Saturday, August 10, 2013

Deer Flies, Moose and Sex

My name is Carolyn, and I'm an author.
Who took a very long break.
Okay, now that my AA-type moment is over, let me explain.
Many years ago, I wrote a book, A Thousand Shades of Feeling. I had a publisher and a contract, and when I finally held the book in my hands, I was ecstatic! I wanted to tell everyone I saw, whether I knew them or not. But I couldn't. I didn't dare, because, I thought, what if they actually want to read it and they find out it has, gasp, lesbians in it? Even worse, what would they say when they come across the sex scenes? (Even though those scenes were very tame by today's standards) So there I was, a published author who was terrified to trumpet the news, out of fear.

At the time, I hadn't come out to my family. (I am very out now!) As much as I loved my book, my story and my characters, I wasn't sure I could face the world that actually knew me. To make matters worse, my then-publisher had issues with their printer, finances and a host of other problems I won't go into. I now know they were in over their heads. My manuscript had been edited many times over, but none of those edits made it into the finished book. My print-baby came into the world looking unpolished, falling apart and so very amateur that in time, I began to be embarrassed by it. And yet, I still loved the story. Despite it's flaws, the book drew a readership and fans. I remember going to a bookstore  and signing copies, and I still scratch my head over a woman who gushed and raved over the book. She asked if I would allow her friend to take our picture together, and I remember blushing fiercely as I agreed. While I still marvel at her unbridled enthusiasm all those years ago, her memory has encouraged me through the years, whether she knows it or not. The book lived through two print runs, although I don't remember making more than $150.00 in royalties. In time, the book died, the publisher closed their doors and I chalked it all up to a bad experience.

When my eldest son was very small, I left his father. We didn't have a lot of money, but we lived some interesting experiences! I have always loved dragons, and being a storyteller by nature, I would tell him tales of a young dragon to keep us both entertained. It was always the same dragon, Frizzle. (That's Frizzle up and to the left, as a part of my writer's group logo) Frizzle lived an interesting life, and I was constantly challenged to come up with new tales, but of course, as a parent, I wanted the tales to have a lesson. In time, we collected a few Frizzle stories. One of them was published, and I continue to be very proud of my Frizzle stories.
The last piece of my writing that saw publication was an article that my partner and I co-wrote on Cambridge, Ontario. It, along with accompanying photos,  was published in a magazine that was short-lived and very few people saw. We may likely have the only remaining copy.
For many years, the sting from A Thousand Shades of Feeling prevented me from writing anything else seriously. I struggle to remain impartial about it all these days, but I'll admit, it does still bother me. Not because of the lost royalties, but because of the legacy it left behind. Much like a persistent, horrible aftertaste.

For a long time I grappled with the big question, should I breathe new life into it, make it the diamond I know it can be and seek out a new publisher? In time, and with a ton of support from my partner, I decided against it. I'm not sure I can adequately explain why.

I have been writing a new novel these past few months, and it feels very much like a new beginning for me. Yes, there are lesbian characters in this one. (I am a lesbian after all, and writers should write what they know!) There are sex scenes in this one too, and they are not the polite fade-to-grey ones I wrote before! The story is more multi-layered, the characters far more real and gritty and flawed than my others. These ladies breathe. I love this story. I hear April and Lani in my head at night, while I do the dishes and while I stand over the grill. They're very insistent that I get their story just right. Someone once said that writing is a passion driven by the voices we hear in our head. I know that's true in my case at least!

So yes, I am an author who has taken a very long break.
I am on a new ride, I am very much a new person.
One who still hears character's voices, but one who does not worry about sex scenes or other people's judgements.
One who can bring back Frizzle and write the very next day about romance between women.
One who sees a story in the moose that stands across the road and comes up with titles while swatting deer flies.

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