My first car was a 1987 Chevette. It was cherry red, had four doors and an AM radio. It wasn’t wholly mine; it was one of two used family cars we siblings shared. I used it to deliver newspapers and to get back and forth from school my senior year. As I got older I ventured further and further from home. On lonely Friday nights I would drive up rural routes, roiling with angst. Eventually I had a tape deck/FM radio and a couple of cheap speakers installed. As I would cruise I’d sing along with Alice Cooper: “I’m eighteen and I don’t know what I want.”
My favorite place became Braley Pond. Finding it was an issue. I had been there with my parents on a day trip and I remember liking the place. I drove out where I thought it was but I headed back after turning down a couple of gravel roads in a vain search. I couldn’t imagine it being so far away. It hadn’t seemed so remote the first time. After more attempts than I am proud of, I found it. It’s only about a thirty minute drive from town. Then, it felt like a major trip when everywhere I drove was five minutes away in our small town. I spent many evenings and summer days fishing there, mostly alone. Anytime I felt depressed I could get away and be awkward by myself.
To this day I go there when I need to be alone with my thoughts. I went there today to think about this blog. The difference is now I have a more mature appreciation for the place. I have a photo log of the butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies of the pond and the surrounding woods. I have mapped out the trails that crawl about the national forest in the area. I have become enamored by the variety of mushrooms and other fungi that thrive there. I care for the place. I even run a Facebook page for Braley Pond. What was once merely a refuge is now a place of study and personal reflection.
I feel the same way about my writing. Passion for the printed word did not boil in me at a young age, driving me to learn the craft. Far from it. I was a good student, but not because I studied and worked hard. I have a good memory. History was my best class. It combined my inherit interest in the subject matter with my ability to recall facts. I won my schools Daughters of the American Revolution award for American History as a Junior. I wasn’t in AP classes and I didn’t advance beyond community college. I simply love history. On my own I have read and studied for innumerable hours, focusing on the ancient and dark age eras in Europe.
Like millions of Americans, I lost my job (bookkeeping) in 2008. I filled in my time listening to/watching college level courses from The Teaching Company that I borrowed from my public library. I read voraciously. I like to say Robert E. Howard saved my life. I started reading Conan novels and I have yet to stop. I am just a little over halfway through the nearly fifty paperbacks. I also made sure I watched all the documentaries I wanted, setting reminders and waking up early to catch just the right ones. Without a place to go every day, I was driving myself mad to keep my mind occupied. It was not only an economically devastating time; it was an emotional rollercoaster, a real blast to my ego.
I started writing in earnest. In previous years I had flirted with the idea. Stories had come to me and I had attempted to put them on paper with little to show for the effort. My work improved when I got the idea to scribe certain sexual fantasies. I had been a fan of erotic fiction for some time. My first exposure was the “letters” section of men’s magazines. Then the advent of the internet made erotica much more accessible. You can find any sort of dirty story you like, but not necessarily a good one. For the longest time it was a matter of searching sites for an author you liked and reading their work. That is what inspired me to write my own. I wanted to create the sort of stories I wanted to read. I shared them with people I had chatted with online and they enjoyed them as well.
I wrote a couple of very poor manuscripts while unemployed and submitted them to publishers. Suffice to say they were not picked up. They were Viking adventure stories and while they had elements I still like, my ability to relate the tale in a professional and aesthetically pleasing manner was lacking. But I was in luck. I found a job. Writing took a back seat. Normalcy returned to my life. Then I picked up a copy of Ravished by a Viking by Delilah Devlin at a local book fair. I emailed her and let her know just how much I enjoyed her work. She responded. We corresponded a bit and she encouraged me to try to get published. Not used to receiving such positive reinforcement, I took her kind words to heart. I took some of the best elements of prior stories and wrote a piece that I submitted all over the place. Again, she helped me by finding a listing of interested publishers.
Breathless Press and one other party offered on my manuscript. Two out of forty something wasn’t bad for a first try! I thank my editor Jackie Moore for seeing potential in my first draft and working with me to make my piece the best it can be. Crimson & Steel was released on October 14th. It is my first published work of any kind. Set in the Noricum province of ancient Rome, it follows the lives of two girls. One is a trained pleasure slave from the eastern desert, the other a naïve Germanic servant. A second part entitled Scarlet Sands will be released on a date yet to be determined.
I am deliriously happy to be published. Marrying my love of history and erotic romance is a pleasure. But I am far from done. Just as I matured and ventured further and further from home and found a deeper and more profound appreciation for my private sanctuary, so too will I find a more complex understanding of the writing process. I want my storytelling skills to sharpen. I need my writing style to become more succinct and my characters' point of view to suck the reader in so that they can’t stop reading. To do that I must write and practice. I hope that I continue my streak of luck and have more of my stories published.
Please give Crimson & Steel and me a shot. I thank you.