Friday, I had the opportunity to talk to a Christian women's group at the Berry Creek Country Club in Georgetown, Texas. I've talked to several groups since Where Love Once Lived came out last August and I never know exactly what I'm going to say. Sometimes the hosts suggest a reading. Other times they leave it up to me. This time the announcement said I would talk about the writing process.
I prepared a written speech. I read it out loud, timed it and changed it a number of times in the two weeks leading up to the luncheon. On the day of the speech, however, I intentionally left all my notes at home. I find I do better speaking without looking at a piece of paper.
There were four tables with nine or ten women at each one. We had finished eating and some had turned their chairs around so that they could see the podium. Without notes, I could easily make eye contact. A few heads nodded from time to time. There were some smiles, some laughter and some sighs from time to time. As a teacher, I know that learning happens when students have an emotional experience. Both laughter and sadness help people learn. Afterwards, more than a few women talked to me and said how much they enjoyed the talk.
I set out to give them the basics and began by telling them about the original idea of the story. That is, the bookmobile librarian I worked with back in the 1960's and how she helped people at each stop. Then I told them about that special sermon I heard one Sunday that gave me the belief that I could write a novel, and how I had to take writing classes for several years to do so. That led to talking about the conversion of the basic story to the one I ended up with and how Where Love Once Lived won several contests.
Then the talk took an unexpected turn, one that wasn't in the notes I'd left back at the house. When I got to the point where I said White Rose Publishing reviewed the complete manuscript and said they would look at it again if I would delete some of the subplots, I had to mention how the email from the publisher came at the same time I learned my wife had pancreatic cancer. I could see on their faces, they knew what that meant.
I told them I wasn't able to write for a long time afterwards, and that Lois died eight months later the day before Thanksgiving. Then, how I went to Halifax, Nova Scotia alone for Christmas and New Year's, hoping I might make the changes the publisher wanted. But, that didn't work.
I wasn't able to write until I started living again by going back to church, singing in the church choir and the community choir, and making plans for the future. I told them how I planned to sell the house and open a bookstore downtown where I could live upstairs.
And about that time, I told the women, was when I learned God had plans for me I hadn't foreseen. Celeste entered my life and that changed everything. Happiness let me write once more and eventually make the changes to the manuscript.
But, a year had passed. Publishers needs change. Mostly, though, I couldn't cut enough. White Rose publishes only Christian romance novels, and there were still subplots I couldn't delete. I knew the book was more than a romance and that I would have to self-publish it. So, I began learning about that process and settled on CreateSpace for the print edition, Amazon for the Kindle edition, and Lulu for the other eBook formats including the iPad edition.
Celeste and I married in March and the book was out in August, 2010.
I told the women about the new book, The Vengeance Squad, that should be published by the end of the year and how it was much easier to write than the first book. I also gave them a two-page handout describing the steps required to write a novel, from story idea to publication.