Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Little Sneak Peek

I started a new novel. Actually I started it several months ago, but have not had much chance to work on it.  I wanted to try my hand at some historical fiction.  After I got over the scare one of my daughters gave me, (pointing out how hard it must be to get the language of historical fiction right) I embarked,

There is a local museum in Akron named Stan Hywet Hall.  It is a large Tudor home, built by the Sieberling family back in the early 1900s.  Frank A Seiberling founded the Goodyear Rubber and Tire Co.  in 1898.  Mr. Seiberling built this beautiful home on the west side of Akron (it was actually countryside back then) to be a summer home for his family.  I actually grew up in the shadow of Stan Hywet Hall and it has always had a special spot in my heart.  When I was young they used to host fireworks on The 4th of July.  That was discontinued late in the 1960's.  Today, however, they still host crafts shows, antique car shows, The Ohio Shakespeare Company and many other activities on the lawn and in the manor house.  Doug and I even attended a madrigal dinner there not to many years ago at Christmas.

I thought this wonderful house would serve well as the setting for a historical novel.  I have given the estate in this new story the name Montrose (also a local name, but with nothing of the charm of Stan Hywet).  And in a bold and daring move, decided I would post a snippet of the tale.

I would love to hear feedback.  I  appreciate honesty, not just platitudes, and kindness.  Keep in mind that this is a first draft, characters are not well formed as of yet, and there may be (most likely will be) many grammatical errors.  I will work through those as I do revisions down the line.

So with a deep breath.....here goes....

Cameron and his brother stayed close to the storefronts as they walked through town.  A gentle rain had fallen most of the night and the streets were muddy.  A splash from a passing carriage or trotting horse was likely, and most certainly unwelcome.  Despite the weather from the night before, the day had turned out fine, with bright sunshine and a soft breeze.  There was a slight chill in the air, a certain sign of the impending autumn.   All in all, it was a perfect way for Cameron to get out of the manor house and off the estate.  His parents encouraged his visits to town.  They saw the time Cameron spent there as a way to acquaint the people of the area with the heir of Montrose.
            Cameron and Brandon both made cursory bows to those they passed, offering pleasantries with many.  Brandon was much better at that than Cameron—the younger Montgomery boy having inherited their father’s more gregarious nature.  Cameron was more like his mother.  He loved books, and studying, and anything that promoted solitary endeavors.
            Just ahead the door of the milliner’s opened and out walked Miss Hilton, a large hat box in her hand.  She was just about to turn away from the brothers, which would have been preferable to Cameron, when Brandon called to her.
            “Miss Hilton,” he said.  She stopped, surprised to hear her name, and turned.  Her face lit with a smile at the sight of the two gentlemen.  But as her eyes met with Cameron’s, they lowered in a flattering blush.  He had to agree, she was as handsome a woman as could be found in Montbridge.  He should be pleased that his parents were promoting a marriage to an attractive woman.  He could do much worse.
            “What a pleasant surprise,” she said, directing her comments to Brandon.  “What brings the two of you into town?”
            “I’ve come to pick up a suit at the tailors.  Mother believes that before I go off to Cambridge, I need a complete new wardrobe.  Apparently my other suits are too juvenile for a future barrister or whatever I end up becoming.”
            It always amazed Cameron that there was never any bitterness in Brandon’s tone when he talked about needing a career.  It always seemed blatantly unfair to Cameron that he inherited it all, the estate and all its income, while Brandon would have to earn a living.  Oh, there would be some money to get him established, and even to purchase some property of his own, but nothing like what went to the first born.  How many times Cameron had wished they could trade places.  He would much rather be a self-made man, than a gentleman by inheritance.
            “Well, as you can see,” Elaina said as she held up her box, “I have been to purchase a new hat.  I saw it in the window last week, and my father was generous and indulged my sudden impulse for a new hat.”  She quickly opened the top of the box to show off the acquisition.
            “It’s perfect,” Brandon said, coaxing another genuine smile from the girl.  He reached out to take the box from her hands.  “You must model it for us.”
            Again she blushed.   “Oh, you don’t want to see me in it.”
            “Of course, we do!” Brandon said, then, with a nudge to his brother added, “Don’t we, Cameron.”
            “We would be delighted,” Cameron said, although his interest was minimal.  Elaina hesitated for a moment, and then with a tiny hop of excitement reached for the hat.
            “Okay, if you insist,” she said as she pulled it from the box.  The hat had a wide brim that was covered in tulle, lace, a large ribbon and even a feather sweeping up one side.  Elaina untied the bonnet she was wearing and placed the new hat gingerly upon her head, tying the ribbons under her chin.  With a small curtsey, she turned from side to side giving the brothers a chance to admire her new purchase.
            Brandon slipped the soft rope handle on the box over his arm and began to applaud.
            “It’s perfect,” he said.  “You are the picture of style and fashion.  There isn’t a girl in London who could outshine you.”
            She lowered her eyes, please with the compliment.  Slowly she raised her gaze to Cameron’s.  It was obvious she was interested in his opinion.
            He smiled. “My brother has not misspoken, Miss Hilton.  It is very lovely, just like the young woman wearing it.”
            She took a step back, again averting her eyes.  A slow smile spread across her mouth.  Yes, she was charming.
            Brandon handed the box to Cameron.  “Here,” he said, “You hold this and I will run into the tailor’s and get my suit while Miss Hilton switches hats again.”  He smiled at her and then departed down the street.
            “I must seem silly to you,” Elaina said as she quickly replaced her new hat for the old. 
            “Why would you assume that?” Cameron asked.
            “Wanting to show off a silly hat.  A hat is a hat, is it not?”
            Before he could answer, a woman’s plea from across the street caught their attention.  Both Cameron and Elaina turned their heads to the sound.   Mr. Walter, owner of the local mercantile, had a young girl, about the same age as Elaina, by the wrist.  She was pulling hard against him, desperate to get away.
            “Nora,” he hollered, “Send the boy for the constable.”  His wife appeared at the door a moment later.
            “Oh, dear, poor girl,” Elaina murmured.
            “Caught stealing— unfortunate,” Cameron said.
            “You should see if you could be of assistance,” Elaina said.
            Elaina nodded across the street.  “You should help her.”
            “She was caught stealing.  There is nothing I can do for her.”
            “You most certainly can.  You have influence, Mr. Montgomery. You could intervene, show her some mercy.”
            “Look at her,” Elaina said discreetly.  “She’s obviously come upon hard times.  It looks as though she hasn’t bathed in some time.  The hem of her skirt, it’s tattered and muddy.  You could help her.”  Elaina looked up with wide blue eyes and it occurred to Cameron that this was an indication of what was to come.  She would bat her eyes and ask some ridiculous request and he would have no option but to acquiesce.
            “I . . . I don’t know what—“
            “Go,” she said, nodding at the scene across the street.
            With a shake of his head, Cameron negotiated his way past puddles and horse dung to the other side of the street.
            “Please, please,” the girl pleaded, “I put the fruit back.  I promise, I won’t return.”
            “You certainly won’t,” Mr. Walter said.
            “Please,” she said again as she tried to tug her arm away.
            “Is there some assistance I can offer?” Cameron said, catching Mr. Walter off guard.
            “Oh . . .oh . . . Mr. Montgomery, how nice to see you.  Can I offer you something?  Nora!” the man hollered again for his wife.
            “I already sent Marcus,” she said coming again to the door.  “Oh, Mr. Montgomery, may I help you with something,” she added, seeing Cameron standing out in front of the store.
            “Here, woman, hold this girl while I help Mr. Montgomery.”  His wife scowled at him, but did as he asked.
            “No, no, I don’t need . . . I didn’t come here to make a purchase,” Cameron said. “Well, at least not for me.  I was wondering if I might pay for the item in question for this young lady.”  He glanced to the girl who was now struggling against Mrs. Walter’s grip.  She paused for a moment and looked up at Cameron in astonishment.  It was as if someone had stolen his breath when his eyes met with hers.  He was looking into the softest, most intriguing, brown eyes he had ever seen.
            “She was stealing from us,” Mr. Walter explained.
            “She must be hungry,” Cameron said without taking his eyes off the girl.
            “Well then, she should find herself some work like the rest of us, and pay for what she needs.  I don’t run a charity here.”
            Cameron forced himself to turn his attention back to Mr. Walter. “I understand that,” Cameron said.  “That’s why I offered to cover the cost of the items she needed.”
            “Mr. Montgomery, you can’t do that,” Mrs. Walter said.  “You start paying for these urchins and you’ll be drained of all your resources in a week.”
            Cameron smiled.  “Mrs. Walter, I am not offering to pay for every urchin on the street.  But as you can see . . .” he motioned to the girl, “She is obviously hungry.  Maybe if we fed her, then she could seek some employment and be able to pay herself the next time.”  He again looked into the girl’s eyes.  She had stopped struggling now and stood looking in wonder at the stranger who had come to her rescue.
            “Mr. Montgomery, your generosity is very magnanimous, but certainly we can’t allow thievery to go unpunished,” Mr. Walter argued.
            “The Constable is already on his way,” Mrs. Walter added.
            “I see,” Cameron said.  “Please—allow this young lady to select what few items she needs and add it to my family’s account.  When the constable comes, ask him—as a personal favor to me—if he would not take her down to St. Peter’s and ask the kind reverend if he would be able to find a place for her to stay and perhaps help her locate some employment.  I am certain he will be more than willing to help if you mention my name.”
            Mr. and Mrs. Walter stood speechless, uncertain how to respond.  It was clear to Cameron that they wanted to see the girl punished, but were reluctant to cross the Montgomery family.
            “Well,” Mr. Walter said with a hard swallow.  Before he could say anything else, Cameron pulled a coin from his pocket.
            “And please accept this,” Cameron said, “For your troubles.”
            Mr. Walter took the coin from Cameron’s outstretched hand.  “Certainly, sir.  I’m sure the constable will be accommodating.”
            “I’m sure he will be,” Cameron said.  He then turned to the girl and offered her a gentlemanly bow.
            “Thank you,” she whispered.
            Cameron didn’t stay to see that his instructions were carried out.  He knew they would be.  He again negotiated his way across the street to Elaina, and Brandon who had returned from the tailor’s and was waiting near the young lady’s side, grinning at his older brother.
            “Feeling philanthropic, Cameron?” Brandon asked, a glint of humor in his eye.
            “Just trying to please Miss Hilton,” he replied.
            “Oh?” Brandon turned to the young woman in surprise.
            “You just proved my point, Mr. Montgomery.”
            “And what point would that be?” Cameron asked.
            “That you have a heart.  I had heard rumors otherwise.”
            Cameron stood dumbfounded for a moment, as his brother burst into laughter.  Cameron regained his composure quickly and smiled.
            “You should never listen to the stories that my brother tells, Miss Hilton.”
            “I will remember that,” she said
            “And to show you how kind hearted I can really be, may I escort you to your father’s office,” he said, offering his arm.
            “Thank you, sir.  That truly is kind of you.”
            Elaina slipped her hand around the crook in Cameron’s arm.  Brandon offered his arm as well, and she happily obliged.  The three of them began their way down the street toward the offices of Charles Hilton, Esquire.    Before they turned the corner, Cameron glanced back to the mercantile just in time to see the constable arrive.  The young woman was watching him as well, much to Cameron’s pleasant surprise.

Let me know what you think!  Remember, it's a work in progress and has a long way to go to completion. :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

In the Good Ole Summertime

This has been one crazy summer.

 It began at the beginning of June when I flew down to Austin, Texas to help my oldest daughter, Shannon, and her family relocate to lovely Northeast Ohio. They spent six weeks with us as they searched for a new home, and then made some updates on the property they found. Much to my delight, they found a house in a neighboring community and are now happily (I hope) settled just twenty minutes from my house. I now get to see my daughter and her two children, Carston and Faith, on a regular basis. Needless to say I am pleased.

While Shannon was moving closer, my second daughter, Anna, was moving a bit farther away. She used to live ten minutes from my house. But her husband was recently hired as a police officer in Euclid, Ohio (A suburb of Cleveland) and had such a long commute from their home here in Copley that they decided to move north. They, too, found a lovely home in a quiet neighborhood in Mentor, Ohio, just twenty minutes from Kirk's work. I am happy that they found a great home in a great neighborhood, but am sad that they now live an hour away. It's not nearly as convenient for them to drop by, and I didn't realize how much I liked those visits until they stopped. Recently I was driving Gracie over to the middle school, the neighborhood where Anna used to live, and it made me sad knowing they were no longer there. But enough of that before I get teary.

 Just after Anna moved, and just before Shannon moved from our house to their new home, I was able to take an unexpected trip to the British Isles. Doug was invited to a business meeting in London. The meeting fell over a planned getaway trip for Doug an myself. Doug felt so bad about ruining our plans for the getaway (which was to the Scottish Games at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina) that he suggested that I accompany him to London. He suggested that we stay a few extra days and make a trip up to Scotland. I thought about it for at least a nano-second and then agreed. We left on July 9th and spent a few days in London visiting a few sights and seeing Shakespeare's play, Henry V, at The Globe and then went by train to Edinborough for a few days. We took a day tour of the Scottish Highlands, toured castles and palaces. Needless to say, it was wonderful. I LOVED Scotland and look forward to returning some day.

 We were home less than a week when Bethany came in for a visit. She was helping her mother-in-law drive a vehicle cross country and they stopped here. Bethany spent a week hanging out with us and making us all laugh.

 After she left, Doug, Mary Jo, Gracie and I packed up and headed to the beach. We spent a week at Hilton Head staying in our favorite place, The Island Club. It's right on the beach and where we always stay when we go to the island. We did absolutely nothing, but eat out a few times and spend our days on the beach playing in the sand and surf and reading.

 We came home and the very next day Sarah came home for two weeks, followed a few days later by Matthew and his wife, McKenna. I'm starting to believe that I need a revolving door on the front of my house.

 I've spent the last few weeks sporadically helping Gracie get ready for school, which started this week, and pursuing some writing leads. I had another publisher interested in David's Song. A friend of mine had sent me a link to Melange Books. I sent them a query and sample of my manuscript and they quickly replied requesting the full manuscript. I was somewhat optimistic at acceptance there until I perused their website a little closer. The books they published had ratings for how hot and steamy they were. I suspected that David's Song might be a little too tame for them, which I found ironic. Sure enough, a few weeks later, I received and email telling me that where David's Song had merit, it wasn't what they were looking for. Funny how it's too risque for one publisher and not enough for another. Now in all fairness, Melange did not say that, but I think they were looking for more than a blip on the steam meter. I am in a quandary on what to do about my writing. I am leaning more and more toward continuing to self-publish and try my hand at marketing a little harder. I have had many requests for the second book in the trilogy and hate to make my handful of readers wait. Things will return to normal here in just a few days. Mary Jo has started her senior year of high school and Gracie has started her last year in the middle school. My older children will return to BYU for their last semesters before graduating. When I think about it, I realize that with a family the size of mine, it will always be in flux. I guess I should just hang on and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dangling the Carrot

If you read my last blog, you know that I was waiting to hear from a publisher about my book, David's Song. Yesterday, I received the much anticipated email. I'd like to share that email. Just a bit of explanation for those of you who are not of my faith and may not understand some of the jargon. LDS refers to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Think Mitt Romney. BYU is owned and operated by the Church and therefore I thought that using a publisher who catered to that market might be wise. (Since, as you know, the first part of the novel takes place at BYU). Secondly, Deseret Books and Seagull are bookstores located in the inter-mountain west that cater specifically to the LDS audience. With that explained, here's the email.


I really enjoyed reading David’s Song and thought it was well written, so I presented it to our editorial board. We would like to publish your book, but there are a couple of issues that need to be worked out.

First, the page count is more than what we typically publish for an LDS novel. In order to keep our prices at a competitive level, the word count should average around 80,000. If we feel a longer story is solid, we can consider publishing it in a mass market size to keep the price down. This might be an option for David’s Song, which brings me to the second issue. The second half of your story, that takes place in the present, isn’t quite as strong. I feel that Annie’s character and story line falls a little flat and probably wouldn’t be suitable for our LDS buyers. The fact that she is spending so much time with David, ignoring her commitment to Jeremy, and even kissing a married man while she is still married herself would be rejected by the Seagull and Deseret Book stores.

Therefore, I would like to suggest publishing a book that would consist solely of Annie’s story that takes place at BYU. It would need a new beginning, the airplane sections would need to be removed, and it would need to end with David leaving, but then Annie and Jeremy would need to be developed a little more. A possible scenario might be that Annie and Jeremy get together, but Annie drags her feet because she is both heartbroken over David and also not sure she can trust anyone again. (On page 272 of your current manuscript, Annie is speaking with David in the present and tells him it took her a long time before she would trust Jeremy not to leave her like he did.) This could be Annie’s and Jeremy’s final conflict before she realizes that she really does love Jeremy, trusts him, and wants to marry him.

Let me know your thoughts on this and what you’d like to do. I’m willing to hear any other suggestions you might have.

Thank you,

My first reaction was there is really something worse than a rejection. I had the distinct feeling that they were asking me to cut off my right arm. You might have to be a writer to understand that. In the 24 hours I've had to think about it, I have seen both the positive and negative of the email. First, they liked the story. They thought it well written. They would like to publish it. In other words, they wanted to work with me. I understand the business aspect of their requests for revisions. They are not a philanthropic enterprise, they are a publishing house. If they don't think that the story would be stocked in the bookstores, then the project is not viable. On the other hand, I have some concerns about how they want me to change the story.

This blog is to see what others think. I have some ideas, but I want to know what those who have read David's Song think about the requested changes. Please feel free to weigh in on the subject. I told the publisher that I would get back to them in a weeks time. Later today I am off for a little (Week long) escape with my husband. When we are not enjoying the warmth and sunshine of the Caribbean, I will be thinking of this. So please, let me know what you think, either by posting here, or on Facebook.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Waiting Game

When I was little, the most exciting part of my summer was the neighborhood Fourth of July parade. Kids in the neighborhood were all invited to enter. We could decorate out bicycles in red, white, and blue tissue paper, with balloons and flags added for good measure. Or, if you were industrious, you could make a float out of your red flyer wagon. For the Halloween lover's you could dress up as well. There would be kids dressed like firecrackers, Uncle Sam, Betsy Ross, flags, even picnic tables. The parade route was a two block area that went down one rather steep hill on one side, and then up another hill on the other. In the middle was a judges stand, manned by neighborhood parents. Two days before the parade, a man, dressed in the obligatory holiday colors, drove through the neighborhood in his corvette convertible with a bull horn announcing the parade. "Come to the big parade," he would say for all of us to hear. "Come one, come all! Bring your bikes. Bring your floats. Come to the big parade." The morning of the parade he would make his rounds again saying the same thing, only adding that "today was the day!"

That little parade was the highlight of my summer. I remember decorating my bike. I remember dressing in red, white, and blue and roller skating the parade route. In that day, one didn't wear the nice in-line skates they have today. My skates were the old silver ones that clamped on over your shoes, the kind that adjusted with a skate key. One year two of my little girl-friends and I dressed up as ballerinas and joined the walkers in the parade. Every entry was judged and winners were presented with ribbons at the end. All participants got a Popsicle. I never won a ribbon. Always enjoyed the Popsicle. And found my excitement for next year's parade returned with the leaves every spring.

The night before the parade, I never slept well--too much excitement. I would be up before sunrise, sitting on the windowsill watching and waiting for the man in the corvette to come driving by, calling me to the parade. My stomach was a roller coaster of emotion, excitement, nervousness, fear. (What if I fell riding my bike down the hill?) I waited all summer for that parade, and there was always a sense of sadness when it was over.

I have repeated this pattern all my life. As a teenager, I couldn't wait to go to an Osmond concert. As a young adult, I couldn't wait to go to college, fall in love, get married. As a young married I couldn't wait to start a family. Once the family was started then I couldn't wait for the baby to walk, talk, start school. With all of those experiences, there was the great anticipation of the wait, the same butterflies in the stomach, then the wistfulness as it was all realized. What would be the next great thing to wait for?

Life has a way of providing the next great thing. Now that my family is nearly grown, of course, there is retirement to wait for and anticipate. On a smaller scale, I am currently waiting to hear from a publisher about my book, David's Song. One day last week, I opened my email to find a request from the publisher for an electronic copy of my work. They wanted to send it out to other reviewers. Of course I happily complied, sending out the copy that day. Now, here I sit, waiting. And the funny thing is, every morning as I open my email, I feel that same roll of the stomach that I felt as a kid the morning of the Fourth of July parade. Will it be good news? Will they say, "Thanks, but no thanks."? Either way, experience has taught me that there will be the same sense of wistfulness at the end. But life has also taught me, there's something else coming around the bend. I can get excited wondering about what it will be? Certainly it will be worth waiting for.