Where exactly is The Just Beyond?
it would be blind to simply ignore the litany of delays
Well, the third week of May has come and gone with no sign of the publisher's response to the edits I sent them on 3/8/2013. In fact, there has been no communication initiated by the publisher at all for months.
This is obviously frustrating. When I signed the contract at the first of the year, the publisher indicated that cover art would be produced by mid-January and the editor's work a few weeks later. The editor did finish by Jan. 31, though unfortunately I didn't receive his instructions until the end of February because of computer issues on my end. Once I had the edits, though, I turned them around and back to the publisher within a week. A week later I emailed the publisher to make sure they had received my response, and they replied that they had received and intended to review it "shortly." They also asked for my input on the cover art and indicated it would be assigned to the artist at that time.
I let six weeks go by before contacting the publisher and asking for an update. They had recently released a newsletter (internal to staff and their authors) laying out what they were currently working on, and I was a little surprised to find no mention of my book. They thanked me for the inquiry and remarked that its timing was a coincidence, as they had intended to update me that very day. Now they said their review of my edits was scheduled for the second week of May, with cover art to be assigned thereafter and publication for digital readers in June.
Don't get me wrong, I humbly appreciate 48fourteen's interest in my book and the opportunity they are providing. They've already devoted substantial hours to it at their own expense (600 manuscript pages of comments by the editor, for example) and they have a great deal of activity going on. It's terrific the publisher is so busy, because, as previously noted, the more successful they are, the better platform they can provide for my book. And I'm certainly not out of gratitude or patience.
But that said, there is a pattern emerging here. Repeatedly I've been given time frames for progress on the publishing process that have not born out. I was openly excited by the projection of a June publication, though even then it struck me as possibly over-ambitious to think publication was possible within such a short time after the next edits came in. In particular, there was one issue in the editor's work that I couldn't figure out how to handle and so had asked for guidance. It was a substantive enough issue that I wasn't sure I could wrap up whatever their directions were in time for a June rollout. And I don't know how long a book cover typically takes to produce, but the time frame quoted seemed to me to be possibly cutting it close.
It's not the delays themselves that concern me. I've said all along, and I've meant it, that I'd rather have quality on the project than timeliness if that is the choice. What does bother me is the lack of communication. Missing a deadline can be unavoidable, and projecting the best case is a tendency I'm often guilty of myself. But I do think that, when a time frame is given, it's a matter of professionalism and simple courtesy to notify the other party promptly when circumstances necessitate a change.
I'm not turning negative over this, I still feel warm thankfulness toward 48fourteen and the staff I've corresponded with there. But it would be blind to simply ignore the litany of delays. So what I'm going to do now is to stop publicizing any time frames that are not rock solid. I will continue to update the website as tangible progress is made, but I won't predict. A June release is still possible, and I won't count it out prematurely. But I won't count ON it, either. For now, I'm sinking my creative energy into the sequel and simply hoping for the best. What else can I do?
Publication Time Frame Announced!
The Just Beyond will be released for digital reader sales in June
48fourteen, the publisher for The Just Beyond, is having a banner year. That's great news for me and all the other authors in their catalogue -- the more successful the publisher, the better platform it becomes for distribution of our work. They've got a number of exciting new books coming out, new channels for publicity and attracting the attention of literary critics, new marketing and promotional campaigns. It was 48fourteen's creative and forward-looking angle on publishing in the information age that put them high on my list for submissions, and it's palpable as I work with them in detail.
And that success, ironically, is the reason The Just Beyond is taking a while to move from sale to publication. Frankly, I'll take it. I'd much rather have the book undergo the thorough, painstaking editing process necessary to maximize its commercial potential as opposed to shooting it out to market without professional polish. After seeing the editor's work last month -- he had obviously invested weeks of diligent attention in producing numerous improvements to the novel's clarity, pacing, and language -- my perspective shifted from understandable anxiousness to see my book in print to a patient appreciation of what the publisher was adding to my chances of success as a writer. It took me most of a year to write The Just Beyond and I expected the publication process would take at least as long. It's only been four months since I signed the contract, and in the context of what is necessary to finish the quality process and move to market, that really isn't very long.
Which brings me to today's news. As noted in the block quote, 48fourteen has let me know they expect The Just Beyond will be released for digital reader sales in June. They have not completed the second round of edits, not because there hasn't been enough time since my work on Round One was turned around in March, but rather because they have several other novels coming out this spring and summer that came into the pipeline ahead of mine. They expect to finish my edits by mid-May, submit final changes for my collaboration and approval, and if that process produces no unexpected further changes, the June release will be a go. I really had no idea how much was going on with the publisher till I started receiving their in-house updates as a stable author. It was gratifying and envigorating to see how vibrant their little publishing house is becoming -- and enlightening as to the pre-pub process with my own book.
Which brings me to an important point I've delayed making until there was truly light at the end of the publication tunnel. There is going to come a time, a matter of weeks from now it looks like, where I am going to need your help. I haven't kicked off a real torrent of promotion for the book yet simply because I felt it would be useless to do so before it was available for sale. But once we have a firm release date, I am going to push hard for a successful launch. The book's profile on this site, Facebook, Twitter, and numerous other promotional outlets is going to explode. I put the time and effort into The Just Beyond not as a lark, but because I truly want to make a serious living as a speculative fiction writer, and the initial reception this first novel gets is going to make all the difference. I have the second book well underway -- again, I haven't promoted it heavily because I felt the best time to push it would be when the first book was released -- and it will be teed up and ready to go in a hurry if there's a market of readers anxious to follow Michael Chandler into the dark reaches of the Afterlife when his mother goes missing while searching for his lost brother Max.
And YOU are the key to that success. I'm going to do my part and then some -- you may see and hear more about the Beyond trilogy than you ever wanted to -- but your word of mouth, your personal recommendations, your own social networks can multiply the effort by a factor of hundreds. And I'm going to baldly ask for your help spreading the word. I use the word "baldly" in part because yes, my days of going bankrupt at the hair salon are comfortably past, but also because this really is important to me, and the one thing I dare not do is let this novel fail because of a timid or measured effort on my part. Writing is only half the work. It's important work, but the coming promotional push is no less so. And you -- if I'm lucky enough to earn your help -- can be the difference between true success and just a Really Good Try.
Who knows -- if it's what the readers want, maybe I'll sink the first proceeds from The Just Beyond into that vain Bosley hair surgery those annoying commercials keep yammering about. Who am I to defy the wishes of all those people kind enough to buy my book? :) - Mark
He'll never sit quietly through all that, I predicted. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Well, my estimation of the time and effort it would take to get through the editor's changes, questions, and instructions turned out to be woefully light. I figured I could do it over a weekend. Instead, I started working on it when it arrived the Thursday before last, got into it seriously last Saturday, and finished only last night -- two half days plus a week of 8 - 12 hours a day grind. But finished it is! Now it's the publisher's turn to examine my work and decide what, if anything, additional needs to be revised before the wording is deemed final.
So what are the changes? If you count raw numbers, the vast majority were minor formatting or style adjustments, for instance undoing italics which the editor felt I had overused. I didn't quibble with (hardly) any of those. There were some word choice changes and minor sentence restructuring, all of which I agreed with. There were some questions where I made minor revisions to clarify points the editor found vague or ambiguous.
And then there were some overhauls. Not many, none that fundamentally altered the story or any scene, but substantial nonetheless. I posted previously the addition I made to raise the profile of Michael's resurrected cat. He also had me enhance the presentation of Vicki early in the book. He had me intensify the roots of Michael's water phobia. He had me trim passages that had some importance but were not essential to the plot. And he had me elaborate on things like the island rescue plan, which he felt was not spelled out well enough in advance.
Being a graduate of Arizona State University, he aslo had me alter a few of my descriptions of that state. Working on those made me tremble in fear about the problems he would call out in the Texas section, as that's where the publisher is located. Miraculously, there were none. :)
All of these changes were improvements. I had some trepidation when the publisher told me the overall length needed to be addressed, which was before the editor read the book. As it turned out, it will be about the same length as the original. Apparently the editor felt, having read it thoroughly, that the length was justified. I had been prepared for some serious cutting, and it was a relief not to have to go into things that invasively. If a book is good I prefer a long one to a short one, and it's gratifying to know the editor felt it was worth the extra printing cost to tell the story as I wrote it.
I had been particularly worried about edits to the Boston section, which started as one convoluted chapter about Dan Hendrick's physics theory but expanded to three chapters to clarify points my readers group found confusing. He'll never sit quietly through all that, I predicted. I couldn't have been more wrong. The editor loved it, making practically no changes through that entire section. Having worked that material to death during the writing process, I wasn't looking forward to another round. The editor's happy assessment took me totally by surprise.
The editor made his notes as he was reading, reflecting his impressions from a first-time reader's perspective. That was critical, because knowing the whole story blinded me to some ambiguities. He got frustrated at certain points, mostly the same ones as my readers group, but like them, by the end of the book he felt they had been satisfactorily resolved. I'm content with those frustrations so long as the reader feels satisfied once the veils come down. I knew there was risk in hiding answers readers would be pining for, but I felt it necessary in order to reward them with a gratifying sense of triumph by the end.
There is one outstanding issue. The editor wanted the nature of Charlie Paris to be disclosed earlier than it was. Looking for ways to do this, I wasn't able to come up with an approach I felt would improve the book more than damage it. I've laid out my reasons in the returned document, and I'll go with whatever the editor decides.
It was exhausting and sometimes emotionally painful to go through 600 pages of questions, changes, and criticism. But it was appropriate and necessary, and it gave me the sense of being a "real" author for the first time. While the process was taxing, it was humbling and inspiring to have a professional editor take so mucn time and effort with my work. It's a better book for it, no doubt. I can't wait to see it finalized and out the door so people can see the improvements first-hand. :) - Mark
A Peek At The Edits
Michael swallowed. It was all he could do to hold back tears of his own
I'm about 2/3 the way through the publisher's edits now and should be done no later than the middle of this week. I underestimated somewhat the extent of their changes and the amount of effort it was going to require from me--there are after all more than 600 pages, with at least something altered on almost every one. But my initial assessment remains valid that nothing fundamental is involved and the vast majority of it is barely noticeable stylistic tweaks. Most the "on every page" comes from alterations like inserting a space before ellipses or converting the "M-dash" style I used to the one the publisher prefers.
They are having me make a small number of substantive revisions, and I thought you might like a practical example. Below is the most significant change I've made so far (just three paragraphs long). They felt that Michael's reunion with his childhood pet Alex, the Siamese cat who becomes a powerful panther in the Afterlife, needed some emotional foundation. So I have added this little subsection into the scene in Chapter 8 where Michael ends up paying for a stranger's pet bird to have surgery. "Beaker" is the little parrot involved.
"Michael swallowed. It was all he could do to hold back tears of his own.
His comprehension of the man's suffering went beyond empathy. It evoked acute
memories of a tightly bonded pet in his own life, an atypically warm and placid
Siamese cat named Alex that had been rescued by his mother when a co-worker
moved to an apartment that forbade animals. Like Beaker, Alex had been a family
pet not intended specifically for Michael or his brother, both in grade school
at the time. And like Beaker, the cat had nonetheless of its own accord, and for
reasons that defied discovery, adhered with obvious preference to one person in
It had matured into a joyous, life-affirming symbiosis. Wherever Michael
went the cat could be found, perfectly content as long as it could be near him.
Alex had established ingenious habits to manifest his affection in ways
unobtrusive yet intimate, nesting himself in Michael's lap while he watched TV,
squeezing into the gap between the chair and the small of Michael's back at
homework time, draping himself on Michael's pillow each night like a set of
warm, hypnotically breathing earmuffs around his master's
Then, when the boys were in high school, Alex had developed lesions. A
patch of skin on his left hindquarter had erupted in a bloody sore the size of a
quarter, which gradually grew into an obviously agonizing malignancy affecting
the entire limb. By that time the cat could only drag the leg around
dysfunctionally. Nothing could be done, and at last Michael's near-hysteria at
the thought of life without his companion was overtaken by a resolve to end his
misery. Michael had insisted on accompanying his friend to that terminal
appointment with the vet, and as it turned out, when the day came only Michael
was able to go. Alone in the parking lot afterward, Michael had collapsed onto
the asphalt in a seizure of anguish, his keys hanging from the car door, such a
forlorn spectacle that the receptionist had abandoned her desk to come out and
hold him reassuringly until he regained enough composure to
It's great after such a long emotional relationship with the book to be experiencing this tangible evidence that it really is going to be published. The work that remains is taxing, but it's a good kind of work to have. :) - Mark
The Final Edits!
It almost feels like this is really going to happen now. :)
This morning I received the editor's annotation of The Just Beyond manuscript. The changes are extensive by count--I believe there is at least one change on every single page. :) But the vast majority are minor, tidying up a word or phrase here and there or correcting a few typos I and my Readers Group somehow missed. I haven't gotten through the whole thing, but what I've seen so far is mostly small improvements.
They do have some changes for me to make on top of the ones done by the editor. For the most part the purpose is to clarify things for the reader or to more prominently emphasize key elements. They certainly don't change the story in any substantial way, they simply make the delivery better.
The instructions from the publisher are to go through the editor's work carefully, make the suggested changes where acceptable, and for anything that doesn't look right to me, give an explanation of my objection. So they are not simply telling me "all of this has to be done", they are allowing me to participate meaningfully in the final decisions. I have to tell you, I'm not inclined to challenge the suggestions of an experienced fiction editor and I expect to raise a handful of points at most. But it's nice to feel respected in this way.
Surprisingly, they don't seem to have made, or directed me to do, the kind of wholesale trimming I expected from their initial comment that overall the book was too long. I can only assume that upon careful inspection, the editor felt that the length was necessary after all to tell the story properly. While I was fully prepared for extensive pruning, I do think the basic length concern that publishers have has more to do with business risk than with serving the reader. It's completely understandable that a publisher wants to minimize their costs in introducing a new author with no track record of sales assuring them of profitability on the release. From a reader's perspective, I invariably prefer long books to short ones. (Provided, of course, that they're well written. The Land of Painted Caves by Jean Auel, which takes up something like 50 CDs of unabridged audio, I found to be an excrutiating bore that begs the question why it was written at all unless the sole purpose was to bilk revenue from unsuspecting fans of Clan of the Cave Bear.) For me, a good, long book creates a nice, deep immersion and a kind of emotional investment and satisfaction that a short novel doesn't have time to build. And, of course, it's nice that the published version won't be so different from the story and pacing I felt was appropriate while writing it.
I expect to have my review and revisions done by the end of this weekend, and barring anything I do that fails to satisfy the publisher, that should be the last step before the physical publication process. I still haven't seen anything on the cover art but it looks like things are finally coming together. I'm very excited. It almost feels like this is really going to happen now. :)
By the way, the image above is just a prospective "back cover" I did when consulting with the publisher on cover ideas. It's not the art that will appear on the actual book, but something close to the description of the story it includes probably will.
I'll post an update here as soon as I've finished my work on the edits--look for it. :) - Mark
Where Things Stand
I can't expect friends and followers of the trilogy to maintain my level of excitement during a period when nothing visible seems to be happening
It's been two weeks since I posted a fresh Blog post, and the main site hasn't been updated since then either. Peope who followed these pages faithfully are no doubt wondering what's going on, and here I'm going to explain.
First, rest assured nothing has gone wrong with the project. The Just Beyond is still scheduled to publish later this year, and The Far Beyond is coming along nicely. I haven't lost my dedication to either, nor for this website. Far from it--I'm extremely anxious to see the first book's cover art, to get my hands on the publisher's editing results, and foremost of course, to see The Just Beyond available for sale.
While the support and enthusiasm has been humbling, I can't expect friends and followers of the trilogy to maintain my level of excitement during a period when nothing visible seems to be happening. It's important to build a buzz for the books, even prior to publication, maybe more so if the premise is that upon release the novels will speak for themselves. But the last thing I want to do is build that fan presence and then seem not to deliver.
So I've suspended daily updates to this site until there is tangible news to report. I don't want to blow all that interest now and risk it not being there when The Just Beyond actually comes out.
The cover art was expected to be done by mid-January, but as of the first of February it hadn't yet been commissioned. It has been conceptualized and assigned to an artist now, but I don't have a new delivery date. Two weeks from the commission (about now) is a logical target given that it's the timespan originally projected. But I can't say it still applies for sure.
The editing was supposed to conclude around the current time frame, so I'm not concerned that it hasn't come yet--that tells me the editor is doing detailed, quality work, and how could I oppose that? :) But I won't be posting as often as before until those processes have produced results worth sharing. It's mainly out of respect for the readers' investment in emotion and time, a principle expressed in my earliest blogs. As soon as there's something to report that I'm confident will interest you, it will appear here without delay. And I will be posting here sporadically when I have something substantive to say.
Keep checking here from time to time--I suggest at least once a week. When there are concrete developments your devotion will be rewarded, and it is appreciated immensely. - Mark
The Challenge of Originality
108 billion humans have lived since 50,000 BC
The details of the overall plot for the Beyond trilogy are reaching critical mass. Yes, I should be focusing mainly on the book I'm writing, the second volume in the set called The Far Beyond. And I am. But as that part of the story fleshes out, it necessarily creates ties to The Just Beyond and implications for the final book. And this is important, because it helps assure two things: 1) that the narrative will maintain an intimate, logical, and consistent flow, and 2) that I'll finish writing it. :) Even with publication of the first book, writing the other two is a daunting challenge. Writing is a struggle for me to begin with, and on top of that I am perpetually aware that one well-received book is no guarantee for the others, even as they follow the over-arching theme begun in the first.
With regard to The Far Beyond specifically, the middle book of a trilogy is often the weakest, and I'm consciously working to overcome that phenomenon. I mean, The Two Towers is entertaining and critical to Lord of the Rings, but it certainly lacks the excitement of The Fellowship of the Ring or the satisfaction of Return of the King.
Which brings me to a point about writing. Lord of the Rings is my unqualified favorite work of fiction, and its appeal sets the standard to which I aspire. An unfortunate side effect, at least for me, is a tendency to write something that parallels LOTR to an uncomfortable degree.
According to a calculation by Google, the total number of books ever published (mostly in the modern era) is around 130 million. The Population Reference Bureau calculates that a total of 108 billion humans have lived since 50,000 BC (equating to one book per every 831 people, which doesn't account for writers who produce multiple books). The arbitrary starting point makes this a dicey statistic, though: somthing like modern civilization is said to have commenced only about
10,000 years ago when the last great Ice Age ended, or even later with the Ancient Egyptians around 5,000 BC. On the other end of the spectrum, human ancestry can be traced to around 100,000 years back or as far as 2 million, depending on how you define human.
Which is a tedious and twisting setup for the statement that it's devilishly hard to come up with an original story. At the archetype level, every conceivable scenario has been written about over and over and over, and probably better than I could hope to do. How can one writer among a world population of 7 million generate something, if not a completely untried premise then at least a distinctive variation, that hasn't been done before? Even in heavily trodden, formulaic genres like Western and Romance, publishers want to know what makes your book stand out. And as a first-time author, you'd better have an answer.
When that question came, I told publishers that what distinguished The Just Beyond and its successors was a fearless depiction of the Afterlife. As noted on this site's home page, I aimed to transcend the prevailing approach of leaving the nature of the world beyond death "to the imagination". Nothing in fiction is more disappointing than a story that leads you down the garden path only to invoke this cop-out at the end. I've never read another book that handles this subject quite as I did, and my research didn't turn up anything too dangerously close...but how can you know for sure?
And in spite of my good intentions, that old compulsion to ape my favorite material seems to have slipped in while I wasn't looking. I began this posted not intendng to compare the Beyond books with Lord of the Rings. Yet as I consider it, some parallels pop out. In both sets the protagonist is an unassuming personality with empathetic and courageous tendencies, capable of extraordinary feats when called upon. Both tales begin with some necessary background and then launch a desperate, stealthy flight hounded by ghoulish enemies. Upon reaching a safe haven more of the plot is revealed, sending the hero on an even more harrowing path that results in a critical death. Powerful truths are revealed, unlikely allies emerge, formidable enemies are bested, and the most fearsome foe of all is finally confronted in an epic battle involving a sword of immense power. Prominent side characters are wed to their loves, and our hero sails off to a surprising but well-deserved reward. I never intended nor even recognized these shared elements; obviously my subconscious had the upper hand.
Ah, well. Any originality issues raised by my trilogy probably won't matter, since the first book has been judged viable enough to print. That's good, because I'm not sure I could do better. If I'm fortunate enough to develop a solid writing career, I'll certainly try. In the meantime, faintly echoing a classic is hardly the worst problem I could have. :) - Mark
Running to Cover!
should or should you not "judge a book by its cover"?
Here is the actual source image of fashion model Melissa Baker that I used to create the placeholder cover art for The Just Beyond. The particularly attentive may notice that I distorted her face slightly on that cover for compositional reasons.
She does, well, look like a model, and that's appealing enough in itself, but it's not why I chose the picture. Nor is it because she fits my mental image of Vicki, or Beth, or the apparition on the stairs, whichever the cover is supposed to depict (lol), because she doesn't. If you must know, I envision Vicki as more of a Sandra Bullock, and Beth maybe as Nicole Kidman--too bad they're both a touch too old to play those roles in the Oscar-winning movie that will no doubt be made. *cough* No, Ms. Baker appears on my cover simply because this photo is supposedly in the public domain. I sort of wonder if that's actually true, but ultimately it doesn't matter because my cover, and Melissa Baker specifically, will NOT be used with the published book. The publisher is assigning a staff artist to do that and I'll be happy with whatever they think has commercial appeal.
Which brings up an interesting question: should or should you not "judge a book by its cover"?
We all know the timeworn maxim. And it's good advice as a metaphor. But, ironically, when taken literally, the advice "don't judge a book by its cover" is ludicrous. We all judge books--actual books--by their covers. Not ultimately of course, that is if we proceed to read them, but cover art is absolutely a factor in picking up a book at all. We've all seen book covers that suck you seductively in, as well as those that leave you wondering what the publisher was thinking. :) And they can't help but color our expectations.
It's even more true in the ebook world. In a bookstore you can (and I always do) leaf through the pages and see if the writing style, content, and format appeal to you in addition to reading the blurb on the back. While it's often possible to do that online, it isn't always, and when it is, it can't be as convenient and intuitive as it is with a paper book. For myself, in a store I ALWAYS look at a few pages inside a book I'm pondering to buy, and online I NEVER do this. So the impact of the cover art, for people like me, is magnified in the electronic sphere. In fact if the cover art is bland or unappealing, I often won't give the thing a second look. It seems counterintuitive that virtual covers are more important than paper ones, but for me, they are.
And I, for one, believe this is warranted. Sumptuous, engaging cover art tells me two things completely apart from what they may reveal about the volume's content. First, it tells me the publisher felt enthusiastic enough about the book's commerical prospects to pay for a talented and probably expensive artist. Second, it tells me that the publisher, and therefore most likely the book itself, is of high quality. Now, I'm not saying a crappy book never appeared on a shelf dressed up like a lipstick-wearing pig. I'm not saying a great cover guarantees a great read. What I am saying is that cover art DOES influence the purchase decision and CAN express something meaningful about the work. If it didn't, why would publishers go to such lengths to get it right?
Which brings me to some welcome news about The Just Beyond. Initially the publisher thought the cover art would be delivered in the middle of January, but obviously that didn't happen. I spoke with them this morning and was informed it hadn't been assigned yet. They're ready to do so now, however, and wanted to know if I was partial to any particular concepts. I sent them the covers I've made and said the only element I had a real weakness for was the girl's face in the background. I'd like the rest of the image to convey a sense of otherworldliness, but I don't have a clear preference as to how that be done and I'm sure their artists will have better ideas than I would anyway.
And pleasantly, as of now, it appears that's the direction they'll go. They're on board with the faded face concept and the artist will figure out the rest. If it proceeds that way it's great, because, while I am in no way of the opinion that I should have any say in the cover art at all, I was obviously hoping they would do something I would be happy with or at least not displeased. Now it looks like they're going to preserve the concept I've had in my head all along, which is a nice and thoroughly unexpected surprise.
So things are moving slowly, but they're moving. :) It seems like a lot more than three weeks have gone by since the pre-publishing work commenced, but that's all it's been and there's absolutely no justification for anxiety or concern. But I can't help feeling some of that. At least I know intellectually that it's irrational. And honestly, as "problems" go, it's a pretty darn good one to have. :) - Mark
Up There Somewhere
it wasn't the usual feeling of being suddenly alert; something physical woke me
Stick with me on this one, it's not another space jaunt even though it may seem to start out that way. Although...
I get up early every day, typically between 4 and 5 AM, sometimes earlier. This morning I woke up at 2:30, and I've learned when that happens to just go with it. Left to its own my body seems to need about five hours' sleep most nights, though sometimes longer. There's no reason to fight it with my flexible existence down here.
But this morning it wasn't the usual feeling of being suddenly alert; something physical woke me. I'll get to that in a minute. The first thing I noticed, once I realized that, yes, I wasn't going back to sleep so I may as well get my feet on the floor, was a light outside the house. We have a motion-sensor flood light in the yard, and when it goes off in the middle of the night it's typically a deer wandering through. It's not intrusive enough through the bedroom windows to wake me up by itself, but it is plenty bright. And the light I could see being cast downstairs from the kitchen was too bright for any natural light.
Except it wasn't. You'd think after four years I'd recognize it, but it turned out the security light was not on. No light was. What I was seeing was coming purely from the Moon.
That's how dark the night sky is here. It's shocking when you come from a city that never truly sleeps, unlike Brookings where there's not a single 24-hour business in town. But don't get the impression our house is swathed in black. It never is. The yard is completely surrounded by rain forest so thick we can't see any of our neighbors' homes, but even on moonless nights, the starshine is enough to make out most features on the property. When the Moon is out you could literally read by it. It has fooled me into thinking the flood light was on many times, but even so, it's so unexpected that it still catches me after all this time.
But it wasn't the Moon that woke me. I had been dreaming of a skiing trip with my grandfather who passed away in 1999. We were just headed to the slopes, and he was handing us all something--it looked like a chunk of dry ice, though I'm not sure why that would be. Its purpose though was clear. The ski resort was at high elevation, and breathing the fumes coming off these chunks made up for the paucity of oxygen and let you breathe normally. My grandfather was that kind of man--generous, no-nonsense, and always prepared.
When I woke up, the reason for the dream was apparent. One of my sinuses was so closed up I could only breathe on one side. A few minutes of traipsing around the house upright cleared that, and I was left with the dream's deeper meaning.
I held a special fondness for my grandfather. I mentioned before that he was the only person who ever read my first novel manuscript. But that wasn't the source of my regard. He was the most fearless and forthright man I ever met, imbued with unshakeable integrity. (Happily, those traits were inherited by my father.) He could seem harsh, but only because he always spoke the plain truth. And the truth hurts, as they say, at least a good share of the time.
Our personalities were fiercely opposed, but we still had a lot in common. He was a huge fan of science fiction, which now seems anathema to his knothead-intolerant demeanor. In fact it was he who turned me on to sci-fi, in the form of paperback novels left on a bookshelf in a lakeside cabin he built with help from my dad and his brothers. I still have two of those books that I stuffed in my suitcase at the end of a visit there.
A decade and a half later, my grandfaher's absence still leaves a void in the world. I wish he could have met the man I have become. I hope someday he will. -Mark
And Life Goes On
There's no chance I'll get rich from The Just Beyond any time soon, so yeah, I still need to work the consulting gigs.
The blog took a rest the past few days, and regular readers may be wondering why. The immediate reason is that I got about 3/4 the way through a post concerning my feelings about art, specifically a particular feature of some art that I find highly annoying, and I realized I wasn't satisfied with the way I was describing it. Whenever you criticize any piece of art, or genre, or type of content, you are guaranteed to offend the people who appreciate that very thing. And it was important to my point to make sure that, while I don't expect nor even desire to change anybody's opinion on the matter, it was important that what I was saying at least be understood. So I put off finishing that, and I had spent 11 hours doing field work for my consulting business that day so I ended up too tired to knock it out, and then the weekend came and it just got set aside. It still isn't done, but the draft is out there and I'll post it when I'm content with the end product.
There's no chance I'll get rich from The Just Beyond any time soon, so yeah, I still need to work the consulting gigs. :) Two fairly involved ones came up last week and I spent much of the weekend working on them. Aside from that, I've been testing a new computer game creation tool, which comes with The Legend of Grimrock and is the perfect platform for making games like the much-beloved Eye of the Beholder dungeon crawl. And I've been playing Far Cry 3, the sequel to one of my all time favorite games. You may have noticed a nonfunctional link on the main page to a "Far Cry 2 Play Guide". I plan to complete that when time permits too. So there's a lot going on, and though I've been shocked at how pleasant blogging has been for a guy who generally dislikes writing at all, it's impractical for me to post something new every single day. I will do so whenever I can--the whole point of this website is to develop interest in the book(s)--but putting something out there just because the clock is ticking would inevitably compromise the quality. So keep checking--when I do add new posts I will do my best to make them worth your time.
If you've miss these posts and haven't read them all since the first one released at the beginning of this month, you can always look at any of them either by paging down or using the sorting tool at right to bring up only those you're interested in. Assuming you're interested at all, something I don't take for granted and am lucky and humbled if you do.
The publication process for The Just Beyond of course is still in progress, but nothing new has emerged the past few weeks so from a reader's perspective (and mine, since the publisher's process is opaque to me), it's kind of in suspension. That doesn't mean I have nothing to say, and when it's something interesting enough, it will appear here without fail. In the mean time, thanks for your patience. - Mark