Thursday, May 22, 2014

Seven Years to the Bookshelf

In 2007, I finally decided to sit down and begin writing a novel. I had been a voracious reader since I was a teenager, enjoying the terrific stories penned by James Clavell, Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, and Robert Ludlum. In fact, I lost count of how many times during my high school years I re-read some of the books in Clavell’s Asian Saga (Tai-Pan & Noble House) in English class, rather than listen to another lecture on diagramming sentence structure or a discussion of a Shakespeare comedy.

During those years, my mother introduced me to Robert Ludlum’s books, and I particularly enjoyed his Bourne Identity and Parsifal Mosiac, which initially fueled my interest in espionage thrillers. Following closely on the heels of that discovery, I began to read Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt adventures.  My first exposure to the techno-thriller came from the man who founded the genre.  I found Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October on the shelf in my high school library, and by the time I’d finished his second book, Red Storm Rising, I was hooked.

Looking back on all those terrific stories, I was impressed not just by the story telling abilities of all those great authors, but also by the magnificent imaginations and sense of ‘world control’ that being an author conveys. You create a world or a universe, populate it with interesting characters, bring them into conflict, and determine how it will work out. Then you write a story that you hope others will enjoy and identify with.

Following the 9/11 attacks, I took note (and great exception) to some of the mischaracterizations and misinformation thrown around in the media about modern military capabilities and the professionalism of the members of the intelligence community. Being a veteran of the modern military and an experienced intelligence professional, my understanding was admittedly not shared by the larger public.

After due consideration, I decided it was time to put my fingers on the home row, and begin crafting a novel to give the reader a sense of being an intelligence professional and be in the field and ‘on the trigger’ with the special operations forces. It took me nearly a year to complete it, and as I worked, I also began to read everything I could find about writing novels to improve my technical skills (since I had only taken one creative writing class in college).  The books on writing also covered an overview of the book acquisition and publishing process; so I branched out, buying more books to learn about the business of publishing so I could interact effectively with my future agent and editor.

While I enjoyed building my ‘world’ within the novel and crafting what I hoped would be an enjoyable thrill ride, I also made a conscious choice to follow the traditional publishing route – find an agent to represent my work, and let my agent find a publisher.  At the time, self-publishing seemed a very murky prospect (and still does to my mind), and e-books were not yet the healthy chunk of sales they are now.

Once the manuscript was complete, I began querying agents for my genre. I did so with the same hope I suspect all writers share – I’ll get one after the first few queries. After a few months, I had experienced the first six of many rejections. Persistence, diligent searches for agents representing my genre, and the submission of effective queries (and, I think some luck) finally resulted in an offer of representation from a publishing professional just starting his own agency.

Then it was time for more rejections. My agent and I spoke monthly. He updated me on his queries to publishers, and their ‘it’s not right for our list’ vanilla rejections as the bad economy and the advent of e-books made impacts on the decision to invest in launching a new author. Patience became the watchword as the years crawled by.

Then, in late 2012, I received an early Christmas present – an offer from Turner Publishing for not just my first novel, but my second as well. Interacting with the staff at the publishing house is another exercise in patience.  Throughout the months leading up to the street date, it’s important to remember two things - your book isn’t the only one the staff is working on; and that the editing process requires that your ‘pride of authorship’ be throttled back - alot.  In the end, the editorial staff wants to make your book the best possible saleable property, from cover art to story, and that benefits you as much as the publisher.

With a street date set for the first novel in June of 2014, and the second in September, most of 2013 was another year to practice being patient, and finally, in October, a late birthday present – the cover art for THE INHERITOR and the first really tangible evidence that I would finally be a published writer.  Since then, the months have slid by in story edits, copyedits, marketing and publicity discussions, and plans for the first book signing.

Overall, while it has been long in coming, it has been an adventure so far.  Looking out over what will be my debut year, I’m sure it will be interesting and exciting in many ways.  Hopefully, the stories I’ve written will be enjoyed by my readers. After all, that is what matters most to a writer.

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Tom Wither served his country for more than 25 years as a member of the Air Force's Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Agency and its predecessor organizations, the Air Intelligence Agency, the Air Force Intelligence Command, and the Electronic Security Command. He has served as an intelligence analyst at various locations, including Japan and Saudi Arabia, and is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War. During Operation DESERT SHIELD, he was selected to brief HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales; the Commanders of British and French in theater forces; and the U.S. Army's VII Corps Commander on the integration of Air Force intelligence capabilities within the Tactical Air Operations Center. During Operation DESERT STORM, he provided time critical information to the Joint Rescue Coordination Center resulting in the safe extraction of downed allied airborne personnel and the provision of location data to the USCENTCOM targeting cell that culminated in the destruction of 25 strategic targets. He has received the Meritorious Service Medal, three Air Force Commendation Medals, and three Air Force Achievement Medals. In addition to his MS in Computer Systems Management, Tom holds professional certifications from the National Security Agency as an Intelligence Analyst, and the Director of National Intelligence as an Intelligence Community Officer (now the Joint Duty program). He lives near Baltimore.
You can contact Tom via:; or on Facebook: Tom Wither - Writer

America’s Most Deadly Enemy is still loose . . . and he’s ready to move. Following his dead mentor’s desire to re-establish the Islamic Caliphate, Aziz Abdul Muhammad, hand-picked by bin Laden himself, masterminds a series of attacks on the U.S. energy infrastructure that will reignite the war against the West. As his initial series of attacks creates mass panic, leaving the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in terrified darkness, the manhunt is on.  In a unique special operations force, veteran intelligence officer David Cain, along with Air Force Sergeant Emily Thompson and rookie FBI Agent Dave Johnson, leads the U.S. effort to find Aziz and his operations expert. From Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay to Chicago and the outskirts of Tehran, the force must halt Al Qaeda’s attempt to rise from the ashes of its former self—and stop The Inheritor before the rest of his terrifying plan unfolds. Wither blends his extensive military intelligence experience with fast-paced storytelling to create a gripping thriller that spans six weeks and four countries. 

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