Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What's Going On. Today.

So here's where we stand right now:

Right at this moment, on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, I have no current book contracts. None. Zero. Nary a one. Which is interesting, because not that long ago I had four series going at the same time. Those, apparently, were the days.

Now, my extremely talented and dedicated agent Josh Getzler is working on alleviating this appalling circumstance, but until that happens there isn't anything I have an obligation to write aside from the occasional newspaper piece. I'll start teaching again in September, so there's that (which requires more reading than writing), but right now... nothin'.

I know what you're shouting at your screen: 1. Stop whining! You've already had 24 books published! You know how many people don't get one? 2. Just write something for yourself, something you've always wanted to write. Oh, and stop whining.

You're right with both comments (although you might have phrased them a little more charitably). But here's the thing about each: I do this for a living, and while I am inexpressibly grateful for the good fortune I've had publishing books, I need to keep doing so in order to put gas in the Prius. (Even though it uses much less than other cars.) So this waiting period while the noble Mr. G. works on my behalf is excruciating exactly because of its unpredictability. I honestly don't know where my next paycheck is coming from.

As for writing something on spec that I've always wanted to write, I'm reminded of a story Harpo Marx (really Rowland Barber, but Harpo was in on it) told in his autobiography Harpo Speaks!, which is really good and should be read by all.

Harpo was friends with Alexander Woollcott, the famous theater critic, essayist, radio host and you-name-it in society in the 1920s through 40s. And Woollcott liked to mix up the people he knew, so he invited Harpo to a party Woollcott was hosting which was attended by George Bernard Shaw. Woollcott probably thought it would be funny to see the two such different men be uncomfortable in each other's presence.

Instead, Harpo and Shaw hit it off very well, so much so that at lunch (I think) that day Harpo felt he could ask Shaw, who had not written in some time, why he wasn't working on another play.

The table fell silent and Shaw's piercing eyes looked straight at Harpo. There was a pregnant pause until Shaw asked, "Got any ideas?" and the place burst into laughter.

That's the thing with me right now. I have some ideas, but I'm not crazy about any of them. I've started two books and haven't written on either of them in days. They're just not hitting the spot, and if I'm not interested in the stories, you can bet your last dime you won't be interested in them, either. No really good book has ever been written when the author didn't care.

So that's the state of affairs here at Castle Copperman these days. It's a temporary state I'm certain, but while it goes on it's making me just a little more crazy than usual. The only thing more torturous than writing, it turns out, is not writing.

Oh and P.S.: No, we don't have any current contracts for audiobooks. It's not our choice, but we (and by "we" I mean the aforementioned Mr. Getzler) are working on it. It's in good hands, but I have no news to impart at the moment. I'm touched so many people have been asking. Wish I had something to tell you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

1000 Words a Day. Except...

I have often said (bragged, some would assert) that I write 1,000 words every day. And that's almost completely true. I write 1,000 words every day--including weekends and holidays--when I'm working on a project. If I finish one I don't feel obligated to start another the next day. Sometimes I'll take a week off.

But not writing makes me anxious and cranky so the breaks don't last very long. One exception: I'm going on vacation at the end of this week and don't intend to write while I'm away. It'll be my longest break in probably five years at least.

That's not what I'm posting about today, though. What you read above was mostly a digression.

The thing about writing 1,000 words a day is that it seems like a goal but it can easily become a limit. Before I imposed that minimum on myself I would sometimes write all day long and produce who knows how many words. Other days I wouldn't write at all. The 1,000-word thing was meant to provide some order when I had a number of book contracts that all needed to be fulfilled and I wanted to be sure I wasn't falling badly behind.

So writing 1,000 words a day became very useful. In years when I was writing four books almost nonstop, it was essential to know where I was on any given day in terms of my obligations and when I would have to start the next project to get it finished on time. I have never missed a deadline and I am proud of that.

The problem, though, was that after it became a habit, writing 1,000 words a day became the goal and therefore the end point. So I would aim at writing exactly 1,000 words on any given day and stop sometimes in the middle of a sentence when I hit that mark.

Now I rarely write more than 1,000 words a day. Sometimes, when I have fewer obligations elsewhere, (or if I was forced to miss one day and have to catch up) I will go 2,000 words, but I never stop on a random number. It's writing in the thousands, usually one and occasionally two. A couple of weeks ago I wrote 3,000 words in a day and thought I had accomplished something on the level of  inventing gravity.

What I'm saying is: Don't set a goal and then let it rule your day. I'm working on writing at least 1,000 words a day but not caring if the number that I finish with at night is random. To keep writing until I don't feel like it or don't have the time anymore. But it's not easy because I've settled into this routine and it feels weird to break it. I'll get to a point where I can do what I aim to do, but it's not easy and it's not going to happen quickly. Maybe after the vacation I'll be ready to start on a different routine.

Your takeaway should be: Do as I say, not as I do.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Whither, Irwin Shaw?

It astonishes me that the works of Irwin Shaw have gone out of print.

Shaw, once among the most famous of contemporary American authors, was an inspiration to me even before I knew I'd ever write a novel. His books took in large casts of characters, included big, life-changing events and never really ended the way the most optimistic reader would hope they might.

He was a storyteller before all else, and the peerless screenwriter/novelist William Goldman (The Princess Bride, Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) once told me Shaw was his idol before he knew he'd ever write a novel.

Shaw's most famous work, Rich Man, Poor Man was turned into a television miniseries that became something of a phenomenon and launched the career of Nick Nolte, for better or worse. It spawned a sequel (Beggarman, Thief) and cemented Shaw on the top of the 1970s bestseller lists.

I knew his novels because my mother never missed a Shaw book and I read them when she had finished. He never wrote about the kind of people or events I would end up using in my stories, but his style was direct and he never got flowery. Some writers never met an adjective they didn't like; Shaw told you what was happening and shoehorned in description so quietly it never announced itself to the reader.

Because there are some Shaw books I've never read I checked around online for copies and was amazed to discover that pretty much all his works are no longer in print. A search on Audible indicates that there are two Shaw books recorded on audio; they're both translated into Russian. Which doesn't help me much.

It's a sign that although books last forever, only a tiny fraction of authors are remembered much longer than their careers last. Perhaps that is a testament to those whose names we can recall decades or centuries after their deaths. But maybe it's also an indictment of a society that lets some of the best storytellers vanish with their times.

Above is the cover of one of my favorite Irwin Shaw novels. If you can find a copy in a used bookstore, I urge you to try it out. If not, I urge you to try one of mine. I'm not totally altruistic.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Rules For Living

  1. Respect others until they don't respect you.
  2. Try and see the other person's side, but not at the expense of your principles.
  3. Look for what's funny.
  4. Eat less; move around more. (Borrowed from Craig Ferguson)
  5. Stop worrying about your dignity. It's overrated.
  6. Write (if you write) what you want to read.
  7. Treat your children--if you have any--like people, because that's what they are.
  8. Treat other people's children like they are other people's children.
  9. Cereal is good. Eat cereal. 
  10. If you're angry, be angry. But try to take some action that will help you to not be angry.
  11. Never read the newspaper on an empty stomach.
  12. Read the newspaper. The internet only gives you the news you ask for. TV news isn't news.
  13. Listen to music. Use headphones when you can.
  14. Take in comedy. Listen, watch, create, but do something with comedy. 
  15. Avoid any movie whose ads say it's "shattering." Who wants to be shattered?
  16. Listen to scientists. If it's about science.
  17. Respect good teachers. Most teachers are good.
  18. Do your laundry at least every 10 days.
  19. Be open to new experiences as long as they don't involve risking your life.
  20. Don't engage in a political argument. No one has ever changed anyone else's mind.
  21. Get a pet or don't get a pet. You know what kind of person you are.
  22. Introduce people to things you love but don't force your views on them.
  23. Never dismiss any medium or genre until you've experienced it.
  24. Respect artists. They are walking on a tightrope naked with Vaseline on their soles.
  25. Pay attention to punctuation and spelling. You look like a dope when you don't.
  26. Vent your frustrations; don't let them build. Find an outlet. A non-violent outlet.
  27. Some people are in fact idiots. But they're still people.
  28. Don't live each day like it's your last. You'll be flat broke tomorrow.
  29. Reading isn't inherently better than TV, movies or theater. All should be enjoyed.
  30. If you're not funny, don't pretend to be. If you're not serious, pretending is possible.
  31. Eat what you want. If you'd like to lose weight, eat less of it.
  32. Never toast a fresh bagel. You can toast a day-old bagel.
  33. Look up from your phone once in a while. 
  34. Don't ever impose your religious beliefs on anyone else no matter what they are.
  35. Quote Bullwinkle as often as possible.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

About the Audiobooks...

Many people (okay, some people) have been asking me why there is no listing on Audible for an audiobook version of THE HOSTESS WITH THE GHOSTESS. And I'm sorry to say that's because there is currently no such version planned for release.

We are working on it, I promise. Audible's criteria for buying audio rights are constantly changing. So when I can tell you something, you can rest assured that I will. All I can say at the moment is that we're very eager to get you the rest of the Guesthouse books (#10 is almost done right now and will appear early next year, I'd guess), the Mysterious Detective books and the Asperger's mysteries on audio as soon as we can.

BIRD, BATH AND BEYOND, the second Agent to the Paws mystery, will appear on Audible when it's published by Minotaur Books later this year.

I wish I had better news to bring you, but Audible felt it best not to continue with the series. If and when they change their minds or we find an alternative, you'll hear it from me.

Monday, January 8, 2018

It's Publication Day!

So here it is: The ninth Haunted Guesthouse mystery, THE HOSTESS WITH THE GHOSTESS (no, I don't know what it means either) is now available at bookstores and online! I couldn't be more excited--okay, maybe I could be a little more excited, but it would take something pretty big--and I'm hoping you feel the same way.

This is the first Haunted Guesthouse novel published by Crooked Lane Books, which also brings you my Mysterious Detective books, and yes, it is a hardcover book. I'll admit, I liked being able to offer you these stories for less than $8, but hardcover makes it feel more book-y, and it does offer larger print for those who appreciate the boost in picas.

But here's the thing, friends: This series, which seems to be the most popular of those I've written, has come to Crooked Lane and I'd like to see it stays there. I don't want to stop writing the Guesthouse books because so many of you have told me you like them. So I'm a little nervous about this release because it's a hardcover book, an unfamiliar format for Alison and her pals.

I'm hoping you'll follow us in the direction we're going. But we won't know for a while. Sales, in a realistic publishing business, drive series. The more books that you buy, the better the chances the series will continue. Yeah, that sounds a little passive aggressive and I apologize for that, but it is true. We need to sell this title so there can be more. Please, tell your friends. Give them as gifts (I know, the holiday season is over, but gifts are always nice). Buy one for yourself. Ask your local library to order THE HOSTESS WITH THE GHOSTESS. I'll appreciate it greatly and I'll keep doing all I can to give you fun, intriguing stories.

In THE HOSTESS WITH THE GHOSTESS, newly-remarried Alison Kerby is settling into what is her new normal: Paul Harrison is out traveling the world, Maxie Malone is still at the guesthouse with her new husband Everett, Alison's daughter Melissa is now a teenager and her second husband Josh is settling into life in a house where he knows there are inhabitants he can't see or hear. That's what passes for normal in a haunted guesthouse on the Jersey Shore.

But things are never calm for long here: Paul's brother Richard, freshly deceased, shows up as a ghost in search of his detective brother. Richard Harrison was a criminal defense attorney involved in the case of a young woman accused of murdering her stepfather. He thinks he was close to proving she didn't do the killing--and that's why he was murdered himself.

Richard wants Paul to investigate the case, but Paul is nowhere to be found and oddly didn't leave a forwarding address. So before Alison can help Richard prove his client is innocent (and against Richard's wishes, to solve his murder) she has to find her friend. Which begs the question: How do you find a ghost when you want to?

All the characters you like will be involved and there are a few new ones I'm hoping you'll enjoy as well. The last thing I want to do is repeat myself, so there might just be a few surprises along the way...

Crooked Lane is very aware of what you liked about the previous Guesthouse books, so the only changes that have been made were made by me, for the sake of a better story and to provide some fun for readers. I'm hoping you'll enjoy THE HOSTESS WITH THE GHOSTESS and comment here to let me know! Feedback is so important to this writer--I like to hear which parts of the story you especially liked (and will pay attention to the parts you didn't) and to hear (or read) your reactions. Feel free to get in touch--I love to hear from you!

In the meantime, I can't thank you guys enough. You've been so supportive of all the books and perhaps the Guesthouse series most of all. You're the reason we've gotten to Book #9. And that touches me in a very real and wonderful way. You're the best. Thanks so much.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Wanna See A Show? Two Years Ago?

Okay so we were cleaning up pretty strenuously the other day and found this in the sofa cushions: It's a ticket for a play that was performed more than two years ago. On the day after my spouse's birthday. It was clearly never used. Nobody here remembers buying the ticket or intending to see the play. But there it was, some 30 months later, in our sofa. I sense a mystery novel coming on...