Eileen Brady, Author © All rights reserved.
Credit for article given to Donis Casey at "Type M For Murder".
What’s it like to win the Poisoned Pen Press Discover Mystery Contest? Fantastic, frightening and a huge ego boost that I sorely needed. Now, like many of you, I make lists of writing contests that are coming up, along with their deadlines. I diligently print them up and promptly lose them, rediscovering them days, weeks, sometimes months too late to enter. I decided to try for this year’s Discover Mystery Contest only 5 weeks before the manuscripts were due, which meant a sprint to the deadline. My manuscript had already been read by my critique group and I was deep into my second draft, so I didn’t have to manufacture it out of thin air. However, when is it ever ready? In this case, by March 30, 2013 at midnight.
Give me a concrete deadline and my Catholic school education kicks in. I organized the manuscript into two large notebooks and started checking continuity. It’s a good thing I did. I had conveniently taken the car keys away from one of my victims, then miraculously restored them on the following page. Characters changed their eye colors, hair color, and even their names for no apparent reason. I waged war on the passive voice and made sure the reader knew where the action was taking place. Then, still not satisfied, but unable to write one more word, I followed The Poisoned Pen website instructions and sent my paper baby off into the night.
Believe it or not by the time May rolled around I had forgotten all about it. Instead, I’d started another book in what I hoped would become a series. About the last week in May I received a surprise phone call on my cell phone. It was Jessica Tribble, the Poisoned Pen Press Publisher. After she told me that I’d won I entered a state of shock. I very politely listened to her, said “thank you very much” then HUNG UP ON HER! With my hands shaking I called my long time mentor and friend, the wonderful mystery writer Betty Webb. She was sworn to secrecy since the official announcement would be later in the week. It was only then I remembered – I HUNG UP on Jessica. Being super paranoid, I almost convinced myself that they would change their minds and give it to somebody else.
They didn’t and Poisoned Pen Press has been wonderful to work with. Once you are on their publication list you are emailed all kinds of questionnaires to fill out so they can help plan their publicity. Of course, advertising dollars are stretched to the limit these days, so it is up to each writer to generate interest in their own books. I’m in the process of introducing myself to local bookstores and expanding my contact lists. Every writer I’ve talked to has been beyond helpful and generous with their suggestions. For example – I have the opportunity to write this blog because of my fellow Arizona writer, the talented Donis Casey. Thanks, Donis. Writers today face a much different public and publishing world than in the past. The value of social media and networking can’t be underestimated. Whether you like it or not, social media is a part of our society and it’s not going away - so get with it or hire someone to help bring you up to speed.
Now to being edited. My editor is the fantastic Barbara Peters. No writer, though, is ever ready for their edits. When I saw all the notes and corrections my stomach clenched. Who knew my manuscript was such a sloppy mess? I gave myself the rest of the day to feel sorry for myself, then the next morning, sat down and went over the edits page by page. To my surprise, they tightened up the prose, addressed a problem I hadn’t noticed and made my work much more professional. From my experience I can only say – look forward to your edits. They can only make you look better.
A little bit about my book – it’s a mystery with lots of humor in it. (Murder can be funny in a weird way.) My hero is Kate Turner, a relief veterinarian, who stumbles upon a murder during a house call. In trying to solve the crime she gets clues from the strangest places while still dealing with her animal patients. Being a veterinarian in real life, I can assure you that the medicine is accurate, but the sometimes wacky owners and their pets spring from my imagination. The original title of the book was DOG SHOWS ARE MURDER, but Barbara, Jessica and the staff weren’t too crazy about it. After inviting me to submit some alternatives, they suggested MUZZLED, A Kate Turner, DVM Mystery. Having your title changed happens all the time. In my case, the old title was very close to some other publications. Don’t get enamored with your working title. Bite the bullet and leave the final choice up to the professionals, especially if it is your first book.
MUZZLED is being published in April, 2014. I don’t have my cover art yet, but as soon as I do I will post it on my author Facebook page – Eileen Brady, author - and also on my website – www.eileenbradymysteries.com. The second book in the series is in its final draft form, and has the working title of UNLEASHED, A Kate Turner, DVM Mystery. I’ll be posting a funny excerpt from it on my website very soon.
I hope I’ve encouraged anyone thinking of entering a contest to just DO IT. What’s the worst that can happen? It’s a great way to push through and make yourself complete a project, be it a poem, short story, novella or novel. If it can happen to me it can happen to you. The next Discover Mystery Contest will be posted on The Poisoned Pen website sometime in early 2014. Good Luck!!