Guest Blogger Margaret Fenton – Sometimes a Bad Day Turns Into a Good Day, Especially If There’s Gin

Sometimes a Bad Day Turns Into a Good Day, Especially If There’s Gin by Margaret Fenton

2007 was a great year. I went to Killer Nashville in August. I paid a lot of extra dollars and was given the opportunity to pitch my unpublished manuscript to either an agent or a representative from Oceanview Publishing. I chose the agent, a lady from New York whose name I no longer remember. I gave her my carefully prepared statement. I had written a mystery called Little Lamb Lost, about a child welfare social worker who gets to work one day and one of her clients, a boy just under two years old, is dead. The mother is arrested for murder. My protagonist, Claire Conover, was the social worker who was responsible for returning the child to the mother. Mom worked really hard to get her child back and make a good life for them both. Claire makes it her mission to figure out what happened. Sounds great, right?

The agent HATED IT. She berated me for ten minutes about how no one was going to buy a mystery where the victim was a child. Ever. I might as well give up and go home. I left that meeting feeling like my dreams would never come true, and that the two years I had spent on this manuscript were a horrible waste of time. And I had paid quite a bit of money to hear it. I went to the bar.

I ordered the largest gin and tonic the bartender could make. He noted the look on my face and did a great job. I sat in the bar and sipped. And sipped. And sipped. When my friend Don Bruns approached me, I was pretty buzzed. He asked me how the pitch went and I held back tears as I relayed what happened. Don is published by Oceanview, and volunteered to go get the rep from his publisher and let me pitch to her. I agreed and he left and returned with Maryglenn McCombs. I continued sipping.

I don’t remember exactly what I said to Maryglenn. I think it was a version of what I said to the agent, with the added statement that no one wants to read about a dead kid, apparently. She said it sounded interesting and asked to see it. I don’t think I believed her. No, really, send it to me, she said. I agreed, and suddenly the drinking became a celebration.

I mailed the manuscript when I got home and within two months I had a contract, an advance, and a pub date: June 1, 2009. I went on a small tour for the book and had the best time. Somewhere between the publishing of my first novel and my completion of the second novel in the series, Oceanview decided they were only going to publish thrillers. They asked me to make Little Girl Gone a thriller. I tried, but it’s not. It’s an amateur sleuth mystery. I sat on it for over three years, trying to decide what to do. I didn’t want to agent search. Eventually I decided to put it out through Amazon and CreateSpace. I miss having a publisher but like the freedom of making all the decisions. I’m working on the third book in the series, Little White Lies, and I hope it’s going to be out early next year. Thanks for letting me blog here, and I hope all your bad days turn to good days. If not, there’s always gin.

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Margaret Fenton, author of Little Girl Gone, grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and moved to Birmingham in 1996. She received her B.A. in English from the Newcomb College of Tulane University, and her Master of Social Work from Tulane. Fenton spent nearly ten years as a child and family therapist before taking a break to focus on her writing. Her work tends to reflect her interest in social causes and mental health, especially where kids are concerned. She serves as planning coordinator of Murder in the Magic City, a one-day, one-track annual mystery fan conference in Homewood, Alabama. She is President of the Birmingham Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of the Mystery Writers of America. Margaret lives in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover with her husband, a software developer.

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