Sunday, May 14, 2017

I'M A WRITER?

by Chris Goff

The author at age 2
When I was little, very early on I learned how to tell a story. Both my mom and dad were storytellers. My mother could mesmerize a room. My father was a musician, who'd had his own radio show and loved community theater. Both were fearless when it came to entertaining a crowd. My biggest challenge growing up was to know how much of what they told me was true, and how much was a tad embellished.

As a little girl, my favorite story was about me, of course. It goes something like this.

When I was about two, and newly potty-trained, I sat down on the settee to "read." The pictures in the book must have been enthralling because I totally missed the fact I needed to go to the bathroom. My mother, who was talking on the phone, walking the house tethered to the 25' long telephone cord, came out from the kitchen and found me standing up and staring down at a giant wet spot on the velvet. She gave me a look, then watched the wheels start turning in my head looking for someone else to blame. The thing was, I was an only child. Finally, copying her look, I pointed at the puppy and said, "Vicky, naughty dog!"

Throughout my childhood I remember them telling stories about our escapades.

There was the time my father taught me to sing "The Cat and the Mouse." Mind you, I was five. His version goes like this:


Oh, some liquor was spilled on the barroom floor
The bar was closed for the night
When a little mouse crawled from a hole in the wall
Out in the pale moon light
He lapped up the liquor on the barroom floor
And on his haunches he sat
And all night long, you could hear him roar: "Bring on your G--damn cat!" 

I practiced, and practiced, and then on Sunday, when the Sunday school teacher asked if anyone knew any songs, I proudly stood and shared my ditty. As my mother tells it, the teacher's eyes grew wide, then she cleared her throat and said, "That was lovely, Christy. Now let's all sing 'Jesus Loves Me.'"

And there was the time my mother and her college roommates thought it would be funny to drop water balloons down the stairwell of the dorm—and their timing was perfect. Just as my mother dropped her balloon, the dean's wife crossed the foyer in a black crepe dress and pearls. In case you don't know, crepe shrivels when it gets wet...

And the time that my dad and his best buddy, Vic, went down to Michigan Lake, at night, when the smelt were running. They came home with a huge tub full of the little silver fish, way too many for our families to eat. After a day of offering smelt to friends and neighbors, the fish began to smell and Dad and Uncle Vic soon realized they needed to think of a better way to dispose of their catch. It was my mother and Aunt D who came up with the plan. The next day was Sunday, so while everyone including me was at church, my folks slipped out with Uncle Vic and Aunt D, and they left small, smelly pails of smelt on the doorsteps of all the parishioners.

I loved all types of stories. My dad had a book of poems from when he was a little boy, Silver Pennies, a Collection of Modern Poems for Boys and Girls by Blanche Jennings Thompson (The MacMillan Company, 1925), and I remember memorizing the poems as he read them aloud, me curled up on the sofa while he balanced on the bongo board. My all time favorite in the collection was a poem by Oliver Herford: 


The Elf and the Dormouse

Under a toadstool crept a wee Elf, 
Out of the rain to shelter himself. 
Under the toadstool, sound asleep, 
Sat a big Dormouse all in a heap. 
Trembled the wee Elf, frightened, and yet 
Fearing to fly away lest he get wet. 
To the next shelter maybe a mile! 
Sudden the wee Elf smiled a wee smile, 
Tugged till the toadstool toppled in two. 
Holding it over him, gaily he flew. 
Soon he was safe home, dry as could be. 
Soon woke the Dormouse " Good gracious me! 
"Where is my toadstool?" loud he lamented. 
And that's how umbrellas first were invented. 


The first book I remember was Pinocchio. When I turned six, my dad began reading me a chapter, sometimes two, every night at bedtime. After we finished the book, we read The Wind in the Willows, followed by The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse. My dad loved to read, and he passed that love on to me.

My mother loved to write.

When I was nine, I wrote my first real story. It was a class assignment, and supposed to be short, but mine turned into a mini-novella. It was called The Haunted House, and it was about a group of neighborhood children who discovered a haunted house inhabited by a witch. They would spy on her, and soon realized that every night she would go out flying around on her broom.  One night, wanting to know what was inside her house, the kids waited for her to go out, and then they snuck inside and messed around with her Eye of Newt. It was a great story, and I got an A, but that "book" never sold.

Nor did the one that followed. 

By then I was a working journalist, married and living in Frisco, Colorado. At a library presentation one evening, I met a bestselling romance writer who had recently moved into town. When she agreed to mentor me, I decided to tackle writing a novel of romantic suspense. I set the book in Breckenridge, CO, and told the story of a handsome ski instructor and the woman who fell in love with him. After uncovering a counterfeiting operation, my heroine found herself the target of gangsters. The hero wanted to help her, and the two of them fell in love. There was lots of skiing, romance, danger, mystery and snow. I called it—wait for it—Frozen Assets.

That book never sold either. Nor did the one that followed it. But I eventually did sell a book. Actually, I sold a few books. I studied the craft of writing, got better at telling my stories, and then sold even more books. Today I am the author of six books in a Birdwatcher's Mystery series and two international thrillers, Dark Waters and Red Sky. 

Quick pause for a moment of Blatant Self Promotion. Red Sky comes out in June and tells the story of U.S. Diplomatic Security Service agent, Raisa Jordan. When People’s Republic Flight 91 crashes in northeastern Ukraine with a U.S. diplomatic agent on board, Jordan is sent to the scene to investigate. It quickly becomes apparent that the plane was intentionally downed. But why? As international relations crumble and more lives hang in the balance, Jordan must race to stop a new Cold War. Catherine Coulter called it, "Breathtaking suspense." It is currently available to Pre-Order. And, if you haven't had the chance to read Dark Waters, the eBook and hardcover are currently down-priced.

Back to becoming a writer....  Even with eight books published and a new one in the works, I've never really thought much about it. You see, I've been a storyteller all of my life. I guess putting the words on paper was just part of a natural progression.

What did you become, and how did you decide to become it? I'd love to hear your stories.

2 comments:

  1. Chris - what a terrific list of recollections about stories and poems leading you to become the great writer you are today. I laughed out loud when I read the Cat and Mouse poem you recited. Now, after all that "preparation" - I can't wait to rad RED SKY. Thanks for a very entertaining post!

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  2. Christine, what fabulous stories of your childhood! I love the blame-the-cat tale. My father says I was the same way. As he says, "I'd walk into the kitchen to find Sonja with jam all over her face and she'd say to me, 'what jam?'"

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