Path to Publication

Melissa

Melissa's Path to Publication

For my professional bio, be sure to visit the Press page.

First, a little background. I was born in Southern California to amazingly devoted and talented parents. Dad was a mega superstar Silicon Valley Executive, now retired, and Mom is an über-talented watercolor artist. I pulled a pretty good parent card, in my opinion.

As the middle child, between two brothers, I learned early that being the only girl gave me ‘that special something’ in my family. Mothers and daughters. Fathers and daughters. They are unique bonds that can’t be explained. As a result, all my books have strong mother/daughter and father/daughter relationships–family is what I value most in life.

My dad’s career took us to Northern California when I was in sixth grade. College, marriage, kids have all been rooted here. Until they weren’t.  My husband and I relocated to North Texas in 2008, we learned new lingo…”y’all”, “fixin’ to” [the official verb of Texas, in case y’all are wondering], and “chiggers”, a fun little bug that bites and bites and bites, to name a few.

We had a brief stint in Colorado, and now, as of 2019, have settled in North Carolina, a place we love. Our kids are mostly grown and out on their own. My husband and I take dance lessons, love to explore the state we live in, visit the Outer Banks, read, and play with our 3 dogs.

Now, onto my path to publication.

My major in college was French—for the first year. Then I realized that I was far more interested in communicating in English. (My aptitude for language is strong—I just didn’t want to put in the hours in the lab!)

I’d always been interested in writing, always kept diaries–long burned by now. Once my Shakespeare professor wrote on one of my college papers, “never change my captivating style”. Wow. The power of a teacher is huge.

Unfortunately, power can be positive and negative. Whatever boost I’d felt from Professor Levin’s comments, a grad student who taught creative writing my junior year of college effectively quashed it. Once I wrote a story about my roommate stealing her ex-boyfriend’s truck while wearing fingerless gloves—all completely true. I got a C- on the story and the grad student wrote, “Write about things you know. This is completely unbelievable.” Ironic. My confidence went out the window.

During college I met a great guy named Carlos. We dated, broke up, dated some more, broke up again—typical young love. We eventually got our act together and got married. I went on to teach middle school Language Arts. He was an elementary school teacher. Eventually his career ventured into school administration and we relocated from the Sacramento area to the San Francisco Bay Area. We had two kids by then, another on the way, and I went on hiatus from teaching.

The big question for me was what I could do to keep my brain functioning now that I wasn’t teaching. The thing that called to me, the only thing that inspired me in fact, was writing. I started writing a young adult historical fiction book–by this time I had overcome the scarring of that grad student’s remarks. It took me three years to finish that book—it’s now filed away, destined never to see an editor’s desk. (In its defense, I did send it out once to Scholastic and received a VERY nice rejection—no, not an oxymoron—there are levels of rejection and a nice one is a good thing.) By that time I’d had my third son and we were moving again. The book went onto the back burner.

Short stories for children kept my creative juices flowing while I was busy having a daughter, carpooling, moving to and remodeling yet another house, and balancing the busy life we’d carved out. By pure luck, one of these stories was published and was made in to a beautiful book. I thought I’d struck gold and found my second career.

Not. Even. Close.

The children’s publishing world is brutal—unless you can really relate to kids. Even though I had a passel of them living with me, I apparently didn’t. Huh.

Obviously I hadn’t yet found my niche or my voice.

We eventually moved back to the Sacramento Valley, I had one more child (in case you lost track, that makes five altogether), and had written close to twenty-five children’s stories. I’d had no luck selling any more of them though, and was ready to throw my hands up and quit writing altogether. But it’s not that easy to give up something you love. I couldn’t stop writing. 

A friend and I started an informal Monday night writing group. Since I was not willing to give up writing altogether, though I’d given up any thoughts of having a second career in publishing, I was stuck. With no inspiration for kids’ books in my befuddled brain, I decided to write something for grownups. A book with a mystery and love and swearing—and sex.

Oh, it was fun! Eye opening! Liberating!

I wrote the first draft in six months.

And just like meeting Mr. Right, I knew this was the one. Maybe I would have a second career in publishing after all.

That book, Living the Vida Lola, was released in 2008. It was recently rereleased with a new publisher, and there are now four other book in the Lola Cruz mystery series. Since I first wrote the book that opened the door to publishing for me, I’ve written twenty+ other books, and counting: Six books complete the Magical Dressmaking mystery series (Penguin/NAL); five have been published in the Bread Shop mysteries, with three more in the works (Kensington); five complete the Lola Cruz mystery series (Henery Press); one light paranormal romance has been published, with two more in the trilogy to come (Lake House Press); two connected romantic suspense novels based on haunting Mexican legends are published (Lake House Press); The Tricked Out Toolbox, a marketing resource book for writers is out there; and a copy of that first picture (Flight of the Sunflower) sits on my bookshelf.

There is a well known quote that says something like: The difference between people who succeed and those who fail is that the ones who succeed never give up. That’s me, in a nutshell. I had a dream, pursued, pushed through the hard bits, and now I’m living proof that dreams really can and do come true.

Happy reading!