Dreaming in Mackinaw

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 7.53.31 PMMy husband and I took a few days off and stayed in Mackinaw City, Michigan. I had a horrible cold and woke up in the middle of the night with a sore throat. As I got out of bed to find a cough drop I had a very strong mental image of elderly Indian faces illuminated by firelight and carved sticks hanging thickly from the branches of the trees around me.

I also knew this story:

There were once two sons of a chief as different as day and night. The eldest was a born hunter, broad shouldered and strong. He was also a natural leader who drew respect and attention whenever he spoke. The younger son was a quiet artist and a deep thinker, who kept his thoughts and observations to himself. As you might expect, there existed rivalry between the two extremes, with the older brother often winning his way by force.

It came to happen that the younger son fell sick and lost his voice. The old medicine man told him the voice is a free spirit who once in a while decides to walk about free of the body. In order to lure his voice back the young man needed to carve a “voice stick” and hang it in a nearby tree. If the voice liked his artistry it would return and he would be able to speak once again.

So the young man searched the woods and caught in the low growing shrubs at the edge of a fast flowing stream he found a beautiful stick. It was darkened by it’s time in the cold water, but the wood inside was still fresh, so when he carved it, he knew he could create beautiful designs that would surely draw his voice back to him. Then he remembered his brother’s bullying ways. Nearby was a much larger stick shaped like a war-club. He decided to start carving that stick and if his brother demanded it from him, then he would let him have it, and be able to keep the pretty stick for himself.

It happened as the younger brother expected. The older brother saw the carving on the larger stick and coveted it. Without a voice to defend himself all he could do was let his big brother carry his work away – exactly as he had planned in the first place.

When he was done carving the smaller stick it was indeed a thing of beauty with fish, flowers, bear and deer winding around it in a way that appeared to dance as the stick spun in the wind. The morning after he hung his stick in the tree outside his wigwam his voice had returned.

Several years later illness struck the whole village and many people lost their voices. Voice sticks hung from the trees like icicles. Eventually the voices came back to their people – but not exactly as expected. The older brother’s voice liked the younger brother’s stick so much that when the younger brother was able to speak he found himself speaking with the authority and charisma of the older brother. The younger brother’s voice, with nowhere else to go, occupied the older brother’s body, much to the older brother’s shock and surprise.

The entire village was thrown into chaos as the younger brother took charge and the older brother sat down to carve sticks and tell stories to the children. Eventually equilibrium was found and everyone adjusted to the new normal, until the next time the illness struck. This time the older brother carved his own stick, as beautiful as the younger brother’s, and his voice, pleased with the genuine offering, returned to its rightful place.

Hybrid author: Something old, something new

A printing press in 1568.

A printing press in 1568.

Gutenberg’s press upheaved the business of books, ushering in a new golden age. The shift from rare and expensive knowledge to affordable and commonplace began.

Eventually, publishing houses became gatekeepers, deciding which authors were worthy of ink. The author became a unique and wonderful creature, living on rarefied air and (usually) something addictive.

But change is in the air again. Book stores are closing. Libraries are re-configuring themselves into internet cafes. Authors are having a harder time than ever placing their books with traditional publishing houses. The most powerful of publishing houses, formerly known as “the seven sisters” are now down to three – maybe four – and are constantly merging, shifting and downsizing. (Merrie Destefano, a traditionally published author, writes about how the slow motion crash of Barnes and Nobles affected her, just weeks after the release of her second novel, Feast, from HarperVoyager.)

The catalyst of this change? The e-reader revolution. Digital killed the paperback star.

No one honestly believes the printed book will ever go away. After all, the paperless office was supposed to happen 20-some years ago. But the remaining publishing houses have tightened their belts. Fewer new authors are getting signed, even established authors are getting smaller advances and are being offered less lucrative returns.

On the other hand, with change comes opportunity, for those brave enough to take it.

Those creatures are often called “hybrid authors”.

There are two paths to hybrid authorship. Start by publishing your own book. Maybe you begin with some fanfiction on a website, and you gain a following. You decide to publish your collection in an e-book, which sells well enough to get the attention of a traditional agent or publisher and – suddenly like magic – you are a traditionally published author also.

Or, maybe like my friend Merrie, you’ve gone the traditional route and have had some success. But the outlets have dried  up. The publishing houses aren’t buying your style of story anymore, even though your fans are begging you for more. So, you take matters into your own hands and issue your books yourself.

New, small,  nimble publishing houses are popping up all the time now. The ones that survive have a finger on the pulse of the digital revolution, such as Read The Spirit, the host of this blog and the publisher of my previous two books.


“There’s no place like publication. There’s no place like publication.”

Another model is the author co-op publishing house such as the newly launched Ruby Slippers Media.

I’m really excited to be a part of Ruby Slippers Media as we launch a co-operative service among authors pooling art, editing and marketing resources to create an economical way to get our books to our audiences.

I can’t wait to share with you how it all pans out!

A Poem and A Picture: Food for thought on Detroit

I like to read poems to my boys as a part of their bedtime routine. Right now we’re working through Shel Silverstein’s classic Where The Sidewalk Ends. This poem, Enter This Deserted House, seemed to speak to the lack of respect shown to Detroit from all quarters – including, in many cases, from within.

It didn’t take much effort to find an appropriate “ruin porn” photo to go with it.

Silverstein and Detroit


What do you think?

Working with the YMCA to fight local hunger and homelessness

I'd love to see you there!

I’d love to see you there!


Look what was delivered to my doorstep today!

Of course, this means now the hard work begins…

box of bird on fire

Small beginnings

I submitted the final draft of the manuscript of Bird on Fire to the publishing house today. Now it goes to the copy editor for a final comb through, then to the publisher for styling and other lovely appearance things, and then to print!

So, of course I called my mom to tell her the news. As we talked she asked about sales of my first book, Glitter in the Sun. I said, meh… once in a while a new sale will show up…

But then she remembered and reminded me of this verse –

small beginnings


Every great thing, every great movement, every great artist started somewhere.

While I don’t know if I will ever be considered “great”, it is nice to be reminded that a small start is worth rejoicing in.

Bird on Fire revealed

Designed by the talented Rick Nease, the cover art for my upcoming book Bird On Fire.

Designed by the talented Rick Nease, the cover art for my upcoming book Bird On Fire.