Monday, May 29, 2006

The Signing Express

Looks like the L.A. area is the place to be for book signings for the next week! Personally, I’m planning on dropping in at three of them. Here’s what’s on tape:

Thursday June 1st
7:30 p.m. THILLER: Things get started off with a bang as several of the contributors to the new Thriller Anthology from ITW and MIRA Books gather across the country doings several signings. (See schedule here for location of event nearest you.)

At Barnes & Noble on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, my local event, Denise Hamilton, Gregg Hurwitz, Gayle Lynds, Christopher Reich, and Christopher Rice will all be there signing copies of the book. I’m definitely going, and I’m dragging Phil Hawley with me…okay, not dragging. He wants to go. In fact, I’m making him drive.

Friday June 2nd
7:00 p.m. Barry Eisler will be signing copies of The Last Assassin at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood. I’m going to this one, too!

7:30 p.m. More THILLER but this time at the Borders in West L.A. Almost identical cast to the one on Thursday.

Saturday June 3rd
5:00 p.m. Cornelia Read signs copies of Field Of Darkness at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood. I’m hoping to at least stop in for a few minutes to pick up my copy and say hello in person to Ms. Read!

Sunday June 4th
4:30 p.m. Still More THILLER It’s a final stop for the thriller gang on this crazy weekend. This time at the very busy Mystery Bookstore. Bobby and gang are going to have to sleep for a week after all of this excitement!

Monday June 5th
1:00 p.m. Lee Child and Cornelia Read in a joint appearance at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks.

Lee Child is also going to make a drop in appearance at Mystery Bookstore. No time specified.

Wow…I’m just exhausted writing about all of it.

Don’t you wish you lived here? At least for a week?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Copy Edits In Progress

First off, the notes and corrections aren’t bad at all. In fact the majority of the marks are instructions for the printing/typesetting process. There are actually many pages where there are no marks at all.

Most of the work I have to do is in answering and address several questions and issues both the copy editor and my editor have come up with. These are mainly written on yellow post-it notes stuck throughout the manuscript. I’ve taken the route of going through the entire manuscript and taking care of the easy ones first. Then I go through again and again dealing progressively with the more involved issues. This way, the real big things (nothing is really THAT big) can stew in my mind while I deal with everything else.

So I’d guess I’d say, so far, so good.

One thing, though…I’ve learned that I don’t know the difference between past and passed. Well, that’s not exactly right. I mean I DO know the difference, just don’t ask me what it is right now…I’m tired. But apparently my fingers don’t know the difference. Because when they’re typing away on my keyboard they confused these two word more often than anything else. I’d reprimand them if I thought it would do any good, but they’d probably say, “I was only following orders from the brain.” Then the brain would have some lame excuse like there “must be some faulty wiring in the spinal cord region.” And the spinal cord would blame the nerve cells, who wouldn’t blame anyone but would threaten to all get “pinched” at the same moment if I came down on them.

So I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this is a problem I’ll have to live with. I’m sure someday I’ll get passed…past…passed…past…around it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Copy Edits Cometh

I knew this day was approaching. It had been hinted at for weeks, though the original timeline had The Day happening in early June. I’m talking about receiving my copy edits on Hung Out to Die.

For those of you not familiar, copyediting is what happens after you’ve done all your story editing with your editor. The manuscript then is giving to a person whose job it is to go over the entire book word-by-word, line-by-line. They look for typos, inconsistencies, misuses of language, and God knows what else.

I’ve been both looking forward to, and a bit nervous about this stage. But in a few short hours the package with my marked up pages will be in my hands, and I’ll need to put my nerves and excitement to the side. It’ll be get down to work time.

They’ve given me about three weeks to go over everything, approving or STETing suggestions, answering questions they have, and generally tightening the manuscript. Then it’ll be on to printing bound galleys and ARCs.

I can feel things starting to pick up speed. I just hope I don’t forget to strap myself in!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Another Fun Read


Just finished Jeff Shelby's Killer Swell yesterday. I really enjoyed it. Jeff has created a great cast of characters. They'll be fun to watch as their relationships evolve over the coming books in the series. It's also a pretty quick read. And seeing as it has a beach/surfer backdrop, you could say it's the perfect summer book.

Check it out.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

In Reference to Reference

I don’t know about you, but I used to be a compulsive reference book collector. The kind of books I’m talking about are the ones specifically aimed at writers. This has come to mind because as I set up my work area in my new place, I find myself unpacking boxes and boxes of reference books.

A sampling of titles:

Smart English
Crime Reference
The Dictionary of Clich├ęs
A Writer’s Companion
20 Master Plots
Descriptionary
Dictionary of Modern Slang
Barlett’s Familiar Quotations


The list goes on and on. The thing that I find funny is that once I purchased each book, I would typically put it on a shelf and never open it. It was a comfort just to know that they were there. In a way, I think I purchased them to prove to myself that I was serious about being a writer. Weird, I know, but it worked.

Nowadays I seldom even open my dictionary as my computer has a perfectly adequate one. Even when I’m looking to name a character, the baby name books I own sit on the shelf, there are now better resources on the Internet.

I contemplated getting rid of some of my growing reference library, but just couldn’t do it. And chances are in the future, if I’m browsing through a bookstore and see a reference book I think might be interesting, I’ll probably buy it. It’ll join the others, but I’ll be glad it’s there.

And by the way, if anyone wants to know “How to Create A New Identity,” I have a book on that, too.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What's a Picture Worth?

One of the interest tools I use to help get my creativity going is looking at pictures. I’m not talking about pulling out the family photo album and getting at laugh at that shot of Uncle Dan wearing the hula skirt…though, that actually could work. What I’m talking about are stock photo books.

In advertising, production, and the graphics industry there is a big need for photography. But shooting something new every time you need it is expensive. So what’s spring up is a whole industry of stock photos that you can purchase for a particular use. To aid their potential buyers, these stock companies create books of photos. They divide the pictures into sections – active people, panoramas, nature, highways, etc. You get the idea. Sometimes whole books are dedicated to one subject.

Over the years, I’ve collected several of these books. When I’m stuck or feeling uninspired, I’ll pick one up and start thumbing through the pages. If a picture catches my eye, I’ll mark it with a post-it. Occasionally, a photo will do more than just catch my eye. It’ll jump off the page at me. I’ll stop and stare at it for several minutes. Maybe it’s a picture of a person, and I can see their whole character right before me. Maybe it’s a place and as I watch as a scene from a story I have yet to write unfolds.

Often the pictures I’ve looked at don’t make it to the written page. But what they have done is get my juices flowing again. And in the back of my mind I know one day I’m going to find that picture that will translate not only to the page but will give me an entire story. It’ll be like my own mini-moment of nirvana.

What do you use to jump start your creativity?

Monday, May 15, 2006

***BREAKING NEWS***

Big congrats to my friend J.T. Ellison, a frequent contributor here at The Sphere. Seems she gone and got herself a 3 book deal with MIRA. The announcement in Publisher’s Marketplace says it’s a “very nice deal.” Hell, isn’t anytime you get your first book contract a very nice deal? (Unless, J.T., they are throwing a ton of money at you…then it IS a very nice deal…and if you need a new best friend, I’m available.)

J.T. I couldn’t be more excited for you. Way to go.

You can catch J.T. Ellison blogging every Friday at Murderati.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Work Space

I find myself contemplating workspace. With the move this weekend, it’s my opportunity to set up an area (were it a room to itself…ah…that’ll be the day!) that I can use for my primary writing location.

As some of you know by now, my favorite office is a table at whatever coffee shop I happen to be near. That probably won’t change. I love being surrounded by people when I work. But what I would like to change is the percentage of work (and by work, I mean actual pages written on my manuscript) I am able to accomplish at home.

I’ve got some sort of block when it comes to writing prose at home. It’s not that I haven’t done it, nor continue to do it, it’s just that it doesn’t happen very often. So I’m looking at this move as an opportunity to change that mode of thinking. Fresh place, fresh start.

Let’s start with the desk. A lot of people love a large working space. Someplace you can either spread out a lot of things on, or keep clean and empty to help unclutter your mind. (Clutter might be a good future post…me = not so go at keeping the clutter away.) I used to be a big desk person, too. My previous desk now serves as my dinning table. The key word there is now. When it was my desk a few years ago, it was my desk.

These days, I like my desk small. My current desk, and the one I will keep using after the move is 2 ¾ feet across by 2 feet deep. Tiny. And I love it. It has a nice, light pine finish on top, with a dark stained edge. It’s a nice wooden table that looks like it came straight from a nice furniture shop. But the secret is, it didn’t. Or at least it didn’t get to me that way.

I found it abandoned outside an apartment building. And don’t worry, I waited several hours before I laid claim the table, checking every so often to see if it was still there, sitting only a few feet away from a dumpster. In my mind, I saved the poor thing from certain disaster at the city dump.

…now I feel compelled to say I NEVER have done anything like that before or since. That was my one and only refuse “purchase”…stop judging me… oh, wait…that’s me judging myself…sorry….

Anyway, the desk will be the centerpiece of my new work space. I’ve staked out a place for it under a window overlooking a large green space.

So besides the desk?

Sound system will be important. But since my music will actually be generated from my computer, I just need to plug in a good set of speakers.

My chair is a nice, old-fashion wooden office chair on wheels. It tilts backwards and rocks a little if I want. Think I purchased it from some fancy furniture store about ten years ago. It’s a little scratched up, now though. Once, when I was transporting it in the back of a truck, I hadn’t secured it properly and it flew out onto the highway. It’s a wonder it didn’t shatter into splinters. It still works great.

There are a few things I’m going to need for this new space. A couple of filing cabinets so I don’t have to leave everything in boxes. And some book cases…Yes, I do have book cases already, but all the real estate on their shelves has already been claimed twice over.

I’m sure there will be a few other additions once I get settled in.

But the truth is, the best office furniture in the world won't make a difference. The most important thing will be that I believe it's a place where I can work and be creative. Yep...it's all psychology.

How about you? What’s your workspace like? Is it they way you want it? What would you change?

TODAY’S TOP 10 BRETT’S iPOD ARTISTS/ALBUMS:
(in no particular order)

1. K.T. Tunstall – Eye to the Telescope
2. U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind
3. John Coltrane – Blue Train
4. Green Day – American Idiot
5. Tan Dun & Yo Yo Ma – Soundtrack to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
6. The Who – Quadrophenia
7. Tei Towa – Future Listening!
8. Sergio Mendes – Timeless
9. My Morning Jacket – Z
10. Billie Holiday – The Complete Decca Recordings

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Thoroughly Pleasant Evening

As some of you know, I will be part of a panel discussion at ThirllerFest this summer - What Do You Mean I Can’t Quit My Day Job: New Writer’s Tell It Like It Is. If I’m not mistaken, most of us on the panel have our debut novels coming out next year. As it turns out, a couple of the other panel members live here in the L.A. area. Last night I met up with one of them, Philip Hawley, Jr., at where else than Starbucks.

It was Phil’s suggestion, and I quickly agreed. We met up at 7 p.m. and spent two hours talking about our lives, our books, the publishing process and the industry in general. Phil’s book, Stigma, is due for release in March 2007. It sounds great!

I guess the best part was that, as soon to be published authors, we seldom get a chance to sit down with anyone and talk shop. We all basically work in our own little spheres of solitude, with the only interaction book-wise being the occasional call or email from our editors or agents. (Thank God for the blogs and my critique group. Without them, it would be like rowing a boat alone in the middle of the ocean.)

I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about Phil in the future. He is definitely one of the nice guys. Maybe we can even coax him to leave a post now and then.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Running

I’ve spent most of the weekend running. Running from this store to that store. Buying things I’ll need in my new place. Running around my current abode, packing, discarding and generally making a mess.

I’ve also been running from working on book two.

I’ve talked about this before. How I’m stuck in the loop, second-guessing everything I come up with. Knowing the last thing I want to do is write a variation on book one, but worrying that every plot I think up is just that. They aren’t. I’m over thinking. Case in point, one plot I have is definitely different. But the amount of research I’ll have to do is daunting. (J.T., maybe I could hire you? And by hire, I mean ask you to do it for free.) Plus I like to have traveled to the main locations my stories are set in. In this plot, that might not be the case, and that concerns me.

So I continued to run into the night – first Best Buy, then the shoe store, and finally back home to watch part of Soylent Green (gotta love TIVO.)

This morning when I got up, I decided to go on a real run, after all, I did finally buy new running shoes the night before. Okay, okay, most would probably refer to what I do as a jog. Some might even look at me and say they could walk faster than I move, but I digress.

Run, I did. With my iPod. Music on loud – this time the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge, a nice mix of slow and fast. I though about many things on my run. Potential jacket copy for Hung Out To Die. How I was going to arrange my furniture in the new pad. Why Expedia.com has a billboard up next to The Grove shopping center that says “See Where The Sun Goes When It’s Cloudy Here,” and thinking that sign belongs more in Seattle than Los Angeles…then looking up and realizing it’s cloudy this morning.

As I finished my run, coming to the last few steps before I’d start my two-block cool down walk, a new plot hit me. Bam. Out of the blue. I tell you, I wasn’t even looking for it. But it’s a good one. Easy for me to see beginning and end. Lots of interesting characters. A great location where I’ve actually been.

I stopped mid-step. I’m sure I looked odd. (Hold on, this is L.A. Everything is odd here.) Still, had there been others on the street, I’m sure they would have given me the “Are you okay?” raised eyebrow look.

Hell, yes. I was okay. Better than okay. Rockin’.

So while I was spending all weekend running away from the plot of book two, I ended up running right into it.

The moral here: If you're haveing a hard time with a plot, with a scene, with your lover or whatever, take a breather and forget about it for a while. The answer will come. It always comes.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Another Recommendation


Just finished M.J. Rose's The Delilah Complex. It'll suck you in and keep you wondering until you're done. M.J. is one of those writers whose prose flow so smoothly, she makes you forget at times you are actually reading.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What Goes and What Stays?

So my house is a mess. I mean, A MESS. Boxes everywhere. Piles of God knows what all over the place. I’ve been throwing things out by the ton.

See, I’m a pack rat. Still am. There are a lot of things I refuse to part with, but since I’m moving, I’m trying to be a little more realistic about what I need and don’t need. That means those jeans I’ve been holding onto for years…gone, Christmas decorations I don’t use…gone, old sinus meds, old t-shirts, unused furniture…gone.

One thing I realize I’ve gained a lot of is hard copies of the different novels I’ve written. (I’ve finished four novels…Hung Out to Die – my first sale – was actually book number three.) My process is this: first draft is done entirely on the computer, then comes the re-writes. I do rewrites in rounds, with each round basically being an edit and a fine tune. For the rewrite, I print out a full copy of the novel and then read it, marking it up as I’m going along. Often this involves complete rewrites of scenes, my revisions wrapping around to the backside of the printed page. I like the feel of reading the text on a printed page. I enjoy crossing out what’s wrong and noting the change I want to make. It’s freeing for me, somehow. That’s the first part. The fine tune comes in as I input the changes into my computer. I don’t just insert exactly what I’ve written. I give it a second look and make sure it’s what I want, rewriting again if I think something better will work.

That’s one rewrite round. I can do three, four, six, ten rounds. To me, getting the work right is extremely important. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those people who constantly rewrites and reworks. Between each rewrite, someone other than me usually reads the draft – maybe the members of my critique group, maybe a trusted friend, and now usually my editor. Their notes and questions and suggestions are what drive the next draft.

What does this have to do with my move? Simply this: I now realizes that I have a ton of printouts of all my manuscripts, each a different draft with different notes. And I’ve got to tell you, I can’t throw any of them out. So those five or six boxes are coming with me and probably will stay with me until one of us has turned to dust. My personal writing history. I’ll probably never look them over again. No one will. But these babies ain’t going anywhere.

And you know what? It’s actually a comforting thought.