Thursday, November 20, 2014

Writing for Fun and Vaguely Potential Profit: A Reminiscence

It's November here in the desert, which means (thankfully) mostly sunny skies and moderate temperatures during the daytime and cold, bitter nights (it's plummeted well blow thirty several times in the last week, mostly on account of ye olde polar vortex). There are short, blustery days ahead, and the ever deepening chill to anticipate...the desert is indeed quiet and Cleveland is definitely cold, but recent nighttime temps have shown little difference between Las Cruces and the sparkling gem of Ohio.

Not that I'm complaining, understand. Born and raised in northern Michigan, I'm on very personal terms with the concept of coldness. However, it is very interesting that I migrated south just prior to last year's hellacious winter (a psychic understanding, perhaps?). I'm overwhelmingly grateful to live in the desert, even more so following the petrifying images coming out of Buffalo. If it snows here it will be a light dusting, readily dispelled by midday; still, I worry about the cacti. Several years ago a heavy frost fell in and around Cruces, killing off a fair number of the native plantlife. Going for a walk in the desert today one is constantly straying across rotten cactus husks. I'm hoping the temps modulate upwards and spare me the horror of experiencing a plant apocalypse firsthand.

With the advancing of the Dark Time I've been allowing myself to experience and savor a personal transmutation, a dying and rebirth if you will. Primarily driven by the recent publication of The Mask of Tamrel and its sequel, In the House of Madame Heretia, I've suddenly found myself in a bold new world where the book I valiantly endeavored to write for eight years (and that mutated into two books along the way) is now wholly and completely done. Never again will I need to contemplate the fiddly details of Kelrob and Jacobson's meeting and mutual evaluation; never again will I need to lay awake nights wondering 'what will happen if I fail at this, if I die before it's complete, etc etc' downwards into black waters and strange self-loathing. Yes, I'm being quite direct here, I suppose; Harlan Ellison has a lot to do with it. His blatantly direct soul-scouring introductions to his books have led me to fall in love with him as readily as his fiction.

Tamrel floundered many times over the course of its creation. There were many influential factors in this, amongst them a failed decade-long relationship, the insistence of my college professors that genre was a debased and self-indulgent mode of writing, the crushing weight of a succession of soul-deadening jobs, frequent bouts with obsessive anxiety, a failure to find and connect with other writers working in similar veins, and (perhaps most importantly) frequent visitations by the cackling demons of doubt. Indeed, the book would have languished forever if I hadn't forcefully expelled many of the negative restrictive aspects of my life and changed paradigms.

The result of this was The Mask of Tamrel, a near-200,000 word novel that was re-forged into two novels. I drew on none of my pre-existing writings, taking the characters of Kelrob and Jacobson and launching them on a completely fresh and re-envisioned adventure that shared many elements with the efforts of old. The tumultuous nature of my daily life became encompassed in their trials and tribulations: fresh friendships and soul bondings, sudden enemies and relocation, travel and loss (I had a succession of four cats die over the writing of the book). Overall I immersed myself in dozens of new writers and musicians, plunging deep into the primality of art. Lovecraft in particular disassembled and reconfigured my DNA, tantalizing me with his frequent integration of occult knowledge and interdimensionality. Michael Moorcock has also had a strong influence; I've read 15 of his books in the last year, hope to improve that number in the coming. The concept of truly high fantasy, fantasy that breathes the heady perfume of Faery, fantasy that trips dimensions and transcends levels of consciousness, guiding one through twisting phantasmogoric alleyways to the very steps of Chapel Perilous...!

Now, at the end of 2014, I look back on a year of strenuous work. The books have been written, the characters crafted. Much of the more frustrating labor came in the form of learning how to promote myself, a process I still engage with daily. The market, after all, is only partly a science; there have been mass fluctuations in the ebook trade in the last year, and these fluctuations seem likely to continue. My only surefire approach is to continue writing diligently. I'm hoping to crank out two new books in 2015, the third book in The Magistricide and a standalone vampire novel that emerged from the shadows roughly a week ago and has been strenuously demanding my attention. I find myself fascinated by the darker aspects of fantasy, and hope to plumb ever-deeper into the strange and arcane in future releases.

So here I am, on a cold night, November 20th 2014. The New Year promises and threatens. I'm not really a nonfiction writer by nature, but I've decided to try and record my ongoing self-publishing odyssey on this site. So far survival seems to depend on dealing with clashing high-and-lows: the joy at seeing one's work in print, the ongoing quest to find a receptive audience. I've been working to wield the resultant energies creatively.

                                                          Peace, y'all!

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