Monday, August 9, 2010

A Writer’s Journey: Say Cheese!

By Avery Aames (a.k.a. Daryl Wood Gerber)

Getting published is hard work. It takes tenacity. It takes passion. It takes friends who won’t let you give up. J.A. Konrath says: "What do you call a writer with perseverance? PUBLISHED!"

Are you just about to give up? Don’t!

Over the course of fifteen years, I wrote a number of books, both traditional mystery and suspense thrillers. I submitted these books to agent after agent and received a number of comments like, “This is so close, but it’s just not for me.” [Sound familiar?]

Two years ago, when I was ready to give up, a critique partner suggested I write to the market. ‘Cozies are selling,’ she said. With nothing to lose, I decided to give it a whirl.

But before I wrote another full book, I wanted to make sure that the cozy hook that I’d chosen was a good hook. I approached agent Jessica Faust at Bookends, whom I had met a writers’ conference. She had given me encouragement on previous work. I asked if I could submit cozy ideas to her to see if they would fly with a publisher. She agreed. I submitted professionally crafted bibles, [my bibles included sample chapters, an overview of the series, character sketches, and a basic outline], but none captured her fancy. After a few tries, we agreed that maybe we weren’t of like mind, so I asked if she’d be upset if I approached her fellow agent, Jacky Sach, who I had also met at a conference. Jessica gave her blessing.

I approached Jacky with the same request. Jacky agreed. I tried three, but she didn’t think any would appeal to a publisher, so I tried three more. Mind you, each of these took me a while to write, and mind you Jacky was such a good sport! Again, I received encouragement from Jacky, but none of the ideas were “just right.” Because I knew of people who had been “hired” to write books based on a bible created by the publisher, I asked Jacky if she would keep me in mind if she heard of an opportunity. [Note: I used to write in Hollywood. I created the format for a series on TV called “Out of this World.” I had no qualms about writing somebody else’s idea.] Jacky said she would.

I didn’t waste another moment thinking about the possibility, and I returned to what I had been writing before I changed track – a suspense thriller. Note: I was still considering giving up writing, but I hadn’t decided what I would do next with my life, and sitting on the couch day in, day out was out of the question (for me). I polished my new novel and started the quest again to find an agent who would think it was the most brilliant piece of writing ever. I received requests for full manuscripts and was feeling pretty sure that something was going to break for me this time…soon. [Perseverance requires that you see the rainbow behind the clouds!] At the same time, I took a cozy writing class and a suspense writing class. I polished new chapters and ideas through my critique group. And, yes, I had the occasional mini-pity party. [Note: Don’t let pity parties last longer than twenty-four hours. It takes grit to stop a pity-party, but you can do it.]

And then one day, out of the blue, I received an email from Jacky. She had a work-for-hire possibility. Would I be interested in auditioning for A Cheese Shop Mystery series? Of course, I would! A cheese shop sounded tasty, fun, and felt like a perfect fit for me. I loved to cook. I used to cater. I almost sold wine and The Cheese Shop, per the publisher’s bible, had a wine annex. Last but not least, the grandmother who raised the protagonist was a sassy character who managed the local theater. It just so happened that I had acted in local theaters and on television and in film.

To audition for the job, I was asked to provide three chapters. I set to work, researching, tasting, and writing. Working within the publisher’s parameters provided a freedom I’d never felt before. I was writing something that had a strong hook and was already “wanted” by the publisher. In a matter of weeks, I turned in the chapters.

But I didn’t kid myself that I would be hired. I’d been rejected before. So I returned to my regular job of writing the next book.

When I was offered a three-book deal, I just about fell off my chair. I was going to be published, writing something I truly enjoyed!

In the future, I hope to sell one of my own stories, but for now, I write as Avery Aames, author of A Cheese Shop Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, and I’m thrilled and proud.

My advice: If opportunity knocks on your door, open it and: Say Cheese!
Avery Aames (aka Daryl Wood Gerber) is a long-time member of Sisters in Crime and the author of The Long Quiche Goodbye, first in the Cheese Shop Mysteries.  Avery blogs every Monday with Mystery Lovers Kitchen.  Check out her web site at

(This article originally appeared on the Bookends Blog.)


Lesa said...

And, I can say, Avery did a great job walking through that door when it opened for her. She sets the scene so well in that mystery that you have to have cheese while reading the book. Good luck, Avery.

Lesa -

Avery Aames said...

Ah, Lesa, thank you SO much.

Karen in Ohio said...

Oh, my gosh, you're like the poster child for Persistence, Avery!

Congratulations, and thank you for sharing your story.

Dru said...

I'm so glad you kept knocking on the doors because sooner or later, the doors have to open.

Congrats and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Kaye George said...

You know, I've read this all before, since I've been following you from blog to blog, D/A, but I sorta get goosebumps every time I read it.

You are my idol! And I'm SO glad this is working out so well for you. Your book is on display at the checkout counter at my B&N! I, of course, told the B&N worker that I knew you.

Julie Tollefson said...

You're such an inspiration! I picked up THE LONG QUICHE GOODBYE this weekend during my local SINC chapter meeting. Can't wait to read it.

Avery Aames said...

Aren't you all sweet. As I've said to so many, I could not have stuck it out if not for SinC Guppies!!
~Avery a.k.a Daryl

June Shaw said...

What a great job--and what persistence! Avery, I started reading your book last night and am really enjoying it.

Susan Breen said...

That's an incredible story. Your journey is so positive, although in a long and sort of terrifying way. I love the title of your book.

Norma Huss said...

I absolutely had to eat cheese while I read your book. And I wished there was a cheese (and wine) shop like Charlotte's nearby!

Actually, the book was more delicious than any cheese I had in my refriderator.

All the best.