It's hiding in a box in the basement.
Armed with enough rejection letters to wallpaper our en suite, I began Dead Witness in the summer of 1991. The idea for the book came to me during a visit from my brother who has his own security company in Whitehorse. He was on the phone with one of his employees when a question popped into my mind. If I disappeared without a trace, would he have the resources to find me?
But then on October 12, 1991, our eldest son Jack died in a car accident. He was 23.
I had no intention of ever writing again. Six months later, I couldn't get the image of Jack's name on my Dedication page out of my mind. I returned to Dead Witness and finished the book three months later. I spent the next two years reading every How to book at the library I could find. Books like Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott and Writing and Selling Your Novel by Jack M. Bickham. As luck would have it, in 1994 the internet finally came to Cluculz Lake. We had internet on dialup. Can you imagine!
I was new to surfing, so it took a few months to find a compatible writers group online, plus we were on dialup! I finally joined Novels-L in 1993. I was so excited to be there that I often did 100+ critiques a month, when only two were required. I'd discovered early on that the fastest way to learn how to create beautiful words was to critique someone else's.
Novels-L is where I met and worked with Meg Westley, Bob Zumwalt, Jennifer Chiaverini, Rebecca Coleman, Jayne Pupek, to name a few.
Eighteen months passed and I realized I needed more than Novels-L could offer, so I began searching for a writers group where I could have my full ms critiqued. In 1995, I joined J.R.Lankford’s Noveldoc, later renamed NovelPro.
You can’t see my face, but I’m smiling because my very first critique partner was the late Jan Holloway, author of White Witch Blue Lady. You never forget your first. Lucky for me, Jan, bless her heart, was unmerciful. While critiquing my ms, Jan reported that if she’d bought the book, she would have flung it against the wall, then demanded her money back. (Ouch) But her comment made me more determined than ever to write the best book I could possibly write.
I stayed with Novelpro until 2005. It was there I met my dear friend Keith Pyeatt, who to this day is always the first to critique my WIP. It’s also where I met authors JoAnn Hernandez, Derek Armstrong, Pat Brown, Art Tirrell, Alan Jackson, and my good friend Christopher Hoare. Novelpro was akin to boot camp. I swear I’m the writer I am today because of admin J.R. Lankford (Jamie) and the Novelpro members.
After leaving Novelpro in 2005, I joined Derek Armstrong’s DeadlyProse. I also joined a Canadian writer’s group outside of Calgary led by my dear friend Chris Hoare. I’m with both groups today. I’ve worked with such outstanding writers as Vicki L. Smith and Martha Engber, again to name a few.
We all understand the solitary life of a writer. That's why I can’t reiterate enough how important it is to have critique partners you can trust. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said I wrote probably 22 drafts of Dead Witness, not counting the eight more I did for the paperback and e-book editors.
Now would be a good time to mention that while I respectfully considered every critique comment/suggestion I receive, the final decision was and always will be mine.
And yes, while searching for a publisher for 24 years, I hit bottom a few times. But every time I did, every time I was certain I would never find a publisher, one image kept me going. That was Jack’s name on the dedication page. If you have a copy of my book, you’ve seen his name there. In fact, the page facing Chapter One shows:
In memory of Jack and Jody.
Jack and Jody were twins. December 30, 2006, 15 years after Jack passed, Jody had a massive heart attack and died.
The year following Jody's death is a blur. I know I quit writing, but I can’t remember for how long. I don't know why it took me another year to join a grief support group. I do remember that almost every time I went to Prince George to a meeting I’d lock my keys in the car and would have to pay $40 to get a tow driver to open my door for me. Eight out of 10 times! It felt like God was trying to tell me something.
One of these days I should read my 2008 journal and find out when I started writing again. Because obviously I did. How else could what began in 1984, as a sentimental notion, end as me being published in 2008.
Right about now I'm like to tell you how sweet and dear Jack and Jody were, how interesting it was to raise twins, how much I loved to hear Jody giggle, see Jack's grin when he knew I knew he was up to something. But that's not what this is about. Besides, I made a promise to keep my blogs under 800 words, and I've already broken that promise. Today's post is closer to 900.
This is my journey, good and bad.
Next time I'd very much like to share how Dead Witness came to be my first published novel.
Thanks for listening.