2018 March 23
What follows is a lightly edited copy of an e-mail I sent to my publicist regarding SNOW CITY:
"It's become obvious to me over the last two months that, not because of any deficiency on your part but because of deficiencies in SNOW CITY itself, we're flogging a dead horse. The book gets good reviews, but no sales are generated.
"This is telling me that I'm not getting sales because the reviewers are describing -- accurately -- a book that readers simply do not want to read. In SNOW CITY, I attempted to offer to my readers a little slice of heaven. The general reading public obviously wants hell.
"That's fine. They can have hell, but I'm not going to write it.
"Therefore, I herewith release you from any further contractual obligation to me. I'm giving up on SNOW CITY. I'll keep the Facebook page up as a vehicle for the continuing chapters of POISSON PEN and the other already-published fiction I intend to make available on my web page. But as far as pushing SNOW CITY, that's at an end.
"I appreciate all the work you've done: the failure of the book has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the book itself. Which is a pity because in SNOW CITY I said everything that I'd been trying (unsuccessfully) to say in my previous twelve novels.
"That's just the way it appears to be turning out. "
So that's it. Chapters from Poisson Pen will continue to appear on this site (and be announced on the G. A. Kathryns page on Facebook) at the rate of about one a week, but I'm not going to put any more time into PR work for Snow City. People talk about books "finding an audience". I no longer believe that there is any kind of widespread audience for Snow City.
Beyond Poisson Pen, I have plans for other reprints of previously published work on this site, so stay tuned.
2018 February 12
I'd like to break away from book discussions for the moment to talk about something completely different: juggling.
Juggling, yes. Because I think I've discovered something, and I'd like to get the word out.
About fifteen years ago, I woke up with a bad, bad case of vertigo. (I have no idea where it came from.) My eyes wouldn't track, and I could barely stand up when I got out of bed. Everything was whirling around, and I wound up going to the emergency room that evening, because it just wouldn't let go.
Wouldn't you know it: by the time the doctor came in to examine me in the ER (odd though it may seem, cases of vertigo take a distant second or third place priority compared to severed arteries and/or gunshot wounds), my problem was already well on its way toward resolving itself. Oh, they gave me pills, but I didn't take them because one of the side effects was (are you ready for this?), vertigo. Uh...folks, I came to the ER because I already had vertigo, and now that I'm getting over it, you want to send me back to the world of stumbling around and grabbing for the nearest wall to keep from face-planting?
I got home and was better the next day, but from then on, my balance left something to be desired. No difficulty eye-tracking, but occasionally I'd just pitch to one side and have to grab something or put a foot out to catch myself. I think I even went down a time or two.
I tried to fight it: I worked on strengthening my leg muscles, and even bought something called a Strongboard (which is a pretty cool thing, and will give your core a terrific workout); I also got in the habit of playing a little game with myself: when I put on my pants or my socks, I forced myself to do it while standing on one leg and keeping my balance.
Some days I was more successful with this than others.
OK, enter juggling.
I used to juggle in college. Nothing fancy: a three-ball cascade was the limit of my competence, though I managed four balls for about three seconds, and was reasonably OK with a reverse cascade and some moves that sent a given ball back and forth over the top of the cascade. I didn't keep up with it, though, and forgot about juggling for many years.
Then I saw a little "slice of life" spot on the news one evening. The guy was homeless, but he was a juggler. I got the bug again.
I started back with my three-ball cascade, clumsily at first, but gradually stabilizing it until it felt good. I then started working on my reverse cascade and some newfangled tortures that contemporary jugglers have come up with, including under-the-opposite-hand throws.
But something funny happened in there: I suddenly stopped having trouble with my balancing when I put on my pants or my socks. Not exactly rock-solid, but darned near.
I think it was the juggling.
I recall reading about something like this: there are some weird physical things that therapists have their patients do to treat things like dyslexia. Things like crawling around on the floor backwards, or hopping up and down on one leg while reciting the alphabet backwards. Somehow, the brain centers that these exercises work are close enough to the "iffy" centers that the training bleeds over.
And I think that's what happened with my juggling. Manipulating balls in time and space allowed my balance centers to kick back on to something close to fully operational.
So if you're having balance problems, try juggling. All you really need is a set of balls (I recommend lacrosse balls as the cheapest and easiest to get...and they give a nice, satisfying smack when they hit home in your palms) and a little instruction. There are probably hundreds of Youtube videos on the subject, but the book that taught me to juggle way back in college was The Juggling Book, by Carlo (now unfortunately out of print, but you can find secondhand copies). There may be better books out there, but for me, Carlo is tops.
Happy juggling (and balancing)!
2018 February 7
ECHO JAPONICA, THE GUITAR, AND ME
Echo's life in SNOW CITY is so bound up with the guitar and the music she plays that I thought I might take a moment to explain the origin of her devotion.
Like many other youngsters in the 1960s, I wanted to play the guitar. And, like many other youngsters, I wanted to play rock guitar. And that's where I started: with an old Silvertone "Jupiter" model and an amp that didn't know the meaning of "overdrive".
It wasn't too long afterward that I discovered classical guitar, and Carcassi exercises were things of beauty to me.
I stayed with classical for a long time, working my way through various phases (at one time, I actually could play Bach's "Chaconne" from memory) and even studying with a teacher in college. A bad experience, however, derailed me, and I tried my hand (unsuccessfully) with keyboard.
Then I picked up the folk harp, and was fairly successful with it. I wound up with a nice restaurant gig that paid well and stuck with that for a good number of years, until the gig went sour.
I went sour, too, becoming disillusioned with the harp, finally putting it aside for good and living without making any music of my own for a long time.
Recently, after having "lived" so long with Echo and her music, I've been making some tentative probings back into classical guitar (as much as arthritic hands will allow) and am very slowly building up strength and something vaguely resembling dexterity. It's difficult: my hands are stiff and unlikely to respond graciously to intensive practice.
But maybe, eventually (with the blessing), I'll be able to play the Chaconne again. Someday.
2017 Feb. 22
For those who might be keeping track, I have decided, for personal reasons, to withdraw The Attar of Dreams from publication by Nightscape Press.
2017 Feb. 20
I'm not at liberty to reveal the source (I'm sorry, that sounds like what's coming out of contemporary politicians, but I have to respect my NDAs), but along with an immense pat on the head from one of the Big Kids in the field, Snow City was compared to the meditative writings of C. S. Lewis. Which I think might be something of an "over-compliment". I blush to repeat it, but I'm in the business of selling books, so I'll hang on to whatever sky-hook comes within reach.
2017 Feb. 15
Gratifyingly, Snow City just picked up a five-star review on Amazon.
2017 Feb. 11
Snow City has gone live on Amazon.com both as e-book and dead trees edition. I hope you enjoy this excursion into dream, magic-realism, and a gentler world...threatened though that world might be.
My heyday of publishing was back in the 80's and 90's. (Yes: last century.) I was and apparently am known best for what I now refer to as "those damned Elf books" that I wrote under a previous byline. And then there was Gossamer Axe: it managed to win a Lambda Award and got me what turned out to be a GOH ticket to an sf/fantasy convention in Wales. (This last only by technicality: Anne McCaffrey cancelled at the last minute.) There was a smattering of short stories and novelettes in there as well as a heroic fantasy trilogy, Dragonsword.
I'd gotten the Elves and the Celtic harpers out of my system by then and went on to write about other things. Unfortunately, my core readership apparently wanted more Elves and Celtic harpers (or at least more heroic fantasy), so my books started tanking right and left. Admittedly, I was not easy on my readers: the WATER! trilogy, an immense alternate-history fantasy/satire and a deliberate spoof on James Joyce's excesses in Ulysses, left everybody save the extremely stout-hearted and determined stone cold...if not stone baffled.
Yeah...it tanked. Big time.
My last book of that period, published in 1999, was The Borders of Life, part Southern gothic mystery, part homage to the writings of William Faulkner. (How can you have a Southern gothic, she asks, without Faulkner being in there somewhere?) And, trying for a fresh start, I released it under my current byline, G. A. Kathryns.
Alas, that effort, too, was destined for failure: after my publisher thoroughly mis-genered it and assigned it no PR whatsoever (so, yes, it tanked as well: an object of bafflement and occasional outright ridicule), I got as fed up with the publishing biz as the publishing biz was fed up with me, so I picked up my harp (a Queen Mary replica built by Lynne Lewandowski) and spent most of a decade playing a steady restaurant gig and learning just how far one can push 29 wire strings.
When the gig finally evaporated, I went back to writing, staying deep background with a different pseudonym because I really wasn't sure where I stood regarding publishing...and whether I even wanted to publish anymore, the whole business having collapsed (in my eyes) into a conglomeration of smoke, mirrors, vanity, and self-aggrandizement. And to a large extent, this remains my opinion. (Body paint, glitter, prancing about...and cries of "Look at me! Look at me!" Does anybody remember The Royal Nonesuch episode from Huckleberry Finn?)
My agent, at least, appeared to be glad to have me back, and together we managed to place a small number of short stories.
Relations with my agent became difficult, however, and I parted company with her, leaving myself with a pile of unsold manuscripts...because, despite my ambivalence regarding publication, I simply had not been able to stop writing. Determined not to let ten or more years of work go to waste, I am in the process of throwing myself into the world of indie publishing. Snow City is now available on Amazon.com and via CreateSpace, and I hope, though it contains not a hint of Elves or Celtic harpers, that it is received favorably.
I intend to release a revised, corrected, and updated version of The Borders of Life. More on that to come.
G. A. Kathryns...