Friday, March 9, 2012
How have I earned such dear friends and followers? You humble me.
I wonder what it is you are reading when I see you tweet "Awesome!" or #FF!" and other praises. Are you coming here and re-reading the same old/same old at this sporadically written blog? Are you reading my fulsome rants on Facebook? Are you reading my political commentaries on internet sites like OpEdNews? Or have you found my book January Moon and it's led you here?
Hard to know. Do you follow me for my fiction or non-fiction? For my outraged rants of the most serious nature or for my humor (I do laugh a lot, despite my near constant rage over the sad state of affairs in present day America)? If you read my bio you'll know that I wear a lot of hats and am new to the art of writing fiction but I have a lifetime studying history, philosophy and politics with a special expertise in Holocaust studies, U.S. hate movements, public policy (with an emphasis on healthcare and maternal-child health and medical ethics) and maybe even religion.
If you've read January Moon you know that I've taken my affinity for teaching out of the classroom and tried to place it inside the confines of American commercial fiction. Writing January Moon represented the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that began in grade school -- but was somehow set aside over the years as life sent me flying in many other directions. I think I only wrote January Moon because my life felt like it was falling off yet another cliff and in frustration -- not being able to do much else -- I sat down and hammered away.
It certainly spun me off into yet another amazing direction -- into a world totally foreign to me; a world where I learned about the demeaning nature of query letters and gate-keepers (agents) and the stagnation of traditional publishing but also the brave, bold, new world of indies and ebooks and social media... as well, of course, the dark underbelly of those new modalities (they are not without their own horror stories). It took me about 3 months to write January Moon and 4 times that to begin to get a handle on independent publishing -- and yes, I did have positive feedback from several prominent agents but in the end I decided to "Do It My Way" (I'm not a Sinatra fan but I do love that song).
I made a decision to transition into the full time life of a novelist (whatever the hell that really means; I'm still not sure) and so I began my second book, March Storm, which is the sequel to January Moon) and book 2 in what I call "The Del Carter Calender Series." I created a website (www.maureengill.net) and this blog here and began to blog at other sites for indies and all those other things indies must do to market themselves and their writing.
But something happened: the 2010 midterm elections -- and people like me -- progressive, liberal thinkers -- lost badly. Hell, we were mauled and left in stunned disarray.
It was our Pearl Harbor. We were taken by surprise, lulled into a false sense of security after November '08 and the election of Barack Obama and we've been struggling mightily ever since
I know I've been struggling; every day brings another new horror... another attack on voters' rights, labor, women, the poor, homosexuals, intellectuals... and truth itself.
What happened? Well, I put it this way: a pernicious hard-to-pin down virus that's been eating away at the heart of the country for the last thirty years coalesced, at least in part, into a concrete, identifiable political force and like a multi-headed hydra permeated every level of local, state and federal government. It was like a dormant yeast that all of a sudden ballooned into an enormous voracious force of nature and the damn thing is eating us alive.
Call it the Tea Party, call it the Reichwing, call it the Far Religious Right or (as I prefer) the Christofascists... whatever its label -- it's the greatest destructive force that's ever assaulted America and it's domestic. Forget any enemies you may think we have abroad -- this danger, baby, is slowly killing us from within.
So, anyway, I've had this struggle... do I pursue a life as a fiction writer (a very, very demanding job, let me tell you!) or do I put that on hold and concentrate on writing non-fiction? I'll be honest: I am not so talented that I can do both. Writing fiction is not easy for me; to do so I need to take myself off the grid and concentrate on that alone (which is no doubt why I wasn't able to write a novel until I finally nothing else to do...). However, I can knock out political commentary heavily infused with history about as fast as I can eat Nachos and drown some Margaritas (and I can do both quite readily). That's not to say I'm especially good at writing political commentary (I suspect I'm adequate but not great) but truthfully it's relatively easy for me and I can be very, very prolific.
After the November 2010 debacle I started writing political commentaries and publishing them online at various blog sites/ezines not owned by me. I also sometimes posted those articles here at the Windy City Author blog but then decided to segregate my writing and keep the WCA dedicated to my fiction and the fiction of others, post reviews and write about those folks who support indies such as the folks who make great ebook covers or edit and in other ways help us publish. Then I moved across the country (literally!) and lost some time and focus here at this WCA blog but tried to come back and refigure it as the WCA who now lives in Maine.
In November I helped a friend launch an ezine (Tide & Currents @ Tides & Currents) and it was our hope that others would contribute articles there as well. My fear was that I would become the sole contributing writer and, in fact, that was largely the case which is problematic for me because I don't think it's my best venue and I need other formats. As I was struggling between here, finishing March Storm, and trying to keep up with the world of indie authors (and be a part of it), I found that I was writing lengthier and lengthier posts on Facebook, submitting large articles to OpEdNews, and writing OpEd print pieces for newspapers more and more often... and enjoying it immensely. Let me qualify that: I love writing fiction, as hard as it may be for me, but writing political commentary at this time in our history serves a huge therapeutic need -- it helps me work out my ever growing outrage in a way that a full length work of fiction cannot (at least not now).
I need some place to vent EVERY DAY because every day I'm assaulted in a hundred different ways with more information that (quite frankly) scares the shit out of me.
In the last month I've published articles at OpEdNews, commented at over 50 blog sites or news sites, published 4 articles in print, and God only knows how many comments and expositions I've posted on Facebook. A friend and I have also started a Facebook page titled "Taxpayers Against Political Church," written petitions, and have fought back hard against the Blunt Amendment and the Vaginal Probe laws and other insanities.
Rush Limbaugh's newest outrage -- his astonishing attack -- 53 times over 3 days! -- on a private citizen, Sandra Fluke, was absolutely the most extraordinary event in public broadcasting that has ever happened in America. And I'm saying that as a historian. Moreover, the colossal failure of any of the three Republican presidential wannabees to categorically denounce the Sultan of Slime's attack on Ms. Fluke and the women of Georgetown University, was possibly even MORE astonishing. It was disgusting in extremis. I expect nothing of a man like Limbaugh but I expect far more from people who seek the most powerful political office in the world.
If you're still with me... if you're still reading this post: thank you. I know I'm rambling but such is the character of my outrage that just mentioning it again makes me go off half-cocked... please bear with me because I actually do want to make a point and tell you something about a decision I've made.
There is nothing I hope to do more in my remaining lifetime than polish my skills as a novelist. Last week I received the most extraordinary 3 page note from a person who just finished reading January Moon; she told me point by point (there were 39 points in all) everything she loved about the story and described in great detail some of the things in the book that touched her most deeply. She ended with a request that I "finish March Storm as soon as possible because I miss Del and Wiley and Jess and Eliot and Wolf already! I hope you'll bring them all -- and even Eggs and Tooch! -- back in March Storm! Please, please!"
You know what? It's those notes, and that's not the first (but it was the longest!), that are so rewarding. Sure, the reviews are great but those notes are deeply personal and mean so much to me! I keep everyone of them; they are like love letters and cards from your lover and children and best friends. When I'm really low (as I have been so often lately), I reread those notes and they sustain me.
But I get other notes too... yesterday a Facebook friend sent me this: "Maureen, I read everything you write on Facebook and you keep me sane..."
Another wrote this, "I shared what you wrote about Freedom of Speech with my asshole brother-in-law and it's the first time in 20 years I think I reached him..."
And yet another, "Mick, I knew the Blunt Amendment was a horrible law but Jesus! I never saw how horrible until I read your article..."
Allow me to share this one too: "We're in a war, my friend. You understand and your grasp of history helps us all understand it better too. Thank you for that."
I know I need to make some decisions.
Wednesday a newspaper in Southern Maine invited me to become a regular featured OpEd columnist. It's an opportunity to widen my reach and I'm delighted. Other opportunities come with that honor. And there are more opportunities online and in print that I haven't ever explored that I should investigate.
This said, I'm going to no longer segregate this WCA blog from my political opinions and commentaries. From time to time I hope to post some light-hearted stuff as well but in the main I think I'm going revise this blog and make it more political. I'd like to pull together everything political I've already written and re-post it here. That's a big undertaking and will take a few weeks. I'm also going to use this blog to post my print articles and maybe put up some stuff not published anywhere else.
I miss Del, Wiley, Jess, Eliot, Wolf, Eggs and Tooch too. I also miss my villains. I think about them every day and I've created some wonderful, wonderful new characters (human and animal) to help me tell the unique story that is March Storm (there's a cat called Nickel Bag, a llama called Bahama Mamma Llama and a Drag Queen who's name I will withhold at this time).
But what I know I'm going to miss even more is my freedom.
Last night for the first time in my life I think I really understood what it must have felt like to be a Jew in Germany in '33 and '34 and '35... I heard on the news that the Republicans have passed over 1100 laws to take away the rights of women, hundreds to take away the rights of voters and just as many to castrate American labor, hurt the poor, and harm our children.
And I now also hear Martin Neimoller's warning loud and clear and ask that you do too:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.
That is NOT going to happen again -- not here anyway. Not in America.