Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Thomas Jefferson, we don't know you

It is obvious, judging by the current political and national climate, that people have forgotten the principles upon which this country was founded. They have massaged, manipulated, twisted and changed what is a very simple concept. How? you ask. By ignoring and cherry picking according to the results wanted.

Take a few moments and read A Sad Birthday for Thomas Jefferson for the best commentary on what Thomas Jefferson built into the Declaration of Freedom and the Constitution and Bill of Rights. You will not be sorry you did.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Overnight Success Takes a While

The same question crops up all the time: How long did it take you to write Past Imperfect? Answer: 2 weeks.

Yes, it's true. I wrote the whole book in two weeks, at least the first draft. The published book took a little longer -- 10 years. Why? That isn't a simple answer.

In between writing the novel and publication, I had a full time job, sometimes two jobs, wrote articles, stories, edited other books and stories, kept a paper journal and several online blogs, read and reviewed numerous books (300+) and, from time to time, went back to the novel to tweak it. I had to tweak it a lot after 9/11 because there were major changes in the way airports handled incoming traffic and that affected the story.

In the meantime, I also learned about electronic surveillance and earned a ham radio operator's license, actually three licenses (Technician, General and Extra -- all within a week -- and learned Morse code). I traveled and moved and kept writing stories and articles for publication while still tweaking the novel. That brings me up to three years ago when a publisher finally contracted the novel and I changed the original name, Out of the Past, to Past Imperfect, which, as it turned out, wasn't such a good idea. The name fit but what I didn't know what that someone else had chosen the same title. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As September 2007 rolled around, I was getting antsy because I still had not heard from the publisher or the editor and my emails weren't answered. I did some checking only to find out the publisher had gone bankrupt and forgot to tell me. There I was with the manuscript ready to be published and no publisher. Goodbye January 2008 debut.

Undaunted, I sent the manuscript to another publisher and got a quick response. YES! I signed the contracts and waited and I didn't have to wait long. During an email conversation about choosing an editor, the publisher decided she didn't want to publish the book. I had a contract, but decided it wasn't worth fighting it out in court to force her to publish the novel because she wouldn't give it her full attention or her support.

I sent the manuscript out again and got another quick response, another yes, but I didn't hold my breath. Good thing I didn't. The publisher loved the manuscript but they were over sold and requested I send it in again in a year. I didn't want to wait, so I sent it out again. That was October 2008 and I was anxious to get moving. Another yes. Another wait. This time the publisher kept in contact and finally in March 2009 the editor contacted me. Two quick edits and I was ready, but not in time for the Rocky Mountain Writers Showcase. I didn't have a cover and hadn't seen even a mock-up, and no one asked me for my input. I began to worry, seeing yet another contract fizzle.

July 2009 rolled around and two weeks before my novel debuted the publisher sent me a JPG file of the cover and the link for my page on their website. I was in business. I had a publishing date and Amazon listed the book for sale. The rest is history.

It has been a long road for that particular book, but I refused to give up. It wasn't my best work, but it was a good start and so far the reviewers feel the same way, giving Past Imperfect rave reviews all across the board. I'm now an overnight success -- sort of.

Overnight is a relative term. It may take years to get off the ground and see not only physical proof of all the hard work and struggles, but money from sales. It's not an easy road and writing isn't for the faint of heart or the easily scared and cowed. What it takes, beside hard work and a certain talent for words, is forbearance, fortitude and a whole lot of determination.

As it stands now, I'm waiting to hear from the editor for the next two novels waiting in the wings for their turn at bat. One took many years to write and the other I wrote in two weeks, spending the last year revising, editing and adding to the bones with blood, sinew, flesh and skin. I still get nervous waiting because I'm not a patient person, but it's coming. Until the next two books arrive overnight on the scene, there's plenty of time to work on new projects to keep from biting my nails and going crazy with my overnight success.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In the Darkness There is Danger

The latest box of books to review from Authorlink came on Friday and I decided to dive in with Ted Dekker's latest thriller The Bride Collector. It was a bad choice for bedtime reading, which is my favorite place to read and my favorite form of sleep aid. Can't sleep? Read. Works every time, not because the books are boring but because they relax and transport me to a place where my body, a usually tensed wirespring of emotions held in check and muscles cramped from over or under use, can let go and float on a puffy cloud of alternate realities and wondrous prose. Not last night.

I knew from the cover, a bas relief picture of a bridal veil hanging from a rusted, bloody, oft-used meat hook, and the title that it was a thriller, but I usually don't have problems sleeping after reading books with graphic violence or horrific scenes. Every one in a while . . . This was one of those once in a while times.

Eyes drooping from fatigue (I haven't been sleeping through the night, harking back to some newborn state I avoided the first time around, probably emotional or mental colic), I bookmarked my page, stacked the book on top of the others and turned out the light, composing my heavy limbs for sleep. It didn't take long for Morpheus to gather me in his arms and whisper sleeping thoughts in my ear before I was yanked out of the bliss and into a world of darkness and terror where I was hunted by a family of throwbacks intent on playing Operation with my not so vital parts until they could dig out the vital parts with a rusty, bent spoon.

The leader of this homicidal group had his smirking, eager brothers hold me while he prodded between spine and right kidney with a thin lead rod, increasing the pressure until I writhing in their grip, biting my lip to keep from screaming in terror and pain. How I got away I don't know, but get away I did, running up a flight of stairs that appeared out of nowhere with the happy howling hounds on my trail. At the top of the stairs were two shovels, one point and the other flat-bladed, and I turned, grabbed the pointed shovel and stood my ground ready to swing at the first head within reach, except the shovels were chained to each other and to the banister. It was a trick and a trap. I started to run and catapulted out of the nightmare into drowsy wakefulness unable to free myself from the grip of the nightmare or wake fully. The struggle continued with the hounds hot on my heels, having grabbed my dream state to reel me back in and back in I went, fighting for consciousness and being dragged back inch by inexorable inch until finally I broke free, still sleep heavy, and tried to change the dream until at last I was saved by a full bladder near to bursting. It's the first time I was glad for nature's call.

That wasn't in the book and I hadn't finished the second chapter.

Dekker's writing is so visceral and evocative and the killer so insidiously dark that it set my mind to creating a nightmare all its own. I've decided that under no circumstances will I ever read a Ted Dekker thriller that close to bedtime, nor will I read him in bed unless there's plenty of daylight. Nope, reading Dekker will be cut off a minimum of six hours before bed while there's still plenty of light and a chance to purge his prose with frothy musicals, tear jerking romances and plenty of time to get it all out into my paper journals. His writing is far to suggestive to my overactive and very creative mind.

The last Dekker book I read and reviewed, which was also my first, was Green, the last and the first in a cycle of four. Once I started reading the book I was drawn into the story and quickly immersed. I resented needing to sleep; I wanted to finish it all in one sitting. That didn't happen, but the world and the ideas on which I gorged myself were a banquet for the senses and I enjoyed every moment, returning to read as soon as I finished work. Luckily, I work at home, so it was a short commute. I curled up in bed and flew away to the worlds of Dekker's imaginings and in spite of the religious themes, which were seamlessly woven into the overall narrative. This book, The Bride Collector, is a different Dekker than the one that fascinated me before. This Dekker knows the deepest darkness of the human soul wherein lies the joy and the insatiable need to warp the very fabric of reality and refashion it in its own image. This Dekker weaves nightmares and taps the instinctive and deep-seated fears in all of us, and especially, obviously, in me.

I highly recommend Ted Dekker's books. I must finish The Bride Collector in order to review it -- two chapters is not enough -- but I will read it in the daylight where nightmares can't drag me back into the abyss. Then I'll get Boneman's Daughters and read that in daylight, too, but I will read it. I suggest you do the same. Make sure it's daylight and keep your loved ones close; don't go to bed alone and, under no circumstances, read Dekker's thrillers in bed.