A Story’s Story

Hello, friends! Has spring arrived in your neck of the woods yet? We’ve hit daytime highs in the 60s finally, and my tulips have dared to show their pretty heads. While this fine weather does beckon me outside, I’m still hard at work on new manuscripts. Can’t live off the glory of one (almost) published novel!

As I mentioned in my last post, Love Inspired Suspense will be releasing my Christian romance in December of this year. I’ve got an official title now, FATAL FLASHBACK, and my revisions have been approved by my editor. Next up is copy-editing and cover design. You can be sure I’ll share the cover with you as soon as I can!

Every road to publication seems to follow a different convoluted trail, so for what it’s worth, I thought I’d share my story’s story with you today, from initial idea to contract. If there’s one thing I hope you’ll take away, it’s that publishing is a slow journey, and it’s not for the faint of heart. If you’re still waiting to get your first book published, hang in there!

Without further ado, here’s FATAL FLASHBACK’s timeline:

Spring 2003: While a grad student in the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University, I go camping with my husband in Big Bend National Park. The terrain is so picturesque and rugged, it occurs to me it’d make a great setting for a novel.


Hiking Lost Mine Trail way back in March 2003


Big Bend’s famous “Window” in the Chisos Basin


The Rio Grande and the Mexican village of Boquillas


Santa Elena Canyon

Summer 2003: We move from Texas to Ohio. During the long hours on the road, a (fictional) park ranger named Logan introduces himself to me and insists that he’s ready to fall in love, if only I’d create the right woman for him and send her to his park.

2004: I land a full-time job in a molecular genetics lab at Ohio State University while my husband works on his PhD. I still have a Master’s thesis on Colonial American shipbuilding to write in my free time, so I make Logan wait.

2005: Thesis done, so I get back to Logan’s story. Trouble is, I’ve never written a novel. And I haven’t even finished a short story since high school. I realize I have no clue how to construct a plot, so I check out some library books and start taking notes.

2006: Baby #1 arrives. Sorry, Logan.

2007: We move to Michigan, where I’m now staying home full time with my toddler and pregnant with baby #2. Life revolves around feeding people, sleeping, and trying to figure out where the grocery store is in a new city.

2008: Hello, baby #2. We buy a house. Out of foreclosure. It’s a serious dump, but I’m confident we can fix it up.

2009: With two toddlers, I need a mental break. A creative outlet. I finally start my novel, working on it once a week when my husband takes the kids so I can go to Panera for two hours. The night before Thanksgiving, I finish the first draft, titled DESERT.

2010: Hello, baby #3. I edit my first draft. I still have no clue what I’m doing, so my idea of editing is making sure the grammar is correct. At least at 83,000 words, it’s a full novel, and by far the longest thing I’ve ever written (except maybe that thesis). I let someone beta-read it and try to follow their suggestions, including changing the title to THE LEGEND OF LOST MINE PEAK to sound more exciting. I’m pretty clueless about agents or how to get one, so I cough up the money to use a service called The Writer’s Edge, which prints my blurb in a mailer that goes to CBA publishers. Two editors at respected CBA houses request a partial, so I know my concept is solid.

2011: Both editors pass. One of them kindly points out that I need to work on developing my “voice,” whatever that means. I have another idea rattling around in my brain for a YA fantasy, but I also have three kids aged 5 and under, and we’ve decided to homeschool. I’m too exhausted to care about new ideas, so I quit writing.

2014: Our kids are old enough now that we brave a trip across the country to Oregon, stopping at several national parks on our way home. The fresh air, the camping, the scenery, the break from regular life… It reminds me of who I am, and how much writing is a part of me. I miss using that creative side, and finding an escape in stories. When we get home, I write a short story and enter it into a local contest.

2015: I’m shocked when my short story is picked as a finalist and later takes second place. Maybe I can do this writing thing after all. I start my YA fantasy. When the first draft is done, I take a break from it and reread THE LEGEND OF LOST MINE PEAK. It’s awful. The editor was dead on–no voice, and the plot is pretty lousy too. I create a long list of revisions and basically rewrite the entire story, keeping only the setting and the characters’ names.

2016: I’ve cut the story down to 60,000 words and renamed it FLASHBACK. I’ve decided to look for an agent to represent my YA fantasy, so I submit FLASHBACK directly to Love Inspired Suspense (LIS).

2017: Hello, baby #4. It takes eight months for LIS to get back to me from the slush pile. The editor sends me a detailed, very positive revise-and-resubmit letter, but I’m hard at work on my YA fantasy now, and I’m not sure it’s worth the effort to cut 5000 words and revise. I let the project sit. Sorry, Logan and Ashley.

2018: I enter FLASHBACK into the ACFW Genesis contest, where it makes the semi-finals, and into the Daphne du Maurier contest. When it wins the Daphne for its category, I’m shocked and delighted. One of the judges, another editor for LIS, requests the full. During NaNoWriMo, I decide it’s time to make those revisions.

2019: Revisions are done. I submit the manuscript in mid-January, hoping I might hear back a bit quicker this time since it’s a R&RS. Only four weeks later, a LIS editor calls! Congratulations, Logan and Ashley!

There you have it. This story has been more than fifteen years in the making, if we go all the way back to that fateful day when I thought, “Hey, I read a lot. I could write a novel!” I’ve learned and grown so much as a writer since then, and I’ll always be grateful to that editor who passed on my work but told me to keep going.

That’s the key. Keep going. If you’re willing to put in the work and stick with writing even through the hard and discouraging moments, you can write a novel. I can’t wait to read your story someday!

Header image credit: Pixabay.com, CC0 license.

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