Monday, May 16, 2022

Thoughts on publishing

Publishing is subjective.

Maybe you've heard that, maybe you haven't. If you're not a writer who's attempted traditional publishing, you may not comprehend those words the same way.

I was cleaning out my email the other day and ventured into a folder called Query 2015. If it was a physical folder, it would be very dusty. I might have even recycled it by now. I don't think I've opened it since late 2015, when I got an agent for Songbird (which at that time was called The King's Creatures).

I sent out well over 100 queries. I'd say 75% of those queries never even got responses. Another 15% said no. The remaining agents requested samples - anything from 5 to 50 pages. 

If those pages grabbed them, they would have requested more. Only one did, and I'll talk about that later.

But the rejections for Songbird were so inconsistent it was hard to figure out my next steps. 

"Good plot, Couldn't get into the characters."

"Strong characterization, but lacking in plot."

"The Tudors as an era are played out and tired. Can this story be set in another period?"

"The Tudor field is overcrowded. Can you write this in another era?"

"I can't see the settings or costumes. Would be willing to read if you rewrite it in more of a Philippa Gregory style."

"Too much description for my taste."

Is it any wonder that I put it away until fall 2018, because I just couldn't think about it anymore without my head exploding?

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Coming Apart: Coal Towns


Scovill Run, the town where my main character and her family live and work, is fictional, but it's based on many towns encountered in my research, towns either overtaken by the dirty business of mining, or spring or of nowhere to support a mine.

The towns were almost wholly owned by the mining companies. There were no other jobs tolerated outside mine work. Men who refused to go underground had to leave to find work. Houses were tied, so a family never really owned their home, it even rented it properly. No rent was paid; part of a miner's salary was out toward the rent. The rest was deposited at the company store, where all provisions had to be purchased, often at prices higher than found outside the town. But since miners were paid in scrip, not cash, transportation was not the only problem.

On the outside, a coal patch town might look like any other. There were houses, churches, and a shop with a post office. A community center where events took place, movies were shown and elections were held.

But the government of the town, such as it was, was in the hands of the coal company. They had their own private police force, the Coal and Iron Police, which terrorized families all over Pennsylvania. They dealt with efforts at unionizing with an iron hand, and if they went overboard on their administration of justice, there was no recourse. The CIP was disbanded in 1931, but they had almost complete control from the Civil War up until that point.

Education in a coal town was minimal, going only through the eighth grade. Most boys left school before then, to work in the mines. By the time my book starts, it is illegal to hire a boy under the age of fourteen, but of course it still happened, and it was at least an improvement on the days when boys started on the breaker, sorting coal, at the age of five or six.

By the time the Depression was in full swing, the demand for coal had begin to slack - oil was the coming thing, and many household in the cities were changing over to oil heat. Still, coal was necessary for industry, and the mines kept operating, but often the miners' hours were reduced to a point just above poverty, and, dependent on the company for food and housing, and deprived of education and any opportunity of other work, they had few options.

Monday, May 2, 2022

April Roundup


Where does the time go? That's what I want to know.

It feels like I've been constantly busy, but when I sit down to write these posts, I look back and wonder what exactly all that busy has been.

This month, I finished (again) final edits on Coming Apart. I sent out multiple requests for endorsements from authors - those lovely complimentary words you find on book covers - and actually got a few in response. Still waiting on a few others.

In case you've ever wondered, there are three responses to any request: yes, no, and no response. No response is by far the most common.

I've also been working away on the sequel to Coming Apart, and a prequel novella which I want to use as a newsletter sign-up. (If you're already a newsletter subscriber, don't worry - I'll announce it there and insert the download link. If you're not already a newsletter subscriber, why not? I won't spam you or give away your email address - you're trusting me, and I'm well aware of the responsibility involved - and I'll only email once a month unless I've got a book coming out or some special announcement.

Like a prequel novella. So sign up here, if you're so inclined.

I've also been working on some edits for other writers, which is not only a good way to give back to a community I love, but also brings in income and teaches me to be a better writer. Editing someone else's work without changing their voice is hard. 

Last but not least, I've been figuring out behind-the-scenes stuff like putting A+ content on Amazon (those are the pretty graphics you see on some book listings, an option formerly only given to traditional publishers - see example) and I'm working on a launch plan for Coming Apart. I know it's not until October, but this one is a bit of a departure in the audience - more women's fiction than historical, though it's both - and I want to get this right.