Today, September twenty-second, is the autumnal equinox. Fall has officially started as of 6:31 AM in the western United States. The sun is sitting over the earth’s equator. Day and night are roughly equal. It’s a good reminder that our planet is still revolving on a tilted axis. We circle the sun once a year and get four seasons for every trip. This much, at least, is still reliable.
Our particular year is another story. 2020, so far, has been a wild ride. Over 200,000 Americans have died from a virus the response to which has divided us. Protests are pitting one extreme against another. Fires have raged up and down the Pacific Coast, destroying entire towns. No sooner had we lost a Supreme Court Justice than politicians were scrambling to fill her vacant seat (weeks ahead of a presidential election). The parties are polarized. Their beliefs are almost tribal. It’s only getting worse. Our best hope is that 2021 will restore a little sanity.
As for me, I had nearly forgotten that I had a blog. With our area burning, we kept a close eye on evacuation levels. During that time, I failed to make a post. Now, with our home intact (unlike a lot of our neighbors’), I wonder what I should write.
I joined WordPress to start a website to catalog my art and novels. A blog feature came with the package. The enormous amount of digital information floating around in cyberspace already comprises a virtual galaxy of words. Why add to it? What do I have to say? I’m an artist who’s losing his motor control due to a movement disorder. Maybe I should chronicle my decline. For whom, exactly, is another question. It may be me. The risk of dementia is greater with my condition. At fifty years old, I don’t feel mentally impaired yet. Who knows, however, what my future holds? Is it possible that a kind of a diary online now will later benefit me the most?
Originally, I didn’t want to get too personal with these entries. As an introvert, I avoid talking about myself. The world is a crazy place, though. Competing opinions about it aren’t what anybody needs. I am my only field of expertise. For my contribution to be of any consequence, wherever my focus, I should acknowledge that I’ve filtered reality through my own, very biased eyes (which may seem obvious until you notice how people speak in absolutes). Even while enjoying the new season and the sight of the leaves beginning to fall, we each rely on own experience.
I’ve been through it twice before but getting rejected by the publishing world hasn’t gotten any easier. My first two novels were produced independently as a consequence. “Independently” is a better way of saying that I paid to have them done myself. “Vanity publishing” is a harsher description. Regardless, I had to work outside of regular (and, as the stigma goes, legitimate) channels.
Originally, I enlisted Createspace, a division of Amazon. They have since merged with Kindle Direct Publishing which now handles both e-books and paperbacks for the company. KDP, so far as I know, doesn’t offer as many services. In my frustration, I looked into formatting book covers and interior layouts on my own. Not only did I save a lot of money but I learned a few new skills: Word, Acrobat and Photoshop were indispensable. I preferred my own results to the professionals’. After reformatting my first two, I’ve gotten my third project, IMAGE, “print-ready”. I’m pretty familiar with the manufacturing process (twenty-five years in the industry will do that) and can now handle file preparation. The process of guiding a book from vision to reality isn’t too mysterious anymore.
What troubles me is soliciting agents and publishers. Self-promotion is my greatest weakness. A public relations campaign would be amazing. Still, how many small presses could fund one? Not to mention my Parkinson’s. A book signing (or worse, reading) event would be a sight.
I’ve sent query letters to thirteen California literary agents (IMAGE is a uniquely California-centric novel). All have declined to represent me. Last week, I got the dreaded rejection email from my last hope. I don’t mean to sound dire. Some writers get over a hundred such messages, persist and are hugely successful. Still, KDP has my files. They’ve already sent me an author’s proof. One click of the “Publish” button would launch IMAGE into the world. How much longer can I hold out?
So I have a new website and I’m thinking that I should promote it. Facebook seems like a good place to start. There’s already a page for my novel, The Sketchbook. Why not use it run an ad to get the word out about colinturnerswork.com? I post the link to the gallery and it generates an image. It’s the last painting that had I uploaded to the site. Entitled “Open Book”, it depicts a nude model in a recliner reading a book sitting just beyond the arm of her chair.
It’s hardly pornography. Still, Facebook rejects the ad. I request a review believing that somebody will realize and rectify the mistake. It’s denied again. After tinkering with the settings, I get the page to feature a different image in thumbnail previews and the ad is approved. It now includes a picture of a bridge across a river.
It’s not a bad piece and yet, for someone whose relationship with the figure has informed three novels, it doesn’t capture the essence of my work. Why not permit the original image? Frankly, I see far worse on Facebook every day. Vulgar statements, suggestive photos, hurtful rhetoric and disinformation abound. A painting of a woman happily reading wouldn’t be a problem, I suppose, if it weren’t for the sight of her nipples (even her lap is angled out of view). The implication is that a bare body is inherently harmful. I can’t blame Facebook for such a widely held belief.
‘Be careful what you wish for’ is a common adage. In my case, it applies in a way that I couldn’t have imagined. I spent twenty-five years working in the printing industry wishing that I had more time for my art. It came in the form of medical leave. A Parkinson’s diagnosis allowed me to finish writing and illustrating a novel. Toward the end, however, I could barely draw. With its addition, I have three books to my credit (two of them using the pseudonym D.C. Morrister). Still, I regret not having done more.
Why compose stories when I was trained as a painter? The limitations of art are the reason. Nudity in a studio classroom is academic. Almost anywhere else, a bare body is sensational. After graduating, I studied regular women. Whomever I got to pose seemed ashamed of herself (regardless of her beauty). Our encounters went deeper than how anybody looked. Disrobing, itself, is psychologically charged. A singular picture failed to capture the complexity of a subject. Reality wouldn’t fit into a frame.
My works of fiction are an attempt to portray the figure more broadly. None have any sex, profanity or violence. Each is an exploration of body image and identity. Like the prominent window onto the outside world in a lot of my compositions, they deal with the line between the private and the public. Clothes symbolize the artifice separating one from the other. They are, to quote In So Many Words, simply “props in ridiculous dramas that each of us made up if only to star in them”.