by K. Williams
It was August of 2008 when I finally decided that my journey in writing the first big project of my career was going to end. Yet, it neither began nor ended there. The art of writing a novel is a much more unpredictable animal.
That unpredictable animal struck me in the fall of 1998. I was entering my last semester in college and seeking a way to blend my studies in a tidy finale. I had already switched gears half way through college, eloping with English and leaving my dreams of a future with Biology behind, while engaging in an affair with History on the side. As if they formed the holy trinity, I needed to find a way to bring these three diverse studies into one being and prove my time meaningfully spent.
Blue honor’s birth was a spark in a moment in time that could not predict the eventual result. Sitting in my room, on the phone with a college peer, I rolled the idea over and over examining how it could work, mulling my hypotheses like a good scientist. Eventually, it was decided. I would blend my major studies in English with my minor studies in History, once again leaving Biology to the past, and write a novel. Then the question of when and who arose. It was all well and good to say: I am going to write a book. I had written a good portion of several attempts already. I knew that unless I had a solid idea it would end as abruptly as it began on the to be worked later pile.
What this needed was a great time period to base it in. The Middle ages. No. I leaned to the Middle Ages in my other work too much already. It would be covering the same ground and perhaps diminish the other books if I ever brought them to fruition. I was already engaged in writing a fantasy epic and it felt too close to the subject to entertain. How about the Revolution? No. I just did not feel in love with that moment in time to write a semester length independent study about it. It would be dry, boring and therefore poorly written. No. I had to be in love with this time. What’s your favorite time? Well the era of World War II and the Victorian Age of course. The blood coursed through me. I was getting close. Well, where then? The Forties could land you in the South Pacific or Europe depending on which theater. I was excited. War always drew me in as a subject matter; a passionate and violent lover it was, but never boring. Yes! There had to be a war. But, no. I can’t do the fabulous forties. I’m already thinking of a couple works then and I don’t want to use them for this. They’re not ready to be done yet. Besides, I had a bad time in that class and don’t want to think of it right now. All right then, the Victorian Era it is. The Victorian Era and a war were definite. One more step and I had my spring board.
You can see from my bend in studies and thought that I had a penchant for Europe and the middle ages. It would have been so natural for me to want to go to England and follow someone to India. A dashing hero running away with the East India Company, but it just did not sing the song of my heart.
Bubbling up from the well of inspiration, it came to me. Why cross the pond? By that time, there was so much happening here in the United States of America, it was unnecessary to do so. Wouldn’t I want to know more about my own nation? My minor studies in history had followed early European History, early British History and turn of the century America. Adding a piece of Victorian American History might just give me a tidier grouping. The bubble popped and the answer sat in my lap: The United States Civil War. And, it just so happened, my peer had just done a study with the perfect professor and could make the introductions.
In a few days I had my appointment, met with University at Albany Professor and Yale graduate Richard Kendall and hashed out my idea. He was astounded! No one had asked to do an independent study such as this before. He was more than happy to spear head the plan. So with the green light, I spent the semester buried in books and the United States Civil War, bleeding with brothers, blue and gray, horse charges and cavalry, and won the battle of the paper and pen. I brought Emily and Joseph to life, setting them up with their families and lives. I put them through war and hell. I gave them fear and happiness. I played god in my version of the 1860s for five months. When I was done molding this creation, I handed Professor Kendall the final work, totaling about 80 pages of fictional and historical blood, sweat and tears.
Professor Kendall was floored and could not wait to have a good look at it. Within a week we spoke again and he apologized that he could not provide me with a letter grade as all independent studies were left at satisfactory or unsatisfactory. He wanted to give it an A at least and wanted me to know. He hoped I would pursue publication of the work. I should let him know if I had and how it was going. He said it deserves more than stopping here.
From there, the book seemed to roll into life on its own and Kendall appeared to be right. I brought it with me to a seminar on how to get published, where I met Sarah Jane Freymann Agent, Katharine Sands. She called in two months willing to take on the project. I just needed to flesh it out. I returned it to her double in size and the process of shopping around for a publisher began, but also began the process of my roadblocks. From negative to glowing, reviews came back from all kinds of editors in every avenue Katherine could find, but time after time the project just did not light the fire it needed to. Instead, it lit the fires of resentment in myself and made this part of the journey a struggle, as if I was about to fight my own war.
My characters were scattered and incomplete. My story was weak without their development. I needed to find a way to fix this and make them see that the potential they claimed to see in my work was worth taking a chance on. Frustrated by my bad luck, I reworked the story, adding more, shaving more, editing, and rewording. I did this process a few times, hoping that with each polish, the sparkle of my creation would catch the eye of the right person and I would be on my way. No more, I wish you had gotten me sooner, buts.
It’s hard to see a sparkle in a crowded room of other sparkling objects. I learned that slowly. It wasn’t so much that my work was less worthy than others, but that others sparkled just as much, and there was an abundance of good things to be scooped up by editors. They had a buffet to gorge themselves at. The tiniest reason to say no became the best reason to say no. My book was bulky and intimidating at this time and would take several months of work to whip it into shape for publication. I was not connected to anyone and was no known myself. I was too new to the game to be readily acceptable. Keep an eye on this one, but the answer is still no.
Frustrated by my inability to outshine and fix the issues with my work, I set the novel aside at Katherine’s suggestion and sent her my fantasy series to suggest to a friend of hers. I crossed my fingers, but as before, the same issues clouded my horizon.
In this time, I turned to writing poetry, other novels were begun and abandoned, editing renewed and stopped and renewed, random short stories came to life. I even wrote a children’s book called Oliver Diglebee. That monkey Oliver helped to heal my wounded genius, but it did not sustain me once the wound had mostly healed. I needed another creative outlet. Somehow I stumbled onto the website deviantArt.com in August of 2005. Poking around I saw it had merit and was a friendly useable place to connect with other artists. There I was able to post my work. Meet other writers and moan about the trouble with publishing. We read and critiqued work and grew. I even completed a faux series for the Marvel Comic X-men franchise, which my readers went crazy for. deviantArt was cathartic. I was finding my soul again.
Also in late 2005, I picked up a camera with serious focus and embarked on a new journey in photography. With this new found passion, I could be out, not think and see my stacks of heart poured pages lying about unread. I captured beauty and stopped to look at things again. The clouds broke.
In time, I had healed well enough to move back from my other writings and photos, even sketch work to find that first major project waiting for me, just like Ms. Sands said I would. I pulled it out one day in July 2008 and began another edit. By August, I had found a means to publish the work. I just needed an editor. I fell into a streak of luck and placed them. Out of nowhere, I could suddenly see the end of the great journey coming. I worked diligently with anticipation. How would I do the cover? What could I do? My mother announced that there would be an encampment in town. Kismet. My heart pounded, just like in the old days. It was meant to be now.
I attended that encampment, thinking I would take a couple snaps. I had years of practice and was hopeful I would get something to work. I had this inane ability to do it. It just happened, so I just did it.
Wandering to the end of the camp, I found a horse and his rider. Jack was a sweet boy, rather sleepy and sheepish with his great head hung. I snapped a couple shots of him and his rider. I wandered the camp, a bit disconsolate as nothing but that horse seemed to really make sense. I made my way back to him after listening to some lectures and took another try while his rider sat in the saddle talking about cavalry life. I prayed. I just needed one shot to make the cover. It was the final piece; the cherry on the sundae.
I left the camp, not willing to be hopeful, as disappointment had calmed me over the years. I would find something that would do and it would be good. When I got home, I was impatient enough to begin the digital photo process right away. I opened that last shot of Jack and his rider and lost my breath. My heart stopped. It was as if I were Emily, watching Manny approach with my beloved Joseph tall in his saddle. This was really happening.
The struggle ended with a whimper. After years in the desert, I found my way back. I formatted, edited and had others edit my work. I submitted it to the publisher and it was over. The proofs arrived. The problems were fixed. The book was published and I held the product of my struggle in my hand, a proud embattled parent. I had won the battle of paper and pen and become a wiser worldlier artist for it.
Blue Honor by K. Williams is available at Amazon.com and your local retailer through special order. It can be downloaded to kindle.
“An epic journey of love’s struggle to survive when a country struggled to unite.”
The Conrads are a wealthy dairy family from Vermont, who plan the marriage of their daughter Emily to Evan Howell, the son of a neighboring middle class farmer. When Evan decides to attend West Point, that certainty is brought into question. War breaks out between the states, carrying Evan even farther from the plans their families calculated.
During rarely given leave, Evan returns home with his close friend Joseph Maynard, of a socialite Baltimore family. On their first night in quiet Vermont, the Conrad Farm is threatened by fire. Toting Emily’s prize calf to safety, Joseph offers the Conrad’s more than assistance in a time of need. Can they accept what they have not planned for?
Relying on the nurturing assistance of Henrietta Benson, a runaway slave, Emily struggles to come to terms with her new feelings for the stranger and her mother’s refusal to give up on the past.
Emily and Joseph’s relationship strengthens despite her mother’s attempts at turning him away. Then the time comes that Joseph must leave to fulfill his duty as a soldier. Courting disaster, the lovers agree to continue their affair on paper. In the shadows, Emily’s mother bonds with two young comrades to see the affair ended for good. Now Emily and Joseph must traverse the dangerous gauntlet of both war and treachery.
About the Author:
Born and raised in the distinguished city of Saratoga Springs, New York, K. Williams grew with a love of art and history. Drawn to the United States Civil War by its powerful combination of romance and tragedy, K weaves her first historical fiction art piece. Currently, K is working on a fantasy novel series and two screenplay projects. Also an accomplished visual artist, K’s photography and digital works can be viewed through links at www.bluehonor.com. K is a graduate of the University at Albany.