Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

The Synopsis

Posted: June 20, 2016 in Writing
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For the writer, there is no proper synopsis for his creation. There is no genesis or completion for anything he has written. It is all one blurb, one moment, one nexus. This is the reason the writer has such difficulty in summing up his production in one short clause. To the writer, the entire story is one fantastic, beguiling memory.

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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!

A MIGHTY 3,000!

Posted: July 31, 2015 in Followers
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3000

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!

Eric

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.

TAKING OFF MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A KID AGAIN

airbus-319

A US Airways Airbus 319

I don’t fly much.  I’ve taken to the sky a few times in the last couple of years, which is more than in the previous eight years combined, but I generally don’t travel much and when I do, it’s in a car with me behind the wheel.  With me in control.

My nephew, of whom I’m so very proud, graduated from Pitt this last weekend. Since I was so graciously invited to attend the festivities, I flew out there for a three day jaunt.  I had a great time, thank you, but I’ll admit that the events that held my attention the most throughout the weekend all involved airplanes.  The closest airport to me is Mitchell International in Milwaukee, and there are no direct flights with any airlines from Milwaukee to Pittsburgh so the entire round-trip required four take-offs and four landings.  We stopped in Chicago, at O’hare, on the way there… then flew to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh to catch another flight home.  This caused some minor amusement for me… as Philly is farther from Milwaukee than Pittsburgh.  Hee-hee.  So be it.

But like I said, I don’t fly much.  And although I am not really afraid to fly, I have found, in the past as well as now, that the longer I go between flights the greater the anxiety I feel for the act.  I still marvel at the fact that human beings can fly at all, let alone at 30,000 feet at a speed of Mach 0.78.  Sometimes I think it’s all just a grand illusion… or a trick… that planes are just advanced elevators or something.  Maybe once you board, an experienced ground crew just changes the scenery so that you think you’ve gone somewhere new.

Anyway, there have been several occasions — one this last weekend — when the plane is barely off the ground and climbing, maybe at an altitude of two thousand feet, where I have mildly freaked, my mind racing, thinking, “Holy Shit!  What the fuck is keeping us up here??!”

Of course, nobody can see my irrational thoughts, and I have a great poker face.  No one can tell by my body language or a look on my face that I nearly just shit my pants at the very beginning of a two-hour flight.  It’s now that I casually look about the cabin at the faces of those people that obviously travel all the time, because they’re already lost in a book, or an android-game, or they’re already asleep, as their gaping mouths are a tell-tale sign of slumber.  Asleep!  Already??  The damn gear isn’t even up yet and you’re already approaching REM?  I snicker.  No way.  That guy just shit his pants and he’s hiding it by pretending that he isn’t scared to death.  He’s got a better poker face than me.  Well done, fella!

Once we’ve leveled off I generally feel better.  Then the turbulence starts.  Tiny potholes in the sky.  Just where does our tax money go, anyway?  I’ve heard of turbulence being so severe that passengers have hit their heads on the ceiling.  Nothing like that has ever happened to me, in fact, I think I’ve been truly blessed on the flights I’ve taken, but a particularly moderate bout of turbulence on the way from Chicago to Pittsburgh caused a kindergarten-age boy across the aisle from me to exclaim, “Gee, the roads in the sky sure are bumpy!”

That’s right, kid.  I blame congress.

So what’s the worst part of the flight for me?  The part when we get back to earth.  Airplanes are built to fly.  And if you want to stop flying, then you need to alter the plane in ways that the plane doesn’t want to be altered.  You need to put the nose down for the gradual descent.  You need to reduce speed… a thing that seems like a horrible idea to me.  And then once you’re down, the flaps on the wings get into crazy positions and the engines reverse thrust and you pray that this monster of a machine will stop before it goes off the end of the runway.

Well, I pray for that, anyway.  Apparently, the guy that shit his pants at the beginning of the flight has just shit them again.  His eyes are closed and his mouth, agape.  What a wuss!

But not all of my childish feelings toward flying are negative.  I get the science for the most part… lift, torque, ailerons and wing flaps… but I’m always in awe of the engineering of it all.  Smart people — people waaayyyy smarter than me — found a way for an animal that can’t fly to fly.  To use an overused word, it’s awesome.  Awesome, as in, it inspires awe.  Only things like the science of flight should be allowed to attract the use of the word, “awesome.”  I feel like a kid again when I’m in a plane… and there are few things in life that do that for me.

New Day

Posted: April 21, 2015 in Poetry
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dawn

An amber dawn, radiant, rich.

Optimism personified,

an idea is born.

TEARS AND SORROW EMBEDDED IN MYTH AND SONG

 

“Thirteen hundred died that day…

It took ten good men just to dig the graves.”

There’s an old song that tells the legendary tale of an American Civil War battle fought a week after the war’s end.  “Dry Run Creek” has been played perhaps ten thousand times by over a thousand artists,

“They buried them shallow, they buried them deep…

They buried them next to Dry Run Creek.”

The song has long been a favorite of bluegrass fans and civil war enthusiasts alike, but is there any truth behind the lyrics?

“Well, they weren’t just blue and they weren’t just gray,

Death took no sides when it came that day.

They laid them down side by each

They placed no stones at their head or feet.

And their mommas cried…

Oh my Lord, how their mommas cried…”

Dry Run Creek runs through the Ozark Mountains, spurring from the gorgeous Norfolk Lake, which is constantly drawing tourists and fishermen to the town of Mountain Home, Arkansas.  The creek boasts beauty, clarity, and, if you’re mobility impaired or under the age of 16, an amazing trout fishing experience.  What it does not boast is a civil war cemetery with 1300 unmarked graves.

Dry run creek

Dry Run Creek, Arkansas

There is also a Dry Run Creek in Iowa and a “Dry Run Creek Cemetery” in Boise, Idaho.  Need we even discuss these?

The song “Dry Run Creek” is often credited to the McPeak Brothers Band, or, more directly, to bluegrass legend Larry McPeak, one of the original VW Boys.  A fine version of the song, covered by “The Seldom Scene,” can be found here:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/search/song?q=The+Seldom+Scene+Dry+Run+Creek

But the McPeak boys were Virginians, not Arkansans… so any motivation for local legend can be ruled out.  Some believe the song’s title is from a combination of the Battles of Bull Run and Wilson’s Creek.

“The war’d been over for about a week

But word hadn’t gotten to Dry Run Creek.

They fought and died right to the end

A battle that should have never been…”

Wherever you might believe the origins of the song came from, the number “1300” should give a clue as to the validity of the story.  Although 1300 is not a high casualty amount for a civil war battle, it would be an extremely high number of killed for a battle fought after the surrender at Appomattox.

By comparison, the battle fought at Palmito Ranch, considered to be the last major engagement of our civil war, is well documented and known by anyone who claims to be a true civil war buff.  It was fought in Cameron County, Texas on May 12th and 13th, 1865, more than a full month after Lee surrendered to Grant in Virginia.

The casualty count at Palmito Ranch?  Four killed, 18 wounded, 104 captured.

Likewise, the Battle of New Orleans is submerged in legend and folklore for being fought more than two weeks after the War of 1812 had ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.

How many died during the Battle of New Orleans?  440 or so, depending on your source.

A battle that saw 1300 die would see at least twice that many wounded, another gross or two captured, and if it had been fought after the end of a war it would be forever seared into the minds of generations to come.

Still, it’s a darn good song.

Thank you to my new friend and fellow blogger, David Zethmayr, for inspiring this topic.  You can find his blog here:

http://earfirst.wordpress.com

SOURCES:

Arkansas.com

Bluegrasstoday.com

Grooveshark.com

Ibluegrass.com

Cedarwoodslodge.com

Encyclopedia Britannica

THIS BLOGGER LIVES!

Posted: June 18, 2014 in Blogging
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Schlehlein offers no apologies for his absence

 

This blog is being written to acknowledge the fact that I haven’t blogged for more than a month.  I’m sure you’re all very disappointed.  Shame on me.

I’ve noticed that when other WordPress bloggers don’t write for a while they tend to apologize to the public for their absence, explaining away their lack of attention with such excuses as work, family, writer’s block, vacations, medical emergencies, etc.

Do you care why I haven’t blogged for more than 30 days?

I, too, have been tempted to apologize to my followers for not giving them something to read over their breakfast.  While constructing this post in my head over the last 24 hours most of my opening sentences have begun with, “I’m sorry for not blogging lately, but…”

I won’t do it.  I find apologizing for not blogging to be among the most pretentious actions that an amateur writer can do.  I have no delusions that anyone would deem what I have to say to be so important that an apology would be necessary for the absence of writing.

That said, I hope you missed me.  I’ll try to do better in the future.

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…”