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E is for Edgehill Haunting (A to Z) & Empathy (IWSG)

Edgehill

While the existence of ghosts has long been debated, in Britain the matter has been considered resolved for some time…all because of the battle of Edgehill.

It was October 23, 1662. Royalist troops were on their way to London to support the King when they clashed with Parliamentarian forces at Edgehill. The brutal battle continued for three hours, with significant loss of life on both sides.

But the battle wasn’t over. In the weeks that followed, the skirmish continued. Every night, the ghosts of the dead soldiers could be seen and heard fighting for their lives. Several reliable witnesses watched the phantom battle, and the reports convinced King Charles I to send his Royal Commission to investigate. Not only did the Commission see the ghostly armies for themselves, they recognized some of the soldiers, including the King’s standard bearer.

People travelled from all over Britain to witness the phantom Battle of Edgehill, until it finally ended. Still, even today, people feel strange in the area and report hearing the sounds of fighting.

As the result of the Royal Commission’s report, Britain’s Public Record Office officially recognizes the Edgehill ghosts. They are the only British ghosts–perhaps the only spirits in the world–to have such official confirmation.

– with files from Real British Ghosts. Painting by Harry Payne.

***
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Empathy

I was online the other day when an agent I’d long admired wrote a series of disgusted Tweets. You would have thought something horrific had happened, and as far as he was concerned, something had–a writer actually had the audacity to send him a self-published book. He said receiving such a book was “demoralizing”–for him. Did he read it, or even attempt to read it? He went on to say that the response he sent this writer was the literary equivalent of “I don’t like you.”

Now, to be fair, I don’t know the whole story. If an author sent this agent his or her book instead of a query letter, that’s a no-no. But what bothered me was how he focused on the self-published aspect, as if that alone meant the book was sure to be crap.

This complete lack of empathy disturbed me. I cringed, imagining how that writer must be feeling. Does one need to be a writer to realize writers have feelings? Agents, who make their living from authors, are so quick to make fun of them or disparage them online.

I’m not self-published, but this misconception that indie authors are people who weren’t good enough has to end already. I’ve read amazing self-published books. I’ve also read books published by the “Big Five” that were complete crap. How you publish has nothing to do with the quality of your work, and everything to do with choice.

Some writers want complete control over their work (they’ve often already been burned by traditional publishing). Some want the lion’s share of the royalties. Others write books that don’t fit into an easily defined niche, or maybe they write about things the publishing elite has deemed passé, like vampires or zombies. I had a novel on submission that was rejected because the publisher already had a book about a cop in Minnesota–that’s how subjective this business can be.

There are a lot of desperate writers out there making mistakes, and I’m sure it’s frustrating for agents and editors. All I’m asking for is a little empathy. It can’t hurt, and it could do a whole lot of good.

The purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.

 

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70 Comments

    • JH

      Thanks, Tasha. I thought the recognition of Edgehill was pretty damn cool. What other ghosts are officially in the history books?

      Reply
  1. Stephanie Faris

    That battle story is spooky! I’d never heard that one before. I may have nightmares about it.

    First of all, agents need to reel it in a little. I worked in tech support, so I know how frustrating it is when there’s one of you and about 7,000 people emailing you every day. But publicly venting is not the solution. My agent has spoken out on self-publishing several times but she speaks on it only in the context of someone who wants to be traditionally published someday. If someone doesn’t want to land an agent and get a big publisher, it wouldn’t apply to what any of these people think because who cares? It’s all about what you want your career to be. For the vast majority of authors, self-publishing is fine. They just want to write and get their stories out there. We all have to figure out our own path!

    Reply
    • JH

      Agreed Stephanie, but there have been so many agents clamouring to sign self-published authors once they gain huge readerships. Why shut that door?

      I don’t think agents need to come out against any type of author–at least not publicly. I can understand saying, “Don’t send me a query for a book you’ve already self-published,” but claiming someone who’s self-pubbed other books is suddenly untouchable? That doesn’t make sense.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Reply
  2. Nikki

    Edgehill, how creepy (i.e. cool)! I can’t imagine experiencing something like that, it makes me want to go there just to see if I would sense or even see anything!

    I had a really wordy, lengthy Facebook status that I almost posted last week about empathy and how it’s a dying art. I don’t know how to function without it. I always try to place myself in someone else’s shoes (not literally, that would be weird), and think of how certain things would make them feel. I’ve read some self-published books that, while rough, were still great stories. I think our society focuses too much on approval from reputed sources who may know their stuff, but why let them be the only deciding factor as to whether something is good or not? I wonder how much this world misses out on when it comes to great, independent works of art in all their mediums, simply because the right company didn’t tell us we should like it?

    Reply
    • JH

      Bravo, Nikki! Empathy does seem to be a dying art, but maybe, from some of the older rejection letters I’ve seen, it wasn’t something agents ever felt they needed.

      It makes me wonder if they are frustrated writers or, on the flip side, if they have no idea what it’s like to be a writer.

      As for Edgehill…road trip? 😉 If you do go, go during the anniversary of the battle. That’s when it’s supposed to be the most “active.”

      Reply
      • Nikki

        I think when someone isn’t empathetic that jealousy and maybe even a bit of a power trip may be at play. We may not be able to relate to every person or experience but I know we’ve all had similar instances to draw from to be able to treat others how we’d like to have been treated.

        Yes, road trip! Ha! ? That would be a really cool experience, especially around the anniversary!

        Reply
  3. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    That doesn’t speak well to that agent’s character if he’s so judgemental.
    It doesn’t matter how a book is published. I’ve read some amazing self-published books and plenty of big traditionally published one I couldn’t finish.
    Freaky story about the battle ghosts.

    Reply
    • JH

      Agreed, Alex. He is now officially off my “to query” list.

      I’m sure that breaks his heart. 😛

      Reply
  4. Mary Aalgaard

    Cool about the ghosts. Extra cool that several people saw them battle! Sad about the agents being jerks. Sad that people put their hopes and dreams in someone’s hands and they crap on them. Excellent that you champion any writer who is willing to put her work out there.
    Cheers, and happy A-Z Challenging!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Mary. I think writers should always champion other writers. It’s tough enough out there.

      In the immortal words of Chuck Wendig, “Don’t be a douche.”

      Reply
  5. Dean K Miller

    Would have loved to witness the ghostly battle. I wonder if the blood is still visible or does it vanish with the vanquished? No doubt, on my behalf, that ghosts exists.
    The self-pub bashing may never end. Nor will those scorned by the traditionalists quit stomping their feet like five-year olds. Accountability is hard to come by in today’s world. It is about the story. I’m sure in ancient times there were good storytellers and not-so-good storytellers, but the story needed to be told. So be it. Some of my work would never find a publisher in the traditional world, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t see the light of day (as long as it’s flushed out to its fullest potential.)

    Reply
    • JH

      Agreed, Dean. I really admire you for putting your work out there. Not everyone has the courage.

      I wish everyone would stop bashing each other and just publish the damn story without worrying what everyone else is doing.

      I imagine the blood is phantom blood that vanishes as well. If not, that would be pretty damn creepy…not to mention messy.

      Reply
  6. Crystal Collier

    Edgehill… Super fascinating. Such a crazy history.

    I’m constantly amazed at people’s propensity toward being unkind. I don’t know if they realize what they’re doing–polluting the human existence with negative instead of positive. I think no matter how late it comes, we’ll all regret the pain we cause. Thus, we should try to be supportive and loving, no matter what we feel.

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree, Crystal. It feels like we see this a lot more with social media than we ever did.

      Thanks for your kind words. You are missed. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Susan Scott

    How completely interesting to have it recorded as fact in the annals of British history!
    And that beastly idiot for venting publicly; that beast will come back to bite him assuredly. May the sender of his self published book to him not feel lessened by this incident. But know also that this is not the way – send query letter first.
    And anyone who sneers at self-publishing? It’s about them …

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree, Susan. I hope that people who are this nasty get bitten by karma someday. Imagine if that author ends up being the next Hugh Howey and this agent asks to sign him, only to get the literary equivalent of “I don’t like you” in return.

      Now THAT would be poetic justice!

      Reply
  8. Christine Rains

    I’ve never heard of the Edgehill ghosts, and I’m a lover of the paranormal. Oh what hell it would be to be stuck in a battle forever!

    I find it offensive when people turn their noses up at self-published works. I’ve read some incredible stories by indie authors, and yes, there have been horrible ones too. But I’ve read some really awful books published by the big publishers as well. I agree that a little empathy from everyone would make the world a better place.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for commenting, Christine. It’s good to see you here again.

      I really don’t understand the vitriol. If someone wants to self-publish, how does that hurt anybody? If you don’t want to read it, don’t buy it. Strange that so much energy is spent putting others down.

      Glad to have introduced you to something new! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Roland Yeomans

    I have never heard of Edgehill before. Now, I will do some more research. Like many others, I would have liked to have seen that ghostly battle … but from a distance.

    Agents … they sometimes fall victim to the “power” they feel they have. Sigh.

    Reply
    • JH

      They certainly do.

      Freud and Twain have probably been too busy to mention Edgehill. Or perhaps Twain wants to keep it all to himself. It is great story fodder, after all.

      Reply
  10. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    Edgehill – both creepy and kinda cool.

    It’s so easy in this day and age to publicly vent or rant, even if you’re someone who normally wouldn’t do something like that. I try so hard to think twice, thrice, before hitting Send or Post.

    Reply
    • JH

      Always a good rule of thumb, Madeline. Even people who thought they were “joking” on social media found their lives drastically changed…and not in a good way.

      Just ask Justine Sacco.

      Reply
  11. Shelly

    Wow I have never heard of Edgehill, what a cool story!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Shelly. Glad to introduce you to some legitimatized British phantoms!

      Reply
  12. Tarkabarka

    I wonder why the ghost battle finally ended… It is an interesting bit that is is officially recognized though 😀
    As for empathy: I’m with you on this one. There is a huge bias between self-published and non-self-published authors that extends to readership sometimes as well. I never self-published, but I recognize how much work and energy and effort goes into it. Perceptions need to be shifted.

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    The Multicolored Diary
    MopDog

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree. Those poisonous attitudes need to change. Some really great books have been self-published. Some steaming hunks of crap got huge trad deals.

      It’s the sweeping generalizations that kill me.

      Going out on a limb and assuming the “echoes of battle” in Edgehill were residual energy from so many lives lost at the same place, I assume the phenomena ended when the energy finally dissipated.

      But that’s just a guess. I didn’t actually put any thought into it or anything. 😉

      Reply
  13. Random Musings

    I really want to visit this place now and see if I feel odd! I’m just finishing editing my first novel, and I’m considering going self published because I have no idea how to go about finding an agent and most publishers won’t even read your manuscript if it’s not submitted by an agent
    Debbie

    Reply
    • JH

      There are a lot of midsize publishers that don’t require an agent, such as Kensington. Depending on your genre, there are probably tons of options.

      Dean Wesley Smith likes to say that any agent that wants you now (as an unpublished author) isn’t worth having. Which is a generalization, but it often turns out to be true. It’s nice to get enough of a following that you can approach the agent of your choice with a deal in hand, or better yet, have the agents approach you!

      Reply
      • Random Musings

        Thank you for the advice, I’m going to look into some of those publishers! And that’s a good point about the agents taking you unpublished probably aren’t worth it!

        Reply
        • JH

          Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

          Reply
  14. Ula

    That is an awesome ghost story. I’d definitely want to visit to see for myself.

    I personally think that the self-publishing route is just as tough, if not tougher, as traditional. And the route writers choose really is just a personal choice.

    Reply
    • JH

      Agreed, Ula. Whenever someone suggests self-publishing to me, I react in horror–not because it’s beneath me, but because it’s so much work! I don’t have time to be my own publisher. I can barely handle the A to Z.

      If you go to Edgehill, go during the anniversary of the battle. It’s your best chance of seeing or hearing some ghosties.

      Reply
  15. Ryan Carty

    I love a good ghost story. That was a good ghost story.

    As for the other, I’m not with an agent, I’d like to be. I’ve not ruled out self publishing, but I’m not sure I’m ready to be that hands on about everything.

    That said, the publishing industry, agents in general could learn a lot from watching what has happened with music. Biting the hand that feeds is a good way to find yourself out of a career damn quick.

    Reply
    • JH

      Good point, Ryan. How does the saying go? Pride goeth before the fall.

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed my ghost story!

      Reply
  16. Keiley Blair

    Great ghost story! As an Asper, empathy is not something I was born with, but it is something I’ve learned to simulate for the sake of others to be able to function in society. I don’t do so well accepting it from others though because I don’t get the concept.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for commenting, Keiley. It’s interesting that you have put in the time and energy to emulate empathy, while this agent (who I assume is not an Asper) throws his own lack of it around on the internet.

      I appreciate the kind words!

      Reply
  17. Somer

    That ghost story is so cool! An official ghost site!
    And the thing about the agent? Ugh. I know social media is important for being our own spaces, but it’s really important we ALL remember to have our temper tantrums, bitch fits, etc. offline, especially if it pertains to your profession. Step away and stop being mean to the little guy. Yeesh.

    Reply
    • JH

      Yes, it completely changed how I feel about the agent, who–up to that point–I’d thought was awesome. It’s a good reminder of how what we put out there is destined to come back to us.

      Thanks so much for reading, Somer. It means a lot. I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts!

      Reply
  18. melanie schulz

    I love what you said in the empathy section, and if I had to venture a guess, I’d say that particular agent was feeling threatened. Self-published authors don’t need agents.

    Reply
    • JH

      A few people mentioned that possibility on my Facebook page, and I suppose it could be true. But there was just so much, “Your self-published crap is beneath me” attitude oozing through.

      I hope the author didn’t see his Tweets, but what are the chances of that?

      Reply
  19. Jane Helms

    Excellent ghost story – haunting in a way, no pun intended.

    And your piece on Empathy is nicely put. This particular agent might have had a bad day and a need to vent. Not a good vehicle though, eh?

    Reply
    • JH

      Definitely not, Jane. It kind of sounded like he was admiring how clever he was. Ick.

      Thanks so much for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the ghost story!

      Reply
  20. Birgit

    OK-that agent needs to take a pill. I have a feeling he is thinking of the bottom dollar especially since he ranted on the person self publishing more than anything else. This battle is freaky and now I want to go there! I know that the witnesses were back in the day when they thought witches were real so that can make a difference but still, really want to go there.

    Reply
    • JH

      Yes, but the fact they recognized some of the ghostly soldiers. That has to mean something, doesn’t it? Go during the anniversary of the battle. That’s when the paranormal activity is supposedly heightened.

      Aren’t agents always thinking of the bottom dollar? 😉

      Reply
  21. Randee Dawn

    True British ghosts would be mortified to have been recognized officially. Not done, and all that rot.

    Empathy: Hear, hear. Official sanction is no guarantee of quality in any field.

    Reply
    • JH

      So true, Randee.

      I wonder how British ghosts feel about fame?

      Reply
  22. C. Lee McKenzie

    Of course, I was fascinated by the ghostly battle. I’m making a note to find out more about that bit of history.

    As to the agent issue, this traditionally v. self published issue is going to be contentious for a long time. You’ve pointed out that the way you’re published isn’t a measure of the quality of work, and that is certainly the case, but most agents and publishers aren’t going to admit that.

    I’m published on both sides of this business, and the only way Indies are going to gain credibility is to publish the absolutely best stories they can. Well-written, well-edited, professionally designed books are a must. Now, having written that, I’d better go do some editing. 🙂

    As always my visit here has been a very interesting.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Lee. I’m very happy to hear this post inspired you to learn more! It’s always so cool when you can inspire someone else (especially someone you admire.) Let me know if your research turns up anything interesting.

      Have you found that your indie publishing has hurt your chances with traditional pubs, as Stephanie’s agent suggests? Which came first?

      Reply
  23. Denise D Hammond

    Confirmation of ghosts fighting a war is too creepy. As for bad books, there are some well-known authors who write crap and end up on the best sellers lists based on the years when they really were decent writers, IMHO. I’m not mentioning names but the initials JP come to mind.

    Reply
    • JH

      His initials always come to mind when the words “popular” and “crap” are mentioned in the same sentence. 🙂

      Thanks for visiting, Denise. It’s always great to see you here.

      Reply
    • JH

      How true that is, Sam. I hope you’re surrounded by kind people who support you–you deserve it.

      Reply
  24. Barbara In Caneyhead

    Now that is one cool ghost story! That is on a par with the US gov coming out and saying Roswell was all the rumors said it was.

    Reply
    • JH

      Can you imagine, Barbara? Wouldn’t that be something?

      Reply
  25. Sarah Allen

    Love the story! And that painting is amazing!

    Sarah Allen

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Sarah. If you click the link, you can buy a print.

      Reply
  26. Misha

    I agree with you about the empathy.

    The big reason (other than getting very nearly burned– let’s call it “singed”– by trade publishing) why I stopped querying is because I got past tired of putting up with this sort of crap by agents.

    In particular, I lost it because one major agent wrote a whole post about how self publishing made it possible to cull only the best “cattle” from the rest in order to make money.

    Reply
    • JH

      Ouch! That’s terrible. Talk about a lack of empathy.

      I’d love to see more indie success stories tell agents to suck it when they come calling.

      Reply
  27. Haneen Ibrahim

    Ha! This is the best ghost story I heard in a long time. I mean it is official! I wonder why the battle took all that time to end in the first place?
    I read a lot of self-published books and so far I have been really pleased, I think empathy is the right word in this situation.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Haneen! That’s quite the compliment.

      Here’s my theory (my apologies for the cut-and-paste): Going out on a limb and assuming the “echoes of battle” in Edgehill were residual energy from so many lives lost at the same place, I assume the phenomena ended when the energy finally dissipated.

      Reply
  28. Djinnia

    Oh my goodness! I had no idea that there was an official recorded ghost haunting. I think I agree with you that the energy fed itself out. But there’s still enough to fuel a residual effect even now. It’s like the very earth has recorded the event and feeds it energy.

    Reply
  29. Chrys Fey

    This agent needs to get hit in the head. I don’t know why agents are being so rude all of a sudden to writers, or think it’s okay to make fun of writers on social media. It’s just awful and not professional. I hope this incident made people think twice about sending anything to him.

    The misconception around self-published work and indie authors does need to stop, but what doesn’t help is that so many are taking shortcuts in order to publish their work fast. Even when they use an editor, they don’t go over their work to look for errors that can arise from heavy edits. Or they don’t use beta readers, a professional formatter or cover artist.

    Aside from that, I hate how all self-published work is looked down upon because of the bad eggs out there. I’ve had people (old friends, etc.) think that’s how I’m published, and it’s annoying that they think this. Not just because I didn’t self-publish, but because they make it sound as though self-publishing is a bad thing. It’s not. I do want to self-publish a couple of things in the future.

    Reply
    • JH

      I thought you had some indie books too, Chrys. But not in any bad way. I’m not sure why I thought they were indies.

      I also hope this makes people think twice about sending to him. He wrote himself off my query list, that’s for sure. I usually think his comments are funny, but this series was just nasty and elitist.

      Thanks for commenting during your break!

      Reply
  30. Patricia Lynne

    That’s cool about Edgehill.

    I’ve seen agents go to Twitter to mock writers querying them from time to time. They never say the names of the writers, but it always disgusts me. That is a person and their dreams you are mocking and you are supposed to be a professional! Make snarky comments in private email but not in the public. That’s just bad form.

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree, Patricia. It definitely shows you who’s worth working with and who isn’t.

      Reply
  31. Heather M. Gardner

    I haven’t been doing this long, but I’ve seen publishers come and go and I’ve seen agents come and go. Writers and authors are here to stay.
    It’s like Hopper says from A Bug’s Life: Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one and if they ever figure that out there goes our way of life!

    Heather M. Gardner / @hmgardner
    Co-Host, Blogging from A to Z April Challenge
    The Waiting is the Hardest Part

    Reply
    • JH

      YES! That’s a great point. We may take extended breaks, but it’s rare to hear of someone who stops being a writer.

      Reply
  32. Frank

    On the ghosts, I’d totally go watch a ghost battle.

    As for the agents, well, one of the drawbacks to traditional publishing losing it’s strangle hold on the publishing world is that agents suddenly became powerful gatekeepers. Before that, they were largely lackeys, you were just as likely to get published without an agent as you were with one 20 years ago. But publishers don’t hire as many editors and slush piles have to go through someone who just decided being an agent and living off other people’s work would be fun.

    That may seem harsh but that doesn’t make it untrue. The good agents are the ones who remember what their real job is. The guy you mention sounds like he has more power than he can responsibly handle.

    Reply
    • JH

      Yes, and he’s a new agent too. It shows, and this is a good example.

      Reply

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