Friday, April 17, 2015

On a Dark Road with No Headlights

If anyone had asked me what it was like to write the tenth book in a series before I was published, I would have probably answered that it would be easy. I would imagine that all you had to do was sit down and let the words flow from your fingers and viola, another book. Too bad it isn’t true, at least for me.

For about the last week, writing has been like what I posted on FaceBook. Like driving a car with no headlights down a dark road. Even with a synopsis, I seemed lost and filled with self doubt. Everything I wrote seemed bad and I was afraid so boring it would be a substitute for a sleeping pill. The worst was the panicky feeling that whatever talent I had to write the other books had left me. I couldn’t write a page let alone the rest of the book. I half expected my character Molly to put her hand on her hip, turn and look at me and say “would you please get on with it. I have a crime to solve.”

Yesterday was the worst. I suppose if I was a drinker, it would have been time to have a belt of whiskey. Instead, I just had a belt of strawberry flavored sparkling water and stayed glued to my seat. Just keep going I told myself. Write anything, including little asides to myself (which will be erased during rewrite). Just put words on the page.

It felt like pushing a boulder up an incline. I was tempted to run away from my computer, but I stuck out the rising panic that what I was writing made no sense. Then something happened. I don’t remember when or how, but it got easier. I lost track of time, which is another way of saying I got into the flow. I hadn’t been able to turn on the words and now I couldn’t turn them off. I told myself I would just write another paragraph and it was better to stop in a place that would be easy to pick up later. Then just one more sentence. I looked out the window and it was dark.

I’m sure what I wrote will need a lot of work, but I also know it probably isn’t as bad as I imagine. Is there any chance that by the eleventh book in the series, it will be easier?

In the meantime my website is back up, but there are still some small issues. My web guy really got it back up quickly. These days, your lost without a website. I don’t know. All this was supposed to make things easier, but sometimes it seems like a fever dream trying to keep up with everything. I think I need another belt of strawberry sparkling water.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Advice to Aspiring Authors: From Five Malice Award Nominees

I’m delighted to host my fellow Agatha nominees for Best First Novel today on Killer Hobbies.  Click on the link in their name to go to their author web page and on the book title to purchase their work.  Be sure to read these phenomenal books and support this new crop of amazing talent.  And wish us all luck on May 2 when the winner will be announced!

Until then, here is our advice to aspiring writers:

Join a writing organization such as Sisters in Crime or Pennwriters and participate. They're a great source of support and education. It takes a village to write a book and survive in this business. Learn the craft of writing and write the best story you can. Finish the book! So many aspiring authors get tired with the story they're writing, get another idea, and start a new book. It's easy to end up with a half dozen books of only three or four chapters! And finally, never give up. The only surefire way of never getting published is to quit trying. 

Before you send your manuscript out make sure it is ready -- really, really ready. I burned a few bridges with the books "in the drawer" by sending them out too early. Knowing when your book is ready is difficult. Have you studied the craft and especially books similar to the one you are writing? Has someone other than your family and friends read it and given you feedback? Constructive criticism is a good thing. Are you out there meeting other writers? You never know when a chance meeting will change the course of your life -- it happened to me at the Malice Domestic banquet in 2005. Most of all don't give up. It took me fifteen years to get published. And have fun! 

Hi Tracy, thanks for inviting us here to visit the Killer Hobbies blog.

I follow a credo based on a quote I heard or read somewhere. Until recently I wasn’t sure who said it, but I now know it was William Faulkner. I live by his prudent words. “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning.”

Whether you write daily, or three hours a day twice a week, or two hours every Saturday, I think that consistency, however you can work it into your life schedule, is crucial to successful writing.

And once the story is written and you think it is done, if perchance, as a writer you have fallen in love with any of your written passages, you might want to consider a cooling off period until you are less enamored. Then take another pass at your work as a reader.

I wish great luck and success to every writer who sits at a computer or puts pen to paper. Don’t give up. Persistence is the key.

If you believe in your work, don’t give up! Stay positive and open minded. For example, I enjoyed querying agents and the connections that resulted from it. But in the end, an attorney helped me sign with a small publisher. The road to publication can be long. Yet the result (and sometimes the process) makes it all worthwhile!


Don’t give up! Writing is a TOUGH business. No one gets published without facing rejection. When I was trying to land an agent, I allowed myself twenty-four hours to feel bad about every rejection. Then I forced myself to do something proactive. Send out another letter, connect with another author, write another page.

You can’t please everyone, and yet when you write, you so desperately want to. (At least I do.) Just keep writing what you love and know that your work isn’t defined by what any one person thinks of it. If you write what you love, then you’ll have a great time even if your work never comes close to hitting the New York Times bestseller’s list.

Thanks, everyone!  I hope we see many of you in two weeks at Malice!

Tracy Weber


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Urban Wildlife

I doubt it'll surprise anyone to hear that I'm fascinated by animals, including wildlife.  And it's always amazed me that, in the urban Los Angeles area where I live, there are so many wild animals of so many different types. 

I'm fairly certain that I've mentioned the raccoons that sneak into our yard in the early morning hours around 4 AM to turn up the bit of sod we have there to look for grubs or whatever beneath.  The grass in that sod has taken root now so we've less evidence of raccoon visits. 

We do, however, see and hear a variety of birds.  I recently had to move some items around and off metal shelves we have on a downstairs back porch to discourage a noisy pair of wrens from building a nest there.  We see and hear hawks soaring around often.  Sometimes we hear owls at night, although we seldom see them.  And there are lots of other varieties of avians, including hummingbirds and mockingbirds, crows and doves. 

We always have squirrel visitors, too, climbing our trees and our neighbors' and scuttling across the ground in search of food.  They're always fun to observe.  But they have been known to chew power wires that then need to be replaced. 

Plus, we've got lizards in our yard, darting around when it's warm enough for these cold-blooded little creatures.  There's one in our house right now.  I spotted him last week but was unable to capture him and haven't seen him since.  Apparently lizards don't have much of a scent since the dogs seem oblivious to them. 

One of the main reasons I'm writing this now is that a mountain lion has been in the news here.  He's been labeled P-22, and his primary hangout has been nearby Griffith Park, where the L.A. Zoo is.  He's not an escapee from the zoo, though, but wild.  And he's been in the news because he was discovered vegging out in the basement in a nearby home in Las Feliz.  Animal Services encouraged him to move on, and I've heard he's finally left.  I hope he returns safely to his Griffith Park digs.

We used to own some property a few houses down from where we live now, and I've seen a lot of deer coming down from the hillsides onto that property.  Unfortunately, I've also seen, and heard, a lot of coyotes.  I have nothing against coyotes as long as they stay in their own habitats, but I worry a lot about my small dogs when coyotes are out and about.   

When I write about animals, it's primarily about pets, and mostly dogs at that.  But I'm fascinated about other kinds of animals, too.  And a couple of weeks ago, while visiting family, we visited a dairy that gives tours and got to see "baby cows" as my grandsons call them, in the process of being born! 

What are your favorite wild animals?  Pets?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Reading the Signs

Old Dobbin
Reads these signs
Each day
You see, he gets
His corn that way
Burma Shave

I’m starting to think I’ve exhausted the Burma Shave / epitaph collections as appetizers for my Tuesday columns.  There are more in each book, but I’ve used the best of them.  Question:  should I do something else?  Or should I just plunge in with my blogging?

I have a very good friend who does scrapbooking.  She’s not a fanatic, but she is insistent that after each travel adventure, we really should do a scrapbook.  I now have a canvas bag full of bits and pieces of my recent trip to England.  In a few days Becky and I will sit down with my friend and each put together a scrapbook.  One of the good parts of doing this is that it very vividly brings back memories of the trip, and I’m sure we’ll be laughing and sighing and sharing stories as we do this important finalization of the adventure.

Several people have suggested I should send Betsy and some members of the Monday Bunch to England – and have someone fall ill and wind up in the hospital.  Connor maybe?  Hmmmm . . . working . . .

Spring had sprung in England.  Every park offered wide swaths of daffodils, every tree and shrub that could bloom was in bloom, a joy to the eyes.  Now I’m back home and while the grass is greening, so far I haven’t seen so much as a crocus, much less a daffodil.  But buds on trees are swelling and I did see the green tips of tulips pushing their way up into the sunlight in a flowerbed.  So pretty soon, in the manner of the far north, spring will fairly explode.  Everything will bloom at once, from crocus to tulips to crab apple trees to dandelions – I remember seeing a dandelion come up blooming through a late snowfall one harsh winter.  This is Minnesota, where spring and fall are each about ten days long and you dare not put your potted plants out onto the patio until after Mother’s Day and you send your children out trick or treating wearing snowsuits under their costumes. Here are daffodils in Green Park.

One thing I'd remembering this morning is that the men in red coats and black-bear-fur hats  are not mere ornaments at the Tower of London and outside Buckingham Palace.  The weapons they carry are not antiques, but very modern automatic rifles.  One tends to forget they are real soldiers.