January 18: These days

I ended up sleeping in today quite late. I must have been a bit more worn out by the drive home from Sacramento yesterday than I realized. Today was a little lonely but I managed to get a few things done. I got an email back from Alba telling me that she was working on a revised version of the cover for Cottonwood right about the time I was sending her a message through Instagram telling her that I was close to deciding to stick with her initial artwork. Then, I heard from my client, Yoshi, in Japan about an issue related to putter shafts.

Distractions, but nothing felt quite important enough to hold my attention.

I took an abbreviated walk so I could get my other chores done and still make it to the post office. Then I heard from my friend, Jess, and made plans to meet him for dinner. I’m glad I did this. Even though he can be a little frustrating and even vexing at times he reminds me of what someone said about the idea of nostalgia…that it’s a kind of homecoming.

These days, these days beyond the middle days of our lives, can find us looking ahead and behind at the same time. There’s something a little disconcerting about that. But, still there’s something about these days, these days of change and unexpected and often unwelcome change, that make this time feel special. So many years ago Jess and I would have seldom had the chance to share a relaxed dinner. But, these days it has almost become commonplace, even though we know it isn’t. It is an easier time to find a little time but there will never be enough time for everything we’d like to do, or to do what we would like as often as we might care to.

Yes, it’s confusing.

In economics these kinds of times might be called a scarce good, like clean air, pure water or an enduring friendship. None of these kinds of goods come without a cost whether we are able to identify it at the time we enjoy the good or not.

So, on this day and in this hour, I have a found a few moments to recall the times that have come before, may come tomorrow, as well as those that find me writing in my journal of the year 2022. I hope to tomorrow might bring a day of sharper focus but I can’t guarantee it. All I can do is put my head on the pillow with gratitude and a humble hope for what might come next.

As this day slides toward tomorrow I find myself listing to The Yellow Cake Review, Farewell to Stromness buy the L.A. Guitar Quartet from their 1998 record, L.A.G.Q. Sure, I wish they called themselves The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet but that’s another story. This is a lovely, gentle and articulate interpretation and arrangement of Peter Maxwell’s sublime piano composition of the same name.

If you never do anything I ask of you, go out and buy each piece music today. You will not be disappointed. Enthralled? Yes. But never disappointed. Thank you, as always, for reading.

January 18: These days

January 13: My friend & favorite watercolorist

My favorite watercolorist is also my friend, Alba Escayo. She and I go way back. I think we found each other on Elance which is now Upwork. Yup, a classic internet mogul move; change a good name to a lousy one. Alba lives and works in Spain. She created the cover on my first novel and I wanted her to create the cover on Cottonwood as well. I’m always grateful she’s younger than I am because it means she’ll be around to create the cover artwork for every book I write, if she’s willing and I am able.

I had an idea that involved a Cottonwood tree and a figure carrying a golf bag and walking away from the viewer. From underneath the tree, the figure reaches up and touches the low-hanging leaves. The idea of the walking away is that the figure is walking into the future, like all of us. The figure is faceless. It could be anyone. It could be one of the characters in the book but then again maybe not. No matter who it is, he reaches up to touch the tree, to touch a growing life.

I sent Alba an example of my idea but I did a bad job of explaining my vision to her. Probably I was in a hurry or maybe I thought we had discussed it more completely last time we emailed about it, over a year ago. She sent me this a couple days ago:

Now I have a problem, not a bad problem mind you, more like a decision. This is not at all what I had in mind, but I love it. It’s not a golf book so I had no intention of having an image of someone swinging a golf club on the cover, but there it is. And, now that it’s there, it has me doubting my concept. I’ve been reminding myself of some of my best non-advice advice:

It doesn’t really matter.

Of course it does, but maybe not. I wanted Alba to create the cover because I love her work, and this is her work. Now I find myself hesitant to continue to foist my vision on her, especially after she’s blessed me with this beautiful creation. My concept is not the idea of a visual artist but rather of a lowly writer. Part of me is screaming at myself to leave the artwork to the artist, and that is definitely Alba and definitely not me.

But we are talking about me. So, in the end I couldn’t help myself and I emailed Alba with my thoughts. As I said, I love the cover she’s done, and I want it, and I’ll pay her for it gladly. It will hang proudly over my desk and I will smile each time I see it. It may not end up being the artwork I use on the cover and then again it might be.

The decisions made in writing a book, especially a self-published book, go on and on. I’m very happy that no matter what decision I make about the cover art, the work will be Alba’s and it will be fantastic because it is hers.

Today’s writing soundtrack is an elegant 1974 record by Bills Evans called, Symbiosis. It is some of the best of jazz and classical (read: orchestral) music I have ever heard. It is melodically and rhythmically evocative of both times and places I’d like to be. I know a pianist who doesn’t think much of Bill Evans’ work from this era, but I think it is wonderful. Maybe you will, too, so take a listen.

Thanks for dropping by.

January 13: My friend & favorite watercolorist

January 7: When the writing is done.

You know that I’ve finished writing my second book. I did it in two parts. The first started in late 2018 and the second started at the end of 2019. The parts were separated by an unforeseen event that obviously didn’t scuttle the project though it did affect the way the second part of the book unfolded.

Now it’s done, but it’s not.

I was lucky enough to hear from my loyal formatter today. She got married in the middle of December so I was hoping against hope that she’d still be into her formatting gig once the dust settled. I’m fortunate that she is. I didn’t realize what a superb job she did on my first book until I saw some other self-published books and said, “Hmmm…” sometimes to myself and sometimes out loud. My hope is to format the second so its style (font, spacing, section headings, etc.) matches my first book. I think the second is about 70,000 words longer than the first but I still think its 5×8″ cover will look nice, tidy and unpretentious on a book shelf.

I’ve identified a funny shortcoming. While I’ve spent a good long time editing the book, I’m kind of done with it. I wrote it as well as I could and while there are tons of changes I could make I cannot quite bring myself to make them. Like I said, the essence of it is about as good as I can do though I know I can do better on the next book. The tasks remaining are writing the foreword or the preamble (I haven’t decided which I’ll use), buying and placing the ISBN number and deciding whether I want to acknowledge and identify the cover artist on the back cover itself or somewhere inside. Of course, I’ve avoided the most important thing. I have to print the damn 578 page monster out again and proof it one last time. Only two minor typos managed to slip past on the first book but there’s something about this book that tells me that it could suffer from more, potentially a lot more gremlins.

My mindset reminds me of Roger Modjeski. When he would finish the aspects of a circuit design he called The Study, and by finish I mean he fully verified that the circuit did what he intended it to do, he was pretty much done with the design. Completing The Study cut the umbilical cord for Rog just like finishing the narrative has cut me off from my novel. Roger still wanted to make a salable product mind you, just like I want to make a salable book, but our enthusiasms belonged to another aspect of the process.

This was in no way a limitation on Roger’s ability as a circuit designer. I know few engineers who were his equal. And, I’m not even sure that it undercuts me as a writer. Perhaps it’s merely evidence that writing requires an editor who is not the writer. Now that’s a problem I’m not sure I can solve, though in my own way I am trying.

As the clock approaches 11:30pm I am realizing that even though writing is easier for me the later it gets this kind of journal is going to require daytime writing. So, from tomorrow on I’m going to dedicate myself to writing these entries before the sun goes down.

Finally, today’s soundtrack is Nocturne by Charlie Haden from way back in 2001. One of the main qualifications of my writing soundtracks is that they are instrumentals and relatively devoid of big swings of tempo and dynamics. Most vocals are too distracting. Anyway, it’s a neat record for writing or just some stylish, California-cool chillin.

Thanks for reading. I hope you find time to drop by tomorrow.

January 7: When the writing is done.