Fireworks on the Fourth (A Musical Murder Mystery)
I am happy to welcome Baraba to Escape With Dollycas today!
Many Musings, Mostly Musical: The Rocky Road to Publication
by B.J. Bowen
Much like rocky road ice cream, my journey to publication had many lumps, and the occasional unexpected treat. It required, for me, over twenty-five years, two writing groups, and an encouraging family to get me to the finish line.
I played with the Symphony when I started the first book. Looking for an activity to occupy my open hours, something completely different, I saw an advertisement in the window of a used bookstore; “NEW WRITING GROUP FORMING; At least five pages per week required. Inquire within.” I’d always loved cozy mysteries and decided on the spot to write one. “They” say to write what you know, so I decided the setting would be the orchestra.
I discovered writing is, for me, one of those activities in which I lose track of time. The writing group provided a whole new circle of friends. And they knew nothing about classical music. I was forced to explain terms and concepts I assumed people knew. They also taught me a lot about writing—to make a scene flow smoothly, to listen to the words I’ve used, and to see the necessity of eliminating little words that stop the action. I can’t say I learned those lessons flawlessly, but at least the group called my attention to those mechanics. Our meetings were the highlight of my week. By the time the bookstore closed five years later in 1999, I had a 27,000 word manuscript.
I started peddling it.
No go. Twenty-five query letters, twenty-five rejections. No explanation, only “We regret to inform you that your manuscript does not meet our needs at this time.” Sigh. I abandoned the manuscript and went on with life.
Then, in 2011 my 89-year-old mother was diagnosed with “mild cognitive decline” (Mild? She couldn’t find her way to the grocery store, and the doctor told her she could no longer drive). I quit work to take care of her. My reasoning went something like, “I have a finished manuscript waiting. I’ll just punch it up a little, sell it, and make money off that.”
During this period my daughter, having graduated from college, re-read the first chapter 16,234 times, and made approximately 18,794 suggestions. I now had a 54,000 word manuscript with characters that were better developed, a beginning that was snappier, and fleshed out action that, before, had only happened in my head. And eleven more rejections, all saying, “We regret to inform you that your manuscript does not meet our current needs.”
Then I went to a writer’s conference. Facilitators were encouraging, stating that it was a good idea, but my manuscript “might be a little short.” It needed to be at least 60,000 words. At the same time, I found my second writing group. Led by a retired English teacher, it was composed of published writers with incredible talent who were kind and encouraging, had good ideas, and didn’t hesitate to share them. Once again, my week was shaped by writing group.
I continued to flesh out characters, add yet another subplot, and slave over the beginning (my daughter read the first chapter and made suggestions countless more times; the group critiqued it at least 17 times). I worked the manuscript up to 67,000 words. Still no luck with sales.
Then we got a new member in the writing group. She was a twenty-something and, heaven bless her, great with the internet. She found a list of 50 agents interested in “mysteries,” and one of them was very specific about being interested in “cozies with a female protagonist, 70-100,000 words long, told in first person.” Just what I had!
I worked the manuscript up to 70,000 words (easy, peasy), queried her, and was accepted.
A terrific editor, she revised the manuscript (“eliminate just; this doesn’t make sense; that doesn’t make sense”) and, after six more rejections, found a buyer for the manuscript, who wanted two more books.
Now came more editing (too many repeated words; the protagonist is not likeable enough) and the fear that I wouldn’t have ideas for two more books. I eliminated, according to the computer, 859 “was”es. To my relief, fresh ideas came to me. In the meantime, the publisher urged, get an internet presence.
I already had 84 Facebook friends. My daughter made me a gorgeous website (www.barbarabowenauthor.com) and a Facebook business page. My (real) friends were excited for me.
I posted an announcement.
I was going to have to expand my “presence.” I decided to expand to friends of friends. The first day I “expanded” until I got carpal tunnel. 357. No matter how many friends of friends you add, Facebook can come up with more possibilities. On day two 484. On day three 532. I am currently at 1,200 friends and still counting.
But the Corona virus had hit. Paper shortages. Ink shortages. Personnel shortages. Delays. Patience required.
My advice? First, get a good therapist. Then, make sure your manuscript is as good as it can be and fits into standard length requirements. And get familiar with the internet and internet marketing.
That first book of the Musical Murders series, Music is Murder, was finally published in June, 2021. The second, Ballistics at the Ballet, was released in September 2022, and the third, Fireworks on the Fourth, was published May 9, 2023. Whew!
Are you interested in writing a book? Was this blog interesting/helpful? Let us know in the comments below.
Thank you for visiting today!
Keep reading for more info about B.J.’s new book!
About Fireworks on the Fourth
Fireworks on the Fourth (A Musical Murder Mystery)
3rd in Series
Setting – Colorado
Camel Press (May 9, 2023)
Paperback : 240 pages
ISBN-10 : 1684921112
ISBN-13 : 978-1684921119
Kindle ASIN : B0BVXNVBK1
The fiery festivities of the Symphony’s annual Fourth of July extravaganza feature cannons, liberty bells, and fireworks. But the noise covers gunshots which leave a shifty Board member dead and Emily Wilson’s friend, KC, the prime suspect. Can Emily face down blackmail, danger, and a threat to her loyal companion to find the killer?
About B.J. Bowen
Barbara Bowen is a freelance writer. She was a finalist and Honorable Mention in the 2018 Focus: Eddy Awards for her article, “Letting Go with Grace,” published in Unity Magazine. Ms. Bowen is also an accomplished professional oboist who played throughout Mexico and with the Colorado Springs Symphony for nineteen years.
Drawing on her quirky fellow musicians and orchestral experiences, she created the mystery series, Musical Murders. The first is Music is Murder (Release date, 6-9-21). The second is Ballistics at the Ballet (Release date 9-14-2022) The third is Fireworks on the Fourth (Release date 5-9-2023).
She is a member of Sisters in Crime, lives in Colorado with two canine friends, and has a song for any occasion.
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