I am pleased to report that I have been writing thrillers for almost 20 years. It began with a daughter studying at Oxford and having to write a novel in a tutorial. She picked out an event that actually happened to us on a train ride through Switzerland. There were a few places where she needed some additional life experience to fill in blanks in the story. I became hooked.
Over the years, I have written four manuscripts. I never submitted them to anybody. Rather, I simply enjoyed the process of writing. I have spent almost 40 years writing professional, international taxation books from a pre-eminent publisher (Warren Gorham Lamont/Thomson Reuters). I naively hoped that success as a non-fiction writer would make climbing the fiction ladder a simple process. Wrong!
My sweetheart read the manuscripts and suggested they had potential. I chose one I thought would have appeal to readers. Since I knew nothing about the fiction publishing business and heard horror stories about authors who lose their rights to bankrupt or unethical publishers, I decided to self-publish that first book, which became Riddle of Berlin in 2008. Reviews were generally positive. Through the social media process, sales indicated there may be potential in my stories.
Beginning about years four ago, I became serious in wanting to improve my writing and fiction marketing skills. I took a BUZZZ-Z-Z-Z course from MJ Rose on developing a marketing plan. In the course of working with MJ, she suggested my then manuscript had potential. She suggested I engage a skilled, developmental editor (i.e., an expert on framing manuscripts to be successful thrillers).
I then engaged a wonderful editor. She advised that her comments would be detailed if she thought the story had potential, minimal if she had little interest. I received 26 single-spaced pages of comments. I took this as a positive sign. It took me almost 18 months to revise the text in line with these comments. When the development process had run its course, the editor suggested tI engage a line editor to review for syntax, punctuation, style, and what not.
My collaborator, Christy Bright, and I have attended the International Writers’ Association annual ThrillerFest in New York City for several years. In 2013, the manuscript, I hoped, was ready for action. We then engaged Meryl Moss and colleagues at Meryl Moss Media Relations, Inc. to guide our way forward. The editorial and publicity support we received has been world class.
The net result was completion of Jaspar’s War in 2014. Our next question was whether to self-publish or seek a professional agent and commercial publisher. We decided to form our own publishing company and self-publish to minimize time lag in getting in to the thriller publication business.
In Jaspar’s War, Jaspar is a rich socialite in Greenwich. Her husband is Secretary of the U.S. Treasury and a former Wall Street guru. He is on his way home to advise of a fraud he has found in the government stimulus program. The FBI reports his plane crashed in the Arctic Ocean with no chance of survival. Then her two children are kidnapped and she receives a text from his cellphone advising that if she says anything about her husband’s discovery, her children will become shark food, like their father.
She realizes what it is he found and is certain her children will be killed if she does not become a warrior to find them. But she is a socialite not a warrior. Jaspar turns to her priest, who introduces her to a former Australian half-blood Aborigine, who had been taken from his mother’s arms at birth and made into a warrior in Vietnam times. He is trying to become human.
The story takes place in Tuscany and ends at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix.
For me, personally, Jaspar’s War is everything we had hoped it would be. We have successfully created a brand, a platform, and significant public awareness by forming OPERATION: NEXT CHAPTER, an initiative whereby all proceeds of Jaspar’s War have been donated to the Soldiers’ Angels Valour-IT project. In less than one year, ONC have provided more than 100 computers (new and re-conditioned) to wounded military heroes.
If our service is to have enduring value beyond ourselves, we must take the initiative to make it real so others can learn from it. Perhaps, then, it can make a difference in the lives of others.
We have completed the manuscript for the next thriller, presently entitled Harvest of Gold, and are testing the waters to determine if engagement by a professional agent and commercial publisher is the appropriate path for this manuscript, or continue on with our existing publisher.
In future posts, I will comment on what it feels like to be a late 60’s newbie thriller writer, what I have learned through the OPERATION: NEXT CHAPTER process, exploration of agent-commercial publisher vs. self-publishing ,and other thoughts as they arise.
I would love your thoughts on any of these topics.