Bucking tradition, I don't set New Year's resolutions. I give several reasons for this, but the main one is that I don't want to.
I've always been defiant like that. I dance to a different drummer, oftentimes to music only I can hear. Of course, my children have long since noticed that, with the youngest relishing the information that authors tend to suffer a higher incidence of mental illness that the rest of the population.
Who said I suffered?
So, no resolutions at the frigid, dreary beginning of the year to set myself up for failure. I wait until spring.
But life during this short season moving from Christmas to Ordinary Time to Lent demands more than hibernation to pass the time until spring. So, I'll buckle down and write. And read. And ponder the wisdom of going my own way, writing mainly to please myself, and insisting upon retaining my voice and creativity in my own work.
Therein lies the struggle of most authors, especially fiction authors: the market influence. Writing for commercial success might actually result in commercial success, but it also lends itself to commonplace, mediocre prose forgotten as soon as the reader turns that last page. It's good for a momentary amusement, a distraction. It offers neither sustenance nor inspiration to the reader's mind.
I write fiction. My work offers entertainment, an escape from the humdrum drudgery of daily life for those who read it. I hope it is not forgotten.
I do not write for commercial success, although I certainly won't spurn it should it come my way. Indeed, commercial success serves as universal, socially acceptable validation. I write because, if I don't, my mind will explode. The expansion of the idea swells until it must find release.
My stories don't pursue commercial success; they pursue good storytelling. I want the memories of those stories to linger in readers' minds.
So, read my stories and let me know what you think.
I have long been a fan of child psychologist John Rosemond who espouse child-rearing advice based on "Grandma's" wisdom from before 1955. In recent years, that admiration has extended to Mike Rowe, a no-nonsense American actor whose very public support of the trades recognizes that not everyone is suited to a college education--and that society needs people in the trades as much (if not more) than white collar workers. I also read Jesse Martin, a professor who writes about the science of learning and his frequent assertions that university education is failing students. While you may not care about the overwhelming emphasis on sending kids to college, I have some thoughts on the matter.
Not all that long ago, my younger son struggled in school. He's a bright young man, but school just wasn't his "thing." When he was about 14, we had a frank discussion about expectations and his assumption that we, his parents, required him to go to college. I think we cleared that up, although I did emphasize that some post-high school education would be necessary regardless of what career he chose. He remained moody, volatile, and often and blatantly disrespectful.
Then he enlisted. When we traveled to San Antonio for his graduation from military basic training, the change in our boy astounded me. Who are you and what have you done with my son, because I like this version so much better. The boy who had stomped through the house filled with anger and resentment became respectful and steady. That volatile moodiness was nowhere to be seen.
I don't think our kinder, gentler military beat the insolence from him, but I do think they imposed the discipline he needed. He now has purpose. In speaking to him a few days ago, I sensed that he'd found his place in the world. This angry boy who couldn't figure where he fit in had found his place. And, no, he's not bound for college. He's training for a career in aircraft maintenance and finding that it's something that interests him. Not only that, it's a trade that can transfer to the civilian world if and when he discharges or retires from military service.
Rosemond and Rowe would approve, I'm sure. Martin probably would, too, because he seems to recognize that a university education doesn't suit everyone.
Bringing this full circle is Rosemond's weekly article in which a mother writes of her disappointment that her academically disinclined son had decided to pursue a career as a diesel mechanic. "All in all, I think your son has made a good decision," Rosemond writes. "Let's face it, college is not for everyone--a fact that seems to escape many parents and high school counselors. The world is always going to need plumbers, electricians, mechanics, carpenters, brick-masons, tailors, and so on."
Brian has found his place and I'm utterly grateful. Our older son, Matthew, fits the desired student mold those high school counselors love to hold up as examples: he's a university student and doing quite well.
They're both smart young men, but intelligence expresses itself in more than one way. Matt will be a mechanical engineer. Brian will be an aircraft mechanic. And I'm still trying to find my way.
Some of us are destined to wander.
It’s the lot of women to suffer the stupidity of men.
I looked out the window of the grand carriage painted and gilded with the king’s family crest as it carried me from the hovel of my home to the castle where I somehow had to make good on my father’s nonsensical boast that I could spin straw into gold. Had my father not soaked his brain in cheap ale to bolster his courage, he would have realized that, if his boast were true, our family would not live in a hovel and dress in rags. The king, who looked at me with watery eyes gleaming with greed, should have figured out that little logical truth, too.
He leaned across the seats, corset creaking as it struggled to contain the bulge of a belly swollen with too much fine, rich food and wine, and patted my knee in an overly familiar gesture that made my skin crawl.
“You’re a pretty lass,” he complimented me and licked his already wet lips.
Being a humble miller’s daughter—a peasant—I could hardly rebuff the king, but I did sidle away from his lecherous touch and protest, “Your majesty, you mustn’t. I’m not worthy.”
MY CHRISTMAS GIFT TO YOU!
SKEINS OF GOLD: Rumpelstiltskin Retold
Caught by her father's lie and the king's greed, the miller's daughter faces an impossible task: spinning straw into gold. An imp accepts her paltry trade to save her life, but what are his motives? What's a poor peasant woman to do?
This retelling of the ancient fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin addresses some questions left unanswered by the traditional versions and is told from the perspective of the miller's daughter.
The slump continues.
I've managed to go from 30,000 to a touch over 50,000 words on the latest manuscript, and it's not nearly finished. The tentative title of Witchbreed's Fire has gone by the wayside in favor of another title that is more in keeping with the first book in this duet. I'm now calling it Daughter of the Deepwood.
Get your minds out of the gutter, folks.
Here's how the thought goes: In the same world as Daughter of the Twin Moons, there's another race of fae called the Daimónio Refstófae who reign over a land called Daimónagi. Students of classical languages will recognize the incorporation of Greek here. The race name loosely means "fluid demon" with "fae" added to it. These are a race of shape-shifting (fluid) fae. Most of the story takes place within the capital which is also a sentient mountain fortress, à la Minis Tirith from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings story. In my story, though, the fortress is called Froúrio Daimónafae, which basically means "demon castle" with "fae" tacked on it.
I have to keep using copy-and-paste, because I haven't yet internalized the spellings. Sloppy of me, I know.
So... the story begins in a prison in the human realm of Fyrgia, which has Biblical, not LOTR, associations (Phrygia). Our hero, Lord Captain Falco of the Daimónagi High Guard, contemplates his not-so-joyful future of torture when he hears a voice from the other side of the wall between prison cells. That other voice belongs to our heroine, Calista. She's been a prisoner much longer than Falco.
Without getting into details, they escape. However, Calista's injuries are too severe for fae healing. Indebted to Calista for her part in their escape, Falco takes her to the heart of the Great Forest, known as the Deepwood, where the two ancient and powerful guardians dwell. The unicorn guardians agree to heal her, but their healing manifests as something other than mere "restoration." As part of his debt of honor, Falco vows to join his soul with Calista's, which means he must relinquish his expectations of a marriage to the Lord General's lovely daughter, Sorcinnia.
Thus far, the adjustment period occupies much of the book. Calista is Witchbreed, not fae, and therefore different in a race and culture that prizes conformity. Froúrio Daimónafae, a Dwarf gardener, and a Pixie maid befriend her as she tries to find a place for herself and occupation within Daimónagi society and reconcile that she is not Falco's choice of bride.
Since this is a fantasy romance, Falco's affection for Calista grows, as well as hers for him. In a departure from my usual stuff, we're not dealing with "instalust" or love at first sight. Heck, I've gone 50,000-plus words into the book and they've hardly done more than kissed. There's a good reason for that, not the least of which is Falco's determination to treat his bride with honor.
I begin to wonder if Falco's version of romance hero is a backlash against the arrogant, womanizing jerks that serve as hero material in most romances today.
Back in May, I happily rode the upswell of business. I had five books under contract with a sixth pending. Editing work flowed in a steady stream. I published a book. Life was good.
As any freelancer learns, a business like this ebbs and flows like the tide. Autumn brought the ebb tide, which one might think would mean additional free time--or at least extra time to work on that next manuscript. Of course, life doesn't work that way. Editing gigs dried up. I lost a client because I can't read minds. Additional writing opportunities didn't pan out or offered far less than I would accept. (I've ranted before: I won't work for pennies per hour.)
Chasing gigs takes a lot of time, especially when opportunities seem destined to put one in one's place. The voices in my head went silent, then a new crowd of voices spoke and I had to write their story. So, as my publicist kindly reminds me, I did get a story out by year's end--just not the one intended. The intended manuscript will take at least another month, probably two, before it's ready for the editor to work her magic on it. And, of course, we got a dog after months of vowing that I didn't want another dog. (See last week's post on that.) And I enrolled in a marketing course.
The purpose of the marketing course is to build the freelance business. Of course, every author wants to make a good living from royalties. Very few ever manage to do so. I've read statistics that fewer than 10 percent of authors break $1,000 annually in royalties. I'm on track to break that, but the amount certainly isn't sufficient to provide a living wage. Thus, I must concentrate on the freelance writing and editing business for my bread and butter and veterinary bills.
So, I'm back in "build it" mode. I've since learned that "build it and they will come" is a lie. The process goes more like "build it, promote the hell out of it, and they might deign to respond." This is not a gripe, just a clear-eyed recognition of the vagaries of freelancing.
So, just to break up the boring monologue here...
Update on the younger son: If you've been reading this blog, then you know my younger son, Brian, enlisted in the Air Force. He departed for basic training at Lackland AFB, TX in September and graduated the first week of November. Currently stationed at the naval base in Pensacola, FL, he called last week with news of his first duty station: Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, AK. That's about as far from home as he can get. He's pleased with the assignment, so I am happy for him, too. I've already suggested to family members that silk long johns would make a good Christmas gift for him.
My Christmas gift to you: Instead of working on the sequel to Daughter of the Twin Moons, another story occupied my mind and keyboard. It's finished and posted on this website as a free download: "Skeins of Gold" is my gift to you. This short story (fewer than 10,000 words) retells the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale from the point of view of the miller's daughter. It always struck me that the miller's daughter got a raw deal in this fairy tale: her father's lie puts her at the mercy of a greedy king, who also lies to her. The imp, who saves her by accepting her paltry trade to spin straw into gold, has his own ulterior motives. In my version, the the imp becomes the hero and the miller's daughter fully realizes her unenviable predicament--and puts the blame for it squarely where it belongs.
The intended release to Daughter of the Twin Moons is tentatively titled Witchbreed's Fire. Look for it in the next couple of months. I'll be running a sale on the first book--$0.99 for the ebook--shortly before Witchbreed's Fire goes live.
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
Looking for a place to swap blogs? Holly Bargo at Hen House Publishing is happy to reciprocate Blog Swaps in 2019.
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