A Mind Divided Against Itself

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and maybe that’s true of heads, too, because today I’m sitting here in my writing chair driving myself nuts, and my head is in danger of exploding.

This weekend I was supposed to be in Lead, South Dakota, for the South Dakota Book Festival which ended up being cancelled due to Covid. (For those of you who’ve never set foot in SD, here’s some news from the front, Lead, the town in South Dakota, is pronounced Lead as in leadership training as opposed to lead as in get the lead out. Isn’t English fun? And for those of you who’ve never been to Arizona, Bowie, the town in Cochise County, is pronounced Bowie as in boots as opposed to Bowie as in bow and arrow.”)

Oops, there I go off on another tangent. Sorry. Back to this weekend’s book festival. Rather than flying into Rapid City and maybe having a brief side trip to Mt. Rushmore, I’ll be doing a virtual talk from Zoom Station Central in my dining room here in Washington. The event was supposed to be at a library branch in Rapid City. In it I’ll be talking about my books, yes, but I’ll also be talking about my South Dakota roots. The event is scheduled for 3 P.M. Central, on Sunday, October 3. That means 1 PM in Seattle and 2 PM in Arizona. If you’re interested in attending, here’s the signup link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2021-south-dakota-festival-of-books-tickets-166215736743.

I’m writing the blog on Tuesday afternoon, pub day for the paperback edition of Missing and Endangered. That book may be brand new to some of my readers, but from my point of view, it’s a long way in the rearview mirror. I finished writing it in the early days of Covid when I was trying to figure out if it was even possible to be creative in the face of lockdown. (It was, but it wasn’t easy.) A few months after I finished writing that, the next Ali book, Credible Threat counted as my first-ever totally virtual book tour. (Still not my favorite, by the way.)

Due to Covid proposed pub dates got shifted around. By the time Missing and Endangered came out in hardback in February of this year, I could barely remember it. It’s a lot worse now, because in between, I finished writing the next Ali book, Unfinished Business, which was published in June of this year. I also finished writing the next Beaumont book, Nothing to Lose, which is due out next February and started on the next Ali, Collateral Damage.

Whew, are you confused yet? But just wait. It gets worse. This week, I had to stop moving forward on writing Collateral Damage so I could go back and do copyediting on Nothing to Lose. Copyediting means going through the manuscript, word for word, correcting typos and punctuation, yes, but also making sure characters’ names don’t get inadvertently changed midstream or that weekdays have been inexplicably dropped or, worse yet, added in.

I still remember my first ever copyediting letter, the one for Until Proven Guilty. It’s engraved in my heart. “This book takes place over a two-week period. All days are consecutive; no days are skipped. Unfortunately between the second Thursday and the second Friday there is an extra unnamed day. Please fix.” I did, but it wasn’t easy. I had to go back to each scene that occurred on that extra unnamed day and figure out a way to duct-tape that action into some other part of the story. I was able to manage to transpose every scene but one because it happened in the evening, and I didn’t have any extra evenings available. It was a scene I loved, one in which Beau goes to Anne Corley’s hotel looking for her. When she’s not I her room, he goes downstairs to the bar and is in the process of getting hammered when she comes looking for him. I loved that scene. I hated having to leave it out, and I still miss it. Too bad for each of you because now, everyone reading today’s blog entry is going to end up missing the little scene that isn’t there, too. That’s what I call sharing the wealth!

But back to copyediting Nothing to Lose. That took several day’s worth of keeping my nose to the grindstone. In the meantime, I asked my beta-reader-in-chief, Bill, to read what I had written so far in Collateral Damage. Yesterday, with the copy-editing in New York, I tried to get back on the Collateral Damage train. That didn’t exactly go swimmingly, so today, once I’ve but this to bed, I’ll get back on the horse and take another crack at it.

So yes, my mind is definitely in pieces. Tomorrow morning, if one of my paperback readers asks me a question about Missing and Endangered, I’ll probably have to look it up before I can answer, but answer I will.

So much for the perpetual merry-go-round of being a writer. Any minute now my HarperCollins editor is going to ask me if I’ve thought about what I’ll be writing next? Right this minute, I have no idea.