|Great Fountain Geyser at sunset|
I can’t believe another year has flown by! 2012 has certainly been a life-changing year for me. On New Year’s Eve of 2011, I nervously sat in front of the computer, staring at the “publish” button on Amazon’s KDP dashboard. When I finally depressed the key, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I had no idea what to do from there. My first book, Yellowstone Heart Song, was now available to anyone who would want to read a story about a woman who time traveled to the past and met the love of her life in a mountain man raised in the wilderness. Who would want to read a romance book that had Yellowstone National Park as it was 200 years ago as the backdrop for the story? Yellowstone was my passion, my love since my first visit to the park in 1986. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in reading such a story.
Yellowstone Heart Song was an idea I had while allowing my mind to wander on a long drive home from Yellowstone during the summer of 2009. I had asked my boss and very good friend to take a week-long camping trip with me since my husband was committed that summer to lead a boyscout troop on a backpacking trip into the High Sierras. My husband didn’t take me very seriously at first when I told him of my plans to go to Yellowstone on my own; just me and another woman who had very minimal experience in camping. That made me even more determined to prove him wrong, and off we went. It was a great trip for Diana and me, I proved that I was capable of pitching a tent and starting a campfire and even cooking a meal over it, and that two women could go hiking without getting lost or eaten by bears.
Nothing ever became of my initial idea for the story until the following summer, after spending another two weeks in Wonderland (this time with my family). I paid more attention to certain areas in the park, and the day after we returned home, I sat down to write my ideas down. Another year later, I had a finished story. Well, a story anyways. I never spoke a word of it to anyone. I never had publishing in mind. In early 2011, I entered a few writing contest just to get some feedback on the story, and although I finaled in one contest, the judges pretty much told me my writing was abysmal at best. The best advice I received from one judge was to find a critique partner.
But how does one find a critique partner? I didn’t belong to any writing groups. I scoured the internet, and finally joined a yahoo group through a small publishing house that matched writers to critique for each other. My heart was pounding when I posted a short synopsis of my book, asking for someone to critique it. The following day, I “met” the person who became my writing mentor, critique partner, and now my very good friend. After extensive re-writes over the next six months, Yellowstone Heart Song was finished. And sat in my computer, collecting cyberdust.
My critique partner urged me to publish the book, but I balked and balked at the thought. Instead, the idea took shape to write a sequel simply because I was enjoying the writing process. After some quick brainstorming, I ended up writing Yellowstone Redemption in less than six weeks. Once that story was finished, I had an idea for a third book, so I began work on Yellowstone Awakening, and during the writing of that book, Yellowstone Dawn took shape in my mind. Awakening was nearing completion in December of 2011, and I had already written ten chapters in Dawn, when my critique partner finally put the breaks on me. She told me I had to get the first book “out there.”
Reluctantly, I looked into self-publishing. I had no desire to submit to traditional publishing houses. The entire process seemed too long and drawn-out to me, and the guidelines that publishers were looking for too restrictive. If I was going to send my book out into the world, I wanted it to be my book, and not be limited to what a publisher might impose on me. My mind was firmly made up to go the independent route when I read the submission guidelines from the publisher that my critique partner had her books published under, and one restriction completely eliminated Yellowstone Awakening from even being considered for submission.
So, that’s how 2012 started for me. Yellowstone Heart Song was available for purchase! What an exhilarating and scary thing to see - my book page on a site like Amazon. I finally told my husband what I had done, and he was rendered (for once) speechless. No one else besides my critique partner knew I had written, and now published, a book. I had zero expectations for sales, so it came as a complete surprise that on the first day, I sold six copies. The only thing I had done prior to hitting the publish button was start this blog. I had absolutely no idea about promoting, marketing, or having an online presence. My critique partner did warn me that promoting a book took a lot of time and effort, something she admitted she was not very good at.
Over the next few days, I stumbled across the Meet Our Authors forum on Amazon, and found a thread titled “Western Authors please post here.” Was my book considered a western? I had no idea. I wrote a tentative post, and the warm reception I received by the writers and the reader who started that thread was overwhelming.
At the end of January, Yellowstone Heart Song had sold 61 copies on Amazon, which beat my wildest imaginations. I earned a whopping $22.05! I published Yellowstone Redemption on February 1st, and then Awakening on March 1st, and finally Dawn in April.
During those initial months, I learned more about online markets for books, joined Goodreads, and set up a facebook page. The reviews started coming in, and I was shocked and amazed that people enjoyed my stories! More and more people contacted me, asking to write another book dealing with Jana Evans and Dan Osborne from the epilogue of Heart Song, so after Dawn was published, I set to work on Yellowstone Deception. Dawn was supposed to be the final book in what had now become the Yellowstone Romance Series. I was ready to try something new, and the concept for the Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series began to take shape. During my initial research for the first book in that series, I stumbled across a piece of information that took me in an entirely new direction for another book series! Staring at the Teton Mountain Range while researching something for Come Home to Me, the Teton Romance Trilogy was born.
As 2012 comes to a close, I reflect back with wonder and amazement at what has happened this year. I never, ever thought to be a published writer. I still work my night job as a Medical Laboratory Technologist, and plug away at the keyboard six or more hours on most days, writing my next book, and interacting with readers and other writers. Writing has become my second full-time job. And it definitely is a full time job, but one that I am enjoying tremendously. Sadly, there are family members in my life who scoff at what I do, who don’t understand the time involvement. “You’ve published your book, what more is there to do? Why do you spend so much time on the computer?” I try and ignore those negative comments, and am grateful for my husband’s unwavering support.
The online friendships I have made this year have been wonderful. Interacting and networking with other authors, learning about the writing process and marketing has been a great experience. Nothing, however, beats meeting the many readers who took the time over the year to send me emails, connect and interact with me on Facebook or through my blog. When someone tells me “You’ve inspired me to want to go see Yellowstone myself,” it simply floors me. I’ve made some great, lasting friendships online, and it’s because of them that I keep writing.
What will happen in 2013? I will continue to write books in the Second Chances Time Travel Series, plug away at the Teton Romance Trilogy, and I have a few other book projects swirling around in my mind. It has been an incredible first year, which I attribute solely to my readers who took a chance on me. I’m looking forward to another year of continued interactions and new friendships.
Happy New Year, everyone!