My Indie Writing Life
This essay was going to be about my typical writing day, but I don’t have a typical writing day. Nearly every day is atypical, odd, unusual, and irregular. Be forewarned: What follows is the minutiae of my life as a writer, exciting to some and dull to others!
Once a year, my husband (writer Mario Milosevic) and I go on a writing retreat in the Southwest for a month. During that month, our days are fairly regular. Mario gets up when it’s still dark, leaves the casita where we stay, and walks through the desert to the tiny studio where we write. (It’s called the Quail House.) He writes for several hours.
Meanwhile, I meditate and then prepare breakfast. Mario returns to the casita, and we eat together. After breakfast, I go to the Quail House and write until lunch. Mario prepares lunch, and we eat together in the casita or outside near the pool. (I use this setting in my novel Church of the Old Mermaids which I wrote one winter while on retreat here.)
Then we walk in the desert. We usually go to the Saguaro National Park which is about a mile away.) Afterward, I return to the Quail House and write until dinner time. Then we make dinner together or go out to eat. We spend the rest of the evening playing Scrabble or cards.
For us, it a lovely and perfect month. We would love to spend the other eleven months doing much of the same!
For the rest of the year, however, things are not quite so regular. We both have jobs. Mario walks a couple blocks to work at the library four days a week. I work part time from home, buying books for our library system.
How my days go depend upon the weather and what I’m working on at the time. I live in a place where the weather is rainy or cold or both for about six months of the year, so when the weather is good, I’m outside hiking and gardening as much as possible. We live near the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and we spend as much time there as we can.
Right now I’m preparing several books for publication, so I’m doing more proofing and editing than actual new writing. I work on these books most of the week, but my favorite work days are when Mario is home. We work together (and apart, but in the house together) during his days off from the library. To emulate our winter writing retreat, we call these days our “writing retreat” days. Yesterday, Sunday, was one of those days.
I got up first and left my sleeping husband and went downstairs to work. I sat on the couch with the proof for Desert Siren (which is coming out this summer) and read the book and made corrections. Sometimes we do editing and proofreading on manuscript pages and sometimes we get a proof of the novel (so it’s actually in book form), and we do the editing off of that copy.
Desert Siren takes place in the borderlands between Arizona and Mexico. I got the idea after spending many winters in Arizona. During our writing retreats down there, I’ve researched border issues. Over the years, I’ve interviewed ranchers, biologists, ministers, social justice workers, and migrants who had been caught crossing the border illegally. (This topic is also part of my novel Church of the Old Mermaids.) Sitting on the couch reading Desert Siren transported me right back to the warm and sunny Sonoran Desert where the main character, Connie, copes with her husband leaving her by looking for a lost herd of mythical Irish sea horses--in the Sonoran Desert.
A pile of clean clothes had been sitting in the basket for a couple of days, so I took a break from Desert Siren to fold laundry for a while. Then I made breakfast.
When the meal was ready, I got Mario up, and we ate together. After breakfast, we worked on the covers for Desert Siren and Jewelweed Station (coming out in May). We had already designed a cover for Jewelweed Station some months ago, but I wasn’t happy with it. It was a close-up photograph of flowers on a couch cover. That doesn’t sound like much, but it was quite striking. Callie, the main character in Jewelweed Station, is a botanical artist, so it worked on that level. But we decided we wanted a person on the cover.
Jewelweed Station takes place in antebellum Virginia when Callie becomes a ward of her loathsome aunt and uncle after her parents die in a carriage accident. Callie pretends she’s a stupid teenager when she’s around her relatives and most everyone she knows, but she’s actually trying to figure out a way to get her aunt and uncle out of her life. Then she becomes a station master on the underground railroad. I thought a photograph of a young woman in a mask would be good cover. I found the image I liked, and Mario made the cover.
For Desert Siren, I had found several photos of horses. I wanted a picture of a blue horse, but I couldn’t find one. (Maybe because they don’t exist in nature!) I tried tweaking a couple of different photographs of horses, but they looked altered or too fantasy-like. Desert Siren isn’t a fantasy, so I didn’t want it to look like one. It’s more a novel about possibilities. Finally I found a photo of a beautiful wild horse. Something about the horse is so striking and otherworldly. I enhanced the colors a little, just to make the photo “pop” a bit more, and then I sent it to Mario. He found a font we liked, and I wrote a draft of the cover blurb. Then that cover was done for now, too.
When it warmed up outside, Mario and I went out and hiked for a few hours. We didn’t go far from home or too deep into the wilderness. We chose a trail that went into the woods past two beautiful waterfalls. We didn’t talk about writing or anything else while on the trail. We just enjoyed being outside with the wild things.
Once we were home again, Mario made us lunch. Then I proofread Desert Siren, and he worked on Jewelweed Station. We talked about his upcoming novel Thieves. (The tag line on Thieves is: Stealing a baby was just the beginning.) I want it to come out during the summer when I’m in the midst of my Six in Six.
My novels have been published by traditional publishers for years, but in 2010, Mario and I decided to go indie for a number of reasons. We weren’t eschewing traditional publishing for all time, but we wanted to strike out on our own. We wanted control of our e-publishing rights and creative control of our covers. And we wanted to write whatever we wanted to write! I don’t write books that fit into one genre, and I don’t write the same kind of book over and over. Neither does Mario. So we created Green Snake Publishing.
It was a great decision for us. Going indie has freed up my creativity, and I’ve been writing like crazy. Most traditional publishers will only publish one book a year by an author. This makes it difficult for most writers to make a living, and it doesn’t help prolific writers. (That’s one of the reasons why Joyce Carol Oates and others use pen names.) I decided to celebrate my burst of creativity by launching the Six in Six publishing campaign starting in May 2012. Green Snake Publishing is going to publish six of the books I’ve written in the last couple of years (yes, six!) in six months, starting with Jewelweed Station and ending in October with Pricked: a Jane Deere Novel.
Mario and I discussed this publishing schedule and different incentives and rewards for readers who buy many of the six. I want Thieves to be part of this publishing campaign, one way or another.
After we talked about the Six in Six for a while, we decided to check out our sales figures. Another great thing about indie publishing is that we can check our sales figures any time we want. This month I’m doing a virtual book tour for Her Frozen Wild, so I wanted to see how it was doing. Sales are picking up on it. I tried to remember what my writing life was like when I wrote Her Frozen Wild thirteen years ago.
I got the idea from a National Geographic Magazine article about the discovery of a 2,500 year old female “ice mummy” in Siberia. The archaeologists believed she was some kind of priestess or shaman. Once I read the article, I had to write about her. I spent a year researching the novel and another year writing it. In the novel, archeologists discover the DNA of the ice mummy matches the DNA of Ursula Smith, an archeologist living in Portland, Oregon. Ursula travels to Siberia to find out how that could be possible, and then she begins her odyssey through time to save the shapechanging People.
Ursula’s ancestors believed they were descended from bears. Many indigenous people believe bears are their ancestors or their relatives. While working on Her Frozen Wild, Mario and I learned the Bear Dance from a Siberian shaman and became part of the Bear Clan. During the time I worked on this novel, I often dreamed about bears. When I finished the novel, the dreams of bears nearly stopped. I can’t remember my day to day writing life when I wrote Her Frozen Wild, but I do remember my nights were filled with bears!
After Mario and I talked about Six in Six, our sales figures, and the evolution of Her Frozen Wild, I switched gears and did a little library work.
Later, Mario and I ate dinner and watched a baseball game on TV. We edited our manuscripts while the game was on.
Then it was off to dream land. For us, it was a perfect day.
copyright © 2012 by Kim Antieau. All rights reserved.
Kim Antieau has written many novels, short stories, poems, and essays. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, both in print and online, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s SF, The Clinton Street Quarterly, The Journal of Mythic Arts, EarthFirst!, Alternet, Sage Woman, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. She was the founder, editor, and publisher of Daughters of Nyx: A Magazine of Goddess Stories, Mythmaking, and Fairy Tales. Her work has twice been short-listed for the Tiptree Award, and has appeared in many Best of the Year anthologies. Critics have admired her “literary fearlessness” and her vivid language and imagination. She has had nine novels published. Her first novel, The Jigsaw Woman, is a modern classic of feminist literature. Kim lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, writer Mario Milosevic.
Her latest book is Her Frozen Wild.
Learn more about Kim and her writing at www.kimantieau.com.
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