In Heaven’s Shadow
by S.A. Bolich
Lilith Stark knows from experience that dead doesn't necessarily mean gone. Gettysburg took Joab's life, but her husband struck a bargain with Heaven to come home instead. She’s not about to turn away whatever the Yankees have left to her of their all-too-brief marriage. But when she inadvertently lets slip to the neighbors that not only Joab has come home, but one of the neighbor boys as well, she ignites a town already rubbed raw by the endless sorrows of civil war. Joab’s insistence on trying to “do” for her as though he were still alive, and Lilith's happy penchant for creating unexpected rainbows, only make things worse. A private little war between Lilith and the unrelentingly proper Reverend Fisk leads to a very public confrontation in which Lilith will either get the town to accept her--magic, ghosts, and all--or find herself locked away as a madwoman, deprived of everything that makes her life worthwhile.
“Lilith!” Joab roared on top of Bert’s, “Miz Stark!”
Bert disappeared from the doorway. Joab stepped toward her; she tried to hush herself up but couldn’t manage it. Her ribs hurt and she couldn’t breathe, and still the giggles just kept bubbling up out of her. Pretty soon she caught a wispy movement in the corner of her eye and saw the giggles turning to little floaty sparks bouncing around her like soap bubbles. The nearside mule snorted at one and bounced it back toward her. It splatted into another one, and they rained light all over the dirt in the barnyard and laid there, glowing sort of silvery gold.
“What in hell…?”
That was Bert, arrived in the yard still clutching his pistol and staring like an owl. Lilith knew she couldn’t explain if she tried all year. She gave up on the notion and just let the giggles take her.
Joab squatted down in the dirt beside her. “Come on now, pull yourself together. Bert thinks you’re loonier than Abe Lincoln. What’s the matter with you?”
Lilith tried to stop but discovered she couldn’t. She fought to take a deep breath and get control of herself. Her lungs seemed locked up somehow, and she just couldn’t stop laughing. “Hysterical,” Joab muttered, sounding so disgusted that Lilith wanted to slap him but couldn’t manage that, either.
She floundered around, trying to get to her feet, and found Bert Cummings waving a hand down in her face. She reached up to take it.
“Lilith Stark! What in the name of God are you doing?”
Even the mules shied from the outrage in the Reverend Fisk’s voice.
Oh, the Things I Wish I’d Known!
I’ve been writing since I first learned how to capture the thoughts floating through my head onto paper. As a teen I loved writing stories and was heavily encouraged by my teachers to try and get published. What I wish I’d known going in would fill a semi, but looking back, it sort of it boils down to this:
1. Personal rejections are good! Yes, it’s still a rejection, but some editor or agent took time out of a very busy day to scribble encouragement to you. In my case, some wrote actual 2-page letters to explain why they turned down my project. Idiot that I was, I had no idea what the etiquette of rejections was, and did not realize that when they drop delicate hints about rewrites or trying again you should take them up on it!
2. Believe the writers’ guidelines. As a teen I got my paws on a halfway-current Writers’ Market and fired a 5,000-word story off to a pretty specialized market. Even the editor agreed it was a great story and a great fit, but what I had failed to note was that their word limit was 2,500, about all they figured their audience would sit still for. Accept that the magazine knows its readership better than you do, that the stuff in their guidelines is there for a reason, and tailor your subs accordingly.
3. Word count matters. Oh, my, happily scribbling away in the wilds of Germany for three years with nothing to do but write, I learned a lot about how to structure a novel, how to pull together a jillion ideas into a coherent plot line, and how to recognize darlings and kill them. What I did not learn was that publishers limit their word count for novels for very hard-nosed and logical reasons pertaining to shelf space, printing costs, reader attention span, and other business considerations that I, lost in the story, had no clue about. Years afterward I sold some of that stuff written in the depths of merry ignorance, and spent months crunching it down to an acceptable length without killing the whole story. Oy.
4. You will seldom know why it was rejected. Unless the editor takes the time to state a reason, you will not know whether the story was just not the magazine’s cup of tea, one of six similar ones seen that day, or the standard of stories crossing the editor’s desk was just so high she had to make hard choices between yours and someone else’s. Take no rejection personally, even the ones where the editor is a flat-out jerk who feels the need to snark. Check that market off your list for that story and send it out again. And don’t feel like you can’t ever sub there again. The next story might hit.
5. Nothing sells in a drawer. I personally love to write, stuff it in the drawer, and move on, but seriously? If you don’t want everything you ever wrote to end up in a bin in the alley when you die, send the stuff out. You’ll be surprised.
6. Get fresh eyes on it. Mom or hubby may be great cheerleaders but aren’t usually good judges of what your writing needs to get published. You are never as good a writer as you think you are, so join a workshop or writing group and find out what the flaws in your writing may be before you start collecting loads of frustrating rejections for reasons you can’t fathom. At least be reassured that the story and writing are coherent to people outside your head before you start smashing up against the “nice story, but...” wall.
7. Cultivate rhino hide. This is a tough, tough business. You will get rejected. Many times. You will feel discouraged. Often. You will wonder if anyone will ever read your stuff. The only way to ensure it is to toughen up, seek advice to better your skills, rewrite as necessary, and keep sending it out. If it doesn’t sell, writing something else.
8. Keep writing. Don’t let the magic die of discouragement.
Most of all, believe in your work. If you can’t take pleasure in your own stories, who will?
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
S. A. Bolich's books often open quietly—but don’t be fooled. By page 10 you may be hooked so thoroughly you’ll forget to get off at your bus stop. Her worlds are lived-in, magical, sometimes mind-bendingly exotic, always historically accurate, and inhabited by people who reach out and grab us by the throat and make us care about their problems. An historian, former military intelligence officer, and lifelong horsewoman, she brings a deep love of wild places and a degree in history to her work, creating enchanting and believable worlds with a sideways slant on reality. She writes everything from “straight” and alternate history to fantasy and science fiction, filled with characters who remain in your heart long after the book is closed. She is also an accomplished rider who helps aspiring writers get their fictional equines right through her “Horses in Fiction” series on her blog. Learn more and find the complete list of her works at www.sabolichbooks.com.
Social media links
Twitter handle: sabolichwrites
Author page, Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/S.-A.-Bolich/e/B005J7VTWM
Author page, Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/s.-a.-bolich