Tag Archives: supernatural fiction

Quandary about Querying

22 Feb

I should have gone back over Hauntings of Claverton Castle and The Vanquished and the Surviving and drastically cut down the word count after only about ten literary agent rejections, rather than after about thirty such rejections. Looking at information about literary agents, I find that they’ve already rejected one or both of those manuscripts, or at least that someone from their agency has, which is close enough (because if one agent of a specific agency rejects a manuscript, it’s normal for them to pass it on to other agents in the same office).

I had fooled myself that surely since some books, such as Twilight, were published despite their long word count, surely it was okay for each of these novels to be over 110,000 words. But no, I finally decided (while reading a book by a literary agent that reminded me of word count limits) that I should play it safe and cut down these two books. Each has at least one less chapter and quite a few removed scenes. I suspect that the word count was why some agents rejected them.

Today, after only a few hours of researching agents, I’m considering putting aside those two novels and waiting until an agent accepts another novel before I make another stab at Claverton Castle and Vanquished. After all, if you already have an agent, naturally that agent will be interested in some of your other work. True, if you jump around different genres like I do, you might need more than one agent…but that’s not an immediate issue for me. What’s immediate in my situation is this: do I go ahead and continue searching for agents for these two novels, or one of them, or do I set them aside for now and instead wait to contact an agent after my critique group has gone over the entirety of the WIP that I’m sharing with them? Or do I revise a certain novel I wrote during National Novel Writing Month that I think has a lot of publishing potential, and query agents about that novel (although I’d better share it with my critique group before I do that).

I think I’ll do this: continue revising a couple of WIPs, including the one I’m currently sharing with my critique group…and continue researching literary agents and pick out agents whom I haven’t queried yet about Claverton Castle or Vanquished, because surely there are still a few agents out there I haven’t queried but who are into supernatural and gothic historic fantasy. Or queer and supernatural gothic fiction. Surely I haven’t queried every such agent yet.

A Talking Ancestral Portrait

30 Dec

The following is a scene I removed from a dark fantasy novel, The Vanquished and the Surviving, because it’s not necessary for the plot, and because I’m currently cutting down the word count in order to increase my chances of getting accepted by an agent and a publisher. The novel is set in a slightly different Regency England, one with a lot of ghosts and demons.

*

After dinner, Vincent wandered about the house, with the two cats following him. The galleries and hallways seemed to echo with the absence of Nathaniel. Passing down a corridor and admiring ancestral paintings suspended from chains on either wall, Vincent didn’t dare visit Nathaniel’s bedroom or laboratory. He stopped in front of the paneled door and imagined the laboratory unused, looking as it did last time Nathaniel used it, with glass tubes, bottles, and vials, and the mysterious jars of whatever Nathaniel collected for his experiments. Vincent imagined glass beakers full of blue and purple fluid…and the fluid suddenly bubbling, coming to life, as though an invisible Nathaniel were experimenting and inventing.

Vincent inhaled as he backed slowly from the door. He yawned and knew he should retire for the night. One of the cats rubbed its cheek against the door frame, and the other rubbed against Vincent’s trouser leg.

Entering a long gallery lined with portraits of ancestors, Vincent yawned so fiercely that his eyes watered. He picked up his pace and headed toward his bedroom, when the cats both arched their backs and ran down the hallway. Vincent thought he saw someone moving to his right. He turned to look directly at his companion…and found himself peering up at the portrait of his maternal great-grandfather. He blinked and stared at the portrait.

Great-grandfather Augustus wore, Vincent surmised, the latest fashions in the 1780s. His black hair was curled and only lightly powdered. He wore an extraordinary embroidered, green silk suit with knee breeches and gold-buckled shoes. The old fellow was quite a dandy in his time. The portrait blinked.

Vincent stepped a little closer to gaze at his ancestor. “Ah, forgive me for staring. Great-grandfather, I presume?”

The portrait was life-size. Great-grandfather Augustus grasped the bottom edge of the ornate gold frame and leaned forward. The cats hissed and ran away. Augustus lifted his heretofore hidden lower limbs over the frame and stepped out onto the wood floor. He grasped his hands behind his back and bowed. “Yes, I’m your grandfather, on your mother’s side of the family.”

Vincent bowed in return, more deeply. “Oh, yes, that’s right. I suppose I should have known that without your telling me, but you see my other great-grandfather is also in this gallery.” Vincent glanced at other portraits, but when his venerable ancestor began speaking again, he focused his attention on the ghost.

Great-grandfather looked somewhat translucent. “You can’t have known me well. Nathaniel was the elder boy—if he were here, he would remember me.”

Vincent sighed. “Please forgive me. Regrettably, I’ve forgotten.”

“No matter, dear child. You were only two twelvemonths old when we met. I can’t expect you to recall it.”

“If memories fade so easily in the short time I have lived, what must it be like if one lives a hundred years?”

“La, more than a hundred, dear boy! What must it be like if one has been a ghost for quite some time?”

A Scene I Cut out of a Gothic Novel

29 Dec

Editing my queer and supernatural gothic novel, The Hauntings of Claverton Castle, I cut down the word count by 21,000 words. I figured my chances of getting an agent and getting the novel accepted by a publisher would be better if the novel wasn’t, um, about 127,000 words.

Below is a portion I removed from the novel.

*

After assessing the needs of the pantry and creating a shopping list, Charis Dunn, the housekeeper, took off her pinafore and prepared to head to town to purchase supplies. She reached into a canister in the pantry and pulled out money set aside for the household, and she tucked it into the reticule she kept in the same canister. She headed back to the servants’ hall and took her black, beribboned bonnet off a peg. As she tied it under her chin, she headed out the back door, the same door she thought an orphan like Miss Ponsonby should use.

In the village of Midsommer Norton, Charis walked down a muddy road. She passed shops in two-story stone structures on her left and the River Somer on her right. The mud sucked at her boots with a distasteful squishing sound, and often she had to pull her feet up forcefully to remove them from the mud. She would have taken the compact and lightweight Prendregast brougham, but Mr. Reginald was using it to call on friends, and she did not have the authority to take the barouche. Glancing up at a dark gray hovering cloud, she recalled Miss Ponsonby’s intrusive questions and grudgingly recalled her youthful beauty.

Charis had been alive more than long enough to know the contrast between how people—especially males—treated attractive girls of Miss Ponsonby’s age and how they treated women of her own advanced years. Before she had reached the age of forty, Charis had observed that those around her treated her with a strikingly different attitude than they had when she was young and comparatively pretty. At the thought of Miss Ponsonby, Charis smiled ruefully and acknowledged that compared to this striking golden-haired beauty her own prettiness had been nothing.

However, Charis’s youthful prettiness had been sufficient for her to attract the admiring eye of young men—and even older men—in the village, not to mention comments that she did not wish to hear. Some of those men and boys were so forward! They certainly, she thought, believed they were entitled to comment on her appearance as though she cared a fig what they thought of her. Knitting her brow, Charis remembered feeling ashamed of herself because, in a way, she did care what they thought; but she only cared in that she wished to be respected as much as any lady. They would not dare behave that way to a genteel girl like Miss Ponsonby.

Sometimes during her youth, when she went to the village of Midsomer Norton to purchase items for the kitchen as she was doing now, or to enjoy her day off, Charis walked past the shops and the pedestrians with her head bowed and wished she were invisible. If she were invisible, she thought, men would not have made unwelcome comments such as, “Oy, buxom hussy!” or, “Love, meet me at the Primrose Tavern for a drink.”

By her late thirties, content with her unmarried state, Charis walked past the store fronts on her day off and received no comments. Two youths passed her and looked straight through her; directly behind her, she knew, were two slender girls approximately the same age as the boys, who grinned and lifted their hats to the girls. This incident conjured memories of when young men treated her the same way and discomfited her. In her youth, she wished to be invisible, and now she was. As though to confirm her thoughts, a man in a cap and overalls pushed past her with a wheelbarrow full of coal and did not so much as glance her way.

Thoughts of her youth brought Charis back to when she was a lowly scullery maid at Claverton Castle. Charis pressed her lips tightly together. Sixteen-year-old Charis had most certainly not sat in the drawing room and entertained guests at the pianoforte. No, in the kitchen and the servants’ hall, she had fetched and carried and scrubbed pans and swept the ashes in the fireplaces. She wasn’t so much as a housemaid, like that girl, Jane, until she was over the age of twenty. But like Miss Ponsonby, she had been an orphan. Charis narrowed her eyes toward a shop window displaying fashion illustrations; they were a far cry from her sober black frock.

When the youthful Charis was not receiving impertinent remarks from men in the village, she was scrubbing away and working her fingers to the bone. A Sensitive who had the ability to levitate objects could have done the same work with a great deal of ease. As a young scullery maid, Charis had sometimes fantasized about having such a skill. She imagined being able to merely think of scrubbing the pots, and to immediately see a brush scrubbing them, faster than she scrubbed away, roughing up her hands. She had often feared a Sensitive joining Claverton Castle’s staff and ultimately acquiring her position. Then Charis would have been out on the streets.

With this thought, she yanked her right foot out of the mud with a loud squelch. She never lost her position, more than anything because the scullery maid had such a lowly position that it was scarcely heard of for one to be a Sensitive. Charis had always been struck by the irony: one of the most grueling and undesirable jobs that would have been nearly effortless with Sensitive powers was also one of the servant positions rarely held by a Sensitive.

Fortunately, Charis gradually progressed from scullery maid to the highest station she could reach, that of housekeeper. Years ago, she had the distinction of catching the eye of the lady, Mrs. Prendregast, and becoming the lady’s maid. The lady of the house enjoyed having Charis as her personal servant, helping her dress and style her hair. “Dunn, you have quite a talent for this kind of work. Who would have thought—you were wasted in the kitchen.”

“Well, Ma’am, I’m here now, so it’s nothing I care to fuss about,” Charis replied.

“Yes, of course,” Mrs. Prendregast said. “You’re so happy with your lot. That strikes me as an unusual trait.”

“Unusual, ma’am? It shouldn’t be, if you ask me.” The lady chuckled; Charis knit her brow, wondering what amused her. Mrs. Prendregast chuckled frequently, a trait she passed on to Master Reginald.

Charis worked as lady’s maid for Mrs. Prendregast for nearly ten twelvemonths, until the housekeeper died of heart failure. Mrs. Prendregast easily convinced Mr. Prendregast that Charis Dunn could do the job, at least in the interim. By then, Charis had witnessed the lady not chuckling as frequently, and staring into space as though lost in thought. She watched the ceiling a great deal and often lapsed into frowning silence and sighs. It was not long after Charis became housekeeper that Mrs. Prendregast died. Angry with grief, Mr. Prendregast demanded that servants refrain from talking about his wife or her sudden death.

Now Charis entered a dry goods shop and approached burlap sacks of flour. She selected a bag and exchanged glances with an apron-clad shopkeeper, who nodded and clomped across the floor toward her. Charis reflected that she could have done worse with her life, never mind that she was not genteel like Miss Ponsonby.

Charis sniffed at the thought of that girl, interrogating her about family secrets. Prying into such things was hardly a way to demonstrate gratitude to her entirely too hospitable host. Pampered and admired as that girl was, she was no real princess.

“Do you see that cab?” Charis nodded toward the large front shop window. The shopkeeper replied in the affirmative. “I need the flour in there. I’m not carrying it all the way back to Claverton Castle.”

“Yes, ma’am.” the shopkeeper handed back her change. Charis slipped it into her reticule and showed her back. Next, she must go to the street market for cheese and milk.