by Gina Lee Nelson
NT members are writers and so much more. We’re teachers, tech writers, real estate brokers, nurses, probation officers, computer technicians, accountants, small business owners, and many other occupations and vocations too numerous to mention. This month we’re shining our spotlight on a long-term member who is as passionate about music as she is about writing. She worked for twenty years in the music field. Let’s get to know Christine Crocker.
Christine, tell us about your writing. What do you consider your genre(s)?
Besides western historicals, the genre closest to my heart is fantasy. I also have a couple of Regencies in various stages of completion and two western time travels.
Obviously, you love westerns. Is your husband a cowboy?
My husband is Texan born and bred. He used to tell our boys they should never ask a person where they were from because if they weren’t from Texas there was no point embarrassing them. But I tease him by pointing out he had to go out of state to find someone to marry him. He grew up on a small farm between Grandview and Cleburne and although he trained his filly, a Morgan Quarter Horse cross, to saddle, he never got into serious cowboying like some of his family.
Are you currently working on a western?
I completed my first western romance earlier this year as my BIAY project. I haven’t given up on it, but it has a lot of problems and as soon as I finish my current project I plan to tackle some heavy re-writes and editing. My current WIP is a YA fantasy, Druid Wood. The story of a boy who is a child of two worlds, his mother was of the fey and his father was of the mortal world. There are factions in both worlds that want him dead, and Druid Wood is the portal between the two worlds.
I find it interesting you enjoy writing both westerns and fantasy. Who was the greatest influence on your love of writing?
My high school creative writing teacher, Mr. Roberge, was the first to encourage my writing. In college I took the first Science Fiction literature course offered at Cal State, and it was wonderful. There were only twenty students in that first class, and we were treated every week to a guest lecture by a science fiction great. Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Harlan Ellison were just a few of the authors who came to speak to us and inspire us.
You spent many years in California around celebrities. Will you share one brush-with-fame story?
After college I lived with my voice teachers as a sort of au pair taking care of their infant daughter for room, board, voice lessons and an allowance of $100 a month. I often had to drive Seth’s prized vintage Mercedes to pick up various celebrities for their voice lesson. Whenever I had to take his car out I was under strict orders to use two parking spaces when parking and to park away from other vehicles. Under no circumstances was any harm to come to his car. On one particular occasion, I was to pick up Lucille Ball for a voice lesson. We almost made it back to the house without incident. I was stuck at a red light, a car to my left and cars in front and behind me, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Out of the corner of my eye I spot movement. A shopping cart comes barreling out of nowhere and I could only watch dumbfounded as it slammed into the passenger door. Lucille couldn’t stop laughing, she said it was something that would have happened on her show. Thank goodness I had her to corroborate the incident. Seth got me a job as a paid soloist at the Wilshire United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. Kind of prophetic.
Music is your passion and an essential part of your life. How did your career in music evolve?
I was a piano major turned vocal performance major at Cal State Fullerton and fully intended to pursue a career in opera until I met my soon to be husband at a friend’s home. He was a Marine stationed at LTA (a former dirigible base) near El Toro, Calif. (LTA stands for lighter than air.) It was love at first sight and I didn’t even know his name. I just knew I was going to marry him and did three weeks later. When I was 40, he arranged for an audition with the Fort Worth Opera because, silly man, he thought I’d been deprived of my chosen career by marrying him. He was going to make the audition a surprise, but, thankfully, my sister-in-law convinced him I couldn’t just go in unprepared. I sang two seasons with them then decided that was enough. A few years later, I became the music minister for First United Methodist Church in Joshua, a position I held for 20 years. I also play piano, hammered dulcimer, mountain dulcimer, and enjoy singing Scots and Irish folksongs.
Although the Turtle Creek Chorale is Dallas’ award-winning men’s chorus, you sing with them on a regular basis. How did your relationship with them develop?
The new Artistic Director, Trey Jacobs, was an old friend who contacted me via FB and asked if I would join in the female chorus he was putting together for a concert version of the Broadway musical “Ragtime.” I sang with them again when they had Sandi Patti for their guest artist. Next spring I’ll be joining them again for a concert version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
When it comes to writing, all of us struggle in some way. What challenges do you face?
My husband, family and friends have always been supportive. I’m probably my own challenge and biggest critic. The inner editor. I’ve tried all the tools for speed writing, i.e. storyboarding, Candace’s fast track, plotting, etc. – I’m a panster through and through.
What lead you to NT?
I joined the Johnson County Creative Writers in 1984 and contested heavily for the next five years and did well, but soon discovered I had become a contest junkie, writing wonderful, polished first chapters but never completing anything. I realized I had to break that habit and become serious about my writing. Sometime in the 90s I visited NT many years as a guest of a western romance author, Sonja Birmingham, so when I moved to Watauga five years ago and decided to begin writing again, I remembered NTRWA and knew I needed this group of writers for the inspiration, incentive and support you all give.
Thanks, Christine, for sharing a bit of your life with us.