The holidays are over, and everything can return to normal. Any minute now. Please.
After a few out of state trips, I’m back in the saddle…
A month or so ago, I said that I was torn between two stories: either a potential commercial project with lots of formulaic hooks and repeatability and Patterson-esque tummy-warmth; or a long, difficult, intellectually challenging book that will make enemies and enrage critics and probably cost me a bunch of the hair on my head? And remember how I said that I had chosen the easy book?
Yeah, I fucking lied. Well, not lied, exactly…I got fed up with that story. It wasn’t fun to write. I was phoning it in. It was not interesting to me, so I quit and went back to the difficult story.
If you have read Amity, it’s much, much different. The narrative voice will be familiar but of a different timbre, and the setting is about as far from the gritty streets of Las Vegas as you can get. More as the story develops.
And it is difficult…and it is going to take a long time…but I really like it. I like where it comes from, because it’s a story designed to ruffle feathers and make the reader either hate the story for the message, hate me for telling it, love it for being honest, or hate themselves for not being honest. At least, I hope. If all anyone tells you about your book is that it was great, you haven’t tried hard enough to tell the truth. IMHO. YMMV.
I guess I feel I didn’t go deep enough with some of the material in Amity, and I hope to make up for it in this one. Argue it all you want, but books are art, and art should disrupt.
My final trip of 2010 was to San Diego, where I and my two daughters saw the Dresden Dolls in concert. Great show. The Gaslamp Quarter is full of nutjobs (real ones, not just zany, fun people…people with real mental illnesses roaming the streets ranting and screaming and chanting all hours of the day), which added to the mystique of the trip. (Also: I saw Neil Gaiman there…I just missed him at the merch booth, though)
I’ve seen YouTube clips, but it’s really hard to capture the energy of a Dresden Dolls show. Brian Viglione, drummer/guitarist, has an amazing presence and talent; and, of course, Amanda Palmer is a great, powerful musician. They didn’t leave a goddamn dime on the table that night. Nor did their opening act, Jason Webley. I’ve been known to be wrong about musicians before, and I was less than excited to drive 350 miles to watch an accordian player. But, I was dead wrong about that guy…he plays alone on stage, alternating between a guitar and a squeeze box, and he rocked that crowd. Hard. I’m a convert.
As hard as it is to capture their energy live, I took a shot at it, using my brand-spanking new iPhone. This was (according to Amanda) the first time they have performed this song: I Am the Condor…it came out pretty good. Enjoy, and Happy New Year…
God, how chilling.
I’ve never read Wuthering Heights, but for some reason I remembered this song from the 80s (I had never heard Kate Bushes original but my sister drilled Pat Benatar’s version deep into my head when she was in middle school). I made the mistake of looking it up on YouTube today, and I’ve probably listened to it thirty times since noon. The lyrics are the very definition of haunting.
Now I find myself drilling through The Shipping News as fast as I can so I can read Wuthering Heights this weekend. Yeah, I’m obsessive. Good thing, too, otherwise I’d never finish writing a book.
As of tonight, I have gone through Amity a tenth time stem-to-stern, and it is officially locked for edits. There is nothing I can do at this point to improve it (for better or worse), and I think I’ve caught all of the little spelling and grammatical issues.
During my last copyedit, I put some effort into formatting as well—preparing it for ebook release. That’s been an interesting process, as there are so many different requirements for different ebook formats.
If you have an ebook reader (or plan on releasing an ebook), do yourself a favor and download Calibre. It has been very valuable. It takes your input file (HTML works best) and converts it into epub, mobi, RTF, or whatever format you need. Keep in mind that most sites like Smashwords and Amazon DTP won’t accept pre-formatted ebooks and you’ll end up uploading a .doc or .html file. And, it isn’t good for advanced editing for tables, graphics, or tables of contents. However, Calibre has served two great uses for me in marching toward self-publishing:
- You can save your book as an ebook to get an idea of what will happen to the formatting when it gets spit out of the other end of a meatgrinder. I re-formatted and saved five times before I was happy with the output.
- Reading your book all the way through as an ebook gives you a totally different dimension than reading it on paper or on-screen. I caught some editorial things that I may have missed—the look and feel is so different that it’s like reading someone else’s book, and that can help you assess it with a bit more objectivity. Of course, that requires an ereader in addition to Calibre. Something to consider.
I’ll go into some detail on the benefits on the various formats soon. I also want to spend some time dissecting the benefits and best ways to get out to the various resellers. Soon. Next week, probably.
Also: I have cover art!
What a lazy-ass week it’s been…the kids were visiting grandparents for a week, and I pinched a nerve in my back—the perfect storm of not-doing-shitness. And, I didn’t. Well, OK. I did stuff, but I didn’t go to the gym.
We went out to dinner several times, saw a few movies (found Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in a little theater for a buck fifty!), ogled some of the weirder things in town like the new Aria Resort and the First Friday art festival (only took us six years to get there).
Probably the most unique thing we did was saw my Twitter-friend (a strange new classification of relationship in which almost all of my human interactions now reside) Marian Call perform at a tiny hair salon cum art gallery downtown. Marian is a self-funded, unsigned (on purpose, I think) nerd-folk-jazz musician from Alaska who is touring all fifty states this year with a PA, a rain stick, an eighty year old typewriter, and her car.
To be honest, jazz/folk isn’t really my bag, daddy-o…but, I can honestly report that I loved it…really. She has an amazing voice, a tight, professional sound, and is a great songwriter. Her guitar player Scott was equally amazing, and I was a bit sad when they played their last song.
She has an entire album dedicated to Joss Whedon’s Firefly. ’nuff said.
I highly recommend you take a minute and check her schedule and see when she’s in your burg…buy her music, and give her the love that independent artists with tons of heart and grit deserve.
The WIP is still ticking along…I hit 1200 a few days, and zip other days. Zen. Enjoying it very much. But, as I write it, I keep seeing things that I should have done in Amity, which makes me question how good Amity could possibly be. I hate losing confidence in my own work, but I don’t want to release something that reeks of shite. I don’t know. I still have about fifty agent queries out, so time will tell. I may re-read it, and decide I still love it.
And speaking of geeks, I snuck in Craig Ferguson‘s auto-biography on July 4, in between a hike and watching fireworks. A quick, inspirational read…very timely read for Independence Day, as it turned out. Ferguson is, it appears, as much one of us writer-folk as he is a comedian (he has another published book, I guess). That makes him family. So, go get him a bowl of soup, for Chriminy’s sake!