Unguarded Moments

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Monday, July 27, 2020. I’ve spent too many hours at the home improvement this past week, topped off by a ten-hour shift yesterday. I’ve today off but I have to be in at 5:30am tomorrow, dammit. That’s just too damn early even if it is merely a 5.5 hour shift. It’s too damn disorienting, these crazy hours. This so-called part-time job, the demand of it, has become far too much like a full time commitment and it’s up to me to make a change: I need to dial down the hours so I can get back to my true work.

Speaking of which I’m liking the audiobook performance of D.S. Sure, some of my writing could be better – where in hell did all the adverbs come from, for example? – didn’t I get those purged in the zillion edits? But he’s doing well with all the characters, getting his legs under him, as it were, I think with the accents and personalities. I told him Captain Chase was a little revelation, that I loved the mild southern drawl. Here I thought I’d written the character as a bit utilitarian, perhaps a cliché foil for Z.’s extrapolations, but D.S. really brought out the man’s gruff leadership, his idiosyncratic appeal. Z and Vixy? Well, what an impossible task, what with my expectations and preconceptions for these two lodestone characters – besides Five they are the backbone of the entire series – all of them having lived so long within my own imagination. Hearing them being given voice, literally, can’t help but be a sticky, fraught experience. How could I ever be completely comfortable with anyone else’s reading of them? Nevertheless, the professionalism of D.S. is coming through, he’s forging ahead with how it has to be, making it work, getting me past my notions of how Z and Vixy and even Neutic ought to sound, how this or that line was read, the intended tone and all that. Hell, it’s not as if there are any rehearsals and I can say, well, I’d like a little more of this and less of that or what have you. From what I can tell it’s pretty much a first take kind of thing, barring any slips of the tongue and technical glitches, any redos that D.S. takes care of prior to posting his progress. The schedule is tight, I get it.

Meanwhile, D.S. is phrasing things, the foreign words, the sci-fi technical jargon and the block quotes from texts (which may in particular have bogged things down if he didn’t seem to really be invested in getting them across) just fine – goddamn more than just fine, he’s bringing it all to life in a manner that I couldn’t have foreseen – and frankly some of the stuff, the pronunciation of “I Ching” for example, I’ve never encountered myself nor bothered to look up. He says, “ee-ching” whereas, in my ignorance, I’ve been imagining “ī-ching,” that kind of thing. And I’m not going to start trying to verify accuracy or interpretations now, things are rolling, I’ve bestowing the benefit of the doubt, I want the thing finished a.s.a.p. and, likewise, I want to maintain an air of spontaneity, of freshness and pulpiness, perhaps, that might get ground out of it with nitpicking this or that. The writing it what it is, the style and the story has to stand up to somebody else’s hermeneutic (!), it’s all part of the art-craft of it. So that I rely on D.S. to bring his version of the world to it.

And in all honesty, as I laid in bed at midnight last night, listening to chapters two, three and four, I was engaged, even galvanized and thrilled, swept away by the action at the T.E. and the burgeoning drama of the story. It surprised the hell out of me that I didn’t want it to stop. Christ, how many times have i read it, and discussed it and thought the hell out of it, after all? But there I was, the earbud in my ear, hanging upon the silence at the conclusion of chapter four, wanting to keep going, to hear more, as if somehow I didn’t know everything about the goddamn thing backwards and forwards.

I suppose it’s one of the gifts – oftentimes it seems there are so very few – of authorship, of having put my whole life into this thing – the story, the editing, the production, marketing, money and the mythology. Sure, it’s got its weaknesses but for an indie outsider first novel I have to admit that, at least so far, despite my trepidation as to its value or my abilities, the story has life whenever I encounter it and a vibe and I want to know happens next, not just how what I wrote will sound coming out of somebody else’s mouth.

The book probably could be criticized for starting slowly but world building, I can tell you, isn’t to be rushed, I think – the mythology has to be functional – awe, cosmos, sociology, supporting psychology – and the characters just require a bit of time to come to life, for the reader to feel like they know these folks and ultimately that they care about them. I sat there at the end of my listening session, the images of the story in my head, the voices too, and I thought, Yes, I managed to get it right. I’m scared for Vixy. And I identify with the anxiety and physical suffering of Z. I fretted over the Professor and Miss Morrison and was glad to have the Captain and the Lieutenant doing their best. And when Neutic, at the end of chapter four, sits in his passenger seat on the jet to Eranos, pondering what in hell he’s gotten himself into and invokes Hettie, his murdered twin sister, vowing, despite his self-doubts, to avenge her and that sentiment seems to effectively evoke his perhaps newfound personal investment in Vixy’s well-being I can tell you that I believed it – that is, I believed in these people and how they’d become so quickly tied together, bound to each other. Who would give a damn about Vixy being kidnapped, after all, or Z being injured or what Neutic or anyone else had to do with any of it if we didn’t like or feel emotionally invested in the characters? We’ve all read books and watched films where none of the characters are likeable and it sucks. It’s not pandering to folks to give them likeable characters, rather, it’s essential. Essential to grounded, oriented, fully functional mythology, to an adventure that rings true. Like true fiction.

And, of all things during this hectic week of working so much and taking care of Ruby and the heat making it tough to sleep, of being worn out and even ignoring my book sales for a handful of days, I discovered that I’d sold another book in the U.K.! – hooray, a paperback, sold on the 21st and shipped 25th – I’ve been too burned out to even check my Amazon charts otherwise I could have enjoyed the psychological boost earlier. Otherwise, it’s good to know the U.K. POD system is cranking – four days or so from order to ship, that’s great. Moreover, they’ve got a promotion going over there, a “no rush reward” and the price of the paperback and hardcover are reduced – the hardcover is 51% off and the paperback discounted four pounds or so. So that this sale comes not from my ad campaign – it doesn’t show on that report as a click-thru purchase.

Anyway, perhaps the sale prompted somebody to pull the trigger on a copy that may have been languishing in one of their lists? I’ll never know. Unless I hear from them someday. I’d like to hear from somebody, I’m still pining for my first review, come what may.

It’s nice, then, to get a boost in confidence while the audiobook is being produced – I was losing heart in it, in the book and in my own abilities, working the hours at the home improvement, wondering if the cosmos was telling me that I really only belonged there, earning a wage; that I didn’t have any legitimate business being an authorpreneur; that I was just another wannabe. Well, maybe I’ll always be just another wannabe, perhaps it’s not something to even want to get past because maybe that’s where the art-craft juice, the inspiration comes from? I don’t know. But I do know that it’s fun and good and life-affirming to enjoy the connection of having sold a book and perhaps – perhaps! – make a reader happy, too. I can endure employment with ease, then (or at least much more gracefully inside my own head) when I know my other life is real.

One thing about the light or lights, which I encountered again at the home improvement last night, at the tail end of my ten-hour shift: besides being associated with trauma (which includes fatigue) there is always a sense of surrender and humility. The light is both humbling and humble in its own way, somehow. Perhaps because it’s just a window, a glimpse into and an awareness of how things are, how we all are, how things have always been and always will be, I don’t know for certain. That’s it, too, I must say: the light is abiding, steadfast and conversely, paradoxically, transient to be sure, and compassionate. Yet it does not bestow certainty. It does not say anything or reveal answers. If it’s revelatory then there’s a mildness to it. It has nothing to do with transcendence, with encountering something so-called bigger than this life. Rather, it seems to have everything to do with an impossibly simple, straightforward here-ness. It’s not about more than this but, somehow, more this-ness, period.

Words fail but not completely. The light, as I’ve said before, is information. Practical in the sense that it says, You are what you are and there is nothing else for you to be doing. In a heartfelt sense rather than a practical, pragmatic, cognitive sense. Thinking about the light, for instance, doesn’t affect it, doesn’t influence or change it, doesn’t reveal anything more and it’s the thinking, the reasoning, the internalizing, perhaps, that tarnishes the humility, the humbleness of the experience. You belong here, it says. You’ve never not belonged here unless you have walked away of your own accord. Surrender. Or not, so be it.

The information, then, such as it is, is occult, yes, which is to say hidden in the day-to-day sense of things but then again entirely open and available. No adjudications. Likewise no rewards. No pats on the back, no “good job.” No sense of special-ness. Neither is it egalitarian. It’s simply not about ideas at all. Cognition? Only in regard to the self-awareness I feel during the experience. Neither can it be described as an out-of-body experience. No. I’m always there, which is to say, here. The lights are there, or here, or everywhere to be seen for a few restorative, compassionate moments. And then it’s gone and things are back to normal. But with a lingering pleasantness; an assuaging, restorative unguardedness.

Why write about it? To what end? Why not keep it secret? Why risk sounding like a tripped out weirdo? Well, again, why not write about it? Because it’s otherwise occult or hidden doesn’t imply that it’s intended to be, that it’s intentionally so. We just don’t often see it, the light. The lights. Or I don’t, at least. We’re mostly guarded. I’m mostly guarded. And how is writing about the light any different than writing about the novel? Or the puppy? Or dinner? It’s all just me being here in my way, being who I am, which mostly resembles a version of everyone else being who they are, too, on a good day. It’s all personal mythology within the context of a cultural version, within the context of cultural mythological circumstance. And sometimes, unpredictably, humbly, temporarily if it must be, we find a way, our way, home. That’s all.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I’ve a reader, too, on Goodreads, someone that that has Time Crime on their “currently-reading” shelf. “Won this book in a giveaway,” declares S., “and it sounds truly bizarre and lovely! Looking forward to getting into it next.”

S. is one of the two Canadians winners that I shipped a copy to – I placed the Amazon author copy order immediately upon receiving the addresses of the winners but the delays getting the packages to the Great White North were apparently unavoidable. Otherwise, here’s hoping S. doesn’t find my posting her comment at all appropriating or offensive – it’s not intended to be anything but a bit of news for the blog and, on behalf of the novel, some good energy. Thank you, S. – I so very much hope that you find the story worthwhile!