New starts are associated with blank slates, a clear, fresh beginning. But in my experience, new starts follow deeply worn patterns of behavior, new in a way, but also comfortingly familiar.
Like many authors, I have two jobs. I write, but I also teach American government classes at a local university. That means the start of every new year also signals the start of a new semester. And if you think New Year’s Eve is crazy . . .
As the semester launches, the campus crawls with students, many upperclassmen who greedily embrace old friends and lug their well-worn backpacks from class to class. Plenty, though, are newbies, frantically trying to find classrooms amidst all the campus construction (because heaven forbid they be caught using a map), suffering sticker shock at the price of their textbooks, wondering if they really need to buy those books after all. All of them are frantically trying to change their schedules around to accommodate and change in major, to satisfy one last forgotten graduation requirement, or to avoid the dreaded 8 AM lecture.
On the surface, it’s chaos, but for vets like me and most of my colleagues, there’s a comforting rhythm to the beginning of the semester, a satisfying to do list that keeps us busy but that can also be ticked off one item at a time: draft syllabi, order the aforementioned expensive textbooks, set up the online course management system, figure out how to set just the right tone on the first day of the term. Again, it’s work, but it’s also routine.
I find that writing a new book, is much the same way. Some of the characters are upperclassmen who slip easily into their roles, while others are new and in need of shaping. And there are a satisfying list of things to be done before the actual writing begins: draft an outline, do some research, set a schedule to help meet deadlines, and getting into the right frame of mind to write.
That’s where I am right now. I just finished a draft of the second book in my Pet Boutique Mysteries, and now I’m facing the blank page that—in about 70,000 words—will become book number three. As a result, I’m wrapped up in all those “getting ready” details. My thoughts are tangled up in who’s going to die, how, and why. I’m constantly running to Google to check some fact or figure. I’ve got my schedule worked out. And most importantly, I’m getting into the right frame of mind: purging all the clutter that built up during Book 2, getting a haircut and taking care of medical appointments, and then a message to kick things off in style.
I have two blank slates before me: a semester and a page. Each offer a wealth of possibilities, and chance to do things differently, better. But each start with a time-tested ritual of preparation that lays the groundwork for all the possibility to come.
What do you do when you’re setting off on a new project or adventure?
While Annie Knox does not commit–or solve–murders in real life, her love of animals is 100% real. She’s also passionately devoted to 80s music, Asian horror films, and reality TV. Annie, her husband, and their spoiled cats (Todd, Iphy, and Squeak-a-doodle) make their home in a small town in north Texas, just blocks from the town’s courthouse square.
You can find Annie online and in bookstores everywhere. We’re happy she could be here!! Don’t forget to answer the question or just leave a comment to say hello and you’ll be entered to win January’s Heart-shaped Giveaway. 😀
Izzy McHale is on the brink of launching her new business, a pet boutique called Trendy Tails, when she winds up on the wrong side of Sherry Harper, Merryville, Minnesota’s resident trust fund baby and social activist. With Sherry threatening to picket Trendy Tails’s grand opening, Izzy’s worried her business will fail before it officially opens. But the night of the big event, Sherry Harper is found dead in the alley behind Izzy’s store and suspect number one is her best friend, Rena Hamilton. Izzy and her friends and family have to solve the mystery of Sherry’s murder before Rena gets sent up the river for a crime she didn’t commit.
Paws for Murder is the first in the new Pet Boutique Mystery series… READ AN EXCERPT HERE.
“This … series debut delivers a delightful mix of well-written characters and a plot that keeps readers hanging on until the very end. Readers will feel as though they are in Merryville playing a part in the mystery that unfolds.” ~ Romantic Times (four stars)
“Annie Knox has created a warm, funny, flawed, but completely endearing sleuth in Izzy McHale, and I’m already panting for the next book in the series.” ~ N.Y. Times Bestselling Author Miranda James