Going Dark



I call it going dark when I devote myself to shutting up and pouring all my energies into the novels. I can get a lot done in that mode. And that’s what’s next.

Time Crime 2: The Great Conflict rages – there is war in the heavens! – and the Mothmen emperor, in a desperate bid to wrest control of space-time from the megalomaniacal clutches of the Molemen, seeks to appropriate the Cosmic Clock component – the golden ball – deploying his minions and pitching the cosmos headlong into a shadowy, unholy terror of mythological fundamentalism and technological enslavement. Meanwhile, the warped machinations of Émile Laron and the mysterious influence of the Scarab Cult lead Mr. Z. to adventures in 1954 Bombay just as Vixy and Neutic, stranded near 13th-century Angkor Wat, become entangled within the malignant subversion of time-traveling agents of the Mothmen. Only the esoteric redemption of a familiar yet alien anti-hero, perhaps, can help the Time Detective Contingent thwart pan-galactic chaos and cosmic ruin.

My plan or, rather, my sustaining vision was to quit the home improvement when I’d made it to this point in the month of August, having endured whatever the job expected of me for the sake of the audiobook. And by extension, all the book’s formats. Why? The devoted reader will recall that my aim was merely to cover the costs of the Findaway production and then return to my real work. Of course nothing works to plan. And now I find myself tied to this condition of mediocre employment by its capacity to both cover my advertising expenses, more or less, and to keep me engaged in the world-of-action, to keep my feet literally moving. To keep me grounded in its way and get me out of my own head a little.

Choose, then. This is what the cosmos has to say about my sense of schism, my sense of being neither here nor there, of failing to devote myself to my writing and likewise failing to devote myself to my damn paying job. Know what you want and go about doing whatever it takes to get it. Or suffer.

Meanwhile, anyone will agree that money in whatever quantity gets things done. Until you possess too much of it and it transforms, like anything, into its opposite, namely, a burden instead of a means of progress. Likewise the predicament of too much engagement in the present, in the workaday immediacy of the workplace (always an environment of extremes) which inevitably forces itself, at least for folks like me, too far into one’s interior life. The maddening sense of not being able to get anything of value accomplished because one’s paying job gets in the way – the undermining of mastery if you’re a writer for example – becomes intolerable. “I don’t know how I found time for anything when I had a job.” This from Angie’s mother, having retired and finding herself plenty busy with a life of her own design. This is the rub, then: earn enough to otherwise stay on point. The point being to earn enough by way of one’s true work, if one’s true work is indeed artist-craftsmanship, to allow for the discarding of everything else; namely, distraction and the hindering obligation of earning a living. If, on the other hand, it is your VAPM, your veritelically authentic personal mythology, to be employed here or there, well, so be it, get on with it. There is a job for everyone. Which is to say there is a vocation for everyone. Getting paid ends up being beside the point.

In the end, then, something has to give if, like me, you’re going to attempt to play both ends against each other, to have your cake and eat it too, as they say. Have a job and devote myself to my authorpreneurship? Earn and create? It’s not impossible but what I cannot endure is having two demanding jobs, which is what authorpreneurship on top of workaday employment at the home improvement has become, a place where they can’t hire enough help, literally, so that my hours remain too much and the unpredictable scheduling of shifts is making me crazy – one day I’m on the 5:30am – 12:30pm shift and the next it’s 1-10pm. Ugh, it’s killing me. It’s that simple.

Anyway, things change, that’s all. The dynamic plays itself out and my little project, my little vision of greatness has manifested itself and now I have to reevaluate, I have to establish a new vision and a new strategy to achieve the next goal. I have to name it and claim it. What is it, then?

The first thing I have to acknowledge is the difference between fantasy and strategy. It is a fantasy that my author platform, merely by way of now including an audiobook, is robust enough to pay for itself, let alone realize a profit. Let alone earn even what I manage to earn working part-time at the home improvement. I’ve had my little fling with announcing the audiobook, flogging giveaway codes, updating my website to properly accommodate a reasonable expectation of ecommerce (an expectation that unfortunately still includes the possibility of zero sales), splurging on the Goodreads giveaway and otherwise tweaking my marketing, experimenting with it, all with the stretch goal of getting over the hump of obscurity and arriving as an author.

Good luck with that, right? Right. My platform is what it is and it isn’t much to speak of, so be it. Not yet anyway. As far as I’ve come as an abject indie outsider in terms of building the architecture of my marketing and establishing a foothold of legitimacy for Time Crime in the SF&F field I must acknowledge, I must allow, that there is still a long way to go. My debut novel is not a sensation, is not a phenomenon, has not been lauded, has not been chosen, has not gone viral. Carnegie Olson has indeed arrived, yes he has. He has returned from the far curve of the adventure and bestowed his boon. He has crossed the threshold of the World Division, worked to manifest the future and the past within the present and to set himself up for success.

Compared to this time last year, when everything was once again unravelling and the only thing that saved me, the only thing that mattered was the novel, I have indeed come a long, long way. A year ago, dear readers, I had taken what seemed to me then the desperate, perhaps foolish (who’s to say?) action of seeking a professional editor. I had chosen the empowerment of my writing over the disempowering, disenfranchisement of my employment and at virtually the same instant, insulted by my boss, I walked out, thereby expediting my inevitable dismissal. Fired. Again. And once again free to live.

Somebody else, somebody more talented in all ways may have managed a more elegant, attractive, certainly successful transition but for me it has always been this way: to break the iron grip of reason, of mind, and to surrender to my heart, to my heart-mind, has always required an unsightly magnitude of drama. So be it. A year ago my personal mythology was once again in shambles, suffocating beneath more money than I’d ever made, more money then we’d ever had as a family. I could buy, within reason, the things I wanted and, of course, inevitably, I didn’t want the things my money could buy. “Money isn’t everything,” sings Ian Hunter, “when you’re turning your back on a dream.”

If nothing else, then, turn to face your desired outcome. Turn yourself into the wind. Only then can you fly. Only then will the future, like the wind in your face, have a chance to come to you, to arrive. Otherwise you will waste your life chasing it. It’s that simple. Face your destiny or resolve to diminish. This is the age-old mythology of individuation. Face the irony, too, (for life amounts to a fascinating mythology of irony), of losing the world in order to gain it. There is no hedging of bets when it comes to being who you are. What to do? How to go about it? Each of  us knows what to do, though for some us, like me, it may take years, decades in fact, to listen to what our hearts have always known, to what our heart-mind is telling us. When the bliss cuts off, then, as J.C. suggests, try to find it again; for that will be your Hermes guide. Indeed. Life has demonstrated the veracity, the wisdom of this idea. But you have to do the work.

Writing all this out, then, I’ve verified for myself that, yes, having been at this, on and off, since January of 2015, when I was forty-nine years old, I have come to the end of the creation of TC1. Five and a half years and something approaching $20,000 is the tally so far, at least in easily quantifiable terms, that is. Emotionally? Psychologically? Biologically? The less immediately tangible costs are incalculable. So you want be an author…? Hey, I know I’m not alone in this. I keep running across First Sister by Linden Lewis, for instance, another debut sci-fi novel that only came to my attention because it sat head to tail, as it were, with TC1 during the last Goodreads giveaway I ran, Linden’s book tallying up a similar number of entrants. And then I see her audiobook has very recently emerged. The differences between us, on first glance are striking:

So that Linden is more than a little ahead of me in writerly accomplishments. Her connections? I won’t speculate. To get your book noticed by NPR, for instance? I’m sure the copy I sent them wound up in the “not a chance in hell” pile (sorry, that sounds bitter). But beginnings are beginnings. Though perhaps all we really share is our debut novel status (I’m not certain she’s even indie published) and the genre of sci-fi. But I would say she can write. And she communicates in mythological terms, with a certain mythic voice. So, here’s to you, Linden – may you enjoy all the success you seek for your writing, well done. I did enter that giveaway we shared, by the way, and if you’re reading this, well, I know you aren’t, but I’m still looking for that free copy, wink, wink….

Meanwhile, my first book’s adventure isn’t necessarily over, of course (the work of marketing it continues unabated) but the adventure of bringing it into being is. I have brought the novel home in all formats and I’ve established the architecture of its success: it is there to be read and listened to; to be purchased and enjoyed or not. I have exerted my influence and set the stage for the novel’s success within the world-of-action. I’ve done and I am doing all that I can do for it. What comes next is the next book. TC2 must be my new devotion. Whatever a sequel does to help a debut isn’t up to me, either. It’d be a glorious thing for TC1 to not only earn itself out but indeed pay for the production of TC2. We’ll see. That is to say, I don’t buy into the idea of rushing to crank out sequels and building up series as a marketing tool in itself. It gets easier the more books you have, they say. Only in terms of social proof, perhaps. But, no, more is not better. Better is better. I must devote myself to the editing of TC2 for its own sake, to do the best I can with it, to make it the best it can be before the year is up and make 2021 the year of its publication. Some things may come easier and others, well, there is always a tradeoff. I now have experience as an indie author. I will also, if TC1 realizes any success, suffer criticism. So that editing TC2, rewriting it, will be a challenge in this way. Many things have happened – life has happened – since the end of 2016 when I completed the first draft of TC2. Gods above and below it seems an eternity has unfolded since then! How could that be? A mere four and a half years and it seems like a different lifetime. Until I’m immersed in the story and I sense the eternity within it, when time falls away and I’m doing what I do best, come what may.