Growing up, I read everything: Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou. In college, I read the classic authors: Pauline Hopkins, Harriet E Wilson, Nella Larson, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Leo Tolstoy and Charles Dickens. The fun stuff was the best stuff: Ann Rice, Sydney Sheldon, Jackie Collins, Bebe Moore-Campbell, Terry McMillian. In recent years, I’ve read works by Dolen Perkins-Valdez and Ken Follett. I’m currently reading Cynthia Bond. However, once I left college, I found I read less, overwhelmed with the pressures of making it in the world of realty. I don’t like it here.
In an effort to sort things out, I decided to have cocktail when I came home after work each night.
OK, maybe I would have two.
By the time I reached my late 30’s, I had arrived at the edge, although no one realized it. As long as I showed up to work and fixed everyone’s problems, I was OK. But I wasn’t. At last, I found myself sitting at my dressing table. Staring into the mirror crying, I couldn’t make the same pointless journey around the mountain again.
I remembered a story.
It wasn’t much. Just a couple of lines I had scribbled down a few years before about a whorehouse in New Orleans during the 1920’s. I pulled a plastic bin out my closet and dug down to the bottom. I still had it. It was about two pages long, handwritten.
I needed to write.
I found some old stationary and begin writing. The story flowed like oil from the bottle of Elisha’s widow. I couldn’t stop. Before I knew it, I’d filled five tablets. I needed to type it all out, organize it, and figure out what I had. It took a few days, but I entered everything into MS Word, printed, and then read it.
Between 2005 and 2013, I wrote many books, primarily my series, Le Baton Chronicles. It turned out to be much more than the story about a Madame of whorehouse in New Orleans, but morphed into a supernatural, paranormal, supercell, epic series, spanning many centuries.
La Rose, Book I Le Baton Chronicles wasn’t the first book I published. The agents had rejected it. In any case, trying to sell my book spiked my anxiety (I’ll have another glass of wine please). I found release, peace and satisfaction in writing, not in courting agents and publishing houses. So, I continued to write, giving up on the idea of traditional publishing.
It’s kind of a funny story about how I came to write the first book I ever published.
I was talking to a co-worker who had young children. Although I never had any children, I pitched in and assisted my sister with raising my niece from 2002-2009. At that time, I went from watching 24 to becoming a Sponge Bob Square Pants expert and arm chair commentator.
All other kiddie shows aside, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz reigned sovereign and supreme in our household. There was never a bad time to watch the DVD. We never grew tired of it. We watched the Wizard of Oz at least twice a day.
So, my co-worker and I were whining about having seen The Wizard of Oz 3,000 times each over the course of four years. I began to think. “Wouldn’t it have been funny if Dorothy had punched the Wicked Witch of the West in her throat when she tried to take her shoes?” My coworker said, “Yeah, that would’ve been some funny sh**.”
Intrigued by the concept of a sexy, street savvy Dorothy, I penned a short story about Dorothy as a speakeasy owner in 1920’s Harlem who drinks a hallucinogenic martini and wakes up in Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West threatens to kill her for her ruby stilettos. Being a speakeasy owner from Harlem, allow us say Dorothy doesn’t take the Witch’s threats lightly. Once finished, I sent the draft of the story to my co-worker who responded with the classic, “This is some funny sh**.” With the blessing, Dorothy Jones, A Jazz Age Trip Through Oz was born.
Once again, my life changed and I found myself revisiting my old vacation home, the brink of insanity. My job had changed; I was filled with anger and bitterness. Fear had captured my future, promising apocalyptic catastrophes unfolding in my family life back home. I’d lost all of my possession within a period of five years, the last being my car which I loved. I’d lost a love I never held. Holding on to these lost possessions and people who had left my life consumed my thoughts, daily. I found myself pulling on doorknobs of closed (and locked) doors, hoping for them to reopen. I couldn’t write. No matter how I tried, I could not do it. My rage and fear had taken my imagination hostage.
“God, I need for you to help me.”
And he did. I began to pray. I began let go of all of it. It took three years of heartache and soul searching, but finally I let go. I had a few moments of clarity where I could write during those years on the threshing floor. In 2013 I finished Dorothy, polished her up, and published her as a Kindle EBook on Amazon.com. Dorothy is my risk taker and go getter. She tests the waters for me. After Dorothy, I published the first book of my series, La Rose Book I Le Baton Chronicles as a Kindle EBook later that year. I’ve published at least one book each year since 2013. I am currently working on La Rose, Le Jardin Book IV Le Baton Chronicles, due out late 2015 or early 2016.
I am happy to say, I’m about 89% free. I revisit the old hurts and losses from time to time, but I’m not trying to live with them. That time is gone. It’s dead. I can’t go back. However, if the door reopens, I’m happy to consider whatever may come through it.
In the past, writing appears to have been an outlet for my insanity. Yet looking back, I believe my focus on and the pursuit of goals other than writing has been the source of my heartache and despair.
Now I know
Writing is the vehicle to my imagination, where I live, where I belong, where I love.
Claudia Helena Ross
Works by Claudia Helena Ross
La Rose Book I Le Baton Chronicles
La Rose Book II Le Baton Chronicles
La Rose Book III Le Baton Chronicles
Dorothy Jones A Jazz Age Trip Through Oz
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