I am so happy to have Valerie with us today. And I’m delighted to find someone else who doesn’t write at the crack of dawn! Fatal Glow, her second book in the Odessa Jones mystery series releases on February 22nd!
Valerie: I’m a late writer–in more ways than one. I envy those ambitious souls who pop up early in the day to put in a few pages before noon. I must admit, however, that I do admire it. I’ve been on more than one panel and nodded my head in agreement when someone recommends that to new writers. I’m lying through my teeth. Early for me is early afternoon—and at my own leisurely pace.
It may have begun when I was a magazine editor and my work day didn’t start until late in the morning. We worked late at night, so we could justify it. I was younger then, much younger. I’ve now reached the age where I need to begin my day with an hour of stretching and gentle yoga so I can make it down the stairs. And then there is coffee, at least two cups. And then there is the newspaper, which from my days as a journalist I feel compelled to read in its entirety to understand, for better or worse, what’s going on in the world.
My career as a mystery writer also began late. When Death Comes Stealing, the first book of my nine-book series came out in 1995. I had just turned 48, more mother hen than spring chicken, the parent of two college-bound teen-aged daughters and elder mentor to all the young editors at Essence, the magazine where I worked. A Fatal Glow, is the second book of my new Odessa Jones mystery series. It’s a cozy, published nearly thirty years after When Death Comes Stealing. It is quite different from my more traditional mysteries, and I’ve really enjoyed writing it. A Fatal Glow has allowed me to offer aspects of my life that I’ve never included in my books, for example our family pet Junior, disguised as Juniper, and my recipe for collard green quiche! The recipe was one developed by Jonelle Nash, a friend and the food editor at Essence. In A Glimmer of Death, my first Odessa Jones mystery, the recipe for Dessa’s Go-To-Cake was featured in the April issue of Tea Time, a delightful magazine that features teas and desserts. Besides the collard green quiche, my years as an editor/journalist taught me many things. I learned never to miss a deadline and how to do research, even though these days I occasionally fall into the seductive rabbit hole of researching far more than I need.
In the end, being late to both the world of mysteries and in my writing schedule has served me well. Age hasn’t always made me wiser but has broadened my experiences, providing me with provocative events to draw upon when I’m desperate for a story. Being a late older writer has also given me an appreciation for taking my own easy time—in life as well as work.
Readers: What are the important lessons you learned from your first professional job?
Bio: Valerie Wilson Wesley writes mysteries, novels and children’s books. Her latest mystery is A Fatal Glow.
A Fatal Glow
Sometimes even good luck brings bad fortune. For Odessa Jones–reluctant psychic, part-time caterer, full-time realtor–an elegant affair turned deadly threatens her reputation and life.
Welcome to the blog, Valerie, and congratulations on the new book! Sounds like you learned some great lessons. I’m one of those early birds you spoke about, but mostly because it suits my inner clock and my creative urges.
I should clarify that I’m an early bird for my writing schedule. But my first novel didn’t come out until two months before my sixtieth birthday – ten years ago!
Thank you so much, Edith. It’s a pleasure to be here. You’re right about listening to our inner clock. There are days, though, when I wish I could set mine earlier!
Hi Valerie! Congrats on your new book and here’s to you having great success with it!
To answer today’s question, the first job I had was at a seasonal fast food place. It was a great job that you really had to work at. It was a family run place and the wife ran the front part of the place while the husband ran the kitchen area. She made sure that every person who worked there knew how to count back change properly which is something I still remember how to do to this day.
Also, memorization was a skill you had to learn too. When they opened for the season, the price list for everything was posted by the windows. After the first two weeks or so, the price lists were taken down and you had to know the prices for everything. They were fair bosses but they expected you to work when you were there.
Thanks Jay. Sounds like good, practical experience that you can still draw on. You may be able to come up with some stories based on it. Speaking of memory…I can use some help with that now!
Congratulations, Valerie! Your new book sounds terrific! And the thought of collard greens quiche makes my mouth water! I too am a late writer, in both senses. I started my fiction writing journey at a late age and I usually do my daily writing sessions in mid- to late- afternoon. I started out as a journalist on the Chicago Sun-Times years ago, so respect for deadlines, research, and an ear for dialogue were instilled early in me.
Thanks for your comments, Delia. The lessons we learned as journalist are so essential for good writing. I’d add economy of words, too. Know when to cut those “darlings.”
Welcome, Valerie! I can’t wait to read A Fatal Glow! My first job taught me that I didn’t ever want to work at a fast food place again. I’ve worked a lot of different jobs but have avoided fast food since that first time.
Thanks Sherry. Although I never worked at a fast food place, I did work on the production line at a factory one summer. Thank God for the kindness and patience of the older women who worked there and took me under their wings. But I’m sure they were glad to see me go. I slowed down the line!
Welcome Valerie and congrats on the book. My first book didn’t come out until I was almost 45, so I’m with you. And I don’t write first thing in the morning, either. My hour is noon to one – unless I’m on retreat.
I’m still at my first professional job. Different company, same job. I’m a technical writer. It sure did give me an appreciation for meeting a deadline, which has come in very handy.
Thanks, Liz. Technical writing is really a great skill to master. For one thing, you can always find a job. At this point, my mind doesn’t seem to function early in the morning. But when I start writing I write until have met my quota of pages.
Welcome, Valerie! A Fatal Glow sounds wonderful and I love the cover.
I had a lot of first professional jobs. I’ve changed careers often. My last as a certified paralegal probably taught me the most. Flexibility, research skills, and most importantly for my current career, how to draft long documents with a theme and hit a deadline. After all, that’s what most pleadings are.
Before I became a journalist, I considered being a lawyer. The closest I come to it these days are reruns of Law and Order. I’m so glad its coming back. All of those skills you listed are essential to good writing, to say nothing of knowing what is truly legal, and that can sometimes be surprising! Thanks for your kind words about the cover!
Congratulations on the upcoming release of “Fatal Glow”! Can’t wait for the opportunity to read it.
My first job was working the PBX (think Lily Tomlin on Laugh In) and receptionist. It meant I was the one to greet people whether in person or on the phone. I leaned to hold my tongue regardless to how rude someone was to me, to be polite when I wanted to scream and smile even in the worse of circumstances. I think it taught me to think before I spoke, to treat others as I wished to be treated and this too will pass.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
Patience with others and kindness is an essential skill that we clearly need more of these days. Can you imagine how much better things would be for all if we could remember to treat others as we want to be treated. Thanks for your kind words about A Fatal Glow. Odessa Jones, my main character, is a kind-hearted soul who has those qualities.
Welcome Valerie! I used to work in theater, so my schedule was like yours and I was a late writer. My current job depletes me by the end of the day, so I’ve become an early writer, though not that early. My first professional job was in a bank. My first career job was in advertising, as a media buyer. I loved it. Congratulations on the new book!
Thanks, Julie. My husband is in the theater, and he’s a night person, too, which probably contributes to my late writing habits. The main thing is that you make time to write! My hat is off to you!
I’m not a morning person either. So I don’t see how all those who pop up and start writing at 6 in the morning (or earlier) do it. I’m barely functioning when my alarm goes off at 7. Okay, it’s more like 8, an hour after my alarm has gone off.
Thanks for your comment, Mark. I know what you mean. When–and if–my alarm goes off I sleep right through it. Seems like my best writing comes in the middle of the day. At least we’re writing. That’s the main thing!
Best of luck with your new book Valerie! I am not a natural morning person, but learned how to get up early…the secret is to go to bed early. However, going to bed early is not normal for others including friends and family who want to contact me by phone or text. One benefit is seeing a beautiful sunrise, something that still takes my breath away. Where did those colors come from, because they were not in my box of crayons in school? lol Again, best wishes!
Thanks, Judy for your comments. I know you are right about getting to bed early. My “problem” is that I’ve been married to a great guy for nearly fifty years who is a playwright and “theater person.” He’s also a notorious night owl and a late writer too. I’ll try to convince him with the promise of a beautiful sunrise but its hard to leave those sunsets!
Things are not as easy as they look. Those who are getting paid minimum wage work extremely hard for the money they earn. Unless you have worked a job, you should not judge one who is doing the work. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.
That is certainly true. I come from a line of people who have worked extremely hard for far less than minimum wage for generations. Thanks for your comment!
I’m so glad you said what you did about late writing. I am not a morning person at all. I write in the late afternoon to evening. I felt some kind of way about it until now. Thank you.
Thank you so much for our comments. I’m glad to have company in the late girl category. One thing is for sure, we may start late but we always finish what we begin! Take care and write well!
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