Moreover, how did she get published?
Keep in mind that I majored in math for two reasons. The first was it was fun. It’s okay…I’ll wait for you to stop laughing. Really. I’m serious. I enjoyed it. I’m a puzzle person, and most mathematics is solving puzzles, which appealed to me.
But I confess that a part of me majored in math because it wasn’t English. It didn’t involve English. To get my degree I needed little more than English 101 to graduate, and that sounded like a good deal. In fact, I put it off until my senior year—yes, I hated English that much. The whole “writing papers” thing…what a wasted of time! And the reading! Bah!
Interestingly, there was this other part of me, however, that daydreamed. A lot. A lot, a lot. I’ve been guilty of that since I was knee-high to a grass hopper. Music, TV, movies, all of these generated a constant stream of playmates, friends, and distractions. As I got older, these “phantoms” had adventures.
I decided to write these down.
Oh, they were horrible! I really needed to learn how to write. Yes, I could see these people and write what they did and said, but reading it was more like a description of animated robots. The writing was lifeless, colorless, and cumbersome.
Wow. I should have taken more English.
One day, waaaaaay back in 2002, I met a woman (oddly through a stained glass class) who was an editor. She and a friend were writers, and—and I’m not sure why I confessed this to her—I mentioned that I’d dabbled at it myself. She offered to organize a small writers group, just the three of us. We could get together once a week, read each other’s stuff, have some dinner, more of a social thing. I scoffed at the idea. She was an editor! Her friend had some success in minor publications. And I…I was a math major!
“She” was Jennifer Carson, the head blogger here at Leasspell. Her “friend” was Denise Robarge Tanaka, a fellow blogger.
If you’ve never been in a writers group (and prior I HAD NOT), it is daunting. You see your works as an extension of yourself. You liken its creation to birthing, giving life to something that didn’t previously exist. It is glorious. It is good. Then these interlopers come along and rip it to shreds! The first time you experience this you’re left almost bleeding. It isn’t good. You failed.
Once the frustration passes, however, you can reflect on what was said, what they suggested, what they saw lacking, where they saw room for improvement. They were professionals in this craft, after all.
I moved out of the Bay Area and our little group dissolved, but I always recalled their words and points. And the stories kept coming in my wacky head, so I kept writing.
If you’ve read Jennifer’s blog on Laura Granger, our UK representative, then you’re aware that Laura sparked the desire to rekindle a writers group. But gone were the days sitting around a dining room table, swapping copies of chapters written while eating Indian food. Undaunted Jennifer called me with a “Hey, let’s get the band back together!”, and with a little ingenuity and Google Docs (now Drive), we laid down some basic rules for who posts what and when and how long and how to comment. And viola! Leasspell was born.
The timing was perfect for me. I had just finished a book I called “The Trek of the Trio,” which is what I had reviewed in those Leasspell formative years. Again the comments could be harsh, but I’d learned how to make these insights useful for me; take what I needed, and disregard the rest.
While driving across the country one day I heard Tom Petty host a satellite radio show. He talked about a song of his, “Good Love Is Hard To Find,” and when he first wrote it, he played it for his friend, George Harrison. George frowned as said, “You can do better than that.” He was reacting to a particular line in the song, which Tom replaced with the line “you got lucky, babe, when I found you,” an integral part of the song’s color and tone.
Here’s the bottom line for me: These people are reading my stuff. I’m writing to connect with an audience. If the people who know me best aren’t getting it, then I don’t stand much of a chance with anyone else.
Out of nowhere I’m slammed with some inspiration. I feverishly write down this work in a matter of days. I arranged for Jennifer to edit it, thinking I’d pass it onto a publisher. Her reaction?
You need to turn your hero into a heroine. Doh! I was so close!
…Sigh… I thought, I stewed, I chewed my nails, but I took a deep breath and tried again.
The result was released from Assent Publishing on August 12, 2014. It’s called The Dead Man’s Deal, and it kicks off a series, The Witherspoon Mansion Mysteries.
So, how did a math major write a fantasy novel? Practice, a bit of a thick skin, and a really good writers group.