Books are the gateway to imagination

Books are the gateway to imagination
Morgan welcomes you to her personal blog

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Working on the "Writers' Tricks of the Trade" book

After I read through the plotting notes for the new Diamonds in the Dumpster Silver Sisters caper, I realized we needed to add a scene to Chapter 1. Phyllice has a slightly different idea, so I'm waiting for her to wrap her head around it so we can begin writing the book. It is so great that we decided how we would treat different approaches or ideas when we first began writing together. It is truly a delight to write with my sister.

Writers Tricks of the Trade
39 Things You Need to Know About the ABCs of Writing Fiction
This is the rough of the cover by the very talented illustrator Scott Garrett. Can't wait to see the final

The manuscript is back from the editor with a few corrections. She offered a couple of very valid suggestions that I agree with, so I've begun to read through it again and make some minor adjustments.

The book is moving along on schedule and I really feel confident it will be out before the end of the year. I've said this over and over and even devote some space in the book to the necessity to allow a manuscript to get cold. It is so important to reread it before commiting it to the final draft.

As I read through Tricks of the Trade, I spot those places where it could be one bit better, maybe something that was repititious and should be cut or adjusted or changing an example because I've found a better one. Maybe just a little tightening. Yes, there has to be a point where you stop, and I'm rapidly approaching it, but just this one more time...

Another thing. When I put the manuscript through spellcheck before sending it to the editor, I was really amazed at how many valid things were caught. Like double words, missing letters and transpositions. It is so weird how the eye doesn't always catch these. I've said it before and I'll say it again. The eye often sees what the mind thinks it should see. While some spellcheck suggestions are way off base, it's invaluable to have it catch the little faux pas you dont really see.
Okay, that said, I've got to get out of the house today! Since I got back from Oregon, I've been at the computer working on a myriad of things nonstop. I planned to do things on Tuesday and Wednesday, but all of a sudden it was evening and I was still at the keys.

Right now my mouth is watering for a Jewish delight - a nice lox and creamcheese sandwich on a good bagel. I'm heading to Noah's because theirs is wonderful and half the price of a deli. Then, back to working on Tricks of the Trade when I return.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


My sojourn to McMinnville is over and I'm back in Marina Del Rey CA. This is the first time in many years I've flown with Southwest, and I have to say they definitely get it right. At least for this trip. By paying a modest $10 fee each way, they automatically check you in which gives you a preferred position in line. I was number 22 coming back from Portland and got exactly the seat I love: Row 6 on the aisle. They don't charge for luggage---BTW today's L.A. Times reported that luggage fees now account for about $3.4 BILLION dollars a year.

I always look for non-stop flights, but this time I took one with stopovers in Oakland CA (don't get off the plane) in each direction Why? It was more than $200 cheaper than the competing airlines, and don't forget the lack of fees for luggage. These people have the efficiency of Disneyland when it comes to moving crowds. Within 25 minutes the Oakland passengers were off the plane, the Los Angeles ones on and we were in the air. We arrived in Los Angeles at 10:23 p.m.--7 minutes ahead of schedule. Kudos to Southwest!

This morning after setting up my laptop I realized the thing I missed the most while at my sister Phyllice's house was typing on a keyboard rather than directly on the laptop. Talk about frustration. I'm simply not used to using the keyboard on the laptop and the cursor kept jumping around creating some very unusual words like seboardtting-- see what I mean. Anyway, it's always good to go and good to come back, particularly when I'm able to come back with 30 outline pages of a fully plotted Silver Sisters mystery. We actually managed to stay on point despite gossip sessions, rerun episodes of Law and Order, Numbers and Bones, and the insanity of Phyllice's house with people coming and going. Yep. We have our plot.

When we are together, it always reinforces how much alike we are in some ways, even to the extent of events in our lives paralleling, and how different we are in other ways. As Phyllice sometimes puts it, she is the country mouse like Goldie Silver and I'm the city slicker like Godiva Olivia DuBois.

We also spent some time reminiscing about our Uncle Sol, the perennial youth. In his seventies, Uncle Sol was still going on 17 in spirit. He was the spot of sunshine in a day and could make generations of kids and adults laugh. Some of the humor in our books comes from his antics and we both agreed that as kids we didn't realize the gift he gave us of looking at situations with a positive eye, always infused with laughter. After my father died when Phyllice was 12 and I was 17, he was sort of a surrogate dad for several years. He used to call himself the voice of reason and that's what we gave the Silver Sisters' uncle Sterling Silver.

That's all for now.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


I've been in McMinnville Oregon since last Tuesday so Phyllice and I can plot the next Silver Sisters Mystery, "Diamonds in the Dumpster." We have been putting in lots of hours and today she is in her booth at the Saturday market so I have time to do some catch-up.

I'm a big city person, splitting my time between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and being in a small town like McMinneville Oregon is always a relaxing experience. Life goes at a slower pace. Phyllice lives a block from the main drag, 3rd Street, and the gallery where her artwork is exhibited is just a block and a half away. It's nice to be here during the time that she is the featured artist for the month. Her wall comes down just after the time I return to L.A. and then her work will be dispersed throughout the Currents Gallery and another artist gets the big wall.

Last night we took a nice walk from one end of the main street to the other, stopping along the way at a brew pub to have some dinner. The only movie theater in town is an intimate back room of a restaurant where they show second or third run movies. Life is definitely a different pace. There was an actual theater at one time, but I guess it didn't make it. Tonight we plan to go hear some music at the hotel on 3rd.

In addition to everything else she does, Phyllice has turned her big old house into a guest house so there are always an assortment of characters present, from the wine distributor who lives in the garage and takes care of the garden, to the cop in the attic. The house is about 4,000 s.f. and over 100 years old, and totally wonderful. She has turned the downstairs into a small boutique shop called Katz and Dawgs and uses the huge dining room as her art studio. Occasionally, people who come in to browse also buy one or two Silver Sisters books. Yesterday a couple from Astoria WA bought A Corpse in the Soup and Seven Deadly Samovars. They now have rare copies autographed by both of us. That's pretty unusual since we're not together that often.

McMinnville is the home of Evergreen Aviation and the Evergreen Aviation Museum. If you ever get into this area, that is a must see. It's where the Spruce Goose has been housed for the past several years in a building designed specifically for it. The Museum has now expanded to 3 buildings and they just added a water slide like none in the world. They hefted a 737 to the top of the building and it is the entrance and part of the slide. Imagine that. It will be a huge attraction. They take some of the vintage planes to the airfield across the road sometimes and fly them.

Well, time to get myself together and walk over to the market to see what my Sis is up to. She's a big fish in the little pond in McMinnville, and many people in town know her. I'm lucky if my neighbors on my own street know me! When we went to dinner the other night a Silver Sisters fan approached us saying she recognized us from our website photo. She had seen Phyllice at art shows as well. Ah. Celebrity!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I was not meant to get up at 4:45 in the morning!

Yesterday I got up at 4:45 in the morning to catch an early flight to Portland OR. I'd decided to try Southwest because not only were they almost $200 cheaper than the other carriers but they also didn't charge for checked luggage. For an extra $10 each way I was able to buy priority check in so they automatically check you in when the flight is available. Let me state here, without qualification, I AM NOT AN EARLY MORNING PERSON.

Once at LAX, I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The check in was swift--I was number 40 and able to get my preferred aisle seat, the flight attendants were courteous and had a great sense of humor and we arrived on time. Wow. What a concept.

Anyway, I arrived at 10:30 because we had a stop in Oakland. I was met by my sister Phyllice. How great to see her. I'm here in McMinnville OR because we are plotting the next Silver Sisters crime caper, but of course we tooled around Portland yesterday after meeting my nephew for lunch. The servings were so big at Gravy, that we also had unknowlingly purchased our dinners.

Back here at Phyllice's 100+ year old house in the cute town of McMinnville we continued our sister catch-up since we hadn't seen each other in almost two years. That's a long time for us. However, by about 8:30 that evening my ass was dragging. Still, had to watch America's Got Talent and White Collar. Somewhere in the middle of the night I realized that the warm form next to my legs was Phyllice's Bengal cat who has taken a liking to me and now follows me around.

Today it is time to work and begin to figure out who does what to whom and why. Ah, pursuit of the crime and mapping it all out. It is a good thing we decided early on what the ground rules would be because I see we have slightly divergent ideas for Diamonds in the Dumpster. This afternoon will be interesting as we figure out what will be happening with Godiva's new boyfriend, how Flossie and Sterling get invoved (and as always, in trouble) and what the title is really hinting at.

More later about how this is all progressing. It is such a change of pace to be in a small town. I'm a big city girl and can handle small towns for a week or two. This time it's for a week.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Being a workaholic is both good and bad. The good is that you really get things done. Not feeling that hot? It's midnight and you're still not done? What a beautiful day for a drive, but the article isn't done? Workaholics are driven to finish what they start. They truly believe their own commitments. I should know. I've been one all my life. Nope--haven't even been sober for a day!

Back when I was an interior designer, my partner always made time for the things she wanted to do. Me? I kept hacking away until the job was done. Then I would have time for the other stuff. Never mind that it was 8 or 9 o'clock. I'd finished the floor plan, or drawing or whatever other thing compelled me to keep working.

I kept the same discipline when I became Director of Design for a developer. Ten hour days were the norm, and somehow I managed to make time for my kids, too. I set up a design department from scratch, developed all of the systems and procedures, hired, trained and supervised staff and in the process designed some damn good model homes.

On to  sales and marketing of design projects --- I worked on projects for a variety of companies, involving anything and everything from fast food restaurant interiors to major office jobs. At one point I covered the 11 Western states for a Canadian firm, one of the five approved interiors suppliers for McDonalds. I was design liaison for their eateries from the beaches to the mountains, and flew into some city 3 to 4 times a week. My neighbors thought I was a flight attendant, albeit one dragging a huge portfolio. A typical day, including travel time, averaged about 15 hours. Occasionally I made an overnight trip to Windsor, Canada. I'd fly from Los Angeles into Detroit, rent a car, and drive through the tunnel to Canada. Then I'd have my meeting the next morning followed by a flight back to L.A. Needless to say, my internal clock was really messed up by all the time zones in such a short time.

 Later I changed to representing a comany in Irvine, CA. and worked with other concepts like Burger King, Denny's, Tony Roma's, Pollo Loco, Arbys and more. At least corporate meetings were in California.

I won't bore you with the details of my journey from interior design, sales and marketing to writing but there were several more stops along the way. Suffice to say that the habits linger. Yesterday wasn't one of my best. I really felt a little punk. But my manuscript for Writers Tricks of the Trade called to me.

The voice in my head screamed, "Hey, it's me, your manuscript. I'm supposed to go the editor by June 15. That won't happen if you don't finish me." So I forced myself through eight hours of working on it. I must say, and this sounds strange, I'm learning from my own manuscript.

Sometimes as writers, we put the words on the paper without absorbing the full meaning of what we've written. I'm glad I didn't let up the guard yesterday, because as I re-read a few of the chapters, I realized I had to follow my own advice and make some changes to a manuscript.

Today I'm feeling great. Wonder how many hours I'll put in. It's a beautiful day for a drive. Hmmm, I still have to write my column, the manuscript beckons, and--- what the heck --- maybe I'll take the drive after all.