The Start of My Journey by Felicia Huffman

I want to thank Felicia for taking the time compose this guest blog entry.  Felicia created a very interesting fantasy world for her story in Millhaven’s Tales of Wonder and also contributed a slice of small town mystery with her story in Millhaven’s Tales of Suspense.  She also has a new book out, Loved by Death.

When I started to write this I thought about talking about how I hated the writing tests you have to take in grade school, and those sorts of things. Then I really started thinking about school, and I didn’t necessarily hate those things. In fact, English or Language Arts, depending on what grade you’re in, was my favorite subject, besides theatre and music. The thing that bugged me the most about English class or those writing tests was the fact that they controlled what I could and couldn’t write about. I’ve never liked being told what I could and couldn’t do, but that’s a different issue.

I love to read. My mom read to me before I was born, read to me after I was born, and has done her best to buy me every book I’ve wanted. I always read above my grade level. Even though I was an avid reader, writing for fun never crossed my mind. At one time I wanted to be forensic anthropologist just because I liked the show Bones. But I was better at spinning a tale than investigating bones.

Keep in mind I’m writing this thinking back in time. None of this crossed my mind when it actually happened. I’ve only now realized that being an author was my only path. Growing up I was an only child but I lived very close to some of my cousins. We played a lot, but there was a big difference between the three of us. We were all within five years of each other, age-wise, but they were more sheltered than I was. So, if I was bored, I’d come up with a story that would turn into an adventure for us. I can’t remember the details of any of my stories, but I know one time I had them setting “traps” around my grandmother’s house. In retrospect, I may have been a little evil, but I never got yelled at for giving them nightmares, so that’s a plus.

Even when I had to play by myself, I made up a completely different world. But it wasn’t until high school that I started to write things down. That was thanks to my best friend. She was a creative person like me, and we had been in band together in middle school, and one day she told me I needed to write a book. I don’t think anything, in particular, triggered it except that she was working on a book, or it could have been the stories I wrote in my journal for English.

Either way, she had created a time bomb in my brain. I had to write a book. She was there with me all the way. Her mom would take me to my mom’s work every day after school, so we took the time to talk about this book world. For months, we came up with the main characters of my Wolfsbane Chronicles books. She even came up with the idea of calling it Wolfsbane. It wasn’t until years later that I realize it was a real flower, and I’m not sure if she realized it either at the time. My main character, Ashley’s, best friend Lizbeth is based on her. I also had another best friend in high school, and I based my character of Alexis on her, but she wasn’t a writer so we didn’t talk about my books.

With my friend, we planned out four books for Wolfsbane Chronicles. There will probably be more than that, but it will all depend on what the characters need. We by no means sat down and wrote outlines for these books. All we did was create little plot points and character characteristics that have stuck with me even though I didn’t write anything down.

Fast forward to college. In three years I hadn’t written more than a few chapters in Loved by Death. I was nowhere near dedicated. In college, I got sucked up into the theatre and graduating and all that jazz, so my writing slipped away. Then another little time bomb was planted in my mind. I took a playwriting course and as our final, we had to write a one-act play. I’ve always been a sucker for local ghost stories, so I took one as inspiration for my one act. I ended up winning a playwriting award for it. Still, I thought I was going to get a regular job, save up money, move to Cali or NY and get famous. Yeah, I was that dense. I never got into a regular job. I had plenty of seasonal work. Found some stuff I enjoyed doing as a hobby, but nothing I loved that I could stick with. Some would say I had a bad work habit. I say that I can’t force myself to be stuck at a mind-numbing job that I know I won’t stick with for the long run. Either way, I ended up finding a job as a ghostwriter. Everything I did pulled me to something creative. I worked as a transcriptionist, which increased my typing speed. And I wrote several erotic short stories, which I’ve never shared. When I got frustrated or stressed, I wrote to try to fix things.

I even tried my hand at writing screenplays. I came up with several treatments and one full screenplay. Nothing ever fleshed out from that because I didn’t try. It was just something I did.

I soon realized it was the perfect place to release anger and negative emotions that I never knew I had. It was a means for escape. That’s why I was drawn to it. Everything creative worked that way for me. Some people can work out to burn emotions, I write, sing, knit, what have you. But everything I did pulled me back to writing. Luckily the ghostwriting company that I still write with has provided me with a fairly steady income. I’m by no means a millionaire. In fact, I am about the furthest thing from it.

Even making regular money as a ghostwriter, I knew there had to be other ways to make some more. That’s when I came across the ad for Millhaven Press. I had seen it once before and I was too scared to apply. Fear is something that I have had to work through. When I kept seeing it, I took it as I sign. I wrote my first short story and submitted for the first Millhaven publication. I never thought I would hear anything back. I was used to getting rejections when it came to putting my writing out there. Then I got accepted. Then I got a second story accepted for the second Millhaven’s Tales publication. It was a turning point for me.

Being able to work at home meant I had time to finish Loved by Death. I scraped what I had. It sucked and made no sense. I created an actual outline, and I set aside time to write. I also found a course on Coursera for creative writing, which helped me immensely. I finished the book around June of last year, I believe. I set it aside to rest and started an outline for my second book. I eventually came back and started the editing process. I “finished” editing it during NaNoWriMo last year. Still, it didn’t get published until August of this year.

I started reading more blogs and things about writing and discovered I needed beta readers, and I needed to work on marketing before it was ever published. I also tried my hand at pitching to literary agents, and all I got was a bunch of no’s. I still want to get an agent, but that will come in time. So, July of this year, I went through another editing phase after getting a few beta readers.

FYI: if you write sex scenes unless you and your mom are really close, it might be a bit odd to ask her to beta read your book.

I set myself a goal to publish my book by the end of August because my birthday is in August, and I did it. I was amazed that I finished something. Of course, I still think it could be better, but that’s the curse of a writer. At some point, you just have to be done, but you’ll never be finished. There will be tweaks you want to make, but you have to let it be. I was happy I stuck to it and finished it.

What changed is I started trying with my own writing. I created a blog. I found Millhaven. I’ve made special social media accounts. I finished Loved by Death. I self-published it on Amazon. I’m working to make connections, and I am doing my best to market. I’m putting effort into this because it is something that I love.

All I know is everything I’ve been through in life is going to lend itself to an amazing story one day. I still don’t feel like I have decided to make writing my career. I know I have. I know there is nothing else that I could do that would make me as happy. I know I will always be pulled to writing. Maybe it’s because I enjoy doing it, but I don’t feel like I have a job. I just write. And if it happens to make me money, so be it.

Read her story, “Awaiting Fate” in Millhaven’s Tales of Wonder

Read “Just Desserts” in Millhaven’s Tales of Suspense

Get your copy of her new novel here: Loved by Death: Book One of the Wolfsbane Chronicles

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