So there I was, finishing the bookkeeping in March of 2020, when I got the news. No, not the Kung-Flu, but a whole different “big C”. Sigh…
The good news is that I'm not only all fine now (in fact, much healthier than I've ever been, and a lot lighter, too), but I'm back in the saddle and halfway through the 3rd entry for the series: Dustings of Blue.
When I got out of the hospital/chemo phase last fall, I still had 2019 taxes (late) to finish, and then 2020, and then we bought a house (not moving for quite a while yet)… you get the idea. And while the hospital didn't kill me, it did kill my laptop (powersurge), and it took forever to restore my (backed up) full environment — the brain fog really didn't help as I labored on two years of bookkeeping all at once.
But I'm in great shape now, and damned eager to be writing again. Grateful, too — it could all have been much worse, but I was lucky.
I'm reading a new-to-me famous Japanese work by Toson Shimazaki entitled Before the Dawn. It tells (at great length) the story of the experience along one of the famous mountain pass roads that connect the western and eastern parts of Japan and provide access to Kyoto and Edo.
Regarded in Japan (where it first appeared in serial form in the 1930s) as the historical novel of the period it portrays, this monumental work tells the turbulent story of the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate, an event precipitated by the arrival of Commodore Perry's Black Ships, and the early years of the Meiji Restoration. The focus is on a mountain village lying across the highway between Tokyo and Kyoto, which was used by the Tokugawa regime as a posting station, and in particular on its headman Hanzo, closely modeled on the author's father, a rural intellectual who suffers the tragic consequences of being a man ahead of his time. Shimazaki shows that the Tokugawa shogunate, for all its repressiveness, had much to commend it; that the restoration, for all its successes, created a great deal of frustration and disillusion; and that, contrary to common belief, Japan's transition from feudalism to the modern age was not a leap but a slow and painful process. The author's supreme achievement is to dramatize wrenching social and political change at the level of individual response. This viable link between event and character, coupled with Toson's limpid, low-key style, is what makes his story so readable despite the massive historical research that infuses it.
The edition I'm reading, from an unidentified translator, is fascinating, but not just for the story it tells. Instead, it's the insight into the Japanese language and its story-telling traditions that are really interesting.
You see, my edition is a fairly… primitive… translation. There are occasional typos, but that's not what I'm referring to. What I like are the raw renderings of the metaphors common to every language, and the imperfectly mitigated grammatical rules and conventions that are also apparent.
For example, when telling a story, it may begin in the past tense but there is a rapid transition to present tense for the story itself, so that it can be presented as playing out before your eyes. In other cases, there are confusions of gender (male adults who become girls as youths) which I assume reflect something real and conventional in the original language.
As an example of raw (unrendered for translation) metaphors, one lord sends help to a traveler in the form of “two men and two legs”. In context, I would suspect the “two legs” might refer to a palanquin (though wouldn't that need two men and thus four legs?). As another instance, people put their food down on a “ferry” and then eat. In context, the “ferry” is probably a flat platter of some kind.
And sometimes you can't quite tell what to do with a puzzling rendering.
Contrary to the expectations of the people who greeted them, Songun did not look so tired from his journey. He didn't look like a man who had sent six years of his life on a long journey and then went to Kyoto Honzan.
I'm sure that “sent” is a typo for “spent”, but look at what a wonderful phrase results: “a man who had sent six years of his life on a long journey.” Think of those six years sailing off and then returning to him to relate what they had done.
Gave me shivers when I read it, instead of my usual irritation at imperfect translations and copyediting.
It's time to look back on 2018 and take stock — what worked, what didn't, and where I spent my time.
Feels like it all passed in a blur…
The first five months were consumed in followup activities following all the marketing work I did in 2017. That included:
* ONIX development. StreetLib had some technical woes, and altogether the process needed to be solidified before I could consider it reliable.
* Standardized deliverables. As part of the ONIX finalization, I tightened up the formalization of all my final output folders, with their various text, image, and marketing component content so that the loose assemblage of files for works-in-process had a clean transition point to rigid folders with standardized deliverable content. This has proved a great time-saver whenever I need to deal with ONIX data or distributors or marketing requirements, including my websites. With almost 30 titles now, order is a fundamental virtue.
* New covers for the Chained Adept series. Having lost that cover artist, I took a long look at the covers and decided I not only needed a new cover artist for the Affinities of Magic series, just starting, but might as well have him redo the Chained Adept series as well. I like the new Affinities of Magic series that he's been developing, and the Chained Adept got a visible boost from better covers. I even asked him to create an advertising image I could use for advertising for the Hounds of Annwn series.
* German translation. While I was in an investment mood, I decided to make my initial experiment with translation by finding someone to do the first book of the Chained Adept Series for the German market, where the SFF genre does well. I'm very happy with my translator — she has delivered the full manuscript, and I still have to go through it with my minor German and automated translation to make sure there's nothing odd about any of the results, before releasing it into the German market to see how it does. By then, I hope to have my Facebook Ads beyond the USA processes in decent shape.
* Publishing contracts/royalty reporting. A little after the fact, I completed the final version of a standardized publishing contract to use and got everything cleaned up for my first outside author. At the same time, I created the processes for tracking and reporting on royalties and payments for outside authors.
* Google Analytics. After several stumbles, I finally commissioned a decent tool for looking at the fate of my various UTM statistics for articles and other things.
For quite some time I've been thinking the covers for The Chained Adept series could be improved. To my eye, they signal more of a juvenile flavor than I had intended.
Michal Wojtasik, my new cover artist, agreed to do a new version. All but the first book are treatments of the same scenes as before.
What do you think?
It's a lot of work, changing the covers of 4 books and all the sets and bundles they participate in. I still have to generate the 3D and bookstack images, and then replace them on all the retailers for both paperback and ebook, not to mention my three websites. I want to get that done in time to announce it for my next newsletter, on the first Monday of the month.
They're great deals for my readers, especially the last one, which is a savings of more than 50% over buying the ebooks separately. I recently broke down and included that last one on Amazon, despite the disadvantage of how Amazon penalizes royalties for books priced higher than $9.99.
But I realize I haven't made the equivalent announcement for ebook bundles for The Chained Adept series:
Books 1 & 2
Books 3 & 4
Those are now all available everywhere, and with the same great savings.
They haven't been out for long, but I find that a significant percentage of my readers are taking advantage of the savings. Better for them, and better for me, too.
I'll be doing the same for The Affinities of Magic series, lagging a bit behind the publication of the individual books, so that by, say, book 4 there may be a bundle for books 1-2, etc.
My taigan puppy (now somewhere north of 90 lbs) has recently passed his one year birthday, with no diminution of his playfulness.
Last night, he progressed from stealing things off my desk when I'm not in my office (and tearing them apart) to deciding to see what my laptop tasted like.
Apparently he decided it made a pretty good chew toy.
The laptop is still functional, but since I can see the bare electronics and the cover frame snaps won't stay closed I'm clearly going to have to replace the entire top section.
What a relief, thought I through my rising blood pressure, that I plumped for the Service Warranty when I bought this machine two years ago. I live in the middle of nowhere and having a technician come out to my home office was a great help with my last PC.
This morning I settled down with what patience I could muster and wasted a couple of hours with Lenovo lining up support, only to discover that, no, my warranty does not cover accidental damage; I could upgrade to add that, but only in the first 90 days; and that they would send me a box so I could ship it to a “depot center” for price estimate and repair.
So, not only will I get to pay full cost for whatever this will be (expensive), but I will have to do without my primary business machine for at least a week. And to add insult to injury, I'm an hour's drive from the nearest FedEx drop off.
He tested both corners, of course — agents of chaos being thorough.
Yesterday afternoon, the mama bear put in an appearance and our taigan leaped into “defend and insult” mode again.
Alas, this is not my own picture — I never seem to have a camera handy when wrangling dogs and bears — but it's close. Instead of woods, picture the edge of the mowed ground around the buildings. She was so full of stolen apples and pears that she didn't want to move and was calmly sitting below the first row of the overgrown orchard, admiring the view down to our cabin.
And ignoring the dog, restrained (miraculously) by the underground dog fence not 25 yards away. And the human, who added her own “Get out of here, bear!” to the ruckus.
Finally, slowly, she shoved herself up and walked upslope to the tall grass, and out of sight. I've had overindulgent dinners like that myself.
I don't mind their depredations in the orchard — we're not using those apples and the critters might as well eat their fill — but I'd be happier if her family kept a bit more distance as they ravaged the apples. What happens in the tall grass stays in the tall grass.
Maybe I should give her something to read inbetween meals.