I’ve been a romance writer for decades. I kid you not. Admittedly, For the first ten years or so, I didn’t really know what I was doing…I just wrote stories that spoke to me. I knew nothing of the publishing industry, nor did I have a clue as to what it took to get your book read and bought by those mysterious entities in their concrete and glass towers in New York. I just wrote.
The first novel I ever wrote filled a 3” 3-ring binder. Every page hand written. Looking back, it was terrible. I blush to admit ever conceiving the thing, much less putting it down on paper where any old person could pick it up and read it (Ahem, Mom!)
My story took place in Scotland in the 1700’s. There was no plot, no GMC. Run on sentences ran amok and my heroine was TSTL. My hero, though, was great. Tall, broad-shouldered, could wield a Claymore like a carving knife and he loved my heroine to distraction. He spent a lot of time saying “Aye, Lass,” to anything she desired. Great guy if you can get him.
In my twenties, time was taken up mostly with raising two rambunctious heroines-in-the-making. The personal computer had been invented and could be bought for roughly the equivalent of the down payment on a Hyundai Accent. However, we were purse-poor. I got a word processor instead.
My second effort at a novel was a western. Oh, God, how I loved those cowboys! This time, my hero was the one too stupid to live. He got involved in robbing a government payroll train and was the goat for the Mexican Bandits. He got caught holding the bag while they scuttled back across the border.
Hey, at least it had something resembling a plot! I still didn’t know anything about the publishing industry, though. That is, until I got a job in a bookstore. My boss was the littlest Partridge girl from, the 1970’s television show.
She put me in charge of kids books, but every free moment (and available dollar) was spent on romance novels. One quiet weekday afternoon, a lovely woman came into the store, headed straight for the romance section and began scribbling in some books. I yelled for her to stop. She smiled and said, “Honey, I’m the author. I just stopped in to autograph these for you. The autographed ones sell quicker than the ones that aren’t.”
I really didn’t hear that last part until later. I was stuck on “I’m the author”. I’d never met a real, live, romance author before. I was star struck. I shyly confessed that I wrote romance novels, and she gave me her card. On the back she wrote an address and a date. She handed it to me and told me to be there at 9:00 am.
Two weeks later, I drove ninety miles (one way) to where this group of authors met. The person who greeted me at the door was none other than Jill Marie Landis. I’d been gobbling up her books and recommending them to anyone who came into the store. And she was shaking my hand!
I joined RWA that very day and made that 180 mile round trip trek every single month for a year. Jill and I became better acquainted and I learned so much from our guest speakers. Things like Character Arcs, Point of View (and head hopping).
I even got to meet every woman’s heartthrob, Fabio. (I was surprised that he was actually a smart guy. Not dumb as a stump as I’d suspected.) And those pecs weren’t bad, either.
Sadly, just as I’d come to love the Orange County Chapter of RWA, my husband’s job uprooted us to Atlanta, GA.
I sat in my driveway and cried. We didn’t have the money for me to keep up my RWA membership. I was adrift in a strange place with no friends, no money and no connections. Then, a couple years later, I decided to visit Georgia Romance Writers. I couldn’t help myself. I told my husband we HAD to make room in the budget for me to rejoin or I was going to leave him. My threat worked.
I’ve been with GRW for 11 years now. I’ve honed my craft and feel that I’m truly 1000% better at writing than I was when I plunked down my first year’s dues.
I’m still not published, still haven’t sold a thing. But I’ve entered contests, submitted my work to agents and editors and gotten some wonderful critiques on my work.
Someday, and I believe with all my heart it will be soon, I’ll get “The Call” and I’ll be able to say I’m a PUBLISHED author.
But even if it never happens (knock wood), I’d still write. Why? Because writing is in my blood, my brain cells and my heart. These characters living in my head demand to tell their stories and I will respectfully and cheerfully submit to their will.
Who knows, maybe when I’m long dead, some descendent will find one of my mouldering old manuscripts up in the attic and decide to do something with it.