Ξ July 26th, 2008 | → 0 Comments | ∇ UNBOUND, BOUND, and my other creations |
The good news: Unbound has long been finished, polished to perfection, and ready to feel itself lovingly caressed by a caring Reader’s hands, hopefully Yours, as a Book. The bad news is that getting published these days is a goddamn nightmare. That’s the best light in which I can describe it. Utterly loathsome process. (That’s another.)
Recently I came across an excellent article by Jonathan Karp in which he describes the perils of modern publishing and the needs for this bleak picture to drastically improve. I was gratified to read that he comes to the same conclusions and comparisons that I have, in that the publishing industry is in danger of going the same sad way as the music industry. And quite frankly, if Companies are concerned only with the avaricious counting of pennies and publishing “Product” over substantive and genuine Art-Works, then they deserve such a fate. They are far too cynical (as is Society in general) to be in such a position of such great responsibility. Art ought to be worth something of a value not attributed to profit, and not common, disposable or inconsequential either.
Therefore, the money-changers ought to be cleared out, and responsible facilitators should take their place. Ideally, there should be NO HINDRANCE between the Creator/Artist and their Art, and the Recipient. That may be idealistic, but tough shit. That’s the deal. In the earliest days of cavemen, Celts, Greeks, and every civilization, there were no barriers between us. Now there is, and all in the name of Mammon. Just because “times have changed” is no excuse to lamely accept everything as is; of course they’re going to justify matters solely out of self-preservation. Yes, times have changed, and just as significantly, THINGS have got to change, again; back. While the Artist deserves fair recompense for his or her labors, a Company does not aside from manufacturing and service. If we can make a direct connection between artist and consumer, there will be no need for them anymore. They ought to bear this in mind.
The Contract between myself and Lily-the-Muse (who first began whispering this story to me over twenty-five years ago) agreed that it needed to be something of great importance, inspiration, and hoped-for-transcendence to be brought to as many readers as possible, of as many varied beliefs, reading skills, and intellects; that it would be a book of significance, permanence, and a reflecting back on the most classical of literature. In order to do this I gave up my family, my friends, my home, an income, anything familiar in surroundings, and pleasurable distractions of all kinds. I won’t go into the awful details about how empty life has become because Lily filled it up with such wonder, and the novel has turned out so well that I am extremely gratified. But I am spent; everything is, and my life is in danger of crashing down around my head, probably soon. I have faith in the miraculous but even that can only go so far in the harsh light of Reality. The emptiness is loud nowadays, and fearsome; as if I’m standing on the steel rails of some rushing, invisible, and portentous train. Too much time spent in Paradise; now it’s back to Hell… though I keep an ear out and an eye open for my angels
It might be said that I take the act of Creation too seriously; I don’t see how you can do that. If making something frivolous, then fine. If you don’t care, why should we? Then an agreement between both parties can be made that it is inconsequential. I don’t want to waste my time creating (or regarding) something so shallow, thin and transient. If you think about it, creating Something from Nothing is truly a reflection of a God-like act and should result in a Thing of equal effort and distinction. When I set out to write Unbound, I wanted to create something that not only would be timeless, significant-to-the-Reader, and world-changing, but also something that would reflect the essence of Creativity at every level. To explain this would probably read as tedious, so I’ll spare you. But yeah, I do take it seriously. I wanted to give You something precious, something of value, as much as it has been to Me. However, those persons responsible for enabling this will regard my work as being of no value or interest until I can prove its “worthiness” to them by how well I can jump through their asinine Marketing Hoops.
And therein lies the problem: In order to get one’s work published, especially a first-timer such as myself, there are innumerable petty and arbitrary “rules” that must be followed to “prove” that the work will be profitable and that you can write a proper query letter. For instance, some examples/implications: when describing it, don’t get all “artsy-fartsy” (i.e. dumb it down); don’t let on that it’s your first book or that you’re unpublished (i.e. practice your deception); don’t start out your query with a question despite reading to the contrary that this IS a good way to begin one (i.e. remain off-balance and at their mercy because the rules can and will change at any whim or trend and you must prove you can adjust to the market on-the-fly), and on and on etc etc etc ad infinitum ad nauseum. THESE HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE STORY!
It’s been said time and again that agents and editors only read query letters JUST as far as the very first formatting error, word, or sentence they come across with which they can justify trashing it and go on to the next. Callous and calculating, all for the sake of an easier workload, pimping possibilities for their Product for which they’ll reap a reward whether in profit or prestige, and further bolstering the doors against those damned newcomers in order to keep their little Big Club exclusive. Bear in mind that around 80%-90% of Big Publishers only accept submissions if tendered by agents. Don’t even bother trying without one; they’ll toss unsolicited manuscripts in a New York minute. Which is ironic since they’re mostly all in New York City. And Agents are tougher to get than publishing deals these days. And so it goes…
Oh sure, I can understand it; I don’t have to like or support it however. And it’s not as if there’s a hand that’s feeding me which I’ve got to avoid biting
And so, since publishers and agents are so egotistically hell-bent on erecting these arbitrary barriers against access, I’m looking into other ways and means such as a possible graphic novel or even a western-styled anime, along with which the novel could be published as well. I so want to get my story into your hands that I would do it for free, as long as I got a living out of it. Seems a fair trade. Turns out I need an income to survive. Who knew?
Bitter much? Nah, but the truth hurts though, doesn’t it? But who gets hurt in the end? The Reader, just as the Listener gets screwed nowadays by the music industry. Like Frank Zappa once remarked on Larry King’s show, when King tried to get him to put down current artists (and this in the ’80s!). Frank just shrugged and said, “They’re putting out Product.” Right. Scan the music-and-bookshelves and behold the cookie-cutter pap put out in persistent attempts to hew to the bottom line of conformity. It’s all Product, and little of it of much worth or of lasting value. True Art ought to be something of substance, and worthy of the Recipient’s investment of their attention, money, and time spent in delighting in the Artist’s Work, whatever field that might be in: painting, sculpture, composition, performance, poetry, or storytelling, or anything created from out of an individual’s intellect, heart, or soul.
So yeah, my idealistic approach to my own act of creation may be derided as “artsy-fartsy” but it is sincere, and was sustained consistently over the years through great risk, sacrifice, and suffering. Frankly, I couldn’t give a shit if my idealistic attitude is regarded in such a shallow and derogatory manner because cynics such as those are most likely unable to appreciate the beauty of my particular and peculiar completed Art-Work. My concerns lie with Readers, not Critics; I wanted the recipient of my Gift to be personally rewarded as significantly, as thrillingly, and as transcendentally as possible, and that is the brush of Intent that I used when I painted my masterpiece, Unbound.
This song is in my mind; I kind of like the way Bob Dylan puts it in his “When I Paint My Masterpiece”:
Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble,
Ancient footprints are everywhere.
You can almost think that you’re seein’ double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs.
Got to hurry on back to my hotel room,
Where I’ve got me a date with Botticelli’s niece.
She promised that she’d be right there with me
When I paint my masterpiece.Oh, the hours I’ve spent inside the Coliseum,
Dodging lions and wastin’ time.
Oh, those mighty kings of the jungle, I could hardly stand to see ‘em,
Yes, it sure has been a long, hard climb.
Train wheels runnin’ through the back of my memory,
When I ran on the hilltop following a pack of wild geese.
Someday, everything is gonna be smooth like a rhapsody
When I paint my masterpiece.Sailin’ ’round the world in a dirty gondola.
Oh, to be back in the land of Coca-Cola!I left Rome and landed in Brussels,
On a plane ride so bumpy that I almost cried.
Clergymen in uniform and young girls pullin’ muscles,
Everyone was there to greet me when I stepped inside.
Newspapermen eating candy
Had to be held down by big police.
Someday, everything is gonna be diff’rent
When I paint my masterpiece.***
I still have my brush, and I want to use it some more… I need to.
Anyway, here’s some of what the few persons who have read the complete story have remarked about it (there are only four dedicated souls whom I’ve trusted enough): My very first First Reader Sam, who had done editing long ago for a well-known author, recently went over the MS of the final draft after not having seen it in four years. (A First Reader is one who proofreads a completed manuscript for grammatical, characterization, and continuity errors; Sam had proofed it twice in its first and second draft stages.) Some of what she said after finishing its 733 pages: “Rob, you’ve put your heart and soul into this story, and it shines through like gold. (…) This story is such a combination of extremely detailed spiritual content and basic, simple love story. The Golden Rule. What goes around, comes around. Karma, Fate, Free Will, Tarot Cards, Holy Bible. You’ve got it all.(…) You should be very proud of and pleased with all your hard work and commitment.”
My second First Reader, an Edgar-nominated fantasy author, Keith, has been highly supportive and loves the story, and especially Lily (for those visitors who don’t know, Lily Godwin is the main character). He’s been patiently trying to point me toward various publishers since 2004 when he read the third draft, but I’m too doubtful of their commitment and ability to produce and market my story on as large a scale as I want, and beyond the tiny window of support they’d provide upon its publication. Small houses and self-publishing won’t work either, as I don’t want to just sell a few hundred or a few thousand copies. That would be failing my commitment to my Muse, who wants to get her Story into as many hands as is possible, into as many countries as possible, and into as many languages as possible. It’s that kind of a story! (I don’t want to go into detail about what the Story is about over and above the tiny tidbits I’ve offered here; for various reasons I’m deliberately keeping things vague. Or trying to LOL)
My most recent First Reader loved it as well, and said that Unbound was “a work of genius, a masterpiece.” She was a classical literature major in school, and she “got” my more literary references and themes, which I’ve explained elsewhere. Also, this year an ex-girlfriend asked to read it as it’d been eight years since she last read any of it. As with the others, she was totally addicted to reading each chapter nearly as fast as I’d send them. She was reading it not as a critiquer but for the enjoyment, as a real Reader, like You
But, according to the latest Arbitrary Rules About Submitting Query Letters, these are also things you mustn’t mention. Querying has to be done a certain way, put just so delicately, and according to whatever the demands-du-jour are. I have all kinds of “how-to” books and very little is consistent. Of course, you only get one chance to make an impression on any one agent or publisher…
God, I am SO tired of this bullshit. To agents and editors, Look: I have a Story. Readers addicted to page-turning have loved it. Give it a try. It’s a real “Oprah Book”. ’nuff said. As for me, no, I’m not “professional”; I’m willing to learn. I’m unpolished; polish me. I’m not savvy; illuminate me. I’m a quick study; I’m not stupid. I’m also not a poser, a phony, a fake, or a fraud. I’m a non-conformist, not on purpose. That’s just how it is. I don’t seek glory, fame, and fortune. All I want to do is tell stories, and make a reasonable living at it. The Novel will attract its own just reward; I want to honor my Deal with my Creative Muse and sell as many copies of Unbound as I can manage. That should make you happy, and You, and you. Oh, and me, and Lily as well :D
What’s the Story about? Well, you know… it’s about Everything. Read about the first chapter here, or, for the lazy, read the actual excerpt here, or even check out the novel’s Overviews section here. Wow, I have to do everything for you!
I always knew I’d suck at Marketing *sigh*
Anyway, that’s why it’s taken so long, aside from my survival issues and possible lack of a stable place of existence, which I’m working on. But publishing Unbound is my literal Reason For Being, and top priority. Aside from breathing and stuff. I’ll be working on that too