I will make this brief and concise. I am not one to look back with regret. Had I continued with my writing at a young age, maybe I would be established today--and I emphasize the word "maybe".
I have always loved to read and loved writing the word at 15 when my English teacher gave the inspiration that I might have talent. After graduating, I began writing in for the public and my avenue was poetry. I was a lazy writer and not dedicated to my craft. Inspiration came easily and I could write and finish a very good poem, short or long in a matter of minutes. I also discovered, poetry was not commercial and the only success I achieved was that of satisfaction, several poems published in an annual omnibus by a very large university press. I received no remuneration, much less a free copy of the book. I was young I lived live in the fast lane and occasionally wrote poems about my bitter experiences on this fast road. I also wrote about people I knew. They were incisive and honest and the people the poems were based upon—hated them!
Several years later my artistic sensibilities moved towards short stories (again, short prose and lazy). Unfortunately, I was my own worst critic. I would base the merit of the work on the first rough draft and toss it away. I read an article for a Steinbeck Foundation short story contest. I looked at the very few stories I had written and decided I needed something unique. I managed to create a story out of the ordinary and submitted it and waited. And waited some more, then I received a mail stating I was in the top five finalists. There was only “one” prize of $1000 and a $2500 guarantee to be published in a national magazine. I freaked. I felt the ending was too vague and symbolic and the average reader would not understand it. So I lopped it off and added a contrived commercial ending that destroyed the validity of one of the major characters in the story. Needless to say, I lost the contest. A friend and avid reader read me the riot act. How dare I not give credit to the reader? She was correct. And thus ended my writing career.
Fast forward twenty five years. I was shocked and tired of the headlines of the atrocities young adults were committing: “Columbine”, “Omaha” and the list goes on. I did not understand. I knew it wasn’t due to the two parent working family. I was raised in the same environment when it wasn’t considered necessary, yet my parents were keenly aware of any unusual shifts in my moods. Of course, times are more complex now, but a good parent will always notice a shift of personality in their children. I realized the answer to my question was more complicated. The slow but insidious decline of the two tenants that made all of us and this country great, our family values and the true “Christian” ethic (not your bible thumping, fundamentalist view), had been slowly eroding for years. I started writing two novellas on this subject and the early loss of that precious childhood innocence in a negative and a positive light. Then I researched the book market. How it had changed. It was no better than other greedy corporations. Artistic integrity meant nothing unless it was commercial. The books that sold exploit, sex, politics, religions, misguided self-help books, and “Harry Potter Wannabees”—and novellas had become a dead horse on the market. So I decided to expand both into book form. Getting published was a real trick. Only 3% of 750,000 manuscripts for new authors are published. I set myself up for the greatest challenge in my life learned dedication to writing longer prose and succeeded. I got published, but almost blew it. I sent this raw copy to the book houses that accepted unsolicited manuscripts (I spend 6 months finding a literary agent and after great expense and much disappointed, I gave up). I was surprised after a couple of weeks to receive a response and it was of no surprise. They very nicely informed me the book sucked. However, they were intrigued by the premise and I was given the opportunity to try again. The publisher gave me two months to work on the book and resubmit for consideration, but with no guarantee. I worked hard, doubled the size and changed the title. To my surprise, it was accepted and per the contract they sent me on the stipulation that I rewrite it again within two months to their satisfaction and they would publish it. I corrected and submitted and waiting the editorial staff to take over. It never happened. I was then sent a PDF file of the galley and given two days to make changes. I was angry, I was promised professional editing. I was somewhat appeased by the cover art work. The company had actually read the book. From what I had gleaned on their site, the titles were pretty much no brainers. “The Lonesome Road” and the cover showed a deserted highway—hello! How were they going to make a cover for a nondescript title “Fill My eyes”? They read the book! They captured the two main characters down to hair and eye coloring and set the cover to show the conflict. I was stunned.
“Fill My Eyes” is a novel of no values or false values set 50 years ago reflecting today’s problems. I used this premise for the shock value and debunk any dreamy trips down memory lane. All eras has problems, they were just less complicated in years past. With this premise, the characters are dysfunctional and I utilized many character flaws in the human condition to take a large them and write a book in a more intimate setting. Hedonism, narrow-minded bigotry, intolerance, religious fanaticism/hypocrisy, being judgmental, sexual repression and so on; and caught in the middle is a very insecure four your old boy, raised from birth by an older conflicted brother. The story takes place in a one day time span and utilizes several first person accounts including the young boy. Only the older brother has no voice. Many of the characters are nameless for a variety of reasons and it is the interactions between the two siblings that allow the reader to fully understand the main characters. I gave the conclusion an abusive verbal confrontation to validate the loss of respect for our elders (even though it is justified in this novel) and gave the novel a surprise ending. I have received many glowing reviews on the creativity and “difference” of this book from so many on the market today.
I would love hearing from the Author’s Den community I am so proud to be part of. Thank you all for our warm reception.
In conclusion, I have learned, never give up on your dream and we all must have a dream to sustain us. We live in the worst of times where our attention has been rightfully diverted from the true issues that are in our immediate backyards. It is time to be more vigilant and take stock.