The Road to Publication

There was a time in my childhood when my tongue was saddled with a speech impediment. Not an irreparable delay nor a lifelong concern, but a lip-twisting malady that likely made adults smile as my ‘R’s and ‘W’s came out with similar sounds. For a boy whose middle named started with a ‘W’ and whose last name started with a ‘R’, it did not seem like a funny condition. My dad, whose own double-‘R’d name also gave him fits as a child, later told me that he had endured the same problem growing up. “There was a time as an emcee of an elementary school program,” he once said, “when I started the event by saying, ‘ “Pawents and fwiends, we gweet you.’ ”

He turned the once-embarrassing story into a humorous yarn since his southern speech is now smooth as buttermilk. For most of my adult life, I’ve also moved passed the temporary speech delay. Still, both the long ‘I’s of a muted southern accent and the misplaced ‘W’s of yesteryear tend to creep back into my speech when I’m tired or excited.

Such was the situation I found myself in this past month, when (both tired and excited) I answered a question at a local book signing. Several friends and family members came to support Blood Money, wishing me well and buying some books. When one colleague asked about the road to publication, I found myself excitedly responding that, “this had been a busy writing week in the Wussell house.”

The delivery notwithstanding, there is truth in those words. For the past year, my road to publication has been long and winding but rarely busy. A publication path more backroads than Autoban, which suits me just fine. One year ago this week, I pulled out of the gravel driveway of my rough drafts, steering past the potholes and weeds of abandoned manuscripts, and onto a road paved by my publisher. I knew from the signed contract that this road would lead to three books published in two years, but the road that spooled out in front of me appeared only wide enough for one book at a time. For most of the last year, the one-book road has kept me busy enough. Since one manuscript was already polished and ready for the fast-lane, I had left it in the garage while I worked on the other two novels.

As soon as Blood Money was readied for release and placed on cruise control, I turned my attention to the jalopy draft that would become the final installment in the Mackie McKay series. For the first three months of this year, I had re-imagined, then re-typed, the once-faltering manuscript. I adjusted plot points and re-blocked scenes. I erased some characters and exhumed others. Perhaps the most fun, though, was considering what Mackie would have been doing twenty years ago in a world without internet and smart phones. All of that took place at a Sunday afternoon pace. The last week of April, however, the peaceful road became crowded again.

With a generous invitation for a signing at Books-A-Million, Blood Money drove a lap of recognition during an afternoon event. I also pulled from the garage the polished Command and Control for a test-drive and raffled off two advanced reader copies of the manuscript. And in a characteristic flare of over-scheduling and bad timing, I had a self-imposed deadline to finish my draft of book 3—Control Group—for May 1. Why someone would pull onto the interstate with a go-cart is a question worthy of consideration, but by doing so now, I had hoped to soup-up the engine and buff the chrome in time for a February 2015 release. (That the Control Group manuscript became lost in the mail between my house and the editor’s only added to the frenzy).

To be sure, these are good problems for a writer to have. However, it took deliberate concentration to pull off a week of literary polygamy without crossing the plot lines or confusing the characters. By the time I reached the book signing, my colleague from work seemed to understand what I was saying, tangled words and all: it had been one cwazy writing week.