Mrs. Stifter, my high school creative writing teacher, stood in front of our class and said, “I’m going to read someone’s writing, and a writer like this comes along about once in seventeen years.”
I was shocked she read my piece, but it gave me confidence to write, and started me along a journey that would take me through six NY agents, some of the biggest, and through failed contracts from publishers, contracts I blew based on bad advice I followed when younger, three published non-fiction books, and many magazine articles and write-for-hire projects for children’s publishers.
Still, I never sold fiction. I think I was always a little bit behind the curve, too little, too late. My biggest agent expected to get a minimum of $50k in 30 days for an adult thriller. When it didn’t happen, and I asked him what he thought was the reason, he said, “They’re all stupid.” I laugh at that now.
After that I wrote a screenplay that an ex-Hollywood producer friend liked, and wanted a short rewrite on. I had been suffering from years of terrible allergies and pain, and decided instead to quit writing for ten years. I just didn’t have it in me to continue.
In 2006, when I found a solution out of my health issues, I flew back into writing and revamped a lot of my adult material into young adult and middle grade; this time I was in line with the publishing industry, where Potter was just beginning to make his mark. Also, the age range fit better with the stories, and I had spent decades working with children of all ages, 4-21, in educational settings, so I knew my target audience.
Still, no agents took me on and no publishers bought anything.
I have a great love of nature and water (sailing, swimming, etc.), and understanding myself and the world. In 2008, my health was finally good enough to be back in the sun again, back in water, and back in nature. I had lived for almost 15 years in a ‘boy in a bubble’ existence. I have no regrets and I learned a lot, and all of this prepared me to begin writing WhipEye in 2008.
In WhipEye, Samantha is grieving her mother and she’s an animal nerd in love with wildlife. I loved writing this character, and I gave her a friend, Jake, who is missing his absentee father, and gave them both a mentor, a thousand-year-old parrot, who imparts his wisdom with wisecracks. The parrot allows the ‘teacher’ in me to put some wisdom into the book without being preachy.
The publishing industry is like the Wild Wild West, and anything and everything is going on now to get books published. However, I didn’t want to self-publish. Still, no agent, no publisher wanted WhipEye. (BTW my sister commented two weeks before I sold it, that the working title was boring and dull and needed to be one word. I thought she was right, and for two weeks thought on this. While watching a movie, the word, WhipEye, came to me. I had no clue what it related to, and no idea where it came from. But I liked it. I had to write backstory into the novel to fit the new title.)
In 2013 a small publisher picked up the book. In spring of 2014, a month before the book was to come out, they informed me I’d get 4 pennies, yes, 4 cents/book royalty. I said goodbye, and since I’d already been doing most of the heavy lifting for the book, I self-published, happily! My cover artist in Poland disappeared a few days before the final cover was due, and I had to scramble to find another, and he improved on the color in the staff, so everything worked out for the best, as usual.
WhipEye is garnering great reviews on Lit Pick, Amazon, Middle Shelf, and in print, and I’m proud of it. The second book, Gorgon, is due out in spring of 2015, with two other series either self-published or with small online publishers starting in between. A few singles will go out too.
It’s great to feel that finally my writing will have a voice, get out there, and be recognized positively. One of the greatest joys as a writer is hearing from strangers, adults and kids, that they loved your book. One young girl wrote me from NC, saying she was going to read anything I ever write. How sweet is that?!!!
Can a girl grieving her mother, a boy missing his father, and a thousand-year-old parrot save two worlds with the supernatural staff, WhipEye?
Samantha and her neighbor, Jake, have no idea that Samantha’s best friend, a parrot named Charlie, is a thousand years old. Charlie is also at the center of a secret battle between magical creatures and an ancient, evil man. When Charlie asks Samantha and Jake to protect him, they are chased by monsters from both sides. To save Charlie, and two worlds, Samantha and Jake have twenty-four hours to figure out how to use the supernatural staff, WhipEye, and find the courage to confront what they fear most…
Watch the WhipEye book Trailer