Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Lumps Were Worth It

I've always had the itch to write. Over the years, I started several books, but each of them petered out after a couple of chapters. That was pre-desktop and laptop computers, and the stubby pencil routine was too tough. Yet, the itch never quit stinging. Then in the mid-90's, with a desktop computer at my disposal, I started another story. This time, I stuck with it and about 130,000 words later, I wrote THE END, then sat back and waited for the riches to roll in. NOT! One of the worst books ever written.
Undaunted, I began a sequel and plowed through to about a 100,000 word BAD book. Not as badly written as my first one, but still bad. Then, a revelation settled around my ears. I read all the time, never went anywhere without a book. Why not learn from what I read?

While my original plan was a three-book series with Bad One and Bad Two, I gave up the idea and decided to write a first person, private investigator story. For a year, I concentrated my reading on such books, absorbing as much as I could from the techniques of many successful authors. The first result of my learn-by-reading program was JAKE'S BURN, an Ace Edwards, Dallas PI, mystery. It wasn't a breakout novel, but I had learned enough to write something readable. JAKE'S was small-published and received good reviews.

Over the next years, as I continued to learn-by-reading, five more books in the Ace Edwards series were small-published. After book six, I decided to move away from Ace and his cast of characters.
Since I now live in South Florida, I invented a female PI. But I've read so many female leads who were little more than men in skirts, I knew I didn't want to write one of those. Or she was a super women who could whip a congress of gorillas while having her nails done—not for me. Or, she was some frail young thing, but always managed to win in the end—nope. With the help of some wonderful ladies in my critique group, I wrote a Beth Bowman, female PI, mystery set in South Florida. I believe Beth can be accepted as a real woman. She's soft when she needs to be and hard as nails when the situation calls for it. I call the book DEATH BY DIAMONDS. When it was finished (and edited and re-finished and edited some more and re-re-finished, etc.), I began to shop it. I queried Terri Bishchoff at Midnight Ink, who asked for the manuscript.
Time passed, and I moved on to another book. THORNS ON ROSES featuring Tom Jeffries, a S FL PI, was small-published in August by L&L Dreamspell, a couple of really nice people who love books. It's another shift in my writing—an avenger story. Tom Jeffries is a hard-edged man with the experience to back him up.

At SleuthFest during the first weekend in March 2011, I was lucky enough to meet Terri, and she told me she liked Beth's story and my writing. I was overjoyed and came home waiting for the acceptance email to arrive. Time dragged on and on and . . . Just when I was ready to give up the idea of being published by Midnight Ink, a company I have the utmost respect for, lightning struck. Terri offered me a two-book contract for Beth.

On, November 1, I signed the contract and mailed it to Midnight Ink via Overnight Express. As I sit and look back over the fifteen years or so of my writing education, I can truthfully say, the lumps were worth it. Without all of those knocks on the head, and my learn-by-reading program, and the wonderful small presses who were willing to publish me, I would not have the contract. I'm proud, yes. But I also realize how lucky I am. There are so many talented writers who are never given the opportunity I have. Now I just have to hope I live up to Terri's and Midnight Ink's confidence in me.

And, of course, when the books are published, I hope they will be loved by readers across the country and, perhaps, in foreign countries.

Randy Rawls


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Earl Staggs said...

Great story, Randy. You're an inspiring "overnight success" even though it took fifteen years for your morning to come.

Morgan Mandel said...

They say that perseverance pays in this business, and it's very true! Congratulations on your two book contract, Randy!

Morgan Mandel

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Anonymous said...

Well said, Randy. I had so many poorly-constructed manuscripts in my drawers that I finally donated them to the county for landfill purposes. I'm hoping they can finally provide a foundation for some construction, since they didn't provide me much of a foundation as a writer. It took awhile for me to get good. But now with two published mysteries, 'Grave Passage' and 'Mediterranean Grave' I know the work was well worth it, and the trip was great fun.

William Doonan

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Congrats, Randy. Success stories of fellow writers always make me feel good.


Jacqueline Seewald

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I'm always thrilled to hear good news from someone I know and respect. Congratulations, Randy!

Jean Henry Mead said...

Congrats, Randy. It's a long, difficult trail to ride, but reaching your goal makes it all worthwhile.

Randy Rawls said...

Thank each of you. One of the ironies of our society is that being in the right place at the right time is all too often the driving force. So many writers with incredible talent never get picked. I feel so lucky to have been standing under the street light when the bulb came on.

Chester Campbell said...

I'm late to the party as usual, but warmest congratulations from Sarah and me. I'm familiar with the road you've been traveling, and it's great to know the light has finally arrived at the end of the tunnel. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.