Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Peculiar Music

28th September 2012

Through this whole process of publishing my book, I am slowly gleaning what the different steps are all about. Until now the editing I have been doing with Abby my editor has been "content editing" in that through the last few rounds we have been focusing more on the story and how it progresses. With the last edit, we moved to "line editing," which is, as it suggests, going through the manuscript line by line to see where it can run more smoothly. I turned that line-edit in at the beginning of the week, and my editor told me the next stage would be to move the manuscript on to "Production" (a different department) for copy-editing. I had to look this one up, but a copy editor does not concern themselves with re-writing, just with clarity and flow. Once in "production," the manuscript is going to be changed into what it will look like in the hands of the reader, e.g. how many words per page, where the page/paragraphs will break. They are dealing with the visual image, not the story anymore. Abby says the copy-editing will take about a month.
When I turned in the line-edit, I also forwarded my acknowledgement page and my dedication page, which Abby says will make the production team happy to have so early. Now I'm worried I should have held back and made sure I had included everyone in my acknowledgements.  What if someone helps me in the meantime? As far as dedication goes, I made it go to my father who died when I was in my twenties and who was the ground I walked on. I have other novels that would be more appropriate to put his name to, but I figure I had better do it right away with this first (to be published) novel, just in case I never get another chance.
I was having thoughts this week about a sequel to "Veil of Time," called "Druid Hill," but I won't tell anyone about that.... I have only written two pages, and it may never happen, but if it were to come easily, it would give me something play with while I wait the torturous wait of an author-in-the-wings. Despite the torture, it is still very nice to be able answer people who ask me what I do that I am a writer. I am one. Unless Simon and Schuster goes down the drain.
People seem to like to stick articles under my nose about how book publishing is on its way out. I saw an interview with JK Rowling this week where she was asked about this question. She said she thought there would always be books, because reading a book is a whole body experience: the feel, the smell, the kinetic interaction with the book. She must be right - don't we all have books on our shelves that even the sight of can bring back a whole interlude in our lives. Take that book off the shelf and carress it, smell it, see the worn pages we went back to, and in a time-warp blitz, we are back there. A collection of Emily Bronte's poems called, "A Peculiar Music," given to me by my father when I was eighteen, does that for me. I took it to Germany for six months after I left high school, and opening it now takes me right back to pretzels with inch-thick butter and Kaffee and Kuchen at three o'clock in the afternoon. It makes me feel again how it was to be fumbling around in a foreign language and how my loneliness and hers mingled during that time and gave me something to cling to. Scrolling through a Kindle edition, is never going to be the same. I haven't even tried it, but I can imagine.
I am hoping that soon I will be able to post a chapter of "Veil of Time," on my website. So go there when you can,  and one day before too long you might be surprised.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hobos and Letter Boxes

21st September 2012

Leonard Cohen became an inductee into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame recently because his lyrics verge on poetry. In fact, he is the one songwriter that you can find among the pages of the Norton Anthology of Poetry:

As the mist leaves no scar
On the dark green hill,
So my body leaves no scar
On you, nor ever will.

It sounds as if it comes from a much earlier era than own. It paints a mood simply and doesn't engage us in any intellectual acrobatics. Lyrics can't do that - the music keeps them from it, because on the spectrum from intellect to emotion, music is as far from intellect as you can go and still end up with any kind of form. At some point in the past, about the time poets started wearing dufflecoats and smoking pipes, intellect made inroads into all the arts and for a while has been dallying there. In the meantime, the visual arts have been making a curcuitous route back to a kind of representationalism, and poetry has gone uderground into song.
Leonard Cohen is a good example, but there are others: "Is a jewel just a pebble that found a way to shine? Is a hero's blood more righteous than a hobo's sip of wine?" Joe Henry there. "Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes, they call me on and on across the universe. Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box. They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe." Lennon. There are more, of course. Poetry is the nebulous art of capturing mood and thundering it into the soul of the reader. It almost entirely misses the intellect, as someone once said. It's a rape of sorts, but one that you feel better for.
This week, in a haze of insomniac semi-consciousness, I tackled the line-edit of my novel "Veil of Time," (I keep hoping to find that title tripping off my tongue, but it hasn't yet.) I should line-edit the title: This would pack more punch if it were simply called Dunadd. I don't like the commercial feel of "Veil of Time," though, as my author friend Scott Lasser said to me, "I would trade commercial success over respect any day." So maybe I'll live with a commercial title. Anyway, the line-edit consists of a lot of replacing my English spelling with its American equivalent, a few suggestions as to how to make a sentence run more smoothly; a few small changes to a few scenes were also asked for. I have begun to panic about this being my last run-through, because if I get things chronologically out of sequence at this point, or if my foray into other languages has gone badly wrong, that's the way it will stay, unless the proof reader picks up on it down the line. Still, it's a small panic. As my friend Gail says, it's a high class problem.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hen sure

14th Sept. 2012

Yeah, at long last, the postman (or at least the e-mail-man) brought my editor's response to my re-write sumitted at the end of June! And, glory be, we're onto "line editing," although she still wants me to beef up the start of the romance between my main characters a bit. No big scenes, just a "scenet," she says. Line editing, as far as I can gather, means fixing any grammatical errors, any sentences that don't quite read well. But you do it line by line, small change by small change. No big changes needed at this point, which makes my day all of a sudden very shiny indeed. I wasn't happy to find out that publication is scheduled for September of next year, but that is what it is. No point in fighting it. Abby, my editor, says that once I get the manuscript back to her, they can send it out for "blurbs," meaning, I suppose, send it out for people to read and give splendid (we hope) reviews. All systems go again makes me happy, makes me want to pull out the throttle and getting speeding down the tracks.
But I don't want to leave this week's blog without a mention of a special person who had a birthday this week. He was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire on September 11th, 1885, which I remind people of, just to show them that something good happened on this date once upon a time.  He was, of course, Mr. David Herbert Lawrence, author and iconoclast of his day. In my youth, I couldn't get enough of his novels. Later I became engrossed in his essays and poems. "Lady Chatterly," is the best of his novels, though the re-write of that book published later under the title "John Thomas and Lady Jane," was better, and remains my favourite to this day.  He gave women's liberation its best fundamental tenet, because, to use one of his distinctions, he understood that being "hen sure" was different than being "cock sure." If he were alive today, I think old D.H. might wonder if the women's movement hasn't confused these two things.  As one woman once commented, " I don't support the women's movement, because I wouldn't want any man to think he was my equal." During his lifetime, Lawrence was embroiled in all kinds of law suits and arrests for boldly going where no novelist had gone before - into the realm of women's sexuality.  Even though he had to self-puublish much of what he wrote, even though his books and paintings were banned and burned, he never wavered from what he believed and what he felt must be spoken. This is a great lesson for anyone in any walk of life, and one we brush past cockily at our peril. Rest in Peace, D.H. - you didn't get much in your lifetime.

Friday, September 7, 2012


September 7th, 2012

I was watching a Youtube interview with Pat Conroy, under which someone had commented, "I don't know about The Prince of Tides, more like The Prince of Comb-over." His hair-do does leave something to be desired, it is true, but his writing does not. One critic said about "Prince of Tides," that "Conroy has made the language sing and bleed at the same time." What author could hope for a better critique than that?
So, I am still mystified as to why his books have cheesy covers and are relegated to the book shop back rooms. I thought a lot about this while I was reading "The Prince of Tides,"  trying to locate the moments when he tripped up, almost wanting to find a reason why he just didn't make the mark. If his prose were pedestrian, I could understand it. Maybe if his dialogue were just awful. But his prose is wonderful, rich and full of humour. He describes his sister in terms of "the weightless harmonics of her madness." In a dying woman's house, "I could hear great clocks spooning out moments with metallic strokes, their long blades cutting through the silks of time. All the clocks struck nine in semi-darkness, and the sombre tolling of every clock in every room of the house disowned the hour in the dumbstruck language of bells. I wondered if it was just in the house of the dying that you became so acutely aware of the presence of clocks." And those kinds of sentences are not few and far between in Conroy. You're constantly stopping to go back and savour the last sentence. So, that's good writing. If I could fault him, it's on plot. It's a little "smack you between the eyes."  A little. If I were pushed, I might say his drama slips sometimes into melodrama. But only if I were pushed. Also, in this book, the plot feels a little lobsided. There's a hell of a lot of flashback, to the extent that you feel like dragging the writer back to the present sometimes and asking him to get on with the story, which in this case is a love story. I wanted more of that to anchor those trips to the past. But I can't help thinking that was probably the fault of the editing. When Conroy turned "The Prince of Tides" in to his editor, it was twice as long, which would have been too long, but I think in the snipping and pasting the story probably lost a bit of balance. That said, it is still a delicious piece of writing, the kind of book you don't really want to end.
What I really would like to come to an end is the waiting for my turn on the runway. I was told a few weeks ago that take-off time would be after Labor Day weekend, but, alas, no word has slipped through into my e-mail box, which I compulsively check. I fret and worry that my publication date will be set back, and it is already a lifetime away. What if, in the meantime, the world makes a 2012 polar shift, and instead of living in the snowy mountains I find myself in a tropical forest, batting off tsetse flies instead of huddling under blankets at my computer?
I distract myself by working on the screenplay of the novel and have that nearly ready for some shaker or taker, preferably buyer. Preferably some director who values the role of the writer. Diana Gabaldon still hasn't released her film rights for "Outlander," because, so I hear, she can't think of an actor who would fit the part of her hero. More important to me would be finding a company who would work with me and not turn my opus into a piece of schlock. I am standing in the hallway, listening to sombre clocks spooning out moments.