My Muse Is Alive

Far from drying up from the idea that I probably wasn’t a famous author in a previous life, my muse seems to be perfectly resilient to the idea.

Also, I find that just the very idea I was Phil actually proved a bit of a “magic feather” to get me to up my game as a writer; the fact that I’ve exceeded him in quality and more than doubled the speed at which I release new works has turned me into an up and coming writer with a lot to hope for.

On the down side, I feel that I’ve had nothing to shield me from the pain of realization that I can’t explain away John’s life so easily and that these horrible memories of the Western Front are very likely real.  Of late, I find that I’ve been able to dust off some WWI-related projects of mine that I simply hadn’t felt like finishing before, because I need some way to deal constructively with these feelings or they’ll destroy me.

One of these books is a sequel to the first fantasy novel I wrote, that includes a subplot about WWI.  I finished the draft in early 2014 but my publisher didn’t like it, I didn’t like it either after they pointed out that all my doubts about it had been well-founded, and I’ve since done some very major edits to try to salvage the story.

The other book is a re-boot of an old project of mine dating back to 2010.  The original was a well-written but kind of boring realistic fiction about a neurotic 20-year-old with serious questions about their sexuality and gender identity and a slightly odd way of looking at the world.  It’s highly biographical, though I fictionalized a lot of details and added a subplot with the protagonist becoming an innocent suspect in a murder investigation to make it into a more coherent story.  it had previously existed in two versions, one written as a NaNoWriMo project and one written for a publisher who later bailed on me when the subject of money came up.

I’m re-working it somewhat to not only make it a little truer to what actually happened to me in 2005 in London, but to tie in with a slightly fictionalized version of my memories from the war.  Already I’m finding that little things from the story I already had begin to stand out in sharp relief when juxtaposed with my prior life as a doomed Tommy.  Things that made little sense- like the impossible restlessness of the protagonist- suddenly make perfect sense.  All these little details I culled from real events create an organic whole as the story begins to take on a more solid structure and fleshes itself out.

The emotions I’ve been facing during these projects are raw, but they’re real and they’re such a relief to bring to the surface after months of burying them in distractions.  Now, it’s time to “open a vein and bleed,” as the old writing cliche goes.

Warm Reception and Synchronicity

As word about my latest novel gets around, the reception gets warmer and warmer.

Everyone involved in the promotion process has been helping spread the word, as have a lot of my friends.  One review has been posted to Goodreads so far, and it’s a five star review.  An online writing circle I’m involved in even named it book of the month for March. Also, I’ve had a number of follows on social media over this.

I don’t think I’ve gotten this much interest in a book since 2010 with the first book I published, and that was pre-transition.  This book is the first thing I’ve published that could finally eclipse my earlier work.

But will it be my big mainstream breakout success?  Probably not.  It might cement my reputation in the niche genre I write in, maybe, but I’m a long way from becoming the next overnight success story.  Still, if I can become a big fish in a small pond, it can only be a step in the right direction (if my previous life’s work is any indication).

On the other hand, it has gotten some very small amount of mainstream attention, and the premise and cover art alone are attractive to readers.  That’s a powerful asset since I suspect my last couple of books lacked that same appeal.  It’s possible this could be a sleeper for a while, then find its second wind as more readers discover it.

By the way, there have been some strange synchronicities going on of late, most of them involving Philip K. Dick.  One of them I can’t explain in detail because it would require telling about my book, but it involved Godric of Finchale in which the word “Valis” appeared in a review for a book about St. Godric.  The other was last night, when I was trying to find a link to the ad bumpers from the beginnings of the chapters in “Ubik” and the first result in my search was a passage from the Bible about Jesus praying at Gethsemane.  I can’t help but think about my last I Ching reading, something about an ablution being made but a sacrifice being yet to come (meaning loosely that preparations had been made but the final important undertaking is not yet fulfilled).  In light of the Gethsemane verses, the imagery of sacrifice and ablution becomes just a bit ominous.

Also, a friend recently had clocks around her house stop working, and I was reminded somewhat of the poltergeist activity after Bishop Pike’s son committed suicide, but I was assured that they weren’t all showing the same time when they froze.  Still, even my fiance had to admit that the synchronicities were starting to get creepy.

No pink beams of light, xenoglossy, or hidden messages in Beatles songs yet though.  I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt that I could be reading too much into this.  On the other hand, part of me worries that by trying to get back to my previous life’s work, I may have inadvertently triggered something really big that I have no way of stopping now that it’s been set in motion.  Time will tell.

So This I Ching thing…

I disregarded my initial interpretation of my reading on the topic of promoting my new book, but made sure to at least adhere to the idea of staying on the side of correctness (both by following rules on the board where I posted and by not stating that I was Phil’s reincarnation) while still taking the risk to move forward and get the attention of those who might appreciate my latest work.

I was initially met with an angry exchange of comments, but it was from someone I had exchanged rash comments with before.  I kept my comments measured and reserved, and refrained from gloating when someone agreed with me.  Soon, the angry exchange from this person actually backfired on them and worked strongly to my favor!

In a roundabout way, I guess the oracle did help since it advised me that I could potentially take some light abuse and still end up better for that.  Still, I can’t say it did anything other than give me a little encouragement to make a bold move when a bold move was needed.

So is there anything special about the I Ching?  I don’t know yet.  I think I’ll keep playing with it for a while though.  This result is intriguing.

Edit: The curmudgeon who gave me a hard time got under the skin of the moderators on this particular board so much that he got himself banned.  Apparently they were none too thrilled about him trashing a book he hadn’t even read and then complaining to them about the content of my post.  I LOL’d.

The Ball Is Rolling

My new book is being debuted this weekend.  It’s all kind of rushed, but it’s happening.

I have so much riding on this book.  It’s my first serious foray into science fiction in this life, my first attempt to synthesize my previous life’s style with my current one, my first properly “new” novel in five years that wasn’t a backlogged project or a sequel… I don’t think I can really name all of the “firsts” that come with it!

I’m so excited!  My next step is to hit all of the literary, artistic, and social circles in the Northwest I can find and promote my work.  And for once, given the initial reaction I’m getting to the announcements I made, I’m starting to feel like my promise not to use my claim that I was Phil to promote my work is a promise I can keep after all.

Now the big question: do I still have it after all these years?  Does writing talent persist beyond the grave, and will it be enough to succeed on my own merits?  And will they still love me now, as a newcomer with no name recognition?

I’ll sleep well enough without answering these questions, but they won’t be far from my mind.

Academia It Is, Then!

With little else to go on, I decided to ask the I Ching if my upcoming book is the sort of thing my previous life’s fans would like.

The results were interesting and hard to interpret at first.  I got Hexagram 55 changing to Hexagram 45.  After reading through a number of sources, here’s what I gather.

The key is in the lines that change and what they mean.  Lines 1, 3, and 5 change.

The change in line 1 is hard to interpret.  In Hexagram 55 it means the subject and their mate are well-bonded, but in Hexagram 45 it changes to the subject must call upon help to overcome the temporary difficulty in achieving union.  I can only guess that this will mean that my goals will require help.

The change in line 3 doesn’t bring much change.  In Hexagram 55 it means occlusion and a minor injury that is not one’s own fault, and in Hexagram 45 it means there is no harm in going forward but slight embarrassment may follow.  I’m guessing this may mean slight injury, probably to the ego, as part of the process.

The change in line 5 is where it gets interesting.  In Hexagram 55 it means the gathering of men of brilliant ability and a success after perseverance.  In Hexagram 45, it means the union of all in a place of dignity and while not everyone will be in it, being persistent in virtue brings all on board.  I’m guessing I need to get to a place where a number of bright people are willing to look at my work and although not all will be on board, the greater number will respect my work if I am sincere.

The only way I can interpret this is that I will avoid much frustration if I skip going directly to the fans and go instead to academics and be shrewd and upright in my dealings with them.  I think I need to get my book in the hands of anyone on my university faculty who is up for reading the works of student authors regardless of major.  I may still get my ego bruised but it’s a matter of trading broken arms for slight embarrassments, so to speak.  I have a feeling trying to push my work directly to my previous life’s fans without being shrewd about who I show it to would be a bad idea even if I don’t claim I was Phil.

Right then.  Let’s put the oracle to the test.  Stay tuned…

Total Exhaustion

I’m going to take a prolonged break from writing.

I finished and submitted the final draft of the novel that’s been driving me mad for the last 8 or 9 months.  While I feel that I’ve really outdone myself with the quality of my work, having to go over it again and again ad nauseum has actually caused me to grow extremely tired of it.

Some of the irritating notes made by my publisher that showed a lack of understanding about what I was going for actually brought back memories of my time as Phil, and how I would sometimes struggle to preserve my vision against a call for extreme edits.  I feel I’ve managed to keep the book’s character for the most part but I always feel at odds with suggestions to change things in a way that doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the book or my original ideas.

Also, it’s a relief to know that the book is now in my publisher’s hands and I have nothing more on my end to take care of.  But I feel like that tension has been the only thing keeping me awake the last couple of weeks and I suddenly want to sleep, though if I fall asleep now I’ll wake up at an inconvenient hour of the morning and have to figure out what to do with the rest of my day.

I’m creatively and physically exhausted from all this, and I’m still not done.  Once I have the final release date and a few sundry details nailed down, I’m going to go out of my way to promote this work.  I’ve been published since 2010 but I never thought anything I wrote had this much potential or appeal, so I’ll be pushing it just about everywhere but the sites I talk about my past lives.

An Interesting Encounter

Today I met a man who was probably in his 50s, also a student.  He noticed the lapis stone on my necklace and we got to talking jewelry.  It turns out he makes (or used to make) jewelry, much like Phil did.

Stranger still, he was a liberal Episcopalian, much like Phil was, and when I described my book to him he correctly guessed it was about reincarnation.

Also, he asked me if I was Celtic and I explained that I wasn’t, but I’m often asked if I’m Irish, Scottish, English, or Australian and that I’d lived in London for a year and a half.  That wasn’t so unusual because any time someone gets talking to me they seem to notice, and those who have read my books from my current life often mistakenly think I’m a British author.

He gave me his phone number… I’m not sure how to interpret this gesture or whether to call since I only just met the fellow and I don’t know if we had the same thing in mind in the way of friendship.  He seemed harmless enough but he also seemed very forward and part of me just shies away from maintaining contact with friendly strangers even if I’m not shy about engaging them in conversation if they stay within comfortable boundaries.

I don’t know what to make of him.  I still have his name and number.

Incidentally, on my latest book the most recent feedback from my publisher is that it only needs a slight polish to be ready to go to press, so if everything’s set and ready by Monday then I’ll finally debut the one book I’m promoting relentlessly everywhere but here and I’ll let the chips fall where they may.  I’m now confident that I’ve developed a voice and style unique to my current life while still retaining a solid core of my previous life’s ethos.  I’ve compared critiques of my work and Phil’s and synthesized that advice as strongly as I can with more adventurous settings, more developed characters, and richer prose than what I offered in my previous life, but will it be enough?  This is a book I want true science fiction fans to enjoy well outside the tiny SFF genre I publish in.  I want to be told I’ve written something unique, imaginative, and exciting and executed it with skill and finesse.

I think I want that more than I want commercial success.  I want to be admired as a good writer by people who know what good writing is.