Friday, June 6, 2014

A Life Long Love Affair

The past few weeks I have started attending a small writer's group at the local Senior Center. (Yes, I do qualify as a senior although I am sure I look, act and think about thirty!! And if you believe that I can sell you some great Arizona ocean front property!) Anyway, the focus of this group is encouraging folks to get down stories from the past, their stories, because in the last fifty or seventy or ninety years things have changed so much! So I join in and write a short essay each Friday afternoon and read it aloud as the rest of the group does. We laugh, sigh, even tear up a bit at times. It is fun!

I've shared a few of those short pieces over at the deirdre-fourds blog but this one may fit better here. Bits and pieces of it have appeared on both I gusss so if you have read some of it, just skip a few lines!

I titled this one "A Love Affair With the Written Word."

As the first child and an only for eight and a half years, I was the focus of much of my parents' attention during my early years. Some of my first memories involve sitting in Mom or Dad's lap while they read me a bedtime story. A favorite was a big red book of Mother Goose Rhymes which was illustrated with lovely Victorian line drawings. I still have that book, a bit faded and dog-eared but no less beloved.

The ritual was they'd read several rhymes and then color one drawing with colored pencils which my Dad used for drafting and schematics stuff as he had worked for an early electronics firm for awhile and been in ham radio as a boy. It wasn't long before I began to recognize those odd black squiggles were a kind of code and that certain ones had sounds and groups of them made words!

By the time I started school, I had pretty well claimed the alphabet and phonics came easily. I zipped through the little paperback pre-primers and was into the bigger 'real' book in a few weeks while many classmates were still struggling with, "Run, Spot, run. See Spot run."

By second grade I had met Nancy Drew, gotten through most of the Little Golden Books and was looking for new worlds to conquer. During the summer between second and third grade while my parents operated a US Forest Service fire lookout, I wrote my first verses, original spelling and all. I even illustrated them with line drawings in bright crayons. By then I was hooked and have remained so all the passing years. I devoured books by the score and was reading outside the kids' section of the library before I was a teen if not sooner.And soon I was rewriting some of those tales as I thought they should be and then inventing or interpreting my own.

The idea of writing never seemed strange to me. Shortly after my parents with toddler-aged me moved to Arizona from the Midwest, my father spent a year or two writing what was to be the next great American novel. It was never published but already I saw writing as a thing grown ups did and I was going to get a head start. He went on to write for a number of outdoor adventure type magazines so the role model continued.

From Nancy Drew and some girl-and-horse stories, I soon moved on to classic westerns like Zane Grey and the tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs, especially the Tarzan series. Somehow I didn't get into science fiction for many years. From there it was a natural step to historical novels and I read many: Thomas Costain, Willa Cather, Anya Seton, Frank Yerby and so on. But none of them had enough of my favorite part--Romance!! Still, books were my friends, my escape, my substitute for the movies and TV I seldom saw. I read and read and read.

And I wrote--what one might call 'ranch romances' scribbled in many steno notebooks and sometimes shared with my mostly younger girlfriends. They all were sure I'd be a famous author even though most were not avid readers. I also wrote lots of bad poetry, mostly maudlin, mushy and filled with teenage angst. But now and then one was not too bad. In between high school and college--a period of a few years since with my Dad I operated a business training and selling horses and mules for trail riding and did some guiding--I even wrote my own girl-and-horse story. It's now painfully outdated but might work as a "this was how grandma lived" sort of book--if young girls still read in this day of electronic wonders.

Even though college I still read, nights when I should have been studying or felt I was caught up enough. Once I went to work and then soon married, time got scarcer but I also discovered science fiction and fantasy from my husband's reading habits and delved deep into that. I met the wonderful characters and worlds of Ursula LeGuin, C.J. Cherryh, Tolkein, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Andre Norton to name just a few. Finally it was 1986 and I discovered category romance. Oh wow, just what I always wanted. Real love stories!!

Everything I had ever written had a love story as a big part of the plot from early teens on. This new genre was wonderful and I had to try my hand. But lo and behold, after a time, a steady diet of love did get a bit cloying. I wanted adventure, too. So that was what I wrote. My tales never quite fit the mold for Harlequin and Silhouette even though I got "good" personal rejection letters from several of the editors. I wasn't fluent enough then in editor-speak to figure out exactly what they wanted.  I never sold there but about that time e-books came to be and a flock of small indy publishers sprang up. The good, the bad and the ugly were well represented and I got burned a few times but eventually some of my books were published and finally I found some good publishers and have made a happy home there! If you are a reader of mine, you know who they are!

So that is my life long love affair with the written word, fiction that always includes some kind of a love story and poetry that always has a romantic slant, either in the literary or the 'true love' way. Now you know the rest of the Gwynn Morgan/Deirdre O'Dare story! And I will read and write until I die, may the Powers That Be grant me that privilege.

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