Monday, December 26, 2011

Dreams of Roy Rogers

Before I wrote my first historical romance I told everyone who would listen that I didn't like to study history (even though I had a minor in it from college) and I wasn't interested in the least in westerns and such. Then my agent asked me to try my hand at an historical. Her timing was good because I had just fallen madly in love with LaVyrle Spencer's books and she wrote both contemporary and historical romances -- but her historicals are fabulous. "Hummingbird," "The Gamble," and "Vows" were wonderful and had me wondering if I might have one of these types of stories inside me.
Taking up the challenge, I launched into my first attempt which I called "Wildcat" and the publisher ended up changing the title to "Blazing Embers," a title I never liked. Reminded me too much of "Blazing Saddles." Nevertheless, I was hooked.
But what was truly astonishing was that I didn't have to conduct as much research as I had thought because -- from somewhere -- facts about the west and living off the land came to me. How did I know these things?
I traced this unearthed knowledge to two sources: my parents' stories of living the farm life in Missouri and my childhood Saturday morning TV fixation with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy.
My dad loved westerns and we always watched what Daddy wanted to watch on TV. So we spent our evenings watching Gunsmoke; Paladin; The Big Valley; Bonanza, Have Gun, Will Travel; The High Chaparral; Wanted: Dead or Alive; The Rifleman; Maverick; Bat Masterson; Wagon Train; Cheyenne; Death Valley Days; Laramie; The Lone Ranger; Rawhide; and Sugarfoot. I grew up in a time when westerns were the most popular genre on TV. Is it any wonder my mind sopped it all up and stored it for future use?
I'm reminded of Margaret Mitchell telling of sitting on the porch and listening to her old relatives relate their personal tales of the Civil War. Little did she know at that time that she would use all of their stories in a novel called "Gone with the Wind."
So it was with my parents. I listened to their tales of picking cotton, training mules, fixing plows, digging outhouses and wells, making soap, butchering pigs and chickens, putting up meat and canned vegetables, and sleeping six or seven kids to a bed. It all came back to me when I began writing historical romances.
If you haven't read LaVyrle Spencer's books, then you have a treat ahead of you. Hers are some of the few books that I have shed tears as I read sentimental and touching passages. She retired from writing in 1997 or thereabout and I don't know why. Her books are wonderful and hold up well.
Please feel free to read my historicals, too. My personal favorites are "Primrose"
and "Cheyenne's Shadow" originally published by Avon Books and now available on Amazon.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Getting Down to It

The most difficult thing about writing is actually doing it -- sitting down every day to pound out some sentences. Once you get on a roll, it's not half bad, but getting moving can be painful. Staring at the screen, re-reading what you wrote yesterday, checking out your fingernails, counting the cracks in the much to do!

When you finally get going and into that world you have created from whole cloth, it can be drug-like. Time will expire and you will be oblivious to the physical world. You will feel that you know these people you have created. Non-writers don't understand how you can write all day and not crave the company of other people. They don't understand that you have been with people all day long, moving them about, letting them yap on and on, feeling their fears, joys, nervousness, and passion. It can be exhausting and you can feel at the end of a writing session that you just want to be alone! Alone with your own thoughts!

Ah, but getting to that place is the rub, as Shakespeare would say. Sitting yourself down, concentrating on what you are about to do, channeling that other world and those other people, snuggling into their skin, getting lost in there . . . in those pages of type you are producing. Some days it simply doesn't happen. Some days you slip right in without a backward glance.

But most days you have to force it. You have to pry open that world with a dull spoon and writhe and wriggle into it, a stranger in a strange land -- at least for a few paragraphs or a few pages -- searching for the familiar, for that spark that will set fire to the kindling of your imagination.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Talent vs. Tenacity

I have known many extremely talented writers who were never published.

I have known writers who struggled -- who were marginally talented, but kept plugging away even after being demolished by critique groups and editors.

These marginally talented (and in some cases not very talented at all) writers who stuck in there and kept at it were published.

So I ask myself: is it more important to be talented or driven? Of course, the best option is to be both. To have a fire in your belly and skills at your fingertips.

You can be as talented as all get-out, but if you don't apply your butt to the chair every day and your fingers to the keyboard, chances are very great that you will never be published.

So, let's raise our virtual glasses of ale to the bulldogs among us -- those inspiring individuals who grab hold of a dream and won't let go.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Back From Beyond!

For many moons I have been working in the nonfiction world -- writing and editing a magazine aimed at small business owners. A literary agent from my distant past contacted me to ask if I would be interested in placing my backlist of published books with Amazon. Duh. Yes! So, thanks to this wheeling and dealing agent, my books will be offered for downloading and I might reach new readers! Also, I wrote a novella to go along with the backlist that, I believe, will also be offered on Amazon.

I am now energized again to write fiction and I'm slaving away on a series (hopefully) with a paranormal/detective plot.

Writing is hard, folks. Whether it is writing for magazines or a whole big book, it is sweating bullets. I have known I was meant to be a writer since I was a kid, but the idea really took root because of an English teacher named Mrs. Ragsdale. She died this year and I read her obituary in the newspaper with tears in my eyes. She had inspired many, many people and was well loved and appreciated. She asked me to enroll in the journalism class in high school and work on the newspaper. I did and I was hooked. I knew I would become a reporter and that I would write novels on the side.

Just like that. And I did.

It is wonderful to have a goal.

My next one is to finish my paranormal detective book and try my hand again at succeeding in the world of fiction.
Fingers (and eyes) crossed!