It’s becoming a habit to read a quote from Inspiring Quotes and have it trigger thoughts to share on the blog. I may decide this is a good weekly feature. Let me know what you think of it and whether you’d like to see content like this every week.
First, a little Monday Fun from Bizarro
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Seneca
The philosopher Seneca contributed largely to an ancient Roman school of thought called Stoicism: the idea that, in life, some things are under our control, and some are not. Seneca’s quote here reminds us that we cannot dictate circumstance, but we can work hard and train in our chosen vocation so that when opportunity presents itself, we’re ready.
This quote from Seneca has been a popular one to share for many years, and it does encourage us to work hard at whatever endeavor we pursue, so we’ll be ready when Lady Luck knocks on our door. Thinking about that, made me realize that’s what happened when my first sale to Five Star Cengage came about and One Small Victory was published.
Here’s how it all started.
One day while reading the newspaper I happened across a small, four-inch item about a woman who infiltrated a drug ring and helped bring down a major distributor in a small town in Michigan. She was a single mother with several children, had no background in law enforcement. She’d also just lost her oldest son in a car accident. The news story didn’t give many details about the woman or how she managed to get on the drug task force. It only said that she did so at great personal risk.
I started thinking about the kind of courage it takes to bully one’s way onto a task force, then actually go out and meet with drug dealers and earn their trust. Not much about parenting can prepare someone for that. Then there was the fact that she did all that while enduring the most significant loss a woman can experience. Pretty ballsy, I thought, and I just knew I had to write about this incredible woman.
About that same time, I was in contact with Nick Krantz, nephew of Judith Krantz, who was with Paradigm Entertainment in California. I had an “open door” with them based on a screenplay I’d submitted. They weren’t able to develop that script, but were open to me pitching other ideas. So, right away I called Nick and told him about this story. He said to send story beats and they’d take a look. So I did.
It took a few days to get this written and sent to him, but he called right after he received the material to say he loved it and they were interested in proceeding. He asked if I had the rights to the story. I laughed and reminded him that I was a poor writer. Paradigm needed to acquire the rights.
“Oh, right,” he said. “I’ll get the lawyers right on it.”
When I didn’t hear from Nick for a few weeks, I called, and he said he’d forgotten to talk to the lawyers. He was very apologetic and said he’d take care of it right after we hung up. Later, he called back to relay the unfortunate news that another company had optioned that woman’s story.
Well, crap. So much for being rich and famous.
Even so, I couldn’t give up the idea of writing about this woman I’d named Jenny. A writer friend suggested that I write a fictionalized version of the story, reminding me that many plots start with a real event or a real person. So I moved the setting to a small town in Texas, changed all of the family details – as well as the details about the drug ring – and wrote the book. After a few dozed rejections from agents and publishers, I almost gave up on having the book published, then I saw information online about Tekno Books. They were open to un-agented submissions, and I could do it all online, so why not.
Several months later, so long I’d forgotten about it, I got a letter from Tekno that they wanted to package my book with Five Star, and I’d get a decent advance. Since so many companies were popping up at that time, contacting authors out of the blue with offers, I was a bit skeptical. Thank goodness John Helfers, who handled a lot of the correspondence, had a sense of humor when I sent him a letter asking if the offer was for real.
It was, and that led to the first publication of One Small Victory, Jenny’s story of courage and strength. It came out in hardback through the arrangement of Tekno with Five Star/Cengage and had decent sales, primarily to libraries. A year later, the rights to the story reverted to me, and I self-published the eBook version. What a learning curve that was.
After One Small Victory was first released by Tekno and Five Star, they accepted the first two books in the Seasons Mystery Series for publication. It was a joy to work with them, and I was saddened when Tekno closed and Five Star stopped accepting mysteries for publication.
Thank goodness I found Next Chapter Publishing in recent years, and I am very happy with our business relationship.
If you’re a writer, please share some of your publishing ups and downs in the comments. Do you work on the same premise as the philosopher, Seneca? What other endeavors can that apply to?