Family Easter portrait
In only two weeks, TELL-TALE BONES will be on store shelves, or in your hands, depending on if you preordered. This is always such an exciting time for all authors—the days before a release. Memories of all the long hours, the plot frustrations, the ornery characters who need to die, all disappear and there is just joy that a new story is born. In that way, my books are my children. Except they don’t want to drive.
I was talking recently with a writer friend, Mandy Haynes, about the characteristics I believe make a person a writer. Publishing is certainly nice, and I have been genuinely blessed to have book contracts through a long career. But publishing doesn’t make you a writer. It’s the little details that matter most, the same as it does in writing. The “telling detail.” Meet your obligations on deadline. Whether it is for a blog article, a bio, a magazine article, a returned call, or a book contract. There are absolutely times when life intervenes, as my good friend Eugene Walter used to say. But in general, do exactly what you’ve said you will do and do it the best you can.
Remember that in traditional publishing, your failure to meet an obligation impacts a lot of other people from production to booksellers. It makes life hard for your editor. It can impact your audience, too. Writers are only as good as their last book, and audiences can be fickle. To work so hard to build up an audience and then disappoint them again and again when a promised book doesn’t arrive is playing with career fire. I can only thank my journalism background for teaching me the importance of this lesson. Thank you, Mama and Daddy! But do remember that no one can work through a health crisis or family illnesses and deaths. Life does intervene and folks understand.
Turn in the dang bio when you’re supposed to, with a photo even if you want to draw horns on your head and give yourself fangs. Don’t! Although that would be kind of funny, you know.
Know the manuscript format of your publisher and do it that way. It doesn’t matter how you learned to do it, do it the way that makes life better for your editor. Be professional. A clean manuscript. Take your work seriously and other will too.
I know so many, many talented people who write. Talent is great to have, but the secret ingredient is that writing has to come first most of the time. In the past, male writers have had benefits because most men have/had wives who cleared the path so their writing COULD come first. Women, in the past, have been expected to juggle family obligations, taking care of homes, and squeezing writing in whenever they could. Family came first for most women. When any artist isn’t allowed to put their passion first, it makes a tough job even tougher. I remember talking with the writer Margaret Drabble one time. She said she had her own house, and her husband had his house next door. They called each other for “dates.” It was the only way she could truly put her writing first.
From my years in this crazy profession, I’ve come to believe that talent, coupled with a willingness to sacrifice a lot, is the ticket to success. (But isn’t that true of most demanding careers?) When I was a photojournalist, I had an editor tell me that I should pick one, writing or photography, to put all my passion into. But I loved both of them so much, and I was a pretty good newspaper photographer (so different from fine arts). But when I started writing short fiction because I loved to write, I felt my death grip on photography loosen. When I left the newspaper business to write fiction full time and lost access to a dark room, I also let go of photography in any meaningful way. I still love to snap photos of my animals and the beauties of nature, but I’m no longer what I consider to be a photographer. Sacrifices are demanded. I think I made the right choice.
I also had a full ride to law school. I chose writing instead. Again, I think I made the right choice. Can you imagine me as your lawyer—ha ha ha. Welcome to prison, boyo!
At so many points in my life, I could have chosen Door #2. And I would have had a different life. Not better or worse, just different. I’ve been told many times that I have multiple guardian angels or spirit guides looking out for me. I believe that to be true. There’s no other explanation why some of my crazy decisions didn’t end in an institution, death, disease, or prison.
I do know that taking care of animals, my friends, and writing and reading have always been at the top of my priority list. Writing has to come first because it provides the money to take care of the animals. I’m in that delicious place in life where I eschew all drama. I wake up looking forward to a new day, new writing, time with my pets and friends. Even walking to the barn to feed allows me to feel abundance in nature.
Which brings me to the point I originally wanted to make today. Thank you. Thank you for reading my books, for buying them, for writing reviews, for telling friends. You guys are a big, big part of the life I’ve made for myself. Without a reader or listener, a book isn’t a story. It’s just an object. When TELL-TALE BONES comes out May 16, celebrate with me with a little nod to the universe that Sarah Booth rides again. Thank you.
Here’s a little blog I wrote that lets ya’ll know what led me to write a character like Sarah Booth: That Gothic Influence.
I’ll be at The Haunted Bookshop on Joachim St. in downtown Mobile, AL at 6 p.m., May 16, for the book launch. It is going to be so much fun. Alchemy Bar is making a special Bones cocktail. Mandy and I were going to dress up as Big Edie and Little Edie from Grey Gardens and do a skit, but a far wiser person told us to behave and not create drama when there was no need. So we’ll save that little episode for someone else’s book signing! Ha ha ha. Be ready, though. My mischief maker has come back to life, and I am ready for trouble.
Also, keep in mind that SUMMER OF THE REDEEMERS, a Southern gothic coming of age story, is on sale as an e-book for .99 cents.
Here’s a little music to sing for May flowers. If you don’t know Hank Snow, you need to do some research: Paper Roses
Tootles, Carolyn and the critters
P.S. Giving away 50 copies of TELL-TALE BONES in this Goodreads Giveaway. I’m really hoping to get some reviews written by some of the winners, so if you win a copy, I hope you will share your review online. I’m also giving away one e-book of JUDAS BURNING at my website!