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My first contact with the written word was not an auspicious one: my hometown paper, the Brampton Daily Times, printed by birth announcement in the classified section under the heading "Livestock for Sale." Undaunted by this early encounter with the newspaper world, I decided to take a degree in journalism.
While in school, I began working part time for a small, local business newspaper. When I graduated with a B.J. (I know, it sounds more like a cartoon character than an academic degree) in 1987, I had no job offers and no idea what I would do next. So, naturally, I spent every last cent in my bank account bumming around western Canada for a month with my roommate.
When I got back home, my mailbox wasn't exactly overflowing with job offers from national newspapers and major magazines. In fact, the only organization interested in hiring me was the business newspaper. And thus I began a year of indentured servitude. During my total two-year tenure at the paper, I outlasted five managing editors, several general managers and uncounted hordes of dispirited salespeople. At one point, the desperate owners of the paper asked me whether I wanted to be the managing editor. They also asked all the other reporters and, possibly, passing teenagers on the street. But at 22 I didn't even feel capable of managing my own chequebook, let alone a newspaper.
So instead of jumping on the fast track to journalism superstardom (or insanity), I began daydreaming about freelance writing. I had wanted to be a magazine writer since high school; when other girls were investing their hard-earned money in mascara and Smurfs, I was buying Writer's Digest and obscure foreign magazines.
With a bit of effort, I secured my first freelance client, a local tourist magazine. Gleefully assuming I had this whole freelancing thing figured out, I promptly quit my salaried job and set up shop in a corner of my bedroom.
In my first month as a freelancer, I made $84.
The next month wasn't much better.
So, naturally, I spent every last cent in my bank account (plus a nice gift from my parents) working on an international volunteer project in Germany for three weeks.
Shortly after I returned, the editor at the tourist magazine called to see whether I would be interested in a junior editor's position that was opening up at the company. I looked at my bankbook and said yes, indeed, I would. I landed the job and spent the next four years editing tourism guidebooks and directories. One day, a freelance writer wandered into my office looking for work. I never assigned him anything, but I did marry him.
Not long after Paul and I tied the knot, there came a day when I said to myself, "If I have to write the sentence 'The Rideau Canal is the world's longest skating rink' one more time, I will go mad." So, with my new husband's support and a lot of advance planning, I jumped back into the freelance world once more. And I've been there ever since, writing for magazines and newspapers like National Geographic Traveler, Canadian Living, Islands and The Ottawa Citizen. These days, I'm focusing particularly on travel writing; I've posted some of my articles and photos on this site. I've also branched into writing travel guidebooks, such as my book Secret Ottawa, which was published in November 2000.
My husband was so envious of my work-at-home lifestyle that he joined me there in 1995. Together, we run a small corporate communications company from our home, where we do writing, editing and public relations work for government and corporate clients. My husband also runs an online trivia game at www.triviahalloffame.com. And, of course, our three demented cats-- Winston, Basil and Cecil--run the show behind the scenes.
So things have been busy over the last decade or so. And yet, like many journalists, I have always had a secret desire to write fiction. I think a lot of that desire comes from the wish to write great dialogue, rather than making do with whatever quotes we can extract from the people we interview.
I had dabbled in all kinds of fiction, started and abandoned the great Canadian novel several times, and submitted some short stories to magazines. But nothing really grabbed my attention...until I heard Jo Beverley speak at a local writers' group. At that point, I had never heard of Regency romances. But I enjoyed Jo's talk, so I strolled down to the local library and picked up one of her books. The next week, I went back and borrowed three or four more. Within a month or so, I had inhaled every Jo Beverley book I could find, and started branching out into other authors' work. I was hooked.
Back to the library I went, to borrow a copy of J.B. Priestley's excellent history of the Regency era, The Prince of Pleasure and His Regency. That led to many other books, which inspired me to wonder what would happen if an independent, romantic young woman found herself promised to a pragmatic young politician&ldots;and the germ of my first book, Lord Langdon's Tutor, took root in my mind.
I joined the Ottawa Romance Writers Association (ORWA), the Beau Monde and Romance Writers of America, soaking up every bit of information on writing romance that I could find. It took me a couple of years to write Lord Langdon's Tutor. Inspired by placing second in ORWA's writing contest, I submitted the manuscript to a few agents, who turned it down. Then--again, through ORWA--I met an agent who agreed to take me on. I sent her my book. After two years, nothing had happened. I gave up on Lord Langdon, dropped my Beau Monde membership and consoled myself with the fact that my freelance career was humming along. In fact, my travel writing had taken off to the point that I was on a press trip to Turkey when I got The Call.
I had called home to let my husband know I had arrived safely in Istanbul. It was midnight and I was standing in a hotel lobby at a bank of pay phones, when he said, "I can't keep this to myself until you get home." When he told me my book had sold, my first reaction was "What book?" That's how much I had given up on poor old Lord Langdon's Tutor. When he finally got it through my jet-lagged skull that I was about to become a published romance author with Zebra, I started jumping up and down, squeaking various incoherent phrases over and over. I looked so bizarre that the janitor cleaning the lobby wandered over to see if I needed a doctor.
Finally, I hung up and stood stunned in a strange city, unsure what to do next. Then I knew. By an absolute stroke of luck, my very good friend, fellow romance writer and travel writer Yvonne Jeffery Hope, was on the trip too. We had a good long shrieking session.
So, a few years later, here I am. By the end of 2004 I'll have six full-length Regencies and two Regency novellas on my resume. And in 2004 I added one other unusual accomplishment to my CV: on May 17, I appeared on Jeopardy! And no, I'm not giving up the day job just yet; I came in third but had a great time anyway.
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