Great News!

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When I was younger, there was this Tootsie Pop commercial where a boy asks the “wise owl” how many licks to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop. The owl takes the boys Lollipop, saying “let’s see.” Then, one – two – three, he bites into it and its gone.

I saw the commercial recently. Retro commercials are trending right now. At the time, I thought about all the query letters I had sent out and all the rejections I had gotten back.

I had sent countless letters. Every one of them requires something different. Some want the first fifty pages of the manuscript. Some want the first three chapters. Others want a summary, while many ask for a full synopsis. So, you have to take the time to look that information up and customize each query for the agent or editor you’re reaching out to.

Then you wait.

“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.” -Victor Hugo

A very small percent will respond within a week. Most will leave you waiting for a couple months or more, while a surprisingly notable percentage will not respond at all. How rude!

Waiting is grueling. I don’t necessarily mind waiting, especially when I consider the volume of queries these people get on a weekly basis. Most of the rejection letters come as form letters; “Thank you for your submission… blah, blah, blah… but this isn’t right for me.” I did get one that at least seemed a little more personal, but that was the exception for sure.

In June of this year, I attended a writing conference and had the opportunity to “speed pitch” a few agents and publishers. Enter FAWKES PRESS. This wonderful little eclectic publishing house out of Fort Worth, Texas was simply – special. I knew it the minute I met the president and the acquiring editor. I pitched Hannah Goodheart and the Guardian of Time and was invited to submit chapters. Chapters became a full manuscript. Now understand, I had no indication that this was going to produce a different result than I had become accustomed to; a long wait, followed by a hard no. Nevertheless, I set my hopes on this particular publisher, stopped sending out query letters altogether, and waited.

I received an email from them around August to say that they had been overwhelmed with submissions and that it would be mid-October before they were going to be able to follow up. October rolled around, and the anticipation was nearly unbearable.

On the morning of October 15th. I woke early and checked my email. There it was. I took a deep breath before opening it. “I am excited to get back to you about Hannah Goodheart and the Guardian of Time. (We) really enjoyed it, and we’d like to take on this project!”

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Then came the word that nearly ended my victory dance. “BUT…”

“Oh, no! There can’t be a ‘but,’” I thought.  This wasn’t happening. I continued reading. They were asking for a specific rewrite and resubmit. It was a daunting thing they were asking of me. However, after providing the sample chapter they asked for – written from a first person POV rather than a third person narrative, they didn’t need to ask me to rewrite the whole manuscript. Changing the narrative from a third person to a first person POV not only stretched me as a writer in such a great way, but it also took the story to a whole new depth. The characters, especially the protagonist, are much more three dimensional and the emotional connection to them is so rich as a result. Fawkes saw the potential in the story and weren’t afraid to draw it out of me.

Hannah Goodheart and the Guardian of Time is now set to be released on October 1, 2019 by Fawkes Press. It will be available everywhere books are sold. We did a Facebook Live announcement (see the photo) from Dealey Plaza in front of the historic Texas Schoolbook Depository, downtown Dallas, Texas (read the book when it comes out to find out why I made the announcement from there), and I’m over the moon even now to share this news. You can check it the video by going to our Facebook Page

In fact, let me invite you to like and share the page. We’re hoping to do a live cover reveal in the spring and we’ll be having some fun contests where our followers can win some cool prizes.

I’m also working on the second novel in what I hope will be a series.

I know this blog post is long, but I just want to say that this is a life-long dream come true and a labor of love that I can’t wait to share with all of you.

In my pursuit to find out how many rejection letters it takes to get the publishing offer at the center of my candy-coated dreams, I’ve come to learn, it really doesn’t matter. The sweet taste of this moment has removed any bitterness from that pile of rejections and the journey has been so worth it. And, I’m optimistic that we’re just getting started.

Ups and Downs

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“What is sometimes dismissed as myth is often rooted in truth,”     Sosthenes (from Hannah Goodheart and the Guardian of Time.)

I would begin with an apology, but I know the four people who read my blog haven’t been injured by my absence. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with you outside of this platform, which is gratifying.

For the sake of posterity, let me simply say this has been an up and down kind of year, and one of incredible transition.

I’ve always admired the real-world metaphor that is the butterfly. Transformation is something that has always captivated me. Even in literature, television, movies – I’m drawn to the idea of transformation. Clark Kent becomes Superman. A farm boy becomes a Jedi Knight. Four children walk through a wardrobe and become the Kings and Queens of Narnia. We follow their journey and cheer them on when their destiny is realized.

Life doesn’t always unfold as it does in the pages of a book. Our journeys are often much more complicated and convoluted.

I won’t drop details except to say that there is not a single area of my life that hasn’t been touched in one way or another by change over the past eighteen months. I know. I know. Everyone experiences many of the things that have occurred in my life of late. Few experience them in such a compact period of time. Usually these kinds of transitions occur intermittently throughout life. For me, it all came rushing at me at once.

What may have looked like as me quitting and letting life rob me of fulfilling a dream, was actually me taking a step back and concentrating my efforts. So, no blog. Podcasting was spotty at best. Call it a hiatus.

So where are we on the journey toward publishing the novel, you ask?

Moving forward.

I’m holding fast. Keeping the faith. Putting in the work.

In June this year, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a writer’s conference here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. It was a thrilling experience even though I didn’t get to attend many of the sessions since I was also representing the company I work for as an exhibitor. Still, I got to get some feedback on my query and even pitched a couple agents/editors. It was a fantastic learning experience I hope to repeat very soon. For sure, it further fueled my desire to put my best foot forward – dig in and continue writing.

Stories can’t tell themselves.

Despite all the transition and upheaval, I’ve persevered and am nearing completion of the second Hannah Goodheart manuscript – a continuation of the first.

A boat on rough water might drop anchor. A caterpillar manages metamorphosis by creating a chrysalis. I think there are examples all around us that demonstrate the need to grab onto something when life gets turbulent and change comes like a flood. For me, it’s my faith and it’s been telling Hannah’s story. It’s been working to fulfill this dream I’ve carried for most of my now forty-seven years. To see my stories published and being read. To inspire thousands to crack the pages of my books and dream. I hope that doesn’t sound vain. Call me a cock-eyed optimist but, I really believe a good read can inspire the dreams that lead to a better world.

“Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.” – Mitch Albom

So, for now, I’ll continue writing in hopes that someday you’ll be reading my storys.

Soon.

Stuck!

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“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

-Albert Einstein

Let me begin by first apologizing for my absence. It’s been a little while since I could sit down and tap on these keys. I’ve missed it so. I experience joy when my fingers burst into a fury, sculpting my thoughts on the screen in much the same way a potter shapes clay. It seems the more I write, the more convinced I become that this is something I was meant to do. Subsequently, I draw the same conclusion the less I write.

The simple truth is, I’m a bit stuck right now. Life does that sometimes. It grabs you and holds you in one place. It’s rarely a pleasant place. Although at times one can find themselves stagnate in their own personal paradise.

Life events are fickle things. They can propel you forward, send you into a tailspin, or simply weigh you down to the point that it’s impossible to move beyond them. A divorce, the loss of a job, a critical illness, a death in the family, or any number of things seemingly good or bad can come along and throw us off our trajectory in one way or another. I’ve always believed that our circumstances are neutral and it’s what we do with them that determines whether they’re positive or negative events. The loss of a job can seem like a terrible thing, but if it pushes you into the job market and you find a better job, it can be argued that the job loss was a positive event. The journey between those two points can be challenging, and it’s easy to fall into despair trying to get from here to there.

Well, as I mentioned, I’m currently stuck, stationary, cemented, fastened, in a holding pattern. Life right now feels a little like that movie Ground Hog Day. Bill Murray’s character is having a bad day, and he’s forced to live it over and over and over again. Several months ago, something happened that disrupted everything for my family. Life got turned upside down, and at first, we were optimistic that it would all turn out OK. But here we are, stranded, living the same bad day over and over again with no end in sight.

As I sit here sharing a little bit about it, I am still confident that somehow, some way, some day, this is all going to turn out for good but at the moment, I’m thrashing at the waves trying to stay afloat while everyone is shouting at me to stay calm. I guess I don’t handle these things well sometimes. I’ve discovered, that I prefer a certain routine and don’t like to deviate. Is that a bad thing?

My solace has been writing. Finishing my novel gave me a great sense of accomplishment at a time when I needed to feel accomplished. I did multiple passes over it, rewriting, editing, and polishing it. I put together groups of beta readers and shared with them my story of the teenage girl who finds an object of mythical origins. My beta readers have been so kind, and the feedback has been incredible. Knowing that I couldn’t pull the resources together to hire a professional editor right now, one of my beta readers even took the time to notate editing suggestions on the manuscript.

The querying process continues. Query tracker tells me that I’ve received eight rejections so far. That’s eight agents closer to finding that one agent who will champion my novel and help me secure a publisher. I say that with such hope and expectation but right now, it feels a little like everything else in my life – stuck.

You have to be optimistic though. Otherwise, you despair, and that won’t make anything better.

“Sometimes the gulf between despair and hope can be bridged with a little rest.”

-Theseus, “Hannah Goodheart and The Guardian of Time.”

So, I press on. Carving out a little time for the simple pleasure of writing is my rest today. Here, I breathe in and then out. Here, I dream. Here, I get to write the story in hopes that it will not only help me break free and become the best version of myself but that it might inspire someone else along the way.

To finish that novel, I had to first finish a chapter. To finish the chapter, I had to first finish a paragraph. To finish the paragraph, I first had to first finish a sentence. To finish the sentence, I first had to first finish a word. The novel that is my life right now may seem overwhelming and difficult but I refuse to let it hold me in place anymore. Today, I wrote a word that built a sentence. That’s progress. Tomorrow, look out. I’m coming for you!

Rejection

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“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”
—C. S. Lewis

Rejection stinks. There’s no other way around it, though. A good friend reminded me recently that writing and rejection go hand in hand. Today, I experienced it first hand.

I queried the first seven literary agents on my list recently. I sent the first one about forty days ago. I saw an agent in Writer’s Digest that caught my attention, and after researching her, I thought I would give it a shot. I’ve yet to hear anything at this point, which might be a good indication that my novel isn’t right for her – and that’s OK.

That was the first one… just to get my feet wet. So, ten days ago, after the first round of beta readers were on their way reading through Hannah Goodheart and The Guardian of Time, I sent out six more query letters with the necessary requirements for each respective agent. Today, my inbox contained my first official response.

It was a nice form letter. A little encouragement was included saying not to give up. But alas, the novel wasn’t right for the agency.

I’ve been using Query Tracker to keep track of my queries. I highly recommend it. When I recorded the response, I had to laugh at the icon for rejection because it pretty much summed up how I felt. A little sad, a little disappointed, but determined to continue until I find representation.

“You are more than the sum of your years. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re just a girl.”

                     -Theseus (Hannah Goodheart and The Guardian of Time)

I do have to say, I’m pleased with the responses I’m getting from beta readers. I’m on a second round now, and the latest response I got from a reader indicated that he read the entire manuscript in two days. The first words of the email he sent me were, “Wow. Phenomenal.” That pretty much sums up every response I’ve gotten so far. I couldn’t be happier about the feedback I’ve received. Now I just need to find a literary agent who will be as enthusiastic.

That being said, I know the rejection letter I received today is probably the first of many, and I also know that not every reader is going to love the story. That’s fine because I don’t write to please everyone. I write because I have to tell the tale. Some people will get it and others won’t, and that’s just how it is.

I’ve already started the follow-up to “Guardian of Time,” entitled “The Secret of Erebos.” Hannah is going to have her hands full as the darkest of secrets threatens the future of the entire universe. WOW! I’m giddy just thinking about it.

And literally, that’s about all it takes to get me out of my rejection funk. The next query letter. The next story. The next step.

Why?

Because I know I’m one step closer to my dream. I’m one step closer to being able to share my stories with the world and ignite the fire of imagination for someone out there who needs to see the universe from a different point of view.

That’s the dream, friends! To inspire someone else to dream a better world where good conquers evil, and the most unlikely people can become heroes that save the day – we need some of that in our present discourse. As my novel presents, darkness is on the move. Who will rise up to stop it from overtaking us all?

Well, I guess you’ll have to wait until “Hannah Goodheart and The Guardian of Time” gets published to find out. Until then, I’ll continue to be on the write.

Only Time Will Tell

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Let the querying begin!!

Writing a 71,000-word manuscript, editing and editing it again, is one of the most accomplished tasks I’ve ever done in My. Entire. Life. Who would-a-thunk it would only be the first step.

Certainly not me.

But sure enough, that’s exactly what I’ve discovered. It’s then that the real work begins. Researching the querying process and pouring through hundreds of agent profiles to find just the right ones to trust – it’s a lot of work.

That’s right… TRUST. It doesn’t come naturally to me.

After sitting at this keyboard for nearly every free moment over the past year and few months bleeding over these characters and this story that I’ve carried around for so long, my manuscript is precious to me. I’m passionate about every letter… even the punctuation. Get me talking about in public, and I promise, I’ll get you excited about it too… or convince you that I need therapy. But, that’s another issue.

Just the other day, I was with my daughter at her American Heritage Girl meeting. One of the moms was talking with my wife, Dorinda and casually turned to me and said, I heard you’ve written a book. Well, that’s all it took. I gave her a complete synopsis and had to stop when I caught myself giving her character profiles. She was a great sport, though. I’m glad her and her two daughters, all avid readers, volunteered to be beta readers. I’m looking forward to their input.

“A wise friend recently told me that time is truth. We cannot hide from either of them forever.” – Hesiod from Hannah Goodheart and the Guardian of Time

It really is a trust thing for me. I want to find an agent who is as passionate about the story and loves these characters as much as I do. To be honest, I wouldn’t want an agent who isn’t as zealous as I am about this manuscript. I’m searching for someone who can share my vision and truly be my partner going forward. After all, this is the person who is going to represent the material – my material, and sell it to a publisher… perhaps more.

I’ve heard that the publishing industry can move very slow and I’ve heard stories of authors who spent years in the querying trenches. I hope that doesn’t become my story. Regardless, I’m dug in and surrounded with agent profiles, confident that at least one of them will really get this story and be as excited as I am to share it with the world.

Only time will tell.

And So It Begins…

Write Next

“Oh don’t be shy, my dear. Books were made to be touched with searching hands, read by curious eyes, and digested by the inquiring mind,” – Mr. Hoise (Hannah Goodheart and the Guardian of Time)

And so it begins…

Well not really.

How many times? More times than I’m able to count. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve sat down at a typewriter or computer keyboard and pounded out the beginning of a story. Ideas I’ve nurtured, often for some ridiculous amount of time, and in a fury of  keystrokes I would finally giving them a chance to live.

I bought a plant eons ago for my college dorm room. The rooms in Goen Hall were a blur of dull tan. The faded paint on the block walls screamed for a little color. Commercial tile floors and the tan metal frames of the bunk beds offered no relief. So a little green from the cheap palm tree added a nice bit of color and gave the room a little life. It wasn’t long before I forgot to water it and it simply wilted away and died. Much like my stories.

I would write a few paragraphs or a few chapters and then get busy and forget. I think it’s a terrible travesty when a story dies of neglect. A spark of life on a page or computer screen withers away and suddenly you have an incomplete story that may never get told.

I’m a storyteller.

From the time I was old enough to talk, I’ve been telling stories. When I was very young, I imagined a world inside a hill that overlooked my neighborhood. I had five wives and many children. It was a world of magic and mystery. Then early in my teens, I took to writing. I still remember the inexpensive Brother electric typewriter I saved for and bought. For all the wrong reasons, I took a typing class but I was eager to write. I wrote poetry and short stories. I even scalped homework papers to hone my skills. Why? Because I’m a writer – a storyteller.

I’ve always had artistic ability. I’ve got awards packed away for my aptitude with charcoal and paper, pen and ink; I’ve even been known to paint. Everything I do is an art form of one sort or another. I approach nearly everything in life as an artist, but writing and storytelling have always been my first expressive love.

So why is it that I find myself (a little more than) midway through life’s journey with little more than a few incomplete stories to my credit? Well, I guess life happens.

  “I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.” – Isaac Asimov

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I completed a children’s story many years ago. “Like the Angel’s Love Their Wings,” is a bedtime conversation between a little girl and her father as they one-up each other’s I love you’s.  I asked my older sister, who is a much more talented  artist than I, to do the illustrations. I was going to take the story and the illustrations to a publisher. However, the only thing greater than my sister’s mastery of artistic skill is her sloth. Alas, my children’s book never made it beyond a manuscript.

But I persevere… well, sort of. After so long, self-doubt begins to suppress desire.

The words “once upon a time…” fire the imagination. It’s almost unthinkable not to take that wonderful phrase and go in one direction or another. So imagine if those words were never written. That’s  where I found myself. The stories I once started and never finished were now the stories I never even began writing.

I have had a life-long love of Star Trek. Last year there was a short story anthology being published. A contest was announced, and I decided to enter. I started and FINISHED a short story. I shared it with a friend of mine who happened to be an editor. He assisted in the clean up some minor problems and helped me plug a small plot hole. More than that, he told me he liked the story and thought it was very good. So I waited to hear if my story would be selected as one of the ten to be included.

Finally, after months of nail-biting, the winner was… not me. Disappointing, right?

My then 13-year-old daughter saw the joy I was getting from writing that Star Trek tale. She came into my study one evening and kissed my balding head and said, “Daddy, promise me that no matter what happens, win or lose, you’ll keep writing.”

How do I say no to that? She loved my story. My friend, Chris loved my story. My wife, who isn’t a huge Star Trek fan, loved my story. It suddenly occurred to me:  I’m alive the most when I’m telling stories and perhaps I can do this. So, I began another story – even before I had gotten the disappointing news about the short story contest.

In February last year, I started to write a story about a teenage girl and her friends who find an object of mythical origins and get pulled into a cat and mouse chase with a time traveling thief.  Guess what? I finished it. My first novel! Seriously!

Hannah Goodheart and the Guardian of Time was born.

Twenty chapters.

70,000 words.

One incredible tale with more installments to come.

I’m in the editing process now, and I’ll be blogging occasionally about this journey I’m taking at the midpoint of life.  Here, I’ll share my thoughts on writing, my ups and downs trying to get it published, and maybe push a word or two about – well… just life. I may even share a bit of the story itself in this blog. That is, if you’re interested.

Well, that’s my story… more or less. What do I write next? Only time will tell.