How I Got Published*

The Darkness Knows

It was a long and winding road, my friends. My novel, The Darkness Knows, started life as a NaNoWriMo experiment in writing a mystery in 2009. I love mysteries – true life ones as well as the fictional kind. I was also listening to a lot of old time radio on my earbuds at work at the time, so that inspired the setting. I liked the story, characters, and setting so much that I kept writing it after NaNoWriMo ended. I finished, roughly two years later – mainly because I’d seen the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest (now defunct) and it gave me a reason to finish and review and rewrite and clean the whole thing up. I entered that contest and got to the quarterfinals of the mystery group. Not bad. That gave me enough confidence to revise and revise and revise some more and then I started querying agents. I didn’t get much response, because querying the traditional way (by email) is a terribly inefficient way of getting attention from agents – who are swamped with queries. And query writing is an art unto itself. (I’ll write about this more in the future).

So how then did I get my agent? Well, I revised some more and entered another contest (The Daphne DuMaurier through the Kiss of Death Chapter of Romance Writers of America). And I won. The whole thing! And the agent judging my category asked to see my full manuscript.  So gleefully, I sent it off to her. Then I heard nothing for months. I was disappointed and confused. So I contacted the agent. She was also confused as she’d expected to hear from me. Ooof, mixed signals. That, in itself, is sort of a long story, but anyway, turns out she’s a lovely person and boy, does she know what she’s doing. I signed with her at the end of September 2014, and by the beginning of December 2014 I had serious interest from Sourcebooks. I spoke with my now editor at Sourcebooks just before Christmas about my ideas for a series (!). Thankfully, I had some (and had already started writing book two). About a week later as I was waiting in the international arrivals area of O’Hare waiting to pick my sister up for Christmas my voicemail started blinking. It was my agent telling me the offer from Sourcebooks was a three-book deal. I couldn’t believe it. That was almost a year ago. And signing that contract was really just the beginning of the publishing journey…  more on that another time.

*Or How I Will  be Published in August 2016

On this day in fictional history – October 27, 1938

Up and coming radio star, Vivian Witchell, finds the dead body of Marjorie Fox in the station’s lounge. And Vivian may be the killer’s next victim…

I couldn’t resist.

Other (real) things happening in October 1938:

  • Passports of German Jews are declared invalid and they are required to have the letter “J” stamped onto their passports for them to become valid again.
  • The Munich Agreement was signed Sept 30 allowing Hitler to annex the Sudetenland (part of ethnically German Czechoslovakia) and prompting British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declaring “peace in our time”. It would be less than a year before Germany invaded Poland starting WWII.
  • Top radio shows are Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Burns and Allen, Lux Radio Theatre, Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Bing Crosby, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Amos & Andy.
  • Filming has just started on The Wizard of Oz and will soon start on Gone with the Wind (though the part of Scarlett O’Hara will remain uncast until December).

Finally, here are some ads pulled from the October 27, 1938 edition of The Chicago Tribune ($1 in 1938 is worth about $16 today).

1938 ads


Where It All Started (For Me, Anyway) – War of the Worlds

I first heard the original War of the Worlds broadcast in Sister Barbara Jean’s 8th grade reading class. The first ten minutes or so gave me goose bumps and sparked my love of old time radio. It made such an impression on me that I set my first mystery, The Darkness Knows, in October 1938 to coincide with the original Mercury Theatre of the Air broadcast on October 30, 1938 (a character is actually listening to the live broadcast near the end of the book).

Do yourself a favor and listen to the original (It’s brilliant and so far ahead of its time.): Orson Welles Mercury Theater of the Air broadcast on YouTube 

One of my current favorite radio shows, Radiolab, did a fascinating episode around the psychology of the broadcast – why it worked so well and what happened when it was repeated: Radiolab War of the Worlds Live Episode 

There’s also a PBS documentary on the subject: American Experience War of the Worlds