Thanks to all of you who wrote and said you were eagerly waiting the Scorpion sequel.  Alas, the machinery of publishing moves slowly and the book won’t be out until Fall, 2013.  I had hoped it would appear this year.  Here is what happens when I send a book in.  First, the editor (Dick Jackson) reads through the manuscript and tells me what mistakes I have made and which things are unclear.  I may have got someone’s age wrong or had plants growing at the wrong time of year.  There are usually very few mistakes.  Then he tells me to write scenes to clear things up.  This time he only wanted two scenes and I did them in an afternoon.  We argued about the title.  God’s Ashtray was too provocative, he said.  He suggested some titles and I said they were wimpy.  We finally agreed on The Lord of Opium.  So far so good.  This is the stage we are at now.

Now the manuscript goes to a copy editor who picks out the spelling and grammatical mistakes.  Spelling is my weak point and so there are usually a lot of those.  She also tries to rearrange my writing to make it look like everyone else’s style.  This I refuse to do.  I have a reason for word order, usually because of how it sounds musically.  I also put in punctuation marks for musical reasons.  A long pause gets a period, a shorter one a semicolon, still shorter gets a comma and shortest of all gets a dash.  To hell with grammar.  The manuscript is sent to me with little yellow post-its all over the pages to tell me where I messed up.  I hate getting the little yellow post-its, but I have to do it anyway.

The manuscript goes back and forth to the publisher, gets read several more times until everyone is satisfied.  I get the final copy before publishing.  Meanwhile, the marketing department is discussing how much they will spend on advertising the book.  They will send out advance copies to reviewers to get the buzz going.  The Lord of Opium will be, as they put it, the crown jewel of the Fall, 2013, catalogue.  Everyone is very excited about it.  I am pleased.

The timing of publishing is important.  Books that publishers are unsure of get published in Spring.  Beach books are produced in Summer and seasonal books come out just before a holiday.  Prime time is Fall.  Sometimes a publisher will decide a book can’t make money and CANCEL the printing.  This is devastating to an author, but it happens.  Adult books have only three months after publication to get noticed and sell.  If it doesn’t do well right away, the books get pulped.  This is also devastating to an author.  Children’s and YA novels have about a year to prove themselves.

This is probably kind of boring information, but some of you might want to know why it takes so long for The Lord of Opium to come out.  I worked extremely hard on this book – eight hours of actual writing with cooking and housework to do afterwards.  I did this seven days a week for three months without a single break.  And it was bad for me.  I didn’t know people could work themselves to death.  The Japanese call it karoshi, which means work-to-death.  The problem is common enough there for them to have a word for it.  After I finished the book I had a slight stroke and wound up in the hospital.  The doctor told me to spend three weeks in bed and I slept for five days straight.  When you create stuff all day you can’t sleep at night and I was sleep starved.  It has taken me a while to recover, but now I’m okay.

The Arizona monsoon started early and while the rest of the country swelters, we have lovely weather.  Bugs, snakes and lizards have appeared from nowhere.  Flowers bloomed.  Javelinas, coyotes, deer and rabbits have shown up.  And the thunderstorms are spectacular!  I love thunderstorms.  I’ll end this note with a couple of the birds in our yard.


Gambel's Quail