Communion Of Dreams


“A certain embarrassment.”

A good segment on this morning’s Weekend Edition Saturday with writer Marcel Theroux (son of Paul Theroux). I recommend the whole thing, but two particular bits stood out for me. The first is included on the ‘highlights’ page for the show:

I was trying to be as free as possible. I don’t really think about genre … to be honest. I find it constraining. And I know there’s a certain embarrassment about talking about science fiction in polite company, so some people prefer to call it “speculative fiction” instead.

 

And the second is my transcription from the actual interview (at about the 5:00 mark):

Anyone who has written a long work of fiction just knows that your mood goes up and down and at times it seems baffling and you feel that you should be doing something that is of value to the human race, not sitting on your own in a room churning out words. Or not churning out words.

 

Boy, howdy. I am happily churning out words at present, but sometimes it just feels so … self indulgent. And that doesn’t include the moments of complete panic that everyone will be disappointed in the prequel to Communion of Dreams because it isn’t science-fictiony enough or the writing isn’t any good or something.

*Sigh*

Back to work.  It’s all I can do.

 

Jim Downey



Music of the spheres, music to my ears.

Overnight, this blog hit 100,000 visits. Rah. Go, me.

 

* * *

Remember the old notion of the ‘music of the spheres‘? It wasn’t really about actual music you could hear, but more a philosophical/mathematical concept about the relationships within different aspects of reality. I make some oblique references to it in Communion of Dreams, and it’s a safe bet that you’ll see some similar references in St. Cybi’s Well.

Anyway, here’s something kinda-sorta tangentially related, insofar as it is a musical interpretation of traveling through our solar system, using data collected from the two Voyager spacecraft:

The sound of space: Voyager provides music from solar system and beyond

It’s a surprisingly nice little duet.

 

* * *

Persistence, I realized, was not the end goal. It was the actual game.

I had all the chances in the world to quit this game. Any rational person probably would have. Poverty, unemployment, crazy relationships, chronic illness, an imploding publisher… I could have quit. I could have said, “Fuck this noise.”

But after raging around on the internet or drinking a bottle of wine or taking a long bike ride, I came back to the keyboard. Always. I always came back.

Most people don’t.

I don’t blame them.

An excerpt from a really excellent, really honest assessment of what it means to be a fiction writer in this day and age. The author, Kameron Hurley, also participates in a discussion of the essay/topic on MetaFilter.

She’s had more success than I have, but my own experiences and conclusions are not that different.

 

* * *

A friend of mine who does a couple of podcasts had some fun recording an ad for Communion of Dreams. You can download/listen to the MP3 of it here. And if you’re into firearms at all, you should check out his podcasts.

 

* * *

Overnight, this blog hit 100,000 visits. Rah. Go, me.

That sounds a little more cynical, a little more bitter than I mean it to. Though I have certainly gone through both cynicism and bitterness many times, and expect that I will again.

But not now. Now, I’m … weary. For a variety of very human reasons. Reasons we all share, now and again.

But in spite of the weariness, I push on. As I mentioned in a comment the other day, writing/promotion these days is more akin to guerrilla warfare than anything.

And speaking of which, remember: tomorrow through Sunday is my two-year anniversary promotion. The Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams will be free to download for all three days. Spread the word — be part of my little guerrilla force.

Thanks.

 

Jim Downey



As the years roll by …

Seven years ago I launched this blog. We’re now within 100 visits of breaking 100,000 total visits.

Two years ago today the Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams was published. Since then, some 26,000 copies of it have been downloaded. I’ve honestly lost track of the total number. And that’s not counting the 35,000+ copies of the earlier .pdf version of the book which were downloaded. The paperback edition was released on January 26, 2012, and I consider that the “official publication date” – watch for a special promotion next week.

Today, I just tweaked my ‘author page‘ on Amazon to include this:

Are you a literary agent looking for new talent to represent? Consider this: the Kindle edition of “Communion of Dreams” has been downloaded more than 25,000 times. As I am working to complete the prequel “St. Cybi’s Well” I am also interested in seeking a conventional publishing contract to get print copies of both books into brick & mortar venues, and would welcome professional representation. Contact me.

Why the change? Well, when I started this blog it was with the intent of documenting my efforts to get Communion of Dreams published through a conventional publishing house, by contacting agents and submitting the book to numerous publishers directly. After years of fighting that fight, and getting oh-so-close several times, I decided to go ahead and self-publish the book. I don’t in any way regret that decision. I’m pleased with the response the book has gotten, from total downloads to reviews and ratings.

But I feel as though I have missed an opportunity. Specifically, by not having print copies of Communion of Dreams in bookstores and other traditional venues.  Publishing has changed, and bookstores are under huge market pressure, but people still buy paper & ink copies of books. Yes, I do have a “print-on-demand” edition of Communion of Dreams available, but that’s not the same thing as having it on display at your local bookstore or even at Walmart. The promotional tools available through Amazon for their print-on-demand books just aren’t comparable. So, yeah, I’d still like to see about connecting with a conventional publishing house, one which could fill in those gaps for me.

And for the folks who backed my Kickstarter for St. Cybi’s Well, this could also be a boon — I’d still do a private press run, and make accommodations for everyone.  Think how collectible hand-bound, limited-edition copies of a best selling author’s books would be.  :)

Anyway, who knows what will happen? I’m still faced with trying to get the attention of a good agent or publishing house. That’s a long, fairly random process, and there’s a very good chance that nothing will come of it. But at least now I have a demonstrated product and readership, and that has to help matters. We’ll see.

Happy Anniversary!

 

Jim Downey

 



Well, gee …

Couple new reviews on Amazon I thought I would share. The first is of Her Final Year, and here it is:

I found this to be a helpful account of what to expect as parents age. The two men in the account were truly devoted attendants and I was impressed by them.

The second is for Communion of Dreams, and is rather lengthy. But here’s a bit of it:

I enjoyed this book from start to finish. It was my “recovering from Christmas insanity this weekend” selection on my kindle and it was just perfect for the purpose! I started Saturday and read until I was bleary eyed and finished Sunday.

* * *

I very much loved the weaving of deep lines of spirituality throughout the story and how integral it was to the story from beginning to end. Unlike several books I’ve read that attempted this, Communion of Dreams actually succeeds in making you WONDER! Mr. Downey’s writing definitely favors Clarke and evokes the same beautiful but disturbing feelings that 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Well, gee … ;)

Like I said, it’s a fairly lengthy review, and not all gushing. Check it out when you get a chance.

Work continues apace on St. Cybi’s Well. I’m starting to get feedback from several “alpha readers” on the first batch of chapters, and so far I’m pleased with the overall response. Which isn’t to say that it is all praise; that wouldn’t be of any help to me at all. As I’ve noted before, if you check my FB page, I often will post small passages from the working text there.

 

Jim Downey



Play with your brain some more.

Via Phil Plait, another wonderful illusion:

Plait has the full explanation (and a number of other links worth checking out), but here’s the critical part:

The key to this whole thing is the way your brain sees perspective, specifically convex and concave shapes, coupled with its uncanny ability to pick a face out of patterns (called pareidolia). Your brain wants to interpret the dragon as a face, and faces are convex: The sides of the face curve away from you (when you look at someone’s face, their nose is closer to you than their ears).

Definitely worth checking out!

Quick note about the promo results: 175 copies of Communion of Dreams were downloaded, including first-time downloads in Japan and Brazil! Her Final Year had a total of 63 downloads, and before the promo started someone in Australia bought a copy. I should be used to this by now, but I still really get a kick out of the fact that people around the world are reading both books.

Thanks, everyone!

 

Jim Downey

 



Christmas cheer.

Merry Christmas, whether you observe it as a religious occasion or a secular holiday!

And for all those who have new e-readers/phones/tablets/laptops/desktops, here’s a little gift … actually, make that *TWO* gifts: both Communion of Dreams and Her Final Year will be free to download tomorrow through Saturday! You don’t need to own a Kindle — there’s a free Kindle emulator for just about every electronic device. And you don’t need any kind of special code or anything — just go to the Amazon page for either book, and it will be free.

Again, wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

 

Jim Downey

 



Turnabout.

So, without a lot of fanfare I went ahead and scheduled a two-day promotion for the Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams the other day, as mentioned. After I posted something about it on Facebook, John Bourke, my primary co-author on Her Final Year asked whether we might as well do a similar promotion for the Kindle edition of that book. D’oh! An oversight on my part.

But, I think, an understandable one. Right now I’m focused on writing St. Cybi’s Well, the prequel to Communion of Dreams. So there’s that.

And there’s something else. This passage from a post last February sums it up for me:

I am frequently struck just how much of our life doesn’t make sense until seen from a distance. Just recently I was surprised at the revelation of *why* the failure of Her Final Year to be more successful bothered me as much as it did: it was because I had seen the book as being a way to create something positive (for the world) out of the experience of being a long-term care provider. To have the book only reach a limited audience was, in my mind, saying that our roles as care-givers didn’t matter.

Yeah, that. In a word: disappointment.

And when things disappoint, it is only natural to disengage somewhat from them, to not sink a lot of additional emotional energy into it. At some point you just say “well, OK, that’s done — time to move on.”

Except moving on isn’t always the best course, or even possible. John reminded me of that. So I went ahead and scheduled the promotion for Her Final Year to run the same time as the one for Communion of Dreams did.

And guess what? Her Final Year, for the very first time, did better in terms of the number of downloads than Communion of Dreams did. Not by a lot — just a dozen books — but still, it did better. Whereas in the past when we did promotions for the two books at the same time, CoD almost always did better, by upwards of a factor of 10.  And for the first time, one of my books was downloaded through the Amazon Australia portal. Guess which one it was. Right: HFY. And I think that’s pretty cool.

Now, the numbers in either case aren’t huge. Just 271 copies of Communion of Dreams, and 283 copies of Her Final Year. But I find myself somewhat surprisingly pleased.

I hope you had a similarly good Thanksgiving holiday.

 

Jim Downey

PS: If you missed this promotion, don’t worry. For people who get new computers/readers/mobile devices, we’ll repeat in shortly after Christmas. And of course you can always just go to the links above and buy either book for only $3.01.

 

 



Before and after.

Remember these?

20130912_154245

Well, yesterday afternoon I got around to prepping about half of them to dry:

20130915_211208

Overnight I dried the peppers.

* * * * * * *

An interesting take on incorporating an additional dimension into photography:

Photographer and historian Marc Hermann has done a beautiful job pulling historic crime scene photos from the New York Daily News archive to blend them with photographs of the same locations today. For those who live in New York now, it may be easy to forget just how rough the city was in the not-too-distant past.

Grisly violence is an undeniable part of New York’s DNA and the juxtaposition of the old, black and white images with the modern “Times Square” version of what most people expect today is incredibly fascinating – truly making ghosts walk amongst us.

* * * * * * *

Remember this?

What has also been my plan, but which I hadn’t quite been able to sort out how to accomplish, was that in St. Cybi’s Well much of the story will revolve around *how* this character came to have those dream-visions in the first place. This is further complicated by the fact that I don’t necessarily want the character to realize the full import of what he experiences within the context of the story – the reader should be able to draw out conclusions which the character wouldn’t, especially if the reader had already read Communion of Dreams.

OK, got all that? So, here’s what I experienced at Baia Castle: the revelation that the classical sculptures of Greek and Roman mythology could themselves be the conduit for the dream-visions. I got this by walking through the collection – not just walking through it, but by seeing the juxtaposition of different sculptures within the somewhat under-lit and under-stated layout of the museum.

See, like in most of the museums we had visited, the climate control there was non-existent. And whether in order to keep down temps a bit, or just to save money on electricity, the only lighting throughout the space was from windows along one side of the building. And the layout of the building was a series of almost cave-like ‘bunkers’ – rooms which were kinda long & narrow with a relatively low ceiling, and done up in neutral grey tones.

It was perfect. And in a moment my mind made the leap to imagery for St. Cybi’s Well. Because, like many of the different ‘holy wells’ in Wales, it dates back to the middle of the 6th century – not that long after the fall of Rome. And, in fact, the spread of Christianity to the Celtic lands was part of the cultural transference which took place. It’d be easy to tweak the history just a bit to include ‘lost’ sculpture & myth.

I felt in that moment the same way I feel now: like laughing maniacally.

And an appropriate (and somewhat telling) image from that same blog post:

Prometheus. Not Ridly Scott's version. The original.

Prometheus. Not Ridly Scott’s version. The original.

* * * * * * *

A passage from an excellent essay on the roots of Enlightenment thought about justice.

Rarely in the history of thought do I have a chance to say the outcome was so simply good, but it worked.  Within their lifetimes, Voltaire and Beccaria saw real reform, a sincere and solid transformation of the legal codes of most of Europe, the spread of deterrence-based justicial thought.  Within decades, judicial torture virtually vanished from European law.  The laws of America, and of the other new constitutions drafted in the latter 18th century, all show the touch of Beccaria’s call.  It worked.  The change was not absolute, of course.  Torture, the primary target, retreated, as did the notions of retributive justice, avenging dignity, and purging sin.  But prisons were still squalid, punishments severe, and other things Beccaria had campaigned against remained, capital punishment primary among them.  But even here there was what Beccaria would call progress.  The guillotine lives in infamy, but it too was a consequence of this call for enlightened justice: a quick, egalitarian execution, death with the least possible suffering, and equal for all, giving no advantage to the noble, who had long been able to hire an expert and humane headsman while the poor man suffered the clumsy hackings of an amateur who might take many blows to sever a writhing neck.  Most states judged death still necessary, but agreed that law and punishment should bind all men equally, and that unnecessary pain did not serve the public good.  It is strange to call the guillotine a happy ending, but it was in a small way, and even more victorious was the dialog it that birthed it.

* * * * * * *

Overnight I dried the peppers. Here they are this morning:

20130916_064646

Why, yes, all of these things are connected.   ;)

Jim Downey



The end of things.

This morning, NPR repeated the story of Voyager 1 having apparently left the solar system.

I wonder why?

 

* * *

Philip James Bailey, Festus:

We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.
Life’s but a means unto an end; that end
Beginning, mean, and end to all things,—God.

 

* * *

We went shopping yesterday.

Big deal, right? Actually, it kinda was. It was the first time my wife had been in good enough shape to do so since her emergency appendectomy. Things are slowly returning to whatever passes for normal.

 

* * *

Dr. David Casarett is the director of hospice care at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He works with families as they try to navigate end-of-life decisions.

At least once a week, Casarett says, one of his patients expresses a desire to end his or her own life. “It’s a reminder to me that I have to stop whatever I was doing … and sit back down to try to find out what is motivating that request,” he says. “Is it really a carefully thought out desire to die, or is it, as it is unfortunately many times, a cry for help?”

It’s a good story.

 

* * *

Tomorrow’s the last day this month to get the free Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams. And this week is the last one to get entered into the drawing for a hand-bound leather copy of the special edition. Remember, you have to have posted a review on Amazon of the book, and then post a comment with a link to that review in this blog entry. There are currently 65 reviews on Amazon, but only 8 entrants for the drawing — don’t delay, as the end will come sooner than you expect.

As it usually does, for good or ill.

 

Jim Downey



Well, I suppose that’s meant to be encouraging …

Thanks to everyone for helping make the promotion a success — I think we got an excellent response for a book which has been available for some 18 months, with 1,366 total downloads of Communion of Dreams! That breaks down as 1,193 in the U.S. market, 66 in the U.K., 102 in Germany, two in India, and 3 in Canada. It may be silly, but I think that it’s a real hoot that there are people in India who have downloaded my book.

And it wasn’t just Communion of DreamsHer Final Year also was downloaded by someone in India with this week’s promotion. And altogether there were 272 total downloads of that memoir.

There is also a new review of Communion of Dreams up on Amazon. Here’s a bit of it:

I’ve been reading science fiction for over 40 years, and it’s my favorite subject, but I’ll be very honest and say that even after reading this entire book, I could not understand what the artifact actually was. I also did not understand what the burl was, nor what the gel was. I think this story could have been a lot more exciting if it was trimmed down by 50%. I applaud the author’s first efforts at writing, but I think he should try again.

Well, gee, I suppose that’s meant to be encouraging, and the reviewer does end with:

“Practice makes perfect — best of luck with your next book!”

So maybe they’ll like St. Cybi’s Well if I don’t spend too much time with characters, setting, or have too many difficult concepts in it.  And I probably shouldn’t have it set in Wales, since that’s not science-fictiony enough. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

*Sigh*

If you have some thoughts on the book to share, I’m always happy to have the additional reviews.

Well, maybe make that I’m usually happy to have the additional reviews.

 

Jim Downey

 




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