Doin’ Nuthin’

by Barb, who’s been enjoying a glorious February in Key West

I handed in the manuscript for the seventh Maine Clambake Mystery, as well as the manuscript for my second holiday novella, on February 1. It has been a crazy year full of moving and other things and I worried I wouldn’t make my deadline.

But then I did and since then I have been taking time off.

The Cat Man at Sunset

For whatever reason over the last several years I’ve always had a deadline at the end of our time in Key West. (Even though the deadlines changed and the amount of time we spent here changed.) I’m not boo-hooing. Key West is a great place to write and I reward myself with time in the pool at the end of every writing day. But there was always pressure and never enough time to do everything we wanted.

So I have really enjoyed this time. We’ve had house guests. Sherry Harris, who writes the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries, (there’s a new one, I Know What You Bid Last Summer, out tomorrow!) and her husband Bob spent a few days. Sherry had the same February 1, deadline so we both were goofing off, though we did manage to find time to solve all the problems of the publishing business and the world.

Why did the iguana cross the road?

And then we had a week with family, our son Rob, daughter-in-law Sunny and their wonderful four year-old, Viola. Guests get Bill and I to do touristy things we wouldn’t do otherwise, like going to the daily sunset celebration, the beach, Fort Zachary, out for breakfasts and boat rides. Viola is a water baby, so there are at least two “whole family swims” everyday.

Shrimp boats

I’ve had things to do, of course. The synopsis for Book 8 is due March 15, so I’ve been noodling, making lists of scenes and characters. The working title is Sealed Off, and Viola and I read books about harbor seals. She loves to be read to, but seems to especially enjoy that it was for “my work.” She wanted to know if I needed to research mermaids for any reason, because she was definitely up for that.


I’m doing a presentation for the Friends of the Key West Library on March 12, so I’ve been thinking about that presentation as well. And, as always, taking care of writerly administrivia.

The most important thing I’ve done is emptied my brain. It took a few days to do it. After spending ten hours a day with my characters in the last two weeks before my deadline, at first I felt a little lonely and lost without them.

Bill and Viola both take photos

But then I was grateful for the quiet, the time to think and process. Downtime makes me more creative, braver, more willing to push the envelope when I get back at it.

In March, I dive back in again, but I’m so happy I had this time.

Note: Before I dive back in, I’ll be back in Portland for this evening of staged readings of adapted works my Maine crime writers at the Portland Stage. Love to see you there!

All photos by Sunny T. Basham Carito.

About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at
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7 Responses to Doin’ Nuthin’

  1. Lea Wait says:

    Sounds like heaven, Barb! Lea (who’s still working on her book due February 1 but hopes to finish it before she sees you next week!)

  2. Thank you so much for having us. Key West was like being in some weird time warp where reality ended. It was so relaxing. And what a beautiful place with so much interesting history.

  3. I have March 5 on my calendar!

  4. sandy says:

    Oh Barb….love all the pics, esp the lizard on the rock. Nothing says Key West quite the same way. Was thinking though, pretty sure I’d be tempted off to other tasks and get nothing done. Good for you! Role model……

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