Let me begin this post with the blogger's usual lament: I am SO SORRY that it's been so long since my last update!! Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! The end of the school year is a very busy time for teachers, and I have a lot of other irons in the fire, so to speak, besides just teaching school. But, to be perfectly honest, I've also spent a lot of time on the local river looking for fossils and arrowheads, because I know once this book comes out I am going to be doing signing events most Saturdays and opportunities for "treasure hunting" will be few and far between! Still, that is no excuse to go over two months without updating what was originally supposed to be a weekly blog. I have not been idle on the literary front, however; in fact, there have been a number of exciting developments there that I'm itching to tell you about!
First of all, let's talk endorsements for a moment. I've been reaching out to various people in the historical community and especially to those who have a special interest Alexander Hamilton, and I've sent out a number of copies for review. First on that list, as with all my books, is my dear friend and long-time beta reader Ellie. I typically write a chapter at a time, and then send the chapter to her for review and commentary. For nearly ten years now, she's helped me catch typos, close plotholes, avoid redundancies and anachronisms, and more than that, she's asked probing questions and challenged me on the purpose and direction of the stories I've told. Never have those questions and challenges been more searching and potent than they were for PRESIDENT HAMILTON, and I feel the finished work is a better book for her input. Tip o'the hat, Ellie, and I hope you enjoy your upcoming retirement!
Next came my longtime friend and fellow history and artifact enthusiast Dr. Jerry W. Jones, a professor of history in the Texas A&M system. Jerry was the first one besides Ellie to read the finished book, and I appreciated his professional opinion. He gave me a solid thumbs-up and told me that the story was "historically plausible," which was something I was truly hoping to hear. He was also kind enough to write a nice testimonial for the book which I am hoping will be included in the published work. Getting some buy-in from a fellow historian meant a great deal to me, as you can imagine.
Back in March, I sent four digital copies of the manuscript to four different Hamilton fans: one to Hamilton biographer Michael Newton, one to Douglas Hamilton (the 5X great-grandson of Alexander), one to Lin-Manuel Miranda creator and star of HAMILTON: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL, and one to Elizabeth Matic, who is a moderator/admin on the "Alexander Hamilton: Life and Legacy" FB page. I wound up hearing back from all four of them! Michael Newton, who has written two books on Hamilton and also runs the "Discovering Hamilton" website, found several historical errors in the early chapters and told me that, while the story was lively and well-written, he felt he could not write an endorsement for it at this time. (I did correct a couple of the errors he pointed out in the galley proofs, however, and I value his input and honesty.) Douglas Hamilton, who is one of the keepers of the family legacy, told me he thoroughly enjoyed the work and wrote me a very nice testimonial which will be featured on the back cover of the book. Eliza Matic told me the work was "heartfelt and poignant" and wrote me a beautiful testimonial; if it's not shared in the published version of the book (it came in later than the others), then I will be sure to publish it here. And Lin-Manuel Miranda, despite the many demands on his time, took a moment to write me a wonderful letter of encouragement that included this line: "I can't wait to dive into PRESIDENT HAMILTON!" I sincerely hope he's reading it right now, but even if he doesn't, his letter is sitting, framed, on my mantel. (And showing it to my classes gave me temporary rock star status with my high school students!)
One thing I really wanted for this book was an original, commissioned painting to serve as cover art. Electio Publishing has always done great jobs on my book covers (all of them are good, but REDEMPTION OF PONTIUS PILATE is hands down my favorite so far), but they have all been a combination of stock images combined with classical artworks. There are many paintings of Hamilton out there, of course, but I wanted to have something created just for this book; a study of an older, more thoughtful Hamilton, as he might have appeared if he had lived another decade. I have taught some incredibly talented artists at the private school where I am employed, and I approached a couple of them about doing it, but ultimately it was our art teacher, Annee Helmreich, who accepted the challenge and finished her work this week. It's a beautiful portrait, with a smiling Hamilton posing in a blue frock coat, looking very Presidential. A million thanks, Annee, YOU ROCK! I can't wait to see how the graphic design team at Electio incorporates your work into the finished book cover.
Last of all, this week I received the galley proof of PRESIDENT HAMILTON. For those not familiar with the term, this is a PDF file that shows exactly how the interior of the printed book will look. It's also the last chance an author has to go through and make any changes or emendations. The editing team also sent along a number of questions about various words, phrases, and names that struck them as odd for one reason or another. It took me five days to read all the way through the story (this is, I believe, the longest book I have ever written - the galley proof is about 660 pages!), and I spotted maybe a dozen places where I needed to make corrections or alterations to the manuscript (besides the ones the editors had already asked about). I finished my revisions yesterday, and sent my changes back to the publisher. It's a heady feeling, being DONE with a book - knowing that the next time that I see the text I read, it will be in a physical copy of the book I can hold in my hands!
One more step between now and publication is the book cover! The central image will be Anne's portrait of Hamilton, of course, but there are so many other things that will goo into the finished work - background color (I am thinking crimson, fading to black, or perhaps maroon), typeset and size of the title, a back cover image (crossed dueling pistols, perhaps, since my story begins with the duel at Weekawken?), and maybe even a small image to go on the spine. In the past, my publishers have sent me an image and I have told them whether or not I liked it, and suggested alternatives, and we've gone back and forth multiple times before settling on the final version. I expect this part of the process to be concluded in the next couple of weeks, and then it's time for my least favorite part of the writing game: WAITING. Waiting for the release date, waiting for my copies of the book to arrive in the mail, and above all, waiting for my most favorite part of the writing game: the BOOK LAUNCH!
This will be my sixth published book, and I've been excited for all of them, but I don't remember being this giddy since my first novel, THE TESTIMONIUM, was published in 2014. I think that PRESIDENT HAMILTON is going to outsell everything else I have ever written, and my fondest hope is that it will be the one thing every writer hopes and dreams of: a book that captures a national audience and maybe even achieves that most elusive goal of all: the "Best-Seller" lists! I smile and sigh just typing those words; I've been writing since 2012, but nothing I've done has ever gained any kind of national recognition. With the widespread interest in Alexander Hamilton and the wonderful endorsements I've gotten so far, this is my time to dream big! So thanks to all of you, my faithful readers and friends who follow my musings here. The time is getting short! July 6 will be here before you know it, and I hope as many of you as can make it will come and meet me in person and get your signed copy of PRESIDENT HAMILTON at Half Price Books in Rockwall, TX on Saturday, July 24, 2021. I'll be at the Half Price Books store in Firewheel Mall in Garland the following Saturday, July 31, and will list other events as they draw near!
Thanks for coming with me on this literary journey, and hang in there with me for a while longer! That release date is coming soon. In the meantime, if you just can't wait to read something I've written, may I recommend one of my previous works of historical fiction, THEOPHILUS: A TALE OF ANCIENT ROME. Mad Emperors, courageous Senators, apostles, miracles, monsters, and all the splendor that was Rome comes to life in this story of courage, faith, and redemption. Check it out here, on Amazon:
That's it for now, faithful readers. Thanks, as always, for your support!