Monday, September 12, 2016

When to ignore an editor or agent

Our friend Julie M. Weathers made this comment on a post last week:

I seem to be paralyzed by anxiety or something right now. I think it's a mix between a critique I got from an editor that shouldn't bother me, but does, the time of year, and some recurring comments about whether I really think a Civil War book written from the "wrong" perspective will have any appeal. "You do know the south lost the war, don't you?"

Well, yes, I think I read that somewhere. I'm sure if I were writing about a female Union spy everything would be hunky dorey. Unfortunately, that's not the story I was given.

If the editor had told me I couldn't write, I don't think it would have bothered me. But, "If you can't do basic research on this period, write something else." hit me between the eyes. I've been pretty meticulous about my research and the whole thing boils down to fact is stranger than fiction.

There are times when I want to wring editors' and agents' necks for this kind of off-the-cuff, surly note.

The idea that there is a "wrong" perspective on the Civil War is ludicrous. There are lots of stories yet to be told about this great American tragedy and if an editor is so poorly educated as to not realize that, well s/he should turn in their sheepskin.

If anything, the perspective that ISN'T often heard is the one I'm most interested in.

It reminds me of the exhibit at the Met of armored horses in Europe.

The full exhibit is of six of these armored horses all together, facing you as you walk through the door.

Now, imagine you live in what we now call Mexico about five hundred years ago. You live in a village with people who look like you, and you trade with people who look like you.

You hear rumors of strange creatures coming up the river.  One day, you're fishing and you look up and see something you've never seen before. A giant beast, with a rock man on top, coming toward you. You've never heard noise like this before in your life, or seen anything like these creatures.

When we imagine aliens arriving on earth, that's exactly what the people of meso-America thought when the Spaniards arrived.

Now, which perspective sounds more interesting? The Spanish invaders, or the people seeing aliens arrive?

All this to say: editors and agents can be wrong. I've been wrong. I hope it's not often but I'm sure I have been.

And I don't mean about subjective things of whether I liked a book or not, but about what I think will sell, or what would make a good book.

Part of the process of being a writer for publication is learning when to NOT pay attention to what an editor tells you.

I have this discussion with my clients fairly often. When we get rejections on projects, we go over the reasons pretty carefully. Sometimes those reasons will help us spot a flaw in the proposal or novel. And sometimes, the opinion is just wrong.

Agents and editors are not endowed with clarity of vision. We're muddling through like everyone else. Yes, we have more experience and yes, most of us have years of reading and some scholarship to inform our world view but that isn't a guarantee of perfection vision. Would that it were!

So, know your strengths and have confidence in them.
And know when to say "fuck off" to someone who's intent on making you feel something other than respected.


nightsmusic said...

I have a friend who writes historical romance in the era that she teaches at a college level. One of her first rejection letters told her she didn't have a clue what she was talking about from a historical perspective and she really needed to learn about the time she was writing in.

She's since been multi-published. By an agent who actually knew something about the era.

There are stupid people in every profession. And there will always be someone out there who will profess to know more than you do. Be confident in your research and (silently) tell them to go screw themselves.

On another note, I've seen those armored horses before and aren't those little armor plates for the horse's ears just the bomb? They're so cute!! Definitely thought of everything!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

This is one of the most important posts a writer should read.

Have confidence in your research, view and ability. Remember we are not beggars at the banquet. There is a chair for each one of us at the table.
I'm sitting at the kids table. More fun over here.

AJ Blythe said...

I lived/worked in the Outback for a number of years. A contest judge once wrote "you obviously have no idea [in reference to how things worked on a cattle station]. This manuscript needs to be tossed out and started again."

I chose to ignore them and sub'd the ms anyway. It got rejected, but only after R&Rs, which were nothing to do with how the cattle station worked. Frustrating, yes, but we have to have confidence in what we know.

Sometimes you just have to back yourself!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I think the hardest criticism to hear, right or wrong, is from the gatekeepers- agents and editors. Even iwhen intellectually we know they are wrong, it can sting and knock you out of the saddle so to speak.

These are the people who grant us keys to the kingdom. So I understand why Julie took this so hard. Even though we all know she is meticulous in her research and is a brilliant story teller.

Thank you, my queen, for addressing this. Right or wrong, this is the kind of thing that sends many of us woodland beasts spiraling. We sometimes have a hard time remembering it is just part of the process. We can't please everyone.

Morning folks. Coffee time.

Donnaeve said...

QOTKU's assessment of how Americans might have reacted in the meso era to the Spanish reminds me of the FF contest entry I wrote about Thanksgiving, and how the tribes of Indians viewed the huge ships arriving just off shore, likelarge beasts that stank of odors foreign to them.

I don't know why I didn't comment on this when Julie mentioned it. I did have the thought about the editor when I read it, and I think it was something like "Well, aren't they a real piece of work."

Julie I'm curious - is this a freelance editor? You have tons of connections, so maybe this was someone referred to you?

QOTKU is right - there are a gazillion ways to tell a story about the Civil War, and so far, from what I can tell, the only ones out there are from the Union perspective. I mentioned to Julie in the past about NEVERHOME (Laird Hunt) and there's another one, I SHALL BE NEAR TO YOU, (Erin Lindsay McCabe), but, both are about women who signed up to fight with the Union.

I'd really like to read one from the Confederate side, and THIS ONE appears to be the most recently published, but is about four women, a mix of Union and Confederate.

Colin Smith said...

I said this last week and I'll say it again, Julie: You're as well-researched on the American Civil War/War Between the States/War of Northern Aggression (there's a bundle of perspectives for you) as anyone I've known. Such was evident to me during your A-to-Z posts, as well as the stories you tell here. Now, I don't for one moment believe you have perfect knowledge of all aspects of that conflict, and I'm sure you hold views that are debated among scholars of the period. But no-one can deny you've done your research. And that research may not conform to a popular narrative. Indeed, try writing a novel where your main character is a black slave owner. It's historically undeniable that there were black slave owners, but I daresay that's a hot potato few publishers will want to handle (*waits for Janet to site three or four such books that have been published in the last 10 years...*).

As I said last week, Julie, whether or not your novel is politically correct enough to be published, you've got to write where your passion is. Don't trade that passion for popularity, otherwise your art will suffer--anything else you write won't be nearly as good. What you found there is an editor you don't want to work with, and maybe never want to work with. There are plenty of other editors out there who might be a little more willing to evaluate your story on its own merits without commenting on its market suitability. After all, you pay them for their editing skills, not their marketing advice.

Tricia Quinnies said...

Hi Janet!
Thank you x 3 for posting this concern! My writing has gone to a slow grinding halt this year after an editor accused me of writing a "rape joke." Still picking up my pieces word by word but a few sentences have made way out of my head! IMHO, there isn't a skin tough enough to fend off unprofessional and inane comments. Possibly the fault of the "inter-web"?
Thanks and happy Monday!
Tricia Q.

DLM said...

I started to say something along the lines of "How are we supposed to understand the world if we don't understand the enemy?" (or the villain or the bad guy or the like) ... then I realized, that's actually the problem. We find enemies even a century and a half after the war is over.

Part of the POINT of writing any form of entertainment - novels, screenplays, plays, even poems, is to understand all of humanity.

And, even if you don't buy the whole "we're all people, one love, kumbaya" thing above ... Hell, the villain is often the most interesting character on the scene. Why WOULDN'T we want to consume entertainment from their perspective?

Oh, wait: we do. American Psycho, Macbeth, every other role Pacino ever played ...

Sherry Howard said...

Julie, so sorry for that impact on you. I think all writers have a similar experience at times. Uppermost in all of our minds must be subjectivity. Only when a pattern of feedback emerges can we be sure that a change is needed. I'm sure you would have carefully vetted the editor you chose to look at your work, but I'm appalled at the number of writers who decide to call themselves editors so they can hang out a shingle with no real knowledge of the job. The words people choose when giving feedback can tell us more about them than about our work. (I've never had that experience, but I've seen the aftermath in my writing groups!)

AAGreene said...

Julie! When I first read your comment, I thought "there AREN'T 'wrong' perspectives!" Only different ones. When we have such a narrow idea of who can tell a story, how do we learn about others? How do we live so many lives? Keep going, Julie! I would love to read that story :-)

I find that stories that I love have antagonists I can understand. (I purposely didn't say 'villain.') Antagonists don't have to be bad, or evil. They just have to be in your main character's way. This ambiguity makes for great drama. Don't get me wrong, I love a good vs. evil battle like anyone, but life is full of gray areas - and antagonists that live in those pockets of gray.

Remember, people who do bad things are more like you and me than we'd like to think. Everything is done for a reason, and those reasons may start to look familiar to us. I think this is why I'm drawn to crime stories - and mysteries!

Mister Furkles said...

Civil War book written from the "wrong" perspective

I fully understand this. My grandmother told me about such a book published in the thirties. I think the author was Margaret Mitchell. Guess hardly nobody read it. But some fool made it into one of the first color movies and we can just imagine that nobody went to see it.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I remembered this comment. Thank you, Julie, for sharing your story with us. And Janet, for encouraging us to keep on keeping on and letting us know editors and agents have their arrogant or misguided colleagues just like other professions.

It's important to hear different sides of events, of history.

I remember dad asking, way back when I was in seminary, why do we need to rewrite history books. Because the history I learned in school back then was only white history. I learned very little about Native Americans and African Americans except from a white point of view. What's the first things colonizers often did? Forbid use of native languages, burn/bomb/disrespect sacred sites or libraries which hold the history of the native people--whether it's Iraq, Rwanda, the highlanders of Scotland, or the Native or African people of the U.S. etc.

For the past three years, via my African American colleague and the African American people in my congregation, I'm learning many things as they share names of black people who invented things, who were movers and shakers (many more beyond Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King and Rosa Park) and, as our relationships with one another become more trusting, they share stories about the reality of their lives, some with more struggles than others.

And on brief note, I just wanted to say...QOTKU didn't name the people of Mexico as Americans. The Spaniards didn't arrive until the 1500s. America is a name that was given to our continent by Europeans not by the native peoples who lived here.

Long post. But important issues which is what Julie and Janet have brought up.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Remember one person's enemy is another's hero. It depends on where you are standing at the moment. The most irritating part of this editor's comment is that she seems to imply only the winner may speak. I am reminded of the opening of the movie, Braveheart.

"I will tell ye the story of William Wallace though history may call me a liar. For history has been written by those who have hanged heroes."

Sometimes, the "bad" guy wins. And history forgets they were tyrants. Just saying. It all depends on which hill you hang your flag.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Okay, I've refrained until now, but this is one my Told Ya. Remember all those editors who said there was too much rodeo detail in my books and readers are only really interested in the romance? HAH! It's the number one thing mentioned in every positive review, from Publisher's Weekly to my neighbor down the road.

Also, I absolutely adore Joanna Bourne's Spymaster series, much of which is told from the perspective of French spies during the revolution and Napoleonic wars. She made me understand WHY anyone would idolize a man we've all come to regard as a villain. I wouldn't have read past the first book if all the spies had been from the winning side.

DLM said...

All Quiet on the Western Front, kids.

I *still* recall realizing that one was written from the enemy's perspective, and it blew my teenaged mind. It just had not occurred to me a novel considered classic in American studies would be written by and told from "their" point of view.

We NEED that. It's what literature is for.

Susan said...

I really appreciate the history in this post. One of my goals is to make it to the museums the next time I'm in NYC, but I'm glad to get a taste of it here.

The notion of perspectives is an interesting one. I love to read about the underdogs, the downtrodden, the "simple man," so to speak--not even how they rise but because of who they are and how they live. Rather than the conquering army, I really do want to read a story from the perspective of the market-goers. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my favorite books because it's a simple life filled with all these complexities and how they deal with them. In The Hunger Games, I wished we could have stayed in District 12 longer because I wanted to know their stories and how they survived--or, you know, didn't. For me, it's the ordinary life and how they thrive there that's extraordinary.

But that's subjective. And that doesn't mean the other side's perspective isn't just as valid because there are stories there, too. Who knows where these soldiers come from before they're part of the army. Who knows what issues and pressure they grapple with as they ride into the marketplace. What are they thinking? What is their conscience saying? How do they feel afterwards?

I feel like the choice in perspective shapes the story, but it's the depth of the characters that makes or breaks it--because no matter what the perspective, if the character is there, we'll follow them anywhere.

Julie: I'm sorry that this editor didn't appreciate your rich knowledge and fresh perspective. That's the beauty of literature--every character gets a voice and every story gets a chance to be told. The story this editor wants isn't the one you want to tell, but that doesn't mean your story isn't needed, too. Tell your story.

Sharyn said...

We were in a small shop in Beaufort, South Carolina and the elegant proprietor told us it was called "The Unpleasantness Between the States".

Brian Schwarz said...

Ooh! This is a very good topic.

I recently gave some new writers a little writing advice, and someone who is known for their valuable feedback, which happens to be code for assholery, sought out my work to test my mettle. The conclusion? Because I broke rules, he considered it all garbage. He didn't for one second ask himself why they were broken, or even if I knew how grammar does indeed work. Instead he just smeared me publicly and went on his way.

Did I mention he's getting an MFA?

I took all the garbage comments, sifted through them, and found some gems of advice which I used on my edits. Don't get me wrong, he can continue his escapades elsewhere, but the trick is knowing when comments are genuinely useful and not intended to wound your ego, versus when someone (even those who are highly respected) is taking out some kind of misplaced rage on you.

It's a fine line.

Karen McCoy said...

Oh, Miss Julie. So sorry this happened. Ugh. Self-doubt is such a burden on its own, and it doesn't help when people add to the weight of it.

There is a great book called Orbiting the Giant Hairball and while it's directed at how to navigate your way through corporate culture, it applies here too. Here's a link, though it looks like it might be temporarily out of stock. And, there's also this little ditty about dealing with impostor syndrome.

If nothing else, there's always the Reef to come back to when the outside masses get too looming. Case in point: Thanks to the encouragement here, and Janet's post last Friday, I had a great conference with my query pitch, and received a request for pages from an agent. Thanks to Colin, BJ, Lennon, and everyone else for their kindness and compassion.

Donnaeve said...

Elise BRAVEHEART, one of my favorite movies of all time.

Mister Furkles Touche!

Colin Smith said...

YAY!! Karen!!! That's wonderful. :D Congratulations!! And you are so welcome. Anytime. :)

Susan said...

One more quick thought: the musical Hamilton is from the dueling perspectives of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, but Burr is front and center as essentially the narrator and central character. He's not a hero in the history books, but this gives him a voice, shows that he's sympathetic and, most of all, human as opposed to the caricature history classes like to paint. Never underestimate the power of perspective.

Catherine Vignolini said...

It makes sense that this business is populated with a slice from the same meatloaf of humanity as any other. Inevitably you'll encounter people who are rigid in their thinking, but loose with their mouth. They'll drain you if you let them. Julie, don't give this person power over you. That's what this is really about.

RachelErin said...

Living in Boston I got so sick of Revolutionary War stuff I avoided anything that mentioned it.

Then I picked up a book I thought was about something else, but turned out to be about the Revolutionary War from the point of view of a slave living in Boston. (Octavian Nothing, if anyone is interested) Completely, 100% hooked. All kinds of perspectives from the working/fighting class I had never gotten to read about before.

Thought two on the power of different perspectives: Hamilton. Who used to be the least popular, least noticed Founding Father. I imagine Lin Miranda Manuel got some strong, negative reactions to his work, and he was already had a Tony under his belt.

I think another side of the question has to do with reader cognitive dissonance. We have so many un-examined assumptions, and the less we actually know about a topic, the less examined more firmly lodged our assumptions are. Many people have a measurable fight-or-flight response when they run into something that doesn't click with their mental construct.

It sounds like your book doesn't jive with a lot of preconceptions, and provokes strong reactions. The reader response is out of your control.

DLM said...

Sharyn, I've never heard exactly that, but "The Late Unpleasantness" was a euphemism I heard growing up. More as a joke of what the generation or two before had called it than as a straight-faced reference to The Civil War, but it *was* a thing.

Catherine Vignolini, "meatloaf of humanity" ... I need that on a t-shirt.

Karen McCoy said...

Catherine. Wow. So much yes.

I agree with Diane that "Meatloaf of Humanity" would make a great T-shirt. I also love what you said about "people who are rigid in their thinking, but loose with their mouths." Such a lovely, elegant, and succinct way of summarizing the meatloaf.

nightsmusic said...

Brian! Does MFA in this case refer to Mother F*&$ing A$$hole? Just asking for a friend, you understand...

Anonymous said...

Amadeus is told from the perspective of his rival Antonio Solieri. A biopic on Mozart might read like Wikipedia, but Peter Shaffer's play makes the scoundrel, real and even more amazingly gifted than a dry telling of the facts.

Stories are about conflict. We feel conflicted when we are confronted with a perspective that challenges our own. Julie, your book sounds like a real story that challenges the norm. Good for you. Stick by it!

Adib Khorram said...

There are few things worse in life than having you own expertise discredited.

I work in graphic design for my day job, and I keep a pretty cool head pretty much all the time. The only time I about lost it was when a client tried to tell me I didn't know how to use PowerPoint and was going to mess up their presentation (when I was, in fact, FIXING it). Thankfully the only person that heard my angry muttering was a friend close by, who had seen me keep my composure up to that point, despite two days' worth of demanding clients.

"Oh!" she said. "You are human!"

Julie, I'm quite fascinated to know more about your book! I love "stranger than fiction" type stories! I can't wait to see it published!

Amanda Capper said...

You know, this site is great for advice and knowledge and whatnot, but I love the words. Meatloaf of Humanity. Rigid minds and loose lips. MFA's. Few words but oh so clear a picture.

Julie, here's a couple of words, reduced for impact, to repeat over and over. Screw'em. And then just get on with it.

LynnRodz said...

Julie, I'm sure you'll rebound. I had someone read my MS and she came back telling me I was wrong about the location in Paris where my story takes place. She said she had traveled to Paris 3 or 4 times and knows the area. And, she had a number of friends who have stayed in that area 4 or 5 times when they've visited Paris as well. I emailed her and said, I have lived in this area for a good part of my life since the early 1970s, I think I know what I'm talking about. Still, she insisted I was wrong until I had to send her the link from the official website for the city that shows the location I was talking about.

Good editors, CPs, and beta readers are like panning for gold, they're hard to find and you have to know when their opinion is valid and when it's just fool's gold.

AAGreene, I love your little pearls of wisdom. Antagonists don't have to be bad, or evil. They just have to be in your main character's way.

Remember, people who do bad things are more like you and me than we'd like to think.

RosannaM said...

This post points out the power of words. I am sure for Julie those words will ping around in her brain for a very long time, despite her best efforts to put them in perspective and assign them the label of garbage. Hang in there, it was just one very ignorant opinion.

On the plus side, think what we get to do. Harness the power of words in our own stories so they cause someone to stay up late, have nightmares, or cry or fall in love, or gain insight into something previously unknown to them.

Late weigh in on the WIR intro which I didn't see till now. Thanks. I agree completely.

Jenny Chou said...

Julie - I write about jewel thieves. Yes, I know stealing is illegal and that it's not very nice to take things that belong to others. I specifically told my kids that just because Mom writes about thieves doesn't make it okay for them to steal. (They rolled their eyes) While I was querying I received quite a few rejections saying my character's behavior and chosen profession made them unlikable. That was hard to take. Personally, I like stories about people who lie and cheat and steal because I'm curious to find out their reasons and view the world from a different perspective. Luckily, I finally found an agent who loves heist novels and my characters. I really hope you find your perfect agent, too, so we can all enjoy reading your Civil War story.

DeadSpiderEye said...

War fiction/drama is tricky prospect to tackle and in that regard, my view differs from Janet in that I think there's always a wrong perspective. Okay you're fairly safe in a remote context, ye olde combatants in a ye olde historical setting but you can still get caught out if an historical conflict resonates in a contemporary context. E.g. anyone up for three hundred page of Saladin driving the infidel from his land? No I didn't think so.

So with that in mind, maybe you want to revisit the objections raised by the editor. I know the irony of being confronted with ignorance by a person trying to 'educate' you, is a particularly stubborn gobbet to force down one's gullet and there does seem to be lapse in professionalism from this editor. It's in such circumstances though, when confronted with visceral thoughts and reactions, that it becomes contingent on you to play the big man.

Ask, does the narrative fully explore its implications, is the protagonist represented in a realistic context or are their actions driven by convenient motivation and accompanied by an equally convenient vindication. Of course the answers depend upon how you employ narrative conceit, it's not a particularly easy task I know but that's why they pay you the money.

I should reiterate the maybe here, it is possible the editor is just a tosser, just give the prospect that they might be sincere some thought.

Mora Green said...

This is such a great post. I'm going to de-lurk just to say that. My favorite Sandbox is WWII, which is of course another war that everyone imagines they know a lot about. Just like people know that the South was a bunch of mustache-twirling racists who wanted to preserve slavery, while the North went to war for human rights and freedom for all. I'm currently waiting for a response on the first novel and working on the second, which has a German officer for a protagonist. Can't wait for someone to get indignant about total lack of comments on the Third Reich. I even set up a trap by mentioning Death's Head pins. The person who stops there and proceeds to yell at me about the SS, 1. doesn't know their uniform, 2. is getting their perspective from "Inglourious Basterds", and 3. is the person I'm gonna stop listening to.

And for the record, I've been sitting on my hands, waiting for this book about the Confederate spy ever since reading in comments a while back about her falling out of a tree into a Union captain's arms.

Dena Pawling said...

At my local RWA meeting last weekend, I heard from an author who decided to write a legal thriller / romantic suspense set in England. She decided the whole solicitor/barrister distinction [and a few other differences] would be “irrelevant” to her readers, so she's ignoring that TINY bit of difference between the US and England.

“My readers won't mind” she says.

Well, I disagreed mentally, altho I didn't say anything. Maybe her readers really wouldn't mind. Who am I to judge?

There are folks like Julie who meticulously research, then there are folks who do a bare minimum so nothing is glaringly wrong, and then there are those who don't care at all.

I'm an attorney, and I'll be the first to tell you that lots of people spout off “facts” as if they knew them, but it's only when you know enough to realize how much you don't know, that you are getting close to being really knowledgeable.

You keep doing what you're doing, Julie, and ignore the wannabees.

Claudette Hoffmann said...

Julie, don't let those words linger. Flick them away and keep writing!

At a conference once, a writer with volumes of publications and reviews both good and bad, told us newbies seated at her table:
Even with scars aplenty, pings and blurts directed at what we create can hurt.
The trick is to remember that often, those who toss them out don't know how to or cannot create themselves.

Julie - Thanks for sharing
Reef Community - It's your quips, humor, wisdom, and group support that keep me buoyed
Great Empress of Teeth & Reefs - Your perspective and strength create courage

Heading off to lick my own wounds and hit the writing trail again : )

Steve Stubbs said...

The OP wrote: “Which perspective sounds more interesting? The Spanish invaders, or the people seeing aliens arrive?”

This is probably supposed to be a leading question, but it is highly subjective. I have to say, to me the Spanish are more interesring, I have favored Hispania ever since Trajan was tapped to succeed Nerva as emperor of Rome in 98 A.S. when Nerva stepped down for health reasons.

Vive l’espana!

But hat is highly subjective.

What is not subjective is that the Civil War is a political issue that can be discussed from only one point of view. That is the “basic research” the editor referred to. You can write a book in which Satan wins the Battle of Armageddon if you want to. But if you submit it to Catholic University Press it probably will not be accepted. Less obvious is what their reaction would be if you wrote an honest biography of Pius IX. Let us say it would not be warm and supportive.

The issue is not art but politics. Regarding the Civil War there is a politically correct position and a politically incorrect position. Publish a story from a politically incorrect perspective and there is likely to be rioting in the streets for months. Millions of people are still fighting on both sides of the Civil War more than 160 years after Appomattox. That us why your editor advised you to write about something else.

Consider it a learning experience and move on. Write a book in which Hannibal wins the Batrle of Carthage instead. Nobody cares about that one.

Er, at least I don’t think they do.

Beth said...

I love personal stories. If the MC is motivated, complex, and real, it doesn't really matter to me which side of the was she spied for. I know how the war ended. I want to know HER story.

BJ Muntain said...

A long time ago, before the internet, all I had to tell me about writing science fiction were books and magazines. And there weren't many of them.

But they all seemed to give the same advice: "Your science has to be perfect. Faster-than-light travel is impossible, so you can't use that."

My series relies on FTL travel. I was devastated. I stopped writing such things for years. I stopped reading any SF but hard SF - the pure science SF, which is kind of boring, to tell you the truth. I tried to write and sell stories that it looked like magazines were looking for - literary or hard SF only.

After a few such stories (and rejections - without the passion, they just weren't very good), I realized that I wanted to write the stories I wanted to, which were about characters and adventure rather than about perfect science. And so I wrote them for myself.

Years later, I learned that the books and magazines were wrong. They must have been written by bitter hard SF authors who couldn't understand why their stories weren't more popular. I realized that stories with FTL drives were being written and published all the time. I no longer trust those magazines, nor the books that steered me wrong.

Don't let people's own agendas get in your way. I'm sure there are as many squabbles out there in historical fiction as there are in science fiction - ignore them. There's probably just as many squabbles in romance, mystery, and fantasy genres. And you know what? People on all sides of all the squabbles are still being published.

Everybody: Write what you are passionate about.

Karen: Yay for getting a request for pages! Good luck! I'm glad the conference went so well for you.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

"So, know your strengths and have confidence in them."

This is what keeps you alive, both physically and mentally. And why once in awhile you need to meet with like-minded individuals so you don't lose sight on the goal.

Thank you JR for providing a meeting place :)

DLM said...

My comment limit has gone by the wayside, I do apologize.

We're moving into alternate history territory here, but it's got me thinking. This issue came up for me with my Recent Epiphany; in sum, I'm writing the story of the sinking of civilization into the so-called "Dark Ages." But I don't subscribe to the theory there ever was such a time. I also know that "Barbarians" had a more egalitarian social system than the Romans, until they began adopting legal codes from the Empire, and in fact they combed their hair with sandalwood and were clean folk. I know an awful lot about the horsefeathers that passes for "history" people insist upon knowing.

But literarily, and for the sake of my story, the idea of a particular dynastic dissolution is a driving force, and the idea of the Dark Ages stands for that. So I will use it.

BJ, I am sitting here ready to CACKLE about the FTL-is-verboten idea. That's gloriously point-miss-tastic. Space-based sci-fi without FTL is rather like cake without icing. I know there are cakes out there which are made without icing, and some of them are even good cakes. But ... I mean, who thinks of those when they visualize "cake" simply as a concept? Google certainly favors iced cakes (

Just like people favor the idea of centuries of ignorance, starting around 535 AD and stretching for a thousand years.

I'm willing to make a cake with icing. I can use my blog to rant about icing recipes and be an insufferable know-it-all about all the popular misconceptions people have about The Dirty, Stupid Past ... and be happy I've said my piece. Of cake.

And now I want cake. Without icing.

Andrea said...

Wow... I guess this illustrates the difference between professional as in getting paid for what you do vs. professional as in actually knowing what you're talking about and getting paid for what you do.

It's funny reading everybody's examples. I have one too:
Moya Brennan from the Irish band Clannad wrote in her autobiography that she competed in a singing competition once when she was a little girl, I think it was in Belfast. The judge's comment was that she could sing nicely but that she had to work on her pronunciation of the Irish (Gaelic) language. Moya was really upset, and when she told her mum, her mum laughed and went to speak to the judge, explaining that the whole Brennan/Duggan clan are actually native Irish speakers from Donegal.

I can't help sighing when I see that agents are looking for fantasy not based on medieval Europe. What the **** is medieval Europe? Usually they mean knights and swords and Merlin-type wizards and lots of forest (and yes, I do understand they're getting tired of the same things over and over again), but really... The Middle Ages are hardly a uniform period in history. And as a Dutch woman living in Spain with an English partner, I must say I have no idea what European culture is. It does not exist. It is certainly not the same as British culture, on the contrary. Britain is an island in more than the literal sense.
Plus... Spain, for example, was inhabited by the Moors and the Berbers during a significant part of the Middle Ages. Not exactly the same as the pagan Frisians who inhabited large parts of Holland during the early Middle Ages, except perhaps that neither group appreciated the Christians very much.
Sorry... *quietly stepping off soapbox*

DLM said...

Andrea, I almost want to hug you. Historical periodization and the generalizations based on the notion that there is any overarching commonality or definition for any given made-up epoch have long been a bugaboo of mine. Which is why it was such a surprise when I hit upon the whole Dark Ages thing I was on about just above.

My take on the agents' desire above is that they have had enough Game of Thrones, now it's time for something with a Polynesian or sub-continental flavor, something not involving a pack of white noblemen and damsels who would not go amiss at the next Ren Faire. They're short-handing a great deal, but the meaning comes across if you're forgiving of the way it's expressed.

Okay, I honestly will stop commenting now.

Barbara Etlin said...

Congrats on the request for pages, Karen!

When you get advice that is wrong, even from a so-called expert, you've learned something important. That person is the wrong person to edit or represent your manuscript. Be confident in your work and move on to someone who gets it.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I confess, I didn't read the rest of the comments, because somehow Elka already knows I'm going to take her for a walk and she's going to wake the household, but.....Gone with the Wind is one of my favorite books, and written from the Southern perspective. So.

Only once has somebody said to me "I feel like this is X's story, not Y the way you wrote it" and I thought they were right. That story is still in rewrites, because sometimes that's my life, but my main point is sometimes those comments make sense and other times they're bulldrek.

(I've been writing too much Shadowrun lately.)

Adib Khorram said...

BJ: Holy crap! How could those people get away with such blatant fraud?

I tend to agree that space fiction without FTL is like cake without frosting.

Joseph Snoe said...

Calling Julie Weathers. Where is Julie?

Be her luck she’ll miss this column because she’s researching the different sized nails used by the Yankees and Rebels to shoe their horses.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

In case someone hasn't mentioned this yet, I think our Julie should send a link from here, via someone else maybe, to the brilliant editor in question.

I can hear the shark roar and thrash at this idea but maybe someone will go for it before she deletes my suggestion.

Rubbing hands together and laughing devilishly.

Charlotte Grubbs said...

I guess this editor had never hear of Belle Boyd or Rose O’Neale Greenhow, then. (Or read LIAR, TEMPTRESS, SOLDIER, SPY by Karen Abbott.)

I actually get where the editor was coming from - given current events, the legacy of slavery and, subsequently, the Civil War, has become increasingly relevant in public discourse. Thus, a novel seen as sympathetic to the Confederate side would be considered very tone-deaf, possibly even racist, in the current political climate.

But this attitude overlooks certain things: first, you can write a novel from a person's perspective without validating their beliefs or justifying their views. No one thinks Nabokov wrote LOLITA to defend sexual predators.

Second, while the cause the Confederacy was fighting for - to preserve slavery - was abhorrent, the majority of individuals fighting for the Confederacy were there for very different reasons. They fought to defend their homes, they fought because they mistrusted the federal government, they fought because a wealthy man paid for them to take his place, they fought because they were forced to. I'm not saying racism didn't play a role in their decisions, but to say "they were Confederates, therefore they were slave-owning racists" ignores the fact that most were poor, uneducated farm folk and laborers who died by the hundreds of thousands to preserve the wealth and way of life of a select few. Many came from places where slavery was practically nonexistent. (There is still particular bitterness in the mountain regions over this.) Dismissing them as all alike removes their humanity, devalues those lives lost. That's a dark road to go down.

Third, as a historically-inclined person, I'm disturbed by the idea that there's ever a "wrong" perspective to explore history from. History is only wrong if it's factually incorrect or incomplete. If you tell the story of WWII from the German perspective without mentioning the Holocaust, well, you're wrong. If you talk about how German civilians suffered too - how they endured starvation and bombings, how millions of German descent were forcibly relocated from their homelands to Germany after the war - that's all true. It's just not a perspective we often hear about.

The idea that because a side "lost," or because their perspectives and values are anathema to our modern views, they don't deserve to be written about isn't just absurd, it's dangerous. When history is only written about the "winners," it ceases to be history and becomes propaganda.

"Publish a story from a politically incorrect perspective and there is likely to be rioting in the streets for months."

I think you vastly overestimate how many people read, or care much about what's published. Unless you were being sarcastic? (I can't always tell.)

Joseph Snoe said...

You can find excerpts from "The Rain Crow" plus a ton of information about the Civil War on Julie's blog:

Julie Weathers Blog

Jenny Chou

Because of my kind, gentle, saintly nature, I have a hard time imagining the thought processes of murderers, bank robbers, gang members, hatemongers, etc. I intend to research the heck out of that soon. I'm sure it'll open vistas of story idea (or at least understanding the criminal mind won't be the insurmountable obstacle it is now).

Craig F said...

Sorry but I am emotionally spent today so I can't delve too deeply.

What it comes down to is that William Tecumseh Sherman is not a hero in Georgia. The Civil War still touches on nerves in all of the regions it was fought in. That makes the stories you grew up with the absolute truth to you. Even though you can't get the same story from three witnesses of something that happened ten minutes ago.

I think this editor grew up on the knee of a grandfather who told him the "truth" of that war. Keep trying Julie, you will find an open minded editor some day.

Charlotte Grubbs said...

"Okay you're fairly safe in a remote context, ye olde combatants in a ye olde historical setting but you can still get caught out if an historical conflict resonates in a contemporary context.E.g. anyone up for three hundred page of Saladin driving the infidel from his land? No I didn't think so"

Actually, I am. And in fact, I think such a book would be an incredibly necessary voice in our modern discourse on Islamic-Christian relations. Assuming a Western Christian perspective is the only valid one from which to view history or write a novel is very limiting. As Janet said, it's the perspective you *don't* often hear that's the most interesting and vital, and in the US we certainly don't often hear about the Muslim perspective on the Crusades.

Kiersten White's recent YA novel, AND I DARKEN, about a female Vlad Dracula, is set in the Ottoman Empire during the Crusades and the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans. It has sympathetic characters on both sides of the conflict including, notably, Sultan Mehmed II's son Mehmet and Radu, Dracula's younger brother who converted to Islam and fought for the Ottomans. I'd have hated for an agent or editor to ask White to sterilize her work, or not write it at all, for fear of upsetting our preconceived notions of Islam and Western superiority.

Colin Smith said...

Charlotte: I think some would take issue with the statement that the South was fighting "to preserve slavery." I could be wrong, but I think Julie herself has made the point that the South was fighting against what they perceived as Federal overreach. And with that, I will step away from the minefield and allow those more knowledgeable on the subject weigh in. ;)

Lennon Faris said...

Aw Julie, I feel for ya. It's the worst when an 'expert' in the field says something like this because you feel they really know their stuff. But, so do you. Sometimes you just gotta go with your (well-researched) gut. I'm joining the voices saying I like hearing stories from the losing side, too.

That being said, I think Brian and DeadSpiderEye also made good points in that SOMETIMES (key word there), there are nuggets of wisdom even spewing from the mouths of people like that editor. The trick is to try to figure out if that is the case. I don't know that it is, because I know you go for detail and he sounds like an arrogant smut, but I've noticed this phenomenon in my own life, and sometimes it's helped me improve.

Steve - I think alternate points of view is sort of what writing is for! It lets us understand even if we don't agree. Wars aren't generally fought by 'good' and 'evil' sides, but by humans with a host of good and evil intentions, on both sides.

2N's - lol, you crack me up!

Karen - that's awesome!!! I also come here to the reef for encouragement.

Joseph Snoe said...


I think it best Julie not send the link. Relishing the idea is fine (and in my world inevitable), but not actually doing it.

Finishing The Rain Crow and publishing it is better.

BJ Muntain said...

Diane and Adib: It was the 80s and early 90s. I was young. I believed Writer's Digest. It wasn't until I realized that they were allowing advertising from vanity presses that I understood they were not the Bible of writing. They were not perfect, and neither were the articles they published. They're still a useful resource, but one must look at them with the understanding that comes with maturity, that they're in it to sell magazines and books. Like Elements of Style - there's far more to grammar and style than they mention in that tiny volume.

A well-rounded knowledge of publishing is far more important than reading every issue of a magazine. Never rely on one source for everything. Even Janet admits there are areas she doesn't keep up in - certain certain genres, for instance. No one knows everything about everything. So never stop learning.

Andrea said...

Thanks DLM, and yes, I agree that said agents probably mean they don't want to see any more Game of Thrones (it used to be Tolkien) clones, and I can't say I disagree with them. But why not say so?
There's such a rich diversity of European cultures with an incredible variety of stories, a lot of them long gone because of migration, assimilation, and imperialism. What a shame to shut oneself off from potentially great stories by using a generalisation that comes across as ill-informed.

John Davis Frain said...

"If anything, the perspective that ISN'T often heard is the one I'm most interested in."
Said Janet Reid and readers around the globe.

I pulled out my crystal ball and a picture was super clear: "A writing class may help" was in a rejection penned to someone named JK Rowling; Next to that was "If you can't do basic research on this period, write something else" was apparently suggested to the wildly popular author, Julie Weathers.

Your crystal ball results may vary, and are not intended as recommendations, but they do represent the views of this writer.

Lucie Witt said...

The computer ate my comment. Grrr.

The thing that bothered me most about the comment to Julie was that it's pretty easy to see Julie does her homework. It comes through instantly in her writing.

(Next part is not about Julie's situation, just the idea of topics being off limit.)

I think it's important to distinguish topic from premise.

Generally speaking no topic should be off limits. The premise, however, might be a hot garbage fire.

Let's take a recent example from the romance community.

Topic: german and jewish person falling in love during WW2

Premise: a jewish woman at a concentration camp, who is special because of blonde hair/blue eyes, falls in love with a nazi officer at the camp. She later finds jesus and is saved literally and figuratively.

It's easy to see how the topic was tricky but potentially okay while the premise was abhorrent.

JulieWeathers said...

Whoa, the one day I'm late to check comments and I'm the subject du jour. It''s my birthday so I've spent the day sleeping. I knew better than to take those sleeping pills, but was tired of sleepless nights.

I won't get all comments responded to as Wonder Son is taking me shopping for Wonder Grandson whose birthday is tomorrow. He's agreed to be chauffeur and assistant shopper, since I sprained my foot.

A good man is hard to find; sometimes you have to raise them.

Anyway, thank you Janet.

And OMGosh that exhibit. Remember the story about the lawyer stealing a fossilized shark tooth I think it was from a museum? Yeah, I'd be trying to figure out how to steal that armor.

Some things she pointed out I can change and will. Other things like blue roan horses don't have white stockings and horse experts are going to nail me on that, probably not so much. Also, the bit about how she wouldn't be able to smell the flowers on the table because the chamber pot and outhouse in the cabin stink so much.

Um, yeah, ignoring that bit. I'm familiar with chamber pots and outhouses. That isn't how it works.

Thank you for posting this. I'm back to writing, but I very much needed this boost. All I can do is write the story. If it doesn't find a home, I'll self publish, because I believe in it that much.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

Better yet, you could write it from the POV of the horses. BAM! Where's my million dollar book deal?

BJ Muntain said...

Happy birthday, Julie! What a birthday surprise, huh?

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Happy Birthday!!! I hope you have a wonderful day. :)

Janet Reid said...

Absolutely no one is going to believe me when I say I did NOT know it was Julie's birthday, particularly since I've actually been to a party for Julie ON her birthday years ago. It was at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference in Denver. It was a rousing event, and probably one of the (many) reasons I've never been invited back.

And Miss Julie, please do not steal from the Met. You will be arrestd and sent to The Tombs, and have to call me for bail money. I of course will be glad to provide bail, provided you sign this little piece of paper that says I have exclusive first look at Cowgirls Wanted. Sign right here, yes, in the ink that looks like blood.

Panda in Chief said...

It is hard to imagine that an editor gave such a perfuntory reading of Julie's work that they could not grasp that the research was solid. When I read Julie's posts about her research, I don't KNOW if they are true or not, but they sound true and they feel true and even a panda knows that there are far more sources of history on any subject than one person (or panda) can read in a lifetime.

I did not get the feeling either from Julie's comment or various posts that she is trying to change history. She is just putting another story from another point of view into play. Like some of the others who have commented, I am curious as to the circumstances of this editor's reading of the material. If this is an editor who Julie hired to help tighten up the writing, well, then fire their ass. If it was a conference critique, well, ignore it and move on.

Janet is spot on about the idea that it is not the usual point of view or protagonist that is the most interesting. And even if Julie chooses to rewrite history (which is definitely not my sense of what she is doing) literature is full of "what if this" stories, Phillip Roth's "Plot Against America" being a particularly chilling example. I, along with most of the other Reefers here, can't wait to read Julie's book!

Meanwhile, cake without frosting is not my favorite, but if it is the only cake available, bring it on!! Since there is no cake here, I just made a little fresh peach ginger frozen yogurt. It's not cake, but it will have to do. At least it's not kale.

Panda in Chief said...

Happy Birthday Julie! And if you self publish, know that we Reiders will be standing in virtual lines here to buy our copies, but seems that our favorite shark is not going to let this book go unsold.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JULIE. I'm shouting because if I sang, you all would shut me down.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I swing by later here and there's tons of reading all the comments. I really enjoy this part of the community here--the diversity and the eloquence. Not to mention the great support and cheerleading.

Congratulations on receiving a request!

Happy birthday and have a wonderful time with your family!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

rats, it didn't work. bolding. Yes, Colin I have your instructions but I seem to not read very well.

first comment was for Karen and second comment was for Julie.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...


What creepy feedback you got. "You do know the south lost the war, don't you?" And "If you can do basic research..."

Like the editor is your PHD professor. It sounds like this editor needs to get off the social media tsunami and look at their toilet paper instead of their smartphone.

I follow you on twitter and read your history tweets. It's clear you are delving details. You have a voice to die for. Every comment you leave has a story and is compelling.

I've read all the comments here and all I can think of is We. Need. Diverse. Books.

When I went ot Art School the mandatory art history manual for the 4 years of my BFA listed zero females. Harumph!

Theresa said...

Julie, happy birthday, and I hope Janet's post and all the comments were a big boost for you today. I'd been thinking of you and the reason for your funk, so it was great to see Janet address it on her blog. Sometimes the hardest criticism to handle is the kind that's so far off the mark that instead of laughing at it, you seriously question everything about your writing. The best revenge on MFAs is finishing the story to your satisfaction and getting it published.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Julie, Happy Birthday! Hope you get a shark shaped cake.

E.M. Goldsmith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E.M. Goldsmith said...

Happy Birthday, Julie. I hope you are having a wonderful day. I am so glad you are part of this community. And I can't wait to read anything you publish traditionally or otherwise. I sure have enjoyed what I've read here and on your blog.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Sorry Miss Julie; would have wished you a Happy Birthday a lot earlier, but right now I have a husband with a pellet gun, an eager dog flattened underneath the outfit and watchful cat hanging on top of the truck, waiting for a packrat to make his appearance.

I'm giving them some time to have fun before I bring out my arsenal that seems to work- a sticky trap, nailed to a piece of plywood, so they don't make any more of a mess in the engine then it already has...

Happy Birthday, Julie! May you never have any "packrats" bothering you again and only "smooth running outfit" writing days ahead! xoxo

Susan said...

Happy, happy birthday, Julie!

John Davis Frain said...

Janice, one question ...

does that hubby belong to you? I thought he was a character in your story, but the cat sounded too real.

I'm sure interested in the results of that trap though. That's got end-of-chapter cliffhanger all over it!

John Davis Frain said...

For a blog post I'm preparing, I remembered this from Carl Sandburg: "Beware of advice -- even this."

AJ Blythe said...

Happy Birthday, Julie. Enjoy shopping for grandson. I hope your son also buys you a birthday lunch somewhere nice.

Lilac Shoshani said...

Happy Birthday, dearest Julie! <3 Thank you for being born! You are an outstanding writer and friend, and I am truly blessed to know you. Self-published or not, I can't wait to read your book. Sending lots of love your way. Have a wonderful day. :-*

Thank you so much for the super timely post, Janet! <3

Anonymous said...

I love this post, just love it. Especially the first two words and the last two sentences. Thank you, Janet, for being an advocate for many as well as an agent for a few.

Julie, Happy Birthday!! I hope you had a wonderful day doing things that brought you joy and peace and cake. With frosting.

JulieWeathers said...


Yes, I know the book. It drives me nuts that Amazon promotes it so heavily when it is so poorly researched and it is represented as non-fiction. The author puts in stories that were works of fiction because they were interesting and it stirs up emotions. Even the newspapers of the time confessed later there was no evidence the event reported had actually happened. The event was a wild story about Rebels cutting out leg bones of Union soldiers and using them for drumsticks and cutting off heads to kick around for balls after Bullrun.

It she's writing non-fiction and she admits there's no evidence this happened, why does she include it in the book other than to stir up controversy and sales? There's several other places where she's wrong on events, dates, and people. It drives me nuts for someone to be that sloppy.

Lucie Witt said...

Happy birthday, Julie!

(Janet, totally assumed you knew until I read your comment. Life is indeed stranger than fiction).

Allison Newchurch said...

Happy birthday Julie. :)

Beth said...

Happy Birthday, Julie.

"A good man is hard to find; sometimes you have to raise them."

This is my new favorite quote.

JulieWeathers said...

"I've actually been to a party for Julie ON her birthday years ago. It was at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference in Denver."

This is true. Miss Janet was one of the movers behind the surprise birthday party. Not only was it a massive surprise, it was the first birthday party I'd ever had in my life. I wept like a child.

"It was a rousing event, and probably one of the (many) reasons I've never been invited back." Even now tears of gratitude come to my eyes. I am only sad you wouldn't join the merry band, but you will always be welcome anywhere I or the gnomies are for sure. Who wouldn't want to hang with the gnomies?

To be sure, Cowgirls Wanted goes to you even if you don't have to bail me out of The Tombs. I've been watching a show called Copper that's set during the Civil War in NY and there are quite a few scenes in The Tombs. It's pretty interesting.

JulieWeathers said...

OK, time to catch up on comments. Dinner was great as was the company.

Nightmusic, yup. I can identify with your friend. I'm so glad your friend kept persevering. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

Yes, the ear pieces on the chanfron (the head piece) are the bomb. Some of them got quite fanciful. Henry VIII's jousting armor had horse barding that made the horse's head like it had ram's horns.

JulieWeathers said...


I agree the kid's table is much more fun.

JulieWeathers said...


You have to stand up for what you know. I'm glad you did. Thank you for confirming this.

JulieWeathers said...


Yes, it's still known as the War of Northern Aggression by many. I was talking to a friend who lives in Virginia not far from where my fictional plantation is situated. He mentioned something about Sherman and I said I had nothing but contempt for the man. He laughed and replied, "Yes, well, there are places around here you can't mention his name without eliciting the most vile curses."

Yes, the MC is a slave owner. Yes there were black slave owners. In one of the period diaries, I think Mary Chesnut's, there are remarks about a black slave owner who is reviled for his cruelty and mistreatment of his slaves. Regardless, no one wants to hear about black slave owners or Irish slaves.

The editor was one who has worked for the big five. She was offering critiques on the first 2,500 for a fee. I decided to send in the first chapters of Far Rider and Rain Crow to see if I was on the right track.

JulieWeathers said...


Try to put it out of your mind and move on. I know it's not easy, but you have to.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

John~ I wish I was metaphorically speaking, but unfortunately, the packrat still lives. All that unfounded stalking and now my sticky trap sits on the air filter, waiting.

BTW Yes, we do discuss caliber when shooting into an engine. I say "don't." However, they are one of the most hated "varmints" out west, and one of the hardest to "catch", so it's no wonder that my husband needs restraint. They can destroy$$ vehicles overnight- they love making nests in engines as the daytime temperatures turn cooler, and wreck havoc with the manifold, wires, insulation, etc. by chewing on ALL the things. However, when trying to "catch" one, it doesn't help that they look like cute chinchillas with their big furry ears and tail, so a person is at first startled by the cuteness before they can act. Then its all out war.

So this Packrat will be going to Colorado this weekend if we don't "catch" him soon- we have a wedding in the Rockies to go to, and taking the truck is mandatory. But then maybe he will like it in Colorado and decide to bail out...

JulieWeathers said...


"I started to say something along the lines of "How are we supposed to understand the world if we don't understand the enemy?"

Exactly, and this is one of the dilemmas for the MC. She grows to genuinely like some of the Union soldiers. She gets to know them as people, not just monsters invading her home. Some of the people she grows to hate are southern "rangers" who are little more than organized outlaws. Nothing is black and white.

I think Tyrion and the Hound are two of the most interesting characters in Game Of Thrones.

JulieWeathers said...


The person is a respected editor. I think that day she just decided to do a Simon Cowell routine and see how many zingers she could get in.

JulieWeathers said...


Thank you. I can't worry about who will read it. She's a southern plantation owner and boarding school operator on her own when it wasn't that common for women to handle their own affairs. She's also a spy and contraband runner.

This is her story for good or ill.

JulieWeathers said...


"The most irritating part of this editor's comment is that she seems to imply only the winner may speak."

No, that was poor wording on my part. The editor didn't say it's written from the wrong pov. I've had several other people ask me if I really want to write a story about a slave owner given the current feelings about this issue. I know these people are mainly concerned there will be no market for it. I just keep thinking back to some advice Hemingway gave Fitzgerald when he heard F.Scott had changed a story to suit a magazine better.

Hemingway was appalled and told him to always be true to the story and stop whoring his work just to try and sell it.

JulieWeathers said...

Kari Lynn,

Yes, as talented and fun as you are as a writer, it's often the rodeo details I love. As a matter of fact, yours are the only romance books I read that have cowboys. I've tried, really I have, but most of them just make me mad.

Tony Hillerman was advised to get rid of all that Indian stuff. Thankfully he didn't and thankfully you didn't get rid of the rodeo stuff.

Jo is one of my favorite romance writers, partially because I know she is such a thorough researcher. She's also a master of dialogue, but boy can she write a story.

A bunch of us got together at Myrtle Beach for a writer's retreat and she was working on The Forbidden Rose at the time and wavering on the opening scene. We adored it and she did decide to stay with it. My favorite thought of her is her curled up on a couch tapping a pencil against her chin, "I've got my MC trapped in a whore house and I'm contemplating unspeakable torture." She paused. "Gee, I wonder why I never get invited to dinner parties where they have polite conversation."

I cracked up, but didn't ask how much research she was doing on torture.

Like I said, one thing I really like about Jo's stuff is her attention to detail. It's the same with your stories. It makes such a huge difference in the reading experience.

JulieWeathers said...


The ordinary people are what make things interesting. My MC's fiance is a scout for Jeb Stuart. Stuart collected colorful people including his "bloody parsons" he said brought more people to God in battle than they ever did in church. One of his best spies weighed 95 pounds soaking wet and had a $10,000 price tag on his head by the end of the war.

I hope bringing the stories about these "ordinary" people to life will enrich the experience as the story is told from two POVs, the spy and her fiance, the soldier who despises her activities.

JulieWeathers said...


We were in a small shop in Beaufort, South Carolina and the elegant proprietor told us it was called "The Unpleasantness Between the States".--

That is so funny.

In many of the diaries, people later called it "the recent unpleasantness or "the unpleasantness between the states."

JulieWeathers said...


I will look that up and congratulations!! What great news.

JulieWeathers said...


That is so funny. My youngest son has a very laid back personality. It makes him perfect for his job in the army. He was supposed to be a Bradley tank mechanic, but he was an armorer and coordinated supplies. Basically, he was MASH's Radar except he could also fix any weapon. He never got upset about anything, even when the convoy was under attack. It takes a lot to turn his crank.

This is a good trait to have. You must be a truly valuable asset...even if you are human ; )

MA Hudson said...

It's not fiction but The Crusades through Arab Eyes, by Amin Maalouf, is a really good read.

JulieWeathers said...


I love reading about rogues. I can't believe anyone would object to that. I'm so glad you found a home with your jewel thieves.

JulieWeathers said...


I already went over her comments and had a friend do so also. There are some valid points and I'll make adjustments with those in mind.

Other things like: "A man would not discuss politics with a woman! Women were not interested in politics and fled the room when the subject came up." I will ignore because she's wrong.

Horace Greeley hired a female reporter in the 1850's to cover DC politics. He had to fight like a tiger to get her press credentials to get her in the press room, but finally got them. Women frequently sat in the gallery for congressional hearings. Wild Rose Greenhow was an advisor to President Buchanan and discussed politics with heads of state constantly. Her great wit, intelligence, and knowledge of Washington politics was part of what made her such a proficient spy.

Mary Chesnut in her diary talks about how much women were talking about politics and the coming war. It was all anyone was talking about.

She advised me to read an etiquette book of the time, but the problem is being a spy wasn't covered in Godey's Ladies Magazine. I'll stick to the letters, diaries, battle orders, memoirs, etc rather than saying this is the way Victorians did things.

DLM said...

Julie, you certainly have me intrigued!

Many happy returns, a day late. Here's hoping this year is your finest so far with writing and publication.

MA Hudson said...

Julie - Great work getting through all those comments. Maybe Janet could haul you in to do the WIR when she's too busy!!!

Regarding that Mad, Bad Editor - it seems to be a clear cut case of your WIP being George Clooney and the editor being hell bent on Miss America.

Hope you had a great birthday with that good man you raised and the little man that he's raising.

Anonymous said...

A bit late, but wanted to pop in to say to Julia that I totally understand the gut punch of being told people wouldn't be interested in my book. I had another writer try to talk me out of writing a book entirely because "it just won't work." All I asked for was a query critique. I'm not going to not write a book because someone thinks the concept of my book is wonky.

And "Killer Angels" is probably the best book on that period I've ever read, and it's mostly from the South perspective, with only one Union perspective in there. People are wrong sometimes.

Tricia Quinnies said...

Oh Jenny! I want to read it! 😊

Joseph Snoe said...

A black colleague at my school was openly proud of his ancestor who he claimed was a large slave owner in South Carolina. This (edited from Wikipedia) backs him up:

"William Ellison Jr, born April Ellison, (c. April 1790 – December 5, 1861) was a cotton gin maker and blacksmith in South Carolina, a free negro and former slave who achieved considerable success in business before the American Civil War. . . . He held more than 1,000 acres (400 ha) of land.

During the American Civil War, Ellison and his sons supported the Confederate States of America and gave the government substantial donations and aid. A grandson fought informally with the regular Confederate Army and survived the war.

After the outbreak of the American Civil War, in 1861 Ellison offered labor from his 53 slaves to the Confederate Army. He converted his cotton plantation to mixed crops to supply food to the cause.

His sons also supported the Confederacy and tried to enlist, but were refused because of their race.[11][12] They donated money, and bought Confederate bonds; with defeat, these bonds became worthless and they lost their investments, becoming destitute by the end of the war like many formerly successful whites."

Calorie Bombshell said...

I find the most interesting novels are the ones from the "wrong" perspective!

JulieWeathers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JulieWeathers said...


It sounds like a very interesting book. Don't give up on it. I watched Inglorious Bastards and didn't much care for it. The problem being so many people will think it was so well done that it has to be accurate. The illusion of truth is a dangerous thing. Aside from that phony southern accent that drove me nuts.

There are a lot of interesting characters on all sides. I'm sure someone has done a book on him, but if I were younger, I'd put Werner Mölders on my list of interesting people to write about. He was the most decorated German ace in WWII. In the beginning he was declared unfit to fly and denied. He came back and they agree to let him enter flight training. He suffered violently from nausea and vomiting while flying. It just didn't agree with his body.

He eventually conquered flight sickness and went to war.

Back home, a childhood friend who was Jewish was about to lose his business, so Mölders found a way to transfer the business to someone else so the family would be protected. He couldn't save them from the concentration camps, but exerted influence to keep them safe as long as he could. He was forbidden to be married by a bishop who was out of political favor, but asked him to marry them anyway and did what he could to save him. He had kind of a mini Schindler's list going on.

He didn't care about politics. If you were his friend, you were his friend.

I would also do a book on the Russian Night Witches. Now those were some women. Can you imagine flying even though you knew there was an instant death penalty on your head if you were shot down?

JulieWeathers said...


"At my local RWA meeting last weekend, I heard from an author who decided to write a legal thriller / romantic suspense set in England. She decided the whole solicitor/barrister distinction [and a few other differences] would be “irrelevant” to her readers, so she's ignoring that TINY bit of difference between the US and England."

Boy, is she in for a surprise.

People do mind and they're going to let her know. If I think an author is deliberately lazy about research I'm very hard pressed to spend money on them again.

My friend at the game company I write for has drilled it into my head I have to get battles and troops movements exactly right. "Those stitch counters aren't going to cut you any slack." And they won't. They call them stitch counters for a reason. If you show up at a re-enactment and don't have the right number of stitches per inch in your garment, their noses go in the air. Between 8-28 by the way depending on the garment and area.

I think the author your group had in to speak to you was setting a very poor example. What the author is saying is, "My readers are too stupid to know the difference and I don't care about the few who do."

JulieWeathers said...


"What is not subjective is that the Civil War is a political issue that can be discussed from only one point of view. That is the “basic research” the editor referred to."

No the basic research was:

Blue roan horses don't have white stockings. She looked them up to see if there was such a critter and they have black stockings. Horse experts are going to be writing in anger about that.

A woman in 1860 would not ride out alone to meet a man. They were always chaperoned. If she had attempted to, they would have put her in a convent. I suggest you read an etiquette book from the period about how young ladies acted. I read Gone With the Wind seven times. Scarlett would never do this.

I'm not sure who would have put her in a convent since her father is dead, her mother lives in Maryland and she's the proprietor of two plantations and a boarding school.

"She can't smell flowers on the table in that cabin! Think of the bo on those men, not to mention chamber pots, and the smell of the outhouse."

I've lived in a house with no running water. If you do use a chamber pot, it's late at night and you empty it and wash it first thing in the morning. Plus the outhouse is a distance from the house. That's why it's called an outhouse.

"A man wouldn't talk politics with a woman!"

Yes, they did. Many women were keenly interested in politics.

"That's not how someone would recruit spies. You need to figure out how this works and do some basic research."

It's exactly how Gen Jordan recruited spies.

"A woman would not expose her toes to warm them! Read a book on etiquette."

Balderdash. She's been out in the pouring rain, her honor is not going to be compromised because she slides her feet closer to the fire.

It was a series of comments like that which prompted her to tell me if I couldn't be bothered to do basic research write something else.

JulieWeathers said...


I'm hoping HER story will be enough to keep people reading. I find the story and period of history fascinating, now if I can just translate it to the page.

JulieWeathers said...


"In case someone hasn't mentioned this yet, I think our Julie should send a link from here, via someone else maybe, to the brilliant editor in question."

No. The woman is a respected editor and has helped a lot of people. She has a lot of fans who adore her. In my case, she'd decided she got hold of someone who didn't have a clue about what she was writing and decided to do the Simon Cowell routine and pick everything to death regarding perceived mistakes in historical details.

I would not embarrass someone regardless of my personal thoughts.

JulieWeathers said...


No offense meant, but even though Amazon seems to promote it endlessly, Liar is a terrible book and very poorly researched.

"Second, while the cause the Confederacy was fighting for - to preserve slavery"

Yes, slavery was part of the issue, but a large part of it was also states rights. I know people are going to shake their heads and whisper, "Another one of those nuts."

The massive rail systems and canals in the north were largely possible because of tariffs. The south paid the majority of tariffs because there was so little manufacturing in the south and nearly everything they consumed was imported. The north allowed raw goods to come in duty free to compete with the south and drive prices down for their manufacturers and tariffed and taxed all manufactured goods.

It had been going on for years. In 1828 the south revolted and said they would not pay the Tariff of Abominations. In 1860 the northern legislators were fighting hard to get Morrill tariff passed with Lincoln's blessings as he was a big railroad supporter and the tariff benifited the steel men who were part of the railroad cartels.

A more professional write up about the tariffs.

"The South did not secede primarily because of slavery. In Lincoln's First Inaugural Address he promised he had no intention to change slavery in the South. He argued it would be unconstitutional for him to do so. But he promised he would invade any state that failed to collect tariffs in order to enforce them. It was received from Baltimore to Charleston as a declaration of war on the South."

I'm not saying slavery wasn't part of the issue, it certainly was, but it wasn't the entire issue. One idiot writing a secession document laid slavery as a cornerstone for the movement, but several others mentioned tariffs. The ones decrying states rights and tariffs are all forgotten or ignored now, of course.

JulieWeathers said...


"There's such a rich diversity of European cultures with an incredible variety of stories, a lot of them long gone because of migration, assimilation, and imperialism."

Agreed. I would read a wonderful Russian fantasy. Far Rider blended elements of Sarmation and Celtic lore and cultures for my Horse Lords culture.

There's such a wonderful variety available.

JulieWeathers said...


etter yet, you could write it from the POV of the horses. BAM! Where's my million dollar book deal?--

Definitely. Some of those horses were complete characters in their own right.

JulieWeathers said...


I am not rewriting history. I am sticking to it like a glove as much as possible. My characters have timelines and I shoehorn in their activities on a historical timeline to make sure they are interacting with the right people, in the right places, at the right times.

That is the reason I haven't whipped out a Cowgirls Wanted book. I certainly could have by now and made up most of it. I just think that would be a dishonor to the women who zoomed off on a motorcycle to answer the ad and all the others who blazed these trails.

JulieWeathers said...

I think I caught up on comments. If I missed you, forgive me. You'll note I stayed up until 5 something this morning answering comments. I thought, boy, I'm getting tired. Oh, that's why.

You all are so kind and caring, and I love you for it. I don't know if Rain Crow will ever sell. I hope so. I adore the characters and the story.

A friend sent me a newspaper from the period he thought I'd find interesting. The part he thought I'd find interesting was one of Jeb Stuarts soiree's into Union territory. McClellan mad a bold statement to the press that not a single one of Stuart's raiders would make it back to Virginia. He did, of course after causing millions of dollars of damage and taking about $3 million in captured booty with him.

Stuart loved capturing Union horses. He sent a telegraph to the war department once telling them he had just commandeered their shipment to ___. He was disappointed in the quality of horses. Could they please start buying better ones?

Anyway, hidden in the paper was an article by a captured Union soldier. He described how he was wounded and crawled over under the shade of a tree after the battle. A gut shot Reb was there also and a little Union drummer boy who had his feet blown off by a cannon blast. The Reb took off his gallouses (suspenders) and tied off the boy's legs to stop the bleeding, then talked to him to calm the boy, telling him what good doctors the Rebels had.

They were found soon after by Confederates and carried back to camp. One of the officers, put the little drummer boy up in front of him and talked to him all the way back, but the boy died on the way.

The Union soldier talked about how kindly they had been treated, which was interesting.

I couldn't resist this scene and added Lorena's fiance Baron and his men in to, writing it from his pov.

I think sometimes you can show more about the horror of war by showing a broken doll in the middle of a road than all the guts and gore.

In The Field Of Lost Shoes, one of the most poignant parts if the ending where they are collecting all the lost shoes stuck in the mud after the battle of New Market. A group of school boys from Virginia Military Institute turned the battle and saved the day.

It's the little moments that show the humanity and inhumanity of war.

Thank you all so much for the kind wishes on my birthday.

Claudette Hoffmann said...

Even though I don't know if I've been around the blog long enough to make this appropriate, it just felt like the right thing to do --anyway -

A Very Very Happy Happy belated Birthday wish.
(Besides, I always thought birthdays should be celebrated as festivals and last for at least a week, if not longer)

BlancheDuBois said...

This visual of the armor at the Met was just perfect. I've often tried to imagine the perspectives of people witnessing significant historical events, and even to imagine their ordinary, daily lives. When I travel, this is what I spend most of my time doing; living in my imagination as much as the physical setting. But this photo was striking. The armor really is quite bizarre and out of place in the context you presented. I imagine it's how I'd feel if suddenly Cylon warriors were coming up the drive.

And you nailed it when you said that the uncommon perspective, the untold sides of history's big stories, are the ones you most want to hear. The same is true for me.

As a side note, I've been away since the end of August. I'm now doing the most enjoyable homework . . . catching up on your posts since I left. I liked the pet pics, but am glad you're back with your usual insights into the business of books.