Author: E.M. Goldsmith

Fantasy sci-fi author. Part outlaw, a little redneck. Love music, dogs, horses, writing, and freedom. Love individuals and all the stories they have to tell.

The Angel and My First Guitar

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More than forty years ago, I rose after sunset on a Christmas Eve, my mother fretting that I would be sick on Christmas and loudly blaming her younger sister, my Aunt Ann, for my illness. We were visiting my grandmother in Florida so no snow, the chill in the air limited and only present due to my breaking fever.

I was nine years old and I wanted a guitar more than anything in the world. My aunt worked with the band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, at the time, this being the mid-1970s. Watching Allen Collins and Gary Rossington play enthralled me to the point that everything else in the world disappeared. What I wouldn’t give to be able to make a bunch of wood and string make such music. A year or so before that Christmas, Ronnie Van Zant asked me if I was going to be a musician.

A musician? Oh, no, my mother would never allow it, but in that moment, I wanted it so much, almost as much as I wanted to be a writer. My answer came out quiet with despair.

“Girls don’t play guitar.”

I shuddered to hear myself say such a thing. At the time, girls did not play Little League either. Around the year of this question, I had become the first girl in my neck of the woods to play Little League baseball. Maybe, I could play guitar as well.

From about the age of five until after puberty, I despised being a girl because of all the things I was told girls did not do. I was violent about the whole thing, a bit insane really. The diagnosis was “severe gender dysphoria”.  Any dress bought for me, I immediately tore into unwearable shreds. Anything pink burned in the fire place. I did not talk to girls or play with them.

All my friends were boys, but I knew just as they did, I was not one of them. I must have cried when I answered Mr. Van Zant. Yes, I wanted to play the guitar. I did, and I could too.  I had long traded yard work for piano lessons from a neighbor woman, and I could already read music. I had checked out books on guitar chords and frets so had in my mind how the thing was managed.

I don’t have my own recollection of this conversation. My aunt told me the tale. Ann told me Ronnie had laughed at my answer. She could not recall what he said to me, only that it challenged my notion about girls not playing guitar. Ronnie charged Ann with my musical education and she took this seriously. It started with the departed Janis Joplin and continued with the recently emerging Patti Smith and on and on.

So that Christmas I wanted a guitar without much hope of getting one. For me a guitar was much like the Red Ryder BB Gun in A Christmas Story. Not that I would shoot my eye out, but it was not a thing for kids, and most certainly not for girls as far as my mother was concerned. However, that year, I asked for nothing else.

I had a back-up plan. The angel I spoke to every night before I went to sleep suggested it, and I filled a piggy bank with coins I earned raking leaves in the fall and pulling weeds in the spring. I was still too young to babysit which would be more lucrative in years to come, but I could work. I had peddled my bike all the way to the local music store that past summer, a good three-mile track from my house.

I had priced out guitars. The amount might as well have been a million dollars for all the good my savings would do. Even for the six-string that the long-haired salesman told me would be a good “learning” guitar for a kid.

I told my angel I needed a miracle. I did not think my parents could afford something so dear, not when it was hard for them to afford our food every week. The angel agreed about the miracle but not about the guitar. The angel is like that.

Aside from the guitar, I often prayed that I could be recreated as a boy. Then I could play football and my parents would love me more. I wouldn’t seem so weird if I was a boy, I told the angel. Boys always seemed to be allowed more accommodation and tolerance for oddity than girls. If I had been a boy, I reasoned, maybe my parents would even want me to have a guitar.

On that Christmas Eve, my mom was losing her shit because we were so late for church. It was Christmas Eve, and I was listless, pale, hair unkempt, and I probably needed a bath. There was no time for our usual grandiose fight to put a dress on me. Clean corduroys and one of those Christmas sweaters no sane person would be caught dead in on any other night than Christmas Eve were shoved onto my body.

Everyone else had already gone to the church, and it was me and my mom. She caught hold of my arm, this tiny woman of incredible strength, as she pulled me out of my grandmother’s house and into that old station wagon. Everyone else had walked to the church, but there was no time and no parking and I had no strength in my legs.

I remember being a bit frightened as my mom pulled that old clunker of a station wagon into a space that seemed too small, all the while cursing the disarray of the parking situation and that she had not finished her pecan pies or whatever she was contributing that year for Christmas Eve dinner. I said nothing. My mother carried a lot of weight on her shoulders. As strict as she was with me, she was nothing compared to how my grandmother treated her. I understood exactly how insecure and unsettled she felt before the eyes of a woman who never approved fully of anything my mother did.

My mom was not in the least bit concerned that I might be an incubator of viral plague. Her faith was pretty insane. It was Christmas. Whatever noxious illness I might have would not take out my grandmother’s church congregation even if I was cultivating some zombie apocalypse virus (a real possibility considering how I felt that night).

I remember it was hard getting out of the car because mom parked so close to the car in the next space. The next moment claimed a memory that will echo through my life until its end, one of those rare moments. The music coming up from the church in the twilight of that winter’s eve froze time about me. My angel was singing from the body of some child.

“O Holy Night” rang through the night, and all else became silent. I took my mom’s hand. For the first time, I heard the lyric. I listened to the soul of the musical composition as a whole and felt with certainty that only divinity could inspire such a thing.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices

My mother and I entered the church behind the choir as the rest of the voices joined the child who had begun the song. It was glorious and I wished it to go on and on. It did not. I fell asleep on the hard pew in the back of the church. All and all, it was the best church service I ever attended.

I kept a jumble of images of the rest of the night, the giant Santa Claus at my Great Aunt Glenn’s house, my dad wearing a Santa hat that matched the one my Uncle Gene and my Uncle Jim had worn,  watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas on a tiny television on the glass sun porch that overlooked the St. John’s River, a quilt that smelled like bourbon and tobacco smoke thrown over me by one of my relatives as I lay on a wicker couch, the sounds of my cousins playing, my little brother almost falling in the river, and his laughing at my mother’s distressed reprimand of him. My brother’s dearest wish at that age was to fall into the river, and I think he finally managed it by the next Christmas.

I slept on a Christmas Eve, maybe for the first time since I had been old enough to understand about presents and magical flying reindeer. My brother tried everything to keep me awake as I was supposed to help him listen for the bells that announced the arrival of Santa and a sleigh carried by aforementioned flying reindeer. I passed that baton onto him that Christmas.

The song “O Holy Night” filled my dreams displacing all the dancing sugar plums and commercial rot that once infested my childish mind. Something spoke to me, too deep, too big, too strong for my spoiled nine-year old mind to comprehend, but the angel assured me it would come to me in time.  It did but not in a way mortal words can express.

The guitar waited for me under my grandmother’s massive tree that Christmas morning.  I could scarce believe it. In the night, I had accepted that my parents could not afford such a present, and that I would be happy with whatever given to me. That made it all the more splendid. I doubt I bothered with my stocking or other presents. I picked up the guitar, half-hearing my aunt tell me the boys from Skynyrd had helped pick it out and tuned it for me. I began to pick out the notes for “O Holy Night”.

The angel smiled at me in his knowing way unobserved by the rest of the family. He was quite smug about it, really, and so I stuck my tongue out him, silly mortal that I am.  I do not think anyone heard the tune I picked out, but my heart filled with the song. My favorite song. Forever.

Pug Corner – Query Workshop

img_1304Frankie thinks the writer might be broken. It’s probably because of that stupid cat in the story she keeps reading to Frankie. If the writer would simply kill the cat, everything would be back on track and Frankie could be lazy again. As it now stands, the writer has spent a week crying about something called a query.

Ok, Frankie understands. Point me to the query and the pug will beat it up so that the writer can relax again. This simply must stop. The writer thinks the query is as a bad as a cat and has employed a “workshop” to fix it.img_1306

The Liverpool game is over and the writer’s team won. The workshop is over, but the writer still cries and bleats. There are a lot more of these games with the ball and the humans kicking the ball around to watch.

Humans do not know how to play with a ball, not at all. And yet, the writer has abandoned the couch and is back at her desk. The workshop is over, the writer said. Frankie does not understand any of this.

img_1309The writer says there is not any more time left to be lazy. What is wrong with her? It is raining. It is cold. The writer is here with Frankie. She should get on the couch and get with the program. Not all this gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.

Frankie is pretty sure that the writer’s query was not so bad that the writer will be hated by everyone.  The writer says her hopes and dreams are riding on this query. That’s plain silly. She has a pug. And if the query is that bad, Frankie will make it better. Everyone loves a pug. And they will love the writer because she is Frankie’s human. And now Frankie is exhausted and requires a nap. Until next time.

 

 

Taking Rejection by Balls & Bourbon

  • img_1290The words “The End” sit at the end of a page after 114,254 words according to Word’s last count. I am reading my book out loud to the pug. It helps to see if the rhythm of the words work, checks for pace and cadence, things the naked eye misses. Then my current book is off to two friends, both avid readers with editing experience for one last look through.

The next many months will be tracked in my Book of Submissions, Rejections, Ecstasy, and Agony. In this book, I will bind each query I write, every single blessed one, personalized as needed, the first 10 pages of my book as they stand on the day I enter the trenches, a short synopsis and a long synopsis and all the iterations of such materials.

black cat walking on roadThe current schedule (some dates are flexible)

  • Dec 5-7 – Query workshop with New Leaf Literary (help me nail the query)
  • Dec 22 – hand finished book to fresh editing eyes (if I miss this date, all other dates will move forward by two weeks at least)
  • Dec 22 – Jan 2 – Put together list of agents, revise query based on workshop feedback, tinker with synopsis
  • Jan 3-15 – (provided editors have returned feedback), last edit for submission (this deadline subject to change if anything major needs to be changed or life dumps on me)
  • 56454439768__67A25736-3655-4AB8-B3D8-A980A1B7B779Jan 22 – 31 (around here) Query first 10 agents on my list
  • 2019 As Needed – for each response from agent, send new query to next agent on list until I get and accept an offer of representation from dream agent. Any agent I accept is my dream agent.

 

Join me for this journey. There will be loads of pug pictures and concerned cat pictures along the way, and a few new bottles of bourbon will likely have to be opened. Wish me luck.

 

 

Pug Corner – Frankie in the Rain

img_1281Frankie has a hard time figuring out about time. She is always surprised when it is raining during her walk time. She is even more surprised when the writer does not get chased away for the “day job”. Then there is the writer staring for hours at a computer screen doing nothing. Then the writer cries.

img_1287Writers are too complicated. Pugs are not. She might have to get that cat she keeps threatening Frankie with. Cats are not simple. Cats are scary. There is a cat in the writer’s story that she reads to Frankie. It is giving the pug nightmares. Frankie hopes the rain will stop and the writer will just go ahead and kill the cat.

Writer’s Tears Crisis

img_1277The blog is in super peril now. I am almost cried out. My precious writer’s tears are almost at an end. And I need them so I can dive deep into the query trenches, get an agent, and book deal and a much better retirement plan.

Frankie seems unconcerned at my critical situation. Look at the bottle. Almost empty.  What will I do? It was hard to find that bottle. Oh well, I will read another chapter out loud to the pug and hope for the best.

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Book Nesting

img_1275The time has come. I have been cultivating this book for three years now. The blog will suffer as my schedule until the end of the year has become a sprint to make ready for querying in the New Year. I must wait for several agents to re-open to queries so I am taking one last lap around pacing and exposition issues. Then here is the rest of the schedule:

Nov 30- Dec 3 – Prepare initial query (hope it is not abysmal)

Dec 4-7 – Query Workshop with New Leaf Literary

Dec 8 – Dec 15 – Prepare Synopsis and all supplemental materials.

img_1276Dec 8 – Dec 15 – Read entire book out loud to the pug – for final pacing and all that rot

Dec 8 – Jan 18 – Prepare list of agents that fit my work

Dec 15 – send book for binding at UPS for live edits by me, Ryan, and Ginger

Dec 22 – distribute editing copies with red pens to Ryan and Ginger

Dec 23- Jan 15 – revise as needed, get rid of glaring mistakes

Jan 18 – Jan 21 – Send out first 10 queries

For Entire process – document everything – rejection, retribution, all of it.

 

New York Ate the Blog

img_1242So my trip to New York did not go quite as planned. I thought I would have time to make blog posts. Silly me. Instead, New York ate my blog. Just devoured it and left it to rot. It’s not a city I can control.

Here are some pictures from the trip for your enjoyment. I will try to return to blog posts soon. Otherwise, expect pictures of cute, furry beasts sitting in rapt anticipation of my debut novel.

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