Saturday, June 22, 2013

Soul in the Words

After, my pagan afterlife novel, is almost ready. I've had other projects take over my spare time recently, so that book has been set back by a couple of weeks, but it's close.

Or maybe I'll finish producing it this weekend. It all depends on how quickly the other projects come together. 

A long while ago now I posted on facebook that this book could have far-reaching repercussions in my life. I didn't want to go into details, which worried some people. The kind support warmed my heart. Whatever happens with After, it was and is my choice to publish it, and I'll live with the consequences, whether they're negative, positive or a mix of both at the same time. Chances are that the people who might object in a way that could make my life miserable won't ever read it. That won't necessarily keep them from passing judgement, I suppose, but unless they hear about it in some way, they shouldn't feel a need to.

I don't make a secret of my beliefs, but I don't talk about them much either, especially lately. When I was young, I think I spoke more about them because I wanted to share my experiences. Subconsciously I may have also been testing society to see where I fit in and how it would react as a whole. That openness helped me connect with other like-minded people, and I even spent a short time with a coven. I miss them ....

As I get older, the more private I become. It's not fear. I know where I fit in. I don't feel a need for everyone around me to know me well enough to share in the knowledge of my connection with the wider, spiritual world. And if my friends want to know, they can ask. (That's permission right there if any of you are curious but are shy or worried that you might be crossing a line.) As for the confidence ... I'm not. I'm absolutely confident about what I experienced first hand. I even believe most of what I've heard and read, though I now listen with a keen awareness of how experiences and beliefs can be rewritten in the person's own mind and heart to fit with what they expect and want.

Ultimately, it's that expectation and desire for my experiences and understanding of the physical-spiritual world to fit into something easy and comforting that has silenced me. The older I get, the more I realize that it's more important for me to learn something true and experience something real than to have a religion that almost-but-not-quite fits with what I believe. That much as I want to be part of a larger community, my religious experiences keep pushing me out into solitary expression and study.

I wrote After as a work of fiction, not as a religious text. There's a lot in there that's meant to be story, not parable. The book is about KJ, not me, and it's about her growth beyond the life that both nourished and confined her. My childhood and marriage were and are radically different from KJ's, though on paper we appear to share minor elements. I didn't write After as therapy. I don't need any. 

But I did want to write a work of fiction that had a pagan aesthetic closer to my own, rather than the more mainstream pagan culture, if there really is such a thing. Measuring against that bar, I succeeded. Today I would probably write a different book. But at the time that I wrote After, I wanted, maybe needed to reveal little pieces of my heart and I hid them away in the words on the pages of that book. There's no need to go looking for them. Chances are that if people go looking for them, unless they know me very well, they'll only find themselves.

I'd count myself most fortunate if they did find themselves. I couldn't ask for anything better than that.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Publishing Company News

Today I read about two individuals who are leaving traditional publishing houses to start up literary agencies.

I sincerely wish them both well and good luck with their ventures. Having said that, a thousand questions popped into my mind. These are things that should enter any writer's mind before they shop for a literary agent, so I'll go ahead and list a couple of them here. If you don't like the answers a given literary agency gives you, don't sign up with them. In fact, if they post their terms on their page and those terms don't make sense from the writer's point of view, I wouldn't contact them at all.

What percent? Historically, agents received 10% of the writer's paycheck from the publisher (both the advance and royalties.) This has crept up to 15% and stuck. Most folks would, perhaps rightly, contend that an agent will get them a bigger advance than they would on their own. But the royalties? For all time? Where is the justification for 15% there? Not arguing, just asking. What would be the added benefit of having an agent over, say, a literary contract lawyer, who actually fully and completely understands contract law from his client's perspective, not from the publisher's perspective? A literary contract lawyer will charge a one time fee, based on how much time and trouble it is for her/him. And then s/he's gone. If s/he charges $800 to vet a contract for you, it won't matter if you're negotiating a $5000 advance or a $750,000 advance. And then you get all the royalties from your work. Forever.

I have to admit, I did cringe a bit when I heard the news. One of the reasons I cringed is that I have heard many stories about agents and editors settling on a contract with a writer that was actually worse than the worst-terms boilerplate for the publisher. With an agent on your side, you wouldn't think that it would happen, but it does. Editors mainly edit. They don't practice law. Having an editor leave the editing business and go into agenting ... well, I have my doubts.

Next question:  Will they ask for rewrites before they're willing to send your work out? In this case, if the editor was very good at their job, I'm more comfortable with that than I would be with an agent whose history and education I have no clue about. Having said that, I'm wary of anyone who would take on a writer because of that writer's compelling writing who then turns around and asks for a major rewrite. Little stuff, oh yeah. Bring it on! If I change the character's name in the middle of the story, let's go ahead and fix that and save us both some embarrassment. But I don't want to go with an agent who is trying to groom me into becoming the sort of writer s/he believes will sell better (or who will write like s/he would like to write themselves.) That says that they see potential, but won't work with me until I'm better. I'd rather get better on my own, with my own learning process, than under the direction of someone who is supposed to be selling manuscripts to publishers, not reading and critiquing almost-there manuscripts for their stable of writers. Seriously. I've heard of agents bad-mouthing their authors to publishers, calling their work commercial dreck, smut, etc. If an agent doesn't love, really love, my work, I don't want to have them represent me. And if they're asking for extensive rewrites, especially with the idea to make it more commercial, they don't love my work. End of story.

Stuff to think about before signing on with an agent. There's lots more questions. I hope that writers who see two new literary agencies on the horizon don't start setting up their submission packages before they've settled these and other questions in their minds.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

When the Coyotes Sing

Misread of the day: Urban Wine, for a second, looked like Urine Wine and I thought, ew, what?!

A long-haired, pure black (doesn't have any sun-faded brown areas even!) kitty has been dumped in our neighborhood. It's not feral. I can't get close to it, but it understands domesticated kitty concepts like food comes from houses. It's also been in our house (I think) eating from the kitty food bowl.

Here's another plea that will not reach the right ears. Please don't dump your kitties in the countryside! Yes, most of us will feed these animals but our own cats will fight with them, and if they get injured, there's no way to get them to the vet. Also because they're so skittish and scared, we can't take them inside at night and they will inevitably be eaten by coyotes.

After I noticed it around for a few days the kitty, which I believe is female, disappeared for a couple of weeks and I thought damn, I guess that's it. But now she's back. My son is calling her Oops for the moment.

The coyotes sing at every sunset very near our house. And often during the night they yip and cry while they tear apart and share whatever kills they've managed to snag. One of these times, it will be Oops.

Every morning now I wake up and wonder if Oops will come up to the deck to snatch a quick meal, or if we'll never see her again.