WHAT’S COMFORTABLE, AND WHAT’S NOT: PUBLICATION OF MY NOVEL “After the Devastation”

By Paul M. Lewis

As I talked about in a blog posting done in early November of last year, I began the process of writing the novel soon after retiring at the end of 2006. During that time, it has gone through numerous phases, forms, iterations, and edits, and, although it’s been a long slog, I am happy to announce that it has now finally been published.

Here is a short description of what it’s about:

It’s the year 2024 and the world is teetering on the brink of global environmental disaster and nuclear war. Nora Del Bosque tells her husband, Aden Delaterre, she’s leaving to report for the Los Angeles Times on a crucial meeting at the new Chicago headquarters of the United Nations. With the world about to fall apart, this is the last thing he wants to hear. A professor and environmental specialist, Aden understands all too well the risks and dangers involved. But the worst does happen, and the two become lost to each other. In the ensuing years, they lead lives apart in isolated communities without modern technology or the conveniences once taken for granted. Separated and still longing for each other, they both rise to positions of power and leadership in fragments of civilization torn by their own brand of conflict based on religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation and race. They meet traditionalists, doctrinal zealots, outrageous individualists, as well as shamans and those wise in the ways of the world. Each discovers their own intuitive awakening and comes to know and rely on their personal Spirit Guides.

After the Devastation is a romance, as well as a story of political intrigue and magical mysticism. It is a tale of global crisis and of a post-apocalyptic future for humanity, riven by our ever-present flaws, but bolstered by our greatest attributes. The novel poses the questions we ultimately all need to ask ourselves: can we learn from our past mistakes, and in the end are people capable of building a new and better world for themselves, even after the devastation?

Writing the novel was, in a sense, the easier part. I’m comfortable sitting quietly, spinning stories in my study. Someone once told me that the job of the writer is to fabricate interesting characters, chase them up a tree, and then start throwing stones at them. I like that. People in stories are at their most interesting when they have to face difficulties. And, as readers, we can relate to others who are facing stuff, either of their own making or imposed on them by forces beyond their control. One way or another, if characters are well drawn, we should be able to see ourselves in them. And in so identifying with them and their struggles, maybe this even helps us somehow gain insight into our own difficulties.

But now, I’m faced with a task that I find much more daunting, that is, marketing the novel. This isn’t something that comes easily or naturally to me. As it turns out, advertising a book once it’s written is a whole different world. The word “promotion” keeps coming up. But being center stage is not necessarily my preferred location. Generally, I’d rather stand to the side and let others bask in the limelight (to follow, perhaps too far, the theatrical metaphor). But being in that limelight, I am told, is the very job definition of an author these days. He or she has to get out there and “sell the book.”

So, I’ll do my best, and here’s what I’ve done so far. I’ve worked with someone who has done an excellent job at creating a website for me. You can go to www.paulmlewis.com and take a look for yourself and, if you’ve a mind to, you can even order a copy of the book there. I would also love to hear what you think about it, and you’ll see a place there on the website where you can go to leave comments. There’s a picture of me there, too, more or less center stage (well, center screen at least), and a photo of the cover of the book, generously and beautifully designed by my blog-partner, Kevin L. Miller. And finally, there’s a link that will lead you right back here to the Two Old Liberals site, so you can come full circle.

Another part of the process has been to send out an email blast to friends in order to alert them to the publication. Most of them have even been kind enough to write back, congratulating me, which has been enormously gratifying. Human kindness is always something I am profoundly appreciative of. And some of them have gone ahead and ordered the book.

I’ll be creating a Facebook page for the book, too, and will reach out to the local press, once I have a press release—a thing which is in process—and see if anyone might be willing to review the book. And I’m ready to make myself available to speak to anyone, or any group, at any time, about the book or about the process of writing the book. This part I really don’t mind doing at all, if it happens, as I enjoy talking to groups and grew used to it in my previous professional life. And hopefully there will be other opportunities that may present themselves for me to promote the book.

It’s true that all this comes at the expense of writing essays for this blog, or even of creating another novel (and I do have some thoughts about doing exactly that). But first things first is no doubt the best advice I can give myself. The essential question still remains: how best to gear myself up for standing in the spotlight and promoting the book? After much soul-searching, here is what I have finally come up with: I will not think of it as promoting myself. Instead, I’ll think of it as promoting the characters in the book. After all, I like them; I could say I love them, I suppose, even the evil ones. And it’s my job to try to give them a life in the wider world by letting people know about the book. Remember that part about chasing characters up a tree and throwing rocks at them, because people are at their most interesting when they’re challenged? Well, here’s my chance to chase myself up the tree. Now I’ll get to see how I handle those rocks, if any are thrown at me.

It will give me a chance to show my metal, just as I’ve given my characters an opportunity to prove theirs. And that’s only fair. So, promote away I will. I’ll stand on whatever stage comes my way, happily speak to any group, and write about my characters or my process of creating them. Because, in the end, aside from sitting quietly and spinning stories in my study, this is the job of a writer in today’s world. And—or so I’m beginning to discover—that’s the fun of it!

WRITING “AFTER THE DEVASTATION”

By Paul M. Lewis

It has been some time since I have written on this blog, and to those who read it on anything like a regular basis, I offer my apologies. What has been keeping me otherwise occupied is working on a novel that I originally wrote several years ago

The history of writing the novel goes something like this. Just before I retired at the end of the year 2006, I had a strikingly vivid dream. It was so powerful, and imposed itself so on me, that it woke me from sleep at 3 o’clock in the morning. I sat up and thought about it, but not wanting to awaken my partner, I went into another room and wrote it down. Basically, the dream gave me the broad outline of the book that I came to write. There are three parts to it, and each part was vividly laid out for me. This is what came directly from my subconscious mind. The characters described come, I suppose, from a combination of my conscious mind and the parts of my subconscious that leak out in ways that are both known and unknown to me. The “I” that speaks its name, that is, this amalgam of the aware and the unaware, the mindful and the slumberous, the cognizant and the incognizant that I normally think of and refer to as “me” is responsible for the detail of the story.

But the question that may legitimately pose itself is this: if I wrote the novel several years ago, why am I only now publishing it? That requires some small bit of explanation. The original writing of it took eighteen months. I wrote every day, and was utterly engrossed in it. The story followed the main outline of the original dream, but I had to create individuals to populate this superstructure, as well as plot, and of course conflict. The conflict was both easy and difficult for me. On the one hand, I have always been hyper-aware of conflict, both in my immediate surroundings and in the wider world. There is never, it seems, surcease of conflict. On the other hand, I have also never liked conflict, and my natural tendency is to shy away from it. Yet, you cannot write a novel without embedding discord, dissension and strife of various kinds within it. So, there is that aplenty in the novel. As an aside, all this reminds me of a story I once read about the great Bengali writer and Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. He was spinning a story for his granddaughter, who loved to listen to the various tales he would create just for her. But in this one instance, his story was going on and on, and he was elderly and getting tired. So he began bringing it to an end. However, the granddaughter had other ideas, and each time he would make a move toward an ending, she would say to her grandfather that this or that then happened to the heroine, and so it couldn’t be the end yet. As Tagore later noted, there is no ending a story until the conflict is resolved. Or, I suppose, another way of thinking of it is, the story goes on and on, and it never fully ends. Whatever end we come up with is always a temporary one.

Once the novel was finished, with lots of help from friends, I attempted to find an agent and get it published. However, as an unknown author with an untested novel, no one was willing to take me on. I cannot say that I blame them. The publishing world has changed drastically in the last several years, and continues to change. As a result, I put the novel away for the next few years. It literally sat in a drawer, or in a file on the computer (some of both, actually), until just recently. What happened then was that I was about to turn 70 years old. As that birthday approached, I said to myself that if I am ever going to publish this, to give it a chance to be seen by a wider world than my own eyes, or only by my partner and a few willing friends, I had no choice but to self-publish. And this has been what I have been in the process of doing

Fortuitously, all of this coincided with my partner’s retirement from work. As such, I coopted him (he was more than willing) to make use of his excellent editorial services. We both read through the novel three or four times, depending on how you count, and in the process he made many extremely useful suggestions. I will not say that I took every one, but I did incorporate many of them. And I think, or at least it is my hope, that the novel is the better as a result.

So, I have now submitted the work to the publisher (Lulu.com), and they have just begun to work their own magic. I want to add here too that my old friend and blog-partner, Kevin, who is one of the finest artists I know, was kind enough to agree to create cover art for the novel. I cannot yet say exactly when the novel will be ready, but I am hopeful that sometime in the next couple of months, six at the outside, it will be available.

The novel itself is called After the Devastation, and a brief description of it goes something like this: The year is 2024, and the world is teetering on the brink of global environmental disaster and nuclear war. Nora tells her husband, Aden, she’s leaving to report on a crucial meeting at the new Chicago headquarters of the UN. With the world about to fall apart, this is the last thing he wants to hear. A professor and environmental specialist, Aden understands all too well the risks and dangers involved. But the worst does happen, and the two become lost to each other. In the ensuing years, they lead lives apart in isolated communities without modern technology or the conveniences once taken for granted. Separated and still longing for each other, they both rise to positions of power and leadership in fragments of civilization torn by their own brand of conflict based on religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation and race. They meet traditionalists, doctrinal zealots, outrageous individualists, as well as shamans and those wise in the ways of the world. In the process, each discovers their own intuitive awakening and comes to know and rely on their personal spirit guides. It is a story of political intrigue and magical mysticism, as well as a tale of post-apocalyptic crisis and uncertain future for humanity, riven by its ever-present flaws, but bolstered by its greatest attributes. It poses the questions we ultimately all need to ask ourselves: can we learn from our past mistakes, and are we capable of building a new and better world, even after the devastation?

I have learned a great deal throughout this entire process, and again am enormously grateful for all of the help I have gotten along the way. I can only hope that the novel will live up to my own expectations, as a work that dramatizes and gives life to the enormous environmental issues of our day, to say nothing of the ageless human questions that challenge us all, and that it may serve to remind everyone who reads it of one essential truth – that the earth is not some senseless, inert thing, but has its own kind of consciousness, one that is both other, and greater than, our own.