I will now speak to you from the bottom of my heart. And I will open up some memories and mention the events of today so that you can get a better picture of why I must say this. You’ll get to know more about me but also draw a message from this. I promise.
Ever since I was a child, I was told I had my way with words. I loved speaking to others, imagining stories and retelling the books I had read. And I read a lot. My library card was getting filled in a blink of an eye. There was nothing better than to enter the library back home, select the newest books they got and run home to read them in a few days’ time span.
I never thought I will write and publish a book one day. I “just loved reading” and it helped me shape my tone in writing without me even being aware of what I was learning. And I read it all – dramas, horrors, poems, everything.
I read through high school too, but a little less. Our boarding school had a library but I wanted to study more than I wanted to read – getting into the police academy was a dream of mine and I was devoted to my grades.
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When I got into it, my uniform replaced fiction literature completely. Reading was simply left aside because I was busy. I thought I will “have the time while I wait for work once I’m done with college”. I didn’t.
Then I was on public transport once, going downtown, and I took a good look at the grim streets and gray people walking around and I decided I won’t work in the police. I wanted to see what else is out there, wanted to see what I can do without dying on the streets of the capital for some stupid cause. Call me a coward, I don’t really care. I wanted a life of freedom.
I moved away to a smaller place. There I found happiness. Then one day, I wrote a book – I spoke about it here. It just came to me.
Then I decided to publish a paperback edition, and to my surprise, I only got denied once. (for another novel written before – Abnormally Sane. I‘m translating both that and the Pebble Saga today). Then I published The Pebble Saga. I paid cca $1300 for 500 copies. (Average paycheck in my place is 300 euros, just for comparison. I’ve collected that money for a long time). Two years passed, and today I have earned cca $50. My state simply doesn’t have a healthy publishing market nor the place for it to improve.
It’s not the payment that hurts, it’s what’s written and what I wanted to get to my audience that hurts. But if I knew I will be publishing only for my “friends and family” I wouldn’t have done it at all. They would get a simple printed paper, to read my novel. What also hurts is the fact that people here “complain that there is no quality literature” but they don’t buy anything but a pack of cigarettes which in all honesty costs almost the same as anyone’s book, not just mine.
I don’t care about money at this point. I see it’s gone with the wind. But at least I wanted to give my story to someone who might like it. And it haunts me every day that I have failed.
You might not know what a jewel you have in your country. You might not know how lucky you are to have a chance to sell your book to 100 people and even if it might look like a small number to you, to me it wouldn’t be.
Next time when you are afraid that people might not like your book, think about the people who can’t get anyone’s opinion. Think about those like me, who are stopped to spread their wings and fly. You should be joyful for so many things.
And don’t be afraid of people not liking what you wrote and don’t let it stop you from sending it to anyone you want. I see that a lot – insecurity in writers. Why would you even want everyone to like your book? Don’t you want to learn something new? The best critique is the one that teaches.
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Also – you didn’t spend months, maybe even years creating what you did to hide it now!
You didn’t explore in vain! You didn’t search for the proper emotion to reflect what you need for nothing to happen!
Remember – you only have one chance to do many things. Don’t dwell.
As a bonus, I will be posting the first chapter of The Pebble Saga for you to read. Let me know what you think of it in the comments. (The language is fully invented by me, it’s on Serbian Cyrillic and the translation is below the chapter. Sorry for any editing mistakes, I simply lack the time to properly sort it, but I wanted to share.)
I was born under a black sky on the night of the fifth влатха. The stars above did their best to paint on a darkened canvas with a breath of their light. The daybreak has prolonged, stretching its fingers towards the distant parts of the earth and had barely reached us. I was told I came to life while the dark retreated like low tide. A new being, one more existence on the crust of this dried out place.
It remained unknown to me what my ахтари looked like at the moment when she was breathing life into me. My spirit had made only one step into its eternal cacoon and it couldn’t cruise the skies to observe the features of my mother. Тахтари used to say to me that she was joyous and that her glassy eyes remained open, staring into the emptiness of the sky long after I cried for the first time. And I cried silently, barely sobbing as if I knew how big of a burden I was for my poor mother. I remembered, neither the sky nor them. While thinking of my хтари I felt some strange fulfillment, only because тахтари left me at a decent time. He hadn’t bathed in the lake for a couple of periods, and that’s when I knew. His ending finally filled my shelter with longing.
I was a member of the only tribe I knew. There was barely a handful of us, I didn’t know how many, because we didn’t know how to count. If someone would leave, and wouldn’t come back, we wouldn’t ignore it, instead, we would let his existence breathe through us still. Nobody named us, we had no markings. We lived following the instincts and old maps of the world, wandering the bottom of the sky looking for meaning. We believed that whatever happened once, will happen again, and we waited. And hoped. For us, the world was one big, bright circle of events and the past was also the future.
Our people built the shelters from sand, with no shadows. Not too tall but not too low either, covered just enough for us to reach our dreams. When it would become weak, or when the wind would take the last grain of sand in another place, we would leave. The shelters were placed in a circle, with an empty center so that we can fly out, into the sunrise, holding our hearts with our hands.
If there would be a battle that could take our lives to the other side, and that happened accidentally, we would wear our masks, made from the bones of our ancestors. They were bright, often cracked, made from the bone behind the shoulder, polished, so that our enemy could see himself in it before he died. But while looking for plants, we would rarely find enemies. We also had tall lances with leaves at its ends, a poison that puts to sleep. We never killed, not with intention. It was simple, if something was poisoned and died, we wouldn’t complain. If it would live, we felt the same. At least that is how it was supposed to be because we had no one to oppose.
When we sat, we sat together, if one would stand, we would all rise. There were no алирес – kings and queens, rulers. We ruled ourselves, with ourselves.
Our food was the white grass, berries ad leaves a few times in the period.
We embellished with small cuts on our arms, hips, and bellies. There was a red liquid coming out of us that tasted like life. But we would heal swiftly, in a few periods.
Our songs were the sound of rocks while we kissed the creeks, and shared our love.
I had no name. When my people would look at me, they would see my хтари and that was enough to know me.
We were loud in our calls. Gathered in the mornings of every period, looked at each other’s soul through the masks, and leave. We didn’t need much.
When we looked for plants, we went into меландре. Inside, we were hugged by the cooling shadows of our tall, green friends with wide and thick arms that framed the sky with their fingers. We had respect for everything меландри gave us. The clouds were our friends, guardians of our thoughts while we were searching for food. We followed them. They were all equal, but again every one of them drifted differently over the skies and shaped by its own needs.
We were alike the clouds. Each of us was shaped and lead by their own wind, washed by their own part of the lake and colored by their own sun. Therefore, some of us had carried smiles on their lips, muted, kind and warm. They were always beside us, but we occasionally denied to look at them. No one is to say that they didn’t have a rock on their shoulders that slowly pressed them before it laid them in ashes. We all probably had one, but rarely would someone speak of the weigh of their rock.
Some of us were always wet and gray as if surrounded by water. They swam as best as they knew how, and many weren’t seen by others, even in the same river. Some drowned, some were slowly floating on the surface. Some were colored in warmth. They always had their sun on their side, shared it with all of us, or at least they tried. When they would enter a shelter, you could feel the breath of summer and hot sand and boiling, sweet water. They had a light coming out of them, their touch was mild and warm. Animals never ran from them and the air was whirling around them, petting their hair.
When we chased the new cognizance which each of us looked for in hopes of feeding their hungry mind, every following crest was a boundary to conquer. While we walked joined, we saw it in the distance, muted and asleep, and only after a few moments, but quickly, we saw ourselves on it, on its sleepy eyes, while it whispered to us where we should go next. Then we waveringly crossed its forehead, grabbing the necks of trees and while hugging them the trees would push us farther, shifted by the wind.
The ground below our foot sang to us, and we all knew that if the song is withered and silent, we will have a warm summer. If it’s vile filthy, we will rejoice to a swollen lake. Every spire kept our footsteps safe with its life. Every flower colored our journey and showered our evenings with notes of sleepy petals. The birds presented to us our needs, and we listened to them with no question. At last, when the warmth would spread over the hills and valleys of our ancestors far away from us, wrapping it in its dreams, we came back on the same trails, not disturbing the peace around us, each of us with a different experience.
Every person would ripe differently on their path, like a fruit on a tree. And some, not even after a long walk, wouldn’t flourish with full strength.
We measured no time. If the birds could go without time, or the summer, or the rivers, so could we. Time, we knew of it only in regards to food search. It didn’t exist for us. And no one owned it. If it does exist, it lives in its own little world. It rules there, it orders when things need to be done when to leave and come back again.
Our power belonged to the waters. It woke us up, it created us and it separated us from the sky. Water was our way of crossing the boundaries, attempting a new dance of life or cast away the ancient skin which we wore through time tirelessly.
We mirrored ourselves in one lake, not as far, which we visited walking through a narrow path. Its surface has never calmed. It existed like a human soul always in movement, with a strong desire to spread all over, flood the unknown and runs towards foreign parts of the ground, inflicting pain, if needed, or relief to the cracked surface. Grounds and lakes never knew they can’t live without each other. Anyway, that is where we observe ourselves.
How many times have we tried to polish the water, see our faces? That was a mystery unsolved – what are we? We tried to look with and without the masks and our wide eyes seemed even bigger on a silvery surface of a stirred mirror, and our masks looked threatening. We were attempting to run our existence through the existence of the lake, to prove to ourselves how we are truly there, to penetrate inside our very soul. Nobody ever took a look at someone else’s’ reflection. It was a sacred breach inside the peace of another one of us, and the punishment was a restless sleep. Restless sleep was the worst because we needed sleep, but we went there consciously, knowing how vulnerable we were. No one would ever risk their dreams, because his safety would be violated, and safety was, in our world, very rare and important.
Once we dragged ourselves into our sandy beds, the only enemy became uneasiness. I knew some of us who feared it. And they would stay up in this world, swaying back and forth seemingly for good, waiting for something to knock on their eyelids and hoping they would go back to sleep with peace one more time. After a few periods, they would barely walk, dragging their feet, bent over, deserted, incapable to observe this world with their own two eyes, incapable to eat, with a fierce desire to go back to nightly swaying hoping for a dream. After a few more periods we would find them in their shelters, staring into nothingness, head crooked, with exhausted eyes and contorted features, looking for meaning. If they only knew how much they have given themselves to uneasiness and allowed it to take them over, they would find their piece.
In the following period when we would notice them being departed in the morning, we knew they were gone. We would carry them, now in their final sleep, on a plain, cover with sand and leave them to rest.
They would never come back… At least in the same form.
In one of the rare peaceful days, I have observed the thing we call me. The lake had sparkled, challenged by the last song of the sun to go dancing, but instead, it slowly closed its windows for our inspections. I wanted to stop the moment, wanted to stay and look myself for a bit longer, but pitiless night hadn’t heard my desires. My eyes were still stuck to the restless image of my souls’ shell when I saw one small pebble. Silent, sitting there on the shore waiting – for me?
Now, instead of myself, I have observed the pebble. It was white, with one shallow, small crack, calm. I took it in my palm, it was still warm form today’s period. Bathed with water and sun, it almost burned my skin. I moved it, feeling it shift its weight, grasping my change and my hand making peace with the changes, and now my fingers were slightly burning, and my palm was cold, exposed to the wind. On my palm, a bit of soil remained, and I brushed it off with ease.
While I was twisting it above the water, for the first time I saw something else mirrored, not myself. I stared at it, turning every side towards the water, catching the last glint of light on the surface, when, in all its glory, it skipped from my fingers down to the depths of unknown. It curled the water and I wanted to jump and run away, but yet I stayed. The water took it gently, embraced it and finally swallowed. I dived in, but dark had already settled below and stretched its fingers towards me.
That is when I felt someone pulling me out. I needed a bit of time, just as much as the bird needs to get into its nest, but when I had turned around, there was no one. I observed the distance, as best as I could in the night, and only one shrub slightly moved – or was it the wind? I was sitting alone again, surrounded by darkness and stars, but I understood one thing. That wasn’t anyone I knew.
 Month of May.
 Timespan of about one day.
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