how my novel was published
The idea of sending a Morse-code message back in time has been rolling around in my head since the mid eighties. I was particularly thinking of how to tell my ‘kid’ self to handle my baseball cards a lot better and not stick thumb tacks trough them.
In early September of 2001 my wife Betsy and I were taking a vacation in Highlands, NC. We had rented a lodge room overlooking the scenic mountain town. The air was crisp and the cool breezes were a welcome salve to the hot summer we had spent in Columbia, SC.
We had plenty of down time to do whatever we wanted. I gravitated to the back porch and pondered the word Hebrew word ‘Ahaba’. I found it in my Exegesis Bible as the word we translate as ‘everlasting love’ in Jeremiah 31:3. The word means a love that is not affected by anything physical or concerning the soul, which I took to mean our mind, will or emotions. So, my take on the whole things was that this love of God for us, this everlasting love, could not be changed by anything in this physical world (including 9/11, which happened days after our vacation) nor anything in the realm of our souls. My conclusions was that nothing in the world, including what we think, how we feel or the choices we make could change God’s love for us.
To me this was a huge revelation. I pondered it’s ramifications as I soaked in the refreshing smells and breezes of those early autumn days. If only people really knew this! God’s love for us can not be changed, no matter what! I thought of people who battle with depression. I thought of those who commit suicide because they don’t believe God’s ‘Ahaba’ love for them.
It is then that I first started thinking of someone facing a friend’s suicide and the frustration of not being able to help the person see that God really does love them, in spite of how they feel.
There in the mountains I began with the suicide scene and the beginning concepts of being able to somehow go back in time and let someone know the ‘Ahabah’ love that would have changed everything.
The First Draft
I completed about five chapters on and off in 2001 and 2002 and then it sat on the shelf for over a year. In mid 2004, I picked it up again when one of our friends mentioned a novel writing contest. I worked on it a good bit in the fall of 2004. Then another friend of ours took interest in it and started asking for the next chapters. I really think the project would have died if it wasn’t for her. The tasks of life can so easily crowd out our creative juices. If Debbie had not spurred me on I’m not sure I would have thought the whole thing was worth completing.
In early 2005, I went to my brother in law’s beach house in Wrightsville Beach, NC (the scene of Coastal Head Quarters in the story) and had some quiet for about 3 days. This afforded me the opportunity to map out the outline for the rest of the story. I still wasn’t sure of how it would exactly end, but I had a general idea for the plot and where I wanted it to end up.
I continued writing in 2005, finding that as the characters were developed, they helped me actually take a few twists and turns in the chapters. Sometimes how a chapter would turn out even surprised me as different thoughts would come to mind. I was following the advice of a friend of mine who told me to add ‘reversals’ in the plot to help the story along. He described a reversal as a challenge and eventual resolution to the challenge, like a flat tire and what it took to change it. He said the story can have little reversals, like Jimmy and Peter not finding the baseball cards at first and big reversals like Peter trying to save BJ life or trying to locate Elizabeth in altered time.
The Writing Group
I completed the first draft in the fall of 2005 and then joined a secular writers group at a local book store. This writing group was invaluable to the process. I highly recommend it.
For a year we meet every other Wednesday presenting our chapters and offering encouragement and suggestions. This was important for me because I wanted to offer Beyond Time to be read by non Christians as well as Christians. Several times the ladies in the group told me that I was being preachy or that they felt like they were in Sunday school. This helped me craft my words in a way that would be understandable to those who are not familiar with the terms we often use as Christians.
In addition to many structural and grammatical changes I made while in the group, I also changed the tense to present unless telling of the past. This was a suggestion by one of the ladies to help keep tract with the time events. I also brought Sarah back and added an additional chapter to the ending.
When I completed taking the novel thought the writing group, a chapter every two weeks. It was time to consider publication. I decided as a first step that I would solicit the help of family or friends to read the story for me and give me honest feedback. I created a cover out of a picture I had taken and bought loose leaf notebooks to package the manuscript in.
Most of my readers really did read it and give honest feedback. I was very thankful because as a writer, it is sometimes hard to get people to actually read what you've written.
Finding a Publisher
I had no idea how to get Beyond Time Published, but even before I sent the manuscript out to my proof readers, I started thinking through the process.
I had heard that 99% of query letters for first time writers are not even looked at. This was very discouraging. I had tried sending query letters out before, but with no success.
In the summer of 2006 I came across a Christian writers service called Writers Edge. It cost me a little money (I think it was $95), but I decided it was worth it to have them critique my work and potentially post it on a server for Christian publishers to look at.
My manuscript got high marks and was accepted to be posted in the August 2006 monthly report to Christian publishers.
This was exciting, but August, September and October came with no word from any publishers.That's when I decided to send the manuscript out for proof reading and I began to contemplate self publishing.
Then it happened on 11/11/2006. I still have the e-mail:
We would be interested in reviewing your work and possibly offering you an agreement with Lighthouse Publishing. We recently viewed your book summary at the Writer’s Edge website and feel your work maybe attractive to one or more of our markets.
I agreed to send them the manuscript and waited to hear from them. November ended and December came and went with no word.
Then on January 1st, 2007 a different publisher contacted me:
We are intrigued by the description of your manuscript, Beyond Time, listed with Writer’s Edge Service. If you have not yet found a publishing home, we’d like to review your entire manuscript for potential publication. You may send it electronically to me at Capstone Fiction ...
I sent the manuscript to Capstone and within a few days:
Thanks for allowing us the privilege of reviewing Beyond Time. Jeff and I find your manuscript entirely intriguing—from the initial dramatic opening scene, to the underlying concept of God being “beyond time,” to the execution of a masterful plot involving technology that keeps the reader on his/her toes! I liked the way you wove past and present (that helps us “see” and “feel” BJ, although he is dead at the beginning of the book), and the subtle ways (the pennants on the wall changing), then the growing consequences (collapsing world economy) of manipulating times and events. So often we say, “Now, if I could do that over again, I’d do it differently,” but you have wonderfully revealed how there is a plan for even the broken parts of our lives. I love the way that you have brought Sarah back (and included her in the birth scene of the twins—you had the reader cheering doubly at that scene…it led to a very satisfied “ahh” for the reader at the end of a thrilling, suspenseful, murder mystery plot). Although BJ’s death is still a tragedy, we find hope in Sarah’s redemption and also in the two babies, named after them (as if, in some ways, life is starting over and going “beyond time”)! I also liked the way you portrayed relationships as real (i.e., how Peter’s workaholism puts a wedge in his relationship with Elizabeth) and how the reader sees the working-out and long-term view of that relationship.
Beyond Time is the very kind of book that Capstone Fiction is seeking to publish—intelligent, quality fiction, from a fresh perspective. We’d like to offer you the opportunity to join Capstone Fiction’s growing stable of authors. In anticipation of our partnership, Jeff will be sending you a contract shortly.
The other publishing company did eventually decide to take it, but by then I had agreed to terms with Capstone.
The Publishing Process
From acceptance to publishing took around 6 months. This included editing, deciding on a cover letter, etc.
Capstone, which has since been renamed to Oaktara.
They are a great publishing company to work with.