Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Paradigm Shift

I've been at loose ends for quite a while, since I finished the revisions on For Two Cents in late October and sent it off to my agent.  I haven't heard anything from her, so I sent an excerpt from it to Narrative magazine's fall contest.  When that was done I had nothing else to focus on.  I fooled around with turning For Two Cents into a screenplay (and I still may) but I really found myself at an impasse.  As a result I spent most of Thanksgiving break brooding about my writing.  Isabelle never found a publisher.  I had high hopes for novel #2 but as it stands today I don't even know if my agent is willing to shop it around.  Hence the brooding.  I thought about entering Isabelle in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest until I found out it's 17,000 words over the limit.  It might be worth revising (cutting 50-odd pages...dunno) but without a specific historical fiction division I don't think much of my chances.  So back to square one.

After looking around at local agents and publishing houses, I drifted over to Amazon's e-publishing page. Hm.  They have a particularly persuasive little video that got me to thinking.  Well, why the hell not?  Isabelle's not doing anybody any good gathering digital dust in my computer--what's the worst that could happen?  And then it came to me:  I want to grab a little glory for myself.  I want people to read my stories and enjoy my characters as much as I did creating them.  So much of what I do in my day job is ephemeral.  I may never see the fruits of my labors there.  I sure would like to get something from my writing, even if it's just a few kinds words from an enthusiastic fan or two.

So today I'm exploring e-publishing.  Patient husband has agreed to help create artwork for the cover.  There's a lot to learn (Amazon's legalese runs twenty-one single-spaced pages.  Good Lord.) but I hope to have Isabelle read through again for a final buff-and-polish and ready to start formatting by the time winter break rolls around in a few weeks.   For my next post I hope to announce publication.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Working the Network

I'm pleased to announce that I've completed novel #2!  Titled For Two Cents I'll Go With You, it's based on the true story of my grandfather's experiences in France as a WWI Army medic.  Right now it's around 31,000 words, which makes it far shorter than my first novel.  Part of that is timeframe: Granddad was in the Army for about twenty months, whereas my first novel covers approximately twenty years.  I'm hoping that will translate into greater desirability for a publisher.  I have a few writing contests lined up for later in the year, but for now I'm working to locate someone famous to read my story and write a blurb because my agent said it would smooth the path to acceptance.  I've written emails and delved back into the Twitterverse, because experience has shown that if you want to get something done you have to work the network.  I thank my friends and colleagues in advance for their kind indulgence.

I learned a lot writing my first novel, so the composition of For Two Cents went much faster:  it only took about a year and a half, not including some preliminary research with my dad.  I spent much of one visit back home talking to him and recording his memories of Granddad's experiences, which I then incorporated into my novel.  I also edited Granddad's many letters home to his mother.  Because of wartime censorship restrictions he wasn't able to say much, which was where the novel took off.  This time I found the Internet to be a great resource.  The Army has a website with a digital copy of the entire history of the Medical Department in WWI that was extraordinarily helpful, as was Google Books.  Interlibrary loan was also useful, as was the judicious purchase of a few texts online.  Finally, my parents have carefully preserved a photo album that one of Granddad's buddies put together documenting their adventures from Fort Oglethorpe, GA to Coblenz, Germany that I used to guide my imagination along the way.

I think I learned a lot about my grandfather in imagining his adventures.  Granddad never talked to us kids about the war, nor to Grandma.  He only ever told my dad what he did, most likely because my dad was also a veteran.  As in my first novel, I thought about who he was and who he became as a result of what he went through in the war.  Like most of our soldiers in the Great War, he was a country boy, having never left the state of Michigan before volunteering.  He traveled thousands of miles and experienced many things before returning home to Elsie in 1919.  It's been a fascinating journey for me, too, and one I hope others will want to travel with me.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

On Patience

It's been a very long time since I added to my blog.  Back in late August I handed the revised version of Isabelle over to my agent, and the waiting began.  When I hadn't heard anything by Thanksgiving, I dropped her a line.  I heard back from her last week, and it looks like we're still in the game.  She said "a few" editors were willing to look at the revised MS, so I'm remaining optimistic.  These things do take time, however.  It can take anywhere from two to five months or more for editors to make a decision, according to the wisdom of the Web.  It took ten years to write the silly thing--surely I can wait a while long for it actually see the light of day.  Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I've been continuing work on my current project, which is a fictionalized retelling of my grandfather's experiences as a medic during WWI.  It's been great fun, and I'm learning a lot.  The researching skills I gained while writing Isabelle have come in handy, as well as the discovery of Google Books.  I'm currently reading War Bugs, a first-person account of the Rainbow Division's experience in France at the same time.  Thanks to the King County Library System, I was able to borrow it from (I think) somewhere in New Mexico.  It's not directly applicable since Granddad wasn't in the trenches, but good background information overall.  Prior to War Bugs, I was reading Dr. Harvey Cushing's journal.  He was a doctor with the BEF from the early days of the war, and kept an incredibly detailed and fascinating multi-volume journal of his adventures.  An edited version was published in the '30s, and I was able to find a copy of it online.  It was very exciting to find four separate mentions of Granddad's unit in the journal.  I was able to get a lot added to the story over midwinter break, and I hope the momentum will continue.

Since my goal is to write (and not write about my writing) I won't be here every day, but I do plan to check in now and again.  After all, as Louis L'amour said: “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”