This is a long post, so grab a coffee or a glass of wine, settle down and relax.
You know, I can remember the exact moment I said those words. I was ten and an avid Enid Blyton fan. Who remembers The Famous Five? I read them all, again and again and again… well, you get the picture. At eleven I found Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. Who remembers The Chalet School books? Read them, too, until they were in tatters.
Then I went to High School and over the years was force-fed Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, Albert Canus, Donald Rawley and of course Mr. Shakespeare. Many authors are much loved but my favourite author of all time, the one who really sparked my imagination, the one whose characters made me laugh and cry and read her books again and again was the fantabulous Georgette Heyer. One of her best has to be The Grand Sophy – still makes me laugh out loud.
During this time I wrote a descriptive essay that made my English teacher, Mr. Henderson, cry, in a good way. He read it to the class (I was so embarrassed my face was radioactive) and the story made two of my mortal enemies cry, too. (I defy any fifteen year old girl not to have the odd nemesis in her life.) And Mr. Henderson said I should seriously think of becoming a writer. My parents immediately vetoed that brilliant idea, nipping it brutally in the bud, by stating that, ‘Writers make no money, honey, and we cannot afford to keep you. Become a shorthand/typist and live in the real world.’ So I did, which is why I can touch-type at over 100wpm. (Ha!) Karma, as they say, is a beetch.
And so, I scribbled stories, lots of stories. Mainly about love (I’d hit puberty and had strict parents who banned boys) so I wrote about my ‘perfect man’ (Ha!) and listened to David Bowie and Bryan Ferry (loved Bryan). As for books, I found romances, lots of romances and paranormal/fantasy, lots of those, too. Then I fell into international banking (trade finance) and met H, got married and had three children, dabbled in many things. Travelled the world. But right at the back of my mind I kept thinking, ‘One day, I want to write a book.’
By this time I was reading thrillers and fantasy like Eric Van Lustbader and devouring every single thing he wrote.
Then we were back home in the UK, H had retired early (due to overseas service) and I joined a multi-national construction company. Wrote a ‘How-to’ book for sales staff that the staff, strangely enough, enjoyed because it was ‘chatty’ and ‘funny’ and ‘relevant.’ And all the while I was thinking, ‘One day, I want to write a book.’ The construction company was sold, the recession was knocking at the door, I was implementing change in the company, stressed and overworked.
So H sat me down and said, ‘What do you want to do?’ and, you guessed it, I said, ‘One day, I want to write a book.’ He looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘Then do it. You’ll be good at it.’
How’s that for confidence?
So, then the decision became, ‘What will I write?’ And more importantly, ‘What sort of reader will I write it for?’
My first ever serious attempt was a fantasy about mages and witches and alternate realities. It didn’t have a title. But it did have a ten year old hero and dark and gothic castles, blood feuds, demons – blah, blah, blah. Then I wrote a short ghost story about a banshee, which was so bloody and gothic and horror-filled I actually scared myself. But I was so gripped and excited and tormented by the thing that I knew right then writing a story was what I wanted to do. But I wanted to do it well. And so began the intensive journey of applying myself to learn my craft, including how to edit. This was 2009.
After many pitiful attempts at fantasy and a complex futuristic vampyre paranormal (the first chapter and pivotal moment finaled in The Romance Junkies competition in the USA) I decided to write a romance. After all, I thought, how hard could it be?
It didn’t take long to discover that there’s a hell of a lot more to this romance business than meets the eye. A lot more. So I joined an online writer’s group. And we set ourselves goals and tasks and scenes and swapped stories about our characters. The girls were ruthlessly honest but great fun. Through those wonderful and generous women, I joined Harlequin’s on-line forums where the editors run tons of wannabe author competitions where thousands (yes, thousands) of readers can vote and comment honestly. Competitions like ‘The first 1,000 words of a contemporary/sweet romance’ and ‘A 3,000 word pivotal moment of romantic suspense.’ But, best of all, were the online workshops run by their bestselling romance authors – most of whom were USA Today and New York Times Bestselling romance authors – and these girls knew the romance genre inside out. They shared techniques. They answered seriously dumb questions and gave honest feedback with a generosity of spirit that I came to realise is prevalent in the romance industry. As for the fans, well, all I can say is that they are THE most voracious readers and utterly loyal when they find a writer they like.
And so we come to ‘So You Think You Can Write?’ competitions and ‘New Voices.’ Of course, I entered those (under the name Scottygirl) and had lovely feedback. And I found amazing friends that I still have today, among them finalists. Meanwhile, I was writing scenes. Scenes that had to grab the reader. I experimented with manipulating reader emotions, making the reader laugh (came second). Then I wrote a heart-wrenching scene about a young widow of two years who has a one night stand with a hot Spaniard (came joint first. I won author Tessa Radley and she spoke to me all the way from New Zealand to give me writing advice – I’ll never forget it. It’s still a highlight of my life. She said she’d buy everything I wrote. Gulp.) Then I finaled in two more competitions, one where I made readers cry. I felt I was finally getting somewhere. Time to submit the first three chapters of my book I was polishing to such a shine it could be seen from outer space. It took six long months to receive a reply. A rejection. But it was a good rejection because it was two pages long and told me exactly what to improve and to please re-submit. So I knuckled down to re-write it and…. got breast cancer.
Now, to most people breast cancer is pretty devastating news. Don’t get me wrong – it was more than devastating to me and my family. I had a long road ahead. BUT, overnight I lost the fear of failure. I don’t think I’ve ever written so much so fast before or since. Everything that was buried deep in my subconscious spilled onto the page. Everything. Meanwhile, I underwent half a dozen operations and began treatments. When I couldn’t type, I wrote in journals in bed. H used to find me switching on the light in the middle of the night and scribbling like a demon because an ‘idea’ or ‘a plot twist’ had entered my mind and I just had to ‘get it down’ because believe me, when we wake in the morning our mind is empty.
It was during this time that the Italian Nico Ferranti sprang to life in my head as a three dimensional character as did Bronte Ludlow and her pal Rosie (about whom, the editor of the publisher I’d submitted the work to who read the first three chapters said to ‘tone Rosie right down’.) So I worked on Nico’s back-story, what or who had made him the man he was today? What age was he when the worst thing that could happen to a child happened? What are his strengths? Weaknesses? Goals? And I did the same with Bronte. Poor Bronte, God love her, I killed her parents; her fiancé betrayed her; she lost her family home; she discovered her father was not her father; she had endometriosis, which meant maybe no children. She was beautiful, but couldn’t see it. She hated her breasts, etc., etc. BUT I made her resilient, she set up her own business with her pal Rosie and they triumphed; she wasn’t looking for love; she fell out with her (half) brother because she wanted to reach out to her real father; she stood up to Nico who wanted to buy the home left to her by her mother; she was her own woman and she rocked!
And so the time came to send the entire re-written book to the publisher. However, there’s a twist to the tale. During the time of my return to health and re-writing the story, in the United States of America, a movement had been born. Independent authors. I’d been following a couple of bloggers who were talking about it, especially J.A. Konrath & Co. Interesting, I thought. At the same time the publishing industry was going through (still is) a seismic change. Did I, I wondered, have the time to wait, maybe six to twelve months for a publisher to get back to me? And after I spoke to some Big Name independent romance authors who were ‘breaking through’ and took their advice, I decided I didn’t have the time to waste. H and I talked and talked and talked for weeks, did our due diligence and H said he’d format and deal with the technical side of submitting digital books to the distributors, accounting and the tax authorities. In the meantime two romance editors I’d met on-line offered to edit and proof my book. So, on the 12th April 2012 we published Reckless Nights In Rome. To say we were petrified would be putting it mildly. I didn’t worry about the book or what was happening to it, got my head down and wrote A Stormy Spring and then Run Rosie Run and they were both published by Christmas 2012. That Christmas Reckless was a perma-free and Stormy and Rosie were all in the top ten of iBooks in thirty countries and selling in Barnes and Noble and doing well in Amazon.com. And that’s when I found my readers. Readers who buy everything I write. Everything. Each story is written with them at the front and centre of everything I do.
Some of you who are reading this have followed the ups and downs of the journey. In 2014 I had a sudden bereavement and a couple of health challenges connected to cancer treatment. But all the while I’ve never stopped writing, even if I had almost a year of not publishing new stories. My readers have been patient and loving and understanding and I want to thank each and every one.
It’s also true to say that as authors we don’t work in a bubble of one. My covers are done by Frauke and Gabrielle Prendergast who also designed the CC MACKENZIE brand. Formatting, distribution, sales accounting, invoicing and Chief Operating Officer of More Press is H. Author Engine, particularly Jennifer Lewis Oliver and Greg Carrico are awesome.
CC MACKENZIE now has ten books published in the Ludlow Hall franchise. This year there are the first books of a new Ludlow Nights series, books that are fun and fast pace with laugh out loud moments. The first of which, His Rules, is under the New Adult romance genre, will be available free and exclusive to my mailing list for a short time, with more to come. Four, yes four, vampyre books, the first and second out together on 28th March with book three on pre-order coming at the end of April and book four on pre-order coming at the end of May with more to follow. Plus A Daddy For Daisy – date to be advised. More short novels, but they’re a surprise. I love surprising readers.
I’ve truly been blessed by the support of generous authors who write in a variety of genres (not only romance) – Diane Capri, Jillian Dodd, Steena Holmes, Ruth Cardello, Marie Force, Lindsay J. Pryor, Natalie G. Owens, Dana Delamar, Kristine Cayne, Stacey Joy Netzel, L.C. Giroux, Liz Matis and Katherine Bone.
More recently I was part of a group of authors who wrote a continuity series based in the Island of Eden a world written and created by Lauren Hawkeye. This month we published an Eden boxed set with contributions by Lauren, me, Avery Aster, Opal Carew, Steena Holmes, Mari Carr, Cathryn Fox, Eliza Gayle, Adriana Hunter, Roni Loren, Sharon Page, Daire St. Denis and Elena Aitken.
On the night of Wednesday 18th April 2015 something amazing happened, we made the USA Today Bestsellers list. So now I can say I’m a USA Today Bestselling author. The reason I’m sharing this is not to toot my own horn, but to encourage those who don’t believe they can follow their dreams to – Go For It!
So tell me, what are your innermost dreams and what are you doing to make them come true?
Congrats on making it to the USA Today bestsellers list! A fabulous achievement. You’re the heroine of your own story, with lots more to come, I’m sure. Write on!
Thank you, Nigel. I’ll never forget Mr. Henderson!! God bless him.
Well, what a journey you had. It would make a great story in itself. Congratulations on so much success, I hop it builds and builds for you. Just stay away from humour please, I can’t afford the competition.
xxx Huge Hugs xxx
LOL! Thank you for stopping by, David. The humour stays! 😉
Congratulations for hanging in there and letting nothing stop you in your career of becoming an awesome author. Although I would like to think I am your #1 fan, it sounds as though your #1 fan is your wonderful husband as well a wonderful life partner. I love the Ludlow Series. Romance, humor, a little suspense and hot sexy men and beautiful women! I have to admit, I haven’t read any of the Vampyre books yet, but I will. Looking forward to more from the Ludlow Series. Thank you CC for all the entertaining days and nights I’ve had reading your books twice! 🙂
Aww, Judy, how amazing are you? The Vampyre books are about to be released and stay tuned because I have a surprise up my sleeve. 😉
What it is, I’m looking forward to it! 🙂
You already know how fantastically excited I am for you about reaching the USA Today’s Bestseller list. I literally jumped up in down in my chair as I read your email. lol!
Working with you has been amazing. It really has. I’ve learned so much from listening to your thoughts and opinions about the industry, watching the decisions you’ve made, and laughing with you when crazy stuff happens.
But most of all, I’ve enjoyed your friendship.
You are an amazing person, a talented author, and have an inner strength and determination that could put He-Man to shame. You are an inspiration and it shows through your stories, with heroines who never give up – much like you. 😉
I look forward to seeing you reach the top, because I know you will.
Thank you for being a great part of my life and allowing me to be part of you journey.
Watch out NY Times – she’s coming for your bestsellers’ list next!!! 😀
God bless you, babe. We don’t work in a bubble of one, which is absolutely true. What would I do without you? Lots more work coming your way… soon. Thank you for the support, it means the world. 😀
Congratulations and thank you for sharing your story. I love the Ludlow Hall stories and always keep an eye out for the next one. Thank you for your inspiration.
*Waving atcha* Geri! Thank you so much for commenting, so pleased you’re enjoying the journey.
Congrats on making the list! You rock! Smooches!
Smooches rightbackatcha, Liz.
Congratulations Christine! you’ve been through so much and have worked very hard for this. (Please forgive me for not jumping over to visit sooner. I’m packing for a move.) I’m extremely happy for you! You deserve every single wonderful thing that is coming your way. Next? NYTBS! ((Hugs)) 🙂
Good luck with packing and the move, Karen! And thank you for commenting, I appreciate it. 🙂
I’m so excited for you and proud of you! It’s such a treat to see one of the genuinely nice folks in this biz recognized for their hard work and talent. I’m sure this is just a small glimpse of what’s ahead…
You’re very kind, Greg! And very nice yourself, if I may say so! 😉
OMG, loved the post! Some of it I knew about you and some of it I did not. I have so much enjoyed your books and hope to keep enjoying them for a very long time to come. From the moment I first discovered your writing, it has been a true adventure; reading them and getting to know you as a online friend. You making the list is well deserved and I look forward to seeing it happen many more times in the future. You are a great author! Congrats and keep em coming!
Hi, Peggy. Wonderful to see you here! And thank you for the support. Readers are amazing! 🙂
You are an awesome inspiration, Christine! Keep up the great work and thanks back to you for all you do! 🙂
Stacey Joy Netzel is in the room!
It’s been a blessing to work with you, my darling. 🙂
Thanks, inspiring me to take a chance.
Keep on keeping on, Wynde. 🙂
I loved learning about your entire journey, CC! I knew bits and pieces, but it’s great to see the whole story of how you went from a dream to a USA Today bestseller. You’re an inspiration. And an incredibly wonderful person to boot. I feel fortunate to have crossed paths with you! 🙂
Rightbackatcha, Dana. I’ve loved working with you, too! 🙂
Amazing journey, CC, and thanks for the shout out! I feel so blessed for our friendship and can’t wait to see what you come up with next. You’re an inspiration! xx
*Waving* Natalie. It’s been a journey, hasn’t it? You’re a huge inspiration to me, too.
Kudos, CC, I’m so happy for you! What an amazing journey you’ve been on; thanks so much for sharing it with us.
It’s a shame that your parents squashed your dream so early on, but thank goodness it all came out right in the end. How terrific to have H give you that much-needed support to start you back on the path you were destined for. My 14 yo son wants to be an indie game designer when he grows up, which is a shaky living to make, so we’ve had conversations about that. I’m walking the parental line of encouraging him to follow his dream while having a backup plan for earning a living (he’s looking at robotics now, while doing indie games on the side. Who knows what it will be next week, LOL). Trying to make it better for the next generation: my own parents were much like yours, and my dream of writing mysteries didn’t come true until I was 50.
Enjoy your continued success, hon! 😀
Hi, Kathy! It’s really important to allow kids to follow their dreams, as you say, within reason!! My son’s a fantasy writer and we’re behind him every step of the way. Thank you so much for commenting, it means a lot. 🙂
Hi Christine: What a remarkable story! You are a strong woman with conviction and purpose – Go YOU!! And congrats on making the list:)
Thank you for sharing,
Oh. My. Goodness. Mary Campisi is in the room! Woot! So thrilled and thank you for taking time to comment, I appreciate it.
*Doing a happy dance* LOL! 😀
Good Morning CC,
Did I miss His Rules?
No you haven’t Edna. The story has been expanded from a short novel to a full novel. It’s in editing and once I finish up the final edits of my vampyres I’m diving right in to finish His Rules. It will be worth the wait, Edna, this couple are killing me, in a good way.