Thursday, May 8, 2014

Combined Talents:

      When One + One = ONE

The pen-name of writers Judy Habeck Weber and Marie Vernon who combined forces to produce a whodunnit written by Amber Adams, was a pragmatic inspiration.

It stemmed from the reality of the alphabetical fiction listings by-author in all genres at most book-shops. Their target readership, “women of a certain age” will not, and some cannot, get down on hands and knees to scour for books on the bottom shelf.

Judy Weber explains how she and co-author Marie Vernon keep from killing each other –
to a roomful of 'Sisters in Crime' Florida'

A little background. 
Judy had a New York career in Ad-space-sales during the era of liquid lunches and reality 'Mad Men' in Manhattan's Madison Avenue heyday. She later edited and wrote for a building trades magazine, based in the fast-growing South Florida real-estate boom, before retiring onto a boat at a marina with her hubby. That's when she considered testing the fictional waters, joined FWA (Florida Writer's Association), won writing awards, became a judge then Queen of England...( carried away).
Marie's writing career began as a freelancer with feature-stories in national newspapers Her non-fiction books included colonial history of Maryland; then hard-crime tomes co-authored with her late husband forensic psychologist McCay (Mac) Vernon, about serial killers. Her fascinating with an extreme fan of Elvis Presley, and that ilk, lead to the fictional book Graceland. It is currently being adapted as a stage play.
So, not novices, but neophytes in the roles they have grown into.And this is how they did it – without becoming victims in a murder mystery
Amber Adams' creation Day McKelvey, a lady of a certain age, is a newspaper reporter investigation the death of a university president who's body is found at the foot of the 'World's Tallest Cross' (208 feet high) at the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, St. Augustine. The prime suspect is a student she mentored.
Marie's strength is her ''stick-to-intuitiveness' attitude, which has carried her through six published books; but she is liable to fall in love with words. 
Judy helps keep the storyline on track. 
An example from the Book Two in the series they are working on; one of the subject/suspects Day McKelvey interviews, has a parrot. Marie was totally taken with the pretty polly on a perch who didn't just speak but, was bi-lingual. Wonderful. But editor-writer Judy gave that colorful distraction, the bird. He was terminated. The story-line moved forward toward its objective, bringing a killer to justice.
Judy says she appreciates the eloquence of Shakespearean verse and soliloquys such as Hamlet's “To be, or not to be”. But prefers to stick with the 'nuts and bolts' of constructing stories which will stand up to scrutiny.Her point of view is, flowery decoration is the icing on the cake. 
Marie confessed: “If the house was on fire, the first thing I'd save would be the thesaurus.”
They barely knew each other when, by some alchemy following a meeting at FWA they began discussing a joint venture. They don't live close enough for garden-fence gossip, but the convenience of social media via email,eliminates a lot of travel. And bloodshed.
“We've learned to read between the lines of our messages. If either one of us uses extremely diplomatic wordage to accept a version the other has written, its pretty sure they think its terrible,” Judy said.
Separation when either reads a new draft, eliminates spontaneous outbursts like: “Oh no,” and “I hate that idea. That's really dumb.”
They agreed on the timeline and storyline, the foundation of the book during initial kneecap to kneecap sessions, then submitted progressions for consideration, work-over, rewrite,inclusion. 
“You have to lose your ego, to co-operate,” Judy said. Their different personalities, work habits, strengths, weaknesses, had to adjust to compliment each other without losing sight of their final target, the reader.
When Judy first attended writer groups and submitted manuscripts for feedback and criticism, it was an uncomfortable period of adjustment.
“Every word was my baby. I had to realize there were alternatives, some of which improved the writing and story. We will respond, respectably,” she glanced at a smiling Marie, “to each others suggestions.”
Then added.
“Of course. That was Vol. 1. Who knows who's going to say 'idiot' first, in Vol. 2 ?”


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