Some Things Never Change

Write.

Revise.

Write.

Revise.

In between family, dog, pandemic, and all the other things that come with life.

I’m fully vaxxed against Covid and had a severe reaction each time. I would do it again in heartbeat.

Come September, for the first time in oh, ten years, there will be no kiddies to look after if school plans go well.

Plugging away as I always do, trying to stay positive while keeping expectations low. Because, you know.

Otherwise…still here.

Newsflash: Cover Reveal!! And a Raffle!

No, it’s not my book. One day, hopefully.

I see cover reveals all the time. So to actually participate in one for my new friend Leah is fun. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a book I didn’t know I needed! It focuses on a little known war in 17th century New England. Leah, to her credit, didn’t take offense at my shameful ignorance in lumping this with The Last of the Mohicans (I mean, come on, Daniel Day Lewis in skimpy loincloths). Anyway, Leah’s debut book comes out in January 2022 with great indie publisher Regal House. So please check out Leah’s awesome cover and enter her raffle.

Out Front the Following Sea cover-reveal banner


OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA:


A Novel of King William’s War in 17th-Century New England


BY LEAH ANGSTMAN




Publication Date: January 11, 2022


Regal House Publishing


Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook; 334 pages




Genre: Historical / Literary / Epic




Shortlisted for the Chaucer Book Award


OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned—it is a death sentence.

At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor — Owen — bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared secrets. But when Owen’s French ancestry finds him at odds with a violent English commander, the turmoil becomes life-or-death for the sailor, the headstrong Ruth, and the cast of Quakers, Pequot Indians, soldiers, highwaymen, and townsfolk dragged into the fray. Now Ruth must choose between sending Owen to the gallows or keeping her own neck from the noose.

Steeped in historical events and culminating in a little-known war on pre-American soil, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a story of early feminism, misogyny, arbitrary rulings, persecution, and the treatment of outcasts, with parallels still mirrored and echoed in today’s society. The debut novel will appeal to readers of Paulette Jiles, Alexander Chee, Hilary Mantel, James Clavell, Bernard Cornwell, TaraShea Nesbit, Geraldine Brooks, Stephanie Dray, Patrick O’Brian, and E. L. Doctorow.

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Out Front the Following Sea hi-res cover reveal

Praise

“With OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, Leah Angstman reveals herself as a brave new voice in historical fiction. With staggering authenticity, Angstman gives us a story of America before it was America — an era rife with witch hunts and colonial intrigue and New World battles all but forgotten in our history books and popular culture. This is historical fiction that speaks to the present, recalling the bold spirits and cultural upheavals of a nation yet to be born.”
—Taylor Brown, author of PRIDE OF EDEN, GODS OF HOWL MOUNTAIN, and THE RIVER OF KINGS

“Steeped in lush prose, authentic period detail, and edge-of-your-seat action, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a rollicking good read. Leah Angstman keeps the story moving at a breathtaking pace, and she knows more 17th-century seafaring language and items of everyday use than you can shake a stick at. The result is a compelling work of romance, adventure, and historical illumination that pulls the reader straight in.”
—Rilla Askew, author of FIRE IN BEULAH, THE MERCY SEAT, and KIND OF KIN

“Lapidary in its research and lively in its voice, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA by Leah Angstman is a rollicking story, racing along with wind in its sails. Though her tale unfolds hundreds of years in America’s past, Ruth Miner is the kind of high-spirited heroine whose high adventures haul you in and hold you fast.”
—Kathleen Rooney, author of LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK and CHER AMI AND MAJOR WHITTLESEY

“Leah Angstman has written the historical novel that I didn’t know I needed to read. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is set in an oft-forgotten time in the brutal wilds of pre-America that is so vividly and authentically drawn, with characters that are so alive and relevant, and a narrative so masterfully paced and plotted, that Angstman has performed the miracle of layering the tumultuous past over our troubled present to gift us a sparkling new reality.”
—Kevin Catalano, author of WHERE THE SUN SHINES OUT and DELETED SCENES AND OTHER STORIES

“OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a fascinating book, the kind of historical novel that evokes its time and place so vividly that the effect is just shy of hallucinogenic. I enjoyed it immensely.”
—Scott Phillips, author of THE ICE HARVEST, THE WALKAWAY, COTTONWOOD, and HOP ALLEY

“OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a meticulously researched novel that mixes history, love story, and suspense. Watching Angstman’s willful protagonist, Ruth Miner, openly challenge the brutal world of 17th-century New England, with its limiting ideas about gender, race, and science, was a delight.”
—Aline Ohanesian, author of ORHAN’S INHERITANCE

“Leah Angstman is a gifted storyteller with a poet’s sense of both beauty and darkness, and her stunning historical novel, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, establishes her as one of the most exciting young novelists in the country. Angstman plunges the reader into a brilliantly realized historical milieu peopled by characters real enough to touch. And in Ruth Miner, we are introduced to one of the most compelling protagonists in contemporary literature, a penetratingly intelligent, headstrong woman who is trying to survive on her wits alone in a Colonial America that you won’t find in the history books. A compulsive, vivid read that will change the way you look at the origins of our country, Leah Angstman’s OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA announces the arrival of a preternatural talent.”
—Ashley Shelby, author of MURI and SOUTH POLE STATION

“Rich, lyrical, and atmospheric, with a poet’s hand and a historian’s attention to detail. In OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, Leah Angstman creates an immersive world for readers to get lost in and a fascinating story to propel them through it. A thoroughly engaging and compelling tale.”
—Steph Post, author of HOLDING SMOKE, MIRACULUM, and WALK IN THE FIRE

“It’s a rare story that makes you thankful for having read and experienced it. It’s rarer still for a story to evoke so wholly, so powerfully, another place and time as to make you thankful for the gifts that exist around you, which you take for granted. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a book rich with misery, yet its characters are indefatigable; they yearn, despite their troubles, for victories personal and societal. Leah Angstman’s eye is keen, and her ability to transport you into America’s beginnings is powerful. With the raw ingredients of history, she creates a story both dashing and pensive, robust yet believable. From an unforgiving time, Angstman draws out a tale of all things inhuman, but one that reminds us of that which is best in all of us.”
—Eric Shonkwiler, author of ABOVE ALL MEN and 8TH STREET POWER AND LIGHT

About the Author

Leah Angstman author photo Leah Angstman is a historian and transplanted Michigander living in Boulder. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, her debut novel of King William’s War in 17th-century New England, is forthcoming from Regal House in January 2022. Her writing has been a finalist for the Saluda River Prize, Cowles Book Prize, Able Muse Book Award, Bevel Summers Fiction Prize, and Chaucer Book Award, and has appeared in Publishers Weekly, L.A. Review of Books, Nashville Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She serves as editor-in-chief for Alternating Current and The Coil magazine and copyeditor for Underscore News, which has included editing partnerships with ProPublica. She is an appointed vice chair of a Colorado historical commission and liaison to a Colorado historic preservation committee.

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Letting Go

The last time I posted to my blog was last July 2020, when we were in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic. The world shifted in an instant and we were all still coming to terms with it. Some of us had an easier time of it than others.

I had just signed with a new agent in the latter half of 2019 with expectations of being out on submission fairly soon. Of course, life and the pandemic had other plans. I spent pretty much all of 2020 hunkered down just like many of you, going out infrequently, avoiding crowds, dutifully wearing my mask, shopping online, binging on Netflix, and following the Presidential election and all the drama that entailed.

I wrote.

And wrote.

And wrote.

Some days were good.

Some days were terrible.

And some days were meh.

While I’m a wife, Mom and Grandma, the truth is, I largely define myself by my writing. I’ve been at this a long time. All my life, really. I’ve never wanted to be anything else, which is tough. It’s always been someday.

Someday.

It’s been a bumpy road, with more ups and downs. Some successes. And some spectacular failures. Or maybe failure is too harsh. Maybe more like being at the right place at the wrong time.

But a New Year dawns and with it lots of hopes for new beginnings and dreams. That was my hope in 2020—until a strange virus took hold of our life.

February 2020 I was sick for a month. I mean, badly sick. Probably the worst since I almost died from a killer strep throat back in the 90’s. This time, I thought, could it be this weird new virus that was on the news? It didn’t seem possible. I hadn’t traveled anywhere, hadn’t come in contact with anyone who did. Everyone in my family got sick, and it was all different. For my young grandkids, it was a cold or tummy bug. My hubby, a bad head cold. The kids, a mild flu. Me, I had everything.

I strongly suspect it was Covid, but we’ll never know sure (an antibody test came up negative months later).

Through it all, I wrote. Even on days when I just wanted to hide under the covers.

Some days, I could barely muster the energy to write a sentence. But I did.

I worried that it was just crap. I was just treading along like an inchworm.

Summer came and went, but there was progress. I finished the book that my agent had signed me on.

YAY!

But still no cigar.

Booo.

More revising. And revising.

And waiting. A hell of a lot waiting.

I began another book. Actually, two.

Writing a book is like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. You never know where you’re going to land. Or how. You might end up with two broken legs.


You just have to say a prayer, let go, and leave it up to the Universe.

2021.

A new year.

A new vaccine.

A new President.

And new hopes and dreams.

But sometimes you don’t end up in Kansas. You wind up at the end of a dark road in the middle of nowhere in a stalled car.

Letting go isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Hanging on for the sake of hanging on is.

When life hands you lemons, make lemon bars.

Pandemic Blues

Would you have imagined New Year’s Day 2020 that we’d have a worldwide pandemic?

Have to say that wasn’t on my Bingo card, along with a million other things.

I’m still here.

I’ve been neck deep in revisions, writing, etc., and all that goes into taking care of the family during stressful times.

It’s been a bumpy road.

I’m still here.

The Winding Road

Everyone’s path is different. Sometimes it’s easy; you query a few agents and get an offer right away. Other times, it’s a near miss or outright passes, or, sadly, total silence.

You wonder what’s wrong and fall into an abyss of despair and doubt. Why hasn’t everyone fallen in love with your pretty, shiny, new bauble that you labored on for months, even years?

The short answer, it’s a crapshoot.

The long answer, it’s a crapshoot.

God must love writers because She made so many of them.

Back in 2017, I was at a crossroads in my writing.

A little backstory here: for several years, I’d been the 24/7 caregiver of my Mom. For much of that time, her Alzheimer’s was manageable. She forgot things. Getting her to the doctor was an exercise in futility. She couldn’t see too well because of her cataracts (surgery was a fiasco). Unfortunately, her decline was shockingly quick, and she passed away in Hospice.

I’d begun and put aside several novels during that grueling period, trying to juggle Mom, my family, a full time job, and other assorted family dramas that ate up my time and energy. Being a novelist had always been a personal goal. As a teenager, and then as a young wife and Mom, I went to bookstores and envisioned MY book being on display there one day.

Someday, I told myself. Someday.

With Mom gone, I finally realized that someday was NOW, and a project that had been collecting dust on my hard drive came back to life.

So this is a roundabout way of announcing that I’m thrilled to be represented by the amazing Heather Cashman of Storm Literary. I can’t wait for you to meet Charlemagne, Violet, and all the other characters that have been taking up space in my head for so long (in a good way).

I think Mom would be pleased.

The Summer From Hell

It’s a warm late summer night on the cusp of the fall season, and I for one will not be sad to see summer go.

May-July was busy. Heck, every month was busy. But I put my nose to the grindstone and burned through a revise and resubmit on a project very dear to my soul. I had a self-imposed deadline and was determined to beat it. Now no one was pushing me to work so hard except me.

But once I got started, I went into that wonderful writing zone and when you’re in it, you just have to ride the wave like a surfer. And once it was done, I breathed a sigh of relief and put my faith in the Universe.

And it was a good thing I hit THE END on that project because the minute I did, the Universe decided to unleash a proverbial horse potato storm over my head.

Now the summer wasn’t all bad. There were a few (a few) bright spots.

LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE, my debut picture book, got great reviews on Amazon. I did a couple of author events and didn’t embarrass myself too much.

I had a couple of really good hair days.

I have no cavities.

Succession on HBO came back, the best show on TV. As much as the final season of GOT rankled, Succession exceeded my expectations. Each week the writing and acting is superb. Brian Cox is KILLING it as Logan Roy and should win every Emmy in the book.

And after that…uh…

There were some weeks I thought it couldn’t get any worse, and it did, like a bad horror movie.

But even with all the drama and mayhem and chaos, I wrote.

Exhausted, some days I thought, why bother? No one cares if I write. If I stopped writing tomorrow, would the world as we know it cease to exist?

Jeopardy bonus answer: probably not.

But I’d know. And it’s not me. Writing is in my DNA. Even when I’m not writing, I’m writing. I have too many ideas taking up precious real estate in my head.

So though some days were a tough slog, I wrote, even if it was just a sentence or to jot down an idea.

I know it’s a cliche, but if you want to write, I mean, really and truly want to write, you’ll find a way.

Even in a Summer of Hell.

The Journey

In two words: it sucks.

You want an agent.

You want to be published.

Here’s a secret for you: WE ALL DO.

This isn’t like sending wind mills to Mars.

No one wants to write just for the sake of writing. Oh, writers may say they do (ahem) but the cold, hard truth is, we’re not writing for posterity or just for the sake of storing stuff on our hard drive.

Get real.

When I’ve been rejected and passed over like a week old monkfish, I’ll rant and say I don’t care, as long as I like it, who gives a motherclucker.

But when I calm down, and I always do, I realize it’s just me blowing off steam.

My computer hard drive is slow enough. I don’t need to add more stuff to it that no one will ever read.

We all get anxious, frustrated, antsy, depressed, down in the mouth, about our writing, our progress, or our lack of it. And a writer who says they never have a moment of doubt, isn’t being honest.

I freely admit that I’m my own worst enemy. But I’ve been through the wringer and lived to tell the tale, so that’s something. I’m still standing, warts and all.

Which leads me to my next rant, uh, musings.

Lately on various writer blogs, a hot topic has been when to accept an agent’s or publishing offer. No, I don’t mean you, or you. Just general observations on my part. Unfortunately, some of these posts have the whiff of desperation, and it clings like cheap after shave. And since I’ve been stuck in that valley of low self-esteem, I can sympathize.

But I can’t emphasize enough: a bad agent is worse than no agent. And re publishing, money goes to the writer, it’s not the other way around.

This isn’t rocket science, but it bears repeating every millennium.

If a publisher asks you to pay for publication, RUN.

If a publisher says you need to pay an illustration fee, SKEDADDLE.

If a publisher looks sketchy, their online presence is minimal, they have no track record, their website looks like something a toddler threw together at nap time while their caregivers were busy on their cell phones, SCOOT.

And as for agents…please, I implore you, my fellow writers, don’t sell yourselves short.

Take this from the voice of experience. Don’t accept the first agent offer that comes along out of fear you’ll never get another or some misguided sense of well, this was a huge fluke so I should say yes before they find out I’m a big, fat fake.

And don’t accept onerous terms because you’re a lowly nobody and agent person is a big somebody.

We all have our demons. Mine is being thought “mediocre”, as I was told early on. Even now, as a mature writer, I still have to slap myself upside the head fighting against feeling like I’m a fraud and a failure.

And if you’re a baby writer, it’s just as crucial to take a step back and do your research.

This is your career. Your life. But it’s business, plain and simple. Don’t make it personal—well, it is, but you have to conduct yourself in a professional manner. But you’re not being a nerd or a nudge not to hop on the first streetcar that swings by.

Some writers seem afraid to ask questions, like it’s offensive. It’s just the opposite. Beware the agent, agency or publisher who doesn’t welcome questions and lots of them.

If you were advised that you needed brain surgery, wouldn’t you ask for a second opinion and find out as much as you could about the surgeons, hospital, your condition, etc.? Or would you pounce on the first car mechanic who came around the corner to perform the operation simply because they were handy with tools?

DUH!!

And listen, take it from me, if you get liked at pitch contests, as exciting as it is, you must do your due diligence to avoid disaster.

I’ve turned down publishing offers from pitch contests. It was a new outfit that made a big splash on social media and was liking everything under the Tuscan sun. I was suspicious, and when they offered me contracts on two picture books in a matter of days, it didn’t take me all of two minutes to decline and withdraw. My gut told me that this was fishy as all get out, for many reasons, and I wasn’t surprised to hear a few months later that it all blew up. Whew. I’d dodged a bullet on that one.

Same thing with agents. You think they hold all the cards, the power? In fact, it’s just the opposite. They need YOU. They need your stories, your vision, your voice, your passion. They need fresh meat, I mean, new clients.

I get that it’s scary and overwhelming and sometimes you make mistakes. And that’s okay. Because on this journey it’s going to happen. No one’s perfect, not even me. And you learn from those missteps, and sometimes you cry and take solace in a big bowl of vanilla ice cream.

You fasten your seatbelt and put on your big pants.

The saddest book is the one that is never written.

Don’t let your book be a sad book.