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.

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.

Next step

Chalice is finished. There are still a couple of important comments to come in, but rewriting the conclusion is finished. First responses have been very positive. Proofreader edits will be entered by the end of next week.

Finished… well, the work of the writer is finished. Work of the author continues: Legal considerations remain; the book needs to be formatted for Amazon and uploaded; I need to format for print then get it printed; and I need to hire a publicist. Actually, those are not the work of author, but part of my work as publisher.

I wish my squeamishness about the label “self-published”  would dissipate. Despite observations about the revolution in publishing, especially over the last two years, despite  exhortations by Steven Pressfield, despite my belief in the work itself, despite the existence of 110,000 words in the form of a story, despite my experience with  “professionals” who focus only on markets and not art, despite all these facets, the feeling “it’s not real” nags me.

But it is real, and it has real value. And soon, anyone who wants to discover that will be able to hold Chalice in their hand.

And I will move on to the next one.



The wind started blowing hard at about 2:30 a.m. My sleep is off anyway but the wind makes the steel barn groan; mountain-facing windows flex and distort reflection like disappointment of the self-absorbed; juniper and pine lean and twist to resist what feels like a threatening.

Can’t write. Too little sleep, current project too dry for the energy I can bring to the task, wind breaks flow of thought. Pay bills, I suppose, get taxes in the mail before I motor over the hill. Stop halfway at Rosie’s to get an oatmeal raisin cookie and refill the coffee. Daughter Sabitri made me stop at Rosie’s for the lemon poppy seed scone, daughter K.C. likes their hot chocolate and the macandcheese.

Portland if I can get a deal on a hotel, it’s the end of razor clam season at the coast and I’ll find a meal of them someplace downtown, then meander down to Powell’s for a browse.

Port Townsend to hunker down for a few days, real popcorn and digital projection with great sound at the small movie theater, stay at the lovingly restored Palace Hotel, see if I can get a solid draft done on the new project.

Should check movie schedules and music venues before I go but I just want to go, I’ve denned up here for too long, growling at the door. The week after would work too but I want to go, wanted to for some time.

The proprietor of Phoenix Rising Book Store in Port Townsend, flashbacks from San Francisco of decades ago, is back from India. Her large poodle Sumadhur is recently gone and I could hear sadness tussle with acceptance in even her written words, something of each we can share.

She is New York direct, she owns a bookstore, had offered to read my manuscript and is about halfway through. She does not know me nor owe me so I want to sit there for a couple of hours and find out what she thinks about it.

Friend of a friend knows Somebody

Chalice may be sitting on the desk of a big-deal publisher’s Somebody. I’d sent a copy to a “friend of a friend who knows Somebody,” because friend’s friend did preliminary reading for Somebody and said she would look at it.

Like the other 10 hard copies I sent off for feedback (with about 10 in electronic form), the spiral binding was for reader convenience and it was printed two pages on each side of each sheet to save paper.

Yesterday my friend got a call from his friend that she had sent it on to Somebody who said the submission was not even formatted to standards available online, but Somebody would read the first ¼ and give it to one of her readers who would read the whole thing.

Chagrin mixed with appreciation mixed with a modicum of “…but if I had known…” tempered by “… should I have assumed…?” I guess work pushed even in the direction of traditional publishing channels should have been formatted to traditional standards.

As we were walking his dogs through the manzanita near the river talking mostly about his divorce, my friend asked how I will feel if Somebody says Chalice is crap. My answer was sloppy, involving art and ego and opinions and the market place. All true, but only pointing at the nexus.

Which is that Chalice is not crap and knowing this gives me serenity. It is vastly improved from where it started and there is room for improvement still. I am doing my best and soon it will be done.

Chalice may not be for everybody, but it is not crap. And the opinion of one Somebody doesn’t change that, though of course I hope she likes 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.