Plowing Through on my Writing Journey

When I started writing in 2009 as a humor columnist, I wrote in 800-word sound bites that wrapped up neatly and made people laugh, but made them think, too. It was a fun couple of years writing that column weekly for the local newspaper. Then I decided to write a book, a completely different animal.

Planting those seeds, getting ready for the harvest! #writinglife #plowingthrough

Unfortunately, I just sat down at my laptop with the seed of an idea and started typing. I wasted a lot of time doing that, but I got a feel for how it felt to write a long piece rather than a short one. Then I started attending writing conferences, and my eyes were opened.

I’d made…Every. Mistake. In the book. (Pun intended)

I went back to my laptop armed with hundreds of pages of notes from writing conferences, and began afresh. One thing that finally wormed its way into my brain, after studying the publishing business from the ground up, was that I was cross-pollinatating women’s fiction and suspense, a process referred to as “genre confusion.”

Agents are great supporters!

This is not what publishers are looking for. The book has to tidily fit on a shelf beside other books of the same ilk, and my ilk was confusing. Genres have extremely specific rules, at least if you want to land a publisher; and if those rules aren’t respected the manuscript gets tossed on the slush pile. At the bottom. I got rejected more than thirty times, but kept trying. Finally, I landed a knowledgeable agent that had worked as an acquisitions editor for a major publishing house, and this woman taught me a lot about genre. As we worked together on my manuscript, she proclaimed that I had to choose: women’s fiction or suspense, and if that if she were me, she’d choose suspense.

So I did. Everything I wrote had a dark side anyway, and it didn’t appear I could willingly leave this behind, so instead, I embraced it. This has been great fun. Then, in wondrous and fabulous epiphany, at one of my writing groups, I heard the best definition of the difference between mystery and suspense ever: Mystery is Whodunnit. Suspense is Whydunnit.

The intriguing “Why” of the suspense genre nudges my books toward a women’s fiction/book club slant, and I’ve been writing dark and twisty stories about edgy protagonists ever since.

THE ‘WHAT IF’ FACTOR

Upon finally landing on a genre I enjoyed writing, I looked around for ideas. I am one of those people who enjoys talking to strangers and discovering fascinating tidbits about their lives, so it was no surprise when at one of my writing events for my first book, I stumbled across a story idea for the next one. Among all the authors sitting at tables, salivating for customers to buy their books, one woman drew potential customers like flies to honey. I couldn’t stand it, I had to find out what was so different about this author. I ran over to her table, and we began chatting. She told me she’d had a horrible car accident that had nearly killed her, and she’d been in a coma for six months. When she woke up, she said, she was completely different. Instead of a shy wallflower, she arose a confident, funny, arresting woman, in love with life and grateful for every second. She laughed about it, and I was somewhat horrified, but thoughtful. We parted ways, and The Deadening was born from that idea. I started playing the “What if” game. What if this woman was assaulted? What if her identity has been erased and she lands in a hospital as a Jane Doe. What if her personality is so different, that even her family cannot believe it. What if she had a ridiculously tragic marriage, and her new personality isn’t swallowed so well by her husband?

See how it works? It’s best to play the “What if” game with a couple of glasses of wine and a cat in your lap.

I am happy to report that as a result of playing the “What if” game, my publisher offered me a contract for the next two in the series. “The Rising” released in April of 2022, and the final book releases in 2023. By the time these books release, ‘what if’ I stumble over countless other story ideas in this wild adventure that we call life? I’m positive that I will, and I’m pretty sure they’ll end up as books, too.

Click to find out more about my latest release, “The Rising!”

Support local bookstores! Request THE RISING and they will order for you if they don’t have it on the shelves.

Author Interview Questions for THE DEADENING

1) Tell us about Olivia Callahan, the protagonist of your latest release, The Deadening.

Sure! Olivia is 38 years old, has auburn, curly hair, was raised by a devoted mother who struggles with marrying the right kind of men. This caused Olivia’s mom to be somewhat absent as she was growing up, as she was handling crisis after crisis. Olivia subsequently met her husband early, while she was still in high school, and married him. As a married woman, she wrestles with how much of herself to reveal in her marriage, as she has believed the lie that she should let the man always have the last word, and her husband is very happy about that. For twenty years, Olivia is content to let Monty make all the decisions that affect the family’s lives, and eventually, of course, this kind of behavior backfires and Monty wants nothing more to do with her. Olivia is in a growth pattern, that will hopefully cause her to look deeply at her past to figure out what and why and when she became so passive.

2) What intrigues you about a person’s identity, a central theme to The Deadening?

Good question! I feel everyone has a story to tell, and I love to pull from people those stories. In almost every case, traumatic or chaotic circumstances have led to an identity journey. I find this fascinating. We may or may not reach our God-given potential due to how we respond to these crises, or circumstances over which we have no control. As the saying goes, when we stumble over obstacles, setbacks, or assaults, crimes…whatever life throws our way…we have the option to get bitter—or get better. The journey can take many twists and turns, and it would be a shame not to share these situations in order to perhaps help someone else find their way in life a bit easier.

3)The Deadening is the first in a three-book series. How much do you know already about the next two books? What’s it like to have to think so far ahead?

This is my first series. My other book, The Hunting, is a stand-alone novel. I took a deep breath when my editor suggested I write a series, but in actuality it is easier than starting from scratch because I already know these characters and settings. I know their history, their fears, their doubts. I know Olivia’s children. All I’m doing now is continuing the story, and it’s proving to be easier than I thought it would be. We’ll see what my editor says when I’m about halfway through Book Two, titled “The Rising.” And I do not think so far ahead. I plot out one book, then the next one. It would be impossible for me to think all the way to the end game of the third book!

And now, a few personal questions!

A few of your favorite things: My three cats, the sun faces I collect and hang on an exterior wall, my long view of the Lowcountry marsh off my deck. Good red wine. Jazz. Oh, I guess I should add my husband.

Things you love about writing: I lose myself and time can pass very quickly. How a scene develops under my hands. Editing after the first draft is done, which is much like fine-tuning a piece of sculpture by scraping away the bits that don’t work and polishing the bits that do.

Hardest thing about being a writer: Promotion. Who has time to set this stuff up? But we have to.

Things you never want to run out of: Easy…coffee and wine.

Words that describe you: Optimistic. Stylish. Fun. Nurturing.

Words that describe you, but you wish they didn’t: Decisive. Blunt. Opinionated. (These traits do not work in my favor sometimes…)

Favorite foods: Filet, quiche, asparagus

Things that make you want to gag:  Onions. Liver. FISH, and anything else that comes from a body of water. Yuck.

Something you’re really good at: Interior decorating. Loving my grandkids. Cardio & weight training. Makeup. Playing piano. And hopefully, writing!

Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: Arrogant, condescending people.

Things you always put in your books: A pet. Dog or cat.
Things you never put in your books:
Sex scene.

Things to say to an author: I could not put down your book!!

People you’d like to invite to dinner (living):  Jeff Goldblum. Vincent D’Onofrio. Stephen Furtick. Angie Harmon, Louise Jensen. (This list changes often)

Proudest moment: Those moments I see my grown kids fulfill their unique, wonderful purpose in life. For instance, one of my kids was destined to sing. When she steps onto a stage, I cry every time.

It’s Release Day! Finally!

Over the past four weeks I’ve discovered Book Brush and designed about twenty images like the one below. It’s an awesome tool, but I don’t want to oversaturate people, there’s only so much I can put on FB and my FB author page and Instagram without driving potential buyers crazy. There’s ‘please buy my book, here’s an opportunity and I’ve made it so easy, right? All you have to do is CLICK RIGHT HERE! (Seriously you can click on the image below and it takes you right to the Amazon page where you can order ebook or paperback). And then there’s this approach: BUY MY BOOK OR ELSE I WILL FURTHER SATURATE EVERY SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNEL I CAN FIND hahahaha (maniacal laughter).

Well, I’ve decided I do not want to be that person. But I really do like playing with Book Brush and I’m becoming a more competent user, anyway. I have three other authors that have joined me in promotional efforts, all our books release in February and we’ve lined up virtual events and have a ZOOM call every week or so just to stay in touch, rehearse, discuss ideas, etc. which is just fabulous and AWESOME because a book launch during a pandemic…isolated…depressed…and so over it…is no fun, but with a TEAM, it is fun. Because I have to remember that even though we get together virtually, it still (almost) has the same feel as getting together personally and is encouraging and uplifting. So a shout-out to my awesome team! And also a shout-out to my awesome publisher, Level Best Books, that offers cool promotional tools like podcasts and lists of awards to submit to and pastes our events everywhere in addition to what we are already doing. Authors primarily work in a vacuum, but with this publisher, they’re pretty careful to make sure all that isolation stuff does not happen.

It’s with a happy heart that I announce release day, today, February 23, 2021; and also with a happy heart that I’ve had lots of well-wishers and support on social media that makes me smile. It’s a great feeling. Also, it was a great feeling to discover two of my kids wanted to throw me a launch party, and I hadn’t even thought of it during this virus-of-isolation life, but we are throwing one anyway, and I’m looking forward to it. In spite of the fact that the crazy winter weather has delayed my book delivery for the event, and I’ve already changed the event date twice. I do have ARCs left over, which I am grateful for, because at least for my launch event, I’ll have those that people can touch and hold and feel and buy if they want to! Even if the books don’t make it on time, it’s about celebrating the publishing of a book, and the author’s accomplishment, not just the actual book, right? We’ll take orders and get the delayed books to them later if they don’t show up. However, I still hold out hope since the launch is still a couple days away!

I marvel over the effort that goes into a book launch. The writing, editing, and cover design take time and hard work, of course, but promotion never stops! I’ve been forced to understand Goodreads, the power of Instagram stories, the futility of Twitter (gosh how I hate Twitter), and up my game on Facebook. I’ve had my kids give me tutorials on how to post events. I’ve watched as loyal FB friends share my videos/ads. I’ve learned how to run a BookBub campaign. All the while, I’m thinking, aren’t I too old for this?

Never!

Plus I still have a newsletter I need to get out, plus the next book I have to write that actually has a deadline hanging over my head. And I hope to make it to at least one writing conference this year, and I’ll make more writer friends, which is just THE. BEST.

I always envied “author life.” Now I get it. The cool part is how impressed everyone seems to be when they discover that I’m an author. The not-so-cool part is all the sweat-inducing, profanity-laden work that goes into it. It’s okay, though. Writing books for a living beats retirement any day of the week.