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Friday, March 29, 2013

A Moderator, Some Speakers, Mary Burton, OH My!

Was I in the Land of Oz?  NO!

I was at the James River Writers "Writing Show".

Could I have been in the Land of Oz? Easily! For me, the night was magical. I met more Virginian writers, some new, some familiar. But being new to the writing scene, (well, not actually new, as I have had a book published) I had the opportunity to meet not one, not two, but four outstanding authors. Bill Blume, who we all know well, (if you're a member of JRW or in need of 911 help) is a fantasy writer. Hermine Pinson is a published poet. Howard Owen, from The Freelance Star, is a crime writer.

But the highlight of my night was meeting the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novlist Mary Burton. That in itself, was worth the price of admission. I recognized her from her picture on some of the books that my wife has read. "I'm Watching You" comes to mind. At the intermission, I approached Mary, introduced myself, and shook her hand. (I'll try to go as long as possible before I wash mine again!) I told her my wife was going to be envyous of me!

But enough of my moment with the stars. This month's Writing Show was titled "Killing Your Darlings: How to Handle Violence in Your Writing". As moderator, Doug Jones, playwright extraordinair, did a fantastic job. He came out with some pretty cool topics for discussion.

In the world we live in today, one would think that writing about violence would come natural, as violence seems to have become commonplace in our society. Nothing could be further from the truth, as I found out. Writing about violence almost has to be nurtured, but not like that of a young child. You most always keep in mind who your audience of readers is going to be. (Don't make it real gory if you're a YA writer) But even with adult writings, the author must get across his or her sence of a violent act to a degree that will make the reader want to keep turning page after page to find out what happens. Take them to the brink, make them feel that they are there, a part of it, captivated. But don't push them over the edge! A writer's worst nightmare is to have their reader cringe with discuss at something to the point that they put the book down...never to be picked up again.

Another important part of writing violence into a writer's story is research. Get your facts straight. Readers, especially avid readers, are not dumb. If they have read dozens and dozens of crime fiction novels, a writer is not going to be able to pull any fast ones.

"With one mighty swipe of his pocketknife, the meager boy cut off his assailant's hand!"

It's called fiction, folks, but keep it real! Unless this meager boy is the son of the Jolly Green Giant with a pocketknife the size of a Samori sword, well...ain't gonna happen! Once a writer pulls their reader out of the story by making a "false" statement, they are going to have to be one hell of a writer to get them back. If you want to get it right the first time, try reading about it in history.

And when is too much killing, too much killing? Sure, in crime fiction, someone has to die. Maybe, two someones. But the writer has to make sure that there is a reason for killing someone. Good guy, bad guy, doesn't matter. No killing willie-nillie. Remember, you have your reader on the edge of their seat, wanting to turn that next page, waiting for that suspense-filled moment when everything comes to a climax. They're on the precipice. Kill one more senselessly...BAM! They're gone! The reader that is!

So, once again (in my opinion), James River Writers has come through for me. I would have paid three times the admission to spent the two hours that I spent at the Children's Museum with these great people. My perspective on writing is changing daily. I'm getting to the point where I can't get enough. And I owe it all the JRW!

And one more thing. You think you have friends on FaceBook. Well, come to a JRW sponsored event and see what making real friends is all about. Recently, while reading the JRW Newsletter, I came across an event with the Young Writers Club at Matthews High School. They were looking for authors to be a part of their fall book festival. I checked out their website and some of the potential authors that were going to be there. I came across a lady with an interesting background. So, I went to her website and saw that she, too, was a member of JRW. And in reading her "About" page, I noticed she had a Great-Reads book list and was accepting titles. She also had this wierd criteria thing, something about her husband and son needing to like your book, before she put it on her list. Well, I wrote to her in spite of the criteria thing, and asked her to give my book, Tip of the Iceberg, a read. And last night, at the JRW Writing Show, there was a lady sitting right in front of me. That lady...... A. B. Westrick. I said "Hello" and she said, "You're the Dave who wrote on my website." and then we laughed.

Now that's friends!
P.S. On a personal note, Katharine Herndon, with violence being the topic at the show, the ambulance at stage right was a great touch!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

No Longer Wandering Alone

Two years ago when I decided to try my hand at writing (which came after much proding from my overly addicted book reading wife), I thought to myself, "How hard could this really be?" I have never had a problem writing, or should I say, putting words together on paper for whatever project needed to be done at any particular time. So, without any forethought, I started pounding away at the keys and word after word scrolled across the screen. "See, I knew this wasn't hard."
Five months later, book one done! Piece of cake. I sent out samples of my manuscript to a couple of traditional publishers, and within a week and a half, I got offered a contract to be published. That was easy! (Jumping for joy!) Ten months later, Oct 1, 2012, "Tip of the Iceberg" was born. Then on January 8, 2013, it was officially released to the book world. Happy Days!
Now all I had to do is sit back and wait.  WRONG!!!!!!!
Sit back and wait for what?!?! Was I so naive as to think that my book would just fly off the shelves in bookstores or online sales would be backed up? Man...what in the hell was I thinking? So I gave my marketing rep a call. First words out of his mouth...."Now that the easy part is done, writing your book and getting it published, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work selling it." Huh???
Wait a minute..I thought that's what bookstores were for. WRONG AGAIN!!!!!!
Sure, your book is available online, and you might even be lucky to get some bookstores to carry on their shelves. But so are a gazillion other books! And why would I think that my would stand out any more than any other book. Reality sets in...I'm just a tiny little fish in a very, very, very large book pool.
And on top of all this, I hold down a regular forty to sixty hour a week job. What was I going to do?
For the first month after my book was published, (Oct of 2012) I sold quite a few copies, autographed, of course, to friends, coworkers, and family. But now what do I do? I guess I should explain one thing. You see, I have only been in Virginia for about eight years, being a transplant from northern New England. Other than people at work, friends that I bowl with, and people at my wife's work, we don't know anyone. And I did all the "social networking" stuff...Facebook, Twitter, Google+, name it, I tried it.
But then came my very first book signing. The Fountain Bookstore on Cary Street in downtown Richmond. Super Bowl Sunday! Since I had already sold to all the people I knew here, my turnout wasn't that great. But I did meet some great local authors and one very special person. Kelly Justice. Proprietor of Fountain Bookstore. After my scheduled signing hour, I was chatting with Kelly. That's when she said the three most important words to me since my book hit the market. 
James River Writers
After looking into what JRW does, I signed up. Started getting their Newsletter. And last night, Macrh 13th, I attended my first Meet & Greet at the Capital Ale House in Midlothian.
I walked in and was immediately greeted by Denise, the host for JRW's Writer's Wednesday. She was very cordial and friendly. She introduced me to the few other members that were there (I was so excited about this event, I got there right at 5:30) and I felt like I was being welcomed to one of my High School reunions. I met Mike and Shawna Christos and spent the next half hour talking to Mike. He told me that Shawna, his wife, was the writer in the family. But he had been escorting her to these WWs for almost two years, at which time he decided that if he was going to be there anyways, he might as well become a writer also. Science is his thing, so obviously, he is trying his hand at writing Science Fiction.
I have to say that Mike spent considerable time telling me all about JRW and all the events that they put on during the year. I was impressed. He didn't leave out anything. The Writer's Group, the yearly Writing Conference, all the guest authors, publishing people, and many more. I was soaking things up like a sponge.

It wasn't long before Shawna joined our conversation and mentioned that she was a stay at home writer. I told her how much I envied her. I mentioned I was hoping to be looking at retirement soon and make writing my full time job. Of course, she did mention that being at home all the time came with other household duties. That made for some laughter.

I soon had the priviledge to meet JRWs Executive Director, Katharine Herndon. I mentioned to her that I had just read her profile on JRWs website and that I was impressed. Katharine is very well suited for her position and she was very friendly to chat with.

It wasn't long before we were joined by Vernon Wildy, Jr. and Robert Toms. Vernon is into poetry and is a very high energy person. It was a pleasure listening to him. Robert, on the other hand, managed to cross off one of the things on his "bucket list". He went skydiving for the first time. After mentioning the it was a birthday gift from his son and that he had posted a video of his jump on Facebook, we agreed to become friends on FB and I did indeed watch his video. He's definitely got one up on me, and probably always will.

Wandering around for a bit, I had the pleasure of meeting Debbie and her friend Katie. (Sorry, ladies. I didn't happen to catch your last names) We all chatted a bit about the genres that we write in, or at least try to, when our day jobs don't interfere. That's when Debbie mentioned that she knew a group of men, sitting at a table in the back of the room, who were all officiers. Having served in the Armed Forces myself, I obviously assumed that they were from Fort Lee. Debbie informed me that they were officiers on the Chesterfield Police Force. At the point, I said, "Do you work for the Police Department?" Her response, "Yes". As a matter of fact, she is a Police Sargent. With that, the conversation really got interesting.

It wasn't long before we all realized that the two hours had flown by.  We all said our good-byes and paid our tabs. I met Denise on the way out, and in telling her I would be back, she reached out and gave me a big hug. WOW! I finally realized that there were others out there just like me. We all have one goal in mind. To make the written word reachable and enjoyable by all. I departed feeling really changed. I didn't have to wander alone any more. The folks that I met on this night gave me cause to think that I did the right thing in wanting to be a writer.

Thank you, James River Writers!