Hey hey, whoa now, settle down! Yeah, it’s true–the first-ever sale of Dead Weight. Now just $2.99 through the end of the year because I’m totally all about the giving and stuff. But also just because I want you to read it. And it’s super cheap.
And no, it doesn’t bother me at all that something I procrastinated into several years of bloated development can be yours for the price of a freakin’ Sausage McMuffin. #bitter
Little past midnight on an early Friday morning, which situates itself nicely with my routine post schedule. Hence, here we go.
Been thinking about authors, and what makes an author. Are you a writer if you wrote one book? Or does is take two? Or five? And so on. I expect you’ll get different answers from various writers. I’ve been drinking—shocker—so you’ll have to forgive inaccuracies. And spoiler: there may be dozens. But if memories hold true, Stephen King once questioned how an author like J.D. Salinger could have penned such an influential novel only to disappear into obscurity afterward. It’s only natural that King, the embodiment of prolific, who wrote two books and eight short stories in the time it’s taken me to expand this paragraph, would throw a little shade Salinger’s way. But I tend to agree. Are you a painter if you created the Mona Lisa and never picked up a brush again? Technically, sure. Realistically, I don’t think so. Not actively, anyway. If you scored a touchdown in the 1985 Super Bowl, well, then you used to play professional football. But you can’t truly call yourself a football player if you haven’t picked up a pigskin in three decades. You’re retired. Point is, you gotta keep at it, or you’re just a literary interloper regardless of your untapped, ignored ability.
Degenerate. My third book. As I mentioned, I wrote the first few pages, but this story’s got a bit of a slower burn to it. That’s okay. In fact, I’m savoring it. But I wanted to make sure I grabbed readers before I set up the main narrative. Figured it out tonight, and boy was it satisfying. I’ll be starting in with a zealot’s fever in November and doing my best to knock out at least half of the book.
(Half of the book, he says. That’ll be the day.)
Shut up, inner monologue—nobody asked you!
Sophistication. It’s in better shape, but not where it needs to be. I have 10 days to bring everything together before I re-submit and call upon Zeus himself for a little help. Good news here is that the changes I’m making feel good. I didn’t feel at all that way about the revisions that chopped Dead Weight from 130,000-plus words to 90,000, I’ll tell you that. Really excited for folks to read it. Nothing else, it’s going to be ultra-relevant in today’s goofy world.
Every November, aspiring authors around the world try to knock out a novel in the span of a month. It’s really 50,000 words, which in my estimation isn’t a novel, but who’s counting? Opinion is, 50,000 words is still a lot for 30 days.
Anyway, as I’ve stated before on this blog thingie I’m maintaining, I don’t want to spend a trillion years writing my third book. Therefore, I might unofficially take part in this little contest. The reward is the work–don’t need any other motivator.
The third book has a tentative title, which is Degenerate. There’s a not-so-clever double meaning for you. A bit more:
Lucas Thimbleton, a twenty-four year-old copywriter for a San Mateo startup, is on the verge of a nervous breakdown when he inexplicably suffers widespread vision loss in one eye. The doctors say it’s macular degeneration triggered by excessive stress, but he begins to wonder if it’s something more, especially when the shadows in his periphery begin to take shape and whisper wonderful and horrible things to him. Is it madness or destiny? He isn’t sure he wants to find out.
Just video-conferenced some dumb friends and polished off a few rounds of Noah’s Mill. Yep—a Zoom conference at 11:30 on a Friday. Because, super cool. Right, guys? Even better—Zoom cuts non-paying customers off every 40 minutes. So a bunch of dudes get kicked from a video chat, and then log back in 27 seconds later. I counted.
Anyway, some shit.
I’ve been listening to the audiobook version of Earthcore on Audible. It’s written by Scott Sigler and read by Ray Porter, who is, I’m convinced, the Beyonder from Secret Wars, but as an audiobook narrator. Really interesting, unexpected work so far. Sigler strikes me as a bit of a perv, but unabashedly so, which is respectable. His writing feels genuine and, more, unapologetic. I dig that. Not sure if the work will keep up, but a couple chapters in and the characters are interesting, the story intriguing. Plus, as expected, Porter’s reading comes as close to holiness as mortals can withstand.
The Orville. I don’t understand. Seth MacFarlane is a talented dude, but I’m struggling with this one. From what I can gather, he intended to make a Star Trek spoof similar to Galaxy Quest. But instead, he made a Star Trek drama peppered with potty humor. Somebody mis-marketed this show because that’s not what I signed up for, gods blast all. The weirdest, most confusing part is that the last episode proved more dramatic than at least 80 percent of Star Trek. It posed some genuinely interesting, thought-provoking questions. It just wasn’t—you know—funny. And when the real Star Trek Discovery is about to debut, I don’t know why I need to see The Orville’s similar take on a utopian sci-fi far future.
No–I’m not referencing a powerful laxative, although I’d definitely endorse that brand. This refers to the fiber floodgates that will soon allow 1000mbps (that’s 125 megabytes per second, if you’re counting) of hot, delicious data to drown my home.
I cut the cord two years ago, but I’ve been stuck with a measly 200mbps connection down–and it’s inconsistent because #cablemodem. That means my connection slows to something like 2400 baud whenever my neighbors download too much HD porn. So, AT&T Fiber became available in my neighborhood and, without any research or even a fleeting thought of potential repercussions, I ordered the shit out of it.
Observe the differences between your grandpa’s boring internet connection and my soon-to-be coolest-kid-on-the-block mega bandwidth.
They come to install it this Thursday. Except, this is AT&T, which means they’re just going to promise me they’ll be here, but they won’t show, and they won’t call to tell me they won’t show. Jesus, what have I done? Look forward to a follow-up post in which I bitch out AT&T for at least 3,000 words.
I just looked, and the thermostat in my house says ‘GTFO,’ which is definitely scientifically accurate. I didn’t just ponder the idea of it, but actually called several hotels to see if I could transplant my family to the cool embrace of some suite for the next two days so that we might ride out this unnatural heat wave. Some would call that a big, fat waste of money, and they’d be right, but that won’t stop me from offering up my middle finger as a pacifier.
I think it’s at least two or three jabrillion degrees in here, which is not a measurement of heat. Nothing I can do about it, though. Nobody in the Bay Area has an air conditioner, myself included, because the sun is not supposed to take a holiday in these parts. Except, it has, and we’re all scrambling. Home Depot and Orchard and every other hardware store within a 100-mile radius sold out of portable cooling units as though they were the last bottles of water on the planet. Now, there’s a surreal, dystopian feeling around the city as people sit outside and pray for a wind, terrified of returning to their homes. Makes sense. The coolest room in my house is the garage, and that shit ain’t right. My poor, miserable dog–a Siberian husky mix–looks like he’s on the verge of irreversible psychosis.
I’m sitting on the floor now, trying not to stick to it and failing, as I type up this post in an effort to distract myself from all the symptoms of a monumental heat stroke. It’s not looking good, people.
So I’m typing this on the new iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard cover while I watch the latest episode of the Unabomber show on the Discovery channel. The latter part is probably irrelevant, except to acknowledge that the series is quite good and recommend it. The former is impressive. Never thought a tablet and cover could replace a desktop or laptop, but I’m teetering on the edge of saying good-bye to traditional hardware in favor of something truly portable.
Anyway, I’m in the middle of some revisions to Sophistication. I survived this on Dead Weight, too, and once again, it is the worst part of the creative process. The part I dread the most. Not because it’s particularly difficult, but because it feels wrong. Like coloring over your colors. But it must be done and hopefully–fingers crossed and say a prayer–it’ll make the novel that much better. Deadline is September 15. That’s when I’ll resubmit to a publisher and sacrifice a lamb or two to the dark gods so that the folks on the receiving end of my outbox find a shit to give.
The third book. I’ve been meaning to write about it a bit more. I already said that it’s inspired by a friend with a problematic eye issue. I wrote five or 10 pages and liked the cynicism and comedy of it. I started to learn about the main character. That he hates his job. That his grandmother is unwell. That the stress of keeping his broken family afloat in an expensive city is about to overwhelm him. That’s really where the narrative begins.
The way I form stories may or may not be similar to other authors. I’ve never really bothered to check. I see scenes–moments–and eventually a narrative begins to form.
Picture the main character in his shitty, dilapidated, rent-controlled apartment with his anorexic grandmother. She’s from some old country, speaks a single word of English, and it is the only word she ever says. Hungry. Or maybe it’s Hungary. Imagine the main character, barely a man, washing her hair in the kitchen sink under the dim lights as she stares up at him and smiles. Maybe she says hungry and maybe he nods back to her as he scrubs her thin, gray hair and tries not to think about what’s going to happen to them if he loses his job. His head aches and his left eye throbs and all he wants to do is curl up into a ball and hide. But that’s not an option.
I don’t write straight fiction, so of course there will be much more to this picture. But that’s a post for another day.
Five or 10 pages. Written third-person present tense. But about a week ago I started to think I should scrap the opening and rewrite everything in the first-person. Never written a first-person novel before. It sounds… easy, to be honest. Prose tethered to inner monologue. The idiosyncrasies of the way the character thinks and acts. You can fuck it up bad, too, obviously. But I’m eager to try it. It’s new and interesting. So we’ll see where it goes.
Taking a break from editing to post about a couple of my latest fixes in books and TV. Distractions, yes. Inspirations, yes.
First up is Denis E Taylor’s Bobiverse series. It’s an imaginative and oftentimes hilarious trilogy about sentient spaceships. You’re thinking that sounds super nerdy, and I won’t deny it, but it’s surprisingly accessible and equally charming. It’s also read by Ray Porter, who is the absolute best.
I’ve also been watching Mr Mercedes on DirecTV’s Audience channel. Yeah, that exists. I was just as skeptical as you probably are reading this, and still I gave it a try. Turns out, was a smart choice. It’s based on Stephen King’s story. Wonderful acting. Good pacing. Well made so far. Sample the first two episodes here:
I’ll know I’ve made it when something in the books industry moves fast for me. Or, at the very least, at an average pace—I’d settle for that. So far, no such luck. Agencies and publishers seem to exist within a bubble of space that time can’t access.
Take the latest example, Publishers Weekly’s review of Dead Weight, which, happily, posted today. A lovely surprise, and I’ll get to that below, but first I must tell you how long the 150-word write-up took the reputable outlet. Not days. Not weeks. Months. And months. And months. I submitted a typo-ridden first pass of the manuscript to PW back in November of last year. If you’re counting, that’s nine months! The book’s been out for seven, for crying out loud.
About three months ago, I received an e-mail from PW that explained Dead Weight was under consideration for review. Oh, that’s cool, I thought, as any author would. After all, PW is the premier outfit for book reviews, and they’re picky about the reviews they do. To quote them directly, “Of the hundreds of self-published titles received each month, only a handful of the very best are selected for review.” Simply being chosen for a possible review therefore is something of an honor. A month or so go, I learned that they had decided to review Dead Weight, which was also a thrill. And now the review is posted.
I’ve read horror stories about PW reviews, especially as they relate to self-published authors. Words like vicious and relentless and demoralizing were thrown around in blog posts and message forums, and as a result I’ve braced for the worst. But here we are and the finished write-up is generally pretty positive. Some highlights, minus all the spoilers.
A “… gritty, cinematic post-apocalyptic thriller.”
A “… tense journey.”
“Despite some loose ends, the work will broadly appeal to fans of breathless end-of-the-world action sequences.”
The harshest criticism in the review is that the premise is “almost absurd.” Which, if you’re a cynic, yes, it’s true. In the same way that most fiction is pretty absurd. One of my favorite books of all time, I Am Legend, is about a dude who singularly battles vampires at the end of civilization. Also, you know, absurd—until you read it.
So that’s two reviews. Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. The two most reputable places out there. And Dead Weight survived. It’s a win, people. I’ll take it.
One last note about the PW review. The bulk of it is not a critique. It’s a summary. With spoilers. That shit ain’t cool. If you’re okay with that, here’s a link: