"How's the new book coming? It's a question I'm hearing more and more frequently. It's also the question I have the most trouble answering, which means I probably need to stop and think about the answer. I can always cite the numbers: I've written 41 chapters, as well as 8 short interlocutory sections spoken by a slave woman who watches Laura's progress and comments upon it. Altogether that comes to 97,614 words -- with 9 chapters and 4 more commentaries to go. The finished product should be around 125,000 words or 350 pages. So the book is 80% finished.
So when will it actually be done? That's an entirely different matter. The people who run NaNoWriMo every year would tell you that it is quite possible to write 50,000 words in a month. I could, I suppose, be finished in two weeks. But I'd also like to lead a normal life, so, NO, it probably won't be finished writing until sometime in May. Then will it be finished? of course not. It will still need editing and revising. Actually, my editor is working her magic about two steps behind me. She has finished a careful line edit of the first 89,000 words(37 chapters). But we'll still have some reorganizing and revising to do once the entire book has taken shape.
There are other matters to think about, too.
The "new book" is already titled "The Road to Frogmore," but recently someone pointed out to me that a new reader would have no idea what that meant. If I want to keep the title, it's going to need an explanatory sub-title. But what? The story revolves around the true story of Laura Towne, an abolitionist, a Unitarian, a student of homeopathic medicine in an era in which women doctors were frowned upon, an independent woman who has no intention of marrying just because society thinks she should.
In 1862 Laura traveled to South Carolina as part of an experiment to prove that when slaves were freed they could be taught to become fully productive citizens. Although most of the group returned home after several months, Laura and her closest friend, Ellen Murray, stayed for over forty years. Frogmore was the name of the plantation house they eventually bought and used as their home. The term, "the road to Frogmore," refers to several different facets of their lives: (1) the metaphorical road that chronicles how Laura and Ellen became the founders of a school for freedmen, (2) the literal road leading to Frogmore, which had a reputation among the slaves as being haunted, and (3) the symbol of the kinds of superstition that these two white women had to overcome before they could gain acceptance among the black population of St. Helena Island.
The sub-title needs to identify the heroine and her purpose, and it also must offer a "hook" that will entice a browser to pick up the book and investigate further. "A Novel Based on the Life of Abolitionist Laura M. Towne" might do the job, but I find it dull. Any suggestions?
The book will need an appropriate cover. One of the advantages of being a self-publisher lies in having full control of the images that represent the book. No money-hungry publisher is going to foist an image of a half-clothed maiden onto my story of a mature and self-possessed woman. One of the disadvantages of being a self-publisher is that I have to find the appropriate images for myself. There are some actual photographs of Laura and Ellen, as well as their school and their home at Frogmore, but the foundation that grew out of their school has carefully preserved their copyright of those images. It is possible to purchase permission to use the images for a single use, but they are prohibitively expensive. Right now I'm considering using an oak tree draped in Spanish moss as the central image. The slaves had their own legends that explained the moss as a sign of "Haunting." The problem is that moss is usually gray, which does not make an eye-catching picture. Once again, I need ideas.
I also need to be thinking about a video, bookmarks, postcards, and all the other advertising materials that go into a successful marketing campaign -- just in case I run out of things to do!
As for when you'll be able to lay hands (or eyes) on the book itself, my target release date falls around September 15 to October 1. The absolute deadline, if I want to tie the book to the 150th anniversary of the founding of Laura's school, is November 1st. We'll see!