Monday, July 31, 2017

Sunstone and Fountains

     In the prologue of Robert Hughes' book on Rome, he quotes the opening lines from Octavio Paz's poem entitled "Piedra del Sol."  Here is the passage in both English and Spanish.
     In part, I think the poem's resonance with me centers on the way it begins to catch and convey the mysterious nature of flowing water. The shapes it reveals, the endless eddies and currents, reflect a mysterious quality when viewed closely; it is never the same twice.  With regards to the study abroad posts, I intend to continue to focus upon water in its symbolic as well as its life-giving nature.


Sunstone | Octavio Paz

willow of crystal, a poplar of water, 
a pillar of fountain by the wind drawn over, 
tree that is firmly rooted and that dances, 
turning course of a river that goes curving, 
advances and retreats, goes roundabout, 
arriving forever: 
the calm course of a star 
or the spring, appearing without urgency, 
water behind a stillness of closed eyelids 
flowing all night and pouring out prophecies, 
a single presence in the procession of waves 
wave over wave until all is overlapped, 
in a green sovereignty without decline 
a bright hallucination of many wings 
when they all open at the height of the sky...


Piedra de sol | Octavio Paz

Un sauce de cristal, un chopo de agua, 
un alto surtidor que el viento arquea, 
un árbol bien plantado mas danzante, 
un caminar de río que se curva, 
avanza, retrocede, da un rodeo 
y llega siempre: 
                      un caminar tranquilo 
de estrella o primavera sin premura, 
agua que con los párpados cerrados 
mana toda la noche profecías, 
unánime presencia en oleaje, 
ola tras ola hasta cubrirlo todo, 
verde soberanía sin ocaso 
como el deslumbramiento de las alas 
cuando se abren en mitad del cielo...


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Roman Draining of Fucine Lake

     One of the great wonders of ancient Rome was its ingenious strategy for bringing fresh water into the city.  With its stunning creation of aqueducts and underground system of lead pipes, it truly was called “regina aquarium, the queen of the waters.”  (Hughes, 64)  Visitors from afar must have been astonished at the abundance of clean running water within the city.  This abundance of water was a critical factor in enabling Rome’s population to expand so freely with each passing century.  According to Robert Hughes in Rome, A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History, maintaining this flow of fresh water into Rome was a complex and daunting task.

Before it could flow out of Rome, of course, the water had to flow in.  It did so mainly through aqueducts.  Eleven of these supplied the city with its drinking and washing water, eight entering by the region of the Esquiline Hill.  Four more were added after the popes replaced the emperors, two of them in the twentieth century.  No other ancient city had such a copious supply of water…  (Hughes, 64)

It is indeed strange and disturbing to pause a moment and consider that Rome’s water system before the time of Christ was arguably a better system than currently available today in impoverished areas of the United States—e.g. the Navajo of northwestern New Mexico.  (NPR, web)  Clean water, it seems, is something so quickly taken for granted by western civilization, but the development of a rich culture and learning is inseparably tied to its availability.

     One of the most impressive examples of aqueduct engineering in ancient Rome must be the draining of Fucine Lake in the time of Emperor Claudius (10 B.C.E-54 C.E.).  (Hughes. 102)  As visible in the map below, note the great distance between Rome and this lake to the northeast.  (Click for a larger view.)

Information available from NASA’s website reveals just how great a feat of engineering this truly was.

…Emperors Claudius and Hadrian achieved limited draining of the original lake—to control both flooding and malaria—by digging and then expanding a tunnel through the hills near Avezzano at the top of the image. Claudius used 30,000 workers over a span of ten years to dig the 5.6-kilometer-long tunnel. This engineering work reduced the size of the lake from an original area of about 140 square kilometers to about 57 square kilometers. (NASA, web)  

     The momentous act of tunneling these drainage lines through a mountain and hills, constantly having to be aware of complex issues such as slope and grade as well as natural barriers, and without the benefit of modern equipment is an awe-inspiring accomplishment.

The canal by which the water should be conveyed away, was to be formed in part by a deep cut, and partly by a tunnel through a mountain; and inasmuch as in those days the power now chiefly relied upon for making such excavations, namely, the explosive force of gunpowder, was not known, any extensive working in solid rock was an operation of immense labor.  (Abbott, 64)

     Of course, the loss of life in these public works projects must have been horrible—especially when one considers that most of the labor was done by slaves. Robert Hughes observed that the draining of Fucine Lake “almost proved a disaster; because of a miscalculation by the engineers, the lake waters came rushing out too soon and backed-up in a too-narrow sluice, nearly drowning Claudius and his party, for whom a great banquet had been prepared on the bank of the channel.” (Hughes, 103) If accidents like this happened even to the emperor, then one can only guess at how often death and permanent injury befell the exploited laborers upon these projects. Besides the gold and treasure required to fund immense public works projects such as this, it is also true to say that they were paid for in the blood, sweat, and tears of the workers and slaves who toiled each day to bring these grand visions to reality.

Cited Sources

Abbott, Jacob. History of Nero ... With Engravings. New York: n.p., 1867. Print.

Hughes, Robert. Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History. New York:
       Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.

"Lake Fucine, Italy: Image of the Day." NASA. NASA, n.d. Web. 30 July 2017.

Morales, Laurel. "For Many Navajo, A Visit From The 'Water Lady' Is A
       Refreshing Sight." NPR. NPR, 06 Jan. 2015. Web. 30 July 2017.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Robert Hughes' Rome

Roman helmet
What about defense?  On the collective level of the army on the march, the Romans displayed unique fortitude and energy in self-protection.  Knowing that "barbarians" in occupied territories were likely to attack at night, when the Roman invaders were tired from the day's exertions and darkness was likely to favor confusion and panic, the Romans did not end their day's labor at the finish of each day's march.  They first put up a camp: not a mere array of tents, but a fully fortified square castrum or encampment, almost an overnight town, with a wall, a ditch (produced by digging up the earth to throw up the wall), and everything that was necessary to protect the mass of troops.

Reading Hughes' Rome has been a pleasure. The details, like the excerpt above, makes for a very interesting read.  The Roman legions have always fascinated me, and these accounts really catch not only one's interest, but also one's sense of imagination--even wonder.  Further on in the same paragraph, there is a discussion of the severe punishment, which included banishment, of the sentry who fails in his duties.  To imagine the discipline and ultimate commitment of these soldiers makes the story of the disappearance of the Ninth Roman Legion beyond Hadrian's Wall in Roman Britain even more mysterious and thought-provoking.  It's these insights that really give this book its rich character; it's conveying a history less about mere dates and more about important people and practices.

Surprisingly, this book created some early controversy with regards to excessive factual errors.  For more information, see this article.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Romulus and Remus and the Origins of Rome

     When it comes to the the founding of Rome, one may turn to writers such as Livy, who described Romulus and Remus as twins whom the king ordered drowned in the Tiber.  Thankfully for Roman history, the Tiber lay flooded, and they were placed only along its swollen banks.  The following excerpt continues the account of their rescue.    

[1.4]  But neither gods nor men sheltered her or her babes from the king's cruelty; the priestess was thrown into prison, the boys were ordered to be thrown into the river. By a heaven-sent chance it happened that the Tiber was then overflowing its banks, and stretches of standing water prevented any approach to the main channel. Those who were carrying the children expected that this stagnant water would be sufficient to drown them, so under the impression that they were carrying out the king's orders they exposed the boys at the nearest point of the overflow, where the Ficus Ruminalis (said to have been formerly called Romularis) now stands. The locality was then a wild solitude. The tradition goes on to say that after the floating cradle in which the boys had been exposed had been left by the retreating water on dry land, a thirsty she-wolf from the surrounding hills, attracted by the crying of the children, came to them, gave them her teats to suck and was so gentle towards them that the king's flock-master found her licking the boys with her tongue. According to the story, his name was Faustulus. He took the children to his hut and gave them to his wife Larentia to bring up. 

The History of Rome by Livy (Titus Livius)

     It's interesting how Virgil's Aeneid (Greek) and the important Italian story of Romulus and become reconciled, as Wikipedia puts it.  (It's also intriguing to note that both Livy and Virgil lived almost at the same time in history; Livy passed on in 17 AD, which is less than fifty years after Virgil died.)  Livy's account connects itself with the Italian legend by making Romulus and Remus descendants of Aeneas and his son, Ascanius.  

Aeneas and the Women (Reflections Continued)

Johann Heinrich Tischbein
It's humorous to me that Aeneas, that heroic fighter and ultimate founder of Rome itself, is left seemingly quaking in fear of Queen Dido.  The excerpt below is one particularly illustrative example.

The pious prince was seiz'd with sudden fear; Mute was his tongue, and upright stood his hair. Revolving in his mind the stern command, He longs to fly, and loathes the charming land. What should he say? or how should he begin? What course, alas! remains to steer between Th' offended lover and the pow'rful queen? This way and that he turns his anxious mind, And all expedients tries, and none can find. Fix'd on the deed, but doubtful of the means, After long thought, to this advice he leans: Three chiefs he calls, commands them to repair The fleet, and ship their men with silent care; Some plausible pretense he bids them find, To color what in secret he design'd. Himself, meantime, the softest hours would choose, Before the love-sick lady heard the news; And move her tender mind, by slow degrees, To suffer what the sov'reign pow'r decrees: Jove will inspire him, when, and what to say. They hear with pleasure, and with haste obey. But soon the queen perceives the thin disguise: (What arts can blind a jealous woman's eyes!)

Virgil. The Aeneid English (Kindle Locations 1477-1487). Kindle Edition. 

     As William Congreve's poem "The Mourning Bride" describes the woman scorned, "heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."  Even this heroic warrior is deeply troubled at the prospect of Queen Dido's anger unleashed upon him.  So much troubled, in fact, that he makes haste to quietly escape to sea.  I love the image of this...but it is no wonder that a man would want to avoid the woman's anger.

A woman moved is like a fountain troubled, Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty; And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it. Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee, And for thy maintenance commits his body To painful labour both by sea and land, To watch the night in storms, the day in cold, Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe; And craves no other tribute at thy hands But love, fair looks and true obedience; Too little payment for so great a debt. Such duty as the subject owes the prince Even such a woman oweth to her husband; And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour, And not obedient to his honest will, What is she but a foul contending rebel And graceless traitor to her loving lord?

Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Kindle Locations 30349-30365). Latus ePublishing. Kindle Edition. 

Thoughts on Virgil's Aeneid

     Back at Eisenhower High School, studying Roman and Greek mythology under our teacher, simple Tom Kuykendall back then, represents some of my fondest academic memories.  Returning to Virgil's Aeneid, I am particularly struck but the powerful imagery and evocative language.  Here's one particular excerpt that caught my attention.  Interestingly enough, the translation quoted below uses the word "fame," whereas Robert Fitzgerald's translation uses the word "Rumor."  Odd that such different words would be synonymous in this context.

Fame, the great ill, from small beginnings grows: Swift from the first; and ev'ry moment brings New vigor to her flights, new pinions to her wings. Soon grows the pigmy to gigantic size; Her feet on earth, her forehead in the skies. Inrag'd against the gods, revengeful Earth Produc'd her last of the Titanian birth. Swift is her walk, more swift her winged haste: A monstrous phantom, horrible and vast. As many plumes as raise her lofty flight, So many piercing eyes inlarge her sight; Millions of opening mouths to Fame belong, And ev'ry mouth is furnish'd with a tongue, And round with list'ning ears the flying plague is hung. She fills the peaceful universe with cries; No slumbers ever close her wakeful eyes; By day, from lofty tow'rs her head she shews, And spreads thro' trembling crowds disastrous news; With court informers haunts, and royal spies; Things done relates, not done she feigns, and mingles truth with lies.

Virgil. The Aeneid English (Kindle Locations 1413-1421). Kindle Edition. 

     I love this description of rumor (or fame), as it so eloquently conveys the dark and pervasive nature of gossip.  (It's slightly reminiscent to me of the description of sin found in James 1:15.)  The honorable man, the hero abides by the middle of the way or via media.  

Art History Lecture Reflections (and Trip Thoughts)

"Sunflowers" by Vincent van Gogh
One particularly exciting dimension about my upcoming study abroad program (through Marylhurst University) in London and Rome is the riches of art we will have an opportunity to visit.  What a wonderful privilege and blessing!

     This really came home for me at last week's art lecture at MU.  The talk began with a discussion of the architecture of Rome.  As one of our professors, Dr. Roland, recounted of the Roman architecture and art descriptions of Dr. Jeffrey Blanchard on her Blog: A Passionate Geography: Romancing King Arthur's Roman War, "Rome, he explained, is a city of stratification and juxtaposition–a city where the architecture from one era is layered upon another, where marble columns are recycled into new uses, where buildings are joined together in surprising junctures."  I am going to have to pinch myself now.

     A personal concern is how am I possibly going to be able mentally record or capture the essence of Rome in only two weeks, or so?  I suppose the takeaway is that I probably cannot hope to do so--but that doesn't mean I won't try!  Our itinerary will likely have us visiting Museo Nazionale (National Roman Museum), Capitoline Museum, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Borghese Gallery, and, of course, the Vatican.  (I plan to attend Holy Mass at Saint Peter's on either September 10th or/and 17th.) 

Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses) by Paul Cézanne

     In London, we will be visiting both the British Museum and the National Gallery.  At the National Gallery, I will be offering a few words on "Bathers," pictured above.  (Each student is researching and offering a short presentation on a particular piece of art that we will be seeing in-person.)  Coming face-to-face with great art is something much more profound than seeing a photograph or reproduction of the same work elsewhere.  As I have written in the past, great art and architecture (especially sacred space) takes us outside of our own timeline for a moment and connects us with those in the past, present, and future who have (or will) gazed upon a wondrous masterpiece of art.  

Bathers at Asnières by Georges Seurat.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Thoughts on Geoffrey of Monmouth's "The Kings of Britain"

Painting of Henry V (mistaken online as King Arthur) by painter Arthur Hacker (1900).

      The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth offers a fascinating perspective on the history of the British Isles. From the excerpts read over the past week, I was particularly struck by the alleged connection of the Britons to the defeated Trojans.  

Brutus! there lies beyond the Gallic bounds,
An island which the western sea surrounds, 
By giants once possessed, now few remain 
To bar thy entrance, or obstruct thy reign.
To reach that happy shore thy sails employ 
There fate decrees to raise a second Troy 
And found an empire in the royal line, 
Which time shall ne’er destroy, nor bounds confine.

     In linking the heroic Trojans to the earliest beginnings of the Britons, the author (supposedly recording the words of a goddess in the passage above) creates a highly unique history or back story with regards to the people of the British isles. As told by Homer, then, the descendants of heroes such as Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Telemachus live again in a certain sense within this new Troy: heroes from the beginning. Chapter 17 tells the story of the building of this new Troy on the banks of the river Thames.

Brutus, having thus at last set eyes upon his kingdom, formed a design of building a city, and with this view, travelled through the land to find a convenient situation, and coming to the river Thames, he walked along the shore, and at last pitched upon a place very fit for his purpose. Here, therefore, he built a city, which he called New Troy…

     Another interesting dimension from the book concerns the giants supposedly already residing in the Trojans' new home. As conveyed in chapter 16, the battle between Gogmagog (also called Goegmagot) and Corineus describes the giant being hurled from atop a high cliff into the sea below. "That place derived its name from the giant's fall and
 is still called Gogmagog's Leap to the present day."  Unfortunately, there is no corresponding place reportedly found within the British Isles.  The intersection of the modern with the past in geographical records is always intriguing; it's nice to have some mysteries still existing.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Brief Reflections on a "Room with a View"

     I enjoyed recently watching A Room with a View, and I look forward to reading the book by E.M. Forster. As the motion picture was released between my junior and senior years in high school, it's no great surprise that I managed to miss seeing it the first time it came around.  It's not exactly the kind of movie my group of friends would likely have enthusiastically pursued.  (In case you're wondering, other movies released in this same period included Aliens, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Top Gun, Stand by Me, and Pretty in Pink.)

     Again, the dimension of connecting with the world around you seems to be a theme that infuses this motion picture.  Especially with regards to the first part of the movie set in Florence, Italy, there is a strong sense in which the newcomers are firmly more in the tourist than traveler column.  There is a dissatisfaction with the accommodations, for instance.  The scene in which Lucy Honeychurch observes the fight is another scene in which the reality is not so comfortable an experience with which to join.  In the romantic relationship that develops, though, we see a character slowly growing into realization of this connection with not only the present, but also with the people around her.  

     All in all, the motion picture serves as a good reminder of the need for the traveler to immerse himself in the culture and to be open to new ways of understanding and connecting with the world beyond one's own narrow borders.

Alain de Botton's "The Art of Travel" and Connecting with the Present

     The Art of Travel by author Alain de Botton offers wise words for the person preparing to depart upon a long journey.  Are we, for instance, tourists or travelers?  Is there an important distinction between the two categories?  Does it really matter?

     In my reflections upon what I have read so far of this book, it seems that the difference is one of depth of experience.  If the foreign visitor is comfortable visiting the usual spots and completing a long to-do list of sights and experiences, then perhaps the tourist label applies.  On the other hand, if the person wishes to catch the daily rhythms and feeling of a place and its people in a more complete and profound way, the term of traveller may be more applicable.  Of course, it seems to me that even the best traveller is likely to spend some time being a tourist within the same trip, and I don't see any negative dimension to this.

     One short passage from The Art of Travel that particularly caught my interest concerned a visit by the author to a service station situated somewhere between London (to the south) and Manchester, about three hours distant.  His descriptions of the eatery suggest one critical dimension of the traveler's quest: connection.  "Vast panes were held in place by strips of beige putty, into whose chewy clamminess I was tempted to dig my nails."  

     It's a simple sentence, but it expresses a desire to experience a tactile connection with the here and now, to connect with the present.  A friend of mine recently referred to this along the lines of marking time with the present in an action similar to tapping one's feet or fingers.  It's so easy to let time flow past and not take a step actively into its waters.  This element of connection seems to be one important message of this passage by Alain de Botton.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

London/Rome Study Abroad

     It's getting closer to the time of departure, and it's truly hard to imagine I'm finally going to be traveling (and learning) through London and Rome.

     In about eight weeks, I'll be leaving the USA for London along with a group of fellow student travelers from Marylhurst University.  I look forward with great anticipation to seeing the sights of two of the truly great cities of the world.  In making this journey, the focus is really upon learning and connecting the dots  regarding the cultural and physical context of some of the world's greatest art and literature.  I look forward to visiting the libraries and museums of London, and I also am excited to visit the Vatican.  The Globe Theater is also on the itinerary, and I am confident that will be amazing.  For a guy whose only out of country travel has been limited to Canada, I'm confident this will be an enriching experience for all of us student travelers.  

     This study abroad program will be the primary focus of my blog for a while now.  If you want to check for updates, I invite you to search for the following hashtag: #MULondonRome2017 .

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Reflections on The Promotion of the "Blood Cries Out"

The "Blood Cries Out" was published in July 2014.
As some of you have probably heard by now, I'm heading to London and Rome in about eight weeks.  It's part of a study abroad program with Marylhurst University.  (I'll be graduating in less than a year now with a BA in English Literature and New Media.)  Anyway, I plan to change the focus of my blog writings to #LondonRome2017 starting later this weekend.  Before making the transition, though, I thought this might be a good opportunity to share some reflections on the marketing and promotion of this novel back in 2014/2015.  

Unless perhaps one's a poet, it's not usually the writer's goal to sell fewer than a few hundred books. While the sales have been a little disheartening, I do think there are lessons that can be taken away here, and these lessons are perhaps also of some use to other writers.  Without further ado, then, here are the top ten things to keep in mind when promoting (and writing) your own work.

1.  Don't necessarily expect even relatively close friends to understand the importance of your novel to you.

After you invest years of research, writing, rewriting, and editing into a novel it begins to feel like the birth of a...really significant hamster, let's say.  Unless all of one's friends are writers, which would not necessarily be such a healthy thing, don't expect most of them to even remotely understand the personal significance of what you're revealing about yourself.  Good friends may show no interest, and you should avoid holding it against them.  You can't make someone excited for your book, so you should really not try to do so--too much anyway.  Many of my of friends, for instance, aren't into fiction at all, and this can be quite annoying.  What one really needs to do is find creative ways for the novel to be seen, read, and talked about by a larger group of people.  Think big, and try to ignore the people close to you who really couldn't seem to care less.

2.  Understand exactly who your audience is before you begin promotions work.

One of the challenges I faced in The Blood Cries Out was that I was striving for a strong sense of realism as well as a powerful sense of place.  I'm drawn to place, and I won't apologize for the emphasis, but it is worth noting what unexpected things can happen.  With my novel, for instance, I encountered two audiences that had issues with my book from the start: Catholics and non-Catholics.  That's actually a pretty large group...  So, what had I done to incur the ill will of so many good readers?  This quote from Flannery O'Connor goes far in explaining my problem with Catholics.

Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction.  It’s not a grand enough job for you.

FLANNERY O'CONNOR, Mystery and Manners

Many conservative Catholics (and Protestants) have become very comfortable with sanitized fiction; it's fiction that has no connection with reality.  If it's a mystery about a police detective, the author never took the time to learn about the daily life of police officers.  All their "knowledge" comes from television and movies, and that's not a good way to write.  These writers won't use profanity, because that kind of language offends them.  Well, it offends me, too; it's still necessary at times.  That doesn't mean the dialogue has to resemble the rantings of Allen Ginsberg, but you need to establish the authenticity of your characters.  You do this by letting them speak for themselves.

Another challenge appears to have been that non-Catholics assumed that my novel would be preachy or "overly" Catholic in nature.  I don't believe it was, and that has never actually been a criticism that I have received from anyone.  Catholicism deals, after all, with every aspect of what it means to be human. I don't think that a work can be a work of fiction can be too Catholic, but I certainly can see works being so preachy in tone that it distracts or annoys the reader.

In conclusion, however, it should be noted that there are some reasonable steps one can take to minimize the problems outlined above.  You don't have to lessen the quality of your work in order to give it a more broad appeal, but it does require careful thought and reflection.  In the case of my mystery novel, for example, the next work will likely not contain religious symbols on the cover, and it will likely not be so closely set in the heart of a bustling city like Seattle.  More details another time...

3.  If you're self-publishing or working with a hybrid press like I did, hire an editor.

I did the editing in-house, so to speak.  It was a family project.  We came very close to a professional edit, but we missed the mark in about a dozen instances.  When you have a potential reviewer bring your confidence down several notches by her vivid explanation of your errors, it makes for a memorable experience.  After you have climbed out from under the rock and into the light again (wearing sunglasses and a hat, of course, so as not to be recognized by any prospective readers), you may find that you never can quite promote the work the same way again; you've lost enthusiasm and passion for your own writing, and that's a seriously bad place to find yourself in as a writer.

4.  Don't self-publish.

All right, I know this is easier said than done, but self-publishing--even hybrid presses like Light Switch Press--just don't provide the platform you need to be a successful writer.  Are there exceptions to this rule?  Absolutely.  Many of them.  (Of course, some like The Shack, remain terrible books even after picked-up by that traditional publisher.)  Let's use my publisher as an example: Light Switch Press.  First, they offered no editorial services without a hefty price tag.  When I brought changes to them the first time, they were pretty reasonable.  The second time?  No so much.  As I recall, it was going to be close to a thousand dollars to get about half a dozen corrections done.
Second, beyond the initial announcement, there are no ongoing publicity efforts: nothing.  As I understand, this is pretty standard in the self-publishing industry.  It's important that your book is more than a simple revenue stream to your publisher.  If they don't promote their authors or their products, you should seriously consider going a different route.

Third, most importantly, your prospective readers are going to take your book a little less seriously than if it came from a traditional press.  That's not a good thing.  This also holds true to bookstores and libraries.  I had a pretty miserable experience with the library in Friday Harbor, because the book seemed to be missing entry into some list or other that they needed to utilize for all book purchases.  (I also don't believe they cared for the cross on the cover, and that might be a point for another day.)

Fourth, self-published works often have horrible and truly incompetent cover art.  This may not seem a big deal, but it is.  Assuming you're not fortunate enough to be married to an artist, you need to ensure that your book's cover truly sets it apart from the competition.  If you choose self-publication, this means (most likely) that you need to hire your own artist.  And don't ask them to do it for free.

5.  Beware of hiring a publicist.

Publicists can be a big help in spreading the word about your book, but they can also seriously drain your bank account.  Mine worked ostensibly for two months, but none of her efforts appear to have resulted in even a single sale.  (She didn't even buy her own copy of the book.)  It boosted my confidence for a while, and it was a fun experience to work closely with this person, but in the end the services were not really worth the cost.  A much less expensive approach can be to find author or reviewer blogs that will feature your work, or make yourself available for interviews.  There are also services that will promote your book online for scheduled periods of time, and this can be helpful.

6.  Stay grounded and remember how your brainstorming of ideas may appear to others.  

It's easy to get excited about the process of getting your book out there to the public, and it's fun to explore unusual or expensive promotional avenues.  It's best to think carefully about particular approaches before contacting someone about them, however; put yourself in the other person's shoes.  There was a young woman, for instance, who worked in the general entertainment industry, whom I asked to consider serving as a model for a promotional shot for the story.  What likely led to her blocking yours truly was the fact that her character's death in The Blood Cries Out is not a particularly happy or sanitized scene.  So, when this person realized I was asking her to be a model (relating to the protagonist's past relationship with her), I think she assumed it pertained more to the death scene than to the back story.  You want to avoid creeping out people in the publishing or entertainment industries when possible...

7.  Beware too much self-promotion of your new work.  

Let's face it.  When people promote their own books or music incessantly on social media, it can get old quickly.  Of course, if you are a self-published author, this may be about the only avenue you have to promote your work before spending dollars.  This is another reason in my mind to avoid self-publishing altogether.  The usual approach requires you as the writer to peddle your book to your friends and family first.  That's all fine and good, but it's not going to get you to the top of the charts.  It's also a good way to annoy those close to you.

8.  Don't give up.

If your book fails to sell the way you had hoped, try to avoid throwing in the towel.  Try exploring new areas for writing or consider collaborating on a project with another author.  Get out of your comfort zone.  In my case, I returned to school to complete my degree a year after publishing my mystery novel. It's never been a choice I've regretted.

9.  Pursue reviews as best you can.

Reviews are terribly important in the life of a work of literature--especially in the digital age.  Find ways to promote authentic and genuine reviews like novel giveaways or contests.  Readers usually appreciate these opportunities, and it makes them feel closer to the author--and the story.  Book giveaways are a good way to promote your work, but, at the same time, be careful about giving too many copies away.  I still regret agreeing to give free copies to a local radio station; the signed copies are likely on sale somewhere online even now.

10.  Keep reading, writing, and practicing your faith.

Hand-in-hand with number eight above, keep reading and keep writing as often as you can.  Read authors you treasure and explore others that you're not so sure about.  Push your boundaries and pursue a higher quality of writing product each time you finish an article or a work of fiction.  

The last one may seem out of place, but I really believe in faith playing an important part to the quality of art you create.  As I pointed out on this blog recently, look at how music, literature, and visual arts have crashed and burned in the last century.  While there are exceptions to the rule, modern artists (relating to all branches of the arts) seem to have lost a connection with the eternal, and that loss is reflected within their works in disjointed text, cacophonous notes, or paintings with form but lacking in any real substance.  As authors, I suggest, many of us have lost our grip on words, because we have lost our grip on Him.