Bitterness of Success.

Several writers in my so called “circle” have, in the last three or four years, met with financial success. For some it came fast, others it came after a while. Some of them, yes,had connections, from what I have since learned that I have no doubt helped their careers happen. Others, as far as I have ever heard, lacked such connections.

This particular small, anonymous group have in fact only two things in common beyond their current level of sometimes impressive success.

1) They were each, at some point in the not too distant past, in some level of my social circle.

2) I have heard nothing from them since their respective success.

Let;s get a few things out of the way, first and foremost, before your assumptions lead you in the wrong direction.

I’m aware they don’t owe me anything, and I don’t begrudge them their success most of the time. There is some professional jealousy in anyone with enough of an imagination and desire to share same when others succeed so close by, but on the whole, it’s folly to get too pissed off about someone “making it,” even if they did so with help not available to most of us.

That being said, it’s difficult to do backflips for the success of people that were cordial before success, and now are “too busy” to be so afterward.

We, those who have not achieved our artistic goals yet, or often counseled to “be happy for them!” And to not let their success change our view of them. Fair, on the surface. But if we are not to change our view of them, is it especially odd to expect the same? If the professional thing to do is to care about, inquire of, encourage those of our writer brethren whom we know personally during our long journeys, should it not continue once one (or more) of them attain that success?

I don’t want to suggest that no highly successful author has ever kept in touch with the so called “little people.” I’ve no doubt that it has happened. But let’s all be just a little bit frank here; a star’s interest in our personal projects is usually quite diminished, or vanished entirely as compared to the level they showed in us when they were still not where they wanted to be along with us.

All by way of saying; I accept the advice from this side of the tracks, usually. But should you, or I, attain success in our literary labors, let us remember to maintain our interests, our affections, our overall connections with those writers within our “circle.” We may not be able to maintain the same schedule, but let’s put some effort into encouragement and curiosity and advice for those who haven’t made it yet. Not every stranger who becomes a fan, and not someone you feel is stepping coattails, but colleages. True colleagues before and after your “number is called.”
Because in the end, success is no better reason to leave colleagues out in the cold than failure is.

Oops: A Business Update

My announced plan over the last few weeks was to offer all of my ebooks for free download for the reminder of the 2019 holiday season. That is still the plan.

However…

Despite being an indie author for several years now, there are still aspects of the business and distribution angle that I am getting used to, and trying to master. Among such concepts is the timing of actions, particularly when it comes to Amazon. (Which just about always takes longer.)

I did think I would be able to have everything set and ready to go by today, (Black Friday.) Most of it in fact is so, and most of my ebooks can be found on most e-retailers for free right now.

Not 100% of them in all places as of yet, however. Amazon included, though I await that.

I have considered the advice of others who tell me to stick only with Amazon. But because of many of the restrictions in place there that I don’t have to deal with in other major outlets like Kobo or Nook, I hesitate to dive into the Amazon-only camp just yet, despite the advantages.

That day may come, but that day is not today. So while everything did not open up exactly as I envisioned on this Black Friday, things are well on their way to there.

I ask that you keep checking back here on my webpage, in the “My Books” page to see if what you want is free yet in your preferred format.

As time goes on, I will learn better timing, better distribution options, and so on. That’s always been a steeper learning curve for me. Yet as long as my actual writing is high quality, (and I work hard to make sure that it is), I’ll not be ashamed.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Writing Minority Characters

I don’t usually identify minority characters in my fiction. As of this writing, i recall only doing it twice in regards to race. Once in terms of neurodiversity, (which I share with the character.) Once I alluded to but did not directly explore a budding queer relationship in a subplot.

I have written female characters quite often, and even wrote a first-person novel from the point of view of same.

So far, however, most of my characters can probably be seen as belonging to any given minority that isn’t otherwise stated. That is because the plots and action of the majority of my fiction are not affected in demonstrable ways by minority status. In many cases, I truly feel my characters could be any given race the reader envisions without difficulty.

Don’t misunderstand me, however. This is not a denial of minority statuses and experiences. Rather it is an issue of context, both in fiction and in life.

If I am playing chess with someone, our respective races are essentially irrelevant to the situation.Yet if I’m exploring best public policy or taxation or law enforcement with that same person, our races are very much relevant to the situation.

Put another way, I am not “color blind,” and anyone who claims to truly not even notice or consider the race of someone else is in fact not being logical. Yet within my fiction, even the fiction that involves exciting plots and high stakes, the characters are for the most part involved in “chess.” That is to say, there is nothing about what most of them do that requires an identification of their race. The reader gets to envision that.

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Matt bought a pack of gum and a Red Bull from the black clerk at the store. He held the door open for an Asian woman on his way out.

Who cares? The clerk may be black, or they may not  be. But in such a scene, they are playing chess.

But let’s go further than just “playing chess.” Do I, or any white authors have the right to compose characters of color in their fiction?

The short answer is yes. I’m a firm believer that authors ought to be allowed to write whatever they wish to write.

Still, just because one is allowed, it doesn’t mean one should. So as a white author, for instance, I have a lot of research to do before I feel comfortable writing a character of minority status in a situation that depends on said status. And if that character is my protagonist and not just a secondary character? I have even more work to do.

I have the most work of all ahead of me as a responsible author if that minority character is the protagonist, to whose thought the reader is privy.  Exceptional discretion should be exercised. So much so, that unless a story idea struck me to the center of my very essence, I doubt I would undertake diving to the appropriate depths of sociology, history, psychology, etc required to give a minority character the consideration they deserve.

I would be more apt to do so the farther away I am in history from such a perspective. An African gladiator in Ancient Rome for instance, is more likely to show up in my fiction after proper research than would an inner city African-American single mother living in modern Chicago. That experience is a current living experience of millions that I must accept I cannot fully understand without possibly years of investigation; I do possess latent white privilege to a degree, and I must accept the limitations I may have in bringing proper life to such a scenario on the page.

To avoid the appearance of whitewashing my fiction, I feel moving forward that I will more often make at least a passing mention of a character’s race more often. I consider this not out of guilt, but out of a desire to be broad in my appeal, so long as my characters are only playing chess.

Will I go beyond that level? That is difficult for me to say right now. Because unlike a chess board, not everything is simply black and white.

 

 

Take a Break From Patterns, If You Can.

I look for patterns. Even when i don’t look for them with my conscious mind, my subconscious is at work piecing them together.

So is yours, by the way. It’s intrinsic in the human mind to detect patterns– sometimes even when they are not actually there. And if we don’t see one at all, we move to make one.

It’s deeply evolutionary, and probably on some level has kept us alive, out of the jaws of whatever prehistoric thing. But as useful as patterns were to our ancestors, and to us, even now, a detectable pattern, plan, or form is not always the most desirable outcome.

You may assume at this point that I’m speaking of the perennial pantsers vs. planners debate. In a sense I am, but indirectly. That old literary chestnut relates to how an author goes about composing a full-fledged story arc–a means to a finished product. A finished product with, yes, a pattern.

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We go beyond the simple matter of pants or planning, however, when we talk about pure experimentation with our writing.

Experimenting with your words, your use of language, even the shapes your sentences make on the printed page is  a significant exercise of the imagination. Throwing things out there, breaking all the rules, or making up our own. It’s exciting, but scary. It’s liberating but also nerve wracking. Practitioners of this are both the powerful and the prisoner.

Prisoner? How? Why to the patterns of course.

Again, the human mind is not random by nature, no matter how odd some of it’s creations may be. It will seek out a pattern. It will impose one where none exists. And once recognized, it will strive to add matching components that complete said pattern, real or imaginary. Such rules that spring lessen the positive impacts of writing without caution.

Put another way, we ironically, must work harder to be random, to color outside of the lines, than we do to fall into place in our creative work.

I’m working on some long form fiction now that can best be classified as experimental. I’ve told myself I must do only two specific (and for now secret) things with the work. Beyond those, it need not, should not make conventional sense. And yet, there I sit during any given writing session on this project looking for proper ways to construct an arc or assign motivation to a character. Not only am I pulling a Nanowrimo by blocking out the inner editor, I am trying to block out inner logic. Believe me, it’s easier to block the editor.

Still, it’s worth it for a chance to jump into the fiction-writing sandbox. I’ve no idea what future this long form experiment has. It may go public, it may stay hidden in my computer. It may or may not even get finished. (If one can truly finish such a project.) But if I keep reminding myself to not make too much sense, the benefits will appear.

Jealousy? Or Something Else?

In about nine out of ten cases, I don’t connect well on a personal level to fellow writers that achieve success. I don’t have even casual social media interactions with any blockbuster celebrity writers, but here and there on my feeds there is a connection to someone who, if not made it big, at least made it medium, as it were.

I don’t know what to say to these people.

Granted, sad as this is, they usually have little to say to me anyway. In a few cases, some people with whom I at least casually chatted before their success have had little to nothing to say since their mid-sized dreams have come to fruition. (That’s on them, not me, as far as I’m concerned.)

But set aside those cases. It feels to me that the moment they become successful, even to the degree I am speaking of, my already modest ability communicate and reach out to other people is further weakened.

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Why? Jealousy? Maybe, if one were to use an obtuse definition of the word. I would prefer their level of success to my own at this point, yes. If that alone is jealousy to you, than I’m jealous. To me, however, my frustration with not attain their level of achievement is not the source of my discomfort, so the main issue is not jealousy. It’s relatability.

Once someone has confirmed their level of accomplishment as an author, they enter a different world. Yes, they still must write, and all of the concerns and tricks and terrors of creating a manuscript remain for both the arrived and the not-yet-arrived. However, much of what the author of even modest achievement talks about and explores is the nature of that success. The book tour, the interview, how to follow it up. Increased traffic on websites and social media feeds. I’ve nothing to offer such a person, because I haven’t done any of that. They have little to offer me for the same reason.

I’ll admit that seeing other people make it through with their plans does get me frustrated about my own not panning out. Again, if that’s jealousy to you, than use your green pen on me I suppose. Yet for me, I just don’t like being reminded of what I’ve not been able to do, and that makes up the lion’s share of available topics from most authors once they have crossed their personal literary Rubicon.

Understand, I don’t wish failure on others. I can, however, become somewhat blinded by the light of their success, and that makes it hard to see my own steering wheel. Not to mention, it’s just awkward.

With rare exception, I don’t unfollow, unfriend, or otherwise avoid such people. If they talk to me, I still talk to them. But it is easier if the subject isn’t our mutual interest of authorship.

I wonder,  is this is  a good, bad, or indifferent way to feel?