Monthly Archive: March 2013

Afterbirth

Greetings from a coffee shop state of pseudo-slumber. Bright flaming ball of essential daily nutrients in the sky, winged ants springing from sidewalk cracks in clouds before they settle into kitchens, spiders prepping complex webs and bracing for Hobo accusations, and pale peaking flesh gliding down the street attached to mouths munching stories about bicycle parts and allergies.

This thumbs up is brought to you by the end of January, the end of February, the end of every awful month that seriously needs elimination from the calendar. There’s never been a better case for hibernation than a slow walk down a rain drenched street on a shivering day where every shop owner says fuck it and just closes at five to retreat to the nearest bathroom for a little private mutilation. The rest of us adopt yellow pallets and stone sunk eyes, characteristics previously thought confined to addicts and dystopian novel characters, trying to summon inspiration through a cocktail of Vitamin B and Vitamin D and herbal hoodoo woowoo alongside wanna-be sunlamps and cancerous tanning beds. These attempts to self-resuscitate are chronicled on blogs and tweets and facebook, because internet communication is the only acceptable sport for sanitary sorts who arrive at Portland’s borders and instantly fall antisocial and ill. It’s retreating to caves, coughing and brooding, waiting for the rain to make moats and moss and green scenes so we remember what we’re doing this for. I hate you I love you I hate you I love you.

This is my oldest Sid and Nancy romance.

I’d like to reveal all the excellent events that have unfurled in the past few months, but as I already mentioned January and February don’t actually exist except to file your taxes and force you to attend expensive parties. What I really did was rewatch all six seasons of the Sopranos, and then spend hours considering minor scenes that involved submersion in water and horses, and whether or not Tony traded places with death, and what it all means in terms of self-absorption and the level of denial required to ignore or participate in heinous things. Yeah, that’s it, like the Milgram experiment that explained how the Holocaust could have happened, with the dude being shocked and people still pushing the button and maybe crying and still pushing the button, and…

Still: television exists to remind us that we’re all going to die, and none of us are going to wish we had watched more things before it happened.

So: Last night I organized my selves into a skin and stood while other people sat and made talking noises while dressed as a blue Keebler elf. This is apparently known as a reading, and it took place at Rain or Shine Cafe on Division at 6:30, and I sold four books. Two were sold through the Square, which is a stamped size piece of science you plug into the larger rectangle used to microwave heads, and then money happens. This is a much better use of a smart phone than talking. If you haven’t yet received this fantastic device in the mail, I highly recommend signing up. For all the complicated technology I can’t grok, my brain meats totally tossed this salad without error, and for the first time since its purchase I dared to love my Android phone for the three more days I’ll have it.

The crowd was also neat-o, and contained many of the kind Kickstarter contributors that allowed Psychopomp Volume One to make it to print. A small part of each of the three sections was read to introduce each of the four characters to the herd. At the end of each section everyone pawed the ground and cried “Four legs good, two legs bad!” so I knew I was really on to something.

It went well, and I hope to do more things just like this in the future.

The kind words that followed the reading made me think an audio production of the book should be in the works. When working on this beast I read it aloud to myself anytime my apartment was empty, a tip dispensed by more than one of my writing professors at Ohio University. This is a great means of detecting punctuation errors, and measuring whether or not dialog sounds authentic or like something Bob Saget would say when he’s under contract at a major network. It also zeroes in on garbage words and phrases that are utterly out of place in a paragraph and therefore need to be deleted. I used to consider this heartbreaking, but if you’re a writer you’re always going to write more. Clinging to a phrase you hope will one day arrive as someone’s tattoo to the detriment of the chapter results in a lot of people with ink they don’t understand.

Otherwise, I’ve been in a state of afterbirth, trying to get my body back, knowing all the while that the minute I can pull off a 50 mile bike ride I’ll be pregnant with book again. I mean it, pregnant: The time spent working on it is weird aches and pains and hormonal surges while fielding questions about how far along I am and whether or not I’m ready for this. When the golem makes its painful escape there’s no expectation of having to feed it and water it and clothe it and take it all around town in one of those strollers that swallows the sidewalk, smiling and squeaking, “Excuse me! Don’t you want to hold my baby?”

Then comes the doubt: what if I created a dumbass? Why did I bring this THING into the world to defecate in its pants? It’s totally gonna throw a tantrum in the coffee shop, and I’m going to have to sit there and rub it on my boob while everyone averts their eyes while circling me like the sun. This is bullshit. Who can I get to watch this for me? Can I leave it at Center Camp at Burning Man while I cover myself in blinky lights and run at the fire? I’m the Joan Crawford of authors, wearing lacy nightgowns and painted-on eyebrows and the sneer of someone who hasn’t had a pleasant thought in a decade. One minor disappointment of little consequence and I’m a tabloid, beating it with wire hangers, complaining about ingratitude for all I’ve sacrificed and how no one appreciates nice things, before I leave my book with the nanny and escape for another bender.

Still: I’m on the verge of my Steve Martin moment, where the sour is replaced with the glassy-eyed smile that makes parents often love their children despite their tendency to break things.

In the coming months I’ll be weaning, sending out more review copies, getting the ebook online, booking more readings, and trying to get Psychopomp to take care of itself. Then, Channel Insomnia and Psychopomp Volume 2, and with any luck I’ll have a crowded house and will feel overwhelmed all over again, which is a much more wonderful thing to experience than a hollow, empty bookshelf.

 

A writerly update of sorts: Hardcover?

After almost two years of financial woe, illness, natural disasters, layout snafus, lost files, perfectionist editing, emotional turmoil, and overwhelming workload, the hardcover edition of Psychopomp has finally arrived. Hooray! Thus far I haven’t noticed a single copy with a page printed backwards, any strangely embossed spines, or any hidden pan-flute piping gnomes asking to be inserted into envelopes. If your envelope contains a gnome, it’s not my fault.

The interior layout of this book comes courtesy of one Mr. Clay Fouts, who used GIMP to make the formatting a bit prettier than what’s found in the softcover edition. The cover and dust jacket are the handiwork of Nolan Ashley and myself. You’ll also note some new quotes making their debut on the back, including a few plucked from kind Amazon reviewers who also granted me permission to use their names. I was particularly pleased to receive a quote from Jack Matthews, a former mentor and National Book Award finalist who also happens to be the inspiration for a professor character named Daryl Gates.

All are encouraged to send comments to amanda (dot) sledz (at) gmail (dot) com, because I really would like to know if you enjoyed reading. Thus far the only person with the guts to confess not liking it is my younger sister, who didn’t like the “three stories mashed together” style. Fair enough. It’s not for everyone. I hope it’s for you.

Should you find yourself declaring: “HEY! I want Volume 2!” know that I’m in the process of writing a few grants for myself, in hopes of earning sufficient funds for a month long hiatus from everyday life for the sake of Volume 2 completion. The goal is to complete it by January 2014…in Hawaii. Aloha!

There are some events coming up, starting with a reading at Rain or Shine Cafe on March 28th at 6:30PM. If you haven’t already given my author page a “like” button on Facebook please do. I’ve also been maintaining an author presence on Goodreads, so don’t hesitate to “fan” me there, too!

When I’m not embarrassing myself in front of literary sorts, I’m finishing up Channel Insomnia. Fans of memoir/essays I’ve written over the years may find themselves more drawn to this collection. Much of it was written almost accidentally when insomnia left me nothing to do but monkey slap my keyboard and wait for the sun to rise. This affliction tends to hit me the hardest during daylight savings crime, so this book will likely arrive at completion in April and go to print in May. I’m doing softcover and ebook exclusively, which makes it less useful as a weapon but more useful as a pillow. I always think of you.

I’ll close by saying: the most important asset to authors (particular the unknown sorts such as myself) are reviews and recommendations. If you have the time and inclination after finishing Psychopomp, please consider posting a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, your own blog, etc. Each review (especially on Amazon) increases the likelihood that it will appear as a “Recommended” book to readers of certain genres, which means more sales from people who don’t already know me. Recommend it to friends, leave it in a bus station, pass it on to a neighbor, or display it on a shelf with your other treasures. Of course, you don’t have to do these things, but it would be nice if you did. 

Again, thank you all so much for helping my first book find its way to print. Without your support, and the contract created by Kickstarter, I might have found cause to further procrastinate and hoard all my words on my hard drive. That would be a waste.

Thanks again, and enjoy!