Monday, October 26, 2015

Blame it on Sue

“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”
Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx  

Miracle was supposed to be my first novel. I'd gotten into writing accidentally, infuriated by the treatment a Colorado Springs journalist had received from his peers. I fired off the letter to the editor and forgot about it. It was cathartic - the guy from C Springs had done a great job for SWAT (I'll tell that story some other time). Of course, it got printed and that's where the fun began.

My wife pointed out a writing contest, of sorts. "Colorado Voices" is (was? Does it still exist?) a function of the Editorial page of the Denver Post. A group of people each year - average Coloradans looking to spread their wings a bit - compete for the opportunity to write a column every other week that is printed as if they are an actual columnist. It was a paying gig, too. Pat said "You should apply." Why not. I wrote the two samples, sent them off and returned to regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

Sue O'Brien called a few weeks later. Well, I didn't know who she was, either. She said she was the editorial page editor for the Denver Post. She invited me to be part of the 2001 Colorado Voices writers. "This is an honor," I said.

Apparently I was unsatisfactorily effusive. "You're Goddamned right it is!" she growled. Thus, I was introduced to editors. I wrote six columns (seven, if you count the alumni one that attracted the attention of then Governor Bill Owens). I was hooked.

A conversation with a dear and trusted work friend began the very first manuscript. The main character would be a woman police sergeant. She would have a degree in journalism, and that would be the key to solving the mystery. My friend and I were involved in a computer project at the time, so computers would be key. I sat down, typed the title and began writing.

How does one write a novel? One keystroke at a time. Over the months, in the living room computer cubby, sitting at the dining room table or on the back porch, the Amy Painter novel evolved into a 150,000 word brute. Together with my writing coach and personal editor, romance novelist Terri Valentine (really), we cut it down to size and submitted it to various publishers and agents.

It went nowhere. Disappointed but not surprised, I wrote in a different direction, featuring a different main character, gaining the attention of the wonderful folks at Wild Child Publishing. Publisher Marci Baun has two (soon to be three) works for sale by "James A. Greer." Amy was still looking for a home.

The Tattered Cover book store, an indie with a huge following, will print an author's book for a modest price. I needed a cover, though. Wife Pat to the rescue. A work friend of hers, a delightful woman named Alison, agreed to  model SWAT gear and pose as Amy. It worked like a charm, professional photographer Heather Leider bringing out great facial expressions, one of which was perfect.

It went on sale this past weekend. How does it feel?

It feels like a whole lot of people helped me write this book. It was a learning experience that helped me attain a level sufficient for Wild Child to notice. Police officers were quick to offer help, stories and encouragement. I was the "Detective Harris" of LPD. It's a Barney Miller reference. But I digress.

I blame this whole thing on Sue (who passed away in 2003). Were it not for her encouragement and skill (we once re-wrote a column via cellphone while Katy and I watched the Rockies play) I would never have given writing a second thought. I found out later that hundreds of applications are received every year, that some people wait years before they make the grade. Well, no wonder...

Pat and I held a copy of Miracle the other day. We laughed, we got misty eyed - this had been a long road, taken together. But, if you're wondering if the hundreds of hours of work was worth it?

Damn right...huh, Sue?

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