Behind the Veil…

Blog
Mothman Empress, Veiled…. Author image.

Behind the veil…. Yes. This is the completed Mothman Empress art, currently in the hands of the fine art photographer with the hi-res file expected to be in my hands on Monday. From there, it goes to my book designer, who happens to be finished with the manuscript formatting and now she’s waiting on my final proofread. While we’re all proofreading, the designer will produce the new and final version of the book cover.

Proofreading. Ugh. To help with that tedious process, I’ve ordered a few paperback proof copies for my peeps to scrutinize with a new cover mock-up that includes an image of the empress photographed poorly with a crappy cell phone camera, so be it. Hence, THE VERSION OF THE BOOK COVER CURRENTLY ON AMAZON employs the mock-up, not what purchasers of the book will receive. The final version will be much better – namely, properly proportioned, with colors true to the artwork and the typography jiving better with that of the first book.

Meanwhile, I wanted to get something close to what the final cover is going to look like in front of people, even if it means that anybody paying attention to my updates is seeing a handful of different iterations prior to publication. The first version of the cover just wasn’t getting clicks and that’s just the way it goes in the design world, some things work and some don’t. So, it’s good to use a preorder scenario for a test run, as it were, no harm, no foul.

And for those who like that previous, very mythologized and graphic rendering of the empress, well, it appears as a full page illustration inside the text of the book!

Grayscale Empress. Author image.

And I think it looks every bit as cool in grayscale as full color. But we’ll see how folks respond. Which reminds me: PLEASE, if you like Time Crime and the idea of this series, don’t be shy about rating and reviewing the first book or the new book when it’s on Amazon – good reviews really help us fledgling indie authors out there. Thanks in advance to anyone who goes the extra mile to help out in that way!

The schedule, then? I’ll be burning through an e-copy of the typeset manuscript while I await delivery of the paperback proofs this Tuesday – somehow it’s far easier and more effective to proofread the manuscript as a printed book – and I’ll compile a list of proofreading feedback for my editor. It may take her a week (but I doubt it) to get through the corrections.

So, as a stretch goal, I’m allowing next week for everybody to do their proofreading and for the designer to complete the new book cover. That means that sometime within the second week of May I will be officially publishing Empire & Oracle and anybody who preordered the eBook will be getting it early!

Thanks to everyone who has been following the developments and (hopefully) enjoying the images of the MOTHMAN EMPRESS as things have very breathlessly changed seemingly at the last pre-publication minute. It’s crazy. And cool, too, to be a part of the nutty process of allowing the mythic images to do their work!

Stay tuned for the unveiling of the Empress artwork which I promise to post before the book cover gets finished, bye for now….

Sneak Preview – NEW BOOK COVER (mock-up)!

Blog
mock-up

This is a mock-up of what the new book cover will look like, pending professional typography tweaks and such. It’s a departure from the previous version, certainly, but I think it’s better at communicating what the new book really is. Hey, it has to look like what it is, right?

My brother again did the Mothman Empress illustration. The other version will appear as an image within the pages of the book. And here’s the new video short (it’s still the old TC2 cover on Amazon until we make this one official:

Innertubes & Umbrella Drinks.

Blog
“Toobers

I was inspired to crank out another little promo video for the TC franchise, such as it is, har! – and I plopped it on my Amazon author page and youtube.com because, hell, you have to do these things these days. If you already watched it, thanks. And if it inspired you to check out the novels, thanks likewise.

Otherwise, obviously, I’m not a videographer or video maker or what have you by nature. I’ve experimented with some things all the way back to my Texas days but I’m a writer and an authorpreneur and that’s that. However, like it or not, everybody, including me, of course, responds to video – animated visuals in whatever format or style, call it what you will – like nothing else. No book blurb or email blast or print advertisement, when it comes to marketing your novel – marketing anything for that matter – can compete with the moving image. Resist this phenomenon, which is closer to a law of Nature if you ask me, at your peril, at least if you fancy yourself an artist-craftsman seeking to participate.

J.C. himself (Joe Campbell, that is) understood this or, more accurately given what I’ve read about the man’s attitude towards film and television which wasn’t a very amendable one, apparently. Clearly the moving image just didn’t appeal to him and mostly, if you watch his video legacy, it reveals that he wasn’t particularly comfortable in front of the camera, despite possessing some honest charisma. Comparative mythology was his subject matter but he was a writer, after all, I get it. And the images that affected him were static – classic mythological imagery that to be affecting had to do it all within the limits of a single frame, as it were – without the seductiveness of being in motion. Even mostly compiling static images into a short video format, like I do, activates the imagery in a different, immediately dynamic manner.

That is to say, a static mythologically affecting image is powerful and the best of them invoke aesthetic arrest, as I’ve oft discussed. Hence, it’s immediately possible to imbue less-than-authentic dynamism into a video or a film, in my opinion. It happens whenever somebody attempts to abuse the medium by way of simply marrying crappy imagery with crappy narratives and putting it into motion. Watch lousy animation – some of the Hanna Barbara garbage from my youth comes to mind.

I’m suggesting that you ought to rather begin with a powerful static image because myth itself originates within our unconscious as, arguably, static imagery. Our dreams my play out akin to little movies in our heads but we remember the images (if we remember them at all), as static scenes. Indeed, perhaps as the Jungian collective archetypal frameworks that we fill-in, in accordance with our unique dreams, sleeping or waking. Otherwise, if you begin with the idea or requirement of movement, with a string of empty film frames, like old-fashioned celluloid film frames, and attempt to shove imagery into them. I don’t think it works as well or as reliably at least as beginning with strong static imagery.

Anyway, J.C. himself wasn’t so stubborn as to dismiss the power of the moving image. He was doing video take-offs of his lectures (recall that he was a part-time teacher, teaching being a kind of performance) very early in his career and I’d like to get my hands on the video series he did, mentioned in his biography, well prior to any of his well-known stuff. All of which is to say that I identify with J.C.’s skepticism, let’s call it, regarding the value of video yet, like him perhaps I too see it for what it is: namely, what people tend to like. It’s what they arguably tend to prefer, at least in terms of, say, my 85/15 rule of thumb. It makes intuitive sense that for every 1.5 folks who would rather look at a picture (photograph, painting, illustration, etcetera) there are perhaps 8.5 of them who would rather watch a video. Or a film.

Moreover, the shorter the better, within limits. Hence, the super-short format I use which is fundamentally geared to communicating an energized introduction to some other art-craft or endeavor; in my case, novels. Does it make sense at all that little video shorts sell novels more effectively and efficiently than static images or words themselves? Well, I can tell you that it costs a hell of a lot more to put out a magazine advertisement than it does to make and publish a video. My Locus Magazine ad that’s running right now cost me $675 for a little 1/6 page image in three consecutive issues. That’s $225 each with the discount I earned, otherwise it would’ve been almost a $1,000 investment. Video shorts? I used Animoto again, and splurged for the $96 annual fee that allowed me to download my videos instead of resorting to merely publishing a link to the Animoto page.

Videos, then. Moving images. We like them. We love them. I’ve discussed at length here within the DOP how it’s pretty much agreed amongst those that study these things that the modern novelist like me, for example, literally writes from a perspective of film, a.k.a. movies. Having grown up immersed within the medium. It’s true. I tend to literally “see” or otherwise envision my TC stories – the characters, the action, what have you – as little movies of a sort in my head.

Meanwhile, as long as I can keep the experience of making videos fun – short, and sweet – and not a chore, well, I can admit that I like doing them. If I had to do them? Ugh. Hence, I don’t ever see myself becoming a devoted, monetized you-toober with a following and production values and cameras and lighting and microphones and all that. To say nothing of the editing that makes or breaks the entire outcome. These folks who make great videos are great what I would call long-form editors. Not me, brother. No. No fucking way. A handful of hours and less than thirty seconds of result and I’m toast until the next book. Although I will likely do an updated video short for TC2 when it’s officially published.

But our voraciousness, our ability to consume so much of it creates an exhausting demand for more of it. From each of our favorite creators we are ceaselessly demanding more, more, more! And faster, faster, faster! And we discard our experience almost immediately. Videos are like candy or dessert in this way, as opposed to, say, a pot roast for dinner. The one is nutrition and the other is, well, information, let me put it that way. I’ll bet almost everyone who happens to sit through the twenty-six seconds of the TC2 promo, for example, never watches it again. They may perhaps eagerly click on a new short, but regarding the work so lovingly slaved over? It’s old news, man. And it doesn’t sustain you over the long haul of life. So be it.

It’s different with different types of work, of course. Films are like novels in the end – the best of them transcend the times and provide lasting, repeatable value. Cooking videos? Crafting videos? Home repair videos? Exercise videos? These are all very popular video categories. If the knowledge they bestow retains its value, sure, they can stick around, they can retain value in that way but unless there is some story being told by an otherwise uniquely charismatic “host” then, well, this is what I’m talking about. Namely, that the cooks and crafters and handymen and music appreciators (I don’t watch exercise videos but A. does) and such that I enjoy watching are mostly doing something besides merely instructing. T-Nu and Cajun Craftastrophe. Crafsman. Teaching is part of it, sure. But the magic sprinkles, as my brother likes to refer to it, comes from the storyteller quality of the on-screen personality.

Look at so-called radio these days. Oftentimes the host is streaming the video of the radio program as it happens and then of course posting the thing on youtube.com or wherever, afterwards. It’s a little weird if you think about it, and then again, akin to an author slapping together video shorts, perhaps, the radio star does well to promote the radio format by way of the power of video.

And why criticize any of it? Everything has its downside, so why dwell on that stuff? Choose your art-craft medium or, better yet, surrender to the idea of your medium choosing you and get on with it. Things change and then again they don’t, regardless. The mythological waters, personal and cultural, are warm, so I say grab your flotation device and come on in.

Innertubes and umbrella drinks, yeah. On a good day, you’ll find me mostly drifting contentedly upon the innertube of my writing, occasionally buoyed by an umbrella drink of video shorts….

Live Your True Fiction. Or, How to Drown Your Shamrocks…

Blog
St. Patrick depicted with shamrock. Detail of stained glass window in St. Benin’s Church, Kilbennan, Co. Galway, Ireland.

We suffer. We endure. We find value in the ordeal. We are, in a sense, reborn by way of this. It’s all in the myths and I dare say we can reference a calendar – any calendar, Gregorian or otherwise – that in turn references them. Myths, that is.

At the end of the day the shamrock which has been worn in the coat or the hat is removed and put into the final glass of grog or tumbler of punch; and when the health has been drunk or the toast honored, the shamrock should be picked out from the bottom of the glass and thrown over the left shoulder.

wikipedi.org, “shamrock”

And the above is not a myth in and of itself, of course, but rather a ritual associated with a myth. In this example, to do with the Christian mythology. Christian mythology, you ask? Why not Christian religion? If you’ve not read any of my work you won’t know that I classify all the contemplative traditions – all the so-called belief systems of the world and the cosmos, for that matter (here’s to science fiction!) – under the sheltering sky of mythology. Not to be regarded as untruths, mind you. Rather, as metaphors and beholden to the idea of true fictions. This theme will more or less play out by the end of the post, I promise.

Meanwhile, have you been stressed out lately? For the last two years going on three, perhaps? I have. What follows is a demonstration, let’s call it, of a little self examination trick I like to use referred to by the Buddhists in particular as R.A.I.N. It’s an acronym: Recognize. Allow. Investigate. Non-attach. And sometimes, it helps get me through. Off we go, then….

Recognize. My high anxiety over… what? The book. The books. Namely, the editing of TC2 – is it really just hackneyed crap that I’m paying to have vanity published? And the advertising of it. The cost of it, in all senses of the word, and everything attached to my authorpreneurship, such as it is. In the face of what amounts to a desperately unsustainable marketing plan. Desperately unsustainable? Yes. It fucking costs too much fucking money to keep not selling books. I poke around and see authors who sell and they’re not anything or anybody anything like me. Are they?

They are and they aren’t. Do I resemble anyone who has been successful? Am I doing anything right to get from where I am to where I want to be? Where do I want to be?

Allow. In the midst of yet more global conflict. Current events. We all endure the trials of our times in our own ways, mine happens to be by writing my way through it. Here and within the novels. Hopefully with an authenticity that arises from our collective mythic predispositions and not from either silly idealism nor troublesome didacticism (in the modern sense of the term).

Didacticism? In the modern sense of the term? Well, I read that the classical Greeks had no concept of learned discourse (for they apparently loved their learned discourse) “that appears to be overburdened with instructive, factual, or otherwise educational information, to the detriment of the enjoyment of the reader,” which is a definition borrowed from wikipedia.org. Something else I stumbled across upon Wikipedia while looking up, for whatever reason, the definition of the word jingoism, is the following, which points to current events while also demonstrating the long view of history and how there is nothing new under the sun and how our human conflicts are unfortunately part of being human:

“The chorus of a song by the songwriter G. W. Hunt and popularized by the singer G. H. MacDermott – which was commonly sung in British pubs and music halls around the time of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 – gave birth to the term. The lyrics included this chorus:

We don’t want to fight but by Jingo if we do

We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too

We’ve fought the Bear before, and while we’re Britons true

The Russians shall not have Constantinople!

The capture of Istanbul was a long-standing Russian strategic aim, since it would have given the Russian Navy, based in the Black Sea, unfettered access to the Mediterranean Sea through The Bosphorus and the Dardanelles (known as the “Turkish Straits”); conversely, the British were determined to block the Russians, in order to protect their own access to India. At the time when the above song was composed and sung, the Russians were nearing their goal, through the Treaty of San Stefano; eventually, the British were able to push the Russians back by means of diplomatic pressure and the threat of war.”

Investigate. The ideologues – call them liberal or new age or who cares what you call them – would seek to expedite our so-called human potential. Peace in our time and all that. There is enough for everyone and war is to be abolished.

Whereas the authentically mythic perspective rather recognizes the light and the shadow within us – that the universe for better or worse is a play-of-opposites – and attempts to reconcile the disparity and painful reality of how things are with the aspiration of how things perhaps ought to be. There is a place for everyone who does not seek to appropriate the freedoms of others. But we are as different as we are the same and, sometimes, as we know, one person’s freedom is another person’s prison. That is to say, life is messy. And the radically leftist-minded apparently tend to toss meritocracy out the window in favor of a miserable existence for everyone.

What am I saying? Myth ≤ Metaphor. That’s all. And metaphor generates an unforeseen third thing from the comparison of two otherwise disparate things. This third thing transcends the limits of its comparative origins. Everyone is familiar with the idea of something being greater than the sum of its parts. The relationship between myth and metaphor – the unidirectional congruity, as I’ve oftentimes referred to it within this journal (of which this post is a part) – expresses a similar eminence on behalf of what amounts to the surprising, arresting, affecting images generated by myth.

We are the authors of myth and mythology. Hence, we somehow indeed must be capable of transcending our own play-of-opposite limits. Not permanently, otherwise we probably would have already managed to do that as humans. We don’t ever quite manage it. And it’s foolish and self-righteous and ultimately destructive, as history tells us, to attempt to ram the human race into a position reserved for the gods. We create the gods, or the god, yes. Or the Gods or God. We create our own divinities, and they are enshrined, enlivened and activated within our myths. All myths are our myths. Not in the colloquial usage of the term that seeks to describe myth as an untruth, a lie, an embellishment or something false. That is not the original use of the term. Usages change, of course, but it’s my opinion that whenever and however myth began to be considered commensurate with falsehood, it was a mistake. The Romantic perspective rather celebrates the truth within myth – myth as true fiction – and it is this that perhaps, in the end, I’m always writing about.

Obstinate are the trammels, but my heart aches when I try to break them.

Freedom is all I want, but to hope for it I feel ashamed.

I am certain that priceless wealth is in thee, and that thou art my best friend,

but I have not the heart to sweep away the tinsel that fills my room

The shroud that covers me is of dust and death; I hate it, yet hug it in love.

My debts are large, my failures great, my sham secret and heavy;

Yet when I come to ask for my good, I quake in fear lest my prayer be granted.

– Rabindranath Tagore

Non-attach. There is truth and wisdom to be had in the world. Every problem is not a new one. It can be argued that there is no problem that we as a human race have not already encountered a thousandfold. So that most often, we ought to know better. Which may describe the wisdom that seems so often to be lacking within this world.

We’re far too eager, it seems to me, to declare a thing “unprecedented,” for instance. Perhaps because we want to feel that we’re part of something bigger and more important, something that will haul us from our own personal sense of obscurity and unimportance and exile. I get it. We are biologically wired, as it were, to seek participation in something if not higher, than at least greater than our own life and our own oftentimes pitiful prospects. And so we dream and have visions of how things could be. We make up stories. We create the world as we would prefer to experience it within our own heads and some of us, me included, tend to prefer mostly residing within these worlds because, naturally, they are better than the real thing. Then again, since we are real enough, and we ourselves have created the stories, then at least some mysterious portion of our stories – our mythologies – must be real, too.

Some portion of our myths, our metaphors, that is, are more real to us, more engaging, more powerful, more true and more valuable than anything we can hold in our hands. We aspire to make our myths as real as they already seem to be within our hearts. What’s in our heads and hearts is a better story than the one we’re typically living. We seek this freedom and are ashamed to hope for it, yes. Why are we ashamed? Because we’re not worthy of it and never can be, really. We are the page of a book which always has two sides: light and shadow. And who among us really feels comfortable with, let alone reconciled with, our shadow? Hence, the unsettling quality of our myths.

We cannot make the world into how we want it to be. We cannot make ourselves entirely into what we want to be. Somehow, this is a good thing, in the end. For when, as the myth tells us, the genie grants your wish, you get everything else that comes with it. Too much of which we do not want. That is the lesson. For better or worse, we cannot control everything, and thank heaven. All we can do is to do our best to exert our influence. This is our choice, our freedom, namely, to choose the nature of the influence we prefer. The good, the bad or the ugly.

Otherwise, who can explain why things are the way they are? Why must it be such a mystery, this thing called life? I’ve concluded, after many decades of struggling with the questions – I was a philosophy major in college, after all – that it’s not my job to ask why. No. I’m rather more cut out to ask how. Let go of the why and you’re free to let the mystery be. You yourself are part of it, after all. Let the mystery be and rather live within your mythology, your version of your true fiction, which is how to live within and hopefully more in concert with the mystery that you yourself express. Seek your freedom, then. Hope for it. Acknowledge your shame and your inevitable shamelessness. Be who you are and celebrate the damn the mystery in spite of it all. Exert your influence. Live your true fiction. Drown your shamrocks.

P.S. For all it may mean to you, then, Happy St. Patrick’s Day.