My ongoing path towards publication has been far from smooth. There have been many, many obstacles in my way–jobs and lack thereof, dying computers, and the everyday requirements of being a husband and father, among others. Still, those things have also been a boon to my writing, testing my determination and ambition. A few years ago, I was simply trying to convince myself that I could write a novel. Now, I have begun submitting my second complete manuscript to literary agents and feel good about my chances.
I first began to think of submitting The Dead and the Dying for publication about the time I was finishing the first draft. When I started playing with the idea, I set about finding as much information as I could on the publishing industry and found a wealth of great sites and blogs that gave me a sound education in a relatively short period of time. Some of these blogs and sites and visit everyday, mining for one more nugget of wisdom that might make the difference between an acceptance and a rejection.
One of the first things I wanted to know was what agents represent the stuff I want to write. One of the first prospects I found online was Lantz Powell, a relatively new agent in Chattanooga. I browsed the information on him, including comments posted by many of his detractors. I also checked out some of his clients, including a horror writer named Cherie Priest.
Now, Cherie Priest maintains a popular LJ and is one of the brightest new stars in horror fiction. I started reading her blog everyday (she usually posts at least once a day) and, interspersed among her hilarious tales of Spain the Cat and other aspects of her life, found wonderful insights on life as a published author. From Cherie’s blog, I discovered that she had a new agent, Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Literary Agency, and my mouth began to water. DMLA is one of the most prestigious agencies in the country and, after a while reading Ms. Jackson’s also-popular LJ, I decided that I wanted Jennifer Jackson to represent my work . . . no, LOVE my work.
During my research, I found several other things about Cherie Priest that I did not expect. First of all, she attended high school, at least a year of it, about 45 minutes from where I was doing the same. This was odd, considering she mostly grew up in Florida and now lives in Seattle. Central Kentucky is far from being the cultural center of the universe and, though it does have its own rustic charm, would be the last place you’d likely look for a noted horror writer.
And it gets weirder.
Cherie has a brother named Alex, now in his freshman year of college. This fine young man, “Mr. Overachiever” according to his sister, graduated from Grayson County High School–my alma mater.
And weirder still.
Alex–Mr. Overachiever–was a 2006 attendee of the Kentucky Governor’s Scholar Program, an elite summer program for gifted rising seniors in the Bluegrass. I also attended GSP from Grayson County, in 1993, where I met the wonderful girl who is now sleeping on the couch behind me, wearing my wedding ring. In addition, I am on the Statewide Selection Committee for GSP, meaning that I have evaluated a portion of every application for the program that has come in over the past five years, including that of Mr. Overachiever. The process is anonymous–I get no names to attach to the applications–but I’m sure his must have stood out among the 1900 or so I see every year since he did make the cut.
Now, as Ron White might say, I told you all of that so I could tell you this: Tonight, I sent a query to Jennifer Jackson, asking her to consider my novel.
I have no illusions that such remarkable coincidence will better my chances of getting published. Only a wonderful story, well-written, will do that. Still, if there are higher powers at work in all of this, it would make a much better payoff to the story if Ms. Jackson agrees to carry my book.
The new work continues, though since I feel like I’ve been run over repeatedly by a concrete truck, I may skip this evening in favor of actually getting more than four hours of sleep. Then again, I may not: