Capitol Reef National Park

Monday, August 15, 2016

The JK Rowling Blues

            If you search for my book Dead Mouths: Book 1 on a Kindle search on Amazon (using the term “dead mouths”), the second book that comes up is called My Sister In-Law’s Mouth: Over My Wife’s Dead Body Book 2. The author is listed as Kilgore Trout Jr, which is most interesting in that whoever wrote this “classic” had to have read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 or some of the other books that said author’s “father” appeared as a fictional character in.

            While Vonnegut’s author was sold in adult stores, he was a science fiction writer, like the author who created him. It was said that he had great plots, but it was also said that these were the best parts of his writing.

Sitting here now hoping that someone finds my books and pays for them, this Amazon search makes me wonder what people will think of the fact that I am a self-published author, posting to tens of sites in the hopes that someone finds my book and decides to plunk down $3.99 on it (or $2.99 for my other book).  Will they think that this could possibly be a reference to a line in Pablo Neruda’s From the Heights of Machu Picchu Canto 12 (“I come to speak for your dead mouths”I come to speak for your dead mouths.I come to speak for your dead mouths.I come to speak for your dead mouths.) or am I destined to be forgotten in the where are they now bin when they think of what else a mouth does other than speak?

            Of course, there are many successes out there in the demo tape world of books, but then again, if Mr. “Trout’” can be judged for his cover, there’s a lot of other stuff, too. Of course, book genres like erotica sell (who am I to judge writing in supernatural fiction), and indie publishing’s biggest hit is 50 Shades of Gray, which is essentially “mom porn.” Who’s to complain about what people read if it gets them reading? That said, I’d assume there’s a plot with E.L. James (I refuse to read or watch – no matter how many books she sells), but I just am led to believe that this other “book” (a term I use loosely, though I am interested, even if only at the free Kindle Unlimited price) is simply a Penthouse letter that went long (no sexual innuendo intended).

Thus, by this book being here on Amazon’s Kindle site, we are led to believe that someone put effort into writing this, publishing it, and finding a model to get scantily clad for the cover. Here, we have to believe that this cost money to do because there are many stops along the way in the Create Space process, and all of them cost money if you don’t want to do it yourself (lots of money in fact). For that purpose, we’ll believe Trout did this himself, but we also believe he paid a model, or at the very least, he used up a favor with a friend.

And here, we have to believe it’s a he, though it could be a woman if she knows what sells to men, and yes, there is a series of these books. Like a man that my sister works with, he knows what sells, and that’s why he write’s romance books for $80,000 a year (if the story about him is true, and we have no reason to believe it isn’t). Maybe Kilgore is actually Kim or Kylie, and she’s raking in the does at $2.99 a pop to make that sweet 70% commission (as opposed to 35% if the author were to charge less) so that she can get Sandals vacations and a BMW in the driveway. Wouldn’t you?

That said, most of us would, but we still won’t see the rewards, no matter how long we leave our revenue streams up.

So in the end, at two dollars and change for a book, both Trout and I are giving it away to get some dream in return. Like many authors, we aspire to a movie / TV deal, Stephen King / James Patterson expectations on our book sales, and to be recognized, should we ever hire an Uber driver (which I don’t expect to since I own my own car). But what do really get out of our time other than to say that unlike many who aspire, we have succeeded.

Here, I think about 15.5 months of writing 3 books (with the second volume of Dead Mouths still not done with its final edit, so a little longer to type out and edit and re-edit my 900+ pages). Even if we just look at Eureka in Flames, I put a solid 150 hours into that. With 65 books sold at about $2 a pop before taxes, I’m still not making $1 hour. Are my services worth the $15 an hour that McDonald’s workers are demanding? Hell, I think I’m good for Robert Kirkman / Walking Dead money. But is anyone else buying? Thus, even at “slave” wages, McDonald’s employees get more for their duties than me.

True, I haven’t gone all in, as I’m still publicizing for free. I haven’t boosted posts or hired an agent. I didn’t send out free copies looking for reviews on them. Fortunately, I do have 2 reviews, both good, but the tastemakers aren’t bursting down my doors to tell me that all my work is about to be rewarded because I posted to one of countless free promotion sites. Hell, I haven’t even been spammed by someone else on them lately. Not that I want to be, but attention is a good thing.

Through it all, I’m glad I have some shred of self-esteem left, though it’s really only a shred at this point. Fortunately, the good will of family and friends is still hanging on, at least in parts, though it should be said that Netflix binging is a hell of a lot easier to make happen than let’s say 12 hours for the average person to read just under 400 pages.

And it’s still early, and there are lots of options that I’ll have to search out and apply. Hopefully, the cost / reward ratio will be there for library visitations and next year’s science fiction events as well as the hope that I can at least pay off the copies of my books that I order for these. Sure, I can make more than 2:1 cash on these, but I have to go into these things with substantial copies of each book just in case because Heaven forbid that I have 12 people who all want a signed copy, and I only have 10 books. And what if they all want the complete collection of all 3 books that will be available at this time?

Right now, I feel those deep down J.K. Rowling blues. You know the kind where there’s no other outlet than the major leagues saying, “Don’t quit your day job” as they send her off to do whatever it is that comes next while the bills pile up, the vacations await, the car gets worn down, and the future looms with no guarantee of a day-glo lime Jeep in my parking spot any time soon.

But J.K. made it count. She stood up and tried again. That takes guts and endurance to push a kid’s book that hard so that it’s loved by adults as well. To get there, she went through divorce, welfare, and depression. When she was accepted, she stopped being Joanne to not put boys off from reading her work.

Now, the 12 publishing houses that sent her packing, the dumbass rejecters, that is, they have to be kicking themselves now that she had 7 movies in the top 50 movies of all time (only 1 Harry Potter didn’t make it, just barely, but 1 more will soon be on the list) and more successful books than that. Oh, and ol’ girl has a theme park.

If that’s the goal, then the idea is that we need to go Michael Phelps and get in the zone no matter who or what gets in our head. Today, as I contemplate a publicity blitz and using up whatever assistance I can without going Kickstarter (though I’m not putting that past me), the goal is to be happy and realize that overnight success is a myth.

The goal is to avoid the J.K. Blues.

However, as I move to publish and make it count, level 2, the one that says people outside of the already established circle have to be established, I think about how to make that happen, and to make the world love my book on my terms (or if you’ll give me the Jeep and the World Petroglyph Tour, I’ll turn Tony Lucas into whoever you think sells).

You know, because I’m a ho like that. Aren’t we all?

But yeah, there’s pride and my personality and my ethics, so I’ll avoid that “My Sister In-Law’s Mouth Route,” because not to sound whatever, but I’m kind of hoping I get big and famous before Trout.

Truth be told, I’m sure all of us would go all Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on people for a chance at the prize of being successful.

So as those clickbait pages that tell us the stories of how many rejections the great went through to get there, we just have to believe because good things are to come if we work hard and edit our work.

I think that’s how it works.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Talking to Myself 2

            With the release of both Dead Mouths books on the same day, what can we expect from this monumental release? I would hope that they would signal something ambitious, like Wilco’s Being There double disc, which was released together after A.M. Now, it wouldn’t be a big deal to see a band like Wilco do this since they’re a major player in the indie scene, but to compete with the glory that was Son Volt’s Trace, Jeff Tweedy had to respond in a big way, or he would have been that other guy in Uncle Tupelo. For me, the books were always meant to be together as one unit, so it’s not unthinkable that they’re both out the same day. It wasn’t like I always planned to hold off until I could do a Guns ‘N Roses Use Your Illusion. Besides, I won’t be holding the top two spots on the first week of chart sales. Instead, I want to put the backlog catalog out and move forward with halfway done projects like Intersections, The Last Day of Hunting Season, and The Wendigo Story, which will have a better name at some point. Sitting and looking at unfinished files, either for lack of time to write or inspiration to edit, is just depressing.
            That both of these books are from the same work is why they’re the same name? Yes. One book would have been too long and too expensive for a demo book / vanity printing. I thought about a different name for book one, but I just couldn’t so they’re both Dead Mouths.
            There are many new characters in these books, but there are a few older ones. Can you tell us about them? First and foremost is Tony Lucas. He’s the Blanding, Utah, chief of police. I’d describe him as a conservative man’s man in 2016. I wanted a character that my dad would like. He’s a great cop, a loving husband, a loyal friend, and the head honcho protector of his town. If I could be anyone in the story, I would be him because he balances professional between tough in a perfect way despite his use of unorthodox means like “wall to wall counselling” and the like.
            However, there’s another character that is more your persona? Yes, that would be Dave Robinson, who was drafted to be the lead, but as he was always the Roy Scheider in Jaws figure, it was clear that he couldn’t be the lead for what this story was meant to be (originally a trilogy, but now much longer). When I jackhammered the outline and went from a secret passage in a cliff dwelling leading to a single confrontation with a demon to what it is now, which is much different, his life became necessary to make S1 happen, but it was necessary in a different way than I originally made it be.
            How was it like Martin Brody? Well, Brody was a Chief of Police on an island, but he was afraid of the water. He was forced out into the ocean and left to his lonesome to confront the shark. The same is true for Kurt Russell in Executive Decision. Steven Seagal is wiped out and the desk jockey has to become a military hero. In this book, Dave’s anxiety and obsessions mix with his office nature to force him to step up or die. I like that in a character. Here, he’s not a hero in a traditional sense, nor is he one in an actual sense, but he does get opportunities to be heroic. Even if other characters will be the real heroes.
            Heroism is important for you. It most definitely is. If we look at large groups of the characters being led to a place where they will be intersecting in the book Intersections, we see others intertwining here to lead each other to a good place. Thus, it’s more like Stephen King’s The Stand or The Walking Dead than The Avengers, but a character like Colin Jameson, who is the sole focus of The Wendigo Story is a Captain America style superhero for what he represents and how he can do it. His military commanders, guys like Marcus Powell and Bart Doherty, as well as other men and women he will end up with also have power and special powers.
            You mention a lot of men, but who are the women? Well, Charlotte Robinson is one of these women, but she doesn’t know how she will be yet. The “writer” Susan Mavern is also more a part of the story than a pair of preludes. In addition, the most central lead female character in this story so far is Suzie Heilman. She’s more a paranormal source of power who is intermingling between many lives. And yeah, I’m being deliberately vague to not give things away with any of the characters, less people won’t buy my book! Originally, she was a throwaway line that became a character. Now, she’s kickass!
            You have other characters that grew out of that. I do. Both Charles “Chuck” Johnson and Henriette Fressineau were minor characters that begged for life and a second chance at living. Both would have had quick demises in the original story, like an unnamed character assisting Jack Bauer in 24, but they didn’t, and now they’re part of the new jackhammered plot because I couldn’t kill them off immediately, like I had planned.
            Killing isn’t easy, is it?!! Not at all. The most violent death in the books took me to a month-long break from writing. After that, it’s easier, but it feels real to hurt an imaginary character in that way. This death rattled me, even with its toned-down writing.
            Without giving the plot away, was this a main character? Well, I can’t give it away, so I’ll just say the character isn’t as quick to enter and leave as a “Random Cop #8,” if that’s what you’re asking!
            What about the Greers? It was essential to allow the history to develop and grow. I wanted to be true to a conservative desert ranch feel with a little bit of mystery. I also wanted the family to be likable, but I wanted them to be conflicted and able to make heel turns if necessary. That they’re not easy to pin down makes the book go forward into suspense.
            As for your villains, what were you going for with them? With Smothers, I wanted stock evil with the potential for complete evil like Senator Palpatine in the Star Wars movies. By the way, the voices of Kaldac and Ralph Richards often sounded like the Emperor to me when I was writing their parts in Eureka in Flames. As for Thurman Strong, he was always villainous, but he was never the arch-nemesis to what was going on; he just made it happen. Gary has evil in him, but there is just a lost middle-aged man in him. He’s like many bosses. People don’t always like them, but he’s not deliberately scheming to destroy the world. As for the demons and Visions of Clouds, they get to be and breathe, but their histories, other than what’s revealed in these first two books is part of the book after Intersections, which is called A Lot of People Die.
            A lot of musical and baseball things happen in this book, which seem like personal interests, but they aren’t, or are they? Benson Villaneuva and Chico GutiĆ©rrez are both central to Intersections after being background “noise” here. You may not be a baseball fan or a fan of an indie rock band, but both are needed to move the plot through to Season Three’s all-out action fest that is coming. Trust me; your patience will be rewarded. That said, all of the music that’s here means something to me, so I would support the bands or listen to the music to hear connections that I was intending.
            So what’s different here than the quick and dirty standalone Eureka in Flames than here? Well, the characters had to live and breathe instead of action from the first page to the last page. The older Greers; Harlan, Archibald, Ethan, and Willard, had to live again to make Harvey who he is. Barry Greer also had to be mentioned with members of Tony Lucas’ now deceased family to understand later chapters. Dave and Charlotte’s Pennsylvania lives and Suzie’s upbringing, from Japan to America, had to be told. Predetermined intersections and fate needed to prepare the characters to be together, both now and in the past. How can we care for characters if we don’t know who they are?
            This is something you learned from literature, right? Yeah, I’m a goll-danged Russian novel, but I’m also The Walking Dead. I’m an M. Night Shyamalan movie. I’m influenced by Nathaniel Hawthorne short stories as well as Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant.” I’ve said it before, but I also follow the guidance of Aristotle’s Poetics for rules. Nevertheless, for as literary as I once was with Orwell, Faulkner, Dostoevsky, and the like, now I prefer Destination America shows and straight forward history done well.
            Is the character Wolf a product of history? Somewhat. He’s based on a man that I met at Ute Tribal Park in 2003. That guy was desert-hardened and cool in an older, tough guy kind of way. I think Wolf does him well. I also want Wolf to be a voice for Native America and a hero for a history that I find very intriguing.
            Dead Mouths is based on history, right? I mean not completely, but… Yeah. It was based on Waldo Wilcox’s news story of giving away his land, which housed many undisturbed Native American ruins, which led to this book. I said, “What if he did it because the land was haunted?” I mixed in some things I had read about cannibalism at Cowboy Wash, which mixed with my later on reading of Christy and Jacqueline Turner’s Mancorn. Between that and a healthy love for the archaeology and geology of the Colorado Plateau’s wilderness mixed with the supernatural, you get Blackrock Canyon.

            So what would you say to someone getting ready to read about 680 pages over two books of your story with the promise for much more to come in the indefinite future? Enjoy! I hope to have Intersections ready for Christmas sales, but all is depending on when I do The Wendigo Story and time between teaching and a planned surgery that is coming in December. I’d also say, “Thanks for supporting my writing dream.” It means more than most people will ever realize.