In his book On Writing, Stephen King wrote, “And whenever I see a first novel dedicated to a wife (or a husband), I smile and think, There’s some one who knows. Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”
Many people have contributed to this first novel, but none more than my wife and best friend, Elysha, who has believed in me like no other, even allowing me to write while on our honeymoon. She is, in King’s words, my “constant reader” and the only one for whom I truly write.
Much appreciation to Mark Campopanio, the high school English teacher who first taught me that words can change minds, and to Patrick Sullivan and Jackie Dailey, Manchester Community College professors who convinced me that I had something to say.
Thanks to the Wolgemuths, Justine and Charles, for the indelible mark that they left on this book. It was Justine’s story of the loss of a single earring that first planted the seed of Martin in my head, and three years later, it was Charles who suggested the title that this book, minus one question mark, now bears.
Throughout the writing, I had many Dickens-esque readers who followed along chapter by chapter, and to each one of these people, I cannot express the appreciation that I feel for all of your support. I’ve always been an instant gratification type of guy, and writing can be anything but this. Knowing that you were out there, ready to read the next chapter just hours after it was finished, made all the difference for me.
A few people of particular note:
Cindy Raynis, who could always be counted on to drop everything in her life (save her children) and read the latest chapter with the greatest of enthusiasm. Her eye for detail allowed the first draft of this book to be cleaner and clearer than I could have ever managed on my own.
Jane Casper, whose constant barrage of questions about the book and its characters helped me to find the heart of Martin. When she began to speak of Martin as a real human being, I knew that I was onto something good.
Kelly Shepard, who probably loved Martin before me. Her instant affection for the character and her sage advice helped me discover aspects of Martin’s character that I did not know existed.
Matthew Shepard, the reader who seems to share my brain. I could always depend upon Matt to notice an amusing play on words or a vague and nearly indiscernible reference that other readers might miss. Many a time I would write a sentence, smile, and think, “No one else will notice this, but Shep will love it.” Rarely was I wrong. His comments, critique and suggestions shaped the book into what it has become. The world will be a more interesting place when Shep ew picks up a pen and begins writing himself.
Melissa Danasko, my editor, who dispelled all my fears that an editor is a mean and scary person who wants to tear down a writer’s work, sentence by sentence. Melissa managed to skillfully guide the work in the right direction while allowing me to retain ownership of the process. Through her keen insight, Martin and his story came into a sharper and deeper focus than I could have ever envisioned on my own.
Taryn Fagerness, known officially as my literary agent, but a person who I think of as my friend in writing. For all her skill and expertise on the business end of publishing, it was Taryn’s unwavering support of this book, her love for Martin, and most important, her ability to collaborate with a fledgling author on this book that made this possible. When a manuscript is miraculously plucked from the slush pile, it is a credit to the author for the work that he or she has done, but I believe it is even more a credit to the agent, who was willing to take a chance on a non-credentialed nobody from nowhere and shout “Yes!” when so many others said “No.” She has been my hero, my guiding force, and in many ways, my partner on this literary journey.