*What would you be doing right now if you were not an author?
For several reasons, I'm trying to transition from my early retirement back into the full-time workforce. My writing provides a badly-needed "relief valve" from the frustrations of job hunting. If I were forced to dwell on my job search 24/7, I probably would've lost my mind a long time ago. Now if "Child of Privilege" suddenly goes golden (or if I win the lottery), then all bets are off, I stay retired, and I write until my fingers fall off.
*5 years ago: what were you doing?
I was working in customer support for a small software company and hating it. I dealt with clients who were boiling mad, frustrated, and under intense pressure from their customers or managers. "Silence is golden" was my daily goal: if nobody complained to management about me, if nobody swore at me over the phone, and if my car didn't blow up when I got in and turned the key, then it was a good day. Tomorrow brought the opportunity to do it all over again. Great fun.
*Do you have a certain writing ritual?
I guess I'm something of a fussbudget in my writing habits. Before I even approach my computer for a writing session, I need a detailed, comprehensive mental map of the material I want to produce. I need to be certain of which characters I'll be working with, where they're heading, and exactly what they'll be doing. Of course, if something spontaneous occurs during the session (which it often does), I'll go with it, get it down, and deal with the details later. Very seldom do I even power up my computer unless I have a solid plan for that session. And don't forget the munchies: unsalted pretzel twists and several bottles of water.
*What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
My actual first novel (written back in the 1970's and destined to never see the light of day) was a total disaster as I look back on it now. It was targeted as a romance novel, but its lead character was male, and it was written in his POV. I'm really not surprised that it didn't fly. Ah, hindsight! Several agents I queried responded with deservedly scathing letters. Among the criticisms: my characters were stereotypical and lacked depth; the dialogue was stilted and phony; the plot unfolded almost entirely in flashback; and my female lead character lacked any purpose beyond pleasures of the flesh. I guess they didn't like it. But were they right? I think I'll invoke the Fifth Amendment.
*Ever fangirled over another author? Who was it?
Never been there; never done that.
*Is there an author you'd like to meet?
Actually, I had the pleasure of meeting an actual best-selling author several months ago. His name is William Hazelgrove, and his track record is beyond impressive. Go out to Amazon, search for him, and you will develop an instant case of author envy. He only has a slew of best-sellers out there. He was presenting a 2 1/2 hour free lecture on novel-writing, publishing, and marketing at a local library. Surprisingly, not a huge crowd came out. So this was a unique opportunity for a near one-on-one with a best-selling author. I found Mr. Hazelgrove very down-to-earth, friendly, courteous, and approachable. He was more than generous with his advice, writing and marketing tips, and literary expertise. He led quite a lively discussion from which I took away many nuggets of wisdom. I'll always be grateful to him for a fun, informative evening that passed all too quickly.
*Biggest writing pet peeve?
My totally inept typing skills. Unfortunately, my brain and my fingers seem to disconnect during writing sessions. For example, writing this reply took nearly two minutes because of correcting typos. I don't know if I think too fast or type too slow. Thank God for spell checkers!
* Do you read other's reviews of your books?
With a microscope. On the serious side, reviews are golden to indies and self-pubs because of Amazon's algorithms. The more favorable reviews you garner, the better your chances of benefiting from their 800-pound marketing gorilla (get it? Amazon? Gorilla?). On the less serious side, instead of simply reading the reviews, I usually end up trying to read between the lines in search of hidden meanings and subliminal messages; something like "What are they REALLY saying?"
Fav Color: blue (just think of how many songs have that word in the title)
Fictional Character you'd like to spend the day with?: Annie from the movie "Speed" portrayed by Sandra Bullock. I fall in love with her every time I see that movie. She was the perfect "girl next door" with an edge. And she was one wicked bus driver!
Fav food: a veritable "rogue's gallery" of unhealthy stuff: pizza, BBQ ribs, fried chicken, and Italian beef ... all the basic food groups. Now I'm hungry and dinnertime is still 3 hours away!
Fav song and/or singer: I'm a child of the 1970's, which I consider the golden age of pop/rock music. If I had to pick one ultimate song, it would be "Goodbye to Love" (or anything else, for that matter) by the Carpenters. Karen was blessed with an angel's voice, and her brother Richard was a certified musical genius. I cried the day she died back in 1983 due to complications from anorexia nervosa. But I also enjoy the works of Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Electric Light Orchestra, Gordon Lightfoot, the Beatles, and many of the 60's and 70's folk/rock groups. I just happened to catch Spanky and Our Gang's "Lazy Day" on the radio yesterday. Ah, what beautiful memories!
Guilty pleasure: I plead guilty to three: shoestring potatoes, M & M's, and Cheese Nip crackers. Not all at the same time, of course. But chocolate and crunch ... the best of both worlds.
"Child of Privilege" is a classic "rooting for the underdog" story.
It's the tale of Dana Van Werner, a 19-year-old woman who runs away from her high society birthright to escape the patriarch who despises her.
She grows up quickly as she confronts intercity buses, seedy motels, wet t-shirt contests, honky-tonks, jail cells, and predatory night people light-years from the gentrified social strata of home. All the while, she struggles to outrun the private investigators hired by her father to bring her back home.
She seeks refuge in the bucolic rural community of Beckett Junction, Colorado. Through a chance encounter, she meets Deputy Sheriff Greg Parmenter. Touched by Dana's physical and emotional exhaustion, he offers her sanctuary in his home. Love would slowly blossom from that act of kindness, leading Dana to consider making Beckett Junction—and Greg's humble cottage—her new home.
However, a stunning twist of events sets the stage for the final and deadly confrontation with her father: a confrontation stoked by resentment, anger, violence, hunger for revenge, and the shocking revelation of a humiliating family secret kept hidden for decades. Several of the characters do not survive to tell their tales.
Will Dana be strong enough to survive the climactic showdown with her revenge-obsessed father? Does she possess the maturity to find herself a new home and a new life far removed from high society?
You’ll find yourself rooting for the courage, strength, and determination of this good-natured, down-to-earth teenager who is more “girl next door” than debutante.
What a relaxing way to spend an evening: your favorite beverage, a bag of munchies, your coziest comforter, and this story of a woman's perilous journey to free herself from domestic violence … and ultimately find herself.
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To its credit, Red's harbored no pretenses regarding its status in the vast configuration of the universe. Red's was a redneck joint, owned by rednecks, run by rednecks, catering to rednecks, serving redneck drinks, and providing redneck entertainment.
Viewed from the vantage point of the teeming Putnamville Shopping Mall—all one building of it—it appeared to be a ramshackle colossus of a barn.
Viewed from a markedly different vantage point—through the cracked door of a cluttered, musty dressing room by a wide-eyed Dana Van Werner—Red's was still a ramshackle colossus of a barn. But this particular ramshackle colossus of a barn was crowded to near suffocation, and vibrating to the over-amplified down-home rhythms of a country band droning virtually ignored on a portable aluminum stage some thirty feet away. Bright overhead lights blared down on rickety wooden bleachers shoehorned into every inch of available space, including a faux hayloft at the distant far end of the structure.
Red's resembled an unhandy blend of cathedral, saloon, and concert hall.
Ardent worshippers of redneck culture were everywhere: in the stage area, in the aisles, along the walls, and nearly filling the creaking bleachers to capacity with only a few empty spaces sprinkled about.
Since tonight was wet t-shirt night, the crowd was predictably male, dominated by hard-drinking, hardworking men in flannel shirts, stained t-shirts, jeans, cowboy hats, boots, and work shoes. Women were a finite minority, although those in attendance quite capably drank, swore, cursed, and proudly wore their halters, tank tops, t-shirts, tight jeans, and cowboy boots like badges of honor.
Red's bleachers were a microcosm of the hardworking, sometimes harsh, blue-collar rural life: the good ol' boys whooping it up, carousing, drinking, engaging in rowdy horseplay; some preoccupied in impromptu necking with their dates; a number already sprawled on the bleachers, passed out, and snoring loudly.
Steady streams of people threaded carefully like ants up and down the aisles and stairs, through the bleachers, clutching bottles of beer from the bars that lined the walls of Red's hard-work culture cathedral.
Dana, now wearing only a thin, thigh-length white t-shirt and matching way-too-short shorts, surveyed the vast distances she had traversed between her past and these moments waiting for a wet t-shirt contest in Putnamville: the bus that brought her here, and the gleaming sports car back in North Briarwood; the splendiferous luxury of the Van Werner mansion, and the Crossroads Rest motel next door; the unlimited financial resources she once enjoyed, and the $262.18 now in her purse; the Sunday afternoon chamber music recitals on the North Briarwood village green, the symphony orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and the nameless, marginally-talented band performing deservedly unnoticed by the crowd; her classmates at the North Briarwood Dance Academy, their blossoming figures clad in spotless tutus, their faces childishly beautiful as they nervously awaited one of the many dance recitals staged for their parents, and the four already drunk, smoking, somewhat overweight and heavily made up contestants waiting with her for the contest to begin.
But she was free for as long as she could outrun her father's grasp. She kept reassuring herself that there was nothing to be scared of; that nobody at Red's wanted to harm her; that there would be no fighting in the next bedroom tonight; that tonight would bring no beating.
She kept telling herself that nobody at Red's wanted to rape her.
But for the moment, at least she was free.
Finally, the band finished their set. The musicians bowed in gratitude for a deafening wave of imagined applause and hauled their equipment offstage.
Then, into the dressing room breezed a man wearing white shoes and a leisure suit of the most nauseating lime green color imaginable. He was nearly bald, what little rapidly graying hair remaining had been swept back in a futile effort to conceal a shiny spot the size of Texas. His white shirt, open to the waist, exposed a smattering of red chest hair and a gold chain dangling from his neck.
Let me guess, Dana mused, this must be Red.
"Hi, girls," he chirped. "How y'all doin' tonight?"
The other women—apparently Red's regulars—recognized the man immediately and returned his cheery greeting. The man paused to survey the women nervously standing there in t-shirts and shorts. He stopped at Dana. "I don't believe I've ever seen ya here before, honey," he said, seemingly puzzled. "What's your name?"
Dana hesitated. "Uh, Liz,” she answered clumsily. “Liz Briarwood."
The man smiled broadly and extended his hand. "Well, I'm glad to meet 'cha, Liz," he said through a toothy smile, shaking Dana’s hand vigorously. "I'm Red, proud owner and proprietor of this fine establishment. Y'all from around here?"
"Uh, no, I'm just passing through. I thought it might be fun to take a shot at show business."
Her ridiculing reference to show business missed its mark completely, instead delighting Red. He beamed proudly. "Well, we're always real happy to showcase new talent here at Red's," he gushed, his eyes feasting on her chest. She truthfully couldn’t blame the old fart. The cheesy shirt did nothing to conceal the sensuous contours of her breasts. Her nipples poked unabashedly through the thin fabric. "Hell, ya never know when there might be a Hollywood talent scout or two out there in the house somewhere."
Dana suppressed an incredulous giggle. Gimme a break, she thought. A Hollywood talent scout? Here? Yeah. Right.
The nearest Hollywood talent was probably hundreds of miles distant in Hollywood, and using a similar line on some starlet in an unsavory attempt to audition her in his bed. If he were here at Red's tonight, he was probably passed out cold under the bleachers somewhere or trying to lure some local beauty queen to his room at the Crossroads Rest.
Dana mentally calculated those odds as being roughly equal to her father hugging her and telling her he loved her.
Anybody interested in buying the Brooklyn Bridge?
"Okay, girls," Red announced to the gathered contestants. "The band's all done and we're just about ready to start the contest. Let me just run through what we want you to do."
Dana took a deep breath and wondered if the $150 was worth it.
Essentially, it wasn't.
But what it could buy ... was.
"After I spray ya down, I'll introduce ya and start the music. Go out on stage, walk from one end to the other a coupla' times and just strut your stuff like them famous models do." He winked at Dana and added, "After all, this is show business, ya know. There just might be a talent scout or two out there."
Give it up, Red.
"Then go to the center of the stage," he continued, "so's everyone can see ya, and just dance to the music, any ol' way ya want."
Red cupped a pair of imaginary breasts on his chest. "And shake 'em. Jiggle 'em around. After all, this ain't Car-nay-gee Hall, ya know. Show 'em whatcha' got. The boys out there paid to see some t-and-a, and if they don't get what they want, I'll have a damn riot on my hands. Anyway, when the record's almost done, I'll announce your name again, you walk back and forth from one end of the stage to the other one last time for the boys, and then come back in here."
He checked the women one last time, pausing to mentally undress Dana for a noticeably longer time than the others. "Any questions?"
The contestants shook their heads in unison.
He excitedly clapped his hands and motioned his charges to follow him out of the dressing room. "Then it's SHOWTIME. Let's get this act on the road. Show business don't wait for no one."