Over on the Facebook fan group, a wonderful person named Sharon explored the Hidden Legacy Houston and took videos and pictures. I particularly loved Sharon’s video of the Arboretum, where she found the exact bench where Nevada and Adam Pierce met. I wish there was a YouTube video so I could link it. But if you are a member, I recommend checking out Sharon’s posts.
It is another overcast day. It looks like it might rain and I’m very smug about us cutting down the grass on Sunday. Let it rain, haha.
I have Master Zhang’s Oolong in my tea cup. Taxes are done and have been filed, thanks to the tireless work of a bookkeeper and an accountant. A cleaning service has come through and the house is once again beautiful. Normally, we have them come through every month to two months for deep cleaning, and this time we really needed it. We’ve been concentrating on writing for the last month and while I did cook and kept the counters clean, iRobot had to do the majority of the floor.
The novella is 3/4 done, I think. We are at 32K. Magic Tides was 43K. Got stuck yesterday on Sumerian names, thought for a bit about trying to work dumu-tu-da in there, and then decided to just stick with “son of”. Simpler is better.
Writing tends to eat your life. While there is the actual butt-in-the-chair time, a lot of it is daydreaming about it, which leads to occasional hilarious conversations, like the time we took our car to be serviced and as we were waiting for our keys to be brought out, I turned to Gordon and said, “We should just kill him.” and he said, “Well, yes, that would solve a lot of problems.” And then the service person gave us an odd look.
The problem with daydreaming is that I zoom out of the real world and when mundane things like a roof replacement pop in, it takes me a little bit to shift my gears.
Get it together… Get it together…
People often ask us how much we work, what kind of hours we have, etc. It depends. When we were both working full time, we wrote for a couple of hours a night. For a little while after starting writing full time, I actually tried to do the full 9-5 work day, but that plan quickly fizzled. Instead of being more productive, we were less productive, because a good portion of that 9-5 was spent staring at the screen with blanks looks.
Gordon and I tend to think in chunks. While we have a general plan or outline of the story, meaning how it starts and where it ends, the details of the narrative are very much amorphous. This is by design. As we write the story, certain themes emerge. We realize which relationships we want to highlight and which characters should be showcased. This is an organic process that happens once we sink into the narrative. So instead of planning the entire outline down to the small details, we end up planning a clump of scenes.
For example, in Magic Tides, going to the Red Horn gang is a clump. Going to the Farm is another clump.
When we write, we end up concentrating on getting through the scenes. We think a lot about what happens, how the scenes develop, and so when we sit down to write, we typically get through an average scene in 3-4 hours. It’s easy to think that we only work 4 hours, but in reality we spend probably at least as much thinking about the scene, discussing it, and doing research.
It’s kind of like that meme where a client hires a graphic designer to draw a logo and the designer does it in 3 hours. The client doesn’t want to pay the full price because it only took the designer 3 hours, to which designer replies, “It took me 3 hours because I have 5 years of school and a decade of experience.” It takes us 3 hours because we spent 2 days thinking about it.
The upside is that lots of thinking makes writing go faster. The downside is that once the scene is done, we usually mentally check out unless it was short. I’m always at the computer at 10 am, provided no weird emergencies occur. I hit up admin email that must be looked at, bump the rest to the afternoon, and Gordon and I write. A couple of times a week I call Jeaniene Frost or she calls me and we bitch and moan to each other for about an hour.
By the way, Jeaniene’s new book is coming out soon and she’d been killing it with promo. Look at that quote.
That is such a kick-ass book-selling quote. Mad respect.
Once we are done with the writing session, usually in the early afternoon around 3 or so, I go back to the admin emails and then we both edit the narrative, either what we wrote that day, or the previous day. Basically we nitpick it to death.
Then it’s evening and dinner, followed by a bit of tv or computer games. The next day we start over.
It seems boring but it’s actually a lot of fun. We do get workouts and walks in there, although I do wish we lived some place where summer did not start in April. Right now everything is green and lovely, but it will all burn in a month or two. That’s why Texans keep trying to escape to other places during summer. Preferably with some body of water without gators or deadly algae in it. We decided to check out Lake Norman in NC this year. We’ve never been and supposedly it’s very nice.
it’s so interesting to learn how people work, thanks for the post!
I always like it when people say it’s so easy to be a writer you all you have to do is sit at your desk and make up stories it’s not like real work.
Thank you for the insight.
This is fascinating – thank you so much for sharing!
Susan Peak says
It’s always interesting to read about a person’s writing process. And there’s a UK version of that story: a plumber is called out to a faulty boiler. He listens carefully, taps it with a hammer, and charges £100. The customer protests, and asks for a breakdown. The plumber replies: £10 for hitting the boiler. £90 for knowing where to hit …
Donna A says
I’ve been dog sitting for my brother and tripped over his Frenchie early this am. Very sore bruised foot and trying to decide if it’s a broken toe – not that it makes any difference to care. certainly not worth visiting GP or casualty (I used to break my toes alot before I discovered crocs – metal doorframes. Unfortunately I was just coming in with the dog and barefoot 😜)
Either way it’s doing an ouch when I walk and especially when I popped my outdoor shoes on for his next walk. My brother owes me BIG.
Moderator R says
Ouch! Fingers crossed no break!
Donna A says
Just badly bruised happily 👍
“…some place where summer did not start in April.”
*cries in Minnesotan*
Thank you for your insight! And the reminder for the new Bones POV!
Lake Norman is beautiful. My son went to Universal Tech Institute in Mooresville for mechanics and it was close by so we did a drive through of the area. It is super expensive to live there though (by North Carolina standards). After graduating he wanted to stay in that area, but just couldn’t afford it on his own with an entry level paycheck. So now he’s back home with us in the cold in New Jersey
Laura Alford says
We live in Texarkana and just bought a tiny condo on top of a mountain near Mount Mitchell in NC so I don’t spontaneously combust during the mother-crone transition.
With everything someone does on a daily basis, there will be drudge. I’m happy you can still feel writing is fun. Can’t wait to see what emerges. **waves**
That quote! Oh my heart.
I hope NC is restorative!
Thank you for the lovely summation of how writers work. I sent the link off to my significant support system. It’s hard to explain all the thinking time, and why lack of it can bollux up accomplishing things.
Thanks for sharing a bit about your writing process! I love the behind the scenes looks that you give us. 😊
Megan H says
I do the daydreaming and leave the writing to the experts. I am really looking forward to reading Jeaniene’s new book! I have vacation coming up in May and will have a lovely stack of my to be read pile to make it magical.
Judy Schultheis says
You’ve always given the impression – at least to me – that what you’ve laid out here is how you work. The exchange while you were waiting for your car made me laugh.
Heh.. for me programming isn’t that different.
I get a problem. I think about it. I plan it. I look at the data. I figure out the inputs and outputs. I identify the needs of the customer, the system or people who are going to use it. I think about how to maintain it, how to test it, how to debug it. I figure out the code structures. I think about the rest of the code base and does it fit in. I think about how it can break, and how it can be abused. I worry that my peers will reject it and not use it. I worry that my manager thinks I’m a goof off.
And once I figure that all out I sit down and write the code in about 5% of the time I spent thinking about it.
And then I go play video games. Usually Minecraft. Heh, I’m usually playing video games while I’m thinking about it.
It’s all in the brain space, baby.
Maximira Correa says
Or, you could come to Canada. Vancouver is lovely in Spring and Summer. We have the beaches, lots of parks and if it gets too hot, just go up the mountain and the breeze will cool you down.
and if you are in Vancouver you could hop a ferry to Victoria, we have amazing gardens
Kat in NJ says
This was a very interesting read! I only write poetry (and only as an outlet for myself) and I find the actual ‘writing’ to be the shortest part of the process. Phrases or beginnings of poems usually come to me while I am daydreaming, and often when I am stuck I just put the writing aside: that’s when the answer just pops into my mind. I think our minds must keep working while we go off and do something else! 😁
By the way, I always meant to thank you: I checked out Jeaniene Frost’s books a while ago after you mentioned her in your posts and while you are still my favorite authors 💕💕 I love her books too! I can’t wait until April (I always preorder your books and her’s !) 😁
Patricia Schlorke says
That exchange while waiting for the car, and the look you and Gordon got is priceless. I’ve had similar looks when my mom was still alive, and we talked about my math homework. 😂
Texas weather is something. This weekend the DFW area will be in the 50s with possible freezes just to the north. Not complaining since the scorching temps are coming. 🤪
Bill from NJ says
It is always interesting to read about the writing process. I love to write ( for my own pleasure mostly, occasionally post on online story sites) and I find I have to be in the mood and I can’t really write on schedule, which is why working a full time job and writing is hard for me. inspiration comes where it does for me. I loved the scene in the auto repair place!
Actually I always thought a live stream of you guys writing would be interesting ( when you work together). Obviously I can understand why you wouldn’t do that in reality, too intrusive, but at least I can imagine:)
ooh, that would be awesome! a 30-45s clip of them typing and discussing would make me happy
You seem to get so much done, I always wondered about the time spent writing, too. Thanks for this glimpse. And I love the little non sequiturs of conversation out in public. So damned funny!
I really enjoyed this topic. It was great to learn a little about your creative process. I enjoy your writing so much. I’m re-reading InnKeeper again and I love it each time.
I love your descriptions! Of the rooms, of the clothes, of the characters, of the surroundings! Your books are so colourful to me. I have very vivid colourful visuals of the characters, the Inn, Bahachar and so many details in this series of books. Great post!
Richard Cartwright says
Someplace else that’s worth a look is Lake Lure in Western NC. It is smaller and not quite as touristy. Or wasn’t in the 90s.
This was a fascinating insight into your process! Also May I recommend Lake Canandaigua as a place to get away to? My cousins have a holiday home there, and I sigh in envy every time I see their pics!
Suzi Hill says
Mercedes Lackey has a character who is an author and basically made the point with her that “ideas are easy, writing is not – even just mechanically typing out the pages is work”, much less telling a coherent story that someone wants to read.
So we have a VP at work who is an “idea guy” – everyone thinks he’s brilliant. He is not, however an “Execution guy” – so he just looks at his staff a la Picard and says “make it so” with no empathy for the assignment or ability to help them problem solve. It drives me nuts. But I always come back to that little tidbit – “ideas are easy. Writing is not”
Seems like House Andrews concurs. LOL
One thing I’ve always wondered is if it’s possible to lose track of the word count while writing. There have been several times when I’m reading a book, it’s progressing nicely and all of a sudden, The End. Wha?! I felt like the author maybe got real close to the end of the expected and agreed upon word count and had to rush/condense the ending. Could that happen?
Yes, that could happen. Rushed endings happen for a number of reasons.
Word count is one of them.
Deadline can be a factor. Some writers do a sprint toward the end to meet it and then mean to fix things in the edits and end up not doing it.
Emotional fatigue is a factor. Most writers are emotionally exhausted by the end of the narrative. They want to be done.
And finally, sometimes an abrupt ending is the authorial intent. In Silver Shark, we ended the story abruptly because we wanted it to keep unfolding in your imagination. We wanted the reader to experience their own mental version of the bionet.
Kim Stewart says
I keep trying to convince my husband of this. He does technical/marketing documents, but he keeps measuring productivity by output. But that’s not where he adds value; the value is in *how* he tailors the document. Strategy vs. tactics. Strategy takes more time
My son and daughter-in-law love Banff in Canada. (I think I spelled it correctly.) They have vacationed there several times and go back as often as they can. It is, I am told, beautiful and nicely cool when we are roasting here in Houston.
(Meg is originally from Valley Forge and Houston weather is not her favorite, even though she’s lived on the Gulf Coast for years.)
I am a native Texan and it’s not my favorite either.
If I could live anywhere, I’d be on the big island of Hawaii, halfway up the volcano near Hilo. I am more than willing to risk the eruptions for the climate and the lovely neighbors. My late husband and I vacationed there a couple of times and loved it.
I am too old for the move now and wouldn’t go alone anyway, but it’s nice to dream.
Sharon Barrett says
If you get board at Lake Norman, and want a day trip, head to Lake Jocassee in the mountain foothills of South Carolina. Humongous man-made lake with beautiful, clear aqua water. There is tons to do around Lake Norman, though, in both NC and SC.
Lake Norman is very pretty, it’s so pretty traffic is at a standstill going by EVERY TIME I have driven by. I live in Ohio, one of my kids lives in Georgia and Lake Norman is in between. Guaranteed to add 1-2 hours driving time and the need to remember to use a restroom before or suffer. You should go. Next time I go by I’ll wave and think of you having water fun.
Lake Norman NC, as in Mooresville? Traffic can be very bad on main roads by shopping areas and there’s snakes near shore on the lake. There was once a bear running up a watershed area behind my best friend’s house, but that was a one time in 4 years occurrence. Summer is hot & humid though, with lots of mosquitoes. I hate to be discouraging, there’s good things too, lush landscapes you rarely have to water, mostly nice friendly inclusive people, great parks to walk dogs & interesting communities nearby. Just be resigned to using mosquito repellent, always, and I hope you have an enjoyable experience! There’s also shopping close by, World Market, Costco, TJ Maxx, etc and some great farmer’s markets that showcase local produce & organic meats and local handmade goods. I never saw a scorpion & though there’s the huge North Carolina Wolf Spider, there’s no tarantulas so you may just love it!
Alisa Hylton says
Lake Norman is nice, but so is Mtn Island and Badin which are near .
Melisa M. says
Thanks for the look into your day to day writing. Whatever you do- you are doing it right because your books are always wonderful!
Thank you, this is really interesting! I hope you’ll have a lovely summer coming up 😊
Steve L says
Cool info. You might like our Canadian summers, but every conditions very alot. Between North – South and East and West.
I love Jeanine Frosts books. I am currently rereading her Wicked Bites. I only wish there were more Night Rebel Books But I love them all!
Okay, there’s an earworm stuck in my head now and it’s all your fault. Dumu-tu-da is close enough to Musha ring dumma do to have me humming “Whiskey in the Jar” for the rest of the day.
AAH! now I have the earworm and will have to hum something else until it leaves. Maybe “Jerusalem”
Thanks for your insights on our writing process. The creative imagining and expertise are often amorphous or invisible, yet essential for the work.
What a good feeling to have so much maintenance done. I hope you can enjoy your Spring! Which reminds me, Spring break starts ON Friday this year, into next.
How do writers plan their vacations? I would think it is nice to be able to make plans without school/9-5 work in the mix, but I am not a writer, so ???
Now I am off to Google Lake Norman, NC
I’d love to be somewhere that winter is to at least six months long. I’m talking full winter, not just cold. Someday.
I meant to say NOT six months. Should not eat tacos and type at the same time.
Thanks for that insight. When I was writing nonfiction articles, I used to do a lot of the thinking and planning while driving, mucking stalls, mowing etc. The butt-in-chair time is still necessary, but it’s only one fraction of the actual work.
My day is similarly divided, except that in hot weather the outdoor activity mainly shifts to morning (except for mowing, because humidity often keeps the grass wet until mid afternoon).
What is the name of the fan group on Facebook? I’m a member of your page but don’t think I am a member of other groups associated with your writing.
Moderator R says
It’s the Ilona Andrews Fans group – here is the link 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/groups/ilonaandrewsfans/?ref=share_group_link
Robyn A. says
Thanks for the insight into your writing process. It was very interesting. Loved the conversation you and Gordon had at the car place!
Had a lousy day yesterday and nice to read about something I have wondered about for awhile.
Someone was mentioning mosquitos at Lake Norman. Got me thinking, everywhere I have ever gone in the summer in the U.S. has mosquitos. I wonder if they have them in the desert?!
Vacation wise, Pacific Northwest has seas, lakes, mountains. You can get a bit of everything here. Later July is a good time to visit. Used to be August, but now we often end up with wildfire smoke at that time. Happy vacationing at Lake Norman!
I lived in inland San Diego County in a high desert hanging valley before moving to NC. The mosquitoes were nothing like here, guess they need water/humidity to breed & thrive. The unfortunate trade off for mosquitoes was scorpions, tarantulas & rattle snakes. Everywhere has something to contend with, you just have to figure out what you can best live with 🙂
Too true. Same with weather.
Sounds awesome about the Hidden Legacy video! I’m rereading Ruby Fever now, and I still don’t understand the whole Linus-situation. I’ve read your interviews and explanations on the blog, but don’t find what I’m looking for. Anyway, in the book, Nevada, Arabella, Alessandro and Penelope all knew about Linus and what Catalina goes through with him, and yet they all lied to her for years about him. Nevada also said at the end of Emerald Blaze, after her’s and Catalina’s talk, that “let’s never do this again. From now on, let’s be honest to each other” [quoted from memory]. Why did she say that knowing she didn’t intend on living up to it? I love Catalina so much and just feel like she deserved more recognition and support than she received…
No criticism, only asking because I wonder of course! Wish you a (soon approaching) lovely weekend.
Moderator R says
It’s not one blanket reason 🙂, I think that’s where you’re a bit stuck. Each character has their own motivation and ultimately they all know that Catalina cannot quit her professional involvement with Linus and intense personal feelings might make that into an unbearable situation.
Arabella enjoys finally figuring out something nobody else knows; Alessandro believes that Linus will ensure Catalina’s survival above all, and that’s what matters to him- divulging might make Catalina want to alienate herself in anger and put her in danger; Nevada keeps secrets because that’s what Nevada does- the amount of information she knows could destabilise the world. She learned how to let people tell their own secrets, especially when they can snowball, because the players involved are so important.
Susan J says
I create educational videos for my online courses. Students are usually very appreciative of the easy way I break down complicated concepts, and I throw in lots of relevant graphics and animations. Some of my colleagues have asked me how long it takes, and I tell them “well, for the shorter ones, about an hour of work for every minute of produced video.“ Dead silence. Nobody ever counts the planning time. Nobody ever counts the “how do I take this concept and break it down into digestible chunks” timr. Nobody counts writing the script time. They literally think my video creation time starts with when I sit down in front of Camtasia.
So yes, I’m willing to bet you work all the time. I do too.
Back in the day I had to do a few lesson plans for elementary school science classes. It took me eight hours of planning for a 45 minute lesson. Mad respect for teachers, especially these days when they get a lot less than they used to.
Thank you so much for the insight! I really enjoyed reading it!
I can imagine that it is real fun when you can discuss and ping-pong your ideas with your spouse 😊
I was just wondering: do you have a different approach when you a writing the romantic scenes? I.e. is just one of you writing this part and the other one reads and gives input?
Or was it awkward when you started writing together?
Thank you 😊
Moderator R says
House Andrews might expand on the subject more, but I can tell you that no, roles are not divided, with one person only writing one part etc 🙂
Thank you, Mod R!
Rorie Solberg says
I totally get it. I’m a college professor and folks always think that when you teach two classes a term you only “work” when you are in the classroom. Nevermind how many hours it took to figure out how to construct the course, the hours and hours of research to figure out the lecture material, the assignments, and the grading that goes along with the assignments, and that teaching is only 45% of my job (and all of what I mentioned plus advising and mentoring students is under the rubric of teaching.) Oh, and I get summer “off.” Yes, I also don’t get paid over the summer, and I have to complete the research over the summer that I didn’t have time to do while I was doing the 45% of my job that took 110% of my time.
Kiri Guyaz says
I like your comment about summer, except for us here in Maine, it’s the reverse—summer is only truly warm season; winter lasts 5-6 months of the year and while spring and fall are theoretically a thing and can be pleasant, climate change is messing them up big time, so they’re becoming extra weeks of winter or summer! Recently, we got a bizarrely late snowstorm—May 8–and it was pretty on the forsythia. A little over one week later, on May 20, it was 89, and I went swimming in the lake (super cold but Mainers are tough and it was just too hot!)— but you see the problem?
It totally makes sense to me that it comes out in chunks…beautiful chocolate chip , almond toffee, caramel…oh, you were talking about your wonderful books and not food?
Just curious, whatever happened to the plan to sell the house and leave Texas?
Moderator R says
The plan is taking a bit longer, due to unforeseen needed refurbishments and just life 🙂. It has a tendency to get in the way.
Mortgage interest rates today:
30-yr fixed 7.427%
That’s what happened.
I am originally from just south of Lake Norman in NC. It is truly gorgeous! Davidson area right by the lake is also lovely. It’s home to a small liberal arts college and boasts several delicious restaurants. In the summer it’s not so crowded either because there are less students.
Though I have to be honest I shudder to think how awful the weather is in Texas for NC’s weather to seem like a getaway. Lake front is not so bad because of the water, obviously. But it’s still like walking outside into a sauna. Just my 2 cents.
pat roos says
way to super-support your friend’s book!!
pat roos says
and yeah, NC (where I live) is not nearly as hot as Texas, but it’s still very hot and humid, less so in the mountains, but yeah, go further north???
Cindy Montalbano says
North Carolina has some of the most beautiful beaches in the United States. they regularly get voted best beaches in the America by different travel entities. as far as I know there’s no killing algae in the water but there are sharks occasionally. but the beaches are so gorgeous that it’s very much worth the trip!
Thanks, I always enjoy hearing more about how you and Gordon go about taking ideas and turning them into stories!
My sister asked me what I did all day and I said “I do a lot of thinking.” She scoffed. I said “ Really, I do a lot of thinking.” And it is true. Helps with big picture stuff. Doesn’t always help when I am trying to make a decision about a piece of furniture or a place to go on vacation! LOL.
“It took me 3 hours because I have 5 years of school and a decade of experience.” Oh my god – I am an architect and have never related to anything harder than this. I wish I could find this meme, I have a feeling I would get a lot of use out of it.
Congratulations on getting the taxes done! A good bookkeeper and a good accountant are worth their weight in gold. Also a good cleaning service!
Sumeria! My attachment to ancient and classical civilizations is from my history teacher dad. (I called the miniature bust of Nefitieri that lived on the coffee table “baby”, and would wrap her in a doll blanket and wheel her around in my doll carriage.)
Writing is multi-faceted and hard. I never liked writing papers in college. I think there was one or two that came out alright, but always a struggle. Reading is my forte and haven. Five or six hours at a time – no problem!! So, you guys and Jeaniene write, and I will blissfully read when the books are ready!!
In NW Montana we have many smaller alpine lakes, and then Flathead lake- the largest freshwater lake West of the Mississippi. It’s gorgeous, but I would wait until late June for a visit.
As always, I appreciate learning more about your writing process. Thank you for sharing!
Question: when you include a known product in your books (like Keurig), do you have to get permission ahead of time? Maybe you should get paid for product placement! 😉
Moderator R says
Mentioning brand names usually falls under fair use (or even “cultural reference”) so authors don’t need to obtain permission 🙂.
It’s still a good idea to observe a few basic things- spelling the name properly, not insinuating that you own it or rights to it if you don’t, not denigrating it commercially and endangering the owner’s ability to profit from it etc.
Also, it might not be a great idea to use trademark names as/in your book title.
Thanks Mod R!
Azumanga Daioh! I used to have the manga and I think the dvds and figures are still in one of my closets. Osaka’s dub voice still throws me off but I get why they went for that accent.
I love where I live. It is no where near perfect but I like that I don’t need to move around for the seasons. And the variety of grocery stores make me happy.
Ms. Kim says
I’ve been pushing Florida, but Red Tide has defeated me. I had to move away from the Gulf because of it. But the Bay side (Tampa Bay) of Pinellas county is nice. And red neck riviera along Gandy bridge (over Tampa Bay) is fun to swim and boat from.
LKN resident, enjoy the squishy orange mud and I hope you have a boat.
The Jeaniene Frost blurb reminds me of something Dylan Thomas wrote:
“Though lovers be lost love shall not; and death shall have no dominion.”
You will love Lake Norman.
Sharon tanovitz says
love your books
quick question…. which novella is ¾ done? mauds side of sweep of the heart? or the bridge between Catalina and arabella?
Moderator R says
Magic Claims, the Wilmington Years book 2 🙂 – here for preorder and excerpt https://ilona-andrews.com/featured-release/
ah thank you. I don’t follow that series, I guess that’s why I was unaware.
Looking forward to Both Feet in the Grave. I started reading her books because of you guys and really loved them. Bought them all.