I routinely get comments about how nice it must be to be an author because we can write only when we feel like it. The assumption is the rest of the time we can be sitting on the sofa watching soaps, out on the golf course or next to a pool, sipping martinis at three-hour lunches and living the high life.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
We’ve all experienced the years of going to school whether we felt like it or not. My parents—and I’m sure yours, too—always said I’d feel better once I got there. Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t, but the fact was that I sat in that chair and tried to pay attention.
In survey after survey, it’s reported that between two-thirds and three-fourths of Americans hate their jobs. Yet we don’t see that many walking away from them. We’ve learned—just as we forced ourselves to attend school—that there are some things in life we have to do, whether we feel like doing them or not.
My first suspense was the least pressured book I ever wrote. The reason is simple: no one knew I was writing it. I could write when I felt like it and if it took two months or twenty years to complete it, nobody was waiting in the wings for it. That, my friend, is called a hobby.
When you become a published author and particularly if you have a contract to write more, you learn that your commitments and deadlines can impact dozens of people, from the editors to the production and marketing teams. Miss a deadline and the book could be delayed for an entire year. Miss two and you could lose your contract.
I am currently under contract to write two books per year and I know authors who are under contract for three times that number. For me, it means the first draft of the book can take no more than three months. That might seem like a lot of time, but it can fly past. Before I send my book to the editor, I’ve written the first draft and then revised it at least three times. I attempt to fix any problems with the plot or the characters as well as make sure I’ve checked all the boxes regarding scene setups, double duty scenes, and proper grammar and spelling. Oh, yes, and write the very best story I can.
When it goes to the publisher, I generally have one month before I receive the editorial comments and suggestions. I can’t rush off to the golf course just yet, though, because the marketing and promotional teams will require my full-time attention. By the time I receive the edits, I am working thirty hours a week on the promotional campaign and another twenty to thirty hours a week on the edits—not to mention that my publisher is expecting a detailed outline of the next book, which is now due in about six more months.
When the book goes into the production stages, I often have just twenty-four hours to proof a cover or read the entire formatted document before my approval is required or a list of errors must be submitted. While everything begins to come together with the promotional strategies, the author appearances, the interviews and book talks, I am neck-deep in writing the first draft of the next book. I will often write in my car between book signings, or record scenes audibly while I am driving. I’ve set my alarm for two in the morning to catch those pre-dawn radio interviews, often when I’ve finished my last signing at ten o’clock the previous night and another one looms at the break of day.
The cycle is never-ending. When it does end, it means there are no more publishers standing in the wings waiting for my next manuscript—which is akin to your boss telling you there’s no need for you to come to work.
So the next time someone tells me they would love to be a writer because they could write when they felt like it and lounge around in their pajamas all day, I look at them and smile and say, “Yes. It’s a great life.”
Enjoy the following excerpt:
She wasn’t quite sure what roused her from sleep. But as Vicki slowly opened her eyes, she became aware of her nude body lying on one side with Dylan’s larger, muscular form curled up behind her. One arm was stretched over her protectively and her derriere rested against his lap, their legs intertwined.
Normally some moonlight found its way inside, but the room was so murky that she wondered if there was any moon at all this night. She narrowed her eyes in an effort to adjust to the darkness as Dylan’s measured, soft breathing remained against her ear.
She nearly gasped as her eyes fell upon a figure just a few feet from the bed. She frowned as it swayed in front of her; it was not flesh and blood—that much was obvious. It was almost opaque and as she continued to stare, it grew more luminous until a tiny woman stood in front of her with long, flowing white hair billowing about her as if blown by the wind.
She wore a thin nightgown that reached from the base of her neck all the way to her feet, and as Vicki continued to stare, she smiled.
“Mam,” Vicki breathed as she recognized Dylan’s grandmother.
Dylan murmured something incomprehensible and held her more tightly against him.
“Be careful what you do, child,” Mam said in a clear voice. “There are eyes on you.”
Vicki gasped and grabbed at the bed covering. “You shouldn’t be watching us!” she exclaimed.
Dylan awakened and leaned over her to look at her face. “What is it, Darlin’?”
Vicki could feel the heat in her cheeks. She half-turned to Dylan to see him watching her with sleepy eyes. “I—” She turned back to where his grandmother had stood, but she was gone.
“Another bad dream, mayhap?” he asked before settling back. “There’s nothin’ at’al to be frightened of, Darlin’. I’ll take good care o’ you.”
She tried to relax against his body once more. She kept her eyes open and her ears on alert but she was met only with silence and a darkness that reminded her that she’d had precious little sleep. Still, she pulled the bedcovers over them, covering their naked bodies.
The grandfather clock downstairs ticked off the seconds, the sound reminding her of just how silent the rest of the house really was. She finally felt herself snuggling into that warm cocoon of sleep.
She could feel Dylan’s breath against the back of her neck; it was the steady breathing of a man deeply asleep. Then she became aware of something else, something against her nose as if someone was breathing on her face.
Her eyes flew open to find Mam leaning down in front of her, her face just inches from hers.
“It isn’t me you need to be concernin’ y’self with, child,” she said. “Other eyes are watchin’.”
About the Author:
Prior to becoming a full-time writer, she founded and operated two computer companies in the Washington, DC area. Her specialties were computer crime and computer intelligence and her clients included the CIA, Secret Service and Department of Defense. Computer technology often weaves its way through her contemporary suspense/thrillers. She is also the co-founder of The Book 'Em Foundation and the founder of The Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair, an annual event to raise money for literacy campaigns. She also serves on the boards of the Friends of the Robeson County Public Library and the Robeson County Arts Council, and served as the first female president for the Chesterfield County/ Colonial Heights Crime Solvers.
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