Disclaimer: It is all Lee Clevenger’s fault.
For years I built my writing platform. I began with smaller items in women’s magazines, lessons for Christian weeklies, interviews for local newspapers, and feature writing for collections and anthologies. I took classes from wonderful professionals like Cec Murphey, Terry Kay, Bob Mayer, C. Hope Clark, and Deborah Blum.
After years of writing for media and because everyone in my writing circle had one, I too wrote a book. My first book contained information that I had garnered in writing short articles for other media. Plus, I added new research and my own experience in the world of ministry, parenting, grandparenting, leadership, and marriage. I included quotes from authorities plus questions and exercises. In short, I poured my heart into that first volume. With a modicum of success, I quickly followed it with another manuscript.
In between times I hired an agent. We parted friends. I hired another. Let’s just say, we parted. Finally, I met someone who believed in me and liked my books. Voila! A match made in heaven. Since that time, I have enjoyed working for that beloved editor. Don’t get me wrong. I loved this type of writing and I want to keep doing it for the rest of my life.
However, along came a contest. It was the You are Published contest offered by Thomas Maxx, Lee Clevenger’s publishing company. I had toyed with the idea of entering before, but that was all. I never got beyond thinking about it. This year in a moment of ‘dare I call it inspiration’ I resurrected some characters that I created years ago. Through the years when I had nothing better to do, I would place a character in a situation and see what happened. I liked my cast but wasn’t sure what to do with them.
In thinking about the contest, I decided to take a bizarre situation and insert my zany cast, stir the pot, and allow my pseudo-detectives to take over. I tricked it out with a pinch of intrigue, a slathering of humor, and a lot of southern charm. The end product was fun to do, but would others like it? I had a friend I was communicating with concerning SWA. Since she was an editor of cozy mysteries, I decided to run it by her. A few hours later, she wrote back that she loved my story and wanted three more – to publish!
Long story short. That’s how Murder at Golden Palms was born. Clara, Roxy, Amy, Suzy, and Hattie breathed life. They began walking around in my life, talking, plotting, and appearing in my dreams. My editor at Take Me Away books sent mock ups of covers for me to approve. I swooned. This was heady stuff.
Later (with the help of my marvelous writing buddy), I added Murder at Sea to the mix. By this time the first mystery had been included in a collection which gave me more exposure and added to my excitement.
Finally, I understood what my fiction novelist friends experienced. Fiction is great therapy. There’s hard work and research involved, but manipulating your characters by putting them in danger and in insane situations is fun.
So consider this is a warning! I’ve drunk the fiction writer’s Kool Aid and I want more.
Sheila Hudson's work has appeared in Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Patchwork Path, From the Heart, Vols. 1 & 2, plus numerous periodicals including Costumer Magazine. She established Bright Ideas to bring hope and inspiration through the written word. Sheila has also served as president of Southeastern Writers Association. Read more about Sheila on her website.