It’s always a mistake, I find, to run more than one series at a time, but the spirit of the Christmas/New Year’s season just carried me away. Check my Amazon Author Central page for the newest release, Makkarios: Come Together. It’s available in Kindle and paperback, and the first reviews are highly positive. Here’s the link:
Keeping things short today, because I think I know how to get my current project from point E to point F, which has been the subject of considerable thought lately. What’s hindering me today? My own personality and temperament, in many ways. I always suspected that I was my own biggest hindrance, and now I’m certain. It pops up here and there, usually just where I think I have matters well in hand. Of course, marketing is the worst arena for this, but not the only one, no. I haven’t found the knack of selling. To be honest, I’ve only just managed to condition myself to discuss my own work without too noticeable a flinch. If I were using this as an experiment in systematic desensitization, going from discussing to promoting would be like skipping from looking at drawings of spiders straight to standing in a bucket full of them. Perseverance never took so much… perseverance.
That’s not all, as I warned you. I’ve discovered a natural handicap: writing dialog in the vernacular. My current project’s title character is a young man verging on twenty years old, a handyman, more inclined toward the spacial/kinesthetic side of intelligence than the academic. I should be able to write dialog for him, because I know more than a few of this sort of guy… but I keep bogging down. I speak very much the same way that I write, only the writing has no stutters in it. It isn’t that I lack experience with colloquial speech, either. My day job leaves me adrift in a sea of extremely colorful vernacular, the predominant color being blue, so I have plenty of opportunity to develop my ear for such things. No, I know what it should sound like. It just annoys the very devil out of me, to the point that I can’t bear to write it. From examples as mild as ‘I seen’ to the despair of ‘I aksed,’ it makes me twitch just thinking about it. Granted, this means I do get a lot of very funny looks at work, the first time the kids hear me speak. It also means that this character with which I’m working—see? See? There I go again, grammatically correct yet colloquially faulty.
So I’ll never be Faulkner. Fine. I never liked Faulkner anyway. I’ll just write as myself, as each word comes to me, and try to revise the dialog when I’m better-rested. So there.
It was so fun to give away copies of Faerie Tales For Travelers as an early Christmas present last weekend that we’re running the same special offer with The Wolf King Ascends this weekend.
Note the date: Sunday, December 18, 2011.
Hear ye, hear ye, make it known among the people that, for one day only, on Sunday December 18, The Wolf King Ascends will be available in the Kindle store ABSOLUTELY FREE! Merry Christmas!
Technology has been my bane this week. My mp3 player died after a long decline. My DSL modem is following close in its wake—in fact, I had doubts whether it would last long enough for me to post this safely. The mp3 player I can survive without, although I’ve discovered just how accustomed I am to listening to my own music in the car rather than coping with the hit-or-miss rubbish on most radio stations. The modem I could get along without… for a few days… maybe. The trouble is, I do so many different sorts of transactions online that my ability to function in daily life would be hindered severely without that access. Most of my friends live a long way away from me; family too. Oftentimes my only contact with them comes through my computer. (Oh, and that is being fussy this week too, and not only because of the modem issues.)
I’m no Luddite. I appreciate technology’s benefits. It occupies a prominent place in my life, especially in my writing life. Last month’s novel-writing sprint, for instance, would not have been possible without my laptop and my access to the NaNoWriMo.org website. More than that, I am bombarded on every side by the mantra that, if one wishes to be a successful writer these days, one must keep up with all the latest technological innovations in social networking, e-book publication, advertising (or, as they now call it, “building a platform”), creating and maintaining an interesting / ground-breaking web presence—be it blog or website or online store, so on and so forth ad nauseum. That settled it: I had to replace the modem, like it or not. (I got a text message ten minutes ago, telling me that the replacement just shipped.)
I was a little depressed when NaNoWriMo ended a week ago. The excitement of the sprint got into my blood more than I had realized. Then I found myself with a piece of graph paper, passing the time by sketching the floor layout of the house where the main part of my project is set. Passing the time? I should say so. I spent the better part of four hours working on that diagram. In so doing, I reminded myself of what called to my inner writer more even than just the writing: the process. There’s more to the process of writing than the mere act. I draw blueprints for every significant building in every novel I write. Doing so helps me, because in many ways milieu determines the course of a story. Sometimes its effect is purely behind-the-scenes, but sometimes the setting turns out to be integral to the plot—the ramshackle house with the weak floorboards, through which a character might fall into who knows what; the inner-city alley where a character’s whole life might be destroyed or reborn in a matter of instants. These actions and these epiphanous events sometimes don’t bear an obvious connection to each other, but by exploring the scenery I often discover a scene already hidden in it.
And I don’t discover this except by drawing the diagrams by hand, with no more complex or cutting-edge technology than a mechanical pencil. Needless to say, I’m no longer depressed about finishing the sprint. I have returned to the process I have loved so long, and thereby I am returning to a more complete view of writing. Technology serves its purpose (when it works). Sometimes, however, I just need to pull the plug and remind myself exactly where the purposes of technology end. To be frank, I think we could all do with a sturdy reassertion of the human soul over the gadgets that baby us through the day. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have ten acres in which to design a neglected Victorian garden. Does anybody know what chokecherries grow on?
I’ve opened a new apparel and merchandise store (hosted by Zazzle). Our first offering: a t-shirt that helps you proudly boast that you’ve read The Keeper House Unending and come to no harm… more or less.
I can hardly believe that, when I turn out the light to sleep tonight, there will be only nine days left of the month. Nine days left to steer my NaNoWriMo experiment into some sort of harbor. That fact dawned on me yesterday—I’ve been so caught up writing each chapter that I lost sight of the fact that I have to end the story soon.
If that isn’t material for deep contemplation, I don’t know what is. I suppose I could say that I enjoy writing fiction, in part, because it’s so much like living life, but with more control. Story as metaphor for life is nothing new. Mythologists like to point out that, throughout history, the human race has told stories as a way to make sense of experience. To some extent, I agree with that. We do tell stories, because in stories events make sense. If nothing else, they make sense to the author. If we have questions, we have the chance to ask the author, while he or she lives, or to consult the author’s full body of works afterward.
When we cast our lives in the shape of stories, we can superimpose cause and effect where none seems apparent. Thus we make ourselves the author of our own existence—which makes no real sense, considering the context of existence, but I’m not prepared to go there just now. I’ll only say at this point that it makes no sense to me because we have no “big picture” perspective on our lives. We’re grounded in each chapter as it comes, and our ability to steer the plot is limited at best—and at worst, practically nonexistent. There are too many other factors to control, like genetics and other people’s choices and environmental influences. We do our best, but we are so busy working our way through each chapter that we usually give little thought to the eventual end for which we want to aim.
The ends at which we aim are short-term: relationships, finances, promotions, and so forth. People don’t like to look beyond these. It’s considered morbid, or depressing, or fanatical to consider death and what might or might not lie beyond it. But when every chapter contributes to the climax of the story, and when we insist on exerting as much control as we can over the individual chapters, we will end up responsible for the ending whether we mean to or not. It strikes me as better to give some thought to the trajectory of the plot, morbid or not, than just end up at the end of your word count with a look of idiotic surprise on your face because you didn’t see that coming.
As it turns out, life is a choose-your-own-ending after all. Comedy, or tragedy? They say the difference between the two is that the comedy ends with a wedding, while the tragedy ends in a funeral. I think life will end much the same. Comedy, or tragedy? You decide.