Friday, October 28, 2011

Back to Work

Since it's officially too cold outside to be lolling around in the hammock or the kayak or on the swing, it's a good day to return to the work-in-progress.

The book that I finished this spring (THE GREAT UNEXPECTED - out next fall) has a wider canvas than the one I'm working on now.  It seems to go like that: a longer book with many scenes is often followed by a book that is more spare and condensed.

I'm looking at these ducks on the lake, the simplicity of that image.  That's the sort of thing that is appealing right now.

Back to it . . .

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Thinking of my mom today, on her birthday.

She was about 20 years old here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Autumn 100%

It's one of those perfect autumn days here on Lake Chautauqua in western New York.

After two weeks of gray skies and wild winds, sun!

The leaves are just past peak, with more on the ground than on the branches.

Get out the rakes.

Squirrels and chipmunks are busy.

Time to get serious about storing those nuts.

Have to stop for lunch, right?

Love the shagbark hickories . . .

and the geraniums still blooming . . .

And when I come inside
it may not be possible
to write something chilly or harsh
because all the day's bounty
will fill up the room.

If I have a sad or wicked scene to write
it will have to wait
for a gloomier day.

You know?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Attack of the Kittens

Look what we noticed under our deck this morning (above).

It crawled out, followed by two more kittens.
I'm allergic to cats, but we petted them.
How could we not?

Bigga mistake!

We couldn't leave.
They crawled up our legs.

Finally, we pried ourselves away and fled inside.

Heard mewmewmewmewmewmewmewmewmew.

They climbed to the top of the screen door

They climbed back up.

We hid.

It was hard, but I'm very allergic.

But they were prepared to wait us out.

Two of them had a nap right near the door.

We could not leave the house. Trapped by cute kittens.

P. S. Update: The mother cat came to the rescue, at least temporarily. She lured the kittens back under the deck by dangling
 a chipmunk
from her mouth.
A cute

It is very hard to write with all this drama going on right outside our door.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Where do you get your ideas?

The question I am most often asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?"

The seeds for ideas are everywhere: in everything you see and hear and touch and feel. Combine this seed with that seed, and off you go.

Above might look like "a bigga mess" on the deck.

You look closer and you see nuts.

  You kneel down and look closely at one of those nuts:

Pretty interesting thing, that little nut.  Wonder what's inside?

Chop it open.  Huh.  Who might want that nut?

Ah, my nosy friend, the squirrel.

And your mind is off and running. Where is she taking that nut? What does her home look like? Does she have a family?

No, I don't normally write about squirrels, but I get my story ideas the same way.  That crowd of people over there - look at that one boy - look more closely - what's in his hand? - where is he going? - who are his friends? - what's bothering him?

Off you go . . .

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Golden Grove Unleaving

Yesterday: this golden umbrella overhead.

Today: vile wind and rain, throttling the branches.

Bye, bye, leaves.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Characters: the Grandma

My husband gave me this wooden figure (I call her 'Knitting Grandma') for my birthday this year. She stands about seven inches high and I love the detail: her expressive face, her wire glasses and metal knitting needles, the folds and pattern on the apron, the tiny flower dots on her headscarf, the hunch of her shoulders, the flat black slipper shoes. She has taken on a life of her own in our kitchen, watching benevolently over her territory.

Someone recently pointed out to me that each of my books contains at least one benevolent older figure (not always a grandparent figure, sometimes an aunt or teacher or parent), and though I wasn't conscious of that prevalence, it seems fitting. I had many older, benevolent people in my life when I was young.

Did you?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Croquis, Design

I love things like this fashion sketchpad.  It is full of croquis (rhymes with pokey), figure templates. I hadn't known such a thing existed until I came across this in our local bookstore.

Often when I am in the midst of writing a new book, I dream of finding beautiful dresses – unusual and unique ones with elegant but simple lines and materials (linen, cotton, silk) and when I wake, I'm disappointed that these dresses don't exist.

I realize, though, that they are part of creating anything new - your mind is sorting and sifting and combining, in hopes of making something elegant.

The two garments below are not elegant - I just quickly drew them on the croquis so you could see what the templates are like.

There are hundreds of croquis in this sketchpad. You could go crazy, funky, wild. You could try outrageous hairstyles and jewelry and shoes. 

Sort of like writing a book . . . you could go crazy, funky, wild . . .or simple and elegant . . .or whatever you choose.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Love That Dog: the Puppy

Remember the grandchildren's new puppy?  

He found a cozy basket retreat:

Remember what puppies do?

They chew.

And they chew.

But you love them anyway, don't you?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chipmunk and Agents

So, now a chipmunk has followed in the squirrel's footsteps and is watching me as I work.  When I aim the camera, it turns its head away slightly (as above), as if to deny that it has been spying.

A chipmunk has nothing to do with an agent, but a blog visitor asked on the last post if I have an agent, and the chipmunk is watching me compose an answer:

Yes, I have an agent and have had one since I wrote my first novel. When I lived in England, I had a British agent with an American representative; since I moved back to the States, I've had an American agent who has a British representative.

I've worked with my current agent for thirteen years, and I trust her completely, value her advice, and admire her talents. I rely on mine to sort out contracts and foreign rights, to provide sound analysis and judgement regarding major publishing questions, and to represent me with integrity.

I need an agent, but not everyone does.

The chipmunk is still watching . . .

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Editor and Copy Editor

The squirrel is back, really interested in this new book I'm working on.  She sits there for up to ten minutes at a time, several times a day, turning her head this way and that, inching closer to get a better look, not at all afraid when I lift the camera to record her existence.

Several people have asked me to explain (per the last blog entry) the difference between editor and copy editor.  This will have nothing to do with squirrels.  The squirrel photos are merely to show you who is watching me as I am writing this post.

My editor is the one who first sees my newest book (usually my third or fourth draft). She gives me both a general impression and an in-depth analysis, including detailed notes on the book's strengths and weaknesses. She raises questions about large issues of depth and meaning and character. She gives me these comments on the phone, in a detailed letter, and on the manuscript itself.  It is up to me to think through all of her comments, resolve questions and submit revisions.  The editor will continue to oversee the manuscript's development and will coordinate all issues related to design and publication.

The copy-editor (whom I have never met) is someone who sees the manuscript after I've revised it and the editor has officially approved it. The copy-editor scours the manuscript, marking it for consistency of style and format (font, headings, spacing, bold, italic) and for accuracy. She will note discrepancies (different spelling of same name, miscalculation of dates or times or distances) and awkward repetitions or phrasings. It is up to me to resolve the discrepancies and smooth or eliminate the awkward bits.

Not all editors and copy editors work the same way, but this is the way mine work with me. I've had the same editor for the past fourteen years. We've developed a deep understanding of the way each of us thinks and works and this, I think, enriches the work we do together.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Revisions, Copy-Editing and all that Jazz

A Bigga Mess

Closing in on last tweaks before the book is set in galleys (pages that look like book pages.) Bigga mess on desk.  It has gone something like this, over the past two years:

Write several drafts, submit to editor, receive feedback; revise, resubmit, feedback, tweaking. Ms. 'approved' and goes to copy editor and then comes back to me with questions. Fix it, resubmit, a few more tweaks, off it goes again to be set in galleys.

[Meanwhile:  begin first draft of next book.]

Meanwhile:  talks with editor regarding cover art and interior art  (that begins shortly after editor first sees manuscript, and is ongoing until book is ready for publication.)

Next: first-pass galleys will arrive in a month or two and we'll all (me, editor, etc.) proofread.  Tweak. Fix.

While we're doing that, marketing and publicity and sales departments are ramping up with their expertise.

Then:  second-pass galleys arrive; proofread, tweak, fix.  

[Meanwhile: continue writing drafts of next book.]

Sometimes another final pass (of first book) comes to me.  

Final art arrives. 

Advance review copies are printed (up to four or five months in advance of publication).

[Finish next book drafts; submit to editor; receive feedback; revise .  . .]

About eleven months from now:  publication day of the book that's the bigga mess on desk above.

Ta da!

Soon I will disclose the . . . title.