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!

book girl grass hat

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!

MUIRSHEEN DURKIN

#amwriting #amquerying #IrishMusic

In honor of my #PitchWars entry, DONOVAN, the first in my Irish family saga, here’s song about the Irish emigration. Made popular in the late 19th century, it is hopeful and upbeat as many of the emigrant songs of the times were, as stories of gold to be found in the streets of America were common. The reference to “many a house besides” is probably a reference to a (ahem!) “cat house”. You can listen to The Dubliner’s version of the song here.

Goodbye, Muirsheen Durkin

In the days I went courtin’, I was never tired resortin’

To the alehouse and the playhouse or many a house beside.

I told me brother Seamus I’d go off and go right famous,

And before I’d return again I’d roam the world wide.

 

Chorus:

So good-bye Muirsheen Durkin, I’m sick and tired of working,

No more I’ll dig the praties, no longer I’ll be fooled.

For as sure as me name is Carney, I’ll be off to Californey,

where instead of diggin’ praties, I’ll be diggin’ lumps of gold.

 

I’ve courted girls in Blarney, in Kanturk and in Killarney,

In Passage and in Queenstown, that is the Cobh of Cork.

Good-bye to all this pleasure, for I’m going to take me leisure,

And the next time you will hear from me

Will be a letter from New York.

 

Chorus

 

Good-bye to all the girls at home, I’m sailing far across the foam

To try to make me fortune in far Amerikay,

For there’s gold and money plenty for the poor and gentry,

And when I come back again I never more will stray.

 

Chorus

Notes: “Muirsheen” is an often used pet name for Maurice, Mary, or Maureen, Durkin probably being the dedicatee’s last name. This tune is often sung in the US as “Good-bye, Molly Durkin”, and the singer’s name is sometimes recorded as “Kearney”.

Wayfaring Stranger

#amwriting #amsinging #folkmusic

This song’s roots are open to discussion. Some say it dates from the 18th century, some say the 19th; some credit it to North Carolina, some the Appalachians in general, while still others believe it was originally an African-American spiritual. Regardless of who’s right (or close to right), it’s a beautiful song, and there’s a beautiful version of it by Emmylou Harris here.

Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger

I am a poor wayfaring stranger
Come traveling through this world of woe.
Yet there’s no sickness, toil nor danger
In that fair land to which I go.

I’m going there to see my Father,
He said he’d meet me when I go.
I’m only going over Jordan,
I’m only going over home.

I know dark clouds will gather ‘round me,
I know my way is rough and steep,
But golden fields lie just before me
Where the redeemed shall ever sleep.

I’m going there to see my mother,
She said she’d meet me when I come.
I’m only going over Jordan,
I’m only going over home.

I’ll Tell Me Ma

#AmWriting #IrishMusic

A happy little ditty about courtin’. There’s some discussion between the cities as to whether this song belongs to Dublin or Belfast. Though known as a drinking song today, it was originally a playground chant for children, accompanied by a game that was a cross between tag and “Ring Around the Rosie”. Suffice it to say it’s of Irish origin. In the interest of fairness, I’ve included Dublin below, but Sinéad O’Connor prefers Belfast, and her version is here.

I'LL TELL ME MA ...

REFRAIN: 

I'll tell me ma, when I go home,
The boys won't leave the girls alone.
They pull my hair, they stole my comb,
And that's all right till I go home.
She is handsome, she is pretty,
She's the belle of Dublin city,
She is courtin', one, two, three,
Please won't you tell me who is she?

Albert Mooney says he loves her,
All the boys are fighting for her.
They rap at the door and they ring at the bell,
Saying 'Oh, my true-love are you well?'
Out she comes as white as snow,
Rings on her fingers, bells on her toes,
Old Jenny Murphy says she'll die,
If she doesn't get the fellow with the roving eye.

REFRAIN

Let the wind and the rain and the hail blow high
And the snow come tumblin' from the sky
She's as sweet as apple pie
And she'll get her own lad by and by.
When she gets a lad of her own
She won't tell her ma when she gets home
Let them all come as they will,
For it's Albert Mooney she loves still.

REFRAIN

 Notes: There’s a parody of this song by Marc Gunn titled “I’ll Tell Me Cat” on his album “Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers”, and a Serbian folk group, The Orthodox Celts, sing it as “The Belle of Belgrade City” (but that’s beyond the pale!)

The Valley of Knockanure

#irishmusic #irishhistory #amwriting

Stemming from an incident in Gortagleanna during the War of Indepence (1921), there are several versions of this song extant. These lyrics are based on a poem by Bryan MacMahon, which in turn is based on oral histories and older poems, some of which are lost today. A haunting version of this song is presented by Mary O’Dowd here.

THE VALLEY OF KNOCKANURE

You may sing and speak about Easter Week
And the heroes of Ninety Eight,
Or bold Fenian Men who roamed the glen
In victory or defeat.
Their names on history’s pages told,
Their memories will endure,
Not a song is sung of our darling sons,
In the Valley of Knockanure.

There was Walsh and Lyons and the Dalton boy,
They were young and in their prime.
They rambled to a lonely spot
Where the Black and Tans did hide.
The Republic bold they did uphold,
Tho’ outlawed on the moor,
And side by side they fought and died
In the Valley of Knockanure.

It was on a neighbouring hillside,
We listened in hushed dismay.
In every house, in every town,
A young girl knelt to pray.
They’re closing in around them now,
With rifle fire so sure,
And Lyons is dead and young Dalton’s down
In the Valley of Knockanure.

But ere the guns could seal his fate,
Young Walsh had spoken thro’.
With a prayer to God he spurned the sod,
As against the hill he flew.
The bullets tore his flesh in two,
Yet he cried with voice so sure,
“Revenge I’ll get for my comrade’s death,
In the Valley of Knockanure.”

The summer sun is sinking low
Behind the field and lea.
The pale moonlight is shining bright
Far off beyond Tralee.
The dismus star and clouds afar
Are darkening o’er the moor,
And the banshee cried when young Dalton died,
In the Valley of Knockanure.

May God guard and keep the place they sleep
In the Valley of Knockanure.

Oft In The Stilly Night

#IrishMusic #amwriting

This poem, written in the early 19th century by Irishman Thomas Moore, was set to music by Scottish composer Sir John Stevenson. It was perhaps most famously played at the Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002. I also feature it in my manuscript LET THE CANYONS WEEP, as the favorite song of Katie Donovan, the clan matriarch. A version of it by the inimitable Sarah Brightman can be found here.

OFT IN THE STILLY NIGHT

Oft in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Fond mem’ries bring the light
Of other days around me:
The smiles, the tears of boyhood years,
The words of love then spoken,
The eyes that shone now dimmed and gone,
The cheerful hearts now broken!
Thus in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Sad mem’ry brings the light
Of other days around me.

When I remember all
The friends, so link’d together,
I’ve seen around me fall,
Like leaves in wintry weather;
I feel like one who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled, whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed!
Thus in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Sad mem’ry brings the light
Of other days around me.

THE SPINNING WHEEL

#irishmusic #music

A traditional Irish tune. The rhythm of the words actually invokes the spin of the wheel, as the young girl tries to convince her grandmother there are no sounds from outside the window but those made by nature. There’s a lovely version of the song by Catherine McKinnon with the Jubilee Singers here.

THE SPINNING WHEEL

Mellow the moonlight to shine is beginning,
Close by the window young Eileen is spinning.
Bent o’er the fire, her blind grandmother sitting,
Crooning and moaning and drowsily knitting.

Chorus: Merrily, cheerily, noiselessly whirring,
Spins the wheel, rings the wheel while the foot’s stirring.
Sprightly and lightly and merrily ringing
Sounds the sweet voice of the young maiden singing.

“Eileen, a chara, I hear someone tapping.”
“Tis the ivy, dear mother, against the glass flapping.”
“Eileen, I surely hear somebody sighing.”
“’Tis the sound, mother dear, of the autumn winds dying.”

“What’s the noise I hear at the window I wonder?”
“’Tis the little birds chirping, the holly-bush under.”
“What makes you shoving and moving your stool on,
And singing all wrong the old song of The Coolin?”

Chorus

There’s a form at the casement, the form of her true love,
And he whispers with face bent, “I’m waiting for you, love.
Get up from the stool, through the lattice step lightly,
And we’ll rove in the grove while the moon’s shining brightly.”

The maid shakes her head, on her lips lays her fingers,
Steps up from the stool, longs to go and yet lingers.
A frightened glance turns to her drowsy grandmother,
Puts her foot on the stool, spins the wheel with the other.

Chorus

Lazily, easily, now swings the wheel round,
Slowly and lowly is heard now the reel’s sound.
Noiseless and light to the lattice above her,
The maid steps, then leaps to the arms of her lover.

Slower and slower and slower the wheel turns,
Lower and lower and lower the reel rings,
Ere the reel and the wheel stop their spinning and moving,
Through the grove the young lovers by moonlight are roving.

Paddy on the Railway

#music #irishmusic

A crisp, easy-to sing tune about an Irishman who comes to the US to work on the railroads. So many Irish worked on the railway that, in the Eastern States in the 19th century, there was a popular saying: “an Irishman was buried under every tie.”  This song is actually very long, with at least one original verse for each year between 1841 and 1848, and many in between. In a vastly abridged form, I present “Paddy on the Railway”. You can hear a version of it by The Wolfe Tones here.

PADDY ON THE RAILWAY

Chorus:
Fil-i-me-oo-ree-eye-ri-ay
Fil-i-me-oo-ree-eye-ri-ay
Fil-i-me-oo-ree-eye-ri-ay
To work upon the railway


In eighteen hundred and forty-one,
Me cord’roy breeches I put on.
Me cord’roy breeches I put on,
To work upon the railway.

(chorus)

In eighteen hundred and forty-two,
I left the Old World for the new.
Bad cess to the luck that brought me through
To work upon the railway.

(chorus)

When we left Ireland to come here,
And spend our latter days in cheer.
Our bosses, they did drink strong beer,
And Pat worked on the railway.

(chorus)

It’s “Pat do this” and “Pat do that”,
Without a stocking or cravat,
And nothing but an old straw hat,
While Pat works on the railway.

(chorus)

Our boss’s name, it was Tom King,
He kept a store to rob the men,
A Yankee clerk with ink and pen,
To cheat Pat on the railway.

(chorus)

One Monday morning to our surprise,
Just a half an hour before sunrise,
The dirty divil went to the skies,
And Pat worked on the railway.

(chorus)

And when Pat lays him down to sleep,
The wirey bugs around him creep,
And divil a bit can poor Pat sleep,
While he works on the railway.

(chorus)

In eighteen hundred and forty-three,
‘Twas then I met Miss Biddy MacGhee,
And an elegant wife she’s been to me,
While workin’ on the railway.

(chorus)

In eighteen hundred and forty seven,
Sweet Biddy MacGhee, she went to heaven,
If she left one child, she left seven,
To work upon the railway.

(chorus)

In eighteen hundred and forty eight,
I learned to take my whiskey straight;
‘Tis an elegant wife that can’t be bate,
For working on the railway.

(chorus)

Maids, When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man!

#irishmusic

A sassy little ditty with advice for unmarried women. Listen to a recording by The Dubliners here.

Maids, When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man!

An old man came courting me, hey ding dooram ay!
An old man came courting me, me being young
An old man came courting me, all for to marry me;
Maids when you’re young never wed an old man!

REFRAIN 1

For he’s got no faloorum, fadidledo doorum ay
For he’s got no faloorum, fadidleday
He’s got no faloorum, he’s lost his ding doorum
So maids when you’re young, never wed an old man!

Now when we went to the church, hey ding dooram ay!
When we went to the church, me being young,
When we went to the church, he left me in the lurch.
Maids when you’re young, never wed an old man!

~REFRAIN 1~

Now when we went to our bed, hey ding dooram ay!
Now when we went to our bed, me being young,
When we went to our bed, he lay like he was dead!
Maids when you’re young never wed an old man!

~REFRAIN 1~

Now when he went to sleep, hey ding dooram ay!
Now when he went to sleep, me being young,
When he went to sleep, out of bed I did creep,
Into the arms of a handsome young man!

REFRAIN 2

And I found his faloorum, fadidledo doorum ay!
I found his faloorum, fadidleday,
I found his faloorum, he got my dingdoorum!
So, maids, when you’re young never wed an old man!