A Ten-Year Journey to a Golden Ticket

By Lois Winston

Many authors mention in their bios that they always wanted to be a writer. Not me. I wanted to be an astronaut. That dream died a quick death due to a right brain that quakes at the sight of anything requiring math skills and a body prone to motion sickness. Some dreams just aren’t meant to be.

I got the urge to write well into my adulthood. While on a business trip, I was attacked by a rabid dream. After a ten-year publishing journey, that dream became Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, which was published nearly seventeen years ago.

The story is a romantic suspense about secrets and revenge and the steps some people will go to protect the former and achieve the latter. I’ve always been fascinated by both secrets and revenge. Who among us doesn’t have secrets? Who among us hasn’t harbored revenge fantasies? Is it possible to get through junior high school without a hefty dose of both?

Years ago, I knew a woman who went to great lengths to project the ideal marriage. She constantly bragged about how much her husband loved her and what a perfect marriage they had. Then I learned the secrets behind the lies. She was carrying on an affair that her husband discovered when he tapped his own phone. Mr. and Mrs. Perfect Marriage were anything but. Although Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception isn’t about that marriage, it got me thinking about public persona versus private reality.

So there I was on a business trip back in 1995, and I guess I was subconsciously thinking about Mr. and Mrs. Perfect Marriage when I had this dream. And what was even spookier was that each night for the next couple of weeks I dreamed another “chapter” of the dream. Eventually, I was dreaming up chapters during the day as well as at night. Finally, I decided to commit the dream to paper. Fast forward a few weeks and I’m the proud author of a 50,000-word romance that spanned thirty-five years.

Talk about clueless!

Of course, I didn’t know I was clueless. I thought I’d just written the greatest romance of all time. But when I pushed my baby out of the nest into the world of publishing, she flew right back with her beak stuffed full of rejection letters.

I’d been bitten by the writing bug, though, and I’d already started a second novel. I’ve also got a stubborn streak as long as the island of Manhattan. I wasn’t about to be deterred by rejection letters or lack of knowledge. Undaunted, I handed over my VISA card to a friendly salesperson at Barnes & Noble and walked out with an armload of how-to-write-a-novel books.

Those books introduced me to several national writing organizations where I met some generous people willing to offer advice and share their publishing experiences. Some have remained good friends to this day.

Ten years after I first had that dream, after attending countless monthly writers’ meetings and numerous workshops and conferences, I eventually got enough of a clue to sell my first book. Talk Gertie to Me, a chick lit novel, debuted the following year in 2006.

I never forgot about that first clueless effort, though. I liked the characters I’d created, even if the story needed major surgery. I didn’t think the characters deserved to spend eternity under the bed with nobody but the dust bunnies and me ever getting to know them. I went back and rewrote that book. Many, many times. Eventually that 50,000-word romance spanning thirty-five years transformed into a 90,000-word romantic suspense that takes place over several months.

My publishing journey continued and eventually segued into the world of humorous cozy mysteries, but along the way, I continued to write more romance, romantic suspense, and chick lit. I’ve now published twenty-one novels, five novellas, several short stories, one middle-grade book, and a nonfiction book on writing.

There are many paths to publication. Some people are lucky enough to find the straightest, most direct one. They write a book, send it off, and eventually receive a contract offer. For most of us, it takes years of honing our craft before we’re offered that golden ticket. For me, the journey was certainly worth taking.

What about you? If you’re a published author, how long did it take you to see your first book in print? If you’re in the middle of your own  journey toward publication, how long have you been working at your dream? Does it often seem like you’ll never succeed? Don’t give up! Perseverance is everything.


USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website www.loiswinston.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.

19 replies
  1. Donnell Ann Bell
    Donnell Ann Bell says:

    What a wonderful, inspirational blog, Lois. Congratulations on putting your dream to paper and becoming a major success story. Doing the math, I was published 13 years ago, but my journey started 10 years before that. Further, I wouldn’t trade the education, and like you, the friendships that grew along the way. Numerous nonfiction articles and columns, led to my fiction career, six published books later. I count myself lucky to include you in both the education and friendship category!

  2. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    So glad the writing bug got hold of you, Lois. The world needs more laughs and giggles, and you provide your share. I’d helped someone write what turned out to be a very successful thriller, which inspired me to try one of my own. As I was finishing the first draft, my husband started a very complex business. He needed my help, so I put the manuscript away and devoted the next fifteen years to his enterprise. Once we sold the business, I dug out the old draft and joined a local writer’s group where I learned how to polish it. I found a publisher at my first writer’s conference. By the time it was published, in 2014, It had been almost twenty years since I first had the Idea.

      • Gay Yellen
        Gay Yellen says:

        Hah! In version 1, Samantha is writing a letter (longhand, with a stamped envelope to be mailed) to the FB I outlining her worry over the disappearance of a friend. In the course of updating, the drafts went through a change of the letter into a fax, and finally, into an email. There’s also a crucial scene at the end when Sam is panicked and can’t find a pay phone, which morphed into her cellphone by publication.

  3. Linda Rodriguez
    Linda Rodriguez says:

    Lois, I loved reading about your journey to publication. I think we all have very different and often long and complicated journeys to our first publisher. I’m so glad you didn’t give up and that you keep providing us with your books that lighten our lives.

  4. Saralyn
    Saralyn says:

    Thanks for sharing your initiation into the writer’s journey, Lois. What a fascinating discussion you’ve stirred up. I’ll add that I’m so glad all of you who’ve commented found the path, because your stories add special light to the world. As Lois says, keep at it–persistence is the key.

  5. Debra
    Debra says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. Reading the comments, I think many of us had dreams (okay, I didn’t want to be an astronaut, but I still have an uncle who thinks I went to med school — and I probably would have but for the fact that I hated chemistry and biology). From childhood, I looked at writing as a hobby, but something I wanted to do. I didn’t get the confidence to really try it until later in life. As with many writers, writing, revision, and years passed…..and then things periodically happened by accident. Or at least, they seemed to be by accident rather than fate.

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