Loree Lough

With nearly three million books sold, best-selling author Loree Lough’s titles have earned 4- and 5-star reviews and dozens of awards. Reviewers and readers alike call her “a gifted writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives.” Her 9/11 novel From Ashes to Honor (#1 in First Responders series, Abingdon) hits bookshelves to coordinate with the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. Loree lives near Baltimore and loves spending time at her teeny tiny cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she loves to show off her talent for correctly identifying critter tracks. Visit Loree at http://wwwloreelough.com.

Loree's Lough Down

That Fall from Your Horse Scare You? Buy a Pony!

ponyIn May of ’93, after too many editors altered too many facts in the two thousand or so articles I’d written (for no reason other than to appease advertisers), I stepped off the Freelance Reporter treadmill and bought a horse named Fiction. For more than a year, I fed her well and rode her gently, and in August of ’94, we trotted right into the middle of Story Town, where my very first novel was displayed in bookstores. For the next five years, ol’ Fiction and I had a good ride.

And then illness knocked me from the saddle.

As I slogged through treatments and swallowed bitter pills, I didn’t pay much attention to poor ol’ Fiction—and she made me pay a hefty price for those long months of neglect. I bought the biggest, juiciest carrots available, but she wouldn’t so much as nibble. I sought the advice of a fiction whisperer, but not even the lessons learned in classes and workshops helped me get back into the saddle.

And that’s when goofy quotes, stored deep in my memory bank, bobbed to the surface and messed with my already messed-up head:

“You’re only as good as your last picture.” (Myrna Loy [and several dozen other actors].)

“Every day, you have to show people your skill set, whether you’re a songwriter or not . . . and as a songwriter, you’re only as good as your last hit.” (Kara DioGuardi, American Idol judge.)

“You’re only as good as your last recording.” (Phil Lesh, bassist with the Grateful Dead.)

“You’re only as good as your last fight.” (Kelly Pavlik, prizewinning boxer.)

“Is that all there is?” (Peggy Lee’s 1969 hit.)

If I had given up on writing because it had become a chore or grew boring, well, I could have lived with that. But to be sidelined by serious health issues over which I had no control? Not so easy to wrap my mind around. There I stood eye to eye with Failure. And she wasn’t pretty.

So I had a choice: Find something else to do, or find a way to encourage Fiction to let me get back into the saddle, which meant starting from scratch, as if I’d never ridden before . . . a process every bit as tough on an emotional level as my illness had been physically. On the one hand, there were fewer publishing houses, thanks to mergers and acquisitions and bankruptcies. Fewer editors, too, and thanks to dwindling budgets, fewer contracts being issued. On the other hand, more authors were competing for fewer openings. And the market had changed, a lot. Seriously? I was terrified! Because even if Fiction would let me ride again, did I have the talent and stamina to jump that many hurdles?

But the real question, as I saw it, was How much do you want this, Loree? Enough to pretend I hadn’t earned more than fifty book contracts? Enough to accept the fact that in editors’, agents’, and even readers’ eyes I was a “never sat a horse” greenhorn?

In a word, the answer was yes.

So I approached the work as any athlete would after suffering a serious injury: I swallowed my medicine, I exercised, I took things one day at a time, always balancing what Sun Tsu said in The Art of War, “In order to conquer one’s enemy, one must first conquer one’s self” with what Yoda said in Star Wars, “Do or do not; there is no ‘try.’”

If it took a hundred rejections before Fiction would let me ride again, so be it. I dealt with each failure as if it were a stepping stone, not a stumbling block, and read each “We wish you luck placing your work elsewhere” as proof I was working again. I viewed the entire process as a test from God. If Colonel Sanders could make chickens fly out of his restaurants after one thousand rejections, if Thomas Edison could keep trying after ten thousand failures, so could I.

After a long dry spell, during which I received fourteen rejections, in 2007 I sold a book to Summerside Press. Since then, I’ve signed contracts for sixteen additional titles. For the first time in my nearly twenty-year career, I identify with Sally Field, who for years has been misquoted for what she said when accepting the Best Actress award for her role in Places in the Heart: “I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it [her Oscar for Norma Rae], but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.”

Will I fall from Fiction’s saddle again? God put me up there, so only He knows the answer to that question. But you can be sure I’m gonna ride this magnificent horse for as long as she’ll let me, because right now, readers like me!


An Accidental Family