Friday, September 30, 2011

At last! The Cover for When Maidens Mourn

I've finally been given permission to post the cover of When Maidens Mourn, due out 6 March 2012. So here it is:

A huge improvement, in my opinion, over the last two covers. But I think Angels and Mermaids are still my favorites.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Accidental Writer's Retreat

Nine months after Katrina, my family bought a lakeside cottage a couple hours' drive to the northwest of New Orleans. One of the most nerve-jangling aspects of evacuating for a hurricane is figuring out where to evacuate to. Horror stories of people driving 12-15 hours without finding accommodation are not uncommon, and when you have an elderly relative and multiple animals, that can quickly turn into a disaster. Hence our acquisition of what we affectionally called "The Bolthole."

But it wasn't long before we realized that our cottage was more than just a hurricane refuge. It was also a wonderful place to spend the weekend, far from all the sounds and nervous energy a city generates. And then I realized that I could go up to the lake by myself for a week at a time and write like crazy. It was that discovery that enabled me to turn in Why Mermaids Sing (the book I wrote while we were rebuilding our house ourselves) on time. I have written a hefty chunk of every book since then sitting on my porch swing and staring at the water. It's not uncommon for me to get 40-85 or more pages written in a week. At home, I consider it a good week if I make it to 25.

Why do I get so much more accomplished up there? Part of it is no Internet (my daughters have lobbied long and hard to get Internet installed up there, but so far I've resisted). Part of it is no piles of laundry, no dishes (except for my own), no plants to water, no lawn to mow (yes, I mow my own lawn--with an old-fashioned reel mower). At home, thanks to all the above-named distractions and more, I probably average six solid hours' writing time a day if I'm lucky, and I try to devote weekends to my family. At the lake, I write for 18 hours a day. So if I stay up there seven days, that's basically equal to a month a home.

When I look at it that way, maybe I'm not as productive up there as I like to think I am (I did say I spend a lot of time staring at that lake). And then, because I write by hand, I still need to come home and type everything up and do a preliminary edit.

But I've come to appreciate the opportunity the lake house offers me to simply live and breathe my story twenty-four hours a day, with only the occasional phone call from my husband and daughters checking in with me. I also cherish the peace that comes from watching the ducks cut a V-shaped wave across the surface of the water. I planted a hummingbird and butterfly garden across the front of the house, which brings a parade of little visitors to feed just feet away from where I'm sitting. I enjoy the hawks soaring over the treetops with wings outstretched; the squirrels chasing each other around the trunks of the pines; the chipmunk that lives under the back porch and loves to torment Huckleberry (the one cat I always take with me).

This past week, I had a new visitor. I was on the swing writing away when I heard a strange scraping rattle; looking up, I discovered that a big tortoise had crawled up on the porch with me. This guy is at least 16" long. (Unfortunately, I only had my phone with me, so the picture isn't the best, especially since the late afternoon sun was sending harsh shadows across the concrete). I didn't even know we had them up there.

And I can now say that Book Number 8 is coming along nicely, and I'm hoping that after one more trip to the lake in October, the rough draft will be finished.

Friday, September 16, 2011

When Books Become CDs

My author's copies of the audio version of Where Shadows Dance finally arrived, and it was quite a strange experience sitting down and listening to my own book. Interestingly enough, I enjoyed the reader's rendition of the dialogue of the minor characters. But neither Gibson, Sebastian, nor Hero sounded the way I "hear" them, so it was disconcerting. I made it through most of the first CD, then dozed off. Always a danger at this point, since I can practically recite the book in my sleep.

But Steve, being a trooper (and having only read it once), listened to the entire thing. He said he enjoyed it, and that he thought the banter between Sebastian and Hero came off even better when it was spoken. Of course, Steve listens to two or three books a week, while I've probably listened to only half a dozen, period. And I've never listened to a book by an author I normally read, so I can only wonder at how different the experience is.

Thoughts, anyone?

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Word Collector

When I was younger, I loved to collect words. I'd relish each new discovery, store it away in my memory, and then trot it out for use whenever the opportunity offered. But somewhere along the way, I pretty much quit doing that. It wasn't a conscious decision; it wasn't even something I was aware had happened. I guess I got lazy. Or maybe just distracted.

Then, a couple of months ago, I stumbled across a word (for the curious, it was canard) and thought, That's a word I know, but I never use it. Then, a few hours later, I ran across another such word. And a few hours after that, a third such word presented itself to me. It was obviously a sign. But because my memory is not what it used to be, I knew if I didn't write the words down, they would fade again from my consciousness. So I got out a Post-It note, wrote down the three words, and stuck it up on my monitor with a mental note to stop being so lazy and make it point to move these words from my passive into my active vocabulary.

And then a strange thing happened. I started noticing lots of such words, or words I didn't know at all but wish I did. Soon, my Post-It was covered. I switched to a note card. Now I have two cards covered front and back; I'm thinking about buying a little empty book. But you know what? I'm still not using them. So I thought I'd share some of them, which is sorta like using them, only not quite. So here we go, in no particular order:

A cat lover.


From the people who brought us Schadenfreude, this one means unhappiness at the pleasure of others.

UPDATE A word of warning: a German reader tells me he's never heard of Gluckschmerz, which evidently should be spelled Gl├╝cksschmerz if it did exist. But I still think it's a great word and ought to exist even if it doesn't!

If you have favorite little-known or little-used words, feel free to send them in. I'm still collecting!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Yes, Please?


This is a satellite image of a trough of low pressure, currently located over the Gulf of Mexico, which we're told has a strong possibility of developing into a tropical cyclone that will probably hit Louisiana. They're saying it has the potential to dump a lot of rain on us, but since it's already so close it probably won't have time to strengthen too much before it comes ashore.

Don't get me wrong; I don't want any flooding or high winds or damage of any kind. But there's this nasty marsh fire that's been burning right on the outskirts of New Orleans all week. Think of how a swamp smells. Then think about how that would smell if it were burning. Yeah, pretty sickening. Literally. It's sending the old, the young, those with respiratory problems, to the emergency rooms.

So a nice hard rain would be great about now. Not too hard. No flooding. No trees crashing into houses. Just enough water falling from the sky to stop a fire that is now threatening the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge. Please?

UPDATE: Okay, make that No Thank You! Now they're predicting 10-20 inches of rain and warning residents to clean out their gutters, park their cars on the neutral ground, avoid driving through flooded streets, etc, etc. Good grief. Hey, can't we just get a nice, solid rain? Like, you know, 1 or 2 inches? Must it always be drought or flood?