Monthly Archives: May 2016

Family Stories and Colliding Memories

Collision imageI’m fascinated by the patchwork we as family members create with our family memories. An incident occurs in our shared past. An important even traumatic incident. The details sear our consciousness. Yet when we compare notes we discover those details differ from one of us to the other. From one family member to the other.

Sometimes the discrepancy is good natured like it could be with my brother and me. We’d debate and tease each other. Maybe even accuse each other of fabrication in the same teasing manner. But that was only with the not-so-touchy bits. Nostalgia rather than gut wrenching. The dreadful stories were just that – worthy of dread – so we mostly didn’t mention them.

We tiptoed around those narratives because they were quicksand. One wrong step and we could be sucked down with no hope of rescue. Rescue from what? Rescue from the collision of my version of reality and his and from the powerful confrontation that might erupt. We had mutually and silently agreed to avoid such battles and generally we did.

Consequently my brother left this earth with all but a few of our most potent shared experiences unspoken. Otherwise the relationship might not have survived as long as it did. Would I have preferred an open field of exchange? Yes of course. Nonetheless I chose silence and dissembling over openness and its fearsome revelatory glare.

Maybe my regret of that sin of omission is the reason colliding stories flow like a brackish river through so much of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series. In the first story A Wrong Way Home Hailey and Julia spend their early years as close friends before being separated for a long and painful time. Their stories of that separation and its origin vary dramatically.

Julia’s mother Virginia’s memories diverge even further as do those of Hailey’s mother Annemarie. What these recollections have in common is their mine field potential to blast both families – their past as well as their present – to kingdom come. And they do. A Wrong Way Home begins with a murder after all and wades through a quagmire of secrets afterwards.

Book 4 – A Villain for Vanessa is rife with the raw material for more combustible collisions. Between Vanessa and her mother Amelia. Between Amelia and her sister Angela Kalli. Among just about everyone involved with the Westerlo side of Vanessa’s family. The explosive tonnage is terrifying. Nobody would want to be in the midst of this family when it implodes.

This is fertile ground for storytelling. But it’s toxic territory in real life. Think about it. Who in your family do you tiptoe around for fear of a collision of your differing truths? What conflagrations have you barely survived when one of those toes slipped into the memory mine field? My advice. When you tell those stories – swear to heaven they are fiction.

Alice Orrhttp://www.aliceorrbooks.com http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks 

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A Wrong Way HomeRiverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 1 – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. A Villain for Vanessa and my other books are available at my Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/.

 

Character is Everything in Storytelling – My Greatest Heroine

Grandma & Me at Two and a HalfWe create many heroines in many stories. I believe our most powerful heroines re-create pieces of powerful women we have known. The quintessential powerful woman in my life was my maternal grandmother. Whenever I write a strong woman – as I do every time I write a woman as hero – Grandma is part of her in one aspect or another.

In the novel I am about to publish – A Villain for Vanessa – the heroine travels a long way into the unknown to find what she hopes will be a better life. Grandma did that in the late 1890’s. The exact year differs in different research sources. As with many family stories there is disagreement on the details. Debate runs rampant regarding the why or how or what.

What isn’t disputed in the case of Grandma’s migration is that she traveled alone. She was a small town girl of eighteen or nineteen or maybe twenty depending on which source I credit. She sailed from England in what I imagine was the lowest class of passage and entered this very new world for her by way of Canada.

My best guess from the bits and pieces of fact I’ve found is that her expenses were paid by a family with several children. They were bringing her to what would one day be my hometown in the remote northern region of New York State. The same region where my newest novel and the three before it are set in a fictitious town named Riverton.

The family that bought Grandma’s steamship ticket was previously unknown to her. So was the climate where she would live. I imagine her caring for the children of strangers through the shock of her first frigid North Country winter. I remember her incredible garden when I was a girl and wonder if she was recreating the warm springtime English gardens of her own girlhood.

I’ve studied the customs and fashions of the specific time period when she migrated. I picture her in a white shirtwaist and dark skirt and of course a hat being greeted by people she’d never laid eyes on before. No relatives or friends had preceded her to America. She was on her own. That took courage. It was a wonderfully brave act – the behavior of a heroine.

My Uncle John had a picture on his wall of Grandma at that young age. Her hair was pulled up in a kind of Gibson Girl poof with a bow in back. But it was her eyes that captured me. They were young and most likely blue. Her skin was pale and most likely blushing. Grandma was beautiful. I wish I’d inherited that picture. I carry it in my head and heart instead.

Above all I carry in my head and heart the gentle smile in that picture. The same smile I would bask in decades later when she taught me which flowers to harvest from her amazing garden and exactly where to cut each stem. Nowadays I bask in her more aged smile gazing down at me from another picture on my wall in this room where I write.

She did her best to instill in me the courage it took to put her button-shoed foot on that lonely ship from Plymouth. The example of her courage carries me through challenge and heartbreak and triumph too. I in turn instill that courage in the strong women I write. There is something of Grandma in each of them. Not only her bravery but her loving heart too.

That’s why my heroines are so dear to me. I believe character is everything when it comes to storytelling. Everything good in my life began with Grandma – including the strong women who grace my stories. Her name was Alice Jane Rowland Boudiette. The photo here is of Alice Jane and me Alice Elizabeth at two and a half already modeling my model heroine.

 

Alice Orrhttp://www.aliceorrbooks.com https://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter https://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks

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A Villain for VanessaRiverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 4. Official launch June 17 – will be available here. A Wrong Way Home – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 1 is a FREE eBook at the same site and most other online book retailers.

Managing Indie Author Expectations

Baby typing imageDaredevil folks say “Danger is my middle name.” My motto is more like “Worry is my middle name. My most recent worry obsession has been what I perceive as my lack of Indie Pub progress.

I work hard at writing my novels and publishing them from my Alice Orr Books company. I have an excellent productivity ethic. My self-discipline standards are high. So why am I not speeding along toward the top of the heap the way I did in previous professional endeavors?

In my past incarnation as a literary agent I employed the same principles I follow now. I figured out exactly what needed to be done and did those things as absolutely right as I possibly could. Which worked like gangbusters on that other work life road. Now – as an independent publisher of my own books – not so much.

I whined about this to another indie author recently. She’s on the gangbusters track for sure. It is true she has a strong background in professional marketing. But I have a strong background in business. Shouldn’t that even us out? Apparently not. “How long have you been doing this?” was her first question.

“I published my first indie novel a year and three months ago.” I’d begun to detect her drift as I said that. I didn’t ask the length of her indie history. I knew she’d been at it for years.

“You’re a baby at this game.” I heard the truth of those words at once and all of a sudden my perspective shifted.

I’m well aware there was a golden opportunity window during which many indie authors were able to grab the brass ring and be pulled to mega sales territory. That was several years ago within about the same timeframe when my wise friend launched her indie career.

I’m also well aware of the deniers who speak out against what they label as negative thinking. “It’s still a wonderful time to indie pub.” They declare this repeatedly and they are right. But they leave out the caveat. That it is not and most likely will never again be those olden golden nearly instant mega sales days.

Here’s the rest of that caveat. It is still a great time to publish our books independently. BUT it will take longer to see positive sales results than in the golden years. AND we will have to work like hell to get there. In other words we’ll have to #1. Figure out exactly what needs to be done. #2. Do those things as absolutely right as we possibly can.

May I add #3? We must perform those essential activities not only as correctly as we can but also for as long as is needed to get us where we want to go. This is the aspect of realistic expectations we have to contemplate thoroughly before deciding whether or not the indie path is for us. Do we possess the wherewithal to keep on jogging for a long run?

I’m hoping I do. I intend to try anyway. I will also take a chew toy along for the tough teething times on this steep learning curve ascent. Meanwhile worrying is premature because I’m just a baby in this indie basket. How about you?

Alice Orrhttp://www.aliceorrbooks.com http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks 

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A Villain for VanessaRiverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 4. Official launch June 17 – is already available here. A Wrong Way Home – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 1 is a FREE eBook at the same site and most other online book retailers.