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My Writer's Journal

On becoming a writer: Part VIII

Need to back up a little; I missed an important chapter before the move to Texas. This was the HOTLINE period of my writing life.

In 1989 I was asked to write a series of four books about a group of high school kids who decide to form a crisis intervention line when a mutual friend commits suicide. The series was to be called HOTLINE. I saw it as a huge challenge, and it was. I spent 6 weeks in a training class for a volunteers and then did my time sitting in a cramped little office, waiting for the phone to ring and hoping that when it did it would be somebody with a solvable problem, and NOT somebody standing on the ledge of a building and ready to jump. I also spent time at an ABQ high school with a diverse student population. Then I came up with four major characters, each taking a turn as the main character in one of the books. BECAUSE OF LISSA, GILLIAN'S CHOICE, THE PROBLEM WITH SIDNEY, and THE TWO FACES OF ADAM were published in 1990 and 1991. One set of books turns yellow and crumbling on my shelf.

Fast forward 22 years to the present. I've become interested in the possibilities of e-books and self-publishing. The stories and the themes and the characters of the HOTLINE books are still relevant. Just need a little updating in language and setting, some new covers, and voila! Ready to go!


It's a new world. Teenagers who read those books 22 years ago are probably themselves now the parents of teenagers, and it's now a digital world of cellphone, the internet, texting, chat rooms, IM-ing. Does anybody even have a land line any more? So how would peer counseling/ crisis intervention work? I still think the stories are good, and I'm still trying to figure it all out.  Read More 
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An interruption in the story of my life

For the past month or so I've had a fine time revisiting the publishing milestones in my life, and so far I'm only up to about 1990 with 22 years and as many books to go. Between blog entries and daily tweets and Facebook posts (and messing around in the kitchen), most of my working day has been taken up with revisions of VICTORIA REBELS. It's ready to go back to the editor, and I'm pretty sure there will be another round--there always is. There are undoubtedly writers who do things perfectly the first time, but I'm definitely not one of them. Kirsten Hamilton, a writer friend of mine, says she wants a BRILLIANT editor, one who will hold her feet to the fire, and I wholeheartedly agree. So far I've been very lucky to get that kind of editing.

My first draft (which I thought was pretty darn good when I sent it months ago) was heavy on detail of Victoria's life, but it needed focusing. That meant heavy cutting in the first half and expanding in the second half, sharpening the personalities of the characters, and figuring out what to do with a lot of historical background that--to me, at least--makes the story so much richer. We writers of historical fiction are often accused of "info-dumping," and I'm guilty as charged. Young readers often don't have the general background to get what's going on without some help. The trick is to smuggle in the necessary information without getting caught. Sometimes I'm better at it than other times. (Hint: Dialogue is usually not a good place for it.)

So off she goes tomorrow, my DEAR, DEAR Victoria, as she would say. I have my fingers crossed that it's going in the right direction. Wish me luck, dear readers.  Read More 
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On becoming a writer: Part VII

Not just one new chapter began when we moved to Texas--a whole lot of ideas started popping up!

At first I was beset by homesickness for Albuquerque. We drove the 600 miles back "home" as often as our schedule allowed, a long drive across the Texas Panhandle and the eastern plains of New Mexico. One day we stopped in a Dairy Queen in the little town of Quanah, where in addition to a Blizzard I picked up a brochure on the local history. Quanah, I read, was the name of a Comanche chief; his father was a chief, and his mother was a white woman named Cynthia Ann Parker. She had been kidnapped from the Parker family compound in East Texas at the age of 9, had grown up with the Comanches, learned their language and customs, and married Peta Nacoma when she came of age. She had 3 children, including Quanah and a daughter named Topsannah. When Topsannah was an infant, a group of Texas Rangers seized mother and child and took them back to civilization. Cynthia Ann had been kidnapped a second time!

I was fascinated by this story, and set to work learning more about her and figuring out a way to tell the story myself--this would be my first attempt at writing historical fiction. WHERE THE BROKEN HEART STILL BEATS was published in 1992; it will be reissued in April with a lovely new cover. Click on the title listed under Selected Works to see it. Read More 
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