My folks got me a subscription to Children’s Digest when I was in the third grade and I entered their writing contests. After that first one, I was hooked. I loved story telling. I told my sister stories when she couldn’t sleep, long after we had gone to bed.
In the fourth grade, the music teacher sponsored a contest where you wrote new lyrics to a Christmas song. I got second prize, but she confided to me that it was really good, but since I was younger, she had to give first prize to the sixth grader. I was angry at the injustice, but, hey, I was a successful filker long before I knew what it was. That talent came in handy when my daughter was little. I had no radio in the car and I would sing her songs. I remember singing “Hit the Road Jack” to her and she started crying because “and don’t you come back no more, no more” was too sad. So I had to change the words to “and you’ll come back real soon, real soon.” There were others, and to this day, she remembers them that way, much to her chagrin sometimes.
As I got older, I wrote stories that filled entire spirals. I made the mistake once of showing it to my mom and the next door neighbor when she was over for coffee. She read it outloud and was vastly amused. I was mortified and almost quit writing.
I wrote plays in high school. One, “The Nifty Fifties” was produced and I was the student director. Between that experience and my ballet performances, it was close as to which career path I would take.
A roller skating accident took my dream of dancing with American Ballet Theater about the same time I discovered a taste for desperate love poems that I directed at my boyfriend. He cared more about rolling joints on the couch and rolling me in the bed than he did my creative work, but it was an important period for me, and taught me how to access my creative side as well as showing me the rush those endeavours gave me.
When I landed in college, I met Don C. Thompson, Secret Master of Fandom, and he introduced me to science fiction conventions. I had waited tables at the Denver Hilton during Denvention II and was enthralled with the idea of people who loved science fiction and fantasy as much as I did congregating to talk and, oh my gawd, meet the authors that rocked my world.
Don became a great friend as well as an inspirational teacher and he let me use his Olivetti, either a smart typewriter or a stupid computer, depending on the day you sat down to work. He taught me the basics of story craft and encouraged me to write. He told me I would write, just not science fiction, and I have spent decades proving him wrong.
I started submitting way back in the ’80s, but college, doing the single parenting thing, and working made it hard to have a groove. But I still got some nice rejections from the big magazines and I kept on plugging along.
I have to admit I have been the death of publishers. Several of my first acceptances were by houses that closed right before publishing my work. Many years later I thought I had kicked that curse when I was proud to be included in Realms of Fantasy’s rise from the ashes with their 100th issue. Lois Tilton of Locus reviewed my story, “The Good Husband”, and said “the atmosphere is sensual, fertile, with seed quickening on every page. Well done.” Unfortunately the venerable magazine died again just after publishing that issue.
In the late ’90s, I started to proof for Gila Queen, a market guide run by Kathy Ptacek. She knew I liked the naughty stuff, so she would send me the erotica calls for submission. One day, I saw a call for Best Lesbian Erotica. I had to read the call twice to be convinced that it was true–the submissions didn’t need to be already published. I submitted “The Stars in Her Mouth” a story that had a woman making love to her higher self. I’d had no idea what to do with it after I wrote it, but the anthology would look at it. And, glory be! Tristan Taormino bought it. She and the fine editors at Cleis Press did some editing on it, and that was my first taste of working with an editor. Tristan also did signings for her books in tandem with her sex demos in cities around the country and those were a lot of fun to go to. What a rush to stand in front of people who want to buy your work and shake your hand and buy you drinks cuz you published a story.
I enjoyed that experience so much I had to write another one to prove I was not a one-story pony. Tristan bought “Farewell to Rain Woman” for the next year’s anthology and later re-published it in her “Best of the Best of Lesbian Erotica.”
I was on a roll, but I still had to prove Don Thompson wrong. I did that first when I wangled an invitation to submit to Hot Blood XI Fatal Attractions. Two things happened with that story. The first was that “Not a Meat Puppet, a Magic Puppet” was the fastest story I had written to that point. A week for a five thousand word story and Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett barely touched it. They didn’t even change what I thought was a sucky title. But what do I know? The second thing was that when I cast about for an idea, I asked myself, “What would I never do?” The idea got all twisted up in really wonderful fashion and garnered a Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: 17th Annual Collection. That question has seeded a lot of stories since then and it’s a valuable tool in my box.
I’ve gone on to sell over three dozen erotic, fantasy, horror, and science fiction short stories. Then I started to work on novels. I have a hard time building a string of novels because I write under three names: Thea Hutcheson, who got her start with the erotica, but now works on my first dream–science fiction; Theda Hudson, who flogs her way through the erotica, both lesbian and hetero; and Linn Henderson, who writes the fantasy and romantic books. Each one bugs me to writer her novel. Now.
Theda has two novels out: The Pearl Witch, a hetero sf erotic novel; and Dyke Valiant, an erotic lesbian urban fantasy.
Linn has The Bee Lady’s Amulet, a time travel romance set in ancient Crete. Choices: A Heart Path Book is in progress and features a magical tarot deck passed down through the women in a family. It will show them their heart’s desire if they are brave enough to seek it.
Thea has a science fiction novel in the works called The Pear Shaped Woman. It is a Weldon World story and you can get a taste of it through “Waiting for Avram”, available on Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and other fine e-distributors.
I study craft, going as often as I can to Lincoln City, OR, for Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith’s workshops. Then there’s my fabulous critique group, made up of award-winning authors and terrific people, who teach me tons. I try to write every day, but sometimes life gets in the way or I fall victim to the War of Art, as Steven Pressfield calls it. That’s okay. We all do. What matters is that, eventually, we get up off the floor or out of the recliner and head back to the computer to work some more.
I am so blessed to have had successes in what is arguably one of two careers you can have where you get paid to practice. Yeah, writing is one, and photography is the other. I am not a great photographer, but occasionally, I manage to snap some cute pics of Tom the Office Cat.
So, the universe willing and the creek don’t rise, I will stick to practicing what I can do, and concentrate on learning more every time I sit down.