Inkwell Guest: Vonnie Davis and Things She’s Learned

Hi everyone! Today I’m pleased to host author, Vonnie Davis. She’s here to talk about the things she’s learned on the road to publication. You won’t want to miss this so stay tuned! And if you leave a comment and don’t see it right away, fear not. I will moderate as soon as I can.

Thanks for hosting me today, Michelle. I am a retired tech writer who has traded her tailored clothes for the feathered boa of a romance writer. I write contemporary, historical and romantic suspense for The Wild Rose Press.

I like to say we’re in the Wild West of the publishing industry. Writers are moving from the traditional publishing model to eBooks and self-publishing. Changes are in the winds—thank goodness—and writers are exerting more control over their works.

I’m an agented author, although my agent is relatively new to the business (3 years). Unlike many more experienced agents, she is neither snobbish nor superior acting. She is a down-to-earth, jeans and T-shirt, M & M munching, hard working woman. Aren’t we all?

When she “shopped” my debut manuscript, she garnered two contract offers in two weeks. And I was thrilled to get the publisher I was hoping for (Note: you don’t need an agent to submit to The Wild Rose Press; in fact, I’m in the minority being agented with them). At the age of 63, after dreaming about it for 50 years, I was a published author in both paperback and eBook formats. So, I am still somewhat the traditionalist.

Yet I look around me and see others daring to go indie, self-publishing on Amazon or via other methods. My husband, also a published author, is revamping a book he self-published fourteen years ago through a vanity press. Remember those? You paid them beaucoup bucks and they published your literary baby. This time around he’s putting his Love in Opposing Colors on Amazon himself. We’re eager to see how this all pans out.

Many mid-list authors let go by their publishers are going the indie route. And who can blame them? More input. More control. More of the royalties. Sounds like a winning scenario, doesn’t it?

Sadly, it’s not always a win for the readers. The quality sometimes is lacking. I’ve downloaded many cheap and free books only to delete them from my reader a couple chapters into the read. Good grief, didn’t anyone edit this thing? Didn’t the author see the plot holes or the “too stupid to live characters” or the too frequent point of view shifts? Didn’t they see all the annoying “said tags” or over use of “had” and “that”? The ending sometimes reads as if it were rushed so the author could quickly get it up on Amazon to sell.

In short, it reads like my first couple lackluster attempts at writing a book. Then my heart softens, and I think, perhaps his or her next effort will be better. Perhaps this writer’s learning curve is in the upward swing. Mine certainly is. For one thing is a certainty: the learning curve of a good writer is continual.

My first two books will never see the light of day. One was rejected by every agent I approached. The other was deleted in a wine-induced fog—a mercy killing, if the truth were known. Even so, they served a valuable purpose. They showed me I could begin and complete a novel. They showed me the importance of getting in the habit of writing every day. Sadly, they also showed me I had a lot to learn. Funny when you think about it, because I was an English major and a retired technical writer. I certainly knew how to craft a sentence. What I didn’t know was the craft of writing.

So, I bought some really good writing books: Alicia Rasley’s The Power of Point of View, Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict, and Stephen King’s On Writing. I took online writing courses through the Savvy Authors website. In short, I took my natural writing talent and honed it. I learned the value of a good opening hook, the power of deep point of view and zippy dialog. My writing grew stronger. I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m miles from where I was as a beginner.

With each project, my agent puts me through two harsh rounds of edits. Oh, the pain. Not only does she “ding” my strange comma usage, but passive language and my bad habit of putting one character’s reaction in the same paragraph with another person’s dialog (Hey, it works for me). She asks hard questions regarding my characters’ actions and reactions. She pinpoints holes in my plot. When she’s through, that literary puppy shines—and my writing ego has taken another beating. Then my editors at Wild Rose rip me apart again. Yup, this old broad is growing a thick skin.

Currently, I have a second book under contract and two novellas. In a couple weeks I’ll get the final “yay” or “nay” on the second book of my Red Hand Conspiracy series.

For sure, I’ve learned a lot along the way. And my learning process isn’t over. Make sure yours’ isn’t. Keep striving to write stronger.

My debut book, Storm’s Interlude, was nominated as book of the year for 2011 at Long and Short Reviews. Here’s the opening scene:

Someone swaggered out of the moonlit night toward Rachel. Exhausted from a long day of driving, she braked and blinked. Either she was hallucinating or her sugar levels had plummeted. Maybe that accounted for the male mirage, albeit a very magnificent male mirage, trekking toward her. She peered once more into the hot July night at the image illuminated by her headlights. Sure enough, there he was, cresting the hill on foot—a naked man wearing nothing but a black cowboy hat, a pair of boots and a go-to-hell sneer.

Well, well, things really did grow bigger in Texas. The man quickly covered his privates with his black Stetson. Rachel sighed. The show was evidently over. Should she stand up in her Beetle convertible and applaud? Give a couple of catcalls? Wolf whistles? Maybe not.

She turned down the music on the car’s CD player. Sounds of crickets and a lonely bullfrog in the distance created a nighttime symphony in the stillness of this isolated stretch of country road. Lightning bugs darted back and forth, blinking a display of neon-yellow glow.

The naked man strode toward her car, and Rachel’s heart rate kicked up. Common sense told her to step on the gas, yet what woman wanted to drive away from such a riveting sight? Still, life had taught her to be careful. She reached into her handbag and extracted her chrome revolver. Before he reached her car, she quickly slid her gun under the folds of her skirt.

Just let him try anything funny—I know how to take care of myself.

Both of his large hands clasped his hat to his groin. His face bore annoyance and a touch of chagrin. “I need a ride.” By his bearing and commanding tone of voice, she guessed the man was used to giving orders and having them followed.

Her gaze took a slow journey across his face. Even in the moonlight, she could see traces of Native heritage. His shoulder-length ebony hair, too long for her tastes, glistened against his bronzed skin. Proud arrogant eyes sparked with anger.

Because Rachel believed in indulging herself, she allowed her gaze to travel over his broad shoulders, muscular chest and tight abdominal muscles. She saw a thin trail of dark hair starting below his navel, and, knowing full well where it ended, she fought back a groan. Her eyes slid back up to lock on his. “You need a pair of pants, too.” Knowing her voice hummed with desire, she cleared her throat, hoping the naked man hadn’t noticed.

He looked up at the sky for a beat. “Just my freakin’ luck! A birthday party gone bad, and now I’m bein’ ogled by some horny kid with damnable blue eyes.”

What the heck was wrong with her eyes? She quickly glanced in her rearview mirror and saw nothing amiss. She narrowed those “damnable blue eyes” and sneered. “Look, buster, I’m not the one prancing around Texas naked as a jaybird. I’ll have you know I’m hardly a kid.” She glanced down at the black cowboy hat. “And, furthermore, stop hiding behind that big ol’ Stetson. From what I saw, a French beret would do the job.”

There, let the arrogant fool stew on that while he strutted back to whatever rock he’d crawled out from. She slammed her car in gear and sped off.

She swore she wouldn’t look in her rearview mirror. Nope, she would not look. As if the mirror were a magnet emitting a powerful homing signal, her gaze slowly slid to the glass surface. He was standing where she’d left him, his Stetson tilted back on his head, his hands fisted on his narrow naked hips and his mouth moving. He was no doubt cussing her out.

A smile blossomed; a French beret would never hide all that. Wait until she e-mailed Lynda, her best friend. She’d never believe her story of a naked man on a narrow, deserted road in the hill country of Texas.

Rachel exhaled a long sigh and accepted the inevitable. She couldn’t very well abandon him, the caring part of her insisted. Nurse Rachel to the rescue…again. She shrugged at the conflict of emotions. It was nearing ten o’clock; where would he get help? Where would she get help if he attacked her? Men couldn’t exactly be trusted. Hadn’t she learned that?

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By Michelle

I wish you all could be inside my head. The conversation is sparkling.