Publishing a Novel: The Brothers Path

Could be Me!!!! Blue VW Colfax, 1970s
Publishing The Brothers Path is one of the biggest things that has happened to me in my life — maybe the biggest. In many ways, I’ve worked toward this since I was a kid.
Lots of people said it would never happen and told me there was no point writing anything. But, even at the time, I thought they were talking about themselves, not me. I always felt that someday a story would arrive and in the meantime I should write and write and write so I’d be ready. That’s what I did.
 —
On the gift tag to the last present my dad ever gave me for Christmas, the last Christmas before he died in 1972, he scrawled with his spastic MS hand-writing “Keep writing, MAK.” Above the table in the room where I sometimes work, there’s a letter from a former lover, an important lover, maybe THE important lover, now dead. The letter says, “Keep writing. Love, Peter.”
 —
The key is just that; to keep doing it.
I wrote my disappointments into my novels. For example, there’s a section in Martin of Gfenn when Martin is discouraged, heart-broken, that because of his leprosy he could not marry a girl he’d found and loved. At the same time, he is having a hard time believing in his abilities, and he fears the leprosy will take over before he has a chance to paint anything. (“When I have fears…”) He sobs himself to sleep surrounded by his sketches and awakens the next day with the ability to see what he HAD done and knowing what he WILL do. He is a stronger man and artist after that; he knows who he is.
 —
That was from my life. I’d gone out with some women from work (this was back in 1979 or so) who all had boyfriends. We went to a very nice bar, and the boyfriends came to hang out. We had a good time, though, of course, one of the women asked why I wasn’t dating anyone. One of the couples drove me home. I walked into my apartment in Capital Hill in Denver all alone on a Friday night, opened my mailbox and there were three manila envelopes containing rejected stories and a rejection note. I glumly (and slightly drunk) took them into my apartment where all my paintings were, too. I cried and felt sorry for myself, giving up “luv” in order to write and paint. I went to sleep in the midst of my paintings and the manila envelopes, and when I woke up the next morning, I didn’t think it was such a bad bargain.
 —
Over the years, I also learned the difference between deciding to DO something and BEING something. I didn’t understand that back when all the naysayers were saying “nay.” If you ARE something you’ll BE that even when things aren’t going your way like you’re dyslexic or you work full time or no one believes in you. If you ARE something you learn to ask for help when you need it, and you don’t even have to make the thing you’re doing — writing in my case — a priority. It is what you are. There’s no “making time” for it or “developing a writing habit.” I think we’re all like this, but for most people it isn’t writing. It’s their family, church, animals — whatever drives their joy.
 —
Because regardless of the outcome of my numerous submissions and rejections (almost 1 to 1), I love to write. I enjoy it. The cost — hours and hours of solitude — is not too high for me. I learned that you just can’t write a good story surrounded by a bunch of your friends.
 —
Still, getting someone to publish your book is a crap shoot. It helps to write a good query letter and have a very well edited manuscript, but those are not guarantees. It depends on the market and the person in his/her room alone writing a novel might not be anywhere NEAR the market and, for that matter, though people can make good guesses, the market of the future is unknown to everyone.
Bygone Era Books, who is publishing The Brothers Path, is a very small independent publisher, but I like the fact that they are in Denver. That’s the city where I began this journey in a navy blue VW Bug just like this, in fact, in this photo which is Denver in 1979, the intersection of Colfax and Havana, the driver might be me. There were not that many navy blue 1970 VW Bugs with white upholstery or drivers so short they had to sit that close to the steering wheel.
 —
The book being published, of course, doesn’t mean anyone will buy it, but wouldn’t it be great if they did?

Good Gnus!

Jenny and My Wall Display copy

My novel, The Brothers Path (yes, the publisher has now understood just what that title means and has decided to go with it — YAY!!!!!) will be available for pre-sale February 15 from Bygone Era Books at a $7 discount. It will be available also as an ebook for Kindle and Nook for $5.95.

I have NO idea what happens next. Back in terra incognita… Home, in other words.

Sorry for being AWOL and self-absorbed, but I’ve been helping some other people edit and upload their book onto Create Space and I’m in the throes of helping another person edit her dissertation which is due in three weeks. And, you know, the Daily Prompt has (for now) lost its thrill.

I’m also back as a member of the Valley Art Co-op in Monte Vista and this month I’m one of two featured artists — you can see some of my paintings up there on the wall with the work of my colleague, Jenny Noonan. Jenny does work that’s very different from mine and I think we complement each other well on this wall.

This is kind of a deal since it also means bringing refreshments and holding a reception this coming Saturday and since I am now about as domestic as a livestock guarding dog who’s always been with the sheep and never in the house, I’m stressing it. Any recipes for VERY easy and delicious snacks and sweets will be very gratefully welcomed.

Daily Prompt Say Your Name Write about your first name: Are you named after someone or something? Are there any stories or associations attached to it? If you had the choice, would you rename yourself?

Oh and as for this — I’m happy to answer it. I’m named for my Aunt Martha who was my mom’s sister, older by 11 months. She was also my best friend and my hero and I miss her every single day.  Her full name was Martha Liberty Beall (pronounced Bell) because she was born on Washington’s Birthday. Back in the day she always joked that because she worked for the government, she never had to work on her birthday. I think around the time she retired, they conflated Washington and Lincoln into an anonymous “President’s Day.” I wrote about her before, somewhere here, I think.

 

 

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

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Bird is the word…

Running up that Hill with Dogs

One of my favorite hikes was virtually straight up the west face of North Fortuna at Mission Trails. I hiked it whenever I could. The problem was that it was not a very dog-friendly hike and the trail was not a real trail, but a tiny animal passage way, twelve inches wide at the most. Only a serious uphill dog would enjoy it. I took a friend up it once and he said, “What are you doing? Trying to prove how tough you are?”

Fortuna

That wasn’t it at all. I just enjoyed it. At the top of the hike, were some boulders where it was nice to sit, drink water, say “Good dog!” and eat an apple or a granola bar.

It was a hike I often chose when I was upset about work, upset about money, upset about my brother, upset about one of the universally hopeless love stories…

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Ish-ah

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Wild hiking pals…

Running up that Hill with Dogs

A friend, co-worker, from school was hiking with Molly and me going down a barren rocky slope in the chaparral. My friend, who was behind me, hissed, and I turned to see him point to his left. My eyes turned and Molly turned her head in the direction my friend had pointed.

It was the first of many times I shared a hill with a coyote.

I understand that coyotes can be dangerous. They are known to attack, kill and eat  domestic dogs and cats. My friend Melanie nearly lost one of her dogs to a coyote, Shelby, one of two rat terriers who were also Lupo’s best friends and hiking pals. Shelby was fine after her ordeal, but Melanie was traumatized. Though coyotes rarely attack people, people exacerbate the coyote danger by feeding them, enticing them to come close, or leaving their trash on the borderlands between their and…

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1000 Words/Weekly Challenge

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A couple of years ago there was a thing called the Weekly Prompt and it was always a challenge and I got good stories from it — I think this is where Dude and Lamont reconnected after who knows how many hundreds or thousands of years!

I'm a Writer, Yes I Am

“It’ll have to show up sooner or later. The way the tides work? There’s no way it won’t. She said she put it in the water at Santa Margarita. I’ll wait. I’ll prove my faith and love by squatting here on the shore until it arrives. I know it’ll be great, everything, everything I ever wanted. It’s like her to do this instead of just picking up the phone or writing a letter. Ok, so, where is it? She’s right, you know? Patience is a virtue I really do not have. This will help me cultivate it. I’ll wait and hope it doesn’t rain, but it’s still fucking cold, damn, why didn’t I bring a wet suit or something? At least wear clothes. OH WELL. OK, so I can see it from up here, but what if I can’t get down there in time to pick it up? What if…

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Earth’s Spine

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A little story of trees. Tall, old trees.

Running up that Hill with Dogs

The two main types of trees in the Laguna Mountains are oak and pine. I came to know the oak trees most intimately through my wood-stove where I burned something we all called White Oak, the hardest, hottest and longest burning, and California Black Oak which was a beautiful red inside. The long drought in Southern California had made life good for the bark beetle. They had been fruitful and multiplied all through the oak forests, a process I witnessed close hand as even the big oaks in my own yard gave up and died. The proscription against moving diseased wood out of the ecosystem meant this beetle-killed wood was often what we burned.

The other tree was the Jeffrey Pine, a beautiful being who can grow to be hundreds of feet and can live for several centuries. Similar — and related — to the Ponderosa Pine, its needles are…

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Men?

1

I don’t deal with many men these days. I have no husband, brother, dad, son. When I left teaching I also left behind the good ol’ boys who had power over my life and the young’uns that were my students. There are a couple of men in the co-op but otherwise it’s just pretty much Dusty T. Dog, my friend’s husband and sons and a friend or two in another town. That’s fine with me. Sorry, fellas, but you’re an inscrutable breed and I’m happy to give you a wide berth at this point in my life. I’m sure it’s mutual.

I’ve never considered myself a “man hater.” Things just never worked out well between me and men, not in the love department and not in the professional world. I never understood why until my ultimate and most recent lover explained it to me. I don’t want to share that explanation so suffice it that it made sense; I had seen it play out over and over. I am seriously very grateful to, uh, we’ll call him Rocky T. Mulhawk for that.

But…

A month or so ago I went to City Council and proposed an amendment to the city ordinance for dogs. The goal was to make it illegal to tether dogs inhumanely. I began my talk with the statement, “I’m not trying to make tethering dogs illegal. This is a proposal to establish boundaries for humane tethering.”

The proposal — which the city officials and the city council had had for a month before THAT — said in the very beginning, “This proposed amendment does not seek to make tethering dogs illegal. I understand that there are dogs who have to be tethered for their own safety…”

Last week there was an article in the local paper about my presentation at the City Council and the article began with, “…Kennedy does not seek to make tethering dogs illegal.”

That point was clearly made. And definitively.

So, nothing happened. I gave it three weeks, then, finally, sensing that I’d been “shined on” by the “powers” I contacted my city council member and made noise on Facebook.

It is the modern world after all.

The council member (who’s a great guy) pushed the city manager who arranged a meeting between me, the city attorney and the police chief. That happened yesterday. The meeting began with the City Manager saying, “I understand you want to make dog tethering illegal.”

I was furious, but self-contained.

So here were three old white guys (and, until yesterday, I DIDN’T share that “old white guy” thing, but now I’m considering there might be something to it) making sure I KNEW they had not read what I’d written and had not listened to me. The unspoken message was, “We’re only here because the city council member forced this. Your little proposal is completely irrelevant to us and our serious business as The Powers, and, frankly, we’re annoyed we’ve been compelled even to deal with this.”

Knowing that I was there to win, that anger wouldn’t help me, and that I’d written something I COULD win, I just said, “No, not at all. Making tethering illegal is not practical and it would be unfair. I just want to see something done to establish what constitutes human tethering. I have two goals — first to educate the public and second to give law enforcement a toe-hold to cite someone who’s tethering their dog inhumanely.” I’d already read the code for my city; I knew it said a lot about animal abuse, but I believed it needed to provide for a situation in which an owner wasn’t intentionally abusing their dog by tying it out, but the result was that the dog suffered.

What had I written? I wrote a very detailed proposed amendment to the City Code that was 90% negotiable points. I knew what the powers would do with it, and they did exactly what I expected. I did my best to be cooperative, open-minded and friendly through the whole ordeal. The discussion went as I expected and the page and a half is now about 10 lines. They pushed it to the city council meeting in two weeks (there’s one tomorrow) because of the time it would take to write those few lines. Two weeks of cold and snow in which some dogs are now living chained to trees.

When this was over no one said, “We’re all done, Martha. Thanks.” No one stood up when I left or even said good-bye. I felt absolutely disrespected and, yeah, negated.

Confusing all of this is that it was clear to me that all three of them are nice guys and that, somehow, I made them feel awkward. I can imagine that in a different situation we would have seen each other differently. I wouldn’t have had my hackles provoked immediately or felt minimized. As the meeting wore on, I think I made my point and the police chief had good ideas about educating the public and the city attorney told about his dog and how much he loved him and the city manager kept the meeting on track. But the first few minutes had set the tone and it was almost impossible to turn that around.

I don’t want to generalize, but it’s very hard not to. I just wonder what the deal is? This is a battle I’ve fought all my life. I heard from my Aunt Martha about how hard it is to “make it in a man’s world.” I had a former colleague say, “You wouldn’t like Japan. It’s a man’s world.” I’ve heard men complain about women and their “game playing” but if that wasn’t game playing yesterday what was it?

As for the outcome of my small effort to change a minor bit of city code in a TINY city. I have never tried to do anything like this in my life, single-handedly, anyway. I had a big effect on establishing a large urban wilderness park in San Diego, but that had, by the time I joined in, a powerful infrastructure behind it. This is just a tiny law that needs — should not need — an army. I will not know until it actually DOES appear on the city council agenda and the city council votes on it.

Meanwhile I have to see, again, that it really doesn’t make any difference what I say; people will hear, read, only what they expect.

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Martha Kennedy

Interview about Martin of Gfenn! :)

Layered Pages

Martha Kennedy

Martha Kennedy was born in Denver, Colorado. She attended Colorado Women’s College and the University of Colorado, Boulder where she earned a BA in English. She then went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Denver, also in English. At the time, her main focus of interest was Godey’s Lady’s Book and her thesis looks at the first few years of the editorship of Sarah Josepha Hale and the role of the magazine in promoting work by American writers. For thirty years, Kennedy lived in the San Diego area and taught writing at the university and community college level. She has recently returned to Colorado and now lives in Monte Vista, a small town in the beautiful San Luis Valley.

In 1997, Kennedy made her second trip to Switzerland. She’d become intrigued by medieval history after reading two books — How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas…

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Spiritu Sanctu

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Redemption

Running up that Hill with Dogs

“Do you know what we call that in Italian?” asked Francesco.

The field in which we were standing, one of the few places in San Diego County that was still native grasses, native plants, never cultivated, had burned the year before. Burning was part of its life cycle, and I’d been able to watch the blackened earth send up bright pink owl clover that spring.

Francesco was my student at the international school where I taught English as a Second Language. He was in my advanced level reading and literature class. He was not a kid, but still ten years younger than I was. The first day of class he had asked me if I knew where to hike in the area and where to find the places where the native people had lived.

I wondered how he had known to ask me that. Later I learned that his sister…

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Morning

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Tails of Bob…

Running up that Hill with Dogs

Everyone knows that the best time to see animals is in the early morning or at dusk. As most of my hiking life overlapped the years of my teaching life, and I usually taught early morning classes, my only chance was dusk. But there was one semester when my first class was at one pm. If I were going to hike at all that semester, I had to get out early. I adapted to this, and got up and out so I could get back and shower in time to drive down the mountain to the university for class. I didn’t have a lot of time during those morning hikes — an hour more or less on the trail.

My first morning hike that winter led me to a very different world than I’d known in my late afternoon ramblings. Freezing temperatures and ocean fog had left pale frost on…

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