From my article for Avalon Authors, on August 23, 2011

I picked up a few books this summer to read on flights, hotel rooms and just to take my mind off hassles at the end of a work day. Four of the five had prologues. I learned my lesson with this particular writing convenience a few years ago when the prologue of a potentially interesting Regency novel by a well known New York Times best-selling author ruined my enjoyment by giving away the only intriguing element of the plot.

Since then, I have stirred clear of reading prologues and I have ceased to write them.

What is the attraction for writers? It is a handy way to present information that the reader needs to discover without having to weave backstory into the plot.

In the case of the above Regency novel, the heroine’s husband’s disappearance has thrown her into a scandalous position putting her outside polite society. She doesn’t know how her husband has died but, thanks to the prologue, the reader does. Although the writer made an effort to create mysterious circumstances the plot goes dead.

The heroine is in danger. From whom? The reader already knows: the woman who killed her husband. What has happened to the intrigue, the actual reason for reading the book? Gone. Did I finish reading the book? No. Other than the possible mystery, there was no other element to engage me. The prologue had answered the only question with any potential of an interesting read.

 The book I’m currently reading also has a prologue. I skipped it. Aside from the full name of a south seas island, everything the reader needs to know is covered in the story. So why is the prologue there? One of the first style elements I was taught in English writing was to avoid redundancy but it seems that basic element is ignored when Word Count is the Supreme Ruler.

Book cover image The Lat OutlawI can be persuaded to accept a prologue in some cases. In his latest western for Avalon Books, The Last Outlaw, Stone Wallace offers a prologue that creates questions in the reader’s mind requiring answers and sets up a situation the hero, Cash McCall, must face. This particular example leads the reader into the story and in some ways is not a prologue at all but a “medilogue”. Our introduction to Cash and his dilemma is a scene within this novel, answering no questions but inviting us to seek answers by reading further. Wallace’s skillful handling of this crucial moment, what proceeds it and the final outcome kept me engaged with the characters and the story.

I’m not one to read the end of a book to determine whether I want to read the whole.

An epilogue, much the same as the end titles of docudramas – where the final resting place of the people is presented in white lettering on a black screen – is another convenience. If the ending itself is not satisfactory, the writer seems to be giving the reader an alternative reality, a way of making up for not tying all the loose ends without having to write anymore. I know how tempting this is. As Eugene O’Neill once said, “Sometimes, life ends on a comma.” So be it.

My final word on this subject:

“These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” – Groucho Marks

Book cover image The Lat OutlawWhen I was writing for Avalon Books, I met Stone Wallace and interviewed him when his Western novel, The Last Outlaw, was released in July of 2011. That interview was reposted here last month. I had ordered a copy of the book to be delivered to a relative’s address in Conneticutt. On the last day I was there and at the last possible moment, as we were walking down the street to a local restaurant, the UPS truck stopped opposite the house and I ran back, certain that UPS had accomplished what the online bookseller had promised.

BlackRansomIn the case of Black Ransom, Stone had by now signed with an agent and was working on another noir Western. He asked if I would read and comment on the manuscript.  On the promise that the superb The Last Outlaw offered, I happily agreed.

After several months, the paperback arrived in my mailbox and I jumped in.

Black Ransom is not the standard Western adventure. Like Cash McCall in The Last Outlaw, the hero, Ehron Lee Burrows, is a complex and eminently sympathetic character, caught up in a desperate situation.  He has no control over a recalcitrant judge or the outlaws whose actions involved him in a murder. He loses all that is most precious to him.

Vengeful and cruel in-laws, as well as corrupt and callous representatives of the law, conspire to destroy an innocent man. His treatment and seemingly hopeless circumstances contribute to a relentless emotional and physical spiral to an inevitable end.

Wallace has created a vivid and compelling portrait of the disintegration of a good man, dismissed by society as a criminal and corrupted by the hatred and malice of his fellow prisoners.

The author’s descriptions of prison life in the post-Civil War western territory, his understanding of human strength and frailty and the premise of this tale, make an intense and surprising novel, hard and realistic.

Three weeks after the Romance Writers of America National Conference in New York, I wrote this article for Avalon Authors, July 23, 2011

suchstuffasdreams1The romance genre in commercial, popular fiction has been attracting considerable criticism in recent months. Most of that has been directed at the more risqué end of the romance spectrum but the bad press filters through to all the many and varied categories. The book, Such Stuff as Dreams, sheds some light on how we benefit from fiction of all descriptions – well worth a look for the pundits who rage at romance.

Last month, at a writers association’s national conference, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop on Media Handling. This month, I had an opportunity to use what I had learned. The principle issue discussed in the workshop was how to handle adverse interviews.

This did make me wonder if crime writers, fantasy and science fiction authors, mystery and western storytellers ever have to fend off the attacks that romance authors are currently having to defend themselves against. Maybe some of you can answer that for me.

Until then, I’m assuming you don’t – or at least not in the way that romance is being kicked around the media. Because romance is predominately written by and read by women, there is an assumption that we don’t understand the difference between fiction and the ‘real’ world. Romance is considered a danger to women’s psychological and emotional health. Do these pundits seriously think that a love story is more insidious than a gruesome, brutal description of a serial killer’s activity?

Most of the people making this claim obviously have not read a romance novel or they would see the error of their thinking. Romance is no more outside the realm of reality than some of the novels written by Anne Rice, Ken Follett, James Patterson or Annie Proulx.

One of the pointers given at the workshop was to ask that the interviewer present the questions to be asked so that the interviewee could prepare. I asked for this when I was invited by a local radio station to participate in a weekly broadcast. For about three minutes, we stuck to the questions. From then on, it was a freewheeling conversation. But, from the workshop, I learned to self-edit my answers so they could not be twisted.

Do [those of you who are] non-romance writers have to shield yourselves in this way? Do you have sage advice for those of us who are in the media’s claws right now?

Fortunately for me, the interviewer was sympathetic to the creative effort and had no bias against my art form. Many of my colleagues have not been given this respect. One of the things, I think, that contributes to the lack of appreciation for genre fiction in general and romance in particular is the practitioners’ and readers’ tendency to keep their preference under cover. So, at the workshop, I made a pledge, from that moment, I will practice the principles of Open Carry.

How frightening is a romance novel compared to a holstered gun?

bannerNB2All who read my previous post about Alpha Beta men will have already concluded that I am particularly partial to the male of the species. How this came about from the fourth daughter in a family of five girls and one brother to a fully grown man-lover isn’t hard to understand.

Close contact. Through my three sons.

A colleague once claimed that boys brutalize their mothers. I disagree. Fully actualized men are marvels of creation. And they are the main reason I write happily-ever-after hero fiction.

Before we get into that, let’s have a look at the imitators – the half men who latch onto the more blatant qualities of manhood, thinking that’s all there is to the vastly complicated mechanism of maleness.

One of these manifestations of so-called manhood is the Macho Man – a favorite target of the radical feminist. These guys bluster and rail, fume and fight. As soon as they are crossed, they come out swinging. A recent demonstration of this are the arrests of NFL players. Those of us who like football like our teams to be aggressive, ready to lay their bodies on the line (as well as plenty of the bodies of the opposing team). However, we do not want that aggression to spell over into the off-the-field world.

My own local team leads the league in felony arrests. Those who follow this American sport will know which team that is. Football, being a contact sport and a substitute for battle, seeks the biggest, meanest, most aggressive players. Good judgment and common sense are not required skills. Only a small percentage – a ratio similar to that of the general population – commit violent crimes but because those are ‘celebrities,’ their behavior comes under intense scrutiny.

Several years ago, I worked for an organization that provided aid, support and refuge to battered women. Abused women and children arrived at the many safe houses we had across the country every week, sometimes daily, desperate to escape the cycle of violence. Often, this was not their first attempt to break the pattern. Though Nicole Simpson’s fate was in their future, like one other notable football wife, they returned to their abuser, sometimes convinced they were to blame, their abuser was truly repentant, promised never to do it again, really loved them, the prospect of single-parent poverty, never really free or safe, was worse than being beaten to death.

The evidence that our society is too often inclined to blame the woman is apparent in the number of women who chose to wear the felon’s number and made excuses for his violence. Drunk or sober, a man is what he is. These macho abusers do not regret or change, they believe they are entitled and happily blame everyone but themselves. Hard liquor brings out the real jerk lurking beneath the façade. Vino veritas.

Next in this unscientific analysis of three male identities, on the other end of the spectrum, we have Metro Man, We’ve all seen him. The guy with the sincere, puppy-dog eyes, rescuing stray kittens, picking up a frothy latte for you on the way. The guy we’re supposed to dream about because he’s so sensitive and caring. He is the direct opposite of the Macho Man. For a shining example: a couple walking along the street in downtown San Francisco. She was carrying a large pink bundle. He was carrying a designer briefcase and her bag – one that I, a self-confessed bag-aholic, coveted.

A helpful, secure-in-his-manhood new father? Not at all. The pink bundle was a white-furred puppy, its little paws draped over its pet-mommy’s arm. Metro Man exhibited his ‘male-guilt’ induced sensitivity. But will he put his body between that bag and the potentially dangerous street thug approaching with his eye fixed on that dangling shiny object of his desire?

As a teenage girl, I read fan magazines and dreamed about meeting the object of my adoration. The phenomenon of teenage girl adoration explains the Metro Man – safe, non-threatening, unrealistic, love and sexuality at a distance. That may also explain the middle-aged woman’s penchant for personalities of this ilk. Entirely understandable in light of the alternative above.

Book Cover: Salsa Dancing with PterodactylsWe know all about the Mars/Venus theory. I have my own. Most of what we consider masculine or feminine behavior is social conditioning. Each of us has the capacities attributed to one or the other. Modern Man has been around for at least 150,000 years. All the qualities and skills that straightened the sapient human’s  back and drove the species out of caves, onto farmland and into family groups exists today in the Modern Man.

This male identity works day and night to put food on the table for his family, no matter if he has to dig potatoes or run a business. He’ll move to any town, state or country to make a better life for his offspring. He’ll stand between his wife and a street thug. He’ll go to war to defend what he believes in. He’ll stroke a baby’s head with the gentleness seemingly reserved for mothers. He will be loyal to his friends to his own disadvantage. He will take on the burden of almost anything to keep his family together. He builds castles, bridges, companies; leads the pack; defends the innocent; hunts and protects by instinct. He dreams larger than life.

Can you blame me for writing about men? The possibilities are endless. I write about the ordinary man, the common, hard-working, hero of every day life, the real super heroes.

© Leigh Verrill-Rhys 2014

On June 23, 2011, I published this article as a tribute to two people who were instrumental in my determination to become a writer.

I will soon be on my way to the publishing Big Apple, New York City, USA. Though this will not be my first visit, this will be my first opportunity to experience this city from the point of view of a novelist (soon-to-be published). Always before, I have been a ‘wannabe’ writer and my experiences of writers conferences, publishers and book launches have been small scale in comparison.

Many of you will have heard of The Hay Festival held at the end of May in the village of Hay, in Wales, close to the English border. For many writers to the east of the Atlantic Ocean, The Hay Festival is the Big Apple of literary festivals. Several years ago, I had the extraordinary opportunity to attend The Hay as a fledging writer with a grant from the Arts Council of Wales. My mentor at the time was Tony Bianchi, whose faith in me as a writer I have only now begun to fully appreciate.

The one person I can categorically name as the instigator of my ambition to be a writer was my high school English teacher, Mr. Lombardi. He gave me an ‘A’ on an essay about John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony. The essay began: “Gitano was dead.”

That is all I can remember of this momentous event. I had never achieved an ‘A’ before [in his class] and his comments – now lost in the miasma of scores of teachers’ and lecturers’ and professors’ contributions and contradictions – fueled my passion for writing.

Even so, my experience of the Hay Festival that year had ambivalent results. Although I absorbed all I could of the gentle words Leslie Norris offered in his master-class, to be in the presence of so many professional writers, publishers, booksellers, readers and agents was daunting – silencing. Even more daunting was reading the piece I had written during the master-class week in front of Tony and a handful of festival visitors.

Every experience generates its kernel of self-knowledge. Some of the younger writers were brimming with self-confidence. I wasn’t one of them. Neither was I one of the sage practitioners of wordcraft. My publishing record consisted of a few short stories. I had ambitions for longer pieces but that was not to happen for a number of years and even then, I wasn’t ready to put my hand in the mangle. If not for being stranded in Hay with just £10 to last the week and not wanting to disappoint my mentor, I considered walking the 55 miles home.

For Tony Bianchi and Mr. Lombardi, I have created several characters who, if they don’t directly reflect these two men in any real sense, they are tributes to the generosity of spirit each exhibited toward writers and students.

This is a tough journey without the open-hearted help of others who’ve gone before us and hold the doors open. Who are some of the writers, teachers, mentors who opened doors for you?

Addendum 2014: There are, of course, more people in my career who’ve stood by me, supported and encouraged me. My English professor, Dr. Stanley Tick, is one. My nearest and dearest family and friends know I couldn’t do this without them.

This interview was the first I ever did with another Avalon author. Stone Wallace’s latest novel, Black Ransom, is published by Berkley and I received a gift copy last week. I also wrote an article about it here.
Stone Wallace is now publishing with Berkley and I had the privilege of reading an early draft of his forthcoming novel, Black Ransom. This interview was published on Avalon Authors June 15, 2011.
BlackRansomWhen the call went out for interviewers, I leapt on the opportunity to have a chat with Stone Wallace. Although we had just ‘met’ in an online writer’s forum, I had an inkling I wanted to know more about him and his new western, The Last Outlaw, for Avalon Books. I’m glad I went with my inkling – I would not have wanted to miss talking to him as we have over the past few weeks.
You say in your interview with Quinten Mills-Fenn for Style Manitoba, you had a fascination for gangster movies and television series. You’ve also written non-fiction and horror. Where does your western fiction find its inspiration?
Before I decided upon writing Denim Ryder as a Western, I was actually playing around with the idea of creating a series featuring a female secret agent simply called “Denim”. What I think happened was one night I was interviewing actor John Agar and we got to talking about the Westerns he’d made and something in our conversation got me to thinking that possibly I could develop Denim into a frontier female. Had never written a Western before, so that offered another challenge. Plus it gave me the privilege to honor John Agar, who was simply the sweetest, greatest guy, by basing a character on him.
John Agar’s films are legendary, including the horror films and I remember them well. Denim was transformed into a frontierwoman as a tribute to Agar. You went on to write another female character in Montana Dawn. Is there a reason you chose to write these books from a female point of view?
Not really. “Denim” and “Montana” both just happened to develop with female leads and I went from there, groping my way through the actions, emotions and complexities of these two characters. Again, this resulted in a creative challenge to see if I could make these characters believable. Females, of course, had featured in my past novels, but central to these stories was always the male – be he protagonist or antagonist. Most of my female characters up to that point had pretty much been window-dressing.
What were some of the creative challenges you met while writing Montana Dawn? Was there a specific event in the novel that you had to dig deep to find her reaction?


Interestingly, I found Montana Dawn to be an exceptionally easy story to write. Of course it required some research into the time and the locale, but it seemed as if the characters themselves propelled the narrative. They became real to me – real, breathing people – who ended up taking me along on their adventure. When that occurs, writing becomes pure pleasure.
Has there ever been a character who point blank refused to play by your rules?
I suppose the best answer I can give is when I wrote my first book, a horror novel. While most of the characters were rather naive to the supernatural occurrences happening around this young, withdrawn girl, there was a most capable psychiatrist who gradually began to fit the pieces of the mystery together. I fully intended to have him stick around to the end of the book and to some degree have him be the savior of the situation, but about midway through the plot took an unexpected detour and the poor fella got himself killed. Really didn’t see that coming, and his death put me in a bit of a quandary as to how to bring the story to a satisfactory conclusion. But I must confess I like those types of unexpected plot developments. I feel that if it surprises me, it may do likewise to the reader.
You have said you think The Last Outlaw is ‘noir’. Without giving away any of this gripping story, can you tell me more about this book or how you came to write it?
Thanks for the nice words. Yes, The Last Outlaw is quite different from my previous two Avalon Westerns. Yes, it can best be called a noir Western, in that it has a darker storyline, some pretty dark, if not downright nasty, characters. Again, because I’m a fan of gangster dramas and film noir, I thought it might be interesting to combine both into a Western. Most of the noir I’ve seen or read is a gradual descending into darkness, usually through circumstances over which the hero has no control. And that certainly is what occurs to my story’s protagonist, Cash McCall. Despite his strong and honest efforts to rehabilitate after his release from prison, his situation just becomes bleaker until he has no other choice but to return to the life he’d hoped to leave behind. Again, once I knew what the plot would be, it’s a story that unfolded almost by itself. I just followed Cash through those dark alleys on his attempted journey to redemption, really not sure of the outcome. I believe that uncertainty helps to create suspense. I hope that suspense element comes through to the readers.
In Montana Dawn, you mentioned you based a character on John Agar. When you create characters, do they also evolve from other creative sources – art, history, films, novels or from ‘real life’, your own experiences and imagination?

Outside of John Agar inspiring the character of Jason Cole in Denim Ryder, I really don’t use any source other than my imagination – although unique characteristics or personality traits may be “borrowed” from real life. It’s usually after I’ve completed writing a book that I allow myself the luxury to visualize actors and actresses who would be my choice to play characters – if a movie were to be made of one of my books… and if the performer were still around, whichis not the case since I prefer the older actors from the 30s, 40s and 50s. For example, for Montana Dawn I envisioned Rhonda Fleming as “Montana” and Ben Johnson as “Walt Egan”. Thought they would have been great – if the book had come out some decades ago.
I can see Rhonda Fleming in that role. The Last Outlaw is in the tradition of the hero against the forces of evil. This is a recurring theme in your three westerns. When you knew the plot for this or your other books, were you aware you were voicing the universal angst of the artist? 
Here’s where I’m probably going to disappoint you. My sole motivation when I write a book (fiction, naturally) is simply to tell a good story. Not to educate or necessarily edify, but hopefully, to entertain. I don’t care if people think I’m a “great” writer; I’d much prefer to be known as a good storyteller. If people can put down a book of mine and feel they’ve had an enjoyable read that maybe took them away from themselves for a while, having become immersed in the characters and situations, then I’m satisfied.

What do you read, besides your day job work?
I spend most of my workday (the dreaded day job to which, unfortunately, most writers must succumb) reading and editing trade and association publications, which, frankly, is deadly dull, affording virtually no creative stimulation. Often by day’s end I can’t bear to look at another printed word and, at that point, will usually watch a good movie instead. On weekends, though, and on those weeknights when my brain needs a jump-start of literary stimulation, I generally read biographies and histories. Definitely read some Westerns, of course. There are a lot of talented, dedicated Western writers out there whose books I enjoy and from whose styles I can learn. Avalon, in particular, has a terrific stable of authors, among whom I am now immensely proud to be included.
When you sit down to write a good story, what are the things you enjoy about writing?

Good, interesting characters, of course, whose lives, loves and adventures you enjoy exploring along with them. Most of all, I love surprise. I like to suddenly veer into an unexpected direction in the narrative and thereby, hopefully, throw the reader off course. I really am not a fan of formulaic fiction, where you know from the first chapter exactly how the story is going to develop and how it will be resolved. I think I tossed a pretty good curve ball at the end of Denim Ryder, which at first even Avalon, I’m told, questioned. But I didn’t want readers of that story simply to put down the book at the end and say maybe that it was a satisfying read, nothing more. I wanted to leave them with a “kicker”, as it were. Something they did not expect. And from comments I’ve received from readers of that book, I believe I succeeded.

When that good story isn’t going well, what keeps you working?
Ah-hah, the dreaded writer’s block – or when you have those days when you sit down to write and later you take a look at the day’s results and think your five year-old daughter had composed it. Had many of ‘em. Those terrible periods when you say to yourself: “What makes me possibly think I’m a writer?” Fortunately, what I’ve learned is simply to chalk it up to just having a bad day, forget about it and try again tomorrow. Don’t get discouraged, just keep at it. Usually (at least in my case) the next day you write “gold”. You stumble, get back up again.

If you know the story isn’t going to work, what do you do with the aborted effort?
Boy, that’s something else I’ve experienced. I’ve submitted partials which (even after I’d established something of a publishing track record) were rejected numerous times by various publishers and finally gave up on the book and moved onto something else. But fortunately (or not), I’ve never started a story that part- or mid-way through I realized I couldn’t finish because the narrative strayed or I simply lost interest. Such has happened, but I’ve stubbornly stuck through it and eventually finished the book. It’s only when frequent rejections hammer it into me that the story is not marketable that I’ll give up the ghost and not finish the book – after all, writers don’t necessarily want to write in a vacuum. For me, at least, I write to be read. I confess I own a writer’s trunk of incompletes and rejected manuscripts. Don’t visit it often, though.
In your trunk of backlist manuscripts, is there one book you regret letting go?
If you’d asked me that maybe ten years ago, I’d probably say ‘yes’. But now, not so much. Some of the stuff hidden amongst the mothballs is pretty raw. But I certainly don’t regret having written them. You learn by writing, whether your stuff is published or not.
I’ll tell you a funny story, though. After I’d somewhat established myself as a horror writer back in the mid-80s, I wrote a teenage vampire novel, which, in many ways, was quite similar to “Twilight”. Submitted it to my publisher, who rejected it, commenting that there just wasn’t a market for vampire fiction at the time. Same thing when I submitted another manuscript about a vampire hitman. Two strikes and I was out when it came to bloodsuckers. Who would have guessed the market turnaround. Yet that’s encouraging. Because even though the Western genre might be in a bit of a slump at the moment, a turnaround could be right around the corner.
If you had the chance to begin your writing career over, is there anything you would want to change?
Oh God, Leigh, is there a writer alive who wouldn’t want one last crack at a published manuscript. We’re our own worst critics, though the reality is, even if we could make those final, final changes, down the line we’d probably want yet another shot at it. I can definitely say that about myself. I’m a nagging perfectionist and confess that errors that got through in books of mine published twenty years ago still irk me.
And maybe one more thing. After my third horror book was published, I’d decided to tackle other genres; the market seemed to be slowing and I didn’t want to become typecast. I wrote and submitted a gangster book to a publisher who, though not interested in that particular book, somehow knew of me and asked if I’d consider writing horror books for their company. Like the twaddle I sometimes am, I refused their offer and ended up not writing another book for almost 15 years. I look back now and contemplate the “what if . . . ” scenario.
You’ve written non-fiction and fiction, westerns and horror. Is there another genre waiting in the wings for you?
Yes, as I mentioned earlier I’m currently working on completing a gangster novel called The Chicago Boys.
It’s a fictional telling of what happened to the Chicago mob after Al Capone was sent away to prison on an income tax rap. It deals with the internal power struggle among the Outfit and their attempted extortion of Hollywood studios during the 30s. There’s lots of facts and real-life characters, but it is a novel so I can use my imagination to create situations or creatively expand upon stuff that really did happen during that era. As you know, I’m a gangster addict, and this has been something I’ve been developing for a long time. Fortunately, I also have a publisher interested. There always seems to be some market for these types of books. And the interest in Capone never really seems to waver.

Now that The Last Outlaw is published, is the party over?
I hope not. I do have ideas for other Westerns that I’d like to write, including a sequel to Denim Ryder. I’d love to do some promotions for all of my Westerns, but that’s somewhat difficult with them not available in Canadian bookstores. That’s always a handicap when it comes to author publicity, as I’ve unfortunately discovered. I’ve experienced some local media who are resistant to do an interview BECAUSE a book of mine is not in stores. I suppose they may feel that any book that is not in stores is not a “true” publication and maybe a “vanity” effort, which can be a bad rap. Personally, I feel that, shelf competition aside, it is vital for books to be placed in brick-and-mortar stores – for visibility and to give potential readers tangible evidence of the book’s worth. But that’s probably best for another story another day.
Thank you, Stone, for this opportunity to talk with you. It has been a pleasure to become better acquainted. My copy of  The Last Outlaw is on its way to me and I’m anxious to follow Cash McCall into his dark world.
Addendum: My copy of The Last Outlaw was delivered at the last possible moment at end of my stay in West Hartford, CT in July 2011. I couldn’t put it down.

Below is my first article on Avalon Authors on May 23, 2011. Avalon is no more and some of us are forming a new group blog at Classic & Cosy. I hope you will join us there. These are my blogs for the original Avalon Authors group blog. Over the next few months, any article title with ‘Repost’ in it will have come from the Avalon Authors blog.

Good day. My name is Leigh Verrill-Rhys and I am a new author with Avalon Books. My first published novel is Wait a Lonely Lifetime, a contemporary romance set in Firenze (Florence) and San Francisco. Although this book has had a rocket speed journey from conception to contract, the journey for me as an author has been a lifetime.

WLLjacketproofwebWhat can you say about an event that amounts to the biggest moment in a writer’s career? Selling your debut novel. Every description falls short – despite your finely honed skill at the craft you have made your life’s work.

I have put words on paper from the day I learned how to hold a pen and make letters. I remember the evening I sat at the drop-leaf table in my parent’s living room, scribbling my story of giants and fairies, when I decided to make writing my profession.

Between then and now, there have been a few hundred diversions and denials. All manner of writing has sustained me – from grant proposals to articles to autobiographical anthology editing. Besides short stories, I steered clear of fiction. I told myself, ‘If I truly wanted to write fiction, I would be writing novels.’ But I was writing novels, in my head and in notebooks, a secret indulgence!

The day came when I had to make the final declaration. Though I have always written, I hadn’t given myself permission to be a writer. For years, I struggled with where my writing always took me. One day, I confessed. ‘I write romance.’ I lost a few friends or rather they deserted me but I had finally staked my claim on my future. The journey so far has led me to many new friends and opened a vast world of potential.

Three years later, almost to the day, I sent my contemporary romance to Avalon Books. Though not my first completed novel, I’m proud that Wait a Lonely Lifetime is my debut as a novelist.

Last month [April 2011], I participated in a group blog as a guest at Four Foxes One Hound. The subject was ‘ideas’ and I wrote about some of the events and images that contributed to this romantic novel. The title sums up not only the relationship in the book but also the length of time to experience enough to be ready for that moment of clear, sparkling inspiration.

My moment came one morning in early autumn as I sat at a table in Venice. Across the room, I saw a man in uniform. From that moment, Wait a Lonely Lifetime took shape and flourished through to the end. In this book, I had to explore a world and a way of life that were alien to me. At the same time, I felt I was ‘coming home’.

Have you had a similar journey? Where has your writing taken you?

By now, Wait a Lonely Lifetime is available as an ebook and in paperback, at local libraries and at Florey’s Book Company in Pacifica, California where I held a book signing in 2012.


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