If you've seen or read The Princess Bride, you will likely recall my title phrase. But it's absolutely the truth when it comes to fictional characters. Sometimes, it's as simple as needing an extra character to carry in the tea(and then get shot by the murderer). At other times, it's become a bleoved part of the story. A writer knows it needs to be done, but, darn it, He/she's such a likable person!
It is a vast relief to my many friends that I don't adopt this cavalier attitude toward them. I'm not a very good friend if you measure such things as phonecalls every day, always remembering special occasions in their lives, or even keeping in touch through the years. But my friends are MY friends. They get me. I'm funny, insecure, slightly depressed, totally inappropriate at the most inappropriate times, and loyal. That last one is important. LOYALTY.
They know that most of the time, I'm physically absent (and mentally too, if you count the many times my brain focuses on something and a story starts forming) in their lives, but I'm never far away. If they need help, one call and I'm there.
And that's important for book characters too. They become part of a reader's life for however short a period. If the book is memorable, the characters become part of your imaginative family. You read and reread that book or series. You find yourself trying to emulate the characteristics of your favorites. You love a happily ever after, but also fear it. It means the end of the story.
In the beginning, my Tempered Steel series was a single story about a stubborn man and a sassy woman. But as I wrote it, I realized the characters needed, no, demanded more. I fell in love with my own story and didn't want it to end. So I committed to doing a four book series with two brothers finding love in each book. And it was good. But once again, I didn't want it to end.
So now, it's a seven book series, with an extra novella to help cement it all together. And because being a true loving family, the Coalson's gather, they EAT! So, now I've planned a companion cookbook of all the food mentioned in the series as well as a favorite recipe in the back of each book.
So although the Coalsons may go through hell before everyone finds their Happily Ever After, rest assured that I have no immediate plans to kill them off. Of course, tomorrow is another day!
It was around this time last year that I decided to give my writing another chance. I had heard so much about self-publishing, but I was hesitant. What if all those rejection letters were right? Maybe I wasn't good enough. Maybe my love of writing was simply a way for me to connect to the books I love to read.
I was at a bit of a crossroads in my life, so I prayed about it. (I'm not an 'only when it's truly important, will I ask God for help' type of person. He hears from me, A LOT) His answer literally hit me in the head. As I stated, I had written the series a few years back and kept a hard copy in my closet. Now, I'm not saying the pages fluttered down around me like snowflakes on a winter's day. It was encased in a VERY LARGE three ring binder on the top shelf of my closet. And it fell squarely on top of my head (OUCH!) when I tried to reach for my winter gloves. (I've often thought that God was a wee bit perturbed that I kept asking the same question when I knew the answer. I was just scared.)
So, given the Almighty's approval, I girded my loins, which is a fancy term, for puttin' on my big girl panties, and decided to give it one more try.
Rewriting Whistlin' Dixie, was the easy part. I had to update it for technology, but the story was still fresh. It's about ordinary people and their problems so I tried to write it that way. There's no billionaire CEO, or dinners in Paris; just romance, and humor, and sex! Oh, and a little suspense.
And I had the cover design in mind - it's actually my daughter and son-in-law's engagement pic. So yep, that's them. He's tall, dark and handsome. She's short, sassy and sweet. Just like Mac and Dixie. It was more than that, though. The symbolism was perfect - the box she stands on represents the ways to overcome their issues. Think outside the box? Preach on a soapbox? A height difference solution? The old barn in the background, weathered but still standing. The "00" represents a tie, or stalemate, where no one wins. And the entire cover like a yellowed photo - Tempered in loss, sorrow and pain yet still precious, cherished, timeless. Now, I just had to find someone to make it real.
It's funny how destiny plays it's role. A friend of a friend, who grew up in the Grafton area, was not only a graphic designer, she was also an editor. Talk about a wonderful collaborative effort! The Killion Group led me, step by step, through the process of editing, marketing and publishing. Sometimes it was like trying to teach a monkey, I'm sure; but, through it all they were gracious and fun. I can't thank them enough.
So here it is, my book's ready for pre-order and will be released on November 30th, paperback to follow soon after. I hope you enjoy it. There's a bit of my blood, sweat, and tears on every page. But there's also something else - pride, accomplishment, and love.
Oh, and the polish sausage garbanzo bean casserole really is a recipe; and it really is awful!