Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Learning To Juggle

I’ve always admired the performer who can take three rubber balls and juggle them with ease, keeping one ball in the air at all times. The trick can be learned and practice can take you to the next level and eventually to juggling chainsaws.

I am one of those people who can do many different things, some of them quite well, a select few expertly. In real life, I think the degree to which you can juggle successfully translates directly into your satisfaction quotient and your anxiety level.

 There are times in my writing life when there are just too many balls in the air. The expert juggler starts with three balls and then keeps adding balls until he has a collection in the air. Somehow, through practice and having a knack, he is able to track all those balls without one hitting the floor.

I remember when I was writing one thing, tossing one ball in the air. Like the little kid with a baseball glove (okay, some call it a mitt) and a ball, waiting for a friend to show up to play catch,  killing time, tossing a ball straight up and then waiting for it to come down, catching it different ways.

 Now I sometimes feel like that same kid with a glove and, like the scene in Braveheart, a thousand archers are launching arrows into the air. I’m down range trying to catch as many as I can without being stuck.
Normally I’m carefree about doing several things at one time. Generally this is when there are no deadlines, I’m enjoying all the different stuff I’m doing, and there is time for normal, everyday pursuits. I recognize now, that I get anxious when one or more projects gets dragged out, sometimes with no firm end in sight, and new ideas and projects present themselves and I know that I either will not get to them for months or I realize I might not get to them for…years.
I am at the bitter end of finishing a basketball history book. I made the bad decision of offering to edit this manuscript, thinking it wouldn’t take that much time. Wrong. I basically re-wrote the book, in the process cutting 233,000 words back to 207,000 words. I probably chopped out 50,000 words and then put 25,000 new words back in. The editing is done but now I’m also doing the book production.
A word about photos: There are nearly 250 photographs in this book that now, upon closer inspection, are not all usable because they weren’t scanned. People generally don’t understand photos and printing. So many pictures are taken with cell phones now that people think just because they use a high pixel count that they can digitally print in a book. I have seen fantastic, sharp cell phone shots with less than 72 dpi resolution.
What the heck is resolution? 72 dpi means that the photo is made up of 72 dots per inch. To send that sort of photo across the web is fine and the quality will be detailed and viewable. But, to use in an ebook or to print digitally, it can be a problem. The standard dpi for digital presses is 300 dpi. Many of the photos in this basketball book are of the 72 and 150 variety. I am waiting for a sample printing of a set of low resolution photos and holding my breath. If they work, I can finish this thing by Labor Day.
If not, then either a lot of the shots will get cut out or run in a sepia tone to make them look “old timey.” This book might get done by late September or early October. Adding to the problem is that the source of the photos is in Baltimore which is nearly five hours down the road. And if that isn’t enough, the author who has to approve all this, returns to England the last week of this month (August).

 That’s one project—but it’s the one that’s killing me. At the same time I am rewriting my novel, trying to incorporate the changes requested by an interested agent. Meanwhile, another agent has asked to see the manuscript—wants to read the whole thing in September when she starts at a new agency. Naturally, I want to finish making make the first agent’s edits since they make the book so much stronger and I wouldn’t dream of handing in my last attempt to this new agent. The good news, or silver lining in this case, is that people sometimes try for years and are unsuccessful getting an agent to read even the first few pages. I have multiple agents reading full manuscripts so I’ve been blessed.
The science publisher who is interested in two different books about the missing moon rocks and a book I pitched about cosmic impacts has been very gracious and patient. I told them how I was swamped and committed to my novel and they said not to worry, they and the moon weren’t going anywhere. Just hand them in when I’ve gotten them written. Meanwhile, they want me in their database—that’s a good sign.
The other balls in the air are: a rock and roll thriller set in China, a historical fiction about George Washington’s real life secret agent during the revolution set in my town, historic Ringwood, New Jersey, finishing my Springsteen ebook [95% done], and an ebook memoir of my involvement during high school working on the Apollo program during the Space Race. I am also wondering when my primary novel gets published if they would immediately be asking about the sequel. I’ve given some thought to a sequel but, right now, I’m afraid to throw one more ball into the air.



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