Sunday, November 27, 2005

Holidays and Writers

With the last of the turkey in the soup pot, I'm feeling fighting the urge to relax and pretend the work is finished for this year. It's not, of course. Cards and wrapping gifts, getting them to the post office, decorating, baking - it's once a year and I love the whole hustle and bustle of the holidays. But it's rough on a writer. Silence and peace are my most precious gifts, the ones I hate to share. Take anything else - it's fine, you can have it. But time and quiet are the hot commodities in my house. I'm not one of those writers who can work with music in the background. I find I get lost in the melody and the words in my head slip into musical notes. Round about now, Christmas carols, repeating themselves in alarming renditions in the malls, play in my head and I have to fight them off. I need to hear the voices. The characters who talk away and tell me what they need to do get very annoyed when anything interferes with office hours.

So for all you writers out there, I wish for you the best gifts of the season - time and quiet. May your writing flow like the river, swift and sure as the currents, exciting as Class V rapids.

And for the NASCAR fans out there, may we all hold on until Daytona in February. It's hard, folks, but we can do it, right?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Writing, Libraries, and, sigh, the Last Race

I've been derelict in posting, but my excuse is solid - I've been writing. Yep, keeping the fanny in the chair and the fingers flying. Having fun. That's what a wonderful review from Publisher's Weekly will do for the creative juices - it's a real incentive. Reading praise for my next book, YES, THE RIVER KNOWS, sure helped me focus on what I'm writing now. It'll be in stores in hardback from Berkley Prime Crime on Dec. 5.

Last weekend I took time out to speak at the Valley Bookfest in Roanoke. I've always been a firm supporter of libraries, and with a mother who was a librarian, I can do nothing else but say "yes" when a library asks me to do anything. (Well, anything legal, that is.) The Roanoke City libraries are real go-getters. The day was filled with wonderful authors, intriguing panels, and lots of people who drove downtown to participate on a gorgeous fall day. I had the pleasure of hearing Nikki Giovanni (who teaches at Virginia Tech) speak, and sitting next to Nikki Turner was a treat. I've never read urban hip-hop, but I'm going to read The Glamorous Life next.

On a sad, very sad note, this coming Sunday is the final race for the Nextel Cup at Homestead-Miami. I'm going to be bereft without my NASCAR fix every week. The local short tracks closed up shop in October, so I can't even smell the fumes, hear the engines whine, or do any of the fun stuff there. Three whole months without stock car racing, and I'll be a wreck. At least I have the old races on Tivo - I'll have to rewatch them just to keep myself sane.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Oops again and Paperclip Racing

Tracy Dunham Well, that prior blog bit was supposed to go on my friend Jean Gordon's blog. (Jean writes wonderful romances, the sweet type, for Avalon Books, one of my publishers.) Shows you, I'm still figuring out this blog stuff.

I haven't posted about the races in Martinsville! I can't believe I've neglected to say how thrilled I was to sit right at the finish line as Jeff Gordon made his emotional charge across it to win yet another grandfather clock. His seventh, I believe, tying him with Rusty Wallace's wins. There's nothing like Martinsville for an exciting race for the fans. The track's a hair more than half a mile around, built like a paperclip, with a narrow pit road that's close enough for the fans to see every lug nut. I was covered with bits of tire and track junk - black clumps of rubber clung to my face and shirt. I even ate a famous Martinsville hot dog, which is colored a surreal pink. Now that's racing!

The thing I love second-most about Martinsville is its bucolic setting. Getting there is half the adventure. The police set up cones and direct traffic with perfect timing, but there's no getting around the fact you drive on narrow country roads to get to the parking area. All seventy-some-odd thousand of us. Hills aren't in short supply, either. You crest the ridge before turning into one of the grassy fields to park, and there, in the cradle of the valley below your tilting truck, looms this track, all modern and noisy as the dickens as cars take practice laps before the truck race. Even though the track has been there since before NASCAR was NASCAR, it looks as if it fell from outer space into a farmer's back yard.

Writers who can surprise me like that go in my "keeper" pile. Lulling me into thinking a story is a gentle adventure down a dirt road, surrounded by green hills and shadowed by nothing more than blue skies, those stories that give me a completely and utterly unexpected twist in the gut are rarer than Rusty Wallace's wins this year. Gasping aloud at a turn in a plot is almost as much fun as seeing Jeff Gordon take the checkered flag after a long and very bad string of races. Good writing is like good racing - wild yet controlled, fast yet paced, scary but safe.

Good racing and good writing to you all.