The First Time

Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to talk about those first times in our lives that mean so much.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017.

My granddaughter got her first job the other day. She is now a box girl for Publix market, and will be working part time the rest of the summer and into the school year. I dropped her off at the store this morning, and watched her go in. How had she gotten so grown up so fast? Where had the time gone? Surely it was just yesterday we had her first birthday in the park. Her great grandmother made her dress, she spent much of the day trying to lead her aunt’s dog around until it was time to wack the piñata. She loved trying to hit it even more than the candy that fell out. I remember the look on her face the Christmas she got her first American Girl doll. I held my breath during her first horseback riding experience, and then there was the year she learned to play the flute. That one really stands out. She spent the three hours between her house in Georgia and mine in South Carolina playing Mary Had a Little Lamb, over and over and over…now she will open her first bank account with money she’s earned and she will have an ATM card. Scary thought. Although not quite as scary as the thought she will soon be driving. I shudder.

It got me to thinking about my first job. We lived in California, in a small town a little north of Los Angeles called Montrose. No big box stores for it. The Christmas I was sixteen I went to work for Dorsey’s, a combination stationary, gift and toy store. I think it paid .75 an hour. But I was thrilled. I felt rich, although even by the standards of that time, I wasn’t even close.

All our lives are filled with firsts.  Some are momentous, most are of importance only to those of us who are experiencing them. The first time you see the ocean, your first day at school, your first date, days you remember with nostalgia. Some others not so much. The first time you gave a dinner party and dropped the lasagna on the floor while taking it out of the oven. The first time you didn’t get the promotion you thought was in the bag. The first time you voted and your party lost. Life is full of them, good bad and indifferent.

I think in every profession a few of those ‘firsts’ stand out. They sure do for an author, at least they do for this one. I still remember the thrill, a visceral thrill, when I opened the envelope from Disney’s Family Fun to find they’d accepted my article on my children’s adventures in 4H. I remember feeling I’d been punched in the stomach when the first rejection letter arrived for a book I’d poured my heart and soul into. I will also never forget the first time I walked into our local library to find one of my books on the new release shelf. Same book, different year and many revisions later. That was the day I thought I’d arrived. I really was an author. The glow of pride I felt was full payment for all the hours I’d spent bent over my computer, trying to write a book that was ‘good enough’. (No, I didn’t send the royalty checks back.)

Eight books later the thrill is a little different. My stomach doesn’t knot up quite as bad waiting for a review or a “yes or no” from a publisher. I’ve learned to accept the low points with I hope a closed mouth and a vow to write a better book. I try to savor the high points, like the release of a new book or a great review from someone I respect, with grace and dignity. At least, I no longer do a happy dance around the living room for two days straight. But that thrill when I see one of my books on the shelves of a bookstore or see an empty space on a library shelf where one of my books should be and I know it has been checked out, that never goes away. It’s the first time all over again.

The 3rd in the Mary McGill canine mysteries, Blood Red White and Blue, was released July 1st to lovely reviews. Should be on your library’s shelf now. If not, ask why.