...


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Venice dreams

I do not understand dreams. I just woke up from one in which we lived in a noisy apartment at a huge 410 interchange in San Antonio. And in which we had bought tickets to go to Venice for a week in March, and (incomprehensibly, but that's how dreams are, I guess) forgotten about them.

The only thing I can figure is that we're supposed to help my parents move some furniture to San Antonio today, and I read Candy Calvert's blog entry about crying during an unexpected second honeymoon in Venice.

Dreams are such strange things, aren't they?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Writer's block and hats. (There is a connection. I promise you.)


So I know I started this whole tracking words, etc. thing a couple of weeks ago, and then had to backpedal this week while I went back to juice up a manuscript. (I have written 5,000 words of fiction -- primarily romantic in nature -- this week, in case you were missing the counts. I'm hoping I did what I set out to do, but may have to go back and address it a third time. Fingers crossed that that is not the case.)

Anyway, assuming that my rewrite is in fact done for now, I will be back on track on Monday. Well, Tuesday, really, thanks to President's Day. (Aaargh. Stupid school schedules.) On my new book. Which is languishing at around 13,000 words, and which I was hoping would be at least 20K long by now.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about today.

What I really want to address is the two hats an author wears. Or at least might consider trying to wear if she's feeling stuck. (See, I told you there was a connection!)

I had lunch with a fellow author just a few minutes ago -- she's written mainly SF and fantasy, but got an idea for a mystery recently, and wanted to talk with me about how to go about making it happen. She's got great ideas, as it turns out, with lots of twists and turns and interesting characters -- but when she pulled out the document I'd sent her -- ten blank pages punctuated only by chapter headings -- I remembered suddenly how daunting the whole concept of writing a book can be. Blank page syndrome. Only instead of filling one, you're supposed to fill about 300.

So I told her what I tell anybody who asks, and even occasionally people who don't. (I know I've talked about this before, but if you're a writer who suffers occasional writer's block, it's really important, so bear with me.)

Whenever I come up against the "Oh my God I have no idea what to write" wall -- which happens to all of us -- I step back from what I'm working on and split my writer self into two halves. Or two hats, as the case may be: the planner, and the scene-writer. The planner comes up with the scenes that need to happen -- enough scenes, hopefully, to fill a book. Then she lays them out for the scene-writer, as in "These three things need to happen in chapter one."

The scene-writer, on a given day, looks at the assignment the planner has set for her, sits down, and says, "All I have to do today is get this person from point A to point B and have her car blow up when she leaves the parking lot." Or something (hopefully) equally interesting.

The scene-writer doesn't have to worry about what happens in chapter 24, or even five pages down the line from what she's writing. She just needs to finish her assignment for the day. And if something interesting happens during the writing of that assignment? She pitches it back to the planner, who can incorporate it into the whole plan and adjust future assignments to compensate.

Now, some people are 'pantsters' -- seat-of-the-pants writers. And I am becoming more of one as time goes on. But when I'm feeling stuck, I just go right back to my planner/scene-writer split until things get going again. Because even if I write the worst scene ever written, at least I've got something to work with. If I throw in the towel and go to the movies, I'll have nothing to dissect, and I'll have a stomach-ache from all the Milk Duds I ate to distract myself from the fact that I'm not writing. Or maybe that's just me.

I have a document I use in my classes called a 'book map,' which helps my personal planner put things together. If you're interested in having a copy, feel free to e-mail me ( and I'll forward it to you.

For now, though, I'm off to exercise and then pick up my kiddo. I hope everyone is doing well and has exciting weekend plans. I don't, unfortunately; my planner is limited to scenes lately, alas. But who knows? Maybe someone will whisk me off to Bermuda.

I'll keep you posted...

And by the way, how's YOUR writing going? Was it a good week? A great week? A Milk Dud week? Inquiring minds want to know.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


So it's a measure of how much I like my friend Melanie that when she called this morning to ask if I wanted to go walk, I exchanged my jeans and sweater for sweatpants, a pair of my husband's long underwear (I wish I was kidding) and a ski jacket. Because the wind chill was 22, which is unheard of in Austin. On the plus side, the conversation was refreshingly acerbic -- like I said, I wouldn't brave sub-freezing weather for just anyone -- and it was a delightful, sunny morning. Even if my long underwear did keep falling down.

But as much as I like tromping around the lake with a cold nose, the highlight of the morning came later, when we went to Sweetish Hill cafe for chocolate croissants, strudel, and coffee. Yum. (Perhaps coincidentally, it has not been a particularly productive morning on the book front.)

So we're sitting there, eating highly caloric foods and exchanging parenting horror stories, when I realize that my handy-dandy camera is right there in my pocket and that I have barely used it. So I say, "I should take a picture of you and post it on my blog."
Melanie looks at me and says, "You're kidding me, right?"
But no, I wasn't, and I am so pleased that I actually managed to figure out the camera enough to take a picture AND download it to my computer that here it is. Besides, Melanie is photogenic, and more people should see her. I am sad to report, however, that she made me promise NOT to relate the little incident that happened at a local brew pub. The one that involved the leprechauns and the Goldschlager shots. So in deference to our friendship, I won't. Not today, anyway.

In any case, it seemed appropriate to start the day with strudel, as my topic du jour was going to be food and books. In fact, I still plan to write about that, although I'd much rather write about the leprechauns; but since it's my Cozy Chicks day, I think I'll post it over there later on. In the meantime, here's a picture of the tulip bouquet I found on my kitchen table last night.

Which explains where the bag of petals my daughter gave me as a valentine came from.

Let's hear it for minimalist floral arrangements!

Off to write again... I'll be back on Cozy Chicks this afternoon...


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wikipedia. Who knew?

Just a quick post... remember Leslie the transvestite from one or two posts ago?

I just found out he has his own entry on Wikipedia.

Once again, it boggles the mind.

Okay, back to the werewolves.

People unclear on the concept.

I'm sitting at the Westbank Community Library, which is conveniently located three blocks from my house, and which I fund almost singlehandedly with my library fines, in a procrastinatory mood. (I am launching a campaign to make that a word, by the way.) Maybe it's because of the delicious Mexi-Cobb salad I just ate at Chuy's with my husband. Followed by half his Chuychanga (yum) and part of a margarita. Mmmm...

Anyway, in deference to my mood, instead of writing a sexually charged scene about werewolves, I'm thinking about the Dear Abby column I read this morning.

Today's standout was a letter from "Needs Therapy in Texas" (which, I can assure you, is most definitely the case). "Needs Therapy" has evidently been having a number of disagreements with her lover, and feels couples counseling would help "make the relationship work." The only hitch? Her lover keeps insisting that they see the same marriage counselor that he is currently seeing... WITH HIS WIFE.

Yes, that's right. His WIFE. I can hear the phone conversation now: "Honey, I'll be a few hours late; my mistress and I are going to couples therapy. Don't wait up, because we've also got a hotel room reserved. I'll tell the doctor 'hi' for you. And sorry about the mix-up on those roses I sent... I'll try to get the names right next time."

Mind boggling, I tell you.

At any rate, despite my ruminations on other people's warped relationships, I'm almost two-thirds of the way through my manuscript revision, and hope to have it done this week. Oh -- and in case you were wondering, I did manage to get my camera to work. Which is why I have a new picture. (Which my daughter still insists bears no resemblance to me. Maybe I'll just post a picture of Chewbacca instead.)

Blogwise, going forward, I will be attempting to liven things up with pictures of my own camera. Well, maybe not of my camera, but from my camera. I am not, however, a crack photographer, so consider yourselves warned. (Then again, based on those last few sentences, perhaps I'm not quite a crack writer, either, so bad photography may make no difference whatsoever to overall post quality.)

Anybody got any exciting V-Day plans? So I can live vicariously through you? (The highlight of tonight's planned festivities involves meatloaf. Maybe, if I'm feeling creative, I'll make it heart-shaped and cover it in ketchup.)

Back to the romantic werewolf grindstone...


Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I just got back from my revise-a-thon (which is still in progress); I've made it through the first third of the manuscript and have added about 2,000 words that I'm very, very happy with. And I even got to include Leslie, Austin's transvestite mascot. (He favors thongs, falsies, and a full beard. He can pull it off, though -- he's got terrific legs. I can't wait to see what he's wearing for Valentine's Day!)

Anyway, last night after my bath and cold compresses (see possum incident, below), I opened up Jitterbug Perfume (what a title!), a Tom Robbins tome that I bought yesterday and haven't read in about ten years. (It beat out the haunted castles, the dark fire something or other book, and the stack of travel essays.) And although the dialogue is not quite as sparkling as it seemed in my younger days, the opening is just as remarkable as I remember. Here it is:


"The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious."


Honestly, though. I've never thought of a tomato as frivolous before. Or a beet as serious, come to think of it. So thank you, Tom Robbins, for writing such weird and vegetable-y prose.

I am off now to return e-mails and pay my electric bill. And to exercise.

Ta for now, then... I hope your day is as zesty and interesting as Tom Robbins' crisper drawer!

Monday, February 12, 2007


I just dumped a bowl of broccoli bits, mango peels, and tea bags onto a possum.

Which I figured out when the compost pile looked back at me with beady little eyes.

Will now retire to bath followed by cool compresses to reduce heart rate from high 200s.

My day so far... (and penitential pralines)

So everyone's back at school now. Hooray!

Of course, I celebrated by going to my traditional coffee haunt, where I got my usual (the cheapest thing on the menu -- tall drip) and deposited myself in my favorite brown chair.

And read through the entire Wolf 1 manuscript, marking the areas I want to revise. (My word count today, if there is any, will be on the first manuscript; this week is dedicated to revisions. Unless I need a change of pace.)

Then I wandered next door to rearrange books to my advantage. As I was relocating a small stack of Murder on the Rocks books from a table in the back to the mystery bookshelf, I came across a woman reading the back of Dead and Berried. And of course, I said, delightedly, "That's my book!"

She was more than a little bit startled, and I think prepared to point out that there were six copies on the shelf, and that I was welcome to any one of them. I hurried to explain that the book didn't actually belong to me, it's just that I wrote it. As it turned out, her name was Amelia, and she was very nice. It all ended with me signing a copy of Murder on the Rocks for her. And buying three books to take home, including Jitterbug Perfume (which is what I went in for), Haunted Castles of England and Ireland, and a book called Dark Fire (I think) that takes place in England in the 1500s. Where exactly I'm going to put these books, I have no idea. I should not be allowed in bookstores; I'm a menace.

On a totally unrelated note, evidently it was Prison Awareness Sunday at the Austin American-Statesman; I read a fascinating article about a man who spent thirty years in jail (for a crime he didn't commit, incidentally) making pralines out of purloined butter and sugar packets. Evidently it requires burning thirty (thirty!) rolls of toilet paper, and you have to do it over a toilet so you can flush the evidence if a guard walks by and catches you with sticky fingers. So to speak. So if you have a yen for pralines, he sells them online. He no longer cooks over an open toilet, in case that was a concern for you, and now uses natural gas rather than flaming toilet paper as a fuel source.

And to think that with two convection ovens, a high-output gas stove, and a refrigerator bulging at the seams, I have difficulty getting dinner on the table!

I'll check back later with word count. I hope. How's everyone else today?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A short list

... of things I have accomplished today:

1) Bought a digital camera.
2) Survived (and emerged victorious from) an epic battle with a butternut squash.
3) Been kicked approximately 43 times.
4) Had a discussion with my son in which he informed me that the reason he isn't listening is that he has a hearing problem. Because other children are putting rocks in his ears. And that the obvious solution to our little discipline issues (see #3, above) is that I should stop preventing him from doing/getting whatever he wants. Even if whatever he wants includes taping his sister to a chair and dropping maraschino cherries on her head. (This is not, incidentally, how the parenting books said this conversation was supposed to go.)
5) Discovered that increasing the font size on my manuscript decreases eyestrain. Which means -- thank God -- that I will not, at my relatively tender age, be investing in reading glasses. Yet.

Things I have NOT accomplished today:

1) Hooking up said digital camera, as my iPhoto software mysteriously vanished during the great hard drive crash of '06.
2) Writing anything other than this blog.
3) Refraining from rather copious consumption of Blue Bell Hot Chocolate ice cream. Which is not hot, but is quite chocolatey. And marshmallowy. Mmmm. Perhaps it's time for a pre-dinner bowl...

Will check back tomorrow. Hope everyone's day is more productive than mine.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Girls vs. Boys

Two quotes overheard in my living room at some time during the last 12 hours:

Abby: "Mom! Come look at my horse show! I put the baby horse under her mom!"

Ian: "Mommy! Come look at my garbage truck! I filled it up with body parts!"

(Author's note: the body parts were from Lego people, not actual human playmates.)

And I just made a gigantic bowl of fairy fudge with my daughter. Because her fever was gone last night, we all licked the bowl.

Five minutes later, the phone rang. She tested positive for Strep Throat.


Will post later in the event that my computer and I have some intimate one-on-one time resulting in some novel-esque word progeny.

Karen (whose throat is already feeling sore)

P.S. managed to slip in 703 words, for a total of 13,093. How's everyone else doing? (Except Debra, who's done... congrats!)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Five things you didn't know about me.

Well, Susan Wittig Albert was kind enough to blog tag me. So I've spent the morning sitting at the pediatrician's office (which has, thankfully, replaced the rather colorful carpet with vomit-proof laminate and removed the "Typhoid Mary Toy Table") thinking of things that might be interesting enough to merit posting.

Here's what I came up with.

1) In 1992, I was the fastest chugger on the Wiess College Women's Beer Bike Team at Rice. Which is, to be honest, kind of embarrassing. Of course, it's not nearly as embarrassing as the fact that fifteen years later I still remember my best time. (Twenty-four ounces in 5.8 seconds, in case you were wondering. And to think my parents were under the impression that I wasn't learning anything!)

2) My favorite show is All Creatures Great and Small, which was a BBC series filmed in the 70s based on books written about the 30s. This could have something to do with the fact that I have no television reception in my house, but there it is.

3) I have a secret (well, until now, anyway) fondness for British comedic actors such as John Cleese, Peter Davison and Robert Hardy. The last two, oddly enough, both starred in the series All Creatures Great and Small.

4) I never eat cold cereal for breakfast. Okay, so that's not that interesting. But my time in the pediatrician's waiting room was brutally curtailed by someone actually inviting us to relocate to an examining room.

5) I speak four -- well, three-and-a-half, really -- languages, of which I use precisely one. Which is why I never understand why parents bother to shell out thousands of dollars so that their pre-school children can learn their ABCs in languages like, say, Swahili. I mean, if you're going to give them something really useful, why not enroll them in speed-laundry-folding classes? Or dishwasher loading theory?

6) (A bonus) I'm in a procrastinatory mood right now. Is that a word? If not, it should be. In fact, I think I'll take a few moments to contact my daughter's teacher and request that it take the place of this week's star spelling word, which is -- perplexingly -- 'veejay.' (For full rant, go here.)

And by the way, I didn't end up going anywhere but dreamland last night. On the plus side, both Peter Davison AND John Cleese were there, so it wasn't too bad...

And now, I get to tag... fellow cozy chick Diana Killian and fellow mystery author Candy Calvert!

P.S. Lest anyone cross Rice off their children's college list for fear of alcohol poisoning, the beer was (a) boiled, (b) non-alcoholic, (c) flat, and (d) not exactly a taste sensation. :)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Airport? Or library?

Every few months or so I get the travel bug... you know, that desire to go to the airport, buy a ticket, and go... anywhere. The world is such a big and magical place, and there's so much of it to see...

Unfortunately, for most of us, our responsibilities do tend to put a damper on our gypsy tendencies. (Although I just found out recently you can rent farmhouses in the Bavarian Alps extremely inexpensively... hmm....) I don't know what started this little travel urge; maybe it was because a copy of Bridget Jones' Diary I got from the library recently had a boarding pass from West Palm Beach to Nassau. A little depressing, really, that a paperback is better traveled than I am.

Fortunately, there's a quick, cheap way out of Dodge -- even for those of us with children and day jobs.

It's called armchair travel, and it's up there with chocolate truffles and bubble baths as one of my favorite treats.

Frances Mayes is, to my mind, the reigning queen with her Under the Tuscan Sun. (Not so fond of her Around the World, alas, even though I enjoyed it.) But there are lots of fun things out there; I read one recently called Monkey Dancing, about a man who took his two kids around the world for a year -- what chutzpah! And then there's Susan Allen Toth's My Love Affair with England, which I've never been able to make it through but just checked out for the fifth time (hope springs eternal, I suppose). Bill Bryson, who also writes about England -- and Australia, and America, come to think of it -- is a riot no matter what he's discussing. And yesterday I picked up a variety of travel essay compendiums to leaf through. I love sitting under my puffy white comforter reading about people eating mangos in the Caribbean (come to think of it, I think they did just that in An Embarrassment of Mangoes, an oddly titled but entertaining book). Now, that's a question. Is it mangos, or mangoes?

Of course what I'd really like to do is have someone hand me a packet of money and say "Here. Go renovate a farmhouse in Southern France/Italy/Nepal/Switzerland/Czechoslovakia, write a book about it, and hit the NY Times bestseller list." So far that hasn't panned out, but if you know anyone who wants to invest, let me know.

I do have two trips coming up -- one to San Diego in March and one to D.C. in May (for Malice) -- and I'm looking forward to them. (I love the Chesapeake bagels with green onion cream cheese I used to eat when I lived in Old Town Alexandria -- perhaps I'll take a trip back down memory lane while I'm there.) And my in-laws are taking the whole family on an Alaskan cruise late in the summer; that will be wonderful. Need to track down Alaska books between now and then -- and reread Gretel Ehrlich, whose book on Greenland I adore.

Unfortunately, however, since no Transatlantic flights are in my immediate future, I'm off on another paper voyage this evening. I don't remember what I got at the library yesterday, but I'll let you know. Perhaps I'll be off to Greece. Or maybe Morocco? I'll let you know tomorrow.

And oh, yeah. Word count. I somehow managed to type out 1300 words yesterday (many of which were done in the waiting room of the hair salon). I'm at 11853, which is really pretty respectable, I've decided, particularly since I started the book last Tuesday. And today was a big fat zero (I've been home for approximately twenty minutes, all of which has been occupied by putting up groceries and blogging). But I'm hoping to put in a 2K day tomorrow (Abby will FINALLY be back in school) and catch up a bit this weekend.

And I have to tell you that although it's gray and a bit damp right now, it's been springlike and wonderful here the last few days. Bought some pretty pink tulips to celebrate -- and the narcissus in my flowerbeds is pale yellow and glorious. I love their smell -- nothing says spring like daffodils! (And here's a little confession -- when it's cold and gray and damp I like to pretend it's because I live in England. I'm not kidding.)

So now that I've confessed my non-word-count day and my delusional fantasies about living in the Yorkshire Dales instead of Austin... How's everyone else doing out there?


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Short and sweet

will probably describe my word count for the day.

Abby is, unfortunately, still sick, and I'm due to leave for San Antonio in just over an hour. (I'm giving a talk there this evening.) On the plus side, I did finish my bio for Ballantine, which was due today... and I may have to take a brief break (or at least slow down a bit) on Wolf 2 while I add a few more scenes to Wolf 1. Ah, editing... :)

Laura, a quick answer to your question; when I wrote my first book, I wrote it longhand to help quell my inner editor; then I would edit it as I typed it in. (There were times when I remember thinking 'Please let her have fleshed out the description for this scene' -- it was almost as if there were two people writing. The writer, and the editor. Strange, really.)

Nowadays, I write and try to make it as good as possible (within reason) the first run through; then, the next day, before I start my words, I review what I wrote the day before to clean it up a bit and get back into the story. That way I'm not stuck with a huge manuscript that needs a lot of work at the end -- daunting, to say the least. And I'm comfortable that almost everything I've done so far is relatively clean.

And Debra, I don't know why I use word count; probably because it's already on Word, and also because when you've got lots of dialogue and chapter breaks, it means fewer words on a page. Also because when I'm writing, I'm usually shooting for a word count goal (generally 75-80K); by keeping track of daily words, I have a better feel for how much story is left. Once again, though, the key is to find a system that works for you. I keep everything in one document, but I know a lot of writers who keep each chapter separate. To each his or her own!

Well, Abby's waking up, the bunny is squeaking underfoot, and I have an hour before I have to go... more later, and keep the writing going!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Illness, housebunnies, and word counts

So Abby came home yesterday with a 102-degree fever, and has been lolling around on the couch watching Return of the Jedi ever since. And I have a cold. But did I get my words done?

Why, yes, with the lilting tones of Jabba the Hut in the background.

Now that that's out of the way, I have a list of exciting duties for the day, such as changing the bunny's litterbox and cage, doing laundry... and maybe even tackling the stuff in my fridge.

Our bunny -- nee Lisa, renamed Cottontail, and actually called Bunny -- is a white Netherland Dwarf my son insists is a snowshoe hare. There's no dissuading him. (I'll post a photo as soon as I figure out how to download it, btw. She's a cutie!) We've had her since she came to us as a foster bunny six years ago, and as time has passed, the number of holes in my walls has increased exponentially. (She's trying to burrow through the laundry room wall, presumably to China.) And she squeaks! Must be because she's getting old, but you can hear her from halfway across the house. Our bronchiolitic little snowshoe hare. :)

As for word count, I'm at 10,454, which I know is at least 1500 words. Maybe 1600? Need a new calculator. And, evidently, a new photo; my daughter just looked at my photo on PPL and said "What's that? That doesn't look like you at all." *Sigh.* I guess it's time to go back to the photographer again...

How's everyone else doing? Georgina? Debra? Laura? (Not to put you on the spot or anything...) ;)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Monday Blues... and ten percent!

Mondays are always the toughest day of the week for me, it seems. Maybe it's just getting back into the swing of things after a weekend of lying around eating Dove chocolates and reading paperback novels. (Speaking of which, I definitely have to hit the Y today. I also ate three-quarters of a bag of kettle corn and a whole can of Cream of Mushroom soup at 10 p.m. last night. What's up with that?)

Anyway, it was tough sledding this morning. I just couldn't think of what to write, and my proposed chapter wasn't looking too exciting. To get myself motivated, I went over to my favorite coffee joint and deposited myself in a chair, but all I ended up doing was talking with interesting people and sucking down expensive coffee. And thinking about a turkey sandwich.

So after 300 hard-earned words, I left, came home, and parked myself in my traditional at-home-writing spot, which is the futon at the end of my office. And told myself I couldn't get up (except to make a turkey sandwich or perhaps fold one -- and only one -- load of laundry) until I was done.

And what do you know? What started as a somewhat lackluster scene suddenly started to come to life. A new situation I'd never thought of just popped up on the page. Then, suddenly, I looked up and discovered I was at 1300 words. Almost there!

The final count came in at 8852, which is 1520 words or so, and more than 10 percent of my final word count. And I'm still not sure how it happened. It's almost like sitting down at the computer is like flipping a switch, and turning on some kind of story-maker. Weird.

Oh, and by the way, on my way home from the coffee shop today I heard Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac, a great little show. Today he was talking about Andrew Greeley, a Catholic priest who has written more books than God. I particularly liked the following snippet:

"Greeley has now written more than 150 books, which have sold more than 15 million copies. When asked how he can write so much, he said, "I suppose I have the Irish weakness for words gone wild. Besides, if you're celibate, you have to do something."

Ha! Now I have to go and read one of his books.

(Garrison also read a fabulous poem called "A Wife Explains Why She Likes Country" by Barbara Ras; if you go to Writers' Almanac and look up February 5, you can find it. I love NPR.)

I'm off to call Jessica, my fabulous agent, and talk titles. Not turkey -- I already had my sandwich.

Did you overcome the Monday hump? Inquiring minds want to know...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Superbowl Sunday

Well, here we are. It's Sunday, and my other half and my two kids will probably totter off to a friend's house to watch the big game.

Leaving me here at home.... to write?

I'm usually a morning writer. For some reason, if it doesn't happen early, it doesn't happen. But surely I can get those 700 words in somehow, eh? We'll see. I may just go for a walk instead. The weather is lovely -- cool, crisp, and sunny -- it's been a cold, gray winter here (as winters in Texas go), and the sun is seductive.

Besides, I read an article a few months ago that said that exercise helps increase creativity, particularly if you work right after working out. I wonder why? Maybe it's increased blood flow. Or maybe it's because during exercise, we clear out all the negative stuff? I know when I run (or used to, before IT Band syndrome reduced me to walking/biking), I'm so focused on making it to the next, say, tree on the path, that I have no time for self-doubt or worrying. And although I've shifted my schedule for the winter months -- in summer, I get out and exercise first thing, when it's cool, and then work; in winter it's switched -- I still like to work early. And exercise is very soothing somehow.

How about you? When do you like to write? Does walking/exercise help?

And did you sneak in some words? :)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Susan Wittig Albert, Saving Dinner, and word count

Well, I'm at 6537 and counting. (And although I usually don't write on Saturdays, I'm going to have lunch with Jo Virgil, the CRM of our local B&N (and also a writer), and Susan Wittig Albert. Am very excited. And will be at our local B&N for a while beforehand; perhaps I can slip in another thousand words.

I've gotten a lot of e-mails regarding the novel word count thing. My goal is to offer a place to post how far you've gotten, and get some encouragement. Just post your word count in a comment... and keep commenting as your word count grows. (And it's amazing how fast it will go; if I keep going at this pace, I will be 10 percent of the way finished with the first draft of this book by Tuesday.)

And here's my fascinating fact of the week. I looked up Nora Roberts' web site the other day. You know how many books she's written since 1979?

One hundred and eighty.

Holy smoke.

Talk about inspirational. I also discovered she's not a big fan of outlining; she just lets the book unreel as she goes. Which is interesting -- I love finding out whether authors outline or just let it fly.

On another note, here's something I found recently and love; I tend to spend more money than I care to think at the grocery store, on all kinds of fascinating items, and use like a third of them during the week. (I'm sure you've been there too; why, look at this goat cheese! And these beautiful turnips! And these dried whats-its! I'm sure I'll be able to concoct something wonderful that no one will eat! Of course, all of the above end up spending a few weeks in what I call the 'rotter' before heading out to the trash can.)

So, anyway, in my effort to make things easier around the house, I found this web site called Saving Dinner, where they send you a weekly menu mailer -- and a grocery list. So far, the recipes have had about an 80% hit rate -- and I am no longer panicking every night at 5:30. (No more 'what fell out of the freezer' nights.)

And I have more time to write.:) (And fewer rotted turnips.)

Well, I'm off to Barnes and Noble to work through another few pages. Hope your days are great -- and feel free to use the 'Comments' section as your way of posting your progress to the world!

P.S. New word count is at 7337, which is 800 words on the nose. Lunch with Jo and Susan was wonderful -- I had the scallop salad and forgot to get a picture, even though I brought the camera! And Susan writes 1500 words a day, 7 days a week, which was interesting to learn. She really is amazing. She writes three fabulous books a year -- and even takes 3 months off. (Her latest Beatrix Potter just came out in mass market paperback, and she's got lots more fascinating projects in the works.)

Truth of the matter is, though, I think it's best to pick a comfortable achievable word count and do it regularly than push too hard all the time. What do you think?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Schedule problems

I recently rearranged my life to keep my mornings free, but every once in a while -- like today -- it doesn't work out. So I enjoyed a delightful eggs benedict breakfast with some friends (incomprehensibly, the cook forgot the english muffin), served lasagna to about two hundred elementary school students, unloaded the dishwasher, and now -- at 12:30 p.m. -- am just sitting down for two hours of writing. And to be honest, I can think of about forty-thousand things I'd rather do. Like clean toilets or organize the garage.

Gosh, I hate afternoon writing sessions.

To inspire myself, I'm going to the coffee house. Where, if I finish my quota, I will allow myself to purchase a book I've had my eye on.

Will check in later. Wish me luck!

P.S. worked out after all... 4747 and counting! (And I met a new werewolf today... hope to know her name tomorrow.) :)