Sunday at Home with a Procrastinating Novelist

So much has changed since I last wrote — what a whirlwind! I last wrote three months ago while in the midst of home-buying and manuscript-finishing craziness. Stress, thy name was Lisa Alber.

Here’s an image of my view at this moment  … hold on a second, I’m taking the picture now …

With Fawn "The Ears" Alber, my mascot. Don't mind her bad manners, it's just the outside table.

With Fawn “The Ears” Alber, my mascot. Don’t mind her bad manners, it’s just the outside table. She’ll fall asleep soon.

This is where I’ve been hanging out as much as possible: in my very own backyard! Yes, I’m moved and settled and writing the first draft of a new novel — novel #3 actually, due in about a year. Seems like a long time, but it’s not. It’s really not, not the way I write. For a quick update on the result of finishing novel #2 by the May 1st deadline, check out this page on my website. More information to come!

I’ve decided to get back into updating my blog — quick posts like this one because I’m over-busy and can barely remember the basics sometimes. Almost forgot a friend’s birthday last week!

I love being home so much now that sometimes I just want to be in it, that’s it. Puttering around, drinking coffee slowly, lingering in the bath manicuring my grungy toenails (another thing I haven’t had time for this summer). In fact, now it’s about 1:00 p.m., Sunday afternoon, and I have to get to the writing. Of course, writing this post is yet more procrastination …

And to my left, Trio, who has taken over the old Adirondack chair that came with the house.

And to my left, Trio, who has taken over the old Adirondack chair that came with the house.

Funny thing about lingering — or maybe malingering — is that sometimes it opens up the necessary space in the subconscious for ideas to burble up. Two writing thoughts occurred to me while de-gunking my toenails. Nothing momentous. Sometimes I just need a way into the writing for the day.

I’m about halfway through writing the body scene, cue official start the murder investigation. It’s fine — first drafty fine — but … blah. Just blah. Thankfully, about the time I tackled my first pinkie toe, I realized how the scene affects my detective, Danny Ahern. Not just professionally — that’s the easy part. The hard part is the personal. A character’s internal arc. So a thought burbled up … aah … and now I have my way in for the day.

Luckily, I also had a thought about the next scene. So hopefully I can write on through without noodling around any more than I have today.

So off I go now. The writing awaits.

What Is Success Anyhow?

success-secretsWas it only last week that I wrote a blog post about being a terrified first-time home buyer? Seems like a lifetime ago. After I wrote the post my offer on a house was accepted! Since then, I’ve done my best to remain objective because there ARE other houses that would be just as good for me — it just doesn’t feel like it. Despite some of this house’s careworn and funky 1970s features, it’s kind of perfect for me in all the ways that matter most to me.

But we’ll see. Objectivity, Lisa!

Last week was stressful. An aspect of my finances fell through after the offer was approved (yikes!) so I scrambled to figure it all out and incurred the wrath of the mortgage guy at my bank when I found a really good mortgage broker and started from scratch with a new pre-approval. And then there was lining up the inspections … And getting freaked out because of dry rot.

But we’ll see. Objectivity, Lisa!

This week is about getting estimates from a contractor for dry rot and some other things, and the negotiations, signing a zillion papers I barely understand with my broker (financial disclosure papers), and worrying endlessly about the whole negotiation process.

All I want to do is think about paint colors. Hah!

And through all this, my day job is crazy and I’ve still got a May 1st deadline with the novel. I’m proud to say I wrote my tookus off over the weekend and finally completed the revision! Yay! This was a major revision — I rewrote the end of the book. I’m so relieved. Now I can dig in and really analyze it for story and the subplots, see what’s what.

So, my month of hunkering down continues. Here’s a sheepish blog post I wrote yesterday for Shadowspinners. I’m not keeping up on everything perfectly right now, but I’m doing pretty OK. That’s success right there.

What Is Success Anyhow?

I’m late again! I’ve got to be the flakiest Shadowspinners blogger here. Or, the most likely to get overwhelmed and lose track of things. Either way, I am hanging my head in sheepish mode as I write this post. The funny thing is … PLEASE CONTINUE

Tale of a Terrified First-Time Home Buyer

imagesEaster is a time of resurrection. Flowers and trees and the animal world come alive after a winter dormancy. I feel that way in my life right now. I’m entering a new phase, and I’m excited and terrified: home ownership!

I know, I know, millions of people do it. But I’ve been avoiding it. Commitment issues, I guess. I’ve lived my life with one foot out the metaphorical door. And it’s nuts because I’m super stable, a total nester. But still, I need to feel like I have personal freedom. Personal freedom is one of my core values, so I’m most comfortable when I delude myself that I can take off or downsize my life at any time.

Home ownership has always been a symbol of yoke-dom. Mortgage! Yikes!

However, despite my resistance, I can’t not buy anymore. Here in Portland, the vacancy rate is so low that rents are skyrocketing. This is a huge wake up call: Doh, time to buy!

So here I am, going for it despite my terror. My stomach is in knots even though I’m excited too. This internal conflict fascinates me. We are such complicated creatures, aren’t we?

Here are couple of other ways that I’m complicated right now:

Complication #1: Personal Freedom

There are many kinds of personal freedom. My fear of home ownership stems from a fear of financial yoke-dom. But, I keep thinking about the personal freedom I’ll feel living in an environment that’s all mine.

I’m the conscientious type, so I’ve spent years keeping my music low and rarely inviting people over because of the noise factor. There’s also the privacy factor (and I’m a very private person despite this blogging thing I do). I’ve never been able to stomach people knowing what I’m up to through the walls.

I’m sick of being quiet. I want my own place so I can turn up my cheesy 80s dance music and flit around without worrying about sounding like an elephant to my downstairs neighbor. I want to invite friends over to scary movies nights, turn up the volume, and scream at the top of my lungs when something jumps out of the closet.

In other words, it’s gotten to the point that personal home environment freedom outweighs my fear of financial inflexibility.

Complication #2: Female Equality

Obviously, I know that women are different from men AND equal to men. It’s no big deal for women to buy their own homes.

Yet, somehow it is a big deal. It feels harder in some ways than if I were a man. I’ve avoided home ownership in part because I don’t feel equal to men in certain areas that would be very, VERY beneficial as a home owner. Fixing things, being handy, negotiating Home Depot.

I know my feeling of not being equal is BS because I have guy friends who aren’t handy and hire out everything, and I have female friends who are quite the DIYers. It’s just this funny little traditional side of me that would like a man by my side about now. I’d be more comfortable for sure, but life isn’t always comfortable, is it?

Sidenote: From a societal perspective it seems like it’s still kind of a big deal when a single woman buys her own home with only her own money. I’ve received interesting comments including that I should be “proud” of myself for taking this step.

Wish me luck! Do you have any secrets and advice for doing the home ownership well?

A Few Pictures from Left Coast Crime

I promised I would share a few pictures from Left Coast Crime – Crimelandia, an annual crime fiction conference for fans. Every year it switches city. This year I got lucky because it was in Portland, my home town.

I find that conference photos fall into a few main categories.

Event Photos

This would be panels and receptions and banquet. The official stuff.

This was taken at the opening ceremony. So exciting to be a Rosebud Award best first author nominee. Allen Eskins, me, M.P. Cooley, Lori Rader-Day, and Holly West. Congratulation to Allen for the win! Come to find out that it really is fun to be nominated.


I was on a panel with some pretty well-known hard hitters — all men. I was a little nervous because the topic was cliches in crime fiction. Perviously, I’d been on international settings panels since KILMOON is set in Ireland. So this topic was new for me.

Glad to say that I held my own with the men! I was the straight (wo)man to their funny stuff, but that’s OK. Afterwards, a couple of audience members told me they loved a particular thing I’d said about the “joy of familiarity.” Too bad the details are gone; I no longer know what I said!

With James Ziskin, Bill Fitzhugh, Blake Crouch, and David Corbett (moderator).


Bar Photos

There’s no getting away from the fact that the fun stuff happens in the bar after the panels and receptions and banquets are over for the day.

Rabble rousers! Bill Cameron, Sean Chercover, Blake Crouch, and Brett Battles.


Photos with Friends Rarely Seen Except at Conferences

After awhile, you can’t help but make friends in the crime fiction community. And after awhile, conferences start to resemble reunions. Theoretically, we’re all there to promote our books, and meet readers/fans, and gain new readers/fans. The truth is there are as many authors at these events as readers.

Here I am with Lori Rader-Day, fellow Rosebud Award nominee. We’ve become good pals.


With Catriona McPherson, Stacy Allen, and Gigi Pandian.


And Then the Pictures You Don’t Know Anyone Is Taking Until You Get Tagged On Facebook

Crime fiction fan and aficionado Pamela Cardone took this funny snap of me showing off KILMOON during the panel. David had asked me to hold it up; I hadn’t expected that. I look a little sheepish, don’t I?


 Do you go to conferences for your profession? What are they like?


Gangbusters and Round Ups: A Quick Week in Review

I’m going gangbusters on my second novel. I’m finally, finally feeling momentum, some excitement, some hope. I go through a stage during the revision process where I slow way down because I can’t see how to improve the mighty crap bucket of words I’ve created. Then I start to despair and feel overwhelmed. Then maybe I hate the blasted thing.

But, somehow, plugging along in my self-pitying way, I make it out the other end to feel a renewed surge of energy. That’s where I am now. It helps to have a May 1st deadline, which is kind of random, but really not.

Check out this lovely visual replica of my novel. It helps to see each scene laid out this way. When I was writing out the Post-Its, I realized that my plot isn’t too faulty. It’s only about the last 10 scenes that need a big overhaul. That’s better than I thought!

Different colors for different point of view characters. Blue is Danny, my detective sergeant. It's his story at heart.

Different colors for different point of view characters. Blue is Danny, my detective sergeant. It’s his story at heart.

And here’s a picture from last weekend. I lurked around the Wordcrafters Conference in Eugene, OR, with my writer buddy Christina Lay. We weren’t registered, but since we had so many friends who were, we treated it like a big reunion. This picture was taken during the Introvert’s Ball (don’t you just love that?). I call it: “Trying to Round Up Writers for a Picture: Priceless.”

I'm the blurry one holding the dog (Fawn!) and a glass of wine.

I’m the blurry one holding the dog (Fawn!) and a glass of wine.



Happy One Year Anniversary: Being a Published Author

The green display at my favorite local bookstore, Annie Bloom's. And there's KILMOON! (Three shelves, right.)

The green display at my favorite local bookstore, Annie Bloom’s. And there’s KILMOON! (Three shelves up, right.)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Fifty two weeks ago today KILMOON came out to the world. It seems propitious that my Irish novel’s first publication birthday is today. Why not celebrate it?

This has been such a nutty year! Being a debut author is a special thing. We only have one first novel, one first novel launch day, one debut author year. It’s pretty momentous, especially when it’s a dream come true.

Yet, even dreams come with their down moments. It’s ying, it’s yang. It’s life. For example, I suffered what I call a postpartum publication depression, which isn’t all that uncommon come to find out. But since I’m prone to depression, I fell hard for awhile. I realize now that I had depleted myself physically and mentally. And I mean dee-plee-ted.

Lesson learned: Don’t push so hard in the months before publication. I’ve now got a pretty good handle on how to be organized before a launch and what publicity/marketing efforts make more sense than others.

Last year, my first post-panel book signing.

Last year, my first post-panel book signing.

Writing craft has its learning curve, but so does being an author. For me, author-dom is the business and public part of the job. Public speaking? Yeah, not my forte. At all.

Last year, I was lucky enough to launch during the week of Left Coast Crime, a major crime fiction conference for fans. I was spazzy with happiness and utterly terrified at the same time. That was a conference of firsts: my first talk in front of 200 people (granted, it was only for a minute to introduce Kilmoon, but still!), my first panel (topic: international settings), and my first signing.

A year later, I was a best first novel award nominee!

A year later, I was a best first novel award nominee!

Now, a year later, I’m fresh off the 2015 Left Coast Crime conference. And get this: I was a finalist for the Rosebud Award for best first novel! What a difference a year makes! This time around I wasn’t nearly as terrified by the public part of the job. In fact, I did a-okay. I was nervy, but I wasn’t about to pass out or hyperventilate.

It’s funny that the thing I love to do most is also the thing that has forced me to face my biggest fear. I’m proud of Kilmoon, but I’m more proud of facing my fear of speaking in front of people, whether the event be a book signing or a panel or a guest-of-honor talk.

How have you faced your fears?

(I’ll post more about the Left Coast Crime conference next week — with more pictures!)

Writing a Letter the Old-Fashioned Way

I love stationery.

I love stationery, especially Lulu note cards, which you can find online.

For years, I’ve been saying I’d like to single-handedly revive the art of letter writing. I buy stationery and note cards and store them away like little nuts. I think about the pen pals I had as a child. I think about our mailman, Frank, who was so sweet. He always gave our dog Penny treats. On Saturdays, I’d run out to greet him, and at Christmas we gave him cookies.

It’s not the same, dashing out letters though email. Even when I take the time to write a longer letter, I don’t get much satisfaction out of it. I’m still dashing, and I’m still just crossing a task of the list. What’s missing are the senses. Pretty stationary, a pen in hand, vision straying into space rather than being glued to a screen.

Valentine's snail mail revival! So fun to look forward to the mail each day.

Valentine’s snail mail revival! So fun to look forward to the mail each day.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because last month I whetted my appetite for sending and receiving snail mail. I gathered a group of like-minded souls on Facebook and hosted a snail mail Valentine revival. It was so fun! Some of my old friends even wrote letters in their cards. It struck me that it wouldn’t be hard to slow down for 30 minutes to write an actual note to a friend. Maybe once a month, randomly, just to say “hi.” It’s totally doable and would give me such pleasure.

So, yesterday I relaxed at my favorite bistro and wrote a letter to T. We’ve been friends since Kindergarten. It’s an amazing thing that we’re still in touch. Sporadically, but that’s OK. We agree that it’s nice knowing we’re out there even if we’re not constantly communicating.

She’d sent me an email back in January to tell me how much she liked KILMOON. To quote her because her words were so sweet:

Writing to T. What a pleasurably slow moment.

Writing to T. What a pleasurably slow moment.

One of the most interesting things was after a short while I wasn’t thinking of Kilmoon as “my friend Lisa’s book.” I was just thinking of it as this really gripping mystery. It’s a testament to your writing skills that I didn’t think of the person behind it.

Awww, I loved that, and I decided to hand-write her a response to a personal question she’d asked. It took me six weeks, but I was so proud of myself for writing the letter that I said to the waiter, “Look at me, I’m writing a letter!”

The boyish man was in his early twenties. He said, “I’ve never done that before. But I received a letter once.” (My reaction: WOW, that’s totally nuts.)

He said he’d been thinking about writing a letter to the friend who wrote him. I hope seeing me with my cute Mutts stationery inspired him!

What about you? What would it take for you to relax over a piece of stationary and write a letter?