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The Journey So Far


It's been awhile since I've posted anything other than WRiTE CLUB material here on my blog, so I decided it was time to catch everyone up (for those interested) on where my writing career stands. I'll warn you right now – this is going to be a comprehensive summary.

The story I tell everyone about composing my first story to impress a girl is true. Up until the late-spring of 1974 I had never written fiction. After that, I couldn’t stop writing.  I had finally found something I was good at and others…mostly adults…took notice of.  I ended up working for the school newspaper my senior year, but after high school, my creative writing took a back seat to life.  College, a career, a wife and three kids all ganged up on me and forced my urge to write into an extended hibernation.

My infatuation with prose re-emerged after my three children left the nest and headed off to conquer the world. With time on my hands and the opportunity to explore my own interests, at first I was lost. One of the first things I did was undertake the chore of digitizing my old vinyl album collection, so I could listen to the songs that were lesser known. While I was in the middle of doing that I stumbled across an album and song that brought back a powerful memory, one that had been buried deep in my consciousness for decades.  

That remembrance is what led me to write my first short story in 30+ years. I had such a great time writing it that when I was finished I began contemplating how to turn it into a full-length book. Me…write a book? That was crazy…wasn’t it? How do you even go about doing that, I thought? How many words would that be? How many words per chapter…and how many chapters in a typical book? Could I even come up with a plot to envelop this short story and hold a reader’s interest for the length of an entire novel?

I decided to find out.  With my wife’s help, I etched out a plot that we both felt would be an interesting read…if I could pull it off…then I began to construct an outline to work from. When the outline was complete, I began to write.  And I wrote…and wrote…and wrote.  One-hundred sixty-five thousand words later, I pronounced myself finished. This was 2008.

Now during this time, I was also beginning to experiment with posting personal musings on Myspace (anybody remember that?). It wasn’t really what I would call blogging, but a precursor to it.  In the book I was writing, the main character had a very popular blog he called Cruising Altitude, and I thought it would be a good idea to begin my own blog to document my march to publication (cough...cough), so I opened a Blogger account. Naturally, I entitled the blog – Cruising Altitude. My first post was in 2009.

I now had this newly completed book, so what was I supposed to do with it? This is the part that truly embarrasses me. I Googled the email addresses for some successful publishing houses and sent them all the first three chapters of my unedited, unrevised, uncritiqued, unbeta-read, book. I still grimace when I think back on that. You can imagine the results. Me...I'm trying to forget.

My first intelligent move in this writing journey was when I embraced the blogosphere. It was chock full of writers at all levels of literary achievement, and each and every one of them was willing to pass along what they had learned along the way. I read and absorbed the knowledge of aspiring and successful writers both. I learned the ropes…so to speak. I also began to expand my own presence in the ‘sphere, becoming a semi-popular blogger in my own right. I came up with inventive blogging scenarios as WRiTE CLUB, the BLOG BLITZ, the Déjà vu Blogfest, Blogging Buddies Around the Globe, the Significant Other Blogfest, and the Origins Blogfest, just to mention a few. My intention was to give back to the writing community, a writing body that had given me so much, and I feel I did that in spades.

So what did I learn? One of the first things was that I needed to attract an agent to help me navigate the complex publishing process, and I realized the book I had written was much too long for a first-time author. Somewhere between 75-80K words was ideal, and my first attempt was 165K. 

As I was writing my second book a small piece of legitimacy and respectability came my way in the form of a short story that was 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 began my querying efforts for this new mystery/thriller, pitching it to agents at a writer’s conference (DFW Conference) and as a result landed a couple of full-requests. Those ultimately went nowhere. Then I tried my handwriting in the YA genre and was very pleased with my first draft (and so were my CP’s). My theme for that year was making it uncomfortable in my comfort zone…and it was starting to pay off. 

We are now up to 2012, December 21st, 2012 to be exact, and that's when the train derailed. Those of you who remember that day, it was when the Mayan calendar predicted the world would end. Well, the world didn’t end, but it felt like it to me because that was the day my wife was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Needless to say, 2013 was a year of setbacks. With much of that year spent in the hospital with my wife, writing pretty much ground to a halt, so did querying. Writers conferences came and went with at least one empty seat, and basically, most of my forward momentum turned into suspended animation.  I kept semi-active on my blog, taking part in A-Z…a couple blogfests…WRiTE CLUB, but even here I was just treading water.  I wasn't getting around to other blogs near as much as I wanted to and most of my posts were filled with so much angst they came off sounding like a bad episode of Dawson’s Creek.  The one thing I was holding onto was the fact that soon I’d see a piece (the short story mentioned above) of my writing in print.

Then the proverbial rug was pulled out from under me when I learned the publisher for the short story had gone belly up! I never knew that ground zero could feel so cold.  Maybe that’s because I didn’t just end up there. I felt like I was buried six feet under it.

But boo-hoo’ing about that wouldn't accomplish anything. There were hurdles, for sure, but they were only speed bumps compared to the Mount Ranier my wife climbed.  I'm so proud of how she came through it all. She bounced back to 100% healthy and I began to merge back into the speeding traffic that was the publishing highway.

In 2015, I finally landed my first agent. The fact that I described that relationship  as my first agent should probably tell you how that went. My 3rd book (YA Paranormal Mystery) went on submission that year and after a flurry of early activity, interest eventually waned. So did the communication from my agent. I terminated our contract after just eighteen months.

In 2017, when things seemed to be falling into place for me, my day-job had other plans. The company I work for was undergoing a massive IT project and it  required my undivided attention and LOTS of travel. At one point I was on the road for fifteen weeks straight. Not only did I not get much writing done that year, I couldn't even hold my annual WRiTE CLUB competition.

Things eventually returned to normal and I wrote two more books, both YA, and continued querying all of them. I subsequently landed my second agent in 2019.

Then the pandemic of 2020 hit. You all know how that's going.

You might ask – just as I frequently do – what has kept me going during all this time? Why do I think I can succeed when so many couldn't? My wife would say pure stubbornness, but she would only be partially right. Over the course of the years I have had the opportunity for my novels to be read by successful novelist – some of them EXTREMELY successful – and it was their glowing feedback that kept me in the fight. That and feedback from an editor I used – one who had also edited some successful publications – which was also very favorable. That combined with the fact I had secured not one, but two agents, was enough to keep me going.

I believe that brings up-to-date. My YA Mystery/Thriller PRICK is currently on submission and my fingers are crossed once again. 

There you go. A slog of a journey, one with no destination yet. I'll let you know when there is one. Be patient. I certainly am. :)




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