Monday, October 14, 2013

Where We Write with Today's Guest, Author Judy Alter

Writers write in all sorts of settings with all sorts of schedules, and for some reason many readers - and other writers! - find the details fascinating. Today I welcome back Judy Alter, who writes her award-winning mysteries from her home in Texas. Come on in, see how she does it, and read about! ~ Sheila

The core of my house…and my life

By Judy Alter

I have lived in my house twenty years, a fact that amazes me and my children. When they were teenagers, we moved so frequently that one of my daughters said, “Every few years Mom gets bored, and we move again.” I was always looking for the perfect house for four teenagers and me. What I didn’t think about was office space for me

I thought all the kids would be gone when I moved into this house where I have control over space in a way I didn’t in the sprawling ranch-style where we’d been. Wrong! My oldest daughter was settled in Austin, but the others came and went. There came the empty nest day, though, when I had the house to myself. I set up an office in the middle bedroom and didn’t think about its darkness.

One day that Austin daughter called to say she had remodeled my house in her mind. I thanked her and said I pretty much liked it the way it was. Her idea was to put French doors on the bedroom off the living room—a kind of awkward place for a bedroom, and the door was off-center on one wall—and turn it into my office. The more I thought about it, the better I liked the idea. Several thousand dollars later, I had a new office, new a/c ducts, fresh paint in a major part of the house, and a new attic stairway since the contractor, now a good friend, said the old one would kill me.

I love my office. I sit at my desk and look out at the living room, or I can look out the window at the children going to school across the street; in the early morning, I keep the TODAY Show on the TV. The room is bright and sunny, with four windows, its own half bath, and lots of bookcase space (that is not as neat as I’d like). It’s where I live my life. As soon as I get morning chores done—plants watered, hair washed, teeth brushed, dog put out—I head for my desk. I check email and Facebook and read the newspaper. Then I get down to work—a manuscript, a blog post, whatever’s on my desk.  When alone, I eat my meals in front of the computer. Late at night I either read at my desk (can’t read in bed) or check Facebook, but essentially I start the day at my desk and end it there, no matter what comes in between.

I wish I could say I have regular writing times, but I don’t. I try for every morning, but lots of things get in the way—grocery runs, doctor or dentist appointments, and the like. This morning I actually wrote nearly 1500 words, and after dinner with a book group, I’ll write some more. Afternoons are a bust, because I work a bit, then nap and at three get my second-grade grandson from school across the street. We spend at least the next hour on homework, and my concentration is broken. But I often get quite a bit of work done in the evening, even if I go out to dinner. It isn’t unusual for me to work until eleven.

Best thing about my office is that Sophie, my two-year-old Bordoodle, has carved herself a place beneath my desk, at my feet, where she’ll lie contentedly much of the day. When she was little and I was training her, I kept the French doors closed and confined her to this space—she still thinks of it as home.

My dog and I are happy campers.


An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of four books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, and Danger Comes Home. With Murder at the Blue Plate Café, she moved from inner-city Fort Worth to small-town East Texas to create a new set of characters in a setting modeled after a restaurant that was for years one of her family’s favorites. The story and characters are pure fiction.

When twin sisters Kate and Donna inherit their grandmother’s restaurant, the Blue Plate Cafe, in Wheeler, Texas, there’s immediate conflict. Donna wants to sell and use her money to establish a B&B; Kate wants to keep the cafe. Thirty-two-year-old Kate leaves a Dallas career as a paralegal and a married lover to move back to Wheeler and run the café, while Donna plans her B&B and complicates her life by having an affair with her sole investor. Kate soon learns that Wheeler is not the idyllic small town she thought it was fourteen years ago. The mayor, a woman, is power-mad and listens to no one, and the chief of police, newly come from Dallas, doesn’t understand small-town ways. Kate is suspicious of Gram’s sudden death, “keeling over in the mashed potatoes,” as Donna described it, and she learns that’s not at all what happened. When the mayor of Wheeler becomes seriously ill after eating food from the café, delivered by Donna’s husband, Kate is even more suspicious.  Then Donna’s investor is shot, and Donna is arrested. Kate must defend her sister and solve the murders to keep her business open, but even Kate begins to wonder about the sister she has a love-hate relationship with. Gram guides Kate through it all, though Kate’s never quite sure she’s hearing Gram—and sometimes Gram’s guidance is really off the wall.


Judy loves having her dog with her in her writing space. If you'd like to meet more authors who like to write with their pets close by, start here!

Here are some recent posts about my Animals in Focus series - 
And these recent posts from me and my guest authors....


  1. Hi Judy! It's always nice to learn more about your life.

  2. Looks like a great room to write in! Bright and cheerful. Your daughter's idea was a good one. Neat to see and hear about your space. I always have the Today show on in the morning, too, and if I'm working from home I keep it on with the volume turned down low for background noise. I think after having 3 kids, I don't know what to do with silence any more. :)

  3. What a lovely post, Judy! We are going to be remodeling a bedroom in our house to be my office space soon. I'm always looking for ideas on storage and design--not my strong suits.

    (I'm a GMA girl myself.)

  4. Constance, check out - go to the IdeaBooks tab and search "home office" - you'll find LOTS of ideas!