Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Missing words

Silver Age is up, and for sale. I made the mistake of checking the sales on the self-publishing interface. The lesson was painful, but also valuable. Honestly, I learned a lot during that process. Not least of which is what the mastery of Photoshop can do for an artist. It's such a ubiquitous concept that I misappropriated the use of the program with the population of the skill. The fact of the matter is, it is very, very powerful and expensive software, and it allows for an incredible range of manipulation. I am not sure how yet, but I vow to do better with my cover artists in the future. I also have a better appreciation for the work publishers do. There will always be disputes, I think, but I also believe it was good to see how the other side toils.

In the mean time, I have been writing, as per usual. The novel has a handful of chapters yet, with today's drafting, and the nightmares are right on time. Several ideas mashed together the other night and a horribly, monstrous story was the result, stitched together and unable to articulate its own misery. I did not wake up in a cold sweat, but there was a chill in me, to think that I had done it all for nothing. All of that is to say, I've almost gotten it all down, and the realization that it might suck is on the moment's heals.

For completed novels, I was discouraged by the editor getting back to me with the "something's come up" email. I felt the door closing again, but the idea occurred to me that I didn't have to go through her. Maybe the other editors at the publisher would remember me. She did say they all wanted to see work from me in the future. Maybe they'll remember? They got back to me with the "we'll get back to you" email. So, on that front, I am again exercising patience. I have no way of knowing if I'm better at this than I was five years ago, or ten. If I'm being honest, it feels like I'm worse, but who really knows.

The next project is growing in my mind almost every day. I don't have anything to compare it to, but it feels really good sometimes, to be fertile with these things. The latest idea will likely usurp an older one which, while I put all available thought and effort into it, might have just been inherently flawed. I look at novels I wrote even three years ago, and the ones I'm working on and thinking about now, and I can detect certain shifts in how I go about things. I feel like I learn something new every time. Sometimes, without meaning to, I catch glimpses of the kinds of writers I want my career to emulate, and the amount of gray hair I see makes me marvel at how much I might learn by the time I get to that point. I see other things, too, that I won't comment on at this time.

This latest particular lesson revolved around missing words. On several occasions, I've had entire chapters deleted, or discovered that a given section was just headed in the wrong direction. I've scrapped, even lost, sections before, but this time around it has been much more conscious. I paced my apartment yesterday as the power flickered thinking about the unease I was experiencing about the latest drafted section. I thought about what it was not doing, and where it was leading things, what needed to happen, and how that led things in a more interesting direction. It feels like the most mindful I've been to date, and some other things clicked into place.

I hate admitting how the downs make the ups that much more satisfying. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Maybe it's me

I've been accused of being a fixer, on more than one occasion. Something happens, something negative, and the person wants to share, or vent, or commiserate. All I can ever focus on is how to fix it, change it, prevent it from happening again. Today I received some very disappointing news dealing with my own situation, and my first reaction was to tinker. I was relieved to know that I'm nothing if not consistent, and I was able to fully understand why I am not apt to passively mourn. I thought, well, I'm going to be sad, and this is going to be difficult, that's the easy part. That part happens whether I am productive or not. I also thought that maybe it was somehow my fault, and looking back, I recognized that I usually assume that's the case. That it's safer to believe that it's my fault, that somehow that is the less arrogant conclusion. Or maybe if it's my fault, I don't forfeit control.

I haven't blogged, naturally. I went into a frenzy over the last rejection, driven to figure out what I had done wrong, what needed to be fixed in my writing to get me higher. I learned some things again, in that quest. Not all editors are good, and not all editors are good matches. I came across more of that vague kind of feedback that is repeated often enough in books about writing, tips, and tricks, and techniques, methodologies for how to write publishable fiction. My core rejected such notions, feeling strongly that great works have been read, and envied, and studied, and all of the how-to's were developed based on patterns, tendencies, and commonalities found following failed attempts at duplication. Whereas my belief about such things is much more spiritual than mechanical. My earliest doctrine was that good writing gets published. I only speak to that mentor on birthdays, and yet I still believe it.

I have been doing the work. A friend suggested an online project sharing software, and I eventually caved. I think it works. There is a record out there in the cloud, an electric file detailing what I want to accomplish, and my progress in all of those things. It exposes me, and my sloth, and that itch of accountability compels me to work. Because I am familiar with failure, but I never want the reason I did not succeed to be that I did not try hard enough. Consequently, the latest project is on wheels. Chapter 9 is in the works, and I have the first six chapters sent out to readers, to get some perspective on what the novel is, or could be, to someone other than myself. I also have formatting being conducted to self publish a novella I wrote some years back. It seemed time. This process has introduced me to figuring out cover art, and the many entry fields of Amazon, along with editor rates, and editor results. I want to know what it's like; I want to add that arrow to my quiver.

I also recently spoke to a friend about hopes and dreams, in regards to what it takes to create the circumstances where those things can be realized. I understood, through that interaction, that the people I respected most in my life were the ones making that transition, were toiling to change something only they could see into something everyone could believe. I know enough of those people that interacting with someone who just talked about what they wanted and then never did it was an unusual occurrence. I couldn't imagine that, even now, in the pit of my latest failure. I thought something was going to happen, thought something was going to work out, but it was just another mirage. And yet, I cannot feel totally defeated.

I suppose because there are also miracles. I had a second chance at a first impression. A friend read my work, and was friendly about the feedback. They liked it, they said. They thought it was good, they said. They offered to edit it. I did not turn down the opportunity to have a better version of one of my stories, at worst different. When they read it, sincerely, it became something else for them. They came back with questions, and excitement. They realized it was really good. It took me some time to absorb the kindness of their initial dishonesty, at the same time as the pleasure of feeling adequate. However it did take the second read. Not the kind of reading, I imagined, that occurred over the slush bin, where many of my previous efforts were discarded. So, some providence to go along with the calamity.

Feeling crushed beneath boulders makes me feel stronger. I wonder if this is what madness feels like.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Not today and not here

Tomorrow I will be embarking on a road trip. I can't remember the last time I travelled anywhere physically. If I'm being honest, everyone asking me if I'm ready for the trip makes me feel unprepared. I will also admit that as I type this, I have yet to pack.

This week I have been working in construction. Or deconstruction, I suppose. I was hired as a helping hand to tear something down. It had been built poorly, apparently, and was very long not in use, covered in all manner of discarded and disregarded items. A dumping ground on top of a lost space. It was interesting, unearthing the mysteries there, and even more so to finally begin to get at the miserable undercarriage. Dangerously rickety and half-fallen over, and yet, when the crowbars and hammers and in the end, chainsaws, went to work, the fixture proved mightily fastened to the world. The whole thing reminded me of a number of stubborn old people I've known. At one point in the process, a large pile of steel had to be moved from its tattered pile to a nearby dumpster. It took me a sweaty hour, and somewhere through the process, I found the following sentence.

That summer, I became acquainted with steel.

I had to bleed for it, all the narrow swipes and near misses that tore my clothes notwithstanding, and even in the blazing heat it seemed worth it. A few hundred ordeals like this, I thought to myself, and I might have a few pages of a story I will always be proud of.

On that note, the glacier has shifted in regards to the revisions I submitted last fall. I'm not complaining. It was nice to know that progress was getting made. I am still very interested in seeing what my first published book might be able to do with an older, more seasoned me steering it. I still love the story, and think others will love it, too. I'm also looking into self-publishing my pulp novella, and testing the waters of audio books, simultaneously. I've done some research, and I think it would work well, especially with some of the changes I plan on attempting to how that process seems to work.

On the other hand, there is the one story I started which is dead in the water. I think about it, and settle my spirit upon it, and there is no resonance at all. I wanted to finish it, and there are plenty of excuses ready at hand as to why I never will, but I think the foundational truth is that I only loved it fleetingly. I'm disappointed, but I hope something will come of the initial push I made putting words to it.

So, in short, this update is like all the other updates. The mountain taketh and the mountain giveth. Being as worn down as I have been this week has provided some new perspective, about how to measure a well in darkness, and the strength of old, dying things.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Good enough to dream

Rejection is fairly commonplace, I think. I was told that I could only expect a single interview out of twenty submitted applications. I don't know the numbers for post graduate, but several of my emails in reply had the phrase "we receive hundreds of applications every year," as some sort of explanation. Romance is romance. People look for "the one," and singling up is implied in monogamy, but that's a needle in quite the haystack. It's interesting because other words I hear as often as I hear the word no begin to lose meaning as I drift down into the rabbit hole of what words mean, the why of letters, and the bedrock of language concept.

For artistic types. rejection is even more apart of their existence. I've seen hours of interviews concerning successful creative professionals and their childhoods, their formative years, and the pre-fame portions of their careers and how most people they encountered had no conception of what it would be to become an actor, or a dancer. Musician, sculptor, writer. It wasn't just rejection though, it was denial. It wasn't a no. It was a never. One of the interviewees said that "people had such trouble because they lacked imagination. Because that's our job, as artists, to make something where there previously existed nothing, and it's a difficult thing to conceive." In the midst of all of mine, I really thought that I had maintained an optimistic stance. I didn't stop writing after all. I didn't stop striving.

But then I got an email.

"Dear Mr. Cammon,

Thank you for giving [us] the opportunity to consider [your work]..."

And then my brain shut off. I thought to myself, well here is yet another rejection letter I can use to pad my couch cushions. Print it out, put it on a wall. Burn it. Part of my brain kept reading, but mostly I had checked out, walked into the kitchen, and began rummaging for breakfast.

"We've looked at your manuscript sample carefully and find the premise interesting enough that we'd like to request the full manuscript."

I looked at glass of juice as if to confirm what I had just read. The bright liquid swayed against the curve, the shaking of a bubbly head.

It wasn't a no. It was a maybe, so worth celebrating to some degree, but what had struck me most immediately was that I had already assumed it was a no. I stepped backwards in time to imagine when this had happened, this change. When, during my darting fingers across my keyboard a literal million times. I was disappointed in myself, and that spun into maybe thinking it had taken this long even to garner this half-yes because of my attitude about  my own chances. Loved ones had suggested I maybe try something else, stopped mentioning things at all when I had quietly avoided their counsel. Had part of me sided with them?

They want me to go back through, before I send the entire thing, and address some "malapropisms."

I have not moved an inch since.

There was a non fiction wonder I started and never finished, about the owner of a minor league baseball team in upstate New York. It was a lovable cast of characters, individuals wedged within the reality of being better at the sport than the average person, but were still not good enough to make a living from their efforts. I found commonalities between the characters and myself, of course. Maybe that's why I didn't finish it. Maybe, I wanted to write my own ending. I found the title very fitting, and memorable. But thinking back on it now, just because a person is good enough to dream, does not mean that they necessarily will.