Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Looking Forward

Christmas 2005 is part of the past. The week between it and the new year always finds me thinking about goals for the new year. I rarely do resolutions, but me and my family always 'do' goals. New Year's Day (or the first opportunity to get together after it) we have a nice meal with the traditional good luck fare, including black-eyed peas. No one eats them cause no one likes them but we can't afford to take the chance we won't have good luck. (If anyone has a recipe that makes them tasty, let me know, would you? Or better yet, let me in on the tradition that ties massive amounts of chocolate to good luck for the New Year.) Then we get out a bottle of champagne, the nice crystal and The Goal Sheets: last year's so we can evaluate how we did; and nice blank ones--a whole blank slate--for the new year.
Our goal sheets include sections on Professional, personal, physical, mental and emotional, financial, home and family and one last section that we call "the Stars." (That is for something we truly suspect is out of reach but something we'd like to strive for anyway.) Though we never quite acheive everything we had hoped to, we're often surprised at how well we've done. And it's really fascinating to see that we've even made measurable progress on some of the unrealistic things we've written under "the Stars." And often, what seemed unrealistic three or four years ago, we're putting under the realistic areas of our goals this year.
How do you end the old year and prepare for the new? What are your "traditions"? What are your thoughts as you think of 2006? I hope you'll share.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Prey

When I got married in 1993, I was never really stressed, but about a month before the wedding I had some nerves and anxiety. I worried about the dress and the flowers and the cake and the reception and whether so-and-so was coming, and why did so-and-so send regrets and whether I was ready for marriage. Basically, everything.

But the night before my wedding day, I was at peace. Calm. Unflustered and mellow. I walked down the aisle slowly, smiling, stress-free.

That is how I feel today.

A few weeks ago, I worried about my release date. I worried about the book. What if no one bought it. What if they bought it but hated it and didn't buy the next one. What if there was a glaring typo that changed the entire meaning of a sentence. What if I didn't sell-through. What if my friends read it and wonder what I was smoking when I wrote it.

But today, I'm not stressed. Not about the things I can't change. Not about the things I can't fix. Not about whether people love or hate my characters or think I'm a great writer or wonder how I got a contract.

Because I know there's no turning back. The book is done, it's out, and I'm writing the next story.

So . . . what's THE PREY about?

It's a romantic suspense . . . because I love suspense, and romance raises the stakes. What's better than two people in danger who must risk their lives to save their loved ones? Or right terrible wrongs? Or stop a vicious killer before he strikes again? When they are in love, everything matters more.

My one-sentence pitch is: Ex-FBI agent turned crime fiction writer wakes up one morning to discover someone is using her books as blueprints for murder.

I have an excerpt posted on my webpage. If you click on my webpage, you can see a brief book trailer in flash--it only takes about 30 seconds to load on a dial-up, and it's instanteous on high-speed internet.

So. Today is the day. I'm off to participate in my first book signing. I won't be alone, my good friend and fellow blogger at Murder She Writes, Karin Tabke, will be out in the trenches with me.

And now I can finally say I am really published.

Monday, December 26, 2005

What was I THINKING?

The refrigerator is stuffed with leftover food--way too much for my husband and I to eat. The candy dishes are filled to the brim with candy that I should never have bought. There are stacks of soft drinks in the utility room--and neither Dick nor I ever drink soft drinks. And the desserts! I froze half a cake that one of our guests left with us, there's 3/4 of a pumpkin pie in the fridge, as well as a big chunk of the flan cake our daughter Kim brought yesterday.

So what's the point I'm trying to make?

Have no clue. Maybe that excess is part of the whole Christmas experience? Or that I've never learned how to plan a holiday meal? Or maybe that it's all the fault of our cavemen ancestors. To them, having lots of food meant they would survive another day.

No matter. Christmas was wonderful in the Kay household and I hope it was wonderful in yours.


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Did Anybody Get the License Plate of that Sleigh?

It’s Christmas Eve. Now, that’s either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how many other trips you need to make to the maul to pick up last minute gifts today.

While I was having my coffee this morning, I started thinking about novels set around the holidays. Publishers obviously love them. Or at least they think this is something that appeals to readers. As for why I say this, well, walk into any Barnes and Noble today, cruise the fiction aisles, and you're likely to see lots of Christmas-themed novels. Personally, I've never written one myself but I do confess that I've probably bought a few over the years. (Usually either because they were written by a friend or were a gift for someone else.)

So, my question to you all on this snowy Christmas Eve is this: What are your feelings on Christmas-themed novels? To the authors, do you write them? (If so, are the sales for those books any better in your opinion?) To the readers, do you like reading them? (If so, do you make a point to seek them out in the bookstore?)

Now, speaking of Christmas, leave it to the folks at NORAD, the bi-national U.S.-Canadian military organization responsible for the aerospace defense of the United States and Canada, to find a way to keep tabs on Santa’s travels on Christmas Eve. This is their 50th anniversary of their doing it, too, much to the delight of children in Canada and the United States. You can track Santa here.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Authors at Sea eggnog bread

Okay, this isn't technically about writing, but it sort of is, because I got this recipe from the Authors at Sea newsletter. Btw, the cabins are going quickly for the April Mexican Riviera cruise, so if anyone's interested, check it out at (one of these days I'll figure out how to make a URL into a blog hyperlink) and there are coupons for $250 off in the back of all the Authors at Sea books, which would include BLAZE.

Anyway, the newsletter included this recipe, which is too, too terribly tempting for those of us who are trying to avoid goodies this holiday season, but it looks too tasty not to share. Also, several members of my JoAnn Ross online writers group have tested it and unanimously declared it scrumptious! I'll be baking it tonight while I wrap presents.

Eggnog Bread Recipe:

1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup eggnog
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted (or you can use regular salted, just omit the salt in the recipe)
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 1/4 cup all purpose-flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, beat the egg with an electric mixer on low speed. Add the sugar, eggnog, melted butter, and rum, and mix until well blended. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the nutmeg. Add to the wet mixture all at once, mixing just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Scrape into pan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the top is browning too quickly, lightly cover it with aluminum foil for the last 10 minutes or so of baking. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan and placing on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

From Something Warm from the Oven

Thursday, December 22, 2005

From a Reliable Source...

Google's Book Scan Project in Hot Water Again

According to Business Week Online, Google’s ambitious plan to scan the entire contents of libraries has hit another snag. But it’s not threatened lawsuits from angry publishers or author organizations this time. It’s from the libraries whose public-domain books are being scanned. And what has gotten them so annoyed with Google? Well, it seems that many of the books already scanned have numerous errors in them – like blurred words, missing pages and truncated text.

Read more about it here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Yes, I'm counting the days. Ten. Ten days until my first book is released. It's a scary and exciting time.

So, since the anticipation is truly agonizing, I thought I'd pose a question for the writers and readers out there.

For writers, especially those who've been through this a few times: What do you do? How to you deal with the anticipation of your on sale date? What do you do on release day? Open a bottle of champagne? Visit every store within driving distance? Call your friends? Hide in bed? Treat yourself to a night out on the town with your spouse or friends?

For readers, if you have a book you're waiting for, do you go out of your way to find out what the release date is? Do you buy it on that day or week? Pre-Order it from your local store or an on-line retailer? When you get it home, do you start reading right away, or wait until you know you'll have a couple uninterrupted hours so you can lose yourself in a book you know you're going to love? Do you find yourself waiting anxiously for the book to hit the shelves because you know you're going to entertained for a spell?

I'm curious. So please share!

Monday, December 12, 2005

My Letter to Santa

Do you remember when you were a kid and you’d write your letter to Santa every Christmas? Well, I remember writing mine. I’d agonize over that letter to the Supreme Gift Bringer for days. If I sounded too pushy, I’d end up getting clothes. If I wasn’t pushy enough, I’d end up getting clothes. (And trust me on this. Getting clothes was like the ultimate Christmas morning letdown for a kid.) I figured that letter to Santa was the Single Most Important Letter I’d ever have to write, so I wanted to make sure I got mine right.

(Oddly enough, when I grew up, I found a whole slew of other letters that would fall into that same category: Letters to prospective agents, query letters to editors, etc. LOL.)

The big thing for me in those letters to Santa was deciding what present I wanted most out of all the things on my Wish List. Now, I knew Santa – he usually gave me one big one and lots of other small ones. (Plus the aforementioned clothes.) So, I’d spend a few days agonizing over that decision. What was the One Big Present I wanted above all others?

Anyway, as I sat down to write this blog entry this morning, I started wondering what One Big Present I’d ask Santa to bring me this year...assuming, of course, I were still writing him letters. (And I’m not saying that I am, mind you. I’m just saying “assuming I still did.”) I can think of lots of things that I want: More time to write, a fabulous new agent, an even more fabulous new contract, hitting the NY Times list, moving from Snow Hell to a place that didn’t have winter ten months out of the frigging year.

All of them are great, but choosing just one for my One Big Present...ah, that’s the challenge, isn’t it?

So I thought about it over coffee and I think I have mine. My question to you all on this snowy December morning is this: If you were to write a letter to Santa this year, what would be the One Big Present you wanted above all others?

Here’s mine:

Dear Santa,

I’ve been a good writer this year. No, seriously. I’ve been good. I’ve written (mostly) every day and I’ve hunted down and killed (mostly) every adverb I’d seen in my work. This year for Christmas, I’d like to have a fabulous new agent who’ll love my voice and inspire me to become an even better writer.

Thanks, Santa. I’ll leave some green tea and fat-free cookies under the tree for you. Please tell Mrs. Claus I said hi.


Inside a Writer's Brain

I sponsor an after-school writers club for third and fourth grade students. We're using Ralph Fletcher's book, A Writer's Notebook (Harper Trophy, 1996), a great book about how to keep ideas for later. One of his quotes jumped out when I was reading the book to the students. He states that "Writers are like other people, except for one important difference. Other people have daily thoughts and feelings, notice this sky or that smell, but they don't do much about it. All those thoughts, feelings, sensations, and opinions pass through them like the air they breathe. Not writers. Writers react."

For much of my early life, I didn't realize others didn't have stories going on in their heads all the time. I used to entertain my little sister at bedtime with an ongoing story, adding a chapter every night. Not until I hit upper elementary and was writing stories for reports did I find out that others didn't think the same way that I did.

I always have a story, maybe even two, going on in my head. I can be shopping, the list in my hand, picking up milk, bread, spices. . . and my characters are having an argument about the committee they've been forced to co-chair. Or I'm wondering if maybe I should change the setting, the main character's name, get rid of the great-aunt in this book or maybe beef up her part. All while I'm perusing the aisles, thinking about dinner plans, writing my check.

Fletcher's comments helped me recognize the difference between writers and nonwriters. It's not enough for us to look at a beautiful day or to listen to a conversation in a restaurant between two obvious lovers. We don't even file it away in our brain under 'interesting experience.' Instead, we wonder if a storm might be brewing that will wreak havoc with our almost-to-get-together hero and heroine. Maybe his ex is about to walk in. What if she stops at their table and casually mentions how much she enjoyed seeing him the other night? Or what if someone runs into the restaurant and orders them all onto the floor? Other ideas popping into your head?

So, the question is. . . are we writers because we notice things and put our imagination to work? Or are we writers because our imagination kicks in and we see the possibilities? The chicken or the egg?

Ever think about what you would do with your time if you weren't writing? What would fill your head if characters weren't talking to you?

Friday, December 09, 2005

From a Reliable Source...

Harlequin has announced that as of July 2006, The Signature Select program will cease publication. This decision has been made based on current market conditions, and Harlequin’sdesire to react more quickly to changes in the marketplace.
They will publish all the books they currently have in their inventory but books scheduled after the July 06 date will be moved to other lines.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

From a Reliable Source...

Score One for Our Side!

"Literary agent" Martha Ivery pleaded guilty on Monday to all charges of taking money from unpublished authors in a scam to get their work published. Read about it here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Book in the Hand . . .

Yesterday, after picking my kids up from school, we passed the UPS guy leaving the neighborhood. Half-jokingly I said, "Hey, maybe he left my books!"

We got home and there they were!

Two boxes of The Prey due in stores on December 27, 2005.

To say I was excited is an understatement. I jumped up and down a bit and cleared a shelf in my bookshelf (no easy task!) to display my books.

The thrill of actually holding your book, especially after so much time (I sold this one in March of 2004!) is indescribable. I started reading it. My kids loved that they were mentioned in the bio (not by name, but that I live with my husband Dan and "five children" in Northern California, LOL.)

It sounds trite that having my book published is a dream come true, but it is a rare writer who hasn't harbored this dream since childhood.

Publishing is a business, but the writing itself is an act of love. I'm going to savor this joy for a day, then get back to work on my next book. And try not to countdown the next three weeks until the books are in stores.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Champagne, Confetti and Congrats...

to JoAnn Ross on the news that the book she is currently writing, IMPULSE, has been selected for Random House Audio Books, even though they rarely buy mass market.

Champagne, Confetti and Congrats...

to Patricia Kay for a new contract with NeXT for two books. The first is a story tentatively called FINDING GRACE, about a highly successful attorney in a NY law firm whose younger sister dumps her baby on Grace's doorstep, changing her life in drastic ways. The second is tentatively titled THE LOTTERY WINNER and is a story about a divorcee with three kids and very little money who wins $28 million in the lottery. She'll learn that money doesn't solve all problems and often creates a
whole new set.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Place to Write Wrongs

I was always one of those kids with a keen sense of fairness. I drove my parents crazy protesting that my brother didn’t have to do the dishes (or much of anything, as far as my sister and I could see). I irritated local officials and principals alike by railing against the local soapbox derby’s boys-only rule and the requirement that all girls take home economics. Sunday school teachers nursed headaches after I demanded to know why a just and loving God would send pagan babies to burn in the eternal torment of hellfire if they died without hearing our version of religion.

In other words, I had a penchant for asking the tough questions. It didn’t stop when I grew older, but gradually, I came to understand more of the world’s complexities – and the social consequences of warring against every inequity I noticed. Still, that didn’t make things fair, so I turned my frustrations inward, pouring them into fictional worlds where I could tease out the shades of gray, decipher my version of justice, and dispense it accordingly. In my queendom, the good guys (of both genders) are rewarded. Even the less-than-perfect who try hard end up with good outcomes, albeit after suffering a lot of growing pains. And the villains? In the end, they get theirs, just as villains should.

It’s incredibly satisfying. Much more so than the evening news, where ongoing conflicts show no signs of easing, where the worst of criminals all too often get away after shattering the lives of innocents, where greed triumphs over nature, and my stomach ties itself in knots. The Queendom of Justice is a respite, too, from daily life, where teenagers whine, bills mount, dogs urp on the carpet, and my mother in law gets away with telling me my clothes are tacky just because she’s old.

Is it any wonder that writing fiction is addictive and that books with happy endings ease the stress of so many of faithful readers? Something in all of us (except those musty-fusty critics who inexplicably turn their backs on the uncomplicated joy that drew them to stories in the first place) yearns for a world where, without exception, the mystery is solved, the mortal threat vanquished, the evil punished, and flawed yet worthy human beings find the love that they deserve.

Come with me, and I’ll take you to such a place in my books. Or follow me to a library, and I’ll take you to an endlessly varied galaxy of just worlds, each one a place of respite for the soul.