Born and raised in California’s San Joaquin Valley, I learned early that a good cotton crop would buy us our most prized possessions — shoes and books.
As each farming day ended, my father would retreat to the ‘bunkhouse’ to write magazine stories and articles for Golden West and True West. Alongside him was my mother, a newspaper journalist. Following in their footsteps seemed the natural thing to do, so when Tipton Elementary announced a school-wide American Legion essay contest, I picked up my stubby pencil and a blank page and looked to my father for guidance. “Write what you know,” he said. At my young age, cotton-farming was king. This essay became my first writing award, being bested only by my older sister.
Throughout my teens and early twenties, I sought the life of a writer in every nook, cranny, and corner I could find, but only minor writing successes found their way to me. It seemed I worked every job available trying to help pay the bills while raising my family: telephone operator, telemarketer, airline reservations, radio sales, receptionist, real estate agent, property manager, escrow officer, until one day I realized how fast time was carrying my dream away.
Determined to be a published novelist, I began setting my alarm at 4am every morning and wrote like mad for 3 hours, then showered, dressed, and rushed to work. By day’s end, I was simply too tired to write, but at 4am the next morning I was up and at my keyboard once again. It took another two years before I finished the novel I had been researching and writing for more than fifteen years: Shadow of the Hawk. Pinned to my computer on those exhaustive days were the trimmed lyrics from Sarah McLachlan: “I am so tired, but I can’t sleep … Standin’ on the edge of something much too deep.”
Then, one early morning, word came that I had won the Southern Writers 2014 Short Story contest. A writing dream had come true! While reveling in that wonderful glow of “I am a good writer!” I watched as another email popped in — a publisher was offering a contract on my novel. I think all writers wonder how they’ll react when an offer arrives. For me, I planned to call/text/email/shout the news to everyone I knew, but instead I sat staring at the two emails. Were they truly addressed to me? That same week, two other publishing offers arrived for the same book.
So long ago, my childhood dream while I sat perched high in an apricot tree reading The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, Call of the Wild, Lord of the Rings, The Time Machine, and so many more, was to be a writer … and I am so afraid to open my eyes.
Shadow of the Hawk is my debut novel. Black Lightning is my first middle-grade novel.