Seems appropriate to talk about the history of The Saltness of Time, the novella I want to turn into a print book using a letterpress and funded through Kickstarter. That campaign ends Dec. 3 and I'm nowhere near my goal. Very much appreciate those who have donated. If the goal isn't reached, Kickstarter will refund your donation. I even received $100 donation from this person: Алексей Ухловский. Anyone translate that for me?
But if you're interested in reading this work, even without donating, no problem. The Saltness of Time, is available as an ebook and it is also included in the paperback collection of stories, One More Victim. I consider them literary works and worry: does that label turn off many readers? Does it you?
Here's the back story on Saltnesss. In my 20s (in Lawrence, KS, and in Florence, Italy, and in Oiso, Japan) I was writing. Trying to write. Probably the Hemingway Nick stories influenced me. But I had a vision of creating a series of linked stories featuring myself in high school and my best friend I called Fred. Some Fred stories worked out (those are in the One More Victim collection, too). Some stories you learn to give up on; some you go back to. The Saltness of Time was one that kept pulling me back. But it wasn't until my 40s that I reentered it in a serious and productive way.
An aside here: young writers, be patient; let things fester inside you. Don't think you've failed before you have. Don't think you've succeeded before you have. Many stories are like wine: they need time in the cask. Don't get drunk too soon on them; don't give up on them either. Or, don't listen to me at all. Seems plenty of young writers are doing much better than am I in this epublishing business. Maybe the best route is to ignore geezers like me.
Writing the novel Crazy About You, I discovered a technique that seemed to work for me. It was in first person, but allowed a kind of leaping forward for the character so he could look back upon himself. Just because you are in first person doesn't mean you have to stay in the present.
An example from Crazy:
At the drive-in, Gwendolyn and I both had chocolate malts with our cheeseburgers. Was beef better then? Was milk sweeter? Why is it that a chocolate malt and a cheeseburger is never as good as it was in high school? As we get older do our tastes become jaded, too, the way our ideals do?
The main character in The Saltness of Time is relating his story to a captive group of listeners in the present. But he's talking about the past.
That made Saltness complicated to write. The reader learns the story through the narrator who is one of the listeners, but 90 percent of the story is listening to what the main character says. And then the story teller tells a story that was told to him, so there is a story within a story. This technique created interesting tensions. It also provided the listening narrator in the present with opportunities to comment on the speaker of the tale.
Maybe this taste will clarify the above mush:
He was a little spooky. But I figured he was harmless. And there were myself and Ted to protect the girls, snuggling against us as we sat on the divan. We both had our arms around our respective women, sharing the commingled warmth of our young bodies in front of the fire, the only source of heat in the hotel. Sleeping arrangements had yet to be worked out. We had taken two rooms and, by looking at Ted, I could tell he was sharing the same hope I had: that we would take our girlfriends to our own beds, as we each certainly had done in the past, but neither of us knowing if the sisters would acknowledge that fact to each other through the act of allowing it to occur again in the presence of the other. The alternative was unappealing: sharing the narrow, double bed with Ted.
The stranger sat in an overstuffed chair near the fire, getting up as needed to feed it new logs.
"I haven't told many people this story. Perhaps you'd rather not hear it. I know how hard it is for young people to listen about what rocked the hearts and flamed the passions of old people when they were young. It seems so long ago it's hard to believe lives back then were blood and bone real. And what happened to me that night reached back into the last century. I mean, Gabrielle was born in the 1880s. No, wait, might as well get it right. She was eighty-nine when we ran across her and that was in 1963, so she would have been born in..." He stopped briefly to calculate in his head and Stephie, the little math whiz, spoke up with the answer, "1874."
This approach, too, gifted to me the best ending sentence I've written for any of my works. (Shame on any of you who get The Saltness of Time and skip to the ending!)
The phrase "saltness of time" comes from Shakespeare ("Some smack of age in you, some relish of the saltness of time," Henry IV, part II). I was thinking more of the salt beds of the dried-up, inland sea below the rich soil of the Kansas prairie. And, of course, the salt beds, too, within each of us that we develop with time.
But back to the whole Kickstarter business. Don't you think this would be a wonderful read in a print book from a letterpress book, hardbound by an old fashioned bindery? Hope you do. $100 donation would get you that book.