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.