Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wrung Out

This Tuesday, the 17th, is drop day for THE QUEEN OF PATPONG, and I am stretched so thin I'm practically transparent.

For the past 4-5 weeks I've spent 10 -14 hours a day at my keyboard.  Four days ago I was interrupted rather rudely when my computer died, just went belly-up, as inert as a stale biscuit.  I experienced a nice, energizing flow of adrenaline, since I back up about as often as Rush says something clever.  But the adrenaline receded, as adrenaline will, to be replaced by total, sweat-popping panic, the kind of panic that wrings out your soul like a dish towel  My new book was on that computer, as were my other new book, notes for a third new book, the short story for the upcoming Bangkok Noir collection, the mailing list of 1600 people who receive my monthly newsletter, my monthly newsletter itself, all my passwords to everything in the world, 8,000 songs in my iTunes library, and a whole bunch of other irreplaceable ephemera.

Ultimately, my rational mind asserted itself.  "It's not a mechanical failure," my rational mind said in a reassuring baritone that hardly trembled at all.  "Remember, Microsoft is involved here.  Let's assume the problem is the Usual Suspect. The drive is probably fine.  Here's a plan."  Two hours and $700 later, I had a beautiful new Hewlett-Packard laptop with Windows 7 (an improvement of some magnitude) and a cute little drive housing that connected to the new computer with a USB cord. I popped the drive out of the defunct computer, slipped it into the connectors in the housing, and plugged the housing into the USB port, and -- voila! --the new computer treated it as an external drive and obediently copied onto its own drive everything I needed from the old one.

So within hours I was able to go back to being stressed beyond belief, multi-tasking beyond my capabilities, making interesting and even memorable mistakes -- the sustained frenzy in which I've lived most of the past month.  It's been a marathon of writing guest blogs, doing interviews, both print and on the radio (Leighton listened in!), getting the newsletter together, sending it to 1600 people, fielding replies, creating the Power Point presentation for the bookstores, rehearsing it, setting appearances, mapping the tour route, getting the car serviced, getting me serviced -- all to the point of actual dizziness and occasional self-pity, while all the while something deep inside me is going, Holy ****, we got a book coming out.  At an age when we might be tatting lavender balls, squinting at 98-point type, or perfecting our shuffleboard, we got a book coming out, and a book behind that one and a book behind that one.  And I just have to ask myself what I've done to be so fortunate.

About an hour ago, I remembered that I had to write this.  I started to try to come up with something respectable, something artful, even, but then I thought, Why should I?  Why take off the bathrobe and yank the curlers from my hair?  This is the way my neighbors see me in the brief interval between the time they come through the door and the time I chase them back outside -- why shouldn't you see me this way?  Why get all gussied up when I'm almost terminally whipped and my hair looks like I comb it with a fork lift?  So here I am: the real me.

One great thing about this period is reviews, when they're good, and they are this time.  Here are two QUEEN reviews that came in this morning:  one by Jen Forbus and one by the novelist Rachel Brady. It's hard to feel sorry for oneself when people are saying things like this.  I guess I will write that next book.


  1. Congrats on the great reviews--AND on surviving computer hell!

    Don't stop writing now...Rafferty is just warming up!

    I'm just on the third in the series, but I look forward to 'The Queen of Patpong,' too.


  2. Tim, Leighton doesn't just listen in. Leighton is committed to getting the word out so he sent links to the interviews to Lord knows how many people.

    Tatting lavender balls? You certainly make senior citizen status depressing. But, you do have all those great books coming out and I haven't yet had to resort to a magnifying glass as backup to the bifocals, so I am ready to do the reading.

    I know Leighton is doing his part with a book coming out in December. I know Yrsa has one that came out recently in the UK (what about the US?) and I hope we can look forward to the other members of this blog filling the need for good reading material.


  3. Thanks, Michele -- hope you're enjoying them and that you'll enjoy QUEEN, too. This little family has a life that seems to go on independently of me -- in between books, Poke and Rose get married, Miaow edges into the periphery of the bourgeoisie, and when I come back to them nothing is where I left it. It's always the thrill to get back to them.

    And Beth, Leighton is one of nature's noblemen as well as being a tremendous writer. And I'm looking forward to both his and Yrsa's books. I really think we should try to schedule a panel at the next Thrillerfest or Bouchercon.

  4. I think your panel would draw quite a crowd.


  5. I have submitted for a panel this Bouchercon with Cara, Michael and me. Have asked for a couple of writers who set their books outside the US to be put on the panel. Should know soon whether it has been accepted.

  6. Stan,
    How I wish I could be on that panel in San Francisco.
    But, come Bouchercon, I shall be in Europe once more.
    I have, however, booked for Bouchercon in St. Louis.
    How about we all try to get together for that one?
    Tim, Yrsa and Dan too!
    David (from Murder by the Book in Houston/Busted Flush Press) and Jon (from Crimespree) are co-chairmen of that St. Louis event. How about proposing the idea to them. I think we could give the folks a really good show.

    Beth and Tim,
    Gosh are my ears red!

  7. Hi Tim,

    We don't mind the curlers in your hair :)
    Congratulations! Look for to seeing you at
    WeHo the West Hollywood Book Fair in September.
    My book promotion starts next year but wow...good
    for you!

  8. Hi all,

    I have changed my mind about Bouchercon and am going since My Soul to Take has been nominated for the Shamus award. Is it too late to join the panel?

    bye Yrsa