If success begets success, I’ll be successful. Does that make sense?
I’ve been writing for over 40 years, but always for business or the Army, never for myself or for attribution. The most I ever got was a signature block that authorized me to sign “For the Commander” of my Battalion, my Group, or my District, and then for my civilian boss. But in 2013 my wife asked me whether I was ever going to stop whining about writing for myself and do it, or if I would just keep on sounding the same theme. I took the hint.
At that point, I had no idea how long the road to publication was. Forget fame and fortune, I just wanted to see my name at the bottom or at the end of something, for me. I started with essays, then moved to a weekly newsletter for our farm customers. From there I converted some of the essays to podcasts on our local NPR affiliate in Huntsville’s Sundown Writer’s Corner.
Still had the day job. Still wrote for others. But mornings, some nights, and most weekends I wrote for me. Still not for publication. Then in 2016, I attended Killer Nashville. I was unemployed at the time, but my two step-children gave me the price of admission as a Father’s Day gift (I only use the word “step” to differentiate them from my much older children who share my DNA). They’re my kids, too.
At KN 2016 I began to see the tunnel, if not the light. I fired off query letters and two manuscripts to agents and watched the mailbox. After 8 months I heard a polite “no” from one, then after 11 months, I gave up on the other. Meantime, I entered a different book in the Claymore contest. Hey, I’d never entered any contest before, and it was only $40, so what the heck.
To make a long story even longer, I got the news that I was a finalist for the Claymore! That more than met any expectations I had. The KN crew twisted my arm to attend the Awards Dinner, and I reluctantly agreed. I really don’t like that sort of thing, it was at night, I live almost 100 miles away, yada, yada, yada. But I paid the shekels and attended.
I won. It still seems surreal. I looked at the video Liz took and laughed at the expression of shock when Karen said my name. I asked the person next to me whose name she had called out. She verified that it was mine.
So fast forward 4 months and I’m sweating over a publication package for Fiery Seas. A labor of love, sure, but much more difficult than writing fiction (although I may not let the truth get in my way).
So to the KN folks, Kensington Books’ panel, Jessica Faust at Bookends Agency, and Misty at Fiery Seas, I send my thanks. Right now, they are my village.