Friday, December 15, 2017

Transportation and Communication Norms: Modern vs. Historical

It is hard for us, with our communication and transportation technology, to envision a world where someone in one town may never, in their life, visit another town that is fifty miles away. Stories in a historical setting have to balance a very fine line between historical accuracy and the modern reader's ability to suspend disbelief and commit to a story. Sometimes a concept is just so foreign that it is impossible to apply. In the case of Courtly Pleasures, the figurative distance between Frances and Henry can, in part, be linked to the literal distance.

Today it would take two hours and thirty-eight minutes to get from Holme Pierrepont (the basis for my fictitious Holme LeSieur) to Hampton Court Palace, depending on traffic. In the sixteenth century, it would have taken at least four days for a lady and her entourage to travel the one hundred and forty four miles -- and that's just travel time. This doesn't take into account the personal items (what a modern traveler might expect but on a much larger scale, literally. I had an Elizabethan gown and underpinnings that weighed forty pounds) and the household furnishings (I don't know about you, but I don't bring tapestries, bedding, beds, etc... with me when I travel) both for the wealthy traveler and their servants and their companions and their companion's servants... There is no guarantee of hospitality at the final destination and the hotels of the day consisted of rooms above a tavern, good only for a night's stay. And let's not forget able bodied gentlemen to act as outriders to both clear the way and ensure safety of the traveling party

And all this effort could only be successful if the roads were in good condition (no department of transportation to maintain a paved surface clear of potholes, flooding, and ruts) and free of bandits (no police force).

Travel was difficult and not undertaken lightly.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The King's Post, by R. C. Tombs

I don't mention any of this in my novel, Courtly Pleasures, because it would take away from the story. However, without laying out the challenges of distance and travel, readers may not be able to put the enormity of effort the simple act of visiting London required into context.

The challenges of travel directly impacted the communication systems of the time. With no post office, any letters would have to be delivered by a paid courier and without any guarantee when or if they would reach their destination. My main character, Frances, would have had someone on staff that she sent with missives to her mother. That courier would wait and bring a reply, but he still had to deal with traveling.

Can you imagine if the only outside information you received was filtered by word of mouth or in inconsistent letters from relatives? You may hear about goings on in the world, but long after the events occurred. You may not know that your brother's wife died or that there was a battle in Scotland or that the Queen was sponsoring exploration in the New World. Today we suffer from an overload of information. If a celebrity wore a certain dress to an event, we know it immediately, even if we don't care. It's hard to imagine a time where we would be ignorant of anything outside the immediate bubble of our household or village.

We have such a wealth of resources at our disposal that it is hard to grasp a time where people did not. I recently, in an interview, stated that I like modern times because of flush toilets and penicillin. Add to that the easy access to any question at the tap of a keyboard and the fact that I can talk, face to face, with my sister in Switzerland. The world has become much smaller...let's hope the distance between us does also.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Countdown to Release Date

Courtly Pleasures is coming out on December 4th, 2017.

This is actually happening.

I have been pitching and querying and stalking agents/editors/publishers and creating a web presence and trying to write the 'right' book and... Rejection was normal. Getting that yes answer was mind-blowing.

Publication is entirely new.

A handful of reviews have been made available to me, some fantastic and some less fantastic - but that's how readers (real readers, people who don't have to be nice to me) should react. A reading experience is entirely subjective. I will simply have to develop a thick skin, but so far I haven't had any hurt feelings; it's just been interesting to see.

You can still pre-order my book. You will be charged on 12/4 and the book delivered to your device. Pre-orders help pump up my opening day results and my rankings with the e-book sellers. The more clicks/purchases/reviews, the higher I move up on the list when someone looks up historical romance, and that puts my book in front of more people.

The Amazon link is in the side bar right below the countdown, if you are so inclined (which I hope you are).

This is actually happening!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Process from Contract to Publication

I signed my contract in mid-August and received my first round of edits toward the end of September.

The first round of edits was content based. While there were some grammar/punctuation/word choice changes suggested, it was about the smoothness of the read. These came directly from my editor. The comments had to do with going deeper into my main character's points of view, fleshing out scenes, etc... This was the most difficult for me because it addressed my story. It's easy to fix a misspelling, but harder to accept that you missed a critical aspect of the character. That said, it wasn't as emotionally painful as I expected. All the comments made sense and the changes were all toward making it a better story. That round of edits were due in the first part of October, so I had about two weeks to complete them.

I received the second round of edits a week later (mid-October). These were the line edits and dealt mainly with typos, spelling, or grammatical errors. Based on the notes, it seems that there were two line editors who went through the manuscript. Some corrections embarrassed me and some surprised me. I learned a few things about hyphen use but still don't understand why they would delete my ellipses (...) and then replace it with another set of ellipses (I'm assuming it has to do with formatting, but it's still a mystery). Overall, this process was smooth. It was due a week later.

Round three was the galley edits. This is the book, coded for epub and not easy to change at that point. Part of me wanted to write it off as done but I am glad I didn't. I listened to it read aloud and caught so many things that would have been downright embarrassing. After all the pairs of eyes that had gone over the document, there were still issues and it was no longer a document that could be easily fixed. I will never again be critical of minor editing errors in published novels.  Those edits were due the beginning of November and then the galley was made available for professional reviews the next day.

So from the end of September to the beginning of November, Courtly Pleasures went from manuscript to novel. It's out there right now for industry professionals to read and review prior to release. The release date is just over three weeks away.

The whole things was less than three months from the date of the contract. It's been a whirlwind and I'm a little stunned.

Things I've learned:

  • I can keep to a deadline.
  • That when a an adjective has a modifying word before it, you use a hyphen even if it isn't a regular compound word (inky-black, broad-shouldered).
  • To use the read aloud feature during the line edits so the galley version will require little (if any) changes.

Now I have to focus on promotion. This is intimidating because I'm not extroverted at heart (I categorize myself as a friendly introvert) and I'm not a business/marketing expert (but I'll learn). Wish me luck.

As for business/marketing...
 Available for pre-order now!
Courtly Pleasures is available for pre-order now. 
Click on the image above.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Humility and Pride

I had a great conversation with a student today about balancing pride and humility. I teach art and, though not every person feels pulled to artistic expression, everyone is capable of producing something they're proud of. You have to take the time, be patient with yourself and be mindful. The finished work may not be a master work, but it can be something you step back, look, and say, "I did that!" with pride.

Getting to that point, however, takes humility. Without humility we cannot grow. Humility opens us up to learn new things. I'm not talking about modesty or self-deprecation, but the real understanding that tomorrow can be better if you let it.

I think we get socially trained to be overly modest about accomplishments as if being proud of yourself is wrong. For many people it is difficult to honestly say, "thank you" when you receive a compliment. Many will deflect anything positive with something self-deprecating. I understand that not everyone may not believe positive words about themselves, but they need to give the bestower of the compliment the benefit of the doubt that they believe it, that they are sincere. Shrugging away those kind words is not only rude to yourself, but to them.  It's taking humility too far and making it harmful.

So, from my bounty of wisdom, I'm here to say that you have to balance the humility and pride. Pride alone is unhealthy--as is humility, sin and virtue aside. It's the combination that will lead to growth and self acceptance. This will end up on an inspirational poster someday. Probably with a puppy.

Where the heck is all this coming from?
Well, I'm dealing with positive reinforcement from my publishing house and quelling the urge to point out my flaws and fighting my humility when I should have allowed myself to be proud. I'm also dealing with line edits and finding out rules about grammar/punctuation I didn't know (and I used to teach English!). With the line edits, I had to fight my stubborn pride and absolute belief I was right and learn something new.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Being a Writer

I am just about to send my edited manuscript back. At this point I'm going over it again and again to see if I missed anything and to clean up the new content.

Receiving the edits made the fact that I'm going to be published finally become real. As I work toward applying the edits, I feel like I'm working toward a real goal. It makes it feel like a legitimate job and not something weird I do alone when I have time.

Writing had become almost a burden. If I wasn't writing then I was giving up. If I was writing, it was hard to justify why I was taking the time to write a story when I could be doing productive things like laundry. I had so many stories in my head, but either the story or the writing had some flaw I didn't understand, something about it that made it not viable. It's hard to motivate yourself to write despite that.

I would tell myself that the fact that I started and finished books was an achievement in itself and I didn't need validation from external sources. While I still felt good about what I had accomplished, I must have needed that validation because it was becoming harder and harder to write.

As I do edits for Courtly Pleasures I can see the finish line on this project. It restores my optimism (or insanity) for my writing and my faith in myself. New stories are percolating. Old stories with kinks are resolving themselves.

I'm excited about writing, about being a writer, again. Of course I'm excited about Courtly Pleasures being published but, more than that, I'm excited about the next story and how it might unfold.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Applying Edits

My experience with the first round of edits was...
Scary? No, not once I got the document. The worst part was the anticipation.
Exhilarating? No, it was just a job I had to do.
Insulting? Not at all. There were changes to be made and I made them. I wasn't offended. I suppose I could have been, but the editor always explained her thought process. Hey, it's all about putting the best version of your book out there and that means honest critique and collaboration.

I received a Word doc full of tracked changes and comments. 90% of my job was to accept the deletion/insertion of the tracked changes. This included a format change here, an 's there, an m dash changed to an ellipses, etc... All little things.

The editor also noted story inconsistencies or times when more explanation was needed. A few new scenes requested, a few scenes deleted. Everything she said made sense to me. None of it was insulting to my word baby or my ego. The challenge for me was to hold the history teacher in me in check when I was asked to explain some of the social norms or the roll of nobles and gentry at Queen Elizabeth's court. I had to severely edit myself to address specific questions.

I was nervous about the edits, but they've been smooth. I understand the expectations and that is more cut and dry than trying to write a book in the first place.

The next step is line edits. I like to think it won't be too messy. I'll let you know.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Receiving Edits (alternatively titled: Holy Crap!)

Over the years I have posted blogs about treating every critique like a gift. Whether or not I agree with the critique, the reader took the time to read my manuscript and give feedback. That deserves gratitude, not argument. It took me years to train myself to put this understanding into action. It is a knee jerk response that, when my book baby is threatened, I must defend it.

Here's the thing: if I have to explain why I did x, y, or z to the reader, then it wasn't well done. I won't have the opportunity to pop my head in to where my reader confused by my creative decision and explain that the scene is an example of my heroine as an unreliable narrator. Beside that being super creepy behavior on my part, it is just evidence of bad writing.

Ergo: Critique = Thank you.

But now I'm at that next stage and have an editor (insert little happy dance here).

I'll be getting my first round of content edits within the week and that could mean ANYTHING. I hope my critique=thank you training will come in handy but, more than that, I hope I can be an educated, professional adult with enough sense of self to make this experience a rational one and not take anything personally. Ultimately, any perceived criticism will be coming from the shared goal to make my book successful.

So bring it on, awesome editor, I can take it like a reasonable person and not be crazy. I think. I hope.

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