Final Stages

There is still no signed contract, but I’m working closely with a publisher to make this happen! The manuscript has gone to a professional editor; I’ve gone over it countless times, but this extra step ensures that the book will be print ready when the publisher receives it. Once this is done, it will go to several Beta Readers (proxies for my target audience) to reach a consensus on how the book will be received. Their feedback may or may not result in any changes, but it at least gives me an idea how the novel will be perceived by my readers.

The photo is of the Long Barrack, one of only two original structures still standing from the 1836 siege and battle. It was the location of some of the most sustained and horrific fighting before the Alamo fell in the pre-dawn hours on March 6th to Mexican forces under the command of Antonio López de Santa Anna.

“The defenders of the Long Barrack had reinforced all the entry points to the building by constructing barricades made from wood, rawhide, and stone, but these barriers had been blown apart by artillery fire that sent crushing rock and debris into the structure’s interior. Fighting positions, dug into the floor’s surface to position the Long Barrack defenders below the line of sight of the advancing Mexican troops and better shield them from enemy fire, instead became their graves.”

The excerpt is taken from Part One of Ghostly Bugles, A Walk Among the Ruins.

Nightmares and Phantoms

No… the title of the post doesn’t refer to my continuing efforts to get my latest book, Ghostly Bugles, published! I’m still waiting to hear back on the many proposals that I’ve submitted; my last went out earlier this month.

Nightmares and Phantoms, along with the following excerpt, were taken from chapter nineteen of my book:

“THE OLD MAN sat bolt upright in bed grabbing his chest. Once again his body and bedding were soaked in sweat. Most of his dreams were about others involved in the Alamo story, but he had one recurring nightmare that never failed to so shock him that he awoke startled, gasping for air, and needing to make sure that he was still among the living. In this dream he was one of the sentinels outside the walls sleeping soundly when he felt the cold steel of a Mexican bayonet pierce his chest.”

Ghostly Bugles is unique in its re-telling of the Alamo story. An old man – long a fan of all the books and movies, a student of history, and a former employee at the Alamo – is haunted by their ghosts. He recounts his dreams and visitations in a narrative that combines both historical and contemporary timelines, looks at current issues, and adds an imaginative paranormal twist which acknowledges the mythological heights to which the Shrine and famous persons like Travis, Bowie, and Crockett have ascended, but doesn’t tell the story from that perspective alone.

Ghostly Bugles humanizes the Alamo story. Focusing on those whom history has long overlooked or forgotten, looking beyond the historical record and the many scholarly and fictional accounts of the 1836 siege and battle, the novel recounts the hopes and dreams, fears and determination, pain and loss of little-known Alamo defenders and Mexican soldiers.

I’m still looking at publication by the end of the year and will keep posting progress towards that goal to my readers and followers of this blog. Stay with me!

Publishing Update

In traditional publishing the author bears none of the costs, receives an advance on book sales, and has the highest chance of media coverage as well as print distribution in bookstores. However, all rights and royalties belong to the publishing company, the author cedes ownership of both creative control and the final manuscript, and the process is extremely complex as I’ve previously pointed out. The result can be a significant investment in time with no guarantee of a book deal.

The other avenues available to authors are self-publishing and a relatively new alternative, hybrid publishing. In self-publishing the author retains all rights and royalties but is responsible for all costs. With hybrid publishing, the author enters into a partnership with the publishing company with both parties financing the book’s production, release and marketing. Each has a shared interest in the book’s success.

For the past several months I’ve been pursuing traditional and hybrid publishing opportunities. I’m continuing to send out proposals for Ghostly Bugles: A Novel of the Alamo and appreciate your continued interest as “the waiting game” goes on. My intent is to publish my book by the end of this year… hopefully sooner!

Below is an excerpt from a chapter entitled The Spirit of Sacrifice –

THERE WERE TEARS streaming down the old man’s cheeks and the nauseating sweet smell of burning human flesh combined with the acrid stench of burning hair seemed to permeate the air and fill his nostrils. However, no one else visiting the Cenotaph discerned anything amiss. Vendors sold raspas (snow cones) in the Plaza, a born again Christian thumped his bible and loudly proclaimed the second coming of Christ to anyone willing to listen, couples strolled arm-in-arm, children ran and played, and tourists checked their visitors guide to decide whether to enter the Shrine or buy tickets to the multiple entertainment attractions on Alamo Plaza; “Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, Tomb Rider 3D, the Guinness World Records Museum, or Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks.”

For those readers who have never been to Alamo Plaza, the Cenotaph is an empty tomb, a monument to the Alamo defenders whose bodies were burned following the siege and battle. At one time its location was thought to be one of three funeral pyres. That is no longer the case, yet the sculpture continues to evoke a strong emotional response from visitors to the Alamo.

Privilege And A Curse

The process of getting queries out to literary agents and publishers for my latest book, Ghostly Bugles: A Novel of the Alamo, is ongoing. As promised, here is an excerpt from the as yet unpublished manuscript:

“Over 186 years after the fall of the Alamo historians, academics, novelists and politicians still studied, interpreted, and argued over its significance while visitors from all over the world were drawn to the mission inspired by the mythological heights to which the story had risen over this span. But to be given the gift of sight into the actual event, to sense the presence of the deceased, to be visited by their ghosts and haunted in your sleep by their personal experiences was both exhilarating and frightening. It was definitely both a privilege and a curse.”

The post’s title and passage are from the first chapter of Ghostly Bugles. In it an old man reflects on his association and history with the Cradle of Texas Liberty, beginning a narrative that weaves past and present to tell the story of the famous siege and battle.

As the publication process moves forward, I’ll use this forum to keep you abreast of progress. Look for periodic updates with the occasional excerpt to hopefully sustain and pique your interest in the novel.

Thanks to all of you for your continued support.

Ghostly Bugles: The Waiting Game

I’ve fallen behind keeping followers of my blog up to date on the latest developments regarding my book, Ghostly Bugles: A Novel of the Alamo.

As I previously indicated, the manuscript is finished. Where I will likely require a revision is in the use of a song excerpt as an introduction to the narrative. I’ve requested the copyright but have not heard back from the music corporation that holds the rights to it. I’ve not given up by any means, but should approval not be granted before the actual publication process begins in earnest, I’ll have to remove it. It doesn’t change anything in the story. It was just an idea that I had which made an interesting entree to the opening lines of the book.

Currently I’m in the process of sending out queries to agents and editors to sell the concept and find a home for my novel. For anyone unfamiliar with “the query,” it is the means by which writers solicit interest in and hopefully garner sponsorship of their work.

It is a painstaking process in that each query has to be tailored to the recipient. Agents and editors receive thousands of sales pitches on a daily basis from aspiring authors, and it is this one document that has to grab their attention and pique their interest in reading more.

The query may be in the form of a letter, an email, or a pre-formatted fill in the blanks outline. The variations can be innumerable which is why it takes so long to complete them. Regardless of how well written your book may be, a single error (spelling, punctuation, failure to follow specific submission guidelines) in this one-page introduction to an agent or editor will result in rejection.

Responses to queries may take weeks, months, or worse… not be forthcoming at all. So, I hope that you’ll bear with me. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a patient person, but I’m asking you to hang in there with me as the “waiting game” continues.

I’ll be sure to keep you informed of progress. In the interim, look for brief extracts from the book in my future posts. Publishing can be a long-drawn-out process from start to finish, and I want to keep your interest as well.

Author Update

In my last post I promised periodic updates regarding publishing progress on my newest book, “Ghostly Bugles.” The writing is complete, although I always find myself toying with edits and re-writes until it’s finally going to print. I’ve asked for some copyright permissions for an insert not currently in the public domain, and I’m hoping to hear back soon. And I’ll also be sending out query letters to literary agents the beginning of February.

Pending those responses, I recently came across Vatican news regarding the beatification January 22, 2022 of Jesuit priest, Father Rutilio Grande, two laymen, and a Franciscan missionary, Father Cosme Spessoto. All were martyred during the Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992,) killed by right-wing death squads or the Salvadoran military for speaking out for social justice.

This brutal conflict fought over thirty years ago is the subject of my book, “Tarnished Brass.” The novella looks at America’s involvement in the war, as well as current issues affecting both the United States and El Salvador. As evidenced by the the recent ceremony honoring these four men, what occurred during this civil war continues to resonate today. If you’re interested in history and the relevance of this particular small Central American country to US foreign policy then and now, be sure to pick up a copy of “Tarnished Brass” online at Amazon.com and periodically check in here for updates on my latest book.

Ghostly Bugles

It has been a little over a year since my last post. But on this first day of the New Year, I wanted to announce that I will be releasing my latest book in 2022, a fictional account of the 1836 siege and battle of the Alamo that acknowledges the traditional story of heroism against overwhelming odds, but recognizes the courage and valor of all participants.

The debate over the reinterpretation of this historic event as well as ongoing efforts to return the site to its original footprint, add new exhibits, and revitalize existing historical buildings are all interwoven into a narrative that will take readers back and forth in time with the ghosts of the Alamo.

There is no firm timeline as yet for the book‘s release, but I’ll be sure to post updates as the publication process moves forward.

Happy New Year and thank you for your readership and support.

Signing Off

2020 has been a consequential year for everyone, impacting our lives in unanticipated and unexpected ways. Suffice it to say that I am closing out the domain maxknight.blog and I will not be actively blogging going forward into 2021. Before I do, however, I wanted to thank all of you who have followed me over the past four years and wish each of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Just so you know, all my previous posts will still be available at -maxknightblog.wordpress.com

Again, thank you for your support. Take care and stay safe!

Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music that Made a Nation – My Review

Throughout its history songs have always connected America in ways that transcend our individual differences, reminding us of our common struggles and triumphs as a people. In their remarkable book, Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music that Made a Nation, Pulitzer Prize author and historian Jon Meacham and Country Music artist and Grammy Award winner Tim McGraw highlight the artists, music, and lyrics that have captivated audiences and captured what it is that defines the American Spirit.

American record producer Quincy Jones writes that “Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw have convened a concert in Songs of America… a glorious celebration of our diversity – and of the strength that comes from the myriad of voices of all races that makes us who we are.” And the book jacket expands upon Quincy’s statement, adding that it’s not just a reminder of who we are or where we’ve been, but what “we, at our best, can be.”

Jon Meacham provides the historical context that I’ve previously admired (see my post dated 12/9/20, The Soul of America: the Battle for Our Better Angels – My Review.) He brings to life the various eras in American history and the defining events and moments that caused these songs to be written. His prose is so well constructed and insightful that the reader is transported through time not just learning about our past, but connecting intimately and totally in the lifeblood and spirit of the nation.

Tim McGraw reflects on the artistry of the performers and provides a unique perspective on the importance of these songs as well as the impact they had in capturing the mood and tenor of the times through music. His contribution to the book is profound. For me, it elevates it from a history lesson to a “must read.” We are all familiar with the songs, everything from our national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner,” to hymns and spirituals like “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” songs of protest like “This Land Is Your Land” to “Blowin’ in the Wind,” to patriotic songs like “Born in the U.S.A” and “God Bless the U.S.A.” We have heard them sung throughout our lives, but we haven’t always considered what those songs meant not only to us, but to those whose voices forever enshrined them in the lexicon of uniquely American compositions and engrained them into our hearts and minds.

The collaboration of Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw takes the reader on an emotional journey with a focus seldom explored in literature. Songs of America is a book for the ages and one that should be read by every American.

The Soul of America: the Battle for Our Better Angels – My Review

the-soul-of-america-book-coverIn The Soul of America: the Battle for Our Better Angels Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian Jon Meacham looks at the extreme partisan divisions that currently exist in our country asserting that, while our differences appear to be irreconcilable, we have overcome similar challenges before and can do so again.

Meacham examines bygone eras to reassure Americans that despite all appearances to the contrary, today’s seemingly intractable issues are not unique and that our struggles with extremism, racism, economic hardship, pandemics, and civil unrest have been mirrored throughout our history.

2020 will certainly go down as one of the most contentious years in the life of our fragile democracy. However, parallels can be found in our Civil War and its aftermath, in the Suffrage Movement, the two World Wars, the Great Depression, McCarthyism, Segregation, and the fight for Civil Rights and Equal Justice. In all these the fate of America was at stake. “Each of these dramatic hours in our national life has been shaped by the contest to lead the country to look forward rather than back, to assert hope over fear – a struggle that continues even now.”

President Lincoln referred to this struggle as the search for ‘the better angels of our nature.’ “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

Writing about the most combative periods in our history while showcasing the examples of previous Presidents, civic leaders, and influential citizens, Meacham gives us the reassurance that “we have come through such darkness before,” and that the country and our democracy can yet prevail if we come together by rebuilding faith in one another and working towards a common good – not a perfect Union, but a “more” perfect Union.

In How Democracies Die authors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt wrote “when societies divide into partisan camps with profoundly different worldviews, and when these differences are viewed as existential and irrevocable, political rivalry can devolve into partisan hatred. Parties come to view each other as enemies. Losing ceases to be an accepted part of the political process and instead becomes a catastrophe.” This is the unfortunate reality that we find ourselves in today. Intractability, our unwillingness to even listen to the other side much less reach across party lines to find a compromise or bipartisan solution, is undermining our democratic processes and institutions. Our inability to discern objective fact from fabrication is eroding the very foundation upon which our nation was built, and the demise of this experiment, “government by and for the people,” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is why Jon Meacham’s book The Soul of America: the Battle for Our Better Angels is so prescient. It is so easy to be cynical these days, but the author’s message of hope, so beautifully expressed through the prism of history, captures the resilient spirit of America that has resonated through the ages. To fulfill the promise of our Founding Fathers we need only heed the lessons of the past and “summon our own ‘better angels’ to meet the obvious challenges of today.”