A few comments I've heard regarding Close Your Eyes have to do with the uniqueness of the book, which, to be honest, hadn't really crossed my mind. "Uniqueness" meaning the various narrative voices and the structure of the book, but as well, since it's historical fiction, there's a bit more to writing a book like this than a modern day novel, such as my earlier Festival book. So, I've been hoping to do a post which explains how I wrote Close Your Eyes, or at least, how I did so to the best of my memory (since I wrote it 20+ years ago now).
This video (below) talks about the kind of books and reading I was doing ... not necessarily for Close Your Eyes specifically, but the kind of books I liked to read (history / historical non fiction) which gave me a lot of background knowledge to write the book.
I have some - but I don't think all - of the notebooks that I used when I was writing Close Your Eyes over approximately a five year period. I thought I'd do a video talking about my writing process, as far as writing by hand in notebooks, as well.
I also can not forget to mention that a lot of the inspiration for this book came from my year living in Poland, in 1995/96. I was teaching English as a Second Language in Poland, and while I was writing Festival at that time, I was also soaking up a lot of "eastern europeanness" as well I think. I visited Prague, visited Krakow, and saw a lot of the landscape there in Poland. And a lot of that went into this book.
And a few pages from the notebooks, for anyone who has read the book closely and might find this interesting. These below are most of the "picnic" scene, which I feel is a pretty pivotal scene in the book. And... the last photo, which has the last line of the picnic scene, shows me next sketching out a brief scene that also appears in the final version of the book... the "is this love" snippet from Tycho's journal, where the girl he asks the question to answers him by simply laughing.
And just two more... the beginning of the jeweller's apprentice story... where, in Tycho's story, the boy puts a necklace of dreams around the girls neck. The other photo is an example of many things which I wrote which ended up NOT making the book. Apparently I had toyed with the idea of having some church officials (inquisition types) visit Pawel and try to steal away Tycho and a few others.
As far as Sam being the main narrator, but there being Tycho's journal entries, the Bishop's letters to the Pope, the "1435" scenes where "present day" Sam often talks to Alexandra about how the writing is going - a few (very kind) readers have pointed out how unique THIS is.. to have so many narrative voices.
I don't really have an answer to where this approach came from. All I can say is, if one wonders why I would do this, well, why WOULDN'T I do this? There's obviously a very intimate and heart-felt feeling to this novel (or I hope there is anyway), and I think you'd be hard pressed to create this mood through one third person voice. Sure, I could still have inserted Tycho's journal entries, and the Bishop's letters to the Pope, but, without Sam's voice..... Sam's voice.... it'd all be lost. You have to have Sam, stumbling and fumbling and trying so so earnestly, to tell the story. You HAVE to have that voice... and so... I can only imagine that once I hit upon Sam telling the story, there was no turning back. Sam tells the story of his friend, and along the way, he adds in Tycho's journals and the Bishop's letters. And there you go.
Best wishes folks.
In May, I ran a giveaway for print copies of Close Your Eyes on Goodreads, and I was super-excited to mail 8 copies to the winners in the United States.
But - I wanted some fellow Canadians to have the book as well - so, there is currently a paperback giveaway open for readers in Canada:
The idea of getting print copies into peoples' hands thrills me somehow - something about knowing that their copy of my book might sit on their bookshelf for years with other favourite titles... it's really a powerful thought.
So, I am very excited to do this again, and, due to my pandemic-inspired (and strange!) "painting rocks" hobby, there were a few surprises in the last batch of books I sent to the contest winners, and there likely will be again for this set of winners!
Errrr... not those ones though!!! Those are some of the ones which have been on my front lawn for a couple years now! Just posting that picture as an example of how fun this can be.
I have friends in my life who are also cyclists, and the type of cyclists who do crazy distances on two wheels. Last summer for example, I was ecstatic to be part of a group of about 8 or 9, who circled Lake Simcoe here in Ontario on our bikes. The full trip was in the 215km range I think. We did that in one day.
On Sunday morning I did a pretty darn big ride, but my initial goal was to be at a small village called Hawkestone, on Lake Simcoe, for sunrise. So I biked through the pre-dawn darkness and was indeed there for sunrise, and I caught these photos below, amongst numerous others, while down at the pier there, watching the sun come up.
The rest of my ride after that - and I rode for HOURS after that! - was great! But... the "bling", from a photography perspective, definitely came very early in the ride, down at Hawkestone.
If you are on Goodreads, and are in Canada or the United States, there is now a giveaway contest on Goodreads for a paperback copy of Close Your Eyes: A Fairy Tale. And.... somewhat annoyingly, the "old" cover is being drawn from somewhere for this giveaway image. The new one is a bit more elegant :)
I'm already pretty excited! It's only been a couple hours, and there are already over 200 people entered! :)
And it's still on for 2 more weeks I think. Holy smokes.
And, here is a little gallery photos from my May 13 bike commute to work. Best wishes folks.
Oh my Good Golly - the world of self-publishing is not at all straight forward. Sheesh!
I released Close Your Eyes in late December and have essentially re-published it I don't know how many times now. I've also been flailing about all over the world wide web trying to figure out ways to promote the book.
One way has been through the Readers' Favorite website, where the book now has 5 very positive reviews.
I also, by the way, arranged for a review to be done of my older book Festival - and wow - that review knocked my socks off. I hope that reviewer really did like the book as much as she seemed to have, because that was one heck of a nice review to read.
Before I write any more, here's a photo interlude - this was from a morning bike commute on Thursday May 5:
Okay - here is one reason why I have republished "Close Your Eyes" numerous times - typos!
In deciding to dust this book off and self-publish it - I did NOT have any actual word files to work with. Any that once existed would have been on floppy discs, and I couldn't find the floppy discs anyway, so all I had was the manuscript in print form - from some time in the past when I had printed it out.
So - I could either retype every single word in the manuscript, OR, I could try to use technology!
Here's what I did.
I used a copier/scanner to scan the printed pages into .pdf form.
Then I used Adobe to read this .pdf, and generate a new word version for me.
And it DID! And it was GREAT! And it saved me SO MUCH TIME as opposed to typing the whole thing over again.
BUT - in this conversion process, there were lots of bits of text that Adobe couldn't make sense of, and so it just made best guesses - and that ended up creating boat loads of typos. I swear to God I proof read the manuscript but I missed lots of things - the name "Krysztoff" got changed in a few different ways, and relatively simple words like "turn" somehow got transposed to "tum".
So... I published the book in December with way more mistakes inside it than I'd have ever guessed... and then myself and friends would catch this or that glitch.. and I'd make a list.. fix them in the manuscript.. and reupload to amazon again... and so on and so forth.. and I think I did that at least 3 times.
AND THEN I got even more serious.
Never quite liking the interior look of the book - i used Fiverr and found a book design / book layout person who tidied up my book cover for me (I wanted to keep using my photo for the cover), and to redesign the interior layout... and wow.. finally it looks much better.
Otherwise - winter / spring 2022 has been spent trying to promote this book. Honestly - this side of "writing" is pretty dizzying. And in fact the word "writing" isn't even appropriate anymore, the more appropriate word is "self-publishing"... of which writing is really only half of the work. The rest is the marketing and publicity.
I wish I could point to this, or that, or the other thing, that I have tried thus far, and say that it has worked, but either they haven't worked, or it is too early to tell.
As I type this on May 10, 2022, I have recently done two things which I have some hope for:
a) organized a Goodreads giveaway of copies of the paperback version. Hopefully that will create a little bit of buzz about the book on that site.
b) entered the book in the Publisher's Weekly / Booklife indie publishing contest.
So we'll see. I have dipped my toe into many other waters as well - hopefully some combination of them will get people reading (and reviewing) the book, and create some buzz.
Of the reviews of Close Your Eyes on the Readers' Favorite site... here are some of my favourite lines:
I thought that this work by Chris Tomasini was incredibly interesting and refreshing. It is not a long read and I wish it had not ended so soon. It is told in an unusual style and is certainly creative. I have never read anything similar previously. / Michaela Gordoni.
A surreal romantic odyssey that transports you to medieval-era Europe, to a time of fearsome kings, beautiful princesses, forbidden love, and politically motivated arranged marriages, Close Your Eyes is an exploration of love in a myriad of its forms. Filled with romance, courtroom drama, humor, and heartbreak, Chris Tomasini's ode to love is an enthralling read from start to finish. / Pikasho Deka.
Close Your Eyes: A Fairy Tale by Chris Tomasini is not at all what you expect it to be. From start to finish this book surprised me with how captivating it was. I found myself enjoying this book so much, especially in the way it is written. This book unfolds as a fairy tale told by Samuel and that seems to give it a certain charm. Although Samuel is only taught to read and write later in his life, his ability to share the tales of his friend gave an even more charming aspect to this story as a whole. The book is well written and the characters are interesting and so easy to empathize with that you become enchanted as you go through the various tales of each character. You truly wish to know more and see more of their lives and what they’ve been through. This book was really beautifully done and I would highly recommend it. / Miche Arendse
So... "never read anything similar previously", and "a surreal romantic odyssey", and "not at all what you expect it to be"... love it! The 30(ish) year old me slaving away in basement apartments in Toronto, writing this book, would have been thrilled to know that people would one day like what he was writing. :)
And... one more photo as that seems to be my thing... from the same morning as the swan photo above:
I'm Chris Tomasini.