I've always been a voracious reader. More often
than not, my nose is stuck between the pages of
some adventure or mystery novel, and this fact
would often upset my mom when we'd go on trips
because I'd be reading instead of looking at the
sights. Since she was the "li'bary lady,"
as the kids at school used to call my librarian
mother, I'd always tell her it was her own fault
for introducing me to the seductive world of the
In high school, I pumped out lots of poetry full
of adolescent angst, but never pursued the craft
any further than writing a required screenplay
in Creative Writing class. "The Further Adventures
of El Señor Taco Bob" was just awful.
I still feel bad for Bob, my Spanish teacher.
Oh, the pranks we pulled on that poor man . .
. I'm surprised we didn't give him a heart attack.
As time went on, I always thought it'd be cool
to write a novel, but never seriously contemplated
actually doing it. One day, browsing in a local
bookstore, I stumbled across a copy of The
Intersection of Law and Desire by JM Redmann.
It was one of the first lesbian mysteries I'd
ever read, other than Ellen Hart's Jane Lawless
series. I absolutely fell in love with the characters
and, when I finished it, searched for more JM
Redmann titles. After some local library searches
and prolonged Internet hunting, I tracked down
the other three books in the series. I was in
Micky Knight heaven until I read the final word
of the fourth and - at that time - last book.
I prowled the internet sadly and in 2004 stumbled
on a website called NaNoWriMo.org -- better known
as the online home for the National Novel Writing
Month challenge. The goal during NaNoWriMo is
to shut off your inner critic, drink a lot of
caffeine, and attempt to pour out 50,000 words
in one month. No dinking around, slam the pedal
to the keyboard, and kick some serious writing
ass. I perked up a little, thinking maybe I could
write my own characters and not have to be depressed
when the story ended. I knew not one thing about
writing aside from the papers I'd slaved over
in college, and boy, I hated to write them. Nevertheless,
I thought, what the hell, I'll give it a whirl.
What could happen in thirty days anyway?
November 2004: Little did I know when I
began that I would indeed crank out 50,000 words
of a thriller I named Operation Rose Seller.
I used all the goofy little tricks I'd read about
on the Nano website, like NEVER using contractions
(it helps pad your word count), and when you can't
think of anything else to write, type in some
song lyrics or Shakespeare sonnets. With this
not-so-sage advice, I actually finished the novel
by the summer of 2005. It was a great plot with
mostly ghastly execution, and a few flashes of
not-quite brilliance. We all have to start somewhere.
Fall 2005: I took my first Loft Literary
Center class with award-winning mystery author
Ellen Hart - an introduction to the mysterious
world of mystery writing. Ellen was an awesome
teacher, filling in all the gaps that were missing
in my knowledge of the mystery genre. She helped
me trust that with hard work, dedication, and
lots of luck, I could be published. She believed
in me, and that went a long, long way. In class,
I met the folks who would become my writing rocks
(Teresa, Kirstin, Brian, and Joan), and we formed
a writing group, dubbing ourselves the Hartless
Murderers. Eventually we morphed our moniker into
the Midwest Heartless Murderers. We're planning
on fashioning ourselves after the Minnesota Crime
Wave, which is made up of Ellen Hart, William
Kent Krueger, and Carl Brookins.
November 2005: Full of newfound confidence,
I tackled my second NaNoWriMo. By December 1st,
I had again written 50,000 words, and managed
to finish up the manuscript by spring of 2006.
Operation Stop Hate was a better effort,
but I still wasn't there quite yet.
Winter 2006: I took a class called Queer
Writing from Lori L. Lake, Golden Crown award-winning
author of Snow Moon Rising and the "Gun"
series featuring Dez Reilly and Jaylynn Savage.
Lori's class really changed my outlook on my
writing, and I realized there was SO much I
needed to learn. I had no idea what I didn't
know. It was one of those "I didn't know
what I didn't know, and when I realized how
much I didn't know, I freaked out" deals.
I worked through the shock of that, and came
out the other side a more confident, better
writer. Every day I continue to learn something
new about the craft.
Fall 2006: I hopped into Ellen Hart's
Mystery class again. Repetition is a good thing!
In addition, having Ellen's unflagging support
wasn't bad for encouraging me to keep going,
November 2006: NaNoWriMo - Take Three.
The manuscript, Bingo Nuts was born,
and this time I began to hit my stride.
Winter 2007: I again took Lori Lake's
Queer Writing class. She is just an amazing
teacher. The class evolved into a more hands-on
learning approach and emphasized the mechanics
and nuances of writing, delving into the nitty-gritty
of it all. It was exactly what I needed.
Spring 2007: Then I took Lori Lake's
Novel Writing Class, Pages on Fire. My writing
education continued. I finally wrapped up the
first of probably eight or ten drafts of Bingo
Nuts. I knew there was still a long way
to go, but man, did that feel good.
Summer 2007: My mom, June, a very heavy
smoker, was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer
that had metastasized to her brain. At Mom's
insistence, Betty - my partner of almost thirteen
years at that time - and I attended my first
Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) Conference
in Atlanta. It was a blur, with some of the
highest highs and lowest lows all at once. However,
we had a great time, and met a TON of people.
I practiced pitching Bingo Nuts to three
different publishers, co-mentored a new author's
manuscript, and sat on a panel. The day after
we returned from the conference, my mom had
brain surgery to remove the largest three of
many tumors growing in her head. She came out
of that surgery in great spirits and with full
cognition. That night Betty and I played Skip-Bo
with her, and she beat our butts off.
But after that, almost everything to do with
my writing came to a screeching halt as Betty
and I shuttled my mom to twenty-four radiation
appointments, multiple CAT scans, MRI's, numerous
chemo sessions, and doctor's appointments. The
courage, class, and strength my mom displayed
in facing her cancer were in turns inspiring
Fall 2007: Even though I wasn't writing,
I attended Ellen Hart's class one last time.
The class kept me close to the craft, and Ellen
was her usual supportive self.
Winter 2008: Took Lori Lake's Queer Writing
class for the last time. I seem to see a theme
of sticking around when I find a good thing
going! This was a dream class. From the way
we students clicked to the 200% effort Lori
gave in taking the time to find out and provide
exactly what we wanted to learn was very cool.
Lori, as a teacher, rocks. As my mom's illness
progressed, I found the class helped me escape
for just a little while each week into a place
that wasn't so grim.
After a terrible battle, Mom passed away at
North Memorial Hospice in Robbinsdale, MN, in
the middle of Lori's class, in March of 2008.
All I can say about hospice workers is that
they're all very special angels in uniform,
and I hold them in the highest regard. While
this was happening, my employer, Borders Bookstore,
went through a series of layoffs, and I was
one of many casualties. I'd worked as a sales
manager for almost three years, and been with
the company for close to six years, so I was
feeling pretty pummeled from all sides. Luckily,
my first boss, Steve Neilson, at the Coon Rapids
Borders was able to rehire me as the merchandising
supervisor in mid-April. I'll forever be indebted
to him for the kindness and caring he showed
Summer 2008: We attended my second GCLS
conference in Phoenix. I moderated a mystery
panel that included Ellen Hart and another of
my all-time favorite mystery authors, Katherine
V. Forrest. It was a dream come true to meet
Katherine, who was gracious, kind, and told
some great stories about lesbian publishing
in the late 70's and early 80's. Betty and I
managed to sneak up to Sedona, which was gorgeous.
We also had a chance to check out the Grand
Canyon. Breathtaking doesn't even begin to describe
I took Lori Lake's Novel Writing Class again,
and although I didn't do much writing, I did
manage to absorb a lot of good information.
Lots can be learned by reading other writer's
work and analyzing it, and I got a ton of practice
giving feedback and helping people revise their
September 2008: I left Borders to go
to work as the store manager for Ruta Skujins,
who had just purchased True Colors Bookstore,
formerly Amazon Feminist Books, in Minneapolis.
I met Ruta in the first Lori Lake class I attended,
and we shared a number of classes after that.
I finally started work again on revisions and
edits of Bingo Nuts.
Winter 2009: Ellen Hart held an Intermediate
Mystery Class at True Colors Bookstore, and
I had a chance to participate. It was a great
class, with much more intensive work on student
manuscripts. I got some great feedback from
the class and from Ellen on my work.
Summer 2009: Revisions continued on
Bingo Nuts. Regal Crest author Pat Cronin
came on the scene and read my entire manuscript,
as did Lori Lake, all the members of my Hartless
Murderers, and a great friend, Mary Beth Panichi.
They all gave me excellent feedback that allowed
me to come very close to finishing the revisions.
After much discussion, I changed the title from
Bingo Nuts to Bingo! It's Murder.
Summer 2009: On a whim, I wrote a short
erotica piece featuring the two main characters
from Bingo! It's Murder. I sent it to
Lori Lake as a lark just to show her what I'd
done and get the heckling I was sure she'd provide.
She read it, and to my surprise, suggested I
let Pat Cronin look at it. Before I knew what
hit me, Pat and Verda Foster had read and accepted
it for an anthology they were working on for
Regal Crest called Women In Uniform: Medics
and Soldiers and Cops, Oh My! with a publication
date of May, 2010. I still can't quite believe
October 2009: I attended my first Bouchercon
Mystery Convention with Lori Lake, Pat Cronin,
Chris Paynter, and Sherry Mills. We met up with
Ellen Hart, and all had lunch one day during
the conference. Ellen encouraged me to give
the mainstream presses a shot, and this was
something I hadn't seriously considered. I always
expected I'd go with one of the lesbian publishers,
and while the thought of attempting mainstream
was daunting since my main character/sleuth
is a lesbian, I decided to go for it. GLBT presence
in the mainstream is always challenging to find,
and if I could fill that role and bring another
strong, gay character to a larger audience,
I felt I should give it a try. I went home and
did some final edits. I figured, if nothing
else, this would be a great experience in dealing
with rejection letters.
Late October 2009: I took a deep breath
and submitted Bingo! It's Murder to Midnight
Ink, an imprint of Llewellyn Publications in
the Twin Cities. Not long after submission,
I received an email from Terri Bischoff, the
acquisitions editor from Midnight Ink, and she
was interested in meeting to talk about my manuscript.
After I regained consciousness and picked myself
off the floor, I returned her email and told
her I'd be more than delighted to get together.
November 1st 2009: I started my fourth
NaNoWriMo, writing the second book in my unofficial
Bingo! It's Murder/Shay O'Hanlon series.
Late November 2009: I met with Terri,
and we discussed my manuscript. She was interested
in pitching the book to Midnight Ink, and I
went into shock. With a just a few changes,
she told me she'd bring it to the acquisitions
board. I went home, dropped NaNoWriMo, dove
into the revisions she suggested, and resubmitted
the manuscript within a week. Then the long
February 9, 2010: Terri emailed me with
a three-book contract offer. I was working alone
at True Colors when the email came through,
and I had not a soul to share this astonishing
news with. I finally called my partner Betty
at her workplace, and all she could make out
from me was, "They...They...They,"
as my voice was up about ten octaves. Poor thing
thought I'd been in an accident, or something
had happened at the store that "they"
had done. I don't think I stopped smiling the
So, Bingo! It's Murder is going to be
a reality, with a very tentative release date
of August 2011, and a new title: Bingo Barge
Murder. Midnight Ink contracted with me
to write at least two more books in the Shay
O'Hanlon mystery series, and they have rights
of first refusal on a fourth book as well. I
still can't believe it. Now I have to get rocking
on that second book.
I'm so appreciative to Ellen Hart for her continuing
encouragement; to Lori Lake for all the help,
advice, and kicks in the butt she continues
to provide; to Pat Cronin for hounding my 'dumb
ass;' to my most awesome Heartless Murderers;
and to everyone else who read numerous versions
of my numerous books. Last, but absolutely not
least, a HUGE thank you goes out to my wife
(we finally got hitched in Iowa March 8, 2010
after almost 15 years together) for putting
up with how I checked out for hours and days
at a time in order to write. You believed in
this crazy dream of mine even during times when
I lost hope, and I love ya, babe!
(c) 2010 Jessie Chandler