Sunday, November 27, 2011

Blog Number Nineteen

There's an eight hundred pound gorilla in the room.  Every body knows he's there, but nobody wants to talk about him...except me.  I'll talk.
I've written a lot of love scenes.  But I ask you to stop and think.  How many nice, pretty words are out there in our American vocabulary to describe an act as old as time?  Darn few.  And I figure I've used all of them more than once.  Remember, I said nice, pretty words.  Finally, I grew jaded, tired of my fruitless search for those illusive words.
Then it dawned on me...Cozy Mysteries.  They kill people and they do it without sex.  Oh wow!  I could be the next Agatha Christie.  After all these years, I've found my new niche.
So, I headed to Amazon (virtually speaking) and purchased a stack of cozy mysteries by many different authors.  Several notable things kept popping up: a continuing character (female amateur sleuth), plus a super intelligent dog or cat helping the amateur human to solve mysteries.
Hey, I'm a big animal lover.  I can do this.  I used to raise and show Dandie Dinmont Terriers--a rare breed from Scotland.  I was an instructor at the local Obedience Club (B.A. that's before arthritis).  As I grew older, I decided on a smaller breed and switched to Norwich Terriers.   After he died and I got even older (bone years are the same as dog years), we decided to switch to cats--they don't need to be walked or taken to obedience classes.
My monumental decision was made.  I would start writing Cozy Mysteries.
I was giddy with excitement as I turned on my computer and stared at the blank screen.  Hmm, I was going to have to think about this one for awhile.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blog Number Eighteen

"Where do you get your ideas from?" is another question I'm often asked.  It's a hard one to answer.  I can get an idea from a newspaper article I've read or heard on the evening news.  It might be a car passing me on the freeway driven by a hooded character, or a bum at the exit with a sign "will work for food."  Even a TV show, documentary or movie can get my juices flowing.
Zap!  This is where creativity gets launched.  I start thinking..."what if?"
My best advice to you is to have pencil and paper handy, or if you're on the road a great deal, how about a hand-held recorder.  Can the smart phones do that?  Later, I type them up and put them in a file.  When I'm in between novels, I can get out the file and thumb through my old ideas--some I had completely forgotten.  One might tickle my fancy and launch my next journey.
Which of my ten novels is my favorite?  That's like asking a mother which is her favorite child.  Of course, I can answer that one with ease since I only had one son.  Definitely, he is my favorite.
Historicals (and I would imagine that space and futuristic plots might fall in this category) are the most difficult to write.  Your facts must be accurate.  You can't kill someone with a firearm that had yet to be invented; or have mail delivered to your castle before the era of Benjamin Franklin; or mow the grass before the invention of the rotary lawn mower.  You think....well, it's fiction, I can do whatever I want.  Yes, you can, but the whole idea of writing a story is to make it believable.  You want to take your reader on a journey and glaring errors snap them out of the mood that you've been trying to create.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blog Number Seventeen

         So, how do you write an entire novel when you only have small "snippets" of time?  If you posed this same question to a dozen different writers (both published and unpublished) and you would hear about a dozen different systems.  One system that seems popular is to use sticky notes with scenes written out and stuck on a bulletin board.  This never worked for me.
          One book that might give you some good ideas is "The Weekend Novelist", by Robert Ray.  Whereas his system wouldn't work for me, I still enjoyed the book and especially liked the way he attacked the subject.
          Next you should analyze your life.  Figure out EXACTLY when and how much time you are able to devote to your writing.  My personal experience is that you need at least one undisturbed hour.  Some folks start at the beginning and just plow all the way through beginning to end and then go back and edit.  No single method is better than another.  I can only tell you what works for me and what works for some of my writer friends.  You must find (through trial and error) what works for you.
            So here's my system--first, I get the plot idea.  Second, I write a narrative or synopsis of my story.  Third, I create my cast of characters.  Fourth, I create a few chapter headings and write a sentence or two as a guide to some of the pivotal scenes.  Last, but certainly not least, I begin to write.  Of course, nothing is set in stone.  An old saying that is sometimes true... "there's many a slip twix the cup and the lip."  Yes, sometimes I do wander from my original plot.  As the characters develop their personalities, I might change my mind as to the identity of the murderer.  The character originally chosen to be the bad guy, might turn out to be good.  You just never know what will happen as the word count grows.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Blog Number Sixteen


If time is both the enemy and the best friend of the writer, then procrastination is lethal.  If you're a woman, first, you tell yourself that when your toddlers start school, THEN you'll have time to write, but you get busy and keep putting it off.  Then you tell yourself when the kids go off to college, you'll have time to write.  But you have to take a second job to afford their tuition.
If that's the abbreviated story for a female writer, the male of the species have another set of obstacles. Writing wouldn't be "cool" if you tried to find time as a teenager.  Besides, anyone who tries to write at a young age, doesn't have "life experiences" to draw on.  In college there's pressure to keep your grades up, then a guy gets married, has kids, car payments and a hefty mortgage.  Their career consumes them and they simply don't have time to write.
Get the picture?
It's all about time.
Just as you budget your money, you must learn to budget your time.  Of course, this article is being written by a female born under the sign of Capricorn.  It's written in the stars for me to be well-organized and it comes easy to me.
My mantra is "do what I have to do so I can do what I want to do."
My advice is to go look in the mirror and be totally honest with yourself.  How great, how deep, how urgent is your drive to write and create.  If your answer is all three (great, deep and urgent), then FIND the time to write.
Don't do what I did...I looked in the mirror when I was sixty years old and realized that I had wasted many, many productive years.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Blog Number Fifteen

          Back when I was a member of East Tennessee Romance Writers (a chapter of RWA), I did a workshop on "Great Beginnings."  I bought several books (all fiction) in various genres--mystery, romance, romantic suspense and historical.  Some by famous, time-tested authors, some by newcomers.  We dissected the first three pages of each novel.  It was an education in what not to do.
The worst example opens the scene with a young woman walking up the steps of a typical San Francisco row house to knock on the door of her birth mother for whom she had been searching about ten years.  Instead of concentrating on the inner turmoil and nervousness of this young woman, the author launches into the history of San Francisco row houses.  Three pages later, she gets back to the young woman and her turmoil.
One historical we tore apart began with a love scene.  Okay, I can live with that.  However, the author stops right in the middle and describes the invention of the button and button loop.  Talk about a buzz-killer.
Several years ago, I read Peeling the Onion--avoiding the Too-Much Too-Soon Syndrome by Diana Whitney Hinz.  The basic tenet was don't release too much information too quickly.  Instead, create your hook, the exciting scene that draws readers into your story...THEN, get into the background little by little.
           Example.  "A flash of movement caused the attractive, divorced mother of two to slam on the breaks, sending the vehicle into an uncontrolled slide."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blog Number Fourteen

Sometimes you must read a book or see a movie and tear it apart as a student rather than read or watch for pure enjoyment.

This novel by Tami Hoag is the classic model for romantic suspense.  As you read, study construction and plotting.  The author pulled me in on the very first page and made me care about the central figure.  This author got her start with Harlequin and Silhouette, then made a successful switch to main stream.  As her career progressed, she had two books made into Hallmark TV movies w/Valerie Bertinelli (Dust to Dust and Ashes to Ashes).  The push and shove to produce a book a year finally got to her and the quality of her novels suffered.  These days, while giving her creativity a rest, her publisher is re-issuing all her category titles.

This movie was made from the screen play by Joan D. Vinge, who also did COWBOYS & ALIENS.  Whereas both books left me cold, Ladyhawke is my very favorite movie.  It's an excellent example of lovers overcoming a huge obstacle to be together.  A text book plot.

This movie is another great example of how the author has made you care whether Nicolas Cage survives.  If this story was nothing more than an action movie with Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage getting off Alcatraz, it would not be nearly as good.  However, the story starts with a scene between Cage and his girlfriend:  "I'm Catholic, I'm single and I'm pregnant."  Throughout the movie, you know that she and his unborn child are the motivations as to why he wants to survive.

Don't know how some authors get away with using an em dash instead of quotation marks to indicate dialogue, but they do.  Sometimes it's called innovation, but I called it laziness.  When reading this book, I never could keep track of who was speaking or whether the written word was internal dialogue.  It was made into a movie.  The novel starts off on a sour note for me as this southern man is in a Yankee Civil War hospital bed being kept awake by the sound of a lawn mover.  Okay folks, the history of the push mower begins in England and has a rocky beginning.   The most popular method for "cropping grass-plots and pleasure grounds" was the hand-held sickle.  The push mower as we know it, wasn't used in this country until the early nineteen hundreds.  My brother (the retired college English professor) states "this book didn't contain a single cliché."  My theory is that any string of words used repetitively is a cliche. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blog Number Thirteen

.........The .author is unknown on this bit of wisdom. I keep it taped to my desk, just above my computer screen.   I find these words very inspirational. 

"Writing with appealing rhythm includes searching for just the right words, and not giving up until you find them. When you do, use them to reconstruct each sentence, trimming or stretching, moving words and phrases around until each sentence flows, rather than plods, sings instead of mutters. This is your task as a professional writer: to select each word, to craft each sentence, meticulously and with pride."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Blog Number Twelve

"I want to write a book, but I don't know how to get started."
That's something I hear quite often.  Everyone's style of writing is different.  If you put a dozen writers in a room with pencil and paper, you will come up with a dozen different writing styles.
There has been much written about the differences between male and female authors.  One person thinks males want to save a country, whereas females want to save a relationship.  I definitely fall into the latter category.  I think there's something magical about those few precious, golden moments when a man and a woman first meet.  I'm a sucker for a good love story as well as a sprinkling of "blood-and-guts."
First, you have to have an idea--the seed of a plot or character in a situation.
The first thing is to write the "dreaded" synopsis.  I don't know why some writers are so consumed with fear concerning the synopsis.  Maybe changing the name to "Outline" would help.  I want to get my idea on paper as quickly as possible.  At my age, I've gotten a little forgetful.  I even keep paper and pencil beside my bed, beside the sofa when I'm watching TV and in my handbag when I'm out-and-about.  You never know when that fantastic plot twist will strike.
Write the basics of your story as if you were explaining it to your best buddy.  You shouldn't care about grammar or punctuation.  Just get it down on paper.  Of course, it isn't written in stone.  It's your story, you can change it as the plot unfolds.  You really need this guideline to keep you from wandering.
Next, make up a "cast of characters" in line with your new idea.  To me, this is the fun part--creating new people.  Pick a name, age, physical description, family back ground--parents and siblings, marital history, education, job history, pets, even the make of car they drive.  Even if none of this is mentioned in your story, you need the info.
How a person reacts in any given situation is usually based on past experience.  Are they stable or will they fall to pieces?  How will your characters react in a sexual situation or in the face of  mortal danger?  Believe me, it matters.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Blog Number Eleven

A couple of  punctuation rules won't hurt.  Honest.  These are some rules and observations that will help you in your every day pursuit of the perfect story.  In fiction, we take "literary" license with punctuation, but still there are some hard and fast rules.
1. THE ELEMENTS OF GRAMMAR, by Margaret Shertzer, states that "use a dash (double dash or em dash) to indicate a sudden break in a sentence.  When you end a sentence in a dash, no punctuation is needed."
2. THE ELEMENTS OF GRAMMAR (regarding ellipsis dots) states that you should use three dots in the middle of a sentence, four dots at the end of a sentence.  Ellipsis dots can indicate the passage of time, that a statement is left unfinished, or can be used to indicate hesitation or a kind of "dying away" of a thought or action.  Whether to put a space between the dots is a matter of individual style.

3. PUNCTUATE IT RIGHT by Harry Shaw states "a dash lends a certain air of surprise or emotional tone on occasion."

A favorite saying to help me remember the rule regarding commas:

A cat has claws at the end of its paws
A comma's a pause at the end of a clause.

The following is my argument with an editor concerning the use of hyphens.
I wrote:  "Dear Lee, Regarding "soft-hearted father."  I thought the rule concerning adjectives was if neither word could stand alone, then they should be hyphenated.  For example: it's not her "soft father" or her "hearted father," but her "soft-hearted father."  You used this rule with "back-stair gossip," stating in one place that it should have been hyphenated, but in another instance you didn't.
"Regarding " ill-at-ease" I deleted the hyphens as you requested.  But, I thought that when two or three words are used as one, that the hyphens were called for.  However, I can't seem to find a rule of grammar for that."

Lee's response:  Touché.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Blog Number Ten

I was at a writers' retreat in the mountains a few years back when a woman asked me to read the first few pages of her manuscript and tell her what I thought.  I'm not easily shocked.  At my age, I've been there, done that, heard that, seen that!  However, those first few pages did indeed shock me.  Just because you have an overwhelming urge to write porn or erotica, doesn't mean that someone else will pay to read it.  If you write in this genre, the avenues leading to publication of your work are narrow, but with Google, I guess nothing is impossible.
Readers usually know what they want--romance, suspense, fantasy, true crime, action, the list is endless.  When they go to a brick-and-mortar-book store, they head for their favorite section.  And if they surf through online bookstores, they nearly always put a key word in a search engine.
Before embarking on your journey into the world of fiction, you need to know your specific genre and try to stay within those boundaries.  "Joe Blow Best Selling Author" can get away with just about anything because he or she has name recognition.  A newcomer doesn't.  So, hold off on that time-traveling vampire cowboy.  Make it easy for a prospective reader to find your book.
So...truly, it doesn't matter what your genre is (zombies, vampires, time travel, SciFi, shape-shifting, ghost stories or talking animals), lifting the veil of believability takes a delicate hand.  Write your stories--but don’t slap your reader in the face.  Stay true and don't wander.
Guide your reader, lead them gently by the hand.  Make them a promise in the first few chapters and keep your promises or you'll have a disappointed reader.  They want to care, want to worry and want a satisfying conclusion.  If you give them a book with too many characters swimming in an outlandish plot, you won’t win any followers.  Make them cry.  Make them laugh.  Make their hearts beat faster.  Give ‘em what they want.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blog Number Nine

Oh dear, I missed a week.  Last weekend Hurricane Lee managed to push inland as far as Chattanooga, TN., dumping nearly 9 inches of rain on my back yard.  Since there was a great deal of lightning with it, I decided not to turn on my computer.

This week, I would like to mention some "how to" titles.  These books are to be read for educational purposes.  If you put fifty writers in a room with pencil and paper, you would end up with fifty methods on how to write a book. 

Even though his method isn't my method, I still found his book extremely helpful and informative.  His lyrical style makes the book very readable.

When this book was first recommended to me, I thought "how can a book published in 1967 possibly be relevant in today's market."  I was so wrong.  Some advice withstands the test of time.  His recommendation of "Begin in violence, end in hope," has been my mantra for many years.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blog Number Eight

 MURDER, INCORPORATED.  I've just spent three days learning just about everything there is to know about murder and catching the culprits who think they can get away with it.
I (along with two of my fellow authors) attended the Killer-Nashville (TN) Writers' Conference.  I went to six workshops and listened to a speech by Dr. Bill Bass, founder of the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) Body Farm.  For those of us who are a bit ghoulish, it was great fun.
If you don't know what the "Body Farm" is...well, hmm, let's see if I can word this politely.  It's a place where they expose dead people to outdoor environments to see how long it takes to decay.
It was interesting to learn that werewolves and zombies are fading from popularity, while murder in any genre continues to fascinate the reading public.  It's also good to know that "cozy mysteries" (my genre) have never faded, but continue to be consistent sellers.  Continuing characters in a series are also well accepted.
Another interesting observation spanning the twenty years I've been going to writers' conferences is that in the early years, you never saw anyone who would admit to being self-published.  Nowadays, about half of the speakers and panel members were.  Hooray for our side!
When I arrived home, I was "pumped" full of new ideas and plot twists for my current (WIP) Work In Progress.
My advice for today...find a conference near your hometown.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Blog Number Seven

 Okay, you've finished your book.  Now what?  The worst thing you can do is to continue working on it.  Don't second guess yourself.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Find someone (not related) to critique your novel.  Get an honest opinion, even if it hurts.  If a reader who knows nothing about your characters and plot and gets lost or confused, possibly your novel needs more work.
If it's okay, stay in your genre and start another book.  Editors don't want a "one book wonder."  They want someone with several story ideas in the pipeline.  What they want is one book a year so no matter how long it takes to get published, keep writing.  That way you'll have several books in YOUR pipeline.
Another thing...DO NOT put your work on social media networks.  NEVER!  NEVER!  NEVER! give it away.  Why would a publisher want to give you a contract to SELL your book if you've already given it away for free?  They won't.
Yes, I remember the story of how Diana Gabaldon got her shot at publication back in 2001.  That was a decade ago in the infancy of the Internet when she posted her novel "The Outlander."
The old rules no longer apply.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Blog Number Six

BLOG Number Six.  The number one biggest misconception new writers have is to think "Mistakes don't matter.  An editor will fix it."
"Not true, grasshopper."  Editors don't edit.  They acquire.  In most cases, they don't even read your book.  There are housewives in New York City who earn a good living as a "professional reader."  They are paid per manuscript to read through an editor's slush pile and sift the wheat from the chaff.  This is the person who will decide your Fate.  She's usually a stay-at-home mom with a couple of screaming kids begging for her attention.  If you don't catch her interest in the first three pages, all your hard work is shredded for recycle or returned in your SASE.
That acquisitions editor you've been "courting" for the last few months only reads the books that make it through Level One.  Unless, of course, you've been to a conference and met with an editor.  Conferences are an invaluable tool.  Do not discount them as fluff.
If the editor gives you his/her business card and tells you how to "flag" your envelope to get attention, lordy, you have climbed from the gutter onto the curb.  You've made that first step.
Editors usually acquire for only one line which is their specialty.  They need to find possibly four titles each month and already have their calendar booked about a year in advance.
For Heaven's sake....don't make your book a 250,000 word, 600 page epic.  Believe it or not, because of the high price of paper these days, and the number of trees they have to cut down to make the pulp to make the paper, editors cannot AFFORD to invest a great amount of money into a new author.
You are unproven and unknown.
They will not let you forget it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blog Number Five

For the fiction writer, Createspace is NOT a vanity press.  However, you must be able to do your own editing for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors and please don’t have your character getting shot before the villain pulls out his gun.
If you tell a good story with believable characters in an interesting, fast moving plot, there is always someone who is willing to spend a few bucks to read it.  First and foremost, you need to get a positive, UNBIASED opinion of your work.  You know your relatives will unfailingly praise you to the sky.
Do you ever watch the try-outs on American Idol?  It makes you wonder why mothers, spouses, siblings or closest friends don't tell their youngster the truth..."you need a bucket to carry the tune."  No, they let this poor individual embarrass him or herself in front of millions of people.  So, my advice is...don't embarrass yourself with poor craftsmanship.  Publishers want a marketable product.  It's a business and they want to make a profit.
This is where RWA shines.  By going to RWA sponsored conferences, (or one of many writers' groups who have conferences) you can get an appointment with an editor and pitch your novel.  It doesn't have to be in the romance genre.  The editors usually have a panel discussion early on and tell you the types of stories they are looking for RIGHT NOW.  Don't waste an editor's time if your novel is not completed.  Don't present your manuscript to an editor that doesn't publish your genre.   But this is a great way to get a leg up and moved to the front of the queue.
My advice is...if you're young, energetic and your novel is clean, error free and as good as you can get it, then by all means aim for the big New York publishing houses.  The important message here is "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."  Criticism is a painful but necessary part of writing.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blog Number Four

Before I get to Miraculous Event Number Three, let me say a few words about the important role of my two brothers during my early years of writing.  Curg Johnson, who lived in California at the time, is a retired college professor of English.  He helped with my grammar and punctuation.  The first novel I sent to him came back with so much red ink, it looked like a copy of the National Debt.  I'd never heard of a dangling modifier or gerund.  Luckily, they were lessons well learned.  My older brother, Clyde Flanigan who lived in Kentucky, was a retired coroner.  He helped me with murder scenes and anything dealing with death.  Oh, the fun we had laughing and joking about unique methods of murder.  He passed away recently and is deeply missed.  Both of these men put their unique imprint on my writing.
Now to “Miraculous Event Number Three.”  It’s the Internet.  I can’t take credit for this one.  Previously I had sustained head trauma by throwing myself at the brick and mortar publishing houses in New York to no avail.  Cross-genre, too short, the same old song and dance.  And, going to any more editor appointments was fruitless after the years began to pile up.  With a full head of startling white hair and a face filled with wrinkles, I became a victim of age profiling by junior editors barely out of college.  They're probably thinking..."How many productive years does she have left?"
During the Internet's infancy, I placed several books with electronic publishers (Wings ePress and Treble Hearts).  However, they had no name recognition and my titles languished.  After contracts expired and a rewrite, I moved them to more fertile ground.
Amazon and the Internet changed everything.  Today we have electronic readers, iPads, smart phones and print-on-demand.  All of these have opened up a new and exciting world to writers--amateur or professional.  I tip my imaginary hat to Amazon for their ingenuity in designing
This avenue is perfect for poets who don’t expect big sales numbers and who would like to have printed books for relatives and friends at a ridiculously low price.  This is also true for family histories which are great for handing down your precious memories to the next generation.  Non-fiction is a little more problematic if your work contains photos, graphs, table of contents, etc.  But it’s certainly not insurmountable.
If you've written a treatise on your political or religious views or on the life cycle of the fruit fly, et cetera, ad infinitum, then you will find a wonderful home with Createspace.  They will even help you with your cover art.   My son, Michael Wooten, does my cover art.  For Mom, it’s free.  For anyone else there’s a fee.
Next week is for more about the fiction writer.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Blog Number Three

So, yes, I had given up writing for several years, but deep inside my soul, the “want,” the “need,” to express myself through creating characters, then killing them off, was still alive, well and begging for release.
Hot flashes and the unexpected and unannounced explosion of tears drove me to the doctor’s office.  When he said, “get a hobby,” I laughed in his face (along with a few droplets of spit).  So…crocheting, knitting, gardening, needlepoint, jewelry making, genealogy, reading and quilting aren’t enough?  “No, no,” he hastened to add.  “Do something different, something you really want to do.”  I left the doctor’s office with a sack full of samples:  hormones, mood enhancers, tranquilizers, sleeping pills and his advice.  Advice I felt certain was Heaven sent.  That was “Miraculous Event Number One.”
“Miraculous Event Number Two” was reading one of Fern Michael’s books while sitting in that doctor’s waiting room.  Darn, I can’t remember the title, but it was about a college professor who found a dusty old trunk filled with unpublished, anonymous novels hiding in the attic of an old house.  A hundred-plus years after this unknown woman (it had to be a female writer) was dead, through the efforts of the professor, her novels were published and became best sellers.  OMG.  That could be me!
When I arrived home, I nearly broke my neck racing up the stairs to the attic, dug around in boxes until I found my work.  Yes!  I would finish every novel I’d ever started, then pack them all away in my husband’s old military footlocker (which I’d painted white with pink flowers during my folk art phase).  Then, a hundred years from now, my great-great-grandchildren will be rich and their long-dead relative (namely crazy ole Shar) would be famous.  Oh, what a wonderful dream.
I had a goal and I would achieve it.  I attacked this project as any respectable OCD woman would do—full court press.  So…what do I do with a dozen novels?  Did I really want to stash them away in a footlocker?
I haven’t even gotten to “Miraculous Event Number Three” and I’m already at an important crossroad.
Please tune in next week for this continuing saga.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blog Number Two

And so went the first third of my convoluted journey into the world of the lonely, hapless, long suffering fiction writer.
The best thing that ever happened to me was joining RWA—Romance Writers of America.  Let me make a comment here:  I do not write category romance.  I was told by many editors that whereas I showed a real talent for weaving a tale, the blood & guts would offend the “romance reader,” and the love story would offend a “mystery reader.”  In other words, my work was caught between a rock and a hard place, politely called “cross genre.”  Another of my faults was word count.  For some unknown reason, all my books fall in the 60/80,000 word range.  Mainstream wants over 100,000 words.
With that said, RWA did provide me an avenue to conferences, editor meetings, workshops and more importantly—other writers.  Some friendships made in the early nineties are still holding strong.  Many new writers--mostly men--are thrown off because of the “romance” word.  Yes, many members of RWA are writers of category romance, but the workshops are non-denominational.
One workshop hosted by Sandra Chastain gave the attendees the chore of writing one page based on a photo of a rose and a drop of blood.  My pencil fairly flew across the page.  After a short recess, we all filed back into the room to hear what Ms. Chastain thought about our efforts.  Our hostess spent the next thirty minutes on a diatribe directed at little ole me.  Fifty people in the room, but she singled out me.  “Never in my entire career has anyone ever written about a dead baby,” she ranted.  “How could anyone dream up a dead baby from this picture?” which she waved angrily.  I raised my trembling hand.  “I write murder mysteries,” I said in my defense.  My short career of “write on demand” ended right then and there.  No more.  Never again.
After trying unsuccessfully to get published for five or six years, I grew extremely depressed and quit writing.  Joseph Rhinock, my sweet husband said, “I can’t believe you’re quitting.”  But I did.  I turned my rampant creativity back to genealogy, reading and exploring every craft known to man and/or womankind.  However, hiding just beneath the surface, there was one little part of me that still wanted to write.
Then, something miraculous happened.  Actually it was three miraculous events.  The first event was menopause.   I’ll bet you can hardly wait to hear what’s next.
Tune in next week for Blog Number Three

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blog Number One

I got a late start into writing.  I don’t count the summer between the eleventh and twelfth grades when I thought I could write the next Great American Novel.  Should I mention that I had just finished reading “Gone With The Wind?”  This fifteen year old had no life experiences on which to draw.  Prior to that, my reading repertoire consisted of “True Confessions” and “My True Romance” magazines.
After graduating from high school in Memphis, TN, I decided I wanted to be a pianist.  (Do you remember Roger Williams’ Autumn Leaves?).  I even went back to DeShazo College of Music to update my piano skills.  After that I wanted to be the next Joannie Sommers.  (She was a singer from the fifties).  When those two options failed, I turned my hand to writing popular music and song lyrics.  Much to my horror (and naiveté) the pathway to publication with Sun Records really did cross the bedroom.  Okay…I’ll get married and have a baby.
Two husbands and one son later, I was single again.  My creativity blossomed once again, this time into poetry and prose.  My third venture into matrimony truly was the charm.  Much to my dismay, I learned that happiness killed my creativity.  What a revelation…I can only write when I’m miserable.
So, the next few years were devoted to genealogy (a dogged pursuit of my ancestors and anyone else’s ancestors who were even remotely related) and my voracious appetite for reading.  Being the OCD woman that I am, I even kept a card file which I took with me when I combed the used book stores for fodder.
My happy life went on.  Then in 1989 I had to have my ankle rebuilt.  The doctor admonished me to keep my foot elevated above my heart.   I had grown tired of reading…after the first few pages, I could usually predict the endings.  “Why not,” I foolishly thought.  “Maybe I could use this down time to write a book.”  OMG.  Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner? 
Tune in next week for Chapter Two of my saga.