When Doors Stay Closed, Pry Open a Window with a Crowbar

I thought I wanted to write amateur sleuths. I still do (but I don’t know if I have the brain cells to do it well). But it had been a year of writing my Amateur Sleuth, of rewriting it, and of sending it out 20 times to agents–all to be encouragingly rejected (i.e., “I really like your voice. Let me know when you write something else.”)

I felt like I was banging my head against the wall with that book. I had not only my loyal SSSers looking at the book, but also an online critique group made up of Chick Lit writers who had one girl in it who was writing young adult books. Mind you, I was not writing YA. One day, one of the girls posted a classified ad that said the president of Dutton Children was looking for writers with a journalistic background willing to write ripped-from-the-headline stories. I e-mailed the president of Dutton Children because, well, that was me! The president of Dutton Children asked for a list of ideas from me, and this is the list I sent:

-18-year-old sues her high school to be valedictorian
(based on story seen on CNN)

-17-year-old girl at a graduation celebration disappears (told from her
perspective) (based on recent story about missing girl in Aruba)

-16-year-old straight-A student dealing with killing a six-year-old boy in a car accident
(based on Rebecca Gayheart’s experience a few years back)

-14-year-old girl accepted to college from her trailer park beginnings–but
is told she can’t go because she never graduated h.s. and is too young for
GED (based on Rossi Guiliani’s story)

-19-year-old prodigy doesn’t live up to her break-out beginnings
(based loosely on Alexandra Nechita, “mini Picasso,” in a what-if scenario)

-15-year-old girl who is watching life pass her by as she cares for morbidly obese mom
(based on story seen on Discovery Health)

Dutton liked the idea of a girl accidentally killing a child. I wrote a synopsis and three chapters for them, they asked me to write one more chapter to see if I could write “dark,” and then I was offered a contract–three months after I answered the ad.

A Second Book and a First Child is Born

BLACK TUESDAY came out in 2007 (the summer my daughter was born, so that’s a big blur for me). Around February 2008, Dutton approved another idea of mine: a girl whose mom wins the lottery. This wasn’t a ripped-from-the-headlines story, but I drew from personal experience. No, I had never won the lottery, but I had seen my fair share of casinos growing up. Today, I will not gamble, but I’m a sucker for a gift shop since that’s where I spent all my time as I waited for those who gambled.

The book was originally called The Lottery, but it was a placeholder name. (I so didn’t want to be compared to the stellar literary story of the same name). I ultimately wanted to call it Millions, since that was Reggie’s nickname. But the Powers That Be didn’t want that name. And so I got this name. As all savvy authors do, I looked the title up on Amazon–and found an economic textbook with the same (or maybe it was a similar name). This did not bode well for me or my book.

And The First Book That Wasn’t

The Amateur Sleuth is still in the desk drawer/Dropbox folder titled “TDOM Final Draft.” I look at it once a year, and I have a dream in the back of my head one day to self-publish it. But first, it needs a a lobotomy, some butt implants, and a face transplant.

Of course, the Amateur Sleuth wasn’t my first attempt at fiction. I started it after taking a Romance Writing class at Phoenix College (a community college I later taught for in downtown Phoenix). In that class, I started a book about a female anthropologist posing as a hooker. I was thinking Harlequin or Penthouse Letters (I kid!). I wrote 10 pages of going-nowhere-ness. Here’s a taste:

The tomato juice began soaking into Ginger’s underwear and, even though she was no Miss Cleo, she knew that this was a sign of possibly worse things to come.

Somewhere, Gutenberg is cringing in his crypt wondering why he ever invented a thing to mass produce words.

Back to TDOM (and that’s all you’re getting for a title because it’s an AWESOME title I WILL be using one day). So I worked on TDOM for a year. I entered writing contests with it (won second place once) and had it critiqued. But it was my very first book, so it was my very first mess. I started it in 2004, finished the first draft in 2005, and totally rewrote it again in 2006. No one snapped it up. And thus, it now takes up kilobytes (actually, a whole MEGAbyte) on my harddrive.