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