Monthly Archives: January 2020

The Story Behind “Delilah” Part III

The “Delilah” excitement for others died down, but I was trying to write my second book. Year by year was ticking by me and I felt so much pressure and had major writer’s block. I felt I was letting everyone and myself down. Then I heard about a class at Barnes and Noble of how to get your self-published book into their store. That’s where I met Kelly Flemming, the manager who taught the class. He loved my book cover, saying that a book cover is half the battle of attracting people to your book. Every year they have an event for a few chosen self-published authors.

I applied and while I waited to find out if I would be one of the chosen few, I decided, now was the time to finish cleaning up the last few edits. And… to be brave and do something I had wanted in my book for twenty years.

In 1998, I worked in the Children’s department of the Cobb County Public Library in Marietta, GA (essentially Atlanta). I came across a fairy tale book called The Snow Queen. It was a newer version of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, by Neil Phillip. There was a quote that I knew would be perfect. I had xeroxed the page and kept it all those years with my beginning Delilah notes. I had also, during those twenty years, found a copy of the book. I thought about it all the time. Oh, how much I wanted that quote in the beginning of my book! But I was scared to death of infringing on copyrights and even though I tried to study about them and ask people questions, I was still too scared to actually go for it; thinking the Copyright Police would find me and tell me I did it wrong. But I was not going to let fear hold me back anymore.

I decided to google him and I found him! He was still alive and living in England. I wrote an email to him. So nervous. But the next day I got an enthusiastic reply. He said he would give me permission and gladly!

O. M. G! “Delilah” was bringing me so many dreams coming true. And so my third edition came about, better than ever with everything as it should be. All of my dream exactly as I wanted.

Then I found out I was chosen out of many to be a part of the January 2017 Chattanooga, TN Barnes & Noble event.  There were seven of us ready to share our stories on that Saturday. We were each given an official Barnes and Noble event poster with our book cover on it. I could not believe how my “Delilah” journey was continuing. I sold fifteen out of my seventeen books that day. One lady came all the way across the store and found me. She said, “I saw your poster and just knew that is a book I would like to read.” And she got one for her friend too!

“Delilah” at Barnes & Noble.

Things died down after awhile. I thought I had lost my chance forever to get another book in Barnes and Noble. Felt like Kelly Flemming had forgotten me and I lost any future chance to be in the know. I was still struggling with writer’s block. But last year, I decided to join a book club with a new library that opened the year prior in Soddy Daisy, TN. And lo and behold the library was owned by none other than Kelly Flemming! This had to be Divine intervention. I could not believe it. And yet, the whole story came from God to begin with. Why would He let me down? Last summer, I got to choose the book the club would read for August and I chose Delilah. Our little group only hosted about five to six members, but in August, we had fourteen people show up to hear me talk about my book. And I was blessed with their love for it. I even read them the first chapter from the sequel.

Delilah is based on my own personal experiences. Though she is not exactly like me, she has many layers too. In the first book we only get to see a few layers. I wanted to open up more, but I didn’t know how, until after I spent a year in therapy. (A whole other blog someday, maybe.) August 22, 2019 was when I feel I was ‘born again’ or born for the first time. I have been coming out of writer’s block and am finally completing the sequel.

I plan to move my books from the original place I published with to Barnes and Noble Press. I plan to have photo shoots to revise the first book cover and make the second one also. I plan to get the third one photographed as well, while I have my “Delilah” available. (My cosplay friend Alexis.)

I plan to market, market, market. Thank you for joining me on this journey. This is my dream.

The Story Behind “Delilah” Part II

The thing is. Many months earlier, I had found her online and wanted her to be my agent. And when I heard she attends the writer’s conference, I signed up to go. But then she tore me to pieces and I was a nervous wreck around her. Although I admired her knowledge and wanted to learn from her. This prize, this opportunity meant the world to me. I did it! Slash was going to have to read my pages! And I set out to make them better.

After a couple months I got a reply from her. She turned me down for representation, but she said even though I was nervous (I mean I shook the table and sloshed her glass of water), I did a great job on my reading at the contest. She said my writing was good and had potential, but that Chick Lit is a very competitive genre now and she didn’t feel it was a right fit for her. From that day forward, I spent every evening after work pulling together all the pieces of ten years of writing and wove them into my finished book and signed up for the conference in spring 2006. I pitched my book to an editor from Random House. I was so excited about it that she was swept up in my storytelling and asked me to send her the WHOLE book. It is a rare thing to be asked for the whole book. I was on Cloud 9. I mailed my book to New York. Delilah was sitting in a New York publishing house!

But then I got a rejection a couple months later. I tried not to get down on myself. I knew I still had something. I had just spent so long living it and writing it that I missed the timing. But things come back around and maybe one day it would succeed. That’s when a few years later I decided enough of this, I was going to self-publish. That way, the story would truly remain my writing style and not be morphed into mainstream writing that I feel all blends together.

I published my book in October 2011. I was so excited to finally sit back and relax and read my book, but I found typo after typo. My father helped me edit, but he worked on a hardcopy and I transferred his changes to the computer and my eyes missed a lot. Oh wow. My friends were all buying this atrocity. In spring 2012, I revised edits and made a second edition and paid for a Kindle version. Again, there were still some edits I missed. But I let it go. That fall, a year after my book was out in the world, I received an award.

An author friend of mine had nominated my book for a B.R.A.G. Medallion. It is an award from a group called indieBRAG. Geri Clouston is the president and 2012 was the first year they gave out awards. Their goal is the recognize the cream of the crop from self-published books. Ninety-five percent of self-published books are not worth reading for one reason or another. This is why, people had look down on self-publishing for so many years, and why serious writers, are skeptical about making that journey. I was at a party one night and my sister told someone I published a book. The lady was so excited and interested in me at that point and asked who the publisher was. I said, “I self-published” and she said, “Oh” and immediately snubbed me. I didn’t need her friendship anyway, but that is the reaction people give to self-publishing. Until recent years. And indieBRAG has been a big part in changing opinions.

In my first couple years as an author I put myself out there as much as my time and bravery would let me, to do book clubs and book events. I spoke at the Decatur Book Festival in 2012. (Picture of me on the front page of my blog.) I made a 1950s dress to wear as my costume to make my appearances more interesting and fun. I was having so much fun! This was (is) my calling.

My book reached #4 at a local bookstore’s top ten listing.

The Story Behind “Delilah” Part I

I had a very bad experience at my first job out of college and I moved back home to recoup. What was going to be a temporary layover in my life journey, ended up being two years. (My whole life is filled with long stories, so I’m just going to keep moving forward with my Delilah story.) I turned twenty-four a month after I moved back home. Then I turned twenty-five and twenty-six. Still at home. I remember going on a date and later that night, my dad said, “Victoria! He is a redneck!” But who else was I going to meet in a redneck southern town? It was slowly dawning on me, that I needed to kick myself out of the house. But I still didn’t know how to do it.

One morning, before I moved out, I woke up and a title for a book was given to me by God (the Universe). It just flowed through my mind. The Dating Dilemmas of Delilah Dunnfield. It would be about a southern girl approaching twenty-five and realizing if she didn’t leave the small town, she may end up an old maid. Her mother told her all through her growing up years that “all the good ones are gone by the time you reach twenty-five.”

It came from the fact that my mother told all of us kids (five) that all the good ones are gone by the time you reach twenty-five. Well, there was no hope for me, I was already well into my twenty-sixth year. But maybe my character would have better luck than me and I could live vicariously through her. So, I started writing a novel in October 1996. A novel about a young woman coming of age in her twenties. I had no idea at the time that I had been a part of a collective consciousness forming the genre Chick Lit. “Bridget Jones” was published in 1996. But I didn’t know this until the movie came out in 2001. I read a couple Jane Green novels in 1998. I still didn’t know the significance of these books. I was still writing my book.

My handmade cover before the real one.

I moved to Memphis in November 1996 and then moved to Atlanta in November 1997. Still collecting experiences to add to my book. I went to a Microsoft Office seminar once in Atlanta with one of my first corporate jobs and I was telling the instructor about my book. When she heard the title she said, “That sounds like a best seller!” I have never forgotten that. And why should it not be? The book was Inspired and given to me by God. This story means so much to me. I will never give up on it.

I moved to Denver in 2000 and met some amazing creative writers. (Which is a whole other blog story.) In 2005 I found out about Pikes Peak Writers Group and their annual writing conference. Wow. I had never joined a writing group before. I had just been floating around trying to figure things out on my own. I went to the conference and was so amazed. I found my people! I never knew life was so LIFE before. I never knew how I could be so connected to my dreams before!

I had not completed “Delilah” yet, but I joined a class taught by a coveted literary agent to gain feedback on my first few pages. Boy, was I slashed and trashed. No one volunteered to read first, and I had so much confidence in my story that I decided I would be brave and go for it. I read the first three pages with confidence and then she tore it to pieces. I wanted to crawl under my chair and die.

“Nobody laughed because we didn’t know what was going on!” On and on it went. I personally don’t think anyone was listening to me, because they were probably too nervous about reading their own story. And I can also say, NO ONE volunteered to go second.

I dragged my little story and broken heart home with me and began re-working it. A couple of months later I saw an email come through from Pikes Peak Writers to enter a contest, mimicking American Idol. You could read any place in your book that you wanted to read from. It had to last three minutes. And the sign up was first come first serve. I immediately signed up. I had two weeks to prepare for the event. I bought crazy pajamas to act the part of Delilah. I re-worked my favorite chapter (Welcome Guests) to read for the three-minute time slot and I memorized it. I could not wait for everyone to be introduced to Delilah the proper way.

My friend who lived in Colorado Springs invited me to spend the night at her house and I invited her to be my guest at the event. We sat at a table in the back of the room. There were a little less than a hundred people in the room and I think fifteen contestants would read. There were four judges, one being a Hollywood screenwriter, one an editor, and two authors. I think my number to read was twelve. So I had a long wait. I was very nervous. I left the table to go change from my dress into my pajamas. When I got back to the table my friend was gone and none other than Ms. Slash and Trash herself was sitting in her place! Gulp.

“This seat is saved,” she said. She recognized me and my lame beginning. Sigh.

“Oh, it’s my table and my friend.”

“Oh, I didn’t know. She just asked me to make sure to save the seats.”

“Okay. Thanks. Hi,” I nervously smiled.

“Hi.”

Sit. Sit. Sit. Wait. Wait. Then my friend, Pam finally came back over and started a conversation with Slash and I. Whew.

Halfway into the readings of serious literary stories, or young adult fiction, the Hollywood screenwriter hollered out to the room, “Anyone got any Chick Lit out there?” I raised my hand. Oh my goodness! I was the only one, and he was really wanting to hear my story. Then it was my turn to read. I stood at the podium with a spotlight shining on me and ninety people in front of me. All eyes were on me. Gulp.

I decided it was best not to go from memory, but to just read from the paper. (Of course, since I had it memorized, I just used paper as a guide.) I did all the voices and Southern accents and dramatizations. After the second sentence the whole room burst into laughter. YES! Take that, Slash!

Laughter rang out throughout my whole three minutes and I was in heaven. At the end the judges took turns telling me their opinions. It was all so good. “What a way to meet your dream guy- in handcuffs with your mail!” “How many of us have had our underwear stolen from the laundry?” Everyone agreed it was hilarious and relatable. The only real criticism was that I needed to expand more on one area when the cops come to the door. (Which I later did, in a way that really happened to me in fifth grade and I doubt those judges would have ever guessed it would have worked so well.)

After the remaining three contestants read their stories, the judges left to deliberate on the four main prizes to be given. First thirty pages to be read by Donald Maas… People’s choice (voted by everyone in the room), first thirty pages to be read by Slash and another thirty-page reading prize by another agent.

My name was called. MY NAME WAS CALLED! I got up to walk to the stage and then they had me turn around and told me I won the Ms. Slash and Trash prize. (Of course, they used her real name.) Oh my goodness!