Showing posts with label L. Michelle Cox. Show all posts
Showing posts with label L. Michelle Cox. Show all posts

18 March 2016

Pay It Forward


by Fran Rizer
The night was clear
The moon was yellow
And the leaves came tumbling down

I wasn't standing on the corner. Instead, I sat in the back of a Columbia, South Carolina, Barnes & Noble in a writers' group known by the somewhat warped name, Twisted Scribes (which was an accurate description for some of us). Not particularly interested, my mind replayed those opening lines to the old song "Stagger Lee" and wandered to that bright moon outside, the falling leaves, and the crisp premature bite of frost in the air. I glanced toward the front of the building, and my eyes settled on a young woman sitting at a card table near the door, a stack of mass market paperbacks by her side.

Rick, Fran, Adam
Before collaborating, Laudenslager assisted
Fran and her son Adam with signings.
Barnes & Noble was practically empty that night ten years ago. (Gee, I could have opened this with Ten years ago, on a cold, dark night from "Long Black Veil.") Perhaps the sudden autumn cold snap kept people at home, but the Twisted Scribes, B&N employees, and that lady at the signing table were the only ones in the store. When the meeting finally ended, I stopped by and bought a book. I thought I was doing her a favor. After all, the place was virtually empty. Little did I know who would be giving and who would be receiving favors.

The writer was Gwen Hunter, who became my mentor in all things writing. I also learned a lot of other things from her. Examples: Reaching out (verbally, not physically) to passers-by at book signings, presenting a small gift with each book purchased (I've given away hundreds, maybe a thousand, Moon Pies), and sharing information individually as well as in groups. While attending several workshops, long before the expression became popular, I watched Gwen Hunter pay it forward repeatedly.

Skip a few years during which mystery-writer Gwen Hunter became Faith Hunter, New York Times Best-Seller author of urban fantasy including the Jane Yellowrock series. While not climbing anywhere nearly so high on the literary mountain as Hunter has, I signed with an agent, and my tenth book, the eighth Callie Parrish mystery, is scheduled for publication in September, 2016.

(Note to Dixon: In Callie's seventh book, Hickory Dickory Dock, MURDER IS ON THE CLOCK, released in November, 2015 and nominated for the SIBA Pat Conroy Mystery Award for 2016, Callie did exactly what you suggested in a previous review, but she did close the door before doing it.)

Through the years, I've tried to follow Faith Hunter's example by helping other aspiring writers in whatever way possible. Three years ago, Richard D. Laudenslager and I met through a mutual friend while working on a ghost anthology for South Carolina Screams Project. I was immediately struck with Laudenslager's talent, perseverance, and eagerness to learn more about the craft though he had a way with words, a wealth of ideas, and was a great detail man--a first reader who spotted discrepancies with unbelievable accuracy and speed. A mentor/mentee relationship formed and, as had happened with Hunter and me, it developed into friendship as well.

Laudenslager was writing Wounded, a political thriller, and I had completed KUDZU RIVER-A Novel of Abuse, Murder, and Retribution (which is as different from my previously published Callie Parrish mysteries as a shark is from a guppy) and begun True Haunting of Julie Bates. Our weekly lunches became less mentorish and more just two writers discussing current projects, trends in the publishing world, and what we planned to do next. Meanwhile, the editor and publisher of the Screams anthology changed the concept of that book before contracts were issued.

I withdrew from South Carolina Screams Project even though I had been half of the founding partnership. I also notified the writers I had personally invited to submit stories that I was no longer associated with the group or the book. Meanwhile, back at the ranch … (only kidding, it was back at B&N and other signing locations), Laudenslager began assisting me. Somewhere along that road, we tossed around the idea of publishing a collection of ghost stories written by the two of us. We pitched the idea to Darren Foster at Odyssey South Publishing. He jumped on it.

Laudenslager and I had reached approximately two-hundred book pages when he suggested, "What if we include a couple of the stories from writers who withdrew because you resigned from Screams?"

Aeden Rizer, Fran Rizer, Brandy Spears, Nathan Rizer
Aeden Rizer, Fran Rizer, Brandy Spears, Nathan Rizer
Nathan's first published story appears in the ghost collection.
I loved the idea. Foster was agreeable to it so long as we didn't involve anyone who had signed a contract with South Carolina Screams Project or that publisher. Southern Screams and Ruins became an anthology with three parts: one-third is "Into the Swamp" by Richard D. Laudenslager; next third is "Through the Swamp" by Fran Rizer; and the final part is "Out of the Swamp" containing one story each by L. Michelle Cox, Jenifer Boone Lybrand, Nathan R. Rizer, J. Michael Shell, Robert D. Simkins, and Two Ravens. (Yes, Nathan R. Rizer is my older son. Two Ravens is pen name for a husband and wife writing team. The wife is a large part of the inspiration for Jane Baker in the Callie Parrish books.)

I learned to pay it forward from Gwen Hunter/Faith Hunter, mystery/fantasy author. The idea is to assist others with no thought of personal gain, but paying it forward benefited me, leading to a new book and into yet another genre. (What can I say? Just call me Fickle Fran). It also resulted in Laudenslager helping me as much or more than I do him. In addition to keen insight into plotting and discrepancies, he's a whiz with all things electronic while I still treat my computer as a glorified typewriter with an automatic eraser.

And that, my SleuthSayer friends, is how Fran Rizer and Richard D. Laudenslager became collaborators resulting in Southern Swamps and Ruins, which was published by Odyssey South and released March 1, 2016. Please don't think I'm preaching. (My sons are laughing at the very thought of that.) I just want you to know that paying it forward can be more than picking up the tab for the quarter-pounder ordered by the person next in line. Sometimes it boomerangs–leading to good things for everyone.

Faith Hunter, Fran Rizer, Rod Hunter, Richard D. Laudenslager
Faith Hunter, Fran Rizer, Rod Hunter, Richard D. Laudenslager

Special thanks to Art Taylor for allowing me to use his spot today. That's another form of paying it forward.

And until we meet again … please take care of YOU.