One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the couch with my mom as she read me a book. I was only four, but the memory is so vivid that I’m pretty sure that was the exact moment I fell in love with reading. By the time I was eight, when my nose wasn’t in a book, I was penning and illustrating my own short stories, and by ten, I had penned (on loose leaf notebook paper, front and back) over 100 pages of a novel about a girl and her horse. I was a closeted writer back then. The only people I dared show my work to were my mom and sister because I was afraid people would laugh at me. Most of my friends had no idea I had dreams of writing novels when I grew up.
It took a high school journalism class to make me realize I had to do something about my passion. I was seventeen when I finally found the courage to come out as a writer.
It was in that high school journalism class, in front of fellow students and my teacher, that I boldly proclaimed I would write for magazines and have my own column by the time I was thirty. I also started making plans to go to college for writing.
It was really no big surprise to my mom and sister. They knew it would eventually happen. My father, on the other hand, was more pragmatic and told me to at least have another career in the wings because writers don’t make a lot of money. He didn’t want me living under a bridge. So I took my dad’s advice, but went to school for writing anyway. Five years later, with my B.A. in English Creative Writing (minor in Journalism) in tow, I began seriously submitting fiction and articles to magazines, and working on the fantasy novel I’d been laboring over since age nineteen.
I got a lot of rejection letters, but also a lot of personal requests for more. Obviously I didn’t suck – I just wasn’t writing anything that anyone wanted to buy. I sold a few short stories to semi-pro magazines. I sold a few articles to a trade magazine. When I was twenty-six, I was offered my own column in said trade magazine. I jumped on the opportunity. I had, indeed, managed to get my own column by the time I was thirty.
Then, in 1998, I was approached by some friends and asked if I would write up a pre-initiate training manual for Daemonolaters. After all, I was the only writer they knew. I had no real plans to pen non-fiction books back then, but I gave in and agreed. The result was Modern Demonolatry. Initially, it was my understanding the book was supposed to stay within our little group of friends, but then I had an idea. What if I could get it published by a real publisher? It would take the publication cost off our local group and place it squarely on someone else. As an added bonus, I’d have a proper publication credit.
But alas, publishers weren’t interested in Daemonolatry back then because it was controversial, not to mention the book wasn’t that great, so I added a few more rejections to my collection. I finally talked to a friend who I’d worked with on The Darker Woods, a semi-pro fiction zine.That’s how Darkerwood Publishing Group came to publish Modern Demonolatry in 1999. Because of that, my little book ended up selling outside our little group. The first print run of 100 limited edition hardcovers sold out in six months.
It would be another six years before I published another book, but this time, it was that fantasy novel I’d rewritten five or six times since 1992. Left Horse Black (formerly Traveling on the Left Horse Black, and The Left Horse Black among other working titles) sold to a small press called ArcheBooks late in 2004 and was published in 2005. I was even offered a contract on the second book, Warrior’s Blood Red.
Meanwhile, from the years 2000-2005 I kept getting calls at my home from bookstores seeking out copies of Modern Demonolatry. It was in summer of 2005 that a friend of mine directed me to a website called Lulu where I could self-publish whatever I wanted. I jumped at the chance to get Modern Demonolatry back in print if only to keep people from calling our house at all hours of the day and night looking for it.
That was all it took — an opportunity. From there the rest is history. I have self-published over 20 books about Daemonolatry since then.
With fiction, sales were still hit and miss, and ultimately I ended up self-publishing a lot of my work. I also ended up disolving my contracts with ArcheBooks and working with Darkerwood Publishing Group to re-publish the Sorcerer’s Twilight books. I now run and own Darkerwood Publishing Group, which is another story, so I guess you could say I’m mostly self-published these days minus some short fiction I’ve sold for anthologies, and a romance novel I’ve placed with another publisher in recent months.
In my thirties I also made a goal for myself that I would have a bestselling novel by the time I was forty. Sure enough, at thirty-nine, I wrote Training Amy, a self-published overnight bestseller that put my fiction on a map somewhere, boosting my reading audience far above what I ever expected it would be.
Now to the part of this post that is probably the most important part.
For a few years now I thought that my new writing goal was too arrogant. Too lofty. Maybe even unobtainable. So I haven’t really done anything about it and I’ve been embarrassed to share it with others.
Then I was reminded of that single declaration I made at seventeen: that I would have my own column by the time I was thirty. I suppose some would say that was a rather arrogant proclamation for a seventeen-year-old. So was my thirty-three-year-old-self arrogant in declaring that I would have a bestseller by age forty.
As all good magicians know, in order to manifest your will, you need to declare your intent without apology – not giving a shit if the critics think you’re insane or arrogant, or that you or your work sucks balls.
One bestselling novel, a few bestselling non-fiction titles, and two bestselling novellas aren’t enough for me. I don’t just want a writing career – I want an International, New York Times, USA Today, bestselling writing career that will be a source of joy and yes, income, for me until my dying breath! I want to consistently make a living year after year doing what I’m good at, and doing what I love to do. I do make a living doing it now, but it’s still a struggle to keep the income flowing consistently. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am not grateful for what I have. I am. I know I’ve been more fortunate, monetarily, than 90% of the writers I know. I love all of my readers and friends who have supported me this far in my journey. But now I have to take it to the next level. I have to challenge myself and give myself a greater goal to work toward. It’s how I operate. There’s always that next mountain to climb. I need the mountain. Dare I say the mountain is calling me…
So here, before all my readers, friends, family, and onlookers – I am declaring my next goal. Before I’m dead — I will have more bestselling novels, bigger bestsellers, under my belt, and my work will be widely known. I want my pen names (at least one) to be a household name. Writing has always been my greatest talent ever since I was that young girl passionately penning horse stories in notebooks. I know I have more bestsellers in me and I don’t care if it seems a grand and lofty goal. I can do this.
“But Steph?” someone asks, “What if you fail?”
To that I say:
If I fail, at least I failed while daring greatly and climbing that mountain. I have no regrets.