Over the past year my husband and I revised and self-published four jointly written books previously with small publishers. He blogged about that experience for The Dames of Dialogue a few months ago, so—with the exception of saying that the process was tedious, time-consuming, and tense—I’ll skip to the revisions I don’t intend to make.
The three-book Casey Brandt TV news series (Consulted to Death, Driven to Death, and Dated to Death) is out of print and no longer available for download. The series came out through Deadly Alibi Press a dozen years ago. When Deadly Alibi folded, the books were picked up by SynergEbooks. When my contract expired, I gave away the print copies on my shelves, put my notes and files in a closet, and closed the door.
Despite the possibility of reaching readers through these early books, I don’t intend to open that door and release these titles once more.
• TV technology has changed
• I’ve changed
• My feelings about those books have changed
First, the technology. When I wrote the books, in the 80s and early 90s, a huge wave of change had yet to hit most TV news operations. Reporters still used typewriters. Wire service machines chattered in corners. Photographers hauled around bulky cameras and if they didn’t get to the fire or crash on time, viewers didn’t e-mail in cell-phone video. Editing was far more complex. Actual humans ran studio cameras. As an assignment editor, I communicated with news teams in the field through a radio system or landlines.
Bringing the stories into this century and this decade would take many, many hours. Not updating them, but simply trimming, tweaking, and tightening as we did with The Hard Karma Shuffle and The Crushed Velvet Miasma, would require everything to be “true to the times.” That may sound easy, but times (styles, expressions, technology, TV programs, car models) change so quickly that it’s difficult to keep up—and more difficult to remember how it was back in the day. In the process of rewriting a clunky paragraph I could slip in an anachronism that alert readers would spot and call me out on. (If you’ve ever been called out by an alert reader, you know why I don’t want to risk this.)
Second, I’ve changed. I’m not getting any younger, but I like to think that age and experience have made me a better writer. If I opened those books again, I have a feeling I’d be embarrassed by stilted dialogue, pointless descriptions, and drifting points of view. That embarrassment would be magnified because these were once the state of my art and I was proud of them.
Third, although I consider the characters to be old friends, they aren’t as well-rounded as they could be and they’re stuck in the past. I don’t relish a reunion, especially because I’m to blame for that “stuckness” and I feel a little guilty about abandoning them.
I’d rather spend time with characters from my Catskill Mountains Mysteries series and with those who populate the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series. Those characters are evolving. They’re filled with energy and exuberance. They wake me up in the night with ideas for scenes and interactions and bits of dialogue for their next adventures. And—perhaps selfishly—they urge me to write the books piecing themselves together in my mind instead of taking a detour into the past.
If you have books you won’t revise—or books you intend to get to soon—please share your thoughts and comments.
Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries, Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.
She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking. Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com