Don't write every day

Writers are often told they should write every day, and that's good advice for those who are just getting started and trying to build the habit. But it's important to take breaks, too, especially for those of us who've been writing books a long time.

I'm at one of those breaks now. I finished revisions of my most recent crime novel in late January and sent it off to my agent. I don't know what I'll write next or when I'll start. I'm mostly trying not to think about it.

The brain needs rest. The body needs recovery time (more and more, as you get older). And the writer needs to tend to the real world -- the car maintenance and household chores and friendships that have been neglected while the latest manuscript took up all time and brainpower.

Even when I'm not writing, being an author keeps me busy. For one thing, I'm teaching more than ever. Along with my weekly Honors College class at the University of New Mexico, I've made presentations in recent months at the Tony Hillerman Writing Seminar and at SouthWest Writers. Next fall, I'm slated to teach two Honors classes at UNM, so I've got some planning and prep to do over the summer.

Later this month, I'll be on two panels at Left Coast Crime in Phoenix. Left Coast is my favorite mystery conference, just the right size, and it's always fun to see my poker pals.

On April 9, I'll be one of the presenters at UNM Continuing Education's Writers Conference, where I'll talk about self-publishing. It's been a while since I self-published a book, but that route remains a comforting backstop for authors at all experience levels.

While my agent is shopping around my latest manuscripts, I'm still promoting the Duke City crime novels, which were published by Penguin Random House's mystery e-book line, Alibi, under my pen name, Max Austin. The third one, DUKE CITY DESPERADO, came out last June, and has been a hit with reviewers. Check it out here.

Soon, I know, some new idea will take root in my brain, and I'll get the creative fever and I'll start a new novel. Once I begin, I'll write (nearly) every day until it's done. But for now, I'm savoring the break between books.