Communion Of Dreams


Sometimes, it’s all about attitude.

Dear Agent-person,

Earlier this year I self-published a book. Said book sold about 100 copies in the first month. About 200 copies the second month. 300 copies last month. It broke that number in the first two weeks of this month. And the rate of increase is still growing. And that’s just with my feeble efforts to promote the book.

People love the thing. The reviews are excellent. Don’t take my word for it – see for yourself.

I’d love to get this book in the hands of a large publisher. With even a half-way decent promotional campaign this book could be a mega-seller. And I’m not talking within the confines of genre-fiction. Please note in those reviews that a number of people have said that they don’t usually read Science Fiction. This has mass-market appeal. This could easily be turned into a blockbuster movie.

There’s nothing that needs to be done to the book – it is finished, popular, and ready to be handed over to a large publisher. If they move fast, they can have the damned thing in stores before the holiday season.

Further, I have at least two more books in this series I want to write, and that people want to read. I can have the first manuscript done in 18 months, perhaps sooner. If I have a decent advance to live on so I can concentrate on writing it.

I’ve thought about doing a Kickstarter to accomplish that. And there’s a chance that sales will just continue to grow on their own accord. But I’d rather not have to mess with all of this, and concentrate on my writing.

Do you see where I’m going with this? I need an agent. Not just any agent. One with the right connections. One who can cut through the crap and land a package deal to turn this book, and then the others in the series, into best-sellers. So I’m contacting you. You’re not the only one I’m contacting. The first one who gets back to me and shows me what they can do for me gets to take their cut of the proceeds.

Don’t delay.

Jim Downey

* * * * * * * *

I must admit, that I’m seriously tempted to send that kind of a query letter out. No, it is not at all my personality to say or do such a thing, but I sold artwork long enough to know that sometimes, it’s all about attitude. Having the hutzpah, the brashness, to claim success long before the race starts.

And what the hell, it’s not like my previous efforts to get the attention of a decent agent were any more successful.

Jim Downey



“Better than 2001”? Wait – what???

So, for some time now I’ve been following Thomas Evans’ The Archaeologist’s Guide to the Galaxy. He offers very intelligent, insightful, and sometimes biting reviews of a lot of books – but it was his writing about Science Fiction which caught my eye and got me reading him regularly. I haven’t mentioned it here, for one very simple reason: I wanted him to read, and hopefully review, Communion of Dreams. And I didn’t want there to be any doubt about whether or not my comments biased him.

Well, now that concern is moot. Because he just posted a full, formal review of Communion.

Now, the usual thing would be for me to excerpt some of the things he says about my book, and tout it all over the place. Like the title of this post. Yeah, he basically says that one aspect of my novel is better than one aspect of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And I could justifiably paraphrase him to claim that this was the summation of his review. Well, were I a press agent for a big publishing house, I could. Or would, rather, regardless of whether it was actually justified or not.

The actual passage from his review says this:

The topic of possible ancient alien contact is brilliantly handled and to my mind, makes perfect sense (within the context of the book that is). Indeed, it has quite the opposite effect that most such stories have on me, and is one of only two such conclusions that I actually liked. The other was Arthur C. Clark’s 2001, so that is very august company to keep, and to be honest, I thought the way that Downey handled it in this book was superior. I won’t go into any further details, for the question of whether or not there even was contact is one of the most interesting and intentionally downplayed elements of this book. Suffice it to say that the way this book addresses the whole concept of the ‘object’ is well worth the read.

See? There’s more nuance there than just a pull-quote.

Just as there is in the entire review. Which is why I like this fellow’s reviews. He’s a SF writer himself, and thoroughly understands the genre. He knows its ins and outs, understands the strengths and weaknesses of a given author or story line, identifies the tropes and traditions. He doesn’t pull punches, has his own quirks and preferences. Above all, he has intelligent reasons for the things he says about books, and explains those reasons.

So I was flattered that he would take the time to read Communion, let alone write such a complete review of the book.

And it is an excellent review. No, not in the sense that he thinks the book is excellent. In the sense that he clearly says what he likes and dislikes about the book, and offers his opinion on to whom it might appeal. Yes, there are a lot of positive things he says about CoD, and that gives me a nice ego-boost. And I don’t agree with some of his criticisms of the book. But those criticisms are honest and fair – he makes a strong case for why he says what he says, and on that basis I have no complaint with his conclusions.

See for yourself. Go read the review. Leave a comment about what you think of it there on his site. Or not. But do yourself a favor and add him to your regular reading list. I have.

Jim Downey



Taking it on faith.

A couple weeks ago I quipped that I was thankful for the TSA, because they are always good fodder for a blog post when things were otherwise slow. Well, likewise, I’m glad that the big multinational banks are around to put my own mistakes in some perspective:

A billion here, a billion there

JPMORGAN, widely considered the best run of all the large banks in America, if not the world, on May 10th provided the kind of news that has become all too common in the financial industry: a $2 billion charge for errant trades. The markets responded within seconds of the opening on May 11th, sending Morgan’s share price down 9%, and its value by $14 billion. Late on May 11th, Standard & Poor’s announced it was downgrading the outlook for the company, and Fitch knocked down its ratings.

* * *

The bluntest criticism of Morgan’s failure came from the bank’s own chief executive, Jamie Dimon. He said the losses were the result of self-inflicted “sloppiness”, “poor judgment” and “stupidity”, for which “we are accountable”.

And the news this morning is that a number of the executives involved in the losses have ‘retired’. No, not in the Blade Runner sense. But in the sense that they’ll not be drawing a salary of more than a million bucks a month. Though I imagine that these people have more than a bit of savings and contractual retirement income to cushion the blow.

Anyway.

Yesterday’s Kindle promotion for Communion of Dreams wasn’t a huge mistake, but it also wasn’t a stunning success. A total of 1,571 copies of the book were downloaded. Chances are it wasn’t what was needed to kick us up to the next orbital level, but neither did it crash & burn.

What *was* surprising was that our care-giving memoir Her Final Year proved to be very successful, with a total of 3,112 downloads. Wow.

I find it hard to explain just how happy this makes me. As I had noted previously, I was very disappointed with the response to Her Final Year. Only recently have I come to understand that it was about more than just simple sales.

See, I have been very pleased with the response to Communion of Dreams. The sales are nice, and the income helps. The reviews and ratings are rewarding. But what really makes me happy is that the book has found an audience, a home in people’s lives, a place in their imaginations.

That Her Final Year hadn’t found such a home was what bugged me. Because I have a lot of faith in the book. Faith that it can help others, if they would just read the damned thing. But that faith had been betrayed by my inability to get any attention for the book. Or, rather, I felt like I had betrayed my faith – and the book – by my inability to promote it.

Now, just because 3,112 people downloaded the book yesterday that doesn’t mean that the book will be read. But it sure as hell is a lot more likely that it’ll be read than just having the thing sit forgotten on Amazon’s servers. We’ll just have to see.

But no longer do I feel like I have betrayed the promise of the book. That gives me a happiness, and a hope, which I haven’t felt for a long time.

Thanks, everyone.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to the HFY blog.)



Am I a prima donna?

There’s a reason I’m self-employed.

It’s because while I can work fine with others, by and large I prefer to do things my own way, on my own schedule. This comes with trade-offs, of course, and it doesn’t mean that I can completely eliminate the need to conform to societal or even corporate rules. But I can minimize that crap and get on with my life.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed doing for the last year or so has been writing for Guns.com. For the most part I’ve just picked a topic, ran the idea past my editors, and then produced a piece of writing within the appropriate word-count range. Usually the changes they made to my writing were minimal, and everyone was happy. It didn’t generate a lot of money (free-lance writing in this day and age doesn’t), but during some of the lean times it was money which came in very handy.

Well, Guns.com has seen a remarkable growth in the time I’ve been writing for them (I got started with them very early on), and they’re now one of the biggest firearms-related sites out there. They’ve been very aggressive in gathering together a lot of talented people, and seeing that they have kept their content fresh & interesting. It’s been a lot of fun for me to be a part of that. It’s also taught me a lot (doing the necessary research to write a review or article is always a good education), and it has allowed me to keep my writing skills sharp.

Well, the other day I mentioned that I was making some changes in my usual routine, because of limitations of time and energy. And I’m giving serious consideration to making another such change – curtailing or even stopping altogether how much writing I do for Guns.com.

Now, partly this is just due to the natural pacing of things. I had set out to do reviews of most of the firearms we’ve tested for BBTI, and I have now submitted reviews for all those which Guns.com had not previously covered – there still some 30 or 40 such reviews pending publication (they like to spread them out). I also did a bunch of other reviews of guns which I had a chance to try recently which are a little more unusual than what most people ever try, and that was fun.

But there’s another factor here. With the substantial growth of the site, as well as the expansion of the number of contributing writers, Guns.com had to come up with some formal style guides for people to use. This is a common thing for any large site, and it is a mark of their professionalism that they put together a very good style manual more than 30 pages in length, complete with links of a lot of example articles. I was flattered to see that quite a few of those articles were ones I had written.

I find, however, that it presents a certain quandary for me: having to write to certain style rules.

That’s not my writing . . . style. I like to play around. Innovate. Feel my way through an idea, a topic, a story. If you’ve read my novel, or even this blog, you’ll have a pretty good sense of what I mean. While I am perfectly capable of writing within conventional rules, I’m much more interested in playing with the expectations of the reader a bit, challenging them by subverting those rules now and then.

In short, I don’t want the rules to apply to me.

In other words, I’m a prima donna.

But maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Anyway, we’ll see what happens. I like the guys at Guns.com, and I respect what they have accomplished. But I’m not interested in doing cookie-cutter writing – leastwise, not as a regular course of affairs. And besides, if I take the hour or two I spend on each article/review I write for them, and put it towards another novel, well I think that might be a better use of my time & energy. Particularly so, given the response so far to Communion of Dreams.

Speaking of which, remember that the Kindle edition is free today!

Jim Downey



And they’re off!

So, the joint Mother’s Day promotion we had planned ran into some technical problems – unfortunately, John’s novel Sync didn’t get included.

But the Kindle editions of both my novel and our memoir are available all day today for FREE! As noted before, you don’t even need a Kindle – there’s a free emulator for almost every computer/mobile device.

So, go – download both books! I would love to see another record-breaking day, because I think that it really makes a difference in overall sales.

Thanks!

Jim Downey



Can we reach orbit?

No, this isn’t about NASA, some secret DARPA project, the military, or even any of the private companies involved in space vehicle development. Though those are all things I pay attention to.

Rather, it’s about tomorrow’s Mother’s Day promotion, mentioned previously.

Huh?

Well, I’m just extending the “book launch” metaphor, perhaps too far. But it beats comparing it to a nuclear reaction, I suppose.

Anyway.

Sales of Communion of Dreams have not just been steady, they’ve been slowly climbing this month, with the result that the Amazon Kindle ranking has now been hovering around 4,000 overall, and in the low 30s for a couple different categories of Science Fiction. And more people are writing reviews which are very positive.

Each time previously that I ran a free Kindle edition promotion, there was a following surge in sales, with things then leveling off. The most recent promotional day resulted in this fairly decent level of sales we’re currently seeing. And I’m really curious to see whether this push tomorrow will kick it up yet another substantial, self-sustaining level.

And of course I’m hoping that it will also do good things not just for the memoir, but also for John’s new book (which I am looking forward to reading, myself!)

Keep your fingers crossed. Better yet, help spread the word. Thanks!

Jim Downey



New member of the family.
May 11, 2012, 8:45 pm
Filed under: Society | Tags: , , , ,

I mentioned the other day we had a new family member. Here are a couple of informal pix of her:

Her name is Melyn, or “Mel” for short. It’s Welsh (naturally), and refers to her striking yellow eyes (which aren’t all that noticeable in these snapshots). She’s about 2.5 years old and probably about 14 pounds – will know for sure when the vet comes to check her out next week.

And she seems to be taking to us pretty well. Even THE DOG doesn’t weird her out too much.

Jim Downey



Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes*

This ain’t Pyrrus.

* * * * * * *

About two weeks ago I mentioned this:

Oh, I know the reality of modern publishing well enough to realize that I would still have to do a lot of work to promote the book(s). But being able to hand most of that over to others would be worthwhile. And getting a sufficient amount of money in advance to take off some of the financial pressure of needing to earn money day in and day out would be a big help as well.

* * * * * * *

Great story:

HATCH: For Jefferson’s to come out into this garden was sort of an affirmation of his vigor in so many different ways. And even at the age of 83, Jefferson read about giant cucumbers in a Cleveland, Ohio newspaper. And he wrote to the governor of Ohio and asked him for seeds of this cucumber, and passed them around to his friends in Charlottesville; grew them in his garden; typically measured how long each one was that came out of his garden. And Jefferson once wrote that although I’m an old man, I am but a young gardener.

* * * * * * *

It was a difficult year. A painful year. And while that pain has lessened over the months, it still causes difficulties for me in terms of limiting my energy and ability to focus on what I need to do.

I’m 53. Be 54 in July. Overall, I’m in much better health than I could be, as my doc reminded me at my recent annual physical. I don’t like to think of myself as being limited in what I can do. Oh, I have no illusions that I’m still 20 or anything, but still I find it frustrating that there is this factor which intrudes on my ability to accomplish things.

* * * * * * *

This ain’t Pyrrus. The gravity isn’t twice Earth normal. All the flora and fauna isn’t dedicated to the notion that it should kill me as quickly as possible, and I don’t have to be in peak physical condition at all times to just have a *chance* to survive each day.

That’s what most people remember about Harry Harrison’s classic novel Deathworld, if they remember anything at all. What is too often forgotten is that the real story was one of adaptation and learning to live with the environment of Pyrrus rather than just battling it in a forever war.

And out of necessity, that is the lessen I am going to attempt with my garden this year. Where for most of the last decade I have put a huge amount of effort into trying to keep the local critters out of my substantial garden, I just don’t have the time or energy for that now.

I’m scaling back the whole garden – yeah, a bunch of hot peppers, but other than that I’m just going to plant a half dozen or so tomato plants. Enough to provide us fresh toms this summer and fall, perhaps with some extra for a couple batches of sauce. But I’m not going to try and set up to can my usual 60 pints of chopped tomatoes and a couple dozen pints of sauce. And I’m not going to put down a double layer of landscape fabric to keep down weeds. Perhaps most importantly, I’m not going to set up a 200′ perimeter deer fence 7′ tall with a 2′ chicken wire base to try and keep out all the critters. I’ll take some other steps to try and keep the individual plants safe, but that’s it.

This is a big change for me. I really enjoyed gardening the way I have for the last few years. But I just don’t have the necessary energy to do it, given the other things I have to see to.

But everyone makes those decisions. You have to change, or you die.

Maybe this place is more like Pyrrus than I thought.

Jim Downey

*Of course.



Hang in there, Sunday’s coming!

What’s special about that? Well, for one, it’s Mother’s Day here in the US. Yay! for all the Moms out there!

Even better, you can get THREE books for the price of NONE!

That’s right – get our care-giving memoir Her Final Year, which I co-authored with John Bourke, as well as my novel Communion of Dreams, AND ALSO John’s novel Sync, which he co-authored with J. Lee Dunn, ALL FOR FREE!

You can’t beat that. All three books in the Kindle edition for free. You don’t need a special code. You don’t even need a Kindle. All you need to do is go download them.

That’s this Sunday. Mother’s Day. Tell your Mom. Tell your friends. Hell, tell your friends’ Moms. It’s our Mother’s Day gift to you, to them, to everyone!

Remember – Sunday!

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to the HFY blog.)



“Is that yours?”

I’ve mentioned my earlier involvement in the SCA previously. And generally I’ve always had an interest in different historical recreation groups, particularly those which strive to do the different types of combat throughout history well (one of the reasons I really like Peter Woodward). So naturally I have to share this brilliant little film short:

Hilarious.

Went and rescued a kitty today who was no longer wanted. She’s currently isolated in one of the bathrooms, getting slowly acclimated to being in a strange place with strange monkeys, another cat, and a DOG!!! I promise pix once she’s more settled.

Jim Downey