Here I am, back again after another bit of an absence, trying to bring this blog back to life. As mentioned in previous posts, I am re-posting things I wrote in an earlier blog that disappeared into the always-night of cyberspace.
Here is a bit of commentary I am reintroducing. It is a post I wrote about Black Diamond Rendezvous in 2009. Black Diamond Rendezvous is available at Amazon.
Black Diamond Rendezvous is my fourth traditional western novel and my first paperback original. It was published in May 1998 by Leisure Books (Dorchester Publishing). It was actually the third western I wrote, but it was the fourth published, which probably doesn’t matter much to anyone but myself. However, there is a mini-chapter here on the topic of how, why, or why not a work will be published.
This novel is unlike other traditional westerns I wrote at this stage in my career. After writing what I hoped were atypical westerns of character, idea, and landscape, I thought I would try to write one that dealt more with action and danger, with a protagonist who would defeat his enemies, have good triumph over evil, and win the girl. I wanted to work with a character who was young, hedonistic, impulsive, and not always careful and who therefore got himself into deadly trouble. So I wrote Black Diamond Rendezvous without consulting anybody or trying to get a contract ahead of time. With my self-appointed liberty I had a great deal of fun writing it, and it turned out the way I wanted it to.
The novel is unlike other traditional westerns I wrote at this stage in my career.John D. Nesbitt
When I finished it, I sent it to Jackie Johnson, my editor at Walker, who had worked closely with me on my first two books and had kept me on the straight and narrow as far as possibly offensive content went. She wrote me a very nice letter of rejection for Black Diamond Rendezvous, closing with an assurance that she would still be interested in other westerns by me. I was disappointed, of course, but I had been through plenty of rejection in the past, and I took her at her word that she was still interested in working with me. I called her up, just to have a post-mortem on this attempt. Among other things, I thought she might not have appreciated what I was attempting and how I was trying to do something different from my previous work. In the course of the conversation I explained what I was up to with the manuscript, how I was attempting to be a bit ironic and play around with allegory and archetypes while at the same time trying to write a less pensive but perhaps still cerebral work. She listened to me with exemplary patience, and then she said, “I think I understand that, John. But I don’t know why someone would want to do that.”
Well, for one thing, that told me I wasn’t going to get her to re-consider this, my most recent and (to me) very clever piece of work. It also told me that in the future, I would run my story ideas past her first so that she would have a sense of investment in the work. She was very good at talking over story ideas and assuring me that everything that came out of our conversation was mine to work with, as all she did was respond to my ideas. So that was fine. I got back on track with her to do Wild Rose of Ruby Canyon, which was one of the last westerns published by Walker. But that is another story.
Back to Black Diamond Rendezvous. I wrote it in the summer of 1995, had it rejected before many months went by, and then spent quite a while trying to interest someone else in it. I sent it (unwittingly) to publishers who referred me to book doctors, to publishers who were over-committed, to publishers who really didn’t do westerns (in spite of listings that said they did), and on and on—all the travails of anyone who writes a novel manuscript and tries to find a home for it. I even got to talk to a couple of assistant editors (one who passed the manuscript on to another), the second of which told me, in that eternal sophomoric style, that he wasn’t sure about the manuscript because he always rooted for the bad guy.
Finally I got a break. At about the time Walker was closing down its hardcover western line, Dorchester was reviving its western line with its Leisure Books imprint. A good (and valued) friend in Western Writers of America told me that the editor was looking for new work and that I should try to get in right away. This was in early 1997. A few months later, I was informed that Leisure Books had acquired paperback rights to One-Eyed Cowboy Wild, my first Walker western. After confirming this news with my editor, I got into contact with Don D’Auria, who was getting the Leisure western line up and running and who had the manuscript of Black Diamond Rendezvous. It worked out well for me, as publishers like to have authors who show promise of continuity and who are therefore worth investing in. One-Eyed Cowboy Wild came out in August 1997, and Black Diamond Rendezvous came out, as noted above, in May of the next year. Twin Rivers, my second Walker western, had come out in paperback in February of 1997 with HarperCollins, so now I was into paperback reprint and paperback original.
I was a happy boy. Not only did I find a home for Black Diamond Rendezvous, but I also landed on my feet when my previous publisher quit doing westerns. In addition to that, Don D’Auria liked Black Diamond Rendezvous and was interested in doing more westerns with me. That was over ten years ago, and I have been with Don and Leisure Books ever since. During that time, I have returned on a few occasions to write in the more ironic, carefree mode of Black Diamond Rendezvous, so I see this novel as also initiating one kind of western that I have continued to write.
I will always be indebted to Jackie Johnson for having picked me up out of the street, as it were, and for having discovered me as a western writer. She made my career possible, and Don D’Auria has had faith in me and has helped me keep going. There is nothing guaranteed in this business, and writers (at least at my level) always have to deal with insecurity, so it is nice to look back and appreciate that moment in 1997 at which I was saved from being thrown out into the street where I came from.