On Publication

first-printing-pressEach time I’ve released a new book, I have been quickly contacted by friends and aspiring writers who are curious about the publication process. Their questions are almost always some form of – How you do that?

Although I do not consider myself a successful author by any means, nor do I pretend to be a bottomless font of information regarding the publishing industry, I do have some limited knowledge that I am happy to share. None of the following information can really be considered a special secret or insider tip, you’ll have to speak with someone who is actually a good writer for those. This is just a very basic and general overview of the publishing process, which I gathered from my own limited experience and admittedly lazy and incomplete research into the subject.

Step one – You’ve written something, or you have something you want to write about. Awesome! It might seem silly, but that really is the most important part. If you don’t have a product, or the idea behind a product, you can’t move to step two.

Step two –Now you need to decide what you want to do with your story. Do you just want to get it out there so you can hold a physical copy in your hands, and other interested people can buy copies too? Or do you want to see your work in bookstores everywhere, while you make millions of dollars and become a famous celebrity? Or maybe you’re aiming for a more modest mix of the two?

The way the publishing world is set up currently, you have multiple options. The first option is Self-Publishing. Self-Publishing is nice because it is the quickest way to see your words in print, and you have complete control of your work. You can choose the format, you can choose the cover art, you can choose the paper size and type, you can choose literally every facet of the book, and you are guaranteed to see your vision in print at the end of the process. You simply write something, edit it, design a cover, (or have someone else design one for you), and send the files to a Print on Demand company. They’ll check to make sure the files you submitted meet their technical needs (correct margins, right page count, boring formatting stuff like that), and then they’ll print it for you, and make it available for purchase by others, no questions asked, no matter what the actual story is.

You CAN spend money to do this with a vanity publisher, but you DO NOT NEED TO. While some companies like Xlibris and others provide publishing packages where you pay an upfront fee and they help with editing and formatting your work, designing a cover, and also do some limited marketing and distribution work on your behalf, I personally don’t think the service they provide is worth the money you pay into it. Especially because there are other self-publishing companies like Kindle Direct Publishing (THIS IS WHAT I HAVE USED) which have ZERO up-front costs, and you can still end up with a completely professional, successful product that is then available for purchase online in paperback or as an ebook, and can also be ordered and stocked by independent and even large scale bookstores, if they decide they want to stock it. I don’t have enough experience to recommend any particular printing company, you’ll have to do your own research to see which company works best for you and your needs.

Most of these modern self-publishing companies work because they are Print on Demand. That means they print one copy of your book every single time it is ordered. They then take their cut of the book purchase price to cover their printing cost, and you receive the remainder as a royalty for each book sold. The royalty amount is modest, from a few cents to maybe a few dollars every book, depending on the price point you set for the book, but these amounts are comparable to or sometimes even higher than the type of royalties you might see from a traditionally published book. The reason they can be so competitive with their rates is because there is no risk involved for them. They only print a book when it is purchased, so they never run into a situation where they have thousands of your book sitting in a warehouse somewhere unsold because nobody liked it. (This can and does happen with traditionally published books, which is why traditional publishing companies are so picky about what manuscripts they accept. Every new book and every new author they choose to do business with is a risk that they might never profit from).

One problem with Self-Publishing is that you have to do a lot more by yourself, both to create the book, and to successfully sell it. First, you need to make sure the book is edited and readable, without the resources of a traditional publishing house working on your behalf. You can rely on friends and fellow writers to help with this a bit (maybe, people are lazy), or you can pay independent editors and copywriters who will edit it for a fee. Or you can just be really careful and do it yourself, if you are a dumb idiot and you think you have a good grasp of the fundamentals of writing (This is what I do because I’m impatient and foolish). I’ve seen a lot of authors fail because even though they have a really interesting and compelling story to tell, they’re simply bad writers, and their story is unreadable.

Another problem with Self-Publishing is that you’re responsible for getting exposure for your book. You won’t have the luxury of it just showing up in global brick and mortar bookstore chains where anybody might pick it off the shelf. Since literally the only barrier to entry in Self-Publishing is moderate literacy, there are a LOT of crappy self-published books out there. So consumers are cautious about buying self-published books from unknown authors. That means you need to have a plan to garner interest in your book. Basically, you need to find your fans. You can always pay for marketing and advertisements yourself, on platforms like amazon and Facebook, and that will get people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to see your book to see it BUT these campaigns cost money, and don’t always pay off. How many ads have you seen on Facebook? A million? How many have you actually clicked on? Probably none.

If you have a website that people already follow, that’s a perfect platform to increase sales, because your followers will already know about you and will be interested in your book. You can also work on building a mailing list of people who you think are interested in what you have to say, or interested in the topic you’ve written about, and will appreciate getting an email whenever you have something new out for sale. If you want to sell a lot of books, you will also need to market yourself aggressively. You can rent a table at book fairs, or set up author signings at bookstores who agree to carry your book. Additionally, if there is a pre-existing group of people who would be interested in your book’s topic, you can reach out to them directly. Like say, if you write a non-fiction book about a specific type of car, you can find out of there is an owners club or fan club for that type of car, and contact them about your book. You can also reach out to local radio stations or podcasters, especially if your book relates to a topic they’re interested in, and they might be happy to do an on air interview with you. You’ll never know if you don’t ask, and as a new author, especially a self-published author, you’ll never sell many copies of your book if you don’t sell yourself first.

The road to publication via self-publishing is short. As quickly as you finish writing your story, you can get it released. If you just want to publish as an ebook, all you need is a relatively well formatted Word document that you can upload to any number of ebook publishers who will make it available for sale pretty much immediately. If you want to publish in paperback or hardcover format, you have a few extra steps to complete like designing the cover, obtaining an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), and converting your manuscript to PDF, but once you have those it’s basically the same exact upload process to have your book be available in print.

If that’s all you wanted, then congratulations, you’ve achieved your goal! You wrote a book, and now that book exists! That’s pretty cool. If you’re just interested in writing as a fun hobby and think it would be neat to have your books available for sale, Self-Publishing probably works for you.

If your goal is to actually make a lot of money self-publishing, while it is not impossible by any means, the road to SUCCESS in self-publishing is long and arduous. It is VERY rare that a self-published author releases their first book and it gets read by the right people and generates enough buzz that it sells well. There’s just too much competition out there. You CAN build a solidly successful career self-publishing however, if you continue producing good work and releasing books year after year. Your fan base will grow geometrically, and with every new book released you will make that many more sales, which will draw that much more interest to your work, which will snowball until eventually you realize hey, I’m paying my bills by writing, I’m a real writer. That’s pretty cool. To succeed at that takes a LOT of grinding however. You need to write consistently, and what you write needs to consistently be good. It’s a full time job and then some.

So what about traditional publishing? What does the life cycle of a traditionally published book look like? Here is the spark notes version of the process:

Step One – You have written a story, or at least a significant portion of a story that you are confident other people will be interested in reading

Step Two – You find an agent. Most traditional publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. That means that even if you have the greatest story ever written, if you, as a random new author, send it directly to the publishing company, it will never be read. By anybody. Ever. It will be thrown out, no question. There are some smaller indie publishers that are open to direct submissions, but they will only be accepting certain types of stories, in certain months, in certain limited numbers, so your odds of finding a home for your manuscript that way are definitely limited. (But not impossible, so definitely do your research!)

This is where an agency comes in. An agent is your hype man. They will represent you to the editors of publishing companies, and will give you the greatest chance of your manuscript being successfully picked up by somebody. Different publishers are interested in different things. Some like genre fiction. Some like literary fiction. Some like non-fiction. Some like all of those things at different times throughout the year. A good agent will do their research and know what publishers are looking for at a given time, and will send your manuscript only to the ones who will likely be willing to check it out. So how do you get an agent? Ironically, it’s pretty similar to what an agent will do when they are shopping out your manuscript to the publishing company. You will have to do your research, see what agencies out there are interested in the type of story you have written or are writing, and which of them are currently accepting manuscript submissions. Then, you will follow whatever rules they have for submissions (full manuscript sent in the mail? First ten pages and a synopsis? Emailed query letter?), you will send out your submission, and then you will wait. 9 times out of 10, you will get no response ever, or if you’re lucky, you’ll get a form letter basically saying thanks but no thanks. If you are VERY lucky however, you might get an individualized denial response back with specific criticisms or advice about your story. Even though that’s a no as well, it’s exciting because it means they actually read your submission. That means you’re getting closer. Basically this process can continue indefinitely as long as you have the energy and will. You keep sending out submissions, and improving your story, and sending out submissions, and improving your story and on and on and on many times over until an agent finally responds and says YES, I would like to work with you. This can take a LONG time. Agents are the first gatekeepers on the road to traditional publication. They receive a LOT of manuscripts from hopeful authors. Some submissions they receive are great. Some are just good. And some are undoubtedly really, really bad. You need to make sure your manuscript is as good as it can possibly be, before you even think about sending it out, because you are up against a huge amount of competition.

If an agent is intrigued by what you have written, and they think it is worth their valuable time and energy to try to get published, then the hard stuff begins. You negotiate with the agency about what their representation will cost (usually commission on the published book, something in the 15% range, NOT an upfront cost from you, that would be ridiculous) and they start the manuscript submission process all over with the publishing companies, all while you’re still working to edit and improve and polish your story. Editors are obscenely busy. They’re not interested in working with  a diamond in the rough. If you’re an unknown author that they can’t guarantee will sell, they want you to already have as close to a finished product as possible before they will spend any of their time bringing it to market. You can find what agencies exist and what types of manuscripts they are soliciting with publications like the Writer’s Digest or Writer’s Marketplace, or even with simple online searches. You can also look up your favorite authors or authors of books similar to what you’ve written, and see who represented them.

Step Three – If your agent finally succeeds in selling your manuscript to a publishing company, they will have their editors review it, and even if you think it’s perfect, your revision and improvement process starts all over again. Since the publishing company has purchased the rights to your book, this is the point where they can demand drastic rewrites, if they so choose. The manuscript is now their baby, not yours. You’re just the hired labor.

Your agent will be essential to help negotiate the best deal for your book with the publisher. Since the agent will be paid from their contracted portion of your profits, it behooves them to negotiate the best possible contract on your behalf, which generally involves some sort of advance payment, and then if sales are successful enough to cover the publisher’s initial advance cost that they paid you, you will start collecting royalties on subsequent sales. A lot of sales need to occur for this to happen however, because the publishing company will be out both the money they spent on your advance, as well as all the cost tied up in printing and distributing your book to countless bookstores. If the books don’t sell well, you may never see another dime beyond that advance payment, and there is nothing you can really do because the publisher now owns the rights to the book, not you. You can probably buy it back from them, and they would likely be willing to do it to cover the rest of their costs on an unsuccessful book, but then you’re right back where you started if you were to self-publish from the get go.

Traditional publishing is risky to you as an author because you might never get to see your book in print. You just might never find an agent or publishing company that is interested in it, and that’s as much due to luck as anything else. The rewards if you succeed however are so high! If your book is published, and it is a hit, and the right people start buying it and talking about it, you can become rich and famous! Talk shows, movie options, book signings, the whole enchilada. Obviously that result is pretty rare. Especially for new authors.

My biggest advice to you is to keep writing! The more you write, the better you get at writing, AND the more opportunity you will have to sell something successfully. If you’re thinking about writing as a business, your stories are your products. The more products you have, and the better they are, AND the better you get at making your stories visible to potential buyers, the more successful you will become.

If there is any particular part of this whole process you’re most curious about or want some help with, let me know! Conversely, if you know of a better way, or think that some of the information I’ve provided is just plain wrong, by all means, educate me.

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Happy Halloween, here’s The Night Ripper!

It’s Halloween! Whether you plan on dressing up as a sexy (insert random job title here),  gorging yourself on candy and sweets until you slip into a diabetic coma, suffering a terror stroke on a haunted hayride, or curling up on the couch to watch your favorite holiday movie (Hocus Pocus, obviously), you should add one more item to your spooky to-do list: Buy my newest book!

The Night Ripper is now available for purchase as both a Paperback and Kindle eBook!

This novel is the first book in my new Watchers in the Dark science fiction series, and has everything your little Halloween Hearts might desire. A haunted spaceship. Hungry vampires. Bloodthirsty pirates. A pretty princess. Friendly aliens. Unimaginable cosmic horrors. Hot Chocolate. Penis jokes. All the holiday essentials!

Give it a read…you know you want to. Then, be sure to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads to let others know what you think!

The Night Ripper

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Why are liberals such garbage people?

stripes

Until our current presidency, I never really thought about politics. I knew when elections were, and I knew that my parents and friends and coworkers voted, but I never knew who they voted for. To be sure, this was partially due to my general apathy on the subject, but there is no question that it was also because at that time, political affiliation was a more private, less polarizing, relatively minor facet of somebody’s character. Now, it seems that whichever direction you lean politically inevitably provokes judgment from friends, relatives, and even strangers. If you express a liberal point of view, you are immediately labeled a retarded communist fairy snowflake by more conservative peers. If you espouse any conservative biases, accusations that you are a retarded greedy heartless Nazi fascist are sure to follow. Here’s the thing, I know a lot of liberals, and I know a lot of conservatives, but I don’t actually know any retarded communist fairy snowflakes, or any greedy heartless Nazi fascists. The people I know, on both sides of the political spectrum, are just that – people. People who are, for the most part, good, and kind, and generous, and so very intelligent. I miss the days when learning somebody’s political affiliation wasn’t an immediate call to battle, because we could all remember that we were not actually enemies. We’re actually all teammates, working toward the common goals of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and yeah, sometimes we have different ideas on how to reach those goals, but as mature, responsible, fully-functioning adults we should always be able to extend a little empathy and compassion, and continue working together to achieve those shared goals, even if it requires a little bipartisan compromise.

So where did this disturbing level of vitriol and lack of mutual respect come from? The internet mostly. Never before have we been directly connected to so many other people. Never before have we been able to indulge so easily in masturbatory, self-congratulating echo-chambers of agreeing viewpoints, while drowning out any divergent opinions. Never before have we ever had immediate access to so much information, all conveniently collected, organized, and distilled into understandable chunks and placed right at our fingertips. I mean, really, the entire breadth of human knowledge is at most one or two mouse clicks away, more information than we could possibly absorb even if we lived for a thousand thousand years, but what do we actually use the internet for? Porn mostly, and sharing political memes that are  ALWAYS biased, and almost always promote information that is misinterpreted, incorrect, or outright lies. And I think, for the most part, we know it too, but we share anyway, because all of those likes and shares and affirmations we receive on our posts from like-minded individuals are addictive, and feeding that addiction is more important than fact-checking or engaging in a fair and honest dialogue.

So, what are we going to do about it? Since it is beyond my abilities to bookmark Snopes.com on the favorites tab of everybody’s web browser to help them determine if the preposterous meme factoids or viral stories they’re sharing are in any way true, and since I don’t have the resources to teach everybody even the basics of media-literacy, statistical analysis, or the rudiments of the scientific method (Correlation doesn’t equal Causation guys), I’m stuck with this – Let’s have that fair and honest dialogue. I need to believe that most of the fear and discomfort and disrespect currently simmering between liberals and conservatives is due to simple ignorance. Conservatives don’t get liberals, not necessarily because they don’t agree with the liberal viewpoint, but because they literally don’t even know what that viewpoint is. The same goes for why Liberals don’t get Conservatives. So let’s try to change that. Let’s actually have a discourse, and explain our viewpoints. I have a sneaking suspicion we might find that we have more in common than we think.

I’ll go first. Warning, this is MY viewpoint, so you might very well disagree with it in whole or in parts. That’s OK. That’s fine, really! If you feel differently, I’d LOVE to hear why. That’s the whole point!

I am a white, heterosexual, upper-middle-class American male. I love this country, and consider myself a true patriot. I like crass jokes, red meat, fast cars, and big titties. I’ve lifted every truck I’ve ever owned. I like guns and hunting. I think the government are a bunch of corrupt incompetent fucks, and I prefer that they leave me alone. I approve of the death penalty. I want nothing more than to work hard, become rich and successful, and protect and support my family.

In a surprising twist worth of M. Night Shyamalan at his prime however, I am a liberal.

Let me explain. Since I am a real, complex human being, I do not agree with the entire liberal agenda. I also do not disagree with the entire conservative agenda. I am allowed to decide what is important to me, and to hold my own unique opinions, just like everybody else. Very few people I know fit neatly into either camp without overlap.

I am a white, heterosexual, upper-middle-class American male. I have A LOT to be thankful for. I receive almost universal respect, and am honestly treated quite well, both by fellow American citizens, and the system itself, based solely on my skin-color, sexual orientation, and financial security, all of which are circumstances of my birth completely outside of my control. I LIKE the way I am treated. I enjoy being respected. I like how the system works for me. BUT, I am aware that the way I am treated and the way the system works for me, does not work similarly for everyone. I believe that our country’s issues with racism and bigotry and small-mindedness are a SYSTEMIC problem, if not created by, then certainly perpetuated by the government, and are only able to be completely changed at the federal level. I am aware that non-white, non-straight, non-financially secure, and non-male American citizens do not have equal access to the same American dream that I do. I don’t think that is fair, I think that everyone deserves to receive the same advantages I have received my entire life.

Even if you have brown skin, or weird clothes, or a funny accent, you are still entitled to the same Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as me.

Even if you like mushing your genitals somewhere I would prefer not to mush my genitals, you are still entitled to the same Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as me.

Even if you worship different gods, or the same god differently, or no god at all, you are still entitled to the same Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as me.

Even if you happen to get sick, or lose your job, or fall on tough times, you are still entitled to the same Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness as me.

Even if your family looks different than my family, you are still entitled to the same Life, Liberty and Pursuit of happiness as me.

It is NOT the government’s role to enforce traditional values. It is the government’s role to protect everyone equally under the law.

That is why I am a liberal.

I am pro-choice. Based on my understanding of the science, I don’t think a fertilized egg is a person, nor should it be granted the same rights as a fully formed human being, and I don’t think life starts right at conception, but a little further down the pipeline, but that opinion shouldn’t even matter. I am pro-choice because I support the bodily autonomy of women. I am an organ donor. That means when I die, if I have any ripe juicy usable organs left in my squishy meat sack body, they can be harvested and used to save another person’s life. That is my choice. If I decided NOT to be an organ donor, upon death, even if my organs were perfect and could save 20 lives, they wouldn’t be touched. Because it’s my body, and my choice. Not being pro-choice on abortions, but accepting as a matter of common sense that a person can choose to not be an organ donor upon death to me means you are giving a DECAYING CORPSE more rights than a living, breathing, thinking, feeling, human woman regarding what can be allowed to stay in or taken out of her body.

That is why I am a liberal.

I’m no commie bastard. I like money. I like the free-market in so much as I like earning and spending money, and I don’t like anything that causes me to earn less money, or infringes upon my ability to spend said money once earned. BUT, I think that we need government regulation to protect us little folk from the greed of big businesses. I think businesses are very short-sighted, they do what they do to maximize short-term profits for their owners, and board, and stock-holders at the cost of the welfare of the environment, their employees, and their consumers. Businesses aren’t moral. Businesses aren’t kind. Businesses are unthinking, unfeeling systems designed to do one thing, and one thing only. Make money. I don’t think a federally mandated minimum wage that you can actually survive on, or higher taxes levied against the richest of the rich, who will feel the pain of those taxes the least, are unreasonable. I am not worried that since I am a “Have”, by helping the “Have Nots” I will be come a “Have less” or a “Have Not” myself. It’s not a closed system. We haven’t achieved peak Having. I truly believe I can still “Have” while everyone else “Haves” as well.

That is why I am a liberal.

I consider myself a patriot, not because I think this country is perfect, but because I love this country, but I admit that it is flawed, and I want to work on fixing those flaws. What is more patriotic? Being proud of your country no matter what? Or actively working to make your country something worth being proud of?

If you love your house, but the roof was leaking, what makes more sense? Telling people if they don’t like the roof leak they can leave, because your house is perfect and anybody who says otherwise is a traitor? Or admitting that the roof is leaking, and working hard to fix it, so your house can be the best damn house ever?

The United States has problems. Ignoring them won’t make them go away.

Our prison system is obscenely over-crowded, a huge amount of the inmates are doing time for non-violent drug crimes, and the rate of people of color incarcerated is disproportionately high. This is not because poor black men are more likely to do drugs. It is because poor black men are much more likely to be convicted for doing drugs, while a rich white boy named chad who’s father is a lawyer who plays golf with the judge on Sundays can do all the drugs he damn well pleases with no consequences except maybe spending a few weeks at a Malibu beach resort rehab center. Do you know what is happens prison? Free labor. So, slavery. If you think there wasn’t a conscious decision somewhere to convict as many black and brown men as possible of bullshit crimes to put them back to work as literal modern day slaves, you’re a more optimistic person than I am.

Our public education system is in shambles, and should be invested in. An intelligent, mature, well-adjusted, well-educated future work force is necessary to our continued survival and success. We shouldn’t cheap out to save a few tax dollars now, we need to invest in our nation’s future with well funded primary schools and affordable graduate programs. We can’t blame the youth of America of being dumb stupid idiots if we’re the ones who voted to defund their education.

Our environment and our natural resources are our greatest wealth. We should be focusing on ways to husband and protect and extend their long term value, not strip-mining and polluting and ruining everything for extra profits now at the expense of future generations. Why not invest in solar, wind, water and other renewable energy sources? Why not protect our wildlife, and keep our water clean? So what if we magically don’t run out of coal and oil and natural gas some day, and never need clean renewable energy? What is the down side to having invested money into making the world greener, cleaner, healthier, and happier?

Our healthcare is overpriced. Our health insurance is expensive, and is a for profit system. That’s fine. There is nothing wrong with making money. If people want to purchase health insurance, they should be able to purchase health insurance. BUT health insurance should be UNNECESSARY. Just like we pay taxes to the government to maintain usable roads and infrastructure, and to have a huge big dick swinging military that is better funded then the next 12 biggest militaries combined, we should also be able to pay a modest amount and receive top-notch, cutting edge, inexpensive nationalized healthcare. It’s not a hopeless pipe-dream. Other countries have nationalized healthcare, and some of their systems work. If we adopted a nationalized healthcare system, people could go to the doctor if they get sick or injured, and receive the care they need without going bankrupt, losing their house, starving their family, and annoying their friends with GoFundMe accounts. If other countries can figure this system out, we should be able to as well. Maybe we can use some of that crazy military money.

At the end of the day, I’m a liberal because I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid of people who are different than me. I’m not afraid that giving everybody the same advantages I’ve always had will in some way harm me. I imagine that conservatives likely view the liberal mindset as unrealistic or overly optimistic. I imagine they think trusting the government, corrupt and incompetent as it is, with any extra control beyond the bare minimum is a foolish idea.

My question is, can you really trust individual people instead? Can you trust individuals to act for the good of everyone? Or is it more likely that they’ll act in their own rational self interest to make sure that they and their families have what they need, and the rest of us, especially those of us who are different, can burn in hell?

That is why I am a liberal. What are you, and why?

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FINALLY, another book

Barring any last minute printing issues, my new book – The Night Ripper will be released in FIVE DAYS. That’s pretty exciting. (for me anyway) It is a science fiction novel with all the best parts of science fiction. Like space ships! and aliens! and ominous Lovecraftian horrors from another dimension! Also, Vampires. Why wait FIVE DAYS however, when you can read an excerpt now!
In the meantime, or if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you should definitely check out my old book – Apostate Konstantin. That book is about witches battling a dangerously militant church in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. You know, that old song and dance. It is already available in paperback or as an eBook, and the kindle eBook version will be FREE to purchase for the next FIVE DAYS.
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Supporting local artists who suck, and other tricky situations.

My town is not what you would consider an especially sophisticated community. The restaurants are mostly all chain restaurants. The ones that aren’t are pizza parlors. It doesn’t have trendy coffee shops for young hipsters to mix and mingle, it has multiple Dunkin Donuts where grumpy blue collar professionals can get their morning caffeine injections. The local dive bar’s patronage has an average age of 102. They all drive 4×4 pickup trucks. Writers, musicians, painters, and other more esoteric creatives do not flock here for its vibrant and dynamic artistic scene. It has no artistic scene.

My town has warehouses. It has tobacco fields. It has tobacco barns. It has assorted tobacco-centric farm equipment retailers, resellers, and servicers. Its only nod to high culture is one museum. It is a tobacco museum.

For all of that, there are artists here. There are painters, musicians, and writers. Against all odds, they exist. I wouldn’t say they’re thriving, but like a persistent fungal infection they lurk in the dark sweaty crevices of this fine rural hamlet, stubbornly plying their craft with little fanfare or support. To them I say – Thank You. Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t let anybody discourage you from your dreams. Also, maybe don’t read the rest of this post.

As a dedicated consumer of art, especially strange paintings and genre fiction, and a creative dabbler myself, mostly of strange paintings and genre fiction, I want to support their endeavors. I want to take pride in their accomplishments. I want to enjoy the fruits of their labors, the results of their efforts, the expulsions from their imaginative wombs.

To that end, I recently visited the small independent bookstore down the road from my house in order to browse the local authors section and, hopefully, find a new favorite author that I could stalk and imprison a la Stephen King’s Misery. To me, an independent bookstore should be a cramped and disorganized place full of crooked, teetering stacks of second or third-hand cookbooks, Harlequin romance novels, and John Grisham paperbacks. The type of place where time has no meaning and hours of browsing can result in the discovery of countless How-to manuals for rebuilding obsolete automobile carburetors, or a stack of dusty travel books for now defunct nation states, or a signed copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s lesser known and controversial Hobbit sequel Radagast’s Revenge – There and Back Again Two, Electric Boogaloo, or even a hitherto undiscovered copy of the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. It should be the sort of establishment which smells more than faintly of cat piss, the overweight bewhiskered culprit has laid claim to the most comfortable armchair, and the elderly proprietor is clearly just barely tolerating your patronage, and would really prefer if you left immediately without touching another one of their precious yellowing  and dog-eared paperback treasures.

The independent bookstore near my house is not like that. For one thing, the owner is young, and SO NICE. Truly, a credit to her profession. For another, her store is well-lit, clean, and organized, with only two walls of books, all of which appear to be new prints. If I’m being honest, the small amount of books actually available for sale in the bookstore is surprising. I might have more on my bookshelves at home. In a world with Amazon, and digital readers, and mega-bookstores like Barnes and Noble however, this perhaps is not insanity. Instead of trying to compete with those businesses, my local independent bookstore offers something different, something you can’t get with the click of a mouse online. Events. Book signings, Book clubs, Author lectures, Arts and Crafts lessons, whatever you can think of, it’s probably scheduled. This place is less of a store for buying books, and more of a venue for literature related activities. It’s an interesting business model, and I truly hope it succeeds.

For all its lack of actual books, it does have a fairly large shelving section dedicated to local authors, so I went there with high hopes that I’d find something at least remotely interesting. It was a bit of a wash I’m afraid. The section had all of the expected non-fiction biographies on local historical figures and fixtures, the type of obsessively but amateurishly researched fare that exists everywhere because any time a town has a person or a thing there is someone who feels the urge to write about that person or thing. There were also some young adult fiction stories which were recommended as good sellers, but I wasn’t in the mood for young adult, especially because good young adult fiction is often fairly bad, and I don’t imagine debut young adult fiction from an unknown local author would be any better. The store owner, who so solicitously helped me in my search was able to recommend one local author’s science fiction book, which I happily purchased because local and science fiction were exactly what I was looking for. I should have requested that the book also be good.

Unfortunately, it sucked. It sucked so bad. It was the opposite of good. It was, in fact, terrible. This thing was an abortion from start to finish. Obviously a self-published job, I was immediately annoyed by the amateurish formatting errors present throughout.

Like how the author indented every new paragraph. But also put a space between every new paragraph. I mean, you do one or the other. That’s an obvious rookie mistake that even the slightest editorial oversight would have caught.

In addition the dialog read like it was written by a non-native speaker with Aspergers overhearing and transcribing the conversation between two other people who also have Aspbergers, and also all three of them have never heard anybody else ever have a normal conversation but they kind of know what words are and that you need to put a few in a row and then put a comma or a period, so they’re going with that and hoping for the best.

I don’t want to go into too much detail but the premise was shaky, the plot was shit and the execution was weak. 0/10, I award you no points, and may god have mercy on your soul. The most upsetting part however, was that I really wanted to like it. I wanted to become a fan. I wanted to be impressed and excited by the literary genius of a local author. Because I wanted to support him. I want to support all my local artists. But what does that mean? Am I obligated to support my local artists, even when they suck? If they produce garbage, do I have to happily consume that garbage with a smile on my face, because hey, they’re local? Tell me the rules here.

If I was just a consumer, it wouldn’t really matter at all. This author made a product, I didn’t like the product. End of transaction. The complication is that, I also write. It’s a small town. If we both keep writing, we will potentially cross paths. Maybe even at an event at the aforementioned bookstore. What if he asks me if I’ve ever read his stuff? What if he’s read mine? What if he actually likes my writing? I mean, he probably wouldn’t, it’s pretty bad too, but still. Stranger things have happened. How do I navigate this tricky situation? Advise me, Friends.

 

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Where am I!?

It has been over a minute and a half since my last post. Shameful. Churlish.

Warranted?

The thing is, I haven’t been posting, not because I dislike you and want by my absence to make your lives a meaningless hell of joyless despair, but because I’ve been busy. I’ve got big stuff going on. BIG STUFF.

Big Stuff 1 – My next book has been completed. That’s right, the first draft of The Night Ripper is done! I am still plugging away on editing and formatting and whatnot, but the story has been completed. Guys, I think you’ll like it. It’s got monsters. It’s got aliens. It’s got spaceships. It’s got jokes. If you enjoy those things, you’ll enjoy this book. If you’d like to read an advance copy to help edit and provide feedback, let me know. Look forward to its release sometime this summer. For me to make my self-imposed release deadline however, I need to spend a portion of my limited free time actually working on the book. Thus, less blog posts.

Big Stuff 2 – I’m lifting again. I mean, I never stopped exercising and I’ve tried to remain as fit as my sedentary office job allows, but I’m lifting HEAVY again. Relatively speaking of course. I won’t be invited to compete in any World’s Strongest Man competitions anytime soon, but I am working to get back in to the 1,000 lbs club. The prerequisites for being in this club are simple: Lift over 1,000 lbs cumulative between your squat, deadlift, and bench press. Admittedly, this is a very attainable goal, and is not especially impressive to actual power lifters, but for a slim baby with bad knees like myself, it’s a good goal. Being in the 1,000 lbs club  is basically the minimum weight required for you to be allowed to answer yes to the question: do you even lift, Bro? I want to answer yes to that question again. So I’ve been working out. Thus, less blog posts.

Big Stuff 3 – I’m getting married. That’s right. After only a decade of living together, I bent the knee and asked Mistress Kay to upgrade to Wife Kay. (Downgrade?) She said yes. So I guess you could say it’s getting pretty serious. I mean, we talk or whatever. What this means for me is that since the original has been upgraded to fiance 1.0, I suddenly have the unenviable task of trying to find a new replacement mistress while faced with the added handicap of being old and gross and completely undesirable to any of the opposite sex in my advanced age. The odds are not in my favor. It ALSO means that in my negligible free time, which has already been lessened by my writing and lifting efforts, I’m now dealing with all the soul-crushing minutiae involved with planning a wedding. Venue visits, vendor meetings, food tastings, guest lists, engagement party plans, wardrobe, decor, wedding website design (maxandmarissa.com), save-the-dates, invitations, the list is endless. If I need to spend one more second deciding which stationary card stock has the right weight and feel necessary to convey our love to our potential guests, I’m going to chop of my ding-dong and use it to hang myself from a ceiling fan set on low so that my dickless dead body does stately loops of the living room. Which brings me to Big Stuff 4. All these fancy wedding plans we’ve made cost money. My job pays me just enough to enjoy the mediocre lower-middle class lifestyle I have grown accustomed to. No more. So I’ve gotten a second job.

Big Stuff 4 – I work in retail now. That’s right, I’m a janitor at a shoe store. I asked for my name tag to read Al Bundy, but they refused, so you can see how well things are going already. Because nothing says SUCCESS like being a 32 year old part-time retail employee. Especially when you’re the only male employee, and all of your coworkers are high school students who make more than you because they’ve been doing it longer. Plus sometimes I get to see people I know who are shopping while I’m working, and that’s not at all awkward or embarrassing. Today at work I ran into a girl I graduated college with who I at the time thought was beautiful. Turns out she is still beautiful. She is still beautiful, and I was wearing an apron with my name on it and dragging a mop bucket to clean up diarrhea from the bathroom floor. Again, the last time we saw each other, WE WERE GRADUATING COLLEGE TEN YEARS AGO. She was probably pretty impressed with how much I’ve achieved since then. I’ve gained not only an apron, but also a bucket full of dirty water. Well, gained access to at least. I need to leave them behind when I go home at night. I would have loved to have spent some time catching up, but instead I had to mop diarrhea for $10/hr. Luckily I only do this every weekend and most week nights. I guess you can say things are going pretty well for me.

So there you have it. I admit I have not been posting as frequently as I want to, or as much as you would like, and for that I apologize, but there have been mitigating factors. They are temporary at least, so I should be able to return to a more regular posting schedule soon enough. That, or you know, there’s always the penis noose idea.

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What the Hell, America?

I wish this article from The Onion, a satirical (that means fake) news website wasn’t so on point. Because right now I’m wondering when and where is the next mass school shooting going to take place? OBVIOUSLY, it’s going to happen again. I’m not being pessimistic. School shootings are a thing now, and literally nothing has been done on a national level to really figure out how to prevent them.

When the Columbine school shooting, the first mass school shooting I was old enough to personally be aware of, occurred, everybody looked for something to blame, whether it was Rock music, or The Matrix, or Satan himself. The general consensus was that this was a fluke, it couldn’t happen, it was an abomination, but at least it was over. Except it wasn’t over. The school shootings continued, and all we have left to blame is ourselves.

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, an event that occurred six miles from my mother’s house and deeply effected my community with the type of lasting repercussions that can only truly be felt by those people directly and immediately impacted by a tragic event, I really thought we might see some actual changes, whether due to government legislation, or cultural shift. Evidently, 20 dead six-year-olds was not enough for that to occur however.

Now, it’s happened once more, this time in Parkland, Florida, and again, outside of the immediate Parkland Community, who right now are feeling the same sense of betrayal and anger and fear that my town experienced following the Sandy Hook event, for the rest of us, no change has occurred. Life goes on for those not directly impacted by the dead. Sure, people give their thoughts and prayers on social media, everybody points fingers at everybody else seeking to place blame, people who hate guns post about how guns are bad, people who like guns post about how guns don’t kill people, people kill people, and everybody points their fingers at the bogey-man of “mental health”, but ultimately it’s the same exact narrative, with the same exact results that it has always been. The results by the way, are that there are no results.

There are no results, because this is a complex issue that everybody wants a simple solution to. That, of course, is not how the real world works. There is no one keystone issue causing these mass shooting events, so what we’re going to have to do is resolve a bunch of different issues before we begin to see any progress being made.

PROBLEM ONE: The first, is unfortunately, guns. As many of my readers know, I am a gun owner. I hunt. I go to the shooting range. I am licensed to carry, and I often do. I enjoy shooting, and talking about guns, and being immersed in the gun culture. I have family members that work for Colt, and Smith and Wesson. I live in Connecticut, America’s Arsenal, where most of our domestic firearm manufacturing occurs. I have guns, and I’d love to have more. After the Sandy Hook shooting, I even wrote a blog post explaining why I supported gun ownership. I am part of the problem. Because guns are fucking weapons, and they make killing really, really easy. So, while I personally would love to own a fully-automatic machine gun that can fire a million-billion rounds a second and cut a mature oak tree in half like a chainsaw, because I think that would be bad-ass and gives me a massive violence hard-on, I think it’s pretty damn clear that our current gun-laws, gun-availability, and gun-obsession as a country is a big fucking problem. Especially because pro-gun people’s arguments are so very flimsy.

Their arguments usually go like this: Criminals get guns illegally, therefore we need guns to protect ourselves against the criminals! This of course completely ignores the fact that the vast majority of criminal firearm use is against other criminals, not against normal law-abiding citizens. It also ignores the fact that restrictions on the type of guns available to the public won’t decrease your ability to protect yourself and your family. I live in a place where bear and coyotes and the occasional home-invasion are legitimate concerns. I advocate for responsible gun ownership and our right to own and carry arms. But the truth is, my classic pump-action shotgun is a much more reliable deterrent to those credible threats than a high-capacity semi-automatic military style assault rifle would be, while still being a much less efficient tool of mass murder. So while I love plinking through a 30-round magazine with an AR-15 or Ruger mini-14, or High-Point carbine, or AK variant at the range as much as the next guy, I think it’s time to admit that maybe we shouldn’t have such easy access to these types of weapons. So yes, while I personally think assault weapons are really fucking cool and fun to shoot, I agree with banning them. Because they are a tool that makes mass murder very, very, very easy, and the more that are available in the market and in our homes and communities, INEVITABLY the more they will be used in mass shooting events. Will making these types of weapons illegal stop all criminals from getting their hands on them? No. Does making the legal drinking age 21 stop all underage people from buying booze? No. But it sure is a lot fucking easier to buy a bottle of bourbon after you’re 21 than before.

guns-don-t-kill-people

Their second preposterous argument is that Guns don’t kill people, People kill people. I’ve seen Facebook posts where they’re literally like durr, I left my Glock and my scary AR loaded and unlocked on my front porch all day and they didn’t get up and murder a bunch of folks, they must be broken. Congratulations, you’re an asshole who is being willfully obtuse. Yes, my fellow gun-lovers, people kill people. But the easiest way for them to do it is with high-capacity semi-automatic and automatic firearms. Limit those firearms, limit the deaths. Guns are weapons meant for killing. Clearly, if there are more weapons, and those weapons are more efficient at killing, there will be more killing. Just like clearly, if there are more cars on the road, there will be more automobile accidents, so people have grudgingly accepted the existence of speed limits on our nation’s roadways. Not because they are bad drivers with poorly maintained cars, of course not, they’re all professionally trained F1 drivers with brand new hyper-cars who can safely travel 200 MPH in a school zone. Yet they allow the existence of speed limits because they understand that not everybody else is. In fact, most people are shitty distracted drivers with a death wish in broken down jalopies, and since they can’t safely drive 200 MPH, it makes sense to limit everybody to a safer speed. Just like since not everybody is a well-adjusted and stable responsible gun owner, it makes sense to limit the capacity of our personal arsenals to civilian levels of lethality, not military grade hardware.

Argument three is that they need these high-capacity semi-automatic firearms for legitimate purposes like hunting. Nope. Bullshit. I am a hunter. I do think semi-automatic firearms are great for hunting! The ability to put multiple rounds on target quickly allows for clean and ethical two shot kills where a bolt-action firearm may result in an animal being wounded but not immediately killed, and then escaping to bleed out painfully before a second round can be placed on target. So a semi-automatic rifle with a 5 or 6 round internal magazine, like a Browning BAR or something of that nature is absolutely appropriate for hunting. The only time that a 10, 20, or 30+ round detachable magazine is necessary for hunting is if you’re hunting multiple targets. Like say, on a battlefield…or a school.

Argument four: We need these battle rifles to protect ourselves against the government! Um..the government has drones, and helicopters, and tactical nuclear warheads. Your AR-15 won’t be saving you from a military assault. Also, why do you think we are in danger from our own military? These people are our own neighbors, friends, family members. They’re not going to turn on us if they’re ordered to by a suddenly homicidal government.

Argument five: Yeah but…we need guns in school to protect the childrens from these maniacs. Really? Because it’s realistic to believe that we can obtain trained and trustworthy armed security in our schools now? The schools where teachers have to spend their own money for pencils and crayons and calculators for their students? And where do we find these mythical affordable trained and trustworthy armed security guards? Retirees from the Kern County PD? Graduates from the George Zimmerman school of Community Protection? I’m sure some of the larger, urban, or wealthy school systems can place actual on-duty police officers in their schools, but not all the schools, and not all the time. So maybe instead of promoting an unrealistic solution to counter the symptoms of the problem, we focus on fixing the cause of the problem.

Argument the sixth: The Second Amendment! Yes, the Second Amendment guarantees our right to keep and bear arms. It is a great amendment, one of our most cherished rights as American citizens. But it is conspicuously  absent of any language guaranteeing us a certain type or class of arm. It can do with some updating and clarification, for which there is of course precedent. Example. The 18th Amendment enacted prohibition of alcohol. The twenty-first Amendment stopped it. So, amendments can be changed if the need is great enough. 17 dead people in Parkland, FL might be saying that the need is great enough right now.

So problem one – we’ve got a lot of guns, and many of those guns are super good at killing loads of people quickly. Solution one – Less guns altogether, less high-capacity guns specifically, and more stringent rules and regulations regarding purchase and ownership of said guns. Again, I like guns. I’m just being realistic about what they actually are.

PROBLEM TWO: “Mental Health”. This is actually more about health in general. The fact of the matter is that our for-profit health system in the United States is a joke and a LOT of people go without necessary assistance because they simply can’t afford it. You break a limb in Canada, you go to the hospital, it gets fixed, you get your medicine and you go home. You break a limb in the United States, you go the hospital, it gets fixed, you get a bill for $100k, your friends make a Go Fund Me asking for donations, you can’t work while you’re recuperating, you have no income, you lose your car and house, you’re now homeless, you get cut by a rusty nail, you get tetanus, you can’t afford the tetanus shot since you still have no health insurance, and you die. Similarly, you have depression or anger issues, or PTSD, or some other mental illness or issue, you have no health insurance so you can’t get the care or medicine you need, you flip out, grab one of your eighteen legal assault rifles and go shoot up a school. Meanwhile Chad who just got a $750k bonus for securing the Henderson account is stoked that he didn’t have to pay an extra $4.99 on his taxes for universal healthcare because fuck em, that’s why.

So problem two – we’ve got shitty expensive healthcare and sick people can’t get the help they need. Solution two – we get just a bit socialist and end the for-profit healthcare system in favor of a single-payer or other nationalized healthcare system. When an essential medication costs $3 to produce, and other countries can happily buy it for $5, but we’re getting billed $800, so many people just go without…something needs to change. If our sad, angry, mentally ill young men can get the help they need, things won’t reach a crisis point where they’re showing up to school with guns and pipe bombs.

PROBLEM THREE: Men. I mentioned sad, angry, mentally ill young men in the previous sentence for a reason. That’s who is doing all these mass shootings. Not women. So we need to figure out why. Are men simply violent, uncaring brutes susceptible to rage and anger issues? Maybe. But probably, we just exist in a culture where the male ideal is to BE a sad, angry, violent brute because feelings are gay and gay is bad. Young women get sad and angry and mentally ill just as much as men, the difference is they are allowed to cry and emote and discuss their issues in a supportive environment, so their most violent impulses are safely blunted and redirected. Men, who do not have that support system, and who are raised to believe that the strong, stoic, violent alpha male is king never evolve those healthy coping mechanisms, and then when something goes wrong, like a girl dumps them, or a cruel classmate or coworker mocks them, or they are mistreated at home, their only recourse is to blindly lash out. Their instinct when they feel pain is to cause pain. I know it is. Source: I’m a man. When I was young, my dad was killed, and I became very angry. Violent even. Because I was a child without a fully developed mind, and I did not know how to cope with my strong emotions. So I lashed out, got in fights, was generally a dick. Luckily, I had the support of my mother and extended family and community, and I was able to afford therapy, but more importantly, I was able to begin playing football, and then get into boxing, so during my most formative and angriest years, when hormones were raging and I was still learning about myself and learning how to control my feelings and my responses to my typical youthful angst, I had a safe environment to get out my aggression in a healthy and productive manner. THAT more than anything, the cathartic release of football and boxing helped me work through my anger until I got old enough and mature enough and secure enough in my masculinity to handle and express my emotions in nonviolent and healthy ways. I have no idea what type of person I would be if I didn’t have those healthy and safe avenues for releasing my pent up frustrations and anger. And those avenues are not available or appropriate for everyone. So we need to do better with our young men’s emotional intelligence. Basically, we need to allow them to hurt. We need to allow them to express themselves. We need to be kinder.

Problem three – toxic masculinity and the unaddressed rage of young men. And that is our fault. All of us. Solution three – be better to each other. Change the cultural ideal. Place more focus on the Mr. Rogers’ of the world, and less on the Conan the Barbarians. Allow our boys to admit when they are hurting, and applaud them for their bravery instead of mocking them for their perceived weakness. Because otherwise they might just choose to prove their strength with a semi-automatic firearm.

Unfortunately, this issue is even more complex than what we have already discussed, and these three problems, even if completely solved, likely won’t stop all of the violence, but I think we can all agree they’d be a really good start. Because otherwise, we’ll just have to live our lives waiting for the next mass shooting. And next time, it might be at our own school.

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