At the close of 2014, I’m sure we are all assessing our accomplishments–and estimating damages–the year brought our way. Mine was a grand mixture: family illnesses and losses of friends but, for the most part, blessings beyond what I deserved. This year will always be special to me since it marked my introduction as a western author. Funny how these things come about.
It was just over a year ago that I met a bespectacled, erudite history professor named Dr. Troy Smith. It was more a stalking than a meeting, to be honest.
I was a fledgling–widely unpublished and unknown to pretty much anybody who read westerns. I’d been working on a novel set in Cherokee Territory in the early 1800’s and was up to my eyebrows in research material. When I found out (through friend Cheryl Pierson) that an expert on Native American history lived 80 miles from my house, I set out to hunt him down.
I cold-emailed Troy and asked if he could meet with me for a good old-fashioned brain picking. He graciously (and cautiously, I believe) agreed to meet for lunch. After fielding an hour’s worth of my nonstop chatter and interrogation, he took my card and said to email if I had any more questions. On the drive home, I was certain I had met every criteria for the word “gherm.” (a fan to an excessive degree; someone who sucks up to celebrities)
I was shocked when he emailed me about a month later. Troy shared that he was assuming ownership of Western Trailblazer Publishing and offered to take a look at my novel. It wasn’t even close to completion. However, I had a short story in the works and sent it instead.
While I waited for a verdict from Troy, I made a resolution for the coming year of 2014. For years, I had allowed fears to squash my dream of being an author. It was a lengthy list: “It won’t be good enough. No one will read it. It will never get published.” I resolved that any excuse that began with the words “I’m afraid that…” was invalid. I could refuse to submit my work for other reasons but not out of fear.
In February of 2014, Western Trailblazer released THE SONGBIRD OF SEVILLE. I was still scared, but I kept writing. Within six months, NOAH RAINS and THE GUNFIGHTER’S GIFT followed. Not only had I become a published author, but it happened without a single rejection letter. (My career is young. I’m sure I’ll receive plenty of those in the future!) Now I have something I never imagined–writing deadlines!
Did I make a bestseller list? Am I buying a shiny new pickup truck with my royalties? Is my name on the lips of Pulitzer judges? The answer is a string of no’s. But, boy, am I having a blast. And I’ve made a passel of great writer friends. Hey, I even belong to Western Fictioneers! What an honor. My story, A RAMBLER AND A GAMBLER will be released in the WOLF CREEK SERIES, BOOK 15: LUCK OF THE DRAW. I'm telling you, I feel like I'm chopping in tall cotton.
Most of my fellow Fictioneers have already had long successful careers. Even so, they have all been welcoming and patiently helpful to this newbie. I am delighted and humbled to be carrying on the tradition of writing stories of the American Frontier. I give thanks to all who have served as mentors and encouragers. I offer hope to those who are where I was a year ago…standing on a precipice of fear, about to take a giant leap of faith. I hope you’ll make 2015 your “Year of No Fear.”
All the best,
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