Saturday, August 31, 2019

Overcoming Fear by Karen McCarthy

LUCY BURDETTE: I met today's guest Karen McCarthy years ago at a writing weekend, and was delighted when she contacted me to say she'd finally finished her novel and decided to self-publish. She wondered if you all might be interested in hearing about the biggest obstacle she faced: fear. I said of course, as we all face this in some way, whether we're writers or not. Lead on, Karen!


KAREN MCCARTHY: Become someone no one thought you could be.  Even you.

I just did this.  I became a published author.  Even though people said I was too old, the writing had dragged on too long, and I knew nothing about the publishing business. The committee in my head chimed in to say you are a lawyer not a writer, you have no talent, you aren't good enough, you can't do it.

This may sound all too familiar to those who witness the writing success of others and, though they may have achieved in other fields, think publishing a book is an unreachable goal.  The thing standing in the way of me doing it was fear. The thing that beat the fear was tenacity and never giving up.

The hard part was already over.  Since my murder revolved around Elvis Week in Memphis, I had already visited all the Elvis sites, attended the candlelight vigil at Graceland where the murder occurs and written elaborate backgrounds for all the characters who come together for their own reunion at this event.  I had put all this together in a first draft and that's where the fear began.

Sending this fledgling attempt for anyone to actually see, I imagined a terse reply to throw it all in the trash.  Yet the editor I hired found much to like, while making copious use of the red pencil. Numerous rewrites, revision, tweaks and edits ensued.  This took a number of years, not months.  Life kept getting in the way. My friends quit asking when the novel would be finished.



Yet I persevered, through death of a spouse, divorce from a second, a year long illness and just big, messy life in general.  And when it was done and I began the long and sometimes bewildering process of self publishing (without which this book would never have seen the light of day) the fear returned.

Putting it out there, saying this is what I've got.  Here it is.  The sense of vulnerability, of people thinking surely she could do better than this, this is mediocre, fear of not measuring up.

But I was not getting any younger. I had passed the social security and Medicare age. I didn't want to lie on my deathbed and regret I never did this.  So I pushed the Publish button on Amazon and pushed the exit button on fear.  And my book is doing well.  I have received praise from many quarters. This is lovely of course, but it is really the coming to grips with my own fear that has given me the most satisfaction of all.

Is fear standing in your way?


About the book:  It's August in Memphis, and August means Elvis.  For decades the fans have come from all over the world to pay tribute to the life of the King of Rock and Roll. Elvis Week will be capped by the famous candlelight vigil at Graceland, his mansion south of the city.  Among those attending are “The Magnificent Seven,” baby boomers who were Elvis fans and classmates in college thirty-five years ago.  

One of these women will not leave Memphis alive.  One of them is her murderer.


Mac McCalla, the Memphis lawyer who finds them all on her doorstep,is uneasy with the murky undercurrents between her old classmates as they tour the Elvis sites. Her fears are borne out when a clash of past and present leaves one of them dead. Which of these seemingly ordinary women has crossed the line and become a killer?  

As the zany, carnival atmosphere of Elvismania unfolds around her, Mac discovers that the answer lies in who these women were so long ago. The secrets that have followed them through the years are revealed one by one until finally Mac finds herself in a near-fatal confrontation with a friend is unmasked as a murderer.


About Karen: 

Cross an attorney who practiced law in Memphis, TN for twenty-five years with a lifelong Elvis fan and you find Karen McCarthy, an author who knew it would be fun to set a mystery novel with a legal twist amid the bizarre and captivating atmosphere that pervades Memphis every year during Elvis Week. Her pro bono work with the Abused Women's Shelter and Legal Services gave her the idea for the plot and helped create the courtroom scenes. Having visited all of the hallowed spots favored by the King, Karen piloted her characters through the swirling fans that mob the city every August. The ghost of Elvis provided the crucial clue. 


Karen divides her time between Memphis and her home in Key West, Florida where she can be found out on her boat, the Dragon Lady, or kayaking and scuba diving. She makes flying visits to Dallas to see her son and his family who live with a dog named Presley. Presley is featured in the book under an alias.


47 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Karen . . . I think overcoming fear may be one of the most difficult things people face in life.
    Your book sounds great; I’m looking forward to reading it.

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    1. Yes, fear, in a hundred disguises, stalks our lives and in a long life I have overcome a lot of them. I'm sure more lurk on the horizon!

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  2. Congrats on conquering your fear and hitting the publish button! Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. And your book sounds wonderful!

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  3. I love the idea of a murder mystery combined with Elvis Week. Is there actually such a thing?

    I wouldn't say fear so much as doubt is my constant companion. Always asking: is this good enough? I'm my own harshest critic.

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    1. Elvis Week is very real, with tens of thousands of fans descending on Memphis every year in August. Wild and wooly and fun, it is a boon the the economy and a blast for the locals to get involved or just watch it all.

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  4. Congratulations! Elvis Week is a great setting. I've received contradictory critiques--some like a character or plot element and some say it must go! It's tough to believe in your own voice and make your own decisions.

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    1. That’s very hard Margaret. Sometimes it takes getting a little distance from the story so you can see what feels right.

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    2. My great editor, Elizabeth Lyon surely helped me make a lot of those decisions with good advice such as "You've already said this in Chapter Two!" or "Thrown this whole part out." Fortunately she also like a lot of it and improved it tremendously.

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    3. Thanks, Karen. You already had winning skills: a unique setting and author voice, flowing and literate writing, colorful characters, and humor. And more.

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  5. Congratulations, Karen! Fear and doubt, our constant companions--it always amazes me when any of the Reds admits to facing those same voices! Here's hoping that your writing journey continues! I'll be looking for this book.

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    1. Oh gosh Flora, every one of experiences those feelings!

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    2. Available on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

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  6. Congratulations, Karen! I think, just as you figured out, that conquering fear is the key to success. I think it is fear that has kept me from accomplishing many things although I'm not too unhappy with how my life has turned out. On the other hand there are fears I have conquered: selling one house and buying another one, without a man (because for some reason I thought that a man would know how to do that) and same with buying a car. I went to the dealer, alone, and drove home with the brand new car I had chosen! When my son discovered I had done that he told me he was proud of me. Not sure he'd ever said that before.

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    1. Good for you Judi! What fun to surprise your son and make him proud

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    2. Ah, you hit a nerve there. Living without a man after having been married 35 years the first time and 10 years the second time was quite a powerful fear. I found myself proud each time I accomplished something I had thought it took a man to do.

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  7. Shalom Reds and fans. Karen, mazal tov. A first book is a true milestone (at any age). I wouldn’t call myself an Elvis devotee but one of my earliest memories was receiving a gift from my Aunt Una. I think it was around Christmas. So I suspect it was a birthday present because my birthday is in December. It was an Elvis single; I think it was one of those 45 RPMs that you needed those little yellow plastic adapters in the center. It was “Teddy Bear”. I also remember so many years later hearing the reports of his death. I was in Manhattan waiting online to see the movie Annie Hall with my mother. I don’t know why those memories stuck in my head except that I’ve always been sensitive to music. I will look for the book.

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    1. Everyone in Memphis remembers where they were when Elvis died, believe me. I also had all those Elvis 45 records played on a little square record player. Mother used to come in and say 'Oh for heaven's sake, he will never get anywhere. Listen to all that vibrato." So much for foresight.

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    2. Where were you, Karen, when Elvis died?

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  8. Welcome to Jungle Reds, Karen and Congratulations!!! You are never too old to write a novel. I always thought it was a given that authors were older. It is not as if you wanted a career as a ballet dancer (thinking of the movie with Anne Bancroft).

    Did you have to pay $$$$ to self publish? I met an author who had to pay $$$$ to self publish. That is the only author that I know of.

    Diana

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  9. I AM SURELY TOO OLD FOR A BALLET DANCER BUT DID HAVE A GOOD CAREER AS AN ATTORNEY. MY COSTS WERE NOT THAT BAD AS I HAD TO PAY AN EDITOR, AN UPLOADER TO AMAZON OF THE MANUSCRIPT AND A BOOK COVER DESIGNER. OF COURSE THE PROMOTION COSTS WILL BE ANOTHER STORY BUT I HAVE NOT VENTURED INTO THAT REALM YET EXCEPT TO SPLURGE ON AN AD IN THE NYT BOOK REVIEW. NO ONE WHO READS IT HAS EVER HEARD OF ME, OF COURSE, BUT IT WAS A THRILL TO SEE MY NAME IN THERE ANYWAY!

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    1. what kind of law did you practice?

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    2. Family law. As I say in the book. divorce law isn't for sissies.

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  10. Karen thanks for sharing your trip through the writing to publishing world. Not an overnight trip! Few realize the hours of labor creating something that can be enjoyed and read in less than a day. Thank you for your persistence and sharing an entertaining story. It has been weeks since I read the story but I still recall your characters and smile when I think of how you presented them. THANKS FOR WRITING

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    1. Thanks for your promotion tips, Whit, and generously sharing them.

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  11. Congratulations for facing your fear and publishing your novel. Bravo !
    The story seems very interesting and I like to try new authors.

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  12. You have really had trials and travails, Karen! Good for you that you managed to slog through it all. Elvis was certainly one of a kind with a wonderful voice. I would think that an Elvismania week would be a perfect setting for all kinds of mysteries.

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    1. People get up to all sorts of hijinks during Elvis Week, believe me!

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    2. Do you know if there ever was a murder during Elvis week?

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    3. Never any violence at the vigil or in connection with Elvis Week. However, there are many murders in Memphis all the time.

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  13. 1. I hope the Dragon Lady is secured during Hurricane season. May the winds miss the Keys. 2. You did it! I have said before that FEAR stands for Face Everything And Recover. in this case you have recovered/obtained your goal. Well done. 3. I am an Elvis believer and will be reading your work soon. best wishes to you. -- A fellow Floridian

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    1. Key West had enough troubles with Hurricane Irma. Hope the rest of Florida, including where you are, does not get clobbered. Thanks for your good wishes.

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  14. Kudos to you for this accomplishment. When ordering the book, I noticed it is receiving outstanding reviews. I am not at all surprised and am looking forward to receiving my copy in the next few days. CONGRATULATIONS!

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    1. Yes, I have been thrilled to receive this many five star reviews and not all from my own friends! ha ha

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  15. Karen, your story reminds me of one of my favorite quotes about writing, from author Jennifer Crusie, "There are many roads to Oz." It takes some writers three months, it takes others thirty years. Everyone's process, from the inception of an idea, to drafting, to revising, to publishing, is unique. May we all learn to enjoy the journey as much as the destination!

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  16. Karen, I think a murder mystery set at the Elvis vigil is a great idea, unique and appealing to many. I was in Hawaii (Oahu) when Elvis died, and, as you know, the people there loved Elvis mightily. I remember it was all the talk everywhere about his death. And, I had his song "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" sung at my wedding 43 years ago.

    I applaud your perseverance in writing and getting your novel published. You certainly traversed a rocky road there, and that fear. Oh, fear of not measuring up is such a road block to so many of us in attempting to either follow our dreams or try something new. Thank you for sharing your journey, and congratulations on achieving a dream against so many obstacles!

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    1. Thanks so much. I also lived in Hawaii but thought if I heard "Tiny Bubbles" sung one more time I would scream! Smile.

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  17. Thank you for sharing your writing journey with us older writer wannabes! I am inspired and cannot wait to read your intriguing mystery!!

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    1. I am a grandmother of three and a lot of people thought that was too old to have anything to say! To the contrary, we have a wealth of living experience to draw upon.

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  18. I am so enjoying Karen's book! Great character development, fascinating twists and turns, and motives for murder abound. Glad I have the holiday weekend to read this fun read. Jocie Wurzburg

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    1. Thank you Jocie, and I know you are a busy lady!

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  19. Everyone is raving about your first book. All these compliments are encouraging me to find your book and add it to my Kindle.

    I remember when my step-father died and reminding my Mom's sister's that they needed to have more patience, that she actually living alone for the first time in her life at the age of 65. She was 19 when she went from her mother's home and married my father. When my father left, my sister and I were still living with her and was there when she married John. Her fear and lack of self-assurance was real.

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  20. What a wonderful read! It's a page turner with excellent character development and beautiful descriptions of the Memphis vibe during Elvis Week. I thought I had figured out the murderer...then changed theories...then totally surprised with the revelation for who did it! Great work!

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  21. Hi Karen, wonderful reviews! Like I said, it was a super fun read... now I have to figure out which one of you is the one I know! Great good fun,

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    1. Sorry I forgot to leave my name... I guess i can say that it was a good clean ride through Elvis Week in Memphis

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