Truly Bizarre & Lovely


Truly bizarre and lovely. If only TC1 could really be that. Otherwise, it’s a compelling little phrase – thank you, S. of Canada, for this chestnut – that is sticking with me.  Stickiness being a strange and lovely thing in its own right, after all. Let alone when it has to do with the tiny, reddish tentacles of the Sundew, a carnivorous plant I came across on a hillside during our Scotland hike last year. The lime green moss beside it? Dunno.

In publishing news, I sold an eBook sale in the U.S. yesterday! And this with my Amazon ad not delivering, so somebody found their way to it somehow, yay! Even with a review still pending, the thrill of a sale bestows the sense of edging away, a little, for now at least, from the cliff edge of obscurity. Which is to say I can’t complain, I’ve sold three copies – two in the U.K. and this one in the USA this month which smashes, humbly, my goal of at least a sale per month. Three is a long way from zero, as pathetic as that may sound to anyone who isn’t in my shoes as an indie author. And forgive me, dear readers, for me obsessing on sales. It’s simply that it matters so much, every little step forward.

Meanwhile, I set up a new Amazon ad in the U.S., a so-called standard advertisement that allows me to utilize the new feature of including both eBook and print formats in the same ad – why I’m not allowed to do this within the “custom” ad function, where one is allowed to include a little blurb beneath the cover image, who knows? – KDP has its mysterious ways, so be it. My daily budget of $7.00 was tapped out already at four clicks early this morning and I’ve got the campaign budgeted at $75 per month, we’ll see if I can work quality clicks – I’ve the thing set to boost spend for first page impressions, for example – versus just curiosity clicks (I’m still convinced most clicks I’m getting are just impulsive, based on the “Oh, is that a Covid mask?” response, though I’ll likely never have any data to support that intuition). Anyway, I’m doing what I can to focus my advertising, to increase my chances of a click-thru and not just watch my money swirl down the cost-of-advertising drain.

The audiobook production is cruising along – D.S. posted chapters seven and eight last night. He explained that his posts lag behind his recording; that the two tasks take place at different times in his workday and in different studios. I knew nothing of audiobook production prior to this but it makes sense that the narrator takes notes on any client comments but otherwise leaves corrections, other than his own personal tweaks as he prepares the posts, until after the recording is complete. These limits upon editing requests by way of the customer are entirely reasonable – hell, the cost per hour has to be controlled somehow.

That said, I was anxious as hell regarding how D.S. would handle “Masters of Reality,” the chapter introducing the Molemen. D.S.’s version of the General and Cog were fine – in my head I’d envisioned and en-listened, as it were, a sturdier, somehow chunkier version of each “man” but this has been the case generally. That is, several of the voices are higher pitched or otherwise thinner, somehow, than I’d imagined. But D.S. has to voice all these characters as distinctly as he can and I understand that entails inevitable limits – raising the pitch/tone here for this character, lowering it there, adding this or that accent, etc. Regarding accents, it seems they come and  go a little but, again, this is understandable and entirely reasonable: it would require multiple rehearsals – who knows how many? – and interminable back-and-forth between D.S. and me to fully tweak everything, every damn sentence, and to what end? So that each line, after having spent a zillion hours and a zillion dollars on the project would presumably be perfect? I don’t want perfection even if I could afford it.

Rather, for the audiobook, which is obviously, inevitably, a very different experience of the novel than the text, I want a vibe that pulls from the inspiration of the narrator. Akin to my experience with my editor, I seek the energy and authentic zeal that comes, at best, from wholehearted, collaborative inspiration. The story must find its own way at this point and that requires a deft hand and ear on my part to know when to step in and when to just allow things to play out. It’s all about what works.

As such, I see (or more accurately, hear) all the hard work that is involved in performing – for that’s what it is, a performance – an audiobook. That is, D.S. isn’t merely reading the thing through in his own voice – what fun would that be? I’m good, then, with the voice acting and by that I mean to say I’m good with D.S. improvising and interpreting his own voices for the characters. My pre-production notes within Findaway notwithstanding (they were merely my intuitions anyway), I’m relying upon the narrator to make it work based on his own intuitions, his own feeling for the it all and for that matter, his limitations. D.S. can’t do every goddamn voice there is in the world, after all, let alone somehow divine how I’ve been hearing the characters all these years in my own head.

Frankly, I don’t really know how I’ve been hearing the characters in my head. My interior dialogue – the inner voice that rambles on when I’m writing and reading is, apparently, impossible to pin down. Hence, the character’s voices within TC are a weirdly amorphous and ineffable thing so that my expectations are essentially baseless. Despite nevertheless bringing them to the listening experience. It’s all very odd, but I’m keen to roll with it, to not nitpick and bog things down with my influence. In a word I am relying upon the cooperation of the cosmos, holding on loosely and occasionally letting go entirely.

That said, I was glad or relieved or both to hear Five rendered in a straightforward and unadorned manner. “Nice work on the Molemen, D.,” I said; “I was compelled to allow you to wing it and see what you came up with, all good; Five, such a big player, is unforced – you managed, somehow, a perfectly subtle oddness or alien-ness that may or may not be there which is exactly the ticket! Very fun, thanks!

Listening to my writing is another thing entirely, of course. Sometimes I’m good with it, often I wonder whether I’m making a fool of myself and every now and then I think, yes, that’s not hackneyed dross in need of overhaul. I supposed it will be an endless critique on my part – I hear things that ought to have been edited out, little clunky phrases here and there and I think, goddammit, I’m an idiot! How can I be such a hack! People don’t talk like that! Or maybe they do but I didn’t intend Z or Neutic or whomever to come across so, I don’t know, this or that. Argh! – it sucks to not be a genius artist-craftsperson, to rather be this guy, this wannabe merely trying his best and inevitably coming up short

Alternatively, I think the story has legs, that I’ve rendered it well enough to legitimize keeping at it, to take my lumps and try to not make the same mistakes in TC2, for what it’s worth; to keep chiseling away at mastery, to keep showing up, come what may. I’m selling at least a book per month. Which isn’t anything but then again it’s everything. Because it means my vision-of-greatness has yet to become a train wreck. Things are moving forward, step by step; I’m building the brand, such as it is, brick by brick and I haven’t compromised my integrity at all along the way. I’m doing all this wholeheartedly. I’m all in. I’m one-hundred percent invested in the success of Time Crime and I’m putting my money where my mouth is, too. I believe in the book. I don’t love it for its flaws but I’m willing to support it, to maintain my faith in it, despite them.

One never gets anywhere, meanwhile, by way of hinging everything upon one’s version of perfection. Only attempting something when you feel prepared to do it perfectly and you’ll die having done nothing at all. Mastery is an aspiration not a prerequisite. If you’re out there waiting, perhaps feeling as if you’re getting ready to get ready, I say go ahead: begin. If nothing else. And as soon as you do, you’re authentic, legitimized – you’re on the playing field and in the game – and things will happen.