One of my writing goals this year was to get my first novel onto Kindle. On April 16, that goal will be met when Cropper is released through the Kindle Store. The manuscript was published about fifteen years ago through Publish America with the name A Simple Man. I was awfully proud of it, and should have pushed forward right then. When you’ve got momentum, you run with it. But I listened to the wrong people and made the wrong decisions. Plus, I was in a dark, bad place, and I put my pen down as soon as I sent off the final manuscript of. It was nearly ten years before I picked it up again.
I met the most incredible lady during that time (she married me!), and she read all of my short stories and A Simple Man while we were still sending emails and talking on the phone. For the first couple of years we were together, I bombarded her with story and book ideas, even though actually writing them was out of the question. One day I started out with, “You know what would make a great book? What happened to…” She turned and told me to just shut up and write it. She wouldn’t let me continue.
Since she was going to be that way about it, I found a writers’ group that met in Frisco and joined them one night. Not only did I make some of the first real friends I’d found in Texas, I learned a lot about writing. In fact, I learned enough to know that my book, A Simple Man, was a first draft, not a completed novel. The structure is okay, but incomplete. The prose has little polish. Dialogue tags bog the narrative down. The text is rife with errors. But the story is strong, and the characters are real. That’s what carries that edition – the characters. As I looked over the book with a more practiced eye, I realized how badly I had let those characters down by publishing an unfinished work, and I resolved to make it right. By then I had joined a second group of writers who met weekly, instead of monthly. Not only was I was able to quicken my pace and further sharpen my skills, I added a new group of good friends.
With two groups of excellent writers giving feedback and coaching me along, the characters grew deeper, the settings grew clearer, and the narrative grew tighter. I cut twenty thousand words from that first manuscript, then added ten new chapters to fill a gaping hole in the timeline. Pretty soon, I felt I had a decent book on my hands. I knew from the start that getting it published would be a challenge since a version had been released earlier. Still, I started with the highest-profile agents I could find and put it out there. A couple expressed interest before declining. Most were silent. At some point, I realized I was up against Google and the earlier version of the book. The explanation of A Simple Man’s entire sordid saga was more than I could put into a query letter, so the manuscript went into a file and stayed there while I wrote a couple of short stories and a second novel.
My plan was to secure time with several agents at different writers’ conferences and try to pitch A Simple Man, now called Cropper, in person. Then, with a second ready to send out, I realized that publishing through Amazon would allow me to use that time and money on other, newer projects. I studied up on the Kindle Direct Publishing guidelines, and Cropper will be released on April 16. It’s available for pre-ordering now, and the numbers are already exciting. I’m working on a paperback version, as well, since so many have asked about a printed version.
It’s good to see Caleb and Mae presented to the world in a better light. I’m not an editor, so I know the book could still be improved quite a bit, but I’m satisfied with where it is. It’s a product I’m excited to get out there. Also, working with these characters again is like finding a group of old friends and catching up.
The second novel about this family has been sketched out for a while. Now it’s time to bring it to life. It starts as WWII begins, but focuses primarily on the aftermath, and what the war did to veterans and their families. That means I’m going to cause some major pain for characters I really like. That’s no fun, but it’s the story that wants to be written, so that’s what has to be done. Right now, the main antagonist is PTSD, bad choices, and a rigid, deeply Southern society. I guess I’ll have to develop a crafty, mean-spirited nemesis, as well. They’re a lot more fun to torment.
The Kindle version of Cropper is available for pre-ordering on Amazon.com. A paperback version will follow.