Eagle dance

Raptors regularly fly over my ridge, but I was startled yesterday when a mature Bald Eagle flew about 20 feet over the peak of my tree house. I ran from one room to the next to keep it in sight.

I love the way pelicans skim waves, gulls maneuver in their scavenging, startled owls silently glide away, crows play in a breeze. But the effortlessness of a Bald Eagle is a wonder all its own; the huge bird floats with intention as if gravity has been conquered by an act of sheer will.

Then that eagle was joined by another.

I don’t remember ever having seen two bald eagles dance, weaving their separate flights into a single waltz on the wind. It lasted for about five minutes, until I lost them in the distance. There is significance there, but at the moment, to use it or even find it would lessen the experience.

 

New and improved

“Chalice” is getting another conclusion. A reader whose involvement in the story was deep and thorough pointed out a flaw that lessened the book. The ending felt rushed, he said, and he was exactly right. When that part was written, I was anxious to have the writing of it over.

Few things disappoint me more when reading than a book where the author copped out or “gave up” at the end. And some great authors have given me this feeling, as well as a lot of movies that went through a test market process and give “feel good” rather than significance. When talking about “art,” a solid ending is as important as the opening “hook,” though I don’t think it receives the same attention.

So I invited another reader who liked the original ending, and we met with the reader who raised objections. For an hour and a half we discussed the whys and why nots in what could only be called a story conference.

The final result was wonderfully positive beyond my expectations. The new ending ties everything together, gives the tale more impact, makes it more “real,” and better suits what I was trying to convey. Though it can initially feel like a slap, that’s the gift of thoughtful criticism.

Need for speed

The decision is made. No racing this year. The money is going into getting Chalice out, printed and on Amazon, on the street. That’s final. No. No way, not going to happen.

But Jake’s my Number One Fan. He was pretty important in my being out there last year when money was tight. When you have a fan like Jake, you take the question of hanging up the helmet pretty seriously. I’m looking right now at the model of Yellow Jacket he and his dad built together.

Yellow Jacket gave me everything she had in that last race, probably down 30 percent on power at the end, the mechanic said. She felt “soft” when I drove back to the pits and would not have lasted one more lap the way we were working to put away that Mustang.

The engine is trashed. The valves quibble about in guides worn like morals of the cynical; oil starvation burnt the main bearings here, and here and … here. Cylinder walls are scratched from pieces of rocker that became one with the oiling system.

Brake pads wore to steel on one edge and calipers leaked fluid to the trailer floor all the way home. Rotors, riddled with heat stress, will make a good door stops.

So, no racing this year. That’s final.

I probably should not have even gone to the races in Seattle a few weeks ago. I went up to see friends, introduce myself to a couple of readers of Chalice. Pacific Raceways was on the way to talk to another Chalice reader in Port Townsend. The trip  gave me a chance to see my daughter. All very safe.

Until I got to the track. For me and for those I play with, combining the perfume of high octane gas, scorched oil and burning rubber with the  howl of compression at the edge of control creates a compulsion that can not be described. I wavered.

Then Jake sent me a note that it would be really great if I showed up with Yellow Jacket at the Portland race at the end of June, he understood about the problems and all but they’re featuring the Corvette, it would sure be great…

There isn’t nearly enough time, Jake. I just can’t do it. Tell you what, I’ll get us pit passes and we’ll sit together in the stands.

New pistons arrive in two days.

The verdict is… mixed.

In so many ways I can’t imagine a better process for vetting a book.

I sent out nine hard copies and about nine electronic copies of Chalice. Some readers could not get past the “letters” style of the book and didn’t make it past page 30. Six readers finished the book, all of those enjoyed the writing, and four of those were were engaged in the story and  helpfully found some flaws that I can correct.

There were many deeply personal reactions, which both surprised and gratified me. A couple of readers did not like the female main character. Another said he was “in love with her by page 30.” That love later dissipated a bit. Another related to her but was a bit put off by the male main character.

Different sections of the book affected different readers. Most enjoyed the writing, though Larry Brooks of “StoryFix” called it “purple prose.” Others said Brooks simply did not get it and I am inclined to agree. The man always seemed rushed and he has a formula that focuses on commercial success, though I have found his structure quite helpful.

My take away from this is that Chalice is not an easy read nor a book likely for great commercial success, but is likely to find favor among a certain type of reader. My original target was college-educated women who belong to book clubs and actually read the books. I was wrong about that. Gender is not a determining factor. Education and a vivid life experience seem to be.

I can live with that.

Next step is to take the comments I’ve received from those who enjoyed the book as well as those who panned it and make the changes I feel will improve the final product. I’ve got a proof reader in my sights. Then it’s off to press.