According to Mr. Hendrix, vice president at SFWA, authors should never post work for free or undersell their work, because that undercuts other authors who are trying to make a living writing fiction…
As if anyone can make a living writing fiction.
Let me pick myself off the floor and wipe the coffee off my keyboard. Sorry. SOME people can make a decent living (fiction) writing. In France, where I live, the percentage is 5% of writers (published fiction authors) actually make a living from their writing. It is probably a little higher in the US.
I do not make a living writing fiction. I make pocket money. I make enough money to send my son in the US to community college, and to buy transport tickets for my college son here in France. I make enough to buy myself plane tickets to visit my family in the states. I make enough to indulge myself once a year, and buy myself something I’ve been drooling over (like a digital camera). I consider myself one of those thousands of ‘midlist’ authors, waiting for a big break, maybe forever, but content to move along and hone my craft and write and sell my stories. And give them away for free. I post short flash fiction here quite a bit. There are some in my archives.
At any rate, in honor of Mr. Hendrix’s comments, Jo Walton has declared today International Pixel-stained Technopeasant Day, and has proposed that authors and aspiring authors post professional quality work online. (Here is her post).
I’m sure that authors who make their living writing are not worried about the struggling masses posting their work online. And so, without further ado, I will post the story I wrote that was nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and first published in the Vestal Review (Thank you Mark Budman, for believing in me.)
Honey On Your Skin
by Jennifer Macaire
Leave honey on your skin. Wash it off with water, and pat rose petals on your cheeks.
Tie the leather laces tightly. Wear your armor over a linen shirt.
Brush your hair nightly. Sew lavender in your pillowcase.
Sharpen your lance. Make sure that your quiver is full.
Soak your hands in lemon juice to whiten your nails. Darken your eyes with kohl.
Harden your hands with live coals. Run for a day, in case your horse falls beneath you.
You are a desert flower, a fragile blossom.
You are a mighty warrior, a fearless brave.
Goodnight, my sweet daughter.
Godspeed, my son.
The young girl lay down on silk pillows and watched muslin curtains billow in the night breeze. Her hands had curly arabesques painted in henna. Moths blundered softly about the room.
The young warrior rode across the desert. By his side were five hundred soldiers. The sound of the horses’ hooves was summer thunder. Five hundred spears glinted in the moonlight like lightning.
The young girl heard shouting. She ran to the window. In the garden, men ran across the lawn, their boots trampling curry sage and rosemary.
The young warrior left his horse at the gate. With his men, he fought his way through the archway and over a wall. They ran through the garden, and threw their ropes and hooks onto the roof.
The girl watched as men swarmed up the walls. As one reached her window, he looked in. Their eyes met.
The young warrior saw the girl. At that moment, an arrow pierced his armor. He swung wildly, then started to fall.
The girl pulled him inside. She half-carried him to her bed. She untied his laces and undid his armor. The arrow protruded from his side, its feathered end trembling with each breath.
The warrior clenched his teeth. Was he lying in a silken bed, or was he dead? The pain in his side seemed to argue for life. Paradise, he reasoned, should be painless.
The girl studied the boy‘s face. He was the enemy, but no one had told her that the enemy had such finely arched brows. She would have to remove the arrow and cauterize the wound. The brazier held red coals. She eased the arrow from his side. Then she seized a coal with tongs and held it to the cut.
The smell of burning flesh woke the warrior from his dream. He opened his eyes, and found himself staring at a young woman. His side ached, but the arrow was gone.
“My horse is at the gate. Help me, and you shall be my bride.”
“Spare my family, and I will bring my jewels as dowry.”
They were married. When their children were born, they spoke thus: Leave honey on your skin. Sew lavender in your pillow, and learn the art of healing. Sharpen your lance, and make sure your horse will carry two people.
Copyright © 2000 Jennifer Macaire
PS – and for more free fiction on the web, check out Rhian’s poetry train HERE.