Friday, June 15, 2012

Guest Blogger: Bette Golden Lamb and J. J. Lamb

Well, there we were: we’d just finished our second co-authored hardback thriller for Five Star, thought we were on our way to becoming credible mid-list, if not best-selling, authors, and suddenly the publishing world started falling apart.

We didn’t stop writing, of course, but the mss. started piling up and we were running out of shelf space, and places to send queries to agents and publishers.

First, a word or two about co-authoring and cohabiting.

It didn’t start out as a joint venture. J.J. was the writer -- journalism, short stories, and an original paperback (OPB) PI series. Bette was an artist, ceramist, sculptor, and RN.

The jumping off place for collaboration came when Bette had this “great idea” for a novel and wanted J.J. to write it. After being put off for several months by a reluctant J.J., Bette dove in head-first and wrote a complete 300-page, medical/political thriller.

Then came some dual-byline short stories (the co-writing thing was working without our killing one another), and eventually full-length novels. That first wonderful phone call -- “We’d like to publish your novel” -- came for BONE DRY, a medical thriller, followed by HEIR TODAY…, a suspense-adventure-romance.

We’re now on our seventh co-authored book after being warned by others in the beginning that to collaborate and cohabit would end in disaster. After trying a number of approaches, we’ve settled on one of us writing a first draft, with input on characters, plot development, and settings coming from the other. The second draft goes to the non- originating partner. The final version evolves from the two of us literally sitting side by side at the computer keyboard.

The surprising result is that a book morphs into a style that is neither of our individual writing voices. Rather, it becomes a third voice that confounds friends, who are unable to correctly identify who wrote which part of the book. Even we can’t always remember the origins of characters, scenes, and dialogue.

During our struggle to find an agent and/or publisher, we took a tentative step into the world of e-books, which was coming out of infancy and into its terrible twos.

After a few more near misses with agents and publishers, we decided enough was enough, did a lot of research, and became independent publishers of e-books and trade paperbacks.

Although, as traditionalists, we looked somewhat askance at e-publishing, we gave it a try as a means of keeping our two published books “in print.” We also arranged to have the two titles turned into audio books. The nice thing was that neither of these reaching-out ventures cost us any up-front money. Almost like “real” publishing.

The first was SISTERS IN SILENCE, the story of a fertility counselor who lives in a world of disappointment, lost love, unfulfilled expectations, mental pain, and a deadly desire to make things right through a series of “mercy” killings.

The most recent, SIN & BONE, delves into the illicit and dangerous trade in human body parts. RN Gina Mazzio (from BONE DRY) investigates and ties together a weird male caller on the Ob/Gyn telephone advice line, the mysterious disappearance of hospital nurses, and a ring of dangerous and illicit dealers in human body parts.

One thing we began notice about the evolving independent e-book publishing scene was that writers with a backlog of books, particularly series, were having the greatest success. We’ll soon have a third Gina Mazzio book out as a follow up to that research. And if that’s successful, we may republish J.J.’s three PI books and pick up on a fourth new one.

Looking at our medical thrillers, an underlying goal for Bette was to create a strong nurse protagonist in contrast to the usual doctor-hero approach that dominates novels, movies, and television. Something more like “Nurse Jackie,” but without the nose candy.

Still, we didn’t want the books to be flat-out amateur sleuth novels. So, in each story the nurse protagonist manages to gain the support, usually reluctant at first, of someone from an official investigative agency.

Critical to these stories is not getting any of the medical facts wrong. So far, we’ve had nothing but praise about the medical aspects of our books. While you can research and write about most anything, nothing beats having actual experience in a field, which provides the basis to dig into any part of that profession to help make your story authentic.

Further on the subject of accuracy, organizations like Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace have given writers the ability to publish their own e-books and trade paperbacks without having to learn difficult technical skills. It’s almost like the follow-the-bouncing-ball approach to singing.

But, and that’s a very big but, there are no gatekeepers in this wonderful new world of independent publishing. Bad grammar, poorly plotted stories, amateurish formatting, and a host of other problems run rampant in the field. If ever there as a place for caveat emptor, this is that place.

In the meantime, we continue to enjoy the incredible advantages of writing and sleeping together, which include having a wonderful and supportive companion at writer/fan conferences, not being lonely on book-signing tours, and, most important, having someone always there for you when you wake up in the middle of the night with the world’s greatest story idea.

Bette Golden Lamb

J.J. Lamb!ZTRolfeIII


Dana Fredsti said...

I love reading about how other people collaborate creatively! I've co-written several projects and it's always a challenge to meld styles...

Maddy said...

That sounds like a fascinating journey the two of you have had.

Kelli Stanley said...

You guys are an inspiration for writers--and spouses! :)

Bette Golden Lamb said...

Dana, Maddy, Kelli, thanks for your comments and dropping by. Its meeting people like you that makes life such a great journey.

Carole Price said...

I'm so glad I met you two. Great article, great energy. By the way, after reading Sin and Bone I offered it to my critique group to read and enjoy.

Anonymous said...

We enjoyed meeting you, too. And thanks for the read, and a special thanks for recommending us to your critique group. Hope to see you soon.