Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Barbara DeShong (cont'd)

Welcome back to Cicero's Children where Barbara DeShong is our featured guest today. On Monday, Barbara began telling us how she started on the path to publiction. Today she's finishing up what's turned out to be quite a unique story. At the close of Barb's blog I'll be providing a review of her book, TOO RICH AND TOO THIN: NOT AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY. I hope you enjoy Barb's blog and the review.


"Extreme Writing for Publication"

Phase two of Extreme Writing for Publication involved submitting work at conferences where pre-conference reads were available. This was a very important element as these conferences provide a wide variety of views on the quality of writing and marketability of work. The temptation (and I did this in spades) is to want to only submit work at pre-read conferences to agents—as a way to maybe be accepted as a client. While this can happen, often pre-reads by non-agents can be really helpful. Pre-read results can also be discouraging, in fact, if you pony up the effort, discouragement is to be expected.

The next step after I had a completed and edited manuscript, was to put together the dreaded synopsis and gasp—a pitch. As I’ve learned is often the case, when I sat down to write a synopsis, I would be gripped by an attack of what is best described as ‘situational retardation’. My sentences made no sense and my attempts came out as ‘kitchen sink’ paragraphs or over-generalized, meaningless clich├ęs. Having benefited from my conference-going fury, I returned to the Net and signed up for a couple of New York Pitch and Shop weekends.

When I gave my first three-minute pitch, the moderator said, “I have absolutely no idea what you are even talking about.” I took his suggestion and spent lunch in my hotel room redoing the pitch. The workshops focused on ‘pitch’ were very helpful and meeting at the Greer Studios was a real kick. Not all the benefits of conferences were inside meetings. Each one offered chances to talk with other people from all over the country doing the same sort of projects. Those of us suffering and learning in the pitch workshops put together on-going email groups.

The last step of Extreme Writing was taking my pitch on the road to conferences with agent and editor feedback. I met Karen Syed at a Southern California Writers Conference…I know…where I started by walking into that hotel by accident…and Echelon bought and published “Too Rich and Too Thin, Not an Autobiography.”

I know not everyone has the time or ability to do all the travelling I did, and I don’t think it’s necessary. Since I’ve calmed down, I’ve discovered programs in my own area covering the same topics I flew across the country to attend. My decision to seek help outside the state is more the result of my wanting to accomplish a lot in a short period of time.

My goal in writing this is to speak to others who don’t have twenty years to get published. The way I see it, you can speed things up if you make a plan and go at it in a concentrated and relentless way. Relentless means not allocating time to dawdling away years in a snit after a deluge of rejections. The main thing I learned was I needed to learn to write, but even more I needed to learn to listen, even when what I heard and still hear is painful. After all, I’d like it so much better if I already knew everything.

But then, you’d think I would have stayed with just one profession. If you’ve read this far, you have the urge to write, too. And what a fabulous way to go. For me, since I was a kid, books carried me away. And what a privilege to write. I remember a line from the film about Virginia Woolf (paraphrased) when one of Virginia’s sisters remarks, “Virginia is lucky. She has two worlds to live in. The one’s she’s actually living and the one she is writing.”
So, there you go.

Barbara DeShong



Psychologist Jessica LeFave is not high on the "Favorote Persons" list of her local Texas police department. Ever since her husband's car was dragged out of Lake Austin -- with her dead husband in it -- Jessica has been insisting that the police investigate what she claims is his murder. The cops think otherwise, calling the death an unfortunate accident and pointing to a Hilton hotel receipt and another woman's wedding ring found in his pocket as proof that he was cheating on Jessica.

"Bull!" says Jessica. Convinced that her husband -- also a psychologist -- was killed in order to bury a secret revealed in therapy, Jessica begins investigating his former patients. Luck smiles on her when the cops reluctantly ask her to profile the killer of Bernice Jackson, a wealthy Texan who twisted known historical events into outrageous melodramas for her soft-porn romance novels and films. It's not a secret that Bernice was hated by historical anti-revisionists, but could an outsider sneak into a gala party held at Bernice's mansion and lure her into her mirrored bedroom in order to drive a spike through her heart? Pretty doubtful say the cops, and Jessica agrees. It's more likely that a family member or one of the actors at the party did it. But the question is, why?

Jessica begins her own investigation when she discovers that her husband was counseling Bernice Jackson at the time of his death. Jessica drags her old friend George Ramsdale into her quest for justice. A lawyer who's more concerned about his new car's interior/exterior color combination than his practice, George agrees to drive Jessica to a remote town near the Mexican border in search of answers. With George busy oogling the local beauties (human and female only), Jessica must make nice with Bernice's drug-seeking son, her binge-eating daughter, a passel of actors and hanger-oners, plus the resident motorcycle gang, while at the same time winning the confidence of the only man who can lead her to the truth.

Texas may never be the same now that Barbara DeShong hit the writing scene. Psychotics abound in this humorous and nicely plotted mystery featuring gutsy Dr. Jessica LeFave and her off-the-wall buddy George. A sprinkling of red herrings may throw the most avid armchair detective off the track, but the ending is both logical and satisfying in this series debut. Amateur sleuth fans will look forward to more mysteries by DeShong after reading this fun and action-filled adventure. I give the book five stars for originality, characterization, and a setting that can't be beat.


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