I got my first word processor and started writing. Five hundred pages into it, I decided the story was done and I followed the instructions and sent it off to a contest I’d heard about, the prestigious Southwest Writers Workshop annual contest where the entries were judged by New York editors. When I received the call saying I had placed in the top three, I was over the moon. It never occurred to me that whichever editor had judged the contest wouldn’t just automatically accept my wonderful multi-generation family saga for publication.
I attended the conference where the awards were to be presented—accepted my third-place certificate and prize money, and spent the rest of the conference collecting business cards from every editor and agent there. Nearly all of them were willing to have me send the full manuscript. My trusty how-to book had advised that I only submit a book to one publishing house at a time, so that’s what I did. For about two years. No one wanted it. (It seems the first two chapters of a book might garner it a prize but don’t necessarily mean the entire tome is worth the massive amount of editing a NY house would have to put into it.)
Meanwhile, back at the keyboard … I followed every scrap of advice for editing that first book, kept sending it out, started a second book. And a third. Somewhere in there, I moved to another state. A friend and I shared loads of paperback books and we were both huge mystery fans. New female writers and female protagonists were making a big splash about then. Sara Paretsky and a group had formed Sisters In Crime, an organization for women crime writers, which I joined. Sue Grafton’s series was receiving attention, Marcia Muller was writing and publishing a lot. Going back to my first love of reading—mysteries—I began to consider what characters and plots I might bring to my writing. Charlotte “Charlie” Parker was born!
Although those first three non-mystery novels were never published, they provided excellent practice for me and by the time I finished the first two Charlie Parker books I was ready for publication. My next post talks about the process of launching the series with Deadly Gamble.