Saturday, December 12, 2015

I'm nearly famous

 This weekend's guest blogger is my long-time friend Madona Skaff, a fellow Ottawa writer who has just published her first thriller, Journey of a Thousand Steps, with Renaissance Press. Madona was part of my first critiquing group twenty years ago, and in a nice touch, the model on her book cover is my daughter Dana. I'm delighted to welcome Madona to Type M.

 I’d like to thank Barbara for inviting me. I’ve been writing fiction long before my earliest memories. My mother used to tell me that she’d often overhear me with the neighbourhood kids, telling them about assorted wild escapades. She’d ask, “When did that happen?” My answer was always, “Oh, I’m just telling them stories.” Eventually she stopped asking questions and began to eavesdrop.

Later I started publishing short stories. Most recently, two of them appeared in The Whole She-Bang 2, an anthology published by the Toronto chapter of Sisters in Crime. I was so proud to find out that one of my stories, First Impressions, was named a finalist in the 2015 Arthur Ellis Awards.

I’ve also been writing full length books, though the road has been much bumpier. The first one was a Star Trek novel. After spending a week perfecting my query letter, I couldn’t believe it when the publisher asked to read the whole manuscript. But when they rejected it, thanks to franchise copyright, there weren’t any other possible markets. Obviously it was easy to get my novel into the hands of eager publishers. Ah, to be young and naive.

Working on the next two books taught me a lot about the art of creating a novel. But more importantly, what worked, what didn’t and what killed the story’s flow. I thought I’d finally hit my stride with my fourth – a high tech thriller. Unfortunately, it took so long making the rounds to several publishers, that the cutting edge technology I’d invented, sadly, became ordinary. I had a wonderful science professor in university, whose favourite saying was, “No failed experiment is a complete loss, because even negative results teach us something”.  The book isn’t completely lost because I did manage to come up with a way to fix it.

I took everything I’d learned and applied it to my next book. It was completely different from what I’d written before. No aliens. No trail of dead bodies. It took three years and almost 30 queries before Journey of a Thousand Steps was accepted by Renaissance Press. 
       I signed the contract in April with a proposed publication date of December 2015. Putting everything else on hold, I sailed through several rounds of editing and was rewarded with an early release date in September. Hugging, I mean holding a copy of my first novel, I cycled through a series of emotions. Not only joy, but also anxiety and fear. Would people buy it? Would they like it?

As soon as my friends discovered that it was available, they refused to wait for the book launch. Aha! Sales! One bought three copies. She told me that her friend had read my stories in The Whole-She Bang 2 and loved my writing. When she discovered that I now had a novel, she was thrilled. So was I. Imagine, I actually have a fan! I don’t know what’s next on my book adventure. Just to be safe, I probably should keep a pair of sunglasses handy in case the paparazzi start showing up.

Madona Skaff was a research technologist and now writes full time. She’s published several science fiction and mystery short stories. Journey of a Thousand Steps (from Renaissance Press) is her first mystery novel. It’s the story of Naya, a marathon runner, who becomes disabled and hides at home to recover. But when her friend disappears and the police don’t believe anything’s wrong, Naya leaves the safety of her home to find her. She ignores her physical limitations to follow a convoluted trail from high tech suspects to drug dealers, all while becoming an irritant to the police.

Visit Madona Skaff at for more information.

1 comment:

Madelle Morgan said...

Congratulations, Madona!

I'm going to Amazon to look up your works right now!