Hi, everyone. I’m excited and thrilled to be featured on Highlighted Author. I want to thank Charlene A. Wilson and Julianne Tomczak for providing me with this opportunity to share tidbits about myself and my debut novel, THE DRAGON’S RING.
I’m from central Illinois, Land of Lincoln. Lincoln’s home, Presidential Library and Museum are only a few miles away. I live in the country, and my house is built on ground that has been in my family since 1892. Over six generations have called it home. I guess one can say I’m well-rooted.
Although I don’t have any children, I have several nieces and nephews, and am “Mama” to two dogs, Honey, whom I rescued from the animal shelter, and a Chihuahua named CeCe. When I write in my home office, Honey is at my feet, snoring. When I work on revisions, I read my stories aloud, and my dogs are great listeners.
I’ve always loved writing, ever since grade school. I had some great teachers who encouraged me, both in grade school and high school. I started working as a clerk typist after graduation, but did take some night courses at Lincoln Land Community College.
When my nieces and nephews were young, I wrote stories to entertain them. I submitted my manuscripts a few times to publishers, but after receiving rejections for my work, I gave up.
My life changed in April, 2012. I was on a tour of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, crossing places I always wanted to visit off my “bucket list.” While sipping tea in a homey café in Grassmere, England with Ilana Ostrar and Sarah Schoon, two other ladies on the tour, our conversation turned to writing. Ilana is both an illustrator and writer, and she blogs about her Pitbull, Mika. Sarah has a blog, too, about fuzzy animals. I told them about my stories, and they encouraged me to join SCBWI, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It seemed fitting to be talking about writing at this quaint English village, as nearby was Dove Cottage where England’s famous poet, William Wordsworth, once lived. (I have a picture of Dove Cottage on my twitter page as it is the place where my writing career began.)
Following Ilana and Sarah’s advice, I joined SCBWI in May, and attended my first conference, Words in the Woods, in June. I joined a writers group, the Scribes, and learned how to format and submit manuscripts to agents and publishers. In November I attended the Prairie Writer’s and Illustrator’s Day Conference where I met many aspiring writers and participated in workshops given by agents and publishers. This was 2012. By December, 2013, I had a short story published in Guardian Angel Kids’ e-zine, and a picture book, CALAMITY CAT, published by MeeGenius. (My PB is now part of the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishing company. Hopefully, in 2017 it will be added to their Curious World website.)
Becoming a published author sounds easy, but it isn’t. After the writing, critiquing and revisions, there are the Query letters to send out; and then come the rejections. I have a file drawer filled with rejections, but I didn’t let them stop me. I kept honing my craft and submitting. I never gave up, and that’s my advice to aspiring writers. Don’t give up. Keep learning, keep improving, and keep submitting.
Pitching on twitter is one of my favorite ways to put my work out there. There are so many twitter “parties” these days, #PitWars, #PBPitch, #Pit2Pub, to name a few. February 3rd I pitched several of my stories on #Pit2Pub. If a publisher liked the pitch, they would favorite it by clicking on the heart symbol. I had 6 faves that day, and two were for THE DRAGON’S RING. On February 23rd Stephanie Taylor, publisher for Clean Reads, offered me a contract. I accepted, and my YA romantic fantasy/fairytale was on its way to publication.
It was during this time I was having health issues, but only my family knew. The day I pitched on #Pit2Pub I was supposed to have had a sonogram. It was cancelled, so I stayed home and spent the day on twitter.
The day after I sent Stephanie my pre-edits, February 29th, I had an outpatient biopsy. March 4th I learned I had Endometrial Cancer, Stage 1. Surgery for a total hysterectomy was scheduled.
A couple of days before my March 14th surgery, I sent Stephanie my proofs. I wasn’t going to let cancer stop me from achieving my dream, to see my novel in print.
My surgeon not only did the hysterectomy, he removed several lymph nodes. When he visited me the next morning in my hospital room, he had good news. He felt he’d removed all the cancer and it hadn’t spread. I didn’t even need chemo or radiation, just quarterly check-ups for a few years. I’d placed my trust in the Lord, and my prayers were answered.
While recuperating at home, I worked on the edits and proofs for my book. When the Galleys arrived, friend and mentor, Juli Caveny, helped with the editing, and my book was now ready for print.
When I saw my book cover art, I couldn’t have been more pleased. Amanda L. Matthews, AM Design Studio, did an amazing job, showcasing the dragon’s golden ring dangling on the unicorn’s horn.
At this point I need to add that Ilana, Sarah and I remained in touch. They live in Chicago, a four-hour drive from my home. In 2012 Ilana critiqued THE DRAGON’S RING, and her editing showed me what I needed to do to polish my story. The original version, which I had written twenty years ago, had the princess sitting at the castle, waiting for her knight to return. The one in print today is drastically different. The princess is the heroine in the story. She disguises herself and follows the knight on his quest for a unicorn. She saves his life over and over, but only the reader knows. By giving the princess a more active role, the book improved tenfold.
When Stephanie, my publisher, sent the Galleys, she told me my release date was August 28th. August 1st I received an email from her with the heading, “I made a biiiiig oopsie.” My release date was July 28th. I’ve missed the launch date of my book!
I laughed. I didn’t mind. I was just happy it was out there. That night was my writers group meeting at the Chatham, IL library. When I walked in, everyone sang, “Congratulations on your book,” to the tune of “Happy Birthday.” And they had a cake decorated like my book cover art, with the unicorn’s head and dragon’s ring. Gifts, too!
A special gift was a silver charm bracelet with a charm of a crown (for the princess), and a star charm with the words reach for the stars. Juli told me I’m to add a charm for every book I have published. The writers in my group are fantastic and amazing, each filled with talent galore. I’m lucky to be a part of this group.
The stories I write have happy endings. I want to leave my readers with a satisfied feeling when they reach the end. The unicorn in this story, to me, symbolizes hope, which is something our world needs.
Everything happens for a reason. Have I had the sonogram on February 3rd, I might never have pitched on twitter, and I could still be seeking a publisher for THE DRAGON’S RING. I’m grateful that everything turned out all right, my cancer is hopefully gone forever, and my story is in print, although presently it’s only e-print. When enough copies sell, it will then be available in book form, too.
My heart is filled with thanks, to my publisher, Stephanie Taylor, and her wonderful staff, to Illana and Sarah, and the wonderful ladies and gent in my writers group, and to Charlene A. Wilson and Julianne Tomczak for letting me share my book and my life with all their Highlighted Author readers.
THE DRAGON’S RING
Sir James Trueblood is determined to capture a unicorn so he can marry Princess Isadora. The knight begins his quest, not realizing the Princess is following him in disguise. On his journey Sir James encounters a witch and a dragon. With the dragon’s ring his mission is a success, but then he learns the unicorn will die if not set free. Now he has a dilemma; marry the Princess or free the unicorn.
About The Author
Debra Daugherty is from Central Illinois and is a member of SCBWI, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She enjoys living in the country with her two dogs, a Chihuahua named CeCe, and a rescued American Stratford Terrier named Honey. Besides writing children stories, Debra loves to spend time with her family, and browsing through antique shops. She also enjoys travelling. (Her favorite city is London.) Publishing credits include CALAMITY CAT, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She’s also had two short stories published in Guardian Angel Kids’e-zine, LET YOUR IMAGINATION SOAR! and THE MYSTERY OF THE GHOSTLY THIEF. In 2015 her children’s story, HEART OF STONE, won first place in a local writing contest.