That’s the question many of our friends, and certain members of our family, asked us when we started all this about seven years ago. Allow me to fill you in.
Nancy and I have been best friends for 55 years now. We met during my first year of high school. I was 13 and the youngest in my class and Nancy was 15, about average for hers in her second year of high school. (For you math freaks, don’t you know you should never ask a lady her true age?) I still have a snapshot of Nancy around somewhere in her party gown for the Junior/Senior Prom that year. She was asked by a Junior. The guy I had my eye on had the most beautiful hair but was a Sophomore and not qualified to go. (He’s now bald. Sweet Karma!)
Nancy wrote in personal journals most of her life. She got caught up in controversy at home because of something she wrote once when her parents found her journal. She trashed her journals ever after. I picked up the writing bug from my 9th-grade teacher, Miss Juhl. In her class, you had to write or fail. I aced the class.
Fast forward to 2011. Nancy inherited an autoimmune disorder from her mother which attacked her liver. She spent 2 years on the transplant list while her doctors struggled to stabilize her. They took her off the list when she was no longer getting worse. About six months later I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon cancer. I’d already been through major surgery and radiation treatments. The chemotherapy was awful, but for those who’ve been through it, you understand that.
Nancy called me up one day and rather than asking how I felt, the answer to which was always “Crappy!”, she suggested we write a book together. That set me back in my recliner. My eyes opened wide and my wheels started spinning. I forgot how awful I really felt and began thinking about something else. She and I began a long series of phone calls. We lived 100 miles apart and travel was not in the cards for either of us. We talked sometimes three hours at a time several days a week for several months. I had another surgery looming. I decided we should get our ideas down on paper before I went under the knife again. We talked about it and decided I would be the one to put things down on paper because I had a bit more time and much faster typing speed. I had odd hours for sleeping then anyway so I worked in bursts. In 30 days we had a rough manuscript of 98,000 words and I had surgery the very next day.
After a brief recovery, Nancy and I got back at it and began to edit our manuscript. We argued over words sometimes. She won a few and I won a few. We eventually hired a professional Editor to help us. She sent us back to school. Seems we had way too much backstory for a book these days. Think of your favorite crime drama on TV. What’s the first thing that you see? The dead body. The program spends the next 40 minutes plus commercials solving the crime and you get bits and pieces of backstory.
So we ripped 19 chapters right off the front of our book and began again. We smoothed our writing so there was a flow to the work and we made sure we left a “dangler” at the end of each chapter. What is the “dangler?” That’s the phrase, sentence, or action that makes a reader want to turn the page and read the next chapter. It’s like what happened in 1001 Arabian Nights. The king had a bad habit of only spending one night with one of his wives then he’d have them killed off. One enterprising wife began her night with her husband by telling him a story but leaving a “dangler” at the end. He couldn’t kill her off the next day because he had to hear what happened next. She kept at it. In the end, after 1001 nights he was so in love with her and her stories he couldn’t kill her anyway. Books are like that too.
Our next step was to look into self-publishing which we dumped right away. We didn’t know what we didn’t know and didn’t think that was the way for us to go. Traditional publishing meant writing the infamous “query letter” and sending it off to Agents in an attempt to get them to represent you and market your book to one of the big publishing houses. Knowing that agents get literally hundreds of query letters every day, we studied how to write them and practiced over and over again.
Then we began submitting our query letters and the first chapter, first 10 pages, first 5 pages, or whatever the website said they’d take and crossed our fingers.
Within a couple of months, Nancy and I could have papered our homes in rejection slips and that didn’t count the query letters that just went into a black hole somewhere. It got pretty discouraging for us. Some people would tell us time was on our side but we both knew better than that! We get older by the day!
We remembered that Editor we hired, Rebecca Goodrich, suggested a publisher to us that worked in, of all places, Alaska and worked directly with authors – no agent required. We went through our manuscript one more time and polished up our query letter until it shined in the dark. We sat on it for a month and finally gave it a try. All he could do was say “No.” I hit the send key on my keyboard at 11:30 a.m. that day in August 2017. We didn’t expect to hear from him for several weeks so we talked about our second book and began planning that one. I checked my email one last time at 4:00 p.m. that day and found a note from the publisher in my inbox. Being that quick, I expected it to be another “No.” Instead, he asked me to send him our complete manuscript – NOT the first chapter, or the first 10 pages! Nancy and I were over the moon. We were on the phone together when I hit the send button again a few minutes later, launching our manuscript all the way to Alaska.
We really didn’t expect to hear back from him for a week or so, and we planned our work days to finish our second novel in the series while we waited. I was up early the next morning, watched the local news with my morning coffee and finally checked my email about 7:00 a.m. I was surprised to see another email from our publisher in my inbox and almost didn’t want to open it. Did he hate it that quickly?? No. He was actually sending us a contract!
I am not kidding you when I say the real work began that day. We had no author platform, no social media presence, no website, and we didn’t know what we didn’t know about publishing. We had so much to learn. Thank goodness for Professor Google and our publisher. He walked us through things, helped us every step of the way and we launched our first book, Prince Ali, on December 1, 2017.
Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Actually, with time off for health issues, family issues and family health issues, it took us six years to write the first book. My health was bad when we started and I’ve gotten better. I have radiation damage that creates issues I deal with every day. Nancy was better when we started but has had some setbacks with her health since. We’re praying that the writing and the fun we have doing it will help keep her with us a long time. We have many more stories to write.
La Duquesa, our second book came out in April 2018. After spending six years writing the first one, that one only took us two weeks and three days to put together. Part of it was done while Nancy and her husband were on a vacation in Spain. We shipped chapters back and forth on the internet and continued working.
Our third book has taken a bit longer simply because we had to do other work to help market our books, like a website, social media presence, and a lot more learning. Desperado should be released the end of July or the first of August 2018. We’re already working on Desert Rose, our fourth book and hope to have that one completed and printed by October/November 2018 in time for Christmas.
If anyone has any questions, we’re always open for them and will answer as quickly as possible. Ask away!