My Inglorious Writing Career
by Christie Maurer
I first started writing in 1951 at age 14—a spy story while my father and I were visiting my uncle after my mother’s funeral.
I held my firstborn book in my hand in July 2013. I knew I had to write, and if people couldn’t relate to my stories then I could improve them.
My parents wanted me to be a teacher, but I feared 4-year college and went to secretarial school. I ended up in the Pink Ghetto despite a BA in Creative Writing from Goddard College (1959-61) and an MPA from Cal State Hayward (1979-82).
At Goddard I wrote Novel #1 and did a study on Proust and Impressionism. Finished midyear, cast off 200 years of New England heritage and took a Greyhound across the country.
January 1, 1962 I arrived in L.A. and got a job as editorial secretary for a quarterly journal at UCLA. There I corrected spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, copy-fitted, formatted, marked type, proofread. At home I rewrote and submitted Novel #1 and got rejections. I joined a writers’ group. BTW We scheduled a writing get-away at Big Bear Lake on the weekend of 11/22/63 and listened to the Kennedy Assassination instead.
A novel writing class at UCLA Extension indicated that Novel #1 needed a total rewrite. That was B.C. (Before Computers) and I couldn’t face it. I quit and soaked up the 60s—Beatles, Carl Jung and dream work.
August 1971 God’s foot landed on my backside. In three days I ditched 9 years in L.A., found a job at UCSC Extension and a guy with a flatbed to move me. On my balcony up in The Valley, surrounded by redwoods, the river down below, I knew I was home.
A friend suggested I write my personal myths. I wrote up a few dreams as stories but didn’t know how to market them. Thirty years later, after several hundred rewrites, I sold “A Maiden’s Heart” (formerly “After the Dragons were Slain”) for $5 to mytholog.com.
By 1978 I’d written Sir Lancealot and the Had-Been Princess, a 17,300 word “novel” but had no idea how to sell it. I had no idea about world building either, but that piece contains the story outline, characters, and themes of my current WIP.
I went to journal workshops and “saw” images during meditation exercises that told stories—like the last true High Priestess, exiled to die alone in the desert.
In the mid 80s my boss put a computer on my desk. Come to Mama! I blew a wad on a 50 lb. “portable” and rewrote The Novel, called variously Sir Loriano and the Had-Been Princess, Troubadour, or Dragon Gold. By 1989 it had been rejected by every Sci-Fi and Fantasy publisher in the country. I gave up.
1991 during a meditation exercise at a journal workshop, the High Priestess appeared: “Do it! —Or Else!” (Yes, Mother.) I discovered Writers’ Market and sent out short stories. Two were accepted in tiny, typo-ridden publications. The only novel writing-group I found was the local Romance Writers of America chapter. At the first meeting I learned why every publisher in the country had rejected my novel. I joined and learned fiction-writing Kindergarten level up—plotting, dialogue, character development, motivation, conflict, etc. And “how to be a writer” (synopses, partials, agents, submissions, editors). I went to conferences and workshops, Sci-Fi Cons, joined professional level SF&F critique groups. The Novel grew branches and assumed multiple shapes.
I retired in fall 1995 and by spring 1996 The Novel was 142,000 words, entitled The Dark Lady’s Troubadour. I had synopses and draft chapters for The Dark Lady’s Servant (prequel) and The Dark Lady’s Priestess (sequel). I found an agent (didn’t work out), and connected with a NY editor (ditto).
2002 I joined Broad Universe and went to ConJose.
2005 I found a superb critique group and began doing NaNoWriMo where I wrote out my beloved Ancient World stories about Karié, the last true High Priestess.
2007-08 I tossed off the 6,000 word “Dark Lady’s Stone” as an introduction to Troubadour. I was implementing my critique group’s suggestions when a shaman appeared and transformed it into a 113,000 word novel. I committed writer-heresy and started submitting to e-presses, and collected rejections.
Writing saves my life. The Fall –7/18/11—broken femur, steel plate, Rehab. I lost so much muscle I couldn’t stand even after months of PT—the Cadillac of wheelchairs. Dreams of Death standing at the foot of my bed. (FYI he looks like an East Indian weight lifter.)
I got out my MacBook Air, chugity-chug to Starbuck’s in my wheelchair, and opened up my rewrite of Dark Lady’s Troubadour. Words, characters, and story unfolding under my cursor reconnected me to Life. I followed up on submissions of Dark Lady’s Stone)—“almost but not quite” rejections. I kept submitting and in 2012 sold stories, “Heritage” to White Cat Press and “Whitewood Kitarra” to American Athenaeum’s Sword & Saga.
Winter 2013 I awoke in the dark sensing I wouldn’t live until summer. Too many people die before they’ve fulfilled their lifetime ambitions and mine was been to hold my book in my hand.
SCREW THEM ALL! I’LL SELF-PUBLISH!
A week after I found a free-lance editor and cover artist I started bleeding profusely. Three doctors said Cancer. I wrote back cover copy while recovering from surgery. Then the pathologist said, “Benign.” A week later I came down with pneumonia. Some nights I didn’t know if I’d wake up. I did.
I loved the cover and my freelance editor loved the book—why hadn’t somebody published it? I called back skills learned in the early 60s and formatted both print and e-editions myself.
When I held that firstborn book, The Dark Lady’s Stone, in my hand, I wept.
Selling is another matter altogether.
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