Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is Luck Really A Lady?

The song Frank Sinatra sings so well begs luck to be a lady for him. Which should give us all a clue. Yes, sometimes we get a "lucky" break. It would seem as though I did in getting my first book published. But if I consider all the elements that led up to this happening, no, it wasn't all luck Consider that I began writing stories as soon as I could spell and read, on my father's old typewriter. Stories that he instituted by telling me if he allowed me to use the typewriter I must write him a story. Why would he do this? For one thing, he was totally deaf from nerve deafness, which wasn't fixable in those days. Another contributing factor was he wrote non-fiction that was published. From the beginning he critiqued my stories--alwaus telling me what was good about them before letting me know what I could fix to make it even better. I wrote my stories all through high school.
Then came WWII and a year of college. Because I didn't know any better, I signed up for an English class given by the head of the the department, learning later he was a hard grader. His technique was to have us write an essay, whcih he'd take, critique in red and hand back the next class period. We then studies his edits and rewrote the essay. Everybody groaned but me. Hey, it wasn't much different than what my dad did. Did I ever learn from this guy! (And got an A besides.) He taught me what active vs. passive writing was and why active was better, plus to use active verbs and avoid ly adverbs. After that year I joined the Cadet Nurse Corps, even though I'd never wanted to be a nurse. Hey, it was a really patriotic time and I was too young to join any of the women's service groups.
So I became a nurse, married a doctor and had five kids. Which was fine except for the characrters' voices in my head, all wanting their stories told. Finally I began to write in what spare time I had. My husband insisted what I wrote was "trash." (They were romance stories.) When we lived in California's Central Vally, I took a writing class from a poet who threw us a challenge to begin a story about an old hospital in the area, whose ER was in the basement, where pipes across the ceiling leaked and unseen objects creaked and groaned. She also mentioned there was access there across ceiling openings to the meat freezer where huge slabs of meat carcasses hung on hooks. This was a time when gothics were becoming popular and I saw this as the perfect place to start one. Of course the heroine would then have to be a nurse--on the night shift. Thus I wrote what I knew about as I started my "trashy" story. Later we moved to San Diego where I took an off-campus writing class from a published mystery writer.
This turned out to be the beginning of the end of my marraige and beginning of my life as a writer. The instructor was an author as old as I am now and he told me I had an excellent beginning and that I should finish my story. I believed him and did. He critiqued it in class and I made changes. Then he told me he thought his agent would be able to sell this gothic tale and he'd send TULE WITCH to him when I finished. So this was done. And so was the dissolution of my marriage.
Pure luck that the book sold to Avon? Looking back I can see it wasn't. I'd done my homework and gotten better each time I managed to find someone who knew his stuff critiqued what I wrote. In other words I was ready to have this "luck" happen.
It certainly was not lucky to be single again, but I eventually married again--a guy who wrote on the side--he sold his first gothic soon after mine. We never actually wrote a book together, but we did critique each other's work--a great help to both of us. But I digress.
So I do believe luck is what you make it, and only then does Lady Luck deign to be kind.
And so my September book from Champagne is titled LADY LUCK, the launch book in their new IN THE CARDS Tarot card series, which, in my story, features the Wheel of Fortune Tarot card, which enters the lives of the characters by accident and influences all their lives. That's the theme of the series, in my case played out in the setting of a cruise ship with a casino.

3 comments:

Jude Johnson said...

Wow, Jane, what a wealth of experience - and gutsy determination! So many people think "luck" just happens, but you've shown that preparation and work entices "luck" to show up at your doorstep.
I look forward to reading your series - are you planning to use only the Wheel of Fortune card from the Tarot to tie your novels together? Or will each book feature a different character card such as The Fool and The Lovers? Intriguing concept either way!

Best Wishes,
Jude

Author of DRAGON & HAWK
due April 2011 from Champagne Books: www.champagnebooks.com
Historical Novelist: www.schorchedhawkpress.com

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