This picture of Cathy and me was taken by Cathy's darling mother, Rayleen, this past Sunday afternoon, November 19th. We actually got to meet each other for the very first time, after years of having been critique partners and having talked to one another over the phone for marathon calls about a myriad of topics that have little to do with writing. Isn't Cathy pretty? She's an excellent writer, too. So much so that she never, ever leaves off quotation marks before and after pieces of dialogue that she's writing. We can't say that about me . . . unfortunately. (Heaving a massive sigh here.) (Even more unfortunately, Cathy is heaving an even bigger one. So is Dawn.)
Cathy writes Historical Scottish Romance fiction that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Just when you're getting comfortable with the story, and starting to draw a deep breath, WHAM! She slugs you in the face with torture of some terrible sort to one or another of her main characters. And then she leaves you hanging . . . at least until you begin the next chapter. That she hasn't sent you yet. CRIPE!
This picture was taken of Dawn by her very talented husband not long after she became a finalist for the Golden Heart Award, a prestigious award given to a writer of a never before published manuscript. It's a very special privilege to even be selected as a finalist! I love this picture of her.
Dawn writes a sort of time travel with a lot of the most fascinating faeries, brownies and other Scottish wee folk you ever conceived of in your life. Part of most all her stories take place just across the mountain from me, in a charming fictional town called Anderson Creek, North Carolina. You have to step through the "garden gate" in order to reach the . . . other place. You can't even get to the third place unless you're Fae.
I won't say a thing about the book she's currently writing, except to say that I can't wait to see more of it. But Dawn has the same proclivity as Cathy in terms of leaving you hanging. Being a critique partner is tough sometimes. Multiple sighs here
So now when you read one of our books -- any of them -- you know that you're reading something from all of us. The three of us comprise three-quarters of the Celtic Writers Group. The fourth member is writing a doctoral thesis. None of the rest of us can wait until the bloody, benighted, bleeping . . . thing is finished. Actually, it's neither bloody nor benighted nor bleeping (ahem) . . . but the alliteration sounds good. We depend upon that member's knowledge of battles and weaponry, etc., etc. etc. I mean, really . . . !
Okay, okay . . . my purpose wasn't intended as a gripe toward inconvenient furtherance of one's professional pursuits. I wanted to talk about critique partners. I've been a member of several critique groups over the years, and ours is, far and away, the most comfortable. Over the years we've become good friends. I can truly say that they've been lifesavers, too.
In late July, 2016 I had just completed my fourth novel and was about to submit it for beta reads and editing when a catastrophe struck. I managed to infect my computer with malware. If any of you have ever experienced something of that nature, you know that your entire machine is taken over by an entity that you can't control. You have precisely two choices at that point. Actually, you have three choices, but the third one involves applying sledge hammers to computers, which really doesn't help very much. So your remaining two choices involve either following the link provided you on your computer screen to wherever these creatures live and paying them whatever ransom they demand in order to free your computer and every single one of your documents up again, or you completely scrub your computer to get rid of the malware. The mind simply boggles when you begin to consider how you would even pay these individuals whatever they demand. Would you send them a bank draft? Online??? Or how about paying them with your credit card? Yeah, right. Like that's ever going to happen. Quick tip . . . if your computer screen ever lights up with red symbols asking if you are really sure you want to open a document, dump it from your computer as quickly as you can. It isn't just junk mail. Believe me. You do NOT want to find out what's inside. I digress. So my choice was to have my husband scrub my computer clean. (My mind goes blank if asked how you go about doing such a thing. Sledge hammers come to mind.) By evening, he was able to begin rebuilding my computer. BUT . . . it was minus all my documents. Every last one of them. Including all my pictures. Can you believe it? Sorry — I know you can, but I couldn't. So I'm whining.
Happily, my previous publisher had copies every one of the books I had published with her company as well as all the art work for my covers and all of the documents releasing my book rights back to me. Other documents were fairly easy to re-create, since there are records kept on other websites, but I had lost the entire manuscript of my fourth novel, Alex Campbell.
That's where my critique partners come in. They sent me every chapters they had worked on. So I put them side-by-side and used one of them to edit everything into a single corrected chapter. Then I put it side-by-side with my blank manuscript and rewrote the entire novel. Afterward, I re-submitted each chapter to my (admittedly) long-suffering friends and, eventually, the book was finished — and it's even better than before. Thanks to their stellar assistance, Alex Campbell has now achieved a life of its own. All I can say is, ETERNAL THANKS, Cathy and Dawn! I have the best critique partners on the planet! And the very best sort of friends! (My everlasting gratitude to you both.)
By the way, if you're looking for this book, here's the link: