Friday, August 31, 2007

First day of Revisions

I finally did sit down with my old novel and start revising. My first thought was, UK! This is horrible! Okay, I'm sure it's not horrible, but have you ever pulled out something you've written a few years ago and looked at it, keeping in mind what you know about writing now? Some of it is good, but there's quite a lot that needs work. ALOT of work. And my muse... she's enjoying this. She reads over my shoulder and giggles now and then.

"Go away, you're not helping," I say.

"I'm not here to help."

"Then what exactly are you doing?"

"Watching you try to create something good out of this crap."

I slam the lid of my lap-top closed and glare at her. "This was your idea, remember."

"I know. But when I suggested it I had no idea how bad your book actually is."

I lay my head on my computer. "Please go away. I don't need this. I really don't."

She flops onto my bed and starts picking at the edge of one of her finger-nails. "I mean, you told me you wrote a book so I assumed it was worth the effort, but what you've been working on is not what I'd call a book."

My face is still pressed against the plastic cover of my lap-top. "What is it then?"

"A futile whine for attention. I mean, what's the point? Why bother? Is it just a way for you to vent about the fact Paul died, or is this really ABOUT something?"

"It's about the power of friendship over death."

"Whatever that's supposed to mean."

I lift my head and look at her. "I know it needs work, but I think it's good stuff and with more polish I can really turn this into something beautiful. So please give me a little peace and quiet to do that, okay?"

She glances up at me as she bites her nail. "Sure, sure. Get back to work. I don't know why you're even arguing with me about it." She spits a piece of the nail she bit off. "Just pretend I'm not here, because I'm sure you know EXACTLY what you're doing."

I know what she wants. "What do you suggest I do?"

"Keep writing. Don't worry about me." She chews another nail.

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. "No really. I'd like to know what you think."

"Well, for one, make sure there are enough scenes to SHOW what's happening because no one wants to read your long, boring, exposition. In fact, you should mark each one, and then look for places where you can create even more." She sits up and leans toward me.

"Show don't tell. Basic. What else."

"Don't get snippy. You asked for my help."

"Sorry. Please continue." I open my lap-top to show her I'm interested.

She stands. "More sensory detail. Your writing often lacks that. Make sure the time and place are really vivid. Oh, and keep it focused on your relationship with Paul and less on what happened after his death. If it isn't directly related to the friendship, cut it."

My muse keeps rambling and I study the manuscript as she talks, showing her I appreciate her help. I do, it's just sometimes the WAY she helps is a bit rough. She's very good at pointing out what's awful, and barely mentions what works. Sometimes I really wish I had one of those nice muses; the kind who applaud and bring you chocolate every time you write a good sentence. Mine hits me with books when I write a poor sentence.

I'll keep working on this manuscript, and hopefully it will become something really good. All I can do is try. Maybe that's the secret to being a writer. No matter what your muse says, you just have to keep trying.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What is Marketing?

I hate to say this, but I now understand why a rejection letter might say "Your writing is lovely, but we don't think we can sell the book." Or why you may hear from your agent that the publisher's marketing department decided to "pass" on your book. Marketing department? What does the marketing department know about good writing? Have those people even read a book?

I am publishing Laura's book because I love it. The writing is excellent and the subject compelling, especially because she writes about children with such clarity and descriptive power, the fact they are blind becomes incidental. The blindness is a challenge and can be difficult, but it's not the only thing that matters to these children. They are vivid, powerful human beings. I don't feel sorry for them while reading this book, and that is a hard thing to accomplish. Laura is a great writer who understands her students.

But I am also publishing her book because I know it can sell. She has a huge contact list, is well respected in the community, and is comfortable talking to people about herself and her work. If I had the cash, I'd publish it regardless of whether or not I thought I could sell it. Since I don't have much money, and need to keep Medusa alive somehow, I need to earn back the money I spend on the project. I don't expect to get rich at this because I know being a publisher is a bad way to earn a retirement fund. I am a publisher because I love books and I want to help people who may not get a chance tell their story. If I don't think I can sell at least enough books to pay the printer, then I will pass on the project.

Marketing is looking at the project as a whole and figuring out before you invest much energy, time or money, if it is viable. Viability means - can the project support itself? This is different from Public Relations because PR is about spreading the word when the book is complete. Marketing is figuring out if you can afford to publish it at all.

So I cut my novel from the Medusa project list. I wrote a fiction book two years ago and have been desperately trying to get it published. I'm up to 70 rejection letters. Most have been very nice, but the nice ones say, "I like your writing, but I don't think this project can compete in the market." Can't sell it. I decided, screw it! I'll publish it myself. Then I began to question that logic. Is this project a good match for Medusa? Does it fit the mission of the press: "To tell the stories of people who have faced despair and used it to positively transform their lives?" No, my book doesn't. Not really. Does it have the ability to support itself? Doubt it. Then no matter how much I long to see my book in print, I have to let it go. Because the press is more important than my own desires.

Instead I am looking at another project of mine. The book about Paul. Does the book match our mission? Yes. Can it sustain itself? Perhaps. The run will be small, so I'll need to keep costs low. I feel it is important to tell this story, but it is actually Paul's story, not so much mine. His life and friendship profoundly effected mine and I want to share that journey with others. Then it is an important project for Medusa and the marketing department (Jane and I) need to examine all the parts of the project to determine costs, distribution and PR.

And that is what Marketing is.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Manuscript is Done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yesterday, I was jumping up and down and squealing like a 15 year old with front row tickets to a Green Day concert. My partner was doing the exact same thing on the other side of the country and we were texting each other madly, saying OMG over and over (I love technology. How else can you run a company with a partner who lives 2000 miles away?). My muse was giggling and I swear even the snakes were smiling. Why all the excitement? Because the final version of the manuscript is DONE! OMG. SQUEAL. JUMP UP AND DOWN. RUN AROUND THE ROOM. THIS IS SO AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Laura finished her last edits and name changes then sent it to Jane who did her super-power-editing-voodoo on it. Over a two week period the two of them sent notes back and forth to clarify a person or idea, find a new word, figure out a complicated scene, all while cc'ing me. I kept myself out of the process and just watched them put the final polish on an already excellent manuscript. But now, it is even better than I could have imagined. Jane also put it in the proper format and created a cover page for a galley version. May I just state for everyone that I love my partner?

Here it is. The final, official, no-more-changes book.


Lessons on Life from Unlikely Teachers
By Laura Fogg

Category: Memoir, Non-Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-9797152-0-4
Pub Date: November 1, 2007
Price: $16
Pages: 280 (approx.)
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Binding: Softcover
Backmatter: List of Resources (pending)
Editors: Terena Scott, Jane Mackay
Distributor: Ingram (and affiliates)
Publisher: Medusa’s Muse

I'm gonna jump up and down and squeal some more!

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Today I went to visit the grave of my best friend Paul, who died of AIDS in 1992. Paul was my brother in every way except biology. We became friends when we were seven and through everything life threw at us, we stood together and faced it. He believed in me even when I didn't, and his absence in my life still breaks my heart after fifteen years.

As I drove home, I thought about him and what he meant to me, then I thought about the book I wrote for him, a memoir I spent ten years writing, only to set on a shelf in my room and never try to publish. Why did I put it away? Life got hectic and I started writing a new book, so the book about Paul was stuck on a bottom shelf and ignored.

But today, my Muse pulled it off the shelf and hit me with it. Without a word, she struck me on the back of my head with the heavy, plastic binder, and then plopped the manuscript in my lap. She vanished before I could complain. I touched the cover, opened to the first page, saw some things I would change, shut the binder quickly, and just sat there. Do I really want to take this project on again?

I smiled. Yes, I do. I need to share this story; tell people who Paul was and what he means to me. Show people how friendship is more powerful than AIDS or death. Remind us all that AIDS is still here; it didn't move to Africa at the turn of the century. And, because the mission of Medusa's Muse Press is to look despair in the eye and transform it into something beautiful. Besides, what my Muse commands I must obey.

Before my Muse found me, before I discovered Ariel Gore, Paul was my inspiration and mentor. When he died, he became my guide. My very first, original muse.