Brief Present-Life Update

In a whirlwind change of fortunes, I’ve been made a member of the marketing team in a small publishing company.

I have published a short story with this company before so I know they’re legit. However I also know they’re small and I can’t expect to see much money right away.

But being on the marketing team means I have some say in how well the company does. I’m having to think realistically about the responsibility I shoulder: much of the company’s growth depends on me.

More importantly, this is probably the most prestigious job I’ve held in about ten years. I’ve had mostly dead-end jobs throughout most of the decade, doing menial tasks like delivering pizza or cleaning toilets. I had always assumed that I could never break out of that because of my lack of experience but now, I have the opportunity to gain valuable experience and get my foot in the door in the publishing industry. If you think about it, this is about the best “day job” a writer could break into.

I have to say this is a twist I didn’t see coming. It came to my attention via Twitter less than a week ago, I contacted the owner, we chatted, he gave me a quick task to see what I was up to, and I made the grade.

Well then… it’s time to get serious. I’ve got my first assignments and I’ve just received my company e-mail address and some resources I’ll need, so after Thanksgiving I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Advertisements

I Was Not Unique

I was watching this documentary about the last day of WWI and I came across the story of the last soldier to die in the war.

Pte. George Edwin Ellison of Leeds served in the 5th Royal Irish Lancers. He died on patrol at the outskirts of Mons on 11 November 1918. His life is largely a mystery. He was born in 1878. Served in the army before WWI but had left the army by 1912. Went into a working class civilian job. Recalled into the army in his late 30s at the outbreak of war. Served at Mons and Ypres. Died an hour and a half before the Armistice. He’s buried at St. Symphorien Military Cemetery. His Wikipedia article cites Michael Palin who was also the presenter in this documentary.

The most glaring difference between us is that Pte. Ellison survived four years at the front. I lasted five months. But we were both experienced soldiers recalled into the army, laborers, close to the same age, fought at Ypres and Armentieres (albeit at different times), and didn’t die in a major action but as one of those random casualties picked off on patrol (in my case I suspect I was laying wire but it’s the same principle). I suppose it’s sobering to think that even if I hadn’t been killed that night, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have made it home. Every battle, every night laying wire, every day I wasn’t resting behind lines raised the stakes just a little. I can’t say my luck was any worse than his in the grand scheme of things and in some ways, perhaps mine was a little better in that I didn’t have to see as much of the war as he did.

I wonder if he’s surfaced anywhere, remembers who he was, or has any recollection at all? Or is he just living an ordinary life with no memory and no worries? Some of us have that baggage stick to us longer than others. Isn’t that the way though? I’ve healed a lot since that first memory broke but I’m still haunted by it. I think I always will be. And I’ll always be haunted by the men who lived lives just like mine and fared no better.

Hard Work

For the last several months, being unable to work and thankfully getting support from family while I try to get disability sorted (I finally got my complex PTSD recognized but that’s only the first step in a long slog), I’ve been trying to make some good faith gesture to show my father I’m not being lazy.

I’ve been treating this book like an overtime job. I haven’t had a weekend off in many months.  I’ve spent many long nights trying to get every detail of this book as close to perfection as I could.

Now I’m in the home stretch. I’m waiting for some shipping supplies I ordered to arrive, and making small last-minute changes. But I promised myself that I wouldn’t weave Penelope’s Web here. The manuscript has no pressing issues that I can think of. I could continue refining it indefinitely (I’m constantly improving) but there comes a point where you have to trust that you’ve said all you need to say and put the project to bed. Once those shipping supplies arrive, I’m going to send it off to a major SF publisher I’ve found that still has open sumissions thankfully. Soon I’ll see if I can turn everything that’s happened to me to this point into art that others will enjoy.

I regret that I’m not a musician or a visual artist. I’ve tried my hand at both and I’m mediocre at one and a complete amateur at the other. I envy the instant gratification musicians and visual artists are able to provide. I’m a writer, and part of the reason building any sort of recognition as a writer is difficult is because people have to want to spend 5-18 hours actually processing your work. But those that have bothered to read it tell me it’s exquisite. I have a knack for writing from life experiences, and a good head for complex plots that work neatly and don’t confuse the reader. Trying to compare my present style to anyone is difficult, so it’s distinctive.

Still, I harbor many doubts. My lack of success so far in getting the readership I’d like to see or the attention of literary critics has been immensely frustrating and discouraging. I only write because it’s the only halfway useful skill I have. I’ve seen myself for most of my adult life as an earnest loser. I don’t see myself as a person who could ever have a meaningful or fulfilling life doing something I love for a living because for most of my life, earning a buck meant subjecting myself to meaningless jobs that could easily be replaced by robots in the next 20 years. And yet, I have a small cult following who actually admires what I do. I’ve met a few people who owned my books but didn’t know I was the author. And I have people who believe in me enough to help me in whatever modest way they can. And I have people willing to support me while I cope with my problems. Maybe I can turn my luck around before my support system collapses.

When I mail off this book, I hope that the editors who read it won’t be disappointed. I’ve worked so hard. I need a break. I need it so bad.

Writing

Another reason I’ve been scarce on this blog is because I’ve been extremely busy with that novel I’ve been working on.

It’s nearly done (I have about 3 pages of revision notes to implement, then it’s off to the publisher) and I have to say, I’m proud of it. I’ve managed to convey the feeling I had early on, when it was Jack and Count William’s memories that had come through; that is, simultaneously seeing the world through three different lenses.

During that stretch, in late 2012 and early 2013, my world became strange. Little details I hadn’t noticed before like dates on buildings stood out. Everything I saw, heard, tasted, smelled, or experienced was compared and contrasted with things I’d known in medieval or Edwardian times. The world took on a dizzying novelty and my sense of time on human scales became more expansive. I felt as if I’d just got back from the front even though that life had ended nearly a century before, and I often had moments where I was stunned that I was alive, breathing air, walking down the street, looking up at clouds and stars and sunrises. It was as if Jack, that proto-self with his own beliefs and memories, had woken up thousands of miles from Armentieres after a very long sleep.

I don’t know if I can ever convey the full depth of that experience or what it was like to live immersed in that headspace, but maybe I can at least touch on it to some small degree and give the reader some small measure of the profound disorientation I felt.

There’s also a gnostic subplot that uses a heretical group based on the cathars to make a point about reality, and a technician who died while working on a simulator and was memorialized in-world as a messianic figure.

There’s a lot going on in the story. Some of the battle scenes were extremely difficult to write (not in terms of putting words together, but in terms of having to relive my worst memories). In terms of style or plot, it’s not a great deal like Phil’s work except for the reality-bending simulacrum aspect (to that end, there’s a passing resemblance to A Maze of Death); it’s got more in common with Ursula LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven but even that comparison doesn’t do it justice.

Marketing will be a challenge for a number of reasons. As ever, past life claims are off limits in terms of making a sale because I want this story to speak for itself.

Knock on wood, it’ll be a good enough story to make an easy sale.

Eclipse

It seems I’m not the only one with a weak connection to the divine lately. It seems that the solar eclipse heralded a weak connection for many people. It’s almost as if the Divine itself had been hidden behind the moon and has yet to fully emerge.

I e-mailed my bishop… I hadn’t even spoken to him in over a month and I felt terribly guilty. So I told him everything going on, the worldly cares, the weak connection, the engrossing projects.

He said he and others in the congregation were facing much the same thing. The signal is weak for him too. It’d be one thing if we were all in the same place together, but I hadn’t been to mass or spoken to him in ages!

So tonight I was in the need for music and I got to thinking about a song from Ravi Shankar’s Chants of India caled Prabhujee.

What I didn’t realize until I looked them up was how appropriate the lyrics are:

Oh Master,show some compassion on me,
Please come and dwell in my heart.
Because without you, it is painfully lonely,
Fill this empty pot with the nectar of love.

I do not know any Tantra, Mantra or ritualistic
worship i know and believe only in you. 
I have been searching for you all over all the world,
please come and hold my hand now.

That pretty much sums up my feeling. Yearning for the divine the way the grass yearns for the sun when a cloud covers it, naturally and earnest. Shankar speaks of this from a Hindu idiom but the longing is the same.

I will await the God above God and speak Their thousand and one names in love.

A Thought

Feeling this distance from any notion of past lives lately has been a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, living as if my entire existence began in the summer of 1984 and that this whole thing is behind me and part of my experiences now has been refreshingly normal.

But the truth is it’s not all behind me. Right now it’s not barking at my heels like it does sometimes, but it’s always there. Sometimes, it just feels far enough away I can ignore it.

And in those times when I can ignore it, there’s a rather unpleasant effect: I feel completely at odds with anything spiritual. It was as if my awareness of the heavenly diminished with my awareness of the infernal.

Even when I can intellectually grasp these ideas, like some thoughts I had about the mathematical proof of infinity supporting the notion that the finite universe has an infinite substrate, I don’t feel at all connected to that notion. I feel a distance from that sense of the infinite, from the thought that maybe one day we’ll be liberated from this mess and rejoin the light, and it’s such a cold and lonely feeling.

I’ve seen the thumbrint of God, knew the truth of Their works. I’ve seen the vision of the fiery pillar that burned with love and felt the awesome presence of the light beyond light. Where is that presence now? I feel stranded in a foreign land, trapped in the bondage of Molech.