YUM, Right? You're welcome for the nearly/almost gratuitous man-candy. But I do have a point. Hold on, here it comes.
My second novel in the Kate Warne Civil War Spy Series, called The Great Show, is OUT!!!! Yippeeeee!!!! The reviews from my beta readers have been super positive, which cool. This book was a joy to write. It just unrolled in front of me like a magic carpet. I hopped on and the story took off. All I had to do is hold on.
Which is pretty weird. Long ago, when I first read Stephen King’s On Writing (which you should read because its fabulous), he said that writing was an act of archaeology. The writer’s job, he claimed, was to uncover the story that was already there. He said when he’s writing he never knows what’s going to happen next, much like an archaeologist doesn’t know what bone they’re going to uncover next. I remember reading that and thinking, “Bullshit.” Stories are created. Constructed. They are a purposeful result of hard work, plotting and research.
And they are, to an extent. But they’re also found stories. My most recent example of this happened last weekend. I was working on the second volume of my Petronella series (think X-Files meets Sherlock Holmes with parasols). I had my unicorn character swim across Flathead Lake to a little island. I knew she was going to swim from the little island to the larger Wild Horse Island and I knew she was going to encounter a hippocamp (a water horse) on the small island. So I write the part where she come ashore and sees the hippocamp and I don’t know what happens next. What will the hippocamp say to the unicorn? What will they do? So I take a break, fold some laundry, talk to my husband about dinner, and think. And I still don’t know what happens next. So I sit back down with the computer and start to write. It turns out the hippocamp doesn’t talk. She’s too afraid. Instead she leads the unicorn down the beach to the rotting corpse of a giant lake dragon. Did I know there was a dead lake dragon on the beach? No, I swear I didn’t. But my fingers uncovered the story.
That kind of thing happened with The Great Show a lot. I knew there’d be a circus and I knew a lot of other stuff I can’t write about here without spoiling the book, but some of the book I discovered as I wrote. In one chapter something terrible happens to Juba (to be honest, a LOT of terrible things happen to Juba in The Great Show), but I didn’t know this thing was going to happen until I wrote it. Nor did I know a second bad guy (who’s a bad woman) would appear when I got my main characters to New Orleans. But the Countess did appear and she’s deliciously evil. And entirely unexpected.
On a semi-related note, I had one of my students draw names from my email list for the Free Book Drawing. If I drew your name you should have an email from me in your inbox now. I’ll need your mailing address to send you the book. And if you didn’t win, try again next time.
Spread the Love. Peg
I’m not gonna lie. I was going to lie, but I decided not to. I had this whole elaborate story about how I was too busy writing and working to be blogging or sending updates to my email list. And I have been busy, but who has’t, right? But we make time for the things that matter, even when we’ve got too many balls in the air. We drop the stuff we don’t want to do. So that’s what I did. Let the spankings commence.
To be fair, I wrote and edited so much the last 6 months that I have the second Kate Warne novel out (See that pretty cover at the top of this column?), the third one nearly ready to go. I also met my third deadline for a 3 volume encyclopedia (something I’m working on with my friend Rosanne Welch), a novel in a new series ready for publication in December (it’s got unicorns and vampires!) and yet another novel, something I wrote on spec for a new press, out late this year or early next year. So that’s a lot of words. And then summer ended and I had to go back to school, at both my full-time and part-time jobs and there’s a lot of papers to grade. And I had an editing process to retool and refine.
Fine. That’s all true. But here’s the other thing—the true thing. I sold a bunch of you a book that was a hot mess. My first version of The Lincoln Special was riddled with typos and stupid little editing mistakes. I felt (and feel) really bad, though I know I should be patient with myself. I’m learning a lot. Learning to write the books was easy. Learning to publish them was harder, but not impossible. I learned that my editing process was not good enough. Sooo, I’ve retooled my process in a number of ways and then took the first versions (print and ebook) of The Lincoln Special down and remounted a cleaner version. But that doesn’t help those of you who bought the bad version. The new book is cleaner, but I still feel bad. So I’ve been avoiding the marketing side of my business. Pretty mature, huh.
So here’s my deal with you. Sign up for my email list (and if you already have, good for you) and have a drawing for 5 free copies of The Great Show ONE WEEK FROM TODAY. I’ll send the 5 winners an email and ask for a mailing address. All my print books come with access to a free electronic version of the same book, so if you like to read in a kindle (like me) you can do that too. Then, if you think that book deserves it you can leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.
PS: Two days ago I learned my co-editor Rosanne Welch and I won a Best Book Award from the American Book Fest for our American Women in History encyclopedia. It’s only my second book award so it was weirdly exciting. The encyclopedia is WAY too expensive for mere mortals to buy but you can go see it at my web page (peglamphier.com) or at Amazon.