Monday, February 7, 2011

Brian Jacques: Farewell to a Master of Fantasy

Every day, we wake and live our very own story. Much of the time, the hours fly by in what feels like uneventful segments. Our own stories can seem mundane, routine, and occasionally, depressing. We may look for ways to escape our inescapable reality. For me, my desire for escape came when the emotional demands of my job in mental health overwhelmed me. I began to lose sleep, worrying if one of the impoverished children I knew were cold, hungry, or embarrassed to go to school because they didn't have clean clothes to wear. Although I loved my job and was grateful for it, I recognized my real pain when I cried in the movie theater during the scene highlighting the poor child in Polar Express. In real life, the face of a child in need is palpable and crushing to an adult who feels helpless. As falling asleep at night became increasingly difficult, I began searching for a fantasy book -- one that would take me away from the worries of my personal journey and catapult me into one more peaceful.

It was a fortunate day when I stumbled upon Brian Jacques' Redwall series. The children's fantasy novels were unparalleled to previous reads. His world was rich, lines of good and evil were clearly drawn, and his characters believable--despite being talking animals. Over the course of several years, I read 17 of his 22 Redwall series novels. I longed to return each night to the comfort of the Abbey, where the animals held each other in high esteem and respect. Each kind of animal had a unique European dialect--which was written in a way that even an American (from the Deep South, no less) could recognize. In Brian Jacques' stories, the children were loved and well cared for, even the orphans he called "Dibbuns." I was occasionally shocked at his level of description since they were written for children. His stories consist of talking animals (and no humans); there is much peril and animal death. However, vivid writing was his goal, as according to his website, he wrote with blind children in mind.

One of my favorite things about Brian Jacques' stories was his description of food. He was vivid and specific about each dish served in the Abbey. For Christmas, my husband bought me The Redwall Cookbook. I have no idea how he created the recipes, but it has been fun to experience the Abbey's dishes in my own kitchen.

I knew that Brian Jacques' writing had an impact on my life, but I didn't recognize the significance until I learned of his passing today. I found myself tearful at my office desk, thinking of how there would be no more depictions of this vibrant world. I pictured an empty patio table somewhere in England on a summer day. There are no words with a great enough depth to express my level of gratitude to this amazing author. As I write this standing in my kitchen, smelling a spiced bread from his book, I realize that though he may have passed from this world, his stories and the Abbey will continue to enhance my good days and brighten my dark ones.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Indie or Traditional

Over the last couple of months I've had many people come up to me to pick my brains about self-publishing. I guess word's gotten out that I'm doing well. Even my local RWA chapter (Romance Writers of America) is taking notice. I've never had so many free lunches in my life!

The question that always comes up is, what would I do if a traditional publisher approached me and made me an offer to publish my books. I know some other indies have already been approached and are wondering what to do. While many of my RWA friends would probably immediately jump at the chance and oohh and aahh about the fact that a New York publisher is interested, I'm actually not that quick to jump at it. Why?

We are still at the beginning of the e-revolution, the new Gold Rush as I call it in a recent blog post on the Writer's Guide to E-Publishing. Nobody can really tell yet how much your e-rights are really worth in dollars and cents. The publishers want in on it, knowing that they are making less and less on print publishing. When asking several agents who spoke at our local chapter recently, they confirmed that publishers will not enter into a deal with the author that would leave the author with their e-rights. I'm not ready to give those up. Now, foreign rights, I would love to sell. Anybody?

But it's not just about potentially losing money when signing your e-rights over to a publisher, it's also about losing creative control. I'm a very independent person. I've always been an entrepreneur, and I don't work well for somebody else. Call me headstrong, pushy, bossy. Just pick one. That's not to say that I don't listen to advice. I take many, if not the majority of my critique partners' suggestions when revising a manuscript, and I also listen to my editor's suggestions. But in the end, I have the last word.

And in the end, I decide which cover to pick, which word to delete, which price to sell at. As a traditionally published author - unless your name is J.K. Rowling - you don't have that kind of power.

Will this decision work for everybody? Probably not. I'm a self-starter, and I work extremely hard. My work week regularly consists of 60+ hours of work. So don't be fooled when you see me posting on Facebook that I'm about to go to the gym in the middle of the day. Just because I can arrange my day the way I want, doesn't mean I sit around eating bonbons (besides, that's fattening!).

But, if you are ambitious, hard-working, and have a head not just for writing, but also for figures, marketing, and promotion, Indie might be the way for you to go. It's very rewarding to know you've achieved something without the backing of a big company behind you.

Tina Folsom

Have you seen my new covers?