Good News for the Schneebeli Brothers


Strasbourg, one city in the novel.

My newest novel, The Brothers Path (working title: The Schneebeli Brothers Go to Church) has been accepted by two publishers for publication.The first offer came with very clear information about the terms of the contract if I chose to go with them. The second didn’t come with any terms at all, just the information that they would have the book vetted by an expert historian and I might have to make changes. I emailed them back with questions the first publisher had answered and I’m waiting for their response.

As I was walking the dogs this afternoon, I thought about how teaching business communication changed me. When I wrote Martin of Gfenn I was primarily interested in the historical accuracy of the book. I even found a Swiss Medievalist Historian to help me and we became friends. When I was given an offer by an agent, I didn’t ask any questions. I just said, “Yes!” Now — almost 20 years later — I’m very concerned with the bottom line and I also get some information from the WAY people communicate with me. The first publisher was far more businesslike and that impressed me. I want business people in charge of my novel because I want it to be successful out there in the world. BUT they are also a “print on demand” company and that means they have little clout when it comes to getting books into actual brick and mortar store. They were up front about this which also impressed me.

So I feel a little disappointed and lonely at this moment. I guess I wanted — hoped — the second publisher would present something comparable so I could sit down and evaluate the opportunities in a businesslike way. It’s one thing to “love” a book it’s another to believe you can sell the book. The first publisher made no comments about liking the book or why. That was fine. By wanting to publish the book, I knew they liked the book. The second wrote, “This novel is very well done and hard to put down!” I’m happy about that but, at this moment, I want to know something about how they plan to sell it, where, my take, etc. Perhaps that’s information I would get by saying, “Yes,” but I can’t say “Yes” without knowing what I’m saying “Yes” to.

Another development in my writing consciousness is that while I hope other people like the book (even love the book) the only love relationship that really matters to me is that between the idea and my mind leading to the creative effort to realize the idea. I also thought of last fall when I began the ill-fated (for me) writers workshop and dealt with comments from my uncomprehending “class”mates. “This is like Tolstoy. I don’t know how you’ll ever finish it.” “This reminds me of The Brothers Karamasov.” OK, I like Russian novels, but the book is NOTHING like Tolstoy OR Dostoyevsky.

I remember comments such as, “If I can’t keep track of the characters, no one can.” “These German names are impossible to remember. Change them to something your reader can identify with.” This was written by a young woman, an angry, lesbian social worker. I felt amused (and a little frustrated) that I couldn’t turn around write about her story, “Quit writing about lesbians. I can’t relate to that. Write about normal heterosexual relationships.’ It would have been petty “revenge” not a wake-up call to her. She would have called me insensitive to LGBT “issues.” (Which I am most certainly NOT.) My contempt for them led me to drop out with a lame excuse about “good news” about my book, good news I didn’t have, but hoped for without expecting it.

Maybe they were right and Heinrich, Hannes, Conrad, Peter, Andreas, Thomann along with Vreni, Verena, Katharina and Rudolf were names too alien and their intertwining stories too complex, but I also remember that snowy afternoon when I sat down at my drawing table with my 24 x 36 newsprint pad and charted out the lives of the brothers, their intersections with each other and with history. I believed any half intelligent reader could sort out both the family relationships and the names, that no real reader wants the same story they’ve read before. It seems I was right.

I should be excited — over the moon! — I’ve waited so long for this. All my life? Instead of excitement, I feel a coldness, that what matters most is that my book get its best shot and that things will soon change. At times like this I guess it’s natural to wish for someone who would say, “I’m so proud of you! Let me take you out for dinner! Champagne!” because it is really that kind of moment. I don’t feel sorry for myself because there is no such person in my life; that’s OK. If there were, maybe the Schneebeli brothers would never have gone to church?

I’m going to Switzerland next May. I decided to look for people with my family name in the village where I’m staying. There are three. One is the fire chief. And their names? Hans Peter. Hans Jorg. Uschi. I wonder? Should I find out?

28 thoughts on “Good News for the Schneebeli Brothers

  1. LOL, congratulations!! Well done, Martha, well DONE! I’ve written only for fun, but even that is hard work — I cannot imagine for a moment what a novel is like! I know it’s hard work, though, and yours is paying off! I really am so happy for you!! Keep us updated on it all, please!

  2. Two offers — these days, in this market — should be at the very least encouraging. Hang on, see what publisher 2 has to say. You have proved beyond a doubt that your book IS salable. That’s great! Congratulations. Give yourself several pats on the back and take a deep breath. Marketing is the suckiest part of the process, but you really ARE on your way. And you deserve it, so at least take a moment to enjoy it!

    • Thank you, Marilyn! I’ve just never been here before! πŸ™‚ A long time ago, a Spanish gypsy in Milan read my fortune and said, “A female ancestor has given you a great gift.” I keep thinking it’s my “Schneebeli” grandma.

  3. Oh, how wonderful for you, Martha! Two–count ’em, TWO–positive publisher responses in this day and age.

    I’m so happy for you–and for me, because now I’ll have another Martha Kennedy book to add to my digital library.

    I think, too, that your success will offer hope to others, as it does to me, that one day our own book may enjoy a printed life as well. As for me, a digital life (knowing that I’ve given it my very best shot) will make me proud.

    I hope you get to enjoy that champagne; you’ve earned it!

    SlΓ inte!

    • Thank you, Susannah! I know there is still a long ways to go and in uncharted (for me) waters. It’s interesting functioning as my own agent; I feel good about that. I also feel good that the stereotypes and obstacles that I (paranoid?) suspected were there (ageism among them) may not be. Everyone I’m dealing with — including some Indie bloggers and reviewers for Martin and Savior — are young’uns who are enthusiastic about my work. I’ve been learning a lot in the last year and for that I’m glad I retired. I never could have focused like this if I had still been teaching. But I still think the important part of writing is writing. The rest of this — whatever it turns out to be — I don’t see how it could ever equal the feeling of having a wonderful idea and working my way toward its realization. πŸ™‚

      • Writing is hard work. And time-consuming. But oh, the feeling of “having written” is so good!

        I’ve been struggling to fit writing into my life as caregiver at home and Hospice volunteer out there in the world, and I’m at a place of realizing that if I want to ever finish this book I’m writing, I simply have to bite the bullet and carve out a chunk of daily writing time that’s sacrosanct — it’s not going to just drop into my lap.

        And it’s up to me to KEEP that time inviolable; otherwise it slips away. As wise Yoda said to Luke Skywalker, “There is no try; there is only do.” And that glorious feeling of having written is a good incentive for me.

        At this stage, though, the feeling of having published is one I only experience vicariously, so thanks for sharing!

      • Yoda was right! As for publishing, it hasn’t happened yet and as Yoda said “Slip between cup and lip many is.” πŸ™‚

        That time to write thing — I wrote two (and most of this one) novels while teaching 7 classes so it’s definitely possible. I had to think of writing as a thing I did because I loved it, my island in chaos. This led to pretty messed up prose, but I also learned that when I was finished, I just had to fix it. I learned that process was fun — it was a different kind of creative moment. The first was kind of a “WWAAAAAAAAAAAA” splooch blast kind of thing sometimes only 30 minutes a day — but that’s OK. The second was the deliberate making of something (hopefully) beautiful out of the mess. The second needed real concentrated time and focus — and for me that was summers when I taught fewer classes. Since I write historical fiction, research is a big part of it — and that was cool, too, because it offered inspiration very often and it’s great to learn new things.

        I love Hemingway’s book, “A Moveable Feast” especially his description about HOW he wrote when he was a young man just beginning to publish fiction. He was still a journalist, so he had a job. He got up every morning and went down to a cafe, had a brioche and a cafe au lait and wrote. He stopped his writing day when he knew what was going to happen next. He didn’t try for much in terms of quantity — just that one thing and then, of course, he hoped to write “one good sentence.” I think his perspective was right. It’s really a lot to know what will happen next and to have written one good sentence.

  4. Martha, first of all congratulations. As you said, in this day and age, to receive two publishing offers is a wonderful achievement. I so too understand you disappointment with the publishers lack of written thoughts on the book; detailed thoughts. But they would have read the book and they must LOVE it to approach you. Well done! Danny

  5. I’m proud of you. πŸ™‚ I chose to self-publish a book of essays. Books of essays don’t sell well and traditional publishers rarely take a chance on them, so I didn’t bother trying. Anyway, I’d rather not deal with editors. I do that enough already–with mixed results. I think that’s why Harper Lee put out he last book–she didn’t like the edited version of the first book. Good luck with your book.

    • Thank you! I self-published my first two novels and that was overall a good experience, except for not selling very many which, ultimately, didn’t matter to me. I haven’t yet had the experience of working with editors other than the one I hire to edit my work before I start sending it out. In the case of the first publisher, there will be little to no editing on their part. In the case of the second? Who knows. I hope they get back to me with some concrete information, but it is Saturday and world events are certainly taking precedence over my little concerns. Not for ME of course (as the center of the universe) but… πŸ˜‰

      • Ha. I refrain from comment on these tragic events. I’m not politically correct enough, and I’d only invite the opportunity for my blog to become an asshole magnet.

      • I’m sorry for it, very sorry for it, but after the big fire of 2003 when I had to evacuate with my dogs for my own safety and for my life, my mentality changed. “Run for your life!” made perfect sense to me at that point. It’s my mantra. “Am I in direct danger, physically or emotionally?” No. OK, all’s right with the world. “Is there anyone around me who can benefit from my immediate help?” No. OK. Philosophically? I can’t think of anything less relevant to the question than my philosophical opinion and I hate sentimentality. πŸ™‚

      • Exactly. I worry about the things I can do something about. And that ain’t much. It’s like rescue dogs–I can’t save them all, but I can save one. World events? well, one more opinion won’t help. Now if I were king, we would be in trouble. πŸ™‚

      • If I were queen, I’d be overthrown in short order by a bunch of unimaginative, anal and controlling women who use the word “creative” as if it were an obscenity and synonym for chaotic and disorganized. Oh wait, that already happened…

  6. Oh Martha I am so happy for you. Congratulations and I know it will be a successful novel, I am sure it will. Here is a customer as soon as it appears on the Amazon horizon.

    • Thank you! It looks like soon the Schneebelungenlied might go out into the world. There’s still a lot of stuff to figure out and I haven’t heard back from the second publisher yet with terms but it is Saturday…

  7. Wow, Martha, that really IS good news!! Congratulations and a long-distance toast to you!

    Sometimes the world seems too full of those who feel entitled to unabashedly judge and criticize and (for me) it’s hard to know how to respond to them. In my heart I feel that an equally rude, confrontive response is justifiable – if for no other reason than to make them uncomfortable enough to think next time. I don’t do it because it rarely seems to work, however, because the people who do that kind of thing don’t seem to be able to see themselves. To swallow it doesn’t seem right either. Guess that’s why I live in a hermitage:0)).

    Also, congratulations on your decision to go to Geneva in May. I don’t know where you are in your walking/mountain biking efforts these days, but evidently there’s a less strenuous circle hike somewhere around Chamonix that’s supposed to be spectacular.

    • Thank you! I guess I live in a kind of hermitage, too. I’ll be in a village near ZΓΌrich and nearer still to the setting of two of my novels and the place my grandma’s people came from when they went to America. I don’t know where I am in my walking/biking efforts but I think I’m good for a few miles and it will be so much easier without a giant puppy to train hanging from my arm. πŸ™‚

  8. This is wonderful news- no two ways about it. I am in awe of anyone that is a really good writer and you are as of now one of two folks that I follow that are excellent writers. The other person has not published her non-fiction writings though and does not seem inclined to do so. I have no idea why. But I’m very happy for you and hope it all comes to fruition.

    • Thank you! I will feel it more when I hear from the second publisher and find out what their terms are. Right now it still seems far away because I can’t evaluate the offers or make a decision — so I’m just enjoying the fact that I have a decision like this. I’d pretty much given up on it and figured I’d just write books and tell my stories as well as I can for whatever reason it is I do that. That was OK with me. πŸ™‚

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