In Chapter 23 of Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, divorce attorney John Ward makes a joke about a drink make with ginger ale, and then later suggests a cocktail called The Willful Deserter, which describes some of his clients. I put those two ideas together to offer up this delightful variation on a Moscow Mule.
The Willful Deserter
Juice of ½ lime
2 oz pineapple juice
2 oz vodka
4 oz ginger beer (such as Reed’s Ginger Beer)
Sprig of mint for garnish
Pineapple slice or lime slice for garnish
Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake well with ice. Pour into a glass filled with crushed ice, top with ginger beer, and garnish.
And…there’s a cocktail for every book in the Kopp Sisters series! You can find them all here.
“I have an idea for a book, but I don’t know where to start.”
People ask writers for advice on starting a book all the time. I’m sure a lot of writers get tired of trying to answer that question. There you are, behind a table at a booksigning, at the end of a long evening, trying to summarize the incredibly messy and frustrating process of making 300 pages come together as a coherent whole while a dozen other people wait in line to get their book signed. Where to begin?
But I have an answer to this question! Last week, when a woman at my event in Wisconsin told me that she wanted to write a memoir but didn’t know where to start, I told her exactly where to start.
With a box of index cards.
Pick a month in which you don’t have tremendous demands on your time and attention. Every day during that month, write down any idea you have about this book you’d like to write and toss it in a box. These can be grand ideas (“The story of my grandparents’ immigration from Poland”) or small ideas (“That time I put salt in the cake batter instead of sugar.”) Some of them might not be suitable for the book you’re going to write. Some of them might be too big, too broad, overly vague. Some might be too small and specific and uninteresting.
Doesn’t matter! They’re only index cards. Write them down anyway, and toss them in the box.
If you have a very busy day in which you have no time to write anything down on an index card, force yourself to take one minute and write one thing down on one index card. C’mon, you had time to brush your teeth, right? You have time for this.
If you hit a mother lode and come up with 40 ideas all at once, great! Write them down on 40 index cards and put them in the box.
If an idea hits you and you don’t have an index card handy, write it down on any scrap of paper. Type it into the notes app on your phone. Email it to yourself. Leave yourself a voice mail. And at the end of the day, transfer those ideas to index cards. There is something powerful and cumulative about writing your ideas down, in the same format, every day.
At the end of the month, I hope you have HUNDREDS of cards. You should keep adding cards all the time. Don’t stop just because the month is over.
Now what? Well, remember, this is the short version, the standing-in-line-at-the-booksigning version. But the next thing you should do is to pull out an index card and write ONE PAGE about what’s on that card. Tell the story, whatever it is, no matter how big or small it is.
Just one page. A double-spaced page, at that! We’re talking 300 words. Anybody can get 300 words down on paper.
Writing this page might give you more ideas for more index cards. Good.
You might not get the whole story written in one page. Fine. Write two pages. Or (even better) leave yourself a few notes and come back tomorrow to write another page.
Don’t worry about where that page falls in the chronological timeline of your story. In fact, I hope you write everything out of order. It’ll be fresh and interesting that way.
If you can write one page a day–a double-spaced page!–then at the end of the year, you’ll have a book. That even allows for some days off for holidays, illness, whatever.
Now, I promise you that it’ll be a terrible book, a real mess, and it’ll be completely out of order, and there will be a million things about it that are wrong and out of whack and in need of some serious fixing–but now you have some pages to work with.
That’s how you start.
I’m about to leave on book tour (please come see me!). Every year I post a picture of my compact suitcase, and every year some of you ask me to explain what’s in that suitcase–in other words, how I manage to live out of a tiny suitcase for three weeks, when I have to get up in front of an audience and look halfway presentable every night.
I never do answer those questions, because I feel weird talking about clothes. I deeply, seriously, do not care about clothes. Clothes shouldn’t matter, right? It’s what’s inside that counts.
But…you know…we do all wear clothes. It’s a practical matter we all deal with.
So. You asked. I’ll tell you how I do it. Your mileage may vary.
No matter how long the trip, I only pack for three days.
That means I take a travel day outfit, one book tour outfit, and a second book tour outfit. This rule doesn’t just apply to business trips–I do it on long vacations to Europe, too. Think of it this way: There’s the outfit you’re wearing, the one you’re going to wear tomorrow (which is clean) and the one you wore yesterday, part of which might be hanging up to dry in the hotel bathroom after you washed it out in the sink. (That’s what hotel shower gel is for.)
Plus a few extras.
Any suitcase can hold more than two outfits, so you can throw in some extras depending on the season. The extras include: Pajamas (bonus points if those can double as workout/coffee shop attire, such as yoga pants and a t-shirt), an extra sweater or jacket if it’s winter, and/or a couple of extremely lightweight, quick-dry tops if it’s summer.
Everything goes together.
For me that means black, white, plus a color like navy or dark red. Examples:
Travel day: These Athleta pants (which are as comfortable as leggings or pajamas but with pockets and a bit more substanial–I’m not a fan of wearing workout clothes on the airplane). They would, in a pinch, look just fine onstage or at a reception. These ExOfficio tunics or a Uniqlo rayon blouse are dressier than a t-shirt but super comfortable and wash out quickly in the sink. This Athleta cardigan is warm enough to get me in & out of an airport on a winter day, and presentable enough to wear anywhere. If you’re going to travel with a bulky sweater or jacket, that needs to be your travel day outfit because it might not fit in your suitcase and besides, airplanes are cold.
Book Tour #1: I love this dress from Brassor this one, both of which look great over their ponte pants and can be layered up with a sweater, jacket, blouse underneath (or even just a thermal layer underneath, which I do if I’m going to be in a chilly convention center, for instance). Impervious to wrinkles, quick dry. Bonus: The ponte pants with any shirt can be an extra back-up outfit for days off.
Book Tour #2: I have these pants from Brass but really any somewhat dressy no-wrinkle black pants are good. I wear them with this blouse and maybe a sweater or jacket. I also love Uniqlo’s rayon blouses in both short and long sleeves and pack a couple of these as “extras” because they weigh nothing and dry so quickly.
My style might not be your style, but take a look at Brass for dressy/business travel, Ex Officio or Eddie Bauer Travex or Athleta for vacationwear, and believe it or not, even shops like Chico’s have a travel line. Not my style, but there are a couple basics there I would wear in a pinch.
Extras: Regardless of the weather, my extras almost always include one of Uniqlo’s linen shirts because they’re great when it’s hot, fine when it’s cold, dry quickly, and they’re supposed to look wrinkled. I always take a couple of neutral t-shirts I could wear under a sweater or jacket and still look presentable. I also love Uniqlo’s Airismand Heattechunderthings. In winter if I were to take an extra sweater, it would be a dressy V-neck like this that would look fine at any sort of function, in a color that works with whatever shirts I’m traveling with.
Maximum two pairs of shoes.
Those are the shoes you wear on the plane and on your days off, and the shoes you wear the rest of the time. For years I never traveled with an extra pair of shoes–I wore the same leather Clarks every day. That’s even better. Trust me, you are not going to lose your shoes! You don’t need a back-up pair.
These Dansko Franny shoes go with everything in my suitcase, pants and dresses. I could get by with only these, but…
…these days I try to get some exercise every day while I’m on the road, so I wear these ultra-lightweight slip-on, ridiculously comfortable Sketchers. These are my airport/day off shoes, and I pack the Danskos.
I don’t pack for extreme weather.
Book tours are not outdoorsy affairs. I’m mostly dashing from airport to hotel to bookstore and back. I don’t pack a heavy coat or an umbrella. I do take a scarf (which goes with all the outfits) and a knit cap to protect my hair from weather. If I’m flying into truly terrible weather, I’ll take a lightweight raincoat like this, but again, it’s just to keep the rain/snow off while I’m dashing to the car. Mostly I try not to travel in bad weather!
I love travel cubes.
One for my two outfits and extras, and the other for pajamas and underclothes. Get the kind with a clean side and a dirty side so you can keep track of what you need to wash.
In the last year and a half, I’ve held a series of art auctions to benefit groups like Planned Parenthood, Pro Publica, and the American Refugee Committee. With your help, I was able to donate over $9000 to groups that were fighting the good fight. But as we move closer to election season, I know that what matters most is electing good people to office.
That’s why I’m dedicating my latest batch of paintings–32 in all–to Swing Left’s Immediate Impact Fund. These funds will go to district races around the country where they can have the biggest impact. I’ll donate 100% of the purchase price of all of these paintings, and if you win a painting, I’ll enclose a donation receipt so you can see the total amount that you helped to raise.
Auctioning off paintings for a good cause has also been good for me. I’m determined not to worry and fret over world affairs every minute of the day. So I spend some time making art, and I sell that art to benefit causes I believe in. The paintings you see here represent every single work of art I’ve made since I moved to Portland last fall. (Well, except the stuff in my sketchbooks, which are just for me.) To see more of my art, check out Instagram.
Go here to see all the paintings and to place a bid. Please, tell your friends, bid early and often, and help me raise some money!
Our contest is now CLOSED! Thanks, everybody, for entering. If you happen to just be in love with our prizes and desperately want one, you can order one for yourself here.
The fourth installment in the Kopp Sisters series is here! Well, almost. It’ll be released in September, but if you’d like to pre-order your copy now, I’ll send you a present! Here’s how it works:
If you pre-order a copy of the fourth Kopp Sisters novel, Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, I’ll mail you a signed bookplate AND you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a Miss (or Mr., or Ms) Just Won’t Quit t-shirt of your very own. Or you can have a coffee mug. Or coasters.
- Pre-order from your favorite bookseller. (links here)
- Forward your email receipt, or snap a photo, to promo@amy stewart.com with CONTEST in the subject line.
- Include your shipping address! This one’s important!
- I will mail you a bookplate with one of the characters’ real signature (in the form of a rubber stamp) and mine.
- I’ll also enter you in a drawing to win one of our fabulous personalized prizes. (You can actually just buy one if you want to. But winning is so much fun!)
- US only, enter by Aug 31. Winner announced by Sept. 10.
I am beyond thrilled to share the news that Girl Waits with Gun and the rest of the Kopp Sisters series is officially in development for the small screen. Elizabeth Banks’ production company, Brownstone Productions, in partnership with Warner Studios, has made a deal with Amazon for a drama series based on the novels.
The project is in the hands of two very funny and talented screenwriters, and I can’t wait to see what they do with it!
Read all about it here, and watch this space for more news when I have it!
The paperback edition of MISS KOPP’S MIDNIGHT CONFESSIONS is out today, and to celebrate, I’m giving away a box of books and swag on my Facebook page. Head over there to enter by Friday, May 4, and remember that there are always more giveaways going on in my email newsletter.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might’ve noticed that I’ve been posting a lot of sketches lately. Sketching is a delightful pastime that also happens to be highly portable, especially if you have a small and simple set of art supplies that can go with you everywhere.
I get a lot of questions about what art supplies I use, so here’s the answer. I’m including links to purchase online, but only because you can see a clear photo of each item. I encourage you to buy your supplies locally! Your local art supply store will be there when you need it–when you run out of ink or paper right before you’re about to head out on a sketching trip–but they can only be there when you need them IF you buy from them all the time! They can order all this stuff.
A mechanical pencil. My favorite: the Pentel Quicker Clicker with a side click button. Buy lots of extra HB refills and store them in the pencil.
OR: An HB drawing pencil and portable sharpener. Or just an ordinary No 2 pencil.
A kneadable grey eraser
BLACK DRAWING PENS—DO NOT GET WATER-SOLUBLE! You want permanent ink.
.8 thickness Steadtler permanent drawing liner (or similar brand)
AND .3 or smaller Steadtler permanent drawing liner (or similar brand)
BLACK BRUSH PEN
If you’re not going to be flying to sketching locations, get the amazing Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
If you will be flying, or if you just want a cheaper option, get a PERMANENT (not water-soluble) SB (“soft brush”) artist marker in black, such as the Faber-Castell Artist Pen SB. (the thing about flying is that the Pentel Brush Pen contains real liquid ink, which might just leak under pressure on the plane. Or maybe it won’t. I haven’t tried it, to be honest.)
Any good ballpoint writing pen. My favorite: Uniball Signo 307
For practicing, a small (8 x 5 or so) spiral-bound watercolor sketchbook, like Strathmore.
For more finished sketching, the Moleksine watercolor sketchbook (make sure it fits in your bag!) or the square Pentalic sketchbook (and of course you can do bigger horizontal or vertical layouts with a square notebook, too) There are lots of options–just make sure you get paper that is meant to take watercolor.
I also like these blank watercolor postcards. You can tuck just a few in your bag and take them anywhere.
TRAVEL WATERCOLOR KIT
Field Artist Pro kit
Advantages: super portable, ring underneath you can stick your finger through, comes with decent colors, easy to refill pans with solid half-pan or tube watercolors.
Disadvantage: Plastic pans tend to slide around just a bit. I use a little blue earthquake putty to hold them in place, and I’ve replaced the pan colors with my own tube colors.
The Pocket Palette
Made by an artist. Very well thought-out. Designed for tube colors (which you would buy separately and squeeze into the pans, and then let them dry–so you don’t have to travel with the tubes). Good if you think you are really going to get into this and want beautiful tube pigments. I’ve heard that the pans tend to rust (maybe plastic really is better?) but people do seem to love this kit.
I haven’t tried it, but a lot of people use it.
Eventually you will get tired of the cheap pan watercolors and want real yummy tube watercolors, which you squeeze into the pans and let dry. Daniel Smith is everyone’s favorite–this set would be a good place to start. I would add a sap green, transparent red oxide, yellow ochre, a good purple or shadow violet, cerulean blue, and maybe another color that you just love for no obvious reason. If you want to try before you buy (and have a ridiculous amount of fun) buy the Daniel Smith Dot Cards.
Any round watercolor brush, size 6, 8, or 10. Synthetic is fine. Don’t get fancy. Here’s one example. Short-handled is better because it fits in your bag. You can also cut off a longer handle.
If you want to get fancy, get yourself the very nice Escoda travel brush (with cap! So useful!)
Or maybe you want to try a fillable watercolor brush like these.
ODDS & ENDS
PAPER TOWELS or if you tend to forget to pick up paper towels like I do, one of those cheap microfiber cleaning cloths (sold next to kitchen sponges in any kind of store). I cut mine into fourths so I can carry less.
BINDER CLIP To hold the pages of your notebook flat in the wind.
SMALL WATERTIGHT BOTTLE for brush cleaning. I use an empty travel-sized shampoo bottle.
A bag to hold it all! Make sure your bag can also hold your phone, wallet, whatever else, and is light enough that you will actually take the whole kit with you when you go places! If it’s too much trouble, you’ll leave it at home.
A few people have asked me about the online classes I’ve taken, so here are some suggestions:
Craftsy’s sketching classes are wonderful. My favorites are the ones taught by Marc Taro Holmes, Shari Blaukopf, and Suhita Shirodkar. I also love Suma CM’s class about sketching in 15 minutes a day. Steven Reddy’s style is very different from mine, but his approach really helped me figure out interiors. Stephanie Bower’s class is great if you need help with perspective. Look for others by these instructors, not just the ones I’ve linked to.
I also love Liz Steel’s Sketching Now classes, and I admire her so much for producing these herself!
Finally, Marc Taro Holmes (and many other artists) have great videos on ArtistsNetworkTV. I rented one of these and invited a couple of friends over so we could do them together. Great fun.
Hi friends! I’m leaving next week for book tour, which is a charming old custom in which writers venture from city to city like traveling salesmen, greeting the townspeople and trying to persuade them to read a book. Won’t you join me in keeping this tradition alive, and persuade a few like-minded friends in the relevant cities to join in?
The full details are right here on my website, but I also offer you this lovely tour graphic, suitable for framing:
I have a lot to celebrate today–so I’m giving stuff away on my Facebook page! Just click through by Friday, August 11 if you want to enter to win. It’ll be the top post on the page.
And thanks to all the independent booksellers for choosing Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions for the September 2017 IndieNext list! The blurb going out to bookstores comes from Wellington Square Bookshop, so to thank them, my giveaway includes a $100 gift certificate to the bookstore, redeemable from anywhere in the country.
Here’s the blurb:
Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions: A Kopp Sisters Novel, by Amy Stewart
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780544409996, $26)
“Constance Kopp is back, solving mysteries and making headlines! Deputy Kopp is a heroine of her day and continues to inspire today. Whether assisting young girls in finding their footing on a law-abiding path, using her voice to stand up for the voiceless, or fighting crime alongside her all-male counterparts, Constance Kopp is breaking with traditional female roles and navigating sometimes-stormy waters with grace, dignity, and a bit of humor. What does a feminist look like? This is what a feminist looks like!” —Donna McFadden, Wellington Square Bookshop, Exton, PA