I am working on a second book about Charlene, Reeves, and Charlie and plan for there to be a third. In the last one Charlene will come into possession of Olivia’s fourth journal. But how? I haven’t found a believable way for that to happen. I am also working on another book about Olivia and Mourning, in which Olivia and her friend Michelle continue their business, making and selling paper dolls, playing cards, and post cards. My great-grandmother and her sister supported themselves for a while making the Greenstreet Paper Dolls (shown in the image above) and my grandmother gave me a set of them. So when Olivia and Michelle started their business I scanned them and posted them online. Then recently I received an email from a young woman who had recognized the Greenstreet Paper Dolls – because she also had a set. She turned out to be the daughter of one of my cousins, with whom I had lost touch. So in addition to how happy I am to be back in contact with my cousins, there is the solution to my literary problem. All Charlene has to do is wait for Facebook to get invented.
Writers are a strange lot. Most of us approach our first work of fiction fretting and sweating – do I have the talent/inspiration/originality to carry it off? But we seldom doubt our basic writing skills. After all, we are the kids who got As on their English essays and heard things like, “Oh my gosh, your letters are so funny, you ought to write a book!” I remember myself, many years ago, struggling with the manuscript that would evolve into the Olivia Series. After submitting my first post to an online workshop, I anxiously awaited the “crits” of the other participants. And then this bitch had the nerve to point out that I didn’t know how to correctly tag dialogue. And that I had slipped out of POV. And that I used too many adverbs, too many weak verbs, and too many non-specific nouns. My pacing wasn’t so hot either. I was furious – not a word about my wonderful character or brilliant plot. I fumed for a few days, then, “So what, who cares? What does she know? Who the hell is she, anyway? An unpublished loser on a dopey loser website.” Eventually I slithered away and took a few of my favorite novels off the shelf. “Oh my, look at that, I am doing the dialogue all wrong.” Maybe there is a new skillset I need to acquire. But I wasn’t giving up that easy. “So there’s a comma instead of a period? Big deal, who would even notice that? Nobody but a fussy, nitpicking, frustrated #%@^&!?# ….” POV – shame on me, wannabe writer, I had to look that one up online. “Okay, she’s right, the whole chapter is in Olivia’s point of view, meaning we are privy to her thoughts and feelings but no one else’s. But then toward the end I take a sudden side trip into some other character’s mind.” Bitch 2, Me 0. I remained grumpy for another few days before returning to the keyboard to fix what I now knew was wrong with Chapter 1 (part of me resenting how much better it read after I made the corrections). It was probably another week or two before I ordered a self-editing book from Amazon. It was so helpful, I went back and bought three more. Yes, writers are a strange lot. I don’t know of anyone who has taken up carpentry, had the legs fall off every chair they made, shrugged, and said, “Oh, that’s just my style.” So what’s my point? As Tonia’s teacher (in The Lonely Tree) would say: Embrace your choices! Go all in. Get serious. Be professional. Keep your butt in the chair until you get it right. Or at least the best you can. I wish I could remember the name of “the bitch” (sorry) and thank her. More than that, I wish I had run into her a few decades earlier. I think my life might have been different.