"I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper."
Let me take you back in time. It was 1983, I was a struggling writer and was working on something I called "Vampire Legacy". It might have been called something else at one time, but this would be the working title ... for the next umpteen years. I was looking for some way to get published. It was my dream. Has been all my adult life.
I was in contact with a writer who said he had a writing circle he taught. We'll call him John. This was in Dubuque, Iowa, and a 3 hour drive from where I lived. I was a novice. Green as can be, trying to "break" into published author. I had been writing to him (back then, we didn't have the Internet, and you wrote letters or called) (on a land-line phone). You with me so far? Good.
I told him I couldn't be expected to drive out to Dubuque every day (3 times a week) to attend this writer's circle, but I did want to attend. I knew rubbing elbows with other writers/authors would be the only way to learn anything. So, John arranged it for me to stay in his house--it was an old house, of the Victorian age, or there about. Painted charcoal gray with white trim. It had a gable on one side which reminded me a little of the "Amityville" house. There was a number of stained glass, too. The house itself was situated on a hill, and let me tell you it might have been a few rooms short of a mansion (which requires 33 rooms), but it was pretty damned big. 2 and 1/2 baths, a small kitchen, with John's office situated in behind this and a laundry room.
I did pay rent to him. Come to find out John had a wife and 3 grown children still living there--his son was still in high school, his two daughters had jobs. The wife worked in an insurance place. I understood that John once was an agent of said office at one time, but chose to become a professional writer. And he had a New York agent. He did get a horror book published, and it was what I would call a more-or-less rip off of The Exorcist.
I had told him what I was working on dealt with vampires, and this intrigued him.
Anyway, I sat in on not one, not two, but three different writing circles. Each one one echelon higher than the next. In the highest degree, the third group, had those who were either better writers, or had books published. One had just gotten her romance book picked up by Zebra. Yeah. I was excited to be included in this bunch of authors. We'll call her Deb. She came into our circle one night in a rabbit fir coat, new glasses, and smoked these little black cigarettes. Her advance must have been pretty good.
I said I was green, in more ways than one. First of all, I'd been divorced for about 8 years, at this point. To say I was hopeful in getting something larger than a mere article published (I'd been published in ByLine) a few times, no big deal. But at this point in time I wasn't so desperate I'd sell my soul. Or anything else.
John had read my first chapter and told me "Pretty good, some of the mechanics need help, but that's something to worry about down the line." Or something to that effect.
I had a room upstairs adjacent to the room his two daughters shared. Funny story, there was one of those "secret" doors that you could go through my closet to their room (visa versa). One night the girls had been out late. And there I was in a hard single bed hearing her come through that secret door and proceeded to lay down beside me. I had the feeling this might have been her room, or something, at one point.
Her sister went and got her mother, mother quietly urged daughter #2 out of my bed and bedroom, and I lay pretending to sleep through the whole thing.
Anyway, we all laughed it off in the morning. Ha-ha.
Everyone would be gone during the day to their jobs, and that left me and John in this big house. We sometimes did "brain storming" where we'd talk about what I was working on. I had some problems in plotting. To begin with, I really didn't know what I was doing. And, instead of any real help in this, he tells me to change the name of one of my characters.
It wasn't long before I was tired of being there. Sure, at first the family was nice, and his wife sweet, and could cook, but after a while, even as bad as I wanted to be away from home, I was homesick. I did go home every weekend, and returned for three days to Dubuque.
It was February. I was fighting off a cold. I got up and went downstairs for something to eat. John asked to join me. Sure, I say, although I was really sick of his smoking either a cigar or cigarette. He talks about himself a lot, and sometimes his thoughts about life, marriage and sex. This morning was no different. He was telling me that sex and love wasn't the same thing. I said I agreed with that, but in the back of my mind I had had this growing sense of unease about him putting the moves on me. There I was, alone with him while his wife was away at work, and he was talking about sex. Not only that I'd been getting these little hints that Deb and John have been having, or are having an affair. Call it woman's intuition. I just had a feeling there might have been some sort of agreement, since they were both married, and she was always bringing up the fact (in our writer's meetings) she wanted to get her husband out of the meat packing plant soon. She was working on the second book in her romance series. I'll add that she was an excellent writer, and I did envy her writing abilities.
So, today he talked about affairs, and he actually told me about a woman whom he worked with he'd had an affair with. He kept on saying "It didn't mean anything. It was just sex."
Of course, he was setting the stage, maybe hinting at the fact that we could have a fling. Sex. Means nothing to him. Here I was dealing with a relationship that was going nowhere and I'd been divorced (because my first husband had slept around).
And then, when I didn't expect it, he'd cornered me and kissed me. Nothing passionate, just a peck on the lips.
At this point he asks me to join him "upstairs". I told him I didn't do such things, for one.
He asked me later on if I was mad at him. I said no. This was the first time anything like this had happened to me. In these situations I never know what to do, what to say--at least then. Now I'd tell them to go take a flying leap.
He tried to kiss me again and I said no and hurried up to my room.
I think he was a bit nervous about my saying something. Crap. I should have blackmailed him, but it would have been my word against his. And in reviewing this, and the other events surrounding my stay at John's house, I could only wonder if I had gone to bed with him, would I have wound up with an agent, and maybe eventually a publishing contract like Deb? I sort of doubt it, but who's to say?
Ah, well. Life goes on. I'm sure John, and probably Deb are long gone (dead) by now. I was in my twenties, they were much older than myself.
At least I never gave up on my writing. This manuscript has gone through a multitude of rewrites. And my frustration with what happened in Dubuque (there's a lot more to the story, but I'm saving that back), had me quit writing for a while, as I didn't know if I should have trusted someone who kept saying Stephen King couldn't write.
As of this writing, "Vampire Legacy" has a new title, and new life. It won't be ready until next year, some time, but I'm excited about it. I WILL finally see this book published!
What do you think? One I borrowed from a JB Fletcher novel title--which are all fictitious, of course.
"The Crypt of Death"
"Crypt of the Dead"
I worked on major, MAJOR rewrites in 2013. But other works had me busy at this point, so, I went on and concentrated on those. Once again, this book got stored away again.
Now, I'm working through this manuscript. Seeing where it fails, what I should do with it, and keep the word "vampire" out of the title. I'm thinking it would make a horror/suspense novel, if I worked out the kinks. And I've already made some changes and pulled a chapter out of the beginning. Not wanting the vampires to be shown in this too soon. I want readers to learn along with my detective, and another character what's going on in this town.
Well, that's my story of what happened in Dubuque, and my manuscript "Vampire Legacy" so long ago. I guess you could say this book has a story behind it all its own. I still wonder what would have happened had I went to bed with John. Just so you know, I was NOT attracted to him at all. At one time I thought about writing about it in some version and selling it to a rag (changing names, of course). I think I'll just keep it as a memoir project at some point down the line.
Have a good week, fellow writers!