The editing on my book, Wilda’s Outlaw, part one of the series The Victorians, is finished and ready to mail. This means I didn’t miss a day in my blogging, though the past few posts haven’t been terrific in content. Sometimes writer’s lives go that way, and that’s what this blog is all about.
Who we are, what we do and how we do it.
When I begin a book, type those first words on a blank screen, it has no outline, no stacks of cards with the plot laid out on them. I might only have a vague idea, a thought or character. I build them as I go, those characters and the plot. The first draft often is only the bones. Sometimes it catches fire in the third or fourth chapter, and the rest of the book is much more than bones. Sometimes it doesn’t, and I write a draft that is only a part of what the finished book will be.
This book came to mind after we traveled to Kansas a lot of summers ago to visit my brother. At the time I had written a book that took place in Circleville, Kansas, where the only goldmine in the state is located. That was Angel’s Gold and it was published in 2000. As we wandered around after our visit, we drove through a town called Victoria. My idea had been to check out Marysville and place a book there sometime in the future. But when I learned about Victoria, and how it had come to be, I was hooked.
Research had to tell the tale, though, for a highway runs through the portion of town that was once a Victorian settlement built on both sides of a railroad cut across the endless plains. In England the Victorians had run out of land, and so the second sons — soon known as remittance men — and others interested in owning land took George Grant up on his offer of acreage in America. The deal was, though, that they would not take on American citizenship. They would not give up their roots, so to speak. They would live as the Victorians lived in England.
It was a great experiment, that eventually went terribly wrong. But while it prospered, it was as if a chunk of old England had actually been transported onto the plains of Kansas. They built stone castles from the limestone in the area, transported sheep and cattle and bob-tailed ponies from their homeland, and hired workers to do all the labor. What a fantastic idea.
They hadn’t counted on rattlesnakes by the hundreds, on blizzards that killed their herds, the blazing heat and brittle cold. But they survived most everything nature could throw at them. The end came after Grant’s death. Outlaws and con men moved in, whittled away at their society. People began to return to England or move to other towns. It took a few years, but in the end they deserted their town. It was taken over by Russians and Germans and became known as Herzog.
Today it is Victoria again, but there are no castles or Victorian homes left. It’s just a sleepy little prairie town where many of the residents are not even aware of Grant’s grand plan.
I had to write a book about some of the people who took part in the experiment, but by the time I had it nearly completed, no one wanted western stories anymore. Odd how fickle we people are. So I put it away and went on to write other books. Then one day in a newsletter online I saw that an editor I had known when I was with Penguin was looking for western historical romances, and so I wrote to her and sent three chapters of my Victorian book. Two months later, she asked to see the book. And that’s the story of one way a book goes to New York.
A rejection may wend its way back to me, or I may get the call. Either way, I’ll remain a writer who writes every day because I can’t not write anymore than I can’t not breathe.
If you’re a writer and you don’t love it with all your heart, then stop now and do something else. If you do love it and can’t stop doing it, then all the rest will come. Persistence is more important than just about anything else we can do to get published . . . at least after we’ve written the best book we can.