Leon Emo had been thinking about writing a book of fiction — a turgid love-and-adventure story — for several years while he plied his skills as an auto-body specialist in Madera.
But it wasn't until he was handed his last paycheck, after the auto dealer for whom he worked was sold, that the book came to life.
"I took my final paycheck home, and I said, 'Look, honey, my last paycheck,'" Emo said. "And that's when I set about to write that book."
Now, on Saturday, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., Emo will fulfill a dream few authors get to see come true. He will be autographing his novel, "Black Hearts, Golden Wings," at Cole's Books & Bagels, 1516 Howard Road.
"I wrote the book without any intention of getting it published," Emo said.
He said he wrote mainly to relax and forget his troubles.
"It was a relief from the pressures of the world," he said.
Emo, also a columnist and correspondent for The Madera Tribune, said that as he was writing the book, he would take chapters to Marie Bunch, a friend who owned Dixie Enterprises, an old-time fast-food store.
"She was a friend, and she had been interested in my writing. She would help out with the Lions Club newsletter."
After four months of more or less constant writing, the novel was finished.
He still had no intention of getting it published, but h showed it to two other friends, Mark Davis and Bill Coate. Coate also is a Tribune columnist and correspondent, and is a teacher, historian and author in his own right.
Both gave Emo feedback.
A couple of local publishers expressed some interest, but nothing came of it, Emo said.
Finally, he sent a copy of the manuscript to one of his college English professors and asked him to read it. The professor later told Emo the book was good enough to be published. He also told him how to sell the book, which was to send sample chapters to publishers until one of them bought it.
"I started doing that," Emo said, "and it was very discouraging. I eventually got 19 rejection letters."
He contacted the professor then and asked whether he shouldn't give up. The professor replied, no — Hemingway had more rejections than that when he first started writing books. So Emo sent it out again — and the 20th letter which came back, from Publish America, was a contract.
Then came the editing process, with the manuscript being passed back and forth. Finally, after three times, the publisher announced the editor had found 23 errors.
"I said, 'Twenty-three errors! How could I do that?'" Emo recalled.
"And they said to me that 23 errors wasn't all that many, compared to some of their other books."
A limited number of autographed copies of Emo's book are being given free with six-month subscriptions to the Madera Tribune.