For as long as I can remember, writing has been something I’ve always loved to do. Over the years, I’ve dabbled in a few different areas—poetry, a weekly column about my high school football team for the local newspaper, grants, educational curriculum, individual education plans, and a few other odds and ends. Although most of my writing was done as a high school educator, my passion has always been for contemporary romance fiction.
Until a few years ago, I had about fifteen works in progress (WIP). Self-doubt, boredom, life’s interruptions, and newer, fresher ideas had me stopping mid-way through each of them. I’d either start something new, or if there were too many extraneous demands on my time, I’d just stop writing for a while. There just didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to work an often more than full-time job, care for my home and family, and have enough brain power to write (even if I could squeeze in an hour here and there to do so).
Then one day several years ago, I decided to get serious. I had a WIP that I wanted to make into a series about four brothers. So, I found Jack right where I left him on my computer, did a few hundred rewrites, and determinedly finished his book. And for the first time EVER, I decided to let someone read one of my “stories.”
Ironically, there was only one person I considered—one of my former teachers who was now my colleague, dear friend, and a voracious reader. To say I was nervous when I approached her about reading my work would be a gross understatement. Yet, she was eager and willing. Still, I made her promise to be brutally honest with me, no holds barred. She agreed with a smile.
Handing over my manuscript was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Waiting on her review was a very close second. Long story short, she loved it, assured me she thought my work was as good as any of the published romances she’d read, and told me to get to work on the other three brothers’ stories.
Which I did. But like so many hopeful romance writers, my dream was to write for Harlequin, the flagship of romance books everywhere. Of course, that was much easier said than done as I’m sure many fellow writers can attest. Still, along with likely millions, I tried. And as you’ve probably guessed, a full manuscript was never requested.
Sure, I was discouraged, but I didn’t give up on my dream. Lucky for me, I connected with a fantastic small group of fellow romance writers on Facebook. These ladies have been and continue to be the best voices of reason, shoulders to cry on, motivators, cheerleaders, and inspirational humans I’ve ever connected
with as individuals or as a whole. Together, we keep each other on track, pick each other up when we falter, commiserate about shared fears, doubts, and anxieties, and provide validation for doing the best we can each and every day.
And through this group of fabulous women, I realized my dream of becoming a published author
when several of us put together a collection of winter/holiday-themed novellas where all proceeds went to charity. That was in 2020 when the world came to an abrupt standstill thanks to the coronavirus. Although a daunting and scary time, some good things did arise from the “new normal” we were forced to embrace.
With more time on my hands, I joined another collection of novellas with my author friends, independently published the first book in my series, and prepped the others for release. By May 2022, three of the four novels had been released, and I’d also dipped my toe into the Kindle Vella pool.
As I entered into final edits for book four, I received an email from a managing editor of an actual publisher. She’d read book three (inhaled it, I believe was the word she used, causing me to squeal with joy…and a bit of disbelief) and invited me to talk with her and the publishers about coming on board.
Of course, I did. Liking what I was told, I signed on, rebranded the three published books, and significantly revised the fourth. October 2022, January and March 2023 saw the release of A Baby Changes Everything, A Proposal Changes Everything, and A Summer Changes Everything respectively. And on June 21st, the fourth installment, A Wedding Changes Everything will join the series in the literary world. Since this is the first time it’s ever been in print, I’m really anxious to see how it does.
Meanwhile, as I enjoy my second year of retirement from public education (teaching in a pandemic? NO JOKE), I’m in the process of expanding Hickory Ridge, the fictional area in northern Virginia’s section of the mighty Blue Ridge Mountains—a place I admit is loosely based on where I actually live. I’m also enjoying spending more time with family and friends while I once again try to adapt to another new “normal.”
Had someone looked into their crystal ball in January 2020 and told me I’d be on the cusp of releasing the fourth book in what is now the Hickory Ridge Series, I probably would have collapsed into a fit of laughter. But as I look at copies of my books on the bookshelf and send off the dedication and acknowledgments to the author liaison/social media manager for A Wedding Changes Everything, I am pleasantly and overwhelmingly surprised.
And so very thankful.
As one saying goes, you have to believe it to achieve it. Which, of course, is true. But I think a better saying is: teamwork makes the dream work. At least, for me, it does.