March 2007


I finished and turned in book 2.

It was at one point short, then longer, then edited back down, then it disappeared completely when my computer ate it and was found in a back-up email (with some of the changes missing), then was edited some more, then was back to a really great length, then I had to write the finale and the damned thing grew and grew, and now it is edited some and turned in because if I keep it here one more week, my head will explode.

All the while writing it, I had a personal goal of doing something bigger, better — stretching my skills as a story-teller, finding more depth without losing the funny. I have no idea if I actually reached any of that goal yet; I’m tired of it and can’t focus on any part of it critically anymore. A month or so from now (or whenever I get my agent’s and editor’s notes back), I’ll have a better idea of what works and what didn’t. I’ve already thought of a dozen things I want to tweak (and I’ve made notes so I won’t forget again). But I do feel like the challenge I gave myself paid off–I think I vastly improved as a writer. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a metric buttload of stuff to do on it, but that will always be the case for me–I’m a much better re-writer than a writer.

Overall, I am just thrilled it’s not in my hands for a while. My brain is mush.

(Perversely, my brain also wants to continue the story with the characters and since there is going to be a book 3, and since I have a synopsis, my thoughts are already veering into the next story. Must. Stop. Now. I am just too tired.)

Also, apparently all of the writing I’ve been doing has atrophied some of my brain. I had to run a couple of errands today and my brain was still in foggy fiction-land, where I control the whole world, including the action scenes, and can blow something up and then go back and think, nah, let that one stay, and magically, it’s back together, and let me tell you, this does not work in the real world. Like when you’re driving and there are other cars on the road? Yeah, not a good time to forget that you’re not the omnipotent being who moves things around at will. Luckily for the general public, I realized my brain was too fried to continue my errands and I just went home and decided I’d try again after I’ve rested some. No accidents, but only because other people had a clue.

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Saturday, Carl and I were rare visitors to a fourth-floor view of a castle turret (see below), and as Carl looked out the window from the office onto the roofline between us and the turret, he got fired up and said, “Hey, you see that [–]? Well [character] could shoot it and then he could…” he looked around the office, spied what he would need, “grab the [–] and slice it and then 

and kill off the [–],” and I was all, “Wow, yeah! Cool!” until we both realized that the very sweet lady who’d let us up there behind the scenes was starting to edge out of the room, looking at little nervous.

“We have to kill the bad guys,” I offered, trying to make things not so frightening.

“In her book,” Carl said, just so we didn’t have her running for security, regretting letting us up there.

I’m starting to suspect we are not normal people. 

One of the cool things about being a writer is that you can tell people you are researching something for your next book and they will suddenly give you access to the neatest things not generally available to the public. Last Saturday, we lucked up on the fact that the Old State Capitol, which is featured in a big action scene in book 2, was open for tours. Even better, when Carl told the woman in charge (Nancy C.) that I was working on book 2, she was very open to showing me areas of the building which are just awesome.

It’s so cool that I live just four miles from this gorgeous old castle (technically, they call it “Castlelated Gothic style construction):

front-view.jpg

 The first two floors are the only parts normally open to the public, but they are gorgeous for the rotunda:

rotunda.jpg

(and that photo just cannot do it justice)… to the stunning stained-glass dome:

stained-glass-dome.jpg

And as you look at that photo, realize that’s four stories up. What you can’t quite tell from this is that the dome is housed in a protective room — frosted white glass with a metal roof to protect it from debris or high winds, and what you also can’t see is that above it–inside that room–there is a catwalk around the perimeter of that stained-glass, (which they refer to as the ‘lantern’)… and I got to walk around that catwalk. Taking photos, which are still on my camera. And the entire time I was up there, I was thinking, “Please God, don’t let me do a Bobbie Faye and destroy 150 years of history. Please.”

We got to see a catwalk outside the building on the roof and other very neat things (which are going in the book).

And seriously, Nancy was the most wonderful, patient hostess. She made me feel like this building really did belong to us, the public, and was a very welcoming place. When we left, we noticed several families picnicing on the front slopes and off to the side, lots of kids were playing in the water fountain. I think the original builders would have been thrilled.

I had the great fortune of reading Allison Brennan’s SEE NO EVIL as an advanced reading copy, and it was riveting. Seriously, I was so sleep deprived and on a flight and I thought, “I’ll just start this and read a chapter and then doze for a while,” but I could not stop reading. Today, the last of that trilogy is on deck–FEAR NO EVIL:

fear-no-evil.jpg

In FEAR NO EVIL, Dillon Kincaid, a forensic psychiatrist, has 48 hours to find his sister, Lucy, before she’s killed on a live webcast. The only way to find her is to locate renegade FBI agent Kate Donovan who knows more about the killer than anyone. Problem: she’s wanted by her own government for murder.

Romantic Times gave FEAR NO EVIL a Top Pick as well. So if you want something scary (that promises a happy ending), GO GET ALLISON’S BOOK. You will thank me. 😉

[toni’s note: today I am letting Bobbie Faye Sumrall guest blog because frankly, she’s scary and she threatened me.]

Okay, look, people, you probably don’t know me. Unless you’ve read this crazy writer’s first book, and I am here to tell you, she’s seriously getting on my nerves. Like, bouncing up and down on the last one with a hacksaw in her hand. How in the hell her family puts up with her is a shear freaking miracle. You people need to do an intervention. Soon. Or I’m going to, and it won’t be pretty.

It’s not bad enough that she followed me around and then wrote a book about it. I’m kinda used to people following me around, and just because things happen to accidentally blow up whenever I sort of happen to be in the area does not mean that it was my fault, and really, I am tired of being on the five o’clock news. And could they follow me around when I’m dressed like a sane person? Nooooo, that would be too nice. They wait until all hell breaks loose and I have crap to wear and look like a reject from Ho’s R Us clothing line and of course, bad hair from hell, and that’s when they put my photo up on the TV. But this Toni? She’s worse than the rest of them combined, because she’s all in my freaking life every time I turn around and one of these days, I’m going to drop-kick her ass across the state, because I have about had enough.

I thought that after the first book, she’d get her fill. Sure, it was kinda crazy and lots of people chasing me and shooting and you know, unhappy with me in general (though I am hard-pressed at times to tell the difference) but I thought this was a one-time thing. She’d get her story, go write it and go away. Then she followed me around again and this one was even crazier; I was like the Pied Piper to the Psycho & Demented set, and did she have the common sense to leave me alone? What do you think? Do writers even have common sense? Apparently not, because there she was, squatting next to me, getting shot at, and I tried to tell her to go home, go do something useful, like paint her bedroom, but she just kept taking notes as the bullets whizzed by and it is not my fault that she got nicked a couple of times, damnit. I can only do so much.

So then I thought, fine… no one’s going to like the first book and she’ll get discouraged and go the fuck away. But did that happen? No. You freaking people are going to kill me. Some of you have actually reviewed the damned book! And you liked it! And you’re encouraging her! I mean, last week? Last week she was lying prone on her office floor, freaking out because she was certain no one on the planet was going to even read the damned thing, much less like it, and I have to say, as cruel as it sounds, that would have suited me just damned fine, because then she’d have been out of my hair. Permanently. Instead, this weekend, your Publisher’s Weekly goes and posts this fantastic review . And not just any old fantastic review, but a freaking starred review. And now? She will not shut up about the damned thing. I swear to God, I had to talk her out of tattooing it on her forehead. I mean, look at it:

*Bobbie Faye’s Very (very, very, very) Bad Day*
Toni McGee Causey. St. Martin’s Griffin, $12.95 paper (320p) ISBN
978-0-312-35448-0

Set in Lake Charles, La., Causey’s hilarious, pitch-perfect debut
chronicles one day in the life of 28-year-old Bobbie Faye Sumrall, a
magnet for mayhem who feels “a day without disaster would be a day in
someone else’s life.” For starters, a faulty washing machine floods the
trailer home she shares with her five-year-old niece. Then she learns
that kidnappers are holding Roy, her rogue of a younger brother, for
ransom and want nothing less than the tiara inherited from her mother
that Bobbie Faye plans to wear as the queen of the upcoming
pirate-themed Contraband Days Festival. After a simple bank trip turns
into a nightmare and thieves get away with the tiara, Bobbie Faye
commandeers a truck and its hunky driver, Trevor, for a wild chase
through bayou country. Friends cheer her on, while others take bets on
her next calamity. Causey doesn’t miss a beat in this wonderful, wacky
celebration of Southern eccentricity. /(May)/
 

Now she’s already planning to follow me around for the rest of my frigging life. I am never going to be rid of her, am I?

I am serious. You people better do something about this. Quick. Because if she keeps this up, she’s going to get her ass shot and it won’t be my fault. I cannot help it if I am a magnet for disaster. I have a talent for “wrong place, wrong time” — if that were a category on the SAT exam? I’d make a fucking perfect score. So do something. Warn her. Kidnap her. Teach her how to knit. I don’t care, just get her the hell out of my life.

Thank you,

Bobbie Faye Sumrall

If you haven’t seen this, there are 93 brands of pet food being recalled because there is a contaniment in them which has already killed some dogs and cats. (It causes kidney failure, and kidney failure is fatal.)

Because I am on deadline, I am going to send you to max’s site, which has a thorough, detailed list and links if you need additional help / information. Max rocks, by the way, and if you’re not reading her regularly, you’re missing out.

conversation with my youngest son… 

“So, how are you?”

“Better. They said the concussion wasn’t severe. Since I was talking okay, they let me go home.”

“Concussion?”

“Oh, yeah. Forgot to tell you. I took a jump at the slope and caught the snow just right and they said I was, like, thirty feet off the ground, but I think I blacked out before hitting whatever it was that I hit that cracked my helmet. I think I was out for ten minutes.”

“You’re kidding me, right?”

“No, the ski patrol came by and told me to keep moving, so I went down the slope again. Kinda slow that time, but they said I should keep blood going to my brain.”

“Are you sure there was any going there in the first place?”

(actual conversation from yesterday afternoon)

Overheard (which may or may not have been said by people I know)…

Man:  How was your weekend?

Woman: Pretty good. I killed someone off. Surprised me how hard it was.

Man: Really? I killed off two people. It was a great weekend.

Woman: Two? Wow.

Man: Yeah, only took me ten hours. You need to get busy.

a completely different set of people…

Man: You know, the whole antacid industry is missing the best marketing opportunity.

Woman: Really? What do you mean?

Man: Instead of trying to make everyone’s gas go away, they should just try to make farts smell better. Like perfume. Or steaks. Then restaurants would be paying people to come in and improve the ambiance. (pause) Hey, what are you doing?

Woman: Making a note to myself to never talk to you again.

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