… is still a thousand miles.

I used to love the expression “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I say used to, because back when I was starting a lot of  journeys, I needed all the inspiration I could find to get going.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot more finishing of journeys, not the least of which has been the heavy editing and re-releasing of six novels I wrote between 2010 and 2017. Another writer may have patiently refined these books for a few more years before they ever saw the light of day, but not me.  I got them out there with a flourish before I realized they had only gone about half as far as they needed to.

I think, and hope, that I’ve now gotten five of the six of them to the end of the road. Two days ago I made “Flickers of Fortune” available on Kindle and in paperback. It replaces the longer book known as d4 and is a more reader-friendly telling of the tale.

You know what? It was a LOT of work to get this all the way done. Not fun creative stuff, but I-just-want-to-quit-this-shit-and-go-take-a-nap type work.

Why stick with it? The satisfaction is the final product. I’m genuinely proud of it.

And, I’ve gained a new saying. It isn’t nearly as pithy, but it is true.

 

 

 

The Sound of a Story

This was complicated enough. I’m overseeing the design of six new covers. I’m giving all six books no less than three separate edits, each one focusing on a different aspect of what will make a novel PERFECT. I’m setting up blog tours and assorted publicity for each book as it comes out, and for the first time I’m trying my hand at Amazon advertising to give these little glowing embers every chance to catch fire that I can.

I’m dizzy with it all.

Then my husband, supporter of my writing and all around good-guy, decides he’s going to read my books aloud so I can have audio books and he’s starting today. Wow. At first blush, this seems great. He knows the books. He has this deep, rich voice, honed from years in a classroom. And, he’s free. I mean, he has the time, but more importantly, he doesn’t cost anything. Narrators are expensive.

And then ….. I’m on the phone with Amazon trying to clarify requirements. He’s making many, many little files and I’m trying to find software to concatenate and convert them and really this just isn’t something I know much about or have time for right now. Arrrgggggg!!!!

You know what. It’s great. I’d rather have a wealth of opportunities coming at me than too little to do. Unlike Ariel, I don’t know  the future. I’ll take my chances throwing as many fishing lines out there as I can. Maybe I’ll catch something.

A Step Forward, a Step Back

Every part of self-publishing is an adventure. The process of having new covers made for my six novels has been no exception. I’ve been working with a group known as Deranged Doctor Design (you’ve got to love the name) and they’ve been great to deal with. We’ve been working on the cover for the second novel, Shape of Secrets, and just finalized the last step, the paperback version of the cover. Isn’t it beautiful? I especially love the beach on the back cover.

Oddly enough, the part requiring the most revision was the color of the spine and the insert on the back. I was determined for it to be orange, the designer wanted something in the burgundy/brown family. Finally she suggested this more transparent look and I loved it.

But no decision is without ramifications. The cover for the first novel, One of One, was finalized a few weeks ago. I love it, too, but take a look at the cover for the paperback.

It needs a semi-transparent spine and back cover inset now too, doesn’t it? Lucky for me the designer at DDD agreed, and One of One is getting its redo right now.

I’m starting to get a feel for the cascading ramifications of making a decision when you really, really want all six covers to match. One of One will be released in January about the time that the new cover for book three is done.

Should be interesting. I really hope we don’t come up with something on cover three that is so great, I have to stop and redo covers one and two again. What do you think are the odds?

Then of course, there are still covers four, five and six coming along. Like I said, it’s an adventure.

Review: The City and The City

Summary: I’m in awe of this book, and I like to think that I don’t awe easily. It has stuck with me since I finished it; the surest sign of an effective story. I give it a 4.8/5, the highest rating I’ve given since I started this decimal point thing.

What I liked least:

  1. The quotes and reviews on the cover and at the front. That may seem an odd complaint, but this book was given to me as a gift a couple of years ago and I put off reading it because everyone made it sound so depressing. Anything billed as a Kafka-meets-noir-crime-novel doesn’t go to the beach with me, yet this book could have and should have. I wish I’d read it years ago.
  2. The end. I might as well get it out here at the start. I’ll say no more about it, but there were so many ways for this story to go and while I can think of much worse endings, the one that happened wasn’t one of the possibilities I wanted. So it goes.
Author China Mielville

What I liked best:

  1. Everything else, but I’ll try to be more specific.
  2. The author takes an absolutely ridiculous premise, answers your every objection to it while telling the story, and leaves you accepting an alternate history wherein two independent city states exist in the same geographical place, each refusing to see the other.
  3. Once you make that leap, you start to realize how believable the premise is because it touches on ways real humans behave. Then you start to find examples of unseeing all around you and I don’t know how long that goes on for because it’s been a week now and I’m still doing it. I may never stop.
  4. The book is not depressing, at least to me. The reason is that many if not most of the characters have a shred of human decency in them and the main ones hide kind hearts under their tough and expletive laden exteriors. Yes, the overall style is crime novel noir, with a touch of cold war spy and splashes of absurdity, but any time we actually get good guys and gals trying to do what’s right, I’m willing to stand up and cheer.
  5. Main characters are well fleshed out given the author’s sparse strokes. Inspector Tyador Borlu of the City of Beszel’s Extreme Crime Squad, the book’s protagonist and narrator, won my sympathy during the opening scene as he looks out for the young drug dealers who come forward when they find a body. He cemented my high regard when he met the dead girl’s parents and noted how “Grief made them look stupid. It was cruel.”
  6. When Borlu is forced to meet and work with his counterpart, senior detective Qussim Dhatt of the ignored city Ul Qoma, one sees through Borlu’s eyes and is lead to think the man is a jerk. We discover, along with Borlu, how much the two detectives have in common.
  7. I’m female, and I judge how a writer handles his or her women characters. Mr. Mieville treats them all as people, a refreshing delight. In particular, constable Lizbyet Corwi is a tough capable detective, no less female for not being some man’s love interest.
  8. The book is a mix of ingredients one would never expect to work as well together as they do. There is humor, as residents of each city joke about how their weather is better and visit their local Starbucks, which of course has shops in both cities. There is mystery and suspense, some of which surrounds a 2000 year old archaeological dig that may hold the secret to the origin of this bizarre arrangement. Some things are never solved or explained, others reach a satisfying conclusion.
  9. Finally, this author won me over with his dedication. It’s to his mother, which is common enough, but he adds that he “wanted to write a book that my mother would have loved.” Wow. I wish I could have met his mother.

I often get asked to name the writers who inspired me as an author, and I have trouble coming up with a list. Part of the reason is I tend to be inspired by specific books, rather than bodies of work, and the other is the degree to which the list has morphed as I’ve aged.

My approach is to keep a short list of books I can point to and say “I’m trying to write that well.” The City and the City has placed itself at the top of my list.