Tuesday, January 10, 2006

History - Part 1: From the Known to a Whole New World

The beginning sounds familiar. Years of writing. A few novels finished and put on a shelf where they probably should always stay. (One I’m even tempted to put in a box, take out into the middle of the desert, and bury in a hole so deep magma from below the earth’s crust will get to it before any human can set eyes on it again.)

But I kept at it. Urged on by my family, the other writer’s in my group, and my late mentor, Bill Relling (aka William Relling, Jr.) Persistence finally paid off in January, 2005, when I was sitting at Starbucks. I was actually working on the rewrites of a new novel I’d just completed. My cell phone vibrated. I didn’t know the number, but I was in need of a distraction, so I answered. It was a phone call from Ugly Town saying they wanted to published the book I had sent them…

Wait. I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Back up a year and a half or so.

When I finished writing what would become to be known as Hung Out To Die (a title that is still probably going to change), I did the usual thing. Sent out queries – first to agents, then to publishers. I believe the final tally was over a hundred letter sent on this one. I had a few nibbles, but mostly I got form letters back saying they weren’t interested. This was over a nearly six-month period. Eventually I decided to give it a rest. Maybe this wasn’t the book I was going to sell. Too bad. I really thought it was good. It was definitely the best writing I’d done to that point. I thought perhaps it was something I could look at again in a year or two. For the moment, it was time to move on.

And then, maybe five or six months later, I ran into an old writer friend. The where and the why of our meeting I’ll save for another entry (it make the story even more interesting, but deserves its own spotlight), but the end result was that he offered to introduce me to the publisher who’d released his latest novel. The publisher was Ugly Town, a small press that has consistently put out high quality material. I thought maybe he just wanted me to send them a letter, but my friend said “send them the whole book and I’ll tell them it’s coming.”

So I did.

This was in late January 2004. By the end of summer, I’d heard nothing. So I assumed they weren’t interest. In my mind, I started to write the book off as more experience. Besides, I had a new idea for a story I was excited about. So I got to work on that and forgot about Hung Out To Die and Ugly Town. That is until the end of November (or was it early December?), 2004, when I received an email from Ugly Town.

Still, it wasn’t something to get too excited about. I could tell immediately that it was a mass mailing intended for a group of people who’d submitted material to them. Basically it said, “We’ve been very busy, but we hope to get to your submission soon. We’ll get back to you in a month.” I paid little attention to it other than to note it explained why there had been no response from them earlier. But I was already over halfway done with the first draft of my new novel, so I dove back in and forgot about everything else again.

A month went by. Nothing. Not that I was actually keeping track, though. I had finished the draft on my new book, and had begun my rewriting process. And there were the holidays in there somewhere, and the chaos that always comes with my day job, especially every January.

That brings me back to sitting at Starbucks in mid-January, 2005, almost exactly a year ago, and almost exactly a year after my friend had offered the introduction to Ugly Town. I remember which table I was sitting at. I remember exactly what I was doing. And I remember my cell phone vibrating…


“Is this Brett?”

“Yes,” I said cautiously. I mean, I don’t give my cell phone number out to everyone.

“Hi, it’s Jim from Ugly Town.”

It took me a moment to place the name, then, “Oh, hi. How are you?”

Some quick pleasantries, followed by, “We’re interested in publishing your novel.”

He continued talking for another minute or so, I, of course, barely hearing what was being said. I may have even asked him a question or two. I don’t really remember. But finally I realized what I really wanted to ask. “When you say you’re interested in publishing my novel, do you mean you are going to publish my novel?”

He paused for a moment. “Yes. That’s what I’m saying.”

I can honestly say that ranks as one of the five happiest moments in my life. To bad it had to happen while I was sitting alone in a coffee shop with no one to share it with.

(UP NEXT: History Part 2: The Rollercoaster Ride)

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