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Research & Thoughts

THE ANGST is real

When you get to a certain age, you notice that there's more behind you than ahead of you. You also look at your present to see where you're at. My script, Bighorn Deceit, was named a finalist in the CWA screenwriting competition today. And yes, I'm thrilled. But unlike the last time I was a finalist, my category alone has 31 others. They will announce Top Winners next week. Getting this far is a good thing. It's been a long time since any of my scripts made it this far. I published Awakened as a script online when it didn't make the first cut in its last competition, but I'm sure I'll have to unpublish that eventually. My idea was to try and make money on my screenwriting somehow. But it's not selling there. I don't know why I thought it would.


I earned a master's in history, with a 4.0 average. I became a good researcher, which is something i didn't learn in my BA in history. Why they didn't have a class in how to research, I don't know. My research skills now are impeccable. But they didn't teach me how to write in my master's, even though I took writing classes that I aced. I know, weird, right?


Recently, Civil War & Bloody Peace was reviewed in Western Writers of America - oddly enough, in the same issue that they published my review on another book. But where I worked to make my review reflective of the book I read, front to back, the review I got sounded like he didn't get past the introduction. He didn't even mention Grant. "Even though it could use some serious editing, it is a remarkable historical record." That says it all, doesn't it? Good researcher, lousy writer. All he talked about in this review was Henry, when I tried to hard to demonstrate that the book isn't about Henry. It's about what happened in our history demonstrated in attitude by following orders. 


Yes, perhaps I shared too much of Henry's personal background. But for a soldier who lasted 20 years in the army, I felt that demonstated what happened to old soldiers back then, as reflective of what happens to them now.


But I published the book myself because of all the rejections I got, most who wouldn't even look at the book.
That means I published without historical validity past having a master's degree. After self-publication (and maybe before, too) I sent a copy to my advisor (second one after the first dropped out because he couldn't handle me -- that says something right there) and asked if he could have someone read and review it at Amazon to help give CWBP validity. But Oscar didn't respond. It has been a year since I published it, and sales have all but stopped. You can imagine the WWA review isn't going to spur sales.


While I was putting the finishing touches on From Lincoln to Trump, I asked another of my thesis advisors, I'll call him John, if he knew anyone there who might be willing to do a read on the book to give suggestions or anything like that before I publish. He did not respond.


Problem is that right now, University of Wisconsin Press (UWP) has got the proposal for Pensaukee: Voice of a Landscape, and they were really nice about it, too. When I first queried them about it, it was 150,000 words. They told me they have a max requirement of 100,000 words. So I set to work trimming it down. It's now 105,000 words, and they said they'd look at the proposal. if they take a look the sales of my other two nonfiction books, there is likely NO way they'll request the full book. Nor will any other publisher.


I have already decided that I will not self-publish anything again -- with the exception of the three books that had been published before, becuase finding a publisher for books that had once been published is even more daunting.


But Pensaukee, and two of my Arabus novels, and Dinner at Marshall Fields, and Archaeology of the Dead - these books could well die with me.


Yes, the angst is real. I could stop writing. But what else would I do?


I found writing diaries dating back to 1985. I must have taken seriously someone's advise to keep journals. Anyway, I've started typing these entries so that I can throw this clutter away. And it amazes me all the mistakes I've made.


I think one of them was going to UWEC for a master's. I wanted to get a master's in Environmental History at UWGB. But my professors would not recommend me for it. I don't know why. I had a great advisor there, very supportive, for the environmental master's, but he couldn't talk them into recommending me, even while I took environmental classes. But UWEC was starting up a new history master's program and though I didn't have the three recommendations I needed for that, either, they took me. I should have seen that for what it was, especially when I said I wanted to develop a historical voice for the people. Since I wasn't interested in teaching or in a PhD, I was just a number there. 


But I took an independent study class on "Great Lakes Environmental History," which has helped quite a bit in developing this Pensaukee book. So I think it's a good book, demonstrating how the landscape changed over time, but I don't have the credentials needed, so this will not get published without a publisher's support.


Unless I turn it back into just the history of a township. That would be something I could self-publish, and forget about. Right? 


Except I can never forget about anything I publish. And I know that annoys people on my social media, when I keep saying buy buy! I can't help but feel let down by no sales - even my Bonanzas aren't selling right now. Where's my WOM? During the Civil War sesquicentennial, I put on Henry presentations, an old soldier telling his stories, and people seemed to love them. But I didn't have the book published at that time. So many people who I gave books to, or who bought them when I offered the discount, said they'd review for me, but haven't. Why? What's wrong? So many people encouraged me while I was writing From Lincoln to Trump, but now haven't bought a copy. Why? What's wrong?


This gripey, angst-filled person isn't who I want to be. But right now, with more in my past than my future, it's who I am.

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