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Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Magic Of Beginning

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. "

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If a thing is to be, at some point, it must start, originate -- begin. As von Goethe says, beginning is bold, powerful and even - magic. Out of nothing, something comes to exist. Whether it's a baby, a courtship, a marriage, or a career - it started somewhere and was motivated by something. Someone sat down and said.... I could or I want or I need. We've all done that. We've all done it countless times over countless things that never came to be. Why did they never come to be?

They never came to be because we never crossed the magic bridge.

I could and I want and I need are all ways of saying the same thing - I wish. But wishing never made anything so. Between I wish and I will lies the magic bridge. Crossing it is a bold act, an affirmation of the power of your belief in yourself. You must believe in your ability to change a dream into a reality. Belief is the magic that bridges who you are to who you are becoming.

What makes the magic bridge such a scary place is that it takes a dream that won't die to propel you to take that first step out there, to that place you've never been. I'm a lawyer by trade and many fine starry-eyed young folks dream of becoming a lawyer. But practicing law was never my dream - it was mostly just a logical career progression. My first choice of career was medicine, and I was a candy striper once upon a time. The hospital kept increasing my hours because I related to the patients so well. But doctors have to be good at things like science and math - which were never in my skill set. Doctors especially have to be good at not relating so much to patients that they lose their independent judgment. No, neither medicine nor law was ever my dream.

My dream is to write romance novels and it has been since I was a starry-eyed young thing. I was a teenager when I wandered down the "w" shelf at my local library and found "The Flame And The Flower" by the late Kathleen Woodiwiss. I plowed through every book of hers the library had and then went searching for more. As time went by I fell in love with work by Rosemary Rogers, Johanna Lindsey, Catherine Coulter, Elizabeth Lowell, Julia Quinn and so many, many others. Not every time and not with every book, but more times than I could count - I'd put the book down at a crucial point and imagine how I thought the next scene should go. Little did I realize it at the time, but I was stretching my creative muscles and getting ready.

I always wanted to write books of my own where I'd get to do more than finish someone else's stories. In younger years I'd written a short story good enough for one of my teachers to have me come into every session of her music class during a particular day and read the full story. I had a study hall teacher who would often stop by my desk to see if I'd finished anything new and if I had, she wanted to read it. Long before I put on my newspaper reporter's cap - a role I also had all through Junior High, High School and College - I had a poem published in the newspaper. And once, in high school, I wrote a paragraph good enough to leave a roomful of loud teenagers in absolute, total silence. But the thought of trying to write a whole book of my very own - well, that scared the stuffing out of me.

And life got in the way too, mostly because it was easier to keep my dream perfect and intact - as all dreams are - rather than dirty it with the wear and tear of reality. I went to college and then on to law school. I graduated as a lawyer much more at home at a keyboard than in front of a jury - which was no surprise. I was surprised at what a demand there is for lawyers who can write a compelling memorandum, Order, or appellate brief. And my love of researching all those term papers my English Bachelor's took to earn translated naturally to legal research - so my career as a "scrivener" or legal writer was born.

But still I read and imagined and dreamed. And I was doing just that when the new millenium dawned. It was a new century, the dawn of a new era. If ever I was going to write a book, this was the time. I believe that Millenium New Year's resolution is the only one I ever kept in my life. And if I hadn't had the brave, bold impetus and pure power of beginning on the first day of the 21st century, I don't know if I'd ever have found my courage. But I took that first step and then my muse, who'd waited inside so impatiently, stepped up, took my hand and led me across the magic bridge.

The first book I ever wrote was Brotherly Love. I wrote it on the already ancient IBM ThinkPad that had done its duty by surviving my oldest son. I'd plug it in and set it on the fireplace mantle. I'd sit on the floor in front of it and when my fingers started tapping the keys, my muse took me to a ranch in Texas. I started the book without a plot or a plan. I didn't know any of "the rules" and I believe I managed to break most of them. None of that would matter today but Brotherly was written in the bad old days, when the only way to get a book published was to find an agent who could sell it for you. So I did all the searches for agents and likely queried almost every single one who represented romance back in the day. I got a number of requests for and reads of my full manuscript by agents, but each one passed.

I'd already started writing my Forever Series because once you cross that magic bridge, you can't back track. But it was tough to find the strength to keep on keeping on in the face of so much rejection, especially when it was almost always accompanied by "this is a good story, but..." I finally realized the insanity in the query process. It took two (2) final rejections to show me the problem with having anyone's set of eyes serve as screeners for the vast and varied population of the world's readers. One literary agent passed on Brotherly because the book had a message. It had a theme of sorts and the agent said that would confuse romance readers. That perturbed me because this person was saying that romance readers weren't particularly bright. This agent made her living selling romance books to publishers. Her statement really bothered me, both as a writer and as a lifelong romance reader. She suggested that I query literary agents. When I did, one read either part of or all of the MS and rejected it because "it had too much sex in it and that would make literary readers uncomfortable".

That was the straw that broke the back of a crazy writer who became the duck lady when she wrote a story about a girl who was "the oddest duck of them all" who got some help from Faeries to win her very own Prince... err... Laird Charming. (Pick up A Faerie Fated Forever and learn to love a duck like I did. Faerie is free everywhere.) Those faeries must've put some of their magic to work for me because I found a little site owned by a French company. It was called "Mobipocket." And I e-published my work on it. Anyone with a computer could download and read it - not that anyone much read books on their computers, mind you. But my work was out there and some folks did buy and read it.

And then a little old American company run by a Wizard named Bezos bought Mobipocket and started using the mobi engine to build a brand new product - an ereading device that would change the world, the Kindle. Today every writer who is brave enough to step out onto that magic bridge can do so knowing that her work will reach readers. She knows that it won't wither and die on a hard drive because she can put it out in the vast, virtual marketplace via Amazon's KDP platform, Smashwords, PubIt, Sony, the iBookstore and, if she writes romance, through great sites like my newest publishing home, All Romance eBooks and OmniLit.

My dream remains a work in progress because I'm not - yet- writing romance full-time. I still work as a scrivener at the law firm where I'm fortunate enough to work for a Senior Partner and with a couple of co-workers who are all very supportive. But I am still working on my dream, still traversing the magic bridge. And I've learned that a bright, shiny dream that only lives in your head never lives at all.

We all have dreams. Whatever your dream is, it can never come true until you believe in it enough to get it out of your head and into your reality. So believe in yourself enough to take that first step out onto the magic bridge. Once you're bold enough to take those first steps, you might find the power to complete your journey. That will take you to a new reality - your reality - the one you choose, in the place you belong.

SO, WHAT'S YOUR DREAM? HOW FAR HAVE YOU COME ON YOUR JOURNEY? TELL US HOW IT BEGAN OR WHAT YOUR PLANS ARE FOR TAKING THAT FIRST STEP....... We'll all cheer for you, I promise - even if one of the cheers sounds a lot like a quack from a certain over-the-top duck lady.

Mary Anne Graham
Quacking Alone Romances
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Magic Bridge

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Lawyer writing

Duck walking on bridge

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  1. Getting a diary for a Christmas present when I was seven set me on the road to writing. Traveling in an air force family gave me plenty subjects to write about. For years I wrote only short stories, poetry, song lyrics and in my journals. I began thinking "I sure would like to write a book" when I was in college. Twenty years would pass before I made that dream come true and what came out of me was a romance. Never had read one, had no idea how to write one but that's where my head and hands took me. Since then, I've studied my craft, read hundreds of romances, workshopped, attended conferences and am the happy author of ten books. Congratulations on your books, Mary Anne. If you're like me, writing has made my life much more complete. I love spending time with my characters!

  2. Polly:

    Both of our "beginnings" prove that it's never too late to make a dream come true.

    I bet your air force family background did give you lots to write about. That had to be an interesting childhood.

    Thanks so much for sharing!


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