Reinvigorating Your Imagination

Another Round Robin Blog Topic. On a subject I recently experienced, so I can really go with this one. Several weeks ago, as I pounded the keyboard toward the finish line of my latest novel, The Culinary Art of Murder, I found the ending wasn’t going to work. Here I was with nearly 80,000 words done, only 5,000 to go, and no “The End” in sight. I had an October delivery deadline. I panicked. I prayed. I wept. I ate chocolate. Nothing. At a loss, I put the manuscript away hoping my sub conscience would find a way. After all, I’d already written eleven books and it hadn’t let me down yet. I let the old ‘sub’ gestate, percolate, and regurgitate. Maybe my inner mind knew what it was doing, even if I didn’t. The scary thought was maybe. More prayers. More weeping. More chocolate. Nothing. So, was I done as a writer? No, I decided. But writing can be an ephemeral thing, as can the rest of life. You can’t always get to the same place in the same way at the same time. And things can turn on a dime. I allowed myself to become distracted. Life helped me out. One of my two cats, Ellie, got sick. As a dutiful mommy, I became preoccupied with getting her well. My musician husband, Norman, had a lot of gigs. I went to see him perform. The weather became oppressively hot. When I wasn’t watering my garden, I stayed inside and watch old movies on TCM, eating more chocolate. Every now and then thoughts of the book would flit into my mind, but I’d beat them back with a mental stick. I didn’t want to think about writing or my book for a week or two. And as a person who…

Read more

Ellie’s Spa Days

Ellie (Elphaba Queen of da Nile) is my cat, one of two. I love her to pieces. She is a high maintenance cat, but it’s not her fault. When she was a kitten she got the standard upper respiratory infection kittens seem to get and get over. I know my other cat, Yulie (Yul Brenner, King of Siam),  got it first, gave it to Ellie, but he got well. She got worse, pneumonia. I worked like the devil around the clock to save her and I did. But she has scar tissue on her lungs which led to asthma. I write all this because one thing led to another and Ellie is what I would call a challenged kitty. She has to go about every six-weeks for steroid shots. If not, her lung fill up with fluid and she can’t breathe. Her eyes tend to run, her ears need to be cleaned – all from allergies – and she has dandruff. I brush her every day and she loves it. She’s tubby, due to the steroids. It’s not her fault, but she is a girl who likes her treats. One has to face it. Ellie was born with shortish legs, especially the front ones. She can’t do high leaps. Or even medium leaps. In fact, leaping is pretty much out. She sounds awful, right? Not so. I adore her. She is my doll baby. And just the sweetest. And to me she is beautiful. This might be a lesson in not only is beauty in the eyes of the beholder, but being challenged sometimes brings out the best in other people. I think I’m  better for having Ellie in my life.     On the other hand, Yulie, my boy, is gorgeous. He’s a Flame Point Siamese. He isn’t as challenged…

Read more

Finding the Sweet Spot of Novel Writing

The idea of writing a novel can test the mettle of the best of us. I don’t care if it’s your first or your eleventh time out (like me, right now). It can be one overwhelming, oh-m’gawd-am-I-really-doing-this? Maybe it’s the blank screen of a computer. Even if you write in long hand, it’s still the blankness of a page staring at you. Just defying  you to write something down on it. Note Matt Haig’s solution to the right. As for me, I write murder mysteries. So on that level, I’m set. Somebody’s going to die, probably more than one somebody, and it’s my job to tease the reader into thinking it can be any one of the suspects, none of the suspects, or maybe, reminiscent of Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, every danged one of them. It’s all in my approach. Whether you are A) a plotter – someone who plots out every scene in every chapter ahead of time or B) a pantster – someone who flies by the seat of their pants knowing the beginning and end but not much of the middle, most of writing a novel is all in the approach. When all else fails, I try to sneak up on it, like a farmer sneaks up on a spooked heifer when he’s trying to get her backside back in the barn.  Mooo. But in all seriousness, I have learned a few tricks along the way to finding the sweet spot to writing a novel. 1 – I make a realistic schedule for writing and stick to it. When you don’t write for a living, it’s hard to carve out time for it. Most people have full-time jobs and then some. But if you realistically view what your average day is like, there are often fifteen minutes…

Read more