I read to escape and I write to do the same. I’ve devoured books since I was a child and discovered the joy of writing in middle school. I wrote articles for our local paper for several years focusing on school events and happenings. As I look back, I never considered writing as a career. It was always a fun hobby but not something I thought of as a real job. I retired a few years ago and have since dedicated myself to a second career as a novelist. I write in two genres–women’s fiction and mystery. I love the escape reading a great book offers.
I find the same enjoyment when creating characters and stories. My women’s fiction series is set in the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Washington state. While on a trip to the area, I saw a woman on the ferry with a golden retriever. As I watched her, the beginning of the story for my first novel, Finding Home, took root. In the Hometown Harbor Series, I created a community of people in one of the most beautiful settings I’ve visited.
Each of the stories features a different woman, who is in the midst of a journey of self-discovery. I love to read series and enjoy novels in which characters are intertwined and appear throughout. In these works, I’ve tried to create a place readers want to visit. They’re the type of books readers can curl up with and get lost in, while sipping a cup of tea. I also purposely created characters that were a bit more mature than those in many modern novels. The women in the series are easy to relate to and have problems readers in their forties, fifties, and beyond will find familiar. The fifth book in this series, Finally Home, releases on June 20th.
My favorite types of books to read include mysteries and thrillers. While on a trip to Nashville, the idea for a mystery series was hatched. I created a lovable bachelor detective who lives with his aunt in the exclusive Belle Meade area in Nashville. My main character, Coop, and his dog, Gus, along with his right-hand woman, Annabelle, find themselves in the midst of twisty murder cases. I released the second book in the Cooper Harrington Detective Series, Deadly Connection, late in 2016. I find writing in the mystery genre to require a more detailed outline and process than the more character-centered women’s fiction genre. I enjoy the challenge of creating a twisty, but believable plot for the murder mystery.
I’ve discovered visiting new areas and travel inspire my ideas. I love character creation and spend a lot of time interviewing my characters so I’m able to develop them for my readers. I’m also a people-watcher and pay close attention to how people act and what they say. It’s a great exercise for building characters or coming up with a new personality.
In person I like no drama. Creating stories and characters fills the void in my otherwise predictable and prosaic life. I’m having much more fun in this next chapter of my life than in my pre-retirement years. I wish you the joy of finding many good books to fill your days. I’d love to hear from readers, so please connect with me by visiting my website at http://www.tammylgrace.com/.
Guest blog: Hear from a writer on the ups and downs of editing
By Meg Benjamin
Earlier this year, Samhain Publishing, which bought my first book, Venus In Blue Jeans, as well as nine others, announced that they were closing. Like most of Samhain’s authors, I was saddened. I knew many people who worked for them, a very talented bunch.
But Samhain’s closure had a more immediate effect for me. It meant that my novel Running On Empty was no longer scheduled for publication. I could have tried to find another publisher; but the chances of anyone wanting to take on the third book in a trilogy where the other two books belonged to Samhain were slim at best. I could have let it go, leaving the trilogy unfinished, but I didn’t want to do that.
My third choice—and the one with which I decided to go—was publishing the book myself. Self publishing (or “indie” publishing) is increasingly widespread. An entire industry has sprung up for authors who want to present their own, professionally produced books, including experts in art, editing, and formatting.
Self-publishing involves two main expenses—covers and editing. Of the two, beginning writers are more likely to spend on the former than the latter. They’re making a big mistake.I came to this conclusion from a unique perspective—I was a freelance copy editor myself for several years. At one time I had large chunks of the Chicago Manual of Style memorized (note to fellow copy editors—it goes away with time). No way I would edit my own stuff.
On the simplest mechanical level, you tend to read through your own errors, even your own typos. You know what’s supposed to be there, and your brain supplies it even when it’s missing. But a good editor will do a lot more than just catch your mistakes. A good editor will tell you where you’re going wrong in your story and your characters. Editors come to the book cold, without any information about your struggles to get it finished (unlike, say, critique partners). More importantly, they’re not paid to be your friend. The editor is there to provide you with a flat assessment of the weak spots in your work, along with some hints about how to fix them.That’s what you want.
My editor was brutally frank about the highs and lows of Running On Empty, my newest book.I won’t lie—some of it hurt. The pain of criticism is necessary and frequently based on your realization that your work wasn’t as perfect as you thought. When readers complain indie books are “unreadable,” they may be referring to works that haven’t received the benefit of an independent editor. I was able to produce a much better work thanks to my editor’s guidance.
Years ago, I was part of a critique group led by a well-known author. Group members ranged from rank beginners to seasoned, multi-published writers. A couple of the beginners had never been critiqued before, and they both responded with very public meltdowns. Eventually they both withdrew from the group after a loud denunciation of all of us for our lack of sympathy with their writing. Do I have to tell you that neither of those writers ever made it into print (at least so far as I know)?
Editing does cost a lot. Many editors charge by the word, and most of us write books in the 50,000 to 90,000 word range. But the investment pays off. Edited books may have weaknesses, but they’re usually things the author knowingly chose to do.
For better or worse.
(Meg Benjamin is an award-winning author of contemporary romance, including the Award of Excellence from Colorado Romance Writers. Visit her at MegBenjamin.com or facebook.com/meg.benjamin1. )