Chicago Homicide Inspector Aaron Randall faces his toughest case while dealing with doubts about his career and the potential of a romantic relationship.
Jared Prescott, a Heisman Trophy winner and Vice President of a large and respected pharmaceutical company, is found murdered at a seedy motel. The investigation uncovers more suspects than normal, with motives ranging from jealousy to revenge to extortion. When the body of his close friend and number one informant is found stabbed to death in a deserted alley, and a woman claiming to be present at the time of Prescott’s murder is gunned down in front of him, Randall knows someone is watching. Not long after, a woman who worked for the pharmaceutical company found murdered in her home suggests a conspiracy.
Randall is hamstrung during the investigation by pressure from the commissioner down the chain of command because the president of the pharmaceutical company, anxious for resolution to Jared Prescott’s murder, is a close friend with a Senator whose sights are set on the Oval Office.
It still amazes me when I am reminded this book grew out of a writing exercise.
Sometime in the middle of the 1990’s, I can’t recall exactly when, I was thumbing through The No Experience Necessary Writer’s Course, a creative writing book written by Scott Edelstein, well-known author, collaborator, literary agent, editor, journalist, writing and publishing consultant, etc. etc. You get it . . . the man has credentials!
The very first of many exercises in the book sounded intriguing, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.
It suggested the following:
Imagine that you are downtown in a major city during rush hour. Suddenly a woman walks toward you, holding a bag. She meets your eyes, smiles, hands you the bag, and says, “Here you go.” Before you can say or do anything, she turns and walks off.
As any decent and caring creative writing coach would say, there are no rules. The bag could contain a baby, be empty, whatever. It was a prompt to get me writing and allow my imagination to run amok.
I won’t reveal what I decided the bag contained, I am confident you’ll be reading that in the published version of the book in the not too distant future; but I started writing. I did as I always do when fleshing out an idea, asking what if this happened . . . what if this person is so and so . . . what if he or she did this rather than that.
The exercise started as a snippet, short and simple, then grew . . . continuing to grow as I added characters, events, and settings . . . and before I knew it, I had the makings of a novel.
In 2003, after several years and scores of revisions, I decided it was ready to submit to publishers and agents. Working full-time and handling all that “other stuff” life dishes out can really get in the way.
I submitted . . . got rejected . . . revised . . . and resubmitted. Every now and then an agent or publisher would express interest in the idea and want to see samples, but nothing came out of those requests, except . . . you guessed it . . . more rejections.
Finally, in June of 2007, I got what I truly believed was “my big break.” A small publishing company dealing exclusively in e-books (at the time e-books were not as prevalent as today), expressed interest in A Head in the Game, although the interest initially was expressed in the form of a critique. The editor stated my point of view character didn’t stand out in addition to other flaws, yet she saw enough to convince the publisher to work with me, although they weren’t ready to offer a contract to publish the book.
They recommended changes, some specific, others more general, and over the next month I threw everything I had into revising the book. Due to scheduling commitments, the editor didn’t reply until four months later, suggesting additional revisions, yet enthusiastically stated she really liked the story. I was convinced I was on the verge of a book contract.
Three days before Christmas I resubmitted the revised version, anticipation teeming with being on the verge of finally breaking into the world of publishing.
I expected a prompt reply but after a month passed with no response, I queried for a status with the same result . . . no reply.
A few months later I queried again . . . again no reply, causing me to assume it was a dead issue, once again finding myself back to submitting the manuscript to other publishers.
In October of 2008, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to query once more. This time I did get a response stating the book, although interesting, wasn’t quite up to their publishing standards.
This was to date the most devastating blow to my confidence, not only because my expectations were the highest possible, but also because I essentially wasted over a year with one publisher, time that might have been spent submitting to other agents and publishers.
Although it was a perfect time to give up, I couldn’t. I’d come too far.
I focused on the positive aspects of the experience. I got the opportunity to work with a book editor at no cost to me and I did learn quite a bit about what works and what doesn’t, although the subjective nature of the publishing business is enough to drive one mad.
Finally, on January 20, 2017, after a number of rewrites and laborious revision, A Head in the Game was published.
Order from Amazon at A Head in the Game