"It's important to set aside time to daydream, as much as it is to have writing time. After all, you need something to write about." –Thomas Pluck

Hello there, fellow slackers! Today we have another installment of "GET TO WORK," this week featuring Thomas Pluck. An outstanding crime fiction writer and all-around good guy, Thomas is the co-editor of Lost Children: A Charity Anthology. It's a collection of 30 incredible stories, the proceeds of which go to PROTECT and Children 1st.


If you recall, the question I asked was:

Do you have trouble buckling down and getting to your writing? If so, what is your no fail (or mostly no fail way) of getting yourself concentrate and get the work done? Or is it such a habit now it's really not a problem?

Thomas Pluck: I wish I had one, because lately I've been succumbing to sloth. Guilt always works. If I say I'm "off to the word mines" on Twitter, I know I can't keep jabbering with my friends without knowing they'll be looking at that tweet and thinking, "This guy's no pro. He's here goofing off, when he said he was on the clock. I bet he's still in his boxers, and that his feet smell like Frito's corn chips because he hasn't showered and it's 4pm." That usually works. It's also good for keeping you on your diet, and not buying Frito's corn chips. 

But seriously, folks… the old adage of "set aside time to write" is what I do. When I get in my pink dining room chair in front of my laptop, I'm all business. I plug in the headphones and choose the proper playlist. (If I'm writing the novel in progress, it's AC/DC, all Bon Scott and Flick of the Switch, their most underrated album; If it's Denny, I put on Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash). By then, I'm usually thirsty and get a beer, and the cat steals my chair. I can tell how focused I am on writing by how much effort the cats put into getting my attention. Shadow, a twenty pounder we call Cat Loaf, will jump on the table and sit on my hand. Charlie, the Siamese rescue we call the Gimp, will paw at my elbow. Word count low? Blame the cats.

Christa Faust said that what separates the amateurs from the pros is that the pros write even when it's tough. Like the famous Jack London adage- you can't wait for inspiration, you have to after it with a club. The other great piece of advice is from Hemingway, who said to stop writing while you still know what happens next. It works like a charm. By the time you write again, you've (hopefully) been daydreaming and taking notes about your work in progress, so you go a bit further, and further the next day. It's important to set aside time to daydream, as much as it is to have writing time. After all, you need something to write about. I've always been a daydreamer, so I steal moments where I can. So if you're a lazy, guilt-ridden daydreamer, writing should come easy. 

Just lay off the corn chips.

Note from Holly: Well, it's 12:26pm and I'm still in my PJs. Make of that what you will.

Thanks for stopping by, Thomas! Some great advice here (I especially like the playlist idea).

I'm sitting here listening to Levon Helm sing The Mountain. It's a song about coal mining that's touches me so deeply that it makes me want to weep. It also makes me want to write beautifully tragic stories.

It got me thinking about things and places I'm drawn to, that I've always been drawn to. I don't know, maybe my viewing of COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER at the tender age of twelve influenced me (and coincidentally, Levon Helm played Loretta Lynn's father in the film), but I do have an attraction to the culture of coal mining, West Virginia, and Appalachia. Mind you, it's a romanticized version (like if Disneyland had a "Coal Mining Land"), but an attraction just the same. And I don't mean to make light of coal mining–I know it's a tough, dangerous life.

Someday I'd like to write a story set in this world, but my greatest fear is not doing it justice. It deserves to have justice done.

But that said, I felt the same way about London, specifically 17th century London. I honestly don't know why I thought I could write a novel set during this time (especially my first novel), but somehow I managed to do it. I'm still working on doing it justice, but I have no doubt I will.

So there's hope for my Appalachian mystery yet.

Other things I'm drawn to:

— Voodoo and other African religions and how they adapted themselves to Christianity
— Storyville in New Orleans
— California Gold Rush country (I grew up there)

Will I ever write stories or novels about these places/things? I probably will. But one thing just struck me–everything I'm compelled to write about starts with a place or a time in history, or a theme. The characters come second. I don't mean to say they come second in the actual writing, but the thing that forms first for me is the setting, and then I mold the characters to fit into it. I wonder if that will change as I continue writing?

What about you? What are you drawn to?



Don't know why, but the more I look at this cover, the more enthralled I am by it:


Sure, part of the reason is because my name's on it, I ain't gonna lie. It could also be the nipples. But John Hornor Jacobs, the Creative Director at NEEDLE: a Magazine of Noir, designs some kick ass covers. I've been a fan for a long time.

Hey Author Friends:

I have a few features on my blog that I've been ignoring for far too long, and now, with your help, I'd like to put a little more effort into them.

I'm looking for authors (mainly crime fiction, but I'll consider others as well) to contribute to "Path to Publication," "Author Interviews," "Question o' the Day," or any other topic you might like to guest blog about. This blog is kind of geared toward aspiring authors, so anything in that vein would be great. I'd especially like to beef up the "Path to Publication" section because everyone loves a good success story, don't they?

The only caveat is I reserve the right to refuse if I don't think your content is right for my audience. Oh, and I don't get paid, so neither do you, except in all those book sales your presence on my blog might generate. I may add more caveats if I find I get too many requests or something like that. We'll see.

Anyway, I like to promote authors whose work I like. So that's what the purpose of all this is, as well as to give readers some content that informs, inspires, and/or entertains.

Contact me here in the comments, on Twitter, or on Facebook if you'd like to participate.

Animal_grasshopper I attended the California Crime Writers Conference in Pasadena this weekend. What a great time. I met a lot of new people and got to know several people better. We all talked incessantly about writing, books and careers, and everything in between. In the process, I took away loads of great advice.

The first bit of wisdom I took with me was something I already knew, though it seems that I require daily reminders of its importance. Writers must have patience. Patience is something I've always had in short supply, but I'm going to have to cultivate it if I want to be happy in this career I've chosen (sometimes I feel like it chose me). 

Until I started my search for an agent, I had no idea how much patience would be required of me. The process goes something like this: I send my query, the agent responds, usually within a couple of days, asking for more material. I send it on thinking they've been waiting with nothing to do for my brilliant manuscript to make its way to their computer. Of course as soon as they get it they're going to read it, love it, and offer me representation, right?

Turns out agents have other stuff to do besides reading my manuscript. In fact, they might not ever get around to reading it. At the very least, it is typical to wait weeks or months for a response, even when they've requested a full manuscript. 

May was our "Month of No Spending." What that meant for us was that we would not spend anything on extras like clothes, entertainment, lunches out, et cetera. We allowed ourselves to go out with friends and a couple of weekend excursions, but generally spent much less on going out than usual. We didn't make any cutbacks in groceries, however, as the purpose of this month was to curb spending on non-essentials. Ya gotta eat, right?

The result? We saved stayed about 10% below our monthly budget. And you know what? It wasn't hard at all. There were no real sacrifices made–all this month of no spending really required was that I think about my purchases rather than just buy impulsively. The iTunes add up. The apps bought for my iPhone, they add up too. And the books, my God, the books. I spend so much money on them every month and yet I have a book case full of "to-be-reads." Same goes for clothes.

I have declared June another no-spend month, but with a little more freedom (it is my birthday month, after all). I might allow myself a manicure and a pedicure, but then again, maybe not. It helps that I'll have surgery next week and I'm sure I'm not going to be up and about as much as usual.

Deciding not to spend means you think more about what you buy. It forces you to think about the ways you waste money and how cluttered life becomes when you make purchases you don't really need. It's a lesson I need to remind myself of constantly, because I'm an instant gratification type girl and nothing instantly gratifies like an impulse purchase. But I've got a closet full of those impulses, and really, they're not that satisfying.

And then there's the financial aspect of it–keeping your finances healthy is important, and in fact, crucial to quality of life. I lived paycheck-to-paycheck in my twenties and believe me, it's not fun and I have nothing to show for it. It's not about having things, it's about feeling secure, knowing you have a safety net. I'm still trying to learn that lesson, and thankfully, I have a kind-but-firm husband around to remind me of it occasionally.

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to save another 10%.

Yesterday I took a day off from writing and created a mood board for my living room. But before I show you that, here is how the living room currently looks:




My main complaints with the room are that it's too dark, despite all the windows. I love the chocolate brown walls, but I'm ready for a change. Several of the drapes are in tatters due to sun exposure, so they need to be replaced. The floors are scratched up terribly from the pitter-patter of tiny paws, and the fireplace needs a complete makeover. Finally, the room is a little too busy. I'm looking to be more clutter free in the future.

Here is the mood board I created:


Click on the pic to see a larger version.

As you can see, it utilizes most of the stuff we already have, which is important. The main changes are the darker floors, wall color, and the drapes.

But what about those drapes? You'll notice I kept them on the mood board. That's because the drapes behind the sofa are in great shape–I'd really like to keep them if I can find a way to do that and integrate them with the new drapes.

Here's the problem: Those drapes are silk and they were really expensive. Had I known the sun was going to destroy them in less than 10 years, I would have never invested so much money in them. I won't make that mistake again. Unfortunately, due to the height of the windows, whatever I get needs to be custom.

My idea, or perhaps I should say dream, since it's ambitious, is to make the new drapes myself. I'd like to use the tops of the current drapes and then sew sheers to the bottom, kind of like this:


I'd leave the drapes behind the sofa completely intact, so there would be two types of drapes.

I'm still thinking about this, however, because like I said, it's a big project and probably outside of my sewing skills. Even if I make a mistake, however, the current drapes are so torn I won't feel like I wasted them. I just really want to keep my budget on this "makeover" down as much as possible by reusing/recycling what we've already got.

Another thing I'd love to do is cover the fireplace from floor to ceiling with stone tile. I priced it out, however, and it's a little pricey for us at the moment, so I think the first thing we'll do is paint it a light but contrasting color to the walls (which will be white or off-white) and then install the tile when it's more financially sound. I do love the look of that stone though, and it would be so dramatic.

I'll be doing a mood board of the dining area soon since we have an open floor plan and everything needs to be integrated. If only the actual decorating was as cheap (and easy) as the creating a mood board!

We need a new dining room chandelier. The one we currently have is a somewhat ugly, generic, Home Depot model. Three of the bulb holders are permanently broken.

Trouble is, Mick and I have a no-buy agreement for May. That means we aren’t buying anything this month except for food and extreme need items. Since the three of the bulb holders still work, the chandelier purchase can be put on hold (and has been for many months).

I could make the argument that I need to get the new chandelier next month when the no-buy agreement ends, but that would be too easy. First, I need to find the perfect one. Second, I have to decide how I want to re-do our entire decor, because…

I have a confession to make. I’m feeling the itch not only for a new chandelier but for a COMPLETE HOME MAKE OVER. It can’t be denied that we have a beautiful home, especially at first glance. But the floors need refinishing, the windows need replacing, the carpets need tearing out, and the walls need painting. Oh, and we need new floor to ceiling drapes in the living room (7 at over 142″ each. That’s a lot of fabric).

That’s not all. I want a new master bathroom and a new kitchen.

I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Of course, none of these things, even the chandelier, will be happening any time soon. I have an ACL surgery to prepare for on June 7 and several weeks of recovery to look forward to after that (actually, it takes 6-9 months to fully recovery, but I’m talking about the immediate recovery after surgery). Plus, there is no money for all this–why do you think we have a no-buy agreement? Oh, there’s money maybe for the new windows but hello, where’s the fun in that? That’s like getting new clothes for Christmas when you were a kid.

Here’s what I’d do if I had a fully-functioning knee and wasn’t pretending to write a novel: I’d really like to do a dramatic but budget-friendly makeover of several rooms in our house. Do the research, do the work, everything (and blog it, of course). Reuse and recycle everything I can, and use the stuff we already have in new ways. Because that sort of thing really floats my boat.

Since that will have to be put on hold, at least for awhile, I contented myself today with searching on Etsy for unusual lighting I liked:

That will have to do.

I am on a never-ending quest for the perfect opening line.

As part of my search, today I went through a bunch of my books, looking at the opening lines while I hoped for inspiration to strike. It hasn't–yet–but I thought I'd post some of my favorites here.

Let's start with my favorite book of the year so far. City of Dragons, by Kelli Stanley:

"Miranda didn't hear the sound he made when his face hit the sidewalk."

What follow is even better, but this sentence alone gives one a sense of the type of book this is going to be. Love it.

Here's the rest of 'em:

"Whuppin' ass wasn't so hard, Stella Hardesty thought as she took aim with the little Raven .25 she took off a cheating son-of-a-bitch in Kansas city last month." – A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield

"Coming back from the dead isn't as easy as they make it seem in the movies." Money Shot by Christa Faust

"As Clifford Rose came to, the first thing he recognized was the stink, like a drainpipe running out of hell." The Loud Adios by Ken Kuhlken

"In the beginning, I believed in second chances." Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

"It was hot as an Alabama outhouse when I got off the plane from Barcelona." The Jook by Gary Phillips

"Our hero was not one of those Dominican cats everybody's always going on about–he wasn't no home-run hitter or a fly bachatero, not a playboy with a million hots on his jock." The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

"In my youth I suffered from too close a proximity to gaming tables of all descriptions, and I watched in horror as Lady Fortune delivered money, sometimes not precisely my own, into another's hands." The Devil's Company by David Liss

"The cops nabbed Santa Claus at the corner of Hollywood and Gower." Try Fear by James Scott Bell

Just for kicks, I'm going to add my own current opening line:

"My mother wept the first time she saw my fiery red curls, for ginger-colored hair marked a sorceress." Diary of Bedlam by Holly West

Does it hold up?

What are some of your favorite opening lines?