August 2007 Archives

Let Them Lie

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sleepingdogs.jpg It's how I get my work done. I've mentioned before that I work best with two dogs on the bed. That's Sweetie Pie the yellow Lab draped over her little black cohort, Django. Django's a new addition to the pack, but as you can see, he's fitting in nicely.

So while the pack and I are hard at work, go check out Blogging By and About Authors, whose goal is to connect writers with their readers. It features reviews by the amazing Harriet Klausner.



My newest (and probably last) STAR TREK novel, RESISTANCE, is in stores this week. I wrote it more than two years ago, while my husband was undergoing chemotherapy for nonHodgkins lymphoma.

The inscription "Heers to Hope" is the motto of my very dear friend Sara, who was told some years ago that her cancer, which had spread to her brain, was so advanced that she was terminal. She was sent home to get her affairs in order. Fortunately, Sara didn't listen to them. Her cancer went into full remission, and today she's pursuing a career in photography.

Heers to hope, everyone!

How to Write a Book

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Here's some advice from Scott Berkun over at The Berkun Blog, subtitled "the short honest truth."

I have to agree: Most people balk when they realize the work involved. It's ridiculous, really -- most day jobs in corporate America pay more per hour than the average novelist makes, when you break down the amount of time spent working. Sure, there are a few lucky souls who hit the bigtime with the first book, but most of us toil in the salt mines for years before achieving a modest degree of success.

As for glamorous lifestyle that follows publication: I'll be mowing the lawn this morning, then tucking into another Sunday spent at the computer.

It's the single most-asked question of fiction writers. I used to reply with Harlan Ellison's snappy comeback, "From a post-office box in Schenectady."

But it doesn't answer the question, of course, because if we writers had any idea where our inspiration came from, the technique would have been patented long ago.

Over the years, I've paid attention to where my best ideas strike me: in the shower, walking the dog, drifting off to sleep. In fact, I was mowing the lawn last Saturday when I experienced a sudden insight about the novel I'm working on, and a marvelous idea for a critical scene came to me full-blown. (I started mowing the lawn as a teenager and kept up the practice when I discovered how much problem-solving I got done while pushing those deadly blades over my little green patch of suburbia.)

What do all of these places have in common? I'm in a meditative state. My mind is free and somewhere else, not on the book. I'm not thinking.

I formally meditate, though I've been irregular about it lately. I can't recommend it highly enough; I gain insight and reduce my stress level significantly. The core of the practice is freeing your mind from the problems that plague you -- i.e., the chatter, the noise of thinking.

Here's a post on Zen Habits (a great lifehacking blog with tons of how-tos for organizing your life) about non-sectarian meditation.

Give it a shot and see if you don't become inspired. Me, I'm going out again this morning to mow the lawn (for real).

I have fallen in love with a blog that is no longer being updated.

But oh, the archives!

Miss Snark was a literary agent (she has since gone on to marry George Clooney, according to her blog). She answered questions about submitting fiction manuscripts -- and she did so with style and grace and no small amount of snarkiness. Those of you who are authors, aspiring or otherwise, could learn much about the publishing world, submissions, and the courtship of agents from Miss Snark, even though she has left us for a time.

My own experience with agents: If you haven't sold a book, it's nigh impossible to find one. Once you sell -- and become a marketable commodity -- they'll catch wind of it and come to you.

After a false start, I found an agent I adore. I've been with him almost twenty-five years now. His name is Russ, and you can't have him, girls. He's all mine.

In the meantime: six polished pages so far today, perhaps one or two more to come this evening. I have a nicely gruesome scene coming up, which always puts me in a chipper mood.


My very own Mona Lisa USB flash card, from Brando.

It's Saturday, but our intrepid writer never rests. I'll be working through the weekend, with breaks to walk Miss Sweetie Pie (otherwise, she rests her chin upon my keyboard and gives me that shatteringly mournful look).

Writerly Idiosyncracies


We all know that Mark Twain dressed in white; but did you know that his shirts all buttoned in the back?

Edgar Allen Poe wore only black. And Forest McDonald writes naked on his front porch.

Behold, the list of writers' quirks and idiosyncrasies, courtesy of Judy Reeves.

Me -- well, I have a beautifully-appointed office. But I ignore it completely and write in bed, with a dog on my husband's pillow beside me.

Update on THE BLOODIEST QUEEN: I thought I had a 600-page book here... Turns out I'm wrong; try 800 pages, and I'm nowhere near the end. Ayyyyy! Anyway, take all those earlier comments about me being crazed and quadruple them. Take-out again tonight!

At least, not until I write a novel set after the year 1694, when "snicker" was first recorded, perhaps coming from the Dutch snikken, "to gasp, sob."

No one sniggered (a variant) until 1706.

Word origin is one of the thousand little thorns that prick the writer of historical novels. I instinctively avoid words that feel too modern -- for example, none of my characters can be mesmerized, since the word comes from Franz Anton Mesmer, who developed the theory of animal magnetism and hypnosis at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

That's why the the Online Etymology Dictionary is one of my closest friends. If you have an interest in word midwifery, check it out.