I sat down with my first cup of coffee early one recent morning and opened up my Yahoo Mail to see what surprises I may have received overnight. Good thing I had fortified my Folgers with a snort of Jameson Irish Whiskey! There before me, in few words, I realized a major marketing milestone had unfolded rather unexpectedly for my friend, Lee Anne Wonnacott, an author of Western Romance novels extraordinaire. The first of those words was her own–a single, two syllable expression of glee–centered in the body of the email with lots of white space around; you could not help but feel it just might leap off the page in joy right at you! Lee Anne commanded my attention by her happy-as-a-lark exclamation now before me:
For a split second, I was befuddled by that simple manifestation of excitement. Then I quickly saw its meaning directly below in an email she had forwarded from a prestigious literary group, Book of the Day, who quite succinctly, but robustly, advised Ms. Wonnacott:
From: Book of the Day
Subject: Nick Stolter – Lee Anne Wonnacott
Your book is scheduled for: 8 March 2016.
See you on the FrontPage!
I had no idea she had submitted one of her e-books to this prestigious literary group for review and consideration. But’s that’s her nature–unassuming and ambitious as well as bold and daring.
I met the enigmatic Ms. Wonnacott over a year and a half ago. I thought her to be a nice, hard-working lady, a mother of several children and grandmother of even more. I learned by reading her short autobiography authors submit to Amazon that she had endured tragedy in her life. In her own words: A friend sat me down on the front steps in 1991, kissed my cheek and told me that he would come back from over there. I’m still waiting.
That was the timeframe of the first Iraq war. As a Vietnam War Veteran (Although not grammatically correct according to some, I always capitalize the V.) and a career Marine myself, I read between the lines. I still do not know the complete story of her loss–we never discuss it–but I surmise the love of her life, the father of her children, went off to the Gulf War and never returned. She often refers to me as “My favorite Marine!” I believe it to be therapeutic for her to do so. Perhaps I am a stand-in for the “Marine,” if he even was a Marine, she lost.
I was mortified one day–about three or four months into our acquaintance–when I was cruising Amazon for books only to come across her name as the author of a number of books published in e-book format of a genre known as “Western Romance novels.” When I calmed down, I wanted to crawl under my desk. All this time I had been bragging to her nonstop it seemed–and anyone else I could collar–about my involvement in the writing and publishing of Colonel Jim Bathurst’s nonfiction account of his thirty-six year career as a United States Marine. He had asked for my assistance so I voluntarily assumed the responsibilities of editor for what turned out to be one of the greatest learning adventures of my life.
I am not ashamed of my standing tall recounting the good, the bad, and the ugly of Jim Bathurst’s and my long journey in the evolution of a 562 page, 200,000 word account of his rather unique career. But imagine the effect on my balloon full of hot air when I discovered that my female “Zane Grey” had already published more than a dozen books herself, which were selling quite well, thank you–especially so, in of all places, Japan. Talk about a deflating experience!
I have once again assumed the designation as “editor,” but now for Ms. Wonnacott, although, quite frankly, I have yet to make even a modicum of difference in her writing career. She has the most unique method of compiling 200,000 words of vivid, attention-grabbing verse into what ultimately results in a riveting tale of the old West–complete with gun fights, bar room brawls, and even cat fights in moments of jealousy between women of the range competing for the few available bachelor cowboys.
Her books are the chronicling of the manliest phase of our country’s history, the days when you strapped on your Colt.45 caliber pistol and settled disputes in the streets at “High Noon,” most often with deadly consequences. And she does it all with one seemingly effortless contrivance: perhaps the most animated imagination I have ever encountered anyone possessing. Her astonishingly innate talent to capture the essence of what it must have been like in the day-to-day struggle for survival in the old West during the period of the early-to-mid-1800s sets her apart from other writers of such novels.
When I first met Lee Anne Wonnacott, and after I had read some of her work and came to the realization that she was indeed an accomplished novelist, I wanted to be a part of boosting her over the remaining walls preventing her attaining the status of such romance writers as Danielle Steel, whose numerous books hog the shelves of Barnes & Noble.
In fact, one evening after a prodigious amount of time spent at Chili’s Grill & Bar (love their baby back pork ribs!)–professionally attended by barkeep extraordinaire Caeser–where I consumed an equally prodigious amount of that wonderfully “Boston” lager, Samuel Adams, each glass accompanied by well-rounded-off shots of Jameson Irish Whiskey, I walked her over to our local Barnes & Noble under the pretense of buying a book or two on some mundane aspect of publishing. She agreed to accompany me there. What she did not know was I had reconnoitered the store earlier to determine where Danielle Steel’s books were located. She is one of the most prolific romance novel writers yet.
Once we had arrived at the store–a short stroll from Chili’s–I escorted Ms. Wonnacott in a round-about path to the Steel book section under the guise of searching for the books we needed. When we closed in on Danielle’s location, I positioned Lee Anne in such a manner she would be confronted head-on with the vast array of that acclaimed writers collection of work. I then exclaimed in excitement, aptly fueled by the Jameson’s, “Oh, look! Speak of the devil!” as I pointed to Steel’s books filling the shelves for a length of at least eight-to-ten feet at eye level, the prime height for any product in the retail business. Then I shocked Lee Anne to the core. I began moving Steel’s books from their current spot repositioning them about three to four feet further down the shelf, even to lower shelves leaving a void where they had been.
She looked at me in fright, then quickly checked to see if there were any store employees in sight. She then asked in a low, but frantic tone of voice, “What are you doing?” I coolly replied, “I’m relocating some of Danielle’s books so that by next fall they have room for yours.”
Needless to say, Ms. Wonnacott thought I had lost it–that the Jameson’s had pushed me over the cliffs I usually hovered at the edge of anyway owing to my post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis–and the quirks with which all writers and editors are naturally afflicted.
My little joke was intended to boost her confidence and actually make her more aware of the talent she possessed. Lee Anne is a modest lady, refreshingly so. She considers writing as her therapy and does it “for myself.” And that’s fine–for her.
However, I have responsibility for being a part of her struggle. My new-found creed is, “I am not Mr. Nice Guy! I’m an editor, damned it!” That came from lessons learned during my prior stint as editor of We’ll All Die As Marines: One Marine’s Journey From Private To Colonel.
Despite my somewhat too-lackadaisical approach to my prestigious designation as editor once again, Lee Anne affirmed my stature as being official by including my name with her own in perhaps the world’s largest bookstore–Amazon. And where could it be more public? So much so that along with one of her novels, Nick Stolter, being awarded the honor of being named “Book of the Day,” I now have the ultimate responsibility and great burden of fulfilling one of my promises made to her when I first became involved with her writing career. I knew then–almost immediately–that she had infinitely more talent than publishing e-books could ever show, and that she deserved both the financial and personal recognition for it in a manner commensurately accorded to Danielle Steel. Or even, to some degree, Stephen King.
My promise to Lee Anne Wonnacott, always half-jokingly, was that I would have her, within the year, as a guest author on a major television show which is known to support beginning writers of merit. One thing Lee Anne loves to do is laugh. If that promise does nothing else, it makes her laugh heartily each and every time I tell her of her intermediate destination on the road to fame and fortune. Appearing on any national top-flight television show to discuss a newly published book brings a beginning author out of the shadows and undoutedly improves their name recognition with the reading public by a significant amount. Fortune, to some degree, most often follows. While Lee Anne always finds humor in my promise of television fame for her, I see a glint in her eyes that betrays her thoughts, What if–
I feel she cares more about the fortune aspect of becoming a highly successful author than about the accompanying celebrity. She has grandchildren she loves dearly. I have an intuition that, deep in her heart, she is intent on fulfilling her and her war casualty friend’s (her description of their relationship) long-ago vision of raising a family, and providing well for them. Some dreams never die!
Postscript: The day after Lee Anne was informed by email of her book’s acclamation, on March 4, 2016, Book of the Day chose Stephen King’s book, “11/22/63,” as that day’s awarded literary work. That says something of the stature afforded Ms. Lee Anne Wonnacott–she beat out King if only by one day! Watch for her on TV–soon.
Source by Major Dennis Copson