Fruitful Work

And so it came about that I, bored from lack of paying work, tired from a year of travelling, walking uphill, downhill, along streams, lakes, tiled streets, cobblestoned avenues, gazing where the daffodils were, probably, blowing in the spring, in places as diverse as The Eastern Townships, The Bruce Pensinsula, Lisbon, Dubai, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Istanbul and London, decided to do some “fruitful work”.

Thus it was, that I took up a previously abandoned project and decided to blow some life into it. Here, then, I am to bor… tell you about it. Hey, it is fruitful work!

Tarry a while then, away from the duties that surround you, the drinking, the eating, the cooking, the cleaning, the partying, the social-mediaing, and follow along as we delve into the project and its antecedents.

Also, the sponsor of this and his antecedents, his failings, hopes and dreams. I make no mention of his atrociously abundant use of commas, the atrociously poor vocabulary, the atrociously flamboyant socks and the atrociously hard to read sentences.

Get a drink, settle in and we can start chatting about this fruitful work.

The Play’s The Thing

’twas November, 2014 AD, and I had written a story. The second completely fictional story I had ever written. It was barebones, but it had some dialogues that I thought were nice, and a plot line that seemed to show promise.

I shared it with a friend, who offered a positive response and then stayed in touch as I worked my way through the development of the story. I saw it as three different things.

  • A short story
  • A play
  • A novel

I worked away at it over the next few years, where it grew, lost a dog, retained the dialogues, and grew some more to become all dialogue. It became apparent I was really rooting for it to be a play. Yet, I wasn’t sure what it was.

I flip-flopped over the ending. I conducted a poll to see what sort of ending people would prefer. (I finally did what I always wanted to – put in the ending I first thought of in that draft short story!)

So I decided to get some feedback.

I showed the First Act to a few select readers.

Feedback and Reaction

I sent it out to get some feedback. I was looking to see if this had any value, whether it had anything that could be used to good and fruitful purpose. This is what I got back.

What the hell is this and why have you sent it to me?

The person is one of a family of pretentious people, full of their own importance and protective of their cliques and their members. The other “members” are not even aware they are members of a clique. I was not in the clique and I was unfriended on social media shortly thereafter. It was a mistake to send it out them.

Good, but not great

The second one, is one I came to hear again later on. I found it quite easy to get past this. All feedback on art is subjective. Opinions like this are based on personal experiences, attitudes and the psychological makeup of the individual. Take what you can from it and move on. Unfortunately, no commentary was offered, no snippets of information I could use to make it better, nothing about where it was broken. ‘spity.

It’s not like the stuff you have on your blog

I know the crap in my fiction isn’t like the crap on my blog!

I’m at peace with that, always have been. The blog is about me. Fiction is about the characters, who are fictional, living and acting within the context of their story. They can’t be doing what I do, speak like I do. They have to follow themselves.

Thus, the third opinion was also easy to get rid off. It rankled a bit, because I expected better, but wotevs, as the kids say. I got past that.

I have no experience with this format and the genre, and I don’t like the way the characters speak. They are too smart and you should deliberately add a stupid person for contrast.

It was this feedback that set me back. For months and months I read and re-read it. I was paralyzed by that comment. No real forward momentum was achieved as this comment echoed through my brain, or what passes for it. All writing came to a complete halt as I played that backwards and forwards.

Eventually, I decided to continue working on it in my own way and telling the story as I saw it. I was tentative and unsure, and would stop at frequent intervals to look at each character in the light of what this comment. Did my characters lack a separation?

The feeling of being out of touch with the world in the way I tell my stories has not completely gone away. It’s still there in the back of my head, making me wonder about my abilities and capabilities as a writer. This is the primary cause for none of the manuscripts I’ve been working on over the years have neared completion.

Impostor Syndrome, anyone?

The cover

Now, I’m a duffer when it comes to graphics. I used to joke that I was so poor at drawing that I couldn’t draw a crooked line.

So I turned to the faithful friend who had first read the short story when it was a little more than half a page of scribbled lines, to use Pink Floyd. Why did I do that?

Because Anjana Dutt is a graphic artist, a professional who makes her living doing stuff like art. (She is also an author and a pianist.)

I offered some suggestions on how I saw it. I rejected all drawings depicting sexy lady legs draped over a chair. Finally, exasperated, we settled on the autumn leaves and the chair. As luck would have it I had both at hand. Fallen maple leaves from my back yard, glorious red, purple and orange, and a suitably overstuffed leather chair in my basement.

Then started a series of photosessions. Since Anjana was thousands of miles away in Kolkata, it was left to me to take the photos. This was a strenuous affair, which had me dressing up to go down to my backyard take photos with my unsteady hands and weak eyes, which were then rejected as being from the wrong angle, or having junk in the background. The basement photography went slightly better, because the chair is barely 10 metres (meters, if American) from where I am writing this.

Finally, she put it together by applying a wand, chanting whatever mantras graphic artists chant.

I love that cover. It captures the essence of the story. If you ever read the story, you’ll get it.

The Release

Finally, in December, 2017, after three years of paralyzing self-doubt, I hit “Submit” and it became available on Amazon in Kindle format, for downloads, and for Kindle Unlimited users.

I thought about a print edition, but there seemed to be no easy way to get that out into print. Createspace seemed to be the way, but even as I explored it, Amazon took it over and it went into this confusing thing. Even more confusing than it already was. From time to time I would try and give up. I created accounts at Ingram Spark, D2D, Barnes and Noble and failed to get any of them up and running.

The Reviews

There were some readers. Some reviews also came in.

Mixed in with the the excellent reviews, were the ambivalent “polite” ratings, and some feedback that made me think a bit to make sure I understood it.

To understand the polite ratings, I had to investigate a bit. These were people who were social media friends. They were unusually silent about the plot, the storytelling, and offered absolutely no reaction to the book. They simply gave it a 5-star rating, with no comments at all. I had one glowing review with a 3-star rating.

Instigated through a group discussion, by another person, they suddenly opened up to say that they disagreed with the way the characters behaved in the story. They seemed to think that they, themselves, would not have reacted to the situation like that, and thus, the reactions of the characters was improbable.

This turned out to be a theme for a couple of the other readers, too. In fact, this is the primary negative feedback. If the characters don’t behave and react the way I would behave and react, then the characters are wrong, and your story is not good.

It brought into focus how people read stories and was a learning point. It took me back to the comment about the characters being too smart and polished, and remains as a nagging doubt about my story and my ability as a story teller.

Nevertheless, overall feedback was positively inclined. On Goodreads it sports a 3.92/5 rating – which isn’t too bad.

To learn more about it, read the reviews etc, go here.

My reaction

I followed the discussions, when they happened. took what I could from it and remained otherwise silent except to say thanks for the feedback. Attacking reviewers isn’t what I do, for they were expressed their feelings, and feelings are never invalid.

I do find this reading without context to be a little puzzling.

I mean, I’ve read a few books, including books set in a strange land, at a time far away in the past, with a strange environment, strange cultural norms, strange manners, strange socio-economics. I don’t judge what characters do in their story by the mores of the modern context in which I reside. Or my personality.

I’m unlikely to react like many of the characters do in their worlds.

For example, I see movies where the man and the woman have escaped deadly assasins, had their car blown up, and in that brief respite from life-threatening action in their hotel room find it necessary to fall into each others arms, rip off their clothes and have sex. And then the window crashes open and fresh assassins go at them and onwards we go. I mean, yeah, well….

Which reminds me I haven’t seen The Bourne Identity listed in the channels for a few days now…..

The HoldOuts

There were people who refused to buy it. Some of them, among my friends, virtual or real, all had their reasons. Some just went on about their lives ignoring that that I written a story that was available to the public.

A selected few gave me apologetic reasons to explain why they had chosen to ignore it. The reasons they gave were as follows

  • I don’t read e-books
  • I don’t read plays
  • I read and enjoy the work on your blog, but I’m not willing to pay money for your book
  • I ignore everything about you

Let’s examine these from the bottom up.

I ignore you completely

Sadly, there are such people in this world. People who find me utterly boring, completely un-understandable and, thus, ignore everything I say. It’s ok! I may cry quietly in my office every once in a while, but sniff, I’m fine! Really!

The blog is free and enjoyable, but I ain’t payin’ to read your stuff

Sigh. Well, ok, cheapskate! I get it! I’m a cheapskate, too! I’m disappointed, but I understand. I am after all, unknown, not at all famous, even though I am charming, witty, goodlooking and modest, all at the same time.

I don’t read plays

I understand that, too. As one person said, the speaker tags are annoying. As another, who read it, loved it and wrote a lovely review said, “I was a little wary at first, because I like descriptive stories.”

I personally love reading plays, because the characters have to explain what’s happening and why through what they say. The writer doesn’t have the luxury of adding context, descriptions, or any commentary. The characters have to do it all to get the point across. It’s not easy, it’s open to interpretation and rawther difficult, I say.

I don’t read e-books

The fact that the book was Kindle only, created some challenges, for some people, for sure. Some fought through it, bought a Kindle notebook, which was not required, and then bought the book, read it and left a glowing review. Clearly, the best of the best,highly supportive.

Some held out, because they didn’t have a Kindle notebook. I explained that you didn’t need the device because the free app was all you needed, to no avail. They eventually did and bought copies for their friends. They didn’t leave a review as such and the friends who got copies have not acknowledged the existence of the gift.

Others have been steadfast in their preference for print books and have, thus, not joined the Club of Readers of A Couple of Choices.

Fruitful Work

So there we are. The Fruitful Work, the project that I restarted after a gap of around 6 years, was a second edition. I put together a second edition, got Amazon to shoot over a print proof or three. I gave some friends a copy to read and provide feedback. I also sent out the Preface to the Second Edition.

I got resoundingly similar and loud responses on the Preface.

“Why are you apologizing for your story?”

Well, the non-paying public willing to provide detailed feedback for free couldn’t be dismissed. I re-wrote tracts of the Preface. I also got back an annotated copy back, complete with yellow highlights, penciled comments, spelling (!) inconsistencies, typos, formatting issues.

I accepted this gratefully and greedily, quickly set up an Excel spreadsheet as a defect log, (Yes, yes, I know, I know – it has its uses) and worked through all the defects. I even posted some graphics…. I mean, why not, eh!

And then, I went off the air.

Second Edition

The Summer of ’23 was spent traveling. Around the neighbouring cities, Niagara Region, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and then Las Vegas, NV, Zion National Park, UT, Bryce Canyon, UT, Grand Canyon, AZ, Las Vegas, NV, Los Angeles, CA and up through Santa Barbara, Goleta, Cambria, San Jose, San Francisco. June through September was spent spending time and money.

October was spent recovering and reviewing our bank accounts and sighing deeply. November is BirthMonth for the First Born and the First Born’s First Born. And NaNoWriMo.

At least NaNoWriMo helped me collect, collate and cobble a collage of twenty (20) short stories into a collection. Three (3) new ideas remain unstarted, but I have something to work with.

December is social month, and I took time off again.

And so here we are, in January 2024.

Announcement of the Outcome of The Fruitful Work

The Kindle version of the Second Edition is up at Amazon now.

The print (paperback) edition is up for sale at fine bookstores. The cover has been modified, for reasons best known to me.

Go look for it – Click the image below!



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