Tag Archives: writer’s life

May 12, 2014

Books of the Week:


Since I’ve been travelling, I’m doing a lot of rereading. I’m going through Laurell K. Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry books in preparation for the publication of the final one. And I have decided to get back to my mystery roots and read a lot of Agatha Christie and a lot of Rex Stout. Short, concise, and to the point: Christie and Stout have more in common than you’d think. When I’ve finished travelling, I’ll start reading new stuff again, and I’ll have more to talk about.



Yesterday was Mother’s Day, a holiday created to sell cards, flowers, and candy. It’s also been a boon to restaurants everywhere in America. But the sentiment at the heart of it is a real one. It’s a day of recognition, a day to stand back and really consider a basic relationship.


Writers don’t create from a vacuum. We are all at the center of our own webs, our ties to family and friends and business associates — our origins and our futures.


When I was a “tween” and a teen, I held the firm belief that writers had to live in New York, had to play poker, and they had to drink . . . a lot. Maybe this was the Hemingway model? I know he lived in Florida in the later part of his life, and I have no idea if he played poker or not, but this was my naïve impression.


I was sure it would embarrass my parents horribly if I carried on in such a fashion. Though carousing in college seemed to be expected, I figured it would be sort of depraved to carry that behavior any farther.


When I finally achieved adulthood – much later than I should have, frankly – I finally understood that writers are all just people, and people come in all sorts and persuasions. Some writers DO live in New York and drink a lot. Lots of writers can play poker. But a vast majority of them live scattered across the world and have more or less moderate-to-negligent alcohol habits. And some of them prefer a vigorous game of Scrabble.


Think of how boring our work would be if we all adhered to my stereotype! I believe it’s our ties that make our work diverse and rich. Our families and friends (and enemies, too) will always be huge influences on our writing.


I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Charlaine Harris

March 9, 2014

Books of the Week:


  • After I’m Gone, Laura Lippman
  • The Silence of the Library, Miranda James
  • Murder of Crows, Anne Bishop


In the interests of being thorough, I’m re-reading all the Rex Stout books and the Agatha Christie ‘Miss Marple’ novels on my e-reader as I travel. They make for good company!


But at home, I read actual, physical books. I had the pleasure of reading three really good ones since my last column. Laura Lippman is one of the best mystery writers in America; it’s easy to say that with qualification. After I’m Gone is a story of love gone wrong, at least in some ways. Cold case investigator “Sandy” Sanchez is investigating the case of Julie, the mistress of Felix Brewer, who fled prosecution twenty-six years before. Though everyone, perhaps including Brewer’s wife Bambi, has assumed that Julie went on the lam with Felix, her body has been found. A lot of history has to be reviewed and reinterpreted.  Did Bambi kill her old rival? Or are Bambi’s daughters guilty? There’s a lot of bitterness, and a dozen secrets, to wade through before the determined Sanchez can get to the bottom of what really happened to Julie Saxony.


My long-time friend Miranda James has a hit with her cozy “Cat in the Stacks” mysteries, and deservedly so. The Silence of the Library is another adventure of mild-mannered librarian Charlie Harris and his Maine coon cat, Diesel. Set in Athena, Mississippi, these entertaining and charming books always contain a satisfying mystery and plenty of character development. In Silence, Charlie, a great fan of the Nancy Drew books, gets to meet the author of another series he loved as a boy, the Veronica Thane series. Electra Barnes Cartwright is not in good physical shape, but she’s willing to participate in the library exhibit honoring her and other early writers of YA mysteries. Charlie is thrilled to meet such an icon of his youth, and the passages from one of the Veronica Thane books that punctuate the modern-day narrative provide a fun counterpoint. As Cartwright collectors swarm Athena, one of them is murdered, and Charlie and Diesel have to find the culprit and save the library’s event. You’ll enjoy this, and it’s suitable for all ages.


I’d been waiting for what seemed like forever for Anne Bishop’s new “Novel of the Others,” Murder of Crows. The previous book, Written in Red, was one of my 2013 favorites. Murder of Crows continues expanding the world of the Others, one in which humans are a minority and often regarded as food. Meg Corbyn, who has escaped from a secret compound where young female seers are cut to produce a prophecy, is learning to use her built-in talent to benefit her new community. They, in turn, are learning to live around Meg. But it’s an uneasy and uneven process, and the human world is reacting to the increasing tension among the Others and fanatic humans determined to kill them. It’s a much more divided world than we saw in the previous book, but just as intriguing. I really liked this book . . . and now I  have to wait for the next one.


Blog: The Instrument


My old PC had gotten balky, and I had been having uneasy twinges about it for some time. I kept promising myself that after I’d finished my current book, I’d consider buying something else. I did that for three books.


The decision was yanked from my hands when my computer decided to stop recognizing my keyboard. Of course, at first I thought it was the keyboard, and I bought another one. I use the ergonomic Logitech, and I love it, so I had to order that. In the meantime, I got out my laptop and set it up in another location, so I could answer email and so on.


But when the new keyboard came, the old computer wouldn’t speak to that one, either. When your machines won’t recognize each other, it’s a scary feeling. There they are, cheek by jowl, refusing to give each other a nod.


I had to go off for the weekend, and my husband bravely volunteered to try to reconcile the two by the time I returned. Since I am an optimist, I was blithely certain that all would be well by the time I returned. After all, this month and next month were on my schedule as the big push on the next book. My office had to work in unity.


Sadly, all my optimism was for nothing. I returned with food poisoning, after a flight cancellation necessitated another overnight stay, to the wretched news (everything was pretty wretched by then) that the two still weren’t speaking. Hal took the old, sick computer to a repair shop to loosen its tongue, and I looked forward to getting it back in a mood to communicate.


It was Not To Be. Poor computer! Its motherboard was fried. It would never speak again.


Now I have a shiny looking chrome computer sitting on my desk, and it’s beginning to warm up to the other office machines. So far so good.


I didn’t realize how my attitude to work was affected by the machine I was using. I feel quite jaunty with this new computer, and (once again) optimistic about how great a writer I’ll be now that I have something so up-to-date. It’s kind of ridiculous how “new” makes an emotional translation as “better.”


So far my printer and keyboard seem to like their new comrade just fine . . . so I’m optimistic.


Charlaine Harris

March 23, 2013

Books of the Week:

  • Suspect, Robert Crais
  • Warlord of Willow Ridge, Gary Phillips
  • Midnight Blue-Light Special, Seanan McGuire

Robert Crais is undoubtedly one of the major crime writers of the past decade, or longer, and I open a book of his with anticipation and reverence. I have yet to be disappointed. Suspect is a stand-alone, about a damaged police officer and a damaged dog. The German shepherd, Maggie, has endured tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an explosives sniffer, but has lost her handler and been seriously wounded in a sniper attack. Scott James, LAPD rising star, is critically wounded and his partner killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Scott can’t rest until he finds out who killed his partner, and Maggie can’t be at ease until she forms a bond. This is a gripping book.


Warlord of Willow Ridge is Gary Phillips’ meditation on the economic crisis that left housing developments half empty, as mortgage foreclosures and tighter belts left new homes empty for years. Willow Ridge is half empty, and the remaining home owners are tense and desperate. Gangs come in to claim one of the houses from time to time. But then a mysterious stranger rides into town . . . on a motorcycle, not a horse. In a way, this is a classic western set in modern times.


I’m a huge fan of Seanan McGuire, and I was anxious to read Midnight Blue-Light Special, the second InCryptid novel. If you’ll remember, in the first book (Discount Armageddon) we met Verity Price, member of a family devoted to protecting America’s supernatural creatures. Verity, a professional dancer, spends all her off-stage time dealing with the singing mice who live in her apartment, various bogeymen, dragon queens, and other assorted creatures. But she discovers a human threat who’s much more serious. The sworn enemies of the Price family, the Covenant of St. George, send a representative to New York, Dominick De Luca, and he discovers that there’s a living Price in the city. Verity has danger to encounter and choices to make, and so does Dominick, in the second book, when the Covenant sends a contingent to find out what progress Dominick is making in eliminating cryptids – and Prices.


My working day is never the same twice in a row. Frequently, readers ask me to write faster, and I can see them wondering why I can’t manage ten pages a day. That way, in a month I’d have a decent sized book, right? Oh, I wish it worked that way.


What this notion doesn’t take into account is:


  1. Revision – rewriting is extremely important in my working day
  2. Business – this is a huge time-eater. I have to respond daily to queries from my agent, my publicist, my editor, my assistant . . . because on some level, the buck stops here.
  3. Family – I’ll always stop to talk to my children, and with three of them, I usually hear from someone at least every other day. My husband waits until I’m through with work unless the issue is really urgent.
  4. Thinking – Believe it or not, I do this quite a lot. I have to figure out what’s going to happen next, and in what sequence the events will unfold.
  5. Research – If I wrote a detailed outline, I’d know what research I needed to do before I write the book, but this is not my process. I may suddenly need to know if there’s a town in Texas with the same name as one of my fictional places, or I have to find out if some state has a common-law marriage law, or I have to know some terminology.
  6. Concurrent projects – Until last week, I was writing parts of Volume Two of Cemetery Girl alternately with Christopher Golden, editing stories for WEIRD WORLD OF SPORTS (my next anthology with Toni L.P. Kelner), and trying to progress with MIDNIGHT PAWN. Most writers have several plates spinning at the same time.


Also, practically, if I write six new pages a day, I’m happy.


Then there’s the writer’s tendency to put off work by any means. A series of emails back and forth can eat up time, especially with your best buds. It’d be rude not to answer immediately, right? Oh, and checking my Facebook professional page . . . got to do that. And then there’s my website . . .


It’s amazing I get any work done at all, isn’t it?


Charlaine Harris