Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Trying out a novel idea

Post by Brian O'Neill on April 10, 2014 at 9:55 pm with 4 Comments »
April 10, 2014 9:55 pm

About eleven years ago I submitted my first guest column to the TNT. The topic was my short tenure as a stay-at-home dad, a guy trapped in a world built for mommies. The piece was lightly humorous at best, but at least it provided some return on my dusty ol’ English degree.

Back then my writing was low brow – I had a penchant for words like “gazillion” and “wedgie” – and my prose demonstrated little appreciation for the subtleties of writing.

Now, like many people who dive into a new profession, I am still probing the vast depths of my own ignorance. I am discovering that the craft of writing is a densely rich universe, a complex but superb format for conveying thoughts and ideas. Or if you prefer a metaphor, it is layered, like an onion. Or a parfait (with apologies to Shrek).

Which is all very nice, but what’s my point? I’m glad you asked.

Shortly after I started Blue Byline, I was sitting in my editor’s office discussing the topic for an upcoming column when out of the blue Patrick (O’Callahan – the editorial page editor) surprised me by suggesting that I consider writing a novel. Had I ever thought about it?

Yes I had, though not with any measure of intent. Like many would-be novelists, I had thought through a few plot lines, maybe even jotted down a page or two of notes over the years. But as it turns out, novels don’t write themselves. Who knew?

Still, the suggestion put me on the spot. Was I just flirting with the idea of writing a novel, or would I buy it a drink, sit down and get to know it a little better? Would I take it home and get serious? Was I capable of committing to this? Was I able to ask questions without using metaphors?

The answer was, and is, yes (except for the metaphors). Under the guidance of my editor (Patrick is an exceptional mentor on top of being a gifted writer) and the encouragement of Mark Lindquist (elected prosecutor/author/screenwriter/guy who does so many things well you want to hate him, but you just can’t), I completed a manuscript currently titled, City of Destiny.

courtesy of
courtesy of

As you might guess, the events in this book take place in Tacoma, my adopted city. It is a work of crime fiction (write about what you know, eh?), a topic that might make some Tacomans groan. But rest assured, for every mention of gangs and violence there is a counterposing reference to the city’s vibrant restaurant scene, its growing educational and cultural landmarks and its unequaled water and mountain panoramas.

But this is not a travel guide. City of Destiny is my attempt to inject a gritty, realistic police story into a plot with twists, betrayals and steamy, um, relationships that was slightly borrowed from Shakespeare’s pen.

It was a hard slog: Hours and months spent in the coffee shop tapping away on my computer (hey, if it worked for J.K. Rowling…), an endless cycle of editing followed by  the submission of countless proposals to potential agents whose form letter refusals each sucked a little air out of my lungs.

But then, a few weeks ago, I got an email from an agent requesting to read the entire manuscript. That exchange has since evolved into an agency contract, the first step towards publication. Pretty cool.

I thought I would share this milestone with you, loyal readers. Whether you have been following my scribbling since I first suggested whiskey as the drink of choice for changing diapers, or have just tuned into Blue Byline, it is a moment I don’t want to keep to myself.

And for those of you who consider this little more than shameless marketing…I’ll take the 5th.

Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. simonsjs says:

    Awesome Brian! I haven’t been following since the beginning but you are one of the only ones who actually talk back to the readers. Even when we don’t agree you still write back. Best of luck to you.

  2. smokey984 says:

    Atta boy!

  3. Brian O'Neill says:

    Thank you gents.

  4. Nicely done. As one who has put some prose into an otherwise boring criminal report, I appreciate a phrase well turned. Good luck.

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