out of the ashes

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Vieni Sul Mar

I don't know what that means, but I'm listening to it on iTunes at Classic FM. It's so lovely:)

But...I'm finally back to Terence and Teresa in Purgatory. Another couple thousand words and it's ready to go...after final revisions.

Teresa has met a young girl who has enchanted her. After several delightful days of meeting, Teresa becomes pre-occupied; stand-offish to Terence. She announces one morning that she must go back into the city, and that he must promise not to follow. He makes that promise, but follows anyway. Teresa meets one final time with the little girl, and then enters through a doorway into a deeper region of the kingdom; an unpleasant place, which entrance is guarded by a cowled man. Terence is shattered.
An excerpt.

March 21

Dear Diary,

I spent much of the day searching for a way to get past the gatekeeper. A hidden door or a boarded-over window; a coal chute, a chink in the masonry someplace, but I found no other entrance. Why would I not be allowed to enter the doorway at the front of the building? Why did that creature block some and not others? Well, me at least?

I put the problem of entrance aside after several hours of searching in vain and made my way past the bookstore, down along the avenue in search of the street called Limbo. Mile after mile I walked, hoping to stumble upon it or at the very least see children. Again my efforts proved fruitless. It is as though everything important to me has vanished—the little girl more so because I am certain she must know what Teresa did in another lifetime that made her walk through that cursed opening.

Thus, I made my way back toward my starting point in great despair and confusion. I passed the bookstore, and after a short distance retraced my steps and entered for some reason. A dog on its way home will stop often enough for no apparent reason other than something catching its eye or nose. And so I confess, Diary, at that moment I felt little better than a common cur.

Inside a dozen or more lovers of the written word milled about browsing the titles in the racks, chatting as though there was no sanctity in a house of books. I approached the proprietor and asked him if the woman garbed in the robes of a nun had been in today. He replied that there were no nuns in Purgatory. Only priests—and many of them.

“The popes get to congregate in Hell.”

“Thank you,” I replied. “I know that firsthand. And Bishops. But didn’t you see her a day or two ago sitting over there reading a book the size of the Pentagon?”

“The what?”

“Never mind,” I said. “A very large book is all.”

“I saw no nuns…nor priests for that matter, lately. But if you’re referring to a big book, perhaps it’s “The Very Best Recipes For War From Alexander the Great to George W. Bush. Lots of stuff in that one.”

“No, I don’t think that would have been it. She mentioned the title, but I’ve forgotten it,” I think is what I replied, Diary.

“There was no nun. Hasn’t been one…”

“Yes, yes, I know. Well, thank you anyway.” I turned to leave, having no desire to read the account of the rape of the Sabine women or any other “recipe”.

“Wait!” His voice halted all the chatter momentarily. “There is another, although it hasn’t left the shelf in ages. Written by some unknown author from nowhere around these parts. Good, or Glob…something like that. You’re welcome to pull it down and take a gander. If you like it I’ll let it go for half…no, three-quarters of the cover price.”

I told him he was too kind in offering me such a steal, but that I’d like to see it first. I think I know why he was sent here. He was probably a thief. Definitely not corporate…they’re all in Hell. He removed himself from behind the counter and rushed to the rear of the store, returning in a moment with the book. Yes, its cover looked the same. Maybe inside it lay the clue concerning the children and the way into Teresa’s chamber of horrors. The non-existent nun seemed to have indicated as much when we spoke.

“Sorry. Written by some guy named God,” he said with an out-of-breath huff.

“You’re serious,” I had to respond.

“Yes. Right here,” he said plopping it onto the corner of an un-occupied table and then pointing at the byline. “G-O-D.”

“You don’t know who God is?”

“Not precisely. Just some long-winded writer, judging from the length of this thing.”

Hell is an insane asylum, but Purgatory isn’t far behind, Diary. I asked him how much he wanted for the book that I’d need a truck to lug back to the camp outside the city. He eyed me, and seeing as I was naked, he frowned.

“Thirty pieces of silver. Not a coin less.”

Curious price.

I don’t know why I wound up here in Purgatory…well, yes I do. That was my choice. I think. Our choice. At any rate, at least I’d heard of God. Is this place and the people inhabiting it located in another part of the universe? Another universe altogether? Somewhere that God hasn’t visited and screwed up yet? The shop owner knew of popes, but where did they come from in his un-God world?

Who cares? I dickered with him and got the price reduced to fifteen silver pieces.

“Fair enough. Now, put the money on the table and then you can drag this thing out of here and read it until Hell freezes over.”

“I doubt that will happen anytime soon, and as you can see I’ve obviously forgotten my wallet.”

“Then you can forget the book and get your naked ass out of my store…whoever you are.”

As I had no Teresa, no little girl, no nun, and no clothes, I decided on another tactic to get my hands on the book.

I left.

I hung around a few doors down the street, noting for the first time that I was the only soul without clothes on. It’s no wonder the people here cast sidelong glances at me whenever they pass by.

I returned to the bookstore some length of time later and glanced in the front window. More customers had gathered. I could hear their chattering even through the glass. Fortune smiled at me. The book lay resting exactly where the owner had placed it hours ago. I opened the door, stuck my head in, and screamed “FIRE!”

Odd though they might be, the citizens here are no different than they were back on planet Earth. Hysteria erupted in the face of one highly-charged word. There was an instant of shock followed by a mass stampede…the owner leading the way. I stepped in, and when the bulk of bodies had passed by, leapt onto the book and followed them out. I gallivanted down the street, surprised that God’s book seemed so light in my hands.

When I’d gotten safely away—now a thief myself who might qualify for entry into the darkened door behind which my Teresa lay—I scanned the title. “The Secret”. At first I turned up my nose. I’d read a book by that title when I was alive and had ten times thirty pieces of silver in my wallet, inside my trouser pocket stitched onto the pants I always wore in public. That book didn’t impress me, although its author had another name.

I went home, sat down after starting a fire, and began to read.

Now, only past the acknowledgments, table of contents, copyright page, and introduction, I weary. It might be that I’m beginning a James Michener version of the Book of Numbers. I don’t know, Diary. I’ll dig in again tomorrow to see.

Goodnight my friend

Ps. Will any who might happen upon you in the future see my words as…wearisome? I hope not.

(c) 2012 Patrick Sean Lee

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ain't life grand!

My cup is half empty. Er...my cup is half full. Today I had to ask, which is it? (lol)?
I had good fortune greet me when I awoke. I was busy studying marketing techniques when my wife came running out to me all excited. "Did you read the announcement at I Love Bookrix Writing Contests yet?"
"No, why?" I hadn't logged in at 6:00 a.m. yet.
"Well, go read it!"
I did, and nearly fell out of my chair. I honestly thought Barnum Lake had about a snowball's chance in hell of placing.

Seems I won 2nd (darned Mary Walz! :) :) :) in the Write Whatever You Want Contest. So I am to receive a prize:)
A bit later the mechanic who was doing a diagnostic check on my wife's car called to inform me the computer was toast...$650.00. This month it might as well have been $6.50!

So I gets all depressed. Goodbye prize money, and then some.

But there it is. Had God not smiled down on my entry (and those independent judges), where would I be right now? Suicidal? Well, prob'ly not, but you get the picture.
If I just put one foot in front of the other, like I did yesterday and the day before...and the day before, the cup never empties somehow.

And gosh darn it, thanks, Scott. You reviewed my story with eagle eyes! You saw exactly what it was and where it came from.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Marvin :)

My first love, lol.

Mary asked me this morning why in my pre-publication announcement at Facebook concerning The Redemption of Marvin Fuster I split the book in two.
The Redemption of Marvin Fuster-Book One, subtitled “The Important Thing Is…Marvin” and The Redemption of Marvin Fuster-Book Two, subtitled “…To Love Rather Than Be Loved. Delilah.”

I had two reasons for doing this. The first was a natural outgrowth of my total revision of the plot last summer (thanks, Trish). I broke the manuscript up into two sections at that time, as noted above. The first concerned the introduction of the two sets of characters; Marvin, Amy, Maribeth, John…the four "elements", if you will, that converge at the climax. Essentially, though, the entire book is Marvin’s metamorphosis. Marvin's zany character. Marvin's delightfully insane quest and the troubles he causes alongside Maribeth in his attempt to succeed for love of Amy, a woman he has never really met. I got him to the point in Book One at which he is nearly ready to apply his brilliant theory…finalize his calculations and mix the brew (but first he must meet the greatest roadblock to date and hurdle it). At that point the strange mix will either kill him or accomplish the first portion of his quest; to reverse his age. He must meet Amy, though. Must. She has to have her own story, however, which because she knows nothing of him or his quest must have meat of its own, and that is where Delilah comes in.
So there are two plots that run simultaneously. Maribeth knows attorney John Delilah (and adores the tongue-tied, homely man). Amy works for him. Marvin will finally meet John, although John’s love for and relationship to Amy is hidden by circumstance from Marvin. Actually, no one in the book realizes that John’s Amy is also Marvin’s Amy...except Anselm and his team. We won't go there in this discussion, however. :) :)
So splitting the book in two is really a plot device, and it works.

The second reason for splitting the print edition is economics. Publishing a single 350-400 page book through Createspace would have brought their minimum charge to over $10.00/unit. At that cost I would have been forced to price it at $15.00-$16.00 in order to receive a decent royalty. I’m then competing with James Patterson, Stephen King, et. al.

Patrick Sean Lee is “unknown” in the world of novel writing, except for those several hundred who have gone in to buy Dear Diary and Checkmate at Amazon (thank you!). If Book One does well, then those buyers who I captured with Marvin will go back and pay the additional money to see the end of his quest…which I will hint is quite unexpected.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Where did January go?
I watched with excitement as Diary continued to sell well at Amazon KDP, and Checkmate began to move up in sales (where is that smiley-face key?). So I'm all in a dither to complete Purgatorio and get it up.
Now I have no idea how Diary actually looks on an e-reader 'cuz I don't have one. I use Amazon's Cloud Reader to view it when I log in there. Maybe I should reformat Purgatorio when I put it up? If I ever finish it?
I'm buzzing, too, because a new idea hits me. It will only take a few hours to go on over to Createspace and do Marvin in trade paperback! I put Purgatorio on hold for at most a day or two. I open an account at Createspace and begin. You must go through several steps. Create Title, a few more easy ones, and then upload...a cover. Laz did a great one for me when I put it up at Bookrix, and so I upload that one. The twirly thing twirls on my screen, and then up comes the message..."This won't work, buddy." I can't remember what the issue was. But that's okay, they provide the option of building a cover using one of their stock designs. I use that, and it's great. I'm four hours in by then.
File upload. I do it. The auto-process reviews it, and then tells me I have several issues. Basically margins. My text is way outside the page, especially at the gutter.
Val created The Man Who Lost His Genius and Other Stories. She signed and gave me a copy, and it came out beautifully. I call her. Help! I send her my file and she creates a brand new doc, which I upload, preview, and okay. I'm a bit shocked, though, because I broke The Redemption of Marvin Fuster into two books, Part One and Part Two (upcoming). The proof arrives for Part One...450 pages! Not only looooooong, I had to price it at $12.95 in order to make a few dollars/copy royalty. The worst, though. The text looks like a poem, not a novel. Cringe. Outside margins are about 1-1/2"; same at the gutter. I can't put this up for sale, lol. Not only THAT, I begin reading it in its paperback form and spot a gazillion errors. Way, way too many commas (I fight them when I write). I'm turning British, I think I'm turning British, I really think so...

It's horrible from this point on. I go back in to Createspace and begin again, finding a free template to upload the doc into (after correcting the punctuation dilemma to my satisfaction--half a dozen hours worth of work). Don't end a sentence with a preposition.

Upload. Preview. Crap. Do it all again because the margins are STILL f-ed up. I try everything to correct them, but my WordforMac is a bit different than Windows Word. Plus I do drop caps and indent manually, and on and on, and the whole thing starts to go down the toilet with each change. Do you have any idea how long it takes to hit the space key for every single paragraph in a sixty-thousand word document? The tab key sometimes indents twenty, sometimes ten, so I decide to block format and do eight. I call Createspace and explain. They're nice, and tell me what to do.
It doesn't work. It's still that bloody gutter that won't cooperate. A few days ago, after over two weeks worth of work, I upload again, and the book looks pretty fabulous, except that the right hand page has half a letter intruding into their recommended gutter line. I want to kill my computer! Truthfully, I want to kill myself for being so technology dumb.
I look at that latest preview a hundred times. Should I go for it and hope the print version is acceptable--I mean, half a letter! Should I break down and hire one of their team to create the whole book? I should, but the phone bill needs to be paid.
I finally click, "Save".
In a week or so the new proof will arrive. IF it's goofy-looking I'll go back to square one and bite the bullet. Have their team reformat it for me so that at least it LOOKS like T.C. Boyle or John Irving sat down and created the book. Do they have these problems I wonder?
"No, stupid. Our publisher knows what he's doing when it comes to creating The Tortilla Curtain and A Prayer For Owen Meany."
Oh yeah, that's right.

And all this time Terence and Teresa are stuck outside the city, waiting for me to get them to the climax and denouement.