WHISPERS IN THE CANYON: Editorial Review

I’m thrilled to announce that WHISPERS IN THE CANYON has received a 5-star review from the Coffee Pot Book Club.

Coffee 2 (2)

“I didn’t want to kill him…”

But Russell Travers had already shot one man while he attempted to rob The White’s Station Bank, how many more would he have shot if Adam Donovan had not stopped him? Nevertheless, it does not take anything away from the fact that Adam killed a man, and now he has to break the news to Russell’s ailing father and wayward sister.

The dilapidated state of the Travers’ ranch comes as a surprise to Adam, as does the scrap of the girl who threatens him with a dirty Whitworth rifle. Adam had been led to believe that Jesse was a violent woman, but the reality in front of him, even if she did hold onto that rifle, negated the rumours. Jesse was not what he had expected, and that rifle looked so old and abused that he doubted it could even fire. No, Jesse was not what others said of her.

Jesse had cried when Adam told her that her brother was dead. But they were not tears of grief. They were tears of relief. For years, Jesse had suffered at the hands of her brother. At last, she was free of him, but his death hastened that of her ailing father, and Jesse finds herself all alone in a cold and unforgiving world, with a ranch that was falling down around her.

Adam cannot stand by and do nothing in the face of Jesse’s dire needs. His family rally around Jesse and help her to not only rebuild the ranch but make it profitable. And the more time Adam spends with Jesse, the more his heart tells him that this is the woman he was destined to be with.

Jesse had learnt long ago how futile hope was. She fears that as soon as Adam discovers what had befallen her by the hand of her brother, then he would leave, and she would be all alone again, and that she could not survive…

Whispers in the Canyon by Gifford MacShane is the emotionally evocative story of a young woman who learns how to trust and how to love after years of insufferable abuse at the hands of her brother.

Set during the 19th Century in Arizona, Whisper in the Canyon appalls, impresses and makes a reader swoon at the romance in equal measures. It has everything one could want from a historical romance and then some.

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Adam is instantly drawn to Jesse. He admires her bravery, but he also sees past the gossip and the rumours. He is a man who is confident enough to come to his own conclusions, and he has been taught to listen to his heart. I thought Adam was a wonderful hero. His patience and understanding were precisely what Jesse needed. Adam becomes Jesse’s constant in a confusing and terrifying world. I thought Adam was really rather wonderful.

Jesse is as broken as any soul can be, and yet her strength of character, her determination to rebuild her life, makes her one of the strongest heroines that I have ever encountered. The stigma that Jesse may have come across is tempered by the protective shield that the Donovan household wrap around her. Slowly, but inevitably, Jesse learns to trust her feelings, and to trust Adam. Adam is nothing like her brother, and often Jesse finds the difference staggering and somewhat confusing, as anyone would coming out of a very unhealthy and abusive relationship. Jesse and Adam’s story is a sweet and slow romance, with Adam ever mindful of what she had suffered. It was an enthralling love story that made this book wholly unforgettable and next to impossible to put down. Kudos, Ms MacShane.

Another character that deserves a mention is Katie. While Adam shows Jesse what real love is, his grandmother Katie helps to heal the scars that Adam cannot. I adored Katie, she is this wonderfully knowledgable lady who has a tremendously large heart. She takes Jesse under her wing, and along with Adam and the rest of the Donovans’, helps Jesse to heal. I thought Katie’s portrayal was marvellous.

The historical detailing of this story has to be commended. MacShane has taken considerable care to research the history of this era, and it shows through in her writing. MacShane has captured the very essence of 19th Century Arizona. Brilliantly written and fabulously executed.

Whispers in the Canyon by Gifford MacShane is one of the most compelling and moving historical western romance novels that I have ever read.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.

The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Looking for Book Reviews?

As a new author (WHISPERS IN THE CANYON was officially published on 9/18), I’ve been scrambling to find sites that will review my novel. Reviews not only help in Amazon rankings, but also let your potential readers know how other readers reacted to your book. When a buyer is trying to decide which of the many available stories they’d like to read, reviews are a must-have.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Then I found Reedsy’s list of Best Book Review Blogs, a curated list of almost 200 reviewers that’s searchable by genre. In the Historical Fiction category, I found almost 60 bloggers who’ll review an indie novel. WOW!!! I wonder how many I’ll find when I look at the romance category!

I’d already sussed out six blogs to contact (two of them are on Reedsy’s list), but it took me almost an hour per listing to find them. So the amount of time I’ll save now is incalculable.

Not all the reviews are free, and some have limitations on subject matter. You may also need to join some organizations to qualify for the review. But those decisions are easily made based on your own preferences. What I love is that someone else has done the work of culling out the best of the best!

Take a look at Reedsy’s list for your own genre — I bet you’ll be glad you did!

WHISPERS IN THE CANYON Now Available!

I am thrilled to share the news that WHISPERS IN THE CANYON, the first book of the Donovan Family Saga, is now available on Amazon.com!

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In the 1880s Arizona Territory, Jesse Travers’ father dies and leaves her with a bankrupt ranch and a deep well of distrust.

Shunned by the village for her outlaw brother’s deeds, Jesse is not sorry to hear he’s been killed while robbing a bank. Strangely enough, it’s the man who shot him who brings her the news. Even more strange is this latecomer’s willingness to help her put her ranch back on solid footing. Lacking any other options and loving her canyon home, Jesse overcomes her trepidation and accepts his help.

Irish immigrant Adam Donovan inherited the gift of empathy from his Celtic forebears, and it’s not long before he ferrets out Jesse’s secret: she’s been deeply traumatized by abuse.

As they work together to improve her ranch, Jesse begins to trust Adam and feels the first stirrings of love―an experience she’s never known before. Then, as if to tell her she is unworthy of happiness, her past rises up with a vengeance and she is left with a terrible choice: retreat to a life of solitude and shame, or reveal her tragic secret in the minuscule hope of saving her relationship with Adam Donovan.

The novel is available as an e-book on Amazon right now, and it’s free if you have Kindle Unlimited!

 

My Debut Novel To Take Flight!

1880s Arizona. Damaged almost beyond hope, Jesse inherits a bankrupt ranch. Survival comes at an inconceivable price: she must learn to trust the man who killed her brother.

That’s the logline from my debut historical novel, WHISPERS IN THE CANYON*. I am absolutely delighted to report that it will be released in late August by Soul Mate Publishing.

book to gull

 

After almost three years of querying agents, I participated in an event called SonOfAPitch, an event hosted by Katie Hamstead. I submitted a query letter and the first page of my manuscript, and wound up in the company of many other authors whose submissions knocked my socks off. Amazingly, I not only made it to the third round (where only 20 contestants were chosen), but subsequently got a request for the full manuscript directly from a publisher.

During that same time period, I also joined a pitch session at Savvy Authors, and received two more requests for the full MS from publishers.

Three fulls! After three years of traditional querying and Twitter contests, with never more than a partial request. It seemed impossible. Could this be my lucky time? I could only wait and see.

After reviewing my work, one publisher requested what would amount to a complete re-write of the manuscript, which I declined to do. But both of the others offered contracts; the first one for an e-book only. Now, I’m an old-fashioned girl and I like having a book I can hold in my hands, so I said no, wondering at the same time if I was eliminating my best chance at publication. But my luck held out and the third publisher came through. I took some time to educate myself on contract basics, and after a few rounds of questions which were swiftly answered, I accepted the contract offered by Soul Mate.

I could finally breathe. I had success! My words would be published for readers to peruse and (hopefully) enjoy. And I’ll have a book I can hold in my hands!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This experience made something perfectly clear to me: it really is about taste. When one editor is looking for a complete re-write and another says “I love it!”, you’ve got to believe it’s about taste.

And the final “moral of the story”? There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Traditional queries to agents, direct queries to publishers, on-line contests, pitch sessions, self-publishing―they’re all great ways to get your words out there.

I feel now that I tried the agent route for much too long, but I know others who have had great success with it. I was just beginning to consider querying directly to publishers when the contest & pitch opportunities came along. Frankly, I initially thought of them as a chance to get my feet wet, hoping for but not expecting such great results.

So don’t let anyone tell you there’s a right way and a wrong way to get your work out there. Pick the option that appeals to you and give it a go. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next option. There’s a vast variety of tastes out there and somewhere, someone’s specifically waiting for the book that you’re writing.

I’d love to hear your experiences in publishing: what path are you on? what have you tried? what’s your next move? or have you already found success?

*Note: WHISPERS IN THE CANYON is the first book in the Donovan Family Saga. It was formerly known as LET THE CANYONS WEEP, and I’m absolutely in love with the new title!

What If You Get a Call to Revise & Resubmit?

#amediting #revise #resubmit

If you’ve noticed that the blog has been quiet for the past few weeks, it’s because I got a request from a publisher to “revise and resubmit”.

You might think publishing houses accept a manuscript “as is”, but reality teaches us differently. Almost everyone is asked for some revisions to their manuscripts, whether it’s to fall in with a publishers’ or agents’ guidelines; to better fit the expected length of the genre; or because the agent or editor finds something that keeps them from loving the story wholeheartedly.

Editing

In my case, WHISPERS IN THE CANYON falls into the last category: the publisher’s editor likes most of the elements of the story as well as my writing style. But there’s something that’s standing in the way of her loving it wholeheartedly; she suggested I revise it and resubmit the edited story for review.

So, where would you go from here?

First, recognize that a revise/resubmit request does not guarantee that your edited manuscript will be accepted for publication. It’s a risk you’re taking that may or may not pay off. So the amount of work required has to be a factor in your decision. Will it take a day or two? A month? A year? Once you undertake the revision, you are essentially putting your “baby” on hold for that length of time. The reward of possible publication has to be weighed against the time you’ll spend revising.

Second, the feedback you get needs to be specific. “I didn’t like this character” is not enough information to base a revision on. What if you eliminate the aspects of the character that appealed to her and play up the ones that didn’t? What if you eliminate the character completely and it changes the story in a way the editor doesn’t like? You’ve wasted both your time and theirs.

I worked in Customer Service for a loooooooong time and always told my trainees: The only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask. Ask away – the agent or editor has something specific in mind and it’s your job to make sure you understand it. So ask for details before you set out, and get as much information as you can about the editor’s request.

I was fortunate enough to get really specific feedback: the editor did not like one of the sub-plots and wanted more world-building.

So I had to decide if the changes requested would cause any harm to the story as I envisioned it.  Ironically, I had taken some of the world-building out to cut back on the overall length.  (A first-time author has little chance of placing a book that exceeds the norm of her genre by too much, and mine was over by more than 20,000 words before I cut it back.)  Revising that part was simple; I had saved all the passages I had removed and I just put them back in. Took two days. Well worth the effort.

Second part, not so simple. This particular sub-plot was fairly extensive. Yes, there were a couple of chapters that focused on it and could be taken out completely, but there were also a few details in those chapters that I felt were critical to an overall understanding of the main plot. Not to mention being critical to the flow of the story itself.

So I decided to identify every chapter in which the sub-plot played a major role. I had already created a chapter-by-chapter outline that I based my synopsis on; I took that spreadsheet and highlighted all of the chapters that would need to be re-worked in yellow, and all of the chapters that could be eliminated in orange. End result: over one-third of all my chapters were highlighted.

Huh.

My first reaction was, This is just not possible. My second reaction was, Maybe I could, but it would take months. Or even a year. My third reaction, and the one that really counts, was Let’s look at this more closely.

I pulled up all the individual chapters that had been highlighted in yellow. I found that, far from being intricately woven in, the sub-plot was almost always a separate scene within the chapter.  I was pretty surprised — I had thought of it as an integral part of the story, not separate vignettes. 

I started pulling the chapters and scenes out.

I created a new version of the manuscript, so if I didn’t like the revisions, I would still have my original. This is a step I couldn’t afford to skip. I had no idea what my reaction to the new version would be: what if I hated it? what if I went too far? what if nothing made sense any more? I couldn’t let that original version go.

I also created a new document for every scene I pulled out, and put them in the folder called “Snippets”.  I stored and labeled each scene individually: Daniel proposes, Annie is sick, etc. That way, I could easily go back and put in anything that might still be necessary to the main plot.

So where do I stand now?

I’ve got three more steps to go: I’ve identified the details that are essential to the main plot and I need to find the best places to put them back into the manuscript; then I’ve got to re-read the entire thing making sure that what I’ve done hasn’t interrupted the flow of the story; and last, but most important, I need to send it to the Beta Readers I’ve lined up, and they’ll tell me if they think the revised story works.

Oh.   Wait.   I guess that’s not the last step. Would be nice, after all that work, if I send it back to the editor, too!

BTW: If you’re not sure what a Beta Reader is, stay tuned for a follow-up post.

UPDATE: Part 1 is Done!

It’s been awhile since I talked about where I stand in terms of my manuscripts.  My first completed novel, DONOVAN, is being queried, and the second, THE WOODSMAN’S ROSE, has gone through my edits and is now with my extremely helpful critique partners.  I’m also just finishing up my final edit of the third manuscript, entitled RAINBOW MAN.  It’s not quite ready for the beta readers yet.

But the good GREAT news is with my fourth novel in the Donovan Family Saga.  THE WINDS OF MORNING is actually a “pre-quel”, and tells the story of Molly and John Patrick’s emigration to America just after the Potato Famine of 1847-1851.  It’s told in four parts: their meeting and marriage in Ireland; their trip across the sea to Philadelphia; and their journey first south to Terminus (now Atlanta), then west to Texas.

PART 1 IS DONE!!!

This is a huge accomplishment for me.  I started writing this story about two years ago and I got to a certain point and simply could not decide where to go from there. I knew I had to get the Donovans to America, but I also knew that if I followed them every step of the way, I’d have a 1,000-page book.  That’s where I broke it off and started working on revising and re-editing the first two books (which at that time were one book, but that’s another story!)

The problem wasn’t writer’s block, per se.  I was fully capable of writing new scenes in the other 3 books, and even some scenes for the book after this one, as well as the book that will, someday, close the series out.  I even wrote a couple of scenes that will appear later in THE WINDS OF MORNING.  In short, I just suffered from a lack of direction for this particular situation.

I finally solved it by a stroke of luck.  I was reading another historical family saga and the author simply skipped over a few years.  That’s right, just skipped them.  The first part was labeled 1697, the second part 1705.  As soon as I saw that second date, I had my answer.  I could simply skip over the years when nothing (or almost nothing) changes in Molly and John Patrick’s lives.

My conclusion?  Those who say the best way to write better is to read more are absolutely right!  If I hadn’t been reading another author’s novel, I could have been stuck for even longer.

How about you?  Did another writer’s work ever influence your work-in-progress?  ever give you an idea that you had searched high and low for?  ever pulled you out of the blue funk of not knowing what to do next?  I’d love to know I’m not alone in this, so feel free to share your stories with me …

Anachronism in Historical Fiction

No matter how careful a writer is, or how much research s/he does, there’s always the possibility of anachronism showing up in historical fiction.

What’s an anachronism? It something that doesn’t fit into the time period you’re writing about. King Tut would not have worn a Stetson, nor could Marie Antoinette have worn nylon stockings. Of course not, you say, that would be ridiculous!

stetson

And yet there’s always something, it seems, that manages to slip through the cracks. I recently read a novel about Scottish characters who emigrate to America at the turn of the 20th century, pretty close to the Old West period that I write about. The book was good: the story well-told, the characters appealing, and there was just enough tension and conflict to hold my interest throughout.

Sounds like a great read, right? But the thing that I remember more than anything else is a breakfast scene. The young woman makes oatmeal for herself and her brother by putting the raw cereal into bowls and pouring hot water over it. Two minutes later, they sit down to eat.

Instant oatmeal? In 19th century Scotland? What made it worse was that the author had obviously done some research into the cookery of the time, and had explained how to make bannock (a quick bread), as well as colcannon (a traditional stew of potatoes, cabbage, leeks and cream), and the never-to-be-forgotten haggis. But the fact that even the finest steel-cut oats will take 15 to 20 minutes to cook over an open flame had somehow escaped her attention.

Some other examples:

In a book set in 15th century Italy, a character says, “You need to loosen up”. That’s a distinctly modern saying.

In a novel set in 19th century Ireland, the main female character is named Shannon. At that time Catholic girls were always named after saints; Anglican girls were named after their ancestors, or queens, Biblical women, and Roman empresses. Neither a Catholic nor an Anglican girl would have been named for a river.

So how do you avoid anachronisms in your manuscript? First research, then research, then research some more. And then find someone who’s as familiar with the era as you’ve become, and ask them to read your book before it goes out into the world to stand on its own. Chances are good that you’ll catch most of the major gaffs.

And the more meticulous and detailed your research is, the better the odds are that you’ll avoid the minor ones as well.

Tuesday Trivia #10: The Origins of “OK”

As I was editing my manuscripts, I noticed that I occasionally used the word Okay, or its abbreviation OK. There’s nothing that peeves me more than an anachronism in historical fiction, so I decided to see if I could trace the origins of the word.

Easier said than done! I did find out that OK has been in common usage in the US since the 1830s (meaning I was safe to use it in the context of the 1880s). However, the actual formation of “OK” is credited to the French, the Scots, the Greeks, and a railway freight agent, among others. My personal favorite origin story is from the Chocktaw Indian language, where “okeh” means “it is so”.

However it came about, OK’s popularity certainly rose when Martin van Buren ran for re-election in 1840; his nickname was “Old Kinderhook”, and his supporters formed the “OK Club” during his Presidential campaign.

While it was not enough to win van Buren the election, OK’s popularity has not waned at all since that time.

Bad News, Good News (2)

I got another personalized rejection in response to a query letter recently. If you remember, the first agent liked the characters and plot of WHISPERS IN THE CANYON, but she felt my writing was too brusque. I’ve taken steps to correct that.

The new agent likes my writing and the plot, but rejected it because she did not “connect with the characters” within the first few chapters. And that, to me, is a much more critical problem.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to do. So I shared the results with a good friend, also a writer, who read the first few chapters for me and felt the problem might be too much backstory. The portions of these chapters that told the family history were too long. They interrupted the flow of the story and prevented the characters from becoming the centerpiece of it.

Her recommendation was to remove some of it and “sprinkle” it through the later chapters.

“Sprinkle”. I really like that concept. Like you do for the lawn. If you just put the hose out there on the lawn, a small portion of it will be waterlogged, while the rest suffers drought. But if you set the sprinkler up to reach the entire lawn, all of it will be healthily saturated.

So I am again editing, and this time, I’m sprinkling the family history around. Perhaps the next agent who requests pages will find them irresistible. I live in hope.

Slainte!  And a tip of the Stetson to T. C. B. (You know who you are!)

THE BEST AND THE WORST

I just read the most excellent news!

Early each year, Publishers Weekly does a rundown on the best and worst sellers by genre from the past calendar year, looking specifically at print book sales.

In 2014, most adult categories fell off, including romance, horror, and fantasy (remember, this is strictly print book sales. Ebook sales are not taken into account). In only two adult fiction categories did print sales increase over 2013: graphic novels and … wait for it … Westerns!

By no means are Westerns the most popular category, encompassing less than 2% of print book sales, where Romance (the strongest category other than “General Fiction”) is almost 25%. But it’s still good news: Westerns are gaining print book readers.

Now, my novels are not Westerns, per se. Westerns, like Romance, usually follow a pretty standard outline. Where romance is usually a variation of “boy meets girl, boy marries girl”, Westerns follow more along the lines of “hero cowboy/rancher/lawman saves the day/ranch/girl” (usually killing all the bad guys along the way).

(Yes, I do realize that these themes are boiled down to their simplest elements, and that there are many Romances and Westerns with other themes as well. But, within these genres, the basic themes are almost always there.)

All that being said, why is it good news? Especially if my stories don’t qualify as Westerns? Because for a very long time, the Western has been almost completely overlooked. If not ridiculed. Their rising popularity among readers may foretell a better future for print books set in the Old West, whether or not they qualify as genre Westerns.

And I choose to see that as a very real plus.