Tuesday, March 16, 2010

From Layoff to First Novel Contract - guest post by Adam Blumer

Note: I asked Adam Blumer to do a guest post, and he graciously agreed, and is also giving away a copy of his Christian suspense novel, Fatal Illusions, one of the best Christian suspense novels I have ever read. Thanks Adam for the post.
My Unconventional Path to Publication

My boss sank into a chair across from my desk, hung his head, and delivered news no employee wants to hear. "We're making cutbacks here at the college, and I'm afraid"—he took a deep breath and let it out—"your position is being eliminated."

A two-by-four to the side of the head couldn't have jolted me more. What!? They're cutting my job?

It was January 13, 2006, and I was sitting in my office (see photo) at Northland Baptist Bible College (it's now a university), where I'd been serving as an editor since 1995. With a BA in print journalism, I was in charge of editing and writing content for all sorts of campus publications: promotional brochures, a magazine, the academic catalog, the yearbook, even the Web site. And now, in five months, I'd no longer have a job. My stomach churned at this news. How was I going to provide for my wife and kids?

Quietly Working

There's no way to put a happy face on this period of my life. This was a sobering, discouraging time for me and my family, and I'd be a liar if I said I didn't struggle in my spirit about the whole situation. But God had hard lessons for me to learn about depending on Him, and He was quietly working behind the scenes (as He often does) to bring to fruition a dream I'd had since I was a kid.

I'd been writing all sorts of wild tales since I was a child: short stories about pirates and space ships in junior high, a novel-length Agatha Christie copycat in high school, and a science fiction novel I finished the summer after my senior year in college. From there, I published my first short story in the Regular Baptist Press Sunday school papers. I remember my excitement when the check arrived in the mail. I'd published numerous news stories during my journalism internship at a newspaper in the South, but now I was a published fiction author! Being rewarded for my hard work only revved my engine to publish a variety of more short stories and articles.

But it wasn't enough. I'd always wanted to write Christian novels, so I wrote three of them for young adults. The problem was, I couldn't find any publishers who wanted them. So what did I do? Even if nobody publishes them, I decided, I'll just keep writing them because I can't help myself. I also felt like each novel was just a little better than the one preceding it. Maybe if I just kept writing long and hard enough . . .

Last-Ditch Effort

Somewhere along the way, a considerate editor wrote on one of my many rejection letters, "Have you considered writing for adults?" I thought, Why not? But by this time, I was beginning to wonder if I was barking up the wrong tree. Maybe I didn't have what it takes to be a published Christian novelist. Maybe all those childhood dreams had been for naught. But then I thought, God must have given me the desire to write novels for a reason.

In a last-ditch effort, I decided that I needed to take my writing to the next level by finding a writing mentor. In 2002 I enrolled in a novel writing correspondence course through Writer's Digest School. Writer's Digest matched me up with another Christian author, a published novelist of romantic suspense, Bea Carlton. This was exactly what I needed—an industry professional to read my chapters and tell me, "This is really good. It's not a question of if you'll be a published but when." Bea was my cheerleader who gave me the advice to grow and the confidence to keep going. She coached me through the plot outline, the development of my main characters, and the first fifty pages of a Christian suspense novel I was calling Now You See Him. But when the course was over, I didn't stop. Four years and two daughters later, I finally finished the manuscript. Maybe I wasn't the fastest novelist in the world, but at least I'd finished what I set out to do.

Chucking the Dream?

But then the same old problem was back: I was mailing out query letters and novel proposals left and right, only to receive rejection letters in response. If you've been on this journey, then you understand the depressing sense of failure that comes when you've poured literally thousands of hours into a project, only to realize nobody likes it. At this point, I was seriously thinking about chucking the dream. No matter how hard I worked, I told myself, I was never going to be good enough. Success only happened to other people. I asked God, Why did You give me this drive to write novels if You didn't intend for me ever to publish them?

Then in January 2006, only a few days before my layoff news, a two-page letter in the mail changed everything. That previous fall, I'd mailed a query letter to Steve Laube, a Christian literary agent in Arizona, about Now You See Him. Amazingly, he'd replied with interest and wanted to see the full manuscript. Now, reading what he thought of my novel, my heart sank. As expected, Mr. Laube was declining to be my agent. But then I sat up straighter. This was far from the standard rejection letter. He said that only a tiny percent of submissions get as far as mine did. He said I was very close to having a publishable manuscript, and he listed several areas of my story that he felt needed improvement. Oh wow! So if I made the changes, maybe somebody would like my novel after all. I suddenly realized I was close—very close—and began making the changes Mr. Laube had recommended.

No Serious Expectations

But then, just a few days later, I was walloped across the side of the head by the news that I was losing my job, and I had no idea what I was going to do. But by the time my job ended at the university, I had begun editing for several clients from home. Yes, I needed to work as an early-morning FedEx package handler for a while to pay the bills, but God was providing for my family. Maybe this work-at-home editing opportunity would pan out if I built up my client base. Maybe so, but the time demand to work FedEx, to literally build a home office into my house, and to find more clients required me to lay aside the oh-so-close-to-publication novel for a while. I accepted the fact that providing for my family had to come first.

Fast-forward to the spring of 2007. While contacting various Christian publishers and inquiring about book projects I could edit from home, I e-mailed an editor at Kregel Publications. When the editor saw on my resume that I'd written several as-yet-unpublished novel manuscripts, he asked me to submit one for review. With no serious expectations (after all, I'd done this song and dance a few times before), I sent him Now You See Him.

You guessed it. A few months later, the editor at Kregel e-mailed me, requesting the full manuscript. By August, after sitting on pins and needles for what seemed like an eternity, I received the astonishing news that Kregel was going to publish my novel! I ran to my wife with the news, and we jumped up and down and hugged each other.

The Rest of the Story

I couldn't believe what was happening. I was 38, and my childhood dream was finally coming true after what had seemed like a very long journey. (Better late than never, right?) But it had been no easy or conventional path. I believe that it was only after I set my dream aside to provide for my family that God decided to make it come true. Perhaps He wanted to see if I was willing to turn my back on my childhood dream and find my fulfillment in Him alone.

So now you know the story behind the publication of my first Christian suspense novel, Fatal Illusions (Kregel Publications, March 2009). Though I've always loved to write stories (and am busy on another novel now), I seriously doubted that I'd ever write a novel good enough to be published. That's why when others ask me about my publication success, I'm careful to give God the glory. After all, He opened publication doors I couldn't open for myself.

A Word to Writers

Maybe my journey sounds similar to yours. Maybe you've been writing for years and seeing little success as the result of your efforts. Maybe you're even ready to chuck the dream like I almost did.

My advice? Don't.

The best advice I can give anyone is "Don't ever give up!" Even if the constant rejection makes you feel like a bug stuck to the rug, never, ever stop writing. If God gave you the desire and aptitude to write, He's given you a gift He doesn't want to see go to waste. Write as often and as passionately as you can, but be willing to set aside the dream. Make God your dream and seek Him first (Matt. 6:33). Then, if He wants to publish your novel, He'll open the door. Maybe not according to your timetable. But definitely according to His.

Book Giveaway

I'm giving away one copy of Fatal Illusions (only within the United States and Canada). To participate, comment on my article and list a major disappointment God used in your life to turn things around for His glory. For more information about Fatal Illusions, visit my Web site and blog. For more writing advice, check out my FAQ. Thanks, Mark, for the opportunity to share my heart.

A winner will be drawn 10 days from today, on March 26.

14 comments:

Peter S said...

Greetings from NH,

In your 3rd paragraph, did you mean to say "January 13, 2006" instead of "January 13, 1996"?

Looking forward to a great read!

Merci beaucoup,
Peter Sajko

Mark & Sarah said...

One of my disappointments was graduating from college with the intention of heading to seminary. I had found a summer internship as a youth pastor that seemed to work out perfectly. Over the summer I was making contacts and planning on leaving the MidWest for the East to start my masters in the fall. In late July my dad's Army National Guard Medic unit was activated to go to Iraq in October. I knew my mom wouldn't have enough income to keep the house running for the next year with dad being gone.

Knowing that it would probably be a full two years before I would be able to think about seminary again, I worked out a deal with my dad's employer to work his job at reduced pay to make up the difference. Deciding to work at home for my family was easy. Deciding to postpone seminary was hard.

To make a long story short, the day on which my father was supposed to leave he was informed that he was one of a handful of soldiers who would not be deploying to Iraq. At first I was mad at God for making mess up my plans for what seemed like nothing. This eventually led to me deciding to work and save up money for a year. In that year I also worked on developing a deeper relationship with a certain female acquaintance. We eventually married the following summer. And in that next fall my new wife and I did move out East for seminary.

God slowed my life down so I could spend some much needed time with my family before starting my own, and also the time to grow the relationship with my future wife so I could start my own family. I know I would have missed both of those opportunities had God not intervened. And for that I can look back in complete gratitude.

Annette W. said...

I broke off a relationship...and am ever thankful for it and how God has been able to use me since then...

I'm glad I am just a writer of blogs and not of anything to be published. I don't think I have the heart!
derekannette at gmail dot com

Carmen7351 said...

I, too, got the axe from my job as a legal assistant. My husband had just gotten his 'pink slip' a half year earlier. So we're both unemployed. He worked several 'temporary' jobs til he got he one he has now. I developed medical issues, but used me to put on a Youth Rally on Sex Has a Price Tag. He brought several women to help. Everyone had a position and filled it greatly, three of which were prayer warriors. A year later we presented the program to churches 'south of the river' here in the Twin Cities. Hours of footwork, meetings, contacts, and last minute details later, we showed the the program and got a raving review, to God's glory. I was able to use my organization skills from the job I lost to present this rally. It included parents and their teens together, with dating ideas for the teens and materials to help parents on the subject. One of the highlights of my life to date.

It's so amazing what God does to get us where He wants us. Congrats on your new book!

Please enter me for your book.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Jackie Smith said...

Great post; anxious to read your book. Please enter me. I guess my disappointment would be ...not getting a certain job and God gave a better one.
Thanks.
jackie.smith(at)dishmail(dot)net

Susan Marlow said...

What a GREAT story, Adam! I didn't know the half of this . . . only bits and pieces. This is really encouraging.

Steve-n-Deb said...

Not getting a job out of college sent us to Taiwan

Winning Readings said...

That is an awesome testimony...

I'm still waiting for my miracle story! I know God's at work, but it's hard to see how sometimes.

I get little glimpses of intervention sometimes, like when I've overslept and then get a call that the babysitter is sick AFTER I would normally have been out the door and well on my way, etc. :)

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

Linda Kish said...

I don't really have an amazing story. I am just so thankful to be alive! I had a serious heart problem in November that fortunately was fixed with an emergency heart cath, angioplasty and stents. That was followed a week later with a hypertensive crisis. Then H1N1 pneumonia the next month. so I rejoice every day that I am whole again.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Buukluvr81 said...

Let's see....a disappointment that occured in my life was when I was working as a CNA in a nursing home. I had just had my second baby, who happened to be born with a birth defect of Cleft lip and Cleft palate. He had to have some surgeries shortly after he was born, and when I requested time off from the Nursing Home they refused so I had to quit my job without working the required two weeks notice. I was there for my son through his surgeries. Not a week after I quit my job, I started a new church and God led me to a new career path....also, news of the Nursing Home I was working at reached me...it had been closed down due to neglect and abuse of the patients...I thank God that He didn't allow me to get mixed up in that situation! So, the disappointment of having to quit a job I loved because I was not allowed time off to be with my newborn son and his surgeries, turned out to be a blessing in disguise from God! Now, I have been at my job for several years and don't anticipate anything like this ever happening again! But God will use it for His Glory if it should!

Thanks for this opportunity!!!
Molly
Mollydawn1981 at aol dot com

Julia said...

One that comes to mind is struggling with infertility issues and the way that God worked through that to provide us with the perfect children for our family in His timing and way.

julesreffner(at)gmail(dot)com

Genre Reviewer said...

After graduating from college, I couldn't get a job no matter where I tried, so I decided to focus full-time on a home business that I was starting. Later, I heard back from several of the people who interviewed me, and they consensus was that they turned me down because they thought I was destined for greater things.

My life (and many others) would certainly be very, very different if I'd gotten traditionally employed back then.

genrereviewer (at) hughes (dot) net

Joy said...

My disappointment was dealing with severe health problems a few years ago, which actually ended up making me start my own writing business. Today I have a good business and love writing, all because of a very low point in my life.

The book sounds great. Maybe I'll get to read it!

misskallie2000 said...

I enjoyed the interview. I have experienced the horror of being told you are being laid off and It is an awful feeling that never leaves you. I am glad you became an author as this is where you are meant to be.
Congrats on your new book and keep on writing.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com