Tuesday, September 20, 2011 | By: Lynny Prince

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — RICHARD STOOKER — GUEST AUTHOR


Trying to pinpoint the precise beginning of a novel is like remembering a dream from start to finish -- some important part always remains buried in your subconscious mind.

I'm glad I wrote Virgin Blood when I did, because I doubt I could now.

I had been working for years as a Social Security Administration Claims Representative -- specializing in Supplemental Security Income -- for years, and feeling frustrated.

I'd seen and heard too many horror stories -- the kind that are merely gruesome, sad and sickening, not supernatural.

Maybe I dreamed up Janie Braxton because I wanted somebody on SSI who was a winner, for a change.

I'd already discovered for myself (it's not in any writing books I can recall reading) a technique to increase dramatic, emotional impact: make the hero as weak and powerless as possible. It's the David and Goliath Effect, or just plain leverage. The weaker your hero, the more thrilling their ultimate victory.

I'd been interested in the Cahokia mounds, and so writing Virgin Blood gave me the excuse to visit the mounds. They're a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but probably not one person in ten in the St Louis area knows much about them. I also got to read Robert Silverberg's book on the mound builders. Because the Cahokians lacked writing, not much is really known about their beliefs, but some opened mounds contain remains that appear to have been sacrifices.

The writing process was a constant revelation. I plotted out the main events, but some things couldn't be foreseen. When I finished the writing, I thought it was perfect, but I decided to make sure. I sent it to the original "book doctor" firm, and they decided to accept it.

For months, Dave King and I sent the manuscript pages back and forth (before email). I noticed a curious pattern. Whenever he tried to use his own words or thoughts, I hated what he tried to insert into the novel.

But that forced me to look at what he saw as a problem, and then come up with my own solution.

Thanks to Dave, Virgin Blood is coherent, polished and unified.


That did cost money, more than I could really afford, and so I wouldn't recommend it for any novel you're not convinced is already close to being good enough. But it was certainly a terrific education.

So then I tried to get it published. By that time, I was burned out on sending unsolicited novels to publishers, even though the science fiction/fantasy/horror field was still friendlier than most other genres. I'd simply had it with having publishers hold the manuscript for a year or two, then return it with a form rejection slip.

I knew Virgin Blood deserved better.

So I started sending it out to agents.

But publishing was still in a recession, and none of them wanted to touch it.

In the late 1990s I used a now forgotten publishing software to produce a digital version of Virgin Blood, but that went nowhere.

Thank goodness for Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle.

Virgin Blood is not breaking any sales records, but at least it's available.


Richard Stooker has retired from the Social Security Administration and is a freelance writer. You can check out Virgin Blood at:

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