What a long journey! When I sold my public relations firm in 2013 and decided to write a book, I had no idea what a steep learning curve I’d encounter. My end goal was to publish an alternative to the stories about witches, vampires and werewolves—something with a touch of paranormal, but biblically based. I wanted to create something my then-teenagers would devour as rapidly as they did the Harry Potter series.
I worked on the manuscript, originally titled Thin Places, in snippets, sandwiched between driving Julia and Marvin to all things teen and volunteering at the church. But after two years, my kids aged out of the young adult genre. About the same time, we moved to the next county. I set my story aside for awhile, focusing instead on making our new house a home and finding my place in our lake-centered community.
In 2016, Creston Mapes, a Christian fiction author, spoke at our neighborhood book club meeting. I chatted with him afterward about my half-finished book, and he encouraged me to join the American Christian Fiction Writers organization. This turned out to be a game-changer for me. I sent my first few chapters through its online critique group . . . to dismal reviews . . . and learned that fiction writing is very different from PR writing.
With the help of the ACFW’s website host, I formed a critique subgroup of writers who focus their talents on the young adult genre. At that time, there were eight of us. Now there are twelve, and we have a writing blog—the StorytellerSquad. Each week, I submitted a chapter for two other writers to critique, and I critiqued a chapter each for them. I sent my entire manuscript through that group TWICE. And I enlisted the help of my long-time friend, Miriam Romain, an editor and blogger, who edited the entire manuscript TWICE.
I finally felt ready to approach agents and publishers. In 2018, I attended the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC). It was like drinking from a fire hose. There were dozens of classes, numerous agents and publishers, and hundreds of writers. That’s right, hundreds of writers pitching their awesome works to harried agents and publishers. Two agents asked to see my first three chapters and one agent wanted to read my entire manuscript. The first agent sent a quick rejection, the second never replied, and the third emailed me an encouraging rejection letter with helpful recommendations. I’ll never forget his kindness.
It took me another year—between planning my daughter’s wedding and helping Mom move into another independent living facility—to follow the third agent’s recommendations. In addition, I changed the manuscript’s name to The Demons Among Us and swapped chapters with another writer of young adult novels, Allyson Lewis.
After this fifth round of editing, I submitted its first page to the ACFW-SC Chapter’s First Page Novel Contest and . . . WON! My sweet hubby drove me to Greenville, SC, to accept the award—$50.
A flicker of hope sparked within me, and I readied myself for 2020’s conference season. I knew that if I pitched in person, I’d have a much stronger chance of getting a publisher to read my work. Then COVID-19 hit. Ugh. All the writer’s conferences either postponed, canceled, or morphed into online forums. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I’d longed to attend the national American Christian Fiction Writers Conference and the Realm Makers Conference. But because of airline and lodging expenses, I couldn’t justify the costs. This year, I attended both crowd-cast conferences, watching presentations from well-established authors, and interviewing with agents and publishers.
Sadly, no one was interested in a Christian young adult novel. But . . . in a bittersweet online moment . . . I won the ACFW Genesis Award-Young Adult Category for unpublished authors.
With the confidence of receiving a national award, I headed to the postponed BRMCWC in early November. I interviewed in-person with two publishers and an agent. The first publisher revealed that her house wasn’t currently accepting YA submissions. The agent asked for my first three chapters, but never responded. The second publisher asked for my entire manuscript, sent it to her managing editor, and got back to me within two weeks . . . WITH A CONTRACT OFFER!
And that’s how I signed with Redemption Press on Christmas Eve.
Please know how much I have appreciated your prayers and support over the years. You always believed in me and gave me the confidence to continue writing. The Demons Among Us is scheduled to launch in September 2021. I hope you like it.