I saw this question on Karenfindsoutaboutbooks. She has some interesting questions, and I want to address this one. It's fun to revisit old friends.What was your first published book and when did it come out?
My first published book was Love's Captive
, out as an ebook in 2000 with New Concepts Publishing. Then put into print in 2001. This book is what started it all for me. I hadn't really thought about being a writer in any concrete way. It was kinda of a far-a-way dream thought.
But, in 1978 I had this vivid dream about a strange, exotic planet, later to be named Volarn. It was as if a video played in my head, an amazing experience. I saw much of the action that happened, met some of the characters, and even "overheard" some of the conversations. Luckily, I jotted down the things I could remember, then started writing the story by hand, ending up eventually with about a third of it done. Before I had this dream, I had never written anything, other than a few poems.
I got busy going to college, working my way through, and looking after 2 small kids. So the story got stuck in a drawer, and collected dust for many, many years. I had told the story to my husband and kids, and occasionally they would say, "when are you going to write that story?"
While in college, I had started dabbling with writing short stories, and my family loved them. So they felt I had talent and tried to encourage me. I remember a pivotal point for me concerning writing novels. I had a new idea for a werewolf story that was really exciting (which I'm planning on finally working on this year), so I wrote a few chapters. I was really pleased with it. But we moved and it got lost.
I was so aggravated, I told my family I wasn't working on any more novels until I had a computer. I had written and then typed the chapters. Anyone who started like I did, knows how frustrating using a typewriter could be. I'm dating myself, but that was before typewriters had correcting ribbons, so making mistakes was a pain. And I had researched the publishing industry enough to know that you better not correct more than a few mistakes per page to pass muster. Which meant a lot of retyping.
In 1994 Simon bought a computer, then he and Chris started plugging me about writing that book. I kept making excuses - I'm too busy. Which I was, and I kept putting them off for several years. I finally realized I did not want to be 80 years old one day and look back with regret. At least I wanted to say I had tried to write the book, even if I didn't finish it, or get it published if I did complet it.
In 1996, we were stationed at Fort Bragg, NC, and I was working as a college counselor. Sometimes my job was stressful and busy, and sometimes it was smooth. We bought a house, so we were busy doing things around it too, planting flowers and such. So I was really busy. But I made a decision to really try and write "that book". I knew that I would not get it accomplished it if I didn't prioritize, organize, schedule, and make a goal.
Simon and I talked about it first. He volunteered to take over more household duties, such as always doing the dishes so I could have time to write. I still cooked because he doesn't know how, but it really helped free up my time in the evening. I made a schedule that I would try to write a certain amount of time in the evening, with a goal of 2 pages per night.
I soon found I had to redo my schedule and came up with something that worked very well. I made it a goal that I would complete a chapter by the end of the week, which my typed pages were from 20-25 pages per chapter. This worked great, because on nights I couldn't write or did little, I had other days in which the muse struck and I wrote more. I always met my goal of finishing a chapter a week, except for times when I was very sick, just too darn tired from work, or a surgery time that interfered. Other than that, I stuck to my goal.
I found that most nights I could write with no problem. But as many authors experience, I had nights when the muse was dead and I sat looking at the computer. I discovered though, that if I just started writing, my muse would kick in. What I had written might not be that great, but the point was to start the juices flowing, and I could go back and change or delete.
Writing Love's Captive was quite the experience. I had never taken a writing course, other than Journalism in college. Had not read any books on writing, nor joined any groups. After I got most of it written, I started buying books on writing to see if I was doing things right. I discovered that I was doing most things right, though of course you can always improve. How I knew to find my voice, get the tempo correct with scenes and dialogue, make characters real, etc.- I don't know how I knew these things, other than maybe a natural talent.
That's not meant in a bragging way. My brother is a fantastic artist and started drawing really good, good pictures from a little kid, almost from when he could hold a pencil. Mom always told me he drew an amazing spaceship when he was 5. I wished they had kept the picture. Point being, I do think most artists and authors are naturally talented.
If I could redo things, I would have studied books first, perhaps taken a creative writing course, and joined a writer's group. I would have still gotten Love's Captive written, but it would have been a far less difficult journey. I learned how to write a novel the hard way. But I guess that has its points too.
Anyway, it took me about a year to write, with I figure about 8 months of actual writing, counting other weeks as nonwriting times. I started researching how to get published, sending off to publishers and agents. I'll never forget that I sent a letter to Katherine Morgan, who wrote . She sent me a very nice letter back, seems like a really sweet person. Anyhoo, I had asked if she minded telling me who her agent was, and she did.
I wrote this agent about my book, and her response was - write something else, that Futuristic Romances were dead. Well, I listened to my heart, which wanted to really finish this story. By the time Love's Captive was published, Futuristics were on the upswing again.
For any aspiring authors, you can see that quite a bit of time went by before I was published. I wrote the book in 1996, and it took most of 1997 to get it edited. I think it was one of the smartest things I've ever done, to find someone to help me with the book. A friend told me about a friend of hers, who was an editor at the local newspaper, who might be interested in helping me.
Her name was Mary Ann. She was dynamic and smart, and I was impressed with her. She was excited about editing her first novel. Since we lived close, I would give her 3 chapters at a time, then we'd meet for lunch, and she would give me the chapters, and I'd give her new ones. She warned me that the pages would be covered with red marks, and she was right!
Mary Ann was amazing. At first we didn't click, and I remember we almost argued about one section of the book, because she didn't understand where I was going with the story. After that though, editing ran very smoothly, and we were on the same wavelength. The book took so long to edit because poor Mary Ann developed Lupus and was sick for weeks at a time. I did not feel like starting with someone else, and she had done such a good job for me so far too. I know that Love's Captive would not be the book it is today, if not for Mary Ann's excellent editing. We are still friends today.
After that, it took me several years to find NCP, who seemed to really like the story. Love's Captive has been my bestseller at New Concepts Publishing. It also was nominated for Love Romances
Golden Rose 2002 Reader Choice Awards for Best Sci Fi/Fantasy.
My writing got on a roll after that, and I have 9 books and 2 short stories published. Course I'm now with Ellora's Cave too. I'm not a fast or prolific writer, wish I was, but I am proud of the ones I have produced. Everyone has to find their own way with writing and do it the way that works best for them.
Love's Captive will always be a special book to me. Naturally, because it's my first, but also because Serena and Rhamus's story is so unique. I receive fan letters, and have a large folder filled with them. But the book I have received the most fan letters about - is Love's Captive.