A Few Words About Writing & “At Any Cost”

I guess I think of everything that sparks human imagination and industry as an art form — a vehicle to express one’s true nature, the very best thing we can do. If I was feeling Utne today I’d say: Buddha nature.

There are children who know Politics the moment they draw breath, this deep somatic understanding of Power and where it happens to be, a divining rod. Or they draw money to themselves with some weird green magnet. There are children who are discovered by watercolor paintbrushes, the things leap into their hands and speak in squeaky color bubble language and years later these children will say they can’t explain it, it was always this way for them.

Writing was that way for me. It was something that I always did, without thought or care or doubt. I did it because I enjoyed it. My first novel-sized book, at 300 handwritten pages, was produced when I was 14. I have generally written a novel every year since then. In 2002, I wrote God’s Country. That was the first book I thought I could publish. I did indeed get an agent, one of the biggest names in the industry, in fact, but publishers wouldn’t bite. At least one said that strong female characters simply wouldn’t sell. Um… okay. Even worse, it was a woman who said that.

Anyway, I put that novel away and began to write other things. In 2008 I began to work on a book that was called, at the time, The Detail. It was based on my then-boyfriend, who was a Secret Service agent. I found his work fascinating, though he said 99% of his workday was just like any other job, with boredom inter-spliced with some cool stuff every once in a while. Even so, I enjoyed what he told me of the job. He was able to take me on an Oval Office tour, which was amazing, and I got to meet President Bush three times at the annual White House Christmas Party. I also got to hang out with him at the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004 and see, generally, how things worked. All these small details went into At Any Cost. I want verisimilitude in all my books, and this one was no exception.

I put this book down and picked it up half a dozen times. In 2010, I found my current awesome agent, Jason Anthony, with Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. Unless something goes really sideways, he’s my forever agent. We have a great relationship. It is truly a partnership, and my interactions with him are respectful, honest and utterly relaxed, even when we disagree over something. I tend to write extremely fast, and in my haste I miss words, misspell words (“their” for “there” and whatnot), write sentences that sound beautiful in my head but make it to the page sounding like someone ran over them with a truck. Jason cleans all that up. He is an old fashoioned agent; he really takes care to give editorial direction before we send anything out to publishers.

He’s helped me polish and re-write At Any Cost countless times. In February, he sold the book plus a sequel to Diversion Books. Hooray! At Any Cost will be published on May 26 and the sequel later in the autumn. Pre-Order it now on iTunes!

Meanwhile, here are some Secret Service artifacts:

This is me, with the flu. Let me repeat: I HAD THE FLU WHEN THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN. I look awful and I felt awful. But vanity be damned, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to stand at that podium, no matter how bad I looked:


The menu aboard Air Force One:

And the menu of the entertainment library aboard Air Force One:

And some matches on Air Force One:

And some presidential M&Ms, again, aboard Air Force One:

Ticket to campaign event in Ohio:

During the White House Christmas Party one year, I happen to be in the right place at the right time. It was after the formal photos were taken (in mine, with President Bush and Laura, my eyes are closed. Can you believe that bad luck?!). President Bush walked down a hallway and I managed to squeeze off two pictures before he departed.

Some pictures of the White House for the Christmas Party can be found on my Flickr page.

A White House invitation to a summer event:

I think I grabbed these in the Executive Office Building:

And a Secret Service party. There were some great demos:

From the Secret Service party:

Suitcase bomb:

Bomb robot:

Bomb robot:

Car demo:

Another car demo:

Motorcycle demo:

President Bush’s first limousine:

A Secret Service ambulance:

If you pre-order the book now you can be one of the first to see how these things play into the novel.

It is an exciting world to dip into and in my future novels, you will see more of it.

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