I finished a book in July. I know, big deal, huh? But it occurred to me after I said it to a friend last week that, when I used to say, “I finished a book,” I’d mean I’d finished reading one. The one I finished in July was one I wrote (Thanksgiving Angels, book #5 in my Mercy Allcutt series, to be published God knows when). Until I began writing books in 1993 or thereabouts, I’d finished tons and tons of books, but they weren’t books I’d written. They were books I’d read.
Also, until I began writing and publishing books, I’d only ever met one or two people who’d had books published. Now it seems that everyone I know is a writer to one degree or another. For some reason, perhaps because I’m old and lazy, I decided to write this month’s blog about how one’s life can change at the drop of a hat. Or, in my case, the death of my feet.
Okay, my feet aren’t really dead. But back when I was young(ish), I danced. And danced. And danced. Heck, I was even a professional dancer in the nineteen-eighties. Granted, I was in two professional folk-dance ensembles, and that’s kind of akin to being a professional basket-weaver, but, dang it, I was a professional dancer. I used to love doing high-impact aerobics, too. I tell you, I was in great shape back then.
Then my feet began to hurt. A lot. All the time. So I went to a doctor, he took X-rays, and he told me I’d managed, what with all my floor-banging exercise and dance, to batter most of the cartilage out of my toe joints. I got a second opinion, and it was the same as the first. Both doctors said they’d be glad to replace my toe joints with artificial ones, which I guess was nice of them, but they also told me the replacements parts only lasted five to ten years. As I was forty-two when this pronouncement was told unto me, I didn’t take either kind man up on his offer. I mean, I’m now sixty-seven. How the heck often can one’s toe joints be replaced anyway? I didn’t know, but it didn’t sound like a chance I was willing to take.
The diagnosis was a blow, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. The damage was done. At first I decided to scoff at pain and continue dancing, but my feet hurt too much, so I stopped. Boy, talk about a gigantic, gaping hole! Dancing was what I did. It was where my friends were. It took up all my spare time.
At first I cooked. I love to cook even now. But back then, in the late eighties, early nineties, I cooked feasts. Gigantic meals to share with my family. I became a compulsive baker and took goodies to my job at JPL every day. But cooking didn’t really fill the gap. Neither did eating. Trust me, I know.
So, what to do?
The only thing I’d ever truly wanted to do in my life was write books. When I was a little kid and someone asked me what I wanted to “be” when I grew up (stupid question), I’d say, “An author.” But I didn’t have a clue how to go about writing books, for Pete’s sake! Perhaps because I’m a Sagittarius, I tend to get from one point to another without meandering. If you start with a murder and the cop catches the villain in the next paragraph, you don’t have much of a book, do you?
Then one day, when my daughter Robin and I were visiting my folks in Roswell, New Mexico, we drove from Roswell to Fort Sumner where, no matter who tells you myths about somewhere in Texas, Billy the Kid was killed and buried (apologies to Earl Staggs here). Robin drove, and I looked at the scenery. There wasn’t a whole lot of it, southeastern New Mexico being desert and all, but boy, do we get skies. So I took a little notebook out of my purse and wrote a description of the southeastern New Mexico sky. I didn’t tell Robin. I just tucked my notebook back into my purse.
When we got back home to Pasadena, I began to write down little snippets of cool description and kept them in my computer at work. I didn’t have a computer at home yet. Then, one day, greatly daring, I decided what the heck, and began writing a book. I finished the thing, too, what’s more, and three or four more after that until I kind of got the hang of writing books, which isn’t as easy as one might think. Stringing together 400-500 coherent pages of one story takes a bit of planning, you know? Finally I enrolled in “Writing for Publication”, a class taught by a wonderful woman named Meredith Brucker at San Marino High School. It was Meredith who persuaded me to join Romance Writers of America, and it was Meredith who read my fledgling efforts, told me I was good, and made me feel more or less competent about my writing abilities. And her class taught us all precisely how to go about querying editors and agents.
So, by God, I did query agents and editors, and I sold my first book to HarperCollins in January 1994. And in July, 2013, I finished writing my fifty-first publishable book. And all because I couldn’t dance any longer. Amazing how things happen, isn’t it?
Please visit my web site at www.aliceduncan.net and my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925 . Also, please enter my contest for August, during which I’ll be giving away copies of Genteel Spirits, book #5 in my Daisy Gumm Majesty series. All you need to do to enter is send me an email with your name and address thereon to email@example.com . Thanks!