Having a book is much like having a child. The early draft is messy and all over the place, like a wanton toddler wielding an ice cream cone. The next drafts go through phases where you are learning about your story and your book is learning to fall into shape, like elementary school children lining up for recess. The final drafts are sent to others for their help in shaping the story: beta readers, editors and others will read and test your prose, helping polish the final product before it graduates into the real world. And finally, when your book is about to be published, you have to let it go out into the world. You have to change modes and give up control. It’s a tough thing to do, but like a proud mother, it’s wonderful to see your child make its way in the world.
A few months ago, I decided to stop procrastinating and make some final decisions about my novel, Shattered Angel, so that it could be published. From there, the process just took off. I had the manuscript copy edited, I made final changes, I sent it to a cover art and interior setup company, then waited impatiently for the first drafts to arrive. Then I made additional changes.
In the meantime, I attended the Left Coast Crime 2019 convention, Whale of a Crime, in Vancouver and talked to people about my new book. I was getting used to talking about myself in that way and about my novel. I worked with my partner, Heather Haven, to make some crucial decisions about when the book would be released by The Wives of Bath Press on Amazon (May 15, 2019). And I practiced reading aloud, because I had two book readings scheduled already. It was all happening so fast.
This past weekend, I participated in several events on Orcas Island, including the Orcas Island Lit Fest and “Use Your Words,” a literary salon at the Barnacle. I got to do two readings and meet a number of people to talk about my book. That was very exciting and positive.
Now I’m planning the release party, working on cover details, setup details with Amazon and thinking about marketing. There is so much to do and so many avenues to follow when you are independently publishing your book. It’s a daily job.
And I’m living in 1923 in my head half of every day, because life there goes on, too. Adriano Morelli has a new client and a new mystery to solve.
In 2004, I was at home with two small kids and looking for an online writing community. In my search, I found a friend, a fellow writer with whom I clicked. It’s not that common. He wrote in first person and was charismatic and exuberant in his writing. I wrote in third person and was cautious and finding my way, more of an editor than a writer. But we soon began finishing each other’s sentences, literally.
Jim Sands had written the draft of a novel, but he wasn’t happy with it. It needed work. He started sending me chapters, one at a time. Finally, after the third or fourth chapter, I asked him to send me the whole draft. After reading through it, I saw that it needed help in a number of areas. We talked at length and then decided to collaborate and rewrite the book.
We talked every day, not just about the pages we were working on, but on plans for the future of the story: publication, a series, possible translation to film or tv. Big dreams. But then in 2005, Jim died. He had been ill off and on, but it came suddenly. Before that, we had made plans for “one of us” to continue in the event the other couldn’t. But I didn’t expect it to be me or to be that soon.
The second draft sat in a “drawer” for years as I grieved and processed. When I tried to work on it, I heard Jim’s voice in my head and I tried to put his words on to the page, but there were so many questions that came up and I didn’t feel comfortable answering them alone. I missed him a great deal.
More years passed and I made several attempts at rewriting the book. These were blank page drafts, starting over from scratch if possible, but I kept coming back to the words that Jim and I had written together. Sections got rearranged, characters came and went, I decided to murder the title character after a long talk with my current writing partner, Heather.
Finally, I found the direction. The book became mine to work with. And I grew as a writer, learning much more craft that I tried to bring to the work. I also was my own major editor – finding the weaknesses and trying to resolve them. The book became deeper and finally finished.
Fifteen years is a long time to write a book. But we did it.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton