I’m going to be honest and up-front. I haven’t the foggiest.
A friend recently asked me how I got published and I gave her a flippant (albeit honest) answer: I entered a contest. A look of confusion followed by disappointment flashed across her face, and I realized that wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear. She wanted a gritty, starving-artist, lots-of-rejections, on-the-brink-of-suicide type of answer. Seriously. I entered a contest.
I shared this story with another friend who, having known me for decades, said, “Well, that’s not entirely true.” She reminded me that she had to slog through many, many flaccid and unimaginative novels of mine in our writer’s group. “That paid off,” she said. That was indeed true.
Then I recalled the novels I wrote years before joining a writer’s group, good ideas all, but very poor execution. A couple of those I had, in fact, sent to publishers who responded appropriately: “Thanks, but no thanks.”
I lost interest in the process. It’s hard to be told your story isn’t good; you created it, so if it’s not good, you must not be good. I continued to write, but I did so for myself. My imagination, my stories, all for me.
A few years later I joined a writer’s group, a small trio of women who had similar genre interests. This was a pivotal experience for me; now I was told “this is terrible” to my face! However, I was also told why, what was missing, what needed to be there, and what needed to be eliminated. When you’re new to the experience, it’s quite similar to the rejection letters. I know why people avoid these situations. They are uncomfortable. They are confidence eliminators.
I, again, lost interest.
One day, my husband issued me a challenge: can you write a novel where the bad guy isn’t a man? He wanted to read more “man vs nature” or “man vs mystics” type of books, and asked me to give it a try. I did, and about the same time my writer’s group got back together. I had them review it, but given my first round of experiences had learned to take want I needed and leave the rest. It made the experience much more cathartic, not to mention, useful.
Halfway through this I got struck with an idea, one that insisted on being put to paper and now! I wrote an entire novel in three days. I gave it to a friend for editing, only to have her say, “You know, the hero needs to be a heroine.” Back to the drawing board…
Three’s a charm. I kept a fair number of elements of the second book, turned the man into a woman, added some setting and violá, Winki Witherspoon was born.
Enter the Assent Publishing contest. They asked for the first fifty (50) pages, which I polished and sent away. Within twenty-four hours they emailed me, asking for the whole manuscript. I sent it off, too, with an email explaining “This hasn’t been edited!”
Forty-eight hours later I had a contract in my inbox.
What to take from this? Firstly, don’t give up. If you love writing, if you just have something to say, or worlds to share, or character to introduce, do it. Do it, do it, do it. Secondly – and I cannot stress this enough – join a writer’s group. At very least you’ll get readers, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get support and great feedback. Lastly, don’t give up! I’m under no illusion that a great amount of luck is involved, some to liken it to winning the lottery. But, you’ll never get published if you stop writing.
Best of luck to you!
Title: The Dead Man’s Deal
Publisher: Assent Publishing
Date Published: August 12, 2014
Word Count: 95k
When her husband Will is unexpectedly killed Winki Witherspoon inherits more than just a New Orleans’s mansion. She inherits his “talents”, or magical ability she never knew he had. The new domestic staff (her butler Jeeves, her maid Mrs. Black, her cook Mrs. White, and her mad-scientists, Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson) help prepare her for the annual Tournament, a brutal conflict where House Champions vie to control the flow of good or evil energy into the mortal plane. Winki soon realizes, however, that one of them is a traitor, and possibly her husband’s killer. From beyond the grave Will guides her through her new life while warning her of evil’s temptation, a vice he once succumbed to. With the help of her silent healer and her cockroach familiar, Winki must use her newfound talent to defend her home, find Will’s traitor, and protect the world before she is killed… or turns evil herself.
It happened again last night.
I sprawled lifelessly on my sofa, without the nerve to sleep alone in our… my king sized bed the last few months. Will passed away unexpectedly last November. Since then I had spent miserable and depressed days flipping emotionlessly through TV channels, napping on and off as the rest of the world hummed and buzzed about its business with a vitality, or even vague interest, I no longer possessed. Driven from the world by my anguish, driven from the bed by my loneliness. As a result, I made my camp on the davenport.
But lately, in maybe the past week or so, this weird experience, or dream, or something kept happening. Just as I dozed off, just after Craig Ferguson said his goodnight on the Late Late Show, just as my attention lost its already tenuous mooring, it happened again. The TV and all the lights in the room popped and dimmed, as if a sudden brownout had hit the city. Then the clasp. Cold, very cold fingers clutched my forearm, just above my wrist. Just as it had the nights before.
I jerked upright. My heart raced as panic filled me. Let go of me! I looked down but saw nothing. Though I could see no indentations on my skin the grip remained tight and unyielding. I lurched off the sofa but the clutch never wavered. I felt trapped. I felt helpless. I felt like I was losing my mind. As I gasped to scream—another pop. The lights and TV brightened and the grip vanished.
Just as they had the other nights.
What the hell was happening to me?
Jax Daniels was born in Chicago, raised in Denver, educated in Berkeley (go Bears!), and employed as a software engineer in the Bay Area and Seattle. Needless to say, she’s seen a good deal of the continental US, so when it came time for her and her husband to settle down, they picked New Orleans. They live in a townhouse they call “The Tower” in Uptown with their two dogs, Savannah and Bert. Other passions besides writing are walks, yoga, and her stained glass creations.
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