Monday, September 22, 2008

A Learning Process

Well, the last scene of The Deadlight Connection is written, which would be cause for celebration if I weren't so frantically combing through the manuscript, looking for errors and little turns of phrases that just don't quite sound right while keeping a nervous eye on the calendar. It doesn't help that I compressed the action into seven days, rather than eight, which means I'm also doing some date juggling. But the important point in all this is that the #@$% thing will be finished by its official deadline, even if it is six months late by my own deadline.

I've realized I write books in one of three ways: 1) I make reasonable revisions as I write, then finish the first draft and go back for a more substantive overhaul and cosmetic corrections;. 2) I write the first draft in a white heat, barely looking at what I've written until I reach the end; and 3) I make a series of massive, bloody overhauls long before I finish the manuscript, as well as less drastic but still substantive revisions, so that by the time I write the last chapter, all I need is to go back and do the final cleanup.

After having written upwards of fifteen books, you'd think I'd have an established work pattern, but I don't. Of the three approaches, I personally prefer #2, but that only seems to work when the book is working. I simply can't keep going when I realize there's a hideous problem (or two or three) in what I've already written.

Now that I'm (almost) finished with it, I find I'm surprisingly happy with this book. I think it's a fun read. The only thing that startles me is that it's LONG--which is one of the reasons (but only one of them) it took so long to write. You'd think after having written all these books I'd be better at judging a story's length.

All of which reminds me that while I know a great deal about this book-writing business, there is still much that I am learning.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hog Hunting in Louisiana

Yes, I'm hyperventilating about getting this book finished on time, and I'm scheduled to give a keynote address at a luncheon on Saturday up in Baton Rouge, and my sister's coming for a ten day visit in a week, and I still haven't put away any of the stuff I packed up when we evacuated for Hurricane Gustav, and I'm supposed to fly up to Maryland in three weeks, but... I wanted to share this photo of an alligator catching his dinner on Highway 51, which is a road that runs near my, ahem, lake house. Hopefully I'm not violating anyone's copyright here since it came to me by email, but here it is...


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lost Days

I might have been able to handle waking up Friday morning to that maddeningly familiar sound of wind and rain if I hadn’t looked over to see what time it was and realized our power was out. Again. Our recent experiences with Gustav have made me realize how very, very fond I am of electricity (not to mention the fact that I just spent $$$$$$$ at Whole Foods to restock my fridge and freezer).

It’s hard to concentrate under those conditions, but I was determined to do it, writing in longhand. Then our power came back on. Why is this a bad thing? Because my daughter’s power was still out. She came over dragging the contents of HER Whole Food-stocked fridge and a heavy dose of high anxiety. The truth is, it is hard to write when communities around you are going under water. It’s as if their cries of anguish are carried in the wind. And when you’ve seen your own house go under water, the resonance is painful.

Yes, Texas got the brunt of the storm, and what happened to Galveston was tragic. But coastal Louisiana is suffering a heart-breaking tragedy of their own, largely away from the media’s eye. Who out there has even heard of the Isle de Jean Charles?

Last night, we wandered down to the lake, a couple of blocks from our house, expecting to see some white caps and waves. We saw more than we expected. And looking back at the levees, and realizing how high they AREN’T, was a sobering experience.

Yet somehow, today, I MUST write.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In Deadline Hell

The Deadlight Connection is due on my editor’s desk the first of October, and I’m in a bit of a scramble to finish it, having just lost two weeks to the rigmarole of Hurricane Gustov. (As I write this, the outer bands of Ike are pounding New Orleans with howling winds and driving rain; they say we should only get tropical storm force winds, although the storm surge will be a bit of a worry.) When I remember that I originally planned to have Deadlight finished by the first of April, I have to laugh. The best laid plans of mice and writers…

On another front: while we were evacuated, we discovered that The Archangel Project is an October Indie Next Pick (and thanks so much for your congrats, S). If you’re going, “Eh?” let me explain: the Indie Next List is drawn up by the independent booksellers association and is sent to its members as well as being available on line. Each month they announce the new releases and make their recommendations. They hardly ever recommend mass-market originals (which is what this book ended up being) so being an Indie Next Pick is a Big Thing. Archangel will be officially released September 30, which is the day after my birthday and the day before Deadlight is due…

So, back to writing--although it's hard to write with one wary eye kept on the weather.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig!

We’re home, we’re safe, our houses made it through the storm in great shape, and so did our city. Here are a few of the moments from this past week that I’ll always remember:

*Caught in evacuation traffic at 1:00am on Sunday morning and admiring the way the wet blacktop reflects the miles and miles of brake lights ahead of me as I listen to the Moody Blues singing Traveling Eternity’s Road

*Waking up early Sunday morning to go get gas for our generator, only to discover that all the gas stations in the area are sold out and closed. Oh, dear.

*Watching the pine trees around the lake house thrash wildly back and forth as the hurricane rolls over us on Monday morning and thinking, We should have had some of these suckers cut down.

*Listening to a continuous bombardment of broken limbs from said pine trees crashing down on the roof and thinking…but I already said that.

*Losing power at midday and thinking, We don’t have any gas for our generator.

*Spending days playing Charades, Clue, Scrabble, and Crazy 8s in a futile attempt to keep my electronics-deprived daughter from unraveling, and thinking, Why didn’t anyone tell me a hurricane can take 48 hours to pass?

*Emerging into a shattered world to spend five hours driving around looking for gas and ice, and finding neither. (This includes three hours spent parked in 95 degree heat in a line at a open station, only to be told when we are the fourth car from the pumps that they just ran out of gas.)

*Finding an open hardware store, to be told that since they don’t have power, we can only come in and shop if we have 1) our own flashlight, and 2) cash. (We have both, and buy lamp oil and batteries).

*Driving up to a little town in the middle of nowhere in Mississippi and scoring both gas and ice. (Only, since there is a limit on the amount of gas each customer is allowed, we are only able to fill our cars, not our generator’s gas cans. Good thing we got the lamp oil and batteries.)

*Watching the rising sun spill across the mirror-like surface of the lake while cooking pancakes on a camp stove on the front porch.

*Hearing that our house in New Orleans survived the storm with nothing worse than a downed fence and a refrigerator full of spoiled food, and that the power is finally back on. We’re going home.

*Feeling a zing of joy as I turn from I55 onto I10 and see that sign that says “New Orleans.”

*Listening to my next-door neighbor (who is in law enforcement) tell us about his hurricane experiences, then watching him pull an M16 and an AK 47 out of his car and carry them into his house.

Ironically, given Hurricane Gustav’s final path, our lake house actually got hit harder by the storm than the house we evacuated.

Thanks to everyone who wished us well. It’s wonderful to be home (and to take a hot shower). But I'm not unpacking. Have you seen some of the projected paths for Hurricane Ike?