This morning, I have been marketing. I contacted two blog tour services to see about setting up blog tours for The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte. If it works out, I’ll be posting details on the blog as the tours happen.
I have also been cold calling, emailing, and writing to gift shops connected with historic sites that are related to my novel. I’m not sure if there’s really much chance of getting my book placed in those shops, but it never hurts to ask!
Now, having finished that bit of business, I’m going out with my husband to eat lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant and then go see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Happy Friday, all.
I am proud and pleased to reveal the cover for my novel:
Here is the synopsis:
As a clever girl in stodgy, mercantile Baltimore, Betsy Patterson dreams of a marriage that will transport her to cultured Europe. When she falls in love with and marries Jerome Bonaparte, she believes her dream has come true—until Jerome’s older brother Napoleon becomes an implacable enemy.
Based on a true story, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is a historical novel that portrays this woman’s tumultuous life. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, known to history as Betsy Bonaparte, scandalized Washington with her daring French fashions; visited Niagara Falls when it was an unsettled wilderness; survived a shipwreck and run-ins with British and French warships; dined with presidents and danced with dukes; and lived through the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. Yet through it all, Betsy never lost sight of her primary goal—to win recognition of her marriage.
Our publication date is December 2. The book can be preordered here.
Neil Diamond by Iris gerh, via Wikimedia Commons
Last night, I dreamed that Neil Diamond took my husband and me to a concert. Why Neil Diamond? Who knows. He was popular during my childhood and adolescence but was never one of my faves.
For whatever reason, that’s who my subconscious picked last night. We arrived at the venue for the concert, and it was like no place a concert has ever been held before: a maze of wholly unsuitable rooms. There were rooms like cavernous church basements filled with folding chairs. There were rooms like diners with narrow booths and tables in the open spaces. There was a storage room filled with boxes. And all these rooms were laid out in this twisting, turning floor plan like the palace in the Poe story “The Masque of the Red Death.”
Concertgoers were everywhere. The place was absolutely packed, and shortly after we went inside and began to snake our way through the crowd to find our seats, we lost Neil Diamond. He scooted on ahead, able to walk more quickly because we were carrying coolers and stuff, and he wasn’t. And he was the only one of us who knew where we were supposed to sit.
I wanted to wait at the place where we’d lost him to see if he’d come back for us, but my husband was certain we could catch up, so we set out to find him. We walked through a room where people had been pushed back from the center and were seated behind ropes as if waiting for a parade. We saw a local musician we know sitting there, and I wanted to stop and ask if he and his wife had seen Neil Diamond go by, but my husband was hurrying on. We passed through one room with a whole mass of uninstalled toilets lined up in rows. Then we went through one of the diner-like rooms, and I had to crawl over people sitting in a booth to keep up.
We never did find Neil Diamond or our seats. But just as I woke up, I realized it didn’t matter. We were already inside the concert venue. We had arrived. Maybe we didn’t know our place yet, but we would find it.
And that, my friends, is what I think the dream was telling me. You see, Monday I sent the PDF proofs of my novel back to the publisher, and yesterday, I received an email telling me that the next and final set of proofs is already on its way back to me. My book is going to be for sale soon, probably in less than a month. Instead of feeling excited and happy, I’ve been nervous. What if no one hears of it? What if no one buys it? What if those who buy it hate it?
In other words, I have my ticket and I’ve been admitted into the arena of published novelists. I have arrived, but I still don’t know what my place will be. But maybe that doesn’t matter. At least I can always say (metaphorically) that I went to a concert with Neil Diamond.
I’ve finally turned in every last piece of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte I need to send to production. The last two pieces to go were the table of contents and the back cover synopsis.
We have finalized the cover design. We did our interior design work weeks and weeks ago.
All the chapters have been poured. The designer says it’s looking good, and she has given me a page estimate. She’s also been sending me questions about the end matter. (I have to have a copyright page because of the real letters and documents I quote, plus I’ve included a bibliography of my main sources and a set of reader’s discussion questions.)
I haven’t heard yet what our projected publication date will be. However, the designer has been working much more quickly than I anticipated, and she’s supposed to send me PDFs of the book today or tomorrow.
I feel like I’m sledding down a hill, slightly out of control, with the wind rushing in my ears. Soon, very soon, I am going to be a published novelist. It still doesn’t seem real, but I guess the only thing to do at this stage is to enjoy the ride.
I turned over the manuscript to the designer at the end of the day Friday. She and I have already made all the decisions abut the interior design, so she was able to start working on the layout first thing Saturday.
She e-mailed me mid morning to ask about a possible editorial mistake. In the second chapter, one character’s age was listed as “41” instead of the age being written out as all the other ages are. She asked if she should change it, and I said, “Yes, please.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have read this book, and it’s been through copy editing, yet the mistake still slipped through.
You would think I would feel really discouraged about that, but I’m not. Instead, my instantaneous reaction was gratitude. I count myself blessed to be working with a designer who would notice something like that. Not all do; it’s not their job. But this one did, so once again, I feel reassured that my baby is in very good hands.
Essentially, that was the message I heard from my editor yesterday.
I’ve input all the changes I want to make in The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte based on the copy editing. I read it through. I sent my editor a long email discussing my evaluation of the book and the fact that it fulfills the goals I had for this particular project.
He wrote back expressing his opinion, which corroborated mine. The one thing that surprised me is that he suggested that I let it sit a couple of days and read it through one more time to make sure that nothing “clanks” in my ear. I was eager to send it on to the designer, but I think his counsel is wise.
I have such ambivalent feelings about letting the manuscript go. The last two years plus of living with these people has been very intense, and now I’m going to be done tinkering with their lives. I hope that Betsy, wherever she is, feels that I’ve told her story well. That was my goal when I started this project, to portray her tumultuous life in all its complexity, not to let her be a caricature or a symbol of any kind.
I don’t have children, so I’ve never had the experience of sending one of my babies out into the world . . . until now. As my editor said in an email the other day, the manuscript is about to go beyond the reach of my protection. If I’ve done my job right, I’ve imbued it with enough strength so that it can stand on its own.
This is the most famous portrait of the real Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, painted by Gilbert Stuart. Look at the bust on the left. Can’t you just see her saucy personality? That was one thing I’ve tried to capture in my book. It will be up to my future readers to determine if I succeeded.
This week, I am finishing the copy edit review of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte and will soon send it back to my publisher for design and production. I find myself having mixed feelings. I am happy with the book, and I believe that with my editor’s help, I have made it a far better book than it was a few months ago.
Yet, I know that once this pass is over, my ability to make substantial changes to the manuscript will end. During the proof review, I’ll be able to fix any remaining typos and grammatical errors, but it won’t be appropriate to do intensive rewrites. Whatever shape the manuscript is in at the end of this week will be the condition in which it goes out into the world. My baby is moving beyond my control.
This will be the first time I’ve experienced this phenomenon to this extent. I’ve worked in educational publishing for 24 years, and I’ve had short stories, poems, and one non-fiction YA book published before this, but not a novel. Unlike any project that came before, this book has taken two years of my life. Sending it out feels like a deeper level of vulnerability than I have ever experienced. I have waited thirty years for this day to come, but I never really thought about what it would feel like. The important thing to remember is that even with something that means so much to me, I don’t have to be perfect. I only have to do the best I am capable of at the time—and I think I can honestly say that I’ve done that.
Why on earth is there a photograph of a messy paint can on a writing blog?
Yesterday, we had two important pre-winter maintenance jobs done on our house: we hired a handyman to paint the trim and sealcoat the driveway. We live in a climate with both hot and cold extremes, which can be very hard on buildings and pavements. The repainting usually has to be done every five years or so. The sealcoating every other year.
Neither my husband nor I are particularly handy with home repair jobs, so unless it’s something on the order of hanging a picture, we usually have to hire someone else to do it. This time we used a man who’s done a lot of odd jobs for one of our neighbors, so we felt confident that he did quality work. And we weren’t disappointed. He inspected the wood trim of the house carefully, caulked any cracks he found, replaced one piece of trim from which a piece had rotted away, and then applied two coats of durable paint. He was equally meticulous with the sealcoating.
It occurs to me that this process is a lot like what’s going on with my novel right now. The manuscript has started coming back from the copy editor for me to review. In terms of grammar, spelling, usage, and mechanics, the corrections are very light. I’ve worked in publishing for 24 years, so I made sure to send him the cleanest copy that I could. However, he is still finding little cracks and holes in the narrative—places where I could crank up the tension a bit with an appropriate action or gesture and dialogue where choosing a slightly different word might enhance the period feel.
Part of me is impatient to get this stage over with and move on to the production process to send my baby out into the world, but yesterday as I worked through some of the editor’s comments, I realized that I can’t rush this important step. Once the book is published, I will have lost my chance to do any further “maintenance” on it. As with the house repairs, I have a skilled workman performing this task to make up for any deficiencies I might bring to the project. I need to trust him. I need to listen.
In many ways, the important thing about writing is the process, not the end product. Yesterday, I had to learn that lesson all over again. Somehow I suspect that this won’t be the last time.
Exciting news, at least for me. I just entered a new stage of getting The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte ready for publication.
Stage One occurred earlier this summer when my editor completed his first review of the manuscript. I spent a couple months this summer working on a revision, and then I sent it back to the publisher on August 31.
In the meantime, the book designer and I have been emailing back and forth about the typeface, chapter openings, scene breaks, and cover design. All of those pieces are coming along well. I guess we could call that Stage Two, even though it overlapped with Stage One.
Today, we begin Stage Three. The editor just sent me his copy edits for the first 100 pages of manuscript. He promises a steady stream of chapters throughout the coming week. I have to go through and review each of his suggested edits and make the final decisions.
Once I finish that, the manuscript will be out of my hands for a while as the layout / production work is done. Last, the designer and I will have two sets of proofs to review.
But that’s enough looking ahead. For now, I have plenty to do responding to the copy edits.