Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dear Reader by Marsha R. West


Everyone asks an author, "How did you get started?" My story goes like this. I read romances and historicals from eighth grade on when I sat up until three in the morning to finish GONE WITH THE WIND. I cried buckets, and I was so mad at the way it ended. I continued reading through college, marriage, and the birth of two daughters. 

As they got older, I got busier. I went back to teaching. Didn’t read for fun for years. Then when my mother was ill, I picked up a Linda Howard book for escape. For the next several years, I inhaled romances. 

One day, I uttered those fateful words: “I think I can write a romantic suspense, but I don’t know what to write about.” My husband’s friend said, “You’ve been off the board a year, write about the embezzlement scandal in the school district.” Thus began my writing career, which spans almost seven years and six books. The ride has been an emotional rollercoaster as I’ve learned the craft and made fantastic friends.

Don’t let anyone tell you this is an easy business. A couple of negative contest judges cut out my heart and my will to write. The most important thing I’ve learned through all the ups and downs is to never, never, never give up. My theme for newsletter articles the year I was president of my local RWA chapter was “Keep On, Keeping On.” In retrospect, those early contest judges were correct. Even though receiving their feedback shredded my self-esteem, I’m grateful for their suggestions. I needed to take classes and improve my craft. I did that, and now I’ve sold a book! :)

The blurb for VERMONT ESCAPE, my fourth completed book, is: Jill Barlow flees Texas after her husband & father are murdered. The gambling syndicate will kill again for the damning evidence she possesses.One of the unique aspects about the characters in all my stories is their age. The heroes and heroines range in age from 40 to 55. (So far. :) ) Jill celebrates her 50th birthday in Woodstock. Younger characters are often the adult children of the hero and heroine. The parents of the H and H frequently play some part in the story, giving the story line an intergenerational flair.

The characters have suffered losses and aren’t looking for a second chance at love. That’s what they find after suffering through various dangers and setbacks and digging deep within for the strength to carry on. Just what we all have to do in real life. (Except, hopefully, no one is trying to kill us!)
It takes me just over a year to complete a book. I plan for a couple of months before I ever type one word of the story. 

After writing, about six months, I rewrite and edit for several months. I’m a plotter and use charts I’ve discovered in various on-line classes. Charts describe the characters, their goals, motivation, and external and internal conflicts.

Sometimes I find pictures in magazines to represent my characters. With all of that in place, I start writing with a fair idea of what is supposed to happen. Sometimes the characters take over and surprise me. :) A supporting character in VERMONT ESCAPE took such a hold of the story that I had to promise him his own book before he’d let me get back to what I’d planned. He’s the hero in my sixth book.

I’ve been fortunate to travel since retiring as an elementary school principal, and some of those locations find their way into my books. While writing is a solitary activity, no book comes out without lots of input from others: experts we question about certain facts, critique partners, beta readers, editors, and cover artists. This whole process is mind boggling. It helps to have a supportive family, which I’m fortunate to have.

Has anyone ever told you they thought they might write a book? Has it ever crossed your mind that you could write a book? What would it be about? With the idea, training, hard work, sticking it out through the hard times, and luck, you, too could be a published author. For those of you who've written and maybe even published, what's the hardest part for you?

Hope you like this excerpt from VERMONT ESCAPE.

Jill Barlow reached for her make-up kit and brushed against the one thing she’d been doing her damnedest to avoid. Her heart rate tripped into overtime.

The package she received days after her dad was murdered. One month ago, but she couldn’t face opening a reminder of the nightmare.

Pictures of her vigorous father mixed with recent images of his closed casket. Nausea hit. Again. Damn. Why would someone blow off her father’s head? She didn’t stay to find out. She ran.

She’d pushed herself on a four-day trip from Texas to Vermont. Emotionally and physically exhausted, all she wanted to do was unpack her pajamas and climb into bed. Habit required she clean and moisturize her face. Habit provided comfort when life was chaotic. Habit could get her through the worst. Or not.

Her hand trembled when she removed the package and dropped it onto the bed in her Woodstock Inn suite. It lay on the white coverlet like a scorpion.

She leaned over and with elbows propped on her knees drew in needed oxygen. A minute passed, and then she straightened.

“Okay, open this. Every time you’ve come across the thing, you implode, morphing into a quivering mass of mush.”

Please check out my web site and my blog Thoughts on Thursday at can follow me on Facebook!/marsha.r.west Or Twitter I’d love to hear from you.


anne stenhouse said...

Hi Marsha, Goodness you do a lot of planning. I don't know if I could do a mystery because I'm not good at that aspect of writing. I know I find myself in Dead-ends and going the wrong way down one-way streets - so maybe I should do more. Good luck with the book - it looks scary. Anne

Leona~Author said...

Hi Marsha. Congratulations on your writing success. For a newbie with one manuscript, it's amazing that you have so many.

I don't think I could plan the way you do. I just start to write with a general idea in mind.

Your book sounds like a good one. I like that your hero and heroine are older.

Best wishes, and lots of luck.


Marsha said...

Thanks for stopping, Anne and Leona. But ladies, I can't write the way you do. :) I'm in awe of you pantsers! You really have a gift. I do think we all have to find our on way and our own time. Sure glad to be here at MIU with y'all.

Stephanie said...

Oh, Marsha. This book sounds wonderful. I love the idea of older characters. I can relate. I can't wait to read it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marsha
Loved your post. You describe your writing journey with such honesty and clarity it pulls me in, just like the heroine's thoughts in the excerpt from your new book. I'm dying to know more of her story.
Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Hi Marsha
Loved your post. You describe your writing journey with such honesty and clarity it pulls me in, just like the heroine's thoughts in the excerpt from your new book. I'm dying to know more of her story.
Thanks for sharing

Marsha said...

Stephanie and Jo-Ann,thanks for stopping by. Did either of you have a problem getting to the blog? I've had several people comment they couldn't get here.
Glad you like the older characters. I think there must be a ton of us out here who will enjoy reading someone closer to our age. Guess we'll find out. Jo-Ann, your kind words about my writing are always much appreciated.

Jerrie Alexander said...

Hi Marsha! I'm late to the party but had to comment. I should come clean and tell folks that I'm one of those critique partners you referred to. You and I held each others hands during the dark days of entering contests!

I'm thrilled Vermont Escape will be published and people will have the opportunity to read and love your writing. It's a wonderful story.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marsha, congrats on your newest release...thank goodness you pushed through the judges and evolved as a writer for it:) I had a similar experience knock me off my feet and for months I wouldn't pick up my pen...and then I thought, I love this, it's built inside me...I don't know how not to do it (LOL)

And, I bought a library of writing craft books, took onlin courses, joined writing groups, critique groups, took correspondence courses, and can happily say, I've been published.

I love your - keep on keeping on. It's perfect. Thanks for sharing.

Marsha said...

Hey, Jerrie. Yes, dear, you've had such an influence on my writing and I'm more grateful than I can say for your input and friendship. It's taken a long time from when I started VERMONT ESCAPE to this July 15. The book has gone through more metamorpheses than I can count, but it's almost here. Thanks for stopping by and for being my friend.

Marsha said...

Kay Dee, it sounds like we've had a similar journey. The difficulty makes the success of finally reaching publication even better. I'm lucky I was president of my local chapter during the darkest days. I'm not sure I'd have made it without my obligation to the members to "keep on keeping on." :) Glad you like the phrase and feel free to use any time. LOL Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

John Wiswell said...

That Mr. Sixth Book became so important to you is charming. I hope you two live happily ever after, at least until plotting requires him to be killed off.

Marsha said...

Ah, but John, I write romantic suspense with a happily ever after ending you can count on. Mr. Sixth Book won't get killed off. Pushed around, injured, threatened with loss of life and the loss of his love, but never killed. :) Thanks so much for stopping by and posting.

Lauren F. Boyd said...

Marsha, your excerpt left me wanting more (as it should! :) It was great - well done! Vermont Escape sounds awesome! Many congrats on its upcoming release!

J.Q. Rose said...

Congrats on pushing through those mean old judges and continuing toward your writing goals--and accomplishing them!! I dragged out a story I wrote years ago to re vamp to submit. I laughed at my style and voice and all else. Writing takes practice, study, and support. You could say it takes a village to write a book! Best wishes!