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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

GUEST BLOG: CHARLOTTE McCLAIN

While it seems like writing a book should be a solo experience, a good writer, like a good NASCAR driver, or a good rock band, has to have a solid support network. Before I started writing romance, I dabbled in fantasy and science fiction, but didn't want to tell anyone what I was doing because, what if I failed? What kind of a snook would I look like? At the time I set about writing my first romance, Three Alarm Tenant, I knew going it alone wasn't working. I was working as the magazine clerk at Borders Books and Music #63 in Fairlawn, Ohio. Bookstore people can be really snobby about what they read so admitting to them that I was writing a romance was a calculated risk. Boy, did I sell those folks short when I hesitated. The entire staff was incredibly supportive and I have to credit them with not only the first Arden FD book, but the second one as well. The bookstore even appeared as a setting in both those first two books and I pulled a Hitchcock and put myself and another staff member in as a secondary characters. Several other secondary characters are drawn from people I worked with at the store without being complete rip-offs. I may have even written part of the book on scrap paper leaning on that info desk. (And if any of my managers are reading this – I never did that. I never goofed off at work. Nope, not me. Those pieces of scrap paper in my pockets were, um, lists of things for customers.)

With that store playing such a big part in the creation of those first two books I developed this fantasy. I wanted to have a picture of myself standing on the information desk holding one of my books. Totally unrealistic. Consider the composition. A five foot three woman standing on a three and a half foot tall information desk holding a five inch book? The book would get lost in the shot. Sitting on the desk would be acceptable though. And I could do that easier.

In January, I found out that Spark Of Desire was going to be released in print May 1st.

In January, I found out that Borders #63 was going to close March 14th.

Was I devastated? Heck, yeah. While this info photograph had been a fantasy, it had been a strong enough one that I knew what it was going to feel like/smell like/sound like to be on that desk holding my book. (Probably because it wouldn't be the first time I'd sat on that desk holding somebody's book.) And really, the timing was the kicker. Six weeks? A lousy month and a half? I'd written the book eight years earlier and the universe couldn't give me that little bit more?

But I'm a resilient soul. If it wasn't meant to be, it wasn't meant to be. I went back to my regularly scheduled round of writing, pursuing a teaching job in Abu Dhabi, going to school, working and not losing my mind in the process.

Tuesday March 9th my author copy arrived in the mail. I was house sitting for a friend so I didn't lay hands on it until 11 that night. And it was, what we referred to in the lingo, a QP or quality paperback. A very nice eight inches tall. With a gorgeous cover, because Lyrical Press has the best covers. I was doing the Dance Of Joy that night, my friend. But the real question was, would I get my picture?

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, were crazy busy. I was also reluctant to go to the store because I figured I'd burst into tears. Hey, I worked there for 10 years, met most of my adult friends there and used it as a setting for the book I'd just gotten in print. Who wouldn't grieve a little?

Saturday, I headed out to the store, camera and book in hand and hope in my heart. The few people I knew who still worked there from when I wrote the book were thrilled to see it. The floor manager, who shall remain nameless, was more than willing to indulge me by taking a picture of me sitting on the info desk holding my book. The general manager and another manager were there so we needed to do it quick.

I was poised to hop on the desk when the other manager came out of the back room. She was there when I wrote the book too, but she wasn't part of the pit crew. In fact, she resented me because she thought I flirted with her girlfriend. Okay, I don't know this for sure, but, as the Magic 8 Ball would say, all signs point to yes. For the record, I never flirted with her girlfriend. Her girlfriend wasn't my type in many ways, but as an ER nurse she did have lots of great stories. So I did talk to the woman, but I never flirted. With evil manager lurking around info, my shoot was off. Indulgent Manager sidled over and said he was going to be closing the next day so come by after four and he would take the picture.

The next day was Sunday March 14th, the very last day the store would be open. I primped for my photo and arrived at the store at 5:30. Indulgent Manager was nowhere to be seen. Neither were any of my old cronies. It was like a movie where just when things can't get worse, they do. All I needed was to have zombies attack and it would have been perfect.

I had to circle the store a couple of times getting a bit more verclempt all the time. That was my pride and joy magazine section where I toiled for 5 years. There was where history was shelved when I first started, then it became the computer section. At the end it was travel though on that last day it looked more like a ragtag dumping ground. Over here was where the art section used to be before they took down the wall. When I shelved it, I was teamed up with a really great guy who asked his now wife to marry him when we worked together and tested out his proposal on me. This was where genre fiction used to be. We used to sort books for shelving by tossing them down the appropriate row and trying to land them in front of the shelf they went on. I have killer aim in those days. Across the middle of the store was where travel used to be shelved. We were straightening it one night and one of my co-workers made a joke about the sheik of Djbouti that had us all rolling on the floor laughing. Then there was the year I was trainer and one of my friends confided in me that she thought one of my trainees was really cute. They have a little boy now.

And I wasn't wearing waterproof make-up.

Fortunately, I found Indulgent Manager who said that the general manager was in the office, but we could do it if we were quick. I stripped off my coat and hopped on the desk. He snapped 2 shots of me with the yellow and black going out of business signs in the background. I took one more turn around the store and went home.

A couple of hours later Borders Books and Music #63 closed forever.

5 comments:

joannaaslinn said...

Hi, Charlotte,

Great when those fantasies become reality, isn't it? Kudos to you for not giving up on yours and turning the experience into an entertaining post for the rest of us! Good luck with your debut and never give up on your dreams!

Joanna Aislinn
NO MATTER WHY
The Wild Rose Press
www.joannaaislinn.com
www.joannaaislinn.wordpress.com

rox731 said...

Great story, and I know by the look on your face, that sitting on that counter was totally the world to you. I am so proud of what you have done and accomplished. You can only keep moving up at this point. I cannot wait to see what is next.
Rox

Tina Joyce said...

What a bittersweet ending, but I'm so glad you got you picture! Congratulations, Charlotte!
Tina

Piper Denna said...

Well, it mighta been last-minute, but at least you did get the shot. Congrats!

Pamela Hearon said...

The Universe was with you, my friend! What a great picture but an even better story! Thanks so much for sharing.

Pamela Hearon