|My old Mustang on the road to Indie.|
I started out young, optimistic and terribly naive/blind. Yeah, way back in my grade-school days I was sure I'd be an author someday.
I remember meeting the children's author, Scott O'Dell, when I was just a kid. Mom took me to the big library in the town next to ours. That's where Scott O'Dell was doing his book signing. Mom bought me a copy of Island of the Blue Dolphins, which Mr. O'Dell promptly signed. I still have my signed copy of that wonderful book. Anyway, I shook hands with Mr. O'Dell and explained to him that I was going to be an author some day. He was kind enough to tell me that he hoped I'd get to do just that.
Well, the road to Indie meandered on after that. I entered the 4th grade and won a 4th runner up in an American Legion essay contest titled, "What the American Flag Means to Me." That win entitled me to ride on the American Legion float in the 4th of July parade in the tiny little southern California town where I grew up. Wow! Sitting on that float and waving to the crowds of people was an awesome experience. I thought I was well on my way to being a genuine author. By the way, the road for the parade route was a great big square around the park in the center of our town.
When I reached middle-school age I volunteered one summer at a mental facility, Pacific State Hospital. Those were the days when kids who were diagnosed with Down's Syndrome or hydrocephalus were put in hospitals, something that is still shocking to me today. I wrote a short story about the kids I met there. It was a heart-breaking story about throw-away children who were no longer loved. The road to that hospital was a winding one through the hills.
As a teen I wrote a short story about my maternal grandmother, Viola, who was stricken with polio at the age of sixteen and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. The story was about Viola's collie, Lady, who died of a broken heart because she wasn't allowed to be with my grandmother when she was in the fevered throes of her disease. The road back to my grandmother's childhood was one fraught with sadness.
I graduated from high school at the age of sixteen, a month before my seventeenth birthday. I'd managed to squeeze four years of high school into three and so graduated a year early. I was in such a rush to get into college, that I enrolled in the summer quarter and started college just three years after my graduation day. Back then I travelled the roads in the hand-me-down Mustang my parents gave me for my senior year in high school. Those were rocky roads over stream beds, switch-back roads up to Mount Baldy and down the Glendale Mountain Road, and the winding narrow roads to the California beaches where I surfed and lazed in the sun.
I entered college via the backdoor. I had to agree to be a Biology major even though I wanted a degree in English. Don't get me wrong, I like biology, but had no intention in heading down that career path. So after two quarters I petitioned to change my degree. My college counselor had a fit. If I wanted to change my major, it needed to be a degree in Business. What the heck? A hopeful author didn't get a Business degree. In fact, I would have preferred a degree in Journalism, but Cal Poly, the state college closest to my home, didn't offer degrees in Journalism. Well, I won out and changed my major to English. So the first road I took to college was one of many obstacles and detours.
In my early college years I was writing short stories and poems and submitting them right and left. All I managed to get published was one poem in an obscure literary journal. Somewhere through the years I lost my copies of that journal. Oh, well. I still remember the poem and love it to this day.
About this time I took the road to marriage and a baby and had to drop out of college. Life got in the way and it was many years before I was able to finish my college degree. In the meantime, I kept on writing. More short stories. Lots of short stories. I remember one from those years, "Blue Roses," about a woman standing up for her rights. I gathered rejection letters in those early years. The rejection letters pointed out that the market for short stories was declining, that even though my stories were quite good, there was no market for them. So the roads those days were road-blocked.
At twenty-six I was finally able to go back to college to finish that degree I'd started so many years before. The same guidance counselor tried to push me once again into that Business degree. At least get a double major, he'd said. So I took those business courses and didn't much care for them. English Lit and Shakespeare were my thing. Well, I'd made my way around one of those dreaded road-blocks.
Around that time I'd started writing my first novel, a suspense thriller about a woman who was high-jacked on her sailboat and taken south to Mexico. I made the serious mistake of having one of my college professors read the first five chapters. His response a few days later was that it was the worst novel he'd ever read. OMG! That was heavy criticism. I went home, gathered up everything I'd written up to that point with the exception of my poetry, and burned it all. My road had reached a fiery dead end.
A couple weeks later my professor stopped me in the quad. He wanted to apologize. He explained that he'd been thinking about my novel over the last couple weeks and he'd decided I actually could write. Sheepishly he acknowledged that suspense thrillers weren't his thing, but he had to admit that my novel was a really good one and to keep writing. What the heck? I thanked him, but didn't bother to mention that I'd burned everything, including all my notes. I realized then that on some roads you can get blind-sided.
I never tried to recreate that first novel or the stories I'd destroyed. I considered that a learning experience. Don't ever take the criticism of any one person too seriously. Everyone has an opinion. Take what you can from the advice and keep on writing. So I'd learned the hard way, if one road is closed, try another.
In my final year of college I attended a lecture by Ray Bradbury. I was in awe, totally mesmerized by his every word. Fortunately, I got to meet him afterwards. He held my hand and looked me in the eye and assured me that he knew I'd be an author someday. I already wrote a more detailed blog post about the wonderful Ray Bradbury, so be sure to check it out. Anyway, let it be known that he pointed me in the direction of a road that looked promising if I cared to venture down that winding lane.
I finished college with a BA in English and moved from southern California to Florida. I needed new roads to travel, ones in the land of sunshine and paradise. Besides, Hemingway found inspiration in Florida and I could too. The roads in Florida headed south to the land of Hemingway and Key West. I was sure my dream of being an author was closer than ever.
Before leaving California I'd started my next novel, a contemporary romance, The Sailor's Way. I was going to do it the right way this time. I attended writer's conferences and even met with an agent. I met other authors who were published via Harlequin and Silhouette. I read everything I could about writing. I studied my craft. I was a wife, a mother, worked full time and wrote late at night and weekends. I was on my way with an open road up ahead.
I sent the partial for The Sailor's Way off to that agent I'd met in California. She'd agreed to read it and I was elated. Weeks later I got the rejection letter, "If I'd only worked with you from the beginning." Excuse the language, but WTF? The beginning of what? The beginning of time? I boxed up my novel and put it in the back of the closet, underneath my shoes and other paraphernalia. Obviously I didn't know how to write. Yep, another road-block and this time a big one.
Some people never give up. I happen to be one of them. Yeah, some of us like to beat our head against a brick wall. We don't take no for an answer. Yep, we dream, and we dream big. So I kept on writing. I wrote a bunch of short stories and sent them off every which way. I gathered rejection letters, none of them helpful. "If you were a known writer we'd consider your story." Huh? Well, I had to get published first to be known and that apparently wasn't going to happen. More road-blocks.
My favorite rejection letters at that time were for the same short story, "Harry's Garden." The letters arrived on the same day. One said, "I loved the first half of your story." The other said, "I loved the second half of your story." Now why couldn't those two get together and like the whole story? Well, not to be deterred, I kept on writing and studying my craft. After all, if there were two editors out there who loved half a story of mine, there had to be someone who would love a full story. Gee, I could see a clear road up ahead, if I could just get past that hairpin curve.
That's when I started writing my big novel, a dystopian view of the future, all 899 double-spaced pages. For eighteen months I wrote late into the night and every weekend. My husband helped me work through the plot and willingly added some great scenes and dialogue. My "baby" was born, ten full pounds of paper.
I sent out queries, partials and one time, at the request of an agent, the whole ten pound novel. Months passed and I gathered one rejection letter after another. None of them had anything constructive to say about my novel. The general consensus was, "This can never happen." The story was set in 2020 and although I hate to admit it, many of the things I wrote about all those years ago have already happened. Well, I boxed up that novel and added it to my other writing residing in my closet. I got out a map and started looking for a better road.
About this time I got back two rejection letters that led me down another road. One said that if only I was a known author they'd consider my novel. Gee, I'd heard that one before. But it also meant that maybe my writing was okay. So how did I get known? Another rejection letter advised that I needed to write a short novel in order to get published and then I could get the long one published. So I started working on a short one, this time a historical romance set in Virginia City, Nevada. I was travelling an old wagon-rutted road this time.
My husband, daughter and I had just moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. Talk about new roads! I figured I'd hit the jackpot there and finally get published. I just had to write the perfect romance novel and it would be a done deal. I joined RWA and the Cactus Rose Chapter of RWA, attended writing conferences, met an assortment of published and aspiring authors, belonged to a critique group, etc. I kept on writing and writing and writing. In Nevada all roads lead to Vegas, and that's where I was, Vegas, baby, Vegas.
In Vegas I met the aspiring romance author, Ruth Kerce, at an RWA Chapter Conference. We eventually started our own writing group, Desert Rogues, and critiqued/edited each other's writing. We all submitted query letters, partials, attended conferences, met with published authors and agents. We did it all the right way, the traditional route to publishing. Ruth found the right road and was published by Ellora's Cave and Changeling Press. Michele Bardsley, yeah, that Michele Bardsley of the urban vampire comedy fame, found her own road. I crashed into another road-block and gave up, but only for a while.
Move forward many, many years and many roads later. I'm back in Florida again and this road leads right to the beach. But it also happens to be on the road to Indie. August of last year I ePublished my contemporary romance novel, Outback Love. I followed that with a short story prequel, Jetting Away, which was written because a reader wanted to know more about Priscilla's back story. Moon Over Madness came next, a paranormal romantic comedy novella. I had the most fun writing that one. Most recently I ePubbed Bayou Blues and Other Sorrows, which is a collection of my short stories and poems, some of them written years ago and some new. The infamous "Harry's Garden" is one of those short stories. Hey, it took me a heck of a long time, but I reached the right road, the road to Indie.
For the record, Outback Love was written following a three week, 5000 mile road trip my husband and I took with his sister Barbara and her husband through Australia and the Outback. Somewhere between the Great Ocean Road and the Stuart Highway in the Outback I came up with beginnings of the romance I would eventually write. So even the roads through Australia lead to Indie.
Now a year down the Indie road, I'm still cruising along. I hit a bump now and then, but the road to Indie is a good one and I'm going to keep on going on.