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Before Reality Tips One Way or Another

Hello friends,

As the temperature drops and the sun sets, blazing on the hill outside my living room, an anachronistic autumn leaf flutters against my window. Desperate wings tap against the glass like a lost bird, and I’m caught off guard: Is it okay? Can I help? I think before it’s swept away by the frost-bitten wind. When I realize what it was, just a wayward leaf, I relax again and watch the sun creep up the hill. The fire in the fireplace mimics its colors. I hear the wind searching the top of my chimney, icy fingers curling into every crevice, wondering how to get in. But just before the sun loses potency, I’m reminded how filaments of time have a fragile tensile strength. One moment flame-orange burnishes the hill, the next, dusky evening sweeps deep purple into the shadows. During these moments, before reality tips one way or the other, demons can slip in, poison our thoughts and judgements, make us believe things that might not be true.

I’ve been in a holding pattern. I haven’t wanted to talk about it, but it’s my reality just now, so I may as well. Plus, it helps alleviate the anxiety of waiting. Two weeks ago I was contacted by a writer/editor interested in a short story I submitted to his magazine. Since then we have exchanged a few emails about edits and rewrites, but he hasn’t yet offered to buy the story. (I expected this: my ability to shape the story to a certain vision will determine whether or not he buys it.) This is the closest I’ve come to having someone with major juice notice my work. (He won a Pushcart Prize. Call me starstruck!)

I’ve been published in a handful of little magazines, and when I say handful, I mean exactly four, and one was a reprint (meaning I published one story twice). Publication in this particular magazine would be major for me, but the reason I’m writing about this is it really doesn’t matter. I mean, yes, it matters because I would love this to work out, but if it doesn’t, what then?

There are a few reasons why this matters and doesn’t matter at the same time. Here is how I see it:

1. It matters because I will always have in my pocket the fact that someone with impressive publication credits noticed my writing. He actually used the term “well-written” not once, but several times. I’ll treasure these letters for the rest of my life.

2. It matters because it is a sign from the Universe (or plug in your favorite deity here) that, even if this doesn’t work out, I should keep writing. Someone who knows a bit about stories liked my work enough to contact me. I will be forever honored.

3. It doesn’t matter because what will be different if I publish in this magazine? Yes, maybe someone else will be interested, like an agent or another publisher (or maybe not), but I will still have to write every day. I will still have to read and teach myself how to craft good stories. Publication is wonderful, but in the wider view, it means very little—it’s over in an instant. When I published in those literary magazines, I was over the moon with pride, of course, and will continue to be when and if I publish again. But after a week of celebration, I was back to work, struggling to craft something meaningful.

The life of a writer is full of hard work and waiting, punctuated, hopefully, by moments of euphoria. Often, though, it mirrors everyday life, with periods of satisfaction, fun and peace. Major writers experience the glamour and glitz of celebrity fame, but most writers toil away, day after day, jacked up on coffee or in my case, copious amounts of black tea. It’s not easy. I even quit for a number of years, thinking, there’s no way I can accomplish any of this! But when I finally resumed, I realized how foolish that was. It’s the every day work, the process of becoming, the reaching that matters.

So, for now, I’m in this liminal place, between a yes and a no. Between one reality and another. In this place, I can be anyone. And though my demons are swarming and dark thoughts antagonize me every minute, I cling to the light. I think of what could be: a writer on a stage reading a story from a respected magazine in a darkened bar in New York City. She’s wearing a jaunty jacket and bellbottom jeans…

Maybe I’ll be her someday. Until then, it’s back to the keyboard.

Until next time, keep working and dreaming!


P.S. - I would love to tell you all the details, and if it works out, I will be able to. Unfortunately, if it doesn’t, I won’t be able to mention anything as certain communications are confidential. Believe me, I wish this was not the case, but it is, so I have to deal with it and move on. I sometimes hate rules.

Some Fun Links:

My friend John Marco is publishing a new book! If you love military fantasy, check out The Bloody Chorus, which will be available on February 8th. You can pre-order the ebook now for only .99 cents! I can’t wait to read this book as John’s imagination is first-rate, and his writing style is almost poetic.

Also, I just backed a kickstarter for Joanna Penn’s new book, Pilgrimage. Joanna Penn is a kick-ass self-publisher turned hybrid author who has been helping writers since 2008, and is now a multi-six-figure author entrepreneur. I cannot wait to read this new book of hers, which, as she describes it, is a passion project. If you want to check it out, do it soon, because I think the Kickstarter ends tomorrow. Enjoy!

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