Houston update

Well, Houston was lots of fun… and not just because I got to stay up watching cheezy TV until midnight Friday night, and then wake up late Saturday and cruise downstairs for a continental breakfast that SOMEONE ELSE made. And read the paper! Uninterrupted!

I started off at the KUHF studio Friday afternoon, where I was interviewed by Alison Young (who is a marvelous interviewer and every bit as wonderful as Fresh Air’s Terry Gross) for the Front Row Show (you can listen here). And then I got to visit the gorgeous Lovett Inn for the Charles Snider show taping — apparently the show will air in July or August.

And then came the wine, the Greek food, and the hours lying in bed watching TLC. Followed by a leisurely morning during which I decided Rice could wait… what I really wanted was to go to a store and try things on without my children opening the dressing room door every thirty seconds. Which I did, for about four delightful hours. The only downside of the trip, really, was that I was going to meet an old friend to chat, but it didn’t work out. Maybe sometime later on…

The highlight of the weekend, though — other than my new pair of shorts, which is a novelty in that it only has holes where they’re supposed to be — was going to Murder by the Book and meeting all of the wonderful people there! Several people had heard the radio show and had driven all the way in to downtown to be there — and I got to catch up with some family and family friends, too! And everyone at the store was marvelous. They even had chardonnay… what a nice touch. I’m really looking forward to going back — and wish we had a store like it here in Austin.

Anyway, Candy promised to send me pictures, and I hope to remember to post them. It’s conking-out time for me. More soon!

Chimpanzee showers (ick)

Field trip accomplished, maternal duties dispatched. And what did I learn? That chimpanzees’ favorite pastimes include filling up with a huge mouthful of water and blowing it out at full force — preferably toward a person. And if it’s a person who’s trapped in a giant green tram that’s riding on three tires and one metal rim, so much the better!

I also learned that chimpanzees have incredible range — like twenty feet or something — and really, really good aim.

Ugh. I’m off to take a shower now.

Ah, Houston in summer…

The school year is winding down; my daughter’s last day of school is Friday, and in a classic example of fabulous planning by yours truly, I will be in Houston that day. (I am driving for her all-day field trip to some zoo place tomorrow, though, so I really don’t feel too bad about it — particularly since my fabulous m-i-l Dorothy, who is also a writer, is pinch-hitting for me on Friday! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dorothy!)

Anyway, back to the Houston thing. I’m looking forward to it, actually — I have an interview on KUHF’s The Front Row Show Friday, and then they’ll be filming an interview for the Charles Snider Show at a beautiful B&B; (I believe it’s the Lovett Inn, and I’d better get directions) that evening. And then, on Saturday, I get to sign with my good friend Candy at Murder by the Book. What fun!

While I’m there, I hope to have a chance to tool around my alma mater (Rice University) — in fact, I plan to go for a walk around the campus. For old time’s sake. (Although I’ll probably actually get up and do it before 2 p.m., which will be a novelty. All that important career prep reading — Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, Anne Rice, etc. — tended to keep me up late.) My residential college, alas, is long-gone — the 60-year-old temporary building known as Wiess College finally bit the dust a few years ago — but I’ll bet I can still pick up some beer fumes if I stand close enough. I’ve never been in the new version of Wiess… maybe I’ll swing by. Wonder if that nostalgic melange of vinyl, must, beer, cafeteria food and cheap disinfectant transferred?

And when I’m done tootling along memory lane, I’ll also be stopping by Lucia’s Garden — a neat little new-agey store — to get ideas for Sit A Spell, the magic shop in the book I’m working on.

I’m off to sleep now… but I’ll touch base soon. Hope to see some of you in Houston!

Tea, Tuxedo Cake… and the Cozy Chicks!

If you’re wondering why it’s been so quiet around here, the answer is, it hasn’t. I just haven’t had time to record everything!

When I haven’t been plugging away at the computer, I’ve been out and about for Sisters in Crime’s Mystery Week (come to think of it, I need to get in touch with the writer I’m mentoring soon)…. the picture above (taken by Sally Baker) is yours truly with three of her role models at the Irving Club Tea in Lockhart, Texas. The tea, which was at the gorgeous Lockhart library, featured three of Austin’s mystery legends (Nancy Bell, Jan Grape, and Susan Rogers Cooper) — and, somehow, me — on a panel. I was incredibly honored, as you can imagine.

If you’re not familiar with these authors’ work, you’re missing out. So here’s the skinny. Nancy writes the wonderful Biggie Books, which take place in small-town Texas; Jan has a gripping series about an Austin policewoman; and Susan’s got two great series — I’m particularly fond of her E.J. books, which are set in small-town Texas.

Since I’d been reading these fabulous authors since long before I picked up a pen, it was an honor — to say the least — to join them. The food was fabulous, and I made a wonderful discovery called Tuxedo Cake, a gorgeous concoction involving several layers of cake, dark chocolate, and lots of whipped cream. Yum. If anyone has the recipe, please pass it on! I also saw a few familiar faces — like Jo Virgil, the CRM of my local Barnes and Noble (and a writer herself) — and met lots of wonderful people. I’ll have to head back to Lockhart again soon!

On the writing front, I’m a quarter of the way through the first Sophie book — and I got to write my first seance scene this week! (It involves barbecue.) And I’m pretty sure a review of Murder on the Rocks hit DownEast Magazine this month; I’m waiting to get my issue to see. Since it’s heating up down here, I’m anxiously awaiting our trip to Maine. Blueberries and lobster, here we come!

Oh — one more thing — keep an eye out for the Cozy Chicks! Heather Webber, Michele Scott, Maggie Sefton, Diana Killian and I are joining up for a group venture… more coming soon!

Fessing up

Okay, okay. I know I’ve made several comments about how little I like rewriting. And how infrequently I do it.

But things, I’ve come to realize lately, have changed.

The series I’m working on now — the one starring chic werewolf Sophie Garou — is incredibly fun to write, and I love having Austin as my setting. But I’m finding that the depth — and the humor — doesn’t always come out the first time through (although when it does, it’s fabulous).

So now, when I sit down to write a scene, my main goal is to put my characters through their paces — in other words, get them from A to B — as eloquently and elegantly as possible. (Even though B turns into C or even Q more often than not.) Then, when I’m relatively happy with the arc of the scene, I go back and perk up the dull bits. I try to find better verbs and images, and shave off the areas that drag. (Or jazz them up with stronger — often quirkier — language, or asides.) And I keep doing it until I get it right, which sometimes takes three or four passes.

So I’m revising more, and having fun with it, because it’s exciting to watch a ho-hum scene roar to life with a few well-chosen words. But beyond that, I’ve got a project I love, and I’ve cleared the decks for it. No more morning obligations — other than my Town Lake trot, that is, and my standing date with my computer. I fall into the world I’ve created daily now, and every session with my laptop brings new (and often bizarre) discoveries.

What more can I say? It’s good to be back in the saddle again — or at least back in my favorite chair at Starbucks.

Just don’t ask me how my garden’s doing. 🙂

Roosters on the loose


I’ve been walking on the hike and bike trail every morning (it’s what I do before I write) for almost ten years now. And for the first time, about a week ago, I thought I heard a rooster crow. When I didn’t hear it again, I dismissed it as an iPod malfunction.

But then, the next day, I heard it again — and sure enough, nestled on a branch up in the trees, there was a black-feathered rooster. Parrots, I’ve seen. Miniature horses, I’ve seen. But roosters? In downtown Austin?

Well, today, I heard it again. And would you believe it — another one crowed back!

That’s right. There are two roosters living along a fifty-foot stretch of the hike and bike trail in Austin. And despite the fact that the trail is ten miles long, they’re squabbling over territory. Go figure.

When I’m not out rooster-hunting, I’m writing hard on my new project — I outlined it this week, and am now modifying the two chapters I ‘seat of pantsed’ to fit into the outline. But of course, there’s a scene too fun to cut, so I’m changing the outline, too! Ah, the writing life.

But I’m having fun, and that’s what counts, right? 🙂 And doing a lot of interesting reading — you should see the variety of books in my house right now. If I have anyone from my daughter’s Episcopal school over, I’m going to have to do a werewolf and magic book round-up first. I just bought a handy dandy ‘spell book’ the other day to equip my character’s mother for her job as a psychic witch. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a thing in there about enchanting your keyboard to type for you…

And in case you were wondering, I still haven’t URLed my Malice post… maybe I’ll get it done in time for next year’s conference! 😉

Tornados and lightning and hail, oh my!

The camping curse is still in force. I survived, but barely; Friday night Burnet was under a tornado watch (which we didn’t know about) and was also center stage for a number of massive thunderstorms. In other words, I spent the whole night lying in a tent saucer-eyed, waiting for a tornado to plow through us or lightning to break a limb off the oak above us and crush us to death.

And yet I continue to camp…

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