I really hate posting stuff on blogs simply because it takes so much time away from writing on my book. But I have decided to start posting on my blog again as sort of an experiment, a declaration of freedom. You see, I have been posting my book excerpts, snapshots of the draft I am working on, on Twitter to try and generate some interest in the book and to carry people along with me on my rather detailed, very involved adventure. And believe me, it will be an adventure. Writing Literary Fiction is tough, requiring shavings from the author's soul in order for the text to achieve the kind of emotional influence that is needed to carry someone into a long, detailed novel. The novel is meant to be a total, immersive experience, which not only sticks to the reader’s soul, but visually stimulates the reader with illustrations that themselves invoke a sympathetic emotion with the text. Like many Literary Fiction novels, it’s not so much about the plot or the facts of a situation but how it feels, what the characters think, how do they resolve their unique life problems. The book delves a bit into philosophy, its child characters asking the questions that have bedeviled humanity for thousands of years. As most of these children are above an average intelligence, it seems appropriate for their fresh new minds to ask the question and be distressed at their lack of answers. Even though these child characters are little geniuses, I would like to think that a number of children do actually think about the world seriously in their quiet times, possible far more seriously than their parents realize.
Anyway, for an author, Twitter is really a sabotaging element for their development. Twitter is about Twitter making money. The algorithm is designed to jack with your mind and make you feel pining for attention, for connection, willing to pay to get it. The algorithm of Twitter knows who might be interested in what you wish to show and deliberately only displays your posts to a few of them. Even if you have a small number of followers, Twitter will show your post to many other people before it gives some of your followers a peek. And only some of your followers will see it. Why? To keep you willing to pay ever more money to try to reach the people you don’t reach, the ones it only teases you with.
I understand this strategy well, have actually paid Facebook for advertisement. What Facebook didn’t count on was me being a very detailed, numerically analytical person, using devious tactics to track their actions and to track what kind of people saw the ads. And what I found was that Facebook will show your ads to people outside of who you specify, people so unrelated to your target that it’s actually pretty laughable, if it wasn’t your money, in order to spend every last drop of the money you allotted them. So with Twitter, I came into the medium with the philosophy of “show me the gold before I’ll show you mine.” And as expected, the algorithm did its own little dance to extort my gold without giving results.
For grins, I will probably still post excerpts to Twitter on occasion just to see what it does with them. It’s my way of mocking their foolishness. But from now on I will post most of my excerpts here, on my blog. The longer format will also allow me to reveal more of the thought process behind the writing as I build up this complex, difficult to write Literary Fiction novel layer by layer.
I am going to kick off this series of blog posts with an excerpt from the book, which is currently sitting at 438,000 words. In this excerpt, Professor Kettil, the teacher of these advanced children, is having a conversation with Fredrick Docherty, eight-year-old Ty’s father and the head of ERID, the Extraterrestrial Research and Intelligence Department, a department under the British Prime Minister’s office. In his former job, Docherty was an undeclared assassin working for the government organization known as the Snakes. The thing to notice is how hard a person Docherty is, how much he is an unemotional, logical person versus the more humanistic, emotional Professor Kettil, someone you expect would have an interest in children’s wellbeing.
Excerpt from Chapter 4, "The Portal Opens"
Living in a body that has an expiration date leads people to seek things that will endure, that have the permanence that they don't have. Inevitably, that leads to a search for things we can possess that have the quality to endure for generations and that can be passed between generations. The necklace above is a four-thousand-year-old piece of jewelry created as a defense against the Sun Gods so that the wearer can remain independent of their influence. It was handed down within Tyco's Mayan family for many generations along with the knowledge of how to use it. In "Stefan's Owl from Oblivion", Tyco receives the medallion from his father when it becomes apparent that the Sun Gods were again going to visit Earth. The medallion connected each generation of the family with the previous generation in a very tangible, comforting way. The medallion lured the attention of each new generation of the family, allowing the current generation to capture the minds of their children and pass down the stories that are a part of the family, that define it as an entity independent of oppressive external influence.
With today's corporate cultures being focused on ruthlessly harvesting wealth rather than serving humanity in some way, people now more than ever seek out that independence and permanence, that quality that says that what they possess is a symbol of the family's progress toward a sustainable existence. They seek a book that is not merely some transitory trinket that will self destruct, vaporizing their hard-won money, and reducing their efforts to serfdom serving some soulless corporation who forces them to give their wealth to its masters. The opinion piece on Bloomberg, "Why Vinyl, Books, and Glossy Magazines Will Never Go Away", opines that people are rediscovering quality made, tangible objects that embody art. They are surging in popularity, serving as a representation of the soul of the acquiring family and as their direct connection to the creation of art. As the article points out, many creators of art (authors and musicians) have once again taken possession of their art away from corporations who only seek to extract money from their customers. The artists seek to give their patrons a connection to the art's soul.
Permanence, Quality, and Independence is exactly what I seek to capture with my strategy to publishing. I have chosen to spend years producing an illustrated novel of literary fiction that represents the high quality care, my soul, that I like to infuse into my writing, uninfluenced by corporate mass production culture. I intend for each book to be one that can be handed down for generations, with the previous generation reading it to the next: a memorable experience carved indelibly into the family collective consciousness. The book itself will be manufactured with a quality that no corporate plant would ever pursue because the expense will deprive them of profit. They have tried to train their customers to expect something transitory, an endeavor in which customers must pay to keep the experiences coming or risk the image of them fading away. EBooks are an ideal medium for this, for the quickly produced entertainment has no lasting significance and the lack of a tangible artifact means that the consumer must continue to pay to refresh those reading memories. The access to those memories is at the leisure of the lawyers of the corporate, literary "drug" lord. I want to produce a work of art, where each and every copy has been touched by the author/illustrator in a personal way... a book that can establish a new family tradition handed between the generations.
One of the first steps to promoting a book occurs long before the book is in print, and that is increasing the name recognition of its title. One of the simplest ways of doing that (and of practicing your promotion skills while adding to your wardrobe) is to create T-Shirts about your book. Sure, you can eventually give away some if you want. But if you are working on a book that will take years to produce, you can start right away by simply wearing around T-Shirts about your book. Each shirt should embody some key, interest catching element of the story along with the title of the book displayed in an eye catching way. One of the elements of "Stefan's Owl from Oblivion" is being a member of the Federation of the Twenty Planets. The insignia of the organization appears on the shirt above. The organization's charter is to make sure telepaths become the dominant life-form on all worlds on which they arise. Telepaths are just now being born on Earth, an new evolution of humanity, and they are referred to as the Children of Sophista. Naturally, there is a bit of animosity from some humans who aren't so lucky in their genetic heritage.
Indeed, Ty does know your fate because he is a mix of Saeshell and human. And the Saeshells have plans for the ordinary humans of the Earth. It's one of many reasons he is sad since he loves all people and animals.
Neshalia does indeed control your mind, because she is an alien, a Saeshell. Her suggestions are irresistible. You must obey them. It's how the Saeshells are able to engineer the downfall of factions of humanity that will not serve them. They mostly focus on violent humans.
And of course, you must have the main character himself, Stefan. He is a mix of genes from many races. He can already read your mind and force you into one of his dreams (delusions). His power grows every day so who knows what he will do to you in the future.
If you happen to live in Silicon Valley you may see me roaming around in one of these shirts!
This blog posting represents a new resurgence in me posting articles on this blog. I was using Twitter for this purpose, but it seems they are falling into the bad habits of Facebook, not even allowing all of my followers to see my posts. So this is my attempt to jump past their limitations and appear directly to the search engines.
This illustration above is the first one I have done in a long time. I started it while on break waiting for a major professional edit of this book, "Stefan's Owl from Oblivion," to be performed. Like all things associated with this book, it was not just a learning experience but a true journey. If you can illustrate at all, I recommend illustrating your characters. You will find that you learn a tremendous number of things about them in the simple of act of illustrating them.
This illustration is of a Saeshell Female in general and specifically the Saeshell, Neshalia. Neshalia is known as the Saeshell Nanny because she takes care of young Saeshells, teaching them what they need to know to survive and to become part of the Saeshell's culture. This can prove rather interesting because one way in which Saeshells propagate is by partially rewriting the genes of the race dominating the planet they wish to take over. But there is quite a lot more to it than that. They are also scientifically mixing the genes of races available in their current environment with their own to assimilate the good properties of the target races into their own genome. The Saeshells are the most dominate life-form in the known universe and they wish to remain that way.
In the case of a large, resource rich planet such as Earth, it inevitably ends up being contested by multiple advanced races all vying for dominance over the resources. But rather than these advanced races warring with each other in a hot war, raising the possibility of destroying the very planet they seek to conquer, conquest by the advanced races is via genetic assimilation. This assimilation also leads to a race being created embodying a mixture of the genes of the attacking races. In a sense, it is a natural process in that these hybrids by their very nature gain the trust of all the races, becoming the trusted arbitrator of all disputes.
These hybrids are known as the "Children of Sophista," named after the first extraterrestrial race to perform genetic experiments on the humans. The Saeshells try to gain advantage by sending Neshalia to guide and as much as possible, protect the Children of Sophista from the violent, exploitative humans. Because Neshalia is so alien, she remains invisible through much of the children's early childhood, remaining a comforting and wise whisper guiding the children. Only after she feels the children have matured enough, does she visually reveal her form. The characters in the book have a slang name for the Saeshells, referring to them as "the bugs."
Traditionally in fantasy literature, fairies have pointed ears and they either have beautiful, almost child-like faces or in some scarier fairy tales, they have a more triangular face. In "Stefan's Owl from Oblivion," the fairies are an engineered race made by the Saeshells as a combination of Saeshell and human genetics. The fairies' purpose is to be the human face of the Saeshells, responsible for influencing the humans in ways that the Saeshells deem necessary to allow them to succeed in their conquest. The fairies are kind, gentle, like a humanitarian aid organization that the humans could become addicted to. The Saeshells are much more cynical and sinister -- the form the fairies are derived from. So I needed to take the traditional fairy form and make it more alien, more sinister.
The Saeshells needed to be serious looking, being a cross between human attributes and insect attributes. So I used the flesh of humans and the segmented, multiple joint nature of insects to create Neshalia. Rather than fingers, which are very unique to primates, I used pincers/feelers, which are common to uncountable numbers of bug species. For flight to be remotely feasible, I made the body small and the head over-sized large to contain a large, very intelligent brain. The larger legs not only support the Saeshell at rest, but serve like a kite tail to give the overall body stability. Neshalia is not a pretty sight compared to characters in more traditional fantasies.
I struggled for a long time with this illustration. Instinctively, I wanted to illustrate something beautiful. That would have been difficult since I don't think my illustration skills are not far enough along yet that I could have illustrated a beautiful, whimsical form. But more importantly, it would have violated the realism of the book and looked cartoonish in this context. To test that theory, I had a fairy illustration illustrated by an illustrator for one of my previous books. Sure enough, when you drop that illustration into this book, it removes the whole seriousness, the realism, of this book. As shocking as it is, this illustration is what fits best with the actual story of the book. And more importantly, it is the natural revulsion to the figure that demonstrates why it is so difficult for human beings to accept one another's differences. And it is this revulsion to differences that drives the misery of the Children of Sophista's lives.
It's been a long time since I've posted something here and frankly, it is because I think that blogs are rarely read. So writing here is somewhat of a waste. Blogs I think are somewhat of a therapy artifice, used to make authors feel better as they scream into the silent, apathetic universe. Why does an author need to be heard? Well, I think it happens not because of some great purpose or some unique message needing to be heard, though most authors would like to think they matter. I think it happens as a result of the intersection of instincts: needing to socialize; too shy, introverted or autistic to socialize; and the inherent compulsive, instinctual directive that directs every human to share knowledge, even if they don't want to. I mean the ultimate way to give the universe "the finger" is to learn something unique and valuable and then keep it to yourself. There is a certain instinctual smugness in that we all contain the instinct "all we know is all there is to know." Without that instinct, no one could make a decision. However, some people claim that they know nothing about a subject. While it might be scientifically admirable and a kind of faux humbleness, what that really says is I don't want to be held responsible for knowing something. I definitely don't want to be held responsible for being wrong. You can see how shyness could definitely be facilitated by this. In the past few decades, this sort of feeling has been institutionalized by the phrase "I'm just saying."
Part of what's happening too is that our limited mind is trying to come to grips with the sheer number of people in the world. Our mind was never designed to have so many people being "adjacent," something social media helps project. Social media though also gives a false sense of who is in the world. Like who isn't on social media? Well, a lot of people, mostly the successful ones. A successful person doesn't have time to peck away to people with randomly triggered rage who mostly just want to talk without listening anyway. One mark of the hopeless is to try to promote something through social media. If you want to give something away to someone who is unlikely to buy much of anything nor be in a position to share their experience, then social media is for you. Social media and gaming, in particular, is for giving a person a false sense of purpose.
What happened before social media, before social media was around to give a sense of purpose? A factory job or an engineering job producing something tangible, is what happened. The factory gave a person purpose. You became as expert by rising in a company. Your expertise was compared by comparing your company against its numerous competitors. Numerous competitors. When the competitors go away, your expertise becomes de facto, in other words, you just become a cog in a mindless machine. No one truly knows how much you know and how much is the fame of royalty.
And so if you are a cog in a large, monopolistic corporate machine, you come home and do your cog jobs, and then you head to social media to feel valuable. Your children had better be friggin smart and independent, a combination that doesn't always go together. Or if you come home from you success laden job, well the grandparents had better have been reading to your children. Or perhaps you will read, but it can't be that crap from the school book club (store in disguise). It's got to be something worthwhile, something monumental that will teach your kid the things that you are too tired to teach, a prompt for the life lessons you should be giving.
My purpose is simply to be that book. And if I am not, then I will simply shoot the finger at the universe.
This edit was a pretty significant milestone in my career. I believe, if I can remember correctly, that I have been through thirteen professional edits prior to this one. Those edits, taught me quite a lot and were like mini college courses. So what's the difference this time?
In all those edits, my novels were edited as genre fiction. In my former novels, one of the problems I encountered was that readers felt like they had been dropped into an Excalibur test, which was not my intention. Since I had no problem reading these hard sections (and that is significant because I am dyslexic and have problems reading nearly everything), I couldn't understand their problems. With "The Owl from Oblivion", which is the deepest novel I have written thus far, I finally determined the cause of the disconnect.
The problem was that I was trying to write literary fiction in a genre novel style. Genre novels have their own pacing requirements and rarely have time to be contemplative on any situation. One must move on to the next plot point before the reader gets bored. If the author has some deep insight into a character, it must be condensed down to some prescient bullet points, perhaps resulting in an impactful line, then fly away to the next plot point. When trying to grasp for deep philosophical meaning or a trait of humanity embodied by the character, especially with respect to foretelling how that trait will likely impact the plot, the reader, who is streaming along at warp speed, feels that their speeder has just hit a tree on the Star Wars moon of Endor.
More than discovery that my natural writing style is literary fiction, not genre fiction, the pieces in the puzzle (and in my confidence) fell into place when I realized that many of the more endearing children's books are a kind of literary fiction written for children. Children are always trying to figure out how the world works. They haven't been alive for very long. Some things they learn are very confusing. The reason they are confusing is that in a world where it seems like adults have all the answers and therefore "every question has an answer," for some questions, there are no answers. "That can't be right" the children would think. A literary fiction novel shows them that yes, it can be that no one knows the answer to all questions about life, even ones that can be so simply stated. Further, it shows where these questions fit into different kinds of people's lives and how just asking the right question can change the world. One does not need an answer to affect influence.
So with this edit, I received the affirmation that I indeed understand what literary fiction is and can actually write it. But even more revealing was that perhaps there is considerably more to this style, in terms of questions or philosophical ideas pondered, than I knew. Below I quote a section out of the editor's style guide that they wrote to help guide me in writing this book:
In a very succinct way, the editor has crystallized the nature of literary fiction for me. And it has set a task list of to-dos beyond the numerous grammar fixes required: further things to think about and ways to carry the characterization of the characters even further by entwining them in these fundamentals of literary fiction.
Welcome to the newly created Children of Sophista blog. This website is still under construction but feel free to comment here if you wish to communicate with the owner/author. I eventually hope to have a private area for members of this site (as well as a signup for the private area) which will feature book excerpts and other goodies. So keep checking back for changes!
Below is the current mockup for the cover of the book currently being worked on. The gold frame and gold lettering will be done in gold foil and the blue stars will actually be blue foil. Something called spot gloss will make the illustration glossy and give it a three dimensional feel like old fantasy books which used to have glossy illustrations pasted on their matt cover. The blue stars will also feel three dimensional with spot gloss covering them. The whole scheme that I use on the cover and throughout the inside of this illustrated book is a "family heirloom" fantasy book, the kind that would be passed down from generation to generation. It will be printed in large 8x10 illustrated children's book format, so the illustrations should generally be large enough to show up well. The book will be hardcover with thick satin-finish (between gloss and matt) coated high quality paper. Presently, the book is roughly about 580 pages so this will not be a book that you hold in one hand but one that you lay on your lap while cuddled up next to some eagerly listening young teen. If you don't have a child or grandchild to read this with, don't worry, this book is for adults too. It is not a book of fluff but of deep philosophical thoughts about life (by very bright children) with deep, intimate characterization of the children and adult characters in the book. You will also see tinges of a political/espionage thriller mixed with aliens and magical fantasy. It sounds like a mess but believe me, you will surprised how well it all fits together.