Posts Tagged ‘Manuscript’

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!

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rejected

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.

CHAPTER 28

An excerpt from an unpublished novel of our civil war
SUBJECT TO SOME MAJOR EDITING

 

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

          July 1, 1863

             10:30 am

 

 They’d been ordered to lie down in the field by Lt. Colonel Dawes, who was in command of the regiment, as Colonel Bragg had been kicked in the foot by a horse a few weeks back and was recuperating in Washington.  The regiment was being held in reserve as the rest of the brigade went into action against the Rebel line in the woods ahead of them.  The brigade had hurried forward on the run, the Sixth Wisconsin being the last regiment in the order of march for the day, rushing to gain a position on the left flank of the brigade, which was hastily moving en echelon into the woods to the west.  They ran into the trees and disappeared into the undergrowth, no longer visible to the men of the Sixth.

Suddenly, an aide galloped up to Dawes and had spoken hurriedly to him, causing the commander to order the regiment to lie down in the field as they were now.  Gunfire erupted in a tremendous crash from the woods as the rest of the brigade ran headlong into the rebel line.

“Something’s wrong.” Arlis said, lying prone in the field.

Bath, who lay to the immediate right of Arlis, said, “Why?”  His head flailed from side to side, franticly scanning the scene before them.  He was wide-eyed.  “What’s going on?”

“That aide that rode up to the colonel is Lieutenant Marten, one of Doubleday’s aides,” Arlis said, loud enough for most of the men around him to hear.  “Something must have happened to Reynolds if Doubleday is giving the orders.”  Reynolds, a very competent Pennsylvanian, commanded the First Corp.  He was in command of three divisions, containing seven infantry brigades and a brigade of artillery.

  Arlis watched as the commander of the brigade guard, which consisted of about one hundred men, briefly met with Lt. Colonel Dawes and then split the guard into two, fifty man companies, ordering each to lie down on the flanks of the Sixth, one company per side.  This strengthened the regiment to 340 men and officers, which was less than thirty-five percent of the strength that they’d mustered in at Camp Randall two years prior.  The Sixth Wisconsin was now the only regiment that was not yet engaged in all of Wadsworth’s division, consisting of the Iron Brigade and Cutler’s Brigade, which was made up of four New York regiments, a Pennsylvania regiment, and an Indiana regiment.  Cutler’s Brigade was already in action on the right flank of the Iron Brigade.

“We’re in reserve?” Bath asked, irritation in his voice.  “Why the hell don’t they let us in on the left of the twenty-fourth?”

“Relax, Tubber,” Arlis said, using the nickname that the company had bestowed on Bath.  Bath… Bathtub… Tub… Tubber.  He looked sideways at Bath, “Usually they use the regiment that’s in reserve to plug the line where the action is hottest.  Be careful what you wish for, Private.  You’re gonna see action today.  The whole damn Rebel army is out there somewhere.”

Another aide approached the mounted Dawes on horseback.

“That’s Lieutenant Jones,” Arlis said.  “He belongs to Doubleday, too.”

“How do ya know,” Bath bellowed, attempting to be heard over the gunfire.

Arlis spun his head wildly toward Bath and yelled angrily, “Because I pay attention, Bath.  Open your eyes and shut your mouth now!”

Dawes turned and passed the order down the chain of command.  Captain Ticknor, now the commander of Company K, passed it to his men.

“On your feet, men…”

 

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Well looky here… I’m a blogging machine.

The publishing industry says I should put my name out there via websites and blogs, so that’s what I’ve been doing.  I’ve written more over the last year and a half than I’d written in the previous twenty years.  Funny thing is:  Most of what I’m writing has nothing to do with my manuscript, my search for literary agents, or my quest to get myself and my work published.

Yeah, I know.  I KNOW.  It doesn’t matter what I’m writing.  The publishing industry says I need to put my name out there so as to have a following ahead of time.  I also need to build a nest so that I have a warm, dry place to nourish my work once I get it published.  I understand that most of my current work — this type of sidebar — is necessary to the end result.

I’d love to go back in time and read the blogs of Edgar Allen Poe and Walt Whitman… you know, the ones they were writing to build their followings and to impress their literary agents when their real work was ready.

My second novel, “Working Title,” has just 1,452 words out of a probable 55,000.  I’m neglecting it at this very moment so that I can add this current blog to my body of work to impress those that will one day shatter my dreams.

Please note:  I haven’t been rejected.  My first novel isn’t quite ready for submission.  This blog is in response to all of those future rejection letters, as well as those that I’ve had the pleasure of reading through other bloggers here on WordPress.  Those are so very joyful.

I’ve said it before.  I’m really not into attention seeking behavior.  Part of this stems from a fear of failure.  Wait, that’s not exactly true. Yes, I fear failure, but it’s more accurate to say that I fear people noticing my failures.  I don’t like people to see me at my worst.  I don’t like it when I appear flawed.  I don’t like it when people criticize my work.

Oh God.  Why the hell did I write a book?

People love to tell me that J.K. Rowling was turned down __ times.  Stephen King was rejected __ times.  Hemingway had the door slammed on him __ times.

Is this really going to make me feel better when the rejection is pouring in?

I’m supposed to show the world that I can write.  I’ve done that.  I’m supposed to show the world an occasional excerpt from those things that I want published.  I’ve done that.

What if all I’m doing is leaving a trail, like a snail, of my failures.

My followers encourage me not to give up.  If I never give up and yet never get my work published, then the only thing published shall be rejection and failure.  I’ve done so many other good, positive things with my life.  Maybe I should stick to blogging about my successes, instead.

I’ve got a beautiful wife and three lovely children.

An excerpt from chapter nine of my manuscript, “Black Iron Mercy,” a novel of the Civil War.

 

Manuscript is subject to editing.

Mineral Point, Wisconsin

March 4, 1857

Afternoon

Arlis stood still, listening to the silence.  He held his breath and concentrated.  The loudness of the dormancy seemed deafening.  He had often done this, especially in the winter, when the inactivity of everything was total.  The calming affectation was profound and immediate, and he relaxed, his pulse returning to normal.  He closed his eyes and raised his face to the sky, absorbing what little heat the sun offered and breathed again, auscultating the din of his own respiration.

“Hiya, Arlis.”

He nearly jumped out of his skin, and then whirled around.  There she was, standing in a pair of well defined foot prints he hadn’t noticed near the edge of the woods.  She was carrying a book and her slate.

“Darn it all, girl!  You scared me out of my wits,” he said, his heart rate elevating right back to the level it had been before.

“Didn’t mean ta, surely,” Violet said, sounding concerned but looking amused.  “You scare easy is all.  It’s not like I’m out here sneakin’ ‘round.  You’re the one outta place. I come home this way every day.”  She walked over and stood near him, eyes on the sled.

Arlis smiled.  She looked beautiful.  Her eyes as green as ever against this colorless backdrop, she had her hair all tucked up under her bonnet and her red scarf tight around her neck.  Her cheeks matched her scarf in rosiness.

“Whatcha doin’ out here all by yourself, fisherman?” she asked, eyeing the fishing pole.  “Can’t wait for spring to try out your new tackle?

Arlis glanced at the sled and felt the panic coming back again.  “Oh nuts, Violet.  You had to go and… and…  You ain’t supposed to see this yet.  Aren’t.  You aren’t supposed to see it, yet.”

“Well, that’s a terrible way to talk to a girl on her birthday,” she said, scolding him and smiling.  She seemed to be enjoying his discomfort.

“Oh, heck,” Arlis said, surrendering to the hopelessness of this encounter going anything like he’d imagined it.  “Happy birthday, Violet.  These gifts are for you.  The wrapped box and the fishing gear, too.”

She went to the sled and set her school things on it.  Then, untying the rod and holding it in her hands, she examined the reel.

“I’ve never seen one of these before, Arlis.  I reckon it’s right nice.  I’m not sure I’d know how ta use it.”  She ran her hand down the pole.  “One problem.”

Arlis gaped at her.  Oh, oh, he thought.  “What?” he asked, his head tilted like a dog trying to comprehend.

“I can’t accept it,” she said, setting it back on the sled and standing up straight.

“What?” he asked, dumbfounded.  “Whatta you mean, ‘can’t accept it?’”  His heart was breaking.  “You have any idea what I had to go through to get that reel?”

Violet smiled, looked around, and then stepped forward and kissed him, firm and long, surely longer than the five second rule allowed. After a short while she backed off a little, and he felt the softness of her lush lips on his.  Their tongues touched briefly, light and exquisite, another new experience, and then she withdrew, keeping her face just inches from his, the smile returning to her face.  Her mittened hand found his and held it gently.  “You gotta come to the house and give it to me, Arlis, or my Pa will ask me a lot of questions.  He’ll probably wonder who I been sneakin’ off with ta get such a gift.  Wait five minutes and then follow me home.  I’ll say ‘thank you’ to you proper like then.”  She picked up her book and slate and turned, walking toward her house.

Tasting her on his lips, he mumbled, “I thought you just did…”

THE WRITER’S STRUGGLE 

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In my head five minutes ago:  Someone is gonna publish my manuscript.  It’s well-written.  It’s got a fantastic plot-line based on real events and real people.  It’ll be interesting to men AND women because it’s about life, loss, love, hope, war, coping, redemption, and the triumph of the human spirit.

In my head this very minute:  There’s no way in Hell anyone’s gonna publish my book.  I can’t friggin’ write.  The plot’s flat and it’s based on people nobody will care about.  It’s too violent for women and too wishy-washy for men.  It’s got quite a bit about lead mining and agriculture in a western Wisconsin town during the 19th century, for God’s sake.

This is the opening struggle for a writer that’s never before sought help in publishing.  Okay… maybe not the opening struggle.  The opener was whether or not I’d quit researching and get busy writing.  For a long time, I kept researching just because I was too frightened to put the pen to paper, so to speak.

The manuscript’s first draft is complete.  It’s in the hands of two qualified friends who, if they’re doing their job (unpaid, except for an acknowledgement and a signed copy, once published,) they’re putting a red pen to it in such a manner that will make it look like a piece of forensic evidence when I get it back.  When I gave the manuscript to them we (all three of us) agreed that two months time, or 60 days, would be sufficient for them to finish editing it.

I am ashamed of my own ignorance.

134 days have gone by now and I’m not sure if the end is in sight.  I’ve left both of them alone (except for the one time last Thanksgiving when I asked them if they required more time) because I don’t want to rush them or burden them or make either of them think that I’m ungrateful in any way for this tremendous favor they’re doing for me.  I am SO very grateful to both of them for taking on this task — a task that I can now see as one requiring a pretty big sacrifice in their daily routines.

THANK YOU, DEB and SCOTT!

In the meantime, I feel I’ve used my time wisely.  I’ve spent a great deal of time reading books on publishing, such as “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published,” by Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry.  I’ve also researched literary agents, and researched literary agents, and researched more literary agents. I’ve filled up half a notebook with agents and agencies and addresses and submission guidelines and query letter formats in the hopes that I’ve found a good group of competent people who can someday shatter my dreams.

That’s right… I said “someday.”  See, I haven’t even sent out queries yet.

Well, it’s not like I should have sent queries.  My manuscript is in need of final polishing yet.  But in addition to worrying about the manuscript’s condition, I still need to construct my query letters.  Then, I’ll need a one-paragraph synopsis… and a three to five-paragraph synopsis… and a one-page synopsis… and a three to five-page synopsis… and a coroner.

Did I mention I haven’t yet had the pleasure of a rejection letter yet?

Black Iron Mercy.  My first manuscript... a 99,000 word work of historical fiction.

The Rebel found Arlis’ eyes with his own, dulled and gray from blood loss. “Kill me, Yank!” he said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Arlis was utterly sick of killing, having just charged with the rest of the Sixth Wisconsin on an unfinished railroad cut outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He looked at the Rebel, who lay wounded and bleeding beneath a bramble next to the cut. The Reb’s right leg was stuck beneath him, the foot pinned under his backside, and it was this image more than the gruesome wounds in the man’s gullet which alarmed Arlis, the position obviously uncomfortable even under the best of circumstances.
“Matthew: Five, seven,” Arlis said, acknowledging the man’s words. He knelt down and lifted the Rebel’s right hip slightly, pulling the trapped foot from beneath him, straightening the man’s leg into a position of comfort…

By the time Arlis Jenkins had gone to war, he’d become all too familiar with death. At the age of ten he’d already lost a sister to disease and a brother to a storm… and while he struggled with his own agony and that of his surviving sister, Rachel, he watched helplessly as his parents wallowed in their despair, forever changed, forever distant, forever lost. Now, nearly ten years later, as death and destruction rages all around him, he’s lost the only girl he’s ever loved and Rachel too, while his mother sits in a rocker at a hospital for the insane in Milwaukee, choosing to starve herself to death rather than allow God to force her to bury her last remaining child.

“Black Iron Mercy” is a 99,000 word historical novel about hardship, love, loss, war, coping, and the strength of spirit. A lifetime of passion and ten months of research went into the manuscript before a word was put to paper. Although Arlis is fictional, many of the principals were real people, and when a writer takes liberties with the lives of real people then that writer has a dire responsibility to get it right.