Back when my son was one or two, I started writing sci-fi fanfic. I know, kinda geeky but it was my way of telling stories I wanted to tell about characters I loved. That’s how I met my best friend. We became fast friends and fanfic buddies and each other’s beta readers. It’s also how I started writing more seriously. You see, I’d been doing fanfic for a long time and it was fun, but it eventually became two-dimensional. So a few years in, my best friend said to me, “You should write something of your own. Stretch your wings. I think you’d be good at it.”
I took her advice and played around with my first novel (still have it, still reads like a newbie’s bad story) but eventually shelved it. Some time after that, I wrote another fanfic where I injected myself, personally, into the story. My best friend came at me again. “This is an interesting concept. I wonder what else you can do with it but with characters of your own this time.”
So I let my mind wander into those wonderful what-if scenarios that writers love so much, and started thinking about what I’d love to see in a male and female lead. I imagined my ‘perfect guy’ and the woman who would be at his side and, because I loved Ancient Egypt and the idea of past lives so much, thought I’d throw in a parapsychological element between them. That’s when David and Lottie were born.
I wrote that second novel, taking risks that lots of new writers love to take and stretching myself to see how far I could go. I sweated and toiled and started learning that fiction writing is really hard. I joined a closed writers group run by Jennifer Crusie that taught how to write story. Best decision I’d ever made. After a boatload of critiques under my belt and a manuscript that I thought was ready to face the world, I pitched. I snagged an agent but the partnership dissolved after we couldn’t find a home for it. By now it was 2004, and my son had just turned nine.
I fiddled with other stories, created other characters, but nothing ever sparked. I had notebook after notebook and computer file after computer file of notes and storylines and chapters and research, all of which ended up in the ‘hold for later’ file. All of it unfinished and unloved. In 2010 I realized why I couldn’t make anything go. I was too much in love with David and Lottie (okay, I was in love with David really, but who’s keeping score?) and too much in love with my original storyline. I dusted the previously agented manuscript off, asked my best friend what she thought about it and she said, “Write it from the heart this time.” I did. And it took just over a year. My son was now about to turn sixteen.
It was the most magical experience for me. I let my mind wander, I used music for mood and this time, when I gave the manuscript to my best friend, I knew I had something special. But it wasn’t ready to face the world yet and so I asked her to rip it apart. I’d already sweated and bled and screamed over my writing so much, my skin was thick enough to take anything. My best friend critiqued, hard, back and forth with me, and by the time I was well past the twentieth revision in May of 2011, In This Life was complete. I was ready to pitch again.
A list, B list, C list, agent after agent after agent. Rejections, no responses, more rejections, more no responses. I kept myself going by writing more David and book #2. This was publishing. This was writing. And this was h-a-r-d. I moved on to mid-sized, regional and small press publishers after I’d pretty much exhausted my agent list (I queried over 80), knowing from other writer friends that they were more open to cross-genre stories (like mine). I put together my list, drew in a deep breath and started all over again. I got responses from every single editor I pitched to. All of them rejections, some of them encouraging, some of them saying they loved my writing but couldn’t work with In This Life—did I have something else instead? No. Not yet. David’s book #2 was still being written. Then a writer friend told me about Crimson Romance, a new imprint of F+W Media. Now, I’m not really a romance writer—I’m hard-wired differently—but the editor at Crimson wanted different and because I’d been told that my book broke genre, I submitted a partial. Within a day, the acquisitions editor, Jennifer Lawler, requested the full. Four days after that, Jennifer said she loved the story but that it needed revisions for it to work for their line. I was curious, I loved Jennifer and I requested the revision letter. Her thoughts (3 pages of them) made sense, and now, now, after all those years of working on this one story, I understood why it had met up with rejection. Jennifer had nailed it and, once again, I revised the entire manuscript. I resubmitted to Crimson this past February.
In May of 2012 and nearly 16 years (sixteen years) of writing so many different things, I signed a contract with Crimson Romance.
So here’s the thing. This was grueling work, like raising a bratty child who just won’t stand down. But it was worth it and I wouldn’t have given it up for anything. Oh, I’m not blind to knowing that there is even more grueling work ahead—the writing is the easy (snerk!) part. But writing In This Life was my writing love affair. It was the most amazing, wonderful, challenging, hair-tugging experience I’ve ever had. And if you asked me if I would do it again, I’d say, hell yeah. I can’t imagine life without writing and, right now, without David and Lottie.
So here I sit, so freaking excited that my story, my characters, will finally be made real. And this summer, when David’s book #2 is buttoned up, you can be damned sure I’ll be pitching that, too. And book #3 right after that.
For me, it doesn’t get any better than this.
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