Saturday, October 29, 2016

Reading Wild

Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks): "I made the decision."
Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise): "Must have been a tough one."
Apollo 13, (1995)

I read the email this morning, letting me know that publisher Wild Child was shutting down at the end of the year. This was not unexpected news - the publishing business is tough, competitive and (right now) awash in titles. Heck, anyone with Word and internet access can get something onto Amazon. Self-publishing firms are everywhere. A small house like WC (and sister Freya's Bower) jockey's for position with everyone else, trying to command attention. Readers seem in shrinking supply even as their reading options multiply. People who know the ropes, are attuned to trends, say this is a tough time to make a living in the writing business.

I'll say.

But, nobody needs to call the waaaambulance for me. Marci Baun, and her publishing company, have given me an opportunity I never thought I'd get. To read the email - "We like the manuscript you submitted. We want to discuss publishing it" was one of the most joyous moments in my writing life. 

It was a little after 0400...the proverbial "Oh-dark thirty." I was eating breakfast, reading emails and getting ready to drive to work for six AM roll call. Attempts to gain the attention of an agent or publisher had gone unavailing...for two years. Nearly a hundred submissions. In some cases, the publisher responded with "Not our genre." A couple thought the stories interesting, such as they were. Some never responded back, despite SASE. The bastards. My personal favorite was an email submission that required only six minutes to come back "Sorry." That was it!

A Parasol in a Hurricane evolved from a combination of conversations about how to address the brick wall I'd encountered. It represented a departure for me - a short story instead of a novel - being something bite-sized and, perhaps, tempting. Publisher Wild Child caught my eye. We had called one of our kids (need I mention who) the wild child. Enya's song of the same name was her ring tone. Fate?

Then I got their response. I went upstairs and woke up my wife. Did I mention it was 4 AM? We laughed, we cried. We hugged.

Over the next eight years the little shop in Culver City and I did the short story and two novels together. Neither of us got rich, obviously. But, I'll never forget the look on Pat's face when I told her I'd found a publisher.

For that, and a hundred other things... Thank you, Marci.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

In Search of Honor

The week started with a sound bite - a man in his late middle age uttering crude comments about women. Having assiduously avoided reading them, I am not in a position to dissemble the madness. Suffice to say...what a jerk.

The week ended with the murder of 27 year old police woman Lesley Zerebny, who fell beside coworker Jose Vega in Palm Springs. She had returned recently from maternity leave, her child born four months ago.

Irony is for amateurs. I have been blessed to serve in the company of heroes who happen to be woman. We have fought together, bled together, laughed together. I have put my life in their hands - they in mine.

How does one respond to dishonor? 

By remembering heroes. By remembering the best our communities have to offer. By remembering a 4 month old who won't really be able to remember Mom.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

It's Your Secret

Co-worker: "You talk like your characters are real."
Me: "They are."

What would Karen/Amy/Cici do. Or, in more contemporary terms, who would they vote for in the presidential race.

Pat and I have had this conversation. Seriously. The question came up as we were talking through plot lines for "Karen 3." 

None of them are really mine.

My first novel, born in naivete and nurtured through hours of earnest inexperience, featured Flatiron Valley police sergeant Amy Painter. I wanted her to wrestle with a variety of challenges - danger, death and the awful dilemma of options. Several good friends helped me mold her into 3D. She occupied hours of discussion with Pat, often during long beach walks or plane rides.

The "finished manuscript" in hand, I headed for Kinkos, to get copies printed for friends who would read my first attempt at publication. Getting out of the car proved a challenge, the emotions were so strong. Amy would no longer be mine.

She would belong to readers. They would have opinions - some good, some not - about who she is, what she cares about and whether she made the case for women in law enforcement. Some of the input would sting. But... Writers write, said William Forrester, so readers can read.

Karen Sorenson sprang to life at an airshow. The words poured out - lonely, emotionally abused and longing for someone to love, she set that all aside to solve a murder. The manuscript was enormous, unwieldy and a hot mess.
Two writer friends helped me trim it down.

But, writing for publication is a business. I took Karen to the home of a woman fleeing from an unacceptable past. The story concluded after a mere nine thousand words, but it got the attention of Marci Baun at Wild Child. We were off and running.

Cici. She started as a plot line, one dimensional. Drones, death and martial law. The story virtually wrote itself, but my main character had no depth. She wasn't real. Enter a coworker who would become a friend. And Cici took on a real personality.

So who would they vote for?

That's up to you, my loyal readers.