Chewing Glass, Burning Books & Why Moby Dick Won the War

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Inflammatory. Author image.

Another birthday (a couple days ago), another trip around the sun. And I’ve spent the better part of several days messing around revising TC1 and resubmitting the new file for publishing on KDP and Ingramspark, ugh. There were the handful of annoying typos that I’ve known about for a year and finally fixed, the new stuff that L. alerted me to that prompted the Third State (what some folks refer to as a third “printing”) to begin with and, as I plowed through things, here and there something else – another typo or the requirement for a subtle rewording. Three words in particular generated a maddening and embarrassing quantity of fixes: (1) “rein” to replace “reign”, (2) “taut” to replace “taught”, and (3) “vise” to replace “vice.” Unforgivable? Yes.

It’s crazy, this copyediting nightmare in particular that, once you peek into the book again, assails you with seemingly one impossibly obvious thing after another that for whatever mysterious reason slipped past all the eyes of readers and the so-called “grammar checks” that Microsoft Word provides. It’s as if some little demon or a ghost in the machine got busy slapping around the manuscript behind my back because I’d swear those errors weren’t present. Yet, there they glaringly are and what used to be apparently invisible becomes a series of flashing neon signs emphasizing words that are wrong, wrong, wrong.

I could reread the novel front to back, of course, and make myself crazy reworking everything in terms of line editing – how many things would benefit from tweaking, after all? Too many things. So that I am not going to reread the book. I can’t. I want to shoot myself as it is what with all this nitpicking, essential or otherwise. I think, how in hell could I have written that and then left it that way…? And so on until, well, how petty and silly and maddening does it get? I’ll tell you. The very last fix was a fix of a fix – these are the worst, of course – where I reworded the handful of sentences at the end of The Fall of Phaëthon that have been driving me batty and somehow typed in an extra period on the ellipsis at the end. Are you kidding me? Yikes.

I won’t describe the other changes here, they’re minor line editing things, nothing substantive, suffice it to say that I’m convinced I bettered things but then again I understand exactly how a book buyer would prefer the first edition, first state over anything else just because that’s how the mysterious mythologization of things goes: that first iteration stands as the goddamn “original” for better or worse. Otherwise, I wish all you authors the best with your own tedium and travails regarding dabbling in revisions. Crack that book open at your psychological peril!

I bitch and moan and meanwhile wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t imagine, that is, being a traditionally published author and besides having my book title, cover and much of the content in the hands of somebody else, not having access to revisions and pricing and marketing. To put your life into your writing and then suffer as the thing gets remaindered because it isn’t meeting sales goals and then if you’re lucky the rights revert to you eventually and you have to start over? Ugh. Horrible. Better to sail the seas of indie authorpreneurship as captain of your ship.

Why change anything? Why not just leave the first-first (first edition, first state) alone? My excuse for drilling into this thing a third time is the learning curve I’ve been on since diving into novel writing, indie publishing and authorpreneurship; namely, that in the end it’s all up to me. Because of that, the professionalism that I seek has been not so much elusive as relentlessly fickle. It’s there and then not. Help from others has been essential, indeed, but the discernment and quality control is my responsibility. Moreover, self-editing has been an exercise in humility: I used to think I had an eye for detail, that I was a good editor but the copyediting blindness alongside the occasional eye-opening word usage gaffe, to say nothing of the ceaselessly tweakable line editing weirdness is enough to oftentimes convince me that I’m incompetent.

And the idea that somebody has purchased the novel only to be put off by the editing issues (I’m not blaming anyone but myself, again, the responsibility is one-hundred-percent mine) gives me fits – have I missed out on good reviews because of it? Has word-of-mouth been lacking because of it? Are there readers who set the book aside disappointedly and were yet kind enough to bite their metaphorical tongue at what they viewed as writing that wasn’t ready? Did they have an urge to savage me? If it was the typos, I’m sorry and thanks for not taking it out on me in public. Or, perhaps typos don’t bother you so much and it was the writing or the story? Likewise, if TC1 wasn’t for you and you kept it to yourself, thank you. Not that anyone who didn’t like the book will be reading this.

Perhaps truly visionary and forward-thinking art-craft will always tend to subvert and inspire debate and controversy. Or at least piss somebody off in good fun. Nick Cave posted a great story about Anita Lane as a newsletter for his latest offering on cavethings.com.

I met Anita Lane in 1977. We went to separate art schools in Melbourne and we met at a party and just sort of clicked. Anita was a rule breaker and a troublemaker and I consider her to be one of the original and founding members of The Bad Seeds, even though she never played a note with the band — because she had the best ideas, the great ideas….

https://cavethings.com/collections/cave-things/products/crucifixion-art-print?utm_source=Cave+Things&utm_campaign=f749afa519-email+-+idiot+prayer+final+reminder_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f1ba9b1e11-f749afa519-54019178

But I’ve never been a rule breaker or a troublemaker on principle, at least intentionally. And Time Crime isn’t intentionally subversive. Unless you understand sci-fi to be inherently so, which it might indeed be as a genre. As such, my fiction hopefully rises to the occasion, humble as it may be, and gets there at least in terms of authenticity and ends up mostly in sympathetic hands at least at first and gets read in context – context is everything, isn’t it? – and not tossed aside as hackneyed. And so far it hasn’t been publicly disparaged and I’m grateful, the gods have looked kindly upon it so far. That said, I’m chewing glass at the idea that one-hundred fifty or so copies are out there saturated with gaffes. Saturated? I overstate things. But I think I deserve a bitch-slap and I am driven now to put the microscope on TC2.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping the handful of line editing revisions in the third state to myself – it will be up to posterity to reveal them, if anyone cares. I’ve indeed done my best – within reason! – to tighten up all iterations of the book and now I have no excuse at all for not devoting myself completely to editing TC2.

Of note, alongside publication of the third state, as it happens, the new Amazon KDP case laminate hardcover version of TC1 is available – I assigned it its own ISBN to differentiate it from the traditional “cloth” version (with dust cover) available via Ingramspark print-on-demand (POD).

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1734283289

Ingramspark has offered case laminate for some time, even a case laminate with a dust cover, too, but I’m not certain Amazon will even continue to offer the dust cover version as I’m sure they’re keen to prioritize their own manufacturing. I’ve priced it, for now, between the paperback and cloth and we’ll see if I perhaps need to lower it. Again, I make only two dollars per Ingramspark hardcover at $31.99 so I need to be careful to assign a price for the Amazon version that likewise clears my expenses with a little profit. But I’ll be monitoring the marketplace and tweak as necessary to remain as competitive as I can. I may even consider having R.V. reformat the cover to mirror her design instead of the hybrid version I had to cook up using Amazon’s “cover creator” – at this early stage my version seems serviceable enough and the author photograph serves to further differentiate the thing. The photographs fail to render the appealing chunkiness of the thing – it looks pleasantly bookish in hand. Anyway….

KDP case laminate version. Author image.
Ibid.
Ibid.

***

I’m convinced that as an art-crafter, the most effective way to wreck the message that you’re here to communicate is to allow yourself to get political. In the sense of participating in the ceaselessly idiotic controversies that we like to call “current events.” First, because most often a so-called current event or news-of-the-world is merely yet another iteration of something that has innumerable historical, hence mythological parallels, let’s call them. Secondly, because there’s always another tyrant and more accurately, more than one. Thirdly, if I’m really that concerned about maintaining my author image, I ought to just write my books and shut the hell up about everything else. Except that I’ve been posting this blog for a while now. Call it a newsletter if you want. Whatever it is, it communicates things that are important to me; things I seek to communicate because that’s what people do: communicate. For better or worse. And in a free country you can write what you want. And not be imprisoned or killed for it.

In this vein I’ve indented and italicized what follows because that way I can more easily locate, later when my writing career has perhaps tanked, where it all went wrong within the context of not following my own advice. But damn the torpedoes.

I don’t believe anyone is actually capable of insulting, mocking or bestowing disrespect upon any mythology. They can try, but the effort is inevitably ineffectual and as often merely reinvigorates the original myth into a vitalized up-to-date, otherwise modernized context. Try to insult Jesus or Muhammad (don’t get on me about the spelling) or the Buddha or Godzilla or Dr. Seuss, for that matter, and especially in the name of your own personal righteousness and you merely make all these symbols – these affecting images – more relevant and affective. Even effective.

Which is to say that any fully functional mythology can stand on its own two feet and take it. And art-craft is free to subvert anything likewise. I always say, if it doesn’t appropriate one’s freedoms or possessions and it doesn’t physically injure anybody, so be it. Think your thoughts, write your words, sing your songs, talk your talk, paint your pictures. Walk away or turn it off if it bothers you. It’s what freedom of expression is and it’s always better than the tyranny that results, even when it begins with the best of intentions, from righteousness. Which is today oftentimes disguised as what I call militant courtesy. Freedom is a cosmic birthright. Psychological “safety” is not.

AND: righteousness always backfires; it begets its opposite. Which is to say it immediately transforms itself into, well, wrongeous-ness. Har! Life is like this, isn’t it? The Dr. Seuss book in the news right now is just another example of the crazy militant courtesy phase that will right (pun!) itself in time. Hopefully. I mean, let freedom ring. Or don’t and suffer the consequences which are spelled out via history which it would be very nice, for once, not to repeat.

Meanwhile, the mythic symbols are free game because we made them. They are ours to f*ck with. And when you f*ck with them, what happens? You help reactivate them. Dr. Seuss books, for example, going for a mint online, now that some righteous asshole thinks they can essentially burn books. Yeah, dumb ass, whomever you are (the devoted reader will know that I do my best to avoid internet news) look what happened – you made the opposite point that you apparently intended. Dr. Seuss is mythology. His work has entered the mythological oeuvre. His intention was the opposite of righteousness and insult and appropriation and injury. He was inclusive. He bettered the world and will continue to do so long after the righteous morons have died and been replaced by the next righteous morons. I recall some newsy quip that got blurted when the White House violence happened, “We’re better than this.” Well versed in mythology as I like to think I am, I immediately thought, No, we’re not. People are people the world over and throughout the millennia. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly. Stop lumping me into your personal version of right and wrong. I think for myself. Which is to merely point out that I am not always right but I’m damn sure keen to be allowed to be wrong. So, this person was wrong to imply that somehow we’re better than we really are. But, so be it. It’s still a free country. For now. Even if these days it oftentimes doesn’t seem like it.

Ahab, in Moby Dick. “I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.” Yay! Now, Ahab of course got yanked out of his little enlightenment boat, as it were, by his neck. Literally. The White Whale wins. But I don’t think Ahab was wrong to attempt it. He had the perfect right to be wrong. He sought the essence of things. He was willing to tempt fate or challenge Nature or the Cosmos, what have you, to figure things out. His way. The lesson, such that it is, is that when you attempt to hurt a thing so as to get what you want, well, come what may, you’ll be answering to those fates. I am not arguing for or against whaling, by the way. In the time of Melville – context is everything! – whaling was not freighted with all that it is freighted with today and within the context of that novel it was just another paying vocation. Starbuck was on to Ahab’s psychological excesses, I’ll leave it at that. Otherwise, I defer to J. Campbell’s concise description of our predicament, namely, that life feeds on life. Vegetarians are killing carrots, after all, so don’t think you can get out of this via your eating habits, either.

Is it Dostoevsky? The Brothers Karamazov, where the one brother believes in God but nevertheless is convinced, to his infinite anxiety, that God is a dick? I love it. But, hey, if you want so badly to change things, to change the mythology, to rewrite history and design the future according to your plans and to meanwhile suppress ideas and burn books to get there, so be it, too. There will be consequences. And none of them are pretty. Just read your mythology. Which will inevitably teach you a lot about history (written and oral). Go ahead, then, invent your new politics and your new religion – invent a new mythology and see how many folks you can get to agree with you. It’s what we humans do. Yours isn’t working for you? Change it. Just don’t appropriate my freedoms, my stuff or attempt to injure me while you go about it. And don’t burn or ban books, either. Write a bad review about Dr. Seuss if it bugs you so much. But then leave it alone.

Carnegie Olson, 3.4.2021

Big deal, Carnegie. I mean, you read this and probably thought, yeah, I get it, so what? I know. I’m not any good at being controversial. Or pushing people’s buttons. I don’t write shockingly subversive novels that change the game, either. That’s somebody else’s job. Heck, John Lennon was pretty high on the F.B.I.’s list of troublemakers for a while. Me? Even my blog isn’t anything to get anybody’s underwear in a bundle about.

But I’m super glad and happy to have sold another paperback yesterday (in the U.K., yay!), the first Third State version to get out in the world. Ah, it feels good to have fixed it up a bit, to have straightened its tie, so to say, so it can get out there and do its best. It’s still the very same tie, after all. That is, I don’t have any plans at all for publishing a second edition. Typos, yes, fix them. Wholesale rewrites? Hell no. Oh, I know the intrepid first adopter types will decry the Third State as exactly the version not to want to own. I really do get that. I have a first-first of The Masks of God series that I cherish. For those folks, then, I’m keeping my little collection of twenty-five or so old “printings” (that I haven’t torched) and if anyone wants one of ‘em – I have paperbacks and hardcovers – email me, make me an offer and I will autograph it and ship it out to you. Keep in mind that I have to cover my shipping costs, but otherwise, I’m serious. I mean, I insert these little value-adds or whatever they are at the end of some of these posts just to see if anyone is reading this far. Or something. And if you did get this far, thanks.

Writer’s World Episode #147: Treading Upon the Tail of the Tiger

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Yesterday saw the amazing – yay! – debut of the first amazon.com review of the novel, double yay! Here’s to L. for taking the time and trouble to not only write it but post it to both Goodreads and Amazon, Amazon of course taking a couple of days to vet the thing but there it is!

Any authorpreneur who has done any research on the topic of reviews will understand the unequaled value and importance of this; namely, the manner in which there exist un-reviewed books and reviewed books and the difference between the two is, well, galactic in scope. The impossibly unequaled data on behalf of Amazon speaks for itself, this from statista.com, a site that tracks this stuff:

During September 2020, Amazon.com had over 2.44 billion combined desktop and mobile visits, up from 2.01 billion visits in February 2020. The platform is by far the most visited e-commerce property in the United States. As the most popular online shopping platform, Amazon’s influence on consumers shopping behavior extends beyond its own website. According to a February 2019 survey of U.S. Amazon users, 66 percent of respondents stated that they started their online product research on Amazon. Of course, Amazon is not only popular for product research but ultimately, also for making the purchase. The most important factors driving users to purchase via Amazon are pricing and low shipping costs.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/623566/web-visits-to-amazoncom/

I venture to estimate that now, following the global epidemiological weirdness, let’s call it, the data is pitched even more in Amazon’s favor, what with 2020 having ramped up internet shopping. The numbers are simply staggering and while breaking down the data into, say, how many hits KDP itself gets, or sci-fi books, what have you, doesn’t interest me a person in business for themselves at any level has to acknowledge, for better or worse in the end, the dominance of Amazon. Ignore it at your peril. It may change someday – look at the rise of youtube, for example, beyond its video posting function into “channels” that support ecommerce and ad revenue, etcetera. In short, work the system or risk oblivion.

Work the system? I’ve been writing the occasional review on Amazon for more than a decade (jellymoon is my moniker) and some of us find it a form of creative expression on its own; a communication that seeks to interweave the personal experience with the communal, as it were. And of course there are all levels of quality regarding reviews – some folks are truly talented – and we all know how to discern the tossed-off, thoughtless, unmindful, opinionated, off the mark “opinions” and uninformed commentary (that too often references the shipping/delivery experience and not the content) from the worthy insight and analysis. “Book arrived damaged, 1-star.” That kind of crap. And your star rating suffers this idiocy.

Meanwhile, composing a quality review is not easy and I appreciate that Amazon does its best to manage the authenticity and integrity, as best they can, of the source of the reviews. That is, most of us know that an author cannot post a review of their own book and it’s dicey to even have anyone you know – family member or coworker or anyone you’ve got a trackable electronic history with – do it. If Amazon sniffs out a connection they feel extends to an intimacy that surpasses that of an otherwise objective customer experience they will pull the review and send men in black to kill the offender. Well, perhaps not men in black but it’s a very serious business, if you read about it, these reviews. And as an author the very last thing you want to do is somehow get on the wrong side of all this and get blacklisted within KDP because you will be and you risk having your account cancelled no questions asked and then you’re banished forever.

Oh, it’s not that serious, you say, don’t exaggerate. I’m not. Look this shit up yourself. Let’s face it, just about anywhere else on the web you can post either your own reviews (or that of your family and friends) or pay somebody to cook up a review and post that. Not so at Amazon, folks. All of which is to say that for the most part, there is a great deal of time, money and effort spent upon maintaining the integrity, hence value of an Amazon review. It’s not bogus. It’s not bought and sold. Of course all of this vetting inevitably promotes a ceaseless form of gaming the system, a topic that I’m not inclined to try to describe here. Suffice it to say that Amazon is tasked with continually updating  their policing and if anyone is interested they describe their policy as it currently stands on their website:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/community-help/customer-review-guidelines-faqs-from-authors

How to encourage more Amazon reviews without getting on the wrong side of things? I’ve decided very simply not to get involved. I make my suggestions and communicate my encouragements from the distance of this blog and leave it at that. Reviews matter. Positive reviews are gold for the emerging author, no doubt. Negative reviews? Well, I try not to think about it. It’s enough that a person otherwise on the fence about your book can look to a positive review and establishes a level of social proof that is priceless.

Of course, if you’ve established yourself as a writer the value of reviews diminishes accordingly – the debate over the quality of a Stephen King novel, for instance, becomes for the most part irrelevant because his reputation as a worthy novelist goes without saying and folks buy his books prepared to bestow their own opinion. And Stephen King himself is probably wise to shy away from the reading of his own reviews so as to remain grounded in his work, I don’t know, I’m speculating.

Nevertheless, some authors shamelessly pummel and otherwise coach the book buyer with blurbs within the back matter or printed on the back cover: “If you liked this book please review it on….” Yadda, blah. I myself don’t need to be reminded, thanks, and it comes off to me as pushy so I’m not about to risk tarnishing a reader’s experience of my work with thoughtless self-promotion. Believe me, I’ve considered how to best maintain the balance between art-craft authenticity and commercial viability but in the end, you just do what feels right, you have to trust your heart. Garnering reviews, then, for me at least, after much pondering, is a thing best left to fate. Do your very best with your work – give it all you’ve got – and let it go. There is always the chance, after all, that for every enthusiastic and supportive reader you may suffer the opposite – a disgruntled buyer equally motivated to put their criticisms in writing. The genie grants your wish, as the mythology goes, and you get everything else that comes with it.

I’m not ashamed or embarrassed, then, to admit that receiving such a well-written, attentive and gracious review and to see it appear on the website of the biggest bookseller on the planet has been transformative to me as an author. It’s a dream come true, no doubt. If it never happens again, it has at least happened this once. You write, you publish, you tread upon the tail of the tiger and, heaven help you, you don’t get torn apart by the dynamics of your dreams. You envision success. But you can’t buy it. You cannot coerce it. And you cannot ensure it no matter how hard you try. Neither can you measure it, in the end, in financial terms. You can only exert your influence and endure that of the world-of-action. When the work is welcomed it’s a gift and a special form of legitimization – somebody gets it! – that makes it all worthwhile. Sure, we write for writing’s sake, for the sake of the story and the sense of individuation that it brings but we also write to be read and beyond that enjoyed and understood. Art-craft is nothing if not an impossibly earnest therefore impossibly vulnerable attempt at communication. When it works it’s not a letdown, rather, it’s the best thing ever. Thanks L. And thanks to everyone for reading.

Divine Ambiguity. Or, Savaging the Images.

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Ann Savage in Detour – part of the new DVD cover by Jennifer Dionisio

I spent yesterday morning pouring over a couple of things I received from members of my cadre of guiding influences. Tony Levin’s Images From Life on the Road, his book of photography, was not so much a disappointment as a prefigured irrelevancy. Ho hum. Somehow Tony, a man blessed with the opportunity of a wonderfully global and relevant rock-n-roll life, manages to capture, in photographic terms at least, virtually none of it. Nick Cave, on the other hand, via his latest Red Hand Files communication presents, in a handful of paragraphs, the categorical opposite of irrelevance, which is to say, a bestowing of compelling and revealing insight.

I’ve no hard feelings against Tony’s effort. If you’ve paid any attention to the man’s blog, which in fact is simply a repository of his zillions of tour photographs, too many of which involve rote shots of the audience from the perspective of the stage (is there anything duller?), then you know pretty much what to expect. I did, at least. Sure, there are a handful of interesting (but far from compelling) shots of his band members and a picture or two of a landscape or space-scape that stick with you a bit but in all, Tony’s photographs seem as workaday, serviceable and scrapbookish as perhaps his playing is. If playing a bass can be scrapbookish at all. But the reader will get my drift. In other words, if Tony gets inspired or moved or struck by anything beyond a certain casual acquaintance with it, well, his photographs don’t reveal that. It’s as if, again analogous to his bass playing, his technical ability with a camera doesn’t allow for compelling mistakes nor does it communicate a creative vision outside the utilitarian. His shots of almost everyone are blasé but not blasé enough, if you know what I mean, if that were to be regarded as his talent.

Sure, the road is a bore for most self-possessed musicians. The life of a rock star… isn’t. I get it. Which is to say, that in itself could be an interesting perspective. In fact there’s a shot of Bryan Ferry and Robert Fripp in proximity to each other outside a tour bus – they’re standing in the sunshine and Fripp is eating a bunch of grapes – that seems to describe both a quality of washed out, unbendable ennui and pedestrian dullness alongside the weird, striking out-of-place-ness that some artist-craftsmen can’t help but embody – what HWG describes as the nature of existence alongside the waiting-to-present-the-special-version-of-oneself that makes for a compelling image of irony or paradox or, I don’t know, it works as art-craft. But just barely.

And Tony’s a really nice guy, you can tell by reading about him, listening to him talk and watching him. If he were otherwise louche, transgressive, subversive, volatile, unhinged, mystical or a charismatic asshole – namely, all the things that so often seemed to fuel the rock mythos besides talent – or at least found any of that interesting, he’s keeping it to himself. Not that rock and roll is only that stuff. But as my brother (the HWG) says, “It’s truly better to be a sloppy hack in most anything than a technical ace.” So that if these images were either messier or more strikingly accomplished then we’d perhaps have something more than a hobby. Recall that my definition of a hobby is a passion sans talent. It seems there’s a part of us that must dabble in things and bang our heads against marginal skills that we never seek to master and have no hope of every realizing as talents. Talent is what you’re born with. A strength is talent enhanced by deliberate practice and mastery is the far horizon that compels us ever onwards within our VAPM. Professionalism comes naturally within this scenario: when we professionalize our strength we are doing our best to deliver our best to the world-of-action. Why keep it to yourself?

It sounds simple enough except when we confuse earnestness and passion with a calling and when we attempt to professionalize a hobby and transform it into a vocation. As I’ve always said, earnestness and passion are no substitute for talent. Earnestness and passion are rather what hobbyists thrive upon. A person’s talent more often conflicts with both. I’m banging away at this journal entry, for example, and later I’ll bang away at the manuscript and I’ve a marginal talent for both and neither are a pleasure. I experience a sense of conflict, that is, when I engage my talents because they conflict, somehow, psychologically at least, with the sense of enjoyment I experience when engaging my hobbies. Hobbies can be a means to express great skill and that’s part of the fun, too, just being good at something. But your talent draws more out of you. It requires more of you. It requires all of you. I would argue that in personal mythological terms it is you. Hence, it’s all the cosmos really requires of you. So do it.

Which brings us to Nick Cave, yet again, whom I would characterize as an artist-craftsman who resides comfortably (or productively uncomfortably) within the messy psychology of the art-craft metropolis and the wild woods of creative vision. He knows when to upset the apple cart of his own preconceptions. Preconceptions? Yes, we all have them and perhaps most perniciously on behalf of ourselves. We’re convinced that we’re this or that. We do this but we’d never do that. Which is fine in terms of cultivating a sense of self possession and confidence and purpose – how else to move forward with being who you are? But that thing that we refuse to consider? It’s probably a key to unlocking a door that needs opening. Sometimes you have to kick it open and sometimes you don’t. Meanwhile, let it work on you. You’re feeling stuck, for instance, and wondering what in hell to do. Consider that which you’re convinced is not the thing. I’d never work there, I’d never take that job, I’d never resort to that. Why not?

Nick Cave. I keep coming back to the guy because, whether you appreciate his music or not, he is authentic in personal mythological terms. And his work, as it stands, continues to be vital because of it. I’m convinced that often in spite of ourselves we are mythic creatures, keen to thrive upon and respond to in Earthly and unearthly (super natural [sic]) terms to our mythos, personal and cultural. Which includes our sense of awe, a cosmology that supports that awe, a sociology that describes our ethics and a pedagogical psychology that guides us through. It is, I believe, an inescapable intuition and phenomenon of our humanity. And if we’re not alone, if there are worlds that support intelligent life, you will find mythos there, too. Will it be alien? I like to believe, if only just for fun and to inspire sci-fi novels that it may just be the only thing that we may share with aliens. Thereby rendering them less alien.

But to my point. I’d never expected a response from Nick regarding my question posed many months ago – God knows how many questions he receives via The Red Hand Files. Nevertheless, “What is your relationship to mythology?” stuck with me. And it turns out that by way of answering somebody else’s question, he did very well to answer mine. I’m going to transcribe this in full because if I merely post a link nobody will click it and may the gods of copyright enforcement slay me:

“Dear Ellery, You are right to say that there is some ambiguity to my relationship with Christ, and I don’t consider myself a Christian — at least ‘most of time’, as Bob Dylan would say. Spiritual matters for me are always evolving, never static, and are energized by their mystery and uncertainty and attendant struggle.

However, this much I think is true. I believe that there is a unifying essentialness within all people — the spirit, the soul — and that this spirit is innocent and good and connected to the divine. Over that essential spirit of goodness we place, throughout our lives, mechanisms, strategies, agendas, defenses, transgressions — layers of behavior that collect and deepen, like Philip Larkin’s ‘coastal shelf’, and engulf that core of goodness, separating us from the divine nature of the world. Although I believe this, I find it extremely difficult to actually connect deeply with these invisible notions — the spirit and the soul.

Personally, I need to see the world through metaphors, symbols and images. It is through images that I can engage meaningfully with the world. The personalization of this invisible notion of the spirit is necessary for me to fully understand it. I find that using the word ‘Christ’ as the actualizing symbol of the eternal goodness in all things extremely useful. The Christ in everything makes sense to me — I can see it — and helps me to act more compassionately within the world.

It feels to me that sometimes we practice a kind of conditional compassion and reserve our goodwill to those we think deserve it. To practice a form of universal compassion, I find it of considerable value to remember that our love is a lifeline thrown to that pure essentialness, the Christ deep within us, entombed, suffering and yearning for our assistance.

Acts of compassion, kindness and forgiveness can ignite this spirit of goodness within each other and within the world. Small acts of love reach down and bring succor to that animated spirit, the beseeching Christ, so in need of rehabilitation. Love, Nick.”

https://www.theredhandfiles.com/i-have-been-reading-tolstoys-the-gospel-in-brief-and-wondered-if-you-had-read-this-short-book-what-does-christ-mean-to-you-i-hear-his-name-mentioned-in-many-of-your-songs-but-thematically-the/

The devoted reader will recall my appreciation for context and this, upon reflection, forces me to evaluate the Tony Levin book again and perhaps cut him some slack. Did he ever presume to be publishing artcraft? No. Images From a Life on the Road is the title of the book, after all, and he does not wax eloquently or ineloquently upon any of it. It’s pretty much just a scrapbook and so be it. He never claims to provide a window into life on the road. He doesn’t aspire to insight. He’s not experimenting with the images of life on the road with an aspiration to discern or distill or extract or analyze. He merely presents and seems content to leave anything else up to us. If I argued that out of the zillions of photographs he probably sifted through and spent untold hours curating for the book he might have discarded some and included others more compelling, well, he never said any of them were compelling.

Nevertheless, I would ask Tony why he takes photographs if it’s not an experiment and an adventure and a form of seeking but then he’s not required to answer me. I would  argue that the first thing I look for in a photographer’s work is awareness of a perspective beyond that of standing there with the camera in front of your face and clicking away, which is what the rest of us do. That is, do you understand that you can’t just click what you see out of your own everyday pedestrian perspective, standing there between five and six feet or so above the ground and at this or that distance from whomever and whatever you are shooting? Lower yourself. Climb a ladder. Back away. Get closer. Zoom in. Observe what’s in the frame – everything in the frame. Compose the shot. Edge to edge. I’m not certain that Tony is doing this except when he’s photographing objects and landscapes, skyscapes and space-scapes. People? He seems interested in people, in photographing them, but rarely does he seem interested in drilling into who they are and what’s going on with them. Perhaps he’s just too painfully respectful of people’s privacy? A photograph can be revealing, perhaps too much so for some folks. But if it’s a book of your work, I’d prefer to look at stuff that reveals. So be it. As far as the bonus CD that arrived with the book, Tony’s favorites amongst his own work, let’s just say that, well, some folks no matter their degree of technical ability are contributors and not themselves artcrafters.

“Feb 8th update: The first printing of the book has sold out (much quicker than we expected.) A second printing is on the way (unchanged except for a couple of typos fixed) and should arrive later in February. So we are again at “Pre-Order”, and expect to ship by March 1st.”

https://tonylevin.com/photobook.php

Okay Tony, regardless of my opinion of it, congratulations on selling out this run of books. And the typos? I get it, brutha.

Criticism. “To be a critic,” suggested Bob Fripp, “is to have no concern for your soul.” Well, I mostly agree except when we’re discussing already well off and well established artcrafters with the psychological and material wherewithal to endure such analysis. And we eventually require honesty and straightforward professional evaluation for just about everything – in the sense that looking the other way usually doesn’t do a thing any good in the end anyway. My work is no exception despite my cosmic terror at the idea, perhaps an inevitability of receiving bad reviews. I’ve often said, after all, that the sign of true success is to have acquired critics, the more well regarded and passionately averse to your work, the better. For it only brings fuel to the fire of public acceptance. Not everyone will like what you do. Perhaps most folks won’t. But kid gloves? Everything has its place.

Meanwhile, it turns out that February 2021 is the third best sales month ever for TC1! Go Time Crime! Who could have expected it? And I received from L.S. her notes on a string of embarrassing typos within TC1 – thank you! – which has inspired me to gather up my own corrections and schedule a revision with R.V. Within the next three weeks or so, then, I’ll republish the thing in its Third State, yay! And of course I’ll immediately find something else that needs fixing or improving or otherwise tweaking. I’m not against a lifetime of revisions – errors are errors and what writing can’t be improved upon? – but frankly, following this third “printing” I’m going to devote myself entirely to TC2, anything that bugs me about TC1 will have to wait. And I’m also sensitive from the fan’s standpoint (because I’m a fan of things, too) to idea of leaving well enough alone and living with the imperfections because somehow, so often, those very imperfections become part of the substance of the thing. Too many fixes and you’ve got a second edition and who needs a second edition of a novel?

The most extreme example that I’ve run across where an imperfection that borders on scandalous is allowed to stand long enough that it transforms into part of the essence and appeal of the creation is the famous and recently restored 1945 film Detour (complete with new promotional artwork as displayed on Criterion) directed by Edgar G. Ulmer and starring Tom Neal and Ann Savage.

https://www.criterion.com/films/29614-detour

I’m determined to see this film (which clocks in at a mere 68 minutes) because it supposedly stands as the definitive film noir classic, perhaps the first fully realized example of the type. That, and the story of the budget constraints being such that not only did the director use his own car (now an icon of the film in its own right) but, crazy as it seems, in order to present the sense of the protagonist’s journey east to west – right to left, per say – from NYC to L.A. more convincingly on the screen, the negative was reversed. With the kooky result that the car is on the wrong side of the road and likewise the driver sits, U.K. style, on the right. Insane that they would resort to this! And that anyone would consider it an improvement.

Where does that leave us? Perhaps hanging. But I’ve nothing else to say about it, mostly because I’ve got to get some TC2 editing done before a closing shift at the home improvement so, until next time… thanks for reading!

“Horror is the Foreground of Wonder.”

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Time Crime Book 2 – cover mock-up. Author image.

February has transformed into a respectable month for book sales – seven copies so far and just this week TC1 has sold in the USA (hardcover), U.K. (paperback) and Australia (eBook). Yay! And if, as they say, most books don’t sell more than a hundred copies, well, I’m happy to declare that the Australian sale puts the novel at 101. Very modest numbers, certainly, and oftentimes it all seems so insignificant as to render the whole experiment of indie authorpreneurship a categorical failure. But thanks to the intrepid readers who have so far risked their hard earned cash on the book, it yet lives. Thank you.

Meanwhile, I continue to apply myself to the editing of TC2 and I’ve gone as far as to schedule a date of April 1 with my book designer for the cover artwork. For better or worse my vision for the cover is clear this time and I’ve mocked up my own rough version as a starting point, hence the unholy image that illustrates this post! For better or worse, indeed, right? But don’t anybody panic about how bad this looks, it’s just something to riff upon. I described the vision to the designer thus:

Vixy again embodies the emotional compass of the novel, hence her wide-eyed, down-gazing, eerily downlit or up-lit visage (via light from gleaming Ball?) if that works. Also Five’s gauntleted fist, up thrust, seizing the Golden Ball. Otherwise, the context is sinister, claustrophobic entanglement, warped sci-fi horror and hard-boiled, plasma-pistol toting, trench coated pursuit seasoned with a dash of pulpy enthusiasm. The book’s locales include indomitable mountains, impenetrably forested Northwest Coast islands, jungle-choked ruins prowled by tigers, mysterious temple caves and a riotously populated, sweaty Indian metropolis, all of which fuel the knotted, oppressive vibe and perhaps need only appear as reflections/intimations within the ball’s gleaming surface (if that isn’t too much). The book’s epigraph, “Horror is the foreground of wonder”, may help with the vibe.

Why not just let the designer run with things as before? Well, I’m all for serendipity, spontaneity, letting things go and seeing what happens. But things change, this time I’ve got a specific idea and I’m convinced it’s futile to attempt to seek another lightning strike of good fortune of the type that happened with the first book. With TC1 it was all brand new and it was all I could do to feed images of book covers that I admired and sections of the manuscript to the designer and surrender to what she came up. We got lucky, I think, and that’s that.

Now I know more about how it all works and I’m keen to respect the new dynamics. It’s this way for anyone art-crafting anything, isn’t it? That is, there is always that first significant foray that, if it works at all, if it enjoys any amount of success, forever stands as a thing’s unreproducible arrival. Subsequent iterations and experiments possess a maturity born of worldliness let’s call it that risk falling short of the original magic. Such is the nature of risk. Adventures involve trials. Quests can fail.

The key, I think, is authenticity. Where does your zeal reside? Name it, claim it and honor the new dynamic, come what may. There is no mythology without an image. And the mythology, hence the image, must change with the times, must incorporate the everchanging dynamic of the phenomenal world, all the while referencing the eternal quality, the mythos that resonates, inspires and fuels our experience of being properly alive. Affecting symbols may infect us with aesthetic arrest but they themselves are not static.

Such is the play-of-opposites universe that we inhabit, the paradox that we exist within, the predicament we endure living within a Mystery that yet bestows clues – little truths – as to its true nature, its veritelos and our own within it. The future really is the past and vice versa. The relationship is that of identity, hence metaphor, hence, in the best examples, myth. I’ve yet to discover a more evocative, apt and concise expression of the mythic experience. Living within a fully functional mythology replete with its affecting image or images inspires this worldview which indeed is more akin to an experience than a contemplation. Myth is lived; it is empirical first and only epistemic – to do with knowledge or the degree of its validation – after the fact of the affecting image(s).

Be skeptical about a person’s experience, a UFO sighting for instance, and, if their experience is affecting enough, they will say, “I know what I saw.” And what they perhaps really mean to express is, I saw what I know. It is an experience of reencountering something where there has been no previous encounter. Which is to say that aesthetic arrest is more than an expression of the happenstance of familiarity. It goes further up and further in, to borrow an oft quoted line from Joyce. The image resonates, somehow, not as an experience of encountering something new but rather as the experience of intimate and immediate understanding in a thing’s full aspect. There is nothing to figure out about the image except to attempt to decipher, after the fact, the details of the phenomenon of its affect upon you. And perhaps others.

When others experience the thing as you do then the mythology is especially well rendered, forceful, fully expressed and functional, possessing a potent awe, cosmology, sociology and pedagogical psychology. The cross or crucifix and Christianity, for example. The image is understood and for the most part, if you identify with it, your experience is similar enough, at least, to that of other Christians as to allow for the members of the religion to identify sufficiently with each other.

I see what I know. This idea gets to the heart of the experience of aesthetic arrest. And when we attempt to render a 3D object into 2D by way of drawing it, for instance, those of us who either lack the technical skills of perspective or artist-craftsmen who intentionally ignore such skills will tend to illustrate all aspects of an object. We attempt to draw the table legs that we cannot see and all the perspectives at once. And of course children express this way of seeing-what-you-know effortlessly when given the means. I’ve discussed the hyper-dimensional challenges of drawing, such as they are, in a previous post, hence I won’t elaborate here.

https://carnegieolson.com/blog/symbolic-forms-fits-of-tears-whats-in-a-drawing/

Horror is the foreground of wonder. This is from Campbell’s The Power of Myth and communicates his suggestion that this is one way, at least, to break through, to transcend, to reveal things as they are, to experience the sublimity that leads to awe and aesthetic arrest. Not by way of gore; rather, by way of cosmic fright.

In this way, within this next novel, I intend to further, come what may, my influences in a manner that serves the stories and not the other way round. The energy of it all is intended to facilitate not force or otherwise appropriate. I’d hate to be accused of attempting to proliferate my philosophy (or, heaven forbid, an agenda) under the guise of writing science fiction, of merely pontificating and inevitably writing terribly pedantic and dull novels. Hell no. But the subtext within Time Crime that seeks to advance mythology in my own way is nevertheless present. It has to be because, as I’ve oftentimes said, it fuels the fiction. That it isn’t to everyone’s taste merely legitimizes, I think (or hope), the healthy and wholehearted peculiarity of the effort.

Cross, Cord & Arrow. Or, How to Drive Yourself Crazy.

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“Rose Neo” – Author Image.

Cross, cord, and arrow, ancient contrivances of man, nowadays debased, or elevated, into symbols: I do not know why they should astonish me, when there is on Earth no single thing oblivion does not overtake, or which memory does not alter, and when no one knows the images into which the future will translate all things.

Jorge Luis Borges, from “Mutations,” translated by Anthony Kerrigan, as appearing within Materials for the Study of Social Symbolism in Ancient & Tribal Art: A Record of Tradition & Continuity, Vol.1, Book 1, (New York: Rock Foundation, 1986), epigraph.

It seems to happen so often: I work my ass off and get caught up in all sorts of things that make me forget about selling books and I find that I’ve sold one. This time, a U.K. paperback, yay! Nothing beats a sale. And while the spottiness of sales drives me to distraction and proves a delicate, relentless torture (except for the twenty-four hours of bliss that a sale bestows) it’s as if the cosmos is determined to respond only to my authenticity and wholeheartedness. Otherwise, the idea that authors sell not one or two copies a month but one or two copies an hour, or many more than that, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year just seems to me incredible. What must that be like?

I’ve enjoyed almost two weeks off from the job with only one shift, seven hours, I think, in between somewhere but tomorrow my schedule ramps back up again. It has to do with the seasonality of sales, I think, when my hours decrease and that’s verified by the fact that the home improvement does their annual inventory gig this time of year. I’ve worked in more than a few retail environments in my day and I have to say that taking inventory is a miserable experience even when the company uses an outside service to expedite things. Outside service? Yes, there happen to be companies out there that send a crew of folks with data gathering devices (scanners & keyboards in the same unit) into a facility to literally scan or otherwise process the “sku” or product identification number present on anything with a damn barcode. The keyboard is for entering the “sku” when the barcode fails to scan or (and this is the part that drives you crazy when you work for, say, the Sam Goody music store in Greenwich Village – long since disappeared – where I worked back in the day) it’s missing.

Have things changed at all since my first experience with this some thirty years ago? I’m thinking not. Counting every little thing is a crazy and maddening way to spend a workday. Mostly because there’s far too much shit that isn’t in the right place. Or is somehow otherwise uncountable. To say nothing of the mind numbing tedium of it all.

My short time at Zingerman’s Mail Order – Zingerman’s I can tell you, for all their fine efforts at providing a good work environment is lacking in resources and common sense when it comes to the idea of streamlining things like taking inventory, I will say no more – involved at least two miserable sessions of all day inventory, one of which required me to reside for at least an hour in the pitch dark and literally freezing cold counting bread loaves by the weak light of a single bulb. Loaves that were buried in racks which were subsequently stacked higher than a man on top of each other in a freezer semi-trailer. Miserable. Impossible. Stupid, silly, frustrating work. Wearing my winter coat, hat and gloves in June. A nightmare.

***

Meanwhile, I’ve reached the halfway point or so with editing the second draft of TC2. My stretch goal remains to publish the thing this September or, at the very latest, October. I took to heart the comment by an editor at Locus who found it maddening that anyone would release a book at the end of the year, especially in December because that almost guarantees its exclusion from competition in year-end “best-ofs” or recommendations and other such opportunities. Not that I’d ever make the cut for any of that stuff. But I nevertheless do my best in the professional sense to maximize the opportunity for exposure and minimize the risk of obscurity based on avoidable technicalities.

I’m not one, however, to get all wrapped-around-the-axle (I term I borrow from an ex-boss of mine) with pre-release promotions and pre-orders and ARCs (advance reader copies) and all that mess. I see books advertised with publication dates at least six months out and I think what’s the point except to perpetuate the historically lethargic methods and means of the traditional publishing industry? I think Locus suggests sending ARCs something like three months in advance of publication. Huh? As if I’m going to sit on my hands, book written, edited, designed and proofed until all the magazines and media outlets are done ignoring my gratis copy? Screw off, I say. When the book is ready I’m damn well publishing it.

Add to it all the loony business of scrounging for advance reviews to slap into the book or plaster all over the cover and into the Amazon description, ugh, horrible. “Gripping.” “A must read!” “New York Times #1 Best Seller.” Whatever that means (it seems to me you see that before the book is even released). Anyway, no. One of the singular joys of being an indie author is being your own publisher and maintaining complete authority over what goes into and on the cover of your work. I’ve picked up books, fiction and non-fiction, stuffed with page after shameless page of so-called “reviews” or “blurbs” as the front matter, the first thing you come to when flipping through a book. I’m all for marketing (my obsession with reviews is obvious) but what can I say except the marketing angle becomes too pushy and sleazy and, again, shamelessly commercial when you use the book itself as the billboard.

The exception proves the rule, however, and a legitimate, well known award – Hugo, Nebula, for instance – would be something I’d be certain to plaster, tastefully of course, upon the cover of my novel. And then the collectors would have to scramble to find a first edition, first state copy without all that. How great would that be?

To achieve the 12,500 copies per year that ALLi (the Alliance of Independent Authors) uses as the threshold differentiating “author member” from “authorpreneur member” you must sell 35 or so books a day, every day, all year. If you allow yourself a two dollar profit on each book, give or take, that just about covers the cost of indie publishing yourself in all formats. Which is to say even then you’re not anywhere close to anything like a significant profit, let alone a living. The sixty or eighty or one-hundred thousand dollar salary you were earning while dutifully employed? Forget it. $100K in book sale profits translates into 50,000 books! That’s 137 books sold per day for a year. It’s almost impossible to comprehend that anyone actually sells like this. Lord of the Rings, published in 1954 has apparently sold 150M copies worldwide. That averages out, in the series’ sixty-seven years of publication, to over 2.2M copies a year. That’s an incredible average of 6,134 copies sold per day. Amazing.

The numbers involved in so-called remarkable success like that of LOTR are, in a word, staggering. When I try to imagine what a pile of 150M books looks like it’s damn impossible. Likewise the perennial nature of such staggering success; for it’s one thing, after all, to publish a hit novel that racks up a million copies sold in a year – an incredible feat – but then not to endure inevitably becoming passe and watching your fame and fortune fall off a cliff and disappearing into the bulging ranks of the whatever-happened-to authors? Some successes indeed remain in a class by themselves.

What’s reasonable, then? What kind of life as an indie author can be said to involve a reasonable risk of failure and a reasonable expectation of reasonable success? What can be said to involve strategy versus mere fantasy? Most books don’t sell more than one hundred copies. I read this somewhere and something tells me it’s probably close enough to the truth. Which merely points out that there will never be anything reasonable about writing and indie publishing your book, at least in statistical and economic terms. It’s a hard reality.

Nevertheless there are more books than ever being published, indie or otherwise. The statistics have never been more lopsided, then, against getting noticed and getting liked and getting sold. So be it. A writer writes, regardless, that’s what I’ve learned. I bang away at editing TC2 and I post blogs and I write in my journal and don’t publish it. What the hell am I doing? Writing my way through it.

But there’s no real hurry, I don’t think, despite the sense of urgency that permeates the whole otherwise interminable experience. Life is irony. Get that next book out while the iron is hot, while that other book has yet to descend into the oblivion of the void! I read of these authors who can crank out a book a year for ten years straight and it reminds me of how rock bands back in the 70s used to release a record every year, sometimes more. And they usually sucked. They were chock full of so-called filler. As if getting out something, anything, was better, somehow, than taking one’s time and doing one’s best to craft a thing of lasting value. It isn’t. Sure, when I post a blog I get hits on my website. And perhaps that leads to a sale here and there of a book. When I don’t post a blog, nothing at all happens. Though I suppose that eventually I’d manage to sell a book regardless of keeping myself out there, as it were.

Hey, I appreciate productivity out of my authors and musicians and even filmmakers as much as the next person. I enjoy getting caught up in the rush of the new, too. But I’m also the first to dismiss a thing as worthless dross and to complain that the legacy of an artist-craftsman I otherwise respect is being diluted and diminished by a rush-it-to-market shamelessness.

Three years. Experience has demonstrated to me that at least three years between releases – book, record album, film – is about right. Less than that and, in the end, things seem to pile up too fast in someone’s oeuvre and substance is lacking and then I’m on to the next thing and stuck with sorting out a bunch of detritus that I’d wished I’d never bought and I’m throwing things away and all that. Too much of a good thing, at best. Less is more, indeed. So, three years is good. I really don’t see anyone working within these genres producing things of lasting quality any more quickly than that.

Blog posts? Video posts? What about folks who garner YouTube advertising dollars and avail themselves of subscriber income from services like Patreon? Don’t they have to crank out product at least every week? Yes, I’d say they more or less do. The genre lends itself to that. In the rare case they might be able to profit from a monthly release schedule. But the three years? Impossible. Hell, in three years the technology will have changed so much and this or that company will have gone out of business or been bought or sold and, well, the nature of journalism and news media and blogs and newsletters is that of what newspapers used to be: throwaway daily reporting upon momentary, inevitably trendy, inevitably forgettable chit-chat and sociability and, well, look at the hideousness of Facebook. I’m on there. And all I can say is, Ugh. Of what real use is it, our tidbits of this or that commonplace interaction with pedestrian existence? It seems that’s all most of the social media thing ended up amounting to, but I’m not here to decry social media.

Rather, I think I’m here, today, to write my way through my anxiety over not perhaps having TC2 ready for this year. And to let that expectation and accompanying anxiety go. Guides help. J. Campbell seemed a fellow quite adept at taking the time something took and otherwise not fretting about it. He landed a contract for The Hero With a Thousand Faces, for instance, and took five years – five years! – to deliver the book to his publisher. By which time everyone in the publishing house had since moved on and he was told nobody there was interested and Campbell could come pick up his manuscript, thank you very much, we’re sorry. This is a story I’ve often referred to in my journaling, namely, that (and you have to recall that for non-fiction authors it’s often the case that merely the idea for a book is sold, a quite different thing compared to what is required of novelists) here’s a guy so keen on doing the job right and possessed of such self-possession that he could grind away at a thing for that long, all the while maintaining faith in his publisher sticking by him until the time came to put the book out. Which didn’t happen. Things changed, too many things, and there was Campbell, advance in hand and back on the street with his manuscript. I’ve often tried to imagine this scenario and I simply cannot put myself in Campbell’s position. What psychological tortures must have the man endured? It turns out his friend, Henry Morton-Robinson, himself an author (who had one of his novels turned into a film), when Campbell was intending to return the advance, told him to keep it, Morton-Robinson helped him edit it one last time and, eventually, the Bollingen Foundation accepted it and the rest is history. J.C. then went on to a contract with Viking and every three years published a volume of The Masks of God tetralogy, a great work that I highly recommend that has very much withstood the test of time.

Every three years. Perhaps that’s fine for deeply researched non-fiction titles, you say, but it hardly ought to apply to novels which are typically completed well within a year. I would agree (the first drafts of TC1, TC2 and TC3 each required nine months or so) except to specify that only novels that are extemporaneous – thought up and composed on the spot, as it were, sans anything besides incidental, after-the-fact fact checking – and then hastily edited can be expected to thrive under such expectations. Perhaps I’m wrong. Frankly, I don’t read many novels. I read non-fiction, virtually all of which supports the background of the novels. Hence, I wouldn’t characterize my novels as extemporaneous.

Three years between TC1 and TC2, then? Is that really what I’m proposing? Well, if the first draft takes nine months and any decent amount of self-editing (three additional drafts) requires perhaps three months and then a last run-through with a professional editor requires two or three weeks – let’s just give it a month – then, 9 + 3 + 1 = 13. Thirteen months not counting book cover design and interior formatting and, in the case of Time Crime, the month it took me to obtain permissions for all my citations. So, fourteen months. Barring any crazy life interruptions and having the funds available for all this expenditure. So where does the extra year and a half come in?

It doesn’t. But just as a first record album is essentially a compilation of one’s entire previous life’s work, there is more to the TCT series – much more – than the writing of the manuscripts might otherwise imply. If you write novels yourself you might get a sense of the backstory and life experience and decade of intense reading and all the other writing that went on prior to receiving the “call” to begin writing that first fiction manuscript. That, and if you’re not the amazing type who holds down a demanding job like, say, a heart surgeon who still finds time and creative energy to somehow crank out worthy novels. Or these folks who publish ten books in ten years while working full time at anything. I don’t get it.

Somewhere, then, outside the fourteen months required to get a manuscript from its first word to something publishable, reside the nagging indeterminacies that beleaguer any significant act of creation. Shit happens. For example, there I was in 2019, finally primed and prepped and ready to get my book cover designed and slapped onto my book and shot into the KDP and Ingramspark systems and into anxious readers hot hands and my book designer said, sure, the earliest I can schedule you two months from now. Two months from now?! But I’m ready to go NOW!

Lesson learned. The zillionth lesson. This time, for TC2, I’m planning to reach out at least three months in advance regarding the cover and I’m thinking as I write this that I ought to check in with my designer perhaps four or more months in advance. After all, I don’t have to be done with the final, professional edit or even with my drafts to get the cover worked up. Interior formatting? Yes.

Anyway, given that the first draft of TC2 was already written when I committed, near the end of last year, to the second draft, it seems entirely reasonable to allow for three months on three self-edited drafts, another month working with a professional editor and then another month, more or less, to have the book up for sale. That’s five months. And here I’m already at perhaps three months slogging through this second draft. What gives?

Well, I’ve found that even the part-time job, especially as it presents an unpredictable work schedule, has slowed my re-digestion, so to say, of the TC2 story. That, and a second draft of TC2 is not the same as the final draft of TC1 where I was capable of burning through a chapter a day because the writing didn’t require much in the way of substantive editing. In other words, I’m only now, halfway into the second draft, managing to not only get any sense of momentum but to get the story back into my head, back to front. Because it’s been at least four years since I wrote the damn first draft. And the start-up shenanigans involved in becoming an authorpreneur type involved so many things besides just waiting for readers to find my novel. So be it. TC2, as yet, has not revealed any glaring, impossible plot glitches or disastrous technical flaws. I don’t have to start over. The patient is breathing and has a heartbeat. The story holds. My substantive editing, then, will not require organ transplants. This will save time. It may be also that I won’t require as many permissions. But I’m nevertheless burdened with a sense of having to pick up the pace. Why? Why can’t I just try to enjoy the process and take my time?

I can’t answer that. A sense of urgency seems somehow part of my genetic nature. That, and the process of self-editing is such a burdensome one, psychologically. The constant second-guessing of oneself, of my writing and my purpose for writing and why in hell would I ever think anyone would read my writing. This kind of thing. It’s a torture to get the book out as such. To fix things, tweak things, make the writing better, better, always it can be better. To trim, embellish, tweak and hone. To craft it.

The story itself is probably the only thing I don’t fret so much because I really can’t imagine writing any other story. This is the story, the TCT is, in my own mind at least, my magnum opus, my life’s great work of fiction. If I manage to subsequently or somewhere in between write and publish The World as Personal & Cultural Mythology it will not replace the sense that the novels are my children and I’ll always love them in that pained way that apparently parents love their children. Ugly. Untalented. Doomed. We love our novels, come what may, if we’ve put our life into them.

September of this year, then. TC2 copyright 2021. Stretch goal. Boy, I’ve got my work cut out for me.