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Are You an Honest-to-God Fiction Writer?

Writing fiction is a unique vocation. The only way to know, for certain sure, that you are a fiction writer, is to go through the checklist:

Probably Write Fiction Web


In my dream, the old house stands on a downhill slope, three wearily dignified stories crowding a sharp spit of corner rimed in brick.

She rises darkly and alone at the far edge of a small town–isolated from that mountain-cupped, all-American pocket of life, where the roads rise and fall like roller coaster tracks, streets are tree lined, and Memorial Day erupts in laughter and picnics, parades and bright bunting.

Years of neglect can be counted–like an old woman’s wrinkles–in her flaking paint and bare wood, weathered gray.

But inside–oh, inside! The first floor is a chockablock tumble of rooms scattered with dressers, desks, cupboards, and bookcases. Drawers and more drawers, drawers within drawers, and each one a mini pirate chest. Dreaming, I delight in my finds: sparkling rings and necklaces, books of poetry, a fountain pen with a delicately caved nib.

One flight up, the space is open and airy, the floor a cool-blue lake of marble flowing down three steps to a lapis lazuli hearth flanked by tall, swan-necked ceramic vases filled with white lilies. Glass doors at either end of the long room open onto balconies, one with a view of gently rolling hills, the other overlooking my backyard ponds.

The third floor? I don’t go there. It’s haunted, you see, by the ghost of a woman who watches and waits. Coldly waits, daring me to climb those stairs and open the door. Maybe she’ll kill me if I do.

So I live half a life in two-thirds of a house, surrendering that upper story and the brightest edge of my happiness, trying to pretend she isn’t there. Trying to convince myself she can’t turn the knob from her side and come for me.

But you can’t pretend away dead lives that lie in wait. Everyone who walks through my door knows about her. She makes them edgy. They don’t even stay long enough to sit and talk.

Except for the hard-eyed, wiry-haired, redheaded scarecrow who sold me the house. She doesn’t see the problem. What do I need with a third story anyway? “Live down here,” she says. “Ignore her,” she says. “I did.”

The neighbor recommends exorcism.

The ghost waits.

Until one morning I wake up and realize the ghost is my past.

I do not know what makes a writer, but it probably isn’t happiness.
~William Saroyan

If I had a nickle for every writer who associated past (or present) unhappiness with the art, I’d have … well … at least a few dollars.

Rudyard Kipling said, “(An unhappy childhood was not) an unsuitable preparation for my future, in that it demanded a constant wariness, the habit of observation, and the attendance on moods and tempers; the noting of discrepancies between speech and action; a certain reserve of demeanour; and automatic suspicion of sudden favours.”

According to Steinbeck, it takes an unhappy childhood to make a writer.

And Avi Steinman insists, “We write because we are constantly discontented with almost everything, and need to use words to rearrange it, all of it, and set the record straight”

Well, that’s depressing. I’d rather not buy into their sentiments, thank you very much.

But there’s that ghost in my dream, the ghost of a personal past populated with plenty of pain. (Alliteration as a tension-relieving device. Who knew?)

Based on my dream–and the frequency with which it visits me–I suspect I’m not quite through dealing with the bad old days. Based on my dream, it’s clear I’d dearly like to avoid doing so. My haunted third story strikes me as a dangerous place to visit. But, you know, one does what one must, if one wants to boot the ghost out of one’s attic.

And, trust me, I do.

What I find interesting is, the books I’ve written so far don’t deal much with pain. They’re not deep, they don’t explore the third story. They’re entertaining, humorous at times, edge-of-the-seat at others. Most telling of all, they tend to end happily. This is no doubt a fair indication of how determined I am to live on the fun floors of my old house. Also, how much I enjoy telling stories that might, for a short little while, let other people live on the fun floors of their houses.

Given the attics that haunt us all, I figure a respite on the fun floors of the house is a fine and good reason to write what I do. We can’t spend every minute of our lives facing our ghosts.

Why Remix?

As a writer, I was a late bloomer. Eighteen years ago, I was in my early forties when I decided to write my first book. Crazy, right?

But you know what they say: “Better late than never.”

In my case, better took a quantum leap into fabulous when Bantam bought that book and its sequel for its Loveswept series romance line. I was delighted (read: exuberant, bordering on rapturous). I learned a great deal from my experience with Bantam—thanks in particular to my editors Joy Abella and Beth De Guzman—and I owe them more than I can say.

Now let’s fast-forward a decade. Or two.

Those two books—which remain dear to my heart—are sadly, out of print. They were never available as e-books. To boot, these engaging stories, once critically acclaimed—For Love or Money won a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award—are now hideously dated. (I mean, who knew back in 1997 we’d all carry around cell phones one fine day?) Finally, in the past eighteen years I’ve grown as a writer, giving new meaning to the ever-wistful refrain, “If I had it to do all over again ….”

Taking those factors into account, the decision to “remix” the two existing books as semi-sweet romances (a genre I personally invented for books that are sensual but not explicit)—and add a third to create the Golden State Hearts Trilogy—was a no-brainer.

Book one, the new and improved For Love or Money, will launch on April 1st. (Making me an April Fool for romance.) Book two, Hunter In Disguise, is slated for late July. And book three–featuring two middle-aged romantic leads and as yet untitled–will debut just in time for Christmas.

Meanwhile, I’m making like a Mixmaster (Mixmistress sounds sort of kinky) and having the time of my life!

Growing Up Indie, Part III: Out of the Frying Pan

You know those moments when you throw up your hands and mutter, “I don’t care about conventional wisdom, I’m gonna do this my way?”

I’m there.

I became an indie author last July, and I love it.  Please remember that:  I.  Love.  It.  Love getting my books out there, love getting feedback from readers/reviewers, love knowing I have control.

I do not … I repeat, not … love promoting.

Lord knows, there are droves of really smart people out there who can tell you the hows and whys and wherefores of marketing your book.  There are tools to help and websites to help and courses to help even more.  Facebook groups.  Twitter folk.  Trust me, there’s no shortage of knowledgeable, willing mentors.

To them, I say, “Thank you.  For your graciousness, your time, your patience, your willingness, and the advice I did take.  But from now on … count me out.”

Count me out, as in, no more frenetic/clever social media marketing campaigns. As in, I might try guest blogging—when/if I have time and something to say—but blog TOURS? Not happening.

I’m on the far side of 60 years old, and I have books to write. If they’re good books, the word will spread. (You know, like, “If you build it, they will come.”) Probably glacially, maybe not in my lifetime, but them’s the breaks.

Does believing people will find my books make me a Pollyanna? Quite possibly. Are smarter, more talented, more experienced, much more successful authors reading this and making with the, “Tsk, tsk?” No doubt.

But I know my own capabilities. I don’t have the energy to build marketing momentum AND tell stories. I love to tell stories. I detest marketing.

So, this is me, leaping out of the social media frying pan into the fire of probable anonymity (not to mention penury).

I came to this party to write. And, brother,Image that’s what I’m gonna do.

►End of rant◄

Love Song

If I could write you a love song, I’d do it.
Sitting in this cool, silent cabin,
Watching through a window framed by
Pines the afternoon as it ages and dies,
I’d spin a melody in notes tender and
True enough to make the angels cry.

I think of you, always with longing, and a
Heart aching for what-could’ve-been,
What I daily pray will be.  And I tell myself,
“If only I could set love to music, paint it
In poetry of unsurpassed beauty, then ….”
Then … what?  I’m not sure I know.

If my song were a ‘plaint, the cry of love
Given begging for love returned, it
Would be an awfully tinny tune, falling oh
So flatly on the ear.  Anybody can write
A song like that.  The only note in those
Kinds of songs is an endless mi, mi, mi.

Still, if I’m honest, I can’t deny thinking,
As others lavish me with affection,
How golden life would be, if it were you
Here loving me.  No, I won’t deny that.
I’ve been a lot of things to you, not all
Of them good, but I won’t lie that way.

But, if you could trust me now, just for
A minute – now, as night creeps over
These forested hills – you’d understand
That, tonight, I’d only like to sing to you,
In words and melody too sublime to be
Disbelieved, “I love you.  I do love you.”

If I had music and lyrics enough,
Could I touch your heart?  Would you
Hear beyond the words that’ve become
All but meaningless to you?  Could you
Listen through expected sentiment to
Hear the beating heart beneath?

I really don’t know.  If you don’t know it’s
You I’m talking to, how can you hear
My song?  (If I wrote one.)  But God is
The Father of mercy; redemption is His
Specialty.  Maybe, someday, He’ll teach
Me to write my song, and you to hear it.

Until then, I’ll love you in silence, or speak
The words I have, even though you hear
The words only, missing the music that would
Bring them to life, fill them with power,
And sing my love song to your soul.
If I could write you a love song, I’d do it.

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The dialogue is sharp & quick, more is inferred than spoken and the humor is wry.

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