Friday, March 25, 2016

The Quick Brown Fox

It's that time again.

The starting-work-on-a-new book time. I don't like to dramatize writing. Yes, it is work. The amount of focus required to produce a decent mystery novel is pretty intense. And, weirdly, the longer you've been writing, the more difficult it is.


That saying about pride going before a fall? I was aching with the impact of my landing as I stood in the bar area of the Caledonian Inn, trying not to watch Trevor and his new boyfriend meeting and greeting our fellow tour members that first night in Scotland.


Well. Sort of. I mean the technical parts of writing--how to construct a plot, how to write believable conflict, how to create real-seeming characters--all that kind of thing, how to stack the building blocks of fiction, is obviously, after *cough*-many years no longer a giant question mark. What is a giant question mark, remains forever a giant question mark, is coming up with a fresh take, a fresh angle, figuring out how to use the old words in new ways.

Because...that's part of the test for all writers who last any length of time. Eventually you use up all those first ideas, those initial ideas you were burning to write for so many years. Eventually you've used all the good words a million times. I mean, there are only so many ways to say it -- whatever "it" might be -- and some words and phrases are just more effective than others. Yes, you could say it a different way. But can you say it a better way?

I've held all kinds of jobs, and though writing has its challenges, it's sure as hell not as difficult as teaching. Even my rule as an evil corporate overlord was tougher in some ways than writing for a living--despite the fact that I always knew I was going to walk away from being an evil overlord the minute I saw a crack in the wall. But a successful writing career is still a demanding profession/sentence. The pay is irregular, there are no health or retirement benefits, no safety net at all really, because the industry is always, always in flux.

I honestly don't think that's what makes writing so tough though. I think a large part of the reason I dread the start of a new project (and I do) is because it's almost like willingly sinking yourself into a manic state--BRING ME THE HALLUCINOGENS!! Or like a medium submitting herself to a dangerous trance. However cerebral and rational the writing of a new project feels at the start, it always reaches that point of complete immersion, where the imaginary world becomes more real than the real world...and every disruption is enough to send me into fury, like the Wicked Witch of the West shrieking for her flying monkeys.



Oh, those first few painful pages...


Vance leaned over to whisper in Trevor’s ear and for a second I couldn’t remember what Rose was talking about. Oh, right. This ten-day tour of the Scottish Highlands and Islands specially tailored to fans of famed mystery author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. Every stop and every stay was planned around settings in the Rayburn books. The high point of the tour were the four days to be spent at Vanessa’s own castle on the island of Samhradh Beag.


Even after all this time the first, say, third of a new book leaves me feeling like...how does this work? Is this how I do it? It's like reinventing the wheel Every. Single. Time. There is nothing so flat as the first words of a new story landing on a blank page.

I might as well be writing The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs a hundred times. That's pretty much how it feels. In fact, those are probably the opening words to my autobiography.

The start of every new book is an act of faith on the part of the author. However it feels--and it always feels like what am I doing here?!--eventually the story takes over and it's all you can do to keep up with it.

So this is where we are. MURDER TAKES THE HIGH ROAD destined for Carina Press and a first week in December release. Watch for it!  And by "watch for it," I mean don't fall across the tracks because this train has no brakes...


24 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I know. That was a big of a shock because it means Fair Chance is out NEXT year. So...this is very bad for a number of reasons. Including the fact that I don't think I can continue publishing with Carina with those kinds of lead times. Very distressed.

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    2. I just don't understand why they need a lead time of more than a couple of months, given the way publishing works today.

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    3. Well, part of it is they're such a huge operation -- especially post the HC merger. And in order to get reviews and so forth...I mean, I don't doubt it's taking longer to get books through the pipeline and no one wants them to cut corners.

      The problem for me is the same problem for a lot of authors, which is I'm actually living off my royalties, so to write a book that I don't see any money from until a year later (because on top of everything else, the royalties are a quarter behind) becomes tricky.

      It's not anyone's fault, it's just economics. And the economics of publishing are brutal these days.

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    4. Lead time allows a good publisher to promote your work--and get your book into the best hands-- which is great. But it's a challenge economically for authors. It takes one late book to throw you off track for a long time.

      Or, like in my case, about ten late books...

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    5. *snort* re the "about ten late books."

      But yes. Not rushing books through is a good thing. But it is in direct conflict with the needs of probably most authors trying to earn a living at their writing.

      On the positive side, I know I already have a nice big release scheduled for next year at some time...

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  2. Wow, I was all excited reading about your creative process (as always) and then got to the pub date. My first thought seeing it and Carina was that FC must be getting bumped to next year.
    Regarding "bringing it" with fresh characters, you always do! Your diverse life experiences/jobs surely provide loads of fodder ;-) Just how much of Murder Takes The High Road is based on a true story, hmm??! :-D

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    1. THE POLICE ONLY HELD US FOR A FEW HOURS AND WERE THEN FORCED TO LET US GO FOR LACK OF EVIDENCE

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    2. which I believe is the same as INNOCENT

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    3. A likely....story. Names have been changed in the spirit of artistic license. :-D

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  3. I have learned never to step in front of a 4 yr old on the way to the bathroom or anyone with that manic creative glaze over their eyes, whether armed with a paint brush or paper. Though paintbrushes can be colorful, I think bludgeoning with a keyboard far messier. I don't know the ins and out of the publishing business, but I'm sure you will make all work best you can. I'm just happy to know more Lanyon is in the works and Fair Chance will be here eventually. Let lose the monkeys! :D

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    1. That's LOOSE not lose! Ugh.

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    2. And yet I seem to speak your language. ;-)

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  4. Looking forward to this, no matter how long it takes to get in my hot little hands. Sounds good so far :)

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  5. I am happy to read your books, when ever I can have them, but have you the feeling too, that some things nowadays are needing more time, than less, although we live surrounded by equipment, that should speed up things.
    That have to mess up your whole planning, financial and otherwise. I hope you have a plan b!

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    Replies
    1. Yes. We're all running twice as fast just to stay in the same place. It's exhausting, isn't it?

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  6. December, Hmmm? Can you see me making the unhappy face of gloom?
    Its so interesting hearing your process. I always know when I open one of your books, your magic makes the words sing, no matter what they are.
    But really...DECEMBER????

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    1. I know. I love Carina--I really do love working with them--but my heart sank when I saw that. That's a mainstream publishing schedule and we're just not used to that from our epubs.

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  7. Thank you for this glimpse into your writing process, Josh. I also love both of those small snippets into the story itself — what a deliciously excruciating journey this will be! :-D

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    1. "Process" is such a kind word to describe all that flailing and splashing. :-D

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  8. It's good to remind us what an arduous process a new book is every time. I think a lot of people picture writers knocking off a book in a few days and then lounging by the pool while the publisher does all the work of producing a finished product. Art is hard, and it always takes a chunk out of you no matter how long you've been doing it. I'm just thankful you're willing to go through it time and again.

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    1. LOL How I wish that were true. It took me four days to write a 3500 word story. Now granted when I first started writing I could have knocked that out in a couple of hours. There's nothing like not knowing what the hell you're doing to free you up creatively. :-D

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  9. "I might as well be writing The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs a hundred times. "

    Or "The cat sat on the mat!"

    Or "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy . . . "

    Uh oh. Excuse me; I need to go check on the boiler . . . and the snowmobile.

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