Sometimes an idea needs time to mature, or in the case of this week’s guest blogger Rosalyn Ramage, the idea needs to find a genre. I think most authors would agree that stories have to come out one way or another. How they are received is another matter. Ramage explains how her latest book took 33 years to see the light of day.
A Cozy, Little Success Story 33 Years in the Making
By Rosalyn Ramage
It’s a done deal! Millicent’s Tower, Five Star Publishing, 2014. Mission accomplished! But wait a minute, I thought as I sat gazing at the book in front of me. Where did you come from, Millicent? Where have you been? What took you so long to get here? Memories began to flutter in . . .
The year was 1980. I had just received my college degree at Belmont College as an older student with children at home. During that time I had been fortunate enough to do some freelance writing, including the publication of two books of children’s poetry. I was on a roll!
Then, in 1981 our family went on vacation to Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, just across the causeway from Lubec, Maine. We were there for a month, and while there, I wrote a book!
Actually, the main plot of the book had been floating around in my head for a while. I had had situations and characters in mind, but no specific names. As we had embarked on the trip, one of our pastimes was to create names for characters that would be in my book. We named them for places and signs that we saw along the way (like Moose when we saw a “Moose crossing” sign).
I had taken my manual typewriter and a ream of paper with me. My writing space was a small room at the back of the cottage with a fantastic view of Passamaquoddy Bay, looking toward Lubec. It was in that setting that Who? came into being. What, you might ask, is Who? That was the title I first gave my book. I called it Who? . . . as in “whodunit.”
Believe it or not, I accomplished my goal and returned to Nashville with a three-ring binder filled with pages for my book. After sharing it with friends and relatives, I met a literary agent who took a look at it. He reviewed the manuscript and returned it to me, saying, “I like the book, but, quite frankly, I don’t quite know what to do with it. It is family-centered, with children, but with adult topics and situations, like . . . dead bodies and . . . ‘language.’ ” He wished me well. All of this was in 1981.
My reaction to this rejection was to take it to my office, put it on a shelf, and forget about it. Life went on.
Then, 29 years after I had given up on my novel, my oldest grandson, who was in college, brought up the topic of Who? He said, “I’ve always heard people talk about Who? But I’ve never seen it myself. Could I read it sometime?”
Hmmmm. Let me see now. Just where had I dumped that dusty, musty manuscript so many years ago? Ah, yes. Here it is. I pulled it out, dusted it off, began to read … and I liked it. As a matter of fact, I liked it so much, I retyped it, added more characters and material, extended the storyline, and dared to ask for a critique at a conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in the fall of 2011.
The gist of what my critiquer said was that she “really liked the story, but didn’t quite know what to do with it.” Sound familiar? It really wasn’t a hard-core adult book, she said, but it certainly wasn’t a children’s book. Young adult? Maybe.
And then she said the magical words: “I think what you have here is a cozy mystery.”
“A cozy mystery,” she said. Hmmm.
In my quick research on cozy mysteries, I found that my book had all of the attributes of a cozy mystery.
I was intrigued. So intrigued, in fact, that I signed up to go to another conference known as Killer Nashville, an annual conference geared especially for writers or would-be writers of various kinds of thrillers, mysteries and suspense.
Long story short, I decided to “pitch” my manuscript and, to my surprise, was asked by an editor at Five Star Publishing to submit my full manuscript for review. After a bit more preening, I submitted Who?, which, by now, had been renamed Millicent’s Tower.
And, in January 2013, I was informed by the editors at Five Star that they would take pleasure in publishing my book.
A long journey for a cozy mystery? You bet. But one I have enjoyed creating at every uncertain step of the way. I sincerely hope other writers will find my story encouraging as they pursue the journey for themselves.
If you would like to read more about Rosalyn Ramage’s books please click here.
Rosalyn Ramage is the author of two books of children’s poetry entitled A BOOK FOR ALL SEASONS and A BOOK ABOUT PEOPLE. She is also the author of three middle grade mysteries entitled The TRACKS, The GRAVEYARD, and The WINDMILL. She is a retired elementary school teacher who enjoys writing poems and stories for readers of all ages…just for the fun of it! MILLICENT’S TOWER is her first book for a more mature audience. She and her husband Don split their time between their farm in Kentucky and their home in Nashville, Tennessee. She invites you to visit her website at rosalynrikelramage.weebly.com.
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