20 Years In The Making – Broken Wings by Anna Leigh Keaton

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With the death of her beloved father, Meghan Moresworth’s sheltered life collapses into hell, when she is forced into marriage and abuse. She finally escapes to find safety and unexpected passion in the arms of Galen Thorne. She grows to love the man who thinks she’s a runaway servant and fears her deep, dark secrets will destroy them both. Galen never expected to discover that the little waif he rescued would turn into a woman who could tempt him to the breaking point…and steal his heart. When the secrets of Meghan’s past are revealed, will Galen keep her as his own, or is she destined for the gallows?

I guess I don’t post much about writing on this “Writing and Eating” blog, because food, sometimes, is more fun than my “job” of writing. I do love to write, when inspiration hits, and I often do a lot of my best brainstorming while in the kitchen. But the kitchen is also my break, my happy place, away from my computer.

Inspiration doesn’t come easily lately, when it comes to writing. I have the stories in my head, the characters talk to me often, but putting butt in chair and getting the fingers to do their thing, is very difficult. The fact I spend hours a day editing other people’s books doesn’t help.

An eon ago, when hubby worked 9-5 and kid was in school from 9-3, and I had a solid 6 hours to myself, it was so easy to have routine. Now? Hubby works odd shifts, often graveyards, which puts him at home, wanting to have conversations until about noon, and the kiddo? A teenager who is in and out of the house with the breeze. I can edit and do my other work with the buzz of people around the house, but writing? If I’m at home, it must be silent for me to write. Or I can haul my laptop off to – well, I hate coffee shops because I feel a little too cliche there – I happen to really enjoy McDonald’s in the mornings. The retirees come out for their inexpensive coffee and muffins, and sometimes the conversations are very interesting… But it’s hard to pick up and leave the house every morning, go to the restaurant, and work, when I have so much “other things” to get done at home.

So what took 20 years in the making? What road blocks did I hit?

I often prided myself that I could sit down and pop out a novella in less than 5 days. A novel? 2 weeks, tops. That’s when I had 6 hours to write a day, and no interruptions, and could get so engrossed in a story line that nothing – sometimes even the kid or hubby – could distract me from it. I lived for writing.

Now? It takes me weeks to work up to writing anything, playing the book over and over in my head, and then mostly I’m writing short stories, under 20,000 words, and it can take me a couple of weeks to get it down. It’s rather painful. But I have hopes that miraculously my life will get less complicated and I can get back to doing what I love. 2016 is my year. Of course i said that in 2014 and 2015 too, but I’m going to really WORK at it in the coming year. I have to. I have to do what I love, or I might go off the rails.

Broken Wings was a book I started writing before my daughter was born – and she’s 18.5 years old now. This was way back when before I even owned a computer, let alone typed my books up as they came to me. This book started out in a 3 subject spiral bound notebook with a black cover, hand written with a blue Pilot pen – the smoothest pen I found back then, and I hate black ink.

I had a day job that gave me a lot of time to sit at my desk – I was a computer embroidery machine operator, and it’s a whole lot of hurry up and wait when the machines are working and doing their job properly. I finally finished my book.

The guy who became my 1st husband had a computer, and I started typing it up, saving it onto floppy disk as I went. I was always a pretty fast typist, having done transcription work at my first job in an office at 16 years old, so it didn’t really take that long to transfer my opus from spiral notebook to floppy disk, adding things here and there as they came to me along the way. I had never been so proud of anything in my life, and I started reading all the handy “how-to” books on getting published. Remember, this was long before online…anything.

Road blocks? First and foremost, I kind of knew that what I had wasn’t publishable. I’d read enough romance books by then to know that first, my book was way too short – just 150 pages or so – typed. Second, I knew it needed help, but I lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, and where do you find help there? And third, I lived with a person who called my writing, “Your stupid little stories.” Yes, that is quite the killer of ambition when your lover thinks your hobby is “stupid.”

So, I printed out what I had, put it in a red three-ring binder, and stuck it on the bookshelf, figuring it would never amount to anything. I continued writing, though. I still had all those dead hours at work, and I had so many stories in my head. Some that since then have been published, some so terrible I couldn’t even read them after I learned a few things about writing and editing. But it was still just a hobby, my “stupid little stories” and I kept them all secret and to myself, hiding my binders and notebooks from my stupid lover.

More road blocks? Getting pregnant, getting married, getting a divorce. Through it all I wrote. I sometimes think that kept my sanity, it was my escape from reality. My characters – my friends – kept me grounded in a way only imaginary friends can. And then came along Jody, the man in another country, the man who I met online and who was there for me during what could have been the darkest days of my life. He is an artist in his own right, and he understood my need to write. Our romance wasn’t exactly whirlwind. We talked for an entire year over the computer and phone before we met in person. But when I went home, I wore an engagement ring. One year later, we were getting ready to be married, and my brother flew all the way from Alaska to Ontario, Canada for the wedding.

We have different versions of this story, I’ve come to realize. And honestly I don’t know which one is the right one anymore. For years I felt he “found” my binder and read Broken Wings. He claims I gave him the book to read. Even if that were the case, and I still have my doubts about that, I know I suffered from almost paralyzing mortification that someone – and my brother at that – was reading something I wrote.

For a few years, my brother bugged me about getting published. He loved my story – except the heroine cried too much. I knew it needed much more added to it to be publishable – this was back before e-books were popular, and to publish a historical novel, it needed to be about two-thirds longer. One night, I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea, got up, and started typing. It took a long time, weeks and months, but I got it just how I wanted it, and then life intruded again. Jody and I and the kiddo, moved across Canada from Ontario to British Columbia, then came the stress of hubby finding work, getting our daughter enrolled in 1st grade, etc…

For three years, I wrote. Other things, putting Broken Wings to the side. I had a few failed attempts with shorter contemporary books with Harlequin, and was losing my drive to get published, and then I found an online RWA group – I’d joined RWA a few years earlier, but hadn’t really done anything with it, except read their advice on publishing and their thoughts on different print publishers. Through the online RWA group, I heard about e-books. The first publisher I sent my first contemporary to, published it. Within a matter of months, I had 3 contracts with them for my contemporary trilogy, and then I sent them Broken Wings. I couldn’t have been more thrilled! I even got to do my own cover art.

Looking back, I made about a dozen mistakes. The company wasn’t a good one, I never made more than about $20 on all of my books there, and they were rather…unhelpful to a new author. I can also say that their editors… Actually I had only one editor for all my books, but several different line editors, were pretty horrendous. I was so upset with one, I think I might have gotten her fired. She put semi-colons all over my book! I was furious. I rode out the 2 year contract and asked for all my rights back. I self published one of the books with a brilliant, sexy new cover, after doing a massive line edit on the thing that was so painful I was mortified anyone saw it the way it had been. Broken Wings and my cowboy trilogy went into the “drawer” – actually sitting on my jump drive – for almost a decade until my publisher asked if I had anything she might want.

I hemmed and hawed for a while. She’d never read any of my non-erotic novels before, and I wasn’t sure what she’d think. I spent a few days line editing Broken Wings (again living in sheer mortification over how badly it had been edited the first time) and then sent it to her. I figured it was still good – I still loved the book! – when she thanked me for letting her read it, and she contracted it that day – with the caveat that I spice it up just a little and get rid of the “behind the door” sex scenes. Well, sure! No problem!!!

So here it is, at least 20 years – possibly a little more – after I started it, with the most gorgeous cover by Kelly Martin, the most fabulous cover artist I think I’ve ever seen, polished and edited to super high standards, and I am so proud of this book, so happy to be part of Cobblestone Press.

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