“Mom, can I have an egg?” Jemma called to her mother.
“Whatever for, Child?” A voice asked from somewhere deep in the dark house.
“The man on the radio said it was hot enough to fry an egg and I want to try it.” Jemma sat on the milk crate next to the screen door. There was no answer. She couldn’t see into the house. On hot days like this her Ma kept every drape closed up tight. Even pinned closed in some cases. She’d asked her Ma once why she did it.
“I open everything up to cool the house down in the morning and then close it up to keep it as cool as I can all day.” She’d shooed Jemma out the door, then shut it behind her.
The screen door squealed open on its worn out spring. Ma stood there with a brown egg in her hand. “Come on. We’re gonna see if that weather man was right.”
Jemma jumped up to follow her.
She marched down the walk to the smooth sidewalk in front of the house. Jemma smiled remembering the city men had been there last fall and put a new one along the whole block.
Ma tucked her flowered dress under her knees. “I don’t want to get any egg splatterin’s on me.” She wiped the sweat from her forehead.
“Do you really think it’s as hot as a fryin’ pan on this sidewalk?” Jemma wore her rubber thongs so the heat didn’t bother her feet. She squatted beside her mother and touched the smooth cement. “It’s hot alright.”
“Whacha doin’ Jemma?” Ben stopped his bike next to the curb. He talked funny and not just because he had a lollipop in his mouth. He talked funny all the time. Ma said he had a hairlip. Jemma had looked at the scar on his lip and didn’t see no hair on it. Ma was wrong. she thought.
“Benjamin, we’re going to see if it’s hot enough to fry an egg on this here cement.” Ma motioned for him to join them. He dropped the bike on the curb and leaped to the grass on the opposite side of the sidewalk and knelt down across from Jemma and Ma…..
– It was the 50’s by Tina Weaver
Tell us about your journey to publishing your first novel. How long did it take? What were the stumbling blocks?
After writing my manuscript I worried it wasn’t a good story. My family loved it, but they love everything I write. I reached out to an English teacher, through a friend, asking her to read my manuscript and tell me if she thought it was any good. My friend came back with, “Our book club wants to read your MS as a project.” WOW! I printed 9 copies with the instruction, “Get your red pens and pencils out. Mark up anything you don’t like or don’t understand.” I sent them off and all November I chewed my nails wondering what they thought. My friend came back to tell me she loved it. Then I went to their meeting and the response was amazing. They all loved it. Some read it all in one sitting, others took a few days and one lady said she read portions of it to her husband. They ALL loved it and thought it should be a movie.
Next I tried to find an agent/publisher. I sent off a token amount of cover letters and queries with no response. NOT ONE. Then I contacted writers on one of my Facebook groups and was directed to an indi publisher.
Here was the process. I sent a one page pitch, longer synopsis, bio and promotion pitch. They asked to read chapter 1, then asked for chapter 2, then asked for 3 & 4, then the rest of the novel. They loved the story and offered me a contract. The editing process began. We trimmed about 15K words, maybe a few more.
I picked a cover and they sent samples. I wasn’t thrilled. At a conference, I sat in on a cover class. I learned a lot and went back to change my cover design. Best thing ever. Never be afraid to change. Its eyecatching and a cover guys aren’t afraid to be holding.
What lessons did you learn along the way?
It was my first dip into the publishing world. It wasn’t horrible, but I learned a lot.
1) Don’t pay for anything. I didn’t.
2) Ask for references. If they have only published a couple books you might think twice.
3) Make sure you know what you are expected to do and what they are going to do. Get it in writing.
4) If you love your cover art, work out before publishing to pay for it. I was lucky to get mine at a very reasonable rate.
Through the 2 years I pushed my own book and practically only saw results when I did the work. I booked my own signing gigs, I ordered my own post cards, and finally got book marks. I bought my own books from them. They paid shipping, but I paid a higher price than what they bought them for. I guess that’s business, get a piece where you can.
My 2 year contract was up in January 2017. I did nothing. I had no idea what happened. They took the book off Amazon. But I still saw it there. I didn’t realize some one was selling my used books.
I talked to my publishers. We parted amicably. They wanted me to resign, but I said, I did most of the pushing. It was my contacts that bought most of the books. They told me they understood but wanted me to know that after going to two indi publisher conferences, they were told my book out performed any book that was out there. They were asked again and again how they did it. ME. I was the one pushing my book. I can’t sell Tupperware, Thirty-one bags or any of those type businesses. I can talk to almost anyone about my book. Once its back on Amazon under my name, I’m going to push it even harder.
You describe yourself as a plotter. What do you think the advantages and disadvantages are of this approach?
I am a plotter when I start writing seriously.
Sometimes I just start writing with an idea and write until the muse stops then go and figure out what needs fixing.
I don’t write character pages in detail. I write a general idea and go back to fill in when I want to remember something important. I have plot points I write to keep things moving. They change as I write, but they are reference points. I’m not tied to them, but they are helpful.
Tell me about your experiences with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Would you recommend NaNoWriMo to other authors?
I have completed 3 and started 2 I didn’t finish. I wrote my first novel doing the NANO. It was helpful for me to get the story out on “paper” and keep writing. I spent the following January writing the next 50,000+ words to finish the novel.
I did the NaNo challenge on Writing.com (3 times) and it helped to keep me focused.
Do you have a favorite genre to write in?
I don’t know. Literary Fiction? I tell stories about people and their families. Mostly about relationships.
Are there any genres you’re afraid to try, or struggle to write in?
I have written short stories in Syfy and Horror just to try it. I stay away from poetry. I’d like to try Fantasy some day.
Do you read in the same genres that you write in?
Most times. I love thrillers, mysteries, but I don’t have the mind to write them. You need to have a detective mind, I have an idea for one, some day. I have read all genres, but find Scyfy and Horror don’t keep my interest. I read Stephen King’s first 4 books and IT when he first wrote them.. After that I found them to be too formulaic to read.
What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
This is a hard one. I used to have stories flowing through my brain. Then I discovered they needed to be more than just a random idea. They needed a beginning, middle and end. That’s when it got a little harder.
My novel came to me when I read a portion of a memoir. The incident had an effect on me and had me questioning WHY? Why would an entire town turn on one of their own? I remembered reading my favorite story by Shelly Jackson, The Lottery. I took the story in a different direction, but the story drove me to be told. I couldn’t write fast enough.
It was published in 2014. Here is my problem. I’m searching for a story that moves me the same way. One that drives me to tell it and I’m not finding it. The ones I’ve started don’t push me to tell it. I feel if I’m not excited about it, how do I make others want to read it? I often feel as though I’m a One-Hit-Wonder.
Do you have a favorite author? Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
I have too many to list here. All for different reasons. Sometimes its their stories, genre, the way they hooked me or the series has elements I love.
I would classify Christine Feehan as my favorite author in this decade. I’ve loved her Vampire series as much as I did Ann Rice. She knows how to build a world, and create characters that stay true to their world through multiple books. She has witch books, and the Mind Games series about enhanced warriors. If you want to read good writing with depth that lasts through the many series she writes, try her out. She is my shining example of a great prolific writer.
M.Night Shyamalan is a fantastic story teller. His movie Devil had me in twists. The foretelling at the beginning, all the characters are intertwined and the end twist had me in awe. I love his style. While I’m not a horror fan, this movie hooked me good. Mostly because of how he weaves a character into a story with finesse.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Years ago I read Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict book. This was the start of formulating my writing for real. A short book but a powerful tool to follow.
Then I joined Writing.com in 2007. Now you may think this is an advertisement for the site, but I have to tell you as a very novice writer with great stories in my mind, Wdc has been my teacher.
No one person stands out, but a collective number of people read and reviewed my posts then directed me to take a Reviewer’s class. I did and I just discovered I’m on an accredited reviewers list. Others reviewed my stories. Some were very critical and others critiqued my work with positive advice. I put on my armor and took their advice, edited, cut and reworked until it was good. I try not to ever be MARRIED to my work. I have to be willing to cut to be better. There are some things I won’t change, if it changes the story-line or feel. The publisher wanted me to cut the slang/dialect spoken by my characters. I held my guns. I told her the father and sons spoke the dialect and she wanted to improve herself so tried to correct them. How could she if they all spoke perfect English? You have to know when to hold and when to fold.
What is your purpose in writing?
At first I wrote to share with my family. After a few years writing and winning awards on Writing.com I thought, “Maybe someone besides my family would read and PAY for my stories.” I submitted a story and it was picked up and published. I’ve had 5 other stories published. I haven’t had much luck with some of the monthly anthologies I’ve seen in Barnes & Nobel, and I haven’t tried any magazines. I continue to post stories and win a few contests on Writing.com. I want to find another story that people would be willing to read. My followers ask me when I’m going to publish another book. I’m scared it won’t be as good.