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A Look Back At My Eighteen-Year Literary Journey

Posted by on in Losing Lauren
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Eighteen years ago I wrote my first novel—a coming-of-age story loosely based on my childhood called Daughter Denied.  I had no idea what I was doing. What I did know is that this story had been bubbling up inside me for many years and that it was time to give birth to my first child. After completing numerous drafts, I believed that my novel was agent-worthy. With that in mind, I began submitting my book. Eighteen years ago agents only accepted hard copy submissions. I went through a lot of trees and postage. After a year of submitting, I acquired over a hundred rejection letters. The reasons varied from canned responses to specifics such as, “You have a great story idea, but you seem to be struggling with structure.” I was struggling with more than structure. I finally decided to stop submitting and to work on my craft. Penning a book is very different than writing news copy (I graduated from USC with a degree in journalism). With that said, I shelved my book while I learned the art of writing a novel.

Nine years later, in 2008, I decided to self-publish.  Again, I had to experience a steep learning curve. However, the experience was exhilarating and it felt good being in control—choosing my own cover and deciding when my book would launch. What I didn’t consider were the downsides of self-publishing. In this current age, self-publishing does not have the stigma it had a decade ago. In fact, many established writers have transitioned to indie writing. But a decade ago, the average self-published book was shunned and deemed not worthy of reviews or sales. And there were very few organizations that provided promotional opportunities for indie authors like the behemoth BookBub. Needless to say, Daughter Denied had an uphill battle.

Fast forward to 2017. A lot can happen in a decade. That begs the question, what happened?

1)      I didn’t give up.

2)      I learned my craft.

3)      I wrote more books and with each novel, I raised the bar on the quality of writing and storytelling.

4)      I became a marketing master.

5)      I landed an agent and deal for my four-book series in 2014. Thus, I officially became a published author.

6)      I continued to write indie novels.

7)      I began a mystery series—The Detective Rachel Storme Series. At present, there are two books in the series: Justice for Jessica and Losing Lauren. The third installment launches this spring.

8)      My fan based has grown significantly.

9)      My reviews for many of my books number in the three digits. My mystery, Missing Melissa, has 280 reviews, the majority of which are 5- and 4-star. I remember when I would go months without a review.

10)  My sales are up and I am now making money--enough to supplement my retirement savings.

 I am so amazed at how far I’ve come. Am I as successful as JK Rowling or Gillian Flynn? No. But I’m successful in my own right. I have progressed. I have grown in all areas, and that’s success as far as I’m concerned. People read my books and more than not enjoy them. That means a lot to me. There was a time that I focused on writing a New York Times bestselling novel (many of my books have landed on Amazon Best Sellers Lists) and having my books optioned for movies. That was my goal. But my writing isn’t the only thing that has matured over the past eighteen years--I have. My outlook has changed. I’ve learned to be grateful for what I have and it’s a heck of a lot more than what I had eighteen years ago! I thank God for giving me the gift to write,  the mindset to never give up, and the wisdom to appreciate how far I’ve come.













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Born in Oakland and raised in San Francisco, playwright and author, Alretha Thomas is making her name through her pen. She started at the age of ten, when her 5th grade teacher picked and read her short story assignment in front of the class – that simple, loving act empowered a new writer. A graduate of U.S.C., Alretha’s plays have graced numerous Southern California stages. Her most recent production, “One Woman, Two Lives,” starred Kellita Smith of the Bernie Mac Show. Her debut novel, “Daughter Denied” was launched in 2008 and has received glowing reviews from readers and book clubs across the country. Her second novel “Dancing Her Dreams Away,” launched in 2011 and was also well-received. “Married in the Nick of Nine” is her third novel and she recently completed the sequel, “The Baby in the Window.” Alretha says the one and only upside to her 350-mile-a-week-commute, is that it gives her ample time to come up with story ideas. When not in bumper–to-bumper traffic she enjoys going to the movies, blogging, and spending time with her husband Roy.