Properly Luminous & Sizzling Orange

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TC1 is enjoying its best month ever – seven sales so far including the Chirp audiobook and I’ve had a run of four sales in three days and estimated royalties of $28 or so. That’s right, all of $28 (for anyone considering writing a novel to make money). Of course royalties at my level of sales don’t matter – my ACOS is so tilted in the wrong direction (recall that TC1 to date has cost me ~$20K) that I’d have to sell literally one-thousand times that amount of copies to get anywhere past break even. No, I’m not looking at the money. But I remain a little baffled at zero reviews and no ratings beyond the first two, one each in the U.K. and the U.S. How to explain it? I suppose it doesn’t matter. If the bump in sales has something to do with the approaching holiday season or perhaps the increased lockdowns and mask awareness (I’m convinced the cover attracts what might be called covid clicks) I don’t know. But I’d hate for somebody to buy the novel based on the cover expecting it to be about what’s in the news and be disappointed. I doubt that happens because (my blog post explaining the cover aside), nothing about the synopsis implies anything to do with masks and pandemics. But you never know. You read some of the reviews on Amazon and it’s as if the buyer somehow didn’t read the synopsis, other reviews or anything else online about the book or the author let alone did they avail themselves of the “Look Inside” option. You get “My copy arrived in terrible condition: 1-star.” Ugh. So, again, be careful what you wish for regarding reviews and ratings, I get it.

Meanwhile, I would indeed enjoy getting an impression of what readers find compelling about the novel, if anything. It’s the tribe thing and learning something about one’s audience. Why else write except to communicate? Somebody else may regard audience feedback as a curse, as either irrelevant or as information that negatively impacts any future books. I don’t want to know because I have to stay in the zone kind of thing. Not me. I don’t fret about outside influences at all. Which is to say that I can’t imagine somebody’s opinion affecting my writing. I’m at that stage where it’s take it or leave it. Like it or don’t. I’d love to be read and liked, that’s my dream like it’s everybody else’s. But that some authors appeal to their readership for critiques in advance of publication, or for their opinion on book titles and cover art is an insane example of death-by-committee: nothing good comes of taking a survey and trying to please people. Because as Campbell suggested, trying to give people what they think they want, or what they say they want is giving them something they already have. Likewise co-authoring a novel, this stuff just seems crazy to me. Authoring a novel is not a group trip. The exile and single perspective is part of it. Yes, to publish anything worthwhile requires the assistance of other professionals. But that’s publishing, not art-craft. They are not identical. Otherwise, if you want your stories picked apart and vetted by committee watch a damn movie. We all know that studios will audience test a film and change the frigging ending if they have to, among other things, to please people.

Anyway, as I’ve said, I’ve already written the first drafts of the next two novels and I’m fifty pages into the fourth. True, as I edit TC2 I’m rewriting it but not in a wholesale manner: that is, while my editing may be substantive I don’t see any plot or character problems. The stories work. They have solid beginnings, middles and ends. There are requisite disasters and character arcs. The quality will be arguable, perhaps I’m too close to it all, I get it, but I’m wholeheartedly convinced the stories stand up. And if they don’t, if TC2 and TC3 fall flat and nobody buys them and my career as a novelist flops and I look back on four sales in three days as my career peak then so be it: I’ve done my absolute best and the mythology is nothing if not authentic.

When will TC2 arrive? I find that I enjoy taking my time with the editing. When I’m not editing I feel anxious about getting the thing done and published and out there – I’m psychologically all in a rush and slave to the disorientation of being obsessed with outcomes. But when I’m working on the manuscript things slow down and the characters make their presence known, which is to say they mandate their own exposition and proper development. I’ll assume that this or that scene is a minor one (or a major one) and the characters are going to do this or that and inevitably I’ll be convinced that, no, when Mr. Z. encounters Zizo as an old man in 1954 Bombay (I’m sorry but that is a far more evocative name for a city than Mumbai), for example, it’s suddenly and unexpectedly an opportunity to investigate the existential dilemmas – the HDT entanglements as I call them. Again, the plot doesn’t change during the editing but the exposition – the accounting for the story, so to say, does. Likewise the character arcs: the shape of the curve changes to better communicate what the underlying mythology is driving towards. In other words, when I write fiction I’ve not so much an idea in mind as an intuition that I follow, and then the trick is to get myself out of the way of what the characters are up to, what needs to happen, what needs to be communicated.

That’s how it works after the series has been established, at least. I can hardly recall now what it was like to write the first draft of TC1 it’s so long ago – almost six years. I remember beginning the manuscript, sitting at my kitchen counter (I’ve always used the kitchen as my office) very soon after the New Year with an attitude of experimentation. I’ve been writing in some manner my whole life (the story is within the DOP) so that writing isn’t new but writing out a story to accompany the image of what became Five (my brother’s original image is also explained within the DOP) was new to me. My brother and I had been making up fanciful scenarios to explain his characters (he had an image of a fox wearing a plaid overcoat and high-top tennis shoes that became Mr. Z. and he’d also illustrated the Mothman, which he referred to as a Slothman before I changed it). And while it was merely a larkish thing to do for my brother the story telling on behalf of the Five image somehow wouldn’t let me go. This is the nature of being seized by something, very often an image, literal or imaginary: you must allow the unsettling experience and then explore ways to express the energy – to transform the potential energy into kinetic. Such is inspiration.

I sat there, then, at the kitchen counter that afternoon and clacked away just seeing what I could manage to crank out, expecting to have everything peter out at any moment. But the story just kept coming. In spite of the fact that I’d literally not written fiction since I was in the first grade (another DOP story). I’d never had a creative writing class in high school or college. I’d never once considered writing a short story or a novel. The idea of writing dialogue was such a mystery to me that when I began hammering out Time Crime I didn’t even know how to properly format the paragraphs. It sounds silly but it’s true – for a couple days at least I wrote out the story without any line breaks for dialogue. And attributions were an experiment to say the least. “said Mr. Z.” or “Vixy said” and all that. I just ran everything together until I found myself with enough story to think, well, I’ve got to learn how this is done now or I’m going to have too much writing to have to go back and fix later. So I spent an hour or so reacquainting myself with the novels I had at hand and if I poked around the web at all regarding the proper technique of novel writing I don’t remember it. It all came quickly and fairly effortlessly, the getting up to speed on how to do it. And of course this is how it is with anything you’ve got a flair or talent for: you make exponential progress, your skills are realized in leaps and bounds where when you attempt things you have no talent for you struggle to make the smallest advances and it never gets any easier. This is the difference between playing to your talents versus trying to learn a skill: talents, once engaged, more or less take care of themselves whereas skill sets can require a lifetime of painful and frustrating endeavor to acquire. Let alone mastery. One doesn’t achieve mastery, that is, unless one begins with talent in a thing.

But dear readers please do not misinterpret what I’m describing as something akin to patting myself on the back or claiming that I possess notable talent from the perspective of others. No. I’m only communicating the idea of natural born ability versus acquired ability or skill. We all possess talents. Through deliberate practice one’s talents can be honed into strengths and finally mastery. Skills can be acquired in anything regardless of one’s level of talent in a thing and it shows for skills are merely the building blocks of accomplishment in anything that if you’re merely skilled you never really get past – working on one’s weaknesses is like this, that is, you make very little progress in a lifetime – but talents, as I’ve said, by their nature tend to take off on their own, as if one has no limits and nothing is a barrier. Skills can be taught, of course. But talents cannot. You acquire skills. You are born with talents.

But aren’t skills part of talents? Yes. But when working within one’s talents the acquisition of skill sets seems to progress so exponentially more quickly and efficiently that it seems you’re not learning anything at all and you’re merely born with the skills. Which is to say that if you slowed a talented person’s process down you would see, as in slow motion, the skills being acquired bit by bit. But in real time it happens so fast – the precociously talented little Mozart, for example, who at the age of six is playing the piano and composing classical pieces as well an adult. And then by the age of sixteen they’ve achieved mastery and are writing works regarded as genius for the next several centuries. So that there are levels of talent. We’re not all Mozart. But we all have our talents that, when expressed, stand out.

Back to the idea of editing. It is also a talent. And it ‘ain’t pretty. If I edited these blog posts in anything besides a slapdash on the run manner, for instance, I’d be rereading and rewriting at least three times before posting them. I don’t do that because if I did I’d never get anything else done in life. Editing is time consuming as hell. In fact at least for me it’s all a fairly miserable experience, at times torturous because an author mostly just wants to be done with the book as quickly as possible. Hey, as a comparison, when have you as a reader read anything more than once? Let alone reread something with an eye towards improving it? If it’s your favorite book perhaps you’ve done that. I’ve read The Great Gatsby something like five times. Lord of the Rings I think perhaps three. The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Masks of God and Pathways to Bliss all more than once. But really never with any type of critical perspective; rather, I’m rereading my favorites to reexperience what I like about them and to be free of technical criticism. Meanwhile, mostly we read a novel, especially, and then on to the next one.

But as Neil Young suggested, you have to respect the muse. And as Joe Campbell declared, It’s not me, it’s the myths. And the characters write themselves. So that grinding away for two days on a paragraph may seem an impossible waste of time and speak to the idea that I suck as a writer. After all, doesn’t a great writer get it all right the first time and submit sparklingly edited manuscripts chock full of ferocious prose to their big time traditional publisher who merely has the thing printed and shipped? Mostly no. I read somewhere that John Updike submitted immaculate manuscripts that flew through the copy-editing process like there was no tomorrow. Substantive editing? I don’t know. But most of us are catching typos, second state, third state, yadda, blah until we meet the grave. And regarding so-called line editing and substantive editing we read our work and think, inevitably, I could have done that better. Such is the life.

In other news, my brother the “Hot Wheel Guy” finished his second commission, the Swingin’ Wing on time and the customer was pleased. “It’s better than the real thing,” she said. And this of course speaks to the idea of the affecting image. Which can be anything that resonates, be it a hawk circling the treetops, a babbling brook, an illustration of a science fiction alien, a Hot Wheel. Whatever works. Or, more accurately, whatever does its work most affectingly (and effectively) upon you.

What is it, then, about the Hot Wheels paintings that people like? Well, they are the expression of zeal, of inspiration, of the muse and they are in particular an example of personal mythology – that of my brother’s – being effectively communicated by way of his talent as a painter and an art-craft visionary. The woman who has been acting as his de facto agent so far said, “You can see the love.”

Loving a thing, of course, does not guarantee that one can render its expression adequately to qualify as art-craft. You can love to paint or love to golf or love to tie fly fishing flies but that doesn’t mean it’s anything more than your hobby. As I’ve described elsewhere a hobby is that which you do for the love of it but for which you do not possess any particular or otherwise recognizable talent. This is another topic, a life’s work in itself, the discussion of what is art-craft and what isn’t. What I’m aiming at here is what my brother, hereafter referred to as HWG (Hot Wheel Guy) is on to. What is he trying to do by way of painting these castings and toying (pun intended) with their dimensions and perspectives?

The process, by the way, involves HWG spending untold hours capturing the perfect perspective of each casting (a particular Hot Wheel model is referred to as a casting) against the perfect background color as a photograph. Then he paints the photograph in whatever dimension (canvass size) that seems right to him or, as in the example of this last commission, the size requested by the client. It works best, he says, when all the information is in the photograph. Otherwise, when he has to combine bits and pieces from more than one photograph or if he has to imagine or otherwise make something up to get where he needs to be with it, it’s much more difficult and the results therefore are less predictably successful. This has to do with mastery and vision and the high wire act that is authentic art-craft. That is, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and oftentimes it’s somewhere in between so that the whole experiment is a fascinating discussion played out on canvasses.

Joe Campbell suggested somewhere that when you ask an artist to explain his work and if he doesn’t like you he’ll do it. Campbell for his part possessed very much an astute artistic mind and in a nutshell interpreted art – what I call art-craft – as an expression of context, though he never used that phrase explicitly. That is to say, people ask what art is and isn’t and it cuts through all the bullshit to understand that art-craft is whatever anybody says it is and that’s that. With the caveat that claiming an art-craft context does not at all guarantee quality or successful communication. The other argument about art-craft is that it is nothing if not an attempt at communication. Context and communication, then, suffice as a definition of art-craft to allow us to continue discussing it.

What is HWG doing? Can he explain his work? Those of us who are interested are fortunate because while the best work requires no explanation (and his does not) he’s keen to provide one as part of his experiment. And I think it’s compelling.

“It’s better than the real thing”. No, it’s not. What it is, is, this is what it actually is, as in a microscopic view of the reality of the thing. A painting is an artifact, this style like a hyperventilation – it’s a swooning, in that everything that is embedded in the thing has been heightened, pushed, to tickle the human condition.

Amplified is a better term. I guess I was referring to how an artist looks at something, the discernment. We look intensely at a thing, which most people don’t. When I take a photo of these cars (luckily with digital it costs nothing to take hundreds, which I do) it needs to be exactly right, I need to capture the essence of that car to me, my interpretation of its essence. Everyone sees them in their own way. I guess the paintings are my way of communicating how I see these things, or what I see in them, or how they affect me.

This has to do with connoisseurship and aesthetic arrest, entire studies unto themselves. But I’d suggested the idea, originally Campbell’s, that affecting images involve amplification. And there are studies (which Campbell references in the first volume of his Masks of God series) or examples that demonstrate the effect of literal amplification, namely, of making a thing extra large or extra small or extra dark, light, bright, what have you. Such amplification affects animals, too. There is a type of moth, for instance, for which the darkest colored female attracts the male (or vice versa, I can’t recall) and if a dummy version is created that is even darker than any version found in nature, it is that version that most effectively attracts the moths to each other.

All of this plays into what HWG is doing. I’ve described Hot Wheels as little big things and any affecting image as such, implying that by way of something about a thing’s proportions alone one can arrive at something affecting. It goes beyond that, of course; size indeed matters (!) but color and form and context and… well, I’ll stop there.

The image I have, a crappy smart phone photograph, doesn’t do the painting justice at all – the real thing is far more vividly colored, the spectra-flame paint is properly luminous and the background is a sizzling orange like the flesh of a butternut squash. To see it (and the other HW paintings), go to HWG’s website (you’ll have to wait until he gets the new image up): https://kevinewing.weebly.com/personal-artwork.html

Writer’s World Episode #125: The Sacred Stage

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Devoted King Crimson fans may appreciate the details of the above photograph from Tony Levin’s long-running “Website and Road Diary” https://tonylevin.com/. I was at this show in 2019, part of Crim’s 50th anniversary tour, way back when folks were permitted to commingle like human beings and worship at their choice of rock music temples. Identify the city (it’s easy) and win a Time Crime audiobook giveaway code!

Robert Fripp himself refers to the stage as a sacred place. And I came up with the term Sacred Stage which seems either like a catchy name for a band or perhaps the title of a book on comparative mythology or mythography. Instead of The World as Personal and Cultural Mythology, for instance. My magnum opus. Perhaps I could combine the two titles: The Sacred Stage: The World as Personal & Cultural Mythology.

I like it. I don’t know why, exactly (always a good thing) except that it’s suitably evocative and mysterious. It’s compelling in all things mythological. Because myth if nothing else has to do with the sacred and the expression of it.

Sacred? I could declare my coffee cup to be sacred and mean it. I could encounter a profound silence in the woods and regard it as sacred. I could observe religious praxis or ritual of any particular type and be moved or stirred to respect its sacredness, regardless of the nature of my faith.

I’ll begin with my definition of sacred and then I’ll look it up (it’s not uncommon for me to come across a word and have my intuitive definition actually be its antonym. Which is a weird thing in itself, to be 180 degrees, as it were, turned around from the thing.

Sacred. 1. Implying or demonstrating spiritual significance. 2. Symbolic and evocative of the quality of transcendence. 3. Unassailably, unimpeachably resonant in personal or cultural terms; guiltless, faultless. 4. Divine.

Now, the dictionary version: Holy. Blessed. Consecrated. Hallowed. Revered. Sanctified. Sacrosanct. Secular (Antonym).

Hmm, I like all words in the professional version. Then again, I like mine, too. In terms of an antonym I’d mimic Eliade: “profane.” Also, I could have included perhaps the idea of mythic or mythological import; of an Earthbound thing’s intangibly yet forcibly amplified super natural or otherworldly aspect. Fripp:

A supportive, generous audience with one significant exception: a character who approached the stage, during The LCG’s first block of pieces, and put his stuff on the stage. I was standing offstage right, and it looked as if he might be an official photographer/critic of the arrogant kind. The act of music is always sacred, and the performance space (specifically, the stage) is also sacred. So, for a character to walk up & dump his stuff on it, as if it were a table, is sacrilegious. Even for a pillock of exceptional dopiness, this is rude.[1]

It turns out the man in fact had recording equipment amongst his paraphernalia and when his  stuff was removed from the stage and handed back to him he was indignant. “If you can record so can I!”

I’m not a musician, I’ve never been on a stage outside of an elementary school play or chorus (I can’t sing), yet I understand the implication. I’ve never even considered attempting to surreptitiously bootleg a concert. That is to say, I’ve always intuitively considered the concert stage in the context of being a member of the audience as categorically off limits. Though I admit to being entertained by the handful of intrepid or intoxicated folks who haul themselves up onto to it only to be summarily tossed back or led away by security. Hey, what’s rock n’ roll without a regular dose of subversion even against itself? But until now I’d never considered a stage as sacred. Part of the ritual of a rock concert, yes. Sacred, no.

Fripp’s antagonisms towards the antagonists in his audience is legendary and mostly humorous but sometimes it reveals, I think, the truth of the man’s creative authenticity and something of his personal mythology. That is, when he refers to something like a concert stage as sacred, he means it.

I follow Nick Cave’s Red Hand Files https://www.theredhandfiles.com/, a blog of sorts where he answers questions posted to him and I was inspired to submit another one:

I’m again referencing mythology, the sheltering sky of all things contemplative and spiritual, and picking at yours because, again, I think you are advancing it via your work, like it or not. Meanwhile, some folks – Robert Fripp, for example (whom I realize contributed a guitar solo to a Grinderman flip side), have referred to the stage as sacred and anything affronting it, like an audience member once setting his stuff on the edge of it during a performance – as indeed sacrilegious. How do you interpret or otherwise experience the stage?

News flash! – an audiobook sale on Chirp yesterday, yay! Thank you, dear new listener. I’ve been struggling against the lag in sales despite less than two weeks having passed since the last couple. Somehow it’s simply impossible to endure the possibility of never selling another book and for whatever reason I remain cursed with the sense that I’ve yet to get over the hump of credibility and legitimacy as an authorpreneur and that it’ll all come to ignominious end and… what? Of course at this point it has nothing to do with money, either the spending or the making of it. It’s simply that I’m all in and I’m at the mercy of fate. Inasmuch that my marketing efforts can only do so much. The rest is up to good reviews, word of mouth and somehow, someday getting the novel into the hands of an influencer. My Chirp promotion sale translates to a whopping royalty of $0.90. But a sale, any sale at any price, empowers the dream and fuels the TC2 editing engines. We require so very little.

This after being nagged by a recruiter with a job with PPG (the automotive paint supplier) in Flat Rock, Michigan. It sounds like a lab job and I’ve worked in a lab. Ugh. Labs require all kinds of technical acumen, they seek education and experience and they don’t fucking pay. This job? I don’t even care what it pays I’m not driving to Flat Rock every fucking day and dumping my dreams for a slog at an automobile plant. Or wherever, who knows? – I don’t pay attention any longer to that career I left behind. Well, to be honest I experienced a twinge of interest. Maybe I could still do that kind of thing, I thought. Maybe I ought to just chuck all this miserable writing shit, go for this job and work at working my life out again, collecting a decent full time paycheck at some plant, lab, facility, yadda f*cking blah. And then I deleted the email.

Didn’t I just reiterate in my previous blog that after decades of struggle, decades of wandering the wasteland and failing over and over again at the conventional life I’d finally surrendered to my life’s work, come what may? Yes. And there I was pondering, yet again, the possibility of me somehow getting on the main deck of life and… what? – working another ten years for the man if they’d let me? As if I’d last ten months. I’m insane in this way, of course – crazy is doing the same thing and expecting a different result – always with the door unlocked to my inauthentic workaday life even though I’m committed to having closed it.

I suppose it’s what I’m seeking, then, when I’m seeking book sales. Thirty-nine or seventy or eighty sales a day means I’ve forded the river, crossed the unknown sea, achieved the yonder shore. But who sells that many books in a year? And who keeps it up year after year? Statistically, nobody. So be it. I’ve chosen the writing life or it has chosen me – it chose me when I was just a kid, the tale is in previous volumes of the DOP for anyone to read someday when I manage to publish it all or post it or what have you. Perhaps it will be nonfiction that carries the day in terms of my oeuvre and legacy. What oeuvre? What legacy? Hey, the vision will come to pass but only if I managed to hold to it. And let it go at the same time, of course. I have learned that whatever I do or don’t do, whatever happens or doesn’t, it’s too late to stop now: I need to run this thing out to the end, to the vanishing point if there is one and meanwhile try to enjoy something about the roller coaster ride. Right. And then my twenty-four hours of sales bliss will play out and I’ll be back to chewing glass and pacing the cage. So be it.

Now a key aspect of being indie is that TC1 cannot be remaindered and my unsold copies pulped as would already have been the case with a trad publisher had I ever been cursed with having that misguided wish come true. No. Time Crime will be available on the market as long as I’m willing to keep it there. And market it. Hence keep it in the public eye, hence viable. It’s true that at the end of January next year it will be a year old in publication terms and then perhaps be old news to some but frankly I don’t see the publication date of novels being anywhere near as important to readers as it is to the old guard publishers and of course the old guard publications that review only the latest books. In other words, since TC1 has never catered to trends (I wouldn’t know how to) nor benefitted at all from any new release buzz it won’t suffer from the passing of time any more than the novel is suffering from semi-obscurity now. I hereby declare its immunity to that. I can sell at least a copy a month forever and when I manage to get it all out as a tetralogy then, well, I can die having done it and the film franchise can further immortalize it and so on. Legacy established, mission complete.

Such is the stretch goal. Meanwhile, keeping track of sales outside of Amazon is only tricky, I suppose, if I don’t bother to keep a spreadsheet or something. Which I’ll have to do if I manage any real quantity. As it stands, with the exception of the seven or eight freebie “sales” on Bookfunnel (I’m not inclined to track freebies and giveaways because I only do them in the off-chance a reader will review the novel) I’ve so far sold exactly two copies outside of Amazon: the Barnes & Noble hard cover my editor bought and now this Chirp audiobook sale. Which is crazy, especially since the audiobook if nothing else is deeply discounted on my Authors Direct storefront. But nobody cares, clearly.

I’d have to go through my Amazon royalty statements to verify print, eBook and audiobook combined sales but I think it’s past the fifty copies milestone. It’s weird, then, to be committed to going wide, as they say (not exclusive to Amazon) when the facts reveal that, at least statistically, nobody buys books outside of Amazon. The idea, of course, is to eventually build an author platform that generates significant sales across the numerous alternative retail outlets, so that publishing wide pays off. That, and there’s always the possibility that my Amazon KDP presence somehow becomes jeopardized – stranger things have happened than giant corporations going out of business or getting sold or divvied up and having entire databases rendered obsolete. For now, Amazon is king. But hat’s off to Chirp for getting in the game!

[1] Robert Fripp, Robert Fripp’s Diary, June 24, 2006, https://www.dgmlive.com/diaries/Robert%20Fripp/rf-diary-june24-2006.

These Dreams Will Never Sleep. Or, It’s All Greek to Me.

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Greek Toy in the Benaki Museum (https://www.benaki.org/index.php?lang=en). Space scooter, astronaut on scooter made of chromolithographed tin and plastic, with battery mechanism, by K.K. Masutoku Toy Factory company, trademark ΜΤ. Japan, 1960s. (ΤΠΠ_5273)

Meanwhile, lousy election, covidiacy-without-end – there remains a faction of the population seemingly gleeful about the idea of wearing a worthless (unless perhaps you’re a surgeon) mask and rebreathing their own carbon dioxide for the rest of their lives – heartless self-serving agendas, shameless hypocrisy and tyrannical obsession with me and mine. In other words, it’s the way it’s always been, people are people, no worries. Things tend to fall apart, as Nick Caves sings, but then again they tend to come back together again and in the end, it all balances out somehow, too. Be assured there is life on other planets and their struggles are the same. The play-of-opposites in mythological terms and everything in between is what we call life perhaps cosmos wide, from when we huddled around campfires and painted the cave walls to, well, when we still huddle around campfires and paint the parking structure walls.

But on the good side of things, we’ve enjoyed a wave of remarkably nice autumn weather. Which is to say that I’m convinced it’s wise not to talk politics nor pay much attention to current events. Because in the end today’s so-called news isn’t markedly different from yesterdays. Or yesteryears. The same stories over and over. I recall being in college and having a prof try to convince us all that we ought to be reading the newspaper every day (back when there were newspapers). That being informed was important. Informed about what, I would ask myself? Because I’d long ago given up trying to find anything worth reading in the newspaper that was delivered to our house each morning. Journalism to me simply seemed tossed off and rote and a rehash of the day before. As if it were all a journalist could do to get the requisite word count submitted to his so-called editor each evening and then fill up the empty space again the next day. Ugh. I likened it to being assigned papers in school – middle school, high school, what have you. You are to write three to five pages on the following…. What misery. I immediately concluded that as soon as somebody tells me what to write about, how many pages or words it has to be and when it’s due, I’m out. Checked out. And anything anybody else can manage to expectorate under such conditions, well, just try to recall anything about any article you’ve ever read from the media.

An analogy might be how whenever a hilariously irreverent and accidentally trenchant comedian becomes suddenly keen to reference up-to-the-minute current events as the driving force of their schtick. Johnny Carson comes to mind. The man was hilarious except during his opening monologue, written by his writers – all those years of him cracking lame jokes about this or that president and then only getting a laugh by way of leering at the camera and repeating the punch line. Yawn. Hey, folks run out of ideas, the zeal tends to dissipate with success and newsworthy politics mostly isn’t. News within the context of the news media, after all, is a commodity. I read somewhere, some ex-journalist explaining why she was compelled to quit the business of selling the news as she called it: that out of all that is happening – the whole of the news of the world – there is after all only the plane crashes, murders, suicide bombings, train wrecks, movie star infidelities, terrorist attacks and stupid pet tricks that captures anybody’s attention enough to click on a headline. Sale! Cha-ching! The negative always has a greater impact, it grabs us more readily than hearing about something good that happened. Would you click on a story with the headline: Remarkably Delicious Pancake Recipe Discovered? Well, perhaps you would. Which is to say, perhaps I would, too.

My point is course that we are begin sold the news. Which is what the phrase “fake news” is trying to communicate; namely, that the so-called news isn’t what’s happening as much as it’s what the media is trying to get us to click on so that they can increase advertising revenue. The news is a business, not a public service. Don’t let any journalist tell you otherwise, either, because they’re selling their stories to the media who sells them to us. I’ll shut up about it.

In other non-news (hah!), no book sales for over a week. And the only thing that really matters is the no book sales for over a week. Because it makes me crazy and transforms the otherwise trivial bullshit of life into major irritations. Because that’s how my brain works.

How to increase sales? How to break through and make the book “take off?” Let it go. That is, keep up the marketing experiment, envision a significant and lasting boost in sales as a result of the holiday season, envision glowing reviews that garner even more sales and otherwise soldier into 2021 in TC2 editing mode. The long haul, long term perspective is my only chance at breaking free from exile and mediocrity and the humiliation of a pedestrian level hobby business. Fame and fortune? Irrelevant. Well, I’ll take the fortune. But I only really require $100K annual, say, from the books for the rest of my life. Which translates to about eighty sales a day. Every day. Alternatively, I’ll take a huge spike in sales for a year or two or three that nets me the cash that I can sock away. But that route will require perhaps double the sales to double the revenue to cover for the doubling in taxes. Yadda, blah.

Meanwhile, it’s all so miserably unglamorous. Which doesn’t trouble me either. Hell, I’m used to unglamorous. What troubles me, if I apply a little quick and dirty RAIN-style analysis[1] is the risk of another full blown, balls out failure. Another vanishing point that renders my bank account drained of tens of thousands of dollars, my heart and soul and personal mythology crushed and my life worthless. It’s that simple. Write, publish, succeed or die a miserable failure.

What else is there? The writing and authorpreneurial endeavor for its own sake? The modest sense of having accomplished something worth doing won’t cut it. I’m not living for half measures. I want it all. If “all” turns out to be too much, well, that’s a good problem to have. No? We’ll see. All I know for certain is what jazzes me, what enables my experience of being properly alive and slaving away at novels only to sell fifty books a year in the end is not the sustainable vision.

All that said, I’m compelled towards nothing else. My life’s work is this. The realization of which has taken near a lifetime to achieve. And it makes me wonder what my life would have been like up till now had I grasped my life’s work in my early twenties, say, akin to most artist-craftsman types. Would I have enjoyed a long and critically well regarded and economically successful career of publishing novels and non-fiction and what have you? Would I have been an author now at the peak of my career? God knows. Or the gods know.

On the topic of God and the gods it strikes me that I recall a portion of one of my dreams last night, a rare occurrence. I do have the sense that I experienced several dreams or dream sequences, what have you – it’s not as if a dream is a story in the sense of expressing a beginning, middle and end. With conflict, protagonists and antagonists. No. Dreams are a mess of nonsensical imagery and disjointed, juxtaposed symbology (at best) and spurious tangles of directionless anxious energy. So much for my opinion of oneirology. That is to say, I believe, as Campbell did, that mythology or parts of it can originate in dreams both sleeping and waking. But mythology is not exclusive to dreams or dreamlike states of mind. It can be a visionary experience, a happenstance of full consciousness, cogent awareness and rational presence. And when you paint it or sing it or write it out, you get a piece of more or less compelling art-craft. Time Crime, for example.

Now, regarding the type of fully functional cultural mythologies – Christianity, for instance – that drive the development of religions and their followers, this I think has to do with the dynamic mash up of personal vision, specifically on behalf of particularly charismatic and articulate “dreamers” or visionaries, and historical fact. In other words, facts of Nature and facts of human history. Which in many ways are the same if, like me, you are a romantic in the sense of classic romanticism which seeks in Nature the revelation, so to say, of the self. Biology as mythology and vice versa, as it were. Which is not positivism. I’m not reducing the truths of mythology to the facts of biology per se or as such. Which is to say I’m not convinced biology is merely biology in the sense of cause and effect as a person who thinks in exclusively scientific terms would happily render it. No. I have an intuition, common to many, that biology is still an undiscovered country in the sense that the power of metaphor – the comparison of two (or more) disparate things that results in an unforeseen Third Thing – is a real and not merely imaginary power. Or that imagination is a power. I won’t speculate here on the existence of the supernatural or (as Jeff Kripal terms it)[2] the super natural or a so-called block universe and whether our imagination can literally affect the past, present and future or what have you. I’m only establishing or reiterating or continuing to enhance here in this journal my ongoing speculation and ever-transforming understanding of the experience of life. My recent dream, then:

I’m exasperated and anxious and I’ve somehow sought out or come upon a church and I’m compelled to attempt to enter, scrambling up the broad steps, testing the heavy double wooden doors common to the older churches and bursting in. I’m more anxious now that I’m inside – I feel both out of place and that I’m in exactly the right place to resolve whatever anxiety-inducing thing that is going on. Of which I have no clear sense at all.

The floor is white marble as are the steps before me. But I pause to snatch a flag of some type, wooden handled, the flag itself of red (I think) cloth, embellished with religious or mythological imagery in white or metallic silver and perhaps gold but I can’t be certain because I don’t properly see it, somehow. I just know that I need to have this flag so as to mount the steps and enter the church proper, which I do, encountering rows of pews filled with people, their backs to me. Ahead there is the inevitable raised alter of which I can’t make out any details. Somehow I’m embroiled with my sense of panicked urgency and this confounded flag in my hands that I’m keen to wave, clumsily, as a sort of appeal or declaration or I don’t know what. I don’t know what the matter is with everything. It’s all very fraught and urgent what I have to do but damned if I’ve no clue at all what I’m doing and it seems as if it’s only in my own head. For I fall on the floor with my flag in relief of having found what I sense is a safe house, a neutral ground at least but also possible salvation. But then I sense trouble, that I’m not welcome, that the threat remains and I scramble to my feet again.

Next I’m down at the entrance again, the white marble steps and a crowd of people are coming in and I’m replacing this flag where I found it which is to say within some sort of flag stand or holder some three feet tall, also made of white marble, but with a hole ostensibly for the flag pole but there are two such holders with holes and I’m burdened now with the sense of having placed the flag in the wrong holder and the other people in church somehow may be upset by this. There might be a large blue and white umbrella to do with the Greek flag or something (I recall thinking that it’s somehow Greek) that I may have misplaced or confused with the other flag. Or something. The dream ends with me standing there confused and baffled and frustrated and anxious inside this church with this issue of the red flag and the other blue and white umbrella or flag.

From wikipedia.org:

The national flag of Greece, popularly referred to as the “blue and white” or the “sky blue and white” is officially recognized by Greece as one of its national symbols and has nine equal horizontal stripes of blue alternating with white. There is a blue canton in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a white cross; the cross symbolizes Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the prevailing religion of Greece.

According to popular tradition, the nine stripes represent the nine syllables of the phrase “Freedom or Death.” The nine stripes are also said to represent the letters of the word “freedom.” There is also a different theory, that the nine stripes symbolize the nine Muses, the goddesses of art and civilization (nine has traditionally been one of the numbers of reference for the Greeks).

A church I’ve never been to, some crazy flags, a sense of panicky, fraught urgency and an unknown woman? Oh, I forgot to mention her. She was dark haired, middle aged, no erotica or sense of attraction or emotion involved – she was just there. Carl Jung has some things to say about the unknown woman. And I have a sense that he’s right, that for a man she represents something of the unknown aspect of ourselves that each of us has yet to properly or effectively assimilate. For a woman, at least in heterosexual terms, she dreams of the unknown man. That Jung described the animus as the unconscious masculine side of a woman, and the anima as the unconscious feminine side of a man, each transcending the personal psyche rings true. The mythologies of the world have of course long ago addressed gender in sophisticated and compelling terms – the idea, for instance, that there are perhaps four genders: man, woman, men-identifying-as-feminine and women-identifying-as-masculine. If it’s unsettling to you, so be it, it’s real and allowing it in your head simply means allowing how things are.

Meanwhile, what innovators like Jung, for instance, were doing of course was to become scholars of mythological imagery as a way to perhaps better understand the substance of dreams. Because intuitively the myths seem born of dreams, asleep or waking. And why not follow your intuition? If anything dreams seems to express or seek in some manner to express our intuitions. Too bad, then, that dreams insist upon obscurity and mystery and what seems oblique imagery. Most of my dreams seem to be nonsense. Jung recognized the pedestrian variety which he dismissed in the same manner as we all tend to; namely, as distorted and transformed memory, wish and unhinged imagination. The so-called big dreams were what he focused upon in his psychiatry. And within his mythological scholarship. And his own life.

I have since learned the difference between my wild imagination in dreams and affecting symbols. Even when the symbols are mostly or completely indecipherable in conscious, cognitive terms they affect us as if loaded with other energies – unconscious, super natural or super-biological, what have you: such dreams possess palpable portent. They feel different to have experienced hence I legitimize that phenomenon and label the dreams like Jung did as indeed big. What to do with the imagery and symbology, such as it is? Experiment with deciphering them as best you can, within your interest and means and otherwise, as Campbell suggested, let the images work on you. He implies that the results or outcomes or influences of big dreams upon us can be occult yet valuable. And I agree. Because that’s the sense I have of them and I prefer to maintain a certain faith in my senses. Hell, life if nothing else is a phenomenon and why not respect the phenomenology?

These dreams will never sleep. So sings Graham Parker (“Blue Horizon” on the album Deepcut to Nowhere, 2001). Indeed. Here’s to dreams then, and the unsettling symbols within them. And to aspiring to allow them to work on us in spite of ourselves….

P.S. Hats off to veterans today!

[1] RAIN. Or, R.A.I.N. Recognize. Allow. Investigate. Non-attach. It comes from Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance, (New York: Bantam Dell, 2004). Tara Brach, PhD., as Wikipedia describes, is an American psychologist, author, and proponent of Buddhist meditation.

[2] One of Kripal’s more popular books is the one he wrote alongside Whitely Strieber, a controversial author and ufologist. Like many, I’m deeply skeptical of Strieber but also like many, I’m wholeheartedly convinced of Kripal’s integrity and compelling vision. See: Whitley Strieber and Jeffery J. Kripal, The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained, (New York: Tarcherperigree, 2016).

Writer’s World Episode 123: Robots Attack!

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I hate this presidential election. If I had to be pigeon-holed into a political stance it would be, as I may or may not have mentioned somewhere, into so-called classical libertarianism. Which is only to say I cherish individual freedom except when the expression of that freedom subjugates, appropriates or otherwise tyrannizes anyone. We don’t have to agree. We don’t all have to get along. Utopia is just that. And a silly waste of time, energy and money to pursue. Read the history of utopian ideals. They fail. So what? Meanwhile, it’s worth a try if it’s your thing, if it’s your zeal, if it’s your VAPM.

Meanwhile, conflict is part of life. It’s mostly a play-of-opposites. Read the myths. Likewise, write a novel and if you fail to include conflict nobody will read it. In a sense, a certain reasonable amount of conflict is, well, healthy. It’s the part of us that resides, perhaps, within the third chakra if you’ve read anything about Kundalini yoga, for instance. Survival, security, sex/domination – those are the first three in the hierarchy. Elsewhere they have other names but the idea of chakra, its essence, is my point. The heart – our humanity – begins only at the fourth. Up till then, we share everything about our nature with the animals, so be it. You think you’re different and special and you don’t hate and don’t desire and don’t suffer? Let’s just say that this presidential election, and then I’ll say no more about it, revealed hatred and righteousness at its worst on ALL sides. The American political machine, as it were, is ugly and it brings the absolute worst out of everyone, including me who tries to participate in it, not matter your intentions. I hereby reiterate to myself the advice I failed to heed: stay the fuck out of it, let it go. It’s not my job let alone my vocation. Done. I’ve got editing to do and I’m happy to have a day off with nice weather and the prospect of a fire pit evening with drinks, the moon and the stars.

My website suffered a so-called “bot attack” this week. I’d noticed what appeared to be dubious purchase failures for the eBook and as it turned out, after querying WooCommerce (WC), it was a significant situation. They shut the thread down to limit the redundant “it happened to me too” stuff and, after I’d re-queried their help desk I received this:

Thanks for contacting WooCommerce.com support. Please note that you’ve reached the support channel reserved for customers of our premium products which means the help we’re able to offer is a bit limited. While you’d normally have to find support through other channels, I do want to address the query you’ve raised given its importance:

My site crashed yesterday, no front or back-end access, I had to appeal to Dreamhost for assistance, they tested my index.php file, woocommerce apparently the problem, they disabled woocommerce on my site and I’m back up. Please advise regarding your reliability otherwise I cannot risk enabling the plugin.

I’m very sorry to hear that your site crashed due to WooCommerce. My first thought is that this may be related to a recent bot attack on WooCommerce stores, which exploited any vulnerabilities found in a site’s code. We’ve release a fix for that issue in the latest version of WooCommerce, which you can read about here….  Please update to the latest version of WooCommerce and let us know if you have continued issues with your site crashing.

It’s worth noting that, although WooCommerce was used as a vehicle for the bots to probe a site, the bots were reliant on vulnerability in other plugins to cause damage. I’d, therefore, also encourage you to make sure all of your other plugins are up-to-date.

If you’re still seeing issues after updating to the latest version, I’d recommend running a conflict test to see if you can pinpoint any that are conflicting directly with WooCommerce. Here’s guidance on how to do that…. I hope this gets you started with finding a solution. If you need additional assistance, please make a post on the community forums. Many of our team members help out there as well. If you have purchased a product on WooCommerce.com, please reply here with the order number for your purchase so we can look this up and help further. Please note that we will not reply further to you through this channel unless an order number is provided. Thank you for using WooCommerce and being part of the open-source community.

S. | Happiness Engineer | Automattic | WooCommerce

Okay. “Happiness Engineer.” Well, they made me happier by responding that’s for sure, right on. Despite that, I did a quick web search to see if I could replace WC quickly and easily but it’s not that simple for anyone like me with limited IT acumen. It’s all I can pretty much do, after all, to keep my Dreamhost-Wordpress-WooCommerce-Boldgrid patchwork quilt of a website ecommerce capable, reasonably priced and marginally professional. DIY. Ugh. But with the BookFunnel promo running and my desire to have all cylinders firing for sales with the holiday’s coming up, for what it’s worth, I just went ahead and updated the WC plugin and things, so far, are green.

All this because, well, it’s another Writer’s World Episode I suppose, by way of theme at least. The subtext of all this blogging (and journaling), after all, is to document the experience of authorpreneurship. My experience. Which is common enough, certainly, but hey, there’s conflict hence there’s a story! For what it’s worth. At best, my story may help somebody. At worst, I’m merely puking into the void. I don’t know. The feedback is…., well, there pretty much isn’t any. I soldier onward like any other writer, come what may.

That said, I checked my Findaway Voices account yesterday and was thrilled to see SALES! Yes, sales. Well, records of sales. Which is to say, after my shock and awe diminished because I briefly thought I’d perhaps sold six more copies of the audiobook that I didn’t know about… sadly, no. It was just Amazon finally reporting my to-date sales, sans the last two in this month, of course. Nonetheless, YIPPEE… DATA! It goes a long way to blending some external legitimization with my routine self-legitimization. You are selling copies, brutha, keep it up. The Cosmos, yes, speaks in colloquialisms.

BookFunnel promo results to date (it runs through Nov. 15th): 10 shares, 27 clicks. Zero sales. Even at $3.99. But then how far beyond my existing little audience do promos go? We’ll see. Ten shares is good because from what I’ve learned that’s the limit of acceptability to keep your “reputation” such that you can enter other promos. Otherwise you’re deemed a slacker and a bad bet. I get it.

I’ve also got a Chirp and Apple audiobook promotion going via Findaway – $1.99 OMG such a steal! I thought, no way, that’s too low but when I discovered First Sister on Chirp with her audiobook at that price, well, I just figured go for it. But I’m not going to any great effort to promote that craziness. No. I’m not in this to give things away. And as devoted readers will recall, my AuthorsDirect storefront has offered the damn thing at $6.75 from the beginning. And no takers! If you’ve read this far and you like Chirp or Apple, then, check out these links to get a deal:

https://www.chirpbooks.com/audiobooks/time-crime-by-carnegie-olson

https://books.apple.com/us/audiobook/id1526817948

And I’ll remind folks that if you’d like a giveaway code for the audiobook via AuthorsDirect, you’ll have to email me for it.

Back in Black

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Just a note: My ecommerce app suffered a so-called “bot attack” that crashed my site yesterday. But things are fixed. And in honor of the hassle I’ve lowered the sale price of the eBook further to $3.99 through Nov. 15th only! Thanks for visiting!