It’s been three months since I posted a blog. Three months of living in hell.
I refuse to live in hell any longer. Time for Smoky to do a Demeter and return from the Underworld, to tell my story and get on with living, and breathing, and creating.
This hell began when I severed my relationship with my publisher in June. I discovered the publisher had not only lied to me on multiple occasions, they also had blatantly breached our contracts, and paid me only a tiny fraction of the royalties due me over the course of our relationship. I have the statements from Amazon and Smashwords to prove this; it isn’t just the statement of a disgruntled author who doesn’t think she’s earning what is due. I earned it. I just never received it from the publisher.
I wasn’t the only author to leave the company this summer. In fact, the majority of the publisher’s authors abandoned ship shortly after I did, realizing, at last, that they, too, had been cheated and scammed. One of them, S.R. Claridge, wrote a fabulous blog post about exactly what went on at the publisher. You can read that here, if you want to know more of the dirty details.
Many of these fine authors have set up their own publishing ventures and gotten their books back “out there” once again. I have not done so. I’m so exhausted from all that goes into writing and promoting books. I did this for seven years. I don’t know if I want to do it anymore.
Unfortunately, that means my beautiful novels, my book about writing, and my essay collections on nature are no longer available. That hurts. For so many years, my identity was tied into those books. Who was Smoky, if she wasn’t Smoky the Author?
As many of you know, I have rather fragile health as a result of being struck by lightning 24 years ago. The stress and trauma of breaking with my publisher over the summer made me physically ill, as stress and trauma do. (My body perceives any stress as a physical assault, like the lightning was a physical assault. Having been hurt so terribly, it’s an automatic reaction to stress, one I have had to learn to live with over the years.) It has taken me these three months to build my strength back up, to try to figure out what to do, where to go, from here.
Will I republish my books, maybe self-publish them? Heaven knows, I won’t ever trust another traditional publisher. But I don’t have the energy to self-publish, at least, not now. So let’s just say that perhaps, in the future, I’ll re-release the books. And perhaps I will not.
Will I write another book? I’ve got a work in progress, The Madam of Bodie. I know the story I want to tell. And, I have a sequel in mind to my last novel, The Storyteller’s Bracelet. Just a rough outline, but the idea is there and growing. So will I write them?
Again … perhaps, and perhaps not. I don’t know if I have the stomach for it anymore.
But that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit on my couch eating bonbons. I’ve got way too much creative energy pent up inside me to do nothing. So I’m using the time I once used to write to pursue other creative endeavors. I’ve started crocheting again, after having abandoned it nearly 30 years ago. I assumed I couldn’t crochet anymore because of the peripheral neuropathy I suffer as a result of the lightning. Turns out moving the hook doesn’t affect the neuropathy at all. As a result, I’ve turned out two beautiful lap afghans, a dozen hats, a slew of potholders, and several pairs of glovelettes to give as gifts to those near and dear to me.
I’ve collected bits and pieces on hikes and camping trips—beautiful, bark-stripped sticks, bones, and other odds and ends, which I’m turning into a wall sculpture. It will be beautiful.
And, I’m returning to my musical roots. Scott is a classical and baroque guitarist as well as a music professor; it was only a matter of time before he got a musical instrument back into my hands. I had 12 years of piano lessons and 10 of flute while I was growing up; music is in my blood as much as nature is in my blood. This past Sunday, Scott took me to the Folk Music Center in Claremont, CA, and bought me a gorgeous mountain dulcimer, made in my beloved Great Smoky Mountains—an instrument I have long yearned to learn how to play.
Working with the wool when I crochet, or the leather bits and bone and wood when I’m creating a piece of wall art, and now, playing music, has healed me. I feel healthy and strong once again. Something I taught back in the day, when I taught creativity workshops, and which I wrote about in my writing book, is that creativity is a living organism, like the human body is a living organism. Both require nourishment. Yes, you could feed your body only carrots, which are healthy. But you wouldn’t stay healthy very long if you ate only carrots! Your creative nature is the same as your body: it requires feeding. I fed mine only words for many years, and when the words hit the wall when I realized my publisher had cheated me, I got very sick. Now, I’m feeding it a more balanced diet of fiber work, sculpting, and music.
And, apparently, words as well. I wrote this, didn’t I?