Tag Archive for: #deadlines


By Kathryn Lane

I love
deadlines! They revitalize me. Twists and turns in my mystery novels become
more exciting once I’m approaching the deadline with my editor.

Not all
deadlines are equal. Some are important; others can be juggled. Then there are
deadlines I gleefully ignore.

At times, I
fantasize what would happen if I missed such and such important deadline. That activity
takes the form of various possible outcomes, as if I lived in a quantum world
where there’s an infinite number of possibilities.

Meeting a deadline!

And it
reminds me of a wonderful European film from 1998 titled,
Run, Lola, Run.
An experimental film at the time, the lead character, Lola, needs to acquire
$100,000 deutschmarks in TWENTY minutes or her boyfriend will die. The film
gives three versions of what happens. Each version is predicated on the lapse
of a few seconds where random, unexpected events happen that impact Lola’s
ability to obtain the money. These random events change each one of the three

In the past
month, I’ve had the opportunity to think about random, unexpected things that
happen. Some are good, some not so good.

On the
return trip from the Killer Nashville International Mystery Writers’ Conference 
(which was wonderful) in late August, we experienced an unexpected event.

Driving through
Georgia, a speeding motorist hit us a few miles south of Atlanta. Fortunately,
everyone, including the motorist who hit us, walked away with only minor
bruises. A different story for the vehicles – both were totaled.

Random events,
good or bad, set off unexpected consequences, which ripple through already
planned events, like getting a manuscript finished for your editor.

Meeting manuscript deadlines!

As in the
three outcomes in
Run, Lola, Run, my mind considered various
scenarios: If only we had not stopped for gas when we did, if only we had
started our journey a few minutes earlier (or later) that day, if only we had
been in a different lane. But we don’t live in a quantum world. Nor do we live
in a world where we can restart the day and get a different outcome.

Small, unplanned events can add spice to life.
Large ones, like car accidents, can create havoc on deadlines. C’est la vie.

are important to my characters too. It’s like they’re telling me “If you write it
this way, it will be better”. Or they will kick my butt, saying “Go this other
direction and get our story told”.

Maybe that’s
a little like the different outcomes in Run, Lola, Run. In novels, only the
author knows the various endings that could have taken place.

How do you
handle deadlines?  


Kathryn’s mysteries – The Nikki
Garcia Mystery



Kathryn’s short story collection – Backyard
and Other Mysteries of the Heart


 All available on Amazon

 Kathryn Lane started out as a starving
artist. To earn a living, she became a certified public accountant and embarked
on a career in international finance with a major multinational corporation.
After two decades, she left the corporate world to plunge into writing mystery
and suspense thrillers. In her stories, Kathryn draws deeply from her Mexican background as well as her travels
in over ninety countries.



My Writing Resolutions for 2012

by Susan McBride

I used to make New Year’s resolutions annually.  Until I realized I didn’t really stick to them.  By the end of January, they were forgotten, buried under deadlines and other craziness.  This year, I’m not even going to try to pin down things in my personal life that I’d like to tackle, other than to deliver a healthy baby in June, meet all my obligations as best I can, and thoroughly enjoy every day as much as humanly possible.
Instead, I decided to make a few resolutions regarding my writing that I want to strive for in 2012 and each year after.  Since this is the perfect place to share them (so you all can check on me later and see how I’m doing!), here they are:
**To boldly go where no man has gone before!  (Well, at least where this woman hasn’t gone before!) Yes, like the opening sequence in “Star Trek,” I want to tackle new galaxies in my writing life.  I want to keep trying new things and writing books that I haven’t written before (or even read in some cases).  It’s always scary taking on a path that isn’t familiar.  But I’m finding that I thrive on it.  It’s a risk, yes, and I realize I’m taking a gamble with every novel I write that isn’t a series or that encroaches on new turf, but it gets my blood pumping.  I get excited just thinking about stretching my creativity and seeing how far I can push myself.
**To stop worrying about reviews.  I want to stop feeling compelled to check Amazon and other places, only to break out in hives because someone gave my latest literary baby one-star and said it’s the worst piece of crap they’ve ever seen. I write because I can’t imagine doing anything else.  It feeds me.  It drives me.  I would write even if Ed and my mom were the only ones reading.  Knowing that a hunk of the book-buying population will never warm to me does not affect how I work.  I don’t think about it when I’m composing, not one bit (although I know authors who do—one who even told me he considers readers’ suggestions about how he should approach characters and plotlines while he’s writing).  All bad reviews do is make me feel lousy personally. So I need to follow in the footsteps of Laura Spinella and Maggie Barbieri who make a point to avoid reading reviews. If I can wean myself in 2012, that will be a very good thing.
**To do a better job at setting my deadlines so that I’m not working on two projects at once in tandem with a new book release and a million other things.  It’s amazing how much I feel like Superwoman when events on my schedule are a year away.  But once life starts happening—say, you get pregnant!—and other book-related demands crop up, suddenly there’s not enough time in the world.  I have always prided myself on getting things done on time, if not early.  So it’s been a challenge this past year, juggling everything and making sacrifices.  I need time for my real life and my book life…and a few moments to breathe in between.
I feel so fortunate to be doing what I love every day of my life.  I just want to make the experience better and better in every way possible.  Oh, yeah, and did I mention I need to work on stressing out less?  I’m definitely better than I was at that a year or two ago, but I’m still not close to achieving my black belt in Zen.
Happy New Year, everyone!  Any resolutions you want to share?

The Fine Art of Juggling Time

by Susan McBride

Although I consider myself pretty adept at a lot of different things, balancing my time wisely is not one of them.  No matter how old I get–and how much wiser in other departments–I don’t seem to have completely grasped the concept that you cannot agree to do 200 things in a finite amount of time and get all of them done. 
I always think I can do it.  Take this year, for example.  I told myself, sure, I can do revisions on Little Black Dress in the first few months, go through the copy edit, check the page proofs, and all else that the production schedule demands of me, PLUS write the first draft of Dead Address, the young adult mystery for Random House AND promote Little Black Dress upon release in late August THEN pen my next women’s fiction book, Little White Lies, all by December 1.  Oh, yeah, and that’s not counting all the real-life hoo-ha that comes in between (take my lovely encounter with skin cancer and Moh’s surgery in May, for instance). 

Piece of cake, yes?

Well, I imagined it would be.  I mean, I kept reminding myself I’d written two books for my two different publishers while going through my boobal crisis nearly five years ago.  I know I’m not Superwoman (at least, not one who doesn’t constantly trip on her cape), but I seem to want to play one on TV.  Or at least in my writing life. 

I used to always meet deadlines.  Heck, I’d turn things in early.  I was such an overachiever that at the first lunch I ever had with my agent and then-mystery editor half a dozen years ago, they remarked on how efficient I was.  “Like a robot,” one of them actually said (though I can’t recall which). 
But back then, I was single.  I had myself, two cats, and a condo to worry about.  It was like living on another planet.  Once I’d met Ed, bought a house with him, dealt with a health crisis, got married, and took on even more responsibilities, I told myself, “You aren’t a robot.  You’re human.  You can only do what you can do.”  That’s a mantra I repeat often, so I’m not sure why it hasn’t completely sunk in. 

I still want to say, “yes, I can do that!”  Even if I worry that it’s adding yet another ball to the ones I’m juggling.  “No problem!” I chirp when asked to do things spur of the moment when I realize I should be focusing on writing books and not scattering my energy and time all over the place.

In some ways, I have gotten better about time. I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to.  I do say “no” when an event isn’t doable.  I don’t do Twitter (and never intend to), I’m not LinkedIn or GooglePlussed or anything besides Facebooked.  I’m on two group blogs with other incredible women authors who are busy balancing their real lives and writing lives, too.

And, still, I find myself in binds over and over, where I know at least one thing won’t get done on time.  Where I realize I’ll have to ask for an extension in order to finish my work and do it right.  Man, I hate that.

I’m learning.  That’s all I can say.  Every year when I do too much, I understand the things that I need to cut out the next time.  It might be years before I’m a master at the fine art of juggling time, but I will get there.  So long as no one gives me a deadline.

The House Guests That Don’t Want to Leave

by Susan McBride

I was talking with Maggie earlier in the week, and she kindly reminded me that this Friday was my blogging day.  I’m heading out of town for the Southern Indie Bookseller’s trade show in Charleston–um, like right about now–so my mind has been focused on that (what to bring, what to wear, if I’ll miss my connecting flights) and on getting more work done on Little White Lies, which I’ve barely started.  Little White Lies is my next women’s fiction book due on December 1 (yes, you heard right).  It’s been quite a juggling act this year, revising Little Black Dress in January and February, getting a first draft of Dead Address done by the end of July (my young adult mystery for Delacorte also due December 1, and it still needs a rewrite!), dealing with Little Black Dress promotion during most of August (with plenty more ahead of me), and now writing a draft of Little White Lies for HC/Morrow.  Needless to say, the days and weeks are going by WAY too quickly. 

I tell myself to stay cool.  I’ve had to write two books in a year before, most notably during the latter part of 2006 and the first part of 2007 when I was diagnosed with my boob stuff and had to undergo surgery and radiation therapy while working on Too Pretty to Die and The Debs.  I’ve previously mentioned how going to my computer everyday in my jammies helped maintain my sanity and gave me an outlet for all the crazy emotions I was feeling.  But it was also tough.  I wanted to do the best job I could under the most stressful of circumstances at a time when I was supposed to be taking care of my health and NOT stressing out.  But that’s life, I think, and I did what I had to do, although both manuscripts were turned in about a month late.  Somehow, despite my fears, the world didn’t stop spinning. 

Thank goodness, I’m not dealing with any major health crises (knock on wood!) as the deadline for two very different books rapidly approaches.  Regardless, I’ve found myself in a sticky situation.  I need to be able to move from one project to the next without carrying a lot of baggage.  Only, I’ve come to realize I have unwanted house guests.  No, not real ones.  Imaginary ones. The kind of house guests that do not require clean linens or three square meals. They have no desire to visit tourist attractions or sit in my favorite spot on the sofa at night, watching TV.  They don’t even muck up the guest bathroom or drop their dirty socks on the floor.

Instead they intrude upon my mind.  When I started Dead Address late in the spring, I still hadn’t shaken my revision of Little Black Dress from a few months before.  It had been an intense period of about two months where I worked every day (and night), rewriting every page, moving things around, adding new chapters, and otherwise fully immersing myself in the world of Anna and Evie Evans and the magical black dress from the gypsy’s shop in Ste. Genevieve.  I could not get them out of my head.

When I needed to focus on Katie, Mark, and Lisa and their boarding school in Dead Address, I was still back in Blue Hills, Missouri, worrying about the sisters and Toni (okay, and whether the back cover copy did the story justice, or how the font on the cover would look). Somehow, I managed to send Evie, Anna, and Toni packing for long enough to write what happened to Katie after opening up the mysterious box with the severed hand.  But now it’s time to get my head into Little White Lies (and into the heads of Gretchen Brink, her daughter Abigail, and a mystery man from Gretchen’s past), and I’ve still got Katie, Mark, and Lisa hanging around, wondering when I’m going to start paying attention to them again because I haven’t quite finished with them yet.  Oh, and Evie, Anna, and Toni, won’t go away so easily either, not as long as I still have LBD events to do (throughout September and October).


If anyone knows a successful method for removing unwanted imaginary house guests, I’d sure appreciate hearing it.  For now, I guess I’d just better keep the sheets clean, the fresh towels handy, and the fridge full (um, figuratively speaking).  One of these days, perhaps, they’ll all go back from whence they came, and my house–um, my head–will be unnaturally quiet, at which point I’ll have to start inviting new imaginary house guests in.

Ding Dong, Deadline Calling!

As I write this, I’m down to the wire on my deadline for Little Black Dress, my tale of two sisters, a daughter, and a magical dress that changes all their lives forever. It’s something different for me after writing series mysteries, a YA nonmystery series, and contemporary women’s fiction. Little Black Dress mixes the past and the present (okay, with a pinch of mystery!), and it alternates between two very different voices.

I just finished proofing 300 pages after staying up late and working through the weekends to get this baby done. It’s weird how deadlines never seem that intimidating until, oh, about six weeks beforehand. That’s when you realize that maybe you shouldn’t have scheduled a fundraiser you’re spearheading that close to D-Day, and innumerable real-life crises rear their ugly heads (never fails).

It’s when you tell yourself, “Hey, this is life. Put on your big girl pants and deal with it.” Only that doesn’t keep the clock from ticking or that danged deadline from looming like Fraggle Rock (wait, that’s a kid’s show, right? Not very scary, huh?).

When I realized I had, oh, five chapters left last weekend, I went into panic mode, staying up way past my usual bed-time, working like a maniac (and, no, I don’t drink coffee!). It helps when hubby has a late night hockey game and doesn’t return until after midnight so I can write until he gets home and finds me with my face on the keyboard, QWERTY squished into my forehead. (All right, it never happened, but it was a constant threat.)

Ed has gotten used to seeing me in my pajamas 24/7, often with my hair sticking out like a rat’s nest. I would mumble inanely, “I swear, I’ll shower after dinner,” and then I’d disappear into my writing room and not emerge until 11 p.m., still a mess. But I would have gotten another chapter done.

If all goes well, by the time you read this deadline-itis inspired babble, I’ll be hitting “send” and turning in Little Black Dress to my agents and my editor at HarperCollins.

At which point, I plan to sleep for days, watch mindless HGTV, read the books stacked on my bedside table, eat chocolate, and pray that they don’t come back and say, “Er, Susan, that thing you sent us? It’s a pile of poo.” (Has anyone ever had that happen, God forbid?) And soon enough, I’ll have to do revisions, turn in a proposal for the next book, and get back to writing again. No rest for the wicked, eh?
With two books due in 2011, I should really take a spin in the nearest phone booth (er, if I can find one) and emerge in my super-powered, superhero suit, consisting of plaid flannel jammie pants, the “rock star” T-shirt Maggie gave me, fuzzy socks, and rat’s nest hair. “Ah-ha-ha,” I’ll say in my throaty–um, squeaky–voice, “I am Deadline Girl! Look out!”

Or else I’ll just take a nap.

Little Black Dress has been bumped up in the schedule and will now be out in June from HarperCollins instead of next fall (or, actually, May 17, 2011 if we’re being particular). You can already pre-order it online, which is kind of funny as of this moment, since I just finished writing it. Toodles and TGIF!!! –Susan

10 Things I learned This Week, by Misa

I had an array of experiences this this week, had a slew of emotions to go with them, and learned quite a bit.

Here are ten things I learned this week:

  1. Having a deadline is pressure
  2. Missing a deadline is even more pressure
  3. Especially when you can’t quite figure out how to wrap up a story
  4. Sitting at a computer for hours on end makes your buttocks/bum/derriere really hurt
  5. Knowing you can’t do anything about said aching buttocks because you have to stay at that computer and get the book done makes it hurt even more
  6. Pushing through the pain (pertaining to both deadline pressure and throbbing gluteus maximus) is HARD
  7. But rewarding…after the fact
  8. Your child’s broken heart is your broken heart, too
  9. A broken heart (& the plethora of emotions that come with it) is not a good thing to have when you’re trying to write
  10. But at least you can be surprised by who the killer turns out to be in your own book, incidentally NOT who was planned

I managed to get through the writing of the manuscript, figured out the ending, and am really happy with it, new killer and all.

Regarding #s 8 & 9, I remember having a broken heart. I remember it vividly, in fact. I know nothing I say will take the pain away. But, holy mackerel, I never expected my boy’s emotional reaction to be what it was, and my tired, stretched-thin state-of-mind didn’t help me help him very much, I’m afraid.

So I have only one question. How do you help your child get over a broken heart, which includes not only the loss of love, but the loss of a best friend?

~ Misa

Ah, the Joys of Home Work

by Susan McBride

My husband thinks I’m so lucky. As a full-time writer, I work at home, which means I don’t have to fight rush-hour traffic in the morning or change out of my pajamas until noon. He’s jealous, too, that the cats can hang out in my office, their furry lengths draped across my lap or my desk. Only there are drawbacks to being a work-at-homer, kind of along the lines of “anything too good to be true usually is.”

Like when you realize your home is your office so there’s no leaving work at work. I’m envious that Ed gets to put being a software engineering team manager out of his head once he drives out of the company lot. Once he’s kicking back on the sofa in front of the widescreen, he’s ready to chill (unless it’s the weekend, and the list of chores on the fridge is making him cross-eyed).

When I’m on deadline for a first draft, revisions, copy-edits, whatever, my work is constantly calling to me, 24/7. I don’t get to turn it off, shift “job” to another part of my brain, and relax. I know that everytime I walk upstairs past my office, there’s more to be done. So I frequently find myself saying, “I just need to write for a bit,” and I’ll disappear for hours. It’s no wonder I sometimes forget what day of the week it is since I’m often at the keyboard pounding away even on weekends.

Oh, yeah, and there’s that lovely side effect of home-as-office which awards the lucky work-at-homer the opportunity to wait on and (for lack of a better word) supervise every repairman and delivery. So, let’s say, when it’s time for an AC check and the dude “will arrive sometime between eight and noon” or the new dishwasher is coming “anytime next Thursday,” yep, yours truly gets to meet-and-greet. It’s hard to write when someone’s installing an appliance, which entails a good amount of banging noises and switching off of electrical circuits. I can’t seem to get deeply into a scene when a stranger in my house keeps calling, “Ma’am?” from downstairs. Even on no-repairman days, there are always loads of laundry, vacuuming, mopping, trips to the grocery store and bank, and other miscellaneous chores that fall to me. I do try to squeeze in the treadmill occassionally, too, even if it’s the middle of the afternoon. More often than not, the doorbell rings right after I’ve stepped out of the shower, and it’s the UPS guy. I’ve actually signed for packages with a towel wrapped around my middle and one hastily wound around my dripping head. (Well, like that old Wells Fargo Wagon song from “Music Man,” it might be somethin’ special just for me! Most recently, it was hot-off-the-press copies of LOVE, LIES, AND TEXAS DIPS…Oooo!!!)

As for our cats sweetly purring in my lap as I type…ha! That’s only in my husband’s wild imagination. Usually, they’re chasing each other around the house, howling and spitting as they fling themselves atop my desk and swat at each other, knocking papers to the floor and often stepping on various keys on my keyboard. Once Munch plopped down on the “Enter” key and suddenly a 10-page chapter turned into hundreds of blank pages. This weekend, Max hopped up and clicked the mouse with his paw, sending an email I was writing in reply to a blogger doing a contest for one of my books…before I’d half-finished it. Thanks, Maxwell.

It’s a wonder anything ever gets done. Speaking of which, excuse me a minute while I dump another load in the washing machine, throw some clothes in the dryer, and let the plumber in. I have a feeling Munch and Max will attempt some very interesting revisions for me while I’m gone.

EXCITING NEWS: My second Debs novel, LOVE, LIES, AND TEXAS DIPS, will be released on June 9. I’m giving away five copies on my web site so drop by and enter!

Feelin’ Brain Dead

by Susan McBride

I’ve got two weeks left to finish up THE COUGAR CLUB, and I’m feeling just a tad freaked out. I’ve been trying hard to say “no” more and travel less so I have more time to write, particularly with back-to-back deadlines these past two or three years. But despite the best intentions, I never end up with as much work time as I’d like. Something’s gotta give, and it’s usually sleep. That leads to brain fog, which leads to “oops” moments. Take this morning, for example. I had two hours’ worth of errands to run before the writing could commence, and I realized as I hit the vet’s office to pick up a prescription for a cat that I’d forgotten to enclose a check with a bill I mailed off at the P.O. this morning. Sigh.

For some reason, my tired mind keeps singing, “feelin’ brain dead” to the tune of “feelin’ groovy” from Sesame Street. That’s when you know you’re sleep-deprived. At least it’s stopped thinking of that stupid FreeCreditReport.com song!

Still it’s hard to regret taking time off work to do things like fly to Houston in early April for the Texas Library Association convention (even though I had laryngitis–oy! Can you say “stress much”?). I loved being back in my old hometown, seeing friends, doing a drive-thru of my former neighborhood which is where THE DEBS series is set, taping a TV interview, signing stock at the lovely Blue Willow Bookshop, and doing an event at Murder by the Book. If I sounded like a croaking frog, oh, well. There wasn’t much I could do about it, and everyone was awfully nice though it sure made it hard to schmooze! (Pictured left: Sara Zarr, author of SWEETHEARTS, and Justin Somper, author of the VAMPIRATES series.)

Neither do I regret playing emcee at Lisa Scottoline’s appearance on April 21 at the St. Louis County Library headquarters. I’d never met Lisa before, and she’s terrific. Just a bundle of energy and a hilarious speaker.

And, my gosh, it would’ve killed me to say “no” to the St. Louis Komen for the Cure co-chairs, Dede and Kris, who invited me to be guest speaker at the 11th Annual Survivors Luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton on April 26. As a breast cancer survivor, I felt honored that they’d asked me to share my experience with 800 fellow survivors and their friends and family. My husband, my mom, and my mom-in-law accompanied me, and I ran into several pals and met lots of other amazing women. I’d been warned not to make my speech sad, something I wasn’t sure how to do anyway. I got through the worst of my boobal trauma by relying on my sense of humor. If you can’t laugh through the tears, I don’t know how you make it.

I’d never been so nervous before a talk, however, and I picked at my food during lunch (which was a shame because it was delish!). But once I was up on the stage and the lights were glaring in my face–I mean, those suckers were bright!–the words began to flow and the laughter rang out through the ballroom. By the time I finished, I realized people were on their feet, clapping. It took a minute to grasp the fact that I’d gotten my first standing-O! Wow. I signed books for at least an hour after, and I probably took longer signing than I should have. But I couldn’t help chatting with each woman who approached. It’s astounding the connection between strangers when you share a bond like surviving breast cancer. I felt like I’d been embraced by some of the nicest people in the world. For all the luncheon ladies who said I inspired them, let me tell you, they inspired me, too.

No more outside events until next Friday when I speak at the Young Authors Conference downtown to St. Louis Public School students. No matter the interruptions, I keep telling myself to FOCUS and get THE COUGAR CLUB done by May 15. (I think I can, I think I can!) And if that fails, I remind myself that I finished TOO PRETTY TO DIE and wrote THE DEBS entirely while going through my surgery and radiation therapy in late 2006 and early 2007. Geez, Louise! If I can do that, I can surely complete the last chunk of COUGAR in two weeks, right? Even with a soggy brain.

Writing by the Seat of my Pants

by Susan McBride

If you didn’t guess by the title of this post, I’m one of those writers who usually flies by the seat of my pants. I never worked with outlines while composing 10 novels that never got published; nor did I use one for my two small press books or the five Debutante Dropout Mysteries I wrote for Avon.

All that changed when I signed with Random House to do THE DEBS young adult series. My contract required I turn in an outline before each book. A detailed outline. And it had to be approved by my editor, which meant turning it in and getting her feedback before I got the thumbs-up.

You can’t even imagine how bad my first outline was. I figure my editor at RH assumed I was drunk when I wrote it (and I don’t drink). Or possibly that I let my cats’ paws do the walking on my keyboard. It stunk because I had no clue what I was doing. Creating an outline before I could sit down and write felt foreign to me, almost like I was ruining all the fun. Somehow (thank God), it all worked out, and THE DEBS came out A-OK.

Over the course of two more YA books (LOVE, LIES, AND TEXAS DIPS and GLOVES OFF), I got better at outlining. Not great, mind you, just adequate enough that my editor could make some sense of the plotlines I suggested. I’m still not entirely comfortable with the idea; but it doesn’t freak me out anymore either.

Now, after turning in GLOVES OFF and doing the revisions lickety-split after getting notes back before January ended, I’ve gone into manic writing mode as I work on THE COUGAR CLUB for Avon. My deadline is May 1. Gulp. I’ve made fairly good progress, but I find myself hyperventilating now and then, realizing “I have no frickin’ outline!”

I got so used to them that now writing by my gut again feels a wee bit scary. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the freedom of letting my crazy brain take me in all sorts of directions. I fall asleep at night thinking of what I’ve just written that day, and I wake up in the morning with new ideas that get my heart pumping.

But I’m nervous all the same. A part of me misses having that crutch of truly knowing what’s coming next…and then next after that. Then I remind myself that once I get COUGAR done and sent off to my editor at Avon, I’ll have an outline to write for Random House again.

So next time I’m at a panel and someone asks, “Which of you outline?” I’ll raise my hand. And then when they inquire, “And which of you flies by the seat of her pants?” I’ll raise my hand, too.

Editor, My Editor!

In my other life, I am an editor. Nothing so glamorous as mystery novels, I assure you—I’m a college textbook editor. I help authors craft the “story” of their book—or what will be the overall sales handle—help them lay out the organization, direct them toward what features to include and how to handle them, and give them gentle nudges towards completion of the manuscript along the way. I’m a cheerleader with a laptop and a knowledge of what sells in a particular market, say, like the book I’m working on now, the Introduction to Dinosaurs course. Not so different from what my editor does, with a difference: none of the authors with whom I work whine as much as I do.

On that we can rely, as the song goes.

My third novel, now called “Quick Study,” as opposed to “Book 3,” as it was known for most of last year, was due to my editor on December 31, 2007. As that date approached and I got wrapped up—literally—in the holiday hubbub, the ending of the novel got further and further away from my grasp. I have never missed a deadline. Never. So, I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. I wrote when the ham was in the oven on Christmas Eve, mere minutes before my loud, Irish, family descended on us. I wrote after a serious bout of the stomach flu the day after Christmas. (I won’t go into details. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t pretty. And the kids get really, really terrified when Mommy makes scary noises.) I wrote while my kids played with their new Wii, and my husband—on holiday break from teaching—lounged downstairs, the most well-deserved session of lounging that you could imagine. (More in a future blog on why I will never be a teacher.) I wrote while the dog stared at me for hours on end as if to say, “Aren’t you done with the dang thing yet?”

It was painful.

At this point, I think it’s relevant to say that I used to be disparaging towards parents who treated pink eye like the bubonic plague. Until I got pink eye and awoke one morning only to find that I couldn’t open my eyes. And I used to scoff at writers who pronounced our profession “hard.” Until I became a writer who had deadlines. And now I have had my comeuppance.

You know what? Writing is hard. But I finished and I hit “send” on New Year’s Eve. Because I MAKE MY DEADLINES, DARN IT!

You’d think I’d be relieved. Yet, with each passing day, dread gnaws at my insides. Because, in my haste to end the novel, the best I could come with was: “And then they all died. THE END.”

That’s not really the end, but it’s pretty darn close.

So, I await my editor’s wise words, her gentle coaching, her therapeutic massaging of what I think are maybe the best 300,000 words of the lot, and not so great 102, 943 words in a four-hundred page manuscript.

And more than once while I wait, I’ll think, “they’re really not paying her enough” something I hope some of my authors say about me as I plow through pages and pages of dissertation on anything from reading skills to paleobiology.

It’s nice to dream, isn’t it?

Maggie Barbieri