Thursday, April 26, 2012

Running a Book, Writing a Marathon

A strange thing happened to me tonight. I was pounding out words for my work-in-progress (WIP), and I hit a stumbling block. (Note: I call it that because it wasn't about fear of the blank page. I could have put down many words, but I'd have edited them out somewhere down the line, because they weren't what I needed next.) I needed to add a character, a little spice in my stew, if you will.

So I sat there for a few minutes, thinking about my story, my characters. Thinking it was past time for dinner, waiting for my husband to stop noodling around in his office. Thinking of my weekend plans. Thinking about characters. Thinking about not sleeping well last night, again.

Let me digress for a minute. I have occasional middle-of-the-night insomnia. I can go to sleep at the drop of a hat, but sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I don't go back to sleep for another hour and a half. This is frustrating. I've learned that too much caffeine the day before or not enough exercise in the days before will cause this. But yesterday, I'd had normal amounts of caffeine. I'd even exercised. There was no reason for the insomnia.

Except stress. Because I'm on deadline to finish my WIP. And I have a day job, and a life (well, not lately).

Back to my sitting at my computer, pulling on my hair, wondering how I'd come up with a character. Feeling an idea tickling the edge of my brain like a word tickles the tip of your tongue when you just. can't. remember. it.

And then I realized. I needed to go jogging.

Another digression. I hate to exercise. Occasionally I go out through my neighborhood and run a block, then walk a block for a couple miles. I hate it every time.

Except tonight, I loved it. (Some might see this as a sign of the apocalypse. They might be right.) What's more, I ran my whole route, without stopping to walk. Because four blocks in, ideas started clicking. Six blocks in, I knew who the character was and how he was connected to my protagonist and her world. Nine blocks in, I had his name.

Three-quarters of the way through my run, as I told myself for the eleventh time, "Just get to the end of the next block, and then you can walk, if you really need to," I realized that this run was a metaphor for my WIP. Focus on the next block/chapter, then the next, then the next.

That's when I told myself, "If you can run all the way to the end of the route, you can finish that manuscript." By God, I ran all the way.

Deadline, watch out. I'm coming for you.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April Tradition

For the last five years or so, my father and I have a father-daughter day where we go to one of the very first games of the season. It hits at a good time to make it his birthday present, and we celebrate with all the junk food food groups.

Since he lives near San Diego, we hit Petco Park for some Padres baseball. First and foremost, he's a Giants fan, and often the first homestand is Padres-Giants, which means he's rooting for the Giants and I'm rooting for them both (I don't care a whole lot).

This year we saw the Padres-Dodgers. My father happily votes Padres when the Giants aren't around, and I was more than happy to root for them, loudly, because I (sadly, as a Los Angeles resident) have no love for the Dodgers (five words: Kirk Gibson, 1988 World Series). See, I grew up a fan of the Oakland A's. Enough said.

This Easter Sunday's weather was perfect: not too hot, not too cold. And the game was pretty good, with the Padres winning and Chase Headley hitting a grand slam. When's the last time you were in the park to see one of those?

All in all, it was a good break from what one person termed my hibernation. Now back to the work-in-progress....

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fun at Left Coast Crime

A week ago, I was in the middle of hundreds of mystery writers, readers, and fans at Mining For Murder, the 2012 Left Coast Crime mystery convention in Sacramento, CA. I was there as a nominee for the Eureka!, the award for best first mystery. I didn't ultimately win (that delight went to Darrell James, on the right in the photo of nominees below), but I couldn't have enjoyed myself more at the event if I had.
(from left: Rochelle Staab, Sally Carpenter, me, Darrell James)

First thing Friday morning was the New Author breakfast, where 24 of us got a minute to pitch ourselves and our books to a room full of attendees eating a free breakfast. After that, I was on a panel Friday morning with my fellow nominees, titled "I Wish I Knew..." (moderated by friend and fellow Poisoned Pen Press author Tina Whittle), and then took part in another panel for Men of Mystery, where 19 male mystery authors cracked jokes and much hilarity ensued.
(only part of the Men of Mystery panel, note Kenneth Wishnia photo-bombing us in the background)

After my duties were done there, I was free to enjoy the rest of the weekend without stress! I spent as much time in panels as I did in the atrium seating/bar area, chatting with people I'd met before and making new friends. 

This convention was so spectacular because it was the first time I'd attended as a published author with a book on sale in the bookstore. So for the first time, a stranger approached me and said, "I read your book and I really liked it!" And for the first time I really felt part of the author community, not just the writer community and fan community (I'm still a fan though, don't doubt that!).

Saturday night was the banquet, and though I was a little nervous, I hooted and hollered for Darrell when he won, and cheered again when Poisoned Pen author Ann Parker beat out a bunch of heavyweights for the Best Historical award. Even better, I got to sit at a table with my mom, two good friends, and my publisher and (an) editor from Poisoned Pen Press. A great time was had by all, and we looked fabulous!
(from left: Jessica Tribble, me, Annette Rogers)

Why can't we do this every couple months?! Thanks to everyone involved in Left Coast Crime 2012. It was magnificent. See you all at Bouchercon or Left Coast Crime 2013!