Chronicle - Part One




A couple of you wanted to hear the official story of how I signed with Sarah Negovetich, my literary agent. But if I’m going to tell the story…I’m going to tell the WHOLE story. And so to not put you to sleep with a ridiculously long post – I’m going to break this into two parts. I’ll post the second part next week. So…here goes.

In 2007 I wrote a short story.

What’s so surprising about that is the fact I hadn’t written anything fictional (unless you count my previous year’s tax return) in…roughly 27 years. At my job I have an opportunity to compose a lot of procedure manuals and instruction guides, but writing this story was night compared to day. You see two of our three children were grown and out of the house, so I had lots of free time on my hands now and it was either find something to busy myself, or do more chores around the house. I wrote the story about a road trip to Panama City that my buddies and I had taken during our college days, but little did I know what I was awakening inside me.

The first thing I ever officially wrote was in tenth grade...and it was to impress a girl. Our class was given a group assignment to record a 15 minute audio tape in the style of old radio shows - all from original idea's. The prettiest girl in school…much less our class…or my group…took charge and asked if anybody had any ideas for a story. The active imagination I always possessed was about to be put to good use as I quickly blurted out I would write the script for us. After recovering from 3rd degree shock (is there such a thing?), I went home and wrote a scary tale about a young boy who becomes enamored with his reflection in an antique full-length mirror that his mom brings home one day. Our recording was well received by the class, but the teacher was sullen and pulled us aside afterwards. She couldn't believe that the material we used to make the tape was original, and wanted to know where we got it from. After we convinced her that I had written the story from scratch, her rebuke turned into praise and suggested I submit my work to a short story contest...but I never did. But what that experience did do is prompt me to join the school newspaper. I wrote mostly sports articles for The Ram, but occasionally they let me write general interest pieces and my most notable (and controversial) one was entitled “The Art of Skipping”.

When I went to college (LSU) I started off majoring in Journalism, but soon realized that life in that world could prove to be financially challenging. So I decided to pursue more lucrative majors (ending up graduating with a business degree) and writing slowly faded into the background as I confronted the realities of GPA’s, school loans, interviews, early morning alarms and late-night dinners, heart-stopping love, dirty diapers, mortgages, car pools, coaching duties, scholarship applications and everything else that tend to induce follicle disembarkation and enlarged prostrates.

Decades later, after I had written that short story, something changed in me. The experience of writing it was so exhilarating, I had to write more. I decided that I would turn my short story into a full blown, fictional, book. I could do that, right? I mean…how many pages were in your typical book (I didn’t know yet you’re supposed to speak in terms of words…not pages), how many words on a page, how many pages per chapter? The numbers of questions were staggering and the sheer magnitude of writing a book seemed overwhelming. But I REALLY wanted to write more, so I made up my mind to do it. How hard could it really be? (Yeah…I cringe now when I remember thinking that).

So the next decision was what to write…that is…what kind of book? (No…I didn’t even know about the term genre back then. – Please don’t judge me.) I’ve always been an avid mystery/thriller reader, so I decided why not start there? I laid out my outline (with my wife’s help), identified the characters I wanted/needed, and really made sure I wasn’t over-stretching. I went to work, writing mostly on the weekend, and three months later I had a book…and yes…I use the term loosely.

Now this is where the level of my embarrassment peaks and you get to see just how much of a novice I was back then. What do you do with a book you’ve written – you send it to publishers…naturally. That’s right, I emailed my 1st draft…unedited…135,000 word of festering excrement to a half-dozen publishing houses. I still groan when I think back on that. I had to be the Gomer Pyle of the publishing world.

Of course nothing happened, and that’s when I got serious. A little bit of research ultimately led me here to the blogosphere…and slowly I started figuring things out. I found out the difference between self-publishing and the main-stream where you needed an agent, and if you went the main-stream route…no agent was going to look at a book from a newbie author at 135K words. Either I had to cut out almost 50% of my book, or write a different one that met the requirements. I chose the latter.

That was in 2009.

So I wrote a second book – another mystery/thriller -- which was actually a sequel to the first one (but able to stand on its own), as well as a couple more short stories. I also started my own blog. Over the course of the next couple years my writing slowly improved and my blog built a fairly sizable following. I finally got up the nerve to query that second book  -- then I kind of floundered around for a year.

 



In March of 2011 I bottomed out…and quit. Though I had become a successful blogger, my real writing was going nowhere and I didn’t feel I was able to put the time and energy into it to improve, so I shuttered by blog. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made – because I truly loved the interaction with the wonderful blogging buddies I maintained – but in the end it was the right choice. Six months later I bounced back – fully invigorated and ready to go.

In 2012 a small piece of legitimacy and respectability came my way in the form of a short story accepted for publication in an anthology series entitled An Honest Lie. I can’t tell you how much that little accomplishment rejuvenated me. It was like Popeye downing a can of Spinach! "I yam what I yam and tha's all what I yam… a-gah-gah-gah-gah-gah-gah!" I doubled my querying efforts for my mystery/thriller book, pitched it to an agent at a writer’s conference and landed a couple of full-requests. But since it wasn’t getting many nibbles, I decided to try a different direction. YA Horror. The first draft flowed from me like blood out of a head wound and I was more excited than ever (and so was my CP). My theme for that year was making it uncomfortable in my comfort zone…and it was starting to payoff.

Then the train de-railed on December 21, 2012 and everything changed. You could say it was pre-determined. Those of you with a good memory will remember that December 21 was the day the Mayan calendar predicted the world was going to end, but instead we received the diagnosis that my wife had breast cancer. I knew right then that most of the next year was going to be arduous. Life was going to force change upon us that I hoped would rally our family together, require maximum effort to overcome a deadly threat, and no small amount of personal sacrifice.

I was right.

68 comments

  1. I started writing in 1995...so my journey is just sad! But I took some time off in the 00s...a few years. By the time I came back to writing in the late 00s, everything had changed, which is how I ended up writing for younger people. I wrote romantic comedy in the 90s but as you can see from a trip to a movie theater, romantic comedy is pretty much dead!

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    1. Romantic Comedy...yep...that's a pretty hard nut to crack! :)

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  2. Having followed you through much of this journey, it's fun to see it all laid out :) Except for the sad parts. Those still aren't fun.

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    1. The sad parts only make you appreciate where you are now even more! :)

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  3. Thank God she came through all of that.
    You've had a quite a journey. Glad you stuck with it.

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  4. Like a rubber ball you kept bouncing back. Resilience is an essential component to success. This is the kind of story I like to hear.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I'm either a rubber ball...or a piece of gum stuck to your show that you can't get rid of! :)

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  5. I'm always amazed at how resilient humans are. We are a come-back group if there ever was one. Here's to your continued success and let's hope some good health news in your future.

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    1. There's a come-back story in all of us somewhere. :)

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  6. You've had a long journey, Don, but I know great things are looming up ahead! You've earned them and THEN SOME.

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  7. OK, I already know how the story ends, but now my breath is baited waiting for 'the rest of it'. so glad things have turned a wonderful corner for you.

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    1. Oh no...the story hasn't ended yet. :)

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  8. I've followed you for a while so I knew a few things you mentioned here. The rest just proved what I already believe--you are very deserving of that offer of representation.

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    1. It's gratifying to see comments from followers who've heard it all before. Now they get to hear something new. :)

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  9. I'm so glad you didn't fully give up. You kept at it, which proves you deserve representation. :)

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    1. Some people would say is what I deserve is a trip to the psychiatrist! :)

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  10. Love hearing about other people's journeys. Mine too is taking much longer than I ever planned. We've all been at the naive stage where we're like, "Oh yeah, I'll just write a book in a year and get an agent that same year. No problem."

    But way to leave this post on a cliffhanger! I hope your wife is okay now. Cancer is such a terrifying, unpredictable disease.

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  11. I remember all of that. And oh dear, I think I might have submitted some manuscript with an astronomically large word count as well.

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  12. wow I had NO idea...this is such a cliffhanger for me! Please tell me she's okay now, oh I hope so. I love to learn about all our journeys...you always think "oh, I'll just 'get an agent' " but there's a whole history to it, a whole journey that makes the moment so sweet. I'm so glad you stuck with your writing and blogging!!

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    1. Yes...this story does have a happy ending...I'm not just talking about signing an agent! :)

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  13. I remember a lot of that happening. You gave up blogging for so long, too.

    I queried a 205,000 word YA book - LOL!

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    1. 205,000!!!!!!!!! Wow...I thought I was bad. :)

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  14. Why is it we always resort to business school and give up our passions? I guess it's the money. I've always had a passion for literature, but it took me a business diploma from college and nine years working an uninspiring office job before I pursued my real passion. Now I'm studying English Literature in grad school and loving it (and hating it; it's grad school after all). It's always been a dream of mine to publish my creative writing too, so that's definitely something I need to invest more time in once the MA is out of the way. Perhaps it will tie into B(e) Kind 366, who knows! It's a pleasure to go along as you relive your journey to much deserved success!

    I hope your daughter does pick up "A Discovery of Witches" - I am working my way through the second book in the series now which is set in 1590 and it's pretty interesting.

    Brandy

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    1. It's absolutely about the money!! I've already mentioned "Witches" to my daughter and I think its on her list now. :)

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  15. 135K is a drop in the bucket by my standards! It was a shock to me when I discovered super-long books are often rejected on the basis of length alone by many modern-day agents, since I'm so used to books in my genre, historical, being at least 500 pages, with huge, sweeping story arcs and trajectories. I ultimately decided indie publishing suits my style better than traditional publishing, but I'm happy you've found success in the agent arena. Everyone takes a different path which speaks to our own truths.

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    1. Epic fantasy writers are given a higher word limit for newbies...but us mystery authors are limited to 80K.

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  16. You have had quite a journey DL. Like the others I too believe that you left us on a cliffhanger, please, please tell me that your wife is okay. I need to know that first.
    I am glad that you didn't give up on writing or getting an agent.

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  17. An epic journey so far. Pain and pleasure; such is the human condition.

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  18. It's amazing how those first things we write can stick in our memory. I still remember the first thing I ever wrote when I was 8. Good for you for sticking with it, despite the up and downs of life. May you and your wife have a long and happy life together while you bound the keys.

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    1. I think I was still using crayons when I was 8? :)

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  19. Akkkk!!! A cliff-hanger!

    Luckily I know a little of the rest of the story, because otherwise your skillful writing again sucked me in and I'd be left hanging for the resolution! (and prayers and warmest thoughts to Kim!)

    You've had quite a writing journey, my friend! I'm thrilled that it's really still only at the beginning!

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    1. And you were there for almost ALL of it! :)

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  20. All each of us can do is make the choices we need to make in each and every moment and trust the journey. You've made good choices and now you are reaping the reward. It does'n't matter how long the journey takes or the obstacles along the way. Thank God your wife is okay.

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    1. I'm regretting that choice I made for lunch! :)

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  21. I took a couple of decades off while I edited high school history essays ad nauseam. After retiring, I found my words again. The rest is history. ;-)

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  22. I can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

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    1. You'll have to buy the book! Just kidding...the exciting conclusion will be posted next Monday. :)

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  23. Not sure if it took my comment? Testing..

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  24. My comment was something about loving to read long versions of writer's journey and glad you chose to tell the long version, especially love your voice! "follicles disembarking"! Will look forward to the rest of it.

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    1. I like the long versions as well...but not in a single read...which is why I broke it up. :)

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  25. I think it's amazing that your teacher was so impressed she thought you stole the work. :) I can't wait to hear the rest of your story!

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    1. I have to admit...the whole thing was first class. The story was sufficiently creepy...we all did a great job acting out the parts...and the sound effects & music were awesome. It was definitely an A+ effort from everybody. :)

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  26. Congrats again, DL!!! So happy for you!

    Can't wait to hear Part 2...you're such an inspiration! :)

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    1. Yeah...and I'm two steps away from being a cautionary tale! :)

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  27. Well, pooh. I was totally engrossed in your journey and - bam! - I hit the end of the post.

    Of course, I'll be here for part two.

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  28. That first publishing deal is always a big deal. Unfortunately I met with success too early and then spent YEARS trying to find it again. Well, maybe not unfortunate. We learn the lessons we need along the way, eh?

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    1. That's a story I want to hear someday! :)

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  29. Congratulations on landing an agent, DL. I'm excited for you!

    Thank you for sharing details from your journey with us. Sometimes it just takes a spark, like that short story you wrote in 2007, to start a flame.

    I do remember that post you shared where you revealed your wife had cancer. I am glad to hear that she is okay.

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    1. Thank you! We're all glad about that!! :)

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  30. Congratulations on landing an agent, DL. I'm excited for you!

    Thank you for sharing details from your journey with us. Sometimes it just takes a spark, like that short story you wrote in 2007, to start a flame.

    I do remember that post you shared where you revealed your wife had cancer. I am glad to hear that she is okay.

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  31. I'm so thankful you pulled through all of this, DL. You and your wife are amazing!!!

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  32. I don't know about me....but you're 100% correct about me wife! :)

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  33. PTL for your wife's successful battle - and to your success in not giving up on your dream :)

    PS: Thanks for the kind words re. Bill, and yes, the Blitzers were fantastic during his blitz :)

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  34. Interesting writing journey. Can't wait to read next weeks.

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  35. I'm so excited for you! I can tell by some of the comments that your wife is doing well, too, so cudos!!

    ~ Olivia J. Herrell

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