Salute to the Real James Garfield

Well, There Is Pain Here is launched and available for download. I’ll be working on some paperback editions in the near future, but the process of this novel is for all intents and purposes, concluded. I’ll be marketing it for a while of course. I even managed to be included in both an online summer reading list, and an author’s event at a local cafe. (More on those things as they get closer.) But fundamentally, the creation aspects of the book is over.

Every novel is obviously a different experience. But the process of writing this one was not only different, but in some ways unusual.

To begin with, I experienced a total freeze on working on the early drafts that last for months. Then I realized during early revisions that a major plot point was not going to work, necessitating a larger rewrite at that stage of the game than I am used to. Not to mention several other personal issues during the writing.

As a result, I’ve spent more time with my version of James Garfield, and his fellow characters in this novel, than I have with any of my novels, save the very first one. (Which took longer to write than the others.)

Is this a big deal in its own right? Not really. Not if that means a deep emotional catharsis of some kind. I’ve mentioned previously how the end of any novel, any long creative work has a certain awkwardness to it for a few days. There’s a difficult-to-describe sense of blandness when a novel is finished and out there for purchase for the first time. That blandness fades of course, especially when work on another project begins, but it remains a brief normal aspect of this writer’s experience.

Yet I can’t ignore the fact, all be it mostly innocuous, that I “worked” with these characters, in this setting longer than most of my books. The Overlap. James Garfield. Theodore. The Rogues. (Buy the book if you want to know!)

More than this, though my book is a fantasy, the Garfield character was very much influenced by the historical James Garfield. Maybe more than I originally thought would happen. This is perhaps the most unique component of this experience. Though my version is a total fantasy version, I have nonetheless spent more condensed time with the real James Garfield over the last almost two years than any other real person from history. So much so that part of me feels I owe him a degree of homage.

One way I hope to do so is to visit the man’s elaborate tomb in Cleveland, Ohio sometime this year. I’m already assembling a road trip crew to see if this can happen. But even if it does not, I’ll have a unique perspective on this fascinating real-life person because of all the time spent with my fantasy version of him;  I didn’t expect that.

Would it have been so had I not taken longer than normal to complete this novel than the others? To tell you the truth, I have no idea. But it did take me this long, I did spend this much time with it, and before I depart from the author side of this and immerse myself in marketing, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the effect, even if it doesn’t last long.

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So, here’s not only to There Is Pain Here, but to the true James Abram Garfield: a man of humor and honor. A flawed but open-minded man. A scholar and loving husband and father. Orator, writer, man of faith and man of service. I hope his spirit, wherever it actually is, would not be displeased with my little adventure yarn.

 

One Week Until Launch of There Is Pain Here!

I have arrived once again at the final week before the launch of one my novels. This time, the fantasy adventure There Is Pain Here.

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The final week before release has always felt the same to a certain degree. Relief. Anticipation. And more than a few spoonfuls of, “I can’t quite believe I managed to write this novel.”

Yes, it doesn’t matter that this is my fourth novel, or seventh book. There is always a slice of confused amazement that I get it done. Pride, yes, but more of it is a sort of transcendent wonder. There is a slight dissociation from it all once I get to the final week. It is a time wherein I feel removed from the process I spend so much time immersed in for so long.

Not that my entire life throughout the duration of writing a novel is a blur; it isn’t. But while during the writing process writing a novel is ingrained into my routine, sometimes requiring extra effort to make room for in a busy or tiring day, once the novel is ready to launch, there is a small portion of my consciousness that doesn’t register to effort any longer. It is as though to that part of my mind the manuscript suddenly came into existence.

It is particularly notable for this novel, because not only did it take me longer than usual to complete, (there was a months long period when I could bring myself to work on it for reasons uncertain), but things in my life were a strain. At the middle point of this particular process it seemed further away from realization than any of my other works, with the possible exception of my very first novel.

How ironic then, that this story was designed to be the leanest, most action-oriented adventure of all of my novels thus far.

One always spends a great deal of mental time and energy on one’s characters, but usually it is confined to one’s imagination. Yet in this case, I’ve spent just about two years spending time with the 20th president of the United States, both my version and the essence of the real one. James Garfield, someone who really lived. I have seen photos of him, read letters and speeches composed by him, in our world. I’ve done regular, even if not vigorous research on the man, despite writing a pure fantasy. No doubt I will read and learn more about the man in the future, but for now, the intense consideration of him has for the most part come to an end. Odd to let that go as well.

As with all of my novels, I don’t know how There Is Pain Here  will be received. Hopefully well, of course. I won’t pretend that I somehow don’t care about people reading it, because I sure as hell do want you to do so. But in this final week before launch, I will, once again, try to look through the fog of dissociation and remind myself I successfully finished another novel.

There Is Pain Here launches one week from today in ebook form. (Paperbacks to follow a little later.)

What Rung on the Ladder is Your Character On?

Everyone is part of, and interacts with, organizations, institutions, groups and so on. Whether realistic or fantastic, narratives usually require at least some mention of social-political orders, large or small.

What rung on the proverbial ladder are your characters on during the course of your story?

I stumbled upon a website this weekend that makes for a useful starting point for answering that question.

It appears to be infrequently updated, and isn’t the most academically rigorous source of information. It may however, as it did for me, act as a solid quick-reference when detailed research is not required.

I’m not being compensated for mentioning it, or anything like that. Just passing along what I found.

Hierarchystructure.com is exactly what it sounds like. While not the smoothest-sounding web address, it provides charts and brief descriptions of  power structures and office positions for scores of different institutions and organizations. For example” churches, large companies, police forces, sports leagues, and so on.

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We lend realism as needed to our fiction when the appropriate levels or offices of an organization are utilized throughout the narrative. The term “archbishop” sounds dramatic, and lends a certain gravitas. Yet, if your story is about a suspicious private detective confronting odd activities in the local, poorly funded urban Catholic parish, he’ll be interacting with the priest, and possibly only the deacon of the parish. If you’re character is confronting an Archbishop in person, the scope and scale of your narrative needs to be much more significant, political and, depending on the type of novel, dangerous.

The site isn’t a source for in-depth scholarly research, as I’ve mentioned. But for a quick reference to any number or organizations (with colorful charts!) you could do worse than bookmarking this site into your author’s toolbox.

Announcing Launch Date Next

I mentioned on Twitter last night that my upcoming novel will be titled, There Is Pain Here. I’m not taking this chance to announce that it will be available in e-book form on Saturday, May 18. The price has yet to be determined.

I do plan to make this title available in paperback form as well, but because I am not 100% certain as to how long that process will take this time around, (I have a few new snags to work out since last novel) I won’t guarantee it will be the same day. In an ideal world, I would like it to be, however. That is a goal.

In the coming weeks leading up to the launch, I’ll be sharing more details about this novel. Stay tuned, of course.

 

Authors and Civic Engagement

We live in an ugly time.

White supremacy is emboldened again. Modern Nazi groups, if not at the table are at least allowed in the room. Blase violations of the civil rights of children at the border, (and certainly beyond.) Rising Islamophobia. Homophobia. Rejection of science.

It’s a modern Dark(ish) Age, and I do in fact assign a great deal of the blame to Donald Trump and those that support him. I have said as much here on my website, calling out bigotry, and I have done so on my Twitter account.

And the conventional author’s wisdom says I probably should not. At least not until I have a fan base, or publishing deal deep in the bag. After all, why alienate potential readers who might enjoy my writing by “getting involved in politics.”

For the sake of my “brand” and the sake of peace, should I not talk blog and Tweet only about the writers life, with some observations about introversion and The Spectrum thrown in? (Which is about 80% of what I post about anyway.)

I’ve not found that this path leads to more literary success so far. But even if there were a stronger body of evidence that it would, I’m not sure I could maintain my silence in such ugly times.

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Was it not silence on the part of the intelligent, the observant, the artists that allowed the door to open on any number of dictatorships in our (not so distant) history? Do we not become accomplices before, during and after the fact when we tiptoe with care around the fires that are slow-burning society to the ground, cautious so as not to raise eyebrows at the book signing?

I say yes. And though I have at times tamped down the frequency of my commentary, I’ve never been able to fully embrace isolating myself as an author and writer from the battles of humanity around me. They are my battles as well. (Incidentally, they are also your battles, those of you who love to “avoid politics.”)

Am I damaging my brand, my possible sales, my reputation among potential readers by actively observing and and responding to what I see as human rights issues, and other “political” events? I’d love to think that I wasn’t, and that my books have merit in their own right. Yet even if I am wrong, and I am shooting myself somewhat in the foot, I would no doubt damage myself more by saying absolutely nothing in days such as this.

It would be impossible for me to be who I am, an author, and totally silent about non-writing issues at the same time. What can I tell you? It doesn’t make me any kind of hero, but I cannot be a bystander either.