I’m currently on tour on the East Coast, and so far it has been a wonderful experience! The first workshop on Stories for the Future with Bright Flame was wonderful, with an amazing group of around sixty people in the Community Room at WestBeth, an artists’ co-op in the West Village. We worked with stories on three levels: our personal stories, with ourselves as protagonists, exploring our identities, our core questions and the beliefs that either help us move forward or hold us back. We had people draw a simple mask on a paper plate—I’ve done this before and I’m always amazed at what comes out. For myself, this time, it was an Iberian eye Goddess but somehow in my rendition she looked a lot more like a cartoon space alien. I will have to ponder the meaning of this!
We also worked with our ancestral stories, with the strengths we draw from our heritage, and also what aspects we would like to release. Then we ended with a ritual in which we stepped through a portal, out of time, to envision a future we wanted to live in, and plant its seeds in that timeless place. Lots of singing, drumming, chanting and dancing—and raising of power to help us realize that vision!
On the beautifully decorated stage in Syracuse. Photo by Marie Summerwood.
Then on Sunday I did a talk and reading at Evolver’s new Alchemists’ Kitchen herbal shop and elixir bar in the Lower East Side. I challenged myself to actually read some of the erotic parts of the book out loud. To my surprise, I enjoyed it—and hopefully the audience did too!
It’s always a challenge to decide what parts of the book to read, how to convey the essence of it without giving away too much of the plot. There’s a lot of action in the book—but it’s much harder to find those sections and read them without spoiling it for future readers. So I tend to read more poetic parts that are easier to take out of context. Some times I want to tell people, “Hey, it really is exciting! Trust me on that.”
And today we had time for a long stroll beside the river with Bright Flame and my old friend the ecofeminist writer and theorist Ynestra King. And matzoh ball soup and perogi at a Unkrainian restaurant after the reading, with other old friends. A really nice way to start my travels.
I am now on to Philadelphia, where I have several workshops which sold out quickly and a couple of University talks which are open to the public. Next up on my tour will be Oregon and then Austin in March. You can see the full calendar of all my tour stops here.
I looked back at my blog the other day and realized that the last entry still read “Our Kickstarter campaign is nearly to our goal…” Somehow I never actually updated the blog—even after we completed our campaign as the second-highest funded fiction project ever on Kickstarter!
The reason for that is simple—from the time we started our campaign, I didn’t have a spare moment to blog! Keeping Facebook and Twitter updated was about all I could do. It has been a wild, roller-coaster ride of huge ups and downs all along the way. I want to share some of them—both in gratitude and to possibly caution and help others who might set out to do something similar.
When a Kickstarter is going well, there’s no feeling like it! Not even the money, although that helps, but the sense of support, the feeling that other people have faith in your work. It’s like having a wind at your back—everything you do feels just a bit easier.
But it is still a lot of work! And much of that work involves things that honestly, I don’t like doing—constantly promoting it, asking your friends and colleagues to promote it, calling in favors and racking up debts. I don’t recommend launching one when you are also travelling, teaching a fourteen-hour-a-day program, and trying to read and correct proofs of the manuscript at the same time!
I had wonderful help from Alli Gallixsee, who did an incredible job orchestrating the campaign and figuring out how to build it and make it work. Here’s another nugget of advice—if you’re not a digital native, if you aren’t savvy about the ins and outs of social media, find someone who is. I could never have done it without her. I also had great support from Philip Wood, who edited the video, and Jessica Perlstein, who made the wonderful cover image for a book that didn’t yet exist!
But that was done—and reaching the goal, and closing out the campaign well above our goal, was a definite thrill!
Then came the book production. Actually, that began well before we launched the Kickstarter, as I didn’t want to get people excited about the book and then have them wait ten months to get it. I really wanted people to get it before the holidays.
Well, some of you did!
So I borrowed money to begin the editing and copy-editing before the Kickstarter launched, as they take weeks and months to do. It was a gamble, but I was reasonably sure I could raise the money to pay back the loan.
As I look back on this little period of time, it seems like an endless set of decisions to make without having adequate information for making them—especially around things like how much it would actually cost to produce the book. Just an example, we couldn’t get a firm cost for printing the book until it was edited, copy-edited and designed and we knew how big it would be. We couldn’t get a firm cost for postage until the book was printed and we knew how much it weighed. We couldn’t know how many books we would need to print until the Kickstarter was completed. NOT printing books and simply doing Print-on-demand would have been much less expensive, but since we had promised books as a Kickstarter reward, and we needed something like 1200 of them, printing them seemed like a good idea.
Jennifer Ruby Privateer, whom I enlisted to manage the project while I was travelling, found us a wonderful printer, an employee-owned company in Wisconsin called Worzalla. We also hired them to do fulfillment—to package and mail all the reward books. Originally I had planned a marathon session in my garage with friends—but that would have added a week to our tight timetable and we thought having Worzalla do it would be quicker, although more expensive. However, we neglected to ask them a key question—how long will it actually take? I was appalled to discover, a month after I’d flown back there to sign all the copies that needed to be signed, that they were still slowly mailing and shipping books—and that they’d left the foreign books, which take longest to arrive, for last.
With all the guessing, and the comfortable sensation of having money in the bank, it was easy to make a whole series of decisions, each of which increased costs somewhat, without realizing how they were all adding up. In retrospect, I should have also recruited some hard-nosed financial manager type to crunch numbers as we went along. In any case, sometime in December, when I got the final estimated bill from Worzalla—for fulfillment, not including all the postage—the money ran out.
The roller coaster crashed. I cried.
But there was a reason I wrote the book, and invested so much in having it edited and designed, and worked so hard to make it good. And that was to have people read it. And as the books got sent out, and responses came in, that little cart on the roller coaster began to ratchet up again. Because people genuinely love the book!
As a writer, you expect your friends to tell you they like your work, even if they don’t. But you soon learn to discern the responses that mean they really, really like it! It’s the comments like, “My roommate’s light was on at 4 am and she was still reading it” that let you know you’ve told a story that engages people. And overall, I’ve been very, very happy to know that I’ve reached people with the story.
Will it work out financially, in the end? The jury is still out on that one. If the book sells, and I can eventually pay myself for even some of the years I’ve spent on it, I’ll be able to buy myself some more writing time to do another. That’s my hope.
I also haven’t forgotten the audiobook. That’s my next project, on top of the tour that will launch this month at Pantheacon in San Jose and continue on the East Coast in the coming weeks. Later I’ll be in Portland and Austin.
If you’re considering a similar project, here’s three pieces of advice:
1) Get someone savvy about Kickstarter and social media to help plan any campaign of that sort.
2) Get some humorless, curmudgeonly, mean and meticulous person to manage the money.
3) Don’t put a tight deadline for yourself on a project that involves a high learning curve with a lot of unfamiliar aspects. (My brother warned me about this—you were right, Mark!)
Now, as we begin to launch the book for real to the general public, I can feel that breeze on my back again. I’m hoping to turn that roller coaster into a nice, level train track (running on solar electric) that will deliver me to some peaceful place where I can dive into a new writing project.
City of Refuge is now available on Amazon as an Ebook, and will soon be available in physical form. Official publication date is March 1, but your local bookstore can order it now from Ingram Book Company. Here’s how you can help support the book:
- Ask your local bookstore to carry it.
- Post a review on Amazon or Goodreads.
- Tell your friends about it!
Thanks so much for your support—it makes the wild ride so much more fun to know you’re coming along with me!
City of Refuge by Starhawk
(Yikes–just realized how long it’s been since I updated this blog! We made our goal, and far beyond it, and I will soon write another blog to update you all on the whole, roller-coaster process as we officially launch the book this month–February, 2016!)
First, I want to share the exciting news that we’re over 80 per cent of the way to our first funding goal for City of Refuge, the sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing. This is all thanks to each of you who has supported our Kickstarter campaign!
I thought I would take a moment to share with you more about what really goes into making a book. What does it take to produce a book like City of Refuge, the sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing?
First, you have to write it. For me, the first draft is always the hardest, the one where you take that blank page and formulate a story, characters, plot elements, dialogue. The first draft is generally rough— while the second draft is where I take all the scattered fragments and pull them into a structure, weave the various story lines together, and decide what goes with what. The third draft is where I look at the actual writing, the language and metaphors and cadence of the dialogue, revisit the structure, and polish it up.
In the case of City of Refuge, I wrote three full drafts and then sent it out to a few select people for feedback.
After that, I wrote two more drafts, adding some new structural elements, removing some, rearranging some sections and adjusting the flow.
There! The work is done—but actually, it’s not.
After that, it goes to an editor who does what’s called ‘developmental editing’. She looks at the flow, the structure, the length, the pace, and makes suggestions. We have phone calls. She reads the whole book through, then reads it again, making notes and also doing ‘line editing’—looking at the language and making suggestions.
Generally, I resist them. But in this case, now that I’m paying the editor myself, I accept most of them, if only to get my money’s worth out of the process. I reread the entire manuscript, with her comments, and make changes. Maybe I reread it again, to see how it all flows once the changes are made.
She rereads the entire manuscript, and again makes comments and suggestions that again I wrestle with. I make more changes.
I then send the manuscript to the copy editor—a second person who looks at it in terms of grammar, spelling, and continuity. We wrestle with deep questions such as, “Should we capitalize Madonna in Madonna Lily?” And, “Do I really need to start every second sentence with ‘And’.”
She sends it back to me. I look at all of her suggestions, take out about 80 per cent of the exclamation points I’d put in, send it back to the original editor for a final read-through, read it again myself—all epic 250,000 words of it!—and then send it to the proofreader, who checks for typos, spelling errors and mistakes.
The proofreader sends it to the designer, who creates templates for it and formats it for print and Ebooks.
The designer sends it back to the proofreader, who checks for new errors that may have crept in.
And then it goes to press. Or upload, as the case may be.
The progression of a cover; from sketch to final. Art by Jessica Perlstein.
There’s a few other aspects in there—getting a cover illustration made, getting an ISBN number and copyright etc. etc. Not to mention promoting the book, sending out review copies, working out questions around distribution, etc. But that’s the basic process.
And that’s why I decided to go with a Kickstarter campaign to help pay all of these wonderful people who are helping me. Until we transform our economy to a gift economy, I believe in paying people fairly for their work. Even me—I aspire, at least, to paying myself something for the four years of work I’ve put into this. But that will happen only if we exceed our original goal.
Oh yes, and I would like to get the roof fixed before it rains!
I’m so tremendously grateful for the response the Kickstarter campaign has already garnered. We’re over 80 per cent there. Thank you, everyone! If you would like to pre-order a special edition copy of City of Refuge for yourself, you can do that before August 31st HERE– after that you will have to wait for the public release! We plan to have books available to our Kickstarter supporters well in time for the holidays!
“Bird dreamed of a fortress. Impregnable, formed of cold blocks of gray stone, it towered above him. A bugle blew. The gates opened, and legions of soldiers poured out. Masked and helmeted, armed and shielded, they marched in lockstep, left, right, left, an invincible force.
““But how do we fight this?” Bird asked. “How do we bring it down?”
“He wasn’t sure who or what he was asking, but he heard a voice, low and toneless.
“The fortress falls when the ground beneath it shifts.”
That’s an excerpt from my newest book, City of Refuge, the sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing. And today is the big day, when we begin the Kickstarter campaign to publish it!
In The Fifth Sacred Thing, the people of an ecotopian northern California resist a brutal invasion using nonviolence and magic. It centers around the question, how do we resist violence without becoming what we’re fighting against?
In the sequel, Healer Madrone has a dream. “Build a city of refuge in the heartland of the enemy.” She.and musician-turned-guerilla Bird go down to the Southlands to liberate them. But how can you build a new world when people are so deeply damaged by the old?
I’ve been working on this book for almost four years now, and I’m eager for you all to read it. So many people have told me that The Fifth Sacred Thing has been important to them!
But Bantam, who originally published Fifth, doesn’t believe there’s an audience for a sequel. I think they’re wrong! And I hope you’ll help me prove it!
If you want to read the book, please help support the campaign! There are many ways you can do that…
- Pledge a contribution. The rewards are…a special limited first edition of the book, in various forms! In essence, you’re pre-ordering it, and you’ll get to read it weeks before it is released to the general public!
- Help spread the word! Share our link on your social media and send it to your friends.
- Talk about it! With all the technology at our disposal, word of mouth is still the very best way to spread news!
I’m excited, nervous, hopeful, and really, really grateful to be getting support from some amazing people who are working with me on this project. There’s Alli Gallixsee, who has helped me set the campaign up, and Jessica Perlstein, who did the beautiful color illustration. Philip Wood made the video, and in it you’ll see more of Jessica’s art. Diane Rigoli created the cover design. It takes a village to produce a book! And that’s not even talking about the editing, the proofreading, the layout and so much more.
I’m so thankful all of you are part of our village!
“A rumble…the earth shivered and trembled under his feet. He stepped closer to the fortress walls. A shaft of light came down out of the lowering clouds, and played over the surface of the stones. It formed a rippling pattern, like the broken webs of light playing through water. But the light, he realized suddenly, was shining through the stones. The walls that looked so solid were riddled with cracks. They were brittle, and ready to fall.
“And now, up through the cracks, vines snaked, and out of the stones herbs and grasses sprouted. The walls began to crumble, but the roots and the twining stems held the structure together as mortar turned to dust. Trees took root in the rubble and arched overhead, their branches heavy with fruit.
“Where the fortress had stood now was a leafy hall, open, with room for the multitudes.”
Lammas, the ancient Celtic festival of Lughnasad, celebration of the first harvest. In my first book, The Spiral Dance, I wrote that Lammas is the time when we stand between hope and fear. The fruit ripens on the bough, but is not yet harvested. The grapes swell on the vine, but we don’t yet know how the vintage will be. And here in hot, dry, drought-ridden California, it’s fire season…
Hope and fear—that’s what I’m feeling as we prepare to launch the Kickstarter campaign to publish City of Refuge, the sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing. We had considered starting this Friday—but after some other considerations and new astrological calculations, we’ve now decided to launch on Tuesday, August 4. Tuesdays are reputed to be the best day to launch a Kickstarter. Presumably, everybody is offline on the weekends, then catching up on work on Monday, but by Tuesday, they’re sitting at their desks surreptitiously scrolling Facebook.
And the book is very much like the fruit, hanging on the bough, ripening but not yet quite ready to harvest. It’s written, complete, and in process of being edited, but it will still be awhile before it is published and available to read.
So I hope, very much, that the campaign will be a success! I’m excited to publish it myself, and enjoying making my own decisions about it, choosing the cover, working with the editor knowing that I—not the marketing division—have the final say!
I’m impatient to bring in the harvest—the joy of sharing it with all of you. So many of you have written to me to say how much you want to read it! And I really, really hope that when you do, you’ll like it as much as I do!
The Kickstarter campaign will launch August 4. Please consider contributing on the first day, to start us off with a big, energetic boost! (You don’t actually pay until the campaign is over!) In return for your early contributions, we will have some limited early bird discounts available.
You can follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thefifthsacredthingsequel
and my author page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Starhawk/165408987031
as well as my blog, here.
Please help us spread the word and share our posts with your friends!
I’m so grateful for all the wonderful comments and good energy already flowing in!
In just a few days, I’ll launch the Kickstarter campaign to publish City of Refuge, the sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing. I’m swinging madly between wild excitement and good old-fashioned panic. Will this really work?
So many people tell me how much they love The Fifth Sacred Thing–that it has meant something to them, even informed their choices in life. That itself is an enormous reward for a writer. But I’m also hoping–counting–on you all to help me spread the word about the sequel. If this campaign is successful, in the long run it will make it possible for me to write more fiction, which of all the things I do is my deepest calling.
So I thought this morning I’d say a bit more about the story itself. For me, a novel begins with a question. With The Fifth Sacred Thing, it was, “How do you resist violence without turning to violence?” When the ruthless Stewards of the Southlands invade the peaceful, ecotopian Califians of the north, that dilemma comes alive in every character.
The prequel, Walking to Mercury, that tells the story of Maya, Johanna and Rio’s complex relationships, centered around a more personal question, one that I think every young person struggles with: “How do you reconcile your pure ideals with the messy realities of life?”
I sat down to begin City of Refuge in the winter of 2012, when,just a few weeks before, the Occupy movement had been driven out of the streets. The question uppermost in my mind was: “How do we build a new world when people are so wounded by the old?”
Each of the characters struggles with that question in their own way. Readers of Fifth will recognize many of them, but there are also new ones.
Madrone is a powerful Healer, but she’s also a woman who struggles with that age-old women’s challenge—how do I not lose myself in the needs of others?
Bird, the gifted musician turned guerilla, is wounded by years of prison and torture, but even more deeply by his own guilt and shame.
River, the former soldier of the Stewardship Ohnine who defected to the North and turned the tide of battle, wants to become what he thinks of as ‘a real person’, not just a tool of others’ ends.
Smokee, the rescued pen-girl sex-slave, is consumed by rage and wants only one thing—her stolen child returned to her.
Cress from Water Council wants to fight, to end the Stewards’ menace once and for all. But he also wants to bring water back to the parched, desiccated lands of the Central Valley, to heal its wounds.
And Maya, aged story-teller, nears the end of life…
…While a warship appears in the waters of the Bay, and down in the Southlands, the Stewards prepare for a new assault…
If you’re excited to read the book, I hope you’ll support our campaign. The rewards will offer you the opportunity to pre-order the book in various forms: an Ebook version, a Kickstarter-only paperback edition, and even a special-edition hardcover version!
This campaign will offer you the opportunity to read City of Refuge weeks before anyone else, and you will be supporting my first self-publishing adventure! There will be a limited number of early bird special rewards available for the first 200 backers, so don’t sleep on it!
If you do want to support the project, it’s a great help if you do so early on, to give us a boost and build momentum.
It will also be a huge help if you forward announcements through your Social Media, post about it on Facebook, Like our Facebook Page, and help us spread the word!
I feel blessed and fortunate to have received so much support from my readers over the years. It’s what stills the panic and gives me the courage to create! And thanks to all of you for helping to support this new project!
I’m so grateful to all the people who’ve written in to share how much The Fifth Sacred Thing has meant! And to say variations on “You’re right, Bantam is wrong, there is indeed an audience for a sequel!
So yes, I am going to self-publish City of Refuge. Then comes the question—how?
On the one hand, it’s never been easier to self-publish. Just upload the damn thing to Amazon and have done with it.
But I’m old-school enough to believe that every book benefits from skilled editing. I’ve been fortunate in my writing career to have worked with some wonderful editors, like Marie Cantlon who edited my first three books, and Linda Gross Kahn who edited The Fifth Sacred Thing.
It’s a measure of how publishing has changed that none of those wonderful editors are still in the business! Most of the other top editors who were there at Bantam and elsewhere are now freelance. On the one hand, that means that really amazing people are out there for hire. On the other hand, it means publishers don’t have to pay health insurance or vacation pay or pensions for those people. Editing used to be a prestige career—something that somebody like Jackie Kennedy Onassis, a former first lady, might do as a second career! Now it’s something 20-somethings do for a few years and then move on, and old-fashioned ideas like pensions no longer apply. As someone who has always been a freelancer, I know the story well. Freedom is a wonderful thing, but it comes at a price that the freelancer pays.
But enough of that rant. The point is, as a freelance sort myself, I don’t have the deep pockets of a publishing conglomerate. Yet, along with the editor, a book needs a copy editor: someone who checks the spelling and grammar and the continuity, who makes sure if you use double dashes in chapter one you don’t use space dash space in chapter fifteen. Little picky details, but they make a difference, mostly in making sure nothing gets between the reader and the experience of reading.
And then there’s the proofreader, who checks the whole thing for typos, especially those ones that spellcheck will miss because you’ve spelled the word correctly, but it’s the wrong word. Know way, you say? Surely that can’t be rite!
And a designer, and an artist to do the cover illustration, and a whole host of other things. All of these people deserve to be paid.
Undoubtedly there’s a better system than capitalism for supporting art and literature. In fact, the system I came up with for the world of The Fifth Sacred Thing and City of Refuge would be my preference: everyone has a basic, guaranteed income, that represents your fair share of common resources and the wealth of the past. Everyone then gets work credits for whatever work you do, including housework and caring for children or the elderly. If you’re an artist or a healer or someone who’s work doesn’t lend itself to counting hours, you get a stipend. And if people really like what you do, they give you gifts.
Ah, how happy I’d be living in that world! But we’re not there yet, and in this one, I believe people deserve to be paid fairly for their work. And that includes writers, because writing well is excruciatingly hard work! And while people tend to believe all writers are rich, in reality, a mid-level writer like myself, in a good year, might make a salary akin to an elementary school teacher, provided I do lots of touring and speaking engagements and workshops. Without benefits like health insurance or pensions, of course. Not that I’m complaining–for there are infinite, unquantifiable benefits! And I consider myself so blessed and fortunate to be able to do work that I love!
But, in this world, where the usual sources of funding for the arts have all dried up, there’s really one way left to fund a huge project, and that’s to go directly to the people who care about the work, and ask for support.
And that’s what I’ll be doing. We’ll be starting our Kickstarter campaign, on the advice of Akasha Madron, my favorite astrologer, on July 31. It’s also the eve of Lammas or Lughnasad, August 1, one of the eight great festivals of the Celtic and Pagan year. As Maya says in The Fifth Sacred Thing:
“Este es el tiempo de la Segadora, the time of the Reaper, she who is the end inherent in the beginning, scythe to the ripe grain. The Crone, Goddess of Harvest. In this her season we celebrate the ancient feast of the Celtic sun god Lugh, his wake as he ages and descends into Autumn. It is a time of sweet corn, ripening tomatoes, the bean drying on the vine. The harvest begins. We reap what we have sown.”
An auspicious time to begin! I really hope you’ll support the campaign, and help spread the word! And I’ll be updating you all again during this coming week!
Please Like our new Facebook Page:
“Every city needs three things: a plaza, a hearth and a sacred tree.”
The message came to me in a dream, as I was considering writing a sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing, my futuristic novel in which an ecotopian Northern California struggles to resist an invasion by the brutal, militarist Southlands using nonviolence and magic. Fifth ends with the Resistance successful, but then what? The book was long enough, so there was no need or room to answer that one when I wrote it twenty years ago.
But over the last few years, as together with Yerba Buena films we’ve been working to bring the story to the screen, ‘then what?’ kept echoing in my head. As I worked on endless drafts of a screenplay, then a pilot script for TV, and as I pondered episode breakdowns for a pitch, I began to toy with the idea of writing a sequel.
That moment when I know I have to write another book is always a grim and terrible moment—sort of like those moments in fairy tales where the Baba Yaga tells you to go sort a mountain of wheat or go empty a lake with a sieve. It means a long and grueling task ahead, that feels so huge there is no end in sight. You’re facing months and years of confinement. After Fifth and its companion prequel, Walking to Mercury, I avoided the isolation by co-writing my next three non-fiction books. I wrote a children’s picture book and three other non-fiction books which are demanding but not so emotionally draining as fiction. Suddenly I woke up and realized that, while I’d always thought of my primary calling as a story-teller and fiction writer, I’d successfully avoided doing it for a couple of decades.
And meanwhile, the characters from the world of Fifth were coming alive for me again, clamoring to tell more of the story. And I wasn’t getting any younger, and novels take time, and when you turn 60, and friends your age are starting to die of those things old people die of, time no longer looks endless.
So, I did it. I didn’t really have the time or space or money to dedicate the blocks of uninterrupted time I needed, but I did it anyway. Put off the repairs, the expensive deep cleaning my dentist kept nagging about, the vacations, and gave myself the time.
And of course, I also love it. There’s nothing I love more, once I get past the Dreaded First Draft, than being immersed in a huge work, where I can wake up every morning, write, take long walks, and do something every day that feels creative and meaningful. Even with that sneaking, underlying suspicion that spending hours and hours each day hallucinating is not really a sane occupation for a grownup.
Then what? Obviously, the people of the north had to go down and liberate the Southlands. It seemed only fair to L.A., the place where I actually grew up, not to leave it in the throes of dystopian neo-fascism forever.
But how? Especially now that Bird, one of the three core characters in Fifth, had gone through such a struggle to commit himself to nonviolence. But it’s one thing to employ non-co-operation with an invader, quite another to go and invade.
“Build a refuge in the heartland of the enemy.” That was the message from the dream, and that became the thread that holds the new book together. How do we build a new world, when people are so broken by the old? New characters joined the old ones, and the tale began to unfold…
Of course, what separates the writer from the garden-variety mental patient is first, the act of writing—which is hella more work than merely hallucinating, and secondly, the hope that other people will eventually read what you’ve written and respond to it. But not for a while. Not until you’ve had time to revise and edit and rewrite and perfect it. Then, maybe, somebody might even publish it, and give you money for it.
That was not an unreasonable hope, given that I’d already had twelve books published. But in those twenty years, publishing itself has radically changed. The editors I’d worked with at major publishers left for new jobs or went freelance or back to graduate school. The companies got bought and sold and merged and remerged and corporatized so that they no longer were even the same entities I’d originally dealt with. Bantam, which published Fifth and Mercury, had nobody left who had any connection with my books, or indeed, seemed to have any awareness that they even existed, except for some automated program that continued to send me occasional slim royalty checks. They did put the books out as Ebooks, but any further attempts to get them to engage led nowhere. Most of the time, we didn’t even receive answers to our letters. It took my agent hours of research time to even figure out who, in the Bantam empire, (now the Bertlesman/Penguin/megamedia empire) would be the appropriate person to whom to send the new book.
But we sent the manuscript off in late October of 2014, and Bantam did what publishers do best—nothing. We heard nothing whatsoever, for weeks, which dragged into months. In January, my agent began sending polite emails and calls, which were not returned or even acknowledged. This was a bad sign, but not unusual, we were told, for publishers these days, where the hectic demands of doing whatever mysterious things editors do these days (setting up lunches with people More Important than You? Attending glamorous parties, dressed in chic black clothing? Closing mega-million dollar deals? They don’t actually do a lot of editing, I can tell you that!) supersede any need for common professional politeness.
Finally, in February, when I was teaching down in Belize, my agent got a curt email back. Bantam had decided to pass on the book, on the grounds that they thought there was too much time since the original book came out, and there wouldn’t be an audience for it. Also, adding snottiness to rudeness, they thought the book “didn’t reflect contemporary sensibilities.” ???
I was upset, but consoled myself with the thought that the snarky editor was shivering in some snowbound, icy New York loft in her tight, chic black clothing and slipping on the ice in her Manolo Blahniks whereas I was swimming in a pristine tropical river and sipping fresh coconut milk from nuts dropping from the trees.
That tropical river!
Nonetheless, I was mad. Yes, there is an audience for the book! I know that, and five minutes of research on the internet (I had provided them the links!) would have shown them that, too. Maybe not Stephen King’s audience, but I believe there are a significant number of people who would like to read the book. And I intend to get it to you all!
And so begins Starhawk’s Big Self-Publishing Adventure!
Follow the adventure on Facebook: City of Refuge!