Don’t you love to learn about beginnings? I’m talking about that moment when a door cracks open for someone.

copper star 250Everything changed for Ellen DeGeneres, for example, when Johnny Carson enjoyed her monologue for The Tonight Show so much that he had her come sit down for a moment after she finished. Tom Clancy was seeking a contract for his first novel, The Hunt for Red October, but it was rejected numerous times by mainstream publishers. Finally the Naval Institute Press accepted it, and President Ronald Reagan catapulted Clancy to stardom by saying “it was his kind of yarn.”

I’m not as funny as Ellen DeGeneres and I’m not as clever as Tom Clancy, but my big break came when a small royalty press agreed to publish my first novel, Copper Star, a little World War II love story. For years I had freelanced for magazine articles and was at a point in my life when I had the time and desire to get very serious about writing. Plus, I was at an age when I had stories to tell. (There’s a reason that most first novels are written between the ages of forty-eight and fifty-two. You finally have something to say.)

My hopes for Copper Star were cautious ones—I have never had grand illusions of my talent. I think I’m more of a craftsman than an artist. I did try a few large publishing houses and was soundly rejected. But then an offer came in from Vinspire, and accepting it felt like the right thing to do.

Boy, was it ever! Partnering with a small royalty press was an ideal way for me to accelerate my growth as a published author. I learned the business side of writing because I couldn’t sit passively by while a large publishing house handled the book’s distribution. I needed to help publicize my book, get comfortable with public speaking, radio interviews, manage a blog and website. Basically, I had to learn how to self-promote . . . which is very awkward but critically important for every author. Every single one, big shot or little shot. 

Throughout the next two years, I wrote a few more books for Vinspire, including one non-fiction book (Grit for the Oyster) for which I created a unique template. My books received some awards (easier to do with a small press) and caught the attention of an agent. She introduced me to an editor who was looking for an author on a specific project. I was able to use the template I had created for Grit to make a proposal for this editor. It was a perfect fit for what she had in mind for this non-fiction book and evolved into a book called Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World (Revell). That book has been a consistent bestseller and was a finalist for the ECPA Book of the Year.

Since then, I have contracted with Revell for more than twenty-five books, fiction and non-fiction. At the time of this writing, I’m contracted into 2018. Almost every book has hit CBA/ECPA bestseller lists.

And it all started when Vinspire said yes. My beginning!

Copper Star is still selling for Vinspire, and it is now available as an audio book!  Share an important “beginning” in your life for a chance to win the audio version of Copper Star! Ten will win! I’ll announce the winner next Friday.


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