Sunday, August 14, 2011

Paying It Forward

As an accomplished author with two published novels under my belt, I'm often sought out by new or aspiring writers for advice on how to break into the literary world. In my seven years of writing, never once have I refused to share my "secrets" with anyone nor have I hesitated to discuss topics that may be beneficial in helping them down the road to publication. I delight in seeing new authors succeed, and as the "older, more knowledgeable" one, I actually feel, in many instances, that I owe it to them. After all, I didn't get to where I am without the help of others who had forged the path ahead of me. Why should I expect anyone else to do it?

Sadly enough, despite my own willingness to share with my fellow authors, many in the field don't feel the same way. More than once I have been refused the privilege of gaining insight that might help further my career simply because someone chose to be selfish. I've encountered blank stares (read as, "I have no idea what you're talking about"), the silent treatment ("Sorry, my computer/phone stopped working and I also moved so I never got your messages"), or the person simply skirts around the issue and gives an answer/advice that has nothing to do with what I had originally asked. I have to believe these people are afraid that,if they help me, I will somehow take away from their success. If I happen to know the name of a book store contact that they use, will this disable them from returning to that store? If they tell me how to become a presenter at a conference they are speaking at, are they afraid I'll "steal the spotlight" from their presentation? I just don't get it.

In my opinion, we as writers have a common bond and the ultimate goal of each of us is to succeed at the art, whether that means landing a contract with a big-name publisher, selling thousands of books, or simply getting our name in print. We need to stick together, to help each other out, and to cheer each others' successes. Remember, you were once in that person's shoes--if someone helped you, I say, pay it forward.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Remember the "Little People"

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am a HUGE fan of country music star Chuck Wicks. I love everything about the man--his voice, his looks, his personality, his music, his looks--okay, okay, I know I already said that, but c'mon, the boy is GORGEOUS! So much so, in fact, that I decided about five years ago when I first saw the cover of his CD that, if the Forever Love series ever makes it to the big screen, Chuck's the shoe-in to play Mitch Tarrington. (all right, so Chuck doesn't have Mitch's blue eyes or silver-rimmed glasses, but hey, Hollywood can step up and take care of that, can't they?) Yep, he's definitely my "real-life Mitch." Of course, I know it all seems far away, but a girl can dream, can't she?

Well, God smiled on me a few weeks ago at the Shelby County Fair in Sidney, Ohio, and made one of my dreams become a reality. I sat with my husband (the TRUE love of my life!) three rows away from the stage at a concert by none other than Mr. Wicks. As any good author would who wants accurate characterization, I studied his every move and took plenty of pictures to use as reference for my future writing. (oh, all right--they weren't REALLY for reference, but it sounded good, didn't it?) But, that's not the best part. During the last song, Chuck announced that he wanted to meet his fans after the show at a table next to the stage. After practically throwing the camera at my dear sweet husband--thankfully, not a jealous man--I eagerly made my way, Chuck 8 x 10 portrait in hand--to the meet and greet line. Standing there, I silently rehearsed what I would say in an effort to avoid fumbling over the words once we were face to face. When my turn finally arrived, I know I must have blushed as he shook my hand and I looked into his sultry brown eyes. *Sigh* But my words came out strong and clear--"I write romance novels, and I wanted to tell you that I pattern my male character after you." Oh, the smile that I got in response was worth every nerve-wracking moment! He was truly flattered as he passed the news on to his sound man(who was waiting for me to shut up so he could take our picture) and mentioned that he "would have to look into getting those books." As I placed an arm around him for the shot, he thanked me for thinking of him, handed me my autographed 8 x 10, and I flew into the arms of my hubby who was laughing at his middle-aged teeny bopper. Can you tell I'm still reeling?

Okay, so I may have drawn out this post, but here's the point. Naturally, someone like Chuck Wicks has tons more fans than someone like me, a little romance novelist from smalltown Ohio. But even though he has reached fame and fortune, he hasn't forgotten those who helped get him there--his fans. He could have easily crooned the last line, headed for his tour bus, and called it a night. But he didn't. On a 95 degree evening, hot and tired, no doubt, from an almost 2-hour show, he took the time to greet and talk to each and every person there who ducked into that line. He let us each know he appreciated our support, that he was glad we were there, and that we meant something to him. He was sweet, kind, and most of all, genuine--exactly the person I want Mitch Tarrington to be.

We as writers need to remember our fans, too--the readers who take the time to come to our signings, who purchase and read our works, and who sometimes even send fan letters or refer our works to their friends and family. Without them, where would we be? Why would we even have a need to write? I vow to always try to remember the "little people" who mean such a big deal to me. To them, I say, thank you with all my love!