Lev Butts Gives Thanks (2016)

It's that time again. The third week in November: when, here in America, we give thanks for all our nonmaterial blessings a mere 24 hours before we quite literally try to kill each other over the latest toy or electronic gadget we just have to get our Sweet Baby Boo-Boo for Christmas (because of course, nothing says "Happy birthday, Jesus" and "Welcome Prince of Peace" like a bloodstained plasma television set with surround sound and built-in blu-ray player).

Screw you, Tammy! Sweet Baby Jesus wants me to have this!
Well, as I did last year, I'd like to take a moment here to give thanks, in no particular order, for the things reading/writing related that I am thankful for this year.

Venture and Hold Fast Presses: This year has been good to me as a writer. The first two volumes of my Western retelling of the King Arthur legends, Guns of the Waste Land, were picked up by not one, but two independent presses. Venture Press purchased the ebook rights and published them as a single ebook this past summer. Meanwhile, Hold Fast Press bought the paperback rights and released a new edition of Volume One and an ebook standalone prologue a few weeks ago and Volume Two this week.

This is not to say I am completely done with self-publishing, though. Emily's Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway is still self-published, but I am looking forward to having someone else help shoulder the burden of promotions so I can focus more on writing.

Audible: In addition to being a writer, I am also, as you know, a professor at the University of North Georgia. I live about 90 miles from campus, so I have a fairly long commute. Recently, my wife bought me a yearly subscription to Audible, an audiobook service run by Amazon. I had tried the service years before and enjoyed it, but never really had opportunities to use it regularly since my commute was not all that long. I generally listened to NPR and the local morning DJ's.

Since working at UNG, however, I have found that I really enjoy listening to books as much as reading them. I mean who doesn't like to be told a story. I also found that the long commute gives me opportunities to listen to longer books that I may have been leery of devoting much time to read on my own (as a literature teacher, most of my reading time is spent with course reading). As a result, I have listened to Stephen King's Dark Tower series in its entirety, Thomas Mallory's complete Le Morte Darthur, and I plan on listening to Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, and Gone With the Wind, all of which would be too long for me to read along with my work-related reading.

Big Finish Productions: As many of you may be aware, I am a huge Doctor Who fan, and I was happy to learn that even before the new series launched in 2005, there had been licensed audioplays being produced since 1999 by Big Finish Productions.  More importantly, one of my favorite doctors, Paul McGann's eighth Doctor, has only appeared twice on television (in a 1996 TV movie and a 2013 short film); however, his character has a full and rich narrative in the Big Finish audio dramas. As a result, he has become, perhaps, one of the most complex Doctors in the 50-plus year history of the franchise.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of how these audios have expanded the Doctor Who universe. Colin Baker's sixth Doctor and Sylvester McCoy's seventh, who each had their run cut short by behind-the-scenes beauracracy, have been able to expand their own Doctors' stories through audio, as has John Hurt's War Doctor.

Another guilty pleasure of mine has also been the old Dark Shadows soap opera, and Big Finish has also produced fantastic audio dramas and miniseries continuing the adventures of the werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and witches haunting Collinwood, Maine.

Donald Trump: When Trump first won the his party's nomination, I felt compelled to begin reading a book I'd had on my list for a while:

It is the satirical story of Adolf Hitler, who awakens one day in August 2011, and in his attempt to regain his political power becomes a Youtube star and ironic icon of hipsters. It's a relatively short novel, so I hoped to finish it before Trump became a ludicrous footnote to American political history. It's been two weeks since the election, and I still have about 100 pages to go.

However, thanks to Trump's completely surprising win, I now have about four years to finish the book. In that time I can also read a few other books on my list:

In which Hitler won, and
the British SS have to solve a murder.
or this one:

In which Hitler won, and
the German SS have to solve a murder.
and maybe even this one:

In which Hitler won, and
America wants to commit murder.
Reading has always been an escape for me. Whenever times were tough, I could always find respite in a book. It's a major reason I became a writer, and I hope my books provide escape for others, too.
Therefore, with Trump's impending reign, I look forward to many more opportunities to seek relief and escape within the pages of books over the next 48 months, and for that source of escape I am immensely thankful.


Jan Needle said…
Ninety mile commute. Truly, Lev, you Americans are crazy.

(Not that we needed any more proof...!)

Keep smiling, world!
Ann Turnbull said…
That's great news, Lev - about the books, not Black Friday. I like the idea of a western version of the King Arthur legends.

We need to find that cave where King Arthur and his knights are all asleep and will wake to save us.
Dennis Hamley said…
Three more books where Hitler won, Lev The Other Man by Giles Cooper (pubished in 1960s so try Abebooks, etc), Dominion by CJ Sansom and Restoration by Owen Sheers. All guaranteed to scare you stiff in retrospect. Now we're scared stiff for real.
Bill Kirton said…
I'm with Jan on the 90 miles commute, Lev. On the other hand, you've chosen exactly the same way of turning it into a positive as I would. For example, having loved Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance when it was originally published, I've since listened to it twice more on long ()very long) drives.
Leverett Butts said…
It is weird when I consider that England could fit in the U.S. state of Georgia (where I live) with a little room to spare, that I drive almost across an entire country to go to work! Fortunately it's not twice a day. I spend the night and return home the next day.
Lee said…
The long commute is probably less crazy than the short hops. When my younger daughter lived in Montana on a high school exchange programme, she was horrified to discover that all the kids would jump in the car just to go round the block, quite literally.

Bill, I had to laugh about Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance: I too listened to it finally on a long drive (also all the Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy books).

And if anyone is really up for a LONG audiobook (ca. 27 hours!), they can try -- warning, warning, self-promotion ahead -- my Corvus, narrated by the inimitable Welsh actor Ioan Hefin.
glitter noir said…
And here I am complaining about the upcoming hour-plus commute next years, a repeat of my commutes in Portland and Charlotte. Anyway, know this: we're all thankful to have you.

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