Killer Year–The Class of 2007

the strangest things…
February 24, 2007, 8:18 am
Filed under: Killer Year Members, Toni McGee Causey

Hi internet. How are you? Staying warm? Still flossing? Having some fun this weekend, I hope? Good, good.

Well, I am not dead. I am insane, but not dead, which may not be much of an improvement, but there ya go, you takes what you can gets. It’s called the “finishing book 2” syndrome, or the “I am almost there, but not quite” mantra with which we drive our loved ones and editors crazy; they may have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands. 

You see, Fear is standing over there, mocking me. Of course, Fear usually tries to mock me, but when I first start out writing a draft, I’m all cocky and confident, I know exactly what I’m doing and where I’m going, thank you very much, and I pretend Fear is an arthritic old sucker I can outrace at any time, so why pay him any attention? Then you get into the heart of the story and you’re juggling multiple characters and subplots and an explosion (or two) (hopefully on the page but sometimes in real life) and you realize Fear doesn’t have to outrun you; it just has to wait, because you’re going to start wondering if what you’ve done is as good as the first, or, please God, better, and while you’re doing that, you haven’t noticed that you’ve stumbled and bogged down in quicksand (otherwise known as “just before the act 3 turning point”). That’s when Fear saunters over, looks over you, you who are waist-deep in metaphors, smiles around the toothpick in its mouth and says, “Yeah, who’s cocky now?”

Along about that time, you usually start wondering what in the hell made you think you could do this? And get paid for it? Because even though there is a book sale out there, even though they have already paid for this second book… you know, actually wrote a check that was real and it cashed and everything… you can have this moment where you wonder just what in the hell made you ever think people would want to pay actual money to read something you made up? I mean, I sit in my house (it is 5:38 a.m. as I write this, I write at night) and I have my feet propped up on my footstool as I am stretched out in my chair, laptop in my lap, diet Coke at my side (and occasionally, some sort of snack) and I make up stories. For a living. I remember the euphoria of the sale, I remember the mind-blowing phone call that it was done and I kept worrying (because they bought it on a pre-empt and I hadn’t even finished it yet and I wondered if they had completely lost their minds)… I think I felt like the biggest scam artist in the country. Well, you know, besides politicians. And I couldn’t help but sit there agog for a few weeks, writing furiously, amazed that someone was paying me to do this.

The thing is, by book 2? You realize how much you love it and you want to keep doing it. Book 1, BOBBIE FAYE’S VERY (very, very, very) BAD DAY, (hey, like the smooth way I worked that title in there? I am the Supreme Commander of Smooth)… comes out May 1st, and fingers crossed and all of that. You don’t know how it’s going to go, anything could happen, (and I keep saying to my husband, “but I don’t know enough people I can get to go buy it! I don’t have that many relatives!). That’s when you are hyper aware that people who aren’t your family have to actually walk into a bookstore and pick it up and carry it all the way to the cash register and pull money out of their wallet or specifically go order your book online. Is that crazy or what? I mean, I don’t have blackmail pictures on this many people, y’all. I am completely at the mercy of people liking it.

Then you attend something like Left Coast Crime where there are a bunch of readers mingling and their enthusiasm for story and books makes you remember… people really want to delve into other worlds. They want that connection, that fun, that joy, that fear (if it’s a scary story) that’s controlled by when they open and shut the pages.

At LCC, there were two ladies who stepped out out of a door just in front of me on the hotel’s second floor and they smiled and I smiled. They were headed for the escalator down to the lobby area and I happened to be as well, so I followed them. They were talking and they looked furtively at me a couple of times and I wondered if I had something on my face, and I was discreetly checking that, kinda patting my hair to see if the wind had turned it into a rat’s nest, even checking my shirt, to make sure the buttons hadn’t popped open because they kept looking back at me. This was the second day of the conference and anything was possible. As they stepped off the escalator, they moved off a couple of feet and then I arrived at the bottom and stepped off, and one of the ladies said, “Mrs. Causey?”

(first, I had to remember my mother-in-law wasn’t there)

“Um, yes?” (I am worried to death now that I was introduced to them earlier at some point and am drawing a blank.)

“We just wanted you to know that we really enjoyed you on your panel and we’re really looking forward to Bobbie Faye!”

I was dumbstruck.

“Would you mind signing our programme?”

I looked around, knowing surely Brett, Rob, Bill and Sean have paid these sweet ladies to pull this joke, but they were nowhere in sight. My second thought was, I wonder how much they would charge to do this again when my friends are around to see?

“Um, sure,” I said, and I took the pen and signed my first official Bobbie Faye related autograph.

Now, I realize they were getting many of the authors there to sign, but I didn’t care. I freaking floated the entire rest of the day. Because these ladies remembered my name! and the name of the book! and said they were looking forward to it! And they had laughed at some story or other I’d told at the panel!

I refrained from hugging them fiercely and offering to adopt them; I have heard strangers get a little weirded out by something quite that effusive. But I felt it, I swear. I wanted to run and find everyone and shout because wow, someone who didn’t even know me before the conference wanted to read something I’d written.

Man, that’s why you do it. You want to connect with people, you have stories, you have this way of interacting with the world… you’re having a conversation with the world via your book and you want them to be a part of that conversation, to laugh in the right places, to cry in the right places. It’s the greatest feeling in the world, to feel that connection.

So I remember those ladies when I think about Fear mocking me, and I think, “Go ahead, Fear. Because you’re going to make me work harder to do better.” I think I owe those ladies that, because whether they’ll ever know it, they were a gift to me.

And now I’m wondering, what’s the first book you ever read that made you want to keep reading? That made you realize that yes, this is a way of interacting with the world, of learning about it or finding someone similar, and you became a reader for life? I think, for me, it was Nancy Drew because it was the first time I had a concept of a girl being able to be the smart one, the heroine, figuring out things and saving the day. Kinda like Bobbie Faye, but with a lot less explosions. And curse words.

How about you?


toni’s blog

the amazon link to the book (with the wrong cover!)


16 Comments so far
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For me, it all started with The Mystery of the Witches Bridge by Barbee Oliver Carleton. I discovered it in the 4th grade, and found the story so haunting and compelling that I read it over and over again. My love affair with books definitely started here. And now, decades later, I still re-read this book every year or two. It’s smart, thoughtful, with powerful characters and a clever plot. Yes, targeted to youth readers, but with a depth to satisfy adult readers as well.

Comment by Bill Cameron



Fantastic blog, Toni.
I’ve been dreading this question. The truth is, I don’t know. I can’t remember. All I know is I’ve always, always read, always written, and somewhere deep inside my conscience, always knew I’d be a writer one day.

Comment by JT Ellison

THE STAND by Stephen King. I read Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden, and Agatha Christie and a host of others (to this day, I remember reading FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON and A SOUND OF THUNDER in junior high–the stories still vivid after 25 years) but it wasn’t until I turned 13 and read THE STAND that I KNEW I wanted to be a writer.

Don’t stress over book 2, Toni. It’s probably much better than you think. Believe me, I stressed enough over my own book 2 to cover you, JT, and, frankly, the rest of the KY gang. It was not a pretty sight. I think it’s because we have no feedback on book 1–it’s not even out there yet–and here we have to write another book that needs to be BETTER than the first one (because being the same is actually worse.)

Not to nag you, but you WERE stressing over this book back in June and what? It’s February? 🙂 (you know I love you! I’m knocking your head for your own good.)

Comment by Allison Brennan

I have this vivid memory from when I was three years old–my mother was reading LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS to me. All of a sudden I realized that I could read the words myself. From that moment on, you couldn’t pry books out of my hands. As for the LITTLE HOUSE books and Laura Ingalls Wilder? First love that never lost its innocent lustre. Still have my original hardcovers.

Comment by Tasha Alexander

Toni, this blog made me try and trace my literary roots. I’ll be exploring that at Murderati soon. Thanks for the inspiration.

Allison, you rock. Never fear!

Comment by JT Ellison

LOL, Allison, you’re right. I think I must’ve developed this theory somewhere along the way that if I completely stress myself out, by the time the book comes out, I’ll be too exhausted to freak out in front of everyone. Maybe. Possibly. Well, not as much.

JT, I had a hard time deciding, too. I know there are other, more important books I read as a kid that I loved, but I just remember reading the ND books and thinking, wow, a girl rocks.

I love reading the choices everyone put up — very cool to see how different books brought us to a similar place.

Comment by toni mcgee causey

Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker series…

Comment by Guyot

Hey Toni —

Great post! Congrats on the autograph. The first of many I’m sure (and I want my copy of Bobbie Faye signed when it comes out).

In terms of your question, for me it was Stephen King’s THE DEAD ZONE. My Dad handed it to me when I was 13-ish and suggested I give it a whirl. It showed me the potential of reading and writing. Good stuff. (And for what it’s worth, if you’ve never seen the movie version with Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen, it’s definitely worth putting on your NetFlix list.)


Comment by Rob

Hey Toni – I just answered your last
question over on Murderati (this
multiple blog thing is really starting
to annoy me, but that’s another story),
Just wanted to say THANKS for putting
your fear out there. I am finishing
my own second and am so wallowing in
fear that I don’t even want to get out
of bed in the morning. It’s just a
huge relief to get reminded that I’m
not alone or unique. You’ll be great,
and I might even be, too.

Sending love and sympathy!

(there is some weird formatting thing
happening on this site… don’t know
what this post is going to look like,
but here goes.).

Comment by Alexandra Sokoloff

Well, Toni, I have a feeling this FEAR you’re feeling about book two, while perfectly natural, is basically pointless — because I’m sure SMP will love the book.

I, too, worried about the second one, but now that it’s gotten the A-Okay (in fact my editor likes it even better than the first — eehaa), I look back at all the nervous energy I expended and think, why?

We are, believe it or not, pros now. And while we’re very protective of our work, of our babies, we can also feel secure in the knowledge that a) we pretty much — almost — know what we’re doing; and b) any criticism our editors might have will be constructive.

This ain’t Hollywood, baby.

So buck up. You’ll be JUST fine…

Comment by Rob Gregory Browne

Alex, you’re very welcome, and yeah, while I don’t wish it on others, I am relieved to know I’m not alone.

Rob, great point – this ain’t Hollywood where everything they say they believe in changes on a whim. I know deep down that you’re right… I think once I get finished and hear that first “yes” I’ll have crossed a major obstacle in my own mind (the “can I do it twice?” thing). The first one still feels like a fluke. But I have to say, now that I’m only days away from finishing this second one, I think it’s a stronger book. (Fingers crossed.)

Comment by toni mcgee causey

[…] Causey had an excellent blog about fear on Killer Year, and at the end, she broached a question. What�s the first book you ever read […]

Pingback by Claudie Coleman » أرشيف المدونة » The Origins of the Species

[…] Causey had an excellent blog about fear on Killer Year, and at the end, she broached a question. What?s the first book you ever read […]

Pingback by Dallas Harris » Blog Archive » The Origins of the Species

[…] Causey had an excellent blog about fear on Killer Year, and at the end, she broached a question. What�s the first book you ever read […]

Pingback by Una Diaz » Blog Archive » The Origins of the Species

Wow, like me i too read the Mystery of the witches bridge, but i was in the 6th grade. For years i have been trying to locate that book again and finally today, i found it.
I also recommend a book titled, The Whispering Sea. A juvenile book as well, that i read in the 7th grade. It is about a house haunted by a long dead girl, who eventually possesses a young girl named Lucy.
The Authors last name is Goldsmith, i believe.

Comment by ron jones

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