Friday, April 11, 2014

Procrastination: Friend or Foe?

Some days I just don't feel like writing. Yes, I can hear that voice in my head: But real writers force themselves, make themselves sit down and put something on the page. Anything on the page. Every day.

Does writing a Facebook status count? I mean, I did write something. How about Twitter? Oops, can't use that excuse, since I haven't updated my Twitter status in a long time. Okay, what about an email? A long email. One that sums up what's been going on my life for the last week or so to friends I haven't written in a while. That should count.

Despite what anyone says, procrastination isn't always easy. I mean, there's the guilt. Lots of guilt. Why didn't I write today? Because I felt that doing two or three loads of laundry should take priority? Or maybe the bathroom needed cleaning? Or I had to work on the taxes (oh, can't use that excuse, since I submitted everything to the accountant two months ago). And then there's the library book I put on hold that just happened to be available this week. I only have two weeks to read it, so I have to get started. Now.

How can any of those things be more important than sitting at my keyboard creating fictional worlds?

Maybe it's because I finally finished up the Manuscript from Hell and am feeling a bit like a vacation from writing. That book took a lot out of me, although it's been done for a couple of months now and is out in the world waiting to see if an editor likes it enough to publish it, so that's not a great excuse.

Maybe it's because I've been trying to work out what to work on next. I have about 60 pages in what I call my Suburban Mom Thriller, and I do want to go back to that. I re-read what I've got and I like it, but I still need to work out some plot things in it, so I'm using that as excuse. And in the meantime, I have revisited an idea for a possible new series, but while I've got a nugget of an idea, I have no plot and no well-formed idea of character yet. I also need to do some serious research before I can develop either, and I'm not a huge fan of research. I like to just make it up as I go along, but this one needs research and I can't fudge it.

So while I'm working all this out in my head, I'm not writing. I look at my laptop across the room while I play yet another level of Jelly Splash, check Facebook, see if anyone besides Macy's and William Sonoma has sent me an email, decide that it's time to clip the cats' claws.

 Do you procrastinate?



Thursday, February 20, 2014

New year, new post

How does time go by so quickly? It's been almost a year since I last blogged. So, I suppose, it's time for an update.

My year has been eventful and uneventful at the same time. Life is settled into a quiet hum of activity.


I have spent much of this year working on what I have been calling my Manuscript from Hell. After rejections on two YA books, I went back to a book I started in 2009, right after NAL dropped my Annie Seymour series and right before they contracted me for the tattoo shop mysteries. This book is totally different than anything I've ever done before. It's not a traditional mystery, but more a suspense thriller about a fugitive who has been missing for 15 years and how her past finally catches up to her. It is about love and betrayal and no matter how hard you try to change, deep down it might not be possible. I have called it my Manuscript from Hell because it has challenged me in a way that no other book has. I have stepped far out of my comfort zone and developed a character and a voice that my readers might not find familiar but I hope will resonate with them. Although first it needs to resonate with an editor somewhere!

When I haven't been writing, I've been reading a lot. Mostly crime fiction, but I got two Tudor England books for Christmas that I need to start dipping into. My daughter is in her junior year of high school, and the college search and visits have begun. It reminds me of when I was looking at schools. I remember walking onto the Roanoke College campus and thinking, This is where I have to go to school. It struck me immediately. But back in my day, it was a bit easier and not so competitive to get into the school that you absolutely wanted to go to. I am hoping that my daughter will be able to go to that school that speaks to her as Roanoke spoke to me.

The days seem to move into each other so quickly that there isn't time to reflect. But this past year has been a year of decisions and thoughtfulness and creativity that hopefully will feed into this next one.

For now, though, I wish it would just be spring already.

If you want to say hello, please leave a note in the comments! 


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The return of the Naked Authors

I really should pay attention to this blog. But I'm afraid it's sadly neglected, like the plants in my living room. Those poor plants have to be droopy and starting to turn brown before I notice and water them. I can't be trusted with plants. And clearly, I've forgotten what it was like to blog religiously once a week, like I did with the First Offenders. Maybe it takes a village to keep a blog going these days.

My friend Patty Smiley emailed me about a week ago to tell me that the Naked Authors are back blogging. They stopped blogging about a year ago, maybe. And somehow they all talked themselves into blogging again.

I don't think the First Offenders are coming back, although the Who and the Rolling Stones have had a lot of comebacks, so we can never say never. The Naked Authors said never, and, well, here they are again.

I didn't want to break it to Patty, but I'm not reading the book and writer blogs anymore. They are all here, bookmarked to my left, but I rarely visit. I'm not quite sure why, except that since I got my iPad, I spend a lot of time with Angry Birds and the Weather Channel and the New York Times. I even check out the wait times for Soarin' and Space Mountain in Disney, even though I'm a three-hour flight away, but a girl can dream, can't she? It's easy to waste time on an iPad.

In full disclosure, however, I am reading some blogs. But they aren't the writerly kind. Since I was diagnosed with a labral tear and CAM impingement in my right hip (Lady Gaga and I have a lot in common these days), I've discovered a world of people who blog about their hip arthroscopy surgery. I haven't had surgery yet, and my surgeon is being very conservative at this point, but it's nice to be informed for when that day arrives.

Not very exciting, is it?

I think I'll go over to Naked Authors and see what's going on. But I know better than to promise I'll be here more often.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Looking ahead to the new year

It's 2013.

Last year was a tough year in a lot of ways, but it was also a turning point. I challenged myself and branched out more with my writing and found a new agent whom I couldn't be more happy with.

I get a lot of emails from readers who want me to continue my tattoo shop mysteries and even Annie Seymour has fans who would love to see me write more of her stories. It's hard to explain to people why when I wrote "the end" on Ink Flamingos and Shot Girl that it really was The End. I don't like to look back; when I'm done with something, I'm done with it. I thoroughly enjoyed writing Annie, since she was the reporter I always wished I could be, and Brett, who was so entirely not of my world that it was fun to spend a couple of years with her.

But I am not inclined, as many have suggested, to write and then self-publish more books in both series online. I have been watching the rise of the ebook self-publishing phenomenon, but I am not yet ready to take that leap myself. I feel I still need to have my work vetted by a publishing professional. Are there problems in traditional publishing? Sure, as in every business. But my ego is not big enough to think that my work can go out in the world based solely on the fact that I think it's just fine the way it is and people should read it.

So with two series over and no desire to self-publish, I am perched on the aforementioned turning point. I have written a young adult novel and a middle grade boy adventure book. I have tons of short starts on my flash drive, one of which I have focused on at the moment. I also have another idea for a young adult book and am fleshing out the characters and a plot. I have no idea what will happen with any of these projects, but they are all completely different than what I've published before.

I don't like writing the same thing over and over. I like to stretch myself creatively, and that's what I plan to do in this new year. I want to hear new voices and embark on new adventures, pulling myself out of my comfort zone just to see if I can do it. My agent said recently that when he opens one of my files, he has no idea what he'll be reading. That's exactly the reaction I'm looking for. I know readers do like the "sameness" of series and an author's voice, but writers like Stewart O'Nan and Jess Walter intrigue me because I never know what I'm going to read when I open one of their books.

So here's to the new year!



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Back to high school

I know it's been a long time since I posted when I log in and there's a whole different layout to Blogger.

So what's been going on the last couple of months since I last posted?

I've been writing. A lot. And a big decision has been made.

I have decided to put my adult crime novel on the back burner for now and concentrate on writing young adult books.

I do see the irony of a middle aged woman in That Time of Life writing about teenagers. But I have a teenager living in my house, so it's not really all that difficult a reach. And in a way, all those physical and emotional changes that come when we're teenagers are only slightly different for a woman of certain years, and in some ways it's worse now because everyone tells you about puberty, but mostly everything about menopause is one big secret until you're living through it.

But I digress.

When I signed on with my new agent, Josh, I sent him the first 30,000 words of a new young adult novel I've been working on. It's not a dystopian or a vampire or a werewolf book. It's the story of a regular girl in an unusual situation. It's her struggle to find her identity. Something we can all relate to. Josh also inherited a time travel young adult novel I'd written.

In addition to those, I sent him the adult crime novel that Jack had sent to a couple of editors and I've been working on over the past year.

After a long discussion and some very sage advice from Josh, I agreed that it really isn't the time to concentrate on the adult crime novel. But this is an incredibly exciting time for young adult books. I'm finding that there is a lot more leeway in storytelling in YA. In my years writing adult crime fiction, I always had to tie things up in a neat little bow at the end, my characters had to behave in certain ways, not use certain language, must have romance. From the YA I've been reading, I see that YA stories don't necessarily follow a formula, and that's very liberating.

I wish when I was a teenager that there was such a thing as Young Adult in the book section. I went from reading LITTLE WOMEN to Harold Robbins, which is a pretty huge leap and now, as a mother, that would worry me. But teens today have such a variety of books to choose from, all with teenagers as protagonists, solving crimes, turning into werewolves and vampires, all of them struggling to fit in, like all teens through time. It's like one big support group, but you don't have to leave your house or actually interact and be part of a group if that's not your thing.

So I will be spending far more time with teenagers in the next months than I expected, although it is nice that they're fictional and I don't have to deal with them rolling their eyes at me whenever I tell them to do something. I'll only get that from one teenager, the one who lives in my house.

What do you think of young adult fiction? Do you read it? Write it? If you read it, what's your favorite YA book? 


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Some good news

I appreciate everyone's thoughts concerning the loss of my agent Jack Scovil. It was not an easy time, since besides losing my agent and friend, I was suddenly faced with having to find another agent. Anyone who's ever had to find an agent understands how much anxiety it causes.

I had not written a query letter in 13 years. The last one I wrote was to Jack, and that one itself was very casual, since he and I had been corresponding before that. I had completely forgotten how to do it. But the good thing about looking for an agent in 2012 rather than 2000 is that there is so much more information on the Internet! Agentquery.com is a wonderful place to check out who's representing what, and who might be the best fit for a book. Also, there are tons of blogs and other sites where you can find out just how to write that dreaded query.

I did a bit of that, but I am incredibly blessed to be part of a writing community that reaches out and helps people who need it. I had two wonderful writer friends, Keith Raffel and Dana Cameron, refer me to their agent, Josh Getzler of HSG Agency. Keith's daughter is actually Josh's assistant, which I'd like to think gave me an even bigger "in." I did write that query, because any little bit helps, but within days, I was sending manuscripts to Josh, who was so incredibly enthusiastic, I could hardly believe my luck.

So long story short, Josh is now my new agent. And I couldn't be happier. Not just because I don't have to send out any more queries! I had felt blessed with Jack, who was so supportive about my work, but just in a couple of weeks of knowing and talking to Josh, I know I'm in very good, capable hands, and his excitement about my work is equal to Jack's (maybe even a little more!).

As a writer, it's really important to find an agent that you're comfortable with, that you're on the same page with, because you're both working toward the same goal: write the best book possible so it can sell. For me, it's important to find an agent who is also editor, someone who can help mold the book into something even better. Josh and I have talked at length about the young adult book I'm working on, and with his guidance, I'm feeling really confident about it.

I can't help but hope this means good things are ahead in many other ways, too.

Monday, March 5, 2012

In memory of Jack Scovil, 1937-2012

Several years ago, I had a manuscript that I was shopping around to agents. It was in the days when all you could really do on the Internet was see hamsters dance and no one really knew what email was. So I went to the library in the old fashioned way to check out the guide to literary agents. I sent the manuscript out, and the rejections started pouring in. After several months, I called Thomas Fleming, a writer friend who I'd interviewed 10 years before, to see if he could help. He gave me the name of his agent's partner and said I could use his name.

Jack Scovil had been Norman Mailer's agent. And Carl Sagan's. And Margaret Truman's. But I didn't know that then. I was incredibly naive about the entire publishing world. So, in my naivete, I called him and dropped Tom's name. Jack was very gracious and agreed to read my manuscript. I did a little happy Snoopy dance and dropped it in the mail. Only a few weeks later, Jack called me. He would not be taking me on as a client. He said he couldn't exactly tell me what was wrong with the manuscript, just that it didn't work. But then he encouraged me to try again, he liked my writing style.

Fast forward a couple of years. I had written SACRED COWS, with a newspaper reporter protagonist in New Haven. I didn't even bother with query letters this time. Instead, I called Jack right away. He called me a few weeks later and said he would be happy to represent me. He thought the book was "terrific," a word he used a lot when he liked something.

That was 2001. A week before 9/11. Needless to say, SACRED COWS was a victim of terrorism. Publishing was at a standstill. When it started to move again, Jack sent the book out, telling me time and time again how great it was, how it just had to be published. When I heard about the Sara Ann Freed Memorial Award competition for a first novel, I asked him if I should submit the manuscript. He said, "It wouldn't hurt." It certainly didn't. The book won, and I got my first publishing contract in 2004.

Jack and I spent 10 1/2 years together, seeing the publication of eight of my novels. He was my staunchest supporter. He was also an amazing editor, helping me turn my books into better books. He was blunt when he didn't like something, but that's exactly what he needed to be. I completely rewrote a manuscript after he told me what I'd written was just not good. "You can do better than this," he chided. And when I turned in the revised manuscript, he called me and told me it was "wonderful."

Jack Scovil passed away on Feb. 23 after a brief illness. I didn't know much about his personal life, except he'd grown up in Utah, went to Stanford, moved to Manhattan and worked at the Scott Meredith Agency until forming his own agency, Scovil Chichak Galen (now Scovil Galen Ghosh) in the early 1990s. He had a wonderful sense of humor, which usually showed up in his frankness about the publishing business. He loved books, and it meant so much to me that he loved my books. Most of the time we spoke on the phone, but we met a few times in Manhattan and once here in Connecticut when he was speaking at a conference. Once, right after SACRED COWS came out, I met him at his office and he told me he had something I just had to see. Three doors down from the entrance to his building was a store that was selling the china replicas of the cows in the Cow Parade, which is featured prominently in my book. One of the last emails I received from him was merely an image of Tattoo Barbie. No note, but he didn't need to write one. The image said it all. He'd told me I was his first and only author to ever have puns in my book titles.

RIP, Jack. Your passing has left a hole in the world of publishing—and in my world. I will miss you.