WHEN YOU COME TO A FORK IN THE ROAD,
by Henry McLaughlin
Like many first time authors, my journey to publication at times seemed like driving with a GPS system that spoke Latin and the maps were in Braille. I labored through several re-writes, attended conferences and workshops, joined local and online writers groups, read books and articles on writing.
My first correct turn was a divinely arranged meeting DiAnn Mills who, for reasons I still can’t comprehend, saw something worthwhile in my first few pages. Thus began a relationship in which DiAnn mentors, encourages and challenges me. I attended her fiction mentoring clinics and came out of them a better writer.
At the same time, I was working my way through the Christian Writers Guild courses: Apprentice, Journeyman and Craftsman, learning more of who I was and what my story was about and how to craft it.
My book was rejected by several publishers and agents, but I took hope when I heard Jack London was rejected over 700 times before his first sale. Although, it did dissuade me from writing about dogs and the frozen North.
In 2008, at the encouragement of others, I entered the Operation First Novel contest sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild and Tyndale House. I received a very nice letter from the Guild thanking me for my entry and congratulating me on finishing a novel.
In 2009, after more rejections from agents and more re-writes, I pondered entering the contest again. I must have pondered a long time because I recently found a receipt showing I sent my entry overnight priority mail two days before the deadline.
In early November, 2009, I learned I was one of ten semi-finalists for the award. My reaction: Good, I can use that when I pitch to agents and publishers. In mid-November, the Guild announced four finalists. I was not among them. And I was fine with this.
Jump ahead to the Guild’s Writing for the Soul conference in February, 2010. At the opening session of the conference, Jerry B. Jenkins stands to announce the winner but first says there was a mistake: there were five finalists, not four. He reads the finalists off alphabetically by title. I hear my book listed and I think, “Cool. I can use that when I pitch to agents and editors during the conference.”
Then, Mr. Jenkins announced my book as the winner of the 2009 Operation First Novel award. Total shock. One of my writing friends had to shove me out of my chair to go up to the platform. The rest of the conference passed in a blur.
After the conference, the work began. I partnered with an editing team from Tyndale and we worked diligently on the manuscript to prepare it for publication. It went through three months of a major re-write to eliminate too many POV characters, to give deeper story arcs to the male and female protagonists, tie up loose ends and tighten up the writing. This included a marathon weekend with my editor to review the final draft before Tyndale sent it for the galley proofs to be printed.
Then came the months of waiting for it to be printed and distributed.
In January of this year it was released. Seeing my book in a book store for the first time was indescribable as I contemplated that the words God inspired me to write were out there to touch hearts and minister to people.
JOURNEY TO RIVERBEND
by Henry McLaughlin
Tyndale House Publishers, January 2011
Michael Archer is nothing if not a man of his word. Though he was unable to save Ben Carstairs, Michael is determined to carry out Ben's dying wish: to be reconciled with his father. Unfortunately, Sam Carstairs, one of the most ruthless businessmen on the frontier, has no use for his own son, much less a man of God seeking reconciliation.
Soon after arriving in Riverbend, Michael meets and falls for the stunning Rachel Stone while waiting for Sam to return from a business trip. Beautiful yet guarded, Rachel seems to be running from a past as dark as Michael's. When word reaches town that Sam has been kidnapped on the stagecoach home, Michael offers to join the search party formed by the local sheriff. With a budding romance behind him and a dangerous rescue ahead of him, he sets out on the trail, determined to complete his journey no matter the cost.
Henry McLaughlin is the 2009 winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest. He has a master's degree in social work and spent many years working in the public child welfare system. It was in this role that he first honed his writing skills in preparing concise and accurate court reports and petitions. He retired from that career in 1999 to work with Kenneth Copeland Ministries. Henry and his wife, Linda, have been married for over forty years and live in Saginaw, Texas. They have five children, the oldest of whom is in heaven, and one grandchild.