It is New Year’s Eve 2012 in Madison, Wisconsin. Yesterday there was an alternating snow-sleet-rain storm in our Lake Wingra microclimate. Today this small world is grey and ice-covered. Tomorrow morning there is a winter weather advisory—high winds and sleet.
I had published Spirit Falls in September 2009. I write more slowly than I would wish. Come hell, high water or freezing rain, by 15 January 2012, I will send out ten review copies of ‘Wounded.’ I had wanted ‘Wounded’ published this year.
This is what has slowed me. I have been writing a novel series in which counterpoised Russian and American couples leading their different lives intersect at points in the Cold War. That’s the plan. So far the arcs of their stories intersect but do not intertwine. It was too long and complex; Thus I have divided the novel in half, i.e., that set in Russia and that set in the United States. The good news is perhaps that it is easier to read story of seventy thousand words rather than one of 150K. I am not yet as skilled as Lev Tolstoy.
We storytellers live on the cusp of an exciting age. The literary gatekeepers have lost their pitiable powers like the parish priests post-Gutenberg. For the Catholic among us, the blessing was mixed, but so it was and so it is. The Reformation brought the peasant face-to-face with God. Like I said, a mixed blessing. Today, the microchip brings the author face-to-face with his reader; that too is a mixed blessing.
I can now manage the publication of a long and intertwined stories without trying the reader’s aching eyes; it is either progress or the clock turned back. War and Peace was serialized in The Russian Messenger over a period of two or three years. Dickens wrote his novels for newspapers.
The writer today is closer to the reader; the latter can not only indicates his (dis) pleasure by buying or not, but can write reviews on Amazon.
I suspect writers who assert they pay no attention to reviewers. My favored writer-misanthrope, Ernest Hemingway, is both no mean critic, and in the second sense of the word, a very mean critic. He detested criticism yet, could say (in Green Hills of Africa) that “…writers in New York. All angleworms in a bottle, trying to derive knowledge and nourishment from their own contact and from the bottle.” Ouch.
For the month of November 2011, I lowered the Smash Words EBook price of Spirit Falls to zero and the Amazon.com cost to $.99. I now know that Amazon matches the lowest price. From November 2011 through 15 December the Spirit Falls Ebook version, now free, was downloaded 78,000 times.
Some downloading Spirit Falls reviewed it. Often their insights were apt. “The shifting points of view were sometimes abrupt with little transition…” noted one otherwise enthusiastic reader. “Choppy.”
“True,” had to be my reply. Another compares my composition to that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, no compliment, I suspect.
Remember the hysterical moment from the Oscar-winning film AMADEUS, when Emperor Franz Joseph, after being asked his honest opinion of Mozart’s first opera by the composer himself, blurts out, after a whispered suggestion, “Too many notes”. That’s what’s wrong with this book: Too Many Words. No substance whatsoever. Author tries to “sound fancy” but since there’s no story or plot, it’s beyond boring. Finally gave up after several chapters in which absolutely nothing happened. “TOO MANY NOTES!”
The young Mozart’s quick retort to the slow-witted emperor in the presence of the toadying Salieri, “Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?”
Amazon gives you a chance to critique the critiques, and were I to put a check mark in the box next to the sentence Was this review useful to you? I would check each and every one ‘Yes.”
My favorite headlines his review thus: Author Tries Too Hard, Fails. Yes, and so each author of necessity follows Samuel Beckett‘s guidance. “Go on failing. Go on. Only next time, try to fail better.”
So there you go. My 2012 goal is to publish these next three novels roiling on my laptop. They are written. They are choppy. I will fail, better.