In July 2007, when I left my job at Borders, I fully intended to search for a desk job the following January. Life has a way of pointing out the amusement it feels for any human-made plans. "Why January?" you ask? Good question. You see, after working eleven Christmases in retail, with absolutely no time allowed for family during the holidays, well, I intended to have a nice holiday that year.
Big mistake. My husband was rushed to the hospital two days before Thanksgiving, after a routine outpatient procedure that went as bad as it could go. He almost died. I can't begin to tell you what it feels like to have a doctor, a nurse and the hospital chaplain come to you and tell you that your husband is bleeding internally and if surgery is required, he won't make it. And then listen as the nurse explains that when they call the code in the CAT scan lab (not if, when) to go ahead and go in—they'd allow it. (They had to do the scan to determine where the bleeding originated)
Against all odds (insert a miracle or two, here) my husband lived over all that. We spent six weeks in intensive care—my husband unconscious and breathing on a vent—me wagging my spiral notebook around, watching machines register his vital signs, listening for regular breathing patterns and writing my first book. I kept writing after that, in doctor's waiting rooms, during dialysis treatments and while waiting for my husband to finish rehab/physical therapy.
That first book—then titled Hope and Vengeance helped get me through those dark days. There will always be a special place in my heart for Adam Chessman, because the book was about him and Kiarra. (Warning—if you haven't read Blood Domination, you won't know who I'm talking about) In the following months, I wrote twelve or thirteen books about the Saa Thalarr. (Hope and Vengeance is the English translation of Saa Thalarr, by the way) They were a mix of Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy and Science Fiction. And the reason I say twelve or thirteen books is that one of them was so long (more than 150,000 words) that I split it in half. Lately, I've considered rejoining those halves—especially since nobody except me and a couple of good friends may ever read them. They're all too long, all need to be rewritten (I was cutting my writing teeth on those novels) and have way too much sex in them.
I came up with the idea for Blood Wager while attempting to write a punchline for a joke to insert in one of those first novels. The joke? Two vampires walk into a bar. I never did come up with anything particularly funny to go along with it. But it did send me down Lissa's path—what if there really were two vampires in a bar, with more nefarious plans? What if they played games with people's lives, betting on how long it would take them to become vampire? Obviously, they wouldn't pick the healthiest or the youngest—those were easy guesses. No, they'd go after the older, sick or infirm. They'd kill their victims afterward, of course—those hapless targets had outlived their usefulness after the bet was collected.
I wrote those first notes on a scrap of paper and slipped it inside a notebook. I didn't get back to it until seven months later. In March, 2009, after writing twelve or thirteen other books, I pulled out my scrap of paper and sat down to write Lissa's story. The first draft was finished in ten days. After two years of rewrites, edits and more books written (and after a lengthy bout of double pneumonia last February) I decided to self-publish. Yes, I sent out queries for Blood Wager—six, in fact. Nobody seemed to be interested. I know six rejections isn't a lot—I read horror stories all the time about successful authors who were rejected many more times than that. And honestly, I didn't expect Blood Wager to do very well. But it and the books following it were just sitting there, and I'd devoted four years of my life to writing. Time to do something.
After making the decision to self-publish, I did as much research as I could. I'm still not an expert, and I cringe at a bad review. I can only hope some of those things are easier for traditionally published authors—the ones with agents and publishers to back them and reassure them when the road gets bumpy. I don't have that backup system. I have me. Honestly, I've had to work my way through marketing, cover design, book giveaways, advertising—everything. I am thankful that I have an amazing cover artist and a handful of good friends who've gotten behind me and helped push this bus to get it started.
And now, a few fans have jumped in to provide moral support. (Thank you!) I have four books available that are experiencing decent sales—especially for an indie author. What worries me, though, is this: These books are already written. When I sat down to write Lissa's story, I never intended the series to go in the same direction other published series have gone. And there are things that have happened (and will happen) that are certainly outside the norm. I have read suggestions from readers already that I should kill off this character or that, because they're just not needed. That actually frightens me. What I want to say is this: I can't change my vision to fit everybody's vision. If you have hopes and dreams of Lissa having a traditional marriage someday, I beg you to stop reading the series now. You will be disappointed. If you want this or that character dead and gone, I beg you to stop reading now. If any character lives or dies, there is a purpose in it and I cannot rewrite the remaining books to suit one or two people.
For those of you who are art fans, I know you'll recognize the name Georgia O'Keeffe. I once watched a documentary on her life and work, and she said in it (I'm paraphrasing, because I can't find the actual words) that in her early work, she did certain paintings to please one person, and other paintings to please someone else. And then she realized she hadn't done anything to please herself. That's when she started doing the works she is truly known for. One of her quotes, however, I love: "I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life—and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do." While I'm not that brave, I want to be. My books will remain intact, because they are the things I did to please myself, probably for the only time in my life. I wrote what I wanted to read.
"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."—Toni Morrison.
I hope you stay with me. I hope you understand the vision—at least a little—when all the books are published and available. If not, I'll understand. After all, not every book is for every person. Thanks for reading so far—Connie