Hello everyone! I hope all of you are doing well. It’s been a crazy few weeks, as I just started writing in a brand new novel project, which takes place during the Kennedy years. It’s a lot different than any of my previous books, so I’m kind of flying by the seat of my pants a bit (I believe they call it “panstering” in the writing world). But it has been quite an adventure, and I’m already 30,000 words in, which is very exciting! I hope very much I will get to share this story with you in book form one day. While the progress on this book is absolutely thrilling, I’m afraid all the novel writing hasn’t left me much time for blog writing, so I will be taking a brief hiatus from here so I can get a solid first draft cranked out. Until then, I will leave you all with a short poetry break, a continuation of the poem epic that I wrote a few years back. This installment is a segment of the third and final part of the poem, and it covers what it must have been like to be wounded in the Civil War (spoiler alert: it was dreadful). I hope very much that you enjoy it, and I also hope you have a wonderful rest of the summer, which is winding down fast, isn’t it?! Be well, friends! I will see you all sometime in September! (Maybe when September Ends…. you have the song in your head now, don’t you? 🙂 )
I actually noticed the monument as soon as we entered the graveyard at Chattanooga. “Look,” I pointed it out to my husband. “That stone has a train on it!” Indeed, a shiny, brass locomotive sat on top of one of the big graveyard stones, standing front and center of the place. Hard to miss, really. Yet it wasn’t until several minutes later, when we were actually preparing to leave the cemetery, that I finally made the connection. And it was only because my husband happened to mention that he was reading about a monument dedicated to some men who had done something… well, pretty wild. Even by Civil War standards. As he read off the graveyard’s page, describing this monument, I gasped.
“Of course,” I said as I slapped my forehead. “It was that stone we saw right at the entrance with the train on it! It commemorates the Great Locomotive Chase!”
The Great. Locomotive. Chase. Probably one of the craziest stories to come out of the western theater during the Civil War, if not the entire war all together. A story that resulted in the awarding of the first-ever Congressional Medals of Honor. After visiting the monument in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I brushed up on my reading of this incident, and it is indeed quite a tale. One very worthy of its monument in that graveyard. So cue your Indiana Jones theme song, ladies and gents, and get ready for one wild ride (allll abooooard!)
I don’t think there are any two words more frightening for an author. I spent years trembling before the power of these two words, and the knowledge that “query letter” was essentially my only gateway into the world of traditional publishing. It was my one-page shot, my one chance, to ram my toe in the door of this seemingly impossible-to-break-into industry. If I wanted to see my book on store shelves, I would have to first master the query letter. And I would have to master it perfectly.
If you’re in the Query Letter boat now, struggling with how to begin, I feel your pain. I was once there, I once made it out, and I’m here to help. Let’s go.
It’s a thing, I’m telling you. All along Route 66, from Chicago to LA, you will find it. Charming small towns, unique souvenir hunting, memorable stops, and… car art. Old cars that have outlived their usefulness on the road, that have rusted away to nothing but a hollowed-out hulk, but they still have that potent mix of charm and nostalgia. They can still draw crowds, and they still have something to give. What to do with these old hunks of junk that remind us what driving used to be like? The answer, according to many towns along Route 66, is to turn them into art.
I was only somewhat familiar with the Battle of Glorieta Pass at the time we visited the park there. Because it barely gets a passing mention in the many, many, many books I have read on the American Civil War. And there have only been a couple volumes dedicated to this more obscure battle in the far west. All said, I at least knew there was a fight there, but I would have been hard pressed to tell you much else. The details, as few as there are available, had eluded me for most of my studies.
Yet when my husband and I were passing through the area in 2019, visiting Pecos National Park and Bandolier National Monument, we decided to stop. It was right there, and you all know me. I wouldn’t really let the opportunity to visit a battlefield pass me by. So we drove the forty minutes or so out of our way and pulled into the park gates. The tiny, simple, and quite unmanned park gates. Gates that looked like the entrance to a private farm or horse ranch instead of a national military park.
There’s something very unsettling to me about meteors. While most of them are harmless, burning up into crumbs when they pass through earth’s atmosphere, a rare few of them are not. A rare few of them, you could say, pack a knock-out punch. I think most experts agree now that a meteor and its ensuing chaos was largely responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs and most life on earth at that time. I won’t go into the gruesome details here, but let’s just say I’m glad I wasn’t around to witness the impact or the aftermath.
I’m unable to do a ton of research on it either, because frankly, it gives me the creeps. I imagine it would give a lot of people the creeps, but on the contrary, people seem more fascinated with the concept than anything. Especially Hollywood. They made millions of dollars by handing Bruce Willis a drill and having him save the world from a “global killer” asteroid in the movie “Armageddeon,” released in 1998. Tinsel Town also did pretty well with Deep Impact (1998), another story of a global-killer meteor hurdling towards earth, only (SPOILER ALERT) things don’t work out as well as they did when Bruce Willis was involved. The lesson there being to always go with Bruce Willis.
Have you seen the news? Despite all the craziness going on around the world, what with wars, climate changes, and pandemics, M&Ms somehow managed to snag a fair share of headlines lately. That’s right – M&Ms. The candy that’s been around so long, and that has become so familiar on store shelves, that we don’t usually think twice about them. Unless you’re me. I think twice about them. I think about them every day – in large part due to the giant M&Ms dispenser in my house (see photo). My husband got it for me for my birthday last year, because M&Ms have long since held a top spot on my favorite candies list. And their recent hijinks and Superbowl publicity stunts (ornery little things!) only made me like them even more.
So as I happily crunched on my latest pack of the sweet, rounded little goodies (strawberry shake flavored. Mmmm), I got to thinking. And you all know what happens when I get to thinking. Yep. That’s right. I decided it was time to take a look at the history of M&Ms and find out how it all began. To learn how these candies went from quietly accompanying soldiers in World War II (I always find an excuse to mention that) to starring in their own movies and dive-bombing their way into the headlines. And I have to tell you, it’s kind of a fun story.
Hi everyone! It’s your friendly history enthusiast dropping in here to say hello. I thought I’d check in because you might have noticed I’ve been largely absent over the last couple months. Things in M.B. Henry world have been a little overwhelming lately. Perhaps the biggest update is that I decided to really step outside of my comfort zone and direct a play alongside my husband (learn more about that below). It has been a much bigger commitment than I anticipated and has taken much time and effort, from many people, to get it really going. Then I had some crazy personal things happen – like passing another kidney stone (ouchy), and getting in a scary car accident (NO ONE WAS HURT – THANK GOD… but the car was totaled). So I’ve been a bit behind on several things lately, including this blog. For that I apologize, and I hope things will settle down very soon and I can be a much better blog supporter in the near future. Until then, I’ve decided to leave you with the next installment of my big war poem. If you can believe it, there’s only a few segments left, so I really hope you enjoy it! I’m sending positive vibes to all of you out there, stay safe in these crazy times!
A new year, a new series for my blog. One that’s quite different from my general tone, but one that rests pretty close to my heart. Because a writer’s life isn’t easy. There’s so much to learn and figure out, and it can take months or even years (not to mention a lot of money) to do that. While I’ve considered myself a writer for most of my life, I didn’t start pursuing it full-time until 2015. I had to climb so many hills, eat so many rejections, and spend so many dollars that it took me until 2021 to get the coveted book deal.
It has been quite a journey, and as I pondered that over the holidays, I decided I really wanted to help other writers who might be in the same boat. After all, I wouldn’t have got anywhere if others weren’t willing to do the same for me. I wouldn’t know the first thing about querying if literary agents hadn’t written countless books and given many marvelous lectures on the subject. I’d still be struggling through my manuscript if it weren’t for other writers who hosted fantastic classes on how to better my work. I’d still be blindly stumbling around in social media world without the wonderful seminars I attended about Twitter and Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, Snapchat and WordPress. A lot of people took a lot of time to help me get my little duckies in a row, and I decided I wanted to do the same for you.
So, I came up with this series, one that I will write in bits and pieces here and there, detailing some of the important steps in a writer’s journey to the book deal. And what better way to start than with the most daunting part of the writing process – querying.
There are thousands upon thousands of book writers out there, and only a limited number of agents that can only take on a limited number of projects. It makes the “query trenches” a very brutal place – loitered with rejection, heartbreak, and shelved manuscripts. With the rise of so many internet and independent publishers, hybrid book deals, and self-publishing routes, navigating this world only seems to get harder. I’ve been there, writers. I could easily be there again. And I see you. By sharing my own journey with this, my hope is to both inspire writers who are on the verge of giving up (that fiftieth rejection would take the heart out of anyone, but please, please keep going), and to inform writers who are just starting out and need something to point their mast at. So, without further ado….
What a year for books! And I don’t just mean the release of my own, which believe me, it was a real whirlwind (click here to learn more about that). There were the book signings, the zoom-in book clubs, and the book release parties – the sales, the marketing, the social media. It was a lot to learn and sometimes, it was a real interesting experience trying to stay afloat! But through it all, I couldn’t be more proud to see my book smiling down at me from bookstore shelves all over the country. It was a major dream come to life, and I couldn’t thank all my readers and supporters enough for that.
Along with my own adventures in literature, it was also another fantastic year for reading. I found myself dabbling in all kinds of different genres this year, even picking up a new fantasy series for the first time in decades. Yes, I do mean decades, not to age myself at all! 😉 Another big twist in my book year was that I didn’t read as much Historical Fiction as usual. Instead, I tended to gravitate towards meaty family dramas and even some good suspense novels, diving into the David Baldacci world for the first time. I guess no matter how awesome your favorite genre is, sometimes you just need to branch out. However, I never stay far from non-fiction historical reads, and I read more than a few good ones this year. Some just for fun, and some for research for my latest writing project, of which I’m hopeful you will hear more about very, very soon!
I also have to admit that I had a larger amount of DNF (Did Not Finish) reads than usual. Although I do think that had more to do with my busier schedule than the books themselves, it’s always sad when I’m unable to finish a book. I guess I feel like there’s so many books and so little time, so if I’m not hooked in after a certain amount of chapters, I have to put it aside. Also, I sometimes just bite off more than I can chew with books and can’t possibly finish all the ones that I start!
Through it all, there were plenty of gems in my reading this year, and after a lot of back and forth, I managed to pick the ten that stood out to me the most. Whether they taught me something new, gave me a badly needed laugh, allowed me to view the world through a different lens, or moved my heart with absolutely beautiful writing, all of these reads have stuck with me through 2022. It gives me great pleasure to share them with you now – in no particular order: