Although I spent my first 18 years as an editor primarily working on nonfiction, in the last 6 years I’ve also edited a lot of fiction. In addition, I’ve written two novels, one unpublished and one self-published with a writing partner. Yet overall, my main art form is painting, not writing. Although I've developed good writing skills, I haven't spent a lifetime discovering my unique voice (and it probably doesn't help that when editing other authors' books, I'm a chameleon in trying to replicate their voice). In addition, I don't have a burning desire to tell stories, which separates me from most committed writers.
Anyway, here’s the backstory for those two books: In 2001, just as I sent out query letters to agents about my thriller, the World Trade Center was attacked. My book’s plot dealt with bioterrorism, and the (non-Muslim) villain had a hideout in the caves of Afghanistan, a location no one ever thought about before September 11, 2001. Shopping the book around was a hard sell after 9/11. Talk about bad timing! One well-known agent told me the country was too traumatized, and no one would want to read novels about terrorism for a long time. Maybe someday I’ll rewrite that thriller, which is now politically outdated, but this project is on a back burner.
I wrote my second novel with a writing partner, Cathy Weber Colvin. It’s a pop culture romantic comedy titled Rock Idol Romance and is self-published. We both used pen names. Mine was Nell Shanley. We stole some of our funniest lines from Cathy's husband, Andy Colvin.
I won’t give away the wacky plot, but following is an excerpt:
(from Rock Idol Romance, copyright 2014 by Catherine Lorraine and Nell Shanley)
Grand Prairie, Texas
Two women wandered through the open-air tent, lugging floral totes filled with booty: three shotguns, shells, and assorted 9mm handguns.
“Thank God—and the Texas state legislature—these gun shows don’t require background checks.”
SugarPop patted her frizzy black Dynel Afro. “Don’t be so paranoid, Ice. No one recognized us.”
“I’m not paranoid, Sugar—just careful.” Ice cast a furtive glance over her shoulder.
Only a few diehard stragglers remained in the tent—ex-cons, neo-Nazis, undercover cops.
Ice wasn’t satisfied with their arsenal yet. She had an eye out for something special.
They stopped at a booth selling expensive Weatherby rifles. The vendor, a private dealer, handed Ice the gun she had been admiring.
“Special edition. One-of-a-kind.”
SugarPop glanced past him at a row of identical rifles.
“Looks like twelve of a kind to me,” she muttered.
Ice stroked the delicate fleur-de-lis pattern on the side of the rifle.
“That’s as hard as it gets, sweetheart.” The collector winked at Ice, then turned to haggle with a Bubba wearing military-issue camouflage.
Ice handed the rifle to Sugar, who propped it on her shoulder and positioned a finger on the trigger. She turned toward a man in a Unabomber hoody at the next booth and sighted him in the crosshairs.
“Tag, you’re it,” she said, pulling the trigger.
Ice frowned. “Easy, SugarPop.”
The gun dealer heard the click and whirled around.
His jaws tensed, and he gave her the stink eye. “Pointing a gun at someone is a violation of the Texas penal code. Treat every weapon like it’s loaded.”
“Gotta check the scope,” SugarPop said. She made a slow rotation.
Ice pried the Weatherby from Sugar’s grip and laid it on the counter. “We’ll take six.”
“And make it snappy,” SugarPop added.
The seller looked at her. “Six? That’s an awfully big buy, Calamity Jane.”
Ice opened her purse, revealing a thick bankroll of Ben Franklins. “Do you have a moral dilemma with selling guns to a woman?”
“No—as long as she’s not my wife.” He chuckled and began to wrap the guns in brown paper.
Ice rounded on SugarPop.
“Get control of yourself,” she hissed.
“Just havin’ fun, Chief.” She rubbed her hands together. “So, when do we trap the prey?”
Ice stared into space. “He’s in Dallas in two days. If we can pull it all together, that’s the time.”
SugarPop did a funky sack dance. “Excellent. I’m not getting any younger, and my ovaries are set to detonate on the next full moon.”
“Everything’s lined up, the hideout’s ready, the hardware’s procured.” Ice gave an imperceptible nod at the six slender boxes. “We just need to recruit a few more diehard fans.”
“Piece of cake. Hell, we could advertise in the Dallas Observer. Women would line up like the Kilgore Rangerettes at the Macy’s parade.
Ice shot her a stern look.
SugarPop giggled. “I’m joking!”
“And I’m not laughing. We’ve got to adhere to a rigorous screening process. We need women willing to do whatever it takes, but we don’t want any head cases. The longer we keep the Feds off our tails, the better.”
They passed the makeshift security booth, and a white-haired rent-a-cop in a “Got guns?” T-shirt tipped his cap. “G’night, ladies. Remember, this world is armed and dangerous. You should be, too.”
Ice wore a surreal grin. “Oh, we are, honey.” She patted the box of rifles. “We most certainly are.”
The two conspirators strolled out of the gun show into a floodlit cow pasture.
“What he doesn’t realize is we’re the dangerous ones. D’ya think that good ol’ boy believed these were for our gun club?” SugarPop asked.
“The only thing he cared about was the color of our money. Now I just need to get back and hide this stuff before my husband comes home.”