Pat Stoltey lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Sassy Dog, and Katie Cat. Her most recent novel, Wishing Caswell Dead (https://www.amazon.com/Wishing-Caswell-Dead-Patricia-Stoltey/dp/1432834401/), is a historical mystery set in1834 in east central Illinois, the farm country where Pat grew up. You can learn more about Pat and her other books at her website/blog (http://patriciastolteybooks.com/). She can also be found on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/PatStoltey/, Twitter (https://twitter.com/PStoltey), Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1105939.Patricia_Stoltey), and Google+ (https://plus.google.com/115494264819086899639).
My writing career has been an up-and-down proposition over a lot of years. I was a working wife and mother from the time I left college until I finally retired at age 56. The writing I attempted during the earliest work years consisted of bad short stories and vignettes and even worse poetry. Oh, my goodness, the poetry is so awful. I kept all of it, though. I have one file box stuffed with the horrid things I typed up on my manual typewriter, then the electric typewriter. Many of the pages are yellow from age but the work is still easy to read. I can’t bear to throw any of it away because dipping into the box and reading my beginning scribbles helps me understand how far I’m come. A long, long way, believe me.
In the early 80s, I had the chance to spend a couple of years in France while my husband was on a work assignment. While there, I attempted my very first novels. One eventually made it to audiotape but never print. It was good only for a niche market (truck drivers who rented books on tape from big truck stops). That second book, a romantic thriller, still sits on a shelf in my office, tempting me to return to the story and rewrite it from beginning to end.
After that two-year break, I went back to work and attended occasional writing classes or conferences but never produced anything worthy of publication.
The first few years after retirement, my husband and I traveled quite a lot. Even at 56, I thought I had plenty of time to follow those writing dreams. I kept travel diaries and attempted some travel articles but never wrote anything saleable.
Finally, the wanderlust evaporated, and I tried to write a mystery. That was the genre I read most, so it seemed the right place to start. In 2003, I signed up for a novel writing class. In 2004 I braved an agent pitch session at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference with The Prairie Grass Murders. The agent shot me down. Brutal!
I’m a persistent cuss, though. I went back in 2005 and took a critique workshop with an editor from Five Star/Cengage. After a bit of rewriting based on her suggestions, I submitted the book and it was accepted. Now I have four novels published by Five Star. Believe me, along the way I’ve learned a few things.
1.Every minute you spend writing during your early years is good practice writing. Practice writing is critical to learn craft and style. It doesn’t matter whether you are writing poetry, essays, short stories, or novels (or letters or blog posts, for that matter).
2. You’ll learn something from every writing class, workshop, or writer’s conference you attend and every book on writing you read. Sometimes the information will conflict. Not everyone agrees on the how-to. That’s okay, because that’s the way it is in the publishing world. That said, there are basic rules of grammar, punctuation, and style that you must learn. Once learned, you may break rules if you dare…but you’ll know why you’re breaking them.
3. You must read lots of books in lots of genres to understand how published writers approach plot, character, and voice. Read bestsellers, but also read authors/books that you’ve never heard of before. See how prologues work or don’t work. Explore literary novels. Learn.
4. Never throw anything you’ve written away. Keep a printed copy of your finished novels to guard against failed or out-of-date digital storage devices. Keep separate files of revised drafts so you can return to an earlier version of your novel if you want.
5. Stay on top of changes in the publishing industry and new developments in self-publishing. Even if you don’t plan do-it-yourself, you need to know where to find those who will efficiently do it for you without breaking the bank.
6. Approach social media with caution. Make friends. Don’t get tangled up in discussions with political or cultural ideologues. When published, don’t oversell.
7. Learn patience. You must endure the submission procedure, pitch sessions, and the wait during a traditional publishing cycle (figure 18 to 24 months from contract signing to actual book release).
8. Learn perseverance. For those who want a traditional publisher, it may take years to get from a finished manuscript to a book contract. For those who want to self-publish, it may take forever and a day to make a few sales.
9. Develop a hide as thick as a crocodile so you can be strong when your work is criticized by peers in a writers’ group, editors, or readers. If the Goodreads or Amazon trolls find your published book and give you one star or a tacky review, ignore it.
10. It doesn’t matter if you write from an outline or wing it. It doesn’t matter if you write 2,500 words a day or 500 words a week. Do it your way. But remember, someday you’ll look back on your process and be satisfied…or wish you done it differently. Best to figure all that out now.
Wishing Caswell Dead
In the early 1800s in a village on the Illinois frontier, young Jo Mae Proud wishes her cruel brother dead. Forced into prostitution by Caswell, Jo Mae discovers she is pregnant and vows to escape. When Caswell is injured by a near lightning hit, he becomes more dangerous, and more hated. The flawed residents of the Village of Sangamon harbor many secrets. Caswell knows them all. Will he tell? Jo Mae runs away and eventually finds shelter with Fish, the old Kickapoo Indian who camps by the river. Wishing Caswell Dead is a historical mystery about the evil that hides within a village, one girl who is determined to save herself and her child, and a violent murder no one wants to solve.
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I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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