Monday, May 7, 2012

My Book.

Dear Reader,

I am about one chapter away from completing the edit and layout of my book, Robert Radio Flyer, The King of Pacoima.  It’s been a long slog, not so much from a constant revision stand point, but because of percolation and cogitation time.  I wrote the first draft of the book in the summer of 1989.  It was rejected by 26 publishers.  Let’s see who has the last laugh there, right?  HA!  That was me.  Laughing.

I’m told by writer friends, in my small cadre of writer friends (and I experience this myself as well), that there is always a moment during the process that is mostly more valuable than any other - the “ah-ha” moment.  That split second of clarity that only long periods of “letting it simmer up there” can hope to bring.  That simmering is both the blessing and bane of any writer, essentially it means you never stop working.  

Whoever said that being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life was right on the money - walk around thinking of nothing and you’re still always thinking of something -- the story you’re currently working and whatever problem there is to solve.  These moments really come out of nowhere.  They come suddenly - like a high speed car wreck, only there’s no damage, just, well, wonder I think.  Blissful wonder at how the hell you ever came up with that, and where the hell it came from.  But it’s like this: think about it and you’ll never come up with anything, stop thinking and in time, when it’s ready, it’ll come.  I think Freud’s last words, when asked what he considered his greatest accomplishment, were something like, “I proved the existence of the subconscious.”  That’s where it comes from.  But the how and the why of it, you got me there.  All I know is that the minute you start taking credit for it, you are through as a writer - or any sort of artist for that matter.

The moment usually comes in the form of a solution to a problem, but sometimes as the missing part.  The missing or forgotten ingredient that finally gives the story the emotional impact you intended.  Or connects it all in a way you hadn’t considered, and makes it more than the sum of the words on the page.
So I had one of those moments a while ago about my book.  I needed a way to authenticate the story, render it as an honest history about the two main characters Mike and Bobby.  Not that it was inauthentic or dishonest to begin with, far from it, but it’s a first person period piece told through the eyes of two brothers in the early 70’s.  I mean for those of you who remember Kodachrome try and describe the look of it in words.  Now get out an old Kodachrome slide and look at it.  Big difference right?  There’s an unspoken sense of history, an immediate sense of time and place. 

So my ah-ha moment was to include visuals in the book.  Not like an “illustrated book,” but old slides, photos, pencil drawings, motion picture type storyboards, digitally manipulated pictures and fine artwork.  Each one of these is designed to be evocative, metaphorical and subtextual - to push the reader to associate that immediate sense of time and place with what the main characters are going through, which even though decades ago, the visuals bring right up to the present in the reader’s mind.  You see what the characters see, you’re there where the characters are, and so you feel what the young main characters feel.  At least that’s my hope.  Other of the visuals are there to give you a direct look into what the boys are seeing in their heads - or that the narrator is remembering  (the motion picture storyboards, the fine artwork), some others to ground the entire fantasy aspect of their journey in hard, cold reality (the haunting old snapshots and Kodachrome slides that sometimes accompany the words on the page and gird the narrative there).

Look, the prose stands on it’s own.  Are these visuals necessary?  No.  Do the deepen the reading experience?  I think so.

Here’s what I mean:

This is what chapter headings look like:
Here's what a page looks like with an embedded photo that supports the narrative on that particular page:

Here's an example of the fine artwork depicting an action sequence from the story:

And here's an example of a chapter end photo and caption that is intended to push the reader to the next chapter:

So there ya go.  I'd like to know if you think the illustrative concept seems to you to support what I've been saying here.  Feel free to hit comment at the end of this column and let me know.  I thank you in advance.

My goal is to sell one million copies of this book.  A tall order?  I don't think so.  I think my story will be meaningful to far more than a million people.  It'll be available on all digital formats probably at $3.99, and on Create Space for $7.99 softcover, $9.99 hardcover.  I hope the book (the story) appeals to anyone that's ever had trouble in life, anyone who grew up in a less than ideal family environment, anyone who has ever had to overcome the seemingly insurmountable.  In other words, all of us.  Because, although bittersweet to be sure, the story is really about this: that no matter how bad it gets in life, no matter how difficult, no matter how close to hopelessness we may find ourselves, it always gets better.  Always.

The human being is the only animal on earth that can literally change it's life by changing it's attitude.

I hope my little book changes lives, or at the least lets anyone who has every been saddled with adversity, especially when they were children, that they were not, are not and never will be alone.

Thanks for reading and check back soon.

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