Frequently Asked Question: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

574144294_1280x720The subject for today’s article is the Question of the Month for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group … and it’s one I get myself from time to time.  So, here’s the unvarnished truth.

First, let’s get this out of the way:  this question is not about feeling discouraged.  I have confirmation from a best-selling author that this happens to every single one of us.  This is about throwing in the towel.  For me, the short answer is yes, I did.

What happened was this:  I was a newspaper editor, which was the job I had aimed for with my career since I was 18 years old.  I had just written my first book, a work for hire called Born of War … Dedicated to Peace.  I had been assured that my role on the military base was safe, but that had proven untrue; the organization for which I worked was being inactivated.  The Dept. of Defense had found me another job, but it was one in a role I hadn’t held for well over a decade … and for a boss who turned out to be abusive.  That’s a story for another time.

To make a long story very short, I stopped thinking of myself as a writer, because my day job no longer entailed developing stories, researching the news, and all of the other things that I thought made me a writer.  I didn’t pick up the proverbial pen again for almost a decade.

ITEOTB Wrap Cover frtWhat made me come back to it?  Honestly, a short story idea that didn’t shut up until it turned into my first novel, In The Eye of The Beholder.  I had characters showing up in my head who demanded to be released into the world.  It took me four years to finish the book, but within short order I had both a UK and a US publishing contract for the tale.  I’m not going to lie; I was lucky in that regard.  I had contacts who made introductions to some people, and things fell into place.  When the rights reverted back to me on both contracts, I re-released the book on my own.

During those moments of discouragement I mentioned earlier, I wondered aloud on Facebook why I dared to call myself a writer.  Several of my friends said the same thing:  “You are a writer; you write.”  And that’s the bottom line.  As long as we are still writing, we are writers.

I’m not an especially religious person, but there are numerous Biblical references that say “Therefore, be not discouraged.”  I think that, regardless of our faith (if any), we can all use the reminder not to give up on our dreams of writing.

Just for today, therefore, be not discouraged.  Give yourself the same advice tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.

If you are writing, you are a writer.

Frequently Asked Question: How Do You Prepare for an Author Appearance?

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This weekend, I’m doing final prep for my appearance at Clockwork Alchemy.  So, I thought I’d give you all a little insight into what that involves.

First, I’ve made sure I have inventory for all of my paperbacks.  I’ve done some new covers, but I still have a little back stock of the old ones … which means I’ve also come up with a different pricing strategy this year.  There’ll be a discount on the old covers while supplies last.  That way, there’s an opportunity for people who want the same content at a bargain.  I also have business cards with a QR code that will take people to my website, where they will find information about my eBook-only work.

Second, I’ve planned my table decor.  Having an inviting and nicely decorated sales space makes a huge difference; people want to check out your work if you and your merchandise look interesting.  Because Bayou Fire takes place in New Orleans, I’ll have Mardi Gras beads, alligators, and even a plush crawfish in the mix!

Speaking of beads brings me back to the concept of lagniappe:  I will have both the beads and badge ribbons as little give-aways, even for those who don’t buy a book.  I needed to make sure that both arrived in plenty of time for the show … and they’re here!

Third, I need to know my schedule.  I am only participating in one panel this year (“Verisimilitude in Fiction”), but there is another I really want to see (“The Girl Reporters”).  That means I need to make sure that my table is covered.

Fourth, the actual logistics of selling require that I have change on-hand and my Square device charged up so that I can take credit cards.  I also need to make sure that my brochures are folded and ready to go; I decided to do a brochure that I can change readily rather than spending money on rack cards that are obsolete the minute I change a cover!  My BoE seller’s permit, along with the secondary permit for the convention location, is in a frame so that the documents can be prominently displayed.  I already have my customer bags decorated, and gifts with purchase above a certain dollar amount lined up.  I still need to print out my price list, and my sign-up sheet for the e-mail list.

If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is!  What looks effortless once you’re at the show requires a lot of back-end work.  I look forward to seeing everyone at the convention, and having you see the final product!

I promise to take photos of my table/booth and share them here for those who live far away or cannot make it to the event for any other reason.  Thanks, as always, for reading and for being such great fans/friends.

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Frequently Asked Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

faq-2027970_1280I follow the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog, and their question this month happens to be one I get fairly often: what is the weirdest/coolest thing you’ve ever had to research for one of your stories?

That’s actually kind of hard to answer.  Part of the reason for this is that I’m an anthropology major; whether or not something is strange becomes a matter of perspective after a while.  Still, there are some things that stand out.

Over the years I’ve studied 19th century mental health treatments for women (which were pretty brutal, since they were based on the idea that women were essentially overgrown children who had to be prevented from using their brains too much), Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing, New Orleans voodoo, Mardi Gras Indians, the architecture of the Palais Garnier, and a whole lot more.  I pride myself on using primary sources and first-hand experience whenever possible.

If I could only pick one thing out of the list, it would be New Orleans cemetery practices.  I did a post about this last month, in which I explained the two-story above-ground vaults and how the ossuaries at the bottom come to be.  Funerary practice bury widely across cultures and time, and this is one of the most unusual I’ve ever read about.

Frequently Asked Question: “How Do You Do Your Research When It Comes to People With Disabilities In Your Books?”

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Public domain image via Pixabay

If at all possible, I talk with someone who lives with the disability I’m researching. That isn’t always feasible, so I also use medical journals, and documentation from the period about which I am writing to see how the disability in question was managed. For example, what we call PTSD nowadays was referred to as “shell shock” during the Napoleonic/ Regency era … and I was able to draw on information concerning how it was treated for Clytie’s Caller.

I researched mental health treatments for women in the 19th century extensively when I wrote In The Eye of The Beholder and In The Eye of The Storm, because one character dealt with what was called melancholia. I wanted to know how that ailment was managed. There are two characters with physical disabilities in those books as well, and I use treatments of the time to describe their situations.

Frequently Asked Question: “Why historical? What draws you to the genre?”

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“Down the Rabbit Hole, Alice,” by 93Criiis, DeviantArt.  Via Creative Commons

I think what draws me most to historical fiction is the glimpse into how people lived in other eras. I have always found that fascinating. Social mores, fashions, even food! I recently completed a course on royal food and feasting from the Tudor to Victorian eras.

I enjoy the process of researching a story, and I love the richness of detail that comes from doing that work. I’m one of those rare birds who treats research as a treasure hunt rather than a chore; the hardest thing I experience is limiting how much research I do, because it is far too easy to go down a rabbit hole and never do any writing!

It took me four years to write each of the full-length Phantom novels (In The Eye of The Beholder and In The Eye of The Storm, respectively) because I spent so much time doing research; the rabbit hole for the second one was the modern art movement in Paris.