It's still Terena Scott week at Jordan's Muse. Terena has a more fearsome muse than I: Medusa's Muse is not only the name of her press, but also of her a blog. Here are three excerpts from that blog:
When Muses get bored
Lately I've been hearing whispers from my Muse, gentle pushes toward one thought: Create a small press. I laugh and shrug them off, but the idea won't leave me alone. It has wrapped itself around my ankles like the snakes my Muse set loose in my room, compelling me to pick up a book and read about small presses. Peruse the Internet for blogs about publishing and web-sites of small press organizations. Just checking things out, I say. I'm not serious. It's always good to learn new things.
My Muse smiles and coaxes another snake to climb up my spine. Come on, what's stopping you? Afraid?
No, practical. Publishing is a whole art in itself and I am but a poor writer who can't get published. Sounds like desperation to me.
But the thought won't leave me alone. My Muse is surprisingly tender, encouraging me to learn more. I'm not saying you should publish your own work. I honestly think you would be an excellent publisher. Now I know he's up to something because my Muse is never this nice to me. I find him lounging on my bed reading a book.
"Why do you suddenly want to be a publisher?"
He slowly closes his novel and looks at me with sleepy eyes, "Because you're wasting your talents."
"Wasting? I'm a writer! A good writer! I'm wasting nothing!"
"I didn't say you weren't a good a writer. I said you have other talents which are going to waste." He rolled off my bed gracefully and stood close to me. "You're better at editing and helping people tell a story than you realize. You're also organized, intelligent, and love a good challenge. What's more challenging than opening a small press?"
"Climbing Everest while blind-folded."
"Exactly." He leaned over, picked up a snake, and wrapped it around my shoulders like a shawl.
"Think of the possibilities."
"You know, you're not really Viggo. You just look like him."
"Just because he has a press doesn't mean you should have one too."
"You're being too nice to me. What are you up to?"
Grinning, He tapped my cheek with one long fingernail. "I'm encouraging you. Isn't that what you want?"
"Yes, but you're never encouraging."
"Time for a change." He walked slowly out the bedroom door and called to me, "Yes. It is time for a change." The snake wrapped itself around my left arm. I stroked it softly and listened to it hissing, “What if?”
Muse vs. Gravity
I am obsessively reading everything I can find about starting a small press and publishing in general. I began with Dan Poynter's book, "The Self Publishing Manual," moved on to "How to Start and Run and Small Book Publishing Company," bought "The Writers Legal Guide" and "Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Publishers," and have scanned "Book Design and Production," by Pete Masterson. Now I'm reading, "Publishing for Profit," by Thomas Woll. Plus I read blogs and websites and am subscribed to the Publish L list serve. From all these hours of research, I have discovered something extremely important; I know absolutely nothing about running a small business. This is important because that's what Medusa's Muse is. A business. I am the owner of a small business. Yes, a creative, book oriented, dream filled business, but a business non the less, which means I need to learn about tax laws, licensing, book keeping and budgeting. If I don't understand basic business practices, Medusa won't survive, and I don't care how many books I print or publish. Medusa must live in the real world and the real world is governed by tax laws.
My muse hates all this mundane chatter and refuses to help me with this part of building the press. When I brought home "Small Business Kit for Dummies," complete with CD rom of necessary forms, she yawned and said, "I'll be outside."
I glared at her. "This press thing was your idea, remember."
"Yes. I know. All the good ideas are mine."
"Then you're also responsible for helping me with this part too."
She smiled a slow, crooked smile. "I don't think so."
"Why not?" I hate it when I whine.
"Because my dear, business laws are the construct of humans and we both know I'm not human. Therefore, I don't have to worry about that part." She tapped the over sized book in my arms.
"When you're done with this, let me know. I'm getting hungry for something creative."
"You know, it's exactly this reason most artists live in abject poverty. If their muses stuck around to help with the finances, they could pay their electric bill."
"Muses don't need electricity," she called as she pulled off her blouse before walking outside.
I yelled, "Let's hear you say that when I can't turn on my lap-top." The door shut softly behind her.
In my other life, I write grants. Therefore I understand just how important it is to have enough funding to support a great idea. As much as I dislike budgeting and paperwork, I know without a good business plan, there is no Medusa's Muse. It's like trying to live on Earth without gravity. I see too many incredibly talented artists falter because they believe solid business planning is unworthy of their time and energy. I refuse to be a victim of economics. While studying my business book, I felt something brush against my ankle. Looking up at me was a green gilded snake. I picked it up and set it on my shoulder where it snuggled close against my collar bone, reading.
Another Gravity Check
My Muse is stomping across the living room, eyes red with fury, every snake stretching out from under her dark hair, hissing and snapping. I stay far away from her. I just got off the phone with the lawyer I was referred to by California Lawyers for the Arts, a non-profit organization that helps artists with legal issues, and she doesn't like what they told me. "Insufferable! Intolerable! This is an insult to my work! Our work! Laura's work! How does anyone write a book or paint a picture, or do anything artistic with lawyers breathing down their back?"
"He was very helpful and friendly."
She waves her hand at me. "Not him. I'm sure he was fine. I'm talking about the lawyers who could come after us a few years from now for publishing a book that might make someone, someday, upset. Scandalous! How can you work under this shadow of fear?"
"The restrictions on what you can and cannot say. Changing names... intolerable! I mean there's a reason we kept the real names..."
"Yes. But now there's a very good reason to change them."
My muse crosses her arms and glares at me so intently I feel my feet turn hard and cold. "Why are you so eager to go along with it?"
I look away quickly. My feet tingle as if waking from sleep. "I'm protecting the work. I'm not going along with anything." I cautiously walk toward her while keeping an eye on the snakes. "When a story is written down, it becomes tangible and isn't pure inspiration anymore. If you decide to share that story with the rest of the world, that means they get to read it and once that happens, the work is transformed into a living thing. It becomes a part of the reader. That's why it's important to protect the story from harm. Not limit the words or deny its truth, but strengthen the story's impact by giving it a foundation based on the physical world. The physical world is governed by laws, finances, budgets, taxes, and marketing."
"Disgusting! I can't believe I'm hearing this from you. I thought you were an artist!"
"Then act like one!"
I stand my ground and meet her gaze. "I am."
She blinks. The red light in her eyes simmers and turns gold.
"I am acting like an artist who believes in this work so much that I am willing to do whatever I have to do to get it out into the world where people can read it. There are too many artists who ignore the rules that govern the art world so their work is never seen..."
"Yes. Many are. And they take the risk that their work will cause pain. But if they are smart, they do it with eyes wide open. They don't hide behind the idea that since they are artists they don't have to know the consequences of their actions. They can stand beside their work and say proudly they understand the work may be controversial but they consciously chose to show it anyway. I respect those people enormously." I am standing beside my muse now, within striking distance of her snakes. "We are publishing this book and we will deal with whatever may happen in the future. But we are publishing it with eyes wide open and we are protecting ourselves not by changing the message, but by changing a name. That's all."
I wait. She is silent. The snakes look at me. Then slowly, she nods. "I see. Alright. I'll trust you on this." I take a deep breath. I won't be bitten, at least not this time. I rest my hand on her arm and my muse turns to me, her eyes back to green. Then she smiles a slow smile that makes me nervous. "But if I think for a moment you're giving in to lawyers out of fear, I will leave you immediately and you will never write another word again. Clear?"
"Good." She grins and pats my hand. "I'm off to get my hair done now. You'd better get to work on that manuscript." She disappears with a wave.
I wonder where muses get their hair done?