Saturday, July 18, 2020

Why I Went Indie

Two years ago, I tried a little experiment.  I was lamenting the fact that I had several previously published stories of novella and novelette length that had appeared years ago but had long since dropped offline or out of print.  They were some of the stories of which I am most proud; what I consider truly representative of my best work up to that point.  I also hadn’t been writing too many new short stories, other than the occasional piece of flash fiction, as I had been engrossed in completing a couple of novels for the past few years. 

When someone would ask me for some of my work, I could of course direct them to this blog, where there is a list with links to some of my shorter work and flash pieces still online, but I really wanted those novellas to be readily available when someone asked.  I could of course have republished them here on this blog, but I find such a format lacks a good reading experience for prose fiction.  The other option, of course, was to self-publish them on a something like Amazon’s Kindle or similar. 

When I first got into writing professionally, about ten years ago, self-publishing was still a bit taboo for many writers.  There was still a great deal of vanity presses in operation, tempered of course with legit self-publishing outfits like CreateSpace or  Yes, self-publishing then still had the mark of amateurism on it, and many of my fellow writer friends felt that to go this route would be to mar one’s future chances at traditional publication. 

But things changed quite a bit over the next eight years, driven very likely by Amazon’s Kindle Direct publishing program, as well as other entities like Smashwords, Nook, Apple Books and many more.  Indie publishing, to use the more friendly term, has now gone fully mainstream.  There are indie authors out there with huge followings who sell hundreds of thousands of books a year, and there are many pro authors who are taking note.  Some traditionally published writers are doing a sort of hybrid method wherein they sell some of their work to mainstream publishers and release a few indie works as well, perhaps shorter pieces set in the same world as their trad-published novels.  Older authors are republishing their long out of print back catalogs on Amazon, reaping a tidy profit from old manuscripts that would otherwise languish in obscurity, available only in used paperback form.  Amazon has allowed writers to take control of their work and their careers in a way that would have been unheard of even ten years ago, and I for one feel that is a good thing. 

So, with all this in mind, I decided to test the waters of indie publishing.  My goals were not too grand.  I simply wanted to have an ongoing home for my own out of print work, with the tangential goals of learning the whole self-publishing process, from the Kindle interface to editing to cover creation.  And yes, I could have paid someone to do all of this for me, but one, where’s the fun in that, and two, I didn’t want to drop a great deal of money into something that was basically an experiment. 

I started with four of my old novellas in the summer of 2018.  I made line edits on them, and also I couldn’t resist tweaking them here and there, as I like to think my skills as a writer had improved since these were originally released, so why not make them a little better?  I also made my own covers, which is also somewhat taboo among indie writers, as such is another whole skill set from writing.  But I do have a little bit of design experience, so I went for it.  Of course, my first attempts were abysmal, as I will outline in another post.  At this point I did seek the aid of a few pro designers I know, as well as writer friends, and I got some good pointers.  I kept at it, and while what I came up with probably wasn’t one hundred percent Barnes & Noble shelf-worthy, I was satisfied with them. 

The covers finished, I set about learning how to do layouts for both the E-book and paperback forms of the books.  While the vast majority of an indie author’s sales are going to be E-book, I liked the idea of having a paperback available as well.  It made for an overall more professional presence, and I like the idea of having a few nice paperback copies on hand to give out to friends when they ask.  And, while I do read E-books from time to time, I still love the experience of kicking back and reading a physical book. 

I released those four books toward the end of that summer, and initially, I did very little promoting or advertising.  I just wanted to see how they would do on their own.  Of course they did very little, sales wise.  But they did sell a little bit.  Not much, mind you, maybe enough to buy me an extra cup of coffee each month, and I’m not talking Starbucks.  Probably more like Freeze Dried Taster’s Choice, but hey, it was more than nothing.  Of the four books, the one called The Night Bigfoot Attacked Marville TX, June 15, 1977 sold the best.  Apparently, there’s a sub-genre of Bigfoot fiction that attracts a niche following, and this seemed to catch on with those folks.  It sells a few more copies a month than the other books, even though it’s more about the fascination with the legend of Bigfoot, than an actual creature on the screen so to speak.  (oops, spoiler alert!)

The next summer I released four more novellas, which pretty much got all the old back catalog of my material out there.  It was also around this time that I was nearing the completion of the two novels that I’d been working on for the past several years.  And thus, I had a decision to make.  The novellas had almost all been traditionally published—I’d been paid for them and the rights had returned to me.  Indie publishing these books was really no big deal, as there wasn’t much else I could do with them, other than perhaps submit them to a reprint anthology, though the market for previously published works of novella length wasn’t that great.  So indie pubbing them was really a no-brainer.  But now, my novels.  What to do, what to do?

The usual route for a writer at my stage of the game—that is, someone with some short story sales but nothing more—is to try to find a literary agent that will take on the novel(s) and market them to traditional publishing houses.  Other than a few small presses, most trad-publishers won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts from a writer at my level.  And I have to admit, as I was writing these books, I had fully planned to seek out an agent and go the traditional route. 

So what changed?

Well, first, there was my experience with indie pubbing the novellas.  I really enjoyed it.  I loved the whole process, and the total control that came with it.  As I got closer and closer to finishing the novels, I thought more and more about going the indie route with them.  Second, I did investigate retaining an agent, and I reviewed hundreds of agent profiles.  The problem was, my novels don’t fit into neat little categories like these folks were seeking, and they were also a departure from my previously published work, which was mostly Sci-Fi and Fantasy.  These new novels were mainstream fiction, but neither fit into concise genre categories, other than perhaps romance.  And so transitioning from speculative fiction to a completely different genre probably wouldn't help my chances in going this route.    

So this made up my mind for me.  I do believe in these books, and I believe there is a readership out there for them.  For this reason, I decided to go the indie route, as I now had experience with such, and I found I liked it very much.  Unlike the novellas, which were basically old news, these novels are new, original works, and I plan to market them as heavily as I can.  I’m working on a professional website, so I’ll have something other than this blog as a presence on the net, and I’m creating a media kit and have plans to contact reviewers and organizations that might have an interest in these works.  It will probably be an uphill battle—traditional publishers still have the most muscle when it comes to marketing a writer’s work, but this is slowly changing.  As evidenced by the hundreds of indie authors who are having great success, there is a chance to succeed in this crowded field.  I actually think the quirky uniqueness of these novels can be an asset for me, for when I put my reader hat on, I’m always looking for something new and different.  Hopefully, there are a great many more readers out there who feel the same.  I just have to somehow boost my signal above the great noisy fugue that is all the other millions of works vying for readers’ attention. 

And so, after a great deal of editing and planning, I released the two novels on Amazon this week, with plans to go wide onto other publishing platforms shortly.  I also released two short story collections.  One collects five of the related fantasy novellas, as well as five previously unpublished short stories, all of which are set in the same fantasy milieu.  The other is a collection of forty odd short stories, about half of which were previous published over the last ten years, all unified by a central theme, though the stories themselves are quite diverse—many are mainstream and literary fiction, but there’s also some fantasy and SF, as that is the genre in which I cut my teeth, so to speak. 

And now comes the hard part, spreading the word.  It won’t be easy, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.  Wish me luck, and check back here from time to time.  I’ll be sure to update my progress as this little experiment continues. 

My Two Novels and one of the Short Story Collections  - Click the image for a link to them

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Long Overdue Update

Well, here it is 2019 and lo, I realize I haven’t updated the old writing blog in a looooong while.  The last post was February 2017, and so, since I don’t want anyone to think this blog (or me) is defunct, I thought I’d better update it.  In fact, I think it might be time for a bit of an overall over haul of the entire blog, but we shall see. 

First, I’ll give a brief overview of what I’ve been up to writing-wise for the past two years.

Anyway, when I started this blog way back in 2011, I had just been back into writing for about six months since retiring.  Since I was writing full time, I had plans to make the blog like a lot of other ones by writers—from the famous to the obscure--that I enjoyed reading.  You know, lots of updates on my writing projects, but also amusing little anecdotes about the life of a writer, the Cons I’d attended, my coffee intake, what have you.   

I more or less did this for the first year, but even being semi-retired, I found I have only so much writing in my tank per day, thus taking time to update the blog sort of took away from the writing time.  For that reason, it sort of fell by the wayside.  But, in some ways I sort of miss it, so perhaps 2019 will be the year we resuscitate the old writing blog—at least on a small scale.  Not that it’s getting a ton if eyes on it, but I do like going back to the old posts from time to time as a trip down memory line. 

So, what have I been up to, writing-wise, since the last post?  Well, I’ve been mainly working on novels.  I’ve gone through about four drafts of the European travel novel I wrote in 2016, polishing it up to a point where I hope I can get it out there.  I’ve also worked a bit more on a couple of my older novel projects, the ones listed in the ‘In the Works’ section of this blog.  They’re still in various states of disarray, but hopefully...someday. 

You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned short fiction.  Well, you’re right.  When I got back into writing upon retirement back in 2010, I was writing mainly short fiction.  This went on until about 2012, when I moved over to novels.  The main reason for this is two-fold.  One, I felt I had done about all I could do with short pieces—I found it easy to break into the amateur and semi-pro markets, but the pros really proved a tough nut to crack.  I did make a pro sale, and I figure if I’ve kept at it long enough, I might crack some of the top-level markets, but to work years at this for a short or two just seemed a bit dreadful.  I figured the time was better spent on crafting and marketing novels.  The other part of that two-fold reason is that I find that for a really good short story the amount of would building required takes me almost as much time as it does for the beginnings of a novel.  That’s a lot of work for the ephemeral nature of short fiction. 

Anyway, for better or worse, I’ve thrown my lot in with novel writing.  It has been slow going, but I think I’ll untimely have something more substantial on my hands. 

I have managed a few flash pieces now and then, a form of writing that I do indeed love.  Most have found a home over at Every Day Fiction, a market that has been quite kind to me.  They published three of my flash pieces last year. 

So, that’s about it on the writing front. 

Otherwise it’s life as usual.  Since my last post was a farewell to our cat of almost twenty years, I’ll close with a note that we have two new cats in our lives now, two twin sisters named Gidget and Selina Kyle. 

A few obligatory cute cat pics of them will follow.  And on that note, until next time,



Gidget and Selina the day we brought them home--Ten weeks old.  

Two years later--They're all grown up but sill like to cuddle up together.  

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Farewell to a Tortie Cat

I don’t usually get too personal here; this is a writing blog after all.  But this week I guess you could say I lost a writing partner of sorts.  My little tortie cat girl, Stinky the Cat, left us on Friday, January 27th, 2017.  She was a month shy of twenty years of age, a hell of an age for a cat, but then she was a hell of a cat. 

I didn’t have Stinky all those twenty years; she came to me an adult cat as part of a package deal that included my wife and two cats.  It was a pretty good deal.  My wife and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary in March, and I had thirteen wonderful years with Stinky the Cat in my life.  (and eleven and a half with Miss Piggy, the other cat) 

Miss Piggy and Stinky - 2007

Stinky and I bonded right away—she was partial to men, and to men with beards particularly—she liked to climb in my lap and rub her head against my unshaven chin all the time.  She has pretty much been by my side for the last decade or so while I’ve been writing, a perfect writer’s familiar if there ever was one.  So if you’ve ever read any of my work, know that Stinky was there when it was created.

There’s so much I could tell you about Stinky, I could go on and on.  That’s what I was going to do when I started this post.  But a little poem I wrote for her last Sunday keeps coming to mind.  I wasn’t going to share it, but it perhaps says what I want to say about her as good as any other writing I could do.  So, here it is, then. 

For Stinky

You're getting ready to go...
All the signs are there
My sweet friend,
You won't eat; you're wont to sleep,
More so than usual
And you're sluggish when you're not

Days like this are trying
And difficult to face
But I find
With the thoughts of the good times
That we have shared
I can get through them. 

I never knew you as a kitten
Though I hear you were a fine one
A palm-sized tortie fur baby
Of epic cute felinity
That pleaded "pick me, pick me"
From the dark depths of the pound
Such were the beginnings of your long
Adventurous life

No, you were a full-grown cat when we met
And a feisty one at that
But we seemed to strike a chord
You and I
And we were soon fast friends
Confidants, co-conspirators
And partners in crime.

You took a place by my side
Or curled at my feet, dreaming your cat dreams
While I worked
My world a great deal better
With your presence
I like to think.

Oh, what times we had
You and I
Good times of sweet and carefree joy
Like watching you stroll the grass of the back yard
In the warm afternoon sun
Or stalk a lizard
Or send wayward cats packing
That dared to breach your territory.

You were always up for a good ear rubbing
Or a nuzzle of your nose against my beard
Or sometimes, just to lie gently in my lap
Your microscopic purr a sign of utter contentment.

I wish I could somehow express to you
How much rich and true happiness
You've brought to my life.
But maybe, just maybe
Through the sound of my voice
And little cat treats
And some catnip here and there
And lots of love...
You've known it all along.

You've walked this world for nigh on
Twenty years
Spreading out your nine lives
With cat-grace and aplomb.
A great and rich life you've had
My sweet friend.

I don't want to say goodbye
Sweet girl
But I guess I'm glad I have the time
To do so.

I can't seem to pet you enough today
Or hold you in my arms time and again
One more time. One more time,
One more stroke of that soft, dark fur.
Not to wax maudlin
You're not that sort of cat
But the unequivocal love you've given me
Will live forever in my soul.

And you'll be with me
My sweet friend, my sweet girl,

                                    --Chris Owen
I’ve always had a fondness for cats.  They are certainly interesting, mysterious yet utterly cute creatures.  I’ve always wanted to write a cat related novel as well, particularly after I came across the following in a book of French paintings. 

It’s called The Apotheosis of Cats, and I was struck by it immediately.  Yes, it is just a bizarre image, but somehow compelling.  What are all those cats doing?  Where are they?  What is that sort of cat-idol thing in the distance?  I don’t know, but I decided I would figure it out.  I would write a novel based on this painting. 

I’ve had that in the back of my head for years, but I’ve never really known what direction to go with it.  I knew I wanted it to be mysterious and magical the way cats are, with some Neil Gaiman/Louis Carroll/Ray Bradbury trappings.  But this project never had really gotten off the ground. 

Then this week happened.  I found I was too distraught to work on my current writing project.  I needed to write something else—something about cats.  And so I started this novel.  Just a page, but it’s begun.  And, I’m glad to think that I got to start this, my cat novel, while Stinky was still around.  And now that she is gone, writing it will certainly help me deal.  I have a feeling she will figure prominently in it—my old writing partner, after all, deserves nothing less.  

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Long Overdue Update - New Novel Edition

And So, I finished writing a novel last week. 

A nice accomplishment, certainly, but at this point it is only a first draft; a rough hewn thing at best, held together in some places by bailing wire and duct tape.  But, as a writer who has struggled with the novel form over the years, with so many false starts and burnouts, it feels good to have a novel-length manuscript in my hands that is more or less a complete story arc. 

I cut my teeth as a writer on short stories, and while I can’t say I’ve mastered that form either (my dearth of pro-sales speaks to that), they are at least something I’ve managed to churn out on a regular basis.  But becoming a novelist has always been my ultimate goal, and thus one has to attempt such efforts even if they (me) find it a struggle.  In the last five years, the time period in which I’ve been pursuing a writing career full time, I’ve started several novels, got quite far with a few, but ultimately, all have either bogged down or been unsatisfying to me.  Now, five years might seem like a long time to pursue something with the only success being a few short story sales, but—I’m nothing if not determined, and I’m in it for the long haul.  Some of the pro-writers I’ve met on my journey have informed me that in their experience, up to ten years is a time frame that one can expect for it to take to ‘break in’ or have a modicum of success in the field.  I’m sure a lot of that is learning craft along the way to learning the business. 

So, what have I been up to in those five years?  Well, I wrote a few hundred short stories, about five novels in various stages of in-completion, and blog posts and journal entries and writing practice and whatnot, all totaling over a million words of writing.  (I think I hit the one million mark last year—yep, I track my daily word count)  There’s an old writing maxim that’d been attributed to several different writers that when you’ve written a million words, you can throw those out and start over, for by then you’ve maybe learned something about how to write.  I don’t know if this is the case or not, but I do feel I have certainly improved over the last few years. 

The novels I’ve written, or partially written, are all dear to me, but it may very well be the case that these will end up being mere training experiences on the way to other things.  I sort of hope not, as I like some of them, so I hope I’ll gain the skills to go back and hammer them into shape.  Some of them are listed in the ‘In the Works’ section of this blog, if you want a summary of them.  I’d been sort of alternating between working on two of them for most of this year, and was feeling very bogged down.  So, come mid-June I was just finishing up a reread of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, which is one of my favorite books.  As I read the last pages, I sort of reflected how this Roman à Clef novel was really just a fictionalization of many of Hemingway’s own experiences from the summers before he wrote it.  That got me to thinking that it might be fun to attempt something like this of my own, but what to do—I hadn’t run with the bulls of pursued a British aristocrat’s wife recently—what personal life experience would I mine for fodder?

Well, the first thing that came to mind was my travels.  I’ve made almost twenty overseas trips over the years, most when I was in my twenties and thirties, though I’m still making some now, just at a slower pace.  Most were to Europe, a place of fascination for me, but there were a couple to Oceania, and one each to South America and Africa.  Now, I’ve read some travel writing over the years and enjoyed it, people like Paul Theroux and Bill Bryson, so I figured this might be an intriguing project—to take some of the places I’ve visited and events I experienced and the people I met and distill them down into a work of fiction.  I don’t know why, but this got me very excited.  That very afternoon (June 13) I sat down and wrote up a plan of action, and the next day I started writing the novel itself, just taking the plunge of letting myself go and see where I ended up. 

Five weeks and 83,000 words later, I had that aforementioned first draft of a novel on my hands, and I also had something that I felt very good about.  Sure, it needs lots of work—but I’m excited to begin that work.  Now, five weeks is an awful short time to write a novel in, especially since I’ve worked for years on some of the others, but of course it is not unheard of.  Once I began this project, I had a real passion for it, and the muse really seemed to be singing for the first time in a great while, so I just went with it and tore it up at a blistering pace, sometimes writing long into the night.  I usually write in the afternoons, and try to do a thousand words a day of whatever, so I guess in the case of this work I averaged about 2,300 words a day, so a little over double my output.  Anyway, it was some of the most joyous writing I’ve done in a long while, joyous anyway for the writer himself as he was creating it.  I think this stems from the fact that I was writing about something I dearly love, travel, and revisiting some of those ‘first time’ events that I experienced when I was traveling to new places way back when. 

Anyway, what I’ve got on my hands now is something quite different from anything I’ve written before.  I usually write speculative fiction—science fiction and fantasy—though I have done some mainstream before.  I guess what this novel could be called is travel fiction-- I don’t know if such is considered a genre unto itself, but that’s what comes to mind.  I think it’s quite a unique piece of work, and in searching out similar novels I can’t seem to find one that is close or very similar to it.  It is a novel about travel, certainly, but also about new adulthood and romance and laughter and the rare thing that it is to be surprised by joy when you least expect it. 

So, I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.  One of the realities of writing something this long in such a short time is one often has to gloss over some things or whatnot, build rickety bridges between the parts that you know are working.  So now I’ve got to go back and shore up those bridges, and make the whole thing sound, and this, I figure, will take a whole lot longer than five weeks.  But, I’ve got time, and patience, and I’m looking forward to it.

I'll let you know how things come out.    

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Chronological Controversies in Fiction

I was reading Neil Gaiman's new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, today.  In the book Neil referenced C. S. Lewis's Narnia series of books, and as often happens when I read, this sent my mind off on thoughts of my first experiences of reading those books.  This led to additional thoughts on the internal chronology of book series versus the order of their writing/publication. 

For some reason, I never got around to reading Narnia as a child or teen, which is surprising for several reasons.  The foremost reason is that I was (and still am) a great lover of Tolkien, and I knew that he and Lewis were friends and often shared their works in progress with one another.  So I'd obviously heard of Narnia, but for whatever reason, I didn't get around to checking it out until I was an adult, and was making the attempt to read a broad swash of fantasy literature to broaden my own knowledge of the genre.

When I decided to start the Narnia series, I didn't really think much about the chronology of the series, I simply went to the bookstore and bought the Narnia book that had a large number one on the cover, which surely was the book one should start with, no?  This was of course the one called "The Magician's Nephew."

I read the book and found myself a bit disappointed.  It really didn't do much for me, and thus I didn’t follow up with reading the other books for quite a while.  My experience with TMN led me to believe the Narnia books just weren't all they were cracked up to be.  There was also the strange feeling I had while reading TMN that the author assumed I knew more than I did about the world of Narnia. 

A few years later the first of the Narnia films was released:  The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  I saw the film and quite enjoyed it, but I wondered why this one was made first, and not TMN.  My thought at the time was that perhaps they'd taken what was the best of the books and made that movie first.  Of course, this wasn't the case.  What they'd done is taken the first book that was written and published in the series and made that the first film.  I acquired that book and read it, finding it much better, in my opinion, than TMN.  I almost felt I had been ripped off by the publisher listing TMN as the first book.  Sure, the events of that book took place at an earlier time than TLTW&TW, but it was actually the sixth book written.  Not only does this sixth book seem to assume the reader has some knowledge of the first five, but reading it first takes away some of the charm and delight of reading TLTW&TW first, when we have no idea what the wardrobe does, and we discover Narnia slowly and with subtlety. 

I've since learned that there is something of a controversy among Lewis's fans over the order in which the books should be read.  Well, put me firmly in the camp of original writing order.  I find this applies to most if not all other series of books and films that I've enjoyed.  Take for example the Star Wars films.  I believe that now that six of them have been made, George Lucas has stated that viewing them from one to six is appropriate, as he as somehow retconned the whole of the story into something he calls "The Tragedy of Darth Vader."  To me, and to the nine-year-old me that watched Star Wars many times in the theater in the summer of 1977, this is utter bullshit.  Introducing a new viewer to the series with that god-awful mess of a film called The Phantom Menace not only risks turning them off with a far lesser product, but it takes away the power of the earlier (though chronologically later) films as they slowly reveal facts (Such as Darth's relationship to Luke) that are the ultimate moments of those films. 

Another series of books that I was quite fond of as a child, and still continue to revisit from time to time, is Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series.  These books now number more than twenty, with more coming, as her son Todd has taken over the helm of writing them.  I read the first six books when I was a kid in the early '80s, then additional ones as they were published.  Since the books jump back and forth through Pern's several thousand year history over the course of many volumes, I could see that a potential controversy similar to the Narnia series could develop.  Does one start reading with the later volume Dragonsdawn, when the colonists first settled Pern, or with the first book in the series that McCaffrey published, Dragonflight?  The author herself weighs in on the matter.  On some of the cover pages of the later novels a blub by McCaffrey states:  The author respectfully suggests that the books in the Pern series be read in the order in which they were published

I couldn't agree more.  Readers deserve to discover the wonders of a rich speculative world by way of the same path that the writer did.    

Friday, February 14, 2014

Finally, A New Post

Just checked my writing blog and realized it was painfully in need of updating.  Last entry: back in March!  Sorry, I’ve been quite remiss in keeping it up. 

I have been writing.  Mostly work on a novel, hence the dearth of short stories this year, though I did manage a few pieces of flash, most of which are up over at Every Day Fiction.

Update for 2013.  My word totals were a little under my goals (which is 1K words a day).  I ended up with 259,000 words for twenty thirteen.  Not bad, but I should be able to manage more.  But, with the novel writing, I’m doing a lot of revising, so that kept the word totals down. 

The biggest thing on the writing front for Two-Ought-Thirteen was I got the chance to attend the Summer Writing Program at Yale last June.  Not only was it quite a cool experience to spend a week attending Yale, but the program was taught by my favorite writer, John Crowley.  Getting to meet John and work with him one-on-one on my writing was quite a thrill for me.  I can’t tell you how much I am in awe of this man and his writing ability.  I hope just a little bit rubbed off. 

The little town of New Haven, CT was the locale of the program, and it was a cool little town.  The Yale campus was interesting, as it isn’t cordoned off by itself like a lot of universities, but it sort of just permeates the town, with lecture halls and student residences mixed in on the streets with restaurants and other businesses. 

My favorite of these other places was a little cigar bar called the Owl Shop.  It’s an old guard cigar store that’s been around since the ‘30s, and it’s the only place where you can get a drink AND a smoke in town.  Smoking, outlawed everywhere else, is allowed in the Owl Shop as their license is grandfathered, or whatever you call it.  Anyway, it was pleasant after class and meetings each day to stop by and have a beer and a nice cigar in a cool old environment. 

So, to sum up, Yale was cool.  I met some cool new writing friends, got to know John Crowley, and enjoyed staying in the rather castle-y student dorms and eating in the Hogwarts-y Yale dining hall. 

The novel I’ve been working on is a new one, different from the ones I’ve got in my ‘in the works’ section here on the blog.   I still work on those from time to time, but this new one is an expansion of the short story I wrote for the Yale Workshop, called ‘The Fairies of Maine.’  (Since I was working with John Crowley, I couldn’t resist writing a fairy story of my own)

TFOM takes place during a single week in June in the fictional town of Brandywine, Maine.  (The week of Midsummer’s Eve, no less)  It follows the varied and diverse lives of five people who stay at the Brandywine Inn for that week, and their subtle interactions with the world of Faerie. 

So, that’s about all for now.  Hopefully, I’ll have some interesting little tidbits to keep the blog fresh this year.  For now, back to the writing grindstone.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Impressions: Hawaiian Dawn

An excerpt from my journal, March 23, 2013.

It is early on a Saturday morning in Waikiki, Hawaii.  I’ve come out on the balcony while night still holds sway, the ocean and starless, cloud-filled sky black as squid ink, blacker still when contrasted by the gentle, incoming breakers that almost seem to glow a spectral white in the lights of the many hotels.  I’ve been lulled by the sound of those breaking waves all night, and have slept well for it.  It is a calm, placid sound, a distant whisper from the world ocean. 

I was awakened by the sound of laughter.  Some women were frolicking in the night surf, shouting, ‘Oh, that’s cold,’ their voices mischievous and teasing.  My mind’s eye visualizes them, and this is enough for curiosity to drag me from bed to the balcony window.  I look for them, but they are gone.  Oh well, they’re probably better as an unseen memory anyway, for in my dreams they were beautiful Polynesian maidens, out for a late night skinny dip. 

As I sit out here, dawn slowly begins to blue the sky and sea with subtle temerity.  It is as if she slowly shaves away onion-thin layers of the blackness, revealing at first only the darkest of blues and grays, which grow a little bit lighter with each passing second.  At first the sea and sky are indistinguishable, a single dark nothingness.  But as the light grows, slowly, ever so slowly, the horizon resolves itself into that razor-straight line of reckoning that has called to the hearts of travelers and explorers since time immemorial.   

A few minutes pass.  Dawn comes more quickly now; she adds subtle complexity to her empyrean palette, colors an artist might call cerulean, celeste, Prussian blue, cobalt, ultramarine, lapis lazuli, Davy’s grey.  Between this mottled, sea and cloud-formed canvas is the air; the rich, clean, fresh morning air--an air which almost seems to resonate with a faint electricity in a way that can only be found in the morning, before the sun fully rises.    

Dawn and dusk are both times of great beauty, and they are similar in that they are a transition between two states, a thing that exists only in passing, a realm that can be chased, but alas, never caught.  Both dawn and dusk are subtly different incarnations of twilight, each with their own job to do, and each with their own effect on me.  I see dusk every day, and always cherish the feeling it inspires in me.  Dawn is a much rarer thing for me, not being much of an early riser.  So for today, this morning, it is a pleasant thing to be greeted by dawn, and in her tropical livery to boot!  For dawn is a time filled with promise, and it is like a promise both long held and diurnally fulfilled.   

More time passes, and the world is fully awake now.  The beach is filling with strollers, combers, joggers, and a few fishermen who have set up shop at the end of a small jetty.  My little private dance with dawn has come to an end.  But, as promised, I know I’ll meet her for many more, and each will have their own unique beauty.