Archive for the ‘publishing’ Category

An Excerpt from My Second Novel
Subject to Editing

 

ONE

WATSON

I was killed yesterday.  It was the fourth time in four days that such a circumstance has been forced upon me.  My death, or rather the death of the body in which I resided yesterday, the body of Reginald J. Smith of the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment, remains as a clear and horrifying event in my mind.  One does not forget one’s own entrails escaping through a massive, jagged hole in the abdomen, the rope-like tubes of tissue, bloody and slippery with whatever fluids reside within the body, slipping through shaking fingers as they escape the prison of the flesh.  I prayed for death.  I begged for death.  And death came.

Regarding my death the day before last, I have no memory of the event.  Death must have come quickly for me on that particular day.  My brain, or at least the one that is currently functional, allowing my hand to dip this feathered quill in ink and scribble these words on rag paper, has a distinct record of the man I was the day before last.  His name, Thomas Robert Evans, is burned into my memory as if it were my own, which it was in actuality for nearly a day.  Mr. Evans was a native of Danville, Illinois.  He was a chaplain, a gentleman, and a captain attached to the 125th Illinois Regiment, which had been engaged in demonstrations before the Rebel forces at Rocky Faced Ridge in the Confederate State of Georgia on the ninth of May, 1864.  This date is significant to my story, and I’ll explain why that is in a little while, but first I should give you, the reader, some instruction on my background so that you might better understand my plight.

The name given to me at birth was Ezekiel Zachariah Webster.  Everybody I’ve ever known, excepting my mother, has called me “EZ.”  My mother referred to me by my Christian name, Ezekiel, although such information matters little, as my mother was taken by the milk sickness back in the summer of ’47, just after my fifth rotation around the sun.  My father, a farmer by trade, turned to the bottle and the whip for comfort, using the former on himself and the latter on his only child on a mostly daily basis.

I never once attended school.  Our farm, located on fourteen acres of hard land in Knox County, Indiana, had been left to my father by his father, a relentless, fervent Baptist who claimed that we were somehow descended from Winthrop Sargent, the very man who had founded Knox County and had named the place after General Henry Knox, the famed artillerist from the Revolution.  I never saw proof of any such relation.  Not that I could have read any documentation attesting to this matter, anyway.  You see, until I first inhabited a skin other than the one in which I was born, I was completely illiterate.

I won’t go into the difficulties of my home life at this time.  I’ll just state that few things ever came easily.  By the time I was 19 years old I was more than ready for a change of pace and a change of scenery and when the opportunity to sign a muster came along I jumped at the chance.  Generally being one to avoid confrontation, I left home without informing my father of my intentions.This is hardly the behavior one might expect from a boy with an aversion to conflict, trading the plow for the bayonet, but the Rebels with their cannon and muskets alarmed me on a much smaller scale than a drunkard armed with leather.  I left one morning before the rooster announced the dawn, signing up for a three-year enlistment with Company G of the 14th Indiana Infantry Regiment at Terre Haute, on the seventh of June, 1861.

Soldiering came easily compared to plowing a stubborn piece of land and going home every night to a violent, headstrong father.  Drilling and parading around in a smart blue suit, shooting at hay bales, and eating chow that rivaled any meal ever made back home solidified my decision to sign up as a damn good one.  That’s not to say that I was a great soldier.  I was an average shot at best, and I found marching in step to be a difficult chore, not unlike the steps of a schottische, the moves of which I’ve never experienced first-hand, but are somehow freshly engrained in my memory from the life of Thomas Evans.

A shame and a waste, the loss of Captain Evans, who had so very many reasons to survive this war, among them his beautiful wife and nine children.  A man of genuine piety and altruism, he had more to offer this world than most I’ve possessed, his faith and munificence indicative of his place among the saints.  It is truly distressing that he’s already taken his place there.

Possessed.  I sincerely doubt that your eyes moved over that word without hesitation.  Yes, I used the word that is usually reserved for Satan or his demons seizing the flesh of the human form, occupying such for their own motivations.  I don’t claim to be the devil or any of his servants.  Until recently, I would have thought possession of any form by another form to be the contrivance of an overeager imagination.  I’ve proven myself wrong, even if it is an accidental act.  I may have no control over these leaps of existence, but they’re as legitimate and as palpable as your very own heartbeat.  It is only a matter of time before the body I currently occupy dies, and I wake up in the form of another, only to repeat the ambulation again the next time death comes calling.

Sorcery, devilry, black magic, witchcraft!  Whatever label you might wish to put upon the necromancy that is behind my condition shall be considered a plausible theory.  I find myself dwelling upon those historical events occurring in Massachusetts in the 1690s, where the towns of Ipswich, Andover, and Salem experienced a mass hysteria, hanging nearly a score of their kinfolk for their bonds with the black art.  Should I be able to control my state, perhaps choosing when to leave one host for another, or maybe deciding to remain rather than migrate, then I would have little choice but to admit being guilty of associating with the infernal practice.    Should these leaps of flesh and blood continue into infinity, perhaps I shall one day be able to steer their courses.  But it is not I who has the authority, the mastery.  I am but the quarry.

I mentioned yesterday’s date – the ninth of May, 1864 – as being important to my story.  It is such only in the sense that time is no longer a factor in my own existence.  Today is not the tenth of May, 1864, but rather, the first of September, 1862, and I am a private soldier named Jeremiah Watson in General Stevens’ III Corps, which will halt the advance of Stonewall Jackson’s Corp later today in the Battle of Chantilly, at the cost of General Stevens’ life.  No, I do not claim to be able to predict future events.  I have been to Chantilly before, you see.  I have died here before.

I know what you’re thinking.  How absurd it is that my soul could leave one body for another, jumping not only through space but also through time, occupying the body of another.  You’re not wrong.  It is completely absurd.  I wouldn’t have believed you if you had spun me such a tall tale, either.  In fact, you should be able to disprove my story simply by discussing my telling of it in written form.  This very page making the leap from host to host is as impossible as the soul doing such.  I’m afraid I cannot combat this argument, as I have not the ample ammunition.

This book, leather-bound and appearing worn, is actually quite the opposite.  Its contents, primarily rag paper, are discovered each morning to be in the finest condition possible, whatever events or efforts from the day before having no bearing on its maintenance.  I would assume that the book made its debut on the day of my first manifestation in the body of another, but I have no recollection of seeing it, as I was a bit out of sorts that day.  I guess you could say that I wasn’t myself.  I have no memory of my first transition to another being.  I don’t remember dying, or being killed, or even having been in such a position to be killed on the night before my first wandering.  I simply woke up inside another person, frightened and confused, sure that I was not awake or if I was awake, certainly feverish from some ailment my profession and proximity to others caused in me.  As for these pages, well, it took several sightings of the book over several lifetimes, if you will, for me to make the connection.  At first, I thought its appearance to be a coincidence, thinking it awfully peculiar that two soldiers from two different theatres of war might have the same leather-bound journal.  Upon inspection, I found it to be void of entries, again over several lifetimes, and I began to understand that there may be something expected of me.

I rebelled.  Thinking that this book might be the very reason for my leaping from one body to the next, I destroyed it.  Then I destroyed it again and again and again.  Each time, I’d wake in the body of another to find it with me, always in the same pristine condition, the only object which belonged to both me and the next person in succession.

I must take my leave, now.  Right on cue, the bugle is sounding, calling me to duty and my meeting with the angel of death.   I shall see you tomorrow.

THE STORY OF MY QUEST FOR PUBLISHING SUCCESS

Where should I start?  The beginning, I guess.

My historical novel, Black Iron Mercy, began as a notebook filled with research more than four-and-a-half years ago.  The project started as a pledge to tell the story of the Iron Brigade from the viewpoint of a common soldier, inserting a fictional protagonist among the actual participants.  Nine months of research followed, utilizing 19 books, countless articles, and the help of many friends, colleagues, and experts, to produce a rich, historically accurate and entertaining epic about one Wisconsinite’s exploits before, during, and after the American Civil War.  The result was a poignant tale of love and faith, war and discord; a family shattered by loss and sorrow, and a man who struggles every day to hold onto hope.  Deeds Publishing, of Athens, Georgia, is the company that has changed my life forever.  The advance reading copies, for endorsements and reviews, will be out later this month.  The expected launch date for the general public is mid-June.

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Success!  Oh, it feels so sweet.

How did I get here?  More research!  Even as the research stage of this project was ending, I began to research the publishing industry in earnest.  Over the last few years I spent nearly twice as much time researching the business as I did the novel, because failure was not an option.  For new authors, there is no advice I can give you that is more important than “Do the research.”  Learn the industry, including things like literary agents and agencies, query letters, synopses and synopsis writing, book marketing, book publicity, and formatting.  Nothing will lead to failure faster than showing the publishing world that you’ve spent zero time getting to know their business.  This blog was created strictly because I did my homework.  The publishing industry wants you to have a nest in order to promote and sell your work when the time comes to do so.

In June of 2015, I was ready for the querying process to begin.  I had a notebook filled with literary agents willing to take on historical novels.  I knew each of their expectations, their quirks, their requirements, and their attitudes toward eager, new authors.  You must remember that each literary agent has a very strict, detailed list of requirements.  If you stray from them even a little, you’ll be rejected before any of your material is even looked at.

Allowing myself one full year to find an agent, I sent out a total of 66 queries… usually in groups of five to eight.  Some contained only a query letter.  Some contained a synopsis and the first three chapters.  Some contained a synopsis, the first fifty pages, a photo of me, and a bio.  And although it felt like some contained the kitchen sink, not one of them contained the entire manuscript for Black Iron Mercy.

In time, I received 32 rejections.  Yes, the first couple were difficult.  Nobody likes to be rejected.  Not for a date, not on the dance floor, not in the publishing world.  But after a while, even I could appreciate being rejected, because receiving a rejection letter is better than being rejected without notice.  Many literary agents will warn you up front that they do not have the time to respond to all queries.  Because of this, I actually looked forward to receiving a rejection.  Quite frankly, I felt like I deserved a notice when rejected.  It’s not difficult to fire off an email that reads, “Not for us, thanks.”  (an actual rejection, my favorite… because it’s not a form letter.  It may be short, but it’s personal.)

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MY ORGANIZED BOARDS OF QUERY LETTER FAILURE

By November, I had grown weary of the whole query process.  Sure, I had received 32 rejections, but I had actually been rejected all 66 times, whether they had sent notice or not.  But here’s the kicker:  NOT ONE OF THE 66 REJECTIONS WAS BASED ON THE ENTIRE MANUSCRIPT!  No one had even seen the entire manuscript.  Few, if any, had more than fifty pages of the double-spaced document, which equated to one-sixth of the entire novel.

Now, wholly bitter about agents and the agent process, I decided to forgo the agent course, and began researching publishers in the same way I had researched agents six-months prior.  I needed a publisher who would not only publish a historical novel, but who would do so for a first-time, unagented author.  So, I took five weeks to explore this option, compiling a list of 86 possible publishers, and whittled it down to the top three.  These, I queried on December 29, 2015, sending each of them a query letter, a synopsis, and the entire manuscript.  To one of them, I attached a comprehensive, six-page marketing plan aimed specifically at their company.

The very next day, I received a warm, personal note from the CEO of Deeds Publishing, saying that he would try to read at least 10% of my manuscript over the next week.

Wow!  I couldn’t believe it!  I was so emotional, I sat and read his message over and over and over.  Someone was actually gonna read my manuscript.  Life couldn’t have been any better than at this moment.  Or could it?

From an email dated January 2, 2016, just three days later:

“I am reporting that here at 8:00am on Saturday, January 2, I had read 10% of your book – and it grabbed me so completely that this morning I finished the last 10 pages. I have read your whole book – cover to cover.”

I wept.  I sobbed uncontrollably.  I’m not ashamed to admit this.  This book has been my life for the last five years.

After much discussion, Deeds Publishing, LLC offered me a contract.  I sat on it a while, an excruciatingly painful thing to do, while I obtained some legal advice.  Then, on the 15th day of January, another extraordinary event occurred:  I was offered a second contract by one of the other publishers I queried.

Are you effing kidding me?  A month ago I couldn’t get anyone in the world of publishing to look at my material.  Now?  I’ve got choices!  I couldn’t even comprehend what was happening!  I’m still in disbelief.

THE FIRST TWO PUBLISHERS TO SEE MY MANUSCRIPT OFFERED ME CONTRACTS!

I signed with Deeds on January 21st.  The book is in layout, and a front cover is being designed as I write this.

Authors:  Don’t give up.  If you’re being rejected, keep trying.  If you’re still being rejected, circumvent.  There’s always a way.  Don’t allow anyone else to be responsible for your failure.  Sooner or later, you’ll find the one that says, “Yes.”

 

BLACK IRON MERCY  TO BE LAUNCHED IN JUNE

I’m so very happy and proud to announce that I’ve signed a contract with Deeds Publishing of Athens, Georgia, to publish my novel, Black Iron Mercy.  Final edits have been applied to the manuscript and it’s on its way to the creative director for the layout process.

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Whew!  It’s been four and a half years since I started the research for this project.  Nine months of research, two years of writing, a lifetime of editing, and five long months of querying and rejection have culminated in success.  It’s been a long road, but could have been so much longer if not for the help and support of my family and friends.

Thank you to all of YOU, my friends and followers, for your continued support through your words of kindness and encouragement, assessment and criticism.  So many of you have said the right words at just the right moment, providing motivation and inspiration to continue this voyage.  I’m grateful!