Thursday, January 26, 2012

On Deadlines

A friend, the fabulous Robert Isleib (who now writes as Lucy Burdette), posted a casual little note today on Facebook. She said she was back at the starting line. Page 1 of Book 3, which she said is due September 1. (I should say that her Book 1, An Appetite for Murder, is a great read, and a wonderful start to a new series.)

Hmm. A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die is also due September 1. However, I already have more than a third written on the rough draft, 27,000 words at last count. Am I way ahead? Well, sure, way ahead of Lucy in this case. But this is her third book in the series and probably the tenth book (or more?) that she has written.

This is the third book I am writing and the first in this series.
Should I slow down? No way! Two other authors and I have formed an email support group, because we all have the same agent and the same deadline for the first book in our new cozy series. Jessie decided on a personal deadline of April 7 to finish her first draft. I decided on the same.

Why? So I can have lots of time to revise, edit, and get some critiques done before I turn it into the publisher. I do NOT have ten books under my belt, and I do NOT have two other books already written in this series. I'm still developing the protagonist and the other characters. I'm still honing descriptions of the setting. I'm still learning how to write.

I used to be much, much more of a procrastinator. You know, finishing papers in high school and college at the last possible minute. Wrapping Christmas presents into the night on Christmas Eve.

Now I am able to work ahead and finish projects with plenty of time to spare. Why? Because I have other demands on my time, like the day job? Because I'm more, ahem, mature? Not sure. I already have a short story written and revised to submit to this year's Level Best anthology (to be called Blood Moon!), and it isn't due until the end of April.

What I am sure of is that furthering my fiction-writing career is one of the most important things in my life these days. I want to be sure I have enough time to hone, polish, and improve my stories and books so they are the absolute best tale I can tell before I release them into the hands and inboxes of editors, agents, and most important, the reading public.

Of course you might ask why this week's post is delayed. It wasn't from procrastination, really! I was just busy and a topic hadn't come to mind.

What about you? Plan ahead and work steadily toward the goal? Save it for the last minute? Or does it depend on what the work is?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I got some great news last night. Speaking of Murder is a finalist in a contest.

I submitted it to the Linda Howard Award for Excellence contest last October. The book wasn't under contract at the time and hadn't been published, so it was eligible for this competition run by the Birmingham, Alabama chapter of Romance Writers of America (RWA). I selected the category of "Suspense: Romance-based novels that include an element of mystery or suspense." There is certainly romance, mystery, AND suspense in the book.

I didn't think much about it since then, not expecting that I would have a chance. I'm not even a member of the organization, and I don't write in a southern style. Imagine my surprise when I received the email that I am a finalist, one of only five! The organizers said that category was flooded with entrants.

The final judges are an editor at a press and a literary agent from an agency. I have to submit a two-to-five page synopsis of the book, which I already have, and resubmit the first twenty-five pages I sent them the first time, revised if I so choose. Okay, now I'm nervous.

The winners will be announced at the RWA Gulf Coast chapter's Silken Sands Conference, held in sunny Pensacola, Florida in mid March. Hmm. Maybe a plane ticket is in my future? Keep your fingers crossed and your good-luck mojo pointed my way.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

When Is It Too Late?

When is it too late? I've been thinking about this a lot lately for a couple of reasons:
  • The push for resolving to do things differently at the change of the year can also promote thoughts of, "It's too late for me to change that."
  • The recent death or illness of several people close to me or close to those I love makes me want to be sure I have said and done what's important before it's too late.
It's certainly NOT too late to do more situps, to drink fewer glasses of wine, to write more letters, to worry less. Will these things happen? Maybe, maybe not, but I know it will never be too late to try as long as I walk this green earth.

It IS too late to tell my father, my cousin Mike, my favorite aunt Jo, or Bette and Roy Lockhart one more time that I love them. I feel confident that they knew of my love before they "went on ahead," as Bette used to to say, though, and I make sure my elderly mother and my sons knows it every time I talk with them.

It IS too late for a friend who had a difficult relationship with his mother to clear the air with her, since he didn't do it before she died.

It's NOT too late to learn a new language, to visit new countries, to begin a meditation practice, to take up the cello again. I'm pretty sure, with my joints, it IS too late for me to climb Mt. Washington or take up cardio-kickboxing.

But you know what? That's okay with me. I already ran the Boston
Marathon, got my black belt in karate, and did my share of hiking. As long as I can still walk a hilly mile and dance for a couple of hours at a stretch, I'm happy.

I wondered for almost two decades if it was too late to finish that mystery novel set on an organic farm that I wrote much of seventeen years ago. I'm so pleased that it isn't too late to at least bring the farmer and her world back to life in A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, even if I discard most of the original writing.

Seize the day - carpe diem - is an excellent rule of life, along with Live your life so you have no regrets.

What in your life do you feel it's too late for, and what are you glad it's not too late for?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Drinking Locally

In A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, farmer Cam Flaherty enjoys a sip of locally brewed ale or wine from the local winery. But is this plausible in Massachusetts?

You bet it is. The Ipswich Brewery has a new Five Mile Stock Ale (you can read about it here and here). It's good, too. Here's their description:

"With most of 5 Mile’s ingredients locally harvested from Massachusetts farms and with one ingredient grown within five miles of Ipswich, 5 Mile is truly a local brew. Dry-hopped with Cascade hops from our very own Ipswich hop yard, 5 Mile is a big, malty stock ale brewed to be enjoyed by Locavores and Omnivores alike."

The Alfalfa Farm Winery is just down the road in Topsfield. I helped out on their vendange, or harvest day a couple of months ago. In return they fed the volunteers lunch with wine and let us all pick out a bottle to take home. In the book, Cam is sipping a glass of the Marechal Foch when she discovers the body. Mill River Winery is also nearby, but I haven't had a chance to check them out yet.

Turkey Shore Distilleries is in Ipswich. They make a white rum at their micro distillery. I haven't tried it yet, but plan to. Maybe we'll pick up a bottle to celebrate my son's return from Rum Central (Puerto Rico) later this spring.

National Public Radio just did a story on the Mohawk Bend restaurant and bar in Los Angeles that stocks only wine, beer, and spirits from California and serves only locally grown foods. That's a good place for such a venture. A restaurant like that in Massachusetts would likely have a much smaller selection.

A couple of the volunteers who belong to the Locavore Club won't drink coffee because it isn't local. Coffee plants don't tolerate frost. They thrive on shady land in humid climates with temperatures ideally around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. In the US, it's only grown commercially in Hawaii. I guess you could nurture a single plant in a big pot on wheels in Massachusetts. If you had a heated indoor pool at home in a glass enclosure, you could probably overwinter the coffee there. In Iceland they grow coffee in greenhouses heated by volcanic steam.

Do you have any local drinks you're particularly fond of? Ever tried growing a coffee plant in a frosty climate?