Monday, January 31, 2011

Still Alive

Just thought I'd let everyone know that I'm still here and still writing furiously, with just a few occasional breaks to paint my spare bedroom (which used to be my mother's room, and is being transformed from her favorite color blue to a sunny yellow).

I've discovered that painting (as in walls, not pictures) is for me a form of meditation. Gardening has the same effect. I focus completely on what I am doing, which means I am "in the moment." But because neither activity is mentally challenging, they're both great ways to still the chatter in my mind and free my subconscious for creativity.

I also thought I'd show you this, which arrived last Friday, hot off the press...

(Incidentally, the curious cat at the top is Thomasina, peering out of Huckleberry's barrel. Her left ear was lopped when she was feral, to show that she'd been fixed.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Lake in Winter

I've spent the past week up at the lake in an intensive effort to finish Why Maidens Mourn (still trying to get used to that title), number seven in the Sebastian St. Cyr series.

My last several writing retreats haven't been particularly successful, although this one wasn't quite the disaster of my November expedition. That one started with my car breaking down. Then about an hour after I finally arrived at the lake, I experienced a plumbing disaster that flooded the main bedroom, a storage closet, and half the kitchen. The entire first day was consumed by such productive exercises as rescuing boxes of papers, books, and photos, pulling up soaked carpet, and mopping (plus doing a lot of swearing). The second day was spent with a shovel and a Roto-Rooter man, digging up the yard in a forlorn attempt to find the clean-out valve for the septic tank (after uncovering the entire line, we discovered there was no clean-out valve). Then, because these things always come in threes, a horde of red ants evidently disturbed by the flood invaded my house and attacked Huckleberry's food bowls. Because my porphyria makes bugsprays as deadly to me as to bugs, the only thing I had to fight back with was Restoration Hardware grapefruit counter spray and pepper.

This time, I only had to contend with the rain and the cold. My sister Penny recently moved to McCall in the mountains of Idaho, so I've added McCall to the weather app on my iPhone and amuse myself occasionally by looking up her temperature and snickering when I see it's, say, -15 degrees in McCall and a balmy 65 in New Orleans. Well, last week it was a balmy 35 degrees in the mountains of Idaho and a bone-chilling 22 at my lake house. Who's snickering now?

Did I get much done? No. I spent one entire day writing a sentence, or maybe a paragraph, and then crossing it out, and crossing out the next one, and then tearing the page from my notebook and throwing it in a crumpled wad across the room. In the end, I produced less than half my normal retreat output. But several [nippy] walks around the lake helped me finally realize what the problem was. I came home, spread my plotting cards across the dining room table, and reorganized my plot. Hopefully I'm now good to go.

Or I'd better be. This deadline is barreling down on me fast.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Australia on My Mind

I had planned a new post about books made into movies, but the news coming out of Australia this morning about the flooding that is now engulfing Brisbane was simply too horrible for me to ignore. A big chunk of my heart will always call Australia home. When I left Australia for New Orleans ten years ago now in order to be here for my aging mother, I literally cried all the way from Adelaide to Sydney. I'm crying now. Australia is a land endlessly beset by fire and flood. Fortunately, it is also populated by an incredibly resilient, hearty people who know how to put things right.

My thoughts are with you...


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Title Time


Publishing houses seem to have two speeds: the proverbial molasses-in-winter mode and the we-needed-this-yesterday frantic rush. When an author is waiting on them (such as, ahem, to cut a check), they typically go into molasses mode. But when they need the author to do something, for some bizarre reason it never seems to occur to them to contact the writer until the last minute. I can't tell you the number of times I've been given literally one hour to revise cover copy or come up with a tag line. Usually I'm given a day or two to come up with cover art suggestions. I was once given an hour to rename my heroine after the Powers That Be decided her name was too long. (Seriously. The book was Midnight Confessions, but I don't at the moment recall my heroine's original last name. All I know is that I really hate the substitution. Character names should never be rushed.)

Cover copy revisions obviously depend on having something from the copy department to revise. But the other stuff--tag lines and cover art suggestions--are things authors know ahead of time they're going to have to come up with. So I've learned to give some thought to those things on my own calendar rather than waiting for the inevitable rush email. I have the suggestions for the cover of the book I'm currently writing (Sebastian Book Number Seven) all ready and will simply send them off as soon as I get that we're-cover-conferencing-this-book-on-Wednesday-so-if-you-have-any-suggestions-get-them-to-me-by-morning email.

So you'd think I'd have been prepared for the message that greeted me when I got around to checking my email on Monday afternoon: We need a title for Book Number Seven by Wednesday morning! Silly me. I somehow imagined I'd have until I actually finished the book to come up with the title. Nope. I was caught titleless. I did go through a period last summer when I tried to come up with something; those of you who've been around the blog that long will remember we spent a week or so thrashing about and brainstorming possibilities. But I then pushed the whole title thing onto the back burner, thinking I'd just let it simmer.

Great titles, in my experience, are gifts from the ether. They come seemingly out of nowhere, instantly captivating and awe-inspiring in their inherent rightness. I've never come up with a title that I sweated and fretted over, and ended up really liking. In this instance, I sent the entire long list of suggestions from you, my blog readers, to my editors, along with a half-dozen suggestions of my own. All were knocked back. I came up with some more suggestions; my editor came up with some of her own. We settled on one we thought we could live with. Her boss nixed it. We went down to the wire, with the final decision being made on Wednesday morning.

Titles are so important, I don't think they should simply be grabbed on the fly. On the other hand, sometimes inspiration never strikes and a decision must be made. Or sometimes inspiration strikes and The Powers That Be nix it and come up with a title of their own (What Remains of Heaven being the prime example; I named that book What Hell Marks, referencing a quote from Shakespeare that I actually took out of the book's final copy in the hope that I can get them to use the title for a future book.)

But all this is just buildup to telling you what the title of the seventh book is. Drum roll, please....

Why Maidens Mourn.

Like it? Hate it? Feel free to be honest. I'm not exactly in love with it myself. But I like it much better than What Remains of Heaven (yeah, I'm still cranky about that one).

Monday, January 03, 2011

The Year Candy Got Her Groove Back


I started 2010 in a strange, inexplicable funk, uncharacteristically unable to summon up any enthusiasm for toasting in the New Year or making new year’s resolutions or indulging in any of the other joyous, confident, reenergizing rituals I generally associate with the flipping of the calendar. It was obviously a premonition. But that year is over and hopefully along with it the seemingly endless train of illness and death that have beset those dear to me.

I can honestly say that this new year has brought a burst of energy swirling with it. I’ve been cleaning out storerooms and closets, making plans to go up to the lake for a writing extravaganza, organizing everything in sight, making lists and resolutions and generally enjoying that ebullient, heady sense of fresh possibilities I usually associate with a new year.

So, here’s hoping your holidays were joyous and that the new year will live up to at least some our expectations. Cheers, everyone!