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Friday, December 28, 2012

A Good Year for Imagination

Yup, end of one wild year and time to start off again.

I just totaled up my Kindle sales, including free promos, and as far as I can tell, some 5877 copies of Chicago Stories: West of Western (known around here as WOW) have gone to good homes. At least, I hope they're good and have given the readers something. I don't know yet about Along the Ravenswood, too soon for figures to come in.

A good year for me. I published WOW, my debut novel, in mid-January, having no sense of what to expect, and started fumbling around learning how to promote a book. Joined Twitter and Facebook, spent far too much time doing the things folks used to do--notifying alumni magazines, that sort of thing. I did some things right, too, like spending a lot of time finding good Facebook friends (thanks here to Sisters in Crime) and Twitter connections and telling everyone I knew about the book.

And I finished my second book, Along the Ravenswood (ATR), published in mid-December.

There has never been a year when I learned so much so fast. I originally intended to write a straightforward mystery novel, well-crafted but not so different from many others. A good plot, interesting characters, a nice two or three hour read on a rainy afternoon,maybe. Somehow other things slipped into the stories as I stumbled along, and I ended up revealing far more of myself than I'd intended. Maybe that's partly because WOW is sited in my old neighborhood and some of the events in the book were taken from events in my life.  Maybe it's because Seraphy's named after my great-grandmother, Seraphy Temperance Taylor.

Someone on some Sunday morning TV show several years ago was talking about gangs and commented that the real problem was a failure of the imagination. I don't remember the name of the show, or the commentator, but what he said burned itself into my thoughts and sits there today. My friends and I lived by our imaginations, although I hadn't thought of it that way before. When  I was a potter, my studio partners had a bad spell (no sales, no $$ to live on) and asked me what to do. Without thinking, I said "re-design," and that's what they did. That's what we did.

Gangbangers may be the way they are because that's the only way they can imagine themselves. I sometimes wonder what might happen if we all started thinking about that, and what could be done to change that . . . I know many have tried before, but maybe not quite the right way?

When something's not working, come up with a new idea. This isn't true for most folks who have jobs, because having a job means someone else has thought up the whole job. Thinking a project, product, business up from scratch is very different. For those who do that, whether we're Steve Jobs or the guy in his garage with a mousetrap, for us imagination is the basis of survival. We really are different from others.

We tend not to have absolutes because we know reality is only an idea.

I'm going to stop now before it gets any deeper.

Friday, December 21, 2012



It's about time! I had thought to get Along the Ravenswood on Kindle last June, but as you know, reality intervened. Well, actually I read the manuscript. Yikes! By the time all the edits and proofs and so on were done, not to mention finding a cover designer, I was lucky to get her out before the end of the year.

Lots of folks helping to get the word out this time: a herd of Twitter followers, Facebook friends and others. I woke up to find that the EReader Cafe had featured CHICAGO STORIES: WEST OF WESTERN  ( at the top of its page this morning. I'm running WOW (West of Western) FREE 12/21-23 as part on my coming out party for ATR (Along the Ravenswood) in the hope readers fall in love with the series . . . sorry, I have no thoughtful tidbits to offer today, too excited to be at the end. Or is it the beginning?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Riding the Artist's Cycle

Once long ago, when I was once again back in graduate school and trying to figure out how things worked, I came across a psychologist's theory about how artists worked. And sorry, I can't remember his name right now, and probably the details of his theory have evolved with time. His book was huge and fat, if that helps. And had a blue cover.

He suggested artists run on a defined cycle of restlessness/seeking, creative spurts, and depletion/depression. I remember this after thirty years because it seemed to me to be spot on. First the restlessness: roaming around, trying a dozen different things, looking for some undefined something.  Starting books and tossing them aside. Standing in front of the open refrigerator. Running around town on unnecessary errands. Walking anywhere. Cleaning closets. I now think this is the charging-the-batteries period. I try to use the extra energy while charging to clean up whatever I've put off--basements and garages, mostly.

Next, I become totally involved with the project, whatever it may be. All the materials I need are ready, having stewed for days in my subconscious while I was rambling around. Now is the time. I start the project, leaving everything else aside. For a long time it was making pots, then rehabbing a house, researching and writing a dissertation. Later on, for a short time painting (not very good at this). Quilts. Now it's usually writing.This is my favorite time, working hard, excited about the work, seeing something come from a conglomeration of materials. Often I don't fully realize what the end product will be, not consciously. Even now I'm intrigued to read my work, after it sits a few weeks. Did I really write that?

Then the down period. Depleted, tired, dissatisfied, bored. Seeing the flaws in the completed work. Why am I doing this? Blah, blah. Once this was the pits, even bordering on clinical depression. I thought I might be bi-polar, when that was popular. But actually, I'm just an artist of sorts, with an artist's cyclic personality.

Having a structure in mind has been a lifesaver. I ramble around in the restless period with an undertow of excitement, knowing that eventually I'll be ready to make something new, and have learned to see the down time as simply time to rest, not wallow in depression.I'm social during my restless phase, anti-social and distracted when making things, and long for company when resting.

So thanks, psychologist-whose-name I can't remember.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Looking for the Anal Retentive Inner child

Yesterday I finished my first round of formatting edits for ALONG THE RAVENSWOOD. It wasn't really the first round. The first round was going so badly--I'd reached 108 changes before I was a third of the way through the pdf--that I pulled the plug and asked Hitch & co. to start over. Paying another formatting fee was going to be much less that all those individual change fees.

Before I sent the new and improved word document, I went through the whole thing again, being as neat and focused as possible. I swore there were no mistakes this time. I'd get it back and it would be clean. Right. I got it back right away, and it was much better. Unfortunately that morning I'd waked early with the realization I'd misnamed a crucial street--all the way through the book! So, with that and one thing and another, I had 56 corrections this time, a record low for me. But this time, it will come back perfect. Right!

I'm hoping for free of typos. I'll settle for that and get it up on Kindle ASAP. Because, if I let myself think, there were bits here and there I'd like to rewrite. Dialogue to sharpen. Sentences to reword. Images to focus. Sure, and the damned thing would never get published.

What now? I'm planning to put both books out as trade paperbacks through CreateSpace. It's rather scary for me, as new things can be for we Luddites. My friend Stephan tells me he'll help. I live in a university town and can get drugs . . .

I looked at CHICAGO STORIES: WEST OF WESTERN. It's been a year since I finished that one, and I can't let it go without a revision, so I'm calling the paperback the 2nd edition. (Probably have Hitch format the 2nd for Kindle, too).  I didn't make any big changes to the story, but there were a lot of words and phrases that needed something. Anyhow, the rewrite's done, and I'll proof it and upload it soon. Arghh.