March 29, 2011

Made It Moment: Sasscer Hill

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:10 am

Full Mortality

Sasscer Hill’s Moment recalls a favorite Jimmy Buffet song of mine when she talks about five years slipping by while on sub. Man, could I relate to this one. I think some of you will, too. Because, you know, sometimes the best things happen when we finally let go. Sometimes, to quote another song by Cold Play, what we want is not what we need. And so to Sasscer I simply say, with tears in my eyes, Hear, hear! You’ve made it.

Sasscer Hill

I believe that when you hit the New York Times Best Seller list, you’ve made it. But let me speak in more realistic terms about my “made it” moment for my first novel, FULL MORTALITY, a horse-racing murder mystery.

In 2005, after years of querying literary agents, I finally landed one, and being a neophyte, I thought my novel would be on bookshelves within months.

My agent felt the book was good enough to lure a big New York publisher, and so we sent out the manuscript of FULL MORTALITY, waited for months, got rejected, sent the manuscript back out, waited for months, received more rejections, etc. My agent continued to steer me away from the small publishers – there just wasn’t enough money in it for her.

In the meantime I wrote a second Nikki Latrelle novel, with the working title RACING FROM DEATH. It lingered at Bantam, New American Library and Berkeley for a total of thirteen months and was rejected. And so, five years crawled by.

A year or so ago, John Betancourt, publisher of the small Wildside Press, offered to publish the second in my Nikki Latrelle series, RACING FROM DEATH. I said thanks, but I want to wait for a New York publisher and the “big deal.” I waited and waited on these people while Wall Street, the horse racing, and book publishing markets crashed.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. With the blizzard of 2010 scheduled to hit Maryland the next day, I emailed the first in the series, FULL MORTALITY, to Betancourt. He read it and accepted the manuscript for publication that night!

That was a great moment, but not one where I felt I’d arrived. That one happened a few weeks ago when I got an email regarding a favorable review from “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.” I starting reading the review.

Written by longtime critic Jon L. Breen, it appears in the February, 2011 issue OF eqmm, and I got this far, “. . . First-time novelist Hill, herself a Maryland horse breeder, is a genuine find, writing smooth and vivid descriptive prose about racetrack characters and backstretch ambience that reek authenticity.”

I had to put the review down because I was crying. I knew FULL MORTALITY had finally made it.

Sasscer Hill lives on a Maryland farm and has bred racehorses for many years. A winner of amateur steeplechase events, she has galloped her horses on the farm and trained them into the winner’s circle. She is the author of several mysteries in the “Chesapeake Crimes” anthology series, and her articles have appeared in numerous magazines. Full Mortality is her first novel.


  1. Oh, AWESOME. Ellery Queen? You have indeed made it. But I think getting someone to read, and accept, your book in a single night says it all. Congratulations!

    Comment by Savvy — March 29, 2011 @ 9:04 am

  2. I’m glad your story has a happy ending! (and a happy new beginning, too.:)

    Comment by Judy — March 29, 2011 @ 9:23 am

  3. Savvy and Judy, thank you both for your kind comments! Sasscer, delighted in Maryland

    Comment by Sasscer Hill — March 29, 2011 @ 9:29 am

  4. Of course you’ve made it!!! And how about your Agatha nomination? (Yes, Judy–happy ending, and happy beginning!) xoxo

    Comment by Hank Phillippi Ryan — March 29, 2011 @ 9:54 am

  5. How wonderful to have your choice verified by a good review in a big circulation zine. Congratulations and good luck!

    Comment by Sara — March 29, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  6. Lovely to have these triumphs after so much frustration.

    Comment by Gayle Feyrer — March 29, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  7. Thank you, Gayle! Another “Made It” moment happened when several people told me that scenes in the book made them laugh out loud. There are those lighter, cozy elements in FULL MORTALITY, and in todays world we need them.

    Comment by Sasscer Hill — March 29, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  8. Jenny, I bet you can related to this “Can’t Always Get What You Want” song, too.


    Comment by Sasscer Hill — March 29, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

  9. Probably, it would help if I included the song link!

    Comment by Sasscer Hill — March 29, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

  10. I loved FULL MORTALITY, and think the NY pub houses missed out when they let it go.
    Marilyn Levinson

    Comment by Marilyn Levinson — March 29, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

  11. You tell this beautifully, Sasscer. I’m tearing up with you.

    Comment by Kaye George — March 29, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

  12. I agree with Hank. LOL! FULL MORTALITY’s nomination for an Agatha Award for the Best First Novel is a pretty big deal. ;) And well-deserved.

    Comment by Rhonda Lane — March 29, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

  13. That one, too, Sasscer :)

    Thanks for all the great comments, everyone…

    Comment by jenny — March 29, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

  14. I love her story. Great post. Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

    Comment by Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic — March 29, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

  15. Well, this is CERTAINLY an inspiring story! Mazel tov! Where do you raise horse? I live in a farmhouse on a waterfront estate in Easton, Maryland….and my uncle was an Arabian horse doctor on a farm in Maryland….his claim to fame was appearing on WHAT’S MY LINE, way back when!


    Comment by Jody — March 30, 2011 @ 8:50 am

  16. [...] welcome Sasscer Hill back to the blog with a second Made It Moment that may even top her first! One thing all writers hope for is that a wider slice of the world takes notice of their books, and [...]

    Pingback by Suspense Your Disbelief » Made It Moment II: Sasscer Hill — April 25, 2012 @ 8:09 am

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