Happy “Bookversary” to my first publication, Four Sisters.
It has been a full year since the novella was released. And while for some it may not seem like a big thing, it really is for me. Until this point, I had tinkered with short stories, novels, and poetry between classes and jobs but didn’t go forth and publish. To tell the truth, most of it was because I got so caught up in the grind of school-work-volunteer-family-school-work-school-life. What very little time I had left was not spent writing, even though I wanted it to be. I found myself becoming a 9-to-5 schedule zombie, scraping together minutes for creativity. Often the outlet was sewing (by hand, to boot) or random things here-and-there, but the writing was lacking. Big mistake. Apparently I get very grouchy and the void lurking within makes itself known.
Tragedy & the (Re)birth of the Self
And then it hit me: my mother’s very sudden, very shocking, very depressing death. In the middle of June 2012, I remember waving goodbye to her and my father from the concrete walk of the train station. I had spent several days with them as I usually would, but needed to get home to my work. At the time, one of the projects my colleagues and I had worked diligently on had just hit the fan and we were feeling grief from losing individuals we were trying to help. I was not in the best of moods.
Then in the middle of the night on June 30, 2012, my partner and I received the dreaded phone call. Mom had passed that morning in her sleep. Her heart just stopped. No warning. No chance to say goodbye. Just… stopped.
Everything that was important at the time went out the window. Family became the everything. And mourning took over. I found I couldn’t focus. It was really apparent when I received a very simple, straightforward email from a colleague and read the first sentence 15 times before realizing I had no idea what it said. The email was in perfect English. It was a simple sentence. My eyes saw everything; my brain processed nothing.
And that’s when I turned to writing. Why?
It was the only thing I could actually do.
Reading emails, news articles, reports — all of it went over my head. But the creative writing thing stuck. It’s funny, almost as if when I’m stripped down to my most basic parts, the storytelling is at the core. And to tell the truth, it isn’t a huge surprise. This isn’t the first time writing has been associated with death in my life. It’s the second, at least. The first was when I was 6 years old and wrote my very first story (or so I remember). It was a story about a boy who lost his mitten. I wrote it because I was killing time at my babysitter’s house, waiting for my parents to pick us up. The day just got longer and longer; the night darker and darker. By the time my parents arrived, the story was done.
Then I found out my grandfather died earlier that day.
Now the story, his death, and the birth of my writing are forever linked. Incidentally, it’s the same story that my 1st grade teacher submitted to the regional Literary Guild program, then I was chosen to read the story to my peers at the event.
Bringing Life to Death
At the time of dealing with my grief, I just wanted to be productive, not curl up into a ball every day and let time pass. So I left the work behind and focused on writing. I spent most of my time on an adult novel I had started years before, letting my subconscious take the story to the next level.
Somewhere along the way, I decided to branch out and see what else the world had to offer.
Peddling back a bit: by the time I was twelve, I knew I wanted to be a published author. One of my schoolmates swears I knew this way before then and, now that I think about it, she’s probably right. Maybe I was 9 or 10. In any event, I spent so much time
speed-reading and writing as a kid that I wanted to be like those people I admired. I had ideas, too, and an active imagination. When I was about 14, I gave publishers a go. My mother, bless her heart, helped me prepare proposal packages and we sent them to a few publishers I had pulled from my copy of Writer’s Market. They were all rejected, but nicely. After that, I put the queries aside and focused on improving my skills in school.
But then jump to the more recent past of 2013, where I was toiling in thoughts and my head felt like I was stuck in a snow globe someone had shaken over and over, blocking out everything from my sight. I was checking out agents and publishers and what 2013 had to offer. So much had changed since 1997! Now things were at my fingertips in a matter of kb/s.
That’s when I discovered submission calls that caught my interest.
Two novellas: one adult romance and one that said simply “12 Days of Solstice”. It could have gone anywhere, but something about the Solstice call screamed YA to me. I also loved the idea of writing something for a publishing house called Pagan Writers Press. The calls were for shorter stories — not novels — so I dove right on in and worked on both at the same time. I hadn’t written a short story in a long while and had been working on a novel up until that point. I thought it would be a great time to do something new. Spread my wings. Get some experience in this new, technological, eBook-devouring, Indie and small-publishing world.
How It Begins Isn’t Necessarily How It Ends
The solstice story didn’t come as easily as I had hoped. The original idea I had for it didn’t work out in my soul as much as my head thought it would. The premise was about a girl who discovered her Norse spirituality while on vacation with her parents, a trip she didn’t want to take. There was something about her leaving the cabin and getting lost, then getting found by… something. I don’t what anymore. At the end of the day, it just wasn’t happening. The days dwindled. The deadline crept up.
Then something hit me. I don’t remember exactly what, but it smacked me in the head. Something about a fairytale-like story. A myth. Fantastical, which is my default genre; my home. I started thinking about this boy who ran into elementals and had a problem.
This is what my notes looked like:
Then I just kept going. I pulled out photos I had found while browsing social media and other websites and started pulling together characters.
Fun fact #1: Originally, Fallow’s name came from thinking about one of my friends, Fallon. Her name is fabulous and fits her so well. I didn’t want to totally steal it, though. Then the “ow” end came to mind. I’m pretty sure it came from the recesses of memory, after I’d heard it in passing or came across it in a story. I was certain it was a real word. When I looked it up, I nearly fell over laughing. The name suit perfectly in its own way. So it stuck. Thanks for being an inspiration, Fallon. The first time but not the last.
Fun fact #2: The appearance of all of the sisters in the story are derived from photos I particularly loved. I can’t share them because of copyright, but they’re from photo shoots, costumers, stock… wherever. I scoured my options and threw collages together for each family, setting up sister after sister. They came together pretty easily. Even their names weren’t a far stretch. Then again, I love the naming process.
Let the Nail-biting Begin
The story did not start with ease. It took me a little while. I had to switch rooms, positions, and approach just to get it. Then a creepy image took over. Once I got through the first few paragraphs, the rest of the scene flowed. Then the rest of the story. It took some patience, believe me. But by the end, I was confident and thought I had pulled something fun together.
The editing process didn’t kill me half as much as I thought it would, and I’m still learning even now. But I did the best I could and submitted it.
The waiting was worse. Would the publisher hate it? I was no stranger to rejection, but I’d hoped for something positive. I finished the other novella at around the same time. Ugh x2.
The next month, I checked my email late at night.
I freaked out. Blinked. Blinked some more. Checked the submission manager. Sure enough, I wasn’t going blind or delusional. The first thing was to email the publisher back. And call my partner with an “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God”.
After so long of being out of the game, and scrambling to catch up, it couldn’t have made me happier. A complete stranger took something of mine on.
Then the edits came around. I hadn’t dealt with an editor in the professional capacity before so it was a new experience. Not as painful as I thought. Then the proofreading. Again, not as painful. I think waiting for the cover art was the scariest part. I put my faith in the lovely Angie Mroczka (owns PWP) that she’d come up with something amazing. The ideas I had for the cover weren’t as helpful as I’m sure they could’ve been. I’d never had to worry about cover art. Plus, visual art isn’t my strong suit. Neither was sifting through stock photography for something that’s awesome. Though I’m trying to get better.
So when Angie sent me the file, I didn’t know what to expect. Opening the file, I held my breath…
Gorgeous. Loved the cover from the first moment. So much better than I originally had in my head.
Then Release Day happened.
Again, another first. Of course, it was December 20. And I was supposed to be traveling by train that day, visiting family. Needless to say, it was a very busy day. I couldn’t stop checking social media sites and the internet in general. Or Amazon. I can’t even begin to count how many of the hits that day were from one of my computers. It’s no better now.
It was alive.
And so was Regine Allison Claire.
Where Does It Go from Here?
That was how I said farewell to 2013. This was the very first, traditionally published story of mine to be picked up and put out into the world. Since then, I’ve had other novellas and short stories picked up for this pseudonym and my two others.
But this — this — is the one that started it all. The one that gave me that boost of confidence. The one that suggested complete strangers who owed me absolutely nothing could be willing to take a shot on something I wrote. I wouldn’t say that I’ve had a major struggle with confidence and self-esteem, but I won’t say that I’ve been a stranger to them. We meet somewhere in the middle. I was always that annoying kid in school who the teachers praised for the great work, but that didn’t go to my head. I’ve always wondered what the rest of the world would think. I still do. Each new story is another test of my nerves and hope.
So, when something like this — after being out of the storytelling thing for so long — gets picked up after what I considered a long shot, it does some pretty cool things. And I’m sure so many of my fellow writers know exactly what I mean.
This is a good time for us to give life a smile and pat ourselves on the back. Just because we need to celebrate the firsts. Our little steps in the big world. Our risks and those times we doubted ourselves meanwhile someone else was willing to take it on, no matter what they saw in it.
But there’s just one thing… now that the foot’s in the door, you either yank it back out or inch the rest of your body through.
Inch is right. Though even shorter since I’m Canadian. It’s more like centimetres. But I can’t make a verb out of that.
Unfortunately, this year hasn’t been about YA. I have several ideas for new YA stories, and a few NA, but it’s mostly been adult stories that have won out. Except there are 2 things that are true about my next steps:
1. I have 4 YA flash fiction stories being published in 2015, all in anthologies through Pagan Writers Press (PWP). That’s another post for the new year.
2. I will be working on a trilogy. The first book, Family Secret, is semi-outlined. It needs work, as much as the rest of the trilogy does. The ideas were flying out of my head in 2014, and they made it to paper. They just haven’t come out in story form yet. But in the spring, I intend to get on it. I know enough about the characters get started and their school will be based off my alma mater. At this moment, it is called the Within series. Book #2 is Possession and book #3 is facing an identity crisis. Though it seems to have been seriously pondering Unbound for a title. The titles are significant, but again… another post for another day.
And that’s how we celebrate around here, with thanks to Angie, PWP, both my parents, my partner for putting up with the long nights and crazy creative moments, and most of all everyone who takes the time to read
and review my work.
Click here to find out more about Four Sisters, including links to where it can be purchased.