This photo is of Billy. Back in 1950s Ohio he often wandered around our neighborhood dressed in his mother’s castoff dresses and high heels. You can imagine what the other boys did about that, but their jeers never stopped Billy.
The flag and hat were merely props like the fake pistols and stick horses we made out of sassafras and rode everywhere pretending they were real. Soft-spoken Billy loved animals and never hurt anyone or any thing as far as I knew.
Years later after finishing college I learned he lost an eye while fighting in Viet Nam. After service he ended up in prison and was murdered there. I have no idea of the circumstances, but can imagine.
I will dedicate my novel, Unspoken, to him. As a boy I knew him fairly well, and am pretty darn sure he didn’t deserve what happened to him.
Billy was one more case of the inequality that has occurred in our country over the years. One more George Floyd, though Billy was white. We must continue to join together to put an end to injustice. All of us of every shade and color.
I recently downloaded a book by Colleen M. Story entitled Writer get Noticed!, which is supposed to help me pursue my own path while developing an author platform. Sounds like a great idea, since I need help with my platform.
My cat, Dickens, is here next to my computer, as usual and willing, but I doubt he knows much about this sort of thing.
The book suggests I keep a journal of each of its steps, answering core questions, which I did:
I truly don’t care about making a lot of money. Thank goodness. Because the chances of that are slim. To me, higher royalties are not that important.
What my novel has to say is important. It is meaningful and fits my vision.
As much as I believe She Writes Press is a good fit for many writers, I don’t believe it is for me.
They read three hundred pages of my manuscript to invite me to publish with them. I should have known this was enough to recognize talent, but not enough to financially back my novel. This is my impression of the approach of a school who awards a publishing contract upon graduation. The She Writes Press team is excellent and I wish I could afford them, but I cannot.
I want a publisher who believes in my novel, Unspoken, as much as I do, or at least enough to financially support it.
I am grateful to She Writes Press and responders on Critique Circle for what I have learned these past few weeks. I began as such a naive newbie, and I now have direction. I highly recommend She Writes Press for many women writers who can afford to publish with their team. You will get plenty of support on your journey, merely not financial.
Where do I go from here?
I will be writing about my platform and why this novel is important. I hope you will come along for the ride.
Yesterday I read the eight-page (plus Exhibits) publishing contract. I believe contracts can be frightening when you read all the fees you must come up with, as well as where all duties lie, and there are a lot of them. All those items you discussed are now on paper in black and white—legal, or about to be.
Many folks who have been party to real estate contracts know what I mean. That feeling you get when you are sitting at the table with your agent and are signing all those documents, one after the other. It is as though you are signing your life away.
I have only one document, yet this effort to publish my novel is a risk, as it is taking a major chunk out of my savings. My only income is a small social security check each month. I had to think hard about these facts when I learned what publication is going to cost. Brooke Warner with She Writes Press mentioned $10,000, which included their fee, editing, processing, printing, shipment, and numerous other fees, not including publicity, which could be $5,000, or more. Yes, any writers out there, take a good, hard look. These costs are standard.
I decided to walk away from the entire experience for a few hours. Watched a Netflix program. Let it all ruminate in the back of my mind.
Later that evening it was as though one of those comic lightbulbs flashed on in my head. Truly.
All my life I have had jobs that I didn’t like, but probably like many of you out there, I did them to make a living. I worked my way through college to get a degree to teach art, but I moved out of state and schools dropped art from the curriculum at the time I graduated, so I couldn’t get a job teaching.
I ended up as a secretary for years, and hated it.
Took paralegal classes, but that wasn’t fulfilling either.
Worked at an art gallery and designed and facilitated their web site, but that was only fulfilling until it turned into the same process day after day.
This novel, though. Unspoken is my dream. Unspoken is about equality, which has meaningthat is worth the risk I am taking to get it published.
I have felt more alive since I learned I would be published than in the last few years. I have learned more in the last month than I have since college. I am not merely living from day to day. I am on an adventure, an adventure that will last the next couple years and beyond. That adventure is worth $10,000 and more.
Most important. To have something in my life worth living for, something meaningful. I have never had that. My jobs were meaningless, merely survival, a means of putting food on the table, paying for the car, and taking a vacation now and then.
Even if Unspoken fails, it will have been worth the journey and the risk.
Any thoughts on your journeys and risks you have taken? Do you have a dream? What would you risk all for?
I’m supposed to create an author platform with this blog. I looked up “author platform,” and got this: “everything you’re doing online and offline, to create awareness about who you are and what you do, so you can boost your brand visibility and make it easier and faster for your target audience and even the general public, to discover and connect with your brand and books.” That’s a mouthful. Let’s try words appropriate to what Unspoken is about: history, antebellum, slavery, plantations, abolitionism, bisexuality, women’s rights, secession, Texas. Love, of course, lots, requited and not. I hope y’all get into that. “Y’all” is one of those Texas words—yeah? And East Texas is the background for my story. I make a point of east, because East Texas is more like Louisiana than like Southwest Texas desert or Texas panhandle of Larry McMurtry Texas Ranger fame. I will be blogging of this fascinating historical background research as well as discuss Unspoken’s journey to publication.
I knew so little about Texas when I started over eight years ago. That long? You betcha. This is historical fiction, after all. I knew my readers would jump on every mistake I made. Plus, I have always loved history and wanted to get it right. I love a story that makes me feel I am present in that place and time. That’s one of the reason I read. When I read, I’m gone. Don’t try to talk to me. Knock me on the head if you want my attention.
Let’s back those horses a little. I have been a Civil War buff since Junior High or, Middle School, as some call it. What a mess. Families split, brother against brother. Romantic South versus Industrial North. The slave question and so much more. Ripe for all kinds of drama and character development. So much has been written about the eastern states, much less about the western theater, and practically nothing about Texas’s involvement. Then, researching on the web I discovered the diaries and journals of Terry’s Texas Rangers. After reading those journals, I had my main character and only needed to flesh him out.
In researching Texas, I discovered Stephen Austin’s Three Hundred, those southern families who, with the permission of Mexico, began settling along the Brazos River in 1822. I now own Austin’s Old Three Hundred, The First Anglo Colony in Texas, as written by their descendants, edited by Wolfram M. Von-Maszewski. I’ll put some of the more fascinating gems from this in my blog as we go along, citing the book, of course, and letting you know where you can purchase it. This is the sort of thing there is no room for in the novel, but can be interesting to other history buffs like me. My two plantation families, one growing cotton, the other tobacco, are members of this group.
Eight years of research, writing, and editing later, I have Unspoken, and a draft of the following novel, Here We Stand.
Oh. And authors must have a log line.
That is how you tell readers in one sentence what your novel is about. Yeah. A whole novel in one sentence. That takes some doing. So far, I’ve got two loglines:
Unspoken is a story of the slaves, dark secrets and passions of two of Austin’s Old Three Hundred plantation families in East Texas prior to the Civil War.
With the help of his sister and keen-witted loyalty of a slave, a sensitive boy attempts to gain his father’s respect amid the dark secrets and unruly passions of two Brazos River plantation families in pre-Civil War Texas.
The second one is a little more on point. Anyone have a favorite?
I may put these up again later for voting if I get enough readers. At present I am still learning about blogging and will let you know as I go along, if I learn how to do that voting thing.
This has been the introduction to Unspoken, in case you didn’t notice. There will be more about what it took to research the novel, as well as links to what I have already posted, and photos, lots of photos on Pinterest and here. I know folks like photos. I surely do. I have traveled to Texas and Louisiana where Unspoken takes place—beautiful country. Hope you join me and take a look. Until next time . . .