I’ve been practicing writing it down for a few weeks now. It seems every year whenever I have to write down the date I’ll spend the first few months writing the previous year by mistake. Sometimes I’ll get he hang of it fairly quick only to revert inexplicitly in June or even July. Neuro pathways get crossed for no obvious reason at all.
But 2007? Yes, 2007.
I never had a problem writing 2007 down. From January 1st I was on it. Never a mistake. Never a crossed out ’06.
See 2007 was a special year. Like a couple of the other Murderati bloggers – Rob, Toni, & JT – 2007 was the year I debuted as a published novelist. It was something I’d been dreaming about since I was in Mr. Hodge’s sixth grade class back in the High Desert of California. Honest. I’ve wanted it that long.
As has happened to many of us, perhaps most – and perhaps is still happening to many more of us – life got in the way. School, youth, doubt, family, career…they all threw up roadblocks that I let stop me, sometimes for a month, sometimes for a year, and sometimes for several.
Then I finally got my act together, and really began concentrating. I finished a novel. It was actually my second, the first having come ten years earlier. It was great to get back in the groove again. I knew that with my concentration back, publication would soon follow. So I prepped a batch of queries and fired them off. When the majority of those came back as form letter no-thank-yous I didn’t worry. I just checked them off the list and moved on to the next batch.
In total, I sent out 72 queries: 54 form rejections, 3 bad address, 5 no response, and 10 requests to see material. Out of the 10 who requested more, 5 passed and the other 5 I never heard from again. I know all this because I kept a spreadsheet tracking progress. Yeah, pretty geeky of me.
But again, I didn’t let it deter me. I credit my mentor, the late William Relling, Jr. He taught me that it wasn’t easy, and that sometimes you just had to say maybe this wasn’t the one and it was time to move on to a new story.
So I did. I wrote another novel. Truth be told, I began it while I was sending out queries on the other one. That was another hint from Bill. Keep moving forward, always have a project your working on.
When I finished, I sent out queries again. I didn’t keep quite as good records this time, or if I did, I must have hid them someplace I can’t remember. Nonetheless, I’m sure I sent out about the same amount. And, as it turns out, with basically the same results.
This time I couldn’t help but feeling a little discouraged. I’d written a book I thought was pretty good, and I’d had a lot of very positive feedback on it. But it looked like I was going to have to put it on the shelf and start something new. I did start something, a book I was going to call NOT FOR US, about a writer who got feed up with being rejected and who goes to confront the person who rejected him last and accidentally kills him. It was a black comedy…with an emphasis on satisfying revenge.
But not long after I’d started, my mentor unexpectedly passed away, and I lost interest in the book. Because of Bill’s passing, I came into contact with an old friend and writer, Nathan Walpow. Years ago, when I’d written that first novel, Nathan and I had been in a writing group that Bill had run. Now Nathan had several novels published. When I told him about my frustration with all the rejections – an aliment I was well away all authors share – he offered to help me out. At that time he was being published by a small, well respected house called Ugly Town. He told me to send them the manuscript for the novel that I’d gotten the latest batch of rejections for to them, and he’d put in a good word for me.
So naturally I did. What happened next was…well…a whole lot of nothing. For almost eleven months I hear nothing. I reverted to what I knew Bill would have told me to do, that is write another book. Then one evening, while I was sitting at Starbucks doing edits on my newly finished book, I got a phone call…no, not a phone call, THE phone call. Ugly Town wanted my novel.
I was going to be published.
Only that wasn’t the end of the story. Six months later, just three months from when Ugly Town was going to release my novel, they had to suspend operations. Being a small publisher is never an easy game. I thought I was back to square one, but I wasn’t. Jim and Tom at Ugly Town didn’t kick me out the door. Instead they got a hold of an editor friend they had at Bantam Dell and pitch my book to her. Long story short, Bantam Dell bought my contract, and subsequently gave me a three book deal. That book that I almost shelved was obviously THE CLEANER.
So not only did I know every day of 2007 what year it was, 2007 is a year I will never forget. For God’s sake it was hard enough to get there.
For all of you out there still chasing that first deal, I don’t recommend using the path I took, but you should note that there are many paths to get there. But the two most important things you need to always remember is patience and persistence.
Patience and persistence…and then hopefully you’ll have your own year that you will always remember.
Thank you Pari and JT and the rest of the ‘rati gang for inviting me to play.