I am fudging a little for the month of November. My fellow prolific author, Jeff Salter, did such a great job on this interview, that I am passing it along. You might discover lots of new things about me if you read it to the end.
Saturday, October 31, 2020
As a child, I was scared of every bump in the night, sure terrible creatures (usually mice) inhabited the crawl space right next to my bed. Needless to say, Halloween was not my favorite holiday. A showing of Disney's Legend of Sleepy Hollow sent me straight to my parents' bed because of bad dreams--and I was ten. They kicked me out, saying I was too old for this. Not that I didn't like the trick or treat aspect of Halloween. We selected the most heavy duty shopping bag we could find and joined large groups of free-range Fifties kids to prowl the night door to door without any parental interference. Nearly every house had a light on in our small town of two-thousand. If we needed a bathroom, someone would always let us in. Our sole trick was scattering dried corn we robbed from a farmer's field on the porches of people who chose not to be home. Some smashed pumpkins or threw eggs, but not our group--because if our families did find out--ouch!
The only scare I had in those days came at the threshold of my fifth grade teacher who lived in an old Victorian home surrounded by tall, dark trees on top of a small hill. Her name, most fittingly, was Miss Updegrave. As we climbed the two sets of stone steps to get to the house, the full moon disappeared behind a cloud. When we got to the porch, thunder rolled and the porch swing went into action on its own. I am fairly sure I saw a black cat in the bushes. We bugged the hell out of there, and good thing because the on-coming storm would have ruined our paper bags filled to the brim with full-sized candy bars.
Being a scaredy-cat, I've never had an urge to write horror stories, though I have done a few unpublished Twilight Zone style short stories. My one attempt at a rather benign ghost story, The Courville Rose ran into a peculiar problem. Beginning during the Civil War, a young woman of eighteen commits suicide by gently throwing herself into the river and letting her petticoats take her down after she learns of the death of her fiancé in battle. Being Catholic, she should go straight to hell for taking her life, but the nuns who educated her pray mightily to prevent this given her disturbed state. Instead, she is doomed to haunt her family home for all eternity. She watches over the place through thick and thin, but when she begins to recognize souls she once knew in new bodies, she wants to possess someone and go in search of her lost love. She brings this off partially, but the stubborn little girl won't leave her body--and so they have to grown up sharing, one always looking for her old love, and the girl loving the boy who saved her from being drowned by the spirit. An interesting conundrum, I thought.
Not what the first publisher I offered it to thought, however. I got a message saying they couldn't print a book that condoned teen suicide. Huh? In the 1860's a female of eighteen was considered an adult and usually married at that age or younger. This was no Romeo and Juliet tale but one of a love lost in battle. I argued my point to no avail, even softened her death by having her accidentally fall into the river but refuse to fight for her life. I mean, there had to be a mortal sin for her to be condemned to haunting. What kind of God would do that because of an accident? Oh well, it was no go. You can try to argue with a publisher, but no is usually no.
It was my good luck that the next press took the book. The Courville Rose is still my only ghost story, and isn't horrible at all. Eventually, it does have a happy ending. Still, the first editor told me to stick contemporary romance, my strongest talent. Being a little rebellious, I have tried a couple of mysteries and a long historical series. Authors do get tired of writing the same old same old all the time, but none have been as successful as my Sinner sports romances. So, be on the lookout for The Aussie Sinner this winter.
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Last week, I leaned aside to check my research notes on PT for injured athletes and when I leaned back somehow erased all 30,000 words of my WIP for The Bad Boy Sinner. I tried the undo thingy and the find search. All I got was a blank title page--at which point I burst into tears. I am not a person who cries often or over things easily fixed. I knew I had backed up the entire manuscript on a flash drive the day before and only done a light revision on the last chapter and written a few sentences before the calamity occurred. A great deal of the book had also been saved to an external hard drive. I used to print out every day's production, too, but finally gave that up as a waste of paper.
My abundance of caution grew out of losing forever the first one hundred pages of my third book, then entitled Hartz but since retitled A Taste of Bayou Water at the request of my publisher who said Hartz reminded her of cheap pet food . It was the last name of my geek hero, Jonathan Hartz. I do like its current title better. This was way back around 2006. We carried our computer tower to a supposed expert, and even he couldn't get those pages back. I grieved for two weeks, couldn't write another word. Then, I put on the proverbial big girl panties and started all over again. Of course, it wasn't exactly the same story. In fact, a man I'd figured for a villain turned into a colorful local character, Old Thibodeaux, who gets the last word in the book. I created a much better bad guy and a better book, but I don't recommend using this technique for inspiration to anyone.
Now, here I sat sobbing my heart out for half an hour. Toward the end as I followed my thoughts, the crying jag wasn't about losing those words at all. My mind quickly segued to not having many sales for my existing thirty books because all my author's events had been cancelled for the entire year. No, it wasn't really about that either as fortunately, I don't rely on my sales for income. Next in line came how much I missed seeing my author friends and a few fans at these events. Then, I trotted on to not having book club or my art group for an alternate outlet as all those meetings had been cancelled.
Before I knew it, I'd reached how poorly the Covid epidemic had been handled in this country with constant outbreaks keeping me home and inside since February and still afraid to go out because I believe we will have another flare up now that our state in opening with caution and others with impunity. Let's say I won't be vacationing in Florida any time soon. On to being banned from travelling in most of the world. I love to travel, and all the virtual offerings simply are not the same as going to a foreign country and experiencing it first hand: sights, sounds, smells, great food and bad, discovering a quaint shop or little museum not on the itinerary. I once said I wrote for travel money. That income got me to Costa Rica and Alaska, Ireland and Iceland. Next year, I'll be lucky to get out of state.
That wasn't even the end of my grief. I entered the quagmire of our current politics. I won't go into particulars, only that I didn't think I could survive another four years of ugly and crazy. Might as well die of Covid before that happens. Finally, I dried my eyes, not wanting my husband who had gone for a solitary bike ride to come home and find me a complete mess for no reason. When he did arrive, I told him about my loss of verbiage. He picked up the flash drive and voila! I had my book back. I wrote a little more, but had lost my concentration and just saved what little I'd added.
I spewed this incident on Facebook. Say what you will about FB, my friends can be awfully comforting there. One, Tonette who often comments here, remarked that she had another friend who held emotions in and when she dropped a glass and a spoon in the sink, suddenly started crying out of control. The lost words were my glass and spoon. How right she was. Others confessed to suffering from the low grade depression or worse that is afflicting so many of us this long, never ending year. I have lots of company. In the end, I felt better for letting go, if a little foolish. I don't think I'll need to do that again for a while. My daughter says she will move to Nova Scotia if the election results goes contrary to her desire. My final thought on this--I've never been to Nova Scotia and might like it there, too.
Sunday, August 30, 2020
I've always thought if I had enough books and an internet connection I could endure months of isolation in say a small cabin in the Alaskan wilderness during winter. I have now learned the truth. I got through three months of seclusion from the Covid-19 virus fairly well, but the imprudent folks of our state (Louisiana) caused the governor to freeze the reopening in early phase two. In other words, we can get haircuts now (I've had two!) and eat in restaurants if we are far from all other customers and wear masks. We haven't done the latter and continue to order takeout which is very good around here.
However, having completed three difficult puzzles, run through three books of crosswords, put a huge dent in my TBR pile of books, and have plenty of internet access, I realize I don't do seclusion well. I miss personal interaction, hugs, doing book talks, going to movie night and book club. The libraries aren't even open for browsing. I make my husband take me along in the car when he runs errands like a dog who just wants to get out. He rolls down the windows for me, too, while he completes his mission. I put on a mask just in case someone might talk to me. If I get an annoyance call on the phone, I listen to their spiel before and ask questions before I hang up if it isn't a robot on the other end. Now that is desperate for company. My poor stock broker called to check up on us after the recent hurricane to see if he could help. We were fine, but I kept him on the line for half an hour just to chat. I guess he won't be offering to help us again.
Then, an historical romance I'd submitted elsewhere was accepted. I soon found myself knee deep in edits for that book, but as they don't require deep POV, this moved along fast. I have my cover and received my galley the week Hurricane Laura was due to hit our coast. We're situated about eleven miles inland and up on a ridge so usually don't flood. I tried to finish proofing the galley before the storm sure to knock out our power, but you have to read a galley slowly to find all the nit picky errors like misplaced commas or incorrect quote marks. I didn't quite finish before the storm, but it did give me a reason to get out of bed each boring morning. The good news is the storm passed to the west of us and other than a night of howling winds and spates of rain and three tornado warnings in the night, we had an easy time of it. And lo and behold, we still had power in the morning. While my husband picked up downed branches, I completed my galley and sent off the errata for The Greatest Prize which will be out December first. I think it is one of the best of the Longleigh Chronicles.
Even better, I got my writing chops back and have started on the next Sinners title, The Bad Boy Sinner. It's coming along slowly but surely. So thanks to those readers of mine, the two Jo's as I call them, for relighting my fire.
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
This excursion to the very bottom of the drawer unearthed some works I'd forgotten I'd written and even a collection of poetry earnestly written in the Sixties and Seventies. None of the poems were published, probably just as well. Only one of the short stories, The Mummy, The Samurai, The Shrunken Head, and Joe Boone, was printed. It appeared in an e-anthology called Horrors, and I got a whopping ten dollars for the North American serial rights. Within a year, that press folded and the story has been relegated to oblivion. I found numerous versions of it in the great heap, most telling in the first paragraph which mentions a used car. It starts out as a VW, becomes a Saturn, and I guess now should be Hyundai. Or I could go back to VW again. It is easily my favorite of the bunch,and I'd love to see it in print again.
I found some of the others I'd been looking for to revise, A couple that I recall writing have gone missing. Along with those found, I discovered numerous rejection slips for the same, mostly form letters, but my favorite containing a note that this was a really good story, but they had to publish big names to survive. More than one rejection was signed by Marion Zimmer Bradley, famous for her Arthurian fantasies.. I rather cherish her autograph. She kindly explained that her magazine did not publish stories in which children came to harm. Actually, the children weren't harmed but were placed in jeopardy. I didn't feel I could argue with a big name like that. I didn't reread all the rejections. I'm not that tough. However, I do wonder if I have any other big names among them. Maybe during another interval I'l make that search.
As I reached the very bottom, I began to find hand-written versions of the stories and even my first novel, rewritten many times, retitled, and now published. The sequence went like this: hand-written, typed on a portable Olivetti-Underwood I'd bought for college, retyped on the Brother electric I purchased from Sears, blobs of white-out covering my typos. The most recent of course are now transcribed on the hard drive of my computer and backed up on a flash drive. I need to revise the best of them and add them to the group--some day.
Other blasts from the past: the pieces of cardboard I stockpiled to stiffen my submission envelopes and a bunch of pre-addressed SASEs, self-addressed, stamped envelopes, for the return of my treasures. Anyone else remember those? Now, most submissions I do are online as are the rejections I still occasionally get. I used to print them out, but most are form letters and not worth the effort. No famous autographs any more. I did meticulously record on each returned envelope the place where I'd sent it for consideration in order not to double up. Back in those days,there were actually many short story magazines, barely any now.
I discarded the cardboard and felt guilty about not recycling it, but our area no longer has a recycling program, too expensive they say. A few excess copies made it to the trashcan. Others can go as I transcribe the stories. I put up a light poem about my children that I'd forgotten all about on FaceBook and was immediately reprimanded for leaving out my middle child--by my middle child. I guess I should add another verse when I have the time. I couldn't bring myself to throw out the hand-written pages yet, but they will go one day. Sadly, I am not Jane Austen or Emily Dickinson, and nobody will do a master's thesis on my ink-smeared pages (I'm a lefty).
Whether this excursion into the past will result in a short story collection, I have no idea. But, if this period of isolation continues, it just might.
Friday, June 26, 2020
My writing has suffered. I write light stories with happy endings and feel almost guilty about that. Shouldn't I be doing something dark and deep in tune with the times? Can't make myself. I do think we need some sheer escapism to carry us away from all the turmoil. I recall after Hurricane Andrew passed our way and everything was a mess from the roof to the yard, the only thing I felt like reading was historical romance by the light of a candle, a retreat into another time and place. Still, with every author's event on my calendar cancelled, my sales are way down despite having launched a fun new historical series, The Longleigh Chronicles, up to book four now and with the fifth, The Greatest Prize now slated to come out in December.
I kept my promise to finish The Aussie Sinner, the next in my Sinner sports romances, though it was hard going, fighting through feeling down and worrying that I hadn't done a good enough job of portraying a person from another country. In the end, I loved Australian Jock Brown, but would anyone else? Bring on the anxiety. I submitted the book to my editor and immediately got the new party line that it had to be written in Deep Point of View. A simple introductory paragraph to set the place and mood is now labeled omniscient. Evidently, scenery and weather do not exist unless one of the two POVs we are allowed witnesses it. Reluctantly, I took the book back and rewrote the descriptive paragraphs, shoved in more deep emotions and resubmitted. Little else can depress a writer more than being told after having twenty-nine books published, they no longer know how to write. No word on its fate yet as the publishing industry is about to start its summer hiatus on the Fourth of July.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I should go to self-publishing. If I had the computer skills to do that I would, but so many of my friends have gone that route and after hiring the help they needed to get the book out found themselves in the hole about a thousand dollars or more, and their sales without even the modest help e-publishers give very low. So, I have a right to my anxiety and depression as long as I don't let it get out of control. Usually writing takes me away the same as reading, but at the moment, I am trying to make myself to start a new Sinner book. So far, all I have is a title page.If you feel the same, know you are not alone. Keep shoving those blues aside any way you can. Read.
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Anyhow, livid about my joke, he accused me of being a Communist, a corrupter of children with my opinions, and a terrible librarian who wasn't worth the salary I was paid. (Librarians are paid even worse than teachers.) Gently, I replied that I'd been a Democrat just slightly left of center since the age of twenty-one, had never worked with children as I was an administrative librarian, and I had been awarded a state medal for outstanding librarianship. When I retired, I left the library with several new branches, plans for more, and in good financial condition.
Since that failed to get a rise out of me, he then went on to say that I now wrote "dirty little sex books", insults being the stock in trade of the man he worships. I pointed out that my books, all twenty-nine of them, were not little by far, being between 70,000 and 100,000 words. Though I hated to admit it, my books aren't very sexy and this is sometimes mentioned in reviews. As for being dirty, didn't we all come into the world because of sex? I do not consider two adults who care about each other making love a dirty act. I challenged him to read any of my books for free as the public library has them all, and then he could criticize.
His reply--I can tell by the covers what kind of books you write. Isn't that a classic remark? He evidently doesn't know that published authors have little to say about their covers. I get some input, but not much. As I thought about my covers, they are fairly bland for the romance genre. I do have a lot of shirtless men, because, honey, that sells, I've been told. There isn't one clinch cover, and the women are all fully clothed in not particularly sexy garments.
I told him that if he read my books, he'd notice they have strong family values. Not one of my heroes has ever paid a porn star for sex while his wife is recovering from childbirth and then paid $150,000 to cover up his yes, dirty, deed. I didn't wait for a reply, just simply blocked and unfriended him. A fanatic can't be reasoned with. I will add that other librarians and my readers did jump to my defense which left me feeling all warm and fuzzy. Poor man, he'll never the pleasure of reading one of my books.