Some have asked that I share more about my daily process than the casual references to writing with which I pepper my blog, and have demanded that I delve into the actual operations of a publishing juggernaut the likes of which are unique in the annals of self-publishing history.
In doing so, I thought I’d clear up some misconceptions. Namely that I lounge about in board shorts, swigging margaritas, tapping out an occasional paragraph between bouts of snorting coke off strippers’ bottoms and dodging the Federales. Would that it were so. A tremendous amount of work goes into this, so I’ll describe a typical day so you can be the judge.
First thing this morning there was a board meeting that seemed to go on forever.
Then there was a concept development session.
Followed by plotting.
I broke for lunch, but it was a working lunch, during which I interviewed virtual assistants.
Then I spent several hours at a PR event discussing my work and upcoming releases.
Then, back to the grindstone until dinner.
As you can see, my existence is not an endless series of debauched adventures and aimless slacking. I stay to a rigid schedule, albeit one that has suitable flexibility to accommodate my creative bursts, and I put in the hours required to achieve my goals. Anyone who believes that being a bestselling author involves jotting down a few pages of meanderings between bouts of problem drinking and being chased by inebriated women off the cruise ships has a distorted view of what I do.
I hope I’ve been able to clear things up once and for all.
Now go buy my crap. Drinks ain’t free in these joints.
Today marks the release of a novella I wrote in Steven Konkoly’s The Perseid Collapse Kindle World – the first such effort I’ve produced. It’s a dystopian romp that chronicles a sliver of time after an EMP wipes out North America’s communications – concurrent with a massive hurricane hitting the locale where my protagonist lives.
The goal was to create a non-stop action romp set in a world that’s the day after the end of the world as we know it. I think it turned out well, but readers will ultimately decide. The title is Deadly Calm, for the deceptive calm that settles in after a major natural disaster like a hurricane.
It wasn’t hard to write it, having just survived Hurricane Odile’s flattening of Los Cabos, and my hope is that the descriptions in the book have a ring of authenticity – they should, as most of it’s drawn from my real-life experience.
This is my first prepper-themed dystopian effort. It likely won’t be my last. Writing in a world where the rules don’t apply, where nothing is as it should be due to the dislocation caused by the end of the world event, affords a certain freedom I enjoyed. We’ll see what else spews forth from my printer, but for now, give Deadly Calm a whirl and see what you think.
Special thanks to Steve for making it so easy to jump into that world. Here’s to hoping it catches some lift and sparks imaginations, or at least sells enough to buy some serious rounds of drinks for all concerned. Whatever the case, I think the story is an engaging one, and could see it running farther. One never knows.
For some fun images of my neighborhood after the hurricane, see below.
I just learned that my work is available in 666 libraries in the U.S.
Proving as clearly as anything that Mr. Satan is everywhere.
That’s kind of neat, though, I guess. I mean, now I don’t feel like a complete unknown outside some of the more questionable watering holes in the lesser Mexican area.
Another thing that makes me feel I’m making progress in this writing thing is that my second co-authored novel with the legendary Clive Cussler is now up for pre-order: The Solomon Curse. Releases in September.
The last one hit the #2 position on the NY Times list its second week out. Not a terrible showing. Seems to have sold a few copies, too, so all good. And my novella in Steven Konkoly’s The Perseid Collapse Kindle world, Deadly Calm, will go live on Feb. 3rd, which will no doubt put me over the top. For those who enjoy my balls to the wall action romps, it’s a good example of how I roll. It turned out well, and I believe it’s a worthwhile entrant into the whole Kindle world thing. Worth checking out.
What does it all mean? Beats me. I’m still writing every day, putting in more than full time hours, clocking 4-6 miles on the treadmill desk, which is the bomb, and a must-have for full time desk monkeys. There was another study published the other day that says sitting kills. So it’s not just a matter of trying to cram in exercise when you don’t have the time – it’s a matter of life and death. I’m completely happy with mine, and will get another in a heartbeat whenever this one burns out.
Beyond that, what the hell happened to January? I mean, it was just here, and now it’s gone. Seems like that’s happening a lot lately – time gets away from me, and soon it’s another year under the belt and deeper in debt.
Things in my neck of the woods are returning to normal now post-Hurricane Odile, although crime in La Paz is off the hook since the storm – they’ve been averaging a shooting per day there as two factions of the same cartel battle it out for the meth trade in the barrios. It’s a hundred miles from me, so I’m not that worried, although that’s only a couple hours drive, so too damn close for comfort. Given a population of 350K or so in La Paz, at 350 intentional homicides per year, which is about one a day, the ratio per 100K population would be…100. To put that into perspective, the ratio in the U.S. is about 5, and that includes trouble spots like DC, Detroit, etc. etc. Same in Argentina. Chile, actually lower, more like 4. Canada, even lower. Mainland Mexico, about 20-something. 100 is insanely dangerous. As in, worse than anywhere else in Mexico, dangerous.
The year before, the ratio for Southern Baja was about a 2 or so. My, the times they are a changing. Of course, those being gunned down are the ones that need killing – drug dealers. But it’s just a matter of time until there’s collateral damage. It’s a bad situation, and one the local media has studiously ignored, I believe because the government doesn’t want to scare away the tourists. But I also believe that if they don’t get that shit under control stat, it’s going to be common knowledge, and then buh bye tourist dollars – most Americans won’t differentiate between La Paz and Los Cabos when reading travel advisories for Baja, even though it’s like not visiting La Jolla in San Diego because the drive-byes in South Central LA are off the hook. To Gringos, it’s all kind of one and the same – Baja California Sur. And if it’s killing fields “there” the tourists won’t come. The irony being that the Cabo and San Jose del Cabo areas are about as safe as ever.
That’s all I’ve got. I’m working my fingers to nubs so that my readership can remain entertained, and won’t have to start dating other authors to get titillation. I’ve got the following scheduled now with my editor for 2015: JET – Ops Files, Terror Alert, for late March (just went on pre-order yesterday, I believe, with a temp cover that will be replaced next week). An Assassin novel for May. JET #9 for June. Another JET – Ops Files end of Sept or October. And JET #10 for Xmas. And possibly BLACK #5 for Sept – remains to be seen how inspired I feel. Oh, and also possibly the first installment in a new series in Sept. – one I think will be frigging huge – an action adventure yarn that’s part treasure hunt, part conspiracy yarn, with some of the most memorable characters I’ve yet created.
So there will be plenty more opportunities for crap buying in 2015 – a veritable plethora of crap. But do check out Deadly Calm when it goes live on Tuesday. It’s dirt cheap, reads really well, is my first shot at dystopian/prepper fiction, and is a fun romp that floors the throttle from the first chapter. Remains to be seen whether the bloodthirsty cannibal pandas make it past the final edits. I hope they keep them in. We’ll see.
I recognize that this is an extremely charged subject, but I’m never one to back away from controversy, and I’m not about to start now. So if you can’t handle the truth, stop reading now, because this is going to ruffle a lot of feathers.
I woke up today, read the news, and realized I must have been living in a cave for the last few years. And I’m not talking one of those comfortable, government-provided caves, either. I’m talking stone, moss, lichen, the real thing. I guess I’m the last one on the planet to have heard about the latest threat to freedom from the dark forces of tyranny: Muslin extremists.
Apparently these bastards aren’t content with their preferences, their lifestyle, their beliefs. They want everyone else to defer to their dogma and kowtow to their tastes. They refuse to integrate into Western society, preferring to live apart, while harshly judging anyone who doesn’t share similar views – and in extreme cases, acting out with appalling violence.
You can see where this goes. Pretty soon our women are being raped, our country is in tatters, our entire way of life goes into the crapper. Cats dance with dogs, the sun bleeds poison, we’re all speaking French or something, and the only available programming is reality TV featuring celebrity chefs.
Look. I’m open minded. If you prefer your garments to be made from coarsely spun cotton, I have no problem with that. Live and let live, I say. Some favor synthetics, some blends, some wool, some muslin.
But to take and pervert a belief that one fabric is superior to all others, and that you alone know the unique truth, as though from God’s lips to your ear? It’s an abomination, and we can all see…
…Oh… Muslin. Right. Got it.
Never mind. Damned spell check. Carry on. Nothing to see here.
Don’t you have some crap to buy or something?
It was about the end of January, 2011, when I first started seriously contemplating self-publishing.
It took another five months to get my ass in gear, set up the infrastructure to do so (find a cover artist, create a website, interview editors, create a Facebook and Twitter presence, decide what to even write about as my preferred genre), and then produce the first book, which I released in early June – Fatal Exchange, which still reads well, I think, if a bit grittier than my later work.
My, how the landscape has changed since those heady times. Gone are the stories of overnight sensation authors and two million dollar deals, of coming out of nowhere and being discovered at the drugstore, only to have one’s name in lights days later.
Gone too are the easy money promotional aids Amazon seemingly handed out like Viagra at a porn shoot, that could make virtually any book a 10K seller after a free run.
It’s a different world now. A tougher, more challenging world. Many of those who were giddy with success four years ago aren’t doing much anymore – they got accustomed to the crack hit of Select and its resultant high, and never moved beyond it, only to watch their work fade into obscurity once the promotional visibility dried up.
Indie authors now have to contend with services like Kindle Unlimited, with traditional publishers pricing down in the weeds, with a glut of content and a dearth of effective promotional tools. The brave new world we face is one whose promise of endless bounty has been replaced by sobering reality: selling books is frigging hard even in the best of times, and these are no longer the best of times for indies.
My solution is to continue doing what I’ve been doing for 42 months: coming up with what I think are compelling story ideas, and writing them, aiming for a release every couple of months, if not more often, so I’m not forgotten by the time the next one comes down the chute.
It would be super-duper awesome to have one of my series picked up for a movie, be handed F-you money for the privilege, and then sell gazillions of copies when my creation makes it to the big screen.
That happens about once a year. With Hugh Howey. Now with Blake Crouch. Good for them. I wish for nothing more than to be them, only richer and thinner. But that’s a wish, not a plan. And for the other million or so folks toiling away at this, pushing publish every eighth of a second (I totally made that up, but it could be right), it’s not likely.
I have no answers. My purpose in writing this blog is to articulate my approach, offer my thoughts and moody deliberations, and of course, berate my tasteless critics, who can all die whilst suffering horribly. My approach has worked for a number of other authors who are enjoying more success than ever before. It does not mean it’s a surefire winner for everyone, or for most. It simply is one way that seems to work for those who really apply themselves and follow all the guidance in my “How To Sell Loads Of Books” blog (not only a few of the points they like, while ignoring the rest).
This year I have a more relaxed publication schedule. I’ll put out a new JET – Ops Files novel in March, a new Assassin in May, a new JET in June. Second half of the year is a bit murkier. Perhaps a BLACK. Probably one more Ops Files, with another JET for Xmas. Somewhere in there I also have a modern treasure hunt series of which I’ve written the first installment and plan on writing more of, as well as two plot ideas for conspiracy novels tentatively outlined, likely also in a new series – and the conspiracies are stunners. And should that not keep me busy, I have the sequel to Fatal Exchange outlined and wating, and a dystopian trilogy I’m sort of toying with.
In other words, there aren’t enough hours. But the days have significance, are enjoyable, and there seems to be a point to waking up every morning. I’m delighted that I’m earning my keep writing, and hope to continue doing so for some time to come. But resting on my laurels ain’t how I roll, so got to keep mining the writing vein or it might peter out, leaving me with only tequila, meaningless flings with tipsy tourist women off the cruise ships, dancing in a sequin man thong as featured soloist in the Jalapeno Heat all male burlesque review, and dodging creditors and exes as the primary way of frittering away the time.
I think we can all agree that writing is preferable, although don’t you dare judge me. Until you’ve walked a mile in my thong you don’t know what it’s like, and I’m not just talking about cheap synthetics chafing delicate skin.
So buy my crap so the world’s spared that final indignity. If not for me, do it for U.S./Mexican relations. The Mexican people really don’t deserve any further stains on their reputation.
That’s all I have. Except for the idea that my fine work makes a wonderful gift for birthdays, funerals, circumcisions, V-day, or really any occasion where you want to appear to give a rat’s ass. So buy early and often.
Early into my career I decided that I was going to write a lot. As in, seemingly impossible amounts, as my differentiator.
The reason I decided on that strategy, which many novelists believe is one that can only produce dross, is that when I looked at past generations of writers whom I admired as being particularly skilled, most of them came out of journalism. Why is that important?
Because journalists are always writing. That’s what they do. Before television taught entire generations to stare mindlessly at a screen, people read, and that required a lot of written content creation. Enter journalists, who produced much of it.
Writers in the old day became proficient at writing because they wrote a tremendous amount. They got lots of practice. And practicing, they improved.
I’ve been averaging about a novel every five weeks since I started self-publishing 37 months ago. Other authors look at me with the imbedded assumption that what I create can’t possibly be good – the quality has to suffer by virtue of the quantity and my publishing speed.
Which simply ignores how many famous authors of the past got that way. They became good by flexing their writing muscle a lot, constantly, for years.
Somewhere along the way the popular wisdom changed. The speed with which a publishing house could comfortably schedule a print run and a promotional push, which happened to be about once a year per author, defined the accepted speed with which a novel, and I mean a good novel, could be created. Any faster was crazy talk.
Which is pure bullshit, and an extraordinarily limiting belief.
If you want to get good at something, do a lot of it. Seems simple to me. Want to get good at writing? Write a lot. There. I’ve given you the keys to the kingdom. Use them wisely.
While I’m ranting, another thing that bugs me about our culture is that so few people read. I blame the media, of course. Specifically, TV and video games, and to a lesser extent, the web. Why? Because reading, especially reading deep or complicated or well-written material, requires that the reader be skilled at reading, just as it requires the author be skilled at writing. Reading stuff like David Foster Wallace or Pynchon or even Burke or Chuck P require the reader exert effort, because the material’s dense, or just more complex than simple sentences composed of monosyllables. TV and the like require no effort – they’re spectator sports, whereas reading engages the mind and requires intellectual commitment.
If you want to become a decent writer, you have to be a decent reader. That’s the first step in the journey.
And, beating the dead horse, you have to write. No substitute for that in developing respect for and facility with language, and honing a skill you can’t learn any other way.
That doesn’t mean you have to publish everything you write. I didn’t publish the first decade of my scribblings. But I wrote. Constantly.
Talent only takes you a little ways. It’s effort that takes you the rest of the distance.
So for authors who sneer at fast production speed, I’d offer two thoughts: Just because you can’t produce something of quality in X time, doesn’t mean it’s impossible – it just means you don’t think you can. And, of course, your mind will convince you that your deep seated belief is reality, and it will become yours. So believe you can’t, you’re right.
And a final observation: my average novel takes me between 150-200 hours for first draft. If you work 12-15 hour days and don’t screw around, you can quickly see that what might take someone who only has a productive hour or two per day will take a lot less time for someone willing and capable of working marathon hours. Now, I could divide those hours up and spread them across several months, but it wouldn’t make the draft any better. Same with second draft, which generally takes about 100 hours. I could make the whole process of creating a book take six months to a year, but the quality wouldn’t be any different, assuming I’m competent for sustained bursts. So the notion that the quickly produced novel is lacking somehow is actually based more on the limited ability to imagine serious application, than it is reality. Same number of hours. Just condensed into far fewer days. Or put another way, hyper-efficient use of time.
I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a business where there’s so much poor advice or lousy, limiting thinking than the writing business, nor so much misinformation. Good and commercially successful novels have been created in short time-frames for as long as there have been writers. Consider A Clockwork Orange, or The Running Man, or Mickey Spilane’s I, The Jury, A Study In Scarlet, Farenheit 451, Casino Royale, and on and on and on. To claim or believe that it can’t be done is akin to stubborn insistence that the earth is flat. Believe it at your peril – it’s your career, not mine.
Now back to work for me. Got another 5K words to write before I sleep…
I’ve watched the latest craze of crowdfunding virtually everything from cosmetic surgery to book publishing, and in light of the acceptance of the practice by some of my fellow authors, have started my own crowdfunding effort.
Because I need me a motherf#cking jet.
But who’s got the money to buy one? Not I.
Instead, I want others who presumably work hard for their cash, or don’t (it’s okay if pops was rich – I don’t hate you for being the lucky sperm as long as you toss some cheddar my way), to fund my platinum level travel experience. Because, like so many authors who haven’t gotten around to saving the money to fund the creation of their book but want it now if not sooner, I’m kind of impatient and don’t want to wait.
I know, I know, you’re thinking moral hazard, but that’s so oh-fourteen. Tut tut, I say, it’s a new era, one in which I shouldn’t be expected to scrimp and save and do without in order to chase my dream. Not if I can convince you to pay for it for me.
So here’s the deal. I’ll send everyone who contributes to ensuring that I wing my way around the world in high style, custom digital photographs of myself swigging mimosas with supermodels aboard my new Falcon or Hawker or Gulfstream, or if I have to slum for shorter hops, a Lear 35. I’ll also throw in five minutes of personalized phone consultation with someone purporting to be me, who might have a slightly Indian accent but whom I assure you is actually me.
I only need a few million bucks to do this, and I just know you wouldn’t want me to continue to have to fly commercial, exposing myself to dangers like Ebola, the flu, and boredom as fellow travelers recount tedious stories about their forgettable lives.
If it’s acceptable to crowdfund my production of a book I intend to sell for profit (or as I think of it, my lottery ticket), it’s got to be acceptable for my jet needs, right?
Worst case, if I don’t raise sufficient funds to buy something really bitchin, my next crowdfund will be for a year’s worth of jet charter, and I’ll just have to reconcile myself to the humiliation of having to share the butter soft leather of my preferred conveyance with paunchy hedge fund managers & investment bankers. I presume they sterilize the seats between flights, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine.
For those of you reading between the lines, thinking this might be a sly dig at those who have their hands out for you to subsidize their dream so they can enjoy immediate gratification with zero sacrifice or risk, well, I say don’t be hatahs.
I love everyone equally. I mean, I love those who contribute serious loot to my effort way more than those that don’t, but as kind of a general statement, it’s roughly equal.
Now ante up. And as always…buy my crap.
One of the things I’ve always had a hard time buying into is the nearly religious zealotry with which some authors approach the business of self-publishing and content creation. I mean, I’m all for enthusiasm and passion, but I’m talking more the kind of creepy zeal that those moon-faced people who come to your door to tell you about their evangelical beliefs tend to have.
People. Writing is a craft. One that requires passion and skill if you’re going to do it right. It is not the search for the holy grail. It is not the answer to all questions. It is not a pursuit wherein blind, all-consuming faith is going to help you much.
I remember back in the day I had friends who played music. They would spend every spare hour after school noodling on their guitars, working to get better, to hone their chops. Quite a few were convinced that if they only really, totally, seriously lived the rock life (be it punk, or whatever), that was what was required to make them the genuine article. Some turned to drugs, aping their favorite idols because so-and-so did heroin or whatnot. Just about all of them wound up not making any money playing music, and some destroyed their lives, while still others sacrificed theirs as casualties to erroneous beliefs.
I’ve been warning for some time that it’s going to get harder to make any real money at self-publishing. I think I first warned of it around April, 2013, and have continued since then, because, well, the world’s moving fast, things are constantly changing, and there are mega-corporations filled with very smart people whose job is to sell books to the same people to whom you are trying to sell books.
It is very hard to build a readership. It’s also very hard to write anything worthy of commanding a readership. These two things are unlikely to change. What they are likely to do is become even more difficult as we move through 2015 toward 2016. That’s just the way it is.
Self-publishing is not the cure to your financial woes. It is not a get rich quick scheme. It’s not easy, or all that fun, a lot of the time. It’s the business of marketing and selling books.
Content creation for your publishing company, AKA writing, can and should be joyful and immersive and enrapturing. It should satisfy some inner part of you that needs to create. It is extremely unlikely to make you any serious money, and is quite likely to cost you a bunch over time, as do all hobbies. Back to my musician friends; they had to buy guitars and amps, strings, picks, pay for rehearsal space, pay for ads, pay for stage clothes, and on and on. They did not expect to make money unless they knocked one out of the park: got a record deal, and were lucky enough to have a hit or two. But it was still worth it to them, because it was their passionate pursuit.
But I also remember the ones who didn’t seem to get that, who’d convinced themselves that if they pushed all the chips onto the table, put it all on the line, they’d have an edge over those who didn’t. You know what? Maybe in terms of motivation they did, but not in terms of improving their odds. They were still terrible odds. They are today. They will be tomorrow. That’s just the game. Don’t like it? Don’t play.
What brought this all back to me was a long discussion I had with an aspiring writer on a plane the other day. This woman, who shall remain nameless, was convinced she could do it. I drilled down and asked her what preparation she’d done – how much time she’d spent honing her craft, learning how to write a decent story versus a crappy one, feeding her head by reading great books, etc. etc. Turns out not nearly as much time as she’d spent wishing she was Nora Roberts.
I explained in the most gentle terms that she should write with joy and abandon, really enjoy the process at every level, because she and a million other aspirants were all hoping to get the same reward, but that there were only so many treats available in the real world, and that the journey, the process of writing something good, was the critical thing. Because the odds of anyone – me, my buddies, the most capable and erudite people I’ve ever met or heard of, even Nora Roberts – getting to the point where they were making any kind of real money from their writing, were astronomical.
The conversation didn’t go well after that. It was a bumpy flight. I’m not expecting a Christmas card from her.
My point is that if you’re a writer, it’s okay if you believe it’s your true calling, but in my experience, those who narrow their odds of making it nearly universally invest massive time and effort becoming good at what they do, and as well as being lucky, work tirelessly to drag the frigging world to their door so they can catch a break. The becoming good part generally takes a lot of hard work and time – and there are no shortcuts. Everyone starts off believing their special snowflake creations are interesting because they wrote them. Becoming a decent writer is partially disabusing yourself of that conceit and knuckling down for a long, arduous task.
It’s not for everyone. And if you’re writing because you hope to be Nora Roberts? Hate to break it to you. Every author who breaks big does so in a unique set of circumstances that are unlikely to ever repeat themselves. The market, the timing, the other entrants, the zeitgeist, fads, the shifting sands of public tastes, and on and on. There will never be another Colleen Hoover or H.M. Ward or Amanda Hocking or Hugh Howey, or, yes, another Nora Roberts. There will absolutely be new breakout hits. But you won’t improve your odds by trying to be one of the other breakout hits. Your only shot, in my opinion, is to become extremely good at creating content that your audience feels it can’t get anywhere else but from you, and then communicating to that audience that you’ve got it.
Note that to create compelling work, first you need to have a command of language, an ability to evoke – to tell a story. Then you have to have a story that’s of interest. Then you need to execute: to put it down on paper, to work it, massage it, cut it to pieces, be your own harshest critic, demand more out of your bleeding fingers than the universe has any right to expect. Once it’s worth reading, you then have to figure out who might give two shits, and then learn out how to communicate to them. It’s the same whether you plan on querying agents or publishers, or go direct to readers. You need to be immediately clear on your value proposition, because everyone’s time is extremely valuable. After all, it’s the only time they’ll ever get.
Even if you do all these things correctly, you’re still only one fish in one of the most massive schools in the ocean. Luck will come into play. So will your ability to execute efficiently at every level. And even so, your chances are anywhere from abysmal to worse than that.
Write because you love to write. Get good at it. Be the most interesting person you know, and write about that, if the bug bites you. Learn to observe, to soak in detail, to roll possible descriptions around in your mind like a wine connoisseur with a prized reserve bottling. Even if the chances are slim you’ll make money at it.
Why do it then?
Because you only have a certain amount of time on the planet, and because writing, and being really good at it, is one way to find meaning, to bring order to the chaotic, to create something from nothing. It’s as close to being a god as you can get. It should complete you in a way that nothing else does, but not because you do or don’t make any money at it.
As with all creative pursuits, do so because you love it, not because you hope to take your interest in gardening and have it make you a fortune as a farmer or horticulturist. If it does, then brilliant, but if it doesn’t, the pride in a job well done has to be reward enough, or go find something else to do that gives you that charge. Because part of your job on the planet is to figure out what does, and then do it.
In this case, no evangelical belief required. Just love for the craft, and a pragmatic understanding of why you should write in the first place.
If you’re one of the fortunate few, and luck comes a calling, that will serve you better than anything I can think of.
That and an uncle who works at Random House.
But I digress.
It’s important to start each year with an eye toward improvement: ridding oneself of bad habits, and developing better ones. That’s really hard to do, so instead, I’ve decided to take a more pragmatic approach to change, focusing more on outcomes than process.
I’ve crafted a list that will address most, if not all, of my remaining shortcomings. I’ve already let everyone in on the secret to my success, which is to sleep your way to the middle and simply change character names and locales and release the same book over and over again, but is that enough? I want to be remembered as the literary All About The Bass, and nothing less, certainly not offensive treble, and that’s not going to happen without some real commitment. So here goes:
1) Write a masterful literary fiction novel that will have acquisitions editors fighting to throw money at it, as well as delight and enrapture MFAs the world over, about fifty-three of whom buy novels, but no matter. I’m thinking a saga of forbidden love set against the sweeping backdrop of post-revolutionary Iran, as the puppet government propped up by colonial interests falls and is replaced by the intolerance of religious zealotry. Of course, I don’t have the time to research all that and know precious nothing about it, so I’ll have to streamline my process some, which leads naturally to resolution #2:
2) Hire better ghostwriters. Time to upgrade the boiler room from Mumbai to the more expensive one in Calcutta. Let’s face it, the difference between $2 an hour and $3 is noticeable, and at this stage of my career my readers deserve the absolute best. Oh, and if you’re reading this: lads? Lose the u in everything – favourite being a typical example. What’s up with that? Learn to talk American, or I’ll have to hire an editor to catch your slop, and that’s just going to drive my finished product price up. Then the reader loses.
3) Get expensive cosmetic surgery. Let’s face it, nobody’s getting any younger. Mickey Rourke’s guy is having a sale, and he should be able to get rid of that bloaty, debauched, jowly thing I’ve got going on, stat. If you want to feel good, you have to look good, and I plan to double down and have him make me over into Johnny Depp, or at least that Walking Dead guy.
4) Take better care of myself. Look, I know last year I did that crowdfunding thing to buy a new liver, and I’m happy to announce that little Haji is not only the right blood type, but is resting comfortably in a custom-made cage until mine gives out. But is that really enough? What about my ravaged lungs? How many organs can I really afford, even at the cut-rates that global internet shopping enable? So I’ve got to quite the booze, the dope, and the other questionable activities, or at least pump the brakes, know what I’m saying? Starting next week.
5) Slow down. It’s exhausting supervising the oversight provided by the talented group I’ve outsourced to manage the creation of the content I claim as my own. So I’m only going to put out as many novels as my readership is willing to buy, no more. I know, I know. I said that last year. But this year I totally mean it.
6) Get serious. I’ll be releasing my eagerly anticipated “How To Write Good” craft book this year, with the best wisdom I’ve found while doing Google searches and reading message board posts on the internet with my computer using my optical mouse whilst sitting, which will not only go deep on how to write blockbuster bestseller novels in all genres, but explain how to do so while working a full time job, raising kids, and getting in ten solid hours of shut-eye per night while losing weight without dieting. As part of my effort, I’ll also include my fifty tricks to savvy internet marketing, which will include brilliant, custom-designed tweets, and heart-warming blogs that pretend to give two shits about a variety of topical subjects that will make you look interesting and informed.
7) Guilt trip Hugh Howey into saying I completely and utterly rock. I figure that should shift a few units. I’ll frigging declare The Shell Collector to be the next War and Peace and suck up like a horny freshman if he’ll just come forth and give it up for me. I really think that’s what’s been holding me back, and barring actually learning to write well, it seems putting him on speed dial is the solution.
8) Create a video with a whining sycophant screaming “Leave Russell Blake ALONE!” That will go viral, and then I’ll make my follow-on vid of “What The Ocelot Said”, which should propel me to an entirely different level of notoriety and enable me to afford that sweet Tesla I’ve been pining for but have had to deny myself.
9) Become Amazon’s bitch. I mean not only suck up to Amazon as I already do, but do so even more. I’ve been remiss in gushing about whatever they’re up to of late, but that stops here and now. Amazon is frigging Shazam squared, we’re talking godhead of innovation and goodness, and if you don’t realize it you’re a total embarrassment and should die of brain ebola and have your enemies dance on your cold, lonely grave with jackboots while ululating in triumph. I’m totally serious. Don’t even think of f#cking with them, because they are the boss, Daddy. Just ask Hachette, who’s mewling in the corner naked, rocking and holding its knees to its chest. Anyone have anything bad to say about Amazon, you have to get past me. They frigging build strong bones and teeth, man, and you should so be thankful you are even allowed to say their name, much less be associated with them. Just get over yourself. They rule.
There we have it. 2015 should rock with all this going on. If you have any resolutions you’d like to share, please do, on your own blog, because I don’t want to clutter mine with your BS. I hope this helps you create your own to-do list, because that’s my purpose in life, aside from being warm and approachable. You’re welcome.
And don’t forget. Buy. My. Crap.
My last blog of 2014 will be mercifully short.
I want to thank all my readers for the support and encouragement through a sometimes turbulent year. Thanks to you, I get to write for my dinner rather than knocking over liquor stores or running for public office.
I’d also like to thank all the authors who share my thoughts via social media, many of whom have become friends.
The arts have always been a tough gig to make it in, especially for any sustained period, and being a working author is no different. Sure, we’d all like to be superstars, but the truth is most of us will be lucky to earn a living from our craft – just as most musicians riffing away in their bedrooms won’t get record deals or sell enough to buy more than cigarettes, most little girls at the barre won’t become prima ballerinas, and most singers will have to content themselves with a smattering of applause on karaoke night rather than winning America’s Got Talent.
That’s always been the case. The arts are a labor of love, man’s search for meaning as we mark time, and it’s rare that one of us gets to do it for a living. If you’re fortunate enough to be one of those, revel in it. If not, don’t bitch or whine – you knew the odds going in. Keep at it, and force the world to recognize your worth.
Success is a funny thing. It’s not the most talented who generally break biggest or have the most noteworthy careers. Music is a perfect example. Madonna is certainly not the greatest singer or dancer of our time, and yet her career was that of a force of nature. U2 doesn’t have the best singer or guitar player or songs ever produced, and yet the band’s going on its fourth decade of commercial success. I could go on and on. The point is that talent only takes you so far, and being awesome isn’t usually nearly enough, or even completely necessary. The universe can be fickle. Deal with it.
In the end, hackneyed as the sentiment may be, it’s not the destination, but the journey. And while we’d all like to make mad fat stacks from writing, the truth is that the work has to be its own reward, because this is an uncertain business at the best of times, and a brutal one at worst. As one approaches the winter of one’s days, the size of one’s bank balance doesn’t have the same weight as it might have had when one was young, when nothing seemed more important than making it, achieving, proving your worth in the world, and when ideas like fulfillment and happiness were dismissed as silliness compared to material wealth and success. I know that was the case in my misspent youth of crass consumerism. It’s only once we begin noticing a hesitation to our step or the effects of gravity on our being that most question the importance of defining ourselves by getting into the hamster wheel every day and running balls out after the treat du jour, only to wind up exactly in the same place as we started.
Our existence can be like that. But it doesn’t have to be.
A life is about what you did each day – you are the sum of those actions. Did you help a stray dog? Were you kind? Did you behave honorably even when nobody was watching? Do you have regrets over your time spent, wish you’d known then what you knew now? If an author, did you write the words that, if you could do it all over, you would again? Each day we make choices, seemingly simple. At some point, and none of us knows when, we run out of days, and what we are left with is that string of decisions and the consequences thereof as our legacy, our imprint on the planet and each other after meager time all too briefly spent.
As I wax philosophical, I’d say the most important thing we can do as artists is to live as though we only have one year to create whatever we want to create, and to mean it with the intensity of a dying man’s last gasps. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “the old bear doesn’t know how many more summers he has to come out of the cave.” Sometimes that gets lost in all the furor over which fad is selling best, or which promotional approach is in favor or out, or who’s killing it and who’s bombing, or how to attract eyes and get visibility.
In my blog I tend to focus more on the nuts and bolts of operating a content creation and retail distribution business – writing and publishing. I don’t go into a lot of craft tips, because the world’s filled with authors airing their preferences with the shrill intensity of jilted brides. I often mention focusing on craft and trying to improve each day, as that’s an essential part of content creation, and the odds of your retail distribution business are related to the quality of the content you produce. But behind all that is the belief that if you’re going to create content, you should do it with passion and relevance, no matter how trite or silly it may appear to anyone else. You have to do it with intensity, because it’s that intensity that infuses it with meaning.
The world has millions and millions of books. More than anyone could read in a hundred lifetimes. If we’re going to try to earn our keep adding to that pile, we should try to ensure that what we produce is as good as it can be. That’s our job, and our promise to our readers. It’s a great job. There are none better. Okay, maybe a few. But most of those will get you arrested.
It’s with profound gratitude that I finish the year, and I hope everyone has a prosperous New Year and knocks the cover off the ball, no matter what the goal is. Another year is under the belt, and the canvas is again blank. That’s both exciting and scary. Live with the old bear’s wisdom in your heart, and make this your year.
And of course, buy my crap.