November is my least favorite month. Yes, I love Thanksgiving; it's my favorite holiday. But I judge months mostly by their weather, and here, a short walk from the western shore of Lake Michigan, November is a lousy month. The days increasingly become overcast, and temperatures drop into the 40s and 30s, so that when the rains come, we get a brutal damp cold.  

When the cold rains pour out of the dreary skies I long for the temperature to drop into the 20s or lower. I'll take a good dry freezing snap any day. Let the rain turn to snow and the snow turn to dry crystals instead of the wet heavy stuff we so often get during winter's shoulder seasons. Besides, bitter cold usually comes with sunshine.

That said, I will go out on a limb and rank the months from my favorite down to the bottom. Down to November. Your mileage may vary, of course, and I probably rank them a bit different today than I did forty years ago: the weather and I have both changed. 

Anyway, here we go:

1. October is the best month. Hands down. It always has been, in my book. High temps run from, oh, upper 50s to low 70s--my favorite temperature range. The days are often sunny, the leaves turn their most spectacular colors, and the earthy scent of decaying leaves in the woods is wonderful.

2. September. The first half of the month is likely hotter than I'd prefer, but the second half is usually great, and its proximity to October probably boosts its reputation in my list.

3. August. Frankly, August is too hot, and so I'm surprised by putting it in this slot. I guess it shows that factors other than weather can significantly affect my ranking. In this case I suspect it's memories: August has so often been a time for family trips, not only as a child but as a parent, too, seeing the world through the eyes of my children. It's also the month my wife and I were married. And since nearly my entire life has been lived by the calendar of the school year, August has a certain sentimental value: a new year is about to begin.

4. May. Next to Lake Michigan it takes a long time for spring to really arrive. Get away from the lake and it clearly begins in April, but for us spring comes in fits and starts: we all have fits until it starts. And it usually doesn't do much more than tease us until May. The month still has its downside, as we remain jealous of those to our west who are warming up much more than we are. But spring is finally here. We can say it out loud. Besides, it is a month of birthdays: mine, my brother's, two of my children, and two of my grandchildren. My parents also were married in May. A cake month.

5. December. Surprised? I love Christmas. And I love when the weather turns cold enough to put an end to those miserable cold downpours of the bleakest month I shall not name in this paragraph. And I love the first snow! I love it even more now that my wife and I have given up shoveling and pay others to do it. I can just enjoy it once again, like I did as a little child.

6. January. Good thing I live in the North, huh? We get our most bitter cold in January and early February, and one of my favorite things is to take a walk crunching through the snow in the park and down to the beach on a bright blue frigid morning. When you combine that with the calendar, January seems like a month of clear thought and new beginnings.

7. April. Maybe it is the cruelest month for us by the lake, because it constantly teases us with thoughts of spring only to slam us with a snowstorm. But it also is the month when the first wildflowers begin to appear, and so it is a month of hope.

8. June. Spring is arguing with summer, so there are quite a few pleasant days but also stormy ones. In many ways June is the real mystery month here: it doesn't have a consistent personality. It often has pleasant temps, but mosquitoes make you pay for it.

9. July. Hot. Too hot. When I was younger I loved that; fifteen years ago I probably would have ranked July ahead of December. But I can't take heat like that very well anymore. It can literally make me ill. So I am glad when the shade is cool enough to sit out and read, or when my wife and I can take an evening walk, but too often the heat is limiting these days.

10. February. Winter has lost its appeal after two months, and spring seems a world away. But I like groundhog day!

11. March. This month has weather that is similar to November: dreary, damp and cold. But it's reputation is better because spring is on its way. Eventually. Somebody saw it somewhere.

12. November. I need not ever mention it again. But I probably will.

 This morning my publisher gave me sad news. As with so many independent publishers, the economics have proven impossible despite a valiant effort over the past decade. It's just not sustainable for him, so he's giving up on this dream and will have to start anew with something else.

For me it's more of a dream deferred. I'm a published author with six books behind me, but Listening Point will be my first novel, if I can find a publisher. Writing fiction has been so much fun, and I was really looking forward to seeing it in print next June. Now, instead, I will have to start searching all over again. And this time it is likely to be much harder.

Some independent publishers don't require authors to have agents, but the vast majority of books published in the U.S. are under imprints of just five major publishers. Soon to be four, if the courts allow one of the five to take over one of the others. And they require agents.

I have to admit, I have had such an easy time as an author compared to most. All my manuscripts have been accepted, and all on my first or second try. Sigurd Olson would be shocked and envious! But I've always had a good idea of which publisher would be perfect for my topic and manuscript. I had that initially with my first novel, too, but now I just don't know.

The reality is rough: just one in a thousand fiction manuscripts finds a publisher. Since I already had one for this manuscript, I suspect my odds are better, but getting past the initial gatekeeper to even have a chance will be the hard part. Agents and editors are absolutely swamped by proposals and manuscripts. It's even worse than usual now because during the pandemic a lot of editors have quit their high-stress jobs. Other editors have had to add to their own workloads the contracted book manuscripts left by the departing editors, so they have all the reason in the world to reject quickly any new project that comes to their attention. If your proposal survives all of that and gets a contract, it typically takes two or three years for it to make its way to publication. So, instead of seeing my novel in 2023, the best-case scenario is probably 2025.

But that's getting ahead of myself. I need to begin researching the publishing market and literary agents in particular. They each advertise whether they are accepting queries, and if so what genres they represent. Listening Point is not genre-specific, and could easily be misclassified in a way that works against me, so figuring out how to market the book in the right way to the right agent is key. It often takes authors more than a hundred attempts before they land an agent, if they ever do land one. So I'm anticipating a long process that will require a lot of trial and error and not a little bit of luck. Fingers crossed.