Thursday, April 25, 2013

On time

Be careful what you wish for. That's a good one. Succinct, curious, insidious. How getting a wish granted could possibly be bad I believe is the entire premise of several, really-terrible, horror movie franchises. A more mundane example is my Facebook page's recent status update, my ascension to 30 likes. That had been a goal of mine for months, because it had been advertised that if one's page earned 30 likes or more, then one could view their marketing data: how many people were viewing the page, how often, how many times had it been shared, or talked about, etc. Before I hit 30, I could dream about what might be happening. Now? Well. Ignorance is bliss. Another good one.

This very morning I received the first mock up for the cover art for what looks to be the August release of my fourth book in the Where Shadows Lie series (a tiny, tiny goal of mine is to say that enough so that when I start abbreviating it to WSL, people will understand what I mean). It's going to be an eight book series, so I guess that means this year will mark the halfway point. So far, it's been an interesting journey. I'm carefully phrasing an email to get the best possible cover out of the artist, efficiently and constructively. My first cover, admittedly, I was just so happy the book was even getting published I didn't give hardly any feedback at all. As I'm working through the edits, on my own time, of the book to follow the one coming out in August, I'm seeing the things my previous editors have seen. What might be too much, what might be too little. When I'm being too clever for the reader's good. With the first book, I was much more confident that all the pieces of the puzzle were there, so long as one was invested in figuring it out. As several reviewers have intimated, not everyone is invested in being invested. One thing that hasn't changed though is I am still uncomfortable marketing myself. And that I have no idea on how to get better at it. What has changed is that I know more people, and just about every other day I'm presented with an opportunity to meet more. I chatted up another fellow author about her publisher, and the conversation ended with me giving her a pdf of my first book, and getting a link to a few review sites, along with permission to use her name in the introductions.

After reading my book, she showed me a draft of her review. Several compliments outnumbered the single criticism (improper use of pronouns, apparently), and one of them was that the book was very good livre noir. And for those of you, like myself, that have no idea what that means, allow me to copy and paste from the poorly translated French Wikipedia: "Title that is given to a book whose purpose is to reveal and / or terminate a state of affairs, abuses or crimes , real or supposed, based on records , usually secret or little known, and testimony . The Black Book is often a target and political significance, in that it is not always impartial and often causes controversy." When something like this happens, I typically talk to people who read the book also and get their opinions. I feel like there was some agreement, but only after conversation. A lot of "I can see..." and "That's one way to look." Also as usual, I shrug and take the compliment. I wrote a story once about the idea I named the Consensus, and about the nature of things. About how what a thing is, is determined by the most people in agreement on what that thing is. That the sky is blue because the largest group of people want it that way, and the same thing extended to technological innovation. If a large enough group believed something was possible, then it became possible. Anyway, I was reminded of that idea when I imagined myself looking back, years from now, listening to a bunch of people who had decided what the book was, and that just becoming fact. But then one could also assume that just because an author wrote it, that means they know best what they wrote, whereas the finer truth is probably that the author knows best what they tried to write, why they sat down in the first place, how they felt as the words spilled out. 

I guess the future will always be mysterious, no matter how advanced the present gets. Over dinner this past weekend, my mother wished me happy birthday, then later talked about how many scant few years she has until retirement. I felt a countdown start inside me, as if I had some obligation. I say that almost as if I don't. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mad studies

Sometimes I find myself in interesting, physical places to match my mental ones. Recently, I was standing in a warehouse that rented props to theaters and movie sets in the area, staring into the eyes of a giant, furry spider that someone had jokingly placed on the neck (in place of the head) of a mannequin clad in roman centurion armor. Nearby, a copse of angels of varying sizes made from foam but painted to look like aged stone did a frozen ballet. A precarious stack of chandeliers and candelabras shone under fluorescent lighting like brass of differing stages of upkeep. A friend, the reason I was there, finished his explanation about what kind of furniture he was looking for, and how it would be used. "That's weird," I said. "Why would anyone ever sit like that?"

"They wouldn't" he said nonchalantly, "It's a theatrical convention the audience buys because we ask them to." And just like that, I transferred from one of those interesting physical places into one of those mental ones.

Recently, I have been taking down whatever notes I think up in a re-creation, or re-envisioning, of my futuristic worlds. The difficulty of attempting to portray a believable future, I always thought, was similar to a blind person describing something they had never seen. As the years roll by, people like to look back at how fiction writers thought things would be, and how they actually are. Not harshly, I don't think, because there's no way to see the future. I rather think because of the fluid nature of time, it wouldn't look like anything, or would blind the viewer. Still, it's compelling to look for, at least it is for me.

But are there conventions we all agree on that could make the task easier? Are readers asked to buy into things that they freely pay, without ever thinking or wondering? The answer feels like a resounding yes, yet I couldn't say what any of those conventions might be, or even how to use them to my advantage were I even to know about them.

Then again, how fascinating can something be if to even consider it, it gives you a headache?

The short is happening soon. Meanwhile, the notes on the next book (the last of the paranormal series) have been stalled by my utter lack of familiarity at what precisely happened in the three preceding stories. For those of you who are new (or those older readers needing reminding), my series has a crystal caste shape, one initial book, then three sequels that occur in different places in similar time, each of which is followed by a sequel of its own, each of those being followed by one, singular finale. It is that finale that I will be attempting to finish before 2014, but to do so, the three books which preceded it must be fresh in mind. I am very determined to get the ending right.

Beyond that, the science fiction book is still waiting at chapter 15. Years ago, I might have been able to fool myself this was fine, that since I was rethinking my entire conception of outer space and alien planets in a futuristic settings (just think at how many different places our one planet has, and I've written four into my story) it would be fine to leave it half done. Now, I know I'm in trouble. It needs to be finished. No matter how vapid or uninspired, it needs punctuation or else it will forever risk never being picked up again. Spring has come, so I failed that deadline. The new plan is to get back on that particular horse come May, and finish it by the end of summer. That leaves me all of fall and half of winter for the next book. Editing for he fourth book's release is coming down the pipeline, but even with those frenetic weeks, I'm confident that I can do it.

Now let's see if I will.