Friday, June 15, 2018
When I was ten, my mother died suddenly and I abruptly assumed some responsibility for my brothers. I confess real 'parenting' was not nearly as much fun as pretend parenting. At that point I decided being a mommy was overrated and it would be much better to be a nurse or teacher. Little did I know those two professions pretty much encompass the same territory as being a mother. When I found out that was the case, I decided I would be a writer.
At the same time as my mother's death, my family also moved several states away so in one fell swoop, I lost friends, home, and mother. I read. A LOT. I sneaked the flashlight out of the kitchen drawer and read under my covers in bed in the middle of the night. It seemed to me a writer must be the most wonderful job. I had a vivid imagination and longed to be 'old enough' to write a real book. It never occurred to me that I could start right then. I thought I had to wait until I finished college or something.
Through my teens, books continued to be my bulwark against the chaos and uncertainty of the 60s. The world was a scary place with friends going off to the Vietnam War, peace marches, rioting in the cities, airplane hijackings, integration in the schools, and the first of the famous killers--Richard Speck--right in the city where I lived. Reading gave me a safe place to learn out the world around me.
Then I met a young man. We married, had three children in rapid succession, and reading was...an occasional treat in between washing and folding an unending stream of diapers and baby clothes. Heck, I didn't even have time to watch soap operas. My friend and I took turns watching and reporting anything new that happened.
At our sixth year of marriage, the hunk called one day to say we'd been transferred to Houston. Twenty-eight days later we arrived in a strange city with no place to live, no family safety net, and no acquaintance there at all. We found an apartment. The hunk worked two jobs so we could break even and I spent a lot of time alone. And I rediscovered books. Romances. I devoured them like a starving, ravening beast, hauling bags of them home from the library in the baby's stroller. I sat up late at night, reading them in the bathroom so I didn't wake anyone. And I started to glimpse again that old dream of writing my own book.
The next year we moved into a house. Did I mention we moved a lot? My last move was #41. Anyway, the library was very far away and I didn't have any transportation so once my oldest child was in school, I started writing. First by hand. Then on a typewriter. I was somewhat of a perfectionist so I spent more time correcting, than actual writing, but the bug had truly bitten me so I spent a lot of time working on various bits and pieces. I don't recall ever finishing anything. And in a shocking turn of events, we had another baby.
During this period, I started writing letters to my favorite authors. And I discovered a second hand bookstore owned by a woman who was active in the fledgling Romance Writers of America. I met authors there. Many of the authors who wrote for the early Silhouette and Loveswept lines stopped by to talk to the owner. She would call me when they showed up and invite me down to meet them.
Once while I was there she received a phone call. It was from Sharon Curtis, one half of the husband/wife team who had won the Rita that year. I wandered around on cloud nine for days after talking to her.
I wrote to Jayne Ann Krentz, one of my favorite authos, and she wrote back. Twice. I still have her letters.
Looking back, I can't imagine what the various authors I met or spoke to, or wrote to thought, but they surely kept me going through some dark days. And their encouragement meant everything.
We moved again. To the Hudson Valley in New York. Money was always an issue so I took a job at a local Waldenbooks warehouse. And I took advantage of one of the employee perks. We could 'borrow' any book in the warehouse for two weeks for free. Oh, yeah. This was my place, in spite of sore feet, tired back, and working until midnight every night. And once again, I started writing in my 'spare' time.
I started working out a scenario about two families that intermarried in a strange valley. Step by step I worked out different issues. In between there, I lost my job when the warehouse closed, went back to school, found another job...and kept picking at my story.
And then we moved again. To Baltimore. Abruptly, I found myself childless, jobless, and with a lot of time on my hands. My son, and the hunk, pushed me into the back room with my brand new computer and said, "You've always wanted to write. Do it!" I was fifty-five years old.
After a few false starts, I sat down and wrote a 120K opus about the families I'd worked on for years. It occurred to me I should find out what the publisher guidelines might be, and when I did, I realized I was going to have to make some radical changes. So I chose one couple from my 'novel' and wrote their story. I fussed over it, editing, revising, until I couldn't think of anything else to do to it. And I sent it off to an online publisher on a dare from the Hunk.
Three weeks later I received an e-mail asking for the entire manuscript. And about four weeks later, they offered me a contract. My first book in the Mystic Valley series was a reality. Six months later, Dancer's Delight was released.
I suppose you're wondering what this rambling hot mess is all about. It's just this--life eventually balances out if you just keep plugging along.