The Winner Is…

Irrelevant. Sort of. Not really. Let me explain if you would be so kind.

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At the end of the day this posts I will have either become an author with a publishing contract and $20,000.00 in an advance on Assault On Saint Agnes, or I will be one of the other four who made it to the finalist round of the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel. That’s a pretty big deal all by itself. That will be the only change on the surface. The significant change is on my insides over the last five years. (This was written Monday. I have no clue who wins.)

I wrote my first novel (if you don’t count the countless useless pages for other books that never got past the first two chapters) five years ago. You will often hear authors talk about what got them off the dime and moving toward completion after many failed attempts to write a book. I can honestly say I never set out to write the first few books, only tried to write chapters. That may not make sense except to other authors, but the simple fact is that while a story line was wedged in my head, all that came out was a chapter, or two, and no real book was there to find. Parts of one were incorporated into another work. Most sit in unseen files on my hard drive.

The first completed work was inspired by God. Laugh if you must, but I was clearly given the impetus for that book on a Sunday morning while sitting in church. God guided me through the book, helped me to work my way out of the corners I’d written myself into, and gave me great characters. I spent more than a few hours flat on my belly praying for guidance. I spent a lot of time laughing at the insights He gave me along the way. He spent even more time laughing at me. That’s how it started – He evidently wanted that book written.

Assault On Saint Agnes was just 30,000 words in a file when I went to my first writers conference. It was the only thing that interested the agents and publishers, the first book was an albatross around my neck. Way out of my comfort zone in the pitching of myself and the book, that little bit of prose caught the attention of others. The road that led me to today, win or lose, is what was fun and interesting to me. I’ll be humbled if I win, grateful if I lose to have made the final round.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank those people who helped along the way. I would start listing names and then miss someone important. But I’ll take a whack at that in my author’s forward when the book is published. Because it will be published no matter how the contest works out on Thursday. I am sure of that as other publishers have the manuscript and are considering it right now. Barring that, there’s a whole world of self-publishing that beckons new writers.

Back to the thanks that I want to give. First, thanks, God. You gave me the tools to make this all possible. In moments of doubt You sent signs that I should continue. Without You in my life, I would be useless.

Second, to my wife Kip. She has put up with all of my nonsense, blabbering, postulating, dialogue reading, and general tomfoolery over the past few years while this book got moving. She also spent great amounts of time editing it so that someone other than the dog could read it.

Then there’s Ma… (*she hates being called “Ma”*) I knew there was something good going on when she liked the second book. The first one was a dud to her. All the way along she’s been encouraging me in this pursuit. Nothing like a mother’s love in this life. Dad? Well, hopefully he’s kibitzing in Heaven for a win. But I think he’d like the book if he could read it – He’s Catholic and the book’s about an attack on a Catholic church. He’d like the characters as well. People he could identify with easily. So, thanks, parents!

To Alton Gansky and Julie Gwinn: Wow. I never understood what an editor could bring to the table until I met you two. My book is a much better work as a result of your input.

To my agent, Jessica Kirkland: You kick butt with the best. That’s what I needed, that’s what you provided. Your simple rewrite of the first chapter showed me the way to get from interesting to riveting. You also showed me why a fellow needs an agent in the modern market when you greased all of my pitches last fall at ACFW. For an author there is nothing better than sitting down at the table and being told, “I already talked to Jessica. Just send me the full manuscript.”

To Joel Kneedler: while you didn’t need to do it, you provided me a kick-start as a mentor when the book was pretty raw (and, horribly wordy.) I will never forget your admonition to “Let your inner psycho out.” Or, perhaps it was just words to that effect. You, sir, are a gracious man.

To the people at Athanatos Ministries: From the first moment I talked to you until this very second you have done wonders for me as an author. Your novel contest made me work hard to get the book into a usable form. You took me from the minors to AAA ball in just a few months. Your novel contest is a blessing, and I thank you every day.

To my fellow authors, especially John Otte: I love sitting in those monthly meetings and annual conferences with all of you. You are an inspiration and a gift to new writers. Each of you has shown me something to try, or to be wary of, in your stories and experiences. Thank you for sharing. I single John out because he taught a class on the Otte Method last year. It was the final piece I needed to eliminate a lot of wasted words in my book.

To my friends and coworkers who have read the book and made suggestions: Thank you. Every one of you. You all contributed in some way to the work as it stands. Your honest criticism and simultaneous praise allowed me to see other viewpoints and get the whole thing done. Your input made me change large, and small, things about the book that were vital to it being interesting to a mass market of people. I am honored that you took your time to help.

To the same group as above: my, but you were tolerant when I obsessed over the book. Thank you for not dousing me in gasoline and flicking matches at me. I must have been terribly annoying on occasion. Thanks for not telling me to shut up.

To the readers of this blog: thank you for being part of this journey. Writing here every week helped me get past writers block more than once. You either loved this daily dose of me or hated it, but you kept coming back. I love you for that fact.

To my good friend Larry W. Timm: thank you for being my brother, my sounding board, and my friend while we start out in the publishing world. I can’t wait to write a book alongside you – Look out Jenkins/LaHaye.

Finally, to Mr. Raymond Slater: Mr. Slater, you were my sixth grade teacher and encouraged me to write. I put it away for a lot of years, but I still remember my short story about a bush pilot in Alaska during the Pipeline construction. You planted a seed with your interest that today is growing into a tree. For all the teachers out there, don’t discount your impact on little kids – Ray Slater changed my life with his kindness and praise over 40 years ago.

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