What Does it Take to Be Published Through Traditional Channels?
You Have to Have a Story to Tell…
I’ve always been a storyteller. All my life, in every situation, storylines jumped out at me—and once they were in my head, the stories had to be told. So, I’ve also always been a writer. My early forte was poetry…mostly for myself, but also for those I loved. I did some short stories in school, but once I entered college and then the working world, the writing became term papers, corporate proposals and then grant requests. Not nearly as much fun as storytelling.
I’ve also occasionally gotten a kick out of visiting psychics with my friends on Saturday afternoons. But when, for the fourth time, a psychic looked at my palm and said, “Oh…you’re a writer,” I decided it was time to get serious about it.
So I took writing classes and later, advanced writing classes.
And I wrote. My first few efforts were over-the-top flowery with adverbs and adjectives dripping off the page and suffocating the reader. I learned to write tighter and the stories improved. But I really wanted to write a book.
So when I visited an ancient cemetery in the lowlands of Georgia, a spirit reached out to me from her grave and my first novel, The Consort Conspiracy, A Covington Family Mystery, was born. The Midway, Georgia cemetery is very impressive and so old it boasts several signers of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Walking through its massive wrought iron gates is almost a sacred experience and once inside, I felt like I should whisper, lest I disturb any of the souls at rest. I wandered through the oldest part of the cemetery and stopped at one crypt. I was immediately saddened by the inscription on the cover from the late seventeen hundreds. The epitaph described a woman who died at the age of seventeen while giving birth to her twin daughters. It so moved me the story practically told itself.
And an Agent…
Between the first round of writing and the last, I sent out query letters…about 300 of them total. Sometimes I got lucky…occasionally an agent would show interest and even give me a few hints on what to change, but it wasn’t until I had rewritten the manuscript six times and then totally restructured it over the course of almost fifteen years that my wonderful agent, Julie Gwinn from the Seymour Literary Agency, took me on. But before she did, she wanted to know if I was a serious writer or if I only cared about seeing my name in print. When I answered her “What else you got?” question correctly…that I was in it for the long haul because I simply had to tell the stories, that was good enough for her and we’ve been together since 2014. One of the things I love about Julie is that as soon as one project is finished, we work together to decide what’s next so she always has something to pitch to editors on my behalf. Already, we have the next three years planned out.
A Mentor Helps…
Once I had an agent, then I needed a publisher. I had met Steve Berry, international best-selling thriller author, at a Writer’s Conference in Jacksonville Beach. Ever since I read his first novel, I’ve been one of his biggest fans. I continued to go to conferences and seminars where he was speaking, and went to as many of his book signings as I could. I have ALL of his books. And he has signed them all for me, most of which say “To a Fellow Writer.” What a wonderfully heady experience!
Imagine my joy when Steve and his wife, Elizabeth, moved from Brunswick, Georgia, to World Golf Village…the place I call home as well. And then, incredibly, he invited me to his home and spent three hours with me at his dining room table, giving me the benefit of his experience. In fact, his initial words to me were that my first manuscript was “a thousand times better” than his first manuscript.
Steve’s story is an inspiration to writers everywhere. It took him more than three hundred query letters before he found an agent and even then, his manuscripts were turned down by eighty-five publishers before he had a contract.
As we discussed my work, he said, “I would have put the murder first.” I told him that yes, I had originally done that, but another published author told me that wasn’t the right place for it. Steve looked me in the eye and said, “Well, he was wrong.” So I went home, re-inserted the murder into the beginning and within a couple of weeks of sending the manuscript out like that, my agent landed us a contract. I will never be able to convey my gratitude to him for the time he spent with me.
And Finally, A Support Team…
So, regardless of the fact that an author is responsible for writing every word of a manuscript, help, support, and inspiration come from a variety of sources. My children and grandchildren, of course, who have read my words many times, my friends, and of course, my wonderful street team.
My greatest help, support…and certainly inspiration, however, have come from my darling husband, Michael, who has been in lock-step with me through every minute of the journey. I told him the idea for this book on our very first date, May 25, 1999, and must have done a good job with the description because not long after we became engaged, he suggested to me that I clear my calendar for the following day, since we were going for a ride. He didn’t tell me where, but we got in the car and headed north. He took me to Midway, Georgia, the location where this story actually takes place. We toured the Midway Cemetery and I showed him the grave that inspired me to write the book.
In Addition to Writing…
I have a passion for...
Christmas Villages (miniature)