Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Personal Problem With Self Publishing

(Or I Meander And Babble And Don't Say Much Of Anything - You Know, Like Usual)

There's a lot of discussion lately about self/indie publishing, or whatever you want to call it. Even ten years ago it was a joke. Now not so much.

eBooks (or is that Ebooks? I still don't know) have changed the landscape. Writers and small presses, and even big ones, are finding success with the model. Joe Konrath, John Rector, quite a few others.

Sure, not everyone is finding success with it and there are a lot of factors that will or won't lead to sales. Marketing, getting the word out, playing the long game, being patient, pushing the book without being annoying and on and on. But enough are that it's something every writer should be thinking about.

I like the idea of digital and self publishing. Power to the people. Telling a story outside the constraints of the book as a physical object. Using digital as a means to cover a wide range of media and connect to an audience. The more formats a story is in the more likely someone is to experience it.

And really isn't that what it's about? Experiencing it? If done well I don't read a book or watch a movie. I get taken in by it. I get invested in it. I live it.

Anyway, that was a tangent.

Over the last couple of years, particularly the last few months, some fantastic writers who I have enormous respect for have been jumping on the self publishing bandwagon.

Allan Guthrie's Bye Bye Baby and Killing Mum

Anthony Neil Smith's Choke On Your Lies and reprinted Psychosomatic.

Chris F. Holm's 8 Pounds.

Chuck Wendig's Irregular Creatures.

Anne Frasier, who pretty much has her entire backlist on Kindle.

And (no, it's not "self published" strictly speaking, but it's the equivalent of two guys selling stereo equipment out of the back of their van - in a good way) Needle Magazine with Dave White's short story collection More Sinned Against.

But as the title of this meandering and pimp-ridden post implies I have a problem. It's my problem. Completely my problem. And isn't even about the idea of self publishing.

About a week ago I was talking with a friend who was having some publisher drama and we were talking about possible options. One that kept floating to the surface was self publishing. Every time it came up it got shot down for very good, very specific reasons I won't go into here.

But one of the things that came up as a factor for success was the idea that if you want to go the self pubbed route you damn well better have something you can self pub.

Yeah, I know. Duh, right? Only I don't think a lot of people look at that.

One of the reasons I think writers like Joe Konrath are successful is that they have a backlist. Before he got his deal with his Jack Daniels series he had something like nine trunk novels sitting around (though, to be honest, I don't know if those trunk novels ever got out of the trunk). And he didn't go the self published route until he had an audience through his series.

And that leads me to my problem.

I'd love to put together a collection of, say, short stories and drop it onto the Kindle. I just don't have any.

Well, no good ones, at least. I have one floating around for an anthology that may or may not happen. It's a Lovecraftian Western that I'm particularly fond of. And one about a dead drug runner that has problems I haven't had time to fix and... that's it. The rest are starts and no finishes, meandering messes that I don't even know what to do with yet. Many of which feature drug addicted hookers.

Huh.

Anyway, yes these are excuses. Only they're not. I'm in the middle of rewriting DEAD THINGS that's due in, oh, a month or so (!!!!!!)

And I'd really like it to not suck. So far I'm largely happy with it. I have lots of ghosts, lots of violence and Santa Muerte as a pretty nasty antagonist. I've thus far resisted making any sort of Femme Fatale comments. Be proud of me.

But at some point I will do it. I'm a short story writer at heart. Besides, all the cool kids are doing it and I'm nothing if not a follower.

Sure as shit not a trailblazer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pandemic

Park City, UT

So about a month ago, Chuck Wendig of the aforementioned Irregular Creatures asked me if I wouldn't mind contributing some word count to this thing going on that he and his buddy Lance Weiler put together at this little festival in Utah called Sundance.

I said... well, what the fuck do you think I said?

Pandemic is a weeklong event centered around Park City, but happening on the internet so y'all can play along. You'll be able to follow it here and on Twitter with the hashtag #pandemic11.

It's about a... disease.

If I were to tell you any more than that it'd spoil the fun.

But I can say that I, and the lovely and talented Inkgrrl tossed a couple bricks onto the world-building wall.

Here's the short film, Pandemic 41.41806 -75.654259 showing at the festival.

Turn out the lights, get real close and...

roll 'em.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

David Jaime Del Toro - Yes, Ladies And Gentlemen We Have A Trial!

Los Angeles, CA

Little background. LA Fire Department Captain David Jaime Del Toro is accused of murdering and dragging Jennifer Flores' as she hung out of the back of his pickup truck (presumably already dead) a quarter mile from his house in Eagle Rock to the place where she was dumped back in 2006.

It was a messy, and rather long crime scene as I'm sure you can imagine.

You can read about it here and here.

For a more complete picture, read the comments. There's a novel's worth of drama in there already.

I have gotten more hits looking for a status on Mr. Del Toro's pending trial than anything else in this blog's short lifespan. It's been over four years and no trial, prompting this anonymous comment some time ago as way of explanation.

It's actually a little odd that this appears to be the only place this has been discussed up to now.

So the other night I saw this comment come across the transom:
Looks like David is finally on trial. He has been in court all week. Why no news from the Media?
And lo and behold they're right!

Judge Lance Ito (Yes, that Lance Ito) is presiding over the case and it looks like prosecution isn't going after the death penalty. Smart of them. I doubt they'd get it.

Anyway, trial is supposed to end February 18th. But let's be honest that ain't gonna happen. With all the delays they've had so far? I'm not seeing it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chuck Wendig's Irregular Creatures

I just finished reading Chuck Wendig's short story collection IRREGULAR CREATURES.

The man has range. He is not a one trick pony. Okay, if that pony's trick was to sprout jet engines out of its ass and fly to the moon and back then maybe.

Reading IRREGULAR CREATURES is kind of like watching a Twilight Zone marathon of nothing but the good episodes. Nine stories of whimsy, absurdity, terror. Some of the stories are stronger than others but they're all good.

Dog-Man and Cat-Bird (A Flying Cat Story) shows us a man in serious need of inspiration, redemption and more than a little responsibility, finding it in the wings of a flying cat.

A Radioactive Monkey and Mister Muh’s Pussy Show are both cautionary tales about wanting what you can't or shouldn't have and to always beware when those things are handed to you a little too easily.

Product Placement, This Guy, Lethe and Mnemosyne play around with memory, sanity and, in the last of the three, a giant chicken.

Do-Overs and Take-Backs and Beware of Owner both focus on children, one completely out of his depth and the other pretty okay with what's going on around him. One of them is fucking scary. I'm sure you can figure out which one.

And then there's The Auction. My favorite of all of them it tells the story of twelve year old Benjamin who goes along with his father to an auction of... well, stuff. Weird stuff. Like mermaids and Bigfoot and dog-hair ice cream. And when Benjamin tries to do the right thing it doesn't quite go as planned.

The Auction is the sort of story that reminds adults of what it's like to be a kid. The wonder of strange things, the idea that the world is maybe a lot more interesting than we've been led to believe. It's a fairy tale for grown-ups without the fairy tale trappings.

All told IRREGULAR CREATURES is an outstanding collection of stories. Pick it up, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Somebody Kick The Fat Lady Back In Her Dressing Room

Los Angeles, CA

So a couple of days ago the announcement went out that The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood will close January 31st.

Well, shit.

The Mystery Bookstore is an institution, a home base, a port in the storm. It welcomes readers, authors, and almost-authors. The owners, Kirk Pasich and Pamela Woods, and the store's backbone, Linda Brown and Bobby McCue are the best sorts of booksellers. Nice, considerate, helpful, knowledgeable.

I have met more authors and made more friends because of that store than anywhere else. They have helped my career in more ways than I can think of.

First time I went in there my own writing was kind of stalled, didn't really know what I wanted to do with it. I had just joined Sisters In Crime, figuring I'd see how this whole crime writing thing works.

I walk in there and I see Linda, the nicest, most supportive person you will ever meet, and I ask her, "So, what's good?"

I have never seen anyone move so fast as when she shoved Victor Gischler's GUN MONKEYS, the Ugly Town edition, into my hands and says, "YOUHAVETOREADTHISOHMYGODITSSOGOODYOULLLOVEITTAKEITTAKEITTAKEITHERE". And she's so cute when she does that. Enthusiasm's infectious and Linda's Typhoid Mary.

You should see her talk about HELLO KITTY MUST DIE. It's fun to watch.

And then there's Bobby. Low key, deliberate, an encyclopedia of every sort of crime fiction written ever. Had I asked him that question I'd have gotten the same answer but he'd have started with, "Well, what do you like to read?"

The point here is that this is a store of people. Not nameless machines, not pissy high school students picking up a holiday shift. This store is a labor of love staffed by people who love the genre, love the authors, but most of all love books.

When I head the news I was devastated. Not just as a reader, or an author or even as some weirdo freak who likes hanging around musty libraries inhaling book dust like it's cocaine, but as an Angeleno.

L.A.'s culture exists in the cracks. It's not the movies, the flashy neon, Walt Disney Music Hall, The Pantages.

No, it's the indie band playing at some shady dive in East L.A., it's the graffiti murals painted on boxcars, is the little theaters in Hollywood where playwrights ply their craft. Passion, determination, space to create or to let creation stand. It's places like The Mystery Bookstore.

L.A. is losing a shining gem, an example of what this city could be, what this city, sadly, won't let itself be. It's a place for books that doesn't seethe with over-marketed hype. It's intimate, quiet, unassuming.

Like a host of other bookstores in the Southland that have gone down over the years its passing will lessen the landscape. The latest in a long litany of names: A Change of Hobbit, Either-Or, Dangerous Visions, Dutton's Brentwood, many more that I can't begin to remember.

On a more personal level I had hoped to have my first book signing there next year. Linda threatened me if I didn't. I don't fuck with Linda.

Now, of course, that's not looking like a possibility. I would have been nice to get my name in their register, a massive prison intake ledger with the scrawl of some amazing authors in it that show just how well loved this store is.

To their credit, Kirk and Pam are doing their damnedest to figure out how to save the store. They're brainstorming, white-boarding, scribbling eldritch sigils in chalk to find the elusive answer to the store's survival.

So the fat lady's not singing, yet. Crossing fingers. Toes, eyes, everything I got two of. Yes, even those.

But either way they're having a party on the 31st. 6:00 until, who knows? I'll be there, that's for damn sure.

The Mystery Bookstore is 1036-C Broxton Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

See y'all in a couple weeks.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

You Must Be. Or You Wouldn't Have Come Here.

What we know: Some guy shot a congresswoman and several other people at a public event yesterday killing some and wounding more.

What we don't know: Why.

Oh, you might think you do. I'm sure you have theories. I do. I think he was a schizophrenic nutjob who got hold of a gun. High functioning enough to post meandering rants on Youtube.

But do I KNOW that? No.

I know that no more than others know it's because of right wing rhetoric, Sarah Palin, the mental health industry, the gun lobby, the banks, the economy, Jews, gays, Christians, Pagans or the fucking tooth fairy.

But goddamn it doesn't keep us from saying it, does it?

The kicker? It's nothing new. Oklahoma City? It's them gun-toting freaks! Columbine? Video games and bullies! 9/11? Blame the [FILL IN THE BLANK WITH BROWN PERSON WITH FUNNY ACCENT DU JOUR].

It's like something bad happens and we all lose our collective shit. Which, of course, is exactly what it is.

Take a glance at Twitter and you'll see people saying this is all a right wing conspiracy. That "They" targeted and tried to murder a liberal congresswoman. That Palin should be hanged for being a traitor.

That's the sort of hypocritical thinking psycho Pro-Lifers use when they shoot abortion doctors. It's like saying, "I hate bigots and I'm gonna root out and kill every single one of them."

You can't reason with that. Logic crashes against emotion. Facts become useless. People in the throes of this don't want facts, they want "truth" however it is they see that and they'll stick their fingers in their ears and go "Lalalalalalalala" until you stop talking and go away.

The worst part? We ALL do it.
Alice: But I don't want to go among mad people.
The Cat: Oh, you can't help that. We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.
Alice: How do you know I'm mad?
The Cat: You must be. Or you wouldn't have come here.
The economy is shit. Jobs are going overseas. The world is changing. The weird, unobtainable promises that we gave in to are revealing themselves as the sham they always were. The American Dream might as well be Santa Claus.

We're scared. All of us. If it's not because things are changing it's because things aren't changing. It's because we don't know what's around the bend, don't know if we'll have jobs, can feed our families, or can get them the medical care they need.

Nothing is harder to break than fear, especially when we're all in the middle of it. It turns us into three year-olds who just want everything to be okay right the fuck now. And if it takes more than two steps to solve a problem brains start to shut down.

So people look for something to blame.

It's what caused an entire nation to lose it's collective shit and elect a psychopath to office who told them that If they just killed all the Jews everything would be all right.

Remember that. Hitler was elected, which should tell you plenty about collective insanity right there. Plenty of sane people knew it was a bad idea and it happened anyway.

That's the problem with moderates. By and large they don't make nearly as much noise as fear mongers.

So what do we do? Chip away at the insanity with reason and hope some asshole with a .45 doesn't take exception to our poking at his rage-filled id?

Well, yeah, actually.

Pull on your big boy pants (or big girl pants - either/or), take a deep breath and calm the fuck down.

Meeting the rage with more rage doesn't help. Doesn't necessarily stop me, as many of my rants here can attest. It just fuels the fire. This is why it's a bad idea to, for example, burn down that Westborough Baptist church with all those assholes inside it.

Well... No. No, it's a bad idea.

Mostly. I think.

Let me get back to you on that.