Whoo-hoo!

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It’s official: I have now sold more copies of my books in the month of February 2010 than in any other single month! 31 Kindle copies and 2 paperbacks, in case you’re wondering.

This is appropriate as I always look forward to February as it’s when pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. As a die-hard Houston Astros fan, this is usually the last full month of the year when we still have a shot at the playoffs. And this year looks especially hopeful as we’ve signed more no-name has-beens than usual, leading to a sense across Astro-nation that this mist be the year we make it out of May still in contention. (Then, the team will put on a great push in September that falls just short, leading us to think “just wait ’til next year” like we always do.)

Anyway, I still don’t know who is buying my books. And, in all honesty, the numbers for this month are somewhat “padded” by my “strategy” to release “All the Time in Our World” in four parts. Whether this is a marketing strategy that has been successful will be determined over time, but someone is reading all four parts (though, oddly, part 3 is selling the best!?!?!).

Continuing to lead the pack, however, is “First Time: The Legend of Garison Fitch” which still accounts for about 1/3 of all my sales. It is clearly my best seller, but it does make me wonder why more people aren’t buying it’s sequels (together, the other two books ["Saving Time" and "Lost Time"] account for about another 1/3 of my sales). The final third of my sales are the “All the Time in Our World” segments.

In just over a year and a half, I’ve sold exactly 1 copy of my novel “Psalm 88″. I really like those characters and that story, so it makes me feel kind of sad for them. Like when one of your kids wins a prize at school and the other doesn’t.

Thanks to whoever is buying these novels. Let me know what you like about them.

Released!!

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The complete text of “All the Time in Our World” is now available to everyone through Amazon Kindle! All four parts have been uploaded and are for sale (though it may be a day or so before part 4 shows up on the web site).

The entire novel will be available as a single Kindle novel in April. Don’t worry: you’ll pay the same price for the complete novel as you would for ordering all four parts individually. So why not order now!?!?

Don’t have a Kindle? You can read Kindle books on your iPhone or you can download software (for free!!) that will enable you to read Kindle books on your PC.

If you haven’t read any of this novel, yet, you can read a sample chapter at garisonfitch.com. This is my wife’s favorite novel, so it’s coming to you highly recommended from a source I have the utmost respect for!

Psalm 88 and Garison Fitch

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“Most writers don’t make a living at writing.” I’ve heard that many times. It’s meant to be discouraging and, yes, it is. As a young writer, one sees the writers who are obviously making a living at it and it’s natural to think to oneself, “I want to do that.”

The reality is that the old cliche is true and most of us who aspire to be writers won’t be living in Breckenridge anytime soon. Colorado, anyway. I might could live in Breckenridge, TX … no, I’m not making enough money off writing to live there, either.

So, what are we encouraged to do? Many times, I was told to look out at the world and see what sells and try to learn from that. What I was supposed to learn was pretty ambiguous. Was I supposed to copy the prominant authors and write a legal thriller like Gresham, or a spy novel like Ludlum, or a western like L’Amour? Or was it a more nebulous piece of advice and I was supposed to tap into some perceived sensibility of the crowd: like greed in the 80s or an inability to vote for competent leadership in the 90s?

I went another direction. I didn’t know what people wanted to read, or how to find out, and I wasn’t entirely sure that it mattered. I knew what I wanted to read, so I have written accordingly. It may be selfish and, if you’re wont to point out that it isn’t likely to lead to fortune I can only say that I noticed that some time ago.

Still, I write what I want to read. And, whether it’s time travel or Christian relationships (see “Psalm 88″ or any of the dozen other unpublished novels I’ve written), the main thing that interests me is: how do people think? When I watch the news, I frequently find myself asking, “What was he thinking?!?!” From the criminal who does something really boneheaded during the commission of a crime, to the lab assistant who has just discovered something that will benefit us all, I’m wondering what they were thinking. Was what happened an accident or did they know what they were shooting for? Is this person, who is going through something really momentous, married? Do they have kids? Are they really good at their job but stink at talking to their teenager?

So I put people who are dealing with other people in a situation that makes the stakes of the deal higher and see what happens. I do hope someone else will enjoy reading about these people–they mean a lot to me–but the first audience is still me.

What was George doing in the road?

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People who have read “First Time – The Legend of Garison Fitch” have often asked me, “What was George doing in that street anyway? He’s eleven, for crying out loud!”

The crazy thing is: I have an answer. The problem is: there was never a good place to put it in the book. Every time I’ve tried, it just interrupted the flow. So, here’s the passage that explains why little Georgie (who was almost 6 foot tall at age 11) was playing in the street that day:

“Wait a minute,” Heather objected, placing her hand on Garison’s chest. “Why was George in the street? It’s not like he was a little kid, too little to know better.”

Garison nodded and told her, “You know, I had that question too, but not at the time.” At her look of skepticism, he explained, “At the time, I was just … freakin’, as your friend Bat would say. I saw a kid playing in the street, I saw the giant dray with the corner of my eye, and I grabbed him. And then, the worst headache in the history of the world hit me.

“It’s rather like my life is bifurcated cleanly: before that moment and after. I’ve relived that moment-the actual moment where I pulled him out of the way-a thousand times, now that I know,” he smiled, recalling some other phrase, “Now that I know what I hath wrought.”

“‘Hath’?” Heather chuckled.

“I don’t know where that came from. Anyway, about a month ago I was going over it all and I asked myself why he was there. I had known him from town-everyone had, it was a small town-and he wasn’t known as a flaky kid or anything. ‘Flaky’?” Garison asked, confused sometimes by where his own various turns of phrase came from. “He was always just this big, rather outgoing kid. Little obnoxious even.

“So I started thinking about it. Trying to picture it all in my mind. I think I’m right in picturing him with rocks and sticks laid out on the ground.” He looked at Heather as if this answered her question.

Finally, she prodded, “So?”

Garison smiled and explained, “It was like a kid today playing with toy soldiers. But I think George was planning out a battle. A military battle.”

Heather hesitated, then shrugged and agreed, “That explains so much.”

Seeing the Written

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There is a moment in “All the Time in Our World” where Marianne and Edward have gotten into a newlywed’s battle over something that started very small. As anyone who is married–or has been married–those little things can become big things until, eventually, they explode. In the fortunate instances, the warring parties look back and chuckle, “We were fighting over THAT?!?!”

When Edward and Marianne finally reconcile, they are in a field at dusk, the music of a party wafting gently over them, and they begin to dance. When I write–or when I do almost anything, for that matter–I have music going. When cartooning, I play all sorts of music. When writing, though, I usually only play instrumental music because I’ve learned that if I play music with lyrics those lyrics work their way into my writing.

Sometimes, as I write a passage, the music that was playing when I first created the passage will become so engrained in me that, each subsequent time I work on the passage, I still hear the music that was playing the first time.

This passage is unique in that I wrote it, but some time later I heard the song that is now permanently engraved in my mind as it’s companion. It’s called “A Song for All Lovers” and was written by John Denver. It speaks of two people slowly dancing together in the moonlight. The song is set on the steppes of Alaska, but whenever I hear it I picture Edward and Marianne dancing in the moonlight on that field outside Trahlad. When I read that passage, I’m hearing Denver’s song in the back of my mind.

Script Sampler

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Fiddling with turning “First Time: The Legend of Garison Fitch – Book 1″ into a screenplay …

First Time by Samuel Ben White

script sample

Act I

Scene 1

[Setting: home laboratory. Heather is standing off to the side, looking excitedly anxious.]

[A blinding flash of light. The time machine appears, with Garison standing on a tarp that is tied to one leg of the time machine. His dark brown hair is in a pony tail. His clothes are from the 1700s. A popping noise comes from the "engine" of the time machine, then it begins to smoke. Garison jumps off the tarp, as if trying to get away from the machine, but his progress is blocked by an excited hug from Heather]

Heather: [excited] It worked Garison! It worked! You were gone and now you’re back! It’s so wonderful!

[Heather kisses Garison on the cheek. Garison looks confused-and doesn't returned the hug. When she starts to kiss him on the mouth, he breaks off the kiss and takes a step back. Looks confused at running into a work bench.]

Heather: Garison? Is something wrong?

[Garison looks around the room, as if seeing it for the first time. Some things are familiar, but some things are new or wildly out of place. Notices that the video cameras he had installed are in the right places. Looks over Heather. She's beautiful, but he has never seen her before.]

Garison: [suspiciously] Who are you?

Heather: [reaches for his head, as if checking for a bump] Are you OK, Garison? Did you hit your head?

Garison: [angrily swats her hand aside] No, I didn’t hit my head. I’m fine. Who are you?

Heather: [starts to reach out again, withdraws her hand. Recognition dawns in her eyes] Wait a minute, you’ve changed. How did your hair get so long in two seconds? How did you grow a mustache that quick? And those clothes? Except for that jacket, you look like you’re…from the revolutionary war or something. And you look older. [worried] Garison, what happened?

Garison: Who are you?

Heather: Heather [takes a step toward him again, but he backs away, down the workbench]

Garison: Heather? Heather who? I don’t know a Heather. What kind of name is that, anyway? A plant name?

Heather: You don’t remember me?

Garison: Why should I?

Heather: Heather Fitch. Heather Dawson Fitch.

Garison: Fitch? You’re not related to me. Just what are you trying to pretend here?

[She reaches out to touch him again and again he slaps her hand away, this time with more force. She brings the hand back, seemingly shocked that the slap had stung.]

Heather: I’m your wife.

Garison: My wife? [forced laugh, then patronizing] All right. What’s going on? Who put you up to this?

Heather: What happened to you, Garison?

[She touches his head. He doesn't slap her away, but it's obvious he doesn't like her touch. He's contemptuous.]

Heather: [touching the lines around his eyes] What are these?

Garison: [surprised] Huh?

Heather: These lines around your eyes. You never had these before. And you’ve got gray hair that wasn’t there before you left. How do you turn gray in a couple seconds?

Garison: I’ve been turning gray for-who are you? Tell me the truth!

Heather: I’m Heather Fitch. I’m your wife.

Scene 2

[Setting: colonial town. A shed is on fire. Sarah rides up as men are trying to put out the fire and keep it from spreading to other buildings. Sarah jumps off and rushes for the building. Finneas, who is one of the men fighting the fire, grabs her to keep her back.]

Sarah: Garison! [looks at Finneas] Was he inside?

Finneas: [nervous, Irish accent] I dunno. He told me he was going in there. But we have not found any evidence, except this. [holds up a padlock]

Sarah: [gasping] Where was it found?

FInneas: Out here, on the ground. We heard no sound or voice. And we’ve seen no sign of a body. Maybe he weren’t in there.

Sarah: [sinking to her knees in grief] He was inside, then. He would never leave the lock outside like that unless he were inside with the door bolted. Garison always did it exactly the same way every time.

[Finneas sinks to his knees and puts his arms around the sobbing widow of his best friend. He begins to cry.]

Check, Mate!

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I got a check in the mail last Tuesday because between August 1, 2009 and January 31, 2010 I sold 12 paperback copies of my novels. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but considering I still don’t know who is buying them, and the total of my marketing “effort” has been word-of-mouth and this blog and the web site (garisonfitch.com.com), I’m pretty excited!

It’s gratifying to know someone is reading my books and–presumably–liking them (as they’re buying the sequels). Would sure make me excited if I knew who these people were or if they were to drop me a letter (hint hint).

And I’m still averaging 15-20 copies of my books sold for Amazon’s Kindle platform each month, including my newest offering: All the Time in Our World (parts 1-3 are now available, the conclusion will be available at the end of February). Anyone with tips on how to “expand my scope” (as Barney Fife was known to say) will find in me a willing ear.

Garison Readers

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I still don”t know who”s reading about Garison Fitch.  I can check my account at Amazon and see that—this month—I have sold several copies of my books about Garison (and even a couple copies of the books about his grandson ["All the Time in Our World"]) but other than the one friend on Facebook who told me she bought a copy, I have no idea who these people are.

Yes, I realize that”s SOP for most authors.  John Grisham probably gets a lot of fan mail, but I doubt that he gets a letter from every one of the millions of readers each of his books have.

Still, I”d like to know.  Part of it is curiosity.  I”d like to know where they heard about my book and whether they would recommend it to a friend and if they prefer Kindle or actual paper.  I”d like to ask those questions.

There”s another aspect to it all, though.  I wrote and re-wrote “First Time: The Legend of Garison Fitch” for over a decade.  And then, there was the publishing mishap, followed by another majore re-write and the adventure in self-publishing.  That was followed (many years later) by my foray into publishing with Kindle (which has worked out better than I ever imagined!).

Over that time, and through it all, Garison has become something more than an imaginary character to me.  My brain knows he”s a fictional person, but I”ve also gotten to know him so well that when writing “Lost Time” or other, unpublished, works wherein Garison appears I have occasionally run into walls.  Not that I don’t know how to write for Garison, but that I know too well!  I write a bit of dialogue, then think, “Garison wouldn’t say that.”  Or, “Garison wouldn’t say it that way.”  Or, I’ll put Garison into a situation that I know he wouldn’t get into.

Same with Heather.  I know these characters so well that writing about them is less like writing fiction and more like writing biography.  I think part of why I want to hear from people who have read my books is I want to know if they Garison and Heather (and Sarah, Edward, Marianne, Bat, Jody and Joe and Ellen) seem as real to them.’, ‘Garison”s Readers’, ‘Over that time, and through it all, Garison has become something more than an imaginary character to me.  My brain knows he”s a fictional person, but I”ve also gotten to know him so well that when writing “Lost Time” or other, unpublished, works wherein Garison appears I have occasionally run into walls.  Not that I don’t know how to write for Garison, but that I know too well!  I write a bit of dialogue, then think, “Garison wouldn’t say that.”  Or, “Garison wouldn’t say it that way.”  Or, I’ll put Garison into a situation that I know he wouldn’t get into.

Multiple Realities

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Most modern time travel fiction that I’ve read or seen is based on the idea of multiple realities. From a fictional standpoint, this resolves the old time travel connundrum of “Could I go back in time and kill my grandfather because wouldn’t that cause me to cease to exist?” If we say there are multiple realities, then the person who travels has not so much traveled in time as to another reality, one in which they are free to kill their grandfather, shoot their dog or whatever, but the outcome in that reality won’t in any way effect the outcome in their “starting” reality.

The “logical” conclusion of this idea is that there are an infinite number of realities out there, each spawned every time a decision is made. This morning, when you had to choose between strawberry jam or grape jelly for your toast, you spawned several realities. There’s the reality where you chose grape, the one where you chose strawberry, the one where you decided not to have jelly at all, the one where the toaster caught fire and burned down the house, leaving just a charred reminder of your sorry existance underneath the rubble of the kitchen table, etc.

People who support this theory of multiple realities will often say there is theoretical math that proves the possibility of multiple realities. The possibility. You see, it’s not really provable (as normal people define “provable”).

Therefore, the universe of Garison Fitch (which includes “All the Time in Our World” as well as anything else I’ve written) assumes that the possibility is not a possibility and works from the assumption that there’s only one reality and one timeline and Garison somehow altered it. This makes some people mad. They have so fully bought into the concept of multiple realities that they cannot conceive of a story based in and on a single reality.

What strikes me as funny about this is: “Dude! It’s fiction!” The nature of fiction is to tell a story that isn’t in such a way that the reader thinks it could be, or–at the very least–understands the premise. So if I, as the author, want to tell a story predicated on a single timeline (or on the concept that the sky is plaid or that politicians are innately altruistic) then a] that’s my right and 2] it behooves me to stay true to my premise within the story (unless it’s part of the story that the character is finding his assumptions challenged or changed).’, ‘Multiple Realities’, ‘What strikes me as funny about this is: “Dude! It’s fiction!” The nature of fiction is to tell a story that isn’t in such a way that the reader thinks it could be, or–at the very least–understands the premise

Why Time?

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Jerry Seinfeld said that when you walk into a bookstore you have the fiction section and the non-fiction section.  In other words, one group is telling the truth and one group is lying.

So, why lie about time travel?

I have always been fascinated with time travel.  Who doesn’t have something in their life they would like to go back and change?  I have made stupid mistakes I wish I could go undo.  I have also done things that I really enjoyed and wish I could enjoy them again.  Let alone “big” things like go back to Dallas in 1963 and prevent a presidential assassination—or just back to 1980 and somehow have the Astros win that one-game play-off they should have won anyway.

What if, though, I were to travel back in time and make things worse?  This is the dilemma of Garison Fitch.  He has traveled back in time and, when he returns to the future, the world has changed.  Should he go back and try to change things back to normal?

Of course, in Garison’s world, the strange new world is the one you and I are used to.  Garison grew up in the Soviet Americas, where the Republic of Texas existed just across the southern border and Japan ruled the western half of the continent.  His decision is whether to live in this whacked-out world of the United States, or see if he can undo what he’s done.

Why write about this?  Because I find it fascinating.  What if I went back to 1986 and treated the girl I was dating then better?  I’d like to not be known (at least to her) as a jerk, but what if in so doing I somehow messed up meeting my wife in ’88?  I think I’d hate that.  What if I could somehow prevent my wife from having a miscarriage in the summer of ’96?  Well, then I wouldn’t have my youngest son.  I know I’d hate that, even though I’m sure I’d love the other child.

And, of course, I wouldn’t know about any of these changes if the change were made.

It’s probably just as well that I can’t change the past.  But it’s still fun to think about.’, ‘Why Time?’, ‘What if, though, I were to travel back in time and make things worse?  This is the dilemma of Garison Fitch.  He has traveled back in time and, when he returns to the future, the world has changed.  Should he go back and try to change things back to normal?