Sunday, August 28, 2016

It Started In Texas

Many moons ago, I spent eight years in Austin, TX.  The city and the surrounding towns were loaded with antique shops and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Round Top, Fredericksburg, and Smithville were among my favorite places and I spent every spare moment browsing through the offerings.

One of the things I began collecting was Zane Grey books, particularly his westerns.
I made up a list after a while, in order to avoid duplication, and had it in my purse at all times, since you never knew where the next antique shop would be. My criteria was simple:
                                1) The books had to be first or second editions
                                2) I had to read each and every one

So there I was, surrounded by cowboys, reading about cowboys, learning to ride a horse, buying real boots. Is it any wonder I ended up writing about the Pony Express? And having my first hero be an Indian? I credit Mr. Grey for my fascination with this era of America.

But life goes on. I left Austin and ended up back in Ohio, where I'd grown up. The house is overflowing with books, including the 60 Zane Greys. So, we're starting to pare down, since a move to a smaller home is in our near future. The Zanes will need to find a new home. If there's a cowboy in your life, and you're looking for a unique Christmas gift, contact me. I'd love to share my collection with you.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Author Vs. Athlete

As the Olympics draw to a close, I'm constantly making comparisons between my profession and that of these athletes. It's so different from the way the Olympics used to be, when there were no big contracts available, and the cost of training, equipment and travel had to come from the family. There was no question that the athlete would retire from the sport after their one big outing and begin to draw a paycheck. Some of today's athletes are career Olympians, fully funded by corporate dollars, and have been on this world stage three or four times before. Sometimes they stay too long, and their gold medals slip from their grasp the second or third time around. It has to be hard for them to accept the inevitable, since their time in the limelight fades while they're still young.

This is where being an author is different from being an athlete. Any one, at any age, can write a novel, if they're so inclined. I participated in an author panel discussion last week, and afterwards another silver-haired lady came up to me and told me I was an inspiration to her. She had just turned eighty, and thought she'd waited too long to write the book of her heart.
Photos courtesy of Amanda Uhl. Thanks, girl!

Our muscles are on the inside. Our outsides may not be the sleek, rippled machines I've been seeing on the TV screen over the past two weeks, but unlike those hard bodies, in most cases, the mind doesn't care how old you are. It's never too late to begin learning the craft of writing. Danielle Steel is still cranking out books at age 69. She's not retiring from the spotlight anytime soon. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is 67, Stephen King is 68, as is Jude Deveraux. Nora Roberts has had a schedule of publishing six books a year for quite some time. She's in her 50s, and has no plans to slow down.

So, even though I've enjoyed the Olympics, and have admired the hard bodies of these athletes, I feel a bit sorry for them, since my muscle will continue to work regardless of my age. At least that's the plan.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Interlocking Rings

Unless you're living under a rock somewhere, you already know the Olympics are in full swing. There's been a lot of discussion on TV about the symbolism behind the rings. According to Wikipedia, the five interlocking rings represent five world continents–Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Oceania. The colors of blue, yellow, black, green and red on a white background are colors that appeared on all the national flags of the participants in the 1912 games when the symbol was created.

Interlocking rings are also a metaphor for the method in which an author gains new readers. The first ring is friends and family, then a local writer's group or chapter of a larger organization. Whatever avenue you take on your road to publication, there are organizations and special interest groups to help you along the way. Another ring. You may find some duplication in members of each ring, which creates the interlocking nature of this, and any, profession. If you're a fan of Facebook, you have a ring of followers there. If you regularly post to a blog site, that's another ring. Google+  provides another ring. And the list goes on. The more rings you can develop, the greater your reach, and the better your sales.

Just like Olympians, authors spend years developing their craft, in hopes they can reach the highest pinnacle of success. Our training takes the form of workshops and conferences to exercise our brains and help us enhance our word choices. As I watched the ladies' gymnastics the other evening, what impressed me most was the artistry involved in their maneuvers. It's not enough to be a jumping bean if it's not done with grace, finesse and a touch of humor. The floor exercise is my favorite, since you get to see a bit of the gymnast's personality. A flick of the hand, a wiggle of the butt, may be slight moves, but if choreographed correctly, make for an entertaining couple of minutes.

It's the same with authors. Their choice of words and how they arrange their sentences can make the difference between creating a book that grips you by the throat, or one that leaves you feeling blah. A good author has a voice that comes roaring off the pages, that lets you think you'd love or hate to be friends with her or him. For instance, I became so terrified while reading Stephen King's books while I was in my 30s that I had to stop, and except for a few of his more mild ones, I haven't delved into them since. But I did read his book On Writing, and I love his words of wisdom. One night when I couldn't sleep, I decided to write the next scene in my current WIP. At four in the morning, I was at the computer, and reviewed the passage I'd just written. I could hear Stephen's voice in my head: "That's a passive voice. Come on, Becky, you can do better." It gave me the chills, so I shut the computer off and went to bed. He still terrifies me since now that he's critical of my writing. We'll never be friends, but I still respect his mind. Here's one of his pearls of wisdom from his book on writing:

What has been your favorite part of the Olympics? And the real question is can you write and watch the Olympics at the same time?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Writing Amidst Chaos

Every author faces this dilemma at one time or another–members of the family, for which you are responsible, take center stage and your writing gets shoved aside for the time being.
Whether it's moving your children into college dorms, moving your parents into nursing homes, or moving yourself from one house to another, the computer gets ignored while life takes over. You can't close the door and zone out in whatever century or world you're writing because an obligation, in the form of a child, sibling or parent, comes knocking.

Well, it's been my time. My sister got shoved out of the hospital too early, and into a nursing home that was a hell-hole. Another sister and I busted her out of the nursing home, rebels that we are, and brought her home for one night. The next morning, we rushed her to the ER, and she's been in the hospital ever since. It's a three-hour round trip to the hospital, so no writing gets done on the days I travel to see her. Fortunately she's improving, and should be moved from the hospital to the VA rehab center on Monday. Maybe by this time next week, she'll be back home.

So, has my writing suffered with this interruption? I'm pleased to say no,  it hasn't. It seems the less time I have to write, the more productive I am.

I'm awaiting a final galley on my contemporary Christmas novella set in the fictional town of Lobster Cove, ME. The preliminary galley was pretty clean, and I'm pleased with the way it looks.
I decided to expand my horizons and try my hand at a Regency, so I wrote a sweet Christmas novella set in that era, which I just sent off yesterday. My book,
The Duplicitous Debutante, is being included in a boxed set called Love Between The Pages, featuring novels about writers. The scheduled release date is September 26. I've got a boxed set of all nine books in my Cotillion Ball Series, plus the novella about Charlotte and George, being released in December, and another historical, Dance With Destiny, this time set in Ohio in 1861, will be released in December as well. More about those recent developments later. So, things are moving along. All I need is to find an agent for my middle-grade book by the end of the year, and I'll be a happy camper.

How about you? How do you handle life's interruptions?