^^ This is a great time to be an independent creator. E-book technology and print-on-demand mean that you don't even need to make that much of an initial investment like your mother's friend did. Even established writers are going that route. Larry Blamire, the guy who did Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
et cetera, published his collection of supernatural Western short stories through Lulu, the same publisher I used for my paperbacks. You can also publish e-books directly through Amazon or Barnes & Noble (and other independent publishers like Smashwords). I did that with my second short-story anthology-- I only charge 99 cents and I make three times as much per sale as I do with the paperbacks.
There are other options developing, too. Tim Pratt, a well-regarded fantasy author, has financed a couple of his books through Kickstarter.
So get going, dude, and keep us updated.
Yeah it's definitely a better (and cheaper) time to self publish. Sadly I think a lot of people never recouped their investments in the old days of vanity publishing. And there are lots of success stories these days as well (take 50 Shades!). I published my first novel via Lulu, and now have a novella/anthology on Amazon (shameless plug see my sig).
I'm currently reading Mortal Causes by Ian Rankin, my first Rankin/Rebus novel but I don't think it'll be my last. As an interesting coincidence in the introduction Rankin talks about the influence of Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder novels, and the book I read imemdiately before starting Mortal Causes had been the latest Scudder novel!