Former Payson Educator Publishes Mystery



For Rim writers who have always wanted to publish but never have, there is hope for you.

Smaller publishers like Xlibris and Git a Rope! Publishing reach out to local and unknown authors.


Curtis Vick, a former English teacher at Payson High School, has published his first novel, a mystery set in Jerome.

Just ask Curtis Vick.

Vick, 65, taught high school English in Payson for 30 years before retiring to Dewey, Ariz. During his last 10 years of teaching, he tried numerous times to get published.

"I'd send a manuscript to a big outfit, and they would say, ‘Work on the plot,'" Vick said. "I would send the same manuscript to another company, and they would say, ‘Wonderful plot, but it's not what we're looking for.' You're very lucky if you happen to find anyone who wants to publish you," he added.


Vick finally published his first book, "Shadows In Jerome" with Xlibris in November. Vick said all he had to do was pay a fee and his book was in print. He took care of the marketing himself.

"I put out a press release," he said. "If it's good, people buy it. If it's bad, they don't."

Currently, "Shadows In Jerome" is available in two stores in Jerome, and on several websites. Vick says it's "selling like a storm" in Tennessee.

Xlibris is a subsidiary of Random House, Inc. Xlibris books can be purchased in any major bookstore, or online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Borders.

Vick is now working on his third novel, "Out," which is also set in Arizona.

The secret, Vick said, is to start writing now.

"Don't worry if it's not great literature," he said. "The more you do it, the better you will be. You're growing. But if you never write it, you'll never have that benchmark there.

"Don't worry about publishing. Just do it, and keep on doing it," Vick continued. "Sooner or later, one way or another, you'll be there."

If a writer worries about making a living or getting rich, it will get in the way of the creativity, Vick said.

"I wouldn't want to be any happier than I am now," he said. "Life is like a good hurtin' country song -- it's gotta hurt a little bit."

‘Shadows In Jerome'

Vick got the idea for his novel set in Jerome, Ariz. from a photo.

The photo was of a 1920s Payson woman who had moved to Jerome. Vick said she had "beautiful brown eyes". Her name was Sammy Dean. She was 25, and worked as a harlot out of her apartment. One afternoon, Dean was found murdered. She hadn't been raped or robbed, and no one solved the murder.

"She reached out to me, spoke to me," Vick said. "The characters came, and they did what they wanted to do. It just comes out."

"Shadows In Jerome" follows a young freelance photographer and his girlfriend into a haunting mystery. Together, they are plunged into crimes of the past and ghosts of the present as they seek resolution and justice.

Vick shared this excerpt of the novel:

"She rose from her place on the day bed in the corner of the great bedroom, giving off an effluvium of mold and damp, like a ragged old quilt held tenuously together by rotting threads. It had been good seeing him during those last days of winter. They had driven in the beautiful car, mostly in the Valley. Once, they had gone to Prescott. It had reminded her of the last time she had gone to that city. That time, he had remained in Jerome. That's when it started."

Vick said he used many modern locations in Jerome, changing names and descriptions. But the old traditions and history were already there for him to write about.

And writing what you know is key.

Local writing

"Don't try to reach out and write about something you know nothing about," said Jayne Peace, co-owner of Git a Rope! Publishing. "If you've got interesting people around you, use those people."

Peace said she just mailed off "Rodeo 101: The History of the Payson, AZ Rodeo," a few days ago, and she's working on another novel based on Arizona history.

If you are writing about the southwest or Arizona history, go to someone who understands you, Peace said.

"We decided to get into publishing so we could write the way we wanted to," she said. "New York publishers don't understand the West. There are too many words that we use that we've changed around that are not in dictionaries, and not recognized as real words."

Git a Rope! has published 10 books in two years, and is receiving more offers. Most of their books deal with life and history in the Southwest, and all of them adhere to the publishers' strict standards.

"We will not publish things with bad language in them, or things we don't believe in," Peace said.

The main thing is to never give up, Peace added.

"Let your imagination go. It's the theater of the mind. Turn it on," she said. "There are so many ways to get published."

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