Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Digression: Books I'm Reviewing—Patricia Cohen's 'In Our Prime'

   I finished reading Patricia Cohen's In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age a few weeks ago. It's a terrific history of cultural forces that have (over the last 150 years) shaped our understanding of middle age, a seemingly 'natural' category that is anything but. Cohen's a veteran journalist; as a result, she knows how to sift through tons of data and shape it into a thoughtful, compelling story.
   Two of the book's notions are really staying with me. One, the persistence of the stereotype that middle age is the point at which youth unceremoniously ends and total lameness begins—when (balding, pot-bellied or big-assed) you realize—too late!—that your life hasn't amounted to much and that the future is just a miserable story of a slow decline into senility and irrelevance. The belief persists despite the fact that there's so much research indicating that this mythic slump has virtually no basis in fact.
   The other notion is Cohen's reworking of Eisenhower's "military industrial complex" idea into "the midlife industrial complex." Contemporary agents of consumer capitalism, in short, tell Boomers and Gen Xers that middle age is a time of growth/expansion and yet they must not seem or look middle aged and buying a vast assortment of age-defying products will assist them in their quest for a middle age that manages to look like youth. She points out that while middle age can be what we want it to be, resisting ads and images and zeitgeist forces telling us to buy, buy, buy our way back into youth is the true challenge.

[The actual review of Cohen's book appeared in the Vancouver Sun.]

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Non-Fiction Sidebar: Moving on to Part I; Karl Lagerfeld


Part I, "Point Grey to Burnaby," introduces the novel's protagonists, Marta and Jake, in their home environments in downtown Vancouver and their work environments at Point Grey and Burnaby, respectively.
   The section's epigraph originates with Karl Lagerfeld's remark about his Pre-fall 2012 Chanel collection: "It’s much more inspiring not to go to places than to go." He was referring to a collection built upon his fanciful and sequined ideas of India rather than clothing that resulted from an actual hands-on field trip (it's difficult to imagine fastidious, wealthy Lagerfeld wandering the dusty, impoverished streets of Calcutta snapping pics for inspiration).
   His comment was interesting because of its reversal. We always imagine a journey as broadening, invigorating, eye-opening. And in lit of course, the journey or quest - whether to Troy, the Underworld, or the heart of darkness - has been written and rewritten for millennia.
   In the case of Marta and Jake, the location shoot in the Okanagan, is viewed as an opportunity for escape (for Marta) and as an unpleasant if necessary part of the job description (so thinks Jake). But since the journey is also a comic one, there's not much relation between what Marta and Jake expect from the trip and what they receive.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Non-Fiction Sidebar: Prologues; Literary Agents

   The prologue establishes the point of origin for a script that will - eventually - be made into a TV movie for a science fiction network and has no relation whatsoever to the screenplay Lizzie reads in her Studio City office. 
   And when self-important and cerebral The Prisoner of Djoun meets the market-conscious mind of Lizzie, the moment is also a scene of Art meeting Commerce. The fact that The Prison of Djoun, a biographical film about Lady Hester Stanhope (1776-1839), eventually becomes a forgettable TV movie called Alien Assault, in which kick-ass Victorian heroine Harriet Swinburne defeats a predatory alien, indicates if nothing else how Commerce far outweighs Art.
   Other than the prologue cameo, Lizzie is never seen again. In a way, she's there to set one level of plot in motion.
   One of the first literary agents who 'read' This Location of Unknown Possibilities rejected it because he didn't believe that "the main character" would bother with reading The Prisoner of Djoun. He meant Lizzie. His hasty and/or sloppy reading skills proved to be my bumpy sort-of-introduction to an influential if loosely affiliated group that's created a comfortable niche between author and publisher.
   When I sent the manuscript of The Age of Cities, my first novel, to a small publisher, I didn't bother to tap into my inner Ambitious Person and seek representation from an agent. I figured that since The Age of Cities represented my first time at even attempting to write fiction, I would be lucky to be lifted out of the slush pile. I also figured that a sad story about being gay in small town BC in the late 1950s wasn't exactly the kind of novel that would incite a bidding war and media coverage about a six-figure advance.
   Since that novel, I've noticed that the websites of conglomerate publishers (Random House, Knopf, HarperCollins, etc) no longer accept what they deem "unsolicited manuscripts." What they mean, of course, is that for an author wanting to publish in the big leagues, someone doing the soliciting is necessary: a literary agent.
   Despite handfuls of email exchanges, I've never met a literary agent in person, and so much of what I 'know' about them is their pop culture reputation. Typically, they're ridiculous comic characters. Frasier's Bebe Glazer comes to mind: amoral, psychotic, unstable, and ruthless even though her heart is in the right place. And in pop culture when they're not ridiculous, they are scary in their dedication to getting ahead, Tonya Harding-like, at any cost.
   Any writer in Canada knows of literary agents. Two of them are, arguable, famously powerful in the way that Anna Wintour (or Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada) is reputed to be: if they smile at your work they open doors. And their frowns? The kiss of death. Reputedly, too, agents are sibylline in a way: each able to intuit the quality of one's writing, determine whether that writing is salable, and also have a clear sense of the book buying market in the future. All-powerful indeed.
   Anyway, that first literary agent, who believed that the novel's "main character" wouldn't read the script (even though she is not a main character, and even though it is her job to read scripts), worked for an boutique agency in Toronto—"boutique," yes, and not, I suppose, a Mom-and-Pop Agency with its meekness and lack of power, or a Corporate Agency, with clout but an attitude that treats authors as grist for the mill. Contrary to stereotypes, he seemed neither comic nor malevolent. He seemed hassled and indifferent, as though he was used to so many authors propositioning him with so many book projects, that he could afford to be negligent.
   It's a buyer's market, apparently.

Fiction Installment #2: Prologue, pt 2

She stretched and rested her palms atop the desk’s sole personal touch, a chunky lucite frame. The sepia-tinted photograph suspended within had been recommended by Tamara, a Professional Strategies Life Coach recommended by a friend of the Ex. At the first assessment, Tamara had been matter of fact: “Simple, right, without a groundstone that office environment will bleed you dry. Balance your mental energies there and success will follow.”
   Tamara insisted that the special item must bridge the present to the past. “Breathe and let go. Make space for the object’s appearance in your mind’s eye.” Like a ghost in a seance the photo had materialized.
   In a cramped trailer-studio decades ago a rushed photographer had snapped her, Elizabeth-Anne then, in a flour-sack shift of rosette-print calico; smiling gamely, she’d cradled a shallow iron pan of wet gravel. The novelty set up—her mother’s inspiration—was meant as an homage to a family matriarch, the plucky wife of a ‘49er rumoured to have staked a bountiful riverside claim while a ne’er-do-well husband drank and played cards in the line of tents along the flats.
   When the woman’s parents finally swapped the Pasadena rancher for a retirement condo in Gardnerville Ranchos, they’d sent an envelope stuffed with photos inside a box of jumbled keepsakes. She was never overcome with emotion when studying her ten year-old face—having agreed to the corny idea only to keep the peace—but admired her mother’s inscription on the reverse side: “A prospector has to trudge through a lot of mud before striking gold. —Knott’s Berry Farm, 1979.”
   Balanced mood reached, more or less, the woman sighed. Trudge, trudge, I’m such a masochist, she thought, recommitting to The Prisoner of Djoun

 As Symonds continues to scribble emendations, the screen returns to the split view momentarily. The focus shifts to the man on the right.

A man—tall, bearded, and thin—grabs a book from the haphazard pile on his desk. He stands at a window and reads the cover page—Little Memoirs of the Nineteenth Century by George Paston*.
He flips to the final essay and reads a passage.

   “More books & silence?!?,” the woman jotted in the margin.
   She sought out the companion asterisk at the bottom of the page: *Emily Morse Symonds published under the pen-name of George Paston. The woman imagined words suddenly materializing on the screen to explain this crucial point. “Very artful,” she said. “Who cares?” Interest flagging, she rallied with thoughts of nuggets and professional courtesy.

The thin man reads a sentence aloud.

 "In a word, Lady Hester died as she had lived, alone and miserable in a strange land…"
(Drops the book to the floor)
Emily Morse Symonds, who are you to pass judgment, you bitter old cow?
Sanctimonious Puritan!

The man walks to a desk and scribbles a hasty note.
    "Mr. Murry:
 Thank you for the letter of inquiry. The biographical sketch of Lady Stanhope will be completed shortly as per our recent conversation. The Athenaeum shall have it within a fortnight.
   Yours in gratitude,

   L. Strachey"

ZZZZZ, the woman wrote, picturing a smothering quicksand of words.

The man folds the letter and replaces it with another sheet, entitled “Lady Hester Stanhope.” He begins to write.
“She renounced the world.” 
He pauses at the period. Leaving a few inches of blank space he continues to write further down the page.
“The end came in June, 1839. Her servants immediately possessed themselves of every moveable object in the house. But Lady Hester cared no longer: she was lying back in her bed—inexplicable, grand, preposterous, with her nose in the air.”

‘Inexplicable, grand, preposterous.’ Yes, that’s it.

The scene dissolves.

   I’ll say, the woman thought. It dissolves way before that.
   After poring over a few random pages she turned to the last scene.
   The woman pressed an intercom button. “Will you step in here for a minute, Soren?”
   “Sure, I’m free right now,” the assistant said.
   The woman looked up as Soren—blonde, deeply tanned, and dressed as if ready for a country club tennis match—opened the office door and brought in the steady hum of Studio City traffic.
   “You’re looking a tad frazzled, Liz,” he said, “How many of those have you chugged today?”
   “What are you, my mother?” she exclaimed. “It’s this script. I’m tearing out my hair.”
   “Yes, I can see stray platinum strands there,” Soren said, “not to mention black roots.” He enjoyed the hourly dramatics of his boss and the pre-pubescent’s inability to live one hour without staining clothing, losing a button, or mussing hair. “Or is that gray?”
   “Watch your tongue, spray tan,” the woman said, smiling. “You’re not here to talk hair-dos, much as I’m sure you’d love to. This, this divine script.” She tapped the cover page with the Sharpie. “How did it get in here?”
   “I don’t know. The usual way?”
   “Who the fuck let it though my door?”
   “Technically, me. Mea culpa.” He bowed in mock-penitence. “I dropped it off with the other three. But they arrived as a group, and that always means the same thing: direct passage to your credenza.”
   “Okay then, you’re off the hook. Let me read a morsel to you,” she said. “Just to whet your appetite.”
   “If you must,” Soren said, placing a clipboard and cellphone on the glass desktop. “I’m counting calories, though.”
    “I must. Sit, please.” She indicated a chair. “And close the damned door. Thank you.”
   The woman cleared her throat. “Alright then,” adopting a posh British accent for the read-through, “are we ready?”
   “Yes, Liz, any time. Tick tock.”
   “Alright, alright.” She looked at the page—


In the near distance a straw-brick walled home—at which two figures stand in front of a double-door gate. As a horse approaches, the men hurry to open the gate.
There, there, Lady Hester. Calm yourself.
Your suggestion is difficult to obey, my friend.
I fear I may pass over soon. (She coughs.)
The illness courses through you. We can but wait.
But wait?
That is all one can do.
Plague is a portent, a punishment.
Nonsense. You are one amongst many. The lowly shepherd,
the pasha’s infant daughter—will you have me believe that each
is a recipient of divine punishment for mortal sins?

“P U,” Soren said. “When does fur-faced Moses show up with stone tablets?”
“Wait a sec, I’m nearly done,” the women said. Neck tilted, she peered over low-slung glasses.

Rest, my lady. This cool cloth will vanquish the fever’s rage.
You are too kind to a foolish old woman. I should sing your praises…
although you are aware I am no Margaret Martyr!
Your humour returns! It can be nothing if not auspicious.
I cannot help but wonder, Doctor…

If Fate has brought me to the desert.

Rest, rest, dear one. Your philosophical musings will be the death 
of you yet. Here, you must take more of this thorn apple tea.

   “I can see the cast’s procession to the stage on Oscar night,” Soren said.
   “Ha! At first I only saw the script’s procession to the shredder. It starts off even worse, but surprise, surprise it actually gets better,” the woman said. “Maybe not this script, but the basic idea of this tough old broad fighting for her piece of the pie. It has potential.”
    “And so,” Soren said. “You want me to…?
    “Oh, sorry. I just wanted a sounding board,” she said.
    “Gee, that’s me,” he said. Exasperation crept into his voice. “Nothing else to do, not a thing, ma’am.”
    “I’m going to run through it again. Get me Zora at DameNetwork, but not now. I’d say in about an hour,” the woman explained. “I have an idea I’d like to fire by her.”
    Soren tapped a reminder.
    “You know, I think we should send this out, get it in better shape, toughen it up. That script trainer in Silver Lake, what’s his name,” she continued, pen doodling flowers over the X she’d slashed across the title page. “It’s flab, complete and utter flab, right now. But, and that’s a big, big but—ha ha, don’t even say it—there’s something here. Core strength, let’s call it. I jotted down a couple of points, where the story could go et cetera, so don’t forget to include them with the script. And tell whatshisname that DameNetwork is the vendor I have in mind. He’s a pro, he’ll know what will and won’t snag their interest. Just give me a hour.”
    “Sure, no problem. Anything else,” Soren said, “another latte?”
    “What the hell, sure. I need to keep my mouth occupied. I’m pretty sure my heart can take it.”
    “Right. I’ll be back in 15.”
    She turned to the list of comments:
    - Penniless aristocrat turns her back on England?
    - Virgin? In love with doctor?
    - Iconic figure re: Elizabeth, Amelia Eirhart (sp??), Joan of Arc
    - Loses mind? Visionary? Mystic?
    - A woman that carves a place for herself in a man’s world
Liz added a final question:
    - Where’s the drama???

[So ends the prologue. Up next: another epigraph, the novel's two central characters, a jump forward in time to 2010, and a change of scenery—from Studio City, CA to Vancouver, BC.]

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Fiction Installment #1: 'This Location of Unknown Possibilities' Prologue


Prologue: Studio City, CA

  Uncapped medium point felt pen in hand, the woman was poised—ankles crossed, spine rigid—to read at the desk. Before peeling over the script’s cover page, she noted that so far as attention-grabbing goes, The Prisoner of Djoun gleamed with potential. Though shelling out for The Spanish Prisoner would never happen—all that Mamet talk, talk, talk, endless manly posturing, and film noir ulterior motives—she slid The Fugitive into the player once a year at least. Titles rich with implication were 24-carat. She signed approval with a thick check mark and watched black ink bleed into the paper’s filaments.
    “Okay, let’s find out about this prisoner,” she said.
  The woman wore a favourite pin-stripe blouse beneath a charcoal cotton-linen suit; tortoise shell reading glasses rode low on her nose. The look meant getting down to business. Freshly delivered from the panoramic office suite of the Man Upstairs, a stack of three scripts sat next to the water glasses on the credenza; she expected to chew through them before lunch.
    Focussing, the woman ran an index finger along the page. Noix d’Amazonie, the new nail colour Byung-soon had applied yesterday, caught her eye. The woman followed trends selectively and had pounced on the forest-tone polishes of the season. A touch of glam earthiness would soften God-given edges, she reasoned. And as much her stomach might twinge at the term lipstick lesbian—what a godawful relic from the ‘90s, as bad as those linebacker power suits she’d worn—experience had revealed over and again that approachability was key in the industry.
At first glance the script’s opening paragraph—the scene establisher—seemed reliably professional; centred and laser-printed it had been processed through a recent version of Final Draft, she’d wager. While no guarantee of quality, neatness was infinitely less aggravating than the tatty, crudely stapled masterpieces—complete with red ballpoint annotations in fevered physician scrawl—that showed up with surprising regularity and incited speculation about the sender’s mental competence. Other than Unabomber types holed up in log cabins, who used a manual typewriter anymore?
Returning to the page the woman said, “Okay, here goes nothing.”

Split screen. Two authors at their desks, clothed circa 1900. On the left, a woman in a dark dress writes at night, candles the only illumination. Her desk is neat, but the slope-roofed attic room appears cramped and shopworn. On the right, a man dressed in brown tweed trousers, a matching vest, and a white shirt sits in a sunny room. The room and desk are messy, but modern art and bright flowers in a vase suggest a well-heeled bohemian atmosphere.


    The woman printed “WTF?!?” on the script’s right margin.
    Oh my Christ, she thought, another Liberal Arts major who’d spent a couple of semesters in film school and was now dreaming of hitting the big time with an art house crossover extravaganza, a high brow drama that will have powerhouse critics competing for superlatives to describe a powerful, unapologetic work of art. American Beauty meets The Hours meets The English Patient, starring Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, and Anthony bloody Hopkins. Abracadabra: armfuls of awards, doors of opportunity across the globe swinging wide open, reputations set in thick bronze. Cash for the asking, naturally.
    Back erect and eyes closed, she took in a deep breath. A slow count to ten completed, the woman resumed.


A homely woman sits at a desk and writes by candlelight. Emily Morse Symonds, age 37, appears tired, as though ground down by life’s progressive hardships. Dour attire and the room’s spare furnishings hint at Symonds’ lack of wealth and an avowed commitment to the  ideals of women’s suffrage. Leaning close to a flame, Symonds recites words from a sheaf of paper.

Seldom are true stories distinguished by a well-marked moral.
If we study human chronicles we often find the ungodly flourishing 
like rodents, and the righteous apparently forsaken and begging his meal. On occasional a human life illustrates moral lessons with the crudity 
of a Sunday-school story...

Symonds marks deletions and hastily scribbles in replacements. On a fresh sheet she writes:

    There are few true stories that are distinguished by a well-marked moral. If we study human chronicles we generally find the ungodly flourishing like
a green bay tree, and the righteous apparently forsaken and begging his bread. But it occasionally happens that a human life illustrates some moral lesson with the triteness and crudity of a Sunday-school book...

   The woman circled key phrases in the ensuing paragraphs—Pride goeth before the fall; All earthy glory is but vanity; Ambition that o’erleaps itself. “This might test well in the Bible Belt,” she said, “flyover states can’t get enough of that fire and brimstone spiel from the pulpit.” Seeking a break from the speechifying, she ran the marker down the page.

Satisfied, the writer stands, walks to the window, and watches the roofs of London basking in moonlight.

   “Holy Toledo,” the woman muttered. “Incredible! What’s next, ‘She searches the thesaurus for a synonym’? ‘She adjusts corsetry for three minutes’?” For a moment the woman considered shooting an email to the screenwriter—“Dear Dumbass:” But, really, what could she hope to convey? They breathed different air, apparently. She returned to the script.
    In the midst of character assassination, the garret-dwelling moralist rejected the smallest breath of Christian mercy.

She was ambitious, and her ambition had been foiled; she loved irresponsible command, but the time had come when those over whom she ruled defied her; she was dictatorial and exacting, but she had lost the influence which alone makes people tolerate control. 
    She incurred debts, and was doomed to feel the degradation consequent upon them. She sought to defy her own nation, and they hurled the defiance back upon her. She entertained visionary projects of aggrandizement, and was met by the derision of the     world. 

   “Okay, okay, we get it. Lady Hester was hell on heels. But. Why. So. Many. Words?” The woman granted that a century ago people had nothing better to do all night than read. Radio plays were still decades away.

    In a word, Lady Hester died as she had lived, alone and miserable in a strange land, bankrupt in affection and credit, because, in spite of her great gifts and innate benevolence, her overbearing temper had estranged friends and kinsfolk alike, and 
    her pride could endure neither the society of equals, nor the restraints and conventions of civilized life.
Perhaps 'alienated' will suffice.

   “ZZZZZZZZ,” the woman spread across the page. Sugarcoating wasn’t her style.
   Annoyed, brow furrowed, and fighting the temptation to hurl the script to the floor, the woman plunged a fat green straw into a morning-sized takeout cup. Straws in lattes were the latest in a short line of cigarette replacements, and this month being jittery and motor-mouthed was second nature. She was showing a few extra pounds of muffin top too. Better that than cancer, she’d remind herself whenever passing by any traitorous mirror. 
   She shut her eyes again with intent, as the facilitator of the anxiety management class taught. “Okay, lady, you relax now, let’s take a little breather,” she said.
   Regulating air intake and imagining breath flowing down to the toes while keeping the body alert were, she remembered, the next steps in the meditation exercise. That wasn’t happening today. Sarcastic exclamations rather than the placid rhythm of deep inhalation gushed from her brain; and annoyance was causing teensy eyelid muscles to spasm.
   The script’s clueless high-mindedness astonished her, that dogged and hopeful—naïve? blind?—disregard of the market, not to mention the pretentious, in-your-face intellectualism. All of it spelled commercial suicide: death by a thousand syllables. Who would pay good money to stare at a drab wallflower from days of yore reading from one sheaf of paper and then writing on a different one for five goddamned minutes? Librarians? Tweedy professors, maybe. Monks. For everyone else on the planet five minutes on screen is an eternity. Five minutes! Christ, Michael Bay makes two hundred cuts in that time and look at the vaults of ka-ching he earns. But here: no talking, no action to speak of, zero tension—writing doesn’t count, and those three steps to the window barely register. “This la-di-da Masterpiece Theatre crap might catch buzz at a multiplex in Oxford,” she said, wondering, Is there such a thing? “But here in the real world? Not an iota.” 
    The woman turned to the cover page and wrote a peeved X through the title. The name of the screenwriter meant nothing.

[That's the first half; the second installment of the prologue will appear shortly. It's serialization, remember?]

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Non-Fiction Sidebar: Literary Technicalities; Hostile Reviews; Elmore Leonard

   As someone who analyzes literature in university classrooms at least eight months of every year, the aesthetic and emotional appreciation I may have for a novel can only get me so far. For class discussions, the structural and technical aspects of fiction - epigraph, epilogue, symbol, motif, description, characterization, and so forth - become crucial. 
   That approach to lit may account for my fondness for epigraphs, titled sections, and prologues. Footnotes too, but they can get precious in no time. Who knows, maybe I just like 'em in the way I like pineapple, strawberries, and anything by Margaret Atwood.
   For some, though, this supposedly high-brow literary stuff is elitist and alienating, an obstacle that gets in the way of telling/enjoying an engrossing story. Elmore Leonard is the best known opponent of literariness, and in his New York Times essay of about a decade ago - “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle” - one of his ten rules for writing was simple: "Avoid prologues." (The very first reviewer of my first novel - which features two epilogues - wrote for an obscure magazine published in Alberta and apparently belonged to the Elmore Leonard School. He hated virtually everything about The Age of Cities, and did not suggest or imply that I was a pompous English professor. He said it explicitly, to the extent that in his review he imagined how awful it would be to be stuck in one of my pompous, self-absorbed lectures, in which I would never let anyone forgot who in the room was the brilliant mind possessing the PhD. The guy seemed certain that he hated me; I had to wonder if we'd met in real life and quarreled over something important.) Incidentally, Leonard also named his "most important rule": “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” Producing writing that does not sound like writing (despite being writing) seems both paradoxical and good advice.
   Anyway, This Location of Unknown Possibilities contains epigraphs, a prologue, an epilogue and titled sections (with epigraphs). Oh oh.
   Here's epigraph #1: 

It is an error to divide people into the living and the dead: there are people who are dead-alive, and people who are alive-alive. The dead-alive also write, walk, speak, act. But they make no mistakes; only machines make no mistakes, and they produce only dead things. The alive-alive are constantly in error, in search, in questions, in torment. —Yevgeny Zamyatin (trans. Mirra Ginsburg)

And here's the titled first section: Prologue: Studio City (2009)

Non-Fiction Sidebar : A Title in Favour and Out; Elizabeth Berkley


   This Location of Unknown Possibilities was originally titled Movie of the Week, Starring Elizabeth Berkley (f. Marta Spëk and Jakob Nugent on Location in the OK Valley)
   Besides trying too hard, being too much of a mouthful, and inducing quizzical expressions from readers, the former title also was an in-joke that (a) was meant for me alone and (b) which, once explained, wasn't all that funny. It's been dodo'd, but for posterity - ha ha - it now officially exists in cyberspace.
   As for Elizabeth Berkley (of Showgirls and Saved By the Bell fame), she still makes an appearance in exactly one scene in the final quarter of the novel. I'm unsure if there's a legal problem with featuring a living celebrity in a work of fiction (without her permission), but for now that's the least of my concerns.

Hello world, it's another blogger!

   Serialized novels had their heyday over a century ago, and then—like dodos, stove pipe hats, and passenger pigeons—they completely died off. Fickle capitalism!
  My revival attempt here is self-serving (it's a blog, after all), but also part of the process of work-shopping my second novel, This Location of Unknown Possibilities. Second novels are notoriously cursed and difficult affairs. Mine is no exception to that rule, not least because while I'm smitten with it almost everyone else and their aunt the literary agent thinks it ought to be shelved, drawer'd, burned, and forgotten.
  Posting it, then, is intended to...I'm not entirely sure. Provide me with a 'writing cure'? Enchant readers? Give me feedback? Publicly commit to announcing my belief in the novel? (I am sure, however, that my intent is not to appear foolish and deluded, like a wannabe contestant on a singing competition who believes he's the next Pavarotti when truly he bellows like a dying walrus.)