Tag Archives: Writing

Writer’s To-Do – update for 4/20/15

So it’s my partner’s and my 11th anniversary. Let’s take bets on who remembers what.

The writer’s to do did get put aside for a bit – I had some difficult things happening in my personal life, and that sinus infection? It found a way to stretch for 40 days. This wasn’t the simple sniffles of just-past-allergies cold either. This was round #3 with existential crisis inducing illness. It finally succeeded in being there for an existential crisis.  I’ve got to add St. Johnswort to my round of meds every time I get sick from now on. The things that got destroyed needed destroying, but it seems more like a targeted unfair than it does the usual unfairness of a random universe.

Priorities:

  • I am reframing and postponing my Artist’s Way Class in hope of getting more students. I had one show up for my first session, and that won’t work out with that particular person. I also know more about parking and traffic that time of day, so that may help.
  • The Pagan Consent Culture piece – it has been accepted but requires edits, most of which are research based. So while I want to add in material, I have to add in sourcing so that takes 2-3 times longer than just typing in a few changes.
  • The proofing copy of my Samhain book has landed – and that is due at the end of May.
  • I need to make a full length chapter for a proposal for the urban Wicca book. It’s been a slog.
  • That’s four.

Backburnered:

  • Blog essays I still have waiting in draft.
  • The Pagan Children’s poetry anthology.

I have been asked if I am going to return to blogging my personal life. I don’t know. I’m just out of the habit, I guess. I’ve noticed that anything less than fawning worship of San Francisco will get me verbally attacked in multiple fora. Given that I’m in a rather delicate position, I’d rather not invite the undeserved trouble that often comes from observation and honesty about my feelings.

We Have a Date!!!

Divorcing a Real Witch Book Cover 1st edition ... probably only, but whatever.This book hits print on May 30, 2014.

Please drop me a note if you are a podcaster, magazine editor, book reviewer or other person in need of content – I am happy to send you a pdf for review or to do any type of guest spot, whether written or somehow involving my face.

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The Irritation of 21st Century Paganism

Previously titled: On not Being a Big Name Pagan

This is still one of the most irritating aspects of 21st century Paganism:

“Hi! I’m doing this project. You can find more information on it here!”

“Puff. Puff. Well I’VE never heard of you! Therefore everything you say/do is suspect because Pagan Pagan Paranoia Paranoia ALWAY UNDER ATTACK!!!”

Usually a “Google me, idiot,” goes unheard beneath the panting, roaring and posturing. I mean, c’mon. There’s only two other people in the country with my exact name and I am pretty sure my writing in the 90s has forced them both to take on user handles.

It is actually a recall to a behavior I started encountering in my school growing up. The town at the time had about 16,000 people – not big, but too big to be considered a village. So at my junior high there were roughly 600-800 kids there at any given time; the high school had around 1600, give/take based on the dropout rate that year.

This all happened before the Gen Y Baby Boom, so it was the last time this town saw numbers that small in its schools.

Every so often, I would be on a church trip (I was raised Christian and active in a liberal church.) One of the guys that was part of this seemed to have a new girlfriend with him at every new church event. Every single time, she asked “Well, why haven’t I seen you around before?”

I do think after awhile this church guy was just telling his girlfriends to ask me this because it is such an irritating question. Aside from the “prove a negative” aspect – a question borne of pure narcissism designed so that no matter what you say you cannot satisfy the querent – simple math answered the question pretty damn well.

In any place with more than 200 individuals it is very, very likely you will not know or see every single person.

Hell, there were kids I had never seen before on the day I graduated – and my class of 340 should have made those kids visible to me at some point…until I realized that 340 x 4 different classes really lessened my odds of knowing every.single.person in my school.

This was in a small town.

Paganism is small, yes, when compared to the sheer towering size of other better-known religious groupings. But as a population in and of itself – a lot of people keep acting like it’s a group of around 200 people. It’s probably, globally, taking account all current living Pagan religions, closer to 300,000. This is based on a wild, wild guess and the knowledge that there are people who claim some type of Paganism as their religious belief on every continent. There are a lot of people who are in the closet or who just don’t participate in online or community life to consider. It’s also important to recognize that non-participation is their right, but that’s another issue.

In my own case, it’s led to some ridiculous behaviors. When I approached one Facebook group about participating in the docmentary for my book Divorcing a Real Witch, they demanded to know if I was initiated or not. That’s the second time some self-appointed watch dog did this. Not only was it absurd and insulting – initiation is specific to traditions and I did not walk in making any claims whatsoever about my trad or initiatory background – there was actually a very easy, legitimate way to vet my authenticity. Well, two.

1. Google me – I have an online presence that goes back to 96, though I did disappear from the Pagan web a bit between 2002-2010 because of divorce/developing a chronic illness. I was, however, still on the web.

2. My book is not self-published. I had provided my publisher name. You could check my background by contacting said publisher and asking if I am for real.

3. I have public affiliations with the PNC – so you could, say, go to one of the other editors to determine  a)am I really Pagan and b)whether I would misuse any information provided.

This can still lead to the following “prove a negative” issue: “Well, we’re still small enough that we should of heard of you as an author…”

Well, no.

1)Not all Pagan authors write books. For years I have been a short article person. The reasons for this are many.

2) Not all Pagan authors keep blogs. This is more the case in the older set than the younger thanks to conditions of the publishing world.

3)There are more than 1000 Pagan authors. This was the case even before self-publishing became easy. There may be a few eidetics who can rattle them all off but, for all our collective ambitions, most of us are mortals that would injure ourselves in such a process. (Mark Twain reference.)

4)Self-publishing was a big thing among Pagan authors for two reasons: 1)at least in the UK, writing about witchcraft as nonfiction was illegal until about 1950 and 2)publishers did not see Pagan and witchcraft writing as a profitable sector until the 1990s. Publishers Weekly documented the rise pretty well.

I am also not typically in a good financial position to go to festivals and conferences. Yes, I know people that will cheerfully plan their whole lives around festivals etc. It does look like fun – but right now I want to make sure that I am not, later in life, one of those elders who has to send out social media pleadings for financial assistance/medical assistance. So I watch and write from afar.

 

 

 

 

 

Frightening things I find in my files

It’s looking like the magic-focused Mercury Retrograde series will have to happen next Mercury Retrograde. While I’m a perspiration over inspiration person, the digital clutter went and got to me. I’m now opening and examining files of abandoned stories, etc. and putting them in easy-to-find places and yes, there’s even a spreadsheet involved.

Some things, like this one, however – probably not something that merits additional work:
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. The dog raised an ear, went “eh,” and decided to leave it to the mighty hunter human-pack. Too bad those stuck-up apes walked on two legs. Never trust an animal too proud to lick its own balls. Besides, what’s a butt sniff between friends? You learn a lot when you get the poo on someone.

What Divorcing a Real Witch is really about

It's most confrontational to me. #pagan #divorce #amwriting #relationships
The title suggests to the stereotype bound that it’s a Darrin versus Samantha story. In a way it is – my ex did actually discourage me from practicing magic. But as a few that have previewed it already can already tell, it’s really about something often glossed over in gossip rags and even some self-help books:

Divorcing a Real Witch is about self-care.

Self-care sounds like a gentle, simple concept – but is actually pretty radical. It invests in the belief that we become better human beings when we invest in ourselves and address our emotional lives. It also  upends gendered assumptions about who does what in terms of care taking.  Men do not need a womanly breast to soothe their souls and heal their egos. Women do not need to prove a goddamn thing about their characters to strangers in which no transaction has manifested- not even to other women. No adult ever has any obligation to making mommy or daddy proud. If  as fucked up as my own parents, you owe it to yourself to forget them.

Women and men are both bullied out of learning positive self-care skills. These days, “evolutionary biology” is the excuse for interfering with these skills. Ultimately both genders have a capacity to reason that exceeds phantom  impulses assigned their genitals to excuse bad behavior. They can – but few roadmaps remain of how.

There are people who just want something to be different this time. They are in the right head space to understand the nuances of looking to the self to effect outer change.

Divorcing a Real Witch is for them.

Gay marriage, gay divorce

Wedding-chantelois-gomez
Wedding-chantelois-gomez (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are two admonishments that have accompanied the creation of Divorcing a Real Witch:

1)Don’t forget the children

2)Don’t forget same sex couples.

Same sex marriages can also end in divorce. Straight or gay, we have the same somatic cues built into us, have the same ability to love or hurt our partners and have the same issues going in and out of marriages.

The added complication to this is that while more states legalize same sex marriage, those same states are not legalizing same sex divorce.

As gay marriage becomes increasingly legalized, I do think what will happen is this: 50% of the marriages will fail.

Why?

Because 50% of all marriages fail – and marital failure does not always mean divorce.  This marital failure rate is used by some parties as an excuse to harken back to “good old days” that were really quite dreadful. This failure rate continued even in places like Alabama that attempted to make divorce illegal. Along with hideous messes involving inheritance, bastards, and mistresses, the murder rates skyrocketed. Once Alabama allowed divorce again, its overall mortality rate improved.

Divorce, whether for couples gay or straight, is a necessary safety valve on society.

I would hate to see someone exploiting the circumstances created by denying same sex couples the right to divorce to “demonstrate” through false circumstances that same sex relationships are more violent than heterosexual relationships. The statistics – including the probability of violence and the factors that contribute to violent behavior – remain the same. Sexual orientation does not factor into that.

So as we draft these laws allowing full human rights, let’s be thorough. Remember the children. Remember the gays, and their right to marry and divorce. Remember what’s needed to keep mortality rates low.

 

 

 

A sobering look at best-selling Pagan titles

the Monkey on My Back
the Monkey on My Back (Photo credit: magickalrealism)
Cover of "Living Wicca: A Further Guide f...
Cover via Amazon

An article on Scott Cunningham’s dynamic-changing book Living Wicca pointed out that, as a best-selling title on the subject, it sold 400,000 copies.

For the Pagan genre, that’s huge. For a lot of books in any genre, that’s huge. But it comes nowhere near best-seller category. While there’s no consistent number for what makes a bestseller – you just need to outsell the other guys – 400K over the lifetime of a book in print is smallish. Being a “mid-list” author – someone with middling/mediocre sales takes selling 5,000 books and that may change even more now that self-publishing is not a bank-breaking endeavor. We don’t need to go over how little authors make back from those sales – copy editors, ISBN assigners, cover designers, etc. all require feeding and visits to the vet, so of course, a good chunk of money rightfully does go back to the publisher.

These books also came out before the noise-to-message ratio rose exponentially. The same story mentioned Starhawk’s Spiral Dance, considered a seminal (pardon the word choice) book on feminist spirituality in the 1970s came in behind it at 350,000. Out of curiosity, I also looked up the much-reviled To Ride a Silver Broomstick by Silver Ravenwolf because I had heard it was considered a knockout bestseller. The book has sold 300,000 copies to date.

I’m not sure if that’s sobering or relieving. I’m well aware that marketing my book Divorcing a Real Witch is going to take some hump-busting. I’m also obligated to consider the following factors in the sales of the above books:

  1. This doesn’t take total distribution into account. By that, I am referring to piracy, legitimate book lending, and the circulation of used books.
  2. These books have all sold internationally. The above includes standard purchases in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia without taking into account the languages these books have been translated into.  Given that the US has 330 million people, which seems huge until you realize our geographic distribution creates millions of small towns that are often culturally invasive when it comes to religion and religious questioning (or absolutely anything else that might make those in power think they themselves aren’t normal) and that people in Australia still have to fight tooth and nail to get anything on Pagan subjects they don’t make themselves, that’s still a pretty small number to chop off for those who can’t safely get access to the book.
  3. All of these were published at a time when publishing conditions were completely different than they are now.

Still, the above are arguably the three worldwide best-sellers on the subject. Compared to the Harry Potter series (chosen because of its popularity among the Pagan set AND because it started publication in 1997, close to Ravenwolf’s 1995 book) these are … tiny. The Potter series sold 450 million, and still counting. Now, the specialization of the information combined with marketing practices – most books, even formally published books are now marketed solely by their authors – will dilute the odds further. And I’m not writing a Living Wicca. But just looking at those numbers tells me that whatever I’m doing, it’s really going to be an eye-opener about how much publishing has changed since I sold my first article to Llewellyn in 1999.

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What is selling out as a writer?

daria cookies
daria cookies (Photo credit: Rakka)

In the fantasy of writing, you write your stuff, and your stuff alone. Editors pursue you for your naked talent. Readers thrill to the cult of your personality. You make art, for art’s sake – and that’s all you do. You have standards, principles, high-falutin’ ideals. Ghosting? Never. Marketing copy? Perish the thought! Your own marketing – what phantasms are these?

You are so twentieth century midlist.

This is the 21st century. We have Ipads now.

There’s nothing wrong with making art for art’s sake, and between the Internet and the easy availability of low-cost self-publishing, there’s a lot more of exactly that now. Publication no longer equates with success. Self-publication no longer equates with failure. Self-publishing is no longer a vanity enterprise restricted to random kooks and people frustrated by too many rejection slips. It’s a real, it’s viable – and it actually opens up market niches once thought closed for good.

For those of us who write occult/Pagan stuff, we’re actually revisiting old stomping grounds on this. I’ve made a hobby of collecting the pamphlet books that dot metaphysical bookstores. Many are local, unique, created before the Internet and thus unpublishable in a traditional venue. I have no idea how they get made or get sold in bookstores. Now, the production of even these books is legitimized. Eventually, grudgingly, occult shop owners will update their education to reflect the new market reality and the plethora of choices available to them once they get past their frustration that the world up and changed again.

All the old hallmarks of a writer selling out no longer apply.

So what then defines a sellout?

Honestly, I think the only true “sell out” of someone who just wants to write for a living is resorting to plagiarism. That’s just low. I find ghost writing a bit iffy, but not because of the ghost writer him/herself – I just think it’s tacky to hire someone to write a book for you. If you’re a semi-literate hack with the morals of a weasel and enough celebrity to merit a ghost-written book, just spare us the conceit of the ghost writer. It’s not like we don’t already know you’re a semi-literate hack with no shame. I’m not a big fan of text link ads but I don’t begrudge the bloggers that write them.

In the words of Daria Morgendorffer to Trent Lane, “A gig’s a gig.”

Selling out as a writer? Honestly, the people saying that are claiming a purity that working writers just don’t have time for – because most of us have day jobs.

Plagiarists and plagiarism

We need to look closer at who plagiarists are. It may help us more clearly understand what has been plagiarized and when.

The widespread pathology of plagiarism.

It’s not everywhere – it’s pretty much the same people doing it repeatedly. What’s disturbing is that people that get caught plagiarizing falling into one of two categories:

1)A student of some kind, taking a shortcut of some kind. Maybe not writing the paper, maybe just not sourcing it properly. Sometimes these students are not plagiarists at all, but they fall victim to the overstimulated self-importance of certain academics: for example, a professor once leveled an accusation at me that I had committed plagiarism because I dared use the word “parvenu” to describe the rise of Cicero within Roman society. Her basis was founded on nothing more than her personal belief that no state educated university student had the vocabulary or, for that matter, basic ability necessary to turn up the word.

2)A would-be writer who pathologically passes off others’ work as his or her own.

The confusion about bad documentation versus outright plagiarism

Material being free does not influence plagiarism either way. The people that do it likely prefer not to pay – but having to shell out for the goods doesn’t stop the compulsive ones anyway.

Still, there is some anti-plagiarist thought that has gone from hypervigilance into a misunderstanding of the nuances between plagiarized and documented.

A person quoting material is not plagiarizing – although that person may violate copyright, if too much material is quoted without permission.

Plagiarism is actually two criminal acts: a)fraud, passing someone else’s work off as your own and b)copyright violation, distributing work you do not have the right to distribute. Both aspects need to be there for something to be plagiarized.

A librarian is a far better resource on whether or not something constitutes plagiarism than is the average teacher or professor. Having direct experience with teachers from birth forward, I can tell you that there are a lot of things that we believe to be fact that are simply matters of opinion and teachers fall prey to this thought inversion all too often.

 

Fears about Divorcing a Real Witch

Divorce versus Democracy
Divorce versus Democracy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Support for this book has been phenomenal. Even if I fall flat on my face in the market I’ll do it knowing that Divorcing a Real Witch went out into the world with friends behind it, wishing both the book and me the best. Some of the support has come in hilarious ways and some has merited food for thought.

When I mention that I have some fear about this book coming out, most men jump to the conclusion that I fear my ex-husband. One pub-buddy asked if I was worried and then actually used the words “I know a guy.” Few words in American English can be both sweet and terrifying. I felt loved, if concerned about that guy.

Women worry more about the knee-jerk reactions divorce gets. A woman that writes about divorce is a projection target and I have spent a good portion of my life as a human projection screen. Any psychological bugaboo or shame gets cast right on me. Part of this is coming from an NPD patterned family. Part of it is just me – I’m a large woman with a voice that carries. I’m confrontational even when I’m not confronting. A fellow writer suggested that instead of open book signings I stick to teaching private workshops. It’s not a terrible idea – the contacts I’ve gotten from men about this book already have, for the most part, bordered on the threatening. Only one has left me assured that he just needed to feel supported rather than feel like his privilege was restored.

While I am a little bit worried about that second part – the crazy guy with a vendetta projecting his divorce issues on me – I’m explicitly not worried about my ex-husband. He’s just damaged and manipulative – and way too aware of consequences to do anything that drastic. With any luck he’s found a woman more suited to his wounds. The second worries me a little bit, but I think closed workshops and hopefully more people reading the book will help me out there.

My fear concerning the book is existential. Even if it fails, this will change my life. While I have a public life right now – I spend a good chunk of time on social media – this will give me a public profile. As I’ve stated before, the way the Pagan community sees authors is a bit weird and often more in line with publishing between 1955-1980 than with what actually happens since 2003.  I’ve practiced solitary since 2005 and been much, much happier for it. Even so, I do work with the community in non-direct ways but often just enough that I’m recognized by those who will actually do the work but float under the radar of those who talk a lot and demand even more but do little.

Then there’s just the good old-fashioned fear of failure. What if it sells less than 1000 copies so I never see a dime? That’s life, sure, but that would be a total bummer.

So there’s my fear – the esoteric, rather than the exoteric.