I’m very proud and humbled to announce that this blog has reached the 3,000 follower milestone. Thank you to each and every one of you for being a part of my writing world.
Peace and love!
I DESERVE TO BE REJECTED, DANG IT!
This will be a short post about the query process and the rejections that go with it. Yes, I’ve covered this topic before, but that was long before my manuscript was complete and ready for agents to view. Writing about it then was like a virgin writing about the experience of intercourse. You think you know, but you don’t.
I’m 19 query letters into the publication industry and I’ve been rejected just five times. I’ll be sending out more in the morning. I am still an infant in this process, but I can say that being rejected is not the big bad wolf I had thought it would be. In fact, all of the feedback I’ve received has been positive. One agent’s rejection letter read, “Thank you for a wonderful note!” Another’s said, “Your process is excellent and there’s a lot to like about your approach, but…” My favorite so far, in response to a section of a query that praised the agent and the author for an important work: “Your letter was a wonderful surprise! It’s always nice to hear that someone’s work has inspired someone to do something good – I’ll be sure to share that info with Sarah. But I’m sorry to say that due to the huge stack of manuscripts awaiting my review, I must declare a moratorium on new submissions for the rest of the year.”
Of the five agents to reject me, only one had nothing personal to say to me. That’s okay, too. See, I’m just happy to receive NOTICE of a rejection.
So many literary agencies have a disclaimer such as this on their website: “Due to the volume of submissions we receive, we can’t reply to all, but we do review each one carefully and will be in touch if we’d like to see more material from you.” Some will say, “If you haven’t heard from us in ___ weeks, you can assume we are not interested in your work.”
Now, I understand how busy literary agents are. Some receive as many as 500 queries in one week, making personal contact with aspiring authors nearly impossible. If they’re responding to all who query them, they have little time to act as agents for those they represent. It must be hard for them to come back from vacation.
For writers, however, it is one thing to be rejected. It is another thing altogether to be denied a rejection. To me, having a rejection withheld is far, far worse.
I’ll take that rejection notice every time, thank you.
If you’re a literary agent who happens to read this post, please know how grateful I am to those who take a moment to write a note, personal or not, that says, “No.”
It’s the right thing to do.
The first draft of my query for Black Iron Mercy, minus the personal touches tailored to individual agents
Opinions and critiques are desired from professionals and amateurs
It is okay to be harsh
Imagine your finest moment being ripped from history, rewritten by those who would use your remarkable instant for their own personal gain, forever omitting you and your brethren from the day that defined you as men, as soldiers, as victors.
Black Iron Mercy is a historical novel that follows the life of Arlis Jenkins from his days as a boy in the mining town of Mineral Point, Wisconsin through and beyond his exploits with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, a reputable regiment that served with distinction in the famed Iron Brigade during the American Civil War. I am seeking representation for the manuscript, which is complete at 99,000 words.
Today, 18 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, Arlis doesn’t care about fame. Wanting nothing more than to live in quiet solitude, he is content with putting the war and his troubled past behind him, living the life of a farrier on a livery in small Wisconsin town. But now, a new kind of war arouses him… a war of words, written and spoken by glory seekers and those seeking to make a dollar from the experiences of others, and Arlis realizes that one fight remains: The fight for truth and vindication, accuracy and exoneration.
Told in a series of flashbacks, Black Iron Mercy is a story of love, loss, courage, and the triumph of the human spirit, where every day our champion struggles to hold onto hope.
Black Iron Mercy was inspired by the post-war experiences of Mickey Sullivan, who spent much of his later life correcting false histories. It is for him that I took up this crusade, and it is to him that I owe my gratitude for my enthusiasm. Mickey is one of my principal characters. And although Arlis is fictional, nearly all of the characters that wear the blue suit of the Union Army in my novel were real people. It is a heavy responsibility, using real people in fiction. Because of this, I asked this generation’s foremost expert on the Iron Brigade, Mr. Lance J. Herdegen, author of five books on the subject and the former head of Civil War Studies at Carroll University, to read, edit, and endorse my manuscript. He has done all three.
I write a popular blog with over 2,600 followers at Ericschlehlein.com. Additionally, I wrote the script for “Align on the Colors, Close up on the Colors,” a nine-part documentary on the charge of the Sixth Wisconsin Regiment on the railroad cut at Gettysburg, filmed and narrated in 2013 by Gettysburg Battlefield expert, Frank Marrone Jr. I also manage and edit a Facebook fan page, “The Iron Brigade in Media,” a site that is dedicated to all mediums preserving the memory of that brigade. My second novel, “Working Title,” is in its infancy.
When I’m not writing on subject matter relevant to this project, I’m often copywriting for various websites or speechwriting for local political candidates, for whom I’ve been known to manage campaigns. In my spare time, I provide for my family by working as a firefighter and EMT for the village in which I live.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to read my query. I’d love to send you a sample or the entire manuscript, should you be interested in reading further.
AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 26
Subject to Editing
He raised his head and held it with the palm of his left hand. Lightning flashed, and he borrowed its luminance to steal a glance at Mama’s face, ashen and smoky, the eyes still open. A memory of a distant bible study flared through him, and he softly quoted from the book of Daniel.
“Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.” He continued to stroke her forehead, gingerly, lovingly. “We have a lot in common with Daniel, you and me, Mama. That one… Daniel, chapter ten, verse eight… it describes both of us. See, when you’re dead and gone, Mama, I’ll have lost the last person that means anything to me, and I’ll not seek the affections of another.” He swallowed hard. “With no one to love, I’ll never have another to mourn.”
As he went silent, he noticed her breathing slow, stop, and then resume its quick pace. He let go of his head and lay it upon his arm, which he stretched out beneath the pillow. Exhaustion took hold, hard and quick, and he closed his eyes and allowed the fatigue to set in. He hadn’t been aware of how tired he’d been, thinking now about this day’s events and how they’d probably aided in his drowsiness. He was struck by how affected a body could be from emotional stress, how a few hours of strain could collapse a man’s vitality more than a full day of army drill. This line of thinking caused him to slip back to Camp Randall, the company dressed in their grays, stumbling around like the rough recruits they’d been. Sergeant Westcott was yelling at somebody for turning right when they should have turned left, and Arlis snickered in his mind – perhaps in the flesh, too – at the common mistake so many had made in the early days of training.
Suddenly, Westcott was in his ear, screaming at him to “get up that hill and bring back yer friends!” Chamberlain. Arlis tightened, looking at those around him… Talty, Sullivan, and the Hairy One, offering no assistance, no judgment. They stared at him blankly, until Harrison gestured to the hill that had materialized in front of the company.
Arlis, in a panic, held his musket at the ready and bolted to the base of the hill. Here, he realized something wasn’t right, as he was still wearing the state issued gray uniform they’d worn so long ago. We never fought in these, he thought, recognizing the unmistakable outline ahead as that of Turner’s Gap, the ground growing hard and rocky, as he made his way up the battlefield at South Mountain. The Rebs were firing at him now, the balls whizzing and buzzing passed his head, ricocheting off of the rocky formations… formations that were larger and rockier than any he’d seen his first time here. The elevation increased, and the vegetation transformed, changing from prairie grass to tall, winding weeds and then, Oh God, no, cornstalks. Arlis pressed onward, upward, searching for familiar ground, the ground he’d last seen George Chamberlain lying upon, bloodied and frightened. He saw him now, laying between the cornstalks… stalks that were far taller than they had any business being, at nearly twice the height of a grown man.
“Badger,” Chamberlain said as Arlis approached. “The corn’s alive, Badger.”
Of course it is, Arlis thought, squatting next to Chamberlain. “I’m gonna get you out this time, Maid,” he said, calling him by the nickname the boys had given him. Chamberlain hated it.
“I ain’t yer chambermaid,” George said, frowning. “Careful of the leg, now.” He reached out and grabbed Arlis by the front of his coat, gripping hard, pulling him close. With their faces just inches apart, George said, “This is your last shot, Badger. Don’t fuck me this time.”
Arlis pulled away and slid his arms beneath Chamberlain. “I couldn’t even get to you last time, Maid. I’ll save you this time.” He easily picked the man up, as one might pick up a knapsack or a bushel, as he weighed next to nothing, far less than he should have, anyway. He turned to head down the mountain and the gunfire increased. It was close and loud, chilling. Arlis took two steps and was forced to stop, as something had caught on Chamberlain and was impeding his movement. Arlis turned and watched as the cornstalks moved and grabbed, collapsing around the man, taking hold of Chamberlain’s arms and wrapping around his neck.
“NO!” Arlis screeched, taking hold of his bayonet and slashing at the leaves, cutting them at their origins on the stalks. As one was cut free another would take hold. Arlis increased his cutting speed, thrashing wildly at the stalks while pulling, and finally both were free, the sudden release from the bondage of the plants causing him to fall to the ground, Chamberlain sprawling out next to Arlis.
“Hey,” Chamberlain said, “I told ya ta watch the leg!”
Arlis gave a quick look behind them, expecting the corn to try again. But the corn was gone, allowing a full view of the Rebel line, a fortified trench about 75 yards to the front. Rebel heads poked up from behind the walls as their owners fired muskets at the men, who seemed to be the only Union soldiers on the battlefield. He felt his heart racing, beating as fast as his mother’s had been, and now his breathing rate matched hers as well. This time, he’d have no problem keeping the respirations at that measure.
“Okay, once more,” Arlis said to Chamberlain, picking him up. He held him like the man was a toddler, with one arm under his buttocks. As he started to the rear again the Rebels fired a full volley, blowing Chamberlain’s head clean off and knocking Arlis to the ground again. Sitting up, Arlis settled next to the headless corpse, the top of the neck cut clean, bloodless, looking like a round log that had been sawed in half. The firing ceased, causing Arlis to look toward the Rebel line, but the Rebs were gone, the terrain altered again. He realized he was no longer on the South Mountain battlefield, but in the courtyard of the hospital, the crazy old woman yelling at someone for getting blood all over her antique rug. He was abruptly surrounded by the familiar faces of Company K, who held their heads low in shame or disappointment or plain old disapproval, their body language matching their heads in agreement.
Then, Violet Rhys, fourteen years old and dressed in an elaborate red calico dress, resplendent with a repeating, white maple leaf pattern, pushed her way through the crowd of onlookers to stand at the feet of the corpse on the ground. Arlis sat wide-eyed, his eyes fixed on the girl.
“You stupid, stupid boy,” said Violet, refusing to make eye contact with him. “Can’t you save anybody?”
Arlis followed her gaze to the corpse on the ground, his eyes scanning it from the feet upward. The body was dressed in white bedclothes and slippers, wrapped in a quilt. Mama!
It is for us they signed the muster, the ledger, the roll. It is for us they served, they fought, they struggled. It is for us they suffered, they bled, they sacrificed, they died.
Today, it is for them we reflect, we ponder, we display, we honor. It is for them we congregate, we commemorate, we lionize, we appreciate.
God Bless the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that others may inherit and enjoy the freedoms of this great country.
– Eric Schlehlein
As posted on “The Iron Brigade in Media.” https://www.facebook.com/Ironbrigademedia?ref=hl
LASTING RECOGNITION FOR A LIFE WELL-LIVED AND A JOB WELL-DONE
I visited with my good friend, co-worker, and former tennis partner, Ricke Treleven last Wednesday. Ricke has been fighting a long, painful bout with cancer and is now a resident at Angels Grace in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Ricke has had a positive and profound influence on all that have been a part of his life, and I’d like to share what his friends at WISN Radio have done for him… a truly wonderful and well-earned permanent tribute. Congrats and thank you, Ricke, for being the kind of man that God intended all of us to be.
MY GRATITUDE IS ETCHED IN STONE
My blog has reached the 2000 follower milestone. I am grateful to each and every one of you… and should you stop over at my house anytime soon I’ll have a cold beer or a bottle of Ketel One waiting for you. Seriously, I actually have more than Hamm’s on hand.
Thanks, one and all.
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