Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guest Post by Deborah Macgillivray - Wolf In Wolf's Clothing

Here below is a Guest Post by a writer whose book I reviewed here a while ago, and still remember.  It's not just memorable, it's vivid and wonderful!  Here's the post where I discuss that novel:


And this is about the Dorchester publishing bankruptcy and how it affects writers.  And what writers are doing about it.  See official notice from SFWA posted at end of this blog post. 

You really must read Macgillivray.  It's not just good entertainment.  It's informative, instructive, illustrative of good writing, and inspiring too. 

I'm thrilled to bring you this story in her own words, and I want you to pay close attention, most especially if you are intending to embark on a career in ficton writing. 

Here's where to find a list of Deborah's books that are currently available in Kindle:

Deborah Macgillivray

-----------Guest Post from Deborah Macgillivray -----------

Life does imitate art―

© By Deborah Macgillivray

Oscar Wilde said in his 1889 essay, The Decay of Lying, that "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life".  You might say I am living proof of that.  At the very end of 2009, just days before Christmas, I thought the most urgent and important thing in my life was meeting the deadlines for my next two books.  At eight in the evening, I had typed “the end” to my next historical novel, fourth in the Dragons of Challon™ series― Redemption ― and was going over notes to finish the fourth in the Sisters of Colford Hall ™ series― To Bell The Vampire. 

I had been pulling all-nighters, overdosing on 5 Hour Energy for days to get the book finished.  I felt happy with the novel, so I treated myself to what I hadn’t indulged in too much that week―sleep.  I slept so well!  I cannot ever recall resting as peacefully as I did for those few hours from 8:30 pm until 1:21 am.  Sometimes, people jokingly remark that is sleeping the sleep of the dead.  I came very close to that being reality.

I jerked from that velvet sleep at the wee hour of the morn, knowing something was wrong.  The lights were out.  I had fallen asleep with the television going, so there should have been that soft illumination filling the room.  But there was nothing.  I never awaken easily, so I nearly tumbled out of bed trying to feel my way to the light on the nightstand.  When I did, I saw something very strange.  The room was black, like a thick woolen curtain, yet a bright orange glow showed toward the bottom six inches.  That was the first inkling that I was in dire trouble. 

Drawing a breath I sucked in oily black smoke.  I had not been aware of that fact before, because I by chance had been sleeping with a pillow on my head.  I had been suffering an ear ache, and sleeping with the pillow over my head made it hurt less.  Through the heavy befuddlement of my still sleepy brain, I recalled a fire safety tip, which said to get to the floor level because there was still good air down low.  Good tip, but one that was unworkable for me.  I knew if I went down on my knees I might not come out of this alive.  I had knee surgery in May and it hadn’t healed right.  Dropping to my knees and crawling would have been sealing my death.

I fumbled around for the phone in the bedroom.  It was dead.  So holding my breath, I staggered toward the other end of the house.  It was then I first saw the fire―a massive orange monster that had already engulfed one whole wall of the house and was going up through the roof.  It’s hard to think when you are faced by a horror like that.  Damn dangerous not to!!!  I had to go past the flames to get to the kitchen where the wall phone was.  Skirting the spreading fire, I reached the darkened room.  Stupidly, I wasted precious seconds thinking I could throw some water on the flames to slow it down, with the hopes of holding things at bay until the fire department came.  Only, there was no water coming out.  I burned one hand on the faucet when I tried to turn it on.  The bloody faucet was like touching a brand.  It just gurgled and hissed steam!  I reeled to the phone to call for help, but that phone was dead as well.  What I didn’t know―the phone lines had already burnt through on the outer wall.

 I saw I had made a bad mistake in wasting the time coming to this end of the house.  The fire was running along the center of the ceiling in the porch room.  As it shot across the roof and ceiling, liquid fire was raining down on the carpet and the woolen carpeting was going up like tissue paper!  Our front door was on the To Do List for repair.  Recently, it had become swollen from so much rain and needed planing because it kept sticking, seeing it impossible to get open.  There was no way I could go out through that entrance.  The only avenue left would see me walk through the fire, back the way I had come, to reach the rear door.  The sliding glass doors on the side were already engulfed in the writhing flames.  I stared in horror as I saw the glass beginning to melt and buckle, heard the pinging of the metal frame starting to warp.  Within seconds I would have been trapped. 

It was a very bizarre moment.  I was still fuzzy-headed from just waking up and the sheer enormity of all this happening about me was simply too much for my mind to take in.  Worse, I thought for a few heartbeats that surely I was sleeping still, dreaming about my last book A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing, and I would awaken and laugh at the silly nightmare of getting trapped inside one’s own book.  The final scene in my novel had dealt with a thatched house going up in flames and with the heroine trapped inside, what she did to survive.  How utterly bizarre, that a book just released in October should be a reflection of my life in December!  So much of what I had written for that book echoed what I was now living through.  Talk about eerie, almost prophetic!

I watched as the fire on the carpet rose to chest level.  I have very long hair, and I was concerned the flames raining down would set it afire.  But at that point, I had no alternative, no hope of surviving this unless I moved.  My lungs were already crying out, desperate for air, but I couldn’t suck in that foul black smoke.  I never knew smoke could be so black, or the heat from the flames could almost shrivel your skin like drying leather.  The scents, the sights, the feel will never leave me.  To this day, I have problems being in a totally black room, or to smell the scent of someone burning a fire in a fireplace.

Finally, I went forward into the crucible, taking the twenty foot long room in jumps, just praying I would be going too fast for the flames to catch me, praying that bad knee didn’t buckle and send me crashing down into the room of fire.   I was lucky.  I did reach the outside, and the injuries were small compared to what could have happened.  Some smoke in my lungs, a burned hand.  Only, my two cats were still inside.  I couldn’t reach them from that side of the house, so I went around to the front, trying to see if I could get in through a window to find them.   All windows now had flames coming from them.  The only hope was to try and dig a hole through the wall.  I took a long piece of metal and broke off the wooden siding, trying to dig through the insulation, beaver board and a brick wall on the inside. 

A couple, who had just gotten married and was coming back from celebrating, were passing by and saw the flames.  They called the fire department.  The firemen came with engine lights flashing and, sirens wailing, but it was too late.  In those few minutes, from the time I had awoken until the newlyweds passing pulled me from the hole in the wall, where I was trying to reach my kitties, my whole life went up in a conflagration.  There was absolutely nothing left.

My identification was gone.  Fortunately, my husband had been away and was coming home that night or his license, credit cards and checks would have been lost, too, complicating what I had to face in the coming days.  I was in shock, naturally.  Everything was gone!  My manuscripts, my computers, my clothing.  I had run into the cold night with the clothes on my back and barefooted.  I laughed it was lucky I had fallen asleep in my jeans and a sweater that night, or I would have been running around in a nightgown!

Currently, I am still working to rebuild my life, to heal from this devastation.  It has taken time to settle the past and embrace the future.  A new home, new computers…a new life.  With all that going on, my writing has had to take second place.  The two novels were lost.  Oh, I had copies on external hard drives―which melted along with the laptops.  I have since learned to use Carbonite, so all my writing is now backed up online. 

During all this, you learn new priorities and your perspectives change.  Things that were so important suddenly took a backseat to the healing, adjusting and rebuilding my life.  As soon as my days would return to something that resembled normal, another tragedy hit me in my husband nearly died in the following year. 

He began experiencing grave seizures that saw him in ICU for weeks, not expected to live.   Fortunately, and with good care, he did.  Then, we faced a long hospitalization and rehab for him to learn to walk again.  Once more, things came around and I thought the troubles were behind me.  Yet again, I faced one of those situations that test your strength when my husband faced losing vision in his right eye.  After five months of laser treatments we are hopeful in time his vision will be all right.

I suppose that is why when news of Dorchester Publishing going bankrupt was announced it hardly seemed more than a bump in the road to me.  Before the fire I would have been devastated that one of my publishers was going out-of-business.  Dorchester left hundreds of authors “orphaned”― worse, left those writers without paying them for years.  The news hit many authors with a devastating impact.  I truly enjoyed writing the Sisters of Colford Hall series, and knew my editor, Chris Keeslar, “got” my quirky stories of the women who found love better the second time around.  I would miss working with him.  I had a total of eight books in the series planned and in production.  Three were out.  What would happen now?

Well, once more, things are coming around.  My husband’s health is stable.  I have healed―mostly.  There are times when I see a fire portrayed in a movie or television that I have to walk away or close my eyes against the images, fighting not to be sucked back into the moment that nearly claimed my life.  As I said, I cannot take being in a darkened room, and no longer enjoy the scent of a wood fire. 

And, my writing is coming around.  There is a new future for the Sisters series.  Amazon Publishing/Montlake has given me an offer to see the first three books put into Kindle, Tradesize and Hardback.  So, if I accept their contract, they will fix some of the wrongs done by Dorchester and give my Montgomerie sisters a new home.

I still look at the words I wrote in A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing.  The scenes bring a chill to my spine, just how closely they mirrored what happened to me.  I don’t know what prompted Mr. Wilde to pen that phrase about life imitating art, but I know he was quite right―it does.

-----------END GUEST POST --------------

Now that is a snatch of real life in the business of Publishing. 

OK, not everyone has a house fire hit along with dire illness and a publisher's bankruptcy all at once, but "life" gets in the way of "writing" one way or another. 

I haven't done Deborah's natal chart, so I don't know the facts in her case or her husband's -- BUT -- this triple-disaster syndrome is typical of Pluto transits to sensitized natal points, and those kinds of disasters -- dire and terrible BLOWS to life's stability coming in a series stretched over several years, creating a "new normal" if you survive -- are typical Pluto effects at the pinnacle of success.  It's the same energy that manifests as success and DIRE BLOWS.  Knowing that fact in a very instinctive way makes a writer truly great, but only if you survive the blows.  That is why I've discussed Pluto in such depth in previous posts on this blog. 

If you do survive it, the knowledge informs your next novel.  Disasters would have happened, even if you were doing something else for a living, but you wouldn't have developed the skills to use that experience in a novel, to share it, to help others survive their blows. 

The thing is, the publishing business is a business, and does not care or compensate for the Events of a writer's life. 

The writer has to keep going through all that, pick up on the other side and go on producing words. 

My point here is that one does not "become" a writer.  One is, or is not, "a writer."  Writing is what you can't help doing no matter what's going on.  Selling what you write, that's a totally different matter.

There will be more twists and turns to the Dorchester saga and the fates of the writers with contracts with Dorchester.  A PART 2 for Deborah's saga as events develop with this new venue should be forthcoming in a few months. 

But I'm telling you straight, if you are planning "to become a writer," think again -- and again.

You just don't "become" a writer -- you discover that you "are" a writer, and can't help it. 

--------------October 14, 2012 QUOTE ----------------

Because of severe problems with rights and payments, Dorchester Books was placed on probation in December 2010.  By January 2012, it was clear that the company was on the verge of going out of business, and they soon fired most of their staff.  The company managed to avoid bankruptcy, however, and remained in control of it's contracts with writers.
 Earlier this year, Amazon Publishing purchased the contracts for well over 1,000 Dorchester books.  Dorchester authors were offered the chance to join Amazon Publishing and receive full back royalties or have their rights reverted.  Amazon reported that a potential 1,900 titles were involved, and that 225 authors had turned down the offers and asked for their rights back.
 Amazon/Dorchester reports on their Web site:

 "At this time, we are completing the reversion process, transferring all titles back to their respective authors. Though we have made great strides, our research has uncovered a number of authors for whom we have no contact information. In addition, there are a number of titles without corresponding authors. To complete this reversion process, we will need your help."
 There is a form on the site for authors to use to reclaim rights: http://www.dorchesterpub.com

--------------END QUOTE-------------

So, after you've begun selling Science Fiction or Fantasy to markets that pay advances, you should seriously consider joining various writer organizations such as sfwa.org and/or http://www.epicorg.com/index.php 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. I remember that fire scene and recall thinking at the time how realistic it read. A horrible time for you.

  2. What a journey! The lucky thing is you're strong enough to survive these ordeals. Don't know how many people could have.

    I'm looking forward to reading more of the Sisters and the Dragons of Challon!

  3. First of all, I offer you a deep curtsy, Deborah. I am in awe of your strength. Though there are scars from the events, you survived. I admire all you have overcome and know in my heart that you'll continue the healing process. I wish the best for your husband and trust his health is improving.

    Second, I lived the moments of the fire with you (figuratively speaking of course) Your descriptives are amazing. The heat, the oily smoke, the foggy-headed shock of your mind trying to wrap around everything--all of this, was so vivid I could see it.

    My heart & admiration go out to you. By sharing these events with others, you take yet another step in the healing process.

    I love your books and enjoy the way you incorporate animals into your stories. I especially love the cat Dudley. But more so, I love the strength of the women in your stories. Though independent, they still find a way to trust their hearts enough to let a man into their lives.

  4. How difficult it must have been for you to write this! You are so right! Life does imitate art. I am so glad everything is turning around for you! I love all your books and I love to read and re-read them. Now, it's very difficult to read that one scene in 'A Wolf in Wolf's Clothing', because I can only imagine what you went through. I certainly hope that if life does imitate art from hear on out, it only imitates the good parts! :)))

  5. Thank you for sharing this exceptionally vivid, powerful and gripping account of the fire.

    Has Jacqueline "done" your chart?

  6. Your story had me escaping that horrible night right beside you - it was so vivid. I am so glad you have come through it stronger than ever and you are back to writing the stories all your fans - me included - have so loved reading.