Yama, Lord of Death, here appearing in a Buddhist iteration is of course originally a Hindu deity, just as Buddhism itself is the Chinese iteration of what began in India as a component of Hindu mythology.
Anthony C. Yu’s translation of The Journey to the West, initially published in 1983, introduced English-speaking audiences to the classic Chinese novel in its entirety for the first time. Written in the sixteenth century, The Journey to the West tells the story of the fourteen-year pilgrimage of the monk Xuanzang, one of China’s most famous religious heroes, and his four supernatural disciples, in search of Buddhist scriptures. Throughout his journey, Xuanzang fights demons who wish to eat him, communes with spirits, and traverses a land riddled with a multitude of obstacles, both real and fantastical. An adventure rich with danger and excitement, this seminal work of the Chinese literary canon is by turns allegory, satire, and fantasy.
What more could a mythology maven want? Great stuff. And of note, Xaunzang makes a cameo in TC2! Here’s Anthony C. Yu’s book:
I’m back to the employment grind tonight but only for a five-hour closing shift and then again tomorrow night, then off for the weekend, my first weekend off in I don’t know when. But it still more or less pays the advertising bills and that is the only reason I’m doing it. Otherwise, every spare moment, it seems, goes to authorpreneurship and the editing of TC2, which is just as it should be!
Is the advertising working? Well, I’d say yes, it’s doing the job to the level that I can reasonably expect given my outsider, emerging author status. It’s costing me, the ROI is crappy, horrible, it’s a total loss and I’m struggling with the idea of perhaps decreasing my spend. I could allow my amazon.com ad to tap out much earlier, for example; namely, within the one or two weeks it would take to hit a $100/month budget. I might do this because frankly I’m not getting any bounce in sales from the U.S. given my increased spend. I’ll let all the advertising ride, I think, until the end of this month – timelines do much to decrease anxiety. I’m looking for that monthly sale and, maddeningly, the first sale for the audiobook. As of today all my formats are finally linked on Amazon and with the exception of Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Mexico and India the audiobook is available globally, even including Japan.
The print iterations aren’t available as globally on Amazon as the Kindle version but I’m otherwise pleased to have the novel looking so professional, relevant and viable – hey, it’s all about social proof and legitimization; indie granularity is well and good for some readers but when it comes to global sales the formats have to be up and running on Amazon or it’s curtains, as they say. Or interminable obscurity. And I have to advertise, the book doesn’t promote itself. Yet.
Obscurity. Am I still obscure? Yes. Have I cleared the hurdle of wannabe? Am I a viable authorpreneur? Yes and yes, albeit in very humble terms. That is to say, I’ve got the professional grade product and I’ve been paid, which makes me a professional if only by definition. I advertise, I’m continually seeking to dial into my core market, to find my readership and tribe. But what about authorpreneurial sustainability – can I keep this thing going? For now, financially and psychologically, yes. At a loss, at least financially. Because some days it seems the loss in terms of my VAPM is perilously significant: always paying to play hurts, it’s exhausting not to receive any boost, any bounce outside of how much money I can throw at this. One can only endure so much indifference, isolation and exile. But so far it’s an endurable loss as long as I keep seeing some manner of growth, even if it’s the one sale per month. Brick by brick. The long game. Pressure and time. But gods above and below how I long for a couple of nice reviews! Meanwhile, I’m chugging away, too slowly but hell, it is what it is, on TC2.
That said, I’ve tweaked the TC1 amazon campaigns to include key words related to the audiobook – I need to get this thing off the ground! Here I thought it had the best chance, a damn good chance, of hitting, or at least getting some buzz just because it’s new and audiobook fans, I liked to believe, were still clamoring for new titles, be it sci-fi or anything else. Not so any longer, apparently. Perhaps that window of opportunity has shuttered? I don’t know. I did my best and now, well, it’s just like the other formats: it has to find its tribe one listener at a time if that’s what it takes. Here’s to getting an audiobook sale this month!
Meanwhile, my first eBook-only promo via Bookfunnel is live as of today and it’s not just to do with TC. Rather, there are forty or so sci-fi books that fit the theme of the book fair, as it’s called, and here is the link – you may find something you like! The promo lasts until the end of September and I’m experimenting with giving away eBook copies – click the link below to get your eBook freebie of Time Crime! That’s right, free!
Reading. I’m enjoying the introduction of Journey to the West, Vol.1 – the intro alone is eighty some pages! – an otherwise pleasantly academic approach to the recent translation by the editor, Anthony C. Yu. I was enticed to skip ahead and fell upon an apt excerpt:
It was indeed his fortune that, after he boarded the wooden raft, a strong southeast wind (which lasted for days) sent him to the northwestern coast, the border of the South Jambūdvīpa Continent…. He rested by night and dined in the morning, but he was bent on finding the way of the Buddhas, immortals, and holy sages, on discovering the formula for eternal youth. He saw, however, that the people of the world were all seekers after profit and fame; there was not one who showed concern for his appointed end. This is their condition:
When will end this quest for fortune and fame,
This tyrant of early rising and retiring late?
Riding on mules they long for noble steeds;
By now prime ministers, they hope to be kings.
For food and raiment they suffer stress and strain,
Never fearing Yama’s call to reckoning.
Seeking wealth and power to give to sons of sons,
There’s not one ever willing to turn back.
As a mythological bookend of sorts for today’s post, at least in terms of mythological imagery, here is Yama in a Hindu image – note sense of the forbearance versus terror, the idea being that death is not inherently a wicked thing. We fear it, yes, but only because we inevitably fail to allow for its legitimate, ultimately balancing place within the cosmos.
 Anthony C. Yu, translator and editor, The Journey to the West, revised edition, Volume 1, (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2012), back cover.
 Ibid., 109.