Tag Archive for: Mary Higgins Clark

How We Spend Our Time

Sparkle Abbey welcomes Lori Rader-Day

Today we’re thrilled to welcome our friend, the brilliant, talented, and award-winning author, Lori Rader-Day who shares her thoughts on how we spend our time. 

Take it away, Lori…

Big news. I have all the time there is. I’m newly out on my own as a full-time writer for a while and now I’m considering the ways in which a break from the 9-to-5 grind might be used to its fullest potential.

Do I set off on a multi-state bookstore tour?

Do I offer to visit every library in the state?

Do I visit all the friends I haven’t seen in two or more years, ever since I’ve had to start using all my day-job vacation time for book conferences and such?

*deep breath*

There’s a certain itching panic involved in realizing you could do WHATEVER THE HECK YOU WANT. That you have, for possibly the first time ever, the time to focus on making your dreams come true.

I should be doing. I should be going. I should teach here, speak there, offer this, volunteer that.

And yet—what did I want from this time so much that I made the leap in the first place? What was so important to me?

I wanted the time from my time. And not time for more promotions or more blog posts (with apologies to Sparkle Abbey, for hosting me today). Time for writing.

So. Writers retreats. Should I apply for a two-week residency somewhere? I’ve never had two weeks to rub together before. It’s attractive—coming off two years without a vacation, though, I wonder if I would panic at that vast amount of alone time.

A few of my friends have taken mini-retreats to write. Book a hotel room, get away for a day or two, scribble. That sounds pretty good, too, and less of a commitment. But am I the only person who’s stayed in a hotel recently? They don’t exactly inspire me, and sometimes you get neighbors who have booked a hotel room for distinctly different pleasures than silence. Ahem.

What I want to do is create a daily retreat practice at home, based in reality and therefore perhaps more sustainable over the time I have off work and into whatever I do in the future. I know it’s crazy, but I like my husband and dog. I don’t want to spend two weeks away from them. I want to do the morning dog walk and then take my husband away from his desk for dinner. Instead of escaping from my life, what I want to do is escape into it—live it deeply and with an attention that I haven’t had in a while. Instead of retreating, actually, I want to charge forward.

So? No solutions here. Only thoughts that haven’t quite coalesced into a plan. If anyone has ideas on how to make the best use of time—golden, precious time—leave a comment. I’d love to know how you used your time best or would spend a few months of freedom if you got the chance.

By the way, thanks for spending the time you have on this post. Anne Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” We all just want to spend our days, our hours, our minutes on things that matter. I wish that for everyone.

Thanks so much for stopping by today, Lori. And readers, please be sure to check out Lori’s latest book Little Pretty Things. Kirkus Reviews says: “Rader-Day…writes absorbingly.” 

We agree!

Lori Rader-Day’s debut mystery, The Black Hour (Seventh Street Books, 2014), received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her second mystery, Little Pretty Things, is out now. Her short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago with her husband and spoiled dog and is active in the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter and a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers.

Summer Reading – Part II

Summer Reading – Part II by Debra H. Goldstein

For ten days, I forgot about being a writer.  Instead, other than reading Murder on Wheels with an eye towards reviewing it, I let my mind forget about the tools of the trade and I read for pleasure.

Biographies, cozies, thrillers, literary fiction – all were fair game.  My goal was pure enjoyment or as I like to refer to it:  FUN.

I’ve discovered that in my quest to write decent short stories and novels (or at least publishable ones), I sometimes replace my love of words with mechanical technicalities.  When I’m writing, the same critical eye comes into my reading habits.  I pick apart the language of other authors.  I look to see how they use dialogue, plot, setting, word choice, and grammar instead of simply relaxing into the story.  If two linked ideas couldn’t realistically connect in real life, I’m disturbed.  If a character’s name isn’t remembered correctly or a hole exists in the plot, the book is a disaster for me.

When I stop writing and become a reader again, I regain my ability to enjoy well-written and not so well-written books.  I chuckle, I laugh, I cry, and I am fulfilled by the different worlds I visit.  Best of all, I remember why I want to write – to help provide even a smidgen of these feelings to others.
So, what did I read on my break that refreshed me and gave me the drive to write again:

I’ve Got You Under My Skin – Mary Higgins Clark
Destroyer Angel – Nevada Barr
night, night, sleep tight – Hallie Ephron
Truth Be Told – Hank Phillippi Ryan
Interpretation of Murder – B.K. Stevens
The Kept – James Scott
The Inverted Forest – John Dalton
A Fine Romance – Candice Bergen

Have you read anything you’ve liked lately?  I’m making a list for my next ten day break.

How Not to Win Fans

Last week I told about my time at the Valley Authors Event and mentioned that afterwards, several writer friends and I went to dinner together.

One of the conversations was about authors each of us would never buy another book from because of their actions. Everyone had a story.

One told about hearing an author at a conference, enjoying hearing, buying the book and taking it to her to sign. The woman was in the book room at a signing table talking to the author next to her. She took the book, signed it and handed it back without interrupting her conversation or even acknowledging the person who’d bought the book.

Another told about a rather well-known author who won’t even talk to people even those she’s met before.

And yet another, bad-mouthed authors from small presses and blamed them for a smaller turnout than anticipated at a large mystery conference. Hello, small press authors buy books too.

And then there are those who can’t stop talking about their own books and greatness when on a panel, never giving anyone else an opportunity. This is really bad when that person is the moderator.

I’m sure we’ve all had those experiences.

On the other side of the coin, some of the most famous and well-known authors are friendly to everyone.

Years ago I met Mary Higgins Clark at a small mystery conference. Nearly twenty years later I saw her at a cocktail party in New York during Edgar week. I spoke to her and told her where we’d met, she insisted she remembered me and introduced me to her at the time new husband. She also asked how my writing was coming.

Any time I run into Jan Burke she’s as friendly as can be. We once spent a long afternoon in an airport together with our husbands waiting for weather to clear and had a great discussion.

William Kent Krueger is another author who always remembers everyone he’s met, or at least acts like it, and if he really does know you, you’ll probably get a big hug.

Our own Susan McBride is another one who is always friendly–a joy to see at any time.

I’ve also met 1/2 of Evelyn David who is sweet as can be.

I’m heading to San Francisco for Bouchercon tomorrow, I hope I mostly run into friendly authors.

I could name lots more authors who are always charming whenever you have the opportunity to meet them.

Of course I’m not a famous author, but I do hope people perceive me as a friendly one. I honestly love to meet new people and I’m thrilled when they buy one of my books and even more so when they let me know they enjoyed reading it.

Have you got any stories about authors whose books you won’t buy any more because of how they acted? Or how about the other side, authors who make you feel like they are your friend.


Me and Sally Field

I like to think of myself as a strong, independent woman, confident in my abilities, aware of my limitations. So how come I’m reduced to a sniveling wuss when it comes to my fiction writing?

I write nonfiction books for a living. I’ve got 10 books to my credit, two will be published this year. Unlike mysteries, you almost never write the entire nonfiction book before you have a contract. Yes, you have to do enough research to make the case to an editor that that you have a unique idea that will appeal to a large segment of the book-buying public, but generally you haven’t spent the better part of a year or more finishing your life’s work—only to have it rejected.

I never take it personally if a nonfiction book proposal is rejected. I might be disappointed, but I don’t immediately launch into a weeping rendition of the “I’m never going to work in this town again” blues. I, Ms. Rationality, am able to discuss in modulated tones how the market for this topic has changed; or conversely it’s been done to death (even if I could have done it better); or the editor wouldn’t have the good sense to recognize a great idea if he were on the Titanic and being offered a life preserver. In other words, it’s not me that is being rejected, but instead it’s a bad concept or maybe just bad timing. As Michael Corleone would say, “it’s not personal, it’s business.”

But my fiction? Whether it’s a short story or a novel, I crave feedback and unless I hear the equivalent of a marching band playing the Hallelujah chorus, I’m crushed. When I read a favorable review, I break into my best Sally Field impersonation, announcing to the world “you like me, you really like me.”

Conversely, even a minor criticism or less-than-enthusiastic comment, and I’m ready to turn in my Mystery Writers of America membership card in abject humiliation. As my mother, the original Evelyn, would say, OY!

I’m amazed at the authors who insist that they never read reviews – the good ones or the bad. I’m impressed by their self-confidence and self-restraint. Not only do I read the reviews, but I parse each sentence and search for intonation and nuance.

Do you think this need for outside validation is because I’m still relatively new at the fiction game? Does Mary Higgins Clark still worry when she publishes a new book? Did Agatha Christie care what the reviewers said?

Tell me the truth. Is this an affliction of a newbie or do all writers need public confirmation of their work? Is it “this too shall pass” or “learn to live with it; it goes with the territory?”

Evelyn David