Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Airing of Grievances

     As Festivus approaches, let us now have the Airing of Grievances. They're twice and thrice-told tales you've perhaps read here over the years, about those gnarled gatekeepers called literary agents and how they seem to make it their mission in life to delay or outright ruin the careers of virtually every author who's misinformed and naïve enough to submit to them.
     You may have read earlier this month about how I'd submitted  my new novel, Gods of Our Fathers, to one in NYC. This alone was like a labor of Hercules, as my hard drive crashed, then I had wifi connectivity issues with which I'm still wrestling because someone in Microsoft thought it was a good idea to deny me my network device drivers.
     But the rejection letter sent to me two days ago, which I read on waking up this morning, really broke the camel's back. This agent, who made me think in a silly unguarded moment he was different from the rest, not only rejected this book on which I'm still laboring hard because I wanted to make it better for him for when he chose to represent it and send it out, but did so with a form letter I've gotten literally 1000 times over the years.
     "As you may know, fiction is such a tough sell these days..." "I wasn't sufficiently enough in love with it to make me the ideal advocate..." Yada yada yada...
     Well, fuck professionalism, I said to myself, then let him know just how much he completely ruined our holiday season, one associated, for some reason, with miracles on 34th Street and elsewhere.
     I'll be honest. I only started Gods of Our Fathers last August 17th and I finished the first draft in less than 3 ½ months flat. When it was obvious Tatterdemalion, brilliant as it is, was going nowhere with these morons in record time, I realized something had to replace it and fast. So I created Cornelius Van Zant, a mulatto former slave and one of Boston's first cops in 1850's Boston. It's a hell of a story both in and outside my book in which the Boston PD had to contend with race riots and arson in the earliest hours of its existence. And no one had written a novel about it. So I did.
     Before the first line edit had started, I'd sent it off to 30 lit agencies as mainly trial balloons to see if this new novel would catch. And one responded, within 24 hours. And since sending it to him, I've been giving it a scrupulous, final line edit to make it as camera-ready as possible for when he'd choose to rep it and make the rounds.
     Because we're running out of time and something had to replace the last book on which I'd labored hard for 2 ½ years and deserves legitimate publication.
     For those of you just tuning in or had tuned out this little factoid, here it is again:
     We are losing our sole source of income as of the end of April, which still isn't sufficient to help us meet our monthly expenses, let alone fix problems that suddenly rear their ugly heads. Gods of Our Fathers, as with Tatterdemalion and every book I've written since 2008, was supposed to put me on the map and at least make me solvent. Writing is the only thing I can do, and I do it damned well, in which my lengthy unemployment, age or experience isn't a factor.
     Let me remind you of a few other things: Before that income stops in April, we'll find it impossible to make ends meet and pay our rent to our new sociopath landlord because, again, that sole income isn't enough to keep body and soul together, which is why I have to do fund raising drives from time to time. When Barb's mother was dying, you guys came through and that's why I was able to lay off from the begging for six months and give you all a break.
     However, unlike in years past, the closest shelter five miles away closed down years ago. If we lose even this hovel in which we've been living for going on seven years, we will literally have nowhere to go. I may be able to finish making the premium payments on my car insurance, maybe not. But even if I can, I will not be able to renew come June 24th and we may be living in a car that's illegal.
     We will wind up losing most of our possessions because paying each month for storage won't be an option. Our beloved cat Popeye will end up Lord only knows where. We will lose our books, our clothes, our furniture, everything.
     And this has all been grinding away at me on a constant basis during these holidays. When I'd put up my tree this week, I did so with a sense of sadness because this will surely be the last holiday season we'll spend in this dump. Every time my cat snuggles up against me, every time Barb gives me a kiss, I feel like an impostor because they do so out of a sweet but misguided trust I can actually care for them and prevent all this from happening.
     But, God help me, I cannot do it alone, and, atheist though I am, I've been counting on another miracle to save us at least in the short term during this, the holiday most associated with miracles for the deserving. This encroaching terror of eviction and complete loss and financial ruin has been coloring my entire holiday season. And I thought this agent Jim McCarthy would be it. I was so wrong.
     A week and a half ago, I'd sent out a mass email to over 250 of the folks who'd contributed in the past. It resulted in a grand total of four donations totaling $250. That's less than a dollar for every person I'd written to. And, as I keep saying, that's OK because no one owes me shit. But as I also keep saying, when you have others to care for, you think less about alienating others with regular appeals for help because blind panic makes you insensible to such considerations.
     And when times are palmy, you can afford to think of others. When they're not, your focus has to be parochial. And, yeah, I actually wish I had back every single cent I'd ever loaned or given others because we need it now more than ever.
     And while circumstances in Obama's America force me to be a glorified street corner beggar, it can't be said I haven't been busting a nut trying to make myself self-sufficient by doing something I do best, something I'm getting better and better at. But publishing is a dirty insider's game, rotten to the core, and the rules are set up to make guys like me fail.
     And to my stalker David Chadwick, who's been doing his level-headed best to tank my book sales and deny me what small income my books make me, have it it. If kicking a man when he's down is the best part of your day, then this is your moment. Make the most of it. Because I have much bigger considerations and worries than you.
     But if anyone in a position to seriously mitigate our circumstances is reading this, please consider while I've been a tiresome panhandler these past six and a half years and may perhaps deserve in some small measure what awaits me, consider the same cannot and should not be said for my girlfriend and cat. They do not deserve this because they had placed their trust in me as I was in placing my trust in that worthless literary agent.


At December 24, 2015 at 3:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, man I'm a 70 year old lady who is in pretty tight $$ struggles as well. Got kneecapped by the mortgage meltdown. But I have a back up spot to live. I was shopping for Xmas dinner fixings at our locally-owned supermarket, when an elderly lady walked up to me and pressed something into the palm of my hand. I was confused for a few seconds, and quickly realized it was a $50 gift card for the store...she had scurried away so quietly. I called to her:..."hey can I give you a hug??" She stopped in her tracks and turned around. Everyone was in tears. She was going around with her gift cards, and walking up to People she thought looked a nice person. We checked out about the same time, and I hugged and thanked her again. Told her I wished I had something to give back to her. Her daughter told me I had done more for her mother than I could ever imagine...end of sweet story. I'll be passing some of that love on to you. Been following you for maybe about 6+ months, but I love a good writer and story-teller. An I find you very good at your trade. Best wishes for you and your tight-knit group and fur-babies, as you meet your challenges. Wish I could contribute more. Hugs from me and a sweet lady that live in the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon


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