Saturday, July 26, 2014

What We're Writing Week: Julia Spencer-Fleming is writing...and writing...and writing...

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Aaaand....still working on HID FROM OUR EYES. There are writers who can turn out two books a year like clockwork - our friend Brad Parks comes to mind. (For all his merry japes, Brad is an extremely disciplined writer. He's the Sir Percy Blakeney of the mystery community.) There are writers who can manage three a year, if pressed, like our own Rhys Bowen. There are even an extraordinary few who can craft more good books in a year - I was talking with Maine author Al Lamanda earlier this month, and since his 2012 Best Novel Edgar nomination he's produced an amazing fifteen completed manuscripts.

Then there's me. Sigh.

Here's an excerpt from HID FROM OUR EYES. A third Millers Kill Police chief is presented with the discovery of a third seemingly-identical murder:

Hadley had done a good job as first responder. By the time Russ turned his truck onto the county highway, the fire and rescue guys were already in place with cones and blinkers, ready to reroute any morning traffic that might come through. The scene – an isolated stretch of road with pastures running away on either side - was ringed round with yellow tape fluttering from flex poles. Hadley's unit blocked the road on the Cossayuharie side, its lights looking almost dim in the brilliant May sunshine.

It had been a beautiful day the last time, too.

He heard the whoop-whoop-whoop of a siren as he climbed out of his truck. He waited while the squad car crested the rise, slowed, and pulled in behind his pick-up. Lyle MacAuley, his deputy chief, flipped off the light bar and got out, stretching and snapping his back. “Heard we have a traffic fatality.”

God, maybe that was it. Russ had been in such a hurry to get to the scene, he hadn't pressed Harlene to patch him through to Hadley for the details. “I hope so,” he said.

Lyle's bushy gray eyebrows shot up. 
 
Not that way.” Russ headed for the yellow tape. Lyle fell in beside him. “Just...I hope it's not a homicide.”

Person dead in the road? Vehicular manslaughter and fleeing the scene. Probably some damnfool jogger not watching where she was going meeting up with another damnfool texting and driving on his way to work. What have you got here, Knox?” Lyle held the tape up so Russ could duck through.

Hadley Knox, three years at the department, was their juniormost officer, and the only woman sworn as a peacekeeper. Despite taking the job as a last resort – she had two kids and an infirm granddad to support – Russ thought she had the potential to be an excellent cop. If he could keep her on the force. If he could make sure there would be a force for her to work at. He pinched the bridge of his nose beneath his glasses and tried to make himself focus.

White female, looks to be in her early twenties. No ID I could see in the first pass.” She stood next to a blue Tyvex tarp spread over the body. Whoever it was beneath there, she was so slight she barely lifted the plastic shroud. 
 
This where you found her?” Lyle looked around at the verge of the road as if expecting to see signs of the body being dragged. A scattering of gravel marked the line between asphault and the field beyond. No blood. No crushed grass or broken wildflowers.

Right here in the middle of the lane, dep. I wouldn't move her.” Hadley sounded defensive.

We know that, Knox.” Russ pulled his purple silicone gloves from his pocket and tugged them on. Lyle did the same. “Let's take a look.” He peeled the tarp away from the body.

Young. Pretty. Dressed up like one of the girls he saw in town just a week ago, headed for the prom. He glanced at her feet. No shoes.

Where the hell's the blood?” MacAuley got down on one knee. “No scrapes. No torn clothing.” He stretched himself flat on the roadway next to the body. “Doesn't look like there's any blood underneath her.”
 
Doctor Sheeler's on the way,” Hadley said. The Washington County ME. “And the state crime scene lab.”

Good job,” Russ said automatically. 
 
Doesn't even look like anything was broken in impact.” MacAuley got back up onto one knee. “Damndest thing I've ever seen.” 

If any of you have any suggestions for producing more words on schedule, let me have 'em!

35 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

Wow . . . I didn’t want this excerpt to end . . . it felt like I was right there on that county highway with Russ, hoping that it wasn’t going to turn out to be a homicide. [And the pictures are great.]
I’m afraid I don’t have any words of wisdom as far as writing on schedule is concerned, but I know I’m certainly looking forward to reading the rest of this story . . . .

Karen in Ohio said...

Way to tease, Julia!

Your books are very dense with layers of different story threads, complex personal relationships, and well-crafted plots. All that takes time to percolate, so it sure doesn't bother me that I have to wait for the next Russ/Clare installment. It's always worth it!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

I was going to say the same thing as Karen--your books are always worth waiting for!

Kaye Barley said...

Julia Spencer Fleming! You make me crazy with this little teaser. YES, your books are worth waiting for, but man oh man, how I wish you were one of those writers who would write a half a dozen good books a year. I cannot get enough Russ and Clare!

FChurch said...

I'm with those who say the wait is worth the effort, Julia. If you really tried some trick to speed up the writing, I have to wonder--what might be lost?

Thanks for the peek, too!

Kimberly said...

I am always free with the "Write faster!" comments on your Facebook posts, but you obviously are on a roll with your own writing process. Thank you for the snippet, and always know that I'll stop reading whatever else I'm reading when your next book is released.

Julie Otte said...

I don't want to read this because it will just kill me to not be able to read more! I don't know how you can write faster, maybe I can come over and tell you what to write!

Merrie said...

I so totally agree with the others..your books are wonderful and so worth waiting for!! I have just recently discovered you and have either bought or a gotten all your books from the library!!! I love all your characters and their interaction. Keep writing, PLEASE!!

Brenda VanPatten said...

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, relax, then let the words flow. Readers are excited that you are continuing Clare and Russ's story and should try to be patient since all good things come to those who wait.

Brenda VanPatten said...

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, relax, then let the words flow. Readers are excited that you are continuing Clare and Russ's story and should try to be patient since all good things come to those who wait.

Susan O'Brien said...

I empathize with you, Julia. I write slowly, and I'm in awe of writers who fly through manuscripts. I've been thinking about this lately, and so far one idea gives me a little hope. I may start using a cloud-based system so my work is automatically available on every computer I use (and on my iPad, which has Microsoft Word and a keyboard accessory). This way I can squeeze in a little work wherever and whenever I have time. No matter what, I'll still use physical backup drives too--just to be safe.

Thanks for posting the excerpt. It's wonderful and so intriguing...worth all the time you put into it!

Julia said...

Susan,

It's interesting you mention saving work in the could, because that's what I've been doing lately for exactly the same reason. I can access my work at home, at the library where I volunteer, on our desktop, etc. It does make it easier to sit down and work because it's always available.

Julia said...

Julie,

Maybe you can come over and do my gardening instead... ;-)

Julia said...

Joan,

I'm glad you like the pictures! Those are all shots of upstate New York. Such a beautiful place, especially this time of year.

CreeksideKnitter said...

Hmmm, you might leave the promotional stuff to us, your adoring readers. We would not let you down.

Karla Searfos said...

Wow! Will be so glad to have Russ and Clare back! Have re-read the entire series waiting for our new "fix"!

Kathy Reel said...

Oh, my! After that excerpt, I am drooling with anticipation! Julia, although I would love to have a Russ and Clare book every six months, I don't want you to change anything you do. Each book is amazing, so you are doing it right. Like Karen said, it is always well worth the wait.

Deborah Crombie said...

Julia, loved it!!!!

Maybe we could form a two-person WRITE FASTER self help group...

I only write on my laptop--I don't actually have a desktop except one that used to pay bills. So my laptop or a notebook goes almost everywhere with me. And I do the first draft of chapters in Scrivener--can I store that in the Cloud?

I think I have two big issues: one is time management, and the other is trying to work out every nitpicky bit of the plot BEFORE I start writing. So for book #17 I've made myself project management goals (start date, end date, so many pages by certain markers) and have determined to just start WRITING even if I don't exactly how everything is going to work. I should have learned by now that a lot of stuff works itself out as I write it...

What do you think, Julia? Other REDS, is that how you do it?

Marcia Ferguson said...

I always know my story before I begin to write, and then it's like the icing on the cake and a joy to write. I'm so enamored of the characters (despite their flaws) that I can't wait to slap it on paper. That's just me. You unfold Clare and Russ's lives just right, Julia. I think all readers can point to authors who 'crank out' bks one after the other, and the plots suffer.

Tammy said...

If I can invite myself ... I need to join your WRITE FASTER group. *sigh* I haven't yet managed one-a-year either, and my books are shorter than yours, I believe!

I know that the solution for me is creating a better schedule and being more disciplined about sticking to it. Soooo easy to say!

But my words to you both as a fan: just keep writing at whatever pace you can! We'll be waiting....

storytellermary said...

Thank you for writing, at your own pace, in your own wonderful style. It's hard to wait, but worth it.
Also, the audio-books of your titles are among the best I've ever heard. Quality through and through.

storytellermary said...

Thank you for writing, at your own pace, in your own wonderful style. It's hard to wait, but worth it.
Also, the audio-books of your titles are among the best I've ever heard. Quality through and through.

Denise Ann said...

Gosh, I am ready to read this book! Get to it -- no rest for you!!!

Bonnie said...

Oh I was hoping there would be another book soon. I am just finishing "Through the Evil Days" from 2013, and knew it was your latest. Cannot wait to read the new one when you are finished.

Rhys said...

Menu for producing more words:
Kill husband. Put out kids for adoption. Move out of big house Install self in luxury hotel by water. Have room service. Write.

Having just had 16 people in the house for Dominic's wedding I know how hard it is when life intervenes.

Pat D said...

I will bite my tongue and not say "write faster." Thanks for the taste of the latest Millers Kill story.

Suzanne Chazin said...

I love what you've written Julia--and Rhys is right--the only way to make it go faster is to divorce the family and stop living altogether--and then maybe the writing wouldn't come out the same way. It's a balance and I LOVE all your work so just keep going (my biggest downfall is time on the Internet researching stuff I will never use. Have to learn to get past that one).

Deborah Crombie said...

Rhys, kindred souls.

Mary Sutton said...

Checking in a day late - great excerpt. Another problem for Russ to solve.

Yes, you can store Scrivener files in the cloud. You just have to make sure the other computer has Scrivener to use them.

beth anderson said...

Always waiting for the next Russ and Clare and am never disappointed. Recognized some of the scenes in the photos. Our upstate NY is beautiful!

William Boylan said...

WOW! I know this will be another great one.. I was waiting patiently and now I can not wait for it to come at my favorite bookstore. I have re-read and re-read all the others as I have every one of them and most are autographed. Keep up the good work Julia and keep us in supply. Love every one of them.

Anonymous said...

I am 76 years old and undergoing chemo to battle an aggressive cancer. I have a number of favorite authors whose books I buy as soon as they come out, but the one series that I really hope to be here to read the next book is your series about Russ and Clare. They really seem like real people to me, and I want very much to find out what happens next. I am especially anxious to find out what happens with their baby.

Anonymous said...

Love the series, and trust good things are happening in the author's life and in the next story. Had the pleasure of meeting her at my book group in mid 2014. I believe she and Clare would be good friends. She did think then that the next book would be out "sometime in 2015". Working on the elusive virtue of patience. Clare waited for Russ; now we wait for them both, again.

Anonymous said...

Love the books. Loved the snippet. More. More. However, a bone to pick: My murder victim has been missing her shoes since 2012, right before I broke my right (writing) arm. So, how about shorn locks? It could be interesting if the victims are male as well as female. Or jewelry. Perhaps all the victims picked up something at a local thrift shop? So why kill to get the pieces back? Are the victims connected? And, by the way, you've got 3 brainy people at this crime scene, someone needs to get that etm part-timer patrol doing door-to-door to see if anyone heard or saw anything. It's early, but so is dairy farming. Loved the photos, keep those coming. Maybe a bit of willow-the-wisp spring fog where you see one tree but not another. And the barn looks like a cupola standing on nothing. or some such atmospheric gothic touch.

I believe in the "No Fear" writing. Not sure if I got that from Anne Lamont's BIRD BY BIRD or Julie Cameron's WORKSHOP. The essence is to just write and bag spelling, plot cohesiveness, characters in character. Just write for x amount of time. Now, what I do next is outline, sometimes on legal paper or three ring binder stuff or index cards. I favor the legal paper. OUTLINE. If that's your way to organize. Then, it's time to just write chapter one all the way thru the first draft. Sometimes one digresses and writes a really great scene that may or may not appear in draft 3. No fear, no super set rules -- except write.

While recuperating from the broken arm a friend sent me one of those voice activated programs. Maybe -- esp with family duties like housekeeping -- a program like that might be helpful to get ideas out and onto laptop. I like quiet, nature, a good enough chair and good pens. Doesn't matter if it's lesson plans or victim number 3. Gotta just write, edit, write, edit, until THE END. All the best, and will the title be from a hymn?

Anonymous said...

Poor Clare, she and all the rest of us are experiencing the longest gestation in human history. Love the books, and I am looking forward to the next one.