In 2000 I went to the Southwest Christian Writers Conference in Glorieta, NM. At the time Glorieta was a Southern Baptist Conference Center between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, NM.
It was $80 to attend for a Friday, Saturday half day on Sunday. It was $200 to stay in their dorms. It was an additional $20 for meals and $20 for ten minutes with an editor from one of four publishers.
I chose to drive up and back from home instead of staying overnight. There were numerous seminars all three days on various topics led by established Christian authors. I was working weekends at the LifeWay Christian Book Store in Albuquerque and recognized most of the authors leading the seminars.
The Seminars were enlightening and it was fun meeting and greeting a number of friends from over the years from various churches I'd attended.
What I really went there for was that ten minutes with an editor. I had the specified ten pages of the manuscript and a brief synopsis. All they wanted.
I'd been working on Optimus: Praetorian Guard for six years and thought it was ready.
I signed up for the editor from Zondervan. He read the first paragraph. Told me there were too many Latin names that would confuse the reader and to start over. I needed a hook. He was done in three minutes.
They were the most profitable three minutes of my writing career.
I went back and completely rewrote my first chapter. He wanted a hook, and by God I'd give him one.
This is what I wrote and is the hook for Optimus.
“Battering ram! Don’t fail me now!” Optimus raised his fist punching the wall above his head. The girl beside him stroked his broad shoulders kissing him passionately. There was no response.
In frustration he looked at the woman it took a night’s gambling to bed: pale blonde hair—real blonde, not dyed. Like spider silk when he followed it with his hands all the way down to the middle of her back. Eyes the brightest blue he’s ever seen, with arching eyebrows, the kind of eyes that a man could look at for an eternity. Skin almost translucent, the palest white; a small button nose and red thin lips. Truly this was a face that could cause wars. Why do my loins refuse to be stirred?
She shifted her body to rub up against him in another attempt to arouse the sleeping. He felt her youthful round breasts and smelled the rose water in her hair. Such a smell and touch would normally make him rigid for an hour—tonight nothing. Sweat fell off his upper lip into his mouth; he could taste the effort of trying to be a man. Thundering, “Jupiter Optimus Maximus, what is wrong with me?”
“Master, the drink,” she whispered in her native tongue. “We sleep now, try again in morning.”
He gently hugged the beauty; still a virgin the tavern owner promised, yeah right. Accepting defeat in his efforts to penetrate sitting up against the wall he stared at the girl’s beauty: She brought back memories of Germania and a girl he married while scouting across the Rhine. Those happy memories blurred into his current nightmare. Suddenly the girl’s face shifted. The hair turned an auburn color, the eyebrows flattened over dark brown eyes and he was looking at a woman he loved. Tears streamed down as he gripped the girl in his arms tightly trying to ease the pain constricting his aching heart. The frightened girl thought he would squeeze the life out of her, but after the initial tight hug he merely sobbed into her pale fine hair.
She held the sobbing and heartbroken soldier for nearly an hour when movement on the other side of the curtain to her cubicle caught her attention. Slowly the drape was drawn aside and a man with a sword entered. She tensed at the sight, and in an instant the giant holding her was on his feet grabbing the intruder by the throat.
Another man came up from behind and struck him on the back of the head with the butt end of his sword. The big man crumpled. A third came in to help drag him away.
The story is about a Roman soldier saved by the Apostle Paul. Paul didn't save choir boys.
Optimus had to be at rock bottom to be reached. There is nothing more rock bottom than being impotent.
A few years after I went to the SWCWC they moved from Glorieta to Ghost Ranch and were twice as expensive. A few years after that and it died.
I would love to go to another one of those kinds of meeting now. Wouldn't it be nice to have another ten minutes with an editor from a publishing house again.