I had forgotten all about entering the 2011 Dark Oak Mystery Novel Contest.
You see, I entered on a whim. A friend sent me a link to the entry form and urged me to enter, thinking my work might be a good fit because I had enjoyed many Oak Tree Press books, including those in J. Michael Orenduff's POT THIEF series. It did stand to reason that if I liked his work, and the editors liked his work, our tastes might be similar. And because I like my own books--because I write the books I want to read--well, I gave it a shot and entered.
Then I promptly put it out of my mind. A writer can't dwell on any past submissions, but must go on to write something else. Otherwise, thinking about what's happening to your "children" out with editors would drive you crazy.
(And that's one thing writers never are: crazy. Right?)
After all, I have been at this writing stuff since I could hold a crayon. However, my first attempts at fiction were met with displeasure from my mother. She said my stories (verbal and written) counted as "lying," so I was frequently spanked and shamed over these efforts. But it didn't deter me, and soon my teachers were being charmed by my flights of fancy. Of course teachers are far easier to impress and please than New York editors, so my early juvenilia came winging back from the New Yorker offices with charming little rejection notes (I suspect from the tone of these notes that my correspondents knew they were dealing with an eight-year-old, and then with a twelve-year-old, and so on--my early poems and stories weren't exactly Archy and Mehitabel caliber).
Often it seemed I was spinning my wheels--I would say my "print wheels," but that would date me. (And I wouldn't date anyone who'd date me--BAZINGA!)
e-mail inboxes. From, of all people, the publisher and owner of Oak Tree Press herself, Ms. Billie Johnson. (!!!)
The messages said, "We are looking for Denise Weeks, author of NICE WORK . . . please contact us!!"
My heart leapt. What could it all mean? What, indeed. I started planning my book tour in my mind.
But I couldn't assume anything yet. I didn't know what she might want to ask me. (People do write to me for various reasons. No, REALLY.)
So I replied from my dominant e-mail address, saying that this was a good address for me and that I was at her service.
She replied quickly, telling me that my book, NICE WORK, was a finalist in the contest, and that she needed a marketing plan from me as soon as possible so that my book could be in the final round.
The marketing questionnaire that she'd attached to her message was a new twist, but one that made sense. The book's marketability didn't matter as much as MY plan and my motivation to get out there and spread the word about it. It was, in fact, genius.
I filled out the questionnaire and sent it back. Then I crossed my fingers and toes and settled down to wait.
Okay, that was because the list was alphabetical and my title popped to the top of the list. But hey! Whatever.
So I couldn't help making a fuss on the 'net and telling everyone that my book was a finalist. They'd heard it all before, though, and weren't ready to pop the cork on the Ripple until a winner was named.
This past week, it became official! NICE WORK, the first novel in my Jacquidon and Chantal Carroll mystery series, has won the Dark Oak mystery contest and will be published by Oak Tree Press!
(Sorry about all the exclamation points, but I can't restrain myself.)
I can't tell you how excited I am about working with Oak Tree Press and beginning the process of publishing this novel. This is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. NICE WORK is a book of my heart.
It's also the first in a proposed series of Southern Sisters-style mysteries that will appeal to readers of traditional mysteries--but it does have much edgier moments. Judge the edginess for yourself:
Jacquidon Carroll thinks she has problems after she's diagnosed with diabetes and is laid off from her job the same week, but that's nothing compared to becoming a suspect in the murder of her ex-boss Yancey two days later. Can she get access to the evidence she needs to prove that Yancey was killed by his new employee, a young woman he "recruited" from an Internet sex site to participate in his erotic games--the same woman he then put into Jacquidon's job after "downsizing" her out?
To clear herself, Jacquidon and her intrepid sister Chantal begin to sleuth. The clues lead them through a network of local sex clubs and the seamy underside of the S&M (BDSM) lifestyle that her former boss and his ex-wife were involved in (to Jacquidon's surprise). Lucky for them, most of the denizens of the clubs are perfectly nice and are also amused by the two fearful young women, and are happy to give them the information they need.
But by the time they get the sort of proof they can take to the police, the murderer has figured out what the sisters have been up to--and intends to stop her the same way she stopped Yancey.
I've started two new blogs in honor of this accomplishment. First, I've opened a blog for the book itself, with whimsical posts from the points of view of Jacquidon Carroll and her sister Chantal, the Snoop Sister sleuths of the series.
Visit the book's own blog at
I have also kicked off a new blog to chronicle my adventure towards publication.
Join me as we work our way towards a stack of signable books at the authors' table!
One may dream. And sometimes one's dream comes true!