New book, no title

I sent the first draft of a short book, a novella, off to a publisher yesterday. It is rough, very rough. Names used for characters in one place change to other names later on. Answers given at the end need questions in the beginning. In places, it is just childishly awkward.

It sits at 41,500 words, right at the cusp between novella and novel. When I started it, I intended it to be about 20,000 to 25,000 words, broken into four parts, each for sale on Amazon for 99¢, $2.99 for all four. That changed, somewhere along the line.

I started it on January 3, on a challenge from a friend, to see if I could create in a month something that would sell. But an odd thing happened along the way. It wanted to be better than it was going to be. It wanted to mean something. It gave me no choice but to head in that direction.

Now it’s off, out of here,  on somebody else’s laptop. And I’m off in a week for a month in Costa Rica. Which is perfect. Because in month, when I get back, I won’t hate it so much.

That’s an odd truth about this process. There are times I just loathe what I’ve created, angry at myself for the time spent, effort wasted. But in a month, I’ll read it with fresh eyes, and what the book wanted to be will emerge from a pile of pages.

Looking for a female voice

I’ve decided that my reading “Chalice” in two voices is less than optimal. In fact, it makes me cringe.

So, what I would like to do in lieu of posting a Youtube video of just me reading, is find a woman who would be willing to read the female “voice.” It will take about an hour, and she won’t be paid, though she will get a credit.

We will read the abstract I prepared for the book store readings, I will find some images to “illuminate” what is being read, and that will become the video.

I invite anyone who would like to read the part to contact me directly via email to

The Reading

The reading was a bust, by standard measure. Two couples, one of whom are good friends (one are? implied plural? Lazy, lazy…), my girlfriend, some folks who dropped by. Rebecca Singer, owner of Dudley’s was so graciously apologetic: “Fall Festival, a beautiful day to be outside, hard to find parking,” etc. I wanted to apologize to her.

Somehow, I am not devastated. My reaction like that I had with the “friend of a friend who knows somebody,” who was surprised when I told him I  still believed in the value of “Chalice,” despite rejection by agents and publishers. To that, I add a nearly empty book store on a beautiful Fall Sunday.

Have an impact on me? Of course. A bit of the doldrums, wind absent from my sails. Plus a fever on Monday, full on wet-sniffle-snuffle-hacking-cough cold on Tuesday, slow recovery on Wednesday.

And then, there was today. Someone I don’t know, but know of, posted a comment on this blog stating her gratitude for “Chalice.” Someone squarely in the demographic I felt would receive what I was trying to communicate.

That one comment made more of a difference to me than an empty book store, rejection by agents and publishers.

Because I wrote “Chalice” for her. And her friends. Those she went to college with, or hung out with in high school, who are inspired by her passions, wherever those take her. Chalice is not for everyone. But she and her brothers and sisters are out there. She is the one who makes the effort worthwhile, the rejections bearable. She is my audience, she is the one I was trying to reach.

A breeze is picking up, sails inhale, losing slack. We have a video of the reading, which will be posted sometime soon. A book club may take up the book, I’ve been asked if I would speak to them (of course). Sales inch upward.

Off we go.

Chalice is available

Late last night, I received notice that “Chalice” is now available on Amazon, Apple’s iBook store (go to iTunes and search on “Erik Dolson”), Barnes and Noble (not quite yet), and the Vook Store.

I should have a hard copy in my hands next Tuesday, with the first print run available soon after.

What an odd mix of emotions. Fear, elation, pride, anxiety. Chalice was close to two years in the writing, some of that the hardest work I have ever undertaken. After four or so hours, I would stagger from my table and run the river trail, lift weights, get the mail, or just vegetate away from where I work, unable to string two sentences together.

“Chalice” is not perfect. Every time I opened the file, I would find things that just had to be changed. So I finally “locked down” the file. After 20 or so readers reviewed writes and rewrites, after endless edits, after the second round of proofreading by a professional, I had to let it go and be what it is. And it is not perfect.

But it is the best I can do, at this moment, on this book. And I am proud of it. “Chalice” is an exploration of ideas that are significant to me and many of you. It is a sharing of my playground, an intersection of language, passion, and reflections on what’s real and what’s important.

“Chalice” is not for everyone. As an exchange of emails, “Chalice” is in a format that some  may find difficult to follow. The characters are flawed, and many might find their exchanges  unpleasant. There is a sex scene that was called gratuitous by one reader. It’s not, but it is graphic. If that’s going to disturb you, please don’t read. Another was put off by the fact that I dipped deeply into my personal experience to give the text “life.” Yes, I did, but “Chalice” is still a work of fiction.

But about a third of those who read early drafts found value in “Chalice.” Some said that value was significant for them. This validates the effort.

A word on pricing: I finally came to the conclusion that I had to be my own guide on this. I priced the ebook at $4.95 because I think “Chalice” is worth the price of two cups of coffee, even for readers who don’t like it.

I initially set the price of the paperback at $14.95, then learned I would receive 3¢ for each book sold. Three cents. At the print distributor’s suggestion, and his noting that the book would be discounted by book sellers anyway, I repriced at $19.95 and will receive about $2.30 of that.

If enough sell so we can go to offset printing, I hope the price will come down.

Thank you, friends, family, and readers I’ve never met but feel I know fairly well: You are the reason this book was written. I hope you think it was worth it.


Reader Feedback

Choosing the style “epistolary novel” for Chalice brings some interesting responses, some positive, some negative. They may break down by age and sex and whether a reader has done any online dating.

One reader, who I respect very much, said he kept trying to read the letters as if they were dialogue and wanted to say “people don’t talk like this.”

While on the phone as we discussed this, I pointed out that his original letter to me about the book was quite well crafted. “I spent a lot of time on that,” he said, and immediately conceded that I “had him.” (He then went on to make some excellent points, with examples, of language he would change.)

Another reader, also male and my age, very much likes the direct exposure to the characters granted by using their own words and delusions to describe who they are (and are not!).

Two different women have said the early and easy intimacy is much more common and believable in the current world of electronic dating, email, etc. and they like the structure if not the characters.

It may turn out that Chalice is not for everybody, obvious a long time ago. It may require a different type of attention. I do hope it has value for readers who don’t know the story.

In the mean time, it is fascinating and rewarding to watch the direction of the final draft drop into focus.