Saturday, April 28, 2012

II: Other Hamilton Sister::Heat

It's hot!

The sun blinds me. I try to look away,  it reflects off the residue of dew on everything around me. It's not making this easy for me.  Sweat on the coils of the AC is mocking me. I can't decide if it’s just the dew or if it’s another indicator.

I have to look up to relieve my eyes. What should be a pretty sky with its blue-red reminds me that I have to hurry.  My eyes wash across the lesser moon that looms ever large in the sky. I know it won't be visible much longer with the clouds coming. I already feel the humidity the clouds bring with them.

With longing I glance at the remaining dew. I lick my lips feeling the dews fragility knowing New Terra is unable to embrace it. Our big mother star burns it off and tosses it back into the air around us. I can feel her smothering comfort rolling down my flesh. It's making me feel parched, squeezing me dry to burn my sweat from my skin. It's been less than an hour of sun, yet I feel as though its mid day.

I wipe my forehead with the thin sleeve of my chenille overcoat. My eyes watch it change color under the light. This distracts me from the affectation of my skin. I feel as comfortable as I can in this heat, having cast off my barmaids outfit in exchange for a sports bra and short shorts. I'd be more comfortable without the overcoat, but modesty prevents that. Not too much modesty though, I have left it unbuttoned.

I contemplate going back inside the bar with Jack, but it's going to get worse inside with the AC broken.  I could make Jack come out here to do this. Then he'd have to completely replace the whole thing. I'm trying to help him avoid that. I look down upon my work.

Ants are dancing on the clots of fractured clay around the air conditioner. Seeming unperturbed by its spurious attempts to restart then die and restart again.  Though, they have dissipated considerably since I shut the AC down completely.

I finish bleeding the system. It hasn't leaked out but it acts like it’s blocked somewhere. It could be one of these ants or a whole colony. The seals on this thing are worn enough to invite intrusion.

I carefully pull the reclamation canister and my rigged filter off the assembly.  Hooking up the can of compressed air I give the system a good blow. I can hear the problem, Jack would likely not. It quickly disappears as whatever was there breaks loose and hits the palm of my hand. I'm thinking we're not out of the woods yet. Feeling uncertainty of the future, I make the sign of the cross and say a few Hail Marys. That could be sacrilegious, because I don't consider myself religious. Everything looks good to my eye. Well, as good as it can. I need to recharge the system.

First I cap it and test some pressure on it.

It's a bust.  I mean a real bust. The leak is so evident I see the few remaining ants being blown hither and yon. Normally I'd give the wrench a good toss. I've not been using the wrench for fear of making things worse.

I ask myself why I'm doing this.

Turning at the sound of the back door opening fortuitously I can see Jack's head sticking out. He squints under the sun. He says, “Angie, how we doing out here?”

Stepping back from my work and looking at Jack, I say, “Hot, sticky. This damn stuff is worn beyond its warranty period by almost a decade. Could use some better sealant. A few new parts.”

Jack steps out. I watch as he shifts his slightly rotund midsection. After some difficulty he's standing on the stoop with the door shut. He's round not fat, but definitely not buff like the Tom's who strut around the bar. He looks to me to be in thought before he does a half dance with the door again to make a hasty retreat. I hear his grunting and grumbling as he disappears and the door closes. I'm thinking he can't stand the heat. But, his head comes out again.  This time he lands in the sand. The door slams itself.

With a sheepish expression he offers me a bag.

He also offers a glass of amber liquid.

I wave a hand and say, “Thanks. You know I don't drink that stuff.”

I’m clutching my chenille together in front. I’d have to let go to grab both. I turn my back towards him as I take the sack.

Jack waves his hand pointing at the glass and says, “It's tea, with sugar, the way you like it.”

 Embarrassed at my own lack of trust, I take the tea from his huge fist.

I set the bag down and look inside.  It contains everything I need to do this job proper. I give Jack a well deserved harsh look. I say, “Great, make me do this twice. Where were you hiding this?”

Checking the ground for ants, I stomp around a bit.  I sit. The ground feels cool. That's not good. That means I'm warmer than it is. I sip the tea slowly. "Thanks Jack, I really needed this tea."

Jack shrugs, wiping his fingers on the towel draped over his shoulder. He says, “Yeah, Sorry. I'm bad. I know. But, I listen and I picked this up a week ago. Figured it was due to quit soon.”

I pull my feet closer to me until my hiking boots touch where my bare thighs meet the hem on my shorts.  Taking a very short break I touch the cool glass against my legs then I move my feet away to make room.  Feeling contorted I try to reach the bag so I can I pour the parts in my lap. Flattening it on the ground I carefully lay the parts upon the bag in a row.

Feeling light headed and giddy for a number of reasons including the heat I exclaim, “Wow. All shiny and new.  I hope this doesn't come out of my paycheck.”

I start to work again, this time I take up the wrench.

Jack says, "Only if you mess it up and I have to buy more parts."  I watch him step into the little shadow offered by the structure of the bar.  His gaze falls out across the desolation toward the line of trees that mark the lower edge of the mountains.

I look into the sky, looking for clouds. To me they are as scarce now as the ants are at night.  I know that at night the clouds sink down covering the ground like a cottony blanket. The sun comes up to burn these away in short order. For a number of hours the moisture hangs in the air before clouds return like a colony of ants.  I feel the need to hurry. I'm already overheated.

I catch Jack following my gaze, he says, “If this takes too long I can make an exception. Let you use that cot in back.”

I recall the first time Jack made such an offer.  I'm not sure what he expected to get out of it. Whatever, he didn't get it. I feel comfortable with Jack though, you only have to say no once with him. With confused and possibly misplaced disappointment I recall he hasn't made such an offer since. But, I've been diligent about getting home early.

 Huffing a couple of times, I stop to sip at my sweet tea. I look at Jack. I say, “Na, That's okay. I'll get home just fine. It's much cooler up in the mountains.”

Jack nods. As I work I can feel him become focused on his observation of my own intent process. He says, “Where and how did you learn to fix stuff?”

This is not the first time Jack's asked this. I say, “I dunno, it just came to me one day.” I stop and think about that. I'm certain each time I give him the same answer.
I hear Jack scoff. He half laughs and says, “Yeah, sure, don't tell me. You could go to town, take the test, and get licensed. No longer have to deal with the Tom’s here. I'm just say'in you'd have a good chance at a better career.”

I finish my work, check for leaks, fill the line, and bleed the air from the system. Everything is sealed and tight. Gathering Jacks tools, supplies, and decadent parts I stuff them into the bag and wipe my hands on the bag.

I see Jack raise his eyebrows. I nod, and watch him slip back inside. In short-order the conditioner comes on and begins to cycle. I wait and watch. After some moments, feeling some relief, I stand. I look to the door.

Jack’s hanging half in and half out. His gyrations are giving me a headache. I think he's torn about doing something or rushing in to enjoy the cooler air.

I wave and say, “She's all good.”

I see Jack decide and he falls upon me giving me a fatherly hug before I can move. He says, “You do good work.”

I shrug out of his grasp, put some distance between us. I do like the way he refrains from adding, for a clone, at the end of that sentence though.

Jack’s arms fall to his sides. He grins, “I'm serious. About schooling. I'd help pay for it. If you was my daughter …”

I shake my head, I say, “You'd miss me. Maybe you need to get yourself a real daughter.” As I think about that and what he tried that first night I think, maybe not.

Jack waves his hand. He says, “Na.” He goes quiet. I'm unsure which he has said no to. Then he says, “You still could come check and make sure everything is in working order.”

I finish my tea and hand Jack my glass. He bends down to the spigot, gives it a short blast of filthy water.

I say, “That's okay, Jack. We have a good arrangement. I don't need to be indebted to you forever.”

Jack shrugs, looking toward the hills. Pulling the towel down he works the corner into the glass to polish it. Jack says, “I know you don't like working Toms.” His head points.  “Like that one inside. Just a tourist. Passing through. Now with his face plastered to the table because he thought he could ply you with a few drinks.”

I'm looking at the ground. The ants are back en-masse. Back to worship this humming deity. I'm almost pleased to have restored their continuity perhaps their existence.

 I shake my head to clear it of Jack’s merciless words.

Turning away, I step towards the hills. They are the first leg of my journey into the mountains. This thought tires me. I'm not looking at Jack. So, just to be certain he can see I'm leaving, I shout, “I'll see you tonight, Jack. Take care of yourself.”

I need to get away from the heat.

Copyright 2012 J.L. Dobias

Monday, April 23, 2012

Write-edit-write-and keep moving forward:

Do you really want your readers to be your editors?

Well, yes.  At least that's what I had in mind when I asked a few of them to read my book while it was in development.

I felt the lack of takers on that offer was a poor reflection on my ability to write.  The trauma of rejection gave me writer's block for about a half second pause.

So, one problem with self publishing may be the perception that I'm still asking those people to edit my work while also asking some to pay for it.  Heh, Heh Heh, and in a way I am.  But, that's only a reflection on the system of self publishing.

Some things to remember:
You shall do extensive spell checking and grammar checking and sentence structure checking. You shall find someone else to go over your work, doing the same things you just did Then you shall sit down together and do substantive editing (also known as developmental editing and comprehensive editing). This is a much more in depth look at structure, continuity, and character building. Perhaps cutting the fat.  Keep in mind that old saying.  "Don't throw the baby away with the bath water."

This is also a bit backwards but trust me you need to get some of the little stuff out of your way before delving into rearranging your thoughts to be readable by most readers.

This can never hurt you if you plan to go the conventional route and get an agent or a publisher to notice you. This is critical if you plan to self publish.  That is mostly for the sake of your reader.

The reader will most likely still find a way to express their opinion of the errors they do find.  And they will find them.  You should nod and smile and write notes.  Remember, this is the unsolicited edit you forced on them.

When you publish you should try to buy a self publish package that contains a copy-edit.  This will be a final look at grammar and spelling at the very least. There may be some attempt to help with sentence structure. Usually what you get though is the low end description of copy-edit and something better than proof reading.

We did our best to cover the substantive end in my first book, but I had a poor grasp of the whole process and may have contributed to a failure mode.   The up side is that this gives the rawest form of the writers work and might ring more true than a polished piece.

If you are like me you may feel compelled to go the extra mile and have someone new look at what you now think is the next best thing to sliced bread. It's probably not totally critical and it is costly unless you have an abundant number of volunteers with English degrees. But, if you think you didn't miss anything, as a friend once said, you are delusional.

Keep in mind, when you have someone else do the copy-edit, that you should read the manuscript all the way through while verifying the work accomplished.  Most editors will send you back a document file with notes and tags on the changes.  I found though that some changes were made that did not have tags and were critical because the change altered the meaning of the sentence.  This sounds bad, and it is.  But in most cases it caused me to rethink my wording, since it must have really confused them for them to make it say what I did not mean.

You can possibly try to get substantive editing from an on demand publisher if you ask.  The problem will be that substantive editors are expensive, in terms of the cost of self publishing.  My document had over 400 pages and 260000 words.  In page count they charge by the hour at a rate of 50 to 60 (low estimate) us dollars per hour. That's at anywhere from 1-6 pages per hour. Word count is 2 to 4 cents a word.  These are on the conservative end of the estimates.  For my first book it would cost anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 dollars for a good substantive edit.

The good news is that if you are buying a package including copy-editing and they do a good job.  You will be getting a value on this book of about 3,000 to 5,000 dollars. And unless you are a copy-editor you will need another set of eyes to look at this. And if you are a copy-editor you will have it done anyway because you know you will need it.

The final goal is to not burden the reader with someone else job.  If they don't enjoy reading the book then you failed.

And, yes.
 If you didn't enjoy it please let me know.

I subscribe to the no news is good news. And after 250 downloads and no comments I'll just assume everything is dandy and keep on keeping on.

J.L. Dobias Author of Cripple-Mode: Hot Electric

Monday, April 16, 2012

I:The Other Hamilton Sister::Smoke

I sit, contemplating memories that I shouldn't have. Memories that are clearly not mine. Wondering if there is some tiny strand of truth to the notion that twins have a connection that goes beyond their shared lives. It's been a long time Theodora. What are you up to that these thoughts and feelings burn me to the dark pit that stands in the place of the soul I've never had and can't possess? Why now? Why do these memories plague me at the time I'd given up; the moment I'd tried to immerse myself in a life that wasn't meant for me? I'd gone to great length to lose myself. How did you find me and why did you send me these strange memories, ever more strange than any I could imagine from you? Memories that work at the very fabric of the shadow of my inner self that pretends to be a broken soul. And how can any of this be possible when in truth we are not real twins when we've only shared a womb as creatures created by man and not endowed with life by god. I'd given up and you so mercilessly pulled me out of that tailspin and gave me gifts that beg me to make more of this wretched life than to immerse my hollow self in my own pity. How dare you make me care again?

I watch the smoke curl up at the end of my hand. It looks as though my fingers are on fire. Winding itself around the long nails and climbing straight up to wither away at the edge of my face. It's disgusting. I know. I don't much care. I don't smoke these things anyway. They are here for ambiance. I've played this wretched character too many nights. This cigarette has become an ironic symbol. The glow is like the embers of my being releasing the grey smoke of my phantom soul into the air.

I lift up my right leg and cross it over the left until the knees are neatly stacked. I'm creating a tell for the perv across the room. I call him that because I've watched him observing me half the night. Perhaps I'm being unfair. He could be an ardent admirer of beauty. I lift my skirt, what there is of it. This is a way to show more flesh and yet less substance. It's certain now I'm blocking the view of what he's been trying to see. It's a tease. His eyes haven't wavered. He's like the rest. They're all the same. And I'm not much different. I've become the damned leading the damned.

Tom, that's what I call them. It's for peeping Tom. Whenever they catch me saying it, it quickly becomes Tom Cat. He's been here long enough intently gawking. He should have pounced by now. I pivot on the bar stool to afford a better view. I watch from the corner of my eye. His movements are subtle. He's rich with intent where his eyes are concerned. Maybe he's unsure about interrupting my work. He doesn't realize that he's the other half of my work.

This is how I make money. It's not what everyone thinks. I just have to get him to buy me drinks. He pays a god awful amount for my cola's and his liquor and I get a fair commission. I watch him drink himself under the table and I move on. I can't claim it's much of a living, but it's all I got. Nice work for a clone. The best I can expect on this suck rock planet, New Terra. I'm pretty sure this job isn't helping our image here, but that was tarnished to begin with.

I can't say people here think well of clones. I don't blame them. I don't have fond memories of clones myself. Even if I'm one, by most definitions. My problem with elitist groups like the Clone Colony Collective is that they have rules for defining what a clone is. I don't fit the mold even though they left genetic markers in me to make it impossible to deny what I am. I'm an outcast of the outcasts.

My understanding is that I'm not quite acceptable because I came into the world in a most normal fashion. Being a natural live birth makes me something disgusting to the average clone. I'm just as broke up about it as they are, but it was their leaders who decided to bring us into this universe.

Us is me and my sisters.

If Tom were sitting next to me where he's supposed to be I'd be telling him all of this. Spilling my guts, only today I'm halfway relieved as this all has a strange feel of something disgusting. It's just a story,My names Angie my sisters are Betty and Lucy. Bet you thought I'd say Betty and Veronica. The Toms like that joke. Personally I don't quite get it. But I try not to be judgmental, they always listen to my story. So, I tell them I'm the Alpha and Betty is Beta. We're the first two prototypes. Lucy our little sister was sorta in the middle and I'm not at all sure if there was going to be an Omega. I never tell them our real names are Amber, Theodora, and Lucia. I'm Amber.

I tell the Toms that Lucy passed away, and that's the truth. I think her death sealed Omega's fate. Lucy was supposed to be the golden child. Betty and I we were failures, but I don't tell the Toms that because I'm not all that fond of the fact.

We would have washed out of the program, but they let us be Lucy's babysitters. That whiny brat didn't make things easy. But, I shouldn't blame her, not for whining. I do blame her for taking us into her nightmare. That was uncalled for. Well, if we'd believed her, instead of laughing at her, maybe she would have been less inclined to prove there is a boogeyman. I guess we laughed too hard.

Lucy wasn't really our little sister.

We're triplets. Identical in shape and form if not in mind. Lucy was too odd to be like us.

Lucy knew better than to take us there where that horrible thing was lurking. It snatched us up in one fell swoop and held us like the catch of the day. I'm not sure what Lucy had to do to get us loose. I know Betty and I were certain we were going to die. What that beast did and what it tried to take from us had us hoping it would finish us quick. Lucy got us out somehow, but it cost her. I know that bastard sucked her soul out of her. Despite what people say about clones having no soul. If I've no soul then why do I care and why does it hurt? And why does it feel like what isn't there is slowly being torn from me every day?

Now I have to deal with worthless tears rolling down my cheek. After putting us into that mess, she's not worth this. But, the crying serves a purpose. Mr. Tom across the way has noticed. He's on his way to comfort me. I know what he really wants. It's not what he'll get. But, when I play the cards right he'll pay for it. I try to avoid his eyes. His eyes tell me lies I can't afford to buy lest he touch the heart and then the soul that isn't there.

Tom sits in the bar stool next to me. His arm engulfs me like a cradle does a baby. At first it's a slight and tentative action that grows less so for each moment I don't rebuke him. He's talking to me, consoling me. Maybe asking what's wrong or if he can help. I wouldn't know. I see his lips move but the words are like white noise to me. I have an attention problem. I've been this way since that one time in JumpSpace under the thumb of that creature. It's why I crave the contact of even this stranger to take away the bitter taste left from an encounter with indescribable terror.

Somewhere in the moment of his unusual comfort my head finds this stranger's shoulder. I'm pressing hard against him. I make faint attempts to dwell on anything else other than what I'm sure Tom must think of me. This whole town knows I'm the Clone Slut. I've a reputation to maintain. I do my thing at night then vanish in the morning. Into the mountains. Up where my friends are. Where everyone is smooth. Without a care for where you came from and what you do with your life. The one place I'm not a castoff clone.

I'm here, on New Terra, because mom and dad ran away with me in tow.

Theodora, Betty, was the wise one. She took the general's offer. The general was LJG, League Jump Guild. He promised steady work and decent wages. I wonder how Theo is making out with all of that.

I worry about mom and dad, even though they aren't really our parents. Mom did carry us in her womb. That doesn't much count with clones. It's just a different sort of vat, an inferior one at that. I struggle to understand how I'm supposed to feel about it. I say it doesn't make a difference. I'm betrayed by tears that might protest.Life wasn't pleasant after the project broke down. The general promised a lot. Still, he was one of those many who set this all up to begin with. He killed Lucia as much as that monster in JumpSpace. Her blood and her ashes are on his hands. I worry about Theo. I wonder if she thinks about me.

Tonight's gentleman is being awfully tender. I'm not used to that. I push his drink a bit further away from his reach. Sipping my cola I look at him. He's still absorbed in his one-sided conversation. I rest my scattered golden truss upon his shoulder and try to listen to the rhythm of his voice. If I can't focus on his words I'll focus on his tone. Dad and mom were never this tender. It was always, "Make sure Lucia does this. Have Lucia do that. Keep Lucia happy." If they'd only known it all amounted to "send Lucia into the jaws of death."

I almost ask Tom what his real name is. That would be bad. Wrong. None of this is real. My real life is in the mountains with my friends. Tom will be gone tomorrow to be replaced by another Tom with the new night. I look at him with suspicion. I'm not at all sure this isn't one of the Tom's of a bygone night. That's happened before. They usually are aggressively abusive if they can recall that the other night ended with their face pasted to the table instead of my breasts.

He's too kind to be a dissatisfied customer.

Jack, my boss and bartender, has worked his way over to us. He's swishing the corner of a towel into a shot glass. After giving me a severe look he pushes Tom's drink back up next to Tom's hand. He waits for me to move, so I keep still. Jack has only my interests at heart. I can't live if I don't have money. I can't have money if Tom doesn't keep buying drinks.

Tom picks up the glass and empties it. Jack has the next one on the counter for him before he can lift a finger. Tom tosses money into the great jar there in the middle. That's good, a part of that is mine. Before I allow my self to backslide I stand up. Tom instinctively encircles me with both hands to hold me there. I have to be gentle but firm in explaining that I need to use the powder room. I really just need to get out of his gentle reach long enough to let the harshness of reality intrude on my state of mind.

Still trying to make things difficult for me, Tom gently lets me go in warm fuzzy pieces. I use my forefinger to touch my lipstick and I use it to smear his lip just a tad. He smiles genially. I walk away giving him coy glances from over my shoulder.

Inside the bathroom with my hands on either side of the sink I take one long look at myself. I could just as well be looking at Theo or Lucia. But, Lucia's a ghost by now so I'd rather not go there. Tears swell and continue to smear my makeup. I look into the mirror. I place the remaining piece of my cigarette balanced on its filter on the ledge at the bottom of the mirror. The smoke runs across the mirror in the direction that the ventilation takes it. My eyes are a mess, so I begin wiping them gently until they are clean, so I can re-paint them. I can't take out the redness but some eye-drops will help a little. My whole body shudders and I long for Tom's gentle touch. With a harsh shake that tosses my hair in the air I try to push those thoughts away.

By the time I'm finished I'm certain Jack will have Tom more under the bar than over. It's better this way. That those who have souls do not mingle with those whose soul is in question. I really don't feel soulless, but to be honest I don't know how that should feel.

Now I'm all fixed and ready to proceed through my night. Once again anchored with the reality that my real life is in the morning in the mountains. I pull out a new cigarette and light it, leaving the tiny smoke stack in front of the mirror. One last look through the fog of smoke to assure that I look presentable. I touch the glass.

This here, right now, is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Copyright 2012 J.L. Dobias

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A rose by any other name...

Sci-Fi vs Science Fiction:  Potato potato Tomato tomato.

I was going to ramble on about Science Fiction vs Fantasy but I found out quickly that there's a whole bit of controversy just within the smaller community itself.  Perhaps I have been isolated from reality too long but I honestly did not put much stock in the trouble with Sci-Fi.  I also tend not to listen to the wise words of Mr. E...

I'll post here something I posted on a forum under one of my few screen names.
   Funny thing;
I've only been reading SF for 55 years now. And never really ran into this prejudice until recently. It's a rather ironic prejudice.

Back in the early 50 most Science Fiction as it was called would today apparently be considered Sci-Fi by some of the definitions I have heard.

Somewhere in the 60's and 70's there were attempts to make it Speculative Fiction that would most likely be the true SF definition.

Now there seems to be some push to differentiate between SF and Sci-Fi which in most cases devolves to Science Fiction vs Sci-Fi which is just silly because SF is Speculative Fiction and not Science Fiction at all.

But truth be told they are all the bastard children of what was happening in the 50s which was then Science Fiction and now seems to come to mind as Sci-Fi so that might make them all the children of Sci-Fi who have all forgotten their roots.

But hey, I've only been watching this for 50 some years so what do I know?

Now for those who know me I'll confess to the stretch here.  Unless we can count Dr. Suess it is a slight bit less than 55 years.  Though if we use SF liberally to include today's definition of speculative fiction that seems to be an umbrella of a multitude of genre I'm sure we can fit it in.

As it is it may have been two more years before the teacher and librarian expressed concerns for my reading level if I continued in my present direction.

That's when they pointed me to the Mushroom Planet Series by Eleanor Frances Butler Cameron.

Please don't say those are not Science Fiction or you will break the heart of a seven year old.

Since 1992, Golden has presented the Eleanor Cameron Award for Excellence in Children's Science Fiction to the author of an English Language novel written for middle-grade readers.

From there I discovered Philip Francis Nolan's Buck Rogers and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars and Venus series and Otis Adelbert Kline's Venus series just to name a few.  And when dad brought home several boxes of books from auctions I discovered Pohl Anderson's  After Doomsday.  That and the Science Fiction Book Club pretty much caused me to hit the ground running with reading.

Suffice it to say several teachers were still a bit concerned about my reading level.

Now to get back to a point I was going to lead into.

 Will I be offended if someone calls my writing Sci-Fi instead of  Science Fiction?  The answer is no.  So if someone means to offend me they will have to pick a more universally understood term like perhaps crap.  Now that would get my attention.

This brings us to the next big question.  What about fantasy?

I do think there are elements in my work that contain what some people might find they need to relegate to fantasy.

I have no cure for their ills.  This book is meant to be Science Fiction in much the same terms Robert Heinlein would have preferred to have seen the definition of  Speculative Fiction go.

That worked out so well for him that perhaps I should just go on with calling mine Sci-Fi and that should make everyone happy.

J.L. Dobias Author of Cripple-Mode: Hot Electric

Saturday, April 14, 2012

On Self Publishing

Self-Publish?:Explain to me once more why you shot yourself in the foot!

My coffee is lukewarm and the smell of tobacco and beer fall upon us like a familiar overcoat.  The warm face sitting across from me has harsh disparaging eyes. He turns away because he knows I know him all too well.  He's the best of friends, even when he's being a troll. Putting his beer down and folding his beard with the thumb and forefingers of each hand he points his head towards me. He says, "I know I said I didn't want to hear your lame ass justifications, but tell me again.  The last time I wasn't listening."

 I lean into the table lowering my lids a bit and watching him just a moment longer.  He's still looking my way, that says something.  It's probably safe to go on.

Laying my hands on the table palms down I try to give the appearance of saying a small prayer, not for him to be enlightened, but for me to have patience.  I say "Well, it starts back when I went to a blog where it was clearly explained that there are thousands of submissions every year for new books from new authors.  There were a series of daunting hoops to go through just to be sure your i's are dotted and t's crossed.  Those were not insurmountable.  In fact they're instructive.  With the insight offered, I could ensure that I'd not fall into some of the usual pratfalls of the average new author.  And it isn't that I can't finish the work.  It's finished.  I have another on the way. And I have an infinite supply up here."

Shaking my head ,it lists slowly as though its over heavy.  I wait and watch.  There should be more comment from the peanut gallery any second.  When only silence reigns I clear my throat.  I say, "None of that poses a problem.  It's those blasted statistics.  One in several thousand chances that an agent or publisher will spend more than a passing glance on my work even when it's presented properly. It's like a slow death march. I'm sending out clones of my manuscript on one way trips with such a small chance that they will survive the purges. That alone would not be so bad, but it's not knowing what I'm sending them into.  Rejection notes vary but the common theme is to just say keep trying.  Not much in the line of battle reports to tell intelligence what we're up against.  God, it would be at least something if they just said that they'd decided to burn the next 1000 manuscripts to make room for the next invasion.  Seriously though some constructive criticism.  It would dispel any vision that there are a whole circle of agents and publishers with a large hat just pulling submissions until they reach the quota."

"This same blog site had a link."

"It has statistics related to authors in print and their experience with getting published by major publishing houses.  It was in part done to help highlight the importance of doing short stories to build your reputation and credibility as an author.  It had statistics showing the difference between published authors who first did short stories and then published a novel as opposed to those who were fortunate enough to go straight to a first novel.  It also included the success rate of both sides of that coin.  Showing that those who had built a reputation with short stories had the higher probability of success in maintaining a consistent flow of novel work. This was all instructive in painting a clear picture of what needs to be done."

"Still, a daunting part, the submissions and rejections, remain to hang my manuscript over a fire."

"Then, light at the end of the tunnel.  The author of this post painted this horrible picture of self publishingFor some reason he'd deemed it necessary to include statistics on the number of self publishers who might be noticed by an agent or publisher. His indication was that it was a sad 1 out of 256 chance. I looked at this and realize 1 out of 256 as opposed to 1 out of thousands.  And, there was my solution to my dilemma.. "

My companion looks only slightly baffled. Eyebrows furrowed above thin slits behind the dark reflective spectacles. This is good, I expect he's forgotten previous rounds of discussions about my book. I say, "Remember, you indicated that you didn't want to read my book to review it. You wanted the hard evidence in your hand so you could browse page by page in one night the efforts of all my years.  And, there it is, chance is more in my favor with self publishing.  All I have to do is sacrifice my first born.  And, not really that much of a sacrifice when I can place a copy in those fleshy maws of yours. To say nothing of the fact that it would cost the same or less than a custom made furry costume."

As is his characteristic response to such revelation he sits back in his chair and forms an O with his mouth.   Then his eyes light and he smiles and chuckles, nearly sloshing the beer from his mug. His throat adds its own reverberation to his chortle.  The wind comes up swiftly to whip the smoke up and away. The smell of beer washes away from us like the evening tide.  I lift my eyes to watch the smoke become a part of the clouds.  Then I force them to come back to the empty chair across from me.

Taking the book from my bag I set it on the table.

It's a shame you couldn't stick around long enough to see this.  I can only hope that as I sit and read  you will be reading over my shoulder.  Farewell my friend and have a good rest.

Copyright 2012 J.L. Dobias