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Advice for New Authors from Samuel Jay

shadow-of-guilt

The biggest piece of advice I have for new authors is to do your homework, that is, learn the craft by studying it first. Find books on the profession; there are many to choose from. Also, go to classes held by the pros. For example, I went to one held by David Hagberg, a bestselling author, who scrawled this note on a first chapter I handed in: “Your scene-setting sucks.” After this, I decided to take a Writer’s Digest 6-month correspondence course, which included a mentor review of my draft outline and chapters into Shadow of Guilt with suggested revisions. Two years later Hagberg sent me this note about Shadow of Guilt: “Wow, have you come a long way.” And a review: “An intriguing premise, tight plotting, and well-defined characters who the reader cares about.” Not bad. Read, read, study, study, and go to writers’ conferences to listen to successful authors and meet editors and agents, learning what their interests are.

Our Mothers Guide Our World

As a thirteen year-old, one Saturday I was playing third base for a grammar school baseball team.  In the third inning there’s a runner on first base, and the batter lines one into right field, so the runner takes off, rounding second, heading for me at third base.

Our right fielder throws the ball, and it comes right into my glove on one hop, about ten feet ahead of the runner.  But unfortunately, as I reach down, glove in hand, ready to make the tag, the runner starts his slide when he’s almost on top of me.  As a result, he stiff-leg crashes into me, breaking my left arm over my left leg.

I pick my arm up, and I see that it’s split in half, my left hand sticking straight up in the air.  In fright or on instinct,  I whack my split left arm with my right hand, and it snaps back into place.

Coach says “You better go home.”   No kidding.

I bike myself back home, head into the house, right into the kitchen, where in those days Mom seemed to spend most of her life.  She’s at the sink.

I say to her, “Mom, I broke my arm.”

Does she get upset?  No.  She says, “Let me see.”

I hold my arm up, and she says, “It doesn’t look broken to me.”

I explain what happened, and her retort is, “No, you didn’t break your arm.  You just think you did.”  (In other words, hey kid, I haven’t got time for what you think you did, I’ve got dinner to make.)

And then the magic words.  No matter what happened to me – falling off the jungle bars, falling off my bike and whacking my head on the curb – no matter what, she again issues her magic words: “Sit down and eat something.  You’ll feel better.”

I sit down at the kitchen table.  Out comes the ever present bowl of tuna fish, out comes the bread, out comes the milk.  She makes a sandwich and puts it on a dish in front of me.  I of course eat the sandwich, using my one good hand.

She then says, “Now, do you feel better?”

I say, “Yes.”

She says, “Good.  Take your basketball and go out and play.”

I remember standing in front of the garage, tossing the ball up at the hoop, thinking, ‘This is dumb.  I’ve got a broken arm.’

The next day?  Ho-ho.  My arm was as big as an elephant’s trunk, and Mom hustles me down to the doctor.

My mom?  Still, and always will be,  my idol.

My Hilarious Aunt Millie

Among my twenty Uncles and Aunts (all terrific), Aunt Millie has to rank among the funniest of them all. To wit:

One Saturday her husband, Uncle Mario, was reading the newspaper when Aunt Millie walked into the house soaked, head to foot, as though she’d been in a rainstorm. But it was a sunny day.

So he said, “What happened to you?”

She said, “I went to the car wash. It was the first time I ever went to a car wash. You can bet I’ll never go again. Never.”

“The car wash?”

“Yeah, the car wash. I drove up and paid, and my car starts going through. Then, with no warning, all of a sudden tons of water start pouring on my car. I got scared because I couldn’t see a thing, so I turned on my windshield wipers. Then, all of a sudden, this guy runs up waving his hands and yelling at me.

“I couldn’t hear what he was yelling, so I opened the window!”

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One evening Uncle Mario arrived home from work and was disappointed to see dinner wasn’t ready, whereas it normally was. So he said to Aunt Mille, “How come? What happened, no dinner ready.”

Bustling around in the kitchen, Aunt Millie retorts: “Dinner not ready, and you’re complaining? Do you know what my day is like? Well let me tell you.

“First, I have to get the kids off to school, then I have to clean the house and make the beds, next I have to do the laundry, then the ironing, then go out and do the food shopping, then watch out for the kids coming home, see what they’re up to, then get the food ready for dinner, start the oven, and make the salad. For God’s sake, I haven’t even got time to wipe my ass!”

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One year Aunt Millie decided to volunteer at the local hospital. To help out the nurses and help take care of the patients. Sometimes read to them, sometimes get them some food.

Everything was going along fine, especially with one poor soul who, as a result of an accident, had to have one of his legs amputated. His name was George. He and Aunt Millie struck up a good friendship and traded stories about family as he was recovering and getting used to his situation. It was this, it was that, jokes and stories.

But one day he was in a bad mood because of his handicap, and the more he thought about it, the angrier he got. He told Aunt Millie all about the accident and said he was going to get a lawyer to sue the other driver.

“You’re going to sue?” asked Aunt Millie. “You don’t want to sue. You haven’t got a leg to stand on!”

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Samuel Jay novels are full of suspense, twists and turns. Said a Writer’s Digest reviewer: “Move over John Grisham. Samuel Jay is a masterful storyteller.”