I’m a writer.
I write speculative fiction, mostly fantasy and science fiction. I’ve been writing fiction since the sixth grade, at least that’s the earliest I can remember. My sixth grade teacher was Mr. Groff. The fact that I remember his name is proof that he was one of a handful of teachers who really had an influence on me. I’ve forgotten the names of all the teachers who didn’t.
Once a week in Mr. Groff’s class, we had a sort of “free” hour where there wasn’t anything scheduled. During that hour, we could choose from several different activities, one of which was to write as much of a story as possible based on an initial paragraph printed on an index card that was drawn randomly from a pile of cards. I always chose that as my activity. I don’t remember a single thing I wrote about, but it must have had quite a bit of influence on me because I wrote my first “novel” around that time.
That first venture into writing something longer than a few pages was called Gypsy, and it was about a horse, of course. What else do young, animal-crazy girls write (and think and dream) about? The cool thing about Gypsy (cool to me, anyway) was that it was told in first person from the horse’s point of view. Having not yet read Black Beauty, I thought I was being really original. Well, the idea was original to me. I also illustrated the book. I wonder if my parents still have that lovingly stapled together, handwritten manuscript with the horsey line drawings hidden away in a box somewhere. I shudder to think about it.
My next really clear fiction-writing memory was from junior high. For English class, we had to write a story and read it in front of the class. I wrote a story about a wolf. It was written in third person, but the wolf was the point-of-view character. I remember it being really well received, not only by my teacher, but by my classmates, as well. I thought that having people respond like that to my fiction was pretty nifty, but it didn’t occur to me then that I might want to try to get something published some day.
Soon after that, I discovered science fiction and fantasy, and the subject matter of my stories changed from animals to more fantastical characters.
I continued writing through high school and college, mostly because I couldn’t not write. Sometimes I’d even let other people read what I’d written. Reactions continued to be positive, but I was still just writing for myself (and my oh-so-insistent muse).
Sometime in the late 1980s, I decided to try to get published. I have no idea why I made that decision, but I had a completed science fiction novel, the first in a series, and was well on my way to having the next two books finished, so I figured I’d give it a try.
After months of research into how one goes about finding and contacting publishers and prepping a manuscript, I began the submission process. Back then, it was all done by mail, so nothing happened very quickly – not that things always happen quickly nowadays either. Finally, I got a request for my manuscript from Del Rey. They had it for a year before they finally decided to pass on it. Sigh.
I kept trying, and I kept writing. The publishing industry got so you needed an agent to get your manuscript looked at by a lot of publishers, so I got one. She shopped one of my novels around, but found no takers, then she went into semi-retirement and let all of her unpublished authors go. I was on my own again, but I didn’t give up. And I continued to write.
A lot of agents and publishers like to see a list of published stories when you send in a query letter. Up until that point, I’d only written novels and an occasional novella. Since it’s easier to sell short stories, I tried my hand at writing shorter stuff, but I’m apparently not a short-story writer. I’ve managed to scratch out three short stories (four if you count the one piece of fan fiction I’ve written) and one flash fiction, but that’s nothing compared to the number of novels and novellas I’ve written. So, while writing short stories seems to be a good way to get a list of published works into your query letter, it doesn’t work for me.
Over the years, there have been times when I’ve told myself I’m going to give up completely on the whole writing thing. It just takes up too much time, time I could spend doing more “important” things (whatever that means). But then my muse starts pestering me, and I begin to write again.
In the late summer of 2010, I got word of a new epublisher that was accepting unagented submissions for a launch in December. On little more than a whim, I submitted my fantasy novel The Silver Cage.
Four weeks after sending in the submission, I got an email back from the publisher. I’ve had a lot of rejections over the years, and I’m pretty much used to them. When I see an email from an agent or publisher, I give it a quick read to see if there’s even a hint of helpful feedback (there rarely is), then I open up the spreadsheet I use to keep track of all of the submissions of all of my pieces to all of the different places, mark the newest one off, delete the email, and get back to work.
But this email was different. This wasn’t the standard “thanks for the opportunity to read, but I’m afraid we have to pass” rejection. This one said something new:
…all deciding parties have read The Silver Cage. They, as well as myself, were very impressed with your manuscript. We at LazyDay Publishing would like to offer you a contract to publish your book. Congratulations! We look forward to forming a very successful and lucrative partnership.
Well, hot damn! Success at last. (Or, as my husband likes to say, “Overnight success, and it only took 20 years.”)
And so, on December 1, 2010, my fantasy novel The Silver Cage will be released as an ebook by LazyDay Publishing. In addition, sometime in 2011, my science fiction novella The Price of Conquest will be released as an ebook by WolfSinger Publications.
The Rest of the Story, or What I Do When I’m Not Writing
I’ve done a lot of things over the years, all of them creative. I’ve been an trophy designer, graphic artist, programmer, multimedia developer, illustrator, and webmaster. Today, I run Mik Wilkens Design Inc., a company that specializes in website design. I’m also a partner in Digital Mayhem, LLC, a company that provides domain hosting, internet application development, and e-commerce solutions, and I help run Carpe Canem, an online store that sells gifts and accessories for dog lovers.
I participate in several Renaissance faires throughout the southwest United States promoting adoption of retired racing greyhounds with Greyhounds of Fairhaven, a non-profit organization I founded several years ago.
I live in Scottsdale, Arizona, with my wonderful husband and best friend, Matt, several retired racing greyhounds, and an ancient three-legged demon in a cat suit.