Letting My Inside Voice Out

Nobody takes fiction writers seriously.

That’s what I used to think. As a volunteer journalist and editor on a small non-profit press for more than ten years, I snorted at the suggestion I should write fiction. Why, if I wrote something as superficial as a novel, no one would ever buy my non-fiction books, which simmered happily on the back burner of my creative imagination. (Still do, actually.)

Then our family income level dropped, and I had to go back to work. Standing for 6-8 hours behind a register in a retail chain clothing store has its charm, I’m sure, but it was completely lost on me. After more than a year of dealing with thoughtless, sometimes even hostile customers on a daily basis, I revisited the idea of fiction. Maybe I could write a short story. I knew absolutely nothing about writing fiction or, more importantly, what it took to get my work to market; but if I could get one published, it would be a small income. Then I could write and publish others. Repeat as necessary. Really, how hard could it be?

If you’re a writer, you’re probably laughing your tuchis off right about now. How hard indeed.

That little short story became the manuscript that ate New York. Running about 800,000 words, it would still be going if someone—an agent at a writer’s conference who, to her credit, did not laugh in my face when I quoted my word count—hadn’t stopped me. I’ll talk more about that in a later post.

My point is that the fiction bug infected me with its fiery allure and ardent expression, because let’s face it; you can’t write good fiction if you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing. My characters came alive in my mind, spoke often and loud about what “they” wanted to happen, and endeared themselves to me almost as much as the “real” people in my life. I understand from other writers that this is common; fictional characters, especially protagonists and antagonists that drive the story, demand your focus. If you don’t give them 100% of your attention, they can’t fully manifest into three-dimensional beings that live and breathe in the reader’s imagination. Who would buy a novel without that?

I sat down to write that “short story” in 2008. Here it is, early in the year 2017. I’m not yet published, but I’m so much closer than I was, and what a ride it’s been! Just as with any newbie, I devoured one book after another about story structure, publishing, and the art of writing in general. I sought advice from one advisor after another. I attended classes and conferences in an effort to find the “right” way to write. What I’ve discovered so far is that everyone has an opinion, sometimes at opposite ends of the spectrum, and most of them insist theirs is the only “right” way.

I’ve come to believe that ultimately it’s up to the writer. As long as our methods work for us, and we’re able to get our work out there to our readers, I’m not sure it matters whether we follow methods of a writing guru or create our own path to success. Besides, with so many ways to publish these days, options are unlimited. I’m currently trying the traditional route. We’ll see where it goes.

But hey, like I said, I’m new to this business, learning as I go. Who am I to say what will or won’t work for you? (I’m not even sure what works for me, yet.) I’m sure I’ll hear comments from both sides of the argument on that score. I will say that most agents I’ve heard from tell me that publishing is a very subjective business, that what works for one agent or publisher won’t work for another, and that you should keep trying and don’t get discouraged.

Never give up, never surrender!

My adventures in writing have all proven educational; I don’t look for that to change any time soon. Now that I have a website and am seriously querying and branching out in my writing endeavors, I want to journal about them here, so that you can follow along, if you wish. Keep in mind as you read that I am a new writer, and am writing from limited personal experience. Your mileage may vary, and I encourage you to share your own constructive or helpful input here in the comments.

So come along for the ride! I hope to share my discoveries so far, as well as my ongoing adventures into the realm of traditional publishing (as they occur) in coming posts. Stay with me, and we’ll find out what happens together!

Bad Blood, by Lucienne Diver

Samhain Publishing, © 2012
ISBN 978-1-60928-594-4
219 pages, $14.00

Any book that includes Apollo—the Apollo—hiding among humans as an adult film star is bound to grab my attention. And he isn’t alone; Circe, Poseidon, Hephaestus, Hermes, and other Big Names make appearances in this first book of the Latter Day Olympians series. Add in skeptical protagonist TORI KARACIS, a private investigator who may—or may not—have gorgon blood, her edgy relationship with Detective NICK ARMANI (no relation), and her overly dramatic assistant, Jesus, and you have a perfect recipe for a most unusual mystery.

The book opens with Tori on the job, tailing a high-powered Hollywood agent for a paying client. Things go to hell (or is that Hel?) almost immediately, and by the end of the first chapter, our P.I. is called into Detective Armani’s office for questioning. Pressure mounts in every scene as Tori begins asking the right questions and coming a little too close for comfort to uncovering the truth behind the mayhem. Soon Tori herself is a target and that’s when things really kick into high gear.

Tori, the main character and my favorite, portrays the classic strong-but-vulnerable heroine. Her personality comes through loud and clear in the first few pages, and remains consistent throughout the book; sarcasm is her native language, especially in her head, where we spend a good bit of time. More than once I laughed out loud at her private thoughts, and found myself cheering her snide comments, wishing I had the guts to speak my mind as fluently in tense situations. Her observations of people and situations reach the reader through the filter of Tori’s cynicism, which makes them even more amusing. I loved the fact that she could laugh at herself, as well as those around her.

Little by little, some of Tori’s background emerges and we get a glimpse into why she is so suspicious and (dare I say it) uptight. Her unique family members contribute, especially YiaYia, whose fantastic tales of family history Tori has never taken seriously—until now. Even Uncle Christos, whose investigative business she inherited, adds his two cents with quotes like “If you assume you know nothing, you’re going to be right a good part of the time.”

As a mystery, the book had me turning the pages to see if my guesses on the villain’s identity were correct. Diver threw in more than a few surprises, including a couple of steamy scenes that I did not expect. Overall the plot kept me guessing, which I found refreshing.

My only disappointment in Bad Blood was that it was more or less a surface romp. I prefer books that make me think. This one was entertainment, pure and simple. That’s not a bad thing; I enjoyed it, but for me it didn’t scratch my preference for intelligent stimulation, or make me dig down into my own principles to question whether I would have done things the same as Tori, or if I would have taken a different route. Even so, sometimes the last thing I want as a reader is an arduous journey into philosophy and ethics. Especially on days that demand a huge concentration of my attention and focus, a delightful modern-day urban fantasy is exactly what YiaYia might recommend.

With concise and consistent characterization and plot, Diver’s Bad Blood is a great start for a series that promises irreverent wit—and tumultuous relationships—throughout. If you’re looking for a fun read with fast-paced action and clever dialogue, Bad Blood should definitely be at the top of your list.