Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Note About California

Dear retailers,
Dear the rest of the country,
Dear Mother Nature,

It's October 6. I realize Alaska and Austria have already had snow. I realize the East Coast is swimming down their streets. And I realize it's officially the Halloween season.

But it's still summer here.

I further realize no one feels sorry for us Californians when we talk about the monotony of dry, 86-degree weather day after day, month after month. I get it. We're fortunate in a lot of ways. But our seasons are as every bit as screwed up as yours.

You all know about our high average temperatures. But there's something else about the climate out here you don't understand ... and it causes a hell of a lot of problems.

Summer in the rest of the world is June, July, and August.

Summer in California starts in mid-July and goes to mid-October.

Of course, we residents are all pretty used to this. But the rest of you aren't, and that's what causes us so many problems. (I'm looking at you, retailers.)

I've got plenty of examples:

  • Summer supplies and clothing are taken out of stores in mid-July—right as it gets hot here.
    Which means there are four air conditioning units for sale at Home Depot when hundreds of overheated California residents go looking for one on July 22.
  • Winter supplies and clothing appear in August.
    Which means it's 95 degrees outside and Target's featuring wool coats.
  • Social media fills with comments and delight over fall weather, first rainfalls, and pumpkin-spice everything. Christmas decorations appear. It's late September.
    It's 95 degrees here, and we haven't seen rain in three years.
I'm not asking for sympathy, I'm merely explaining the flip side of sunny California. Though I do admit to wishing some enterprising store managers would buck their corporate orders and keep appropriate stock on shelves for an extra month. 

And if anyone wants to stock up on air conditioning units next May, come September, you could make a killing selling them at two or three times face value. Something to consider...

Still Roasting in Southern California

Thursday, September 17, 2015

RED FLAGS Cover Reveal!

The book is done, the summary is written, and the cover is designed. Here are the details to tide you over until April 2016!


Professional racecar driver Kate Reilly arrives in Long Beach, California, to promote the upcoming Grand Prix, not expecting to identify a dead body or solve another murder—especially when the victim’s a relative she didn’t even like. Her new sponsor and the race organizers apply pressure, wanting to keep racing’s image clean, and Kate reluctantly agrees to investigate.

From Sony Studios to Venice Beach, from Rodeo Drive to the Hollywood Hills, Kate plunges into the Southern California scene. She parties with movie stars, “takes meetings,” and shops with rich housewives, all while trying to uncover a motive for murder. At the same time, she’s negotiating the next steps in her professional racing career, including testing a new racecar on an oval track.

In the flurry of excitement, neither Kate’s murder inquiries nor her personal life run smoothly. She discovers more about the disreputable members of her father’s family than she expected or wanted to know, and her temper frays. She publicly juggles two attractive men, drawing intense and unwanted attention from paparazzi. And worse, this ballooning media exposure generates national commentary about her career choices, talent, and femininity.

The Long Beach race weekend begins with Kate constantly on the go, fielding questions, involved in three separate racing series, and closing in on a killer. Red flags warn her of danger in the racecar, but off-track, Kate finds it hard to heed the signs and stay out of a killer’s grasp.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Interview and Gold Medal

A couple weeks ago, I had a really great conversation with Raceline Radio Network Toronto about my Kate Reilly Racing Mystery series and the recent awards I've won. That's right, me and Scott Dixon, newly crowned IndyCar Series champion, were on the show...sadly not hanging out together!

The Raceline Radio Network site has the interview (from 13:44-20:10).

I even spilled the beans about a recent award I hadn't mentioned yet, a Gold Medallion in the International Automotive Media Competition, which was awarded for receiving 97-100 points (out of 100) in the judging.

That award joins the two (two!) #1 Motorsports Book awards I've received from the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association (AARWBA), for each of the last two years (Braking Points in 2013 and Avoidable Contact in 2014).

It's an embarrassment of riches!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Saving Lives

The racing world lost a great talent, a good friend, and, by all accounts, an amazing human being this week. Justin Wilson will be profoundly missed by even those, like myself, who'd never met him. A race fan commented on social media that if there were any photos of him not smiling, they must have been Photoshopped, because it simply didn't happen.

I certainly have feelings about the danger of racing, the danger of racing open-cockpit cars in particular, and the weird state of being a fan of racing. But Doug Patterson (an excellent photographer and social media friend of mine) put it best: "I love this sport for the greatness and awesomeness it can bring out in competitors and fans. I hate this sport for the unbearable price it on occasion demands."

But I want to talk about what felt to me like the cherry on top of my sundae of regret that I'd never meet JW or see the further impact he had in the racing world. The capstone on the story of what a decent, generous human being he was. The fact that by donating his organs, which he'd chosen to do and his wife approved, he saved the lives of six other people.

That's generosity and decency in action.

So to Justin Wilson, to Natasha Richardson (Liam Neeson's late wife), and all of the other non-famous, generous departed souls out there who've allowed others to live when they could not ... thank you.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to honor the lives of those who gave so much is to commit to being an organ donor. I've been registered since I had the choice, and I urge you all to register also. Find out how to sign up for your state.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How Long Does It Take You?

One of the questions I'm certain every author is asked—in addition to "where do you get your ideas?—is "how long does it take you to write a book?"

The real answer is "an eternity," though I usually respond with the total elapsed time between starting and finishing, though I'll cut out any months of total inactivity that might (usually do, for me) occur in the middle.

So for the book I'm currently finishing (Red Flags, the fourth Kate Reilly Racing Mystery, due out in April 2016!), the answer will be an elapsed time of about eight or nine months. I started the book about a year ago, but didn't work on it at all for three months earlier this year (during the time of quitting-my-day-job).

Eight or nine months. Of course, everyone understands that doesn't mean continuous work.

But as I sit here, editing. (And editing and editing.) And as I'm reminded how long it takes to edit, then how long it takes to enter the edits into the computer file (I have to do some editing rounds by hand on paper), I start to think about counting up the actual hours.

It might be painful to see the result, and it'll involve plenty of guesswork, but let's try.

I'm calling it three categories of effort:

  1. Research and planning: covering everything from character studies, to hashing out the clues and plot points, to writing a synopsis. 
  2. Writing: banging out the first, ugly draft.
  3. Editing: reading and rereading, over and over, to fix holes and tighten prose. And catch typos.
Research and planning is the most difficult to quantify, but I know that working out the synopsis alone took probably 20 hours. So I'm going to call that category 75 hours total, which may still be low, because I'm not counting all of the race watching, motorsports article reading, and video viewing.
Research and planning total: 75 hours

Writing is a little easier, because I write words over time. A conservative estimate is probably 500 words/hour. I think I usually write faster than that, but I've also go to account for the days when I sat for a couple hours and only produced 200. The draft manuscript this time was a whopping 110,000 words, which, divided by 500/hour, equals ...
Writing total: 220 hours

Editing always surprises me by how long it takes. I can do the editing at a rate of 20 pages/hour, and I can enter the edits into the computer at a rate of 40 pages/hour. Calling every draft an average of 360 pages, that means that each draft takes me 27 hours to edit. I've already done two drafts, and I expect to do three more, and to spend 20 hours proofreading the ARC down the line, which means ...
Editing total: 155 hours

For a grand total of 450 hours to create one Kate Reilly Racing Mystery. More or less. Probably more. If I put in 40 hour work weeks on it, I could, in theory, finish a book every three months. (I hear my husband saying, "what are you waiting for?!")

But of course, what this doesn't take into account is the gestation time required for ideas. The creative recovery and regeneration required. Sometimes, the need to work paying jobs. 

And let's not forget the bing eating, discouraged napping, and random internet surfing. Those take a really, really long time....

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Shaking Up Routine

I did something weird last week, as I was finishing the first draft of my next Kate Reilly mystery. And when I say "weird," I mean that to me, it felt as wrong as putting on your pants backwards. But it's something plenty of people do, every day.

(No, not the backwards pants.)

See, I was coming to the end of the story, which, as they often do, includes both an in-car race scene and the climactic discovery/danger scene between Kate and the murderer. The race scene happens before the final confrontation, so I wanted to write it first.

But I was going to be talking with a racing driver three hours later, and I knew our conversation would impact the racing scene I'd write.

Solution? Skip the racing scene for the time being, and move on to the showdown.

Now, for many people, this is no problem. Many writers skip around all the time, writing scenes out of order, tackling ones that feel right or best to them on a given day.

To put it mildly, I don't do that. I don't do that to such an extent that the mere thought of doing it last week nearly gave me the heebie-jeebies.

I tried to explain to my husband why that was—frankly, after he looked at me like something was wrong with me. And after he informed me that was pretty OCD of me. As no doubt many of you are thinking right now.

But I like the story unfolding in order. I am also one for taking my medicine, which means, I'm afraid if I allowed myself to skip around, I'd do all the "fun" or "easy" scenes first (wait, do those exist? different post...) and then have a pile of "hard ones" that I'd never get through.

Seriously? Even contemplating working that way makes my brain hurt. It only makes sense to me to write front to back. And yet ... I managed it last week, and I don't think I blew anything up. Time will tell, I suppose.

Am I the only weird one who writes this way? What do you do?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Kate's Cancer Warriors

I need names!

In Kate Reilly's next adventure, set at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, she's going to have a couple special guests on the pre-race grid. Other teams call them "grid girls," you know, the ones in skimpy outfits holding the car's starting position number or a country or team flag.

But Kate's going to have a couple extra special grid girls, but she'll call them her Breast Cancer Warriors.

And I need names! So, to blatantly copy how Kate gets her warriors, I'm asking you for your stories. Why should you—or a friend or loved one—be one of Kate's grid girls? What's your story? What battles have you faced with breast cancer or other diseases?

Share your story, give me a name, and you might be one of the lucky ones selected to stand by Kate's car on the Long Beach pre-race grid. Virtually, of course!

Post your story in the comments or email me at tammy@tammykaehler.com. Thanks for helping me and Kate out!