Friday, September 9, 2016


So, how’s your summer been?

I should say spring and summer, because it’s been nearly two seasons since I’ve posted here, and just about that long that I’ve been scrambling, literarily speaking.  With Bouchercon* in New Orleans on the horizon, I'm ready for some serious R&R.  

The short version of the story:  I had a book due, and it was a tight deadline, and I made it.

The longer version will require some explanation of publishing timelines, and sharing some of my recent lessons learned about publishing. 

My second book, HARD COLD WINTER, was first delivered to my publisher at the end of February last year, just in time to launch my first book, PAST CRIMES, in early March.   That’s not an uncommon situation for genre fiction; the goal is usually to produce at least one book each year. 

When PC launched, I was lucky enough to have a few in-person appearances at bookstores, and virtual appearances on mystery fan blogs and other websites.  Virtual appearances require some extra effort.  The author is usually writing a guest article or providing answers for a Q&A.  Those blogs are terrific exposure, and I’m delighted to be asked to join the party, every time.

The hitch?  Because those articles have to be written in advance, of course, I found myself working on many of those guest posts while also finishing HCW.  A *lot* of posts; I think I wrote eighteen articles and Q&As for PAST CRIMES last year.  

There’s Lesson #1: Consider the Timing.  Book launches require a lot of pre-work and creativity, so make sure you’ve got enough bandwidth, or at least enough runway.

I received rewrite notes on HCW from my most excellent editor in late May, and agreed to deliver those by end of July.  The rewrites went well, and HCW was in the pipeline.  All good.

And then I waited.  After the frenzy of the previous months, the rest of last summer felt very calm.  Unnervingly so.  Mine was a two-book deal.  Would my publisher want another?

Finally I asked my lovely and spectacular agent.  She patiently informed me that the publisher would be waiting for me to bring them opening chapters and a synopsis.  Whoops.  I’d burned a couple of months, fretting.  Lesson #2: Don’t Wait For News; Ask.  Especially if you’re a noob.

Okay, let’s get some opening chapters.  I had an idea, I thought.  Worked it.  Reworked it.  Sent some notions to my agent, and she provided feedback.  By the time we deemed the chapters and synopsis ready to submit, we were into the holidays. 

Remember Lesson #2?  I didn’t.  It was late January before we resumed conversations with my publisher, and fortunately things moved quickly after that.  By end of month we had agreed on a new two-book deal, and I was ecstatic.  And also freaking out. 

Because this third book would have to be delivered fast.  Between delivering the rewrites on HCW and signing the new deal, I had burned through the better part of six months.   And because we needed to hit as close to a Spring 2017 release date as possible (one book a year, remember?) I would need to deliver Book Three in seven months, by end of August.  I had forty pages, or about ten percent, done.  Ninety percent still to go.

Oh, right.  Lesson #1.  I also had to launch HCW, complete with appearances and writing guest blogs. 

The question was not whether I could write a book in seven months minus travel and blog time.  Two pages a day will get you that.  The question was: Could I write a good one?  I do enjoy a challenge...

Fast forward through drafting and redrafting and shredding (pages and fingernails) and tiny cuts and landed punches, and Yes.  There it is.  And there it goes, off to my most excellent editor for notes.  Rewrites yet to come, but I’m very happy with Book Three, and I think fans of the series will be as well.  Whew.

Plus, I’m getting better at this game.  Book Four is due in 357 days.  That’s a whole five months longer than I had for the last one; positively luxurious.  Not that I’m waiting, because I think I’ve already learned Lesson #3: Every Day Counts.  For Writing, and for Rejoicing.

And with celebrations in mind, I hope to see you at Bouchercon.  Cheers!

*Bouchercon World Mystery Convention is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization which holds an annual convention in honor of Anthony Boucher, the distinguished mystery fiction critic, editor and author.  Readers, writers, publishers, editors, agents, booksellers and other lovers of mystery and crime fiction gather for a 4-day weekend of education, entertainment, and fun!  Check out