In 2012, I self-published The Lady In White, which was the sixth novel in the Mogi Franklin Mystery Series. It would later be republished by Terra Nova Books in 2018.
A major plot element involved a large, ornate family home built in 1870 near the confluence of the Mora and Canadian Rivers in northeast New Mexico. After living in it for a couple of years, a 10-year-old son of the family was kidnapped by Comanches and was never heard from again. By the time Mogi becomes involved, the house is haunted by the ghost of the mother, while the ghost of the son returns to help solve the mystery.
In 2014, I self-published Smoke Dreams, my first adult novel; it remains one of my most popular books. The story used the same family home, in the same setting, with the same backstory concerning the kidnapping of the son, but takes place in modern day. The house, in this case, is not haunted, but is possessed by a spirit, while the modern-day owner suffers mystical dreams of the kidnapped son.
It was my first adult novel, and I paid a professional to edit the manuscript before it was published. The editing made a tremendous difference in the quality of the story.
In 2020, being restricted by COVID, I wrote a sequel to Smoke Dreams, again featuring the house, the setting, and the son, but continuing the life of the son as he grew into a huge Comanche warrior, survived the Indian Wars, and returned to work at a cattle ranch. At the time I started writing, I had not imagined what other things might happen to him, but was looking forward to finding out. I also decided to self-publish the book to see how much the independent publishing environment had changed and to report my experiences through this blog.
In June, 2021, I submitted a final draft of the manuscript to an independent editor. The title was The Biggest Cowboy In The World, and if that sounds familiar, it’s because I used this blog to tell of my writing experiences. Unfortunately, my efforts seemed to be all bad and eventually led to a sad demise; the manuscript was scrapped. To remind you, I had a manuscript of 147,000 words that was hated by the editor; a second edition of 107,000 words that was just as bad and was withdrawn before a second round of editing; and an eventual slamming of a virtual desk drawer where I threw the manuscript, embarrassed and depressed that I had written such crap.
I resurrected the manuscript in 2022 and used a new writing process to reframe and retell the story. I will be publishing the result in a few weeks. It is now a genuine adult western historical fiction novel that tells the saga of a family crushed by betrayal, tragedy, and romance. An artist in Connecticut produced the wrap-around cover, while I worked with one editor on the East Coast, and another in Jerusalem. If nothing else, I’ve learned that the self-publishing environment is far different than it was in 2012.
I’ll relate my experiences in rewriting the story in future blogs, but want to repeat this quote from one of my editors:
“This is a beautiful, smart, engaging, enraging book. It is gentle and thoughtful and fierce. The characters and their relationships with each other are extraordinarily well-drawn. The various settings are vivid. These were real people in real places living real lives. Your work was a true pleasure to read.”
Maybe after all my attempts, I finally got it right. I am self-publishing the novel on Amazon/KDP and it will be available in both print and ebook around the middle of July.
Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.