Tuesday, March 26, 2013

First copies from the warehouse

The highest point in any author's life is beholding the first finished hardcovers of his latest book. Yesterday two boxes of Hang Fire arrived from the warehouse, well in advance of the April 19 publication date (and the May 10 online on-sale date). Yay!

But the joy is short-lived, because it also brings the realization that soon the truly hard work will begin: Getting out and promoting the book in venue after venue.

Sometime in late April I'll be premiering the dog and pony show at an Evanston location, then in May in Forest Park, Illinois.  Stay tuned for details.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

For sale: My house

Ordinarily a personal blog isn't a shill for real estate sales, but in this case it is.

My house in Evanston, Illinois, is going on the market today with an open house from noon to 4 p.m. It's at 2800 Harrison Street, in the most-sought-after northwest quadrant of this university town.

I can tell you that the walls echo with 40 years of writerly striving. Also it has three bedrooms and a nursery upstairs, and a living room, dining room, family room, kitchen and foyer downstairs.

Lots of recent updates, too. It's in great shape for a 104-year-old house. It's also located in the Willard Elementary School area, considered the most desirable in Evanston.

Photos and details here.

Now maybe you can understand why I've been so silent these last few months. It takes a long time for a mature couple like the Lady Friend and me to jettison four decades' worth of stuff, rearrange the rest, and bring everything (we hope) up to code. Notice that nice new front stoop in the photo?

We're hoping to move to a condo in the same neighborhood, using it as our urban pied-a-terre while we spend half the year in Upper Michigan, inspiration for my mystery novels.

If you're around, come by and see it today.

LATER: The house is now under contract.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cruising to a new novel

Contented author at the taffrail of MS Zaandam. Photo by the Lady Friend.
Last month the Lady Friend and I traveled to Hawaii by rail and sail. We rode Amtrak's Southwest Chief to Los Angeles, thence a Surfliner train to San Diego, where we took ship aboard the Holland America cruise liner Zaandam. Five days over, four days there, five days back.

Of course it was a splendid and relaxing cruise, but I won't bore you with the touristy details. Though I hadn't planned it that way, the trip turned out to be a working vacation. Rather than spend all the hours at sea reading (pleasant enough in itself), I sat down in the ship's library shortly after the Zaandam stood out from Honolulu Harbor the last day in Hawaii and started writing another Steve Martinez novel, the fifth. Working title: Tracking the Beast. Railroad theme, you know.

By the time we reached San Diego, there were seven new chapters and more than 10,000 words in the iPad.

Now I understand why Alex Haley chose to write The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots aboard tramp steamers sailing the world. There's something about an ocean voyage that's conducive to both concentration and creativity. Maybe it's the gentle rocking of the ship, maybe it's the regular routine at sea, maybe it's something else.

I've long done some of my best work while riding trains, for much the same reasons. Now there's another way to get some writing under the belt—and have fun while doing it.

LATER: Someone asked if I was planning to write off part of the cruise on my Schedule C. That's tempting, but tax law is clear: Writeoffs based on work aboard a cruise ship can be taken only if the ship is U.S. flagged and if it does not stop in a foreign port. No such animal afloat.