Come Monday, I turned on the computer, connected to my e-mail, and began to scroll messages. Andâ€“what? A message from â€œeditorâ€ at â€œblackopalbooks.â€ Wow, this would be the fastest rejection Iâ€™d ever had. Oh well, might as well get it over with.
â€œWe like your book, and would like to publish it.â€ I stared at the screen. Turned off the e-mail program. Started it again. â€œWe like your book and would like to publish it.â€ Still the same words. So I printed it out, just in case it was a computer glitch. Yep, it said the same thing. So I called my husband into the room. He looked at the screen, looked at me, and said, â€œCool.â€ Just to be sure, I sent the excerpt to my friends, whom I see once or twice a year, and stay in touch electronically. They concurred, and sent virtual high fives.
It took twenty four hours to decide if I would accept the offer. Actually it took ten seconds, but I pretended to need to think about it. Yeah, right. I was valiantly attempting to follow the advice given in so many lectures and on line discussions. In actual fact I intended to grab for the brass ring and enjoy the ride. Which I did.
The day â€œMy Killer My Loveâ€came out was the day my husband was admitted to the hospital and the next eight months were a challenge on all levels. He lost the battle with cancer and diabetes in January of the next year, and in the months since then Iâ€™ve learned to readjust and rebuild. Come April of this year, events combined to bring me to Southern California, including a Saluki specialty held in Tomâ€™s honor, a gathering of our dog friends after the show, and another gathering for his family, non dog friends, and former students. This would help close many of the connections he had made throughout his life.
And, yes, it was the same weekend as the Orange County meeting. I could have my first book signing among the people who had the greatest effect on my life as a writer. What would be better? Too bad it was the same weekend as the RT Convention in Chicago, but so many of those I remembered from before were still in California.
The roses came home with me and are in a Mikasa vase one of the dogs won years ago. One rose for â€œMy Killer My Love,â€ the book I signed in April. One for â€œTeach Me To Forget,â€ coming out in May, just a few weeks from now. Life does go on.
Might as well ask why we read what we read since for many of us they are inextricably linked. We write what we enjoy reading. I was reminded of this recently during two discussions with non romance readers. The first one asked me to define exactly what sort of books I write, and if “romance” is a long story with some hand-holding, a short story with hot sex? She went on to explain her local librarian has been trying to convince her to write what she calls a romance novel – sort of relationship in the 1800s with a sex scene thrown in about every 40 pages. I sent her to RWAâ€™s website for an idea of the professionalism involved in our genre, and had to point out her librarian is a literary bigot.
The second discussion was less abrasive. A non romance reading friend read My Killer My Love, and was surprised how much she enjoyed it. Up until now her opinion of romance hasnâ€™t been very positive, and the idea of a heroine with glasses and a limp intrigued her. She asked me what I would write next and how I decided what to write.
These past few months Iâ€™ve devoured books of all sorts. Iâ€™ve read Jim Butcherâ€™s entire Furies series along with the latest Harry Dresden. Iâ€™ve enjoyed Tara Lainâ€™s Beautiful Boys and Rebecca Forsterâ€™s chilling “Before Her Eyes.” From the moment I first sat in the Emergency Room with my husband Iâ€™ve had a book or Kindle in my hand, and Iâ€™ve used the words of other writers to help me get through the days. During procedures I filled my time and my worried mind with flights of fantasy and allayed my fears with tales of love everlasting. The often silly, sometimes implausible plot points distracted me at times when I wasnâ€™t ready to face the reality of our days.
Why do I write? I write so someone else can have those few hours of immersion in a story. I write so they can temporarily forget the stresses of their lives and briefly become a part of the lives I created in the pages of my book. Perhaps some of us write to be the next Nora, the next Jayne Ann, but for the most part we write to share what we are with anyone willing to share the worlds we lived in for the months or years it took to create the story.
I writeâ€”we writeâ€”to give someone a distraction while waiting for news of the tests, or as they sit in another uncomfortable chair during procedures, wanting to be there when their loved one goes past, to let them connect with the world waiting for their return. Those scenes and dialogue and setting pour out of our hearts onto the page, sometimes easily, sometimes with great effort, to be sucked up into the minds of readers and allow them a few moments to enjoy something other than the unrelenting sounds of a hospital.
I write because too many stories clamor in my head for release onto the screen. And I guess I write because I canâ€™t not write.
by Monica Stoner, Member at Large
Iâ€™ve always found it easier to deal with a situation if Iâ€™m as informed as possible, so I have spent time researching the Whipple surgical procedure – the history, the odds of success, the improvements in survival. Iâ€™ve learned as much as possible about roadblocks to recovery and about potential drawbacks of this specific procedure as well as any surgery. To be well informed is to be ready for most any eventuality.
Imagine, though, how the neighborhood of the digestive system would feel about having a portion of their community removed without warning. Would it go something like:
â€œMan, what hit us last night? I donâ€™t remember any kind of party, do you Harry? Harry? Whereâ€™s Harry. And – Bob? What are you doing over here, youâ€™re supposed to be over on the other loop.â€
â€œYeah, and it looks like someone took a hunk out of the Pancreas. What went on here last night, some sort of rave?â€
â€œHey, that pushy guy is gone, the one who was squatting at the end of the duct and kept encroaching on everyoneâ€™s property.â€
â€œYeah, youâ€™re right. Anyone know what happened to him?â€
â€œItâ€™s like there was a riot or something and they cleaned out part of the neighborhood. Man, Iâ€™m hungry. Any chance we could get some food down here?â€
Tom asked for his brother the day before the surgery and at midnight I met him at the Albuquerque airport. Pre surgery was like a tag team comedy routine, then we went to wait. And wait. Seven plus hours all told before the surgeon told us he was happy with his part of the procedure but warned us this was just the first step.
Weâ€™ve had two steps forward and one step back, often those steps are shuffling baby steps. When we thought weâ€™d beaten the odds he ended up back in ICU, having aspirated bile and at risk of pneumonia. Iâ€™ve gotten to know my quirky brother in law, who was part of a special unit in VietNam, and has the stories to share. I met a nurse who came from Iran when she was ten and the shelling got so bad in her village, it wasnâ€™t safe for her to live there any longer. So many people, so many stories. For someone who chose to live far out and away from people itâ€™s been an experience.
Thanks for listening.
Writing as Mona Karel, Monica Stoner’s first book, MY KILLER MY LOVE, was released on May 25, 2011 from Black Opal Books.
by Monica Stoner, Member at Large
My book releases May 25. The original release date was planned for May 17, until my editor asked if it could be delayed a week. Since I wasnâ€™t married to any particular date, I thought why not? It was only a few more days. Only a few. Well, okay, eight more days. I could handle an extra week.
Seems I forgot what it was like to sit through that last week of school before summer vacation. Actually, itâ€™s more like the last week before a litter is due to whelp. The mama dog gets bigger and bigger, and you rush around setting up whelping boxes, sterilizing equipment, putting everyone on warning. Then you wait. And wait. Eventually the future hopefuls come squirming out and you can waste the next nine weeks cooing over them.
Doesnâ€™t quite work that way with a book, of course. First thereâ€™s the contract to review, then the edits. You find out your deathless prose isnâ€™t quite as perfect as you thought, and that a misplaced comma really can make a difference. Not to mention youâ€™ve bounced point of view around so much your paragraphs have whiplash.
If youâ€™re fortunate enough to have cover input, thatâ€™s one more detail to consider. Then thereâ€™s the blurb, the cover copy and donâ€™t forget the dedication. These days you also have to have a web presence and be ready to go on a blog tour introducing yourself and your book to the literary world. All this while going about your mundane life of job, housework, family.
I havenâ€™t had so much fun in years.
It helps to have an editor who listens when I explain why my people did what they did. The amazing support of other writers lights up the gloomiest of days. And then, of course, the reviews. I have to share my first reviews (click here) since they had me grinning like a loon for days.
In the midst of this whirlwind of fun, Iâ€™m working on a new story. Hereâ€™s where raising dogs and writing part ways. You whelp a litter, and you can spend the next year or so raising it out. You have a book published, you better be working on another one while youâ€™re basking in the glow and doing the â€œfun stuffâ€ or you might have a long time between glows. So Iâ€™m typing away, in between sneaking pictures at my cover.
Wow, Iâ€™m a writer.
Writing as Mona Karel, Monica’s first book, MY KILLER MY LOVE, will be released on May 25, 2011 from Black Opal Books.
by Monica Henderson Stoner, Member at large
Romance writers write romance. Sometimes they write romance with a twist or hyphen. And sometimes they write romance with a subtle message, one that might stop the reader mid paragraph, and have them thinking about other than boy meets girl.
Iâ€™ve come across these books in the past, and taken away something more than just a story. One of the first was Kathleen Korbelâ€™s JAKEâ€™S WAY, about a man who gives up his own dreams to help his family, who never realize he canâ€™t read. Korbel whammied me again with A ROSE FOR MAGGIE, about a charming baby with Downâ€™s Syndrome, and then A SOLDIERâ€™S HEART, reminding me PTSD wasnâ€™t just for the men in the field. She wrote about the agony of anorexia in SOME MENâ€™S DREAMS and about overcoming deep seated fears in both WORTH THE RISK and PERCHANCE TO DREAM.
Suzanne Brockmann faces issues head on. Dealing with Alcohol or drug dependency started with HEART THROB and continues right through the Troubleshooter books. Who canâ€™t love Jules, gay and proud of it, who wanted a partner he could walk with in sunshine? People doing the right thing for the wrong reason, and people doing what has to be done even when no one else realizes what theyâ€™ve done, come alive in her books.
Then we come to SEIZE THE FIRE, a heart wrenching story of dealing with the horrors of war in a time when an officer and gentleman was supposed to keep a stiff upper lip and soldier on. FLOWERS FROM THE STORM, a stroke bringing a genius down to near disaster; THE SHADOW AND THE STAR, a young man overcoming a depraved upbringing. Laura Kinsale makes me think while enjoying her stories.
None of these authors hit me over the head with their MESSAGE. Iâ€™ve seen and tried to read books with a THEME, sometimes a worthy theme such as racism or manâ€™s inhumanity to man. All valid high concepts but when your theme gets in the way of your story, sometimes people stop reading all together.
More recently, I learned from a fellow LERA member about Best Buddies International: http://www.bestbuddies.org/ a non-profit organization dedicated to establishing one-on-one friendships for people with IDD (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities). Their goal is to ensure these people have friends to call them. Gabi Stevens wove IDD into her newest fantasy romance AS YOU WISH, which Iâ€™m looking forward to reading.
For myself, Iâ€™m polishing TEACH ME TO FORGET, about a woman overcoming a depraved marriage and making something of herself, then learning to trust.
Happy reading and writing!
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