Monday, May 29, 2017

Daydreams and Reality, Guest post by Betty Thomason Owens

When it comes to writing, I’m an expert in…absolutely nothing, but I’m good at pretending. Which is a great thing if you’re a fiction writer. I grew up living in a fantasy world. It was a safety mechanism. I had a brother fifteen months older than me. He was mean. He loved to pick on me, make me lose it, then leave me to take all the blame.

We made a lot of long trips, San Diego to West Tennessee. Days in the car—hours sitting next to big brother. In between torture sessions, he slept. I ventured into my own little world, dreaming of beautiful horses and amazing flower gardens.

As I grew older, my dreams changed. The beautiful horses held dreamy-looking cowboys. The gardens had moved to Hawaii where I lived in an amazing glass house overlooking the ocean. And dreamy-looking surfer-types admired my roses.

Then I grew up and real life sent me a dreamy-looking guy. Before long, there were several little dreamy-looking juniors who tortured each other and reminded me of my brother. The safety mechanism kicked in—I rediscovered my happy place—a beautiful seaside garden with a hammock so I could sleep. I’d long since forgotten sleep.

About that time, it occurred to me that someone with such a vivid imagination should try recreating the scenes in her head. I read a lot—another safety mechanism—and I was positive I could write.

Fast forward several years. You can imagine what happened. I loved writing, but found I didn’t really know much about it. I took a college course and did very well. I was pronounced a storyteller by my professor. I moved on from short stories to western romance novels (now safely hidden away, never to see the light of day). I tried my hand at this and that, then finally wrote a fantasy which no one wanted. Except me. I loved it, so I self-published it.

A quick aside about self-publishing: don’t do it. Unless you are ready—really ready. Don’t think your work is perfect, it’s probably not. Find a good editor and pay them, then take their advice. Pay an expert to do a really good cover. I went back, rewrote those early fantasy novels, paid for a nice cover, and released a second edition, done much better than the first. It was a learning experience. Why must I always learn the hard way?

A couple of years ago, I came up with an interesting idea. The Biblical book of Ruth inspired me to write a similar story, and incorporate my mother’s early life and struggles. She left her middle class home in urban Seattle to go and live with her new husband’s family in West Tennessee. She was only seventeen, and expecting a baby (that brother I mentioned earlier). Our dad was in the Navy, thousands of miles away. Her middle class existence had not prepared her for what she faced in Tennessee.
Annabelle’s Ruth was born, and I had learned a very important lesson. Writing from my own memories and experiences lent realism to the story. My characters, loosely based on reality, were folks I’d known in my childhood. They came alive on the computer screen. I heard their voices. It was easier to write.

I guess that’s why we’ve always heard, “write what you know.” I’m just making stuff up, I’m drawing on truth and embellishing. And some of my childhood fantasies tiptoed into the story. My main character hails from Hawaii, and she loves flowers. And the guy she meets—you guessed it. Dreamy-looking farmer.

Betty Thomason Owens is a multi-published, award-winning author of historical fiction, and fantasy-adventure. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), where she leads a critique group, and serves as vice-president/secretary of the Louisville area group. She’s a mentor, assisting other writers, and a co-founder of a blog dedicated to inspiring writers. She also serves on the planning committee of the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference.
Her writing credits include a 20’s era romance, Amelia's Legacy (2014), Carlotta’s Legacy (2016) Books 1 & 2, Legacy Series from Write Integrity Press (WIP), and the Grace-Award-winning Annabelle’s Ruth (2015), and Sutter’s Landing (2017), Books 1 & 2, Kinsman Redeemer Series, also from WIP. She has two fantasy-adventure novels, The Lady of the Haven and A Gathering of Eagles, in a second edition published by Sign of the Whale BooksTM, an imprint of Olivia Kimbrell PressTM.
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