“Murder. Theatre. Solitaire.” Paperback Edition

Today, the first proof of the paper version of Murder. Theatre. Solitaire. came in the mail.

Right now, I’m an e-publisher. Those are the skills I am starting to become comfortable with. To publish hard copies at the highest level, (that is, with the most authorial control) requires skills that at present I don’t have. So the proof that arrived today does not have the cool cover I designed for the ebook version.

Yes, such things can be converted into paper covers, but no i didn’t have the time to master that for this project. The paper copies are not so much an afterthought, but certainly a secondary approach to getting the novel out there. But with several people expressing an interest in a paper copy, (not all of my supporters have ereaders), and given that I wanted to make another push on the novel for Halloween, I opted to go with a stock cover, provided by CreateSpace.

I know many of you more sophisticated (and better funded) indie publishers out there might see this as a step backwards. A betrayal to my brand, or the lazy way out. But for me, the very essence of writing a book, and working to publish it in any form is to produce a clean, easy to read product so as to get my story out there to entertain people. If I can do that more readily at present by making available respectable copies with a generic (but attractive) cover, that’s what I am going to do.

The day will come, I suspect, when I will knowmore of the machinery of paper publishing. Indeed, studies indicate that paper is catching back up to ebooks in terms of sales, and none of us may have a choice in the matter. But for today, I’ll check out this proof, make sure there is nothing ridiculously off about the printing, and approve it for sale. (Or make the needed corrections, though I don’t foresee many, as I used the same base file as I used for the ebook.)

I’ve gone at my own pace with every other aspects of this “authorprenuer” thing, and don’t see that changing any time soon.

In a week or two, you also can purchase a paper copy of Murder. Theatre. Solitaire. And I hope you do, of course.



Not Telling.

I share my writing ideas less and less these days. Not that I don’t want people to know what I’m writing. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy fleshing out ideas by talking about them out loud, outside of my own brain. (Which can be an odd place, believe me.) It’s that I’ve found a certain relief in keeping concepts to myself for longer periods of time-a relief that leads to greater enjoyment of the writing, and hence to some degree greater productivity.

There’s that somewhat vile but nonetheless appropriate old analogy about cockroaches. You turn on the lights in the room and they scatter and hide; you can’t see them anymore. While I’d strongly prefer that it wasn’t cockroaches, as the idea of a room full of them, in the dark makes me skin crawl. Plus few people want cockroaches around. Still, in this case, ideas, like cockroaches, can skitter away, or be greatly diluted the more light you shine on them/the more people you talk to about them.

In other words, I’ve learned over the last few years that talking about whatever my next project is too early in the process can make it seem less appealing, or make me less confident in pursuing same.

I think on some sub-conscious level artists seek the approval of their ideas by way of thoughts from those they like or trust. The problem is, if we share what our plans are with too many people too early, we get responses to the concept, and not the execution. Such responses therefore are just as likely, if not more likely, to convince us that we’re moving in the wrong direction, when in fact we have access in our imaginations to possibilities that the work will bring to life much later in the process.

Find one or two people whose taste matches yours, whom you trust, and share the possibilities with them. That way if they like it, you get encouragement to pursue it from a more objective source. And if they think it sounds problematic, it’s the thoughts of just one person, which makes it easier to deal with.

That’s what I am doing right now. I’ve written down the board concepts and structure of a future novel, about which I have told thus far, nobody, not even family. I have one or two writer friends I might tell, before I start any writing on it. (Which probably won’t happen for months.) But beyond that, mum is the word, though I really do want to know what people think.

Much like a good story, I’ll just have to wait to find out.

I Don’t Feel Like Writing

I’ve not conducted an internal study on the matter, but I think there’s a decent chance that more often than not, I don’t feel like starting my writing.

Obviously, I usually change my mind on this, or this blog, my short story collection I’m working on, my two novels, and my freelance articles wouldn’t exist. But do I leap at the chance to start work on something? Is the production of words like a refreshing drink of pure cold water after passing through a desert? Is writing the deep, life affirming first breath of a newborn as it screams its way into our world?

Actually, once in a while it is. I get into a groove, or a certain idea is ripe for exploring/continuing.

But the truth is, usually not, and at times I marvel at those writers who feel asleep or dead unless they are writing something.

For me, inertia is everything. The path of least resistance is always easiest, and to an extent a human’s default position. Last month in Rio we saw the Olympics, the ultimate testimonial to people who refused to accept the default of stillness of which I speak. Though I don’t know any Olympians personally, I’m willing to guess that even to some of them, sitting, and staying still is easier than say, running 26 miles.

In other words, swimming a 200 meter freestyle, hurling a javelin, flipping on a balance beam are not automatic things to do. You don’t roll out of bed doing them. not even poorly. The default position of a human being is to not be doing any of that stuff.

Yet Olympians eventually choose to do it. It is a choice to train, a choice to reject the default position. A choice to compete.

I think we admire that choice as much as anything else in our athletes, whether they medal or not. That’s even more so for the upcoming Paralympics.

But we cheer no less knowing that being human, most of them, for the first few hours they are awake each day just didn’t feel like doing any of it.

Nor should we beat up other writers nor ourselves if we don’t feel like writing. Even if you’re like me and usually don’t feel like starting, it’s nothing to be guilty about. And the good thing is, once the inertia is broken, it works the other way; if you’re writing, it’s easier to keep writing.

But most of us have to make it a choice, even if we choose to take a break for a few days.

Will you choose to write today?

Ending the Debate on Debate

Debate and discourse are important in a republic such as ours. I’d never want to squelch it.

But on a personal, individual level of argument, I wonder if it ever makes any sense.

Some people enjoy arguing a point for the sake of arguing a point. I used to be that way for some things. Once in a while, I still am. But these days, I ask myself if there is even the slightest chance of impressing upon the other person the need to change their mind about a solidly held belief? Am I really going to unlock a lifetime of experiences and perceptions if I “talk good?”

Almost certainly, the answer is no.

Study after study indicate people rarely change their mind based on an opposing argument from anyone, let alone from someone they meet at a party, or Bob from accounting who always chimes in on foreign policy in the break room.

It holds true on the internet as well. Set aside the rampant presence of trolls, I only say something on a message board, a blog post, a Facebook thread about once out of a hundred times, and even then just to satisfy my desire to see the other side represented. But it’s pointless, and I know it is.

True forensic debate, with rules and a moderator, and even better, a jury of some kind to decide on which side “won” by means of a better presentation of the evidence is just about the only kind of argument I think can be “won” these days. Maybe it was always like that, I don’t know. I do know that when I debate with someone I know is wrong, (and whom objective stats or science proves is wrong as well) there are a million and one ways to move the goal posts, and slip out of any straight jacket for them…because the objective is to hold on to their position, and not to debate well.

Also, to be blunt about it, sometimes I think of an argument about something, even is relative civility reigns, and I say “who cares?” If it’s a public, political issues of some kind, I have my view on it, and not one single thing about reality will shift by my perfect debate, my imperfect debate, or by engaging in insults and buffoonery. What exactly is solved when one “wins” an argument? How is a winner determined anyway?

Plus, if I am to argue at all, I want to make sure I have facts in my corner. I don’t go around starting arguments as so many people do, for the sake of it, and I’m not inclined to take the time and the effort necessary to research an entire topic so as to be able to debate it with intelligence. (Something that other person is almost never willing to do either, though many I’ve talked to would not think they had to.)

Basically, unless you get a chemical rush of some kind from arguing about something, I think debate among those who simply have an opinion, (and no influence on the topic) is a waste of time about 90% of the time. The odds are even worse if it’s a debate about things which can be neither proved nor disproved.

Carrot, No Stick.

I’ve mentioned a few times that this year has been sluggish for me in the short fiction writing department. My major projects, (the novel of any given moment, and once in a while a play script) have proceeded on schedule for the most part, but the shorter, smaller things had been too few and too far between. So much so that my  yearly goal of short stories written for 2016 was intentionally lower than that for last year.

Even this goal was looking unlikely.

Until one of my friends suggested we become writing partners.

Now, I am well on my way to my modest goal of short stories for this year, and have every reason to believe I will even pass it. All because we check with each other once or twice a week, to set a goal for ourselves, and to see how the other one is proceeding.

I am happy to report I have made my quota almost every week since we started this. The week I didn’t, I was just a handful of words shy by midnight on the final day. Had the Olympics not been on at the time, I would have gotten that one done as well.

What happens we one of us misses the mark? Exactly nothing. All carrot and no stick, in this set up. But it’s been just enough accountability for me to get some stuff done that I otherwise might not have started with as much fire. She’s not going to stop talking to me if I don’t make it, but I also want to make it because she knows of the attempt. Not that I think I’m impressing her by simply doing what I’m supposed to be doing as a writer anyway, but the short congrats from her at the end of the week is basically worth getting on with things.

I’m no Stephen King; I don’t write 5K words a day. But my goal has been the same for most of the time during this partnership, 2,000 words into a short story, or less than that so long as the story is complete.

I must say in all fairness that she too has almost always made her own stated goal for the week. She may have made it anyway, but this whole thing was her suggestion, and people don’t generally suggest things that they don’t think will be useful.

She has read an critiqued one of the stories, and her comments were helpful, but sharing the writing between us is not a requirement for this system. (Though I will probably share more in the future, as I don’t regularly talk to that many writers on a friend level, if you can believe that.)

So, if you are feeling like your not pulling the weight you ought to be pulling with your work, see if you can get a writer friends to keep your goal safe for you in their head, and who will gently check up on you sometimes. It could do a world of good for your productivity, as it has mine.

Of course, you may prefer a drill sergeant style, and that’s okay too. As I often say, whatever gets you writing.