And Now A Word About the Weather…

Welcome to an icy and windy Pacific Northwest. (My typing fingers wrote Pacific Northwet which auto-correct instantly changed to Pacific Northwest, but the other version seems right as … well … rain.)

The last real snow here was the day before yesterday, but below freezing temperatures mean that everything on the ground has turned to ice. Currently the snowplow attempting to clear a path to my grandson’s school, three miles from here, is stuck in … well … icy snow. I have a feeling all available tow trucks are already engaged. It may be a while before that snowplow gets loose, and school is out for the third day in a row. Since my daughter’s home is directly across the street from said school, her street is an ice-skating rink, and she’s home from work for the third day in a row as well.

As for our house? We live at the top of a dead-straight and very steep driveway which is now icy, too. At the bottom of the driveway is a narrow private road. And beyond that? An equally steep cliff with no guard rail. So going down the driveway before the ice melts isn’t exactly an option. As for the private road? That’s icy, too. Yesterday, a neighbor’s vehicle spun out and spent most of the day aimed at but not hitting our mailbox. That car blocked traffic from below while another stalled vehicle just up the street blocked traffic in the other direction. You might say we were an island unto ourselves. There’s a palm tree in the corner of our pool deck. Because it’s sheltered from the wind that is knocking snow and ice off taller trees, that weighed-down palm tree is very unhappy right now.

But here’s the good news. My commute from the bedroom to my writing chair by way of the coffee machine remains totally unaffected by the weather. And this morning, my commute became downright terrific. I left the bedroom and walked two dogs, Mary, with her eye surgery cone in place, and Jojo, with a bit of a hitch in her get-along, to the doggy door in the laundry room. Mary went out. I opened the human door to let Jojo out. She can make it up and down the steps, (something for which I am incredibly grateful), but with three-inch-long legs, the height of the doggy door opening is too much for her. While they were outside, walking in the required number of circles, I continued on into the kitchen to turn on lights and the coffee machine. When I turned around BOTH dogs were back in the house and curled up in the family room. Thank you Dr. Qahwash! Thank you so very much.

So yes, we’re all snug as bugs in rugs around here, and with no power lines down our electric service is uninterrupted. That means I’ve been writing steadily along. Why not? With Jojo’s physical therapy canceled, with our personal trainer appointment canceled, and with company unable to make it up our hill, there’s no reason not to. And I have to tell you, I’ve been making good progress.

I may have mentioned before that I count the words every day. That’s how I keep track of forward progress. As of this moment, I’m 22,369 words into Joanna # 19, Missing and Endangered.(M&E as I refer to it in my files.) Books are supposed to be 95,000 to 100,000 words long. I always aim for 95,000. That means only 72,631 to go. Yippee!!!

Out in public people often ask me about my “writing process.” There are several answers to that. There’s the no outlining answer which means I start with someone dead or dying and then spend the rest of the book figuring out who killed that person and why. There’s the ‘here’s my day’ answer which means telling people that I get up, start the coffee, answer email, read my on-line papers, and then go to work. (This morning answering my email meant sending a relatively new reader, definitely an IOR (In Order Reader) a link to the books-listed-in-order link on my website. It also meant doing an online Q and A with a blogger who just read Sins of the Fathers and was surprised to discover that book was two dozen books into the Beaumont Series.)

But here’s the real writing process story. I sit in my writing chair, one chosen specifically to be wide enough to contain both a human with a laptop on her lap along with a dachshund lying next to said human’s hip and thigh. And the hours go by. Sometimes my fingers are actually typing on the keyboard—as they are right now. Sometimes my fingers are playing endless games of Solitaire. (My record time for winning on The Fan is one minute, forty-six seconds!)

Two days ago, I was supposedly working on M&E but playing solitaire, too. I had been working on part of the story that was keeping me engaged and connected, but in the back of my mind I kept wondering how it was related to the rest of the book. And then, suddenly, I knew—I figured out who was in jeopardy in that part of the story, and for murder mysteries, that’s usually the whole point. Who’s in jeopardy?

Yesterday when I went back to writing, KERBLAMMO!!! I had a 3,000-word day. Those don’t usually happen until I’m on the banana peel of a story. So I wrote 3,000 words and walked my 10,000 steps. They were all indoor steps, and those take longer—two full hours.

At that rate I could finish the book in jig time. Bill and my editor are probably both hoping the ice will stick around so I can finish the book that much sooner. But that’s not going to work.

We’re going to run out of milk sooner than that.