Communion Of Dreams


“You always – always – fail.”

Gods, this is so painfully, penetratingly accurate: You think writing’s a dream job? It’s more like a horror film.

Just one excerpt:

However, as I emphasise to the fledgling writers who come and attend my Guardian Masterclass courses, writing novels for a living is hard – unimaginably hard, for those who have not tried it. I cannot imagine that it is less complex than brain surgery, or, indeed, the proverbial rocket science. To master dialogue, description, subtext, plot, structure, character, time, point of view, beginnings, endings, theme and much besides is a Herculean labour, not made more appealing by the fact that you always – always – fail.

And as I noted the other day, the knowledge that you are failing never leaves you, and it is only then that self-confidence can get you though. Maybe.

But Chapter 12 has been finished and put to bed. Now working on revisions for the rest of the story arc before getting into the next chapter.

 

Jim Downey



We are men of action, lies do not become us.*

We’re all adults here. Let’s be frank: unless something fairly remarkable and unlikely to the point of ridiculous happens, the Kickstarter isn’t going to succeed.

And that’s OK.

Seriously, it was a good effort, and I’ve learned a fair amount from the experience. I still think that Kickstarter is a worthwhile model, and I intend to continue to support other projects on it in the future. Who knows, at some point I may attempt to do another project myself.

But for now, it is time to draw some conclusions about the current project and move on.

First and foremost, as I’ve said all along I greatly appreciate all those who tangibly showed their support for my writing with backing the Kickstarter. Really, folks, that means a hell of a lot to me.

Next: because of the way Kickstarter is structured, I had some minor problems setting up my project the way I would have wanted. I accepted these limitations and have no regrets, but I think that it made for a weaker presentation that I initially planned. I may get more into the nuts & bolts of this in the future.  I may not.

But if come 9:00 PM this evening the Kickstarter hasn’t been funded, then I am no longer bound by those limitations. And in the coming days you’ll see some big changes on the Communion of Dreams and St. Cybi’s Well websites. I’m not going to get into all the changes now, but you’ll see options to order an advance copy of the new novel at an attractive discount. And ways you can reserve one of a very limited edition run of both Communion of Dreams and St. Cybi’s Well and have those books bound the way you want — even reserving your edition number on a first come, first served basis. With payment plan options. Some of the higher-end premium ‘rewards’ will still be available, as well.

So, it’s been a fun experiment, and I again say thanks to all who came along for the ride. But there’s more than one way reach my goal, and I think this other path will offer some interesting advantages. I hope at least some of you will agree.

Cheers!

Jim Downey

*Of course. And since YouTube didn’t have a clip of the scene that quote comes from, have some appropriate music instead.



Ride a painted pony*

“Could you take care of this for me?” I said. “I find myself surprisingly … attached.”

* * * * * * *

Just a couple pages into Communion of Dreams, there’s this passage:

He picked up a meal at the airport and ate in the car on the way over to his office, relaxing and watching the city roll by around him.

Early in the second chapter there’s this one:

The car he was in threaded through the old suburban streets, past still vacant houses and the occasional empty lot. Following the great death of the fire-flu, many homes had simply been abandoned.

The opening paragraph of Chapter 3:

‘What was it?’ he wondered as the car wound through the streets, stopping before the USSA building. He got out, standing there in the plaza, looking up at the golden plasteel supports and the draping glass fabric.

As a writer, particularly of science fiction, you have to know what to explain and what to just assume. By this I mean you have to explain certain things to the reader, enough to give them a grasp on important story elements, but that you can assume they will fill in the background with other less important elements on their own.

Nowhere in Communion of Dreams do I state that cars are largely self-driving. There’s really no need to. Most readers are used enough to the tropes of science fiction that they can read the above passages, and fill in that detail on their own. It’s a little trick which helps anchor the reality of the book in the mind of the reader quickly.

* * * * * * *

And, honestly, the notion of a self-driving car is only barely science fiction at this point. I mean, one of the primary issues right now is having our legal system play catch-up with the technological changes in this field. From a discussion on the Diane Rehm Show yesterday:

GJELTEN: So the — I guess what — driverless cars have been in development for many years. But the big news this week is this law that passed in California allowing some driving of self-driving cars. Tell us what’s in this law exactly.

LEVANDOWSKI: Well, this law is called SB 1298, and it sets forth the framework for the DMV to set up the guidelines that vehicles will need to adhere to in order to, in the future, be able to drive themselves with or without people inside them. It outlines the type of technical standards, the types of insurance requirements. Everything that you would expect a person to go through when they get their driver’s license, you would expect a vehicle that doesn’t have a driver in it to be able to have.

* * * * * * *

“I do feel that I’m a very lucky, lucky person, in all sorts of ways. And one of the ways in which I’m fortunate is Harry Potter set me free to write whatever I want to write. I don’t — you know, we’re not living hand-to-mouth — I, clearly I can afford to pay all of my bills and now my writing life is a great experience. I can really do whatever I want to do. So I’m a fortunate person — I’m a fortunate writer.”

From JK Rowling’s interview on “Morning Edition” today.

* * * * * * *

“Could you take care of this for me?” I said. “I find myself surprisingly … attached.”

“Sure,” said my wife.

Attached?

Yeah, to my car.

Which is a surprise. Because I don’t usually become attached to things. Oh, I keep some things for sentimental value, because they are somehow connected to an important person or event in my life.  But otherwise I tend to be very pragmatic about material things.

I got the car new 20 years ago. A Subaru wagon, which served me well. The last five or six years when it needed work I would weigh the pros and cons of getting the work done — was it worth it? Could I afford it? Could I afford not to?

See, I don’t *really* need a car. I work at home. For a while now when I needed to drive any distance, I took my wife’s car anyway, since it is a few years newer and in substantially better shape.

This past spring it developed some exhaust problems. The work it needed was more than the car was worth. I decided the time had come to just sell it and be done. Consolidating down to one car for the household would be a minor annoyance, but made the most sense.

Well, I made the intellectual decision. The emotional one, I found, wasn’t quite as easy.

Why?

I owned, and drove, that car for more than half the time I’ve had a driver’s license. There was simple ‘time in harness’ associated with it.

But there was more. Specifically, status.

I don’t worry a lot about status. As in, conventional measures of “success” in our society. When you don’t make a lot of money, you learn to not put so much store in such things, or it’ll drive you completely nuts. And as I noted earlier this year, I don’t make a lot of money.

But confronting the hard truth that I can not afford to buy a new car was a bit more than I really wanted to face. And selling my car meant exactly that. Because in our society, if you sell your car, you’re supposed to get another one. Preferably a new one. At the very least, a newer one. To not do so means you’re not successful.

And you should never, ever, under no circumstances, admit that you’re not successful.

So, yeah, the emotional truth was harder to come to terms with. Which would mean that I would be piss-poor at selling my car — at advertising it, at negotiating a sale, all that stuff.

But I’ve come to realize that there are other approaches to defining success, other strategies which can change how you accomplish things. My Kickstarter project is one such, stepping in to crowd-fund what a conventional publishing contract would previously do.

So I asked my wife to take care of it. She didn’t have the same emotional baggage to contend with. And she took care of it in her usual competent & efficient manner: last night the car drove away from our driveway for the last time.

Who knows? Maybe next year, after St. Cybi’s Well is done and available, it’ll be enough of a hit that I’ll be able to afford a new car. One which can partially drive itself. Stranger things have happened. Just ask JK Rowling.

 

Jim Downey

*Well, it seemed appropriate.



So, you think you’re hard?
April 9, 2012, 10:17 am
Filed under: Failure, MetaFilter | Tags: , , , , , ,

I’ve got a lot of respect for people who attempt difficult, almost impossible tasks. People who not only risk failure, but challenge it. Who step up to it in a bar, tap it on the shoulder, and then spit in its eye.

People like this:

In the fringe world of ultra endurance sports, there is an outlier: The Barkley.

The Barkley is the world’s toughest race you’ve never heard of. With 59,100 feet of climb and decent over 100 miles, it’s considered the most difficult endurance event on the planet. In its 25-year history, only twelve men, the same amount of men who have walked on the moon, have actually been able to finish the race.

* * *

The course is five loops around the park, totally unmarked, mostly off trail, with a time limit of sixty hours.

There are no manned aid stations. You must carry everything you need to survive “out there” including a map and compass (no GPS allowed) to navigate the course.

There are no rescues. You must self-extract, however long it takes, and get back to camp.

As I’ve said before:

The most interesting people I know are not the ones who have only succeeded in everything they’ve tried – that type is either too self-satisfied to be interesting, or so unambitious to have never pushed themselves. Give me people who go too far, who push themselves in what they do past their abilities, who are ambitious enough to want to Paint the Moon. Those are the people who are interesting.

Go take a look at that first site I mentioned above. There you’ll see before & after portraits of some of this year’s participants, along with how they fared in the attempt. If you think that you’re athletic, or can push yourself, consider what they accomplished. Then look in the mirror and think again.

I have no illusions. I was a fair athlete ‘back in the day’ but I was never in the kind of condition that these people are – even the ones who ‘only’ last 12 hours.

Maybe I only like these sorts of things because they make me feel better about my own failures.

I can live with that.

Jim Downey

Via MeFi.