Communion Of Dreams


Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me …

As I’ve noted previously, July 4th is my birthday (secondary thought – damn, this blog is six years old!).  And in something of a “Hobbit’s Birthday” spirit, again this year I’m going to run a promotion in celebration. But because I’m turning 55, it’s going to be a bit different than last year. Instead, the Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams will be free for 5 days – yup, July 1st through July 5th.

And that ain’t all. Nope. At the same time, from July 1st through July 5th, the Kindle edition of Her Final Year will also be completely free.

And that still ain’t all. Nope. When the promotional period is over, the Kindle edition price for each book will drop to just $3.01. Why $3.01? Well, because of Amazon’s policies, it’s best to keep the price over $2.99. And I like the ‘shape’ of 301, mild synesthete that I am. And the number has some interesting properties. So, $3.01 it is.

And remember, you don’t even need an actual Kindle to enjoy either book, because there is a free Kindle emulator/app for just about every computer/tablet/mobile device out there. Earlier this year I installed the app on my Android phone, and I’ve been happily using it in lieu of my Kindle since.

So, starting Monday: five free days of Communion of Dreams. And five free days of Her Final Year. 5 + 5 for my 55th birthday. Help make it a good one, and spread the word. Thanks.

 

Jim Downey



Looking back: Welcome to the Hobbit House

While I’m on a bit of vacation, I have decided to re-post some items from the first year of this blog (2007).  This item first ran on May 12, 2007.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hobbit House

Gotta love this: a collector of J. R. R. Tolkien artifacts needed a small library/museum to house his collection. His architect decided to do the right thing, and go to the source material for inspiration. The result is a wonderful little Hobbit House, straight out of the books:

Asked to design a fitting repository for a client’s valuable collection of J.R.R. Tolkien manuscripts and artifacts, architect Peter Archer went to the source—the fantasy novels that describe the abodes of the diminutive Hobbits.

“I came back my client and said, ‘I’m not going to make this look like Hollywood,’” Archer recalled, choosing to focus instead on a finely-crafted structure embodying a sense of history and tradition.

The site was critical too—and Archer found the perfect one a short walk away from his client’s main house, where an 18th-century dry-laid wall ran through the property. “I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to build the structure into the wall?”

Now, my wife is an architect, so I know a little about this profession, and having a client willing to go along with such a design is a real boon. And as a rare book and document conservator, I appreciate an architect who went to the trouble to make sure that the environment was appropriately climate controlled for the archives. And as a craftsman, I really appreciate the attention to detail by the contractor and his crew – this isn’t just a facade, it’s well-crafted workmanship.

Wonderful, all the way around. I can’t help but think that J.R.R. would be pleased.

Jim Downey

 



As Grackles do.

And then the Grackles came. As Grackles do.

* * * * * * *

Yesterday’s “Hobbit’s Birthday” Kindle promotion was something of a bust. While an appropriate eleventy-one people downloaded Communion of Dreams here in the U.S. (no, really, 111 did), that number is miniscule in comparison to previous promotions. Another 10 downloads went through the Amazon.UK portal, and 4 through Amazon.DE.

It’s hard to be sure what conclusions to draw from this. It could be to not do a promotion on a major national holiday. It could be that the market is saturated. It could be something else entirely.

But I think I’ll hold off for a couple of months before running a promotion again.

* * * * * * *

I enjoy blogging. It allows me to keep tabs on my emotional state, share bits of perspective and odd thoughts. It also keeps my writing skills sharp when I don’t have an ostensible goal I am working towards. That advice everyone hears in writing classes to “just write” really is true — writing regularly makes a huge difference.

But there are different kinds of writing. In the 5.5 years I’ve had this blog up, and through the 1324 blog posts, I’ve probably written something over half a million words. Add in some 160 articles/reviews for Guns.com, the 150,000 words initially in Communion of Dreams and the 140,000 in Her Final Year (not all of which were mine, of course), along with other various articles and whatnot, and I’ve probably written/re-written a million words in the last 6 years. But all of that is a real mixed bag, written for different purposes and different audiences.

One of the things I noticed a couple months back was that I was starting to layer meaning in some of my blog posts. And I *know* what conclusion to draw from that: my subconscious is starting to practice for writing the next novel. For the most part this isn’t something that most people would notice — I’m building in these layers of meaning for my own amusement/practice. The surface of each piece needs to still communicate directly with the reader, just as the surface story of Communion of Dreams is an enjoyable tale without demanding a lot of thought. Accomplishing that while building in other stories and ideas in the subtext is what is hard, and it requires practice.

* * * * * * *

I spent part of the morning filling the bird feeders, each according to their type, and dusting the seed first with cayenne pepper powder to dissuade the squirrels and deer. Black oil sunflower seed for the cardinals and jays. Fresh syrup for the hummingbirds. Suet block for the woodpeckers. Cracked safflower for the finches (thistle is also good for them, but dealing with the damned thistle plants which result is a pain). And a “mixed songbird feed” for everyone else.

And I thoroughly scrubbed and then refilled the birdbath. With our current moderate drought conditions and high temps, it has been getting a lot of use.

I’d barely gotten back inside before all the bird varieties were populating the feeders. There was some squabbling between the sparrows, and the jays were being their usual bossy selves, but mostly everyone got along.

And then the Grackles came. As Grackles do. They’re not that much more violent than other birds. I honestly think jays are tougher. But the Grackles don’t just show up by ones and twos. They show up in a mass, making a ruckus, demanding that everyone do things their way. They eat, squawk, and shit. Until they are satisfied that everything is in a sufficient state of chaos.

And then they left, as Grackles do. Leaving the others to pick over what they didn’t want. Leaving me to clean up the mess.

Jim Downey



Hobbit’s birthday.

“Our Sam says that everyone’s going to be invited to the party, and there’s going to be presents, mark you, presents for all — this very month as is.”

Indeed, presents for all. This Wednesday. July 4th. My birthday, as it happens. In keeping with fine Hobbit tradition (though I am by no means a small person), I’ve scheduled that a promotion day — when everyone can download the Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams for free. My gift to you.

And if you can identify the speaker of the above quote (without cheating and looking it up) and send me an email, I’ll put your name in a drawing for a free signed paperback copy of Communion. Don’t post your answer in a comment — that’d give away the answer — just send it to me at jim@communionofdreams.com before July 5th.

If you would like to give a gift to me in return, all I ask is that you help spread the news of the promotion. I’d like to bump up awareness of Communion of Dreams before I leave on my trip. In spite of the many excellent reviews, sales and promotional efforts last month have slipped. I only managed to give away 2,351 copies of the book, and sold (or had borrowed through the KDP Select program) 259 copies. As a result, the Amazon ranking for the Kindle edition has hovered around 20,000 most of the month, and this morning was #21,932. It’d be great if we could push those numbers back into the low “a few thousand” range.

Likewise, Her Final Year only keeps plodding along, again in spite of excellent reviews. We managed to give away more copies of that book — 2,986 — but only sold 32. And consequently the Amazon ranking has largely been stuck around 200,000 most of the month. There will be a free promotion day on July 14 for HFY — in observation of the first anniversary, or ‘birthday’, of the book being published. Something else to look forward to!

So, happy July, everyone! Be sure to email your answers about the mystery quote soon!

Jim Downey



May Day! May Day!

Nah, other than a mild cold, things are going OK.  But since it is the first of the month, thought I would post a quick note about how stats look hereabouts.

April saw just under 500 downloads of the .pdf of Communion.  This continues to happen in clumps, for whatever reason.  Comparing it to over 1,100 in March, you might think that things have slowed down – but that’s just the clustering effect, I think – there was a substantial cluster right at the end of March.  Had it been a few days later, the stats for both March and April would have been almost the same.  We’re now at about 9,000 total downloads.

About 50 people downloaded the MP3 of the novel last month, bringing that total to just under 100.

I still have a hard time getting a handle on how people find out about the book, or this blog.  In March I signed up for some additional stats/information about the Communion of Dreams website, which gives me all kinds of data, but it still seems that the majority of people who find out about the book do so by word of mouth.  Not a bad thing, just a bit odd.  Particularly in that I get very little feedback or commentary from people – yet they seem to be passing on a recommendation to others to download the book.  Goodness knows that I haven’t done anything remotely approaching a real effort at promotion, so something is happening of its own accord.

This blog is now at 18,000 total views, averaging upwards of 70 views a day.  The somewhat odd thing is that there is a consistent bit of traffic to look at one post: Welcome to the Hobbit House from almost a year ago.  That gets 20 – 25 people a day.  I think that the secret to getting a lot of traffic would be to write about Hobbits.  At least until the new movie is done and out.  So, if you see me mentioning Hobbits just randomly in posts, you’ll know that I am just blog-whoring, trolling for hits.

But hey, Hobbits are cool.  Right?  Just saying the word is somehow comforting:  Hobbits.

Uh, sorry.

Anyway, that’s just a brief look over the current stats.  Something more meaty later, or tomorrow.

Jim Downey



Architecture as shorthand.

What do you visualize when I say “Hobbit”?

How about “Blade Runner”?

Chances are, in both cases you had a mix of images you thought of. But I would wager that you had at least one architectural image both times: of a ‘Hobbit Hole’ and of the Tyrell Corporation’s vast pyramid. In both cases the iconic images help to anchor us in an alternate reality, whether it is Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Ridley Scott’s dystopian LA of 2019. (I’m sorry to say I don’t remember how much description of architecture Philip K. Dick had in his novel from whence Blade Runner is drawn – mea culpa.)

Odd or (paleo-) futuristic architecture has been a common device to help create a sense of setting for SF and fantasy just about forever. Descriptions in text, or images used in movies, quickly communicate that the setting is something different than our everyday world. And even before you get into a book or movie this works. With a movie poster or a book cover the visual image of architecture can instantly convey something about content to the viewer, and when it is well done it both informs and intrigues, and can come to symbolize or summarize the entire story the director or author wishes to tell.

I use architecture this way in Communion of Dreams. There are descriptions of how the US Settlement Authority offices reflect the passive defenses of the chaos following the fire-flu, of how they also incorporate some elements of the new building technologies from space colonization. There are descriptions of the colonies themselves, and of the space stations (both old and new), not to mention Darnell Sidwell’s Buckminster Fuller style dome habitat. There are even descriptions of how homes have evolved somewhat, adapting to a more communal style and drawing on the resources of huge numbers of abandoned buildings.

But the book opens with a small research facility in the ‘buffalo commons‘ out on the Great Plains prairie. I don’t give a lot of description of the station in the book (perhaps that’s something I should change . . . hmm), but envision it as a small, modular unit which could be relocated easily if necessary. Perhaps something like this. Or this. Or even this.

Those are all from a Wired column by Rob Beschizza titled “Small and Fabulous: Modular Living as it Should Be.” (Via BoingBoing.) I can’t say that I would really want to live in any of the dozen designs profiled in the article – but I am a spoiled American in an 1883 Victorian home with about a dozen rooms. Realistically, most of the world lives in much smaller spaces. And when you start considering the cost of transporting materials and managing environmental controls in space, then some fairly radical changes will be necessary.

Architecture, like any art, is a reflection of the society which produces it. Of course, until an architectural style is widely adopted it cannot be said that it is representative of society. As interesting as the various modular homes in the Wired article are, I cannot imagine that they will become emblematic of our society anytime soon. But because of that, they’d be perfect for use in, say, a film adaptation of Communion of Dreams. I wonder what Peter Jackson will be up to once he is done overseeing the production of The Hobbit in 2011 . . .

Jim Downey



Welcome to the Hobbit House.

Hobbit House

Gotta love this: a collector of J. R. R. Tolkien artifacts needed a small library/museum to house his collection. His architect decided to do the right thing, and go to the source material for inspiration. The result is a wonderful little Hobbit House, straight out of the books:

Asked to design a fitting repository for a client’s valuable collection of J.R.R. Tolkien manuscripts and artifacts, architect Peter Archer went to the source—the fantasy novels that describe the abodes of the diminutive Hobbits.

“I came back my client and said, ‘I’m not going to make this look like Hollywood,’” Archer recalled, choosing to focus instead on a finely-crafted structure embodying a sense of history and tradition.

The site was critical too—and Archer found the perfect one a short walk away from his client’s main house, where an 18th-century dry-laid wall ran through the property. “I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to build the structure into the wall?”

Now, my wife is an architect, so I know a little about this profession, and having a client willing to go along with such a design is a real boon. And as a rare book and document conservator, I appreciate an architect who went to the trouble to make sure that the environment was appropriately climate controlled for the archives. And as a craftsman, I really appreciate the attention to detail by the contractor and his crew – this isn’t just a facade, it’s well-crafted workmanship.

Wonderful, all the way around. I can’t help but think that J.R.R. would be pleased.

Jim Downey

Via Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing.