Thursday, March 7, 2013

Guest Blogger: Melanie Florence

Melanie Florence is a long-time friend, whom I met when we were both regular attendees at meetings of The Writers of Chantilly, a group that meets twice a month in the Chantilly VA library. Melanie and I had something in common right away: we were not there for purely recreational writing. While some had to be goaded into contributing to the annual anthology, Melanie was among a small cadre who wrote with no assurance of publication, honing her craft with an eye toward public release. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to welcome her as today’s guest blogger here at OBAAT, to tell us about her new book, Red Flag Warning.

How I Got to Red Flag Warning

As the bossy older sister of a large family, I was a born teacher. Throughout the years I’ve taught by demonstrating, lecturing and writing. But, to be able to teach effectively, I first must learn. My preferred methods of learning are doing it or hearing about it first, then reading about it. Once I came to a general understanding of the subject, my creative side would often find a twist to write about it.

I started writing when I was young. I had a diary that I named Daphne. I poured my heart out with each day’s entry until the day I found its lock broken. In embarrassment and anger, I burned it in the fireplace. Next, in my early teens, I began a novelette about my babysitting adventures. For several months I pecked it out on the typewriter, stacked page after page into a pile, and then lost interest. Years later I searched for it in our family home and came up empty. My dollhouse, china tea set, novelette, and stuffed animals were among the casualties from one of my mother’s purging binges. In my early twenties, I kept a journal of my eight month-long European trip. At least I still have that!

Although I have always been an avid reader and a writer to some degree, I pursued botany and plant ecology in college and in my career because I am awed by nature’s beauty and complexity. I set my writing aside until we moved to an isolated community that was so boring and confining that I had to escape by teaching myself how to write. I had always loved murder mysteries so I began two of my own. The first manuscript described my too real failure to obtain a high school teaching job—so I killed off the Superintendent (figuratively, of course). The second manuscript described the conservative politics that drove me crazy there—so I killed off one of the town councilmen. They remain in several versions as boxes on a closet shelf.

When we moved to Virginia, I joined the Chantilly Writers Group and learned how to write with an active voice. Dana King, especially, took the time to go through my first manuscript page by page and show me how to do it. In Virginia I also began writing a third murder mystery. With that mystery I had finally melded biology and writing—and found my calling. The result is Red Flag Warning, a murder mystery depicting the state of much of our western forests today—tinder-dry and ready to burn. Several people read my manuscript and urged me to get it published. So I did.

Meanwhile I’ve found the time to write short stories that lean more toward fantasy/science fiction, literary and young children. I wrote a poem (with my sister, Lynnette) that I later illustrated and published as a children’s book called The Animal Parade. I have plans to simplify and illustrate a short story I wrote a few years ago and turn that into another children’s book. With children’s books, I can draw and write in snatches. But not so with full-length books.

My main reason for writing is selfish. I totally enjoy being immersed in a story that runs through my thoughts day and night. It’s like living two lives at once. I don’t need to be famous or make a lot of money, although I do like to have readers that appreciate and enjoy the story.

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Thank you for the kind words, Melanie. The check is in the mail.

 Red Flag Warning is available in both paper and for Kindle at Amazon.

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