This week, our resident hound asked how we felt when we first became published authors. I feel that I have two first bylines, one for non-fiction writing and one for fiction, with differing reactions.
Thirty years ago, a fellow music teacher mentioned that she wanted to write a children’s musical play to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Michigan’s statehood. She said she had lots of ideas for songs, but didn’t want to do the research and write a script. At that point, I had just completed my master’s thesis, so I was quite familiar with the nearby college and university libraries. For you younger folks, this was before almost everything could be found online. I had only one child at that time, a very well-behaved toddler. So I told her I’d give it a try. The result was a history of our state called Make Mine Michigan, which we self-published and then peddled all over the lower half of the state by appearing at various music teacher meetings. We sold enough copies that I was able to purchase a brand-new piano with my share. I remember feeling a greater sense of accomplishment from this work than I did upon completing my graduate degree!
As for my first fiction work, I remember reading the email notifying me that my short novella The Legacy had been accepted for publication. It was late in the evening, sometime in spring, 2011, and I was quite excited, but since my hubby was asleep and my children were in their own homes, there wasn’t anyone to share my excitement. I suppose I could have shared my news on social media, but at the time I was fairly new to it and wasn’t sure this was newsworthy. You see, The Legacy was actually written as an introduction to what I’d hoped would be my claim to fame – a novel about a samurai soldier at the end of the samurai age.
I’d been working for over a year on what is now The Samurai’s Garden when the fabulous Joselyn Vaughn contacted me with news that one of her publishers had put a call-out for short novellas that would be sold as a fund raiser for victims of the nuclear disaster and tsunami in Japan. Since my father’s father came from the part of Japan where the disaster happened, I was definitely interested in participating. But at that point, The Samurai’s Garden was at over fifty thousand words, and I didn’t want to cut it back to their requested length of ten to fifteen thousand. So in less than six weeks, I put together a short prequel of sorts. Rather than telling what comes before, the story takes place in the present and was about the samurai’s several-times-great grandson. Anyway, Stephanie Taylor contacted me a few days later to tell me that Astraea Press (now Clean Reads) had accepted the novella for publication, and even though I was pleased, I somehow didn’t feel the accomplishment was something to crow about. I may also have been apprehensive about people’s reactions to the book. Would it be good enough? Mixed in there was sadness that my father wasn’t alive to see it. He was the one who’d encouraged my writing.
Still, I notified my local Romance Writers of America chapter that I had a published work, and the next spring they rewarded me with this lovely plaque, which I have mounted in my room, just above my grandmother’s writing desk. It’s there to remind me where this journey of fiction writing began, and to encourage me to keep going. I now celebrate each new release with lots of announcements everywhere, because I’ve learned to feel good about these accomplishments, and because I want to share my stories!