It has been an amazing year and a half for Versailles area resident Alison Pensy.
The accountant turned author has seen an explosion in sales on Amazon of her self-published young adult book series. The Custodian Novels now include The Amulet, The Emerald Staff and The Cypher Wheel with the fourth and final book on its way.
Writing "fantastical" essays in school growing up in England, Pensy says she always wanted to write but never got to it over the years. She fell into accounting after finding she had a knack for bookkeeping from a secretarial job she had when she was younger.
In 2001, Pensy moved to California with her husband, an American in the Air Force. They lived amongst the hustle of Silicone Valley for a few years before Pensy says she just couldn't take it anymore.
"I couldn't handle it there. Where I come from in England is similar to here - farm land," she says. "I told my husband, we have to find somewhere else, or I'm going back to England."
He agreed and told her to find them a place; his only proviso that he didn't want to shovel snow. Pensy on the other hand didn't want heat all the time. With the east and west coasts being too expensive, she narrowed it down to Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky or Tennessee.
They eventually found the Versailles area and came for a visit.
"We fell in love with the place straight away. Everyone was so friendly," she says.
People at a local diner told them that it doesn't snow much at all - not like it used to.
Their first year living here - it snowed 18 inches and there were three ice storms, laughs Pensy. But it has been mostly good weather and good times for the couple since moving to the area in 2006.
They bought some land and lived in a "tin shed" - an old manufactured home - held together, she says, with spray foam and duct tape for five years as they saved up enough to build.
Pensy has written all of her novels while living in the area.
"It lit up my creativity I guess," she says.
After years of dreaming about writing a book, Pensy was talking about it with a friend in 2006 who told her, "Just do it."
"I said, ok, I will," laughs Pensy.
It was a light bulb moment, she says.
She wrote a draft of The Amulet that year, selling a few copies locally but ultimately shelving it until 2009 when she extensively revised the novel and put it for sale online.
Page 2 of 3 - The first book of an unknown self-published author sat on Amazon and didn't really sell much. It wasn't until she finished The Emerald Staff and put it online in the spring of 2011 that things began to change.
In an effort to encourage readers to give a new author a try without risk, Pensy offered The Amulet for free as a promotion for The Emerald Staff. Almost overnight, The Amulet rose in the rankings on Amazon from lower than 80,000 to number 14 on the bestselling children's book list. It went to #1 on the children's bestseller list for free books and stayed there for three days.
"I nearly fell off my chair when I saw it. It was amazing," she says.
The strategy is paying dividends for Pensy who saw a corresponding jump in sales of The Emerald Staff. A week later, it debuted at #25 on Amazon's Children's Hot New Releases list and made it on the website's Children's Top 100 Bestseller list for paid books.
The Amulet is still offered free on Amazon, and book 3 of the series, The Cypher Wheel, is outselling her other novels.
Pensy has also written a romantic comedy for adults under the name Adrianna Blakeley, using the pen name to avoid confusing readers.
She has now sold nearly 22,000 books, and made more in 2012 with her books than with her accounting business.
Pensy's inspiration for The Custodian Novel series comes from the area where she grew up in England.
If her village, there is a church. The local "urban legend" has it that if you circle the church three times on New Year's Eve, you'll disappear, says Pensy.
"I thought what if you went to a different world when you disappeared. That was the seed for the Custodian Novels," she says.
The backdrop of these novels is modeled after a combination of the village where she grew up and the village where her father grew up as well as the the medieval city of Norwich which is located near Pensy's childhood home.
The Custodian Novels are written for teenage girls, according to Pensy, but are finding popularity with a much broader audience than she expected.
"The youngest reader that I know of is seven, and I've also gotten emails from readers in their late 60s," she says.
Pensy was also surprised by the large following the books have had with adult men.
Husband Chris told her he thinks it's the adventure of the novels that make them popular with a variety of readers.
The stories are full of adventure and magic as the teenage Faedra inherits an ancient fae amulet that has the ability to manipulate energy and control the weather. Faedra lands in different worlds - from Arran, the realm of the Fae, to the Dragon realm - as she protects the amulet and learns to deal with its powers.
Page 3 of 3 - The novels are loaded with an amalgamation of folklore and fantasy.
A Summer Down Under by Pensy (as Adrianna Blakely), however, is largely based on her own adventures in Australia.
At the age of 20, Pensy backpacked around this continental country for nine months, and just like in the adult romance novel, worked on a sheep station in the Australian outback for a time.
"Most of the things that happen in the story actually did happen to me. Some of the things I put together, and were exaggerated a little - ok a lot. Yes, I did get kicked in the face by a sheep, but I wasn't knocked out," she says.
The relationship side of the story, though, is completely fictional. There was a nice-looking station owner's son, but there was no romance, just friendship. He appalled his mother by teaching a nice young English girl dirty rugby songs, laughs Pensy.
Though Pensy is busiest during tax season, she finds that it is then when she does the most writing.
This time of year often finds her diving into other realms in the evenings at her home after a draining day of dealing with taxes.
"I guess it's a way to de-stress. In the summertime when there's not much going on, I think I could be writing a book right now, but I have no desire to do it," she says.
In her spare time, Pensy enjoys horseback riding, and is a member of the Morgan County Mounted Search & Rescue Team. She is also involved in community theatre. You can often find her on stage in the Royal Theatre's Apple Festival productions. Her favorite role was as Glenda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz.
"I was born to play Glenda," says Pensy who kept her wand from the production and has a growing collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia given to her by friends.
The hard-working author is now finishing the fourth book of the Custodian series. It should be out in the spring. With the series complete, Pensy says she plans to work on some novella length spin-offs of secondary characters from the Custodian Novels. She also has an idea for a romantic suspense novel.
The printed versions of the books are available at Amazon.com for $9.95 with signed copies available for $10 per book plus shipping. The e-book version of The Amulet is free, and the e-book of the other novels are available for $2.99, on Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and Apple ibookstore websites.
The stories are now also being made into audiobooks as well which should be available for purchase in March.
Keep up with Pensy and her prose at www.alisonpensy.com.