Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Caroina Conspiracy Guest blogger is Janis May

Tell us about yourself.

Oh, dear, what a boring subject to begin with!

I'm a 7th generation Texan on one side and have almost 1000 years of Scottish ancestry on the other. I was first paid for writing when I was 9 years old (won an advertising slogan contest) and sold my first novel (WHERE SHADOWS LINGER) to Dell in 1979. I was one of the original 40 women who founded RWA back in 1980.

Since I bore quite easily, I've done a number of jobs, everything from talent agent and performer to jewelry designer to Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic testing DNA lab to editor in chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups... and just about everything in between. One thing I'm especially proud of is that I founded and for 9 years was editor/publisher of the NT Newsletter of the American Research Center in Egypt, a scholarly publication that for the duration of my tenure was the only monthly publication for ARCE in the world. It may still be, I don't know.

On a more romantic note, I married for the first time at 54, after being proposed to in a moonlit garden across the road from the Pyramids in Egypt. My husband is a Captain in the Navy Reserve, returned just last year from his second deployment to Iraq. He's also several years younger than I. My mother passed away unexpectedly 3 weeks after our wedding. Now we're living in the house where I grew up - which is a very strange feeling, as I hadn't really lived here in decades - with two neurotic rescue cats.

The Husband and I are both very interested in Egyptian archaeology - we met in an ARCE meeting - and plan to return to Egypt next year.

Tell us about what you're working on now.

As I said, I bore easily, so I always have several projects going. I'm working on a college textbook to be published in Peru for world-wide distribution on archaeological illustration. There are 4 or 5 of us working on the project, which - like so many scholarly projects - has been plagued with delays. My portion is the history of archaeological illustration before the Napoleonic paradigm shift of 1798. Not too shabby for someone without a college degree!

In the fiction field, I'm working on a romance about a couple who meet when they clash over custody of their orphan grandson. She's something of a free spirit gallery owner and he's the epitome of a button-down Eastern banker. This takes place in Albuquerque New Mexico, one of my favorite places in the world.

I'm also working on a mystery series about two very individualist women named Rebecca Cloudwebb and Flora Melkiot. Rebecca was a Dallas Police detective invalided out of the force after she was nearly killed in a shoot-out which she found out was orchestrated by her ex-lover, a dirty cop. She has opened an antique shop with her late partner's widow. Flora is the wealthy widow of a jeweler who could best be termed the dark side of Miss Marple. She listens at keyholes, picks locks and gleefully blackmails anyone and everyone into doing what she thinks best. If I'm not careful, she'll take over the whole series!

I'm also working on another mystery about a professional researcher working on the archives of an exclusive finishing school which closed in 1962. She's working for a very strange and egocentric writer, is getting a divorce from her wealthy cheating husband and is startled to find out that someone will still kill to keep the past buried. This could easily develop into a series.

That's all at the moment... I think.

What are your work habits?

Feast or famine. Some days I'll do anything - including dusting and laundry - to avoid turning on the computer. Other days I can't wait to get into the library where my desk and computer live and get started. Some days writing is a chore, roughly akin to jogging through Jell-O; other days, The Husband practically has to pry my fingers from the keyboard to get me to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. And everything in between.

The constants are - I must have coffee or Diet Dr. Pepper (sometimes both!) within easy reach. Same with Kleenex, hand lotion and lip balm. Cookies help too. There is always a cat hovering somewhere around and before we lost our beloved little poodle she would sometimes have to bite my ankle - she was very little - to make me realize she had to go out.

Tell us a funny story about being an author.

A funny story? Life as an author IS a funny story. You can begin with those people who think because you have published a book you're wealthy. Or those who - usually at a cocktail party - will with an air of great largesse tell you they have a wonderful idea for a book they'll tell you so you can write it and then you'll both split the money. One time it wasn't funny when I stabbed a particularly obnoxious specimen of these with one of those tiny colored plastic swords. First time those little swords were ever really useful. Or, if you write romance, the eternal question (usually accompanied with a leering glance) of Do you really do what you write about? After a while the hostesses learned to keep the little colored plastic swords away from me!

Before my mother died I was working on an idea that would later become ECHOES IN THE DARK. One of the major plot points is that the heroine, whose leg is in a cast, sees what may or may not be the ghost of a Confederate soldier. Mother said I'd been working too hard and she was going to take me to lunch. Well, I'd had an accident to my foot and it was bandaged to a fare-the-well. Mother drove us to a local cafe and I got out of the car, then looked up and saw a Confederate soldier calmly walking in the door. I shrieked and pointed him out to her, but by the time she could look up from locking her door, he was gone.

Of course Mother knew the storyline, so she was immediately convinced that I was hallucinating. I mean, you don't see Confederate soldiers strolling around suburban Dallas! Except I did. I took off at a rather ungainly and painful lope, Mother following shouting for me to calm down. I couldn't calm down. I was going to see if I had seen a soldier or not. If I had, there was a rational explanation. If not, I was going straight to the funny farm!

Just as I reached the door, it was opened from inside - by a Union soldier in full uniform. He never could understand why I started laughing and patting his arms and face, repeating, "You're real... you're really real." Turns out that a local reenactors group was having a meeting there.

Another time I was driving to Arkansas to visit a girlfriend. This was before I married. I had driven the route many times before and drove almost on autopilot while my mind churned with a particularly thorny problem in my work in progress. Suddenly there was a stop sign on a road where there shouldn't be one, and I realized I had no idea of where I was. I had to get into the next town to be able to find my location a map. Imagine my chagrin when I realized I had not only missed the destination town, I was in a completely different state! Did figure out how to solve my story problems, though!

So - it's a small wonder that The Husband says sometimes I'm only half in the world of reality. Luckily he loves me anyway.

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