Friday, September 30, 2011


Part of accepting the journey to publication is acknowledging what that entailed. As mentioned in my earlier post, I began Always Father’s Child to keep my dad’s memory alive. Seven years later, I had one badly written novel, but I was hooked on the process. Someone asked the other day whatever happened to AFC.

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.


  1. Crumbs Joylene .. talk about fate - that must be so devastating and so desperately unfair ..

    You've written about both your boys with such love and your loss .. must be a huge weight - words can't express my understanding right now .. my thoughts are with you ..

    Your dedication means so much .. I feel compressed with your news .. with a big hug - Hilary

  2. Can't imagine what you went through during that time, Joylene.Being able to write about it now tell me that you have healed greatly. I'm always amazed at how the human spirit can come through such tragedy and survive. Having a creative outlet is certainly healing. Having that goal of seeing your twins name on the dedication page was a powerful incentive I'm sure. I'm so glad you found your way back to the page.

  3. Thanks for sharing that moving journey to publication, Joylene - you deserve much success.

  4. Your story (and journey) are a testament to how much writing thrives on our emotions, even our pain. Maybe ESPECIALLY our pain.

    Thanks for the helpful links to writing groups. I'm going to do some research, because I need a group like the ones you've described.

  5. Wow, Joy, whenever I think of the obstacles you've overcome to write, I feel like a ninny for letting a bit of home improvement put me off my stride. BTW - I LOVE, LOVE the ebook cover for DW!!!

  6. @Hilary, thanks for your kind words. I especially welcome the hug.

    @Laura, I remember when one of our neighbours lost their son to drowning, and I couldn't imagine either. I don't want you to imagine. Life is difficult enough. Thanks for your continuing support.

    @Thank you so much, Ros. Happy Weekend.

    @Laurel, I hope you find what you're looking for in the links I provided. If there's anything else, just contact me privately.

    @Vicki, thanks! I don't know how I could have managed without you.

  7. Joylene, I just don't know what to say. I look into the faces of your two handsome sons, Jack and Jody, and wonder, why oh why.

    You have been through so much. More than should be allowed.

    Whatever good comes your way, you deserve it.

    Very big ((hug))

  8. I suspect most people assume the road to publication is pretty much the same for every author. In fact, the opposite is true. I'm convinced every novelist walks a unique road. Our life experiences directly affect who we are and how we write. I don't know if we can say they affect when or even if we get published, but they undoubtedly affect how we deal with the process.

    I've known much of your story, but it's interesting to see it within its timeline. Thanks for sharing.

  9. @Wendy, the week we lost Jack, a woman lost her entire family, husband and 4 children in a house fire. If one looks close enough, there are always those worse off. While this was difficult to share, it does feel as if a great weight is off my shoulders.

    @Thank you, Carol, for all your support. Your perspective has helped immensely. If I help one person, I'm glad.

  10. Joylene,

    Thank you again for sharing so much. I don't have a clue what you went through during that time, but I'm sure it was beyond devastating. You have two dear angels watching over you - I'm guessing they are very proud.

  11. Cher, just knowing I can trust you to accept my post is comforting. Happy Sunday.

  12. I can hardly type for the tears in my eyes. What pain you've been through. You're such an inspiration because you've stuck to your faith and found a way to keep going. Bless you for sharing your story! :)

    On critique partners- Yes, they're a huge help. I learned much at IWW. Now I'm in a little group with three other writers so we can follow each others novels from start to finish. Amazing process!

  13. I'm not as active on DeadlyProse as I'd like. We do meet once a month for my Calgary based group. I generally sign on with Skype while the rest meet in person. My goal is to one day physically join their meeting and see them all in person. That would be nice.

    Thank you for your kind words, Amanda. Hope your Sunday is the best.

  14. I'm touched and can't think of adequate words to express my feelings about your sons.

    Except selfish as it may's just the truth to say that, whatever has transpired in your journey had led you into the lives of other who might have never met you had you NOT started writing again.

    And I am one of those people.

    You helped me in my beginning, and I hope to follow your kindness by doing the same, always, for others.

    Thank you,dear one, for sharing this thoughts with us.

  15. Dear Joylene,
    Few postings have touched me like this one.
    The courage you have shown within your words, is testimony to you and the memory of your beloved sons.
    In peace, Gary

  16. You made me cry, Joylene. Made me feel your sorrow. Wishing you courage as you continue to tell your saga.

    Have I ever told you how much I value your friendship? Thank you for all you've shared on my blog and on yours.

  17. @Carol, you dear girl, thank you.

    @Gary, can't think of anything to say, except thank you.

    @Pat, wow, thanks. And back at you.

    You guys are all terrific and I am thrilled to know you.

  18. Such a courageous journey. You are an inspiration to us all. What greater loss can a mother experience but the loss of her children. You honor them with your great stories because you never gave up on the dream. I'm sure they're watching over you right now pleased at the courage their mum showed. I'm so happy to have met you on this crazy blogosphere. Take care. :)

  19. So inspirational, just like part 1. Your story is sad and my heart breaks for you. I can't even imagine losing ONE child. Still, you persevered. And I am truly impressed. I will keep you, Jody and Jack in mind when I'm down and want to give up.

  20. @Laila, thank you for such lovely thoughts. I hope you're right.

    @Nancy, thank you. I do that, think of them when times seem tough.

  21. What a haunting story, and what a lovely dedication. It's not hard to see why you'd stop writing, but it's wonderful to know you came back to it. You're a great inspiration to the rest of us.

  22. Thank you for your very kind words, Sheila. That means a lot.


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