The Writing Life - the Path to EQMM

The path to publication comes in many different forms, and today’s tale has two happy endings.

Two years ago, my agent began submitting Little Comfort to publishers and the rejections letters began to flow in - dozens of them. Little Comfort had begun as a story of three intertwined characters: Hester Thursby, a librarian who uses her research skills to find missing people; Sam Blaine, a charming grifter who reinvents himself to gain the trust of the wealthy and powerful; and Maxine Pawlikowski, the embattled leader of a for-profit college under federal investigation for fraud.

The more I read the rejection letters, though, the more I began to see a trend in the polite passes: there was too much story in the book, so something had to go. In a major and very painful rewrite that lasted about six months, I carefully excised Maxine - whose story took up over 40% of the original manuscript - and reworked the novel to center on Hester and Sam. As painful as the whole process was, taking out an entire story line forced me to focus, and to fully develop the two characters that remained. It left me with a novel that placed Hester at the center, and made it much clearer that she was a protagonist who could support a series. My agent was able to sell the revised manuscript in a few short weeks, and I sold a second Hester Thursby novel a few months later.

I was also able to take what remained of Maxine and spin those scraps into a short story called “White Tights and Mary Janes.” I submitted the story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in March of 2017 and it published in the January/February 2018 issue.

So, that's how Maxine came to be. For the rest of her story, you’ll have to buy the magazine, where I am so happy that she lives on!