On April 27th, 2016, I finished the initial draft of my first novel, tentatively titled ‘Eleven Fifty-Nine.’ I was giddy with excitement and had a feeling of achievement because I had completed a project I didn’t think I would… ever.
The idea for what I thought would be a short story came one night while I was looking at the clock. The inspiration for every tale starts with two simple words; “What if?”
In this case, what would go through a person’s mind if they knew the exact moment in time when their life would change forever? I jotted down the idea and started writing the “short story” in late winter 2015.
The words flowed out of me at an incredible pace, so much so that I was close to 20,000 words by May. Not too bad for a truck driver who averages working twelve hours a day.But then, I hit a wall. Everything I tried to write sounded stale or typical. It was horrible, and for the first time in my life, I doubted my skills and talent as a storyteller.
Writer’s Block’ is real, and in the early summer of 2015, I was suffering so bad that I started putting my daydreams back into the closet of my soul because I was sure they would never come to fruition. Depression set in, and I was a morose figure for weeks.
In a conversation with a friend on social media, I told them what was going on with my writing. Yeah, I felt sorry for myself, but I was willing to try anything to get back on course, whether it required voodoo dolls, pagan statues, or eye of newt.
The friend suggested I try writing erotica/steamy romance. My face showed my dismay because I didn’t think that could possibly help me. I didn’t write that kind of stuff, but in lieu of an available witch doctor, I decided to give it a try… and my course as a writer shifted.
To make a long story short, I wrote my first steamy story, and my beta readers loved it. After that, I had a knack for the genre, and I added it to my resume as a writer. That tale led to me writing more of them and erotic novels and getting a job as an editor for a company before deciding (with the help of friends) to start a publishing company, Delicious Escape Publications. All because the path turned. But now, back to the story.
Writing that tale completely obliterated my ‘Writer’s Block,’ Since then, any time I’ve felt it coming, I write something new, maybe sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and it has worked out for me. So in the summer of 2015, I wrote fifty short stories and two hundred or so poems, and I resumed ‘Eleven Fifty-Nine.’
After finishing it, my betas read it, loved it, and gave suggestions. I rewrote it, exhaled, and submitted it to a publisher and an agent. With the letters echoing the sentiment, both rejected it, “It was not what they were looking for.” Dejected, I put it back in the vault and kept writing other things. Maybe I wasn’t a novel writer, and my bread and butter would be essays, short stories, and poems.
A year later, an associate from a social media writing group asked to see it. He worked part-time for a publishing company, and I submitted it. He warned me, “No promises,” and I understood. I didn’t hold my breath, but I crossed my fingers and whispered my hopes to God.
Two months later, while sitting in the Seattle airport, I received an email stating the book had been accepted, and a contract was soon sent. I cried with joy, and my family shared my happiness and enthusiasm.
The publisher seemed to be all I could wish for, as they not only wanted that novel, they were interested in other things I’d written or was currently working on. Within a year, I had contracts for the follow-up book ‘Singing to Butterflies,’ a Western series of five books, and one for an erotic collection. It was all within my reach.
But then, I started paying attention and asking questions because my release date kept getting pushed back, and once the pandemic hit, there were delays and a lack of communication. Without blasting that publisher, I soon realized the CEO was not what I had believed them to be, and once again, I needed to change course.
My cousins and I started ‘Voices from the Bleachers Publications.’ Since I had so many projects contracted with that publisher, I needed other outlets, and I vowed never again to put all of my eggs in one basket.
In early 2021, after asking questions that weren’t being addressed, I studied my contracts, looking for an out. Before I could make that move, the publisher released me from all of them. They probably didn’t know how happy I was to get that email.
I now had six completed projects back in my possession (11:59, Singing to Butterflies, three novels of the Western series, and my erotic collection), and I knew I would never (don’t say that!) entrust all of my work to one publisher. The lesson had been earned and learned because I’d lost three years with nothing to show except wisdom.
A writer I know and love signed a contract with a company I’d never heard of, Motina Books. He was happy with them and gushed about its founder, Diane Schellhaas Windsor. I was ecstatic for him because he, too, had been burned by my former publisher. So I sent Diane a friend request on a whim, which she accepted, and we started a dialog.
I did not ask for an opportunity, nor was that the reason I befriended her. As a publisher myself (cheese!), I wanted to learn from a scrupulous person who cared for and nurtured their authors. But then, one day, she mentioned that people had told her about my writing… and I fell in love.
The course veered back towards the center, and I willingly signed a two-book contract for ’11:59’ (looks prettier like that!) and ‘Singing to Butterflies. That was in late 2021, and after multiple edits, a rewrite, and a book cover I love, I finally have a release date for the novel I finished six years ago.
I’m counting down to August 23rd, 2022, when the novel will be released. I’m recruiting for my Advanced Reader Team, sending emails to bloggers, podcasts, bookstores, and libraries. So is Diane. So are all the members of my team. It’s really happening.
Had I not changed lanes in 2015, I wouldn’t be here at this moment. Likewise, if I had not changed direction a couple of other times, I would not be standing at the precipice of having a daydream fulfilled.
Of course, this brings me closer to my ultimate daydream, which consists of waking up every morning, Monday through Thursday, having a cup of coffee from my front porch swing as the world comes alive. Then, I’ll go back into the house, make my way to my office, turn on music, and open my laptop. I’ll write, send and answer emails, plan trips, and thank God continuously. I can see it… just over the hill.
Marlon S. Hayes is a writer and author from Chicago, Illinois. Motina Books will release his upcoming novel ’11:59’ on August 23rd. Be on the lookout. His prior works can be found on Amazon. Follow him on Facebook at Marlon’s Writings.