Sunday, January 29, 2006

I'm Free! Don't Pay the Ransom!

I’m not sure how to explain a two month absence from blogging.

I remember reading Miss Manners once. There was a lady writing because she felt her husband had made a faux pas at an elegant party—one of the guests (a well-endowed woman in a tight fitting dress) had slipped and fallen on top of a table with a large and elegant blanc mange. When the lady landed, her breasts had escaped the tight-fitting dress and flopped into the blanc mange, I believe. And the husband of the woman writing Miss Manners had…laughed.

The lady seeking etiquette advice felt that the proper thing to have done would have been to have preserved a polite silence, but as Miss Manners pointed out, a polite silence under those circumstances would have been bizarre. More what you would expect if pod people had taken over the party. There are some things one simply cannot ignore—however, I think missing two months of blogging falls into the politely ignore category, so let’s just pretend it never happened.

Anyway, the time has been well-spent. Some minutes better spent than others—I think fewer minutes eating chocolate might have been wiser in the end. And I do mean the end. But I finished the Corpse Pose proposal.

This was an interesting one—actually my agent came up with the idea about a year ago when I was feeling disheartened that Pocket showed no interest in another Poetic Death mystery.

Let me rephrase that. Pocket neither showed interest nor disinterest. They said it was too early to discuss. So...okay. But I had to write something, and since I was not ready to delve into Grace Hollister's next caper, why not write about a New Jersey yoga instructor?

Apparently theme mysteries are still very saleable, and my agent felt that yoga might be hot (since no one had done a yoga series at the time). I have to admit that I am not exactly a yoga expert. Does a nodding acquaintance with Pilates count? How about a rudimentary knowledge of San Soo Kung Fu?

Anyway, she had the title and she cooked up the outline and I worked on it a bit, but it was harder than I thought to wrap my head (and heart) around someone else’s concept and characters.

A few months ago she received a proposal from another writer for a yoga series with the first book called…Corpse Pose. There is a Corpse Pose in yoga, so it’s an obvious title, and I’m guessing a publishing house will probably change it anyway (although you never know). That sort of got my competitive juices flowing, and I finished the first three chapters and revised the outline and characters after the holidays were finished. It ended up being a lot of fun, so I hope we do sell it and I do end up writing it. VERY different from the Poetic Death series, that’s for sure. Much more chick litty and smart-ass.

I also had a request for a full from my proposal to Harlequin NEXT, so I’m working on that right now. The struggle is balancing the writing with the fact that it’s now time to seriously start promoting Sonnet of the Sphinx. I signed up for the new Amazon Connect program, which seems like it will be very useful, and I’ve been figuring out how and where to spend my limited advertising dollars. I’ve booked myself into the Malice Domestic Mystery Conference in April, and I’m thinking about doing Bouchercon. I was also thinking about RWA, but that’s in Atlanta in July or something. Yikes!

It’s always a balance between the creative and the business side. I love writing. I always intended to spend my adult life writing, so it’s bewildering to me that I still have a day job. (In fact, bewildering hardly covers it, but we’ll avoid that for now.) So my goal this year is to do every possible thing I can to better position myself for my dream career. Short of getting myself fired, which would be fast but definitely stressful. Although I remember reading one of those self-help tomes years ago—it might even have been How to Win Friends and Influence People, and the author’s point was that sometimes you have to burn your bridges in order to force yourself to move forward.

Which does make sense, but…why waste perfectly good architecture if you don't have to?

Anyway, I’ve been chattering on here and not a word about some of the delightful books I got for Christmas. None of which I’ve had time to read—although I did finish Margaret Scherf’s The Gun in Daniel Webster’s Bust. That one was a lot of fun. It’s been newly reprinted by Rue Morgue, but I got a very cool 1949 copy with a great cover.

Mr. Thrilling and I are thinking seriously about starting our own eBay “store,” so that we can fund our addiction and share some of these wacko books with our kindred…but I digress.

Murder on Martha’s Vineyard by Kelly Roos. Kelly Roos, as we previously discussed, was the writing team of Audrey and William Roos. They did the Jeff and Haila Troy series, but this one is a standalone from 1981.

“Nancy Webster moves back to Martha’s Vineyard to confront the painful past and get on with the business of living. What she doesn’t know is that her past is waiting for her. And it wants her dead.”

I’ve never been to Martha’s Vineyard, but it’s one of the places that I would definitely like to visit someday. A number of mysteries and mystery series have been set there, but then a number of mysteries and mystery series have been set in Los Angeles too, so that’s not really an endorsement. I like the idea of vineyards and wineries, and in fact the current project is set in a former Northern California winery.

First line: “The island ferry churned into the slip, gleaming white in the late autumn sunshine.”

That would be the Roos's first line, not mine. And theirs is as smooth and effortless, as you would expect from a writing team with more than forty years experience.

The Raphael Affair by Iain Pears. This was recommended to Mr. Thrilling by the wonderfully helpful ladies at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks (which reminds me—I have to call and see if they’d like me to sign there again). Mr. Thrilling thought (correctly) that it sounded like my kind of thing being about art (a long lost Raphael) and murder and a bit of romance.

First line: “Generale Taddeo Bottando walked up the staircase covered in stolen works of art slightly before the bell of San Ignazio struck seven in the morning as usual.”

Anybody read this? It got a lot of attention on mystery lists when it first came out, I recall.

The Indigo Necklace by Frances Crane. This is a goodie from 1945.


And from the back cover...
MURDER comes with silken steps…walking softly through velvet and brocade, rustling across the courtyard grass, signaling its menace only by the gentle click of a falling latch.

In the old mansion in French New Orleans, Jean Abbott heard the small sound of the clicking latch, and discovered the terrors of whispering footsteps along the fretworked balcony outside her room (we are definitely shooting for atmosphere here). Alone and terrified, she found a ghostly white-robed body, dead on the moonlit flagstones in the courtyard. Then she knew that she was living under the same roof with a murderer…a killer who dealt in rare exotic poison, and who walked by night, softly, softly…

Sounds like fun. I imagine a lot of crime and mystery novels will be set in New Orleans over the next few years.

Tomorrow ( the next day) I'll tell you about the contest I'm planning to run next week. Free advance copies of Sonnet of the Sphinx and some really neat prizes.