I laughed out loud last week when Jacquie Rogers' bio began with, “My parents were poor but honest sharecroppers …” I’ve got a confession of my own. I’m a ‘burb brat.
A Writer is Born
Yep. I grew up in a cookie cutter “ranch” house—yeah, ranch my foot. A suburb of a huge metropolitan city. Streets in a gridlock pattern, easy for Halloween candy collecting. Driveways leading to the garages in back. Trees in front of every “castle” – except ours. We lived smack dab in the middle of the middle block and had a fire hydrant. Lawns – and the soft ‘whirrs’ of the push mowers early every Saturday morning. Our next door neighbor kept his a lush emerald green and so velvety soft, I would rub my bare sole over that lawn when he drove to the store. ‘Mr. Joe’ kept a sharp eye, so I couldn’t avoid getting caught otherwise.
Most of the families were Catholic. Imagine the kids running all over the place (1960s-70s). My mom was an artist, so when she wasn’t cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping or doing laundry (and yes, she would do all of that every day, with eight in our family), she painted oils and then watercolor. I tried my hand at sketching, but preferred to climb on top of the garage roof to read my books in spring or fall. In summer I’d find a quiet tree in the shade. My favorites were the Little House series because I loved history, and Trixie Belden because I loved mystery. I wanted to be a detective when I grew up. I also wanted to travel back in time – until I realized what an outhouse meant. And how horse manure really stinks. Oh, and horses hated me. I tried to ride one. He refused to cooperate. The second time was no better. My ten-speed bike was faster.
I have to admit reading those early books (over and over again) probably helped build the foundation for my writing career now. Oh, and reading Tolkien. Along with LeGuin and hordes of other authors during my eclectic phase where I read across genres. I could go on and on about college, marriage, joining RWA after my daughter was born, attending conferences and craft workshops, plus racking up scads of rejections. But I’ll spare you all that. Life also adds bricks to a writer’s sturdy foundation.
I learned that revision is key. I have never “dashed” something off and sent it in to anyone with a magical “acceptance” a few days later. There’s something almost criminal in that kind of expectation. Nowadays, anyone can self-publish—but a quality product will always sell more than something inferior or the latest fad. I believe hard work and paying your dues gives far more gratification than any instant pudding success. When it comes to staying power in the writing field, you gotta bite the bullet. Write, write, write, finish a first draft, plot over, develop deeper characters and themes, revise, revise, and revise, tweak, polish, submit, get over rejection, re-polish or re-tweak, re-submit. Consider the professional’s advice, but listen to your gut too. Build a hard shell, because no matter how many books you publish, poor reviews can hurt too.
The writing profession ain’t for sissies!
|Western Writers of|
So I had this manuscript called DOUBLE CROSSING. I’d done all the above and submitted it to contests, agents and editors. Despite multiple finalist berths, no one wanted it. Hmm. Was it due to having “no naughty bits” exposed? Sure, my cowboy cussed a little, but being a “blended” genre, with mystery, suspense, adventure, a hint of romance and inspirational, DC seemed primed to please everyone. Only it didn’t fit the marketing slots. I toyed with the idea of self-publishing while I accompanied my daughter to Vienna in the spring of 2011. There’s something about Old Word culture and getting away that would refresh anyone.
I returned home and stumbled over a new small press. Astraea’s standards fit my own—clean, no “pink parts” and solid stories. I decided to accept their offer and took out the few instances of “cussing” to suggestions of how a cowboy might swear. And I jumped on the “Author Platform” bandwagon with gusto—trawled the web for book reviewers, called in favors from published author friends for “blurbs” and investigated all the contests I could find. I didn’t expect anything, but I did hope for a finalist berth in one of them. Lo and behold, the biggest prize fell with a WHOMP on my book. Unexpected, but very much appreciated.
Writers everywhere are notorious for self-doubt. I did some thinking. Did the judges mix my name and book title with someone else? Or maybe no one else entered (not a chance, ha). But maybe, just maybe, my “baby” surprised the judges. DOUBLE CROSSING is unique. I’m not gonna apologize for that. I took Charles Portis’ basic premise from True Grit—a young girl’s quest for revenge—and spun it afresh with an older naïve heroine and the transcontinental railroad. Now I’m writing the sequel, DOUBLE OR NOTHING, because I don’t want to be a one-book wonder. And while I’m not expecting to win a second Spur, I’ll enter the contest again—why not? But first, I’ll revisit the stomping grounds. Write, write, write, plot some more, revise, revise, revise, tweak, polish, re-tweak, etc. until it’s better than DOUBLE CROSSING.
It’s wonderful to know that hard work does pay off in the long run.
Here's a blurb for DOUBLE CROSSING, a Historical Western Suspense:
A murder arranged as a suicide … a missing deed … and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered.
Here's an excerpt of DOUBLE CROSSING:
I needed something to make me forget the argument with Father. Capturing the lizard’s familiar form, I filled it in with dark cross-hatching and smudges. What a beautiful creature. My friends kept Persian cats or lapdogs, but lizards held a special fascination for me. Exotic, alluring with their patterned skin texture and independence from humans. Lucretia flicked her tongue and scuttled away, alarmed by some noise in the distance. The setting sun glowed dull red and orange past the shadowy trees, casting golden beams over the garden. The aroma of roast chicken, thyme and sage reminded me of dinner.
Rising to my feet, I groped for my mother’s necklace which held the tiny watch that Charles had given me. I must have left it upstairs on the dressing table. Tinkling water spilled from a cherub’s pitcher into the fountain. I sat down on the bench again and added ferns and shadows to my sketch.
Minutes later, a loud crack echoed in the air. The odd sound lingered. It reminded me of the revolver’s shot when I’d killed the badger. Had it come from the house? Closing my book, I hurried through the garden. Two shadowy figures slipped off the side porch and fled toward the street. The taller one wore dark clothing. I recognized the shorter man as Emil Todaro by his frog-like gait. Rushing after them, I witnessed their mad scramble into a waiting buggy. The team shot forward under a whip’s cruel lash.
Why had the lawyer returned? What did they want?
“Etta! Etta, where’s Father?”
The maid poked her head out of the dining room. “In the library.”
“I saw Mr. Todaro leaving with another man. Did you let them in?”
“No, Miss Lily. I did hear the Colonel talking to someone, though.”
“Didn’t you hear a loud bang?”
“I did, but I thought it was Cook with her pots. I was in the cellar fetching more coal.” Etta trailed me through the hall. “Is something wrong?”
“I’m not sure.” The library’s doorknob rattled beneath my fingers when I twisted it open. I peeked inside the dim room. “Are you all right, Father?”
An odd smell tickled my nose—gunpowder. I swallowed hard, my throat constricting, staring at how Father was sprawled over his desk, head down, one arm dangling over the edge. My head and ears thrummed when I saw papers littering the floor. The safe door stood ajar, the drawers yanked open every which way. I took a step, and another, toward the pipe that lay on the plush Persian carpet. His crushed spectacles lay beside it. Father’s hand cradled the small derringer he’d always kept in his desk drawer. Its pearl handle gleamed above a stack of papers, stained dark crimson.
A fly crawled over Father’s cheek. Etta clawed the air, one hand clamped over her mouth. I saw a tiny blackened bullet hole marking his temple, and wet blood trickling downward. Frozen in place, I heard a shrill scream—my own, since pain raked my throat.
Everything swirled and a dark void swallowed me whole.
Ebook: ISBN# 978-1-936852-48-2 Print: ISBN # 1466223200
BUY LINKS: Astraea Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords
BOOK TRAILER: http://youtu.be/2mDe17A5aF8
|Meg Mims, Author and |
Spur Award Winner
For Best First Western Book
“Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Thanks to Meg Mims for sharing with us today. While she's here, I'll be at Peggy Hendersons at http://peggylhenderson.blogspot.com Please stop by and comment so I won't be there all alone.
Thanks for stopping by!