Communion Of Dreams

A word about my current situation.
January 31, 2007, 11:33 am
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Writing stuff

I just got some more nice comments in this post from someone who finished reading the book, and who mentioned that he wants to see more.

That’s a rush. But it is difficult for me just right now to be able to do much fiction writing, at least on the scope of a novel, though I do a fair amount of posting on various blogs. Why? Because at present I’m a full-time care-giver for someone with Alzheimer’s (my mother-in-law), and not only does that suck up a lot of time and energy, it means that every other night I don’t really get to sleep much. My wife and I take turns being “on-call” to help her each night, and we have to listen to a baby monitor all night in order to make sure that she’s safe, et cetera. It’s simply exhausting. And while I can do many things at present, being able to juggle the necessary components for a full-size novel just seems to be beyond me.

We’re trying to make arrangements to have someone in to help care for MMIL a few nights a week. If this works out I hope my energy level rises, and my ability to concentrate improves sufficiently such that I can get back to the new book (which is a prequel to Communion). We’ll see.

Jim Downey

January 25, 2007, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Promotion, Writing stuff

Let’s talk art. I was a gallery owner for 8 years, after all. And an arts columnist for the local paper for a couple of years following that.

The image at the top of this page, and on the Communion website, is titled “Burr Oak at Twilight”, by Columbia, MO artist Peter Haigh. That’s pronounced “Haig”, by the way.

I sold photographs for Peter at my gallery for pretty much the entire time we were there, and that image of the champion Burr Oak for MO (and perhaps the nation) was always a big seller for us. The tree, known locally as the “Williamson Oak”, is about a dozen miles south of Columbia on the Katy Trail, is about 350 years old and has a circumference of about 300 inches, and stands some 85 feet tall.

Anyway, I always enjoyed looking at that photo. And over time, in the many hours I spent working at the gallery, it slowly became associated in my mind with images from my novel. Because I spent probably three or four years just thinking through the storyline, the tech, the history, before I started really writing the book (which took about two years). In a very real way, I grew to equate the image with my novel.

It’s funny what inspires an author, or an artist. Seldom is there a direct one-to-one correlation between a work and the source of inspiration, based on my own experience and from discussion with countless artists I represented over the years. Usually, you’re responding to a comment, an image, an experience, but it is filtered through dozens of other thoughts and leaps of creative faith. But in this one instance, I can honestly say that when I describe the tree in the book, I am talking about this image of this spectacular tree, with all the associated baggage.

Anyway, I am thankful that Peter has allowed me to use this image, and would encourage you to go look at all of his other stunning landscape photography. I know people who own a dozen of his prints, and when you see his stuff you’ll understand why.

Jim Downey

Girding for battle.
January 23, 2007, 11:22 am
Filed under: General Musings

Well, I’ve ordered the latest copies of the Guide to Literary Agents and Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market, in preparation for going through another round of formal submissions to find an agent and/or a publisher. Now that I have a completely revised manuscript for people to ignore, I should send it out. Right? Of course.

If you’ve tried this, you know how insane-making it is. Just going through the listings in order to find a reputable agent or suitable publisher will turn your brain into mush. You try to read the listings to get a sense of what sounds promising, then go to the website for that person/company and decide whether they’re worth the trouble..knowing all along that ‘blind’ submissions have like 0.05% chance of getting past a minimum-wage-earning reader (which made my experience with Bantam Dell both encouraging and maddening – making past several ‘cuts’ to the desk of the Senior Editor, who said she really liked the book and thought it was well written, but that it just didn’t fit with the direction they were going), and that most people in the field recommend that you find a contact who will get you a foot in the door. In the Science Fiction community, the advice is to usually start attending Cons, taking writing workshops, getting to know someone that way – with luck, you’ll cross paths with someone who might deign to take an interest in you or your work.

Which is probably what I should do. Except for the fact that I dislike crowds, am 20 years too old for that scene, have responsibilities as a care-giver which greatly limit the amount of time I can be gone from home, and don’t need a workshop on how to put together a paragraph or create a plot. I’m not saying that I couldn’t learn something – that is always a possibility. It’s just that this would be more of an exercise in spending money for simple access to meet someone.


Jim Downey

Yay! Real feedback!
January 21, 2007, 1:08 pm
Filed under: Feedback

OK, it isn’t here on the blog – I’m still a virgin in that regard – but I did get an email from someone I only barely know from dKos, to whom I sent a link this morning to the novel. His email started this way:

Wow. Your “Communion of Dreams” reads very well! I love the development of the AI/human symbiosis.

And went on to say that he was already burning through Chapter 4.

As I mentioned in the last post, being ignored is the thing I fear the most as an author. Sure, I love *positive* feedback, but just knowing that someone is taking the time to read what I’ve written is the real kick. Thanks, Chris!

Jim Downey

So far…
January 19, 2007, 3:50 pm
Filed under: General Musings, Promotion

Well, promotion so far has been rather lack-luster. Or perhaps just no one is bothering to give me any feedback.

That’s one of the big fears that any author has – being ignored. I know from countless essays/diaries/posts/columns that I have written for newspapers and the web that my anxiety about this is useless, and usually unwarranted. Unwarranted, because my writing is usually fairly widely read, even if that isn’t obvious to me at first. Useless, because there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.

As I mentioned previously, I know that it takes a while for this sort of thing to pick up momentum. My Paint the Moon project (which came from Communion – you’ll find it in chapter 9) just sort of stumbled along for two months before hitting the big time. And I am constantly getting comments from people about a column I wrote for the newspaper weeks after the fact. My ego lives in the immediate now – everyone else seems to exist in the distant past. Ah well.

Jim Downey

Starting out…
January 16, 2007, 12:57 pm
Filed under: Promotion

Well, I’m just now starting to send out the novel to some contacts I have in the press, and posting it to appropriate discussion forums and whatnot. I wanted to begin with my circle of friends while I was putting everything in order, learning the blog software, getting things set. I’m reasonably satisfied that things are as I want them to be (largely thanks to my good lady wife!) in terms of presentation – so the time has come to start promotion.

Because promotion is what it is all about. I didn’t just write the novel for myself – I wrote it for others to read. The web allows for one venue to disseminate it, and also provides for opportunities to get it into the more traditional venue of print media.

You can help. Send the url to any forum where it might be appropriate, recommend the site to your friends. It’s not like I’m charging people to come take a look or download the novel. Based on my previous ‘projects‘ this sort of promotion will likely take a while to spread, and may not catch on at all. Or it could go crazy. It’ll be fun to see what happens.

Jim Downey

All done.
January 15, 2007, 10:19 am
Filed under: General Musings

Well, the novel is now complete. In all honesty, it took me a lot less time than I expected to get it done – I suppose that my thinking about the book for the last couple of years, and the changes that I would like to make, paid off. And a somewhat interesting note…before the revisions, the text was about 132,500 words in length. Now it is just 300 words shorter. It wasn’t my intent to either lengthen or shorten the book, just change material as I saw fit. I find it a little curious that it came out so close to the original.

I’m a bit exhausted by all this. Getting that much re-writing done in about 10 days required a lot of focus. So forgive me if I step back and recharge a bit before getting too much into this blog.

Jim Downey

My novel, and welcome to it.
January 9, 2007, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I thought I would provide a forum for my new website Communion of Dreams, to allow people to discuss topics related to the novel. If you came here from someplace other than the website, go take a look there first – you’ll find a more complete explanation, and .pdf files of each of the different chapters.

From time to time I’ll post my own thoughts and news, but for the most part consider this an ‘open thread’. I’ll try and check in here and respond occasionally.

Jim Downey