Friday, August 29, 2008

Headin' for High Ground

We're in the last stages of boarding up the house and hauling what's movable from the first floor up to the second. Then it's off to the lake house with seven cats for a fun-filled weekend of wind and rain and high anxiety. 'Till next week.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Katrina Day Number Three and Counting

Friday will mark the third anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf shore, essentially wiping out the New Orleans we all knew and loved, and altering forever those of us who lived through it. It’s a story the rest of the country has long since grown tired of hearing. But for those of us who still live here, the storm is a part of our lives. It’s become a tradition for a group of us to take a tour of the city, then meet for lunch at a local restaurant before heading over to the home of author Laura Joh Rowland for desert. Laura’s house in Gentilly took about four feet of water on the bottom floor, and she says organizing the annual event means she has something to look forward to on that day, rather than simply dreading the memories the anniversary inevitably brings.

I’m not sure that works for me. But the get-togethers make for a fun day, and since it’s been a while since I’ve driven out to Chalmette and the Ninth Ward, I’m also curious to see how things are progressing down there.

In my own neighborhood, probably one out of every fifteen or so houses is still empty—gutted and abandoned. I often look at those houses when I go for a walk and try to understand what happened to the people who used to live there. Are they dead? Are they someplace else, still paying mortgages on houses they don’t inhabit? Why don’t they sell the houses? Or if the bank has repossessed them, why doesn’t the bank sell the properties? Of course, in the truly devastated neighborhoods, selling probably isn’t an option.

With Hurricane Gustav now taking aim at the Gulf, we're also all reviewing our evacuation plans...which has added a nasty fillip to the looming anniversary.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


We’ve finally updated the C.S. Harris website, with the stunning new cover of Where Serpents Sleep, the fourth book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series due out this November 4. You’ll also find the cover copy and an excerpt of the first chapter, as well as some of the events/appearances I’ll be making this fall.

There’s a new section on the website, too: Special Features. The first “special feature” is an article on porphyria, the genetic disorder from which the British royal family has suffered since the days of Mary, Queen of Scotts, and that helped drive King George III mad. Check it all out at

You’ll notice we also updated the blog a bit and fixed some old links. And the RSS feed finally works—or so I’m told.

And one more update from my Florida daughter: seems the third time's the charm. Fay is finally hitting her college--now that the evacuation is over and they're all back on campus!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And You Thought That Signed First Edition Was Worth Something

A reporter for the Guardian spotted this ad on Craig’s List: Wanted. Fourteen people to fake authors’ autographs on 53,760 hardcovers at a Los Angeles warehouse. “You will need to be able to copy the look and style of both authors’ signatures,” says the ad. You also must be able to stand the rigor of signing books for 8 hours a day, at an estimated rate of one book every 15 seconds. If you’re good at forgery, go for it: They’re paying $25 for every 200 books signed.

Exactly who are the lazy authors who can’t be bothered to sign their own books? That’s a deep dark secret.

Enquiring minds want to know.

And here's the news from Florida: "I told you not to worry. All we got was a little rain shower."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fay and the Faint-hearted


It doesn’t help that we’re just days away from the three-year anniversary of Katrina. But the truth is, no one with hurricane-induced posttraumatic stress syndrome should send their youngest child to college in Florida.

Fay isn’t a hurricane yet, but they expect it to turn into one before it comes ashore. The path has been vibrating back and forth across the western coast of Florida, with landfall expected close enough to my daughter’s college that they’re ordering an evacuation. That means they close the campus, and where the students go and how they get there is up to them.

“Keep yourself safe,” I tell my daughter in one of the thousand phone calls I’ve made to Florida in the last 48 hours.

Her response is predictable. “I can’t believe you said that. It’s just a little Category 1. I went through Katrina, remember?”

Like I could possibly have forgotten? I say, “It’s not the hurricane I’m worried about; it’s the evacuation traffic.”

“Oh. I’ll be careful.”

But I lied, of course. I am worried about the evacuation traffic, but I’m also worried about falling trees and rampaging storm surges and roving lawless gangs and all the other nasties that come with hurricanes.

I’m really great at worrying. Unfortunately, from here, it’s all I can do.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Rewriting, Again

I’m rewriting The Deadlight Connection once again. How many serious reworkings does this make? I’ve lost count.

So what drove this particular rehashing? The realization that I didn’t have enough conflict between my two protagonists. In the first book of the series, The Archangel Project, Jax and Tobie spar back and forth constantly. In Deadlight, they were getting along way to well. The sizzle was gone. It was…boring.

So I’ve rethought Tobie’s motivations and goals, gone back to her roots, and started rewriting. In the process, I’ve recaptured the characters I loved in Archangel and given this new book a much needed spark. Maybe, just maybe I can finally say, "By George, I think I've got it." About six months late, but better late than never.

How did I go wrong? Distraction, I suspect. This has been a sucky year. But my mom’s in our house now, things are beginning to settle into a pattern, and while I find my writing hours reduced, I also find that in my non-writing hours I’ve started doing something I haven’t done in a long time: I’m thinking about my book.

Which is how I realized I’d lost the conflict between Jax and Tobie, and how important that was for making the book a fun, fast read.

Now, if I could just finish the #@%& thing!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Choices, and Gone Baby Gone

One of the realities of life in our family that has long driven my girls crazy is the way my sister—the novelist Penelope Williamson—and I tend to talk about writing for hours and hours and hours whenever we get together or chat on the phone. I remember one time Penny said, “The more I write, the more I become aware of the choices I make every time I sit down to write a scene.” Ever since that conversation, I’ve been far more aware of the choices I make, and how the number of choices I have to make seems to expand the more experienced I become.

I think this is true for most writers. As beginners, we tend to rush into each scene with lots of enthusiasm and little sense of conscious choice. But as we gain experience, we become aware of those choices and begin to make more deliberate decisions. Where to start a scene. Where to set a scene. Whose point of view to use. When and how to end a scene. And on and on.

So what does this have to do with Gone Baby Gone? Steve and I watched this movie Saturday night. And then, last night, we watched the Bonus Features, including the “Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Ben Affleck and Writer Aaron Stockard.” When I first saw it listed as a selection, I said, You’ve got to be kidding. The entire movie with a soundtrack of the director and writers talking about the movie? Sounds boring, right? Maybe for most people, yes. But for those of you out there who are writers, fascinating. Because most of what they talk about is the choices they made—some good, some bad, and the compromises they had to make. I also found it fascinating to realize, by watching the movie through their “eyes”, just how many subtle little things I’d missed. Whatever you might think of Affleck as an actor, there’s no doubt he understands storytelling, and has studied and learned from the masters.

A few weeks ago, Steve Malley ran a post on the wisdom to be gained from watching the bonus features on DVDs. If you want to take his advice, Gone Baby Gone would be a great place to start.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Book Club Sales

Last week brought some good news. The Book of the Month Club and Mystery Guild are buying both C.S. Harris’s Where Serpents Sleep and C.S. Graham’s The Archangel Project. Both titles will be “featured alternate selections”--one in October (I think), the other in November.

But this is the really neat thing: the Science Fiction Book Club is also buying Archangel! They say that although it’s a little out of their usual “realm,” they think the remote viewing element will appeal to their members.

How neat! Does this mean I can now say I write “science fiction”?

I guess not.

Friday, August 01, 2008

An Interview with C.S. Graham

This weekend, WRBH will be airing an interview with “C.S. Graham” on The Archangel Project. If you don’t live in the New Orleans area, you can listen to the interview by going to their website at If you’re in the broadcast area, WRBH is at 88.3 FM on your radio.

The website doesn’t do podcasts, so if you want to hear it, you need to click on the “Listen Now” button on the website at the exact time the interview is being broadcast: on Saturday, 2 August, at 8:30am Central Time, and on Sunday, 3 August, at 8:30am and 10:30 pm Central Time.

The voice of C.S. Graham in this instance will be my co-author (and spouse) Steven Harris. It’s a great interview, so if you can, do try to catch it. We hope to get it up as a podcast on the website noon.

As for me, my mother is now in our house. Everything is still chaos, but I’m trying to get back to work on The Deadlight Project. I'd love to go up to the lake for some intensive writing, but that will have to wait until my mother gets more settled, and my youngest heads back to college.