It’s another release month for me (yay!) with my latest Harlequin Presents Heir to a Desert Legacy on physical and virtual shelves, and my next one Heir to a Dark inheritance following shortly behind.
We just celebrated Easter, our first in the new house. Our first with a yard. My kids were running around on the half-finished deck my husband is building for us. It’s gorgeous, we have a phenomenal view of the mountains, which is a big improvement on a view of the farm and garden store, like we used to have.
I’ve been feeling really thankful lately. Really reflective. Maybe because this May marks the two year anniversary of my very first royalty check with actual dollars on it! We bought a car. Not a crazy brand new expensive car, but an older Toyota that runs. And after having one car for far too many years, and living more than a half hour from civilization to boot…well, that was enough for me!
Just a year after that we were putting an offer in on our new house, ready to say goodbye to our single wide mobile home, which we had absolutely outgrown.
Being a writer has changed my life. There’s no other way to look at it.
I’m going to open with back story…my husband and I used to work together at a coffee house/book store, etc. It was for a large church and the responsibilities were pretty demanding. My husband was the manager, and definitely made enough to support us, with me working full time as well.
A couple months after we got married, there was a big change in the way things were done and we found ourselves jobless, living in a camp trailer in my parents’ driveway and expecting our first child. We lived there until after he was born.
Working our way back up the chain to be able to buy a mobile home was a major achievement for us, but we struggled financially.
A couple years down the line, two and a half years before I got published, a few months before I started writing seriously for publication, I gave birth to our second child. While we were in the hospital we got a statement for the year end from my husband’s job. It was frighteningly low for a family of four. Like, below 20K low. A bit below that low.
My husband had been trying to find a job where he could support us. Minimum wage, or raises of .50 an hour every 6 months wasn’t doing it. He’d moved to a sales position at a company that had been doing really well, only for that recession thing to hit.
That job was a mess of being underpaid, of having money promised and withheld, and my husband ultimately quitting to start his own business.
That was better, but still not very good. We were on food stamps and had the state health plan for the kids. That was a hard thing, but a relief, because with all the worries we had, to have those major bases covered was a huge burden off our shoulders.
I think we were…uh…borrowing what weak signal of my neighbor’s internet we could get at the time (uh…you didn’t see ANYTHING…) when I happened across the I Heart Presents website and a contest they were running called Instant Seduction.
I decided to write something and enter. I’d been reading Presents for about a year at that point, and I’d fallen in love with the line. I’d read more than 300 of them, in fact and I felt like I was familiar enough to give it a try.
My entry was a hot mess, and I didn’t get any feedback. But while I was waiting for the contest to be judged, I sat down in a Starbucks at the mall and wrote: I think the numbers speak for themselves. Marriage is definitely the most profitable course of action.
I didn’t know where it was going, or what was happening, but I just kept writing. In Starbucks, for an hour or two after my husband would get home from work in the evenings. That was how I wrote my first book. And then I submitted what I had written.
I got revisions for the partial, (after a seven month wait!) then a request for the full. I remember printing the whole thing out and sitting on the bed with my husband as we both read and marked it up. Then I printed the clean copy, groaned over the cost of postage, and sent it to the UK.
I wasn’t in a position where I could be a member of RWA. Forget going to conference, or taking workshops. That was all outside of my reach. Postage and a Starbucks coffee (which I considered my office rent!) was all I could manage.
Oh, and internet, we did get internet because I started emailing with my editor in the UK, which meant no more mailing. And I felt bad about the neighbor’s internet thing…
It took twenty months from that first moment of submission, to the day I got The Call. Twenty months where I started thinking: something has to change soon. This has to get better. It has to or we can’t survive.
And right when I was thinking it really couldn’t go on anymore, when I didn’t see how we could carry on (sounds dramatic, I know, but our credit cards were maxed out and the bank had raised the rate to 29%, our car payment was late, and I hadn’t paid a payment on our house or space rent for six months. Dire.) That’s when the phone rang, early on the morning of December first.
I share this story because it’s worth hearing. Because I had no money to spend on conferences or memberships, workshops and classes. I read the books I wanted to write (most of which I got for free at my local book exchange!) I took editorial feedback when it was given, and I wrote my fingers off.
I’m still writing my fingers off. Writing for me has been the most empowering thing. It enabled me to pull us out of a bad situation. To change our lives dramatically. (I can’t say enough about how my husband supported me, because he was working low paying physical labor jobs, mainly, and then coming home and doing the kids so I could go write. We were a crazy tag team, and without that, I don’t know how I could have done it!)
Three and a half years, 25 books and two publishers later, I’m sitting in my office in my new house. Yeah, dreams come true. But not just by wishing. So get out there and make them happen people!