In 2012 I won the Emerald Award. I won it with an unedited manuscript, unread by anyone and punctuated with more enthusiasm than talent.
I’d only been a member of the RWA for a month when I entered the contest, and I was such a novice writer I had to google the terms ‘Category’ and ‘Single Title’ as I had no clue what they meant.
When I found myself on stage at the Gold Coast conference awards dinner holding a trophy, I was speechless.
I surprised a few people by accepting a contract with a small trad-pub house in the USA called Secret Cravings Publishing. I knew I had a lot to learn about the technical side of writing, and Secret Cravings had a good reputation for working with novice writers. I absorbed every bit of information I could, and in 2013 my first published book won the Ella Award. (now the Ruby Novella) For the second time in 2 years I was holding a trophy at an RWA gala dinner, this time in Western Australia, my home state.
I also pitched and received 2 offers to submit a full MS of a new series.
By the end of 2013, I had 8 published books, 2 trophies, 2 more international award nominations and 2 submissions requests.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that was the end of the story? Guess again…
On the 12th January 2014, we heard heli-bombers roar over our house. A massive bushfire was heading our way. We grabbed passports and legal documents, I put all of my unpublished manuscripts onto a flash drive, and we ran. 57 houses were destroyed and over 200 were severely damaged. Ours was one of them. Although still standing, it had sustained over $150,000 in damages. All the windows had broken due to the extreme heat. All of our possessions were coated in ash, soot, smoke and water. Almost everything we owned had to be scrubbed or dumped. The garage and pergola were destroyed, the electrics, and even the water pipes under the ground melted. The emotional impact of an event like that is difficult to express. It took a year to put our life and home back together and I didn’t even think about anything relating to writing. I finally joined a local writers group, not to write, rather to share what I’d learnt through being published. Those few hours a week proved invaluable to my emotional state and took me away from endless house repairs.
In late 2014, I assumed my 2013 conference pitch opportunities had expired and I offered my other series to Secret Cravings. They accepted and by mid-2015 two of the new books had been published. Despite my lack of promotional skills, all my published books were selling well. Things were getting back to normal.
In August 2015 my husband, Guy, felt a sharp pain in his chest. We were told he needed major heart bypass surgery. The private health insurance we’d been diligently paying for over 20 years found a ‘loophole’ in our policy and refused to cover the cost. We had no choice but to go on the public hospital waiting list.
Was that the end of the plot twists happening in my life? Spoiler alert. No it wasn’t…
One month after the surgery news, Secret Cravings declared bankruptcy. All of my books disappeared from sale worldwide. Within 24 hours I was no longer a published author.
We then began a torturous ten month wait for Guys operation on the public hospital system. I went to bed each night, hoping nothing would happen while he slept. I watched him go to work each day not knowing if he’d come home.
Writing was the last thing on my mind, but I knew I had to do something or risk going insane from the stress, so I put my hand up for volunteer judging to any writing contest that needed help. I read while waiting for Guys surgery - which thankfully went smoothly despite the extended wait - I read while he was recovering in hospital, while he was at home recuperating, and during the long months of rehabilitation and physiotherapy. In all, I judged for a dozen contests and read over 150 stories. My pad and pen went everywhere with me, to take notes for my score sheets. I received lovely thank you letters from contest entrants, which I’ll always treasure. Even though I wasn’t writing, I felt I was helping hard working contest coordinators run the best contests they could.
In 2016 I read an inspiring nonfiction anthology called ‘Writing The Dream’ released by Serenity Press where a variety of Australian authors talked about their own journey. When Serenity announced a call for a fiction short story anthology, I submitted and was accepted. For the first time since 2015, I was about to be a published author again.
I bravely took my 8 book backlist Romantic Suspense Emerald/Ella winning series, and offered it to Serenity as well. The day they accepted was the day I did a manic happy dance around my office – thankfully unwitnessed.
Which brings us full circle to the beginning of this story. In August 2012 I won the Emerald with my story, The Hostage.
Thanks to Serenity Press, In March 2019, that same story, re-edited and rebranded as Emotion In Chains has been released. My Ella winning story, Diplomat’s Daughter, has also been released by Serenity under its new title, Notes of Desire.
My entire Secret Cravings backlist catalogue has now been re-contracted. I’m proud to be working with Gumnut Press, Vulpine Press, and Serenity Press.
My reason for sharing my story is to encourage others to never give up. Our house will always have scars from the fire, but it’s still our home. Guy has scars from his surgery, but it saved his life. My scars are emotional but I own them as they helped me learn patience and perseverance.
Sometimes the end of the journey is only the beginning. And sometimes that new beginning is well worth the wait.