By Air Force Master Sgt. Bethany Lopez, 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron
/ Published March 12, 2014
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- When I was a little girl, I loved to write poems and horror stories. At 10 years old, I wrote a play about Bloody Mary, Donkey Lady, and The Werewolf, that my friends and I acted out for the neighborhood. Unfortunately, when my friends were unable to sleep without the lights on, they were no longer allowed to play with me.
I've always had an active imagination.
I wrote papers for writing courses in high school and college, but once I "grew up" I stopped writing. It always seemed like a pipe dream, something that I would love to do, but could never actually do.
In October 2010, my husband was deployed to Southwest Asia and I was left behind in South Carolina with four of our children, two of which were teenage girls. I was looking for a way to teach them things, and to let them know that I understood what they were going through, so that they would actually be interested in listening to what I had to say. That was when I began writing my first book, Ta Ta for Now. It's the story of a girl, Melissa, who is the oldest of four children. It begins when she starts her freshman year of high school, and talks about her relationships with her friends and her family.
My girls would read the chapters as I wrote them, and we talked about what was going on with the characters. It wasn't until I finished that first book that I began to think that I could actually do something with it, and try to get it published. I started doing research and began querying agents. I also decided to continue the Stories about Melissa, and make them into a series. There will be eight books altogether, ending when Melissa graduates high school. I've completed four to date.
After seven months of querying, I was ready to give up, but when I was back in Michigan on leave, my aunt told me that my uncle had independently published his book through Amazon. I knew nothing about independent publishing, so when I got home, I began to do more research. That's where I found the place I belonged. I published Ta Ta for Now in June of 2011, and will be publishing my tenth book, 8 Weeks, on March 24th.
Nothing about my experience has been easy; I had a lot to learn, made a number of mistakes, and received my share of rejection.
It's not about money for me, it's about passion. I love everything about being an indie writer: the writing, the marketing, the book signings, and most of all the community. For the first year and a half, I spent more money than I made, and I was okay with that... I was doing what I loved. But, after writing three books in the Stories about Melissa series, I decided to write something that I would want to read. So I started writing Make it Last, the first book in the Friends and Lovers trilogy, which is a contemporary romance.
Make it Last changed my life.
I was actually selling books and making money, and I began to look at my writing as a career and not just a hobby. I released all three books within four months, and Friends and Lovers trilogy was a success. I made the top 100 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes. And not just iTunes in the U.S., but in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. The third book in the trilogy, Trust in Me, won the bronze medal at the Reader's Favorite Awards for Contemporary Romance.
All I ever wanted was to write and get my books out to readers. The success that I've had is more than I ever could have imagined, and I'm beyond grateful for it.
I now have a photographer that I use for cover shoots, a cover designer, a formatter, and an editor. There is a lot of planning, marketing, and networking that goes into my work after I've written it. I have five book signings/events planned for the rest of the year after I return home from this deployment, to include one in Nashville and one in St. Louis. It definitely feels like I work two full time jobs, as well as being a wife and mother, but there is nothing in the world I would rather be doing.
The last thing I would like to say is no matter what your passion is, whether it's writing, music, photography, cooking, graphic design, fitness, etc..., don't be afraid to go for it. Follow your dreams. You never know what you can accomplish until you actually try, and yes, you may face rejection, and you may fail, but if you keep pressing forward, your success will be even more meaningful.