It’s been a long road.
The story of Meredith’s escape into a new life in a small town in Alaska had been rattling around in my brain for several years before I attempted to write it. When Mark and I relocated to Seattle, I finally had the time to put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) to see if I really had it in me to write Meredith’s story.
Writing a novel is a mammoth undertaking. I’d always considered myself a writer. I earned my MFA in Creative Writing-Fiction at the University of Alaska, Anchorage as the culmination of several years of night classes. I’d published a couple of short stories, but nothing prepared me for the ultra-marathon of novel-writing.
Producing the first draft was excruciating. I found that I preferred to work in chaos, writing scenes as they appeared in my head, not following an outline or in any logical order. As a result, my early work was a whirlwind mess of characters, scenes and situations. After the first draft was at last sorted out (whew), a new kind of work began. I’d revise and revise and revise. Soon, I was sick of my story. I’d spent too much time with it. After putting it aside for a while, I revised it some more, and went in search of a publisher.
A small publisher offered me a contract, and COMPASS NORTH was first released in December 2013. COMPASS NORTH remained with that publisher until August 2014, when a peculiar set of circumstances resulted in an opportunity to recover my rights, which I elected to do. My plans going forward were a bit squishy but I was optimistic. There were changes I wanted to make to the book, including a new cover design. I was considering whether I should finish the sequel, A LATE HARD FROST, before doing anything further with the first book.
Then, on October 31 (yes, Halloween) of 2014, Mark was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He struggled valiantly for seven months, and died in June of this year.
After Mark’s diagnosis and until very recently, I found it impossible to move forward with much of anything. I continued to write my blog, first about our experiences as Mark traveled through treatment, and then later as I entered the foreign world of widowhood. Working on A LATE HARD FROST or planning a route to republication for COMPASS NORTH wasn’t in the realm of possibility.
But sometimes help (or a prodding forward from a sharp stick) comes when you least expect it. Recently a fellow author, Ceci Giltenan, offered to help me with the republishing process.
I first encountered Ceci after the initial publication of COMPASS NORTH, when I was struggling to understand the world of book promotion. As a first time published author, I had an enormous amount to learn. Publishing a novel is only the first step on a strange and confusing road, and I was clueless. I had to learn about social media, and blog tours, and virtual launch parties. I had to learn about catchy tag lines, and positioning, and what it takes to get a novel into bookstores. I went to writing conferences, where the advice given in publishing workshops was sometimes contradictory, and often not helpful.
Along the way, I’d noticed that Ceci (then also with the same publishing house) was having enormous success with her first novel, HIGHLAND SOLUTION, the first of an ongoing series of Scottish Highland romances. Although my book didn’t fall in that category, I emailed Ceci and asked her for advice. She most generously shared her thoughts and experiences. With Ceci’s help, I participated in some on-line launch parties and she featured some of my work on her website. Although we’d never met in person, Ceci went out of her way to help me.
Not too long ago, Ceci contacted me and asked if I had a short story to include in an anthology she was compiling, TANTALIZING TIDBITS. I sent her a story and she placed it in the collection. Ceci recently emailed me and offered her help in sending COMPASS NORTH back out into the world. Without her encouragement, generosity and assistance, the re-release wouldn’t have happened, at least not now.
So I’m moving forward. I’m dusting off the partial draft of A LATE HARD FROST. I’m still struggling with the aftermath of losing Mark, and I imagine I will for some time. But I can see that there will be a way out of the fog.
And, Ceci Giltenan, all I can say is…thank you.