Saturday, September 8, 2012

Meeting other authors

Today I couldn't think of anything to blog about, I figured this would be a good subject. Finding other people who share your passion about writing. We pretty well all have family of one kind or another. Their support for you vary from full support, even enthusiasm to anger that you're wasting your time on this crap.

But no matter how supportive your family is, it's great to be among other authors. 
All I can say is I think it's for the comradery.Writing is an isolating job. Most of it is spent at the keyboard or with your head buried in a research book. But there are ways to mix and mingle with unpublished authors to New York Times bestsellers.

Local writing groups is a great way to find like minded people. Best part is they're not expensive. I'm the President of our local writing group. We have a monthly meeting where we talk nothing but writing. We also offer critique groups which meet twice a month.

Writing conferences are another way to mingle, this time with professional writers and even agents. The downside is they cost money. Sometimes $3-$400.00 bucks others up in $9-$1000 range.  And that's just for the conference. You have to add in money to get there, you need a place to stay and extra dollars to socialize and maybe get an autographed book by your favorite author. I do recommend getting to a couple of conferences for no other reason than to speak to people just like you who have 'made it'.

The final place you can go are workshops. Sometimes they will take place along with conferences others are standalones.These are hands on classes where you spend your time learning and practicing your craft and have it looked at by pros.

The road to publishing success is so varied it can't be discussed in one blog. But here I've offered a couple of suggestions. I know I've benefited from all three.


I've recently taken up writing historical fiction. I love the research and discovery of things I never knew. My first published historical was PLACING OUT, a novella set in the 1920s. A boy, is taken from New York City to Nebraska on an orphan train. 

Orphan trains were set up by a New York philanthropist who saw hundreds of children, some real orphans others the children of families who simply couldn't afford them. Fearing that gangs of children would become a criminal blight that destabilize the city. So the children were scooped up and shipped west to help farmers and industrialists. Some of the ended up in decent places, others became nothing more than indentured slaves. In PLACING OUT, Dylan Daniels is sent to a farm in Nebraska. He's fed and educated, but not loved. 

When he begins to realize he's not like the other boys, so he runs away to Hollywood, where he becomes a high priced prostitute. Until he meets LAPD officer Ben Carter. 

Old rear tenement in Five Points circa 1890



Thursday, May 15, 1919


Two children named Daniels, aged respectively two and eight years, last night sought shelter in the 6th precinct station house and told the Sergeant in charge that their father turned them into the street, and told them to help themselves. The children will be sent to the Almshouse.

Five Points, New York, 1919
I always remember the train. A black dragon, it smoked and roared, throwing up sparks that burned my face and left spots on my brand new shirt. The one the lady from the Five Points Mission got us so we'd be ready for our placing out. She told Da we had to look good for our new family. Every time I hear a train whistle now, I think back on that day. And all the days that followed on my trip west and the new life I had there. 

Don't remember Ma and Da much. Ma wasn't there at all in the end and Da was gone most of the time working, out looking for work or in jail when he got pinched working for the Five Pointers or the Gophers. I barely remember Ma at all. She died in that big fire at her job in the garment factory when the owners locked all the doors and no one could get out. Da was never the same after. Only a year later, the fever took Flora and Mary, our little sisters. They were both sweet girls. That only left me and Sean who was only two. Moira, the oldest, was always a bitch. Even Ma said so, calling her a witch and born slattern.

Didn't matter, after Ma died, Da said it was up to Moira to take care of us. She got out of that when she run off with Jimmy Paglia, that no good Eye-tal-yan Wop. She married him. Da nearly had a fit when she did that. But it was worse when she told us she wasn't gonna mind me no more. She called me a no good street rat who should have been drowned at birth. I slugged her and ran away. No one caught me. No one ever could when I didn't wanna be caught. They call me Jack because I was as fast as a jackrabbit. 

I ran with Ding Dong for a while, helping him and other Dusters with their hustles. Until the coppers got me cornered behind Old Bailey's saloon. I'd run off with a bottle of gin. Stuff tastes like piss, but I can sell it for two bits and ain't that sweet. Except this time the coppers caught me and tossed me in the hoosegow. I figure Da would come around and get me out. He did, then he turns around and put us out, sayin' we were too much trouble.

Sean was the one took us to that police station. They sent us away too. I was still expecting Da to come get us, instead this wrinkled old dame showed up carrying a Bible. Tells me she's from something called the Five Points House of Industry. Her skirts were all black and crinkly and rustled whenever she moved. I don't remember Ma wearing anything so fancy. This lady said her name was Rose Marie and she was a woman of God, doing God's work. When I ask her what that is, she say it's saving lost and fallen souls like me.

"I ain't lost," I told her. "And I ain't fallen nowhere. I'm standing right here."

"You are indeed, young man. You're a poor orphan boy who has taken to the dirty streets to survive. You have fallen into that vast and stinking den of iniquity. Arrested stealing a bottle of the devil's drink."

"Ain't no orphan neither."

"Your ma died. You live in squalor among the most base humans. You're father can't take care of you. He told me as much." She patted the folds of her big dress and touched my head. I jerked away from her, wanting to tell her not to touch me. Instead I batted her hand away when she tried to touch me again. "We're going to take care of you, Dylan Daniels. You and your brother. We're going to take you to a place where you can learn to be a man." 

"A man?" I snorted. "I'm ten years old. I ain't no man."

"Nonetheless." She was all stuffy and stiff. I didn't like her. She didn't care. "You are going to be placed out."

"I don't know what you're talking about, lady. I ain't going nowhere."

She looked around the filthy cell they had put me in. It smelled like piss and shit. There was a sparkle in her brown eyes when she looked back at me. "No, young man, you aren't. For now."

I still didn't know what she was talking about it. I didn't know until Da came with a bag I recognized as belonging to Ma, all tied up with twine. He also handed me a silver dollar. 

"You be a good, boy. Make your mother proud."

I stared down at the bag and the dollar glittering in the palm of my hand. I'd never had that much money in all my life. I still didn't get it.

"They haven't told me where you're going to, but Missus Matthews says they're all good homes. You're getting a real chance if you behave and mind your betters."

It hit me like I got kicked by one of Tony Gambol's big bay Clydesdales. Da was sending both of us away. "I won't go," I said, folding my arms over my chest. "You can't fuckin' make me."

He slapped me across the face. I didn't see it coming and fell back, landing on my ass on the dirty, rough floor. I threw myself to my feet but he backed away, going to the jail cell door. 

"I don't like doin' that, Danny-boy, but you ain't got no choice in this. I can't be your ma and pa both. With your ma gone, I gotta do what's good for both of you."

I argued and yelled but no one listened. Da left and I was alone. I stayed alone until the Five Points lady came for me and took me and my bag and silver dollar, now carefully hidden in my shoe, to the train station. Sean was there with Da. He clung to Da 'til he shoved Sean at me. Then he hung on to me so tight my hand fell asleep. He was already wailing when I dragged him into the belching monster. It shuddered and grunted as it pulled away from the station. I looked at the platform through a grimy, soot-covered window but Da was already gone.

I got so I could sleep in the dragon's belly. I met other kids like me. Over a hundred of us. Some were real orphans, some were like me, picked up by the cops, others volunteered to be placed out. They fed us, mustard sandwiches and sometimes jam. In Omaha they divided our four cars up into cities. Our car was going to Nebraska. Someplace near North Platte. The resident agent, William T. Elder, took us out in a horse drawn wagon to introduce us to our new family, the Chatterfields. 

As we drove away from the still belching train, I watched until we turned a corner and headed on a dusty road out of town and I couldn't see the train no more. Then I turned in my seat and stared straight ahead, knowing I ain't never gonna see Da or Moira agin. Sean kept at me about when Da comin' to get us 'til I slapped him.

Folks ask me later if I cried. 'Course not. I don't cry. What do they think I am? A baby? Sean was the baby, not me.

To find out about the placing out program:  http://gkparkerhistorynoir.blogspot.com/2010/08/placing-out.html


Tina Donahue said...

Great post, Pat - I love speaking with other authors. Makes this biz less lonely. :)

Fiona McGier said...

Alas, I'm not sure what I have less of...time or money! Either way, my on-line interactions are my only way to interact with others who publish. For now, it will have to be enough.