Well, as of 9:45 pm on October 12, 2016, I submitted my final manuscript of Caroline’s Lighthouse to Archway Publishing. All 52,966 words of it. About two weeks ago, I received my editorial assessment from the publisher and started my final edits. I am not allowed to reveal exactly what was written in the assessment due to contract restrictions. All I can say is that, overall, it was very positive and I made most of the changes the editor suggested.
During the past two weeks, I have printed and read aloud the entire manuscript twice and ran it through premium editing software three times. At this point, I am accepting the fact that I am human and inevitably there will be a typo in the manuscript. I finished reading a Mary Higgins Clark novel on Thursday night and found a typo in it. An obvious one involving the misspelling of a character’s last name. Seriously, if Clark has a typo, a woman who has been writing for 40 years and must have a whole editorial team, I am going to let myself off the hook.
So now, I wait. My book cover will be designed, the type will be set, and I will get a proof to give my final stamp of approval. I had originally hoped to have the book available for sale by the end of this year, but I don’t know if I will make that deadline. It may be early 2017, but at least I am moving forward. I will be taking a break from novel writing for a few weeks to read. I have a stack of about ten books I want to read. After my break, I will go back to writing Jordan’s Sister. Even though I am not actively writing it right now, I am thinking about Taylor and Layne and how their story will unfold. I find myself singing Layne’s Song as I wash dishes or fold laundry, all that “adulting” that must be done.
I have to develop a marketing plan for Caroline’s Lighthouse. So I have to sell myself as a writer. I have been gathering a following on Twitter of fellow writers. A lot of us are going the indie publishing route because it is our only shot at getting our voices out there. I went to meet a local author Jennette Gahlot, who did what I am doing and plan to read her book Alias Pandemonium soon. I am currently reading The Naming of Girl by another local author, Rhonda G. Williams who I plan to meet at a book signing this weekend. Her book is good. It is a captivating story like Ellen Foster, but much easier to read (A little punctuation goes a long way.) I hope someone or maybe a lot of someones will take a chance on my book by picking it up or downloading it and fall in love with the characters and their journey as much as I have since I dreamed them up almost twenty years ago.
We will soon have three, yes three, small bookstores in Russellville. I have spoken with the owners of two of them who seem interested in taking a chance on carrying my book when it is available. That’s a start. I have dear friends who keep telling me that they can’t wait to read it. That’s another positive.
Regardless of what happens, I did something. I accomplished my dream. I will choose to remain positive. I will try not to worry about people hating the book or thinking I suck as a writer. I will choose to be happy with this accomplishment. If a handful of people read the book and love it, that’s enough for me.
I had to provide a free preview for the publisher. This section is taken from Chapter Two, in which the main character, 15-year-old Caroline Douglas is narrating. She is in a room talking about the haunted Bettencourt Estate with her older brothers, her step-brother, and her best friend, Bo Russell, who lives in the town of Bettencourt, Virginia. (Bettencourt is a fictional town.)
According to Mom’s stories, Caroline Marshall was the youngest granddaughter of the Bettencourts. Her parents, Colin and Josette Marshall, had already arranged the marriage of their oldest daughter, Bonnie, to a doctor. They had forced Caroline to accept the marriage proposal of an attorney from a neighboring town. But Caroline was in love with Thomas Cooper, the caretaker of the lighthouse and an orphan whom the family had taken in several years prior.
The Marshalls fired Thomas and refused to allow Caroline to marry him. The day after Christmas in 1846, the Marshalls and their new lighthouse caretaker were stranded away from home because of a snowstorm. Bonnie gave birth to twins that same evening, a boy and a girl. No one knew for sure exactly what happened that night because the servants were busy attending to Bonnie, but they found Caroline dead the next morning. It appeared she had committed suicide by jumping from the top of the lighthouse. She was only seventeen.
When Thomas returned to Bettencourt a few days later, it was presumed he had planned to take Caroline away with him. Instead, he had learned of her death and was so distraught he killed himself the same way. After that, the lighthouse was locked and never used again. Every year since then, though, people in town had reported seeing light coming from the lighthouse the night after Christmas and early into the next morning.
Police investigations had never turned up any trespassers. Mom had never been at the estate right after Christmas to see anything, but her grandparents and several other people in town, including the Russells, had said it happened every year like clockwork. My grandmother, who had grown up in the house, wouldn’t talk about it at all.
The whole estate was riddled with tragedy, which added to the rumors of it being haunted. Caroline’s parents and a young girl they adopted died in the fire that destroyed the stable some time later, and then a lot of the remaining family died in a disease outbreak in the early 1900s. Mom’s grandmother had been the only remaining survivor at the time according to my mother’s research. Mom had told us she had traced our family history back to Bonnie’s daughter, Antoinette. Bonnie’s son, Weston, had died as a teenager during the Civil War.
Mom had named me after Caroline Marshall, which got creepier the more I thought about it.
-Brandi Easterling Collins