BIRTHING THAT SECOND BABY WHILE LIFE CONTINUES TO HAPPEN – Guest C. Michele Dorsey

Sherry, here. We are so happy to have Michele Dorsey visit us on her book birthday! If you haven’t read No Virgin Island add it to your TBR pile immediately! And then grab a copy of her second book Permanent Sunset. Michele is giving away a copy of Permanent Sunset to someone who leaves a comment by midnight tonight!

permanentsunsetfinal1Michele: About a year ago, I blogged about “birthing a book” (http://cmicheledorsey.com/blog/131727) and predicted that No Virgin Island, my first mystery, would have siblings. Today, Permanent Sunset joins the Sabrina Salter family. I had no idea how difficult writing that second book would be, although there were many colleagues who tried to warn me. But I wouldn’t listen. For those of you who have gone through the adventures of pregnancy, followed by the agony of labor and delivery, you may recall that once you see that beautiful little creature you’ve birthed, all memories of the pain you suffered bringing it into the world are instantly erased. So it is with birthing a book, it seems.

Books are never written in vacuums. Permanent Sunset was created, written, edited, and re-edited while my husband and I excavated layers of debris from the 33 years we had lived in our home, which we were now selling in an effort to downsize our lives and our possessions. Anyone who has gone through this exercise can tell you that it is not as simple as sorting into three piles:  sell, throw, or keep. There are emotions attached to so many items. What was I supposed to do with my mother’s wedding gown? The rock painted green by my son who insisted in nursery school that his mother was going to have a real sham-ROCK for St. Patrick’s Day? My father’s formal Navy cap and epaulets?

michelehouseI became a little unhinged with the rush of emotions flowing on my daily trips to donate stuff at Savers. What I hadn’t expected was that there would be a collision with the feelings I was experiencing while simultaneously writing my second book.

Who was Sabrina Salter? She certainly wasn’t satisfied to be merely the person through whom the story was told about a lavish island villa and the family that is nearly destroyed because of it. Sure, she had a life and had experiences in No Virgin Island that defined her at the time, but she now faced new circumstances, which were revealing an emerging Sabrina. Sabrina refused to be stagnant. The woman was becoming a handful for me.

When Sabrina resisted pressure from her business partner, Henry, to add an opulent villa to their management company, I found myself cheering for her. When she caved, I was disappointed and ready to scold her. I endured her smug satisfaction when it turned out she was right and Henry had been deadly wrong, but was a little disappointed in her.

Sabrina’s tragic motherless childhood had her questioning everything she did, for without role models or a library full of self-help manuals, she was ill equipped to handle the challenges that a powerful and wealthy family present when one of their own has been murdered. She agonized over every decision, doubting herself while trying to muster the courage to figure out what is “normal.” I was having enough trouble trying to make decisions in my own life and now Sabrina was asking me to make hers.

I hadn’t planned on my second baby being so difficult. I thought I knew Sabrina and Henry, and even Neil Perry, her sort-of boyfriend, pretty well. When even Neil began to surprise me with his secrets, I knew this second baby would be no more predictable that the first.

Once we’d nearly emptied our house and had a signed purchase and sales agreement, my husband faced a serious health challenge. Again, ripples of fear and doubt raced through me, while I continued to resist being drawn in by the perils of my second baby. I had enough on my plate.

But it turns out, that’s not how writing goes. Until I learned to stop fighting my characters efforts to draw me in because I was trying to deal with what was going on in my own real world, I would never be able to tell their story. I began to tell my husband I was “going on in” when I set off to write.  What I meant was that I was surrendering to Sabrina, Henry, and Neil and shutting out the rest of the world. They could give me what they had. I would feel their pain, joy, confusion, and anything else they would give me. I was ready to accept them all as gifts and birth this second baby.

Once I yielded, the story flowed. The house sold. The husband was okay.

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
Steven Pressfield

micheleC. “Michele” Dorsey is the author of No Virgin Island, a Sabrina Salter mystery published in 2015 by Crooked Lane Books set on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands. She is also a lawyer, mediator and adjunct professor of law. Michele finds inspiration and serenity on St. John and on Cape Cod. Permanent Sunset, the second in the series, will be published in October,  2016.

Readers: How do you feel when you are ready to read a second in a series book? Writers: Did you feel the way Michele did about your second book?

 

My Big Fat Toast To The Wicked Cozies — Guest Michele Dorsey

“Surprise, surprise, surprise.” (Gomer Pyle)

I am not an extrovert. Forget that I look and sound like one. Trust me on this.

dinner with friendsI was reminded about this heading to my first Malice a few weeks ago. I was confident having survived my first Bouchercon in October that I would sail through smoothly. I forgot how overwhelming a condensed weekend conference filled with events could be, no matter how much fun, how many old friends you get to see, or new ones you get to meet. For me, it can feel so over-stimulating, I may as well wear my nervous system on the outside of my skin. Upon my arrival from a tropical island to a dank and drizzly Bethesda on Thursday evening, I was offered an umbrella that would symbolize the warmth of the Wicked Cozy Authors during the entire weekend.

So here’s to the Wicked Cozy Authors, affectionately referred to by me as the Wicked Cozies, whose skirts I clung to for nearly 72 hours straight.  I have known all of them for years now, some better than others. I’ve suffered through and celebrated the path to publication with them and had a lot of fun along the way.

Julie on the Best First Novel panel.

Julie on the Best First Novel panel.

To Julie, who gently prodded me to attend Malice, thank you for reaching out and including me in the Pre-Con dinner and for recommending I stay at a residence-type hotel two blocks away from the Marvelous Madness of Malice. When I hit a wall Friday evening and opted to order pizza in and go to bed early, I knew this respite was why she had suggested I give myself permission to take a conference time-out.

To Sherry, whose understated words of warning merely cautioned without instilling panic. Yes, avoiding the crush of the pre-Agatha Awards Banquet, was a good idea. So were so many other of her little baubles of wisdom. And Sherry, like all of the other Wicked Cozies, never failed to know who needed a friendly face in the audience during a panel.

Michele on her panel!

Michele on her panel!

To Jessie, with Wicked Cozy Accomplice Kimberly Gray Hurth, for joining me at my table at the New Author Breakfast at the ungodly hour of 7:00 a.m. after a wild night at the banquet, and for cheering me on, assuring me the fact that I couldn’t hear the interview questions (bubble in ear after plane ride, of course) wouldn’t matter at all.

IMG_8923

Michele at the New Authors Breakfast!

To Barb, for volunteering that I did well in the interview, even if I couldn’t hear the question or the answer, for that matter. Barb’s direct, businesslike honesty made me believe her, and I knew she was facing a deadline, so there was no time for fluff. Encouragement is such a  balm.

IMG_8948For Liz’s equanimity during the entire weekend. Also facing a deadline, Liz’s calmness and generosity was impressive. Sitting near her, I couldn’t help but absorb some of her serenity and chuckle at her quiet quick wit.

IMG_8879To Edith, whose good-natured advice about what to miss or what could be skipped, for helping me sort through the “abbreviated” 50 page “Malice at a Glance Guide.” And for the fun we had trying to figure out the check at the Lebanese tapa restaurant that foolishly declined to give our end of the table separate checks. We’re writers, not accountants.

My takeaway from Malice is that it can be a fun-filled and informative conference where new friendships are born and old ones nurtured.

Michele in the audience for Barb and Sherry's panel.

Michele in the audience for Barb and Sherry’s panel.

But my lesson from the Wicked Cozies is even better. In a profession where self-doubt, isolationism and pressure constantly abounds, there is no better remedy than the warmth and generosity of a group of writers who understand how mutual support and encouragement breeds confidence, accomplishment and joy. The Wicked Cozies get that success comes to writers who are collaborative and inclusive.

So here’s to the generosity the Wicked Cozies bring to the writing community. May it be the gift that keeps on giving.

No Virgin IslandReaders: What kinds of encouragement and support do you most appreciate? Writers: Who has lent a helping hand along the way in your journey as a writer?

C. Michele Dorsey is the author of Sabrina Salter Mystery series. First in the series is No Virgin Island and Permanent Sunset releases October 11, 2016.

Wicked Wednesday–What Did the Wickeds Learn at Bouchercon?

Last week, three of the Wickeds, Julie, Edith and Sherry were at Bouchercon (along with Accomplice Sheila Connolly). Jessie, Liz and Barb had to miss it this year, so we’re dying to know–what did you learn? What surprised you, or informed you? What was the precious nugget you’ve carried home?

Edith: I learned I could make writing about murder in villages pertinent to a panel called MypanelCrime in the Metropolis! Seriously, that was my panel assignment, and we made it work. This year I didn’t get to very many sessions, though, because I was catching up with people, attending meetings (like the Sisters in Crime chapter officers’ meeting), or working in my room, with the occasional nap thrown in, too. And that was fine. It was also delightful to see both Julie and fellow New Englander Michele Dorsey on their first panels as a published author, and to eat some fabulous southern food.

Dinner with friends!

Dinner with friends! L-R starting at the top, Cheryl Hollon (another new author!), Sheila Connolly, Sherry Harris, and Leslie Budewitz, new president of Sister in Crime. Edith joined us shortly after this photo was taken.

Julie: What a whirlwind weekend! I am on the national board of Sisters in Crime, so I had a couple of meetings while I was in Raleigh, and went to the SinC breakfast to see the passing of the presidency. It was a great reminder about the importance of this organization in my life. Thrilling that Writes of Passage won the Anthony and the Macavity. I also participated in a panel EARLY Sunday morning, but Edith, Sheila and Sherry were still there, cheering me on.

Sheila Connolly toasting the Orchard Series with and appletini

Sheila Connolly with an Appletini–what else do you expect from the author of the Orchard series?

The New Authors breakfast required a one minute pitch, but Sherry and I practiced, and got it down. When I got up there, I looked up and saw Edith and Dru Ann both standing along the wall, give me big smiles and thumbs up. I had a little bit of a line at my signing, which was also great. Loved seeing so many writing friends, but also meeting so many readers. It was both humbling and invigorating, and reinforced the fact that I am a very fortunate woman.

Sherry: What I learn over and over at conferences is how generous authors and fans are. It is always a thrill to meet readers who are so excited to meet authors. And it is always so wonderful to run in to so many authors who want to hear about what you are working on and are willing to share their experiences with you.

I never think I’m very good at doing pitches and I ended up doing two — one at Speed Dating and one at the New Authors Breakfast. The Speed Dating one (authors move from table to table full of readers) was three minutes long so I had time to talk about Tagged for Death and The Longest Yard Sale and the New Author event was one minute

Ray Daniel, Julie Hennrikus, and Michele Dorsey holding a photo of the Wickeds who couldn't make it to Bouchercon.

Ray Daniel, Julie Hennrikus, and Michele Dorsey holding a photo of the Wickeds who couldn’t make it to Bouchercon.

so I concentrated on Tagged. I learned I’m better at doing a pitch than I thought I was.

Part of going to conferences like Bouchercon is getting to see writer friends who live far away — whether it’s a quick hi and hug or a long conversation — it’s one of the best things about attending.

Readers: Share a favorite conference (it doesn’t have to be Bouchercon) moment with us!

Paths to Publication Report

Edith here, hoping for a warmer spring than we’ve had so far.

Sisters in Crime New England sponsored an all-day workshop on Saturday about the many paths to publication. Four of the Wickeds were on panels, so we made a pretty good showing. The schedule after meet-and-greet time was as follows:

  • Small Press Authors: Kate George, Marian Lanouette, Kevin Symmons, Ray Daniel, with Arlene Kay moderating. “Small press” meaning independent press that doesn’t charge to publish, does editing, publishes outside the family, and more. (I think that panel had the most fun!)SmallPressPanel
  • Legacy Press Authors: Edith Maxwell, Sheila Connolly, Jessie Crockett, with Julie Hennrikus (far left) moderating. “Legacy” meaning large, NYC, traditional publishing house, which requires an agent to get access.LegacyPressPanel
  • Self-Published Authors: P.M. Steffan, Rosemary Harris, with Sharon Daynard moderating. Authors who either hired someone or did all the work of publishing without the connections of a press.SelfPubPanel
  • Hybrid Authors: Jessie Crockett, Kate George, Edith Maxwell, with Liz LizMugavero moderating. Liz called it the schizophrenic session. “Hybrid” here meaning having your work published by several means: legacy press, small press, self-pubbed.

 

  • The Author-Editor Connection: Michele Dorsey interviewing Hank Phillippi Ryan and her independent editor, Francesca Coltrera

Lots of information, much networking, and new insights were achieved. The Wickeds (except Sherry, who we missed) are all going to chip in about their impressions.

Jessie: It was delightful after such a long winter to get out and about and to spend time with other writers!  I was so very impressed with the high turnout (around 60) and the animated and enthusiastic interaction of all the attendees. After the introductions it was clear there were many people who never before had attended a Sisters in Crime event. As I looked around the room as the day unfolded no one seemed to be shyly hugging the corners or looking lost and miserable. I think this speaks to the heart of the SinC organization. It is friendly, inclusive and fun. I felt a bright glow of gratitude yesterday for the opportunity to be a part of such a caring and generous group.

Julie: I am the president of Sisters in Crime New England this year, but we started talking about this event over two years ago, when Barb was president. (Or maybe eHankFrancesca_andMicheleven before then?) The idea was that with so many paths to publication, how do you chose? What should you know? And, most importantly, how do you ensure success at every level? I love that the day ended up with Hank Phillippi Ryan and her editor Francesca Coltrera, wonderfully moderated by Michele Dorsey (in this pic, left to right: Francesca, Hank, Michele). No matter what path you are on, your book needs to be really good, otherwise you undermine all of the other work.

And a hat tip to the wonderful Sheila Connolly, who is such a great part of our community. The panel I was moderating had a cancellation, so she jumped in and joined Edith and Jessie to discuss the path to publication with traditional companies. Whew. The three of them made my job easy.

Sisters in Crime, and especially the New England chapter, has made all the difference in my writing life. So glad to see so many friends at the event, and really, really thrilled to see so many new faces. The programming committee (Sharon Daynard, Michele Dorsey, Arlene Kaye and Liz Mugavero) knocked this one out of the park.

 Edith: One lasting point was Hank and her fabulous editor, Francesca. During the interview, Hank said that now, after six books, she writes with Francesca’s voice in her head, incorporating Francesca’s edits over the years into her latest first draft. I find that I, too, now produce new material with edits and critiques I have received over the years guiding my writing. Not that there isn’t always room for improvement: Francesca said she’s now a more severe critic of Hank’s work, but that she also sees it getting better, stronger.

When Liz asked us what we had learned, the first thing that popped out of my mouth was, “There is no one right way.” Big publishing houses get your book out there everywhere. Small houses let you get in without an agent. Self-pubbing gives you total control of the process and the profit. Some of us do all three!

Barb: We’re all hybrid authors on this bus! That’s what struck me. It seemed like everyone on all the panels had been published in multiple ways. Even P. M. Steffan, a highly successful self-published author, had received an offer including a mid-five figure advance from a traditional publisher. She turned it down, mainly for economic reasons, but it just proved the rule. Most authors working today will distribute every which way.

Liz: This was such a valuable event on so many levels. For writers just getting started, Edith’s lesson should be their main takeaway – “There is no one right way.” You have to find the path that works for you. And what works today might not be right tomorrow. Be open to change. Be flexible. Don’t hamper your own career by thinking inside the box. We are all schizophrenic! And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Sherry: I missed this great event but have to add without being a member of Sisters in Crime (both New England and the Chessie Chapters) I wouldn’t have a book contract. I continue to learn from the people in both of these groups and rely on their friendship and support.

Readers: If you were there, what did you think? If you weren’t and have a question, ask away!