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Well, it’s been quite some time since I wrote anything here. Again. And that’s a good thing. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. You see, I’m entering a new phase of this little project; a phase that includes the possible participation of a professional literary agency in handling my debut novel. That’s the good thing. Everything I’ve worked on thus far over the past twelve years has been purely amateur hour. I mean that in the best possible sense, literally: unpaid artistic venture. And now there is the potential to take it to the next level. I couldn’t be more excited. And I couldn’t be less busy.

For those of you who are reading this that have no knowledge of this project, I refer to it as the Station 12 project, or Station 12 for short. Clever, right? It began in 2004 as a universe-building project with the idea of creating a computer adventure game. Infinite City Studio was born in the heart of New York City and grew to a whopping nine unpaid volunteers, all helping to create something out of nothing. And you know what we got? That’s right. A lot of nothing. I did say unpaid, right? The project came and went and we literally had nothing to show for it. Zero assets to carry over to the next incarnation. But what a great experience. /rollseyes

But I got enough accomplished on the universe-building part that I thought the project could continue and so I kept a relationship going with the other two writers on our little project and we set off on a course of writing a joint novel. What, you never heard of that? Neither had they. Neither had I. And there’s a reason for that. But everyone produced some good work and the skeleton of the story was interesting to me. Now I swear I don’t know what happened to this aspect of the project to cause it to fizzle out other than it was a bad idea. I don’t know if my mind wandered, or if my co-workers saw the light and moved on, I really don’t remember. Let’s just say that phase of the project came to an end. I commend my co-writers for sticking with me as long as they did, and I even thanked them in the first printing of my novel. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So it was around this time that I was getting itchy to really do something with this new world I created. (At this point my wife and I relocated from New York City back to our old homestead of Hartford, CT. Come to think of it, that might have been what ended the previous iteration of the project.) And since I had a passion for making movies (in my mind), I thought it was time to turn Station 12 into something visual. I had plenty of story material…and a Sony Handicam!! What else did I need? You see where I’m going with this? Again, things start to get fuzzy in my memory when I’m to blame for not getting things done that I set out to do. I don’t know if I was desperate to work with friends and colleagues, or if I was simply desperate not to work alone. Long story short: Despite six decent scripts and a devoted camera man, it was not going to happen without money and a professional crew. Amateur hour. Ridiculous, really, I was about twenty-five years too old for that kind of youthful enthusiasm, that kind of idealism, so it was finally time to get real. That’s why I began my master plan to create a multi-million dollar entertainment franchise.

Wait! Hear me out! I’m trying to tell you about the horrible silence of revision, that gap in communication between the artist and his/her audience, and why it will all be worth it in the end.

So once I faced the reality of how much work it would take to make movies of any merit, I decided it was time to go back to the novel. Only this time it would be a solo effort, and I would sequester myself for as long as it took until I had a finished product. That took a few years and a lot of rewrites. A lot. About halfway through the novel-writing process, I decided I was going to self-publish. It had nothing whatsoever to do with a fear of rejection. I generally don’t have issues with that kind of thing since most of what I do is for me. If I’m happy with it, I’m happy. (That’s great for peace of mind, but not necessarily great for the bank account.) No, I wanted to self-publish because I didn’t want the next step of legitimate publication to hinder my sense of accomplishment and closure. I’d worked for many years on finally finishing something and I didn’t want the process (whatever it was) or outright rejection to stall my arrival to the finish line.

As I reached the last year of my work on the novel, Station 12: The Lantern Society, things really started to heat up for me. Busy, busy, busy. I had a lot of reading to do when it came to self-publishing. Ultimately, I chose Amazon’s CreateSpace environment to work in, figuring they’d been at it for a long time, and it had the possibility of being the easiest to use. While I worked diligently toward that end, I acquired software for building my own website, using a domain I’d owned for many years. I constructed the website while continuing my rewrites and studying up on self-publishing. But wait! There’s more! Facebook, of course! In my pursuit of self-publishing knowledge, I came across a lot of information about marketing using social networking. So I started working feverishly on creating a halfway decent FB page for Station 12. It involved a lot of Photoshopping and sharing what news I had…all the while keeping my new website up to date, learning Twitter (useless. Still not getting it), and making sure the novel was everything I wanted it to be before pulling the trigger on publication. I mean, everything was totally go, man. I was one busy bee.

I published the book. Sold a few copies. Then resigned myself to the arduous task of marketing. Not something I was looking forward to. And while this was all happening, I sent my manuscript off to a literary agency a friend told me about. And you know what? They didn’t say ‘no, thank you.’ They seemed a little interested in the property. I didn’t expect that. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t, ‘we love it, come on in and let’s talk about it.’ It was more, ‘we like what you have here but we think you’d benefit from a professional edit. And we can help you with that for a fee.’ Now it’s obvious what a skeptic might say to that. ‘Sounds like a racket.’ I did some research and there were quite a few people who said that very thing. But the fact of the matter is, they are a literary agency, they have made deals on behalf of many authors, and most importantly…I knew my book WOULD benefit from a professional edit.

As I later explained to my wife, if I was going to do this thing, I would have to go all in. I wasn’t going to fork over my hard-earned money and then sweat the legitimacy of the venture. I was going to make the appropriate changes to my manuscript so that I’d get that invite. And together we would make preparations for professional publication. And we’d get that contract for the sequel. And I would become a professional writer.

This is when the silence started. Once the agency expressed their interest (they still look forward to reading the revised manuscript. I keep in touch), all other aspects of the project came to a halt. Professional representation would be a game-changer. So social media stopped, additions to the website stopped, marketing research sure as hell stopped, and all my focus returned to my manuscript. It was really strange, like somehow I had taken a backward step. I knew I hadn’t, just the opposite. But I was so wrapped up in the business of self, I didn’t know what to make of this next step toward possible “success”. If the agency picks me up as a client, and if they’re able to pair me with a publishing house, everything will change. I’m not saying I’ll be able to quit my day job (lolol….um, yeah), but it will open me up to a lot more possibilities. And all that work that I did in the past, all those failed attempts at working with others will not have been for naught. They were just practice runs for this new dynamic. And maybe I’ll get paid.

But while I revise, revise, revise, the silence drags on. And I have to keep telling myself, stay the course. You’re almost there.

Crossing Over

It’s been quiet here at the blog. Why is that? It’s not like I’ve achieved my goal of building a multimedia entertainment franchise. In fact, I’ve only just begun. Truthfully, looking at the big picture, I’ve barely started. So, what’s the deal? Why aren’t I churning out posts by the fistful of all the things I’m putting in motion to make it all happen? Because, my friends, there’s a very deep trench between creative vision and the labor involved in making it happen. And I am what you would call a sloooow bridge builder. (Perhaps we’ll look at the why’s of that some day.)

Okay, so my first novel is published. Okay…now what? The list of things to do is so monumentally huge, it becomes an abstract; a general mish-mash of responsibility that far outweighs any minuscule income from publication. I guess the smart thing to do would be to create a task list, each task being a plank toward building that bridge. How hard can that be? Riiiiight. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m not whining about all the work I’ve done, or all the work ahead of me. I’m learning. (You know, it’s never too late to learn.) This is all about learning and crossing over to a place I’ve never been exposed to before.

So there’s the marketing I still have to launch for the book. I’ve exhausted the friends and family route, and now it’s time to cross over. By that I mean, it’s time I start reaching out to the public at large. It’s a daunting task. Why? Well, if only 25% of my friends and family (purely guesswork, surely less) bought the book, what should my expectations be for the general public? Then again, if I sold my book to 25% of the nation, never mind the world, I suppose I would be a millionaire many times over. That’s not too shabby.

But even if I only want to sell 100,000 copies of my novel, I’ve got to get working on that marketing scheme. (Have I ever mentioned that I hate the business side of my creative life? Cuz I do.) So, I took another step recently to cross over: I sent a submission to a big time literary agent (purely guesswork, how would I know?) here in New York City. It’s kind of bass-ackwards to publish first, but I didn’t want my lack of representation to be a barrier to my story living out in the world.

I suppose that’s another type of crossing over right there. Publishing work, taking years of writing and handing it over to the readers of the world. In some ways it legitimizes the effort. It opens it up to criticism and praise. It shares your vision and thoughts and feelings with an audience beyond your reflection in the monitor.

But, not really. As mentioned above, my current audience consists of the few members of my family and friends who purchased the book (and for that, I thank you all!). Right now it feels a little like a private book club created for those who know me. It’s an awesome start, but that’s just what it is, a start. Did I mention it’s time to cross over?

If their website is accurate, I won’t hear back from the agency for a month or two. Obviously there’s no guarantee they’ll take me on as a client. But either way, I hope this attempt at a professional relationship is the start of me seeing past what for now is a closed world. I hope phase two of my reading audience is just around the corner. I hope I can find the motivation to grind through the marketing efforts to make this book more than what it is today. I’m already proud of my accomplishment, but a great aria sung in the shower benefits no one but the singer. It’s time to cross over.

Another hurdle jumped this week with the completion of my new WEBSITE in support of my novel, Station 12: The Lantern Society. This last piece of business was keeping me from launching the marketing campaign, and of significantly less significance, erp, having my business cards printed. (But dammit! I love the idea of handing out business cards that present my title as Writer. Or Creative Director! Or CEO of my own creative empire!!

But I digress.

So I finished the website and I thought to myself, “This is weird.” I had spent years writing my book. Then the whole book design and printing process was an adventure in itself. Fun, and a great learning
experience, but more work than I had envisioned. And during that time I had been working (fairly) diligently on the Facebook page. Finally came the daunting task of creating a standalone website that the book could call its own. (Full disclosure, it is version 2.0 that I have just completed. Version 1.0 was out there for years supporting a novel that had a long way to go before completion. It just hung out there, the very definition of cart before the horse, taunting me, teasing me over my premature announcification.) But finally it, too, was behind me. And each completed phase brought me closer and closer to my vision of creating an entertainment, multimedia franchise, the likes of which the world has never seen! (Unlikely to the extreme, but it was fun to say.)

It has been suggested to me to play each hand as its dealt and not to count my chickens before they hatch. (Sniff sniff…Is that metaphors I smell cooking?) After all, the goal is beyond lofty and the
disappointment of not succeeding after hopes were raised so high could be devastating. But I’m not a pragmatic guy. It’s just not in me. I’m a creative. I use business as a tool because I have to, but I’m no business person. If I imagine myself on a late night talk show describing the life I lived to get to the point I was asked on to a late night talk show, who am I to deny my imagination? So look out
Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon and the rest of you mooks…I’ma comin’!

If you look at the to-do list of any major project, it seems obvious to me that the more items checked off that list, the happier one would become. At the very least, as the list shrinks, one’s disposition should shift accordingly. For me, each item ticked off the list makes the impossible that much more possible.

I realize that just because I wrote a book doesn’t necessarily mean I can make a movie. The former is accomplished (for the most part) solo with the only cost being time, while the latter calls for personnel, hard goods, and money, money, money. Still, the book is done, the website is done, outreach is in process, why not a movie? It’s its own sub-checklist on the big checklist. Make the first step happen and the rest will follow. If I can land an agent, maybe it’ll boost my visibility. If I bring my book to DC Comics, maybe they’ll like the idea of telling some of the more fantastic side stories of my universe in comic book form. Maybe a TV pilot isn’t such a crazy idea. Am I going too far? Am I aiming too high? Are my goals simply too lofty? To quote the great Cosmo Kramer, “In my mind, I’m already there.”

Delusions of grandeur or road map to success? To me, they’re the same thing.

I Now Pronounce You Art and Commerce

Okay, my novel is done and out the door. My current focus is on completing a standalone website to promote it as well as future books and video. Once completed, I will follow up with a marketing campaign both print and virtual. While this is all happening, I’m going to try and pay a little more attention to this blog. We’ll see how it goes.

Let me reiterate the purpose of this repository: to follow my progress in taking a single creative idea and turning it into an entertainment franchise. Maybe not Marvel big, and certainly not Star Wars big, but something along those lines, where I can tell my story in a multitude of media, make a living, and set my wife up with a decent retirement.

Speaking of my wife and entertainment franchises…that takes me to today’s subject.

Whenever one of these big tentpole movies comes around to the theater, I end up missing it or going by myself. They just don’t do it for her. She’s not a big fan of escapist fiction unless it challenges or captivates the intellectual part of her brain. The eye candy is simply not enough to engage her. There aren’t enough explosions (rather too many), fight scenes, gunfire, space ships, et cetera, to get her to plunk down $15. Even when the story has her attention, the previously mentioned visuals only seem to distract her from the tale that’s being told. There are a million variations of how a blockbuster can go bad for a non-blockbuster audience, but really there are just a few that can turn it around for the non-believers. Maybe even just one…

Character, character, character.

Let me shift the focus from my wife to myself, because in truth, we share very similar sensibilities when it comes to this topic. I just happen to be more forgiving because I generally lower my expectations to the point of assuming the worst prior to plunking. And it would be a terrible mistake on my part to think that I can speak for my wife.

What I’m attempting to do in my quest to create a new story-telling behemoth is to introduce characters people will care about in the course of telling a really HUGE story. Maybe the biggest, I shit you not. When all is said and done, I will determine the fate of all mankind and various realities, showcase the final war on Earth, and present an iteration of God that will end religious squabbles and righteousness and who will bestow a truth and understanding upon every living creature everywhere. And through it all, I will be focusing a lot of attention on certain characters so that we really care about them, and really know them, as the larger story plays out.

Let me be clear: I’m not professing that I invented this approach. Not by a long shot. In fact, I only have one hero in the field of creativity, and that’s Damon Lindelof. What he and Carlton Cuse tried to do (and I would say succeeded) with the television show Lost was a big inspiration to me. I can only imagine what that show would have been if every flashback and flash sideways had been eliminated; a bunch of people running around where the island was the star and the people were simply victims of its purpose. It would have been a lot shorter, for one. And we wouldn’t have cared nearly as much about them when it ended. And most important, we wouldn’t have understood anyone’s motivation to do the things they did to get off the island and back on again. Finally, the (arguably frustrating) finale simply wouldn’t have worked for anyone. I daresay we never got to know any television characters so intimately as we did on Lost. That is a beautiful, artistic legacy to leave behind.

The problem I have with these big pictures, these tentpole features, is for me (and probably my wife, I couldn’t say with any certainty) they leave nothing behind. They start to fade in about the time it takes to walk to the car after the movie (or in my case the walk to the subway). They aren’t really thought of again, and perhaps more importantly, they are never seen again. (Obviously not never.) They may have been fun at the time, but many of them have no lasting value.

Some of you may have just said, so what’s wrong with a good, old fashioned popcorn movie to take our minds off our troubles? Isn’t that what the movies are all about? To this, I say nothing is wrong with that in the least. But it’s not what all movies are about. And again, this blog is meant to capture my personal journey, and I love the idea that people might discuss my story past that fifteen minute mark. And I love the idea that my book or movie might prompt a re-read or repeat viewing. I love the idea of my art transcending the moment. Intellectualizing the popcorn movie is overstating my desire. I just believe if you’re going to create something incredible, populate it with credible characters the audience can get behind. Trade some of that epic battle for epic revelation. Nothing beats the ‘aha’ moment when we identify with the characters we’re watching. I mean really, what would you do if you found out the world you lived in had been completely rewritten on more than one occasion by all-powerful beings from another dimension and you couldn’t shoot your way out and no super-heroes were going to fly in and save the day? What are the events that shaped your life, and how did the people in your life influence you to make the decisions you do in a crisis?

I’ve decided to postpone my would-be post concerning art and commerce in order to get something off my chest.

Now that I’ve published my first novel, “Station 12: The Lantern Society,” I’ve found myself in the position of having to market my creation for the masses. In my research I’ve learned (Duh!) that this includes a liberal use of social media websites. And you know what I learned next? (Anyone who knows me could probably guess.) I hate it.

In general, I find Facebook depressing. The reasons why aren’t important here. But you can’t have a Facebook Page (mine is without a personal account. (That may not be true. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no FB expert.) And the Twitterverse is a complete mystery to me. I don’t know a hashtag from corned beef hash. (MMmmmmm…) All I know for sure is I should try to amass as many Followers as I can and hope that their Followers start to follow me and the Follower’s Followers follow me and onward ad nauseum. The best way to achieving this goal is to follow as many people as I possible can. Okay, now what?

For the sake of brevity, I’ll leave Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, and the dozens of other virtual yack and sharing sites out of this diatribe. I’ll stick with the aforementioned as they are big enough time sucks on their own.

Now most people are simply going to point out that at age 53, I’m simply too old to appreciate the glory that is social media. And those people probably have a valid point. While I consider myself very tech savvy and totally up to snuff, er speed, whatever, where my PC, TV, and software is concerned, I’m still a neophyte when it comes to how the modern world is communicating. Then again, I’ve spent most of my life avoiding the telephone, so I’m not the best example of a great communicator. (And by telephone, I’m still talking about one of those big things that sits on a coffee table.)

Of course, ignorance is no excuse. There are a huge number of resources out there to make these platforms work for me. But every time I start to read the material over, my eyes glaze over and I find my thoughts not drifting but plunging into other more satisfying topics. But dammit! I’ve got a book to sell!

I guess the problem is that after years of writing, and then finally designing the cover and layout, and actually publishing!!..I looked at marketing as a single next step that I would bang out before hunkering down to write my next story. But when it came time to (re)roll up my sleeves, I could see more clearly the many pieces and parts that made up the whole; a dedicated website, printed ads, Google Ads, and yes, I saw the need to embrace social media.

As I began to prioritize these various facets of marketing, it was fairly obvious that social media would be a good place to start. After all, it was (relatively) free and easy to implement. Or so I thought. As I developed my Facebook page for the purpose of selling my book and spreading the word, I came to realize that I wouldn’t have that much to say on a regular basis. At least not yet. I actually had more to say in the form of sneak peaks prior to publication. That was fun. I got to play with Photoshop and highlight snippets from the novel. But after publication…what was there to say? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’ll come up with something. I’m supposed to be a creative person. But there were/are so many other things to do!

Twitter was, and continues to be, a lost cause for me. I have begun following new people. And some of those people have begun following me. And some of those people began following other people so I’ve started following them as well. Now, am I supposed to be reading all of these tweets? And they all have links in them to works of their own or other people’s. And there’s those damn hashtags! A lot of it looks really interesting, too. But who has the time?! And if I don’t have the time to read the output of all these wonderful tweeters, why should I assume they have the time to read mine?

Meanwhile, this blog was calling to me. The website under construction was calling to me. Advertising was calling to me. Advertising couldn’t happen without the website. And the social media was calling, calling, demanding to be fed! So greedy! You haven’t posted in five days!! What’s happening?! Oh, never mind, there are so many other things capturing our atten…Oh! Puppies!!

Facebook fries my brain. It’s more information than my abstract way of thinking can handle. The mix of happy, uplifting family missives and the depressing news that elicits so many causes numbs me. There is so much energy in the virtual world that contrasts so sharply against what’s (not) happening in the real world.

By the way, just to be clear, this is not a commentary on the existence of social media. Keeping to the theme of this blog, I’m simply making an observation as to its place in my creative endeavors and decided it’s simply not for me. Not in any grand way, anyway. I’ve shifted my priorities. I’m pushing through on the website. I’m looking forward to getting that out there. Then I’m going to concentrate on some print ads in New York City and see if I can’t get Google Ads to do some work for me. Social media will definitely play a part in my marketing campaign, but it’s going to take a back seat to more traditional advertising. Rather than lean on it, I’ll use it to support everything else. If like me you’re pursuing a similar artistic pursuit, you’ll have to decide for yourself if social media is worth the effort. Yay or nay?

I’ve just published my first novel, Station 12: The Lantern Society, so it’s time to revisit this blog and put it to good use. All the resources I’ve come across so far have indicated that a blog is vital to the marketing aspect of self-publishing. Before I get into any horn-tooting, however, I’d like to state anew what my original intention was and continues to be for this blog:

The purpose of Infinite Noyes is to share with the reading audience my experiences as I try to take an original idea and turn it into a fully realized media franchise worth millions. My target audience for this blog is anyone interested in following my progress or lack thereof and/or anyone percolating some new ideas of their own who might need a little inspiration.

That second group can be broken down into a few categories. For example, as mentioned above, I have published my first novel. Some people out there are toying with the idea of doing the same and they might want to pick up a few pointers. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of info out there on the webs. I, myself, have only scratched the surface. But my goal here is not necessarily to inform as much as to inspire. Basically what I’m getting at is, if I can do it, anyone can, and this is how I did it.

This fall I hope to be working in the area of video in the form of a book trailer and several short webisodes, all in support of this new universe. So other readers might enjoy reading about that aspect of the newly minted franchise. A second book will come out. Maybe I can convince a comic book publisher that there’s plenty of grist for the graphical mill in my universe. I would love to film a pilot for cable. Maybe a Kickstarter? And of course there’s the cinema. You get the idea. Lots and lots of possibilities.

That’s what this blog is all about. From germ to plague…taking a creative idea and turning it into successful retirement…and sharing the process with interested parties.

I will be talking specifics about my book and the process I went through for publishing, but first I want to talk a little bit about art versus commerce. Next time on Infinite Noyes.

That's a lot of pages!

That’s a lot of pages!

On July 5, 2014, I completed my first novel after years of sporadic effort, a milestone in my life because I hadn’t stamped Final on a project in some time. Prior to this literary achievement, I had created and led one creative group project after another. The dynamics changed frequently and little got accomplished, or my mind simply drifted from one project to another, depending upon which of them seemed more attainable at the time. Eventually each of those projects just faded away, i.e., I put them out of their flailing misery.

Life went on; living the dream with the Mrs. (Ms., sorry), working whatever job I had at the time, and any number of other things that sometimes distracts us slackers from getting anything accomplished creatively (life on the side). So when I struck out on my own to write “The Lantern Society,” I knew there would be no acceptable excuse for not getting that stamp on there. Did I mention years of effort?

So, I finish the book and I am excited. Not super excited, because I know there’s still a lot of work ahead of me to make something of it, but still, I am relieved and extremely happy that someday I’ll be able to share with everybody this grand tale I’ve imagined. That’s what writing is all about for me, dipping into the well of stories and passing the cup around for everyone to taste and experience some new nourishment for the mind.

Now, there are essentially two roads to publication: one leads to a professional publishing house, while the other leads to self-publication, what used to be referred to as vanity press (though I haven’t heard anyone use the term in some time).

Legitimate publishing requires the writing of a synopsis and a damned fine query letter in the hopes of landing an agent who finds your work marketable. This person, or persons, will play a major role in connecting that work with the appropriate publishing house who also happens to find the work marketable. If the attempt of acquiring representation doesn’t pan out, it becomes a matter of sending letters out and targeting the appropriate publishing house on your own. This can be a long, grueling process (I’ve heard), but presumably worth the effort should you find a match, with the reward being a professionally published novel subject to sales reports and professional reviews…and maybe a contract!

Self-publication has changed in the digital age; print on demand makes it more affordable and easier to accomplish, while support in the form of social networking and blogs like this one allow for genuine marketing of a self-published novel.

I’m going ahead on this project with the notion that the smart thing to do is to pursue both paths simultaneously. Of course, I would love to garner the interest of a publishing house and I will do everything in my power to make that happen, but the odds are tough, I know that, so when I’ve reached my self-imposed deadline for making it happen, I want to be ready to forge ahead on my own.

That’s the short of it. Here’s the long…

My very first novel has come in at a whopping 673 manuscript pages, or 133,000+ words. Now I know (and I knew) that kind of length makes it a long book. It wasn’t my goal to write such a long story, it just happened. I’d call it an epic…but it’s not…the whole story takes place in a week. And did I mention it’s the first in a series? How’s that for guaranteeing success? As I began my research into next steps, I began to realize the pickle I was in, and all of my own making, too. (If you ever get the chance to read my novel, you’ll appreciate the great and terrible irony of that last sentence.)

From the perspective of self-publication, the only real issue is a financial one. It would be a huge mistake to presume that my novel is anywhere near print-ready. Legit publishing or otherwise, I need a topnotch editor to redline the hell out of it. And you know what? Editor’s fees are per page…times 673 pages…that would be…thousands of dollars! Not something I have lying around right now. The page length also prevents me from printing many copies of the book in advance and the print-on-demand price would probably be quite steep, even if I bought mass quantities and sold them myself. I could try and sell it in digital format only and raise some money that way, but that doesn’t sound like much fun. And no guarantee. That means publishing it as is or seek out voluntary editors. It’s a lot to think about.

And professionally? My best guess is that the above issues are nothing compared to trying to get an agent and publisher interested in this behemoth. In my next installment I’ll share with you my episode of sheer panic at the thought that I may have done all this for nothing…simply because I didn’t see the book for what it was.

A Long Time Coming

I finally finished my first novel, “The Lantern Society”.

I started this blog quite some time ago in support of that effort. It’s been years, in fact. I created it to share my attempt to create a new universe through literature and record my experiences from completed manuscript through publication and beyond. Back then I had already been working on the book for some time and I had myself convinced the words ’The End’ were just around the corner.

It’s been a long time coming, but to be perfectly honest, I haven’t exactly had my nose to the grindstone on this project. First, it’s gone through a few incarnations. Starting with the ill-fated video game, it moved on to a group effort novel (ever heard of one of those? Me neither.), until my new story (same setting) became a series of short movie scripts that actually went into production (sort of) and made an appearance in the form of a teaser trailer which you can see HERE. The project stalled at that point when it dawned on me that maybe it was too much for me and my ridiculously small crew! (Tony, you were very brave to accompany me on that little journey. And you performed magnificently!)

Finally, it came to me that the only way I was ever going to tell my tale(s) was if I worked solo in a medium that rewarded individual effort: it had to be an original novel written by me and me alone. In this way I could take my time and not drag anyone down with me. The problem with this approach was that I could take my time while not dragging anyone down with me. And boy did I! Take my time, that is. Oh the years!

You see, I’m not what you’d call a driven artist. And I don’t mean by this that I’m not driven to create, I just mean I’m not driven to work. (Sometimes I could just imagine a great idea and be satisfied and consider it done. I call these my Ether Dreams.) The reason for this lack of drive is that I have a job, and while that job is neither my passion nor creative in nature, it does pay the bills. So I wasn’t about to work a full day every day then come home and bang out a chapter every night after dinner. Not a realistic option for ol’ Danny-boy. (I have no doubt this viewpoint is a little off from the perspective of working or driven artists, so let’s assume I’m talking to the other slackers in the room.) Long story short, most of my novel was written on my bus commute to and from work and during my lunch hour. Only in the last year have I stepped it up to include evenings and only this year did my work bleed into the weekends. (As my excitement at the prospect of actually finishing the work grew, the level of my slacking began to decrease. Who’s surprised by this?)

The second potential problem with striking out on my own is my potential lack of talent. That’s right; I had no reason to believe I could actually write a marketable book. (As of this writing, I still don’t.) No experience, no short stories, no writing workshops, and no formal education. (And apparently a lack of proper sentence structure?) In fact, one of the main reasons the novel took so long to complete was discovering a year or two ago that I had written hundreds of pages of absolute dreck. How did I come to realize this fact, you may ask? I had shared some of my work with my wife, an avid reader, and she pointed out a few flaws in my writing style. The impact her insight had on my insight was astounding. It completely changed the way I saw my writing and for that I’ll always be grateful. But it meant a hell of a lot of rewriting.

On the issue of assessing my talent: I’ve got a healthy ego. That is to say I have a lot of confidence in my abilities. Some who know me might say this is an understatement. But this self-confidence doesn’t speak to any actual talent per se, or even to an opinion of my alleged talent. What it speaks to is my ability to entertain myself. Whether its drawing, or acting, or writing, I generally find my target audience is me. Much easier to achieve than figuring out what anyone else wants. And I generally find that if you believe in what you’re doing, and you learn to knock your own socks off, or at least tickle yourself, other people will come along for the ride. (This is why I wasn’t booed off the stage in my one and only attempt at stand-up comedy. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t horrible, but I definitely got the feeling that people appreciated my commitment to the idea.) Does this self-gratification philosophy work if you have no talent whatsoever? Probably not. This is why you should always be your harshest critic.

It’s been a long time coming. The final first draft of “The Lantern Society” is done and boxed up. Its fate will soon be in other people’s hands (unless I self-publish). At the very least, no matter what direction I take it in, it needs to be put in the hands of a good (great) editor with a transformative red pen. Bring it on, man! The novel has some key aspects against it right at the gate. It’s much longer than most first novels. That makes it less marketable in some people’s eyes. I’m hoping the red pen will help me solve this problem. The second issue is that although the novel has a beginning middle and hopefully satisfying conclusion, it’s still Volume One of a series. That’s probably going to throw it well into the genre fiction category as opposed to general fiction where they don’t generally feature multi-part stories with elements of mystery and science-fantasy. It wouldn’t be wrong to see it that way, but I never really saw myself as a genre writer. (My new book is much more mainstream literature so I don’t get pigeonholed. Stay tuned.) So, two big hurdles to get past. Time to pull out that ego!

There’s still a lot of work ahead of me. A different kind of work, though, and in some ways more fun because now I get to share my effort with the world, and in this day and age when there are so many options for self-publication, it’s nice to know that the work is guaranteed to see the light of day. Of course, I’m going to pursue some “legitimate” avenues first as I would like to get paid to write and put my slacking days behind me. It’s been a long time coming.

To the original readers of this blog, thanks for jumping the gun with me, and welcome back. And to the newcomers…Welcome!! Updates will now resume on a consistant basis.

So, what was it Johnny Egg said to Fred? “I just want you to lead,” he said. “Share your vision with the team and we’ll make it happen.” (Yeeeeaaaah.)

Up ’til that point, Fred was doing a little bit of everything, very little of which had any practical application, and he knew it. But, he needed to see something happening, he needed to see forward progress. So, in addition to writing, he went out and set up a web site for Infinite City Studio that did little more than provide concrete evidence that the project existed. He was also doing a little artwork and buying office supplies for further validation. But, it was different now. He was thrilled that the project was now bigger than himself and anxious to see what the new group dynamic had in store. And that group kept on growing.

Enter Larry Laconic, Interwebs guru. Johnny Egg had him on retainer, had ‘hired’ him to build a web site for his own outside business venture, and recommended him highly. Fred was thrilled as he officially crossed off one of the big tasks from his long list of distracting things to do. But, Johnny Egg didn’t stop there. He had a writer acquaintance (a published author!) he thought might be interested in the project. Better and better. Lucy would join Ricky and Fred and a new, buffed writing team was ready to rumble.

But, the good news didn’t end there. Larry Laconic had a friend who was an artist. Let’s call him Benny Doodles. And while this was all happening, I was busy chatting it up with my 3-D modeling instructor, Droopy, to try and entice him into joining our growing squad. But, he was nobody’s fool. He agreed to come on board as a technical advisor but he wouldn’t commit to do any real modeling prematurely. Things were moving along swell-like and it was time to get the party started.

Meeting of the Minds

I think it was Johnny Egg who obtained the meeting room. The first official gathering of Infinite City Studio in professional surroundings! Fred continued to be thrilled. I can’t account for all the former participants but at their peak, ICS was ten strong. Fred stood at the head of the table on an upper floor of a New York City skyscraper basking in his teams palpable energy. It just didn’t get any better than this. (True. It never got any better than that.) On the opposite end of the table sat the ICS business manager, Johnny Egg. He was the one that was going to make it possible for Fred to realize his dreams. Around the table sat the new, enthusiastic team of artists, writers, and technical people who were going to turn nothing into something.

They went around the table and talked about responsibilities. Effective immediately, Larry Laconic would begin work on the new and improved web site. Fred’s clunky old misrepresentation of talent would be removed in its entirety in favor of the slick, new design done by a professional. A forum would be developed whereby the entire team could continuously communicate all the great things that were taking place. Benny Doodles would be our sketch artist supreme. His team would certainly have to grow but for now, he would be our sole contributor of conceptual art, putting a face on the project known as Station 12: The Machine. The writing team would continue to create story content and bring the game to life. Droopy took it all in but still played it close to the vest. Looking back, Fred suspected Droopy had seen this kind of thing before.

Tune in next week as Infinite City Studio formulates a fool proof plan for success only to learn that there’s no such thing as a fool proof plan.

Names have been changed to protect the incompetent. I shall call myself Fred. The facts come from my memory so are questionable at best.

So, Fred is ready to take his idea to the next level. He knows he wants to build a new fictional universe, specifically a new game for the PC (and/or game console). He’s buying books on game design and reading magazines and Internet articles to see what’s involved. He even joined the International Game Developers Association thinking it would come with built-in support. He had a proper fire lit under him, now it was time to grow the team. Enter New School University.

Fred wanted to support his new hobby with knowledge acquired beyond self-study. His wife, Ethel, was employed at New School University in New York City which meant free classes. Fred thought it was an excellent start to keeping the budget down. He chose several supporting classes, among them 3-D modeling in Maya (because it made sense that the project lead with no previous experience was going to be doing a lot of modeling on the project, right?), web design (because it was never too soon to get the word out about a project that probably wouldn’t see the light of day for several years), and basic code writing (Fred thought this might come in handy some day even though he was pretty sure somebody else would be writing the game code). But, all was not for naught. It was through New School that he’d come to meet Ricky and Johnny Egg.

One of the first things that Fred came up with was the banner under which everything Station 12 (the label identifying the new universe) would reside under: Infinite City Studio. It fit perfectly. Infinite City was a term used in the Station 12 universe and he was trying to build a studio. Fred spent a lot of time thinking up that name…like he had so many times before for other projects: Yankee Pictures, Filmmakers of New England, Small Town Players, and Off the Cuff, among others. It was never too soon to have an identifying brand. What was supposed to go on the web site, after all?

The studio name was in place, foundational learning was happening, some clunky version of a web site was on the Interwebs; it was now time to grow the team. One night after class or during a break, Fred asked Ricky and Johnny Egg if they’d like to get together to discuss an idea for a big project. They said yes and so it began.

It may have been the New School cafeteria where Fred first presented Station 12: The Machine, which was the official title of the game. Fred had no talent whatsoever for spotting other people’s understanding of a project or their motivation for participating in it or, apparently, for gauging their talent and their ability to follow through. So, based on this initial meeting, he was sure everything was going to be wonderful and that Infinite City Studio was well on its way to game-making success.

The team consisted of Ricky who was going to join (or be) the creative writing element. Johnny Egg was going to be the business manager. He was going to bring every ounce of his prodigious business acumen to bear on this ambitious project. He would soon handle everything business-related, Fred would no longer have to worry his self with little things like recruiting talent or organizing meetings. Finances would be handled differently taking more weight off his shoulders. “I just want you to lead,” he said. “Share your version with the team and we’ll make it happen.” Fred was ecstatic. He felt understood. It was the perfect scenario.

Fred continued to develop the story ideas and brought out a game design document that he shared with the new team. Johnny Egg thought there was enough material to warrant setting up a project time line and growing the team further. And so it was.

Tune in next week as Infinite City Studio continues to grow beyond Fred’s wildest expectations!!