By Cindy Caldwell
I can hardly believe that I even have a self-publishing story to write about, let alone a success story! But here I am, on the one-year anniversary of publishing the first in my historical western romance series, back in the land of the living.
One year ago, almost to the day, I found myself pretty battered by life. I’d quit my job as a school administrator, brilliantly taken out my retirement and invested it in a very worthy effort—a group home for disadvantaged teens—just before the great recession. When the business failed due to the state of the economy, I intended to “just go get a job”, but times had changed and they weren’t plentiful. To top things off, I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer and had just finished treatment.
Starting over as a single 50-something is nothing if not intimidating. I found myself staying with friends, unemployed after a long career in the public school system and healing from cancer, almost in shock at how much my life had changed.
In 2013, I’d stumbled upon self-publishing and while I’d always wanted to be a writer, I had no confidence or skill. Wanting to be a writer and writing are very different things. But at the end of the day, I had no option. I needed work that was location-independent, and I knew at least that publishing via Amazon was fast. I knew several people who had met with success and I had absolutely nothing to lose—and it was free to publish!
After a failed first series of beach romances, I studied as much story structure and plotting as I could and tried again. With a great deal of encouragement and prodding from Kirsten Osbourne, Pamela Kelley and Leighann Dobbs, indie authors I’d met as I poked around and learned about self-publishing, I wrote what I’d loved reading as a child. My father read every Max Brand and Louis L’amour book ever written, and I slept with Little House on the Prairie under my pillow. I researched the era even more, visited Tombstone, Ariz., with an eye to it as a setting and read as many historical western romances as I could get my hands on—and jumped. I wrote and wrote and wrote, found an editor and a fabulous cover designer (Erin Dameron-Hill makes western romance come alive with pictures). When my first book was done, I closed my eyes and held my breath when it was time to hit the publish button on my ancient computer.
To my amazement, The Chef’s Mail Order Bride took off and readers loved it. I spent the first few weeks shaking my head—all while writing the next book in the series. I love my characters (I actually would like to meet them in person), love my series and pour great love into it—and as many social issues as I can. Why not? In my most recent release, Carol: Bride of Archer Ranch, a charming young woman who tragically lost the use of her legs finds her happily ever after. How much fun is that to write? A lot! They’ve all been bestsellers on several genre lists and I think I’m still in shock.
In the time since, I’ve published nine books, found my balance financially and in January was able to buy a house again—something a year ago I never would have thought possible. Ever!
Just this week, I emptied the final box of my meager previous belongings into my new house and stopped short at the tattered, dog-eared copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie. It was the very copy that kept me up at night when I was little, reading under the covers with a flashlight and wishing I could cross the prairie in a covered wagon—and write a book. Who would have thought that I would be lucky enough to create similar stories that hopefully can inspire readers, even one, in a similar manner? Not me. I am blessed beyond belief. Self-publishing didn’t just change my life, it saved it.