I am so happy to welcome back author Carolyn Rose to Suspense Your Disbelief. You can read Carolyn’s Made It Moment here. Today she begins the first in a two part series about a real life specter every writer will recognize.
Sometimes, when I’m suffering from blinking cursor syndrome, I let my mind drift and my gaze wander. I stare out the window at the tall wooden fence my neighbor erected (Did he put that up because he thought I was too nosy or does he have something to hide?), to the paintings on the walls (Why did I buy that one, anyway? If I put it out with the trash, would the sanitation workers refuse to take it?), to the knickknacks from my parents’ travels (Is that some kind of a fertility god statue or did the model have too many little blue pills?), to my bookshelf and the novels I’ve written and published (Hmmm. Should I rearrange those by color? Year of publication? Last name of protagonist?).
You might think that I’d find the sight of those nine books encouraging, but until I learned to fight the lure of the dark side, staring at them had just the opposite effect. In fact, seeing what I accomplished blocked me even more.
I’d become mired in doubt and fear, consumed by anxiety. How had I developed those characters? What made me imagine those plot twists? Why does my mind seem so empty now? Why are my recent ideas so bland, so clichéd? Have I lost whatever gift I had? Should I just give up on writing and devote myself to walking the dogs, reading, and searching for the perfect combination of cashews, caramel, and dark chocolate?
Slumped in my office chair—eroding self-esteem triumphs over good posture every time—I would embrace the block and let myself wallow in feelings of loss and despair.
But one day, when I’d floundered deep into Poor Me Swamp, I thought about the characters inside those covers and about what they’d taught me about writing and about life itself.
Paladin, the “hero” of The Hard Karma Shuffle and The Crushed Velvet Miasma (books co-written with my husband, Mike Nettleton), was a whirlwind of manic action and addled thought. That was understandable because he’d spent years following the Grateful Dead and had never gotten over the 60s. Nothing was too outlandish to consider as a plot twist for his stories, no secondary characters were too extreme to be included in his circle of friends. Writing about him was like painting in the style of Jackson Pollock—there was no need to color only inside the lines or even to have lines at all. Freed from every literary restraint, we rushed to the computer every chance we got.
Casey Brandt, the protagonist of Consulted to Death, Driven to Death, and Dated to Death, gave me an outlet to rail about the consultants I felt were homogenizing the television news industry. She allowed me to explore the manic behavior and tight friendships forged under the pressure of daily deadlines and the control that the sales department often seemed to have over news content. And she provided career-change therapy. Through the course of three books, I was able to say goodbye to a 25-year career in television news when I no longer felt the thrill of the hunt for a lead story, when it seemed that I’d seen it all before, when it was already half-past time to move on—to a new career and a new form of fiction.
I’ll tell you more about that, and about how I learned to apply the lessons of where I’d been to where I was going, in tomorrow’s post.
Stay tuned for part two…
Carolyn J. Rose grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, and spent 25 years as a television news writer and producer in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She has published many mysteries and lives in Vancouver, WA, with her husband, radio personality Mike Phillips, and a motley collection of pets. Her hobbies are reading, gardening, and not cooking.
Surf to www.deadlyduomysteries.com for more information. And watch the book trailer for HEMLOCK LAKE at http://www.trailerspy.com/trailer/10179/Hemlock-Lake