By Allison Brennan

No matter how well I plan, my book deadlines always overlap other major events.

For example, PLAYING DEAD was due when I was in the middle of moving. FEAR NO EVIL was due between Thanksgiving and Christmas–a hectic time for normal people, and an insane time for people with kids (school Christmas plays, choir performances, family events, shopping, and the kids are out of school!)

Birthday GirlThis month, things crept up on me . . . My daughter’s 8th birthday (Friday the 25th); my husband’s 50th birthday (Wednesday the 30th–he shares his birthday with Eric Clapton–and we had the party last night); two volleyball tournaments (last weekend and this weekend); the Dreamin’ in Dallas conference where I’m the keynote speaker next Saturday (and yes, I need to write a speech . . . or at least have some notes!); the RT conference starting on the 6th (and all the prep before then); and then the Thriller 3 anthology, of which I’m the managing editor. 

Usually, I can juggle pretty well, but when everything happens at the same time, I get a little stressed :/

This time, however, I’m not as stressed as usual. My frustration is that I know exactly where the story is going, yet can’t sit down for 5 days straight and write. A week ago, I hit a major turning point, saw that I’d laid the ground work for something pretty cool (no, I didn’t plan it, it just happened that way) and now I want to write non-stop . . . but with kids and responsibilities, I can’t. This is one of the few times I wished I lived alone in a cabin in the woods (with running hot water, electricity, and food) and not have anything else to do but write. Not just because of the pending deadline, but because I’m loving where the story is going and I don’t want to lose the momentum. I want to get into the zone and never leave it.

Every book seems to be a little different–some start “easy” and get harder; others start hard and get easier; but inevitably, I have two major turning points: the beginning of act two when I get stuck (always) and go back and write and rewrite and rewrite, constantly thinking that the book sucks, I can’t write, I should be flipping burgers, everything is total garbage . . . then something clicks and I can move on. Then, at the beginning of act three,  I “see” the book as a whole, have (usually) figured out the ending, and all I want to do is write 24/7. 

My zone is focus plus excitement. I am so in-tune with the story, that I can’t NOT write it. Being torn away from the book is emotionally painful. I stop writing not because I can’t think or get stuck or reach the end of a scene, but because I’m literally falling asleep at my computer. And the first thing I do in the morning is rush to the computer and start writing. 

So really, I’m not at all upset that I needed to be up at 6 a.m. on Sunday for a volleyball tournament 45 minutes away . . . I’ve already mapped out the two closest Starbucks.

Last Thursday, Zoe and I spoke and signed books at M is for Mystery. The crowd was small, but very interested — I think because Zoe is so entertaining! She’s smart and funny, my two favorite traits in a person. 

Me, Ed Kaufman, and Zoe Sharp at M is for Mystery

And I have some good news . . . LOVE ME TO DEATH is a finalist for best romantic suspense in the RITA award. The winners will be announced at the RWA conference in NYC at the end of June.

Apologies for the short blog — that deadline thing! So I’ll leave you with a question.

I often buy books that final in contests like the RITAs and Edgars and Thrillers, especially debut novels and books that are nominated in my own category. For example, this year I’ve read 5 of the other 7 nominees; I just ordered the two I haven’t read. Do you use contests as a shopping list? Do you find that you’ve already read them before they were nominated? Have you found any favorite author because you bought them after they won or was nominated for a writing award?


15 thoughts on “Deadline

  1. Catherine

    Yes Allison I do use nomination lists as shopping lists. I also find that I've often read the books that are nominated. For instance there are only three off this list that I hadn't read. I'm not sure if I've found an author based off these lists previously. Sometimes the list helps me catch a book that has slipped through past my notice though. So now I've got a few more choices for my book reward each week. Although I have my eye of Lucy Number 2 as this Friday's purchase…must finish assignment first though. Ok just looked harder at what list I was reading. from a previous year I read 4 out of 7. This year also 4 out of 7. So I consistently read books that make the list…but am a little slow on the uptake on reading the ones I missed.

    I was really impressed with Lucy 1…obviously I'm not alone… Congratulations on your nomination..and the really good pic of you and Zoe at your signing. Mr Kaufman also looks pretty happy too.

  2. Alafair

    I know the feeling of wanting to live alone in the woods. Last year I went away to a house in the west hills of Portland, which basically is the woods compared to NYC. I wrote a ton and managed to finish on time when I was sure I would not. I may do it every year.

  3. PK the Bookeemonster

    Reading mostly mysteries, I don't use the award lists for shopping because I know my personal taste in reading does not coincide — for the most part — with them. There are always exceptions from time to time, of course. I do pay more attention to the CWA Historical Dagger noms. However, it seems every year, especially for the Edgars, that one looks at the lists and the reaction is: Hunh?
    Congratulations on the nomination! It is always a good feeling to be recognized for doing well. Way to go!

  4. judy wirzberger

    I love looking at the list and deciding which books to read I've been introduced to great authors that way. You are always so busy. Sometimes when I read your posts I find myself thinking I'm tired just from reading about all you do. Today I'm looking at three dozen daffodils sigging like sunshine in my living room and hoping their be some California sunshine outside.

    Have fun in Texas. I hear they have great fried pickles.

  5. Louise Ure

    I definitely use award nominations as shopping lists. I've just downloaded all the Edgar debut novel finalists to my new iPad in time for next week's jury duty.

  6. Alexandra Sokoloff

    With the number of books you put out every year, there's no way that deadlines won't conflict with life! It's the curse of being prolific.

    Thrilled to hear about your Rita Nom!

  7. Allison brennan

    Thanks Catherine! I hope you like it as much ๐Ÿ™‚ . . . The signing with Zoe was SO much fun. She is so witty I was just nodding and smiling and playing catch up :/

    I'm jealous, Alafair. I need a retreat. I've threatened to check into a nearby hotel when my husband and kids don't leave me alone. I can write with noise; I can't not write with interruptions!

    PK, when I see lists from any group, I realize that most of these are peer awards. And what I've noticed is that I will either love, love, love the book or scratch my head and wonder how it bypassed others I read and loved more. I found one of my favorite authors (Kristan Higgins, who writes romantic comedy) through her entering the RITAs. She won. ๐Ÿ™‚ . . . I also recognize that my taste is not others' tastes. I have some pet peeves that I have a hard time getting beyond, and I am tolerant where others might not be if I love the author's voice. And voice is subjective. BUT, that said, I do like reading the nominees just to see what's getting the buzz.

    Judy, I've never had a friend pickle, but I love pickles! ๐Ÿ™‚ . . . I'm busy, but I'd be bored if I didn't have a busy life. I think of all the time I wasted before I had kids and was writing. Seriously, I'm just making up for wasted time!

    Louise, I too like reading debut novelists who final because they're NEW and most likely I hadn't read those books, where I usually have read half the paperback and hardcover nominees.

    Sending deadline support your way, Jeff.

    Thanks Dusty and Alex! . . . Alex, it does seem, however, that there's MORE stuff piling up when I'm less than two weeks from deadline . . . or maybe I just don't see it when I'm not stressed about the deadline . . .

  8. Catherine

    I get remarkably chatty the more work I have to get done…I just remembered that it was through an award win and the surrounding buzz that I first started reading Peter Temple. Admittedly I'm prepped to notice gold stickers on items from perusing wine bottles:)

    Anyway a while back I kept seeing his book everywhere…and heard a little buzz. Too much buzz and I get perversely resistant. Read, ' Broken Shore' and then searched out his backlist. Et voila new to me awesome writer via an awards list.

    This is a link to an interview transcript he did when he also won The Golden Dagger,

    I hadn't realised before that he spent his first 30 odd years in South Africa. Makes me wonder if this helped him write of Australia as clearly as he does.

    Allison good luck with the deadline. Maybe a certain amount of chaos is the juice that keeps you firing away? I know since I've kicked things up a notch I'm having more fun and embracing more of a why the hell not attitude.

  9. PK the Bookeemonster

    I've not checked the lists, but I have a question. Does the nominees for book awards reflect what's going on in our society/culture? Are there insights to be discovered in hindsight?

  10. KDJames

    I have found new-to-me writers and also realized a familiar writer has a new book out due to award lists. But I wouldn't say it's a significant source compared to others.

    I said it in an eariler comment, but congratulations again on the RITA news! Hope you are able to carve out some quality writing time soon. Your schedule just boggles my mind.

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