Doxology: Brian Holers’s Debut Novel

Doxology, the debut novel from author Brian Holers, is available in both paperback and digital format now! Fathers, sons and brothers reconnect over tragedy in this blue-collar Southern tale of love, loss and the healing power of community and family. Doxology examines an impossibly difficult...

Brian Holers

Open Mind

Am I the only one out here who wonders how I ended up doing this?  I do seem to be asking this an awful lot lately, now that the day of calling myself a published author is finally here.  And the reality of trying to find an audience for my books is setting in.

Mostly, I’ve considered myself lucky.  Maybe others had better education, steady jobs, more standing in the world.  But working for myself as an arborist, I’ve always had my “freedom.”  That’s what I’ve told myself, anyway.

But, things change.  I’m starting to see that the only way I know how to make a living, I won’t be able to do forever. I’m wondering why I didn’t get a better education, something to fall back on.  Lately I’m more worried than I used to be.  Selling books will make a lot of things better, but I’m not there yet, and wonder when I will be.  I’m still grateful for the opportunity I’ve had, and if I’m honest, even middle age wouldn’t help me stomach the realities of working in an office or showing up to work on someone else’s schedule.  What I’ve had, what I still have out here on my own, is free space in my mind.  And for everything I haven’t had in overeducation, stability, fringe benefits , I have had an open mind.  Without it, I wouldn’t be able to write.

Free mental space  is the pivot point of creativity.  The internal drive required to be an artist can’t survive in an overworked mind.  Sometimes I wonder about that too—that  I don’t even have any education in writing. The bright side is I didn’t have a lot of worthless teaching to clean out before getting started.  I just decided to do it.  That’s the way I’ve done everything.  All my life, as far back as I can remember, my mind has been filled with pictures, images that give me a feeling.  When I am able to communicate the feeling of those images, and put those communications together to form a story, this touches people.  I didn’t choose to do it.  I have to do it.

So at this point in my life as an artist, I have art.  I have a finished book.  I have something to sell.  Then comes the next lesson.  No matter how good it is, no matter how touching, it won’t be for everybody.  It won’t even appeal to everyone I know.  Or to everyone who likes me.  Many who know me and like me will read it.  Some will figure if I had to publish it myself, it probably sucks and they won’t read it.  Some will like it.  Some will love it.  Some won’t be moved.  Some will say, “write your next book about vampires.”  Which brings us to the next point.  It’s not personal, but schlock is easier to sell (no, I’m not saying all vampire fiction is schlock).  If I have to, when the time is right, I will write schlock.  That’s what pen names are for.

Lately I’ve been reading lots of self published books.  Granted, much of this material is outside my normal range, I have met a lot of writers and often buy their books to be supportive.  Most everything I find will work as fiction, there is a story and there is some conflict, and the first vampire or werewolf or killer or sadist shows up sufficiently quickly to give the reader a sense of things.  Often they were written fast, one can tell.  Rarely do they draw me in.

What I write, what I like to read, it’s all about the people, what motivates them, why they turned out like they did.  It really can’t be rushed.  The first draft of Doxology was done in thirty days.  I wouldn’t have let anybody read it, it wasn’t worth reading yet, but it did come quickly.  After a year I had several complete drafts.  The way I write, I spend a lot of time planning the next draft, thinking things through, reorganizing.  But when I start to write, the editor turns off.  I bring up those images in my head and just let it wash right over me and write down the words I see.  After that first year I worked on it for two more years nearly every day, thirty hours a week maybe, a ton of time.  At least once I almost gave up.  Then I found an agent and she had me work on it for yet another year.  What I have now, it’s like a gumbo, cooking down to a rich, dark roux.  You cook it for three or four hours and some say it’s done, but I like to just keep on cooking, melt it down until it’s thick, dark, until all the individual parts are subsumed and the smokiness just runs off the pages.  And it keeps getting better.

We’ve all heard we should write what we know.  Another way is to say, write what we like.  I like a story with slow pace, involving regular people living life and dealing with things, a story where the reader really gets the flavor of the place and where something you might normally miss is pulled into the light and mined and polished until what was invisible before, simply shines.

If you don’t love it, don’t write it, that’s my advice.  Or if you do write it, put a made up name on it.  What I have in Doxology is a beautifully written story.  But the setting is out of the way, unfamiliar.  It’s not a story you hear every day.  The conflicts aren’t exactly titillating.  Curious, sure, but not shocking in any way.  I have come to understand as much as I love it, it’s absolutely not for everybody.  But those who read it, mostly love it.  I’m certain the audience is there.  In this new world of self publishing, it’s all up to me to find them.

It’s not just about selling.  I want to sell books, sure, but I do this because I have to.  I don’t feel compelled to write stuff that doesn’t interest me, just to say I’m a writer.  I feel compelled to mine and tell the stories that live in my head.  I don’t give much thought to werewolves and vampires.  If I tried to read a book about a serial killer who dressed in fishnet stockings while dismembering his victims, I would have to slap myself awake to get the pages turned.  Call me weird.  Call me crazy.  You may as well, everybody else does.  If I weren’t weird and crazy, I would have gone to graduate school and got a good job with benefits.  But then I’d be slapping myself awake just to get through the day.  If I weren’t crazy, I never would have tried to do  this.

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One Response to Open Mind

  1. Aguedes says:

    Bravo to you, Mrs. Dye. I have been fighting for this syetsm for almost as long as I’ve been playing: 50 years. You’re correct, much of the resistance comes from the women themselves. I have no idea why they want to hit 3 or 4 woods into the greens; or not be able to reach par-3 s with their drives. Can you see men facing that problem? They’d be screaming to high heaven. As a golf and travel writer as well as a competitor from Title IX days, I have explored this issue often. I am also a course ratings panelist with Golf Digest Magazine and always bring this issue up at the courses I rate, with suggestions on how to make the layouts more playable for women. In Michigan, I am happy to say that we do have many courses which offer two sets of rated tees for women. I am also a fan of the Combo Tees on some of the cards at courses around the country, though often, there is no Combo set for women. Usually it is because the male staff or pros simply don’t think about it. No offense, mind you, it just doesn’t cross their mind because no one brings it up. Another issue is that by looking solely at total yardages of 4900 5900 for the Forward tees, you only get a partial solution. One really needs to evaluate the course hole by hole and take into account terrain, elevation, prevailing winds, ground conditions, etc. There have been many times when I felt an architect got it right, only to come to a 480 or 500-yard par-5 with a 180-yard driver carry over wetlands and a water hazard in front of the green; or a 360-yard uphill hole with a river running across the fairway at about 180 yards, forcing you to lay up, with no chance at reaching the green in regulation. )-: I am 57 years old and my handicap still hovers between 3 and 4, so I can still hit it and play, but faced with several par-4 s at 380 or over, or par-5 s over 500 yards, things can be a challenge. One story I wrote told of what yardage a tour player like Matt Kuchar would have to play to mirror what a normal women’s’ course yardage reflects: about 12,000 yards ..where he’d be hitting 3 wood+ into every green. Put like that, men might be able to understand what women golfers face.I do not apologize for playing forward tees, whether they are 4900, 5400, or 5900. I challenge any man to play from those yardages and break 80, let alone 70. You still have to hit the shots, manage the course, and keep your cool. All I can do is continue to write about it and bring attention to the matter whenever I am able. I’d love to meet you sometime to discuss this further so keep up the good fight and know that you have supporters, admirers, and allies out there!

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