The Chronicle of Woe

Writing news: Eternal is ready. It’s time. It’s the moment of truth, the inflection point in my writing career, the fateful extra long sentence with lots of repetition to illustrate an overly simple fact: self-publication time!

The Wife constantly pesters me about it. I buy all these books, she says. They’re selling well and the authors are making careers by themselves, they don’t need no stinkin’ publisher. Your book is so much better, she says. Go make me some money so I can live off you, she says.

So, yes dear, I say. Everything is almost ready, files are good to go, art is in place for the most part BUT WAIT.

Beat up from dozens of trips in a crowded backpack

Beat up from dozens of trips in a crowded backpack. I should’ve used better lighting, you can’t see the cool cover design!

The very same day the last touch is done on the print version, Dearest Pro Bono Editor of Eternal (did I ever post her name here? It seems rude to say names so I won’t) calls me.

I sold my soul for you, she says over a terrible connection. I know so-and-so and told them you’re brilliant (aaaaaw!) They’ll take a look at your book, she says.

I’ve had two glasses of wine, she says.

I’m flabbergasted she goes to such lengths for me, but some semblance of due diligence must be done! I check them out online and Booktrope sounds like a grand lot of fellers. Hell yea, I say, let’s give it a go. And so, here I am.

I won’t lie to you, I’m wary of going into this process again, but I would be a fool to pass up such an amazing opportunity. If nothing comes out of it career-wise, I’m sure Eternal will be better for it in the end, and that’s what matters most really. One way or another, Alexandra and Aaron Gretchen will see the light of day–but yeah, I’d rather see it happen this way. So…wish me luck I guess?

 

scenesepS2

 

Non-writing news: no donuts for you! It turns out that Fairbanks, Alaska is a huge dick to new business of little means. Why, let me tell you of our adventures!

We (the wife and I, that is) tell our franchise rep from Paradise Donuts that we’ve saved $90k for this business. The man says, hot diggity damn, that’s more than enough to spare. I’m paraphrasing here.

We scout a location (what a pain in the ass in itself) and get some estimates. Nope, can’t do it for less than $100,000, the high-balling goes on-location. Dick tits, we say. So alright, we secure some financing then. After months of wheedling, $50,000 from the bank in business loan form, plus some extra from the outbuilding allowance in the lease. That should be plenty, we are excited!

The general contractor says, you know, I’ve been putting a lot of hours getting everybody to give me some serious numbers, and it looks like it won’t be less than $200,000. I might be able to negotiate down to about $150,000 if you give some specific blueprints for the whole thing.

That’s outrageous! We say. Get more estimates, quick! Surely there’s some company in this town that will do this project for less. Go with the lowest bidder, that always works out great!

The lowest is $240,000.

So, okay. My parents want to loan us $50,000. I feel like dirt for taking their money after everything they’ve done for me, but if we haggle hard enough, we can still do this. That’s…good, right?

Risk every penny we have? Get majorly in debt, with family no less? Deal with this town’s prices forever? Yoke ourselves to Alaska’s unforgiving EVERYTHING for at least the next 5 years? Hmm. Determination is starting to fray by this point, truth be told.

Alright, so let’s get some blueprints. Architect prices are crazy I’m sure, but it can’t be more than a few grand. That sounds insane already, but we can do that, and we need them anyway because both the location owner and the City require them. It’s for the Greater Good.

The first proposal comes in, after waaaaaaay too long of a wait. We open the email with some trepidation. It’s hard to decide what I’m hoping for by this point.

We started laughing at this point

BLARGH.

Here’s the bottomline: we’re moving. We could maybe make it work with a lot more effort and determination and quite a bit of luck. But no, no thanks. We’re both tired of this town and this is an excellent time to pack up and go. We’ll take our cash elsewhere and see ya never, moose and beaver! Wow, that was weak, sorry about that.

It’s regrettable I won’t be able to say anymore “oh yeah, I live in North Pole Alaska, I’m so cool” but that’s the price I must pay.

It’ll happen next year probably, since it takes a while to transfer job and sell house and procrastinate as much as possible. But ten years in Alaska feels like more than enough 40-below weather to last me for a lifetime.

 

scenesepS2

 

LASTLY! Playing games while blathering over them is the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I was going to say that I’ve let my inner nerd run rampant with this, but that would imply that the guy is not in display at all times. So let me try that one again: I’m a huge nerd and I’ve run rampant with this.

Yes, that’s more appropriate. I’ve even done a bunch of tutorials, I’m so damn good. Spelunky 101 is 1337, yo.

Let us unravel it together

Click it and let us unravel it together

I’m aware how silly it looks to anyone not “in the scene.” I’m okay with that. After literally hundreds of hours talking non-stop while concentrating on gameplay at the same time, words seem to come easier to me throughout daily life. Who could have thought, right? I used to dread the mere sight of a microphone, but now it’s so natural. I find myself speaking out more at work, asking questions out loud that I wouldn’t have voiced before, coming up with witty retorts that would have taken several minutes before. This entire endeavor has been and continues to be a huge time investment, but I feel it’s been worth every second.

Besides, I would have gamed my life away anyway; addiction is a powerful thing. Might as well entertain while doing it.

So that’s life in Israel so far. Be good to one another, space cowboys.

 

Foolish Endeavors

The blog hasn’t even officially started and I’m already neglecting it. I don’t think you could find a better indication that I’m on my way to professional writerdom.

No real news writing-wise. Still working on more novels and I’ve been drawing a map of Eternal that I’ll absolutely post when it’s finished. My desire to make this into the thing that I do for a living has only increased, never fear!

I was hopeful for the agents that expressed interest and requested partials at the PNWA conference (the previously mentioned “good news”), but it’s now far past their stated response time. I can’t even claim they might not have received it, because they sent out an automated “we have received your submission” response. I’ll be bugging them again anyway, just in case.

Or I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t even bother. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they found the premise enticing enough. But this entire process feels archaic nowadays, and an enormous time expenditure with zero guaranteed results. Call me an impatient piece of garbage, but the alluring call of self-publishing has become much harder to ignore as time has dragged on.

Since I’m in for the long haul with this career, I don’t need to be a big breakout hit on my first book or anything like that. If the novel is good enough (and I put in all the work necessary to get it out there, of course!) it should be at least a moderate success. Subsequent books will increase sales until, hopefully, a living wage will be accrued. A writer’s name isn’t made in a day! I’m more than willing to be patient in that respect. What grates is the wait to actually get started.

When in doubt, post a picture of your cat

When in doubt, post a picture of your cat.

If the book fails—which it wouldn’t, because it’s motherfucking awesome—but if it fails, well, it’ll be a much, much smaller blow than it failing through an agent and a publisher. And though time would still be a factor, it’d be in no danger of going out of print because of lackluster sales. It seems like there’s very few downsides to the self-publishing adventure when compared to the twenty thousand pitfalls of traditional publishing.

Sure, there’s the self-publishing stigma. Nobody will take you seriously at first, everyone will assume you’re just another scrub that didn’t make it the “real” way, which is kind of true. But that whole thing is going away as I write these words and you read them. It’s gained even more legitimacy with all those success stories where people self-publish and then get offered a fat book deal—something I dream to one day reject from my smug self-made throne. Toss the deal back at their faces and say, “I don’t need you, FOOLS!” and then laugh maniacally. Yeah. That’d be cool.

So yeah, I’ve pretty much decided to go for it. But hey, feel free to stop me, dear agents reading this! There’s still time! Okay then, if you don’t, I’ll be getting it through a freelance copy-editor and go to any lengths necessary for it to be as polished and professional as possible. Do my best to market it and get it out there, make a shitload of mistakes in the process, and time will tell whether it was the wise decision.

And if this novel doesn’t catch on, maybe the next hundred will.

On to other, completely unrelated news!

Every bit as delicious as they look.

Every bit as delicious as they look.

If all goes well, my lovely wife and I will be starting our own business shortly, and it’s going to be a donut shop. She loves baking. I love eating. It’s perfect.

We’re hammering out the last details on the lease, getting some estimates on how much it’ll cost to improve the building, and then it’ll be all hectic craziness from there. It’s been years of planning. About frikkin’ time!

We’re forgoing a loan and throwing the life’s savings into this, so if we fail miserably I’ll probably end up eating roadkill and old shoes, ha ha! FUN.

Seriously though, we won’t fail. It’s going to be awesome. We’re going to be rolling in the dough. HA HA, GET IT???

Ahem. Lastly…

Among many other things

Among many other things

I’ve jumped into the let’s play bandwagon and put up a bunch of videos of me blathering while I play games. It’s all part of my master plan to be a huge internet celebrity, you see.

Here’s the youtube channel, unilateralUlulations. That’s a Homestuck reference!

Actually, seriously, honestly—on top of it being all sorts of fun I feel it’s helping me out a lot with my diction and eloquence. I can run circles around a chat window but I’m not so great at the spoken word, so I’ve set out to remedy that to the best of my ability. It also helps fight stage-fright a great deal, as well as possibly grow a thick skin through scathing youtube commenters.

I’ve been a videogame nerd since I was three (this is not an exaggeration!) so it’s commentary on something I’ve loved all my life. I know the material, is what I’m saying.

Updates go up as I manage to sneak in play time, which work isn’t cooperating with greatly right now. But hey, I beat frikkin’ Teleglitch: Die More Edition already. Do you have any idea how hard that game is? It’s I Wanna Be The Guy hard. Dark Souls hard. I’ve accomplished something and deserve recognition, dammit!

Anyway.

Fry ‘em and eat ‘em,

– Israel

An Eventful Life

Oh man, month recap! Only there’s just one news-worthy item. Middle of July I got a rejection in 11 hours after submitting, which is record time so far. Behold!

Dear Author:

Thank you so much for sending the Superfantastic Literary Agency your query. We’d like to apologize for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter. On average, we receive nearly 500 email query letters a week and despite that, we do read each and every query letter carefully. Unfortunately, this project is not right for us. Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one “yes” to find the right match.
Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.
Sincerely,
Wandering Soul
Terse Iconoclast
Rambunctious Felon
Well at least the form letter doesn’t tell you to drive nails into your skull. That’s a great plus.

This might sound like I’ll whine no matter what, but I actually would rather wait a bit longer to be rejected. It’s a small accomplishment whenever you send out a query—at least if you do it the “right” way and actually work on each one individually. Even if it yields no results in the end, you walk away from sending that email as if you actually got something done. Such a quick rejection letter craps all over that sense of accomplishment.

Let it simmer for a week, I say. A week is the perfect amount of time. By the time a week has gone by, I’m no longer getting off that sense of accomplishment and you can feel free to crap in my cereal all you want. Everybody wins!

On a similar note, I have mixed feelings on what’s better, whether getting that rejection letter or Eternal Silence. With the rejection letter you get certainty, you can move on, but it stings. The Eternal Silence leaves you wondering for a while, but it’s so much easier to deal with. When the deadline for getting a positive response comes and goes, the disappointment is tiny in comparison—like a dull ache that slowly, slowly fades away, so much so that you don’t even realize it when it’s gone.

Still I think I’d rather get that rejection letter, if only to see how many variations of “no thanks” can agents come up with. Besides, it builds character! You can never be too jaded on the internet.

There is potentially better news to share on this topic but it feels tacky to mention before it’s concluded. I’ll document it one way or another in the future when it’s all said and done. It might be the cause for much rejoicing but I’m keeping my expectations low. This paragraph is now complete.

I ate a lamp,

Israel

Storytime : Dirty Mouth

No news this week whatsoever, hah hah hah! So let’s delve into the past. This wouldn’t be a real blog without desperate attempts to endear myself to you, after all. Here’s something that happened some fifteen years ago. Yay let’s do it!

 

* * *

 

We finally get to the hilltop. I did it before by myself, but it feels even more impressive an accomplishment with company. They don’t expect a guy of my girth to be first.

I’m spent, but of course I don’t show it, or I try not to show it. I’m the guide, the Guy That’s Done It Before. Such intricate, secret paths I have discovered! Such rich experiences I have accrued! The lure of the unknown was enough to convince my two best buds to come along.

“Shit man, that was steep,” Alex says between pants. “We should’ve taken the road instead.”

“I’m good,” says Daniel. He doesn’t even look winded, the bastard.

Okay, so there’s an actual dirt road a few paces off the path, and it didn’t take that long to get up here. These facts don’t diminish my accomplishments in the slightest. You have to start somewhere, right? I’ve been obsessed with hiking lately and there’s absolutely no chance I could ever lose interest in it. I feel pretty good about my early progress.

Besides, I don’t like dirt roads when it’s so dry. Your boots get filthy and the dust dries up your throat real fast.

I remember it longer, taller, tougher.  Erosion at work, no doubt.

I remember it longer, taller, tougher. Erosion at work, no doubt.

“Come on,” I say, “let’s keep going.”

“Naw, let’s take a break by the pole.” Alex starts walking toward it without caring whether anyone agrees. Of course we will agree. It’s a universal constant: nothing’s faster than the speed of light, opposing electrical charges attract, and other kids do what Alex says regardless of who’s officially in charge of the whole goddamn expedition.

The pole is a tall metal pipe embedded in a huge concrete cube—no idea what it’s for, won’t ever care. The concrete is wide enough to provide shade for two and a half teenagers. Three could squeeze together, but we wouldn’t do that because we’re Manly Dudes and physical contact is strictly forbidden. Alex sits straight in the middle, one-hundred-percent uncaring of my and Daniel’s sunbaked noggins.

Daniel squeezes in anyway. “Scoot, man, don’t hog the shade.”

Alex nonchalantly complies. Daniel pulls out his water bottle and takes a gulp. I stand, pacing a little. The wind is strong up here; I lean against it, enjoying the chill on my sweaty skin.

“This is pretty cool,” Alex says. “You can see the whole city.”

I follow his gaze, swelling with pride at his acknowledgment. “Yeah. I bet it’s better from the next hill.”

“Dude, you’re obsessed with the next hill.”

“Well, it’s the goal for today, I’ve never gone so far.”

“It’s still fine to take a break. Aren’t you tired?”

He gestures at me while he says it. At my body. He might not mean it that way, and I might be just a tad oversensitive about my weight, and he doesn’t ever tease me about being fat, really, but what he’s implying seems crystal clear to me at that moment. Luckily, the fluster from the climb covers my embarrassment.

“I’m doing fine, man. I could run down the hill right now. I’ll bet I’d beat you, too.”

My miffed tone seems to fly straight over his head. “Hahah, that’d be fun, running down the road.”

“You wanna do it?”

He blinks, then his smile broadens. “Hells yeah.”

Daniel is looking back and forth from one to the other. “That doesn’t sound so smart. Looks pretty damn steep.”

Alex sticks his tongue between his teeth and goes cross-eyed. ” ‘Lookth preddy damm thteep’ blurr durr durr ….”

“Pff, whatever man.” He gets up. “I’ll race you down and laugh when you’re tumbling behind me.”

I’ve already walked up to the point where the road starts sloping noticeably. It doesn’t look so bad. It’s, what, maybe a quarter mile until it levels out? Not even that. I’ve never dared run downhill, but how bad could it be? It’s just running. I’ll show them how fast the chubby kid can go.

still just a dirt road, looks like.

still just a dirt road, looks like.

They stand next to me. Alex doesn’t look so thrilled anymore—it looks as if his eyebrows are trying to climb into his forehead. “Oof, it does look pretty steep from here.”

Daniel snorts. “Told ya.”

I smile like they’re speaking nonsense and wave my hand dismissively. “Come on, don’t chicken out. I’m going to leave you in the dust.”

“Alright, fine,” Daniel says.

“Let’s do it,” says Alex.

“Ready?” says I. I don’t wait for a response. “Go!”

I take off. They startle into movement with me, but I easily leave their cautious trot behind, because there’s nothing cautious about my all-out sprint. I feel giddy as I pick up speed and realize they’re nowhere near me.

It crosses my mind that maybe I’m going a little too fast now, so I slow down a bit. Or I try, at least, to no avail. Gravity adds way too much momentum to the run, and soon all I can do is concentrate on keeping my legs under me. I realize I’ve lost control altogether when my strides become long enough to qualify as jumps.

Another stomp, another jump, and it feels like forever until my foot lands again—flat, hard, heavy. My entire leg wobbles upon impact in a terrifying way, and I’m just amazed that it didn’t simply break and give out.

As I begin to tip forward in mid-flight, I become certain that I’ve run out of strides.

Now, there’s this way overplayed cliché in books and action movies where at the grand climax things seem to stand still for the hero, and they have time to think of a way out of their problem as everything moves in super-slow-motion around them.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not really true. I looked it up: we simply remember it better after it’s over. The amygdala goes into overdrive and whatnot, laying down memory after memory of your stressful situation and giving you the impression that it took longer than it really did. It happens in high-risk situations, when true survival instinct kicks in … no matter whether you’re the mega-spy held at gunpoint by Doctor Villanos, or you are a dumb-ass teenager at the brink of breaking every bone in his body.

Thus the memories form for posterity in rapid succession. My center of gravity becomes horizontal and tilts even further. My backpack nudges the back of my neck. I think of how I’ll never, ever live this down, and maybe I can pretend I did it on purpose somehow, if I survive it. The ground soars under me, and it seems possible that if I spread my arms and begin flapping, I’ll start going up instead of down. Possibilities race through my head faster than the road draws near my face.

In truth I only have time to raise my arms in an attempt to cushion the fall. It’s not even a choice I make—it simply happens. I suspect it’s an instinctual response to understanding that I’m fucked.

Arms hit first and immediately go out of control, spreading to the sides and skidding in the dirt. Face goes next, and I slide, slide, slide forward for eternity and beyond. Dust gets in my eyes, my nose, my mouth; it goes between gums and lips, between tongue and teeth, down my throat. It gets everywhere, down my collar, through my sleeves, down my pants, into my underwear, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt.

There must have been pain. There must have. But all I’ll ever remember is how the world went brown. The taste will never leave my memory.

The trip downhill doesn’t become a tumble. I simply slide on my face until I stop, much, much later. I spend some time there, reflecting upon pride’s folly. Or trying to breathe, maybe.

My friends are soon by my side, breaking the Manly Dudes rule by helping me up. They’re saying things but I’m far too busy spitting and coughing to respond. I do notice they’re not laughing. There’s fear in their voice.

“Dude! Are you okay?”

“Are you okay?”

Am I okay? I didn’t break my neck, as far as I can tell. That’s a solid victory right there. I keep spitting while checking every spot that hurts.

Nothing seems to be broken, actually. In fact, there’s not even wounds to speak of, just scrapes along my arms.

And dirt.

“Holy shit, you’re filthy, man.”

There it is, the first hint of amusement in Daniel’s voice. Ah well. I definitely earned this one.

“I win,” I choke-wheeze-chuckle.

Alex laughs. “You’re nuts!” They’re already swatting and slapping my clothes, clouds of dust puffing out with every stroke. It catches on Alex’s throat and he coughs for a bit.

Daniel keeps swatting. “We were like, alright, let’s take it easy, this is really steep. And then we look up and we’re like, what the fuck is he doing!”

Alex resumes patting. “That was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen!”

I give him a fool’s smile. “I thought I could get to the bottom before losing control. Nnnnope.”

Daniel starts laughing. “Look at your teeth! It’s like you were chewing on shit!”

“Nice.” I redouble my efforts to get all the dirt out of my mouth.

Alex pulls out his water bottle and a roll of toilet paper. “Let’s see if we can clean you up, man.”

I couldn’t agree more with the proposal. The joint effort takes up the next twenty minutes and most of our water. We don’t get anywhere close to cleaning me up, but at least I no longer look like an unwashed hobo—only a slightly unkempt one.

We trade glances. I’m achy and still covered in filth, water is almost gone, and there’s two thousand jokes to be made at my expense. After a full five seconds of deliberation we reach a consensus: the next summit will have to wait for another time. Let’s go home.

The road ahead forks toward the city, and all the dirt inside my clothes is already telling me that it’s going to be an extremely uncomfortable walk to the bus station—yet somehow it doesn’t bother me that much. I know Alex and Daniel will tease me about it for years to come, but for now they seem to be more in awe than anything else. I’m crazy, they say. I’ve got balls the size of pumpkins, they say. I find myself in an excellent mood.

And hey.

I did beat them to the bottom of the hill.

 

* * *

 

Throw enough words at it and the mundane becomes momentous.

I can see Russia from my house,

– Israel

Query: the Query

I was thinking today (gasp!) that The Path to Publication: The Hunt for an Agent is hardly a complete story without the query itself. Shouldn’t it have been the first thing that I posted?

Well, I answered myself, the query feels like something you show later, you know? What you have now is as refined as you can make it, but you don’t know for sure that it won’t change before The One Agent is smitten with it. You wait until it’s all said and done, and then you go, “oh yeah, here’s the query letter that made it happen.” It doesn’t feel like a risk at that point—you’re showing off your success while being helpful to aspiring writers. Everybody wins!

But that’s not the point of the blog, I answered lustily. The point is to share the ups and downs of the Path to Publication, I added sumptuously, regardless of how silly it makes you look. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone improves over time, everyone starts somewhere. That’s what you’re trying to show here in real time (somewhat), instead of telling it later.

Yes, you have convinced me, I told me. The truth, I continued to tell me, is that I’m too scawwed to take the risk of posting a risible failure. A breach of etiquette is also of concern. It all boils down to the hundreds of atomic wedgies I got in high school, I concluded wisely.

Never mind that, you fool! I exhorted myself—okay this is getting old. Anyway, here it is. Query: ETERNAL as was sent yesterday.

Dear (agent’s full name):

I submit for your consideration ETERNAL, a 160,000-word fantasy novel set in a grim yet wondrous afterlife.

Alexandra and Aaron Gretchen have died in a massive explosion. They arrive at separate locations in an afterlife that’s shared with all of the sapient species in the Universe.

An atheist in life, Aaron confronts his continued existence in an alien landscape. He’s barely started searching for Alexandra when he encounters an amiable tentacled monster eager to lead him to the nearest human domain. There he learns a terrible truth: the known afterlife is boundless, and Alexandra could be anywhere. Undeterred, Aaron resolves to do everything in his power to find his wife.

Alexandra was certain she’d ascend to heaven, and so her worldview is shattered when hideous demons attack as soon as she regains consciousness. Wounded, hunted, royally pissed off at her assigned fate, Alex vows to find her husband and battle her way out of hell. Her escape becomes a harrowing quest for answers as she realizes her situation is a far cry from eternal damnation.

Aaron and Alexandra’s parallel stories reveal an afterlife where humanity has no shortage of enemies; where the dead arrive at random times and places, thoughts shape reality and ceasing to exist is a very real possibility. Aaron will strive against an ancient conspiracy designed to keep him away from his beloved, while Alexandra will rise to lead an insurgence among enslaved souls, everlasting torment as the price of failure. Their all-consuming need to be reunited will drive them to persevere against daunting adversity—but how can they hold out hope, when even their allies scheme to keep them apart?

ETERNAL is my first novel. It reads like dark fantasy, but also incorporates science fiction and dystopian elements, exploring themes of faith, the resilience of hope and the limits of human knowledge. It comfortably stands on its own but it’s planned to be the first part in the Boundless Trilogy.

A final draft is complete. I’d be delighted to follow up with the full manuscript at your request.

(agent-dependent paragraph(s) )

On top of the closing paragraph, I’ll tailor a few other spots to the specific agent, depending on their preferences. Giving examples feels pretentious since I don’t know yet whether I’m doing it right.

I’ve been saving previous versions of the query letter for a future poast on the evolution of the query, which is something I can’t do until I reach the end of the line with this book. I anticipate it will be a very popular poast when the time comes, and I very much hope this version will be at the bottom of that poast.

That’ll be all for now. I should go.

- Israel

Fictional Characters in Real Life

Today was fun!

* * *

I get out of the mail truck and walk up to the customer’s door, her mail in hand. I’m steeling myself for a confrontation, just in case; they requested redelivery for a package that doesn’t exist, and it’s actually my fault because I left the notice in the wrong mailbox. Oops.

I knock loudly and ring the doorbell, hoping it will be over quickly. The smell of sunbaked dog piss hit me in the face before I even opened the fence, and mosquitoes swarm around the area as if they’d been specifically waiting for their favorite meal to show up. Long seconds go by, the upcoming conversation playing and re-playing in my head. A futile exercise, I know. They don’t ever go the way I imagine them.

I put on a smile as the door swings open. It reveals a wiry old man I’ve never seen before, slightly sunken features, thready white beard down to his chest. He stares out for a tiny moment, eyes unfocused.

“Hi,” I greet him.

“Wah!” he startles, as if I weren’t the guy that knocked and doorbelled just ten seconds ago. He recovers quickly. “Um, yes?”

“Yes, hi, you requested redelivery of a package notified on Saturday, right?” I show him the automatic printout I got in the morning. NOONE CAME TO THE DOOR PLEASE KNOCK LOUDLY AND GIVE TIME TO ANSWER is written under additional information.

“Uh, yes, uh ….” The man leans forward and dubiously looks at the paper, so close he could sniff it. I notice as I speak that his eyebrows jut out of his brow like wide, wispy canopies. It’s awfully distracting.

“Yeah, it’s my fault,” I tell him, “there was a misunderstanding—the package wasn’t for you, I left the notice in the wrong box.”

“In the wrong box got it,” the man repeats immediately. His voice is somewhat feeble. He fidgets. He missed a comma. I can’t decide whether he’s grasping the issue.

“Yeah, sorry about that. You can simply tear up the notice you got on Saturday.”

“Tear up the notice I got on Saturday got it.” He’s looking up at me, features conveying nothing but earnest compliance.

Okay, well. At least no-one is getting angry.

“By the way, if it ever happens again you can also leave the notice in your mailbox with the flag up. It’ll save you the trouble of filling out a form online.”

“Um, I need to leave the notice in the mailbox with the flag up got it.”

I blink. Twice.

“But not Saturday’s, though. I already know about that one. You can throw it away.”

“I can throw it away got it.”

We look at each other for a moment. His eyes are open to the appropriate width—not dazed, nor lidded, nor crazy wide. He looks perfectly lucid. My gaze keeps tracking back to those prodigious white eyebrows that tremble subtly with his every word.

“Well, then, here’s your mail. Sorry about that again, have a nice day.”

He takes the bundle and looks at it like it’s a handful of marbles. He looks back up, nodding vigorously. He approves.

“Have a nice day.”

The door closes. I stand there for a moment, somewhat stunned. I don’t even smell the dog piss anymore as I shut the fence behind me.

Nope. They never go the way you imagine.

 

***

 

Some stories have characters that could only exist in that story. Sometimes characters are so weird or quirky or stupid that they fail to suspend disbelief altogether. I used to balk at oddball characters in novels and fiction in general, but not anymore. They exist. There’s much worse out there.

Now, I’d like to think there is nothing wrong with this man at all. I sure hope he doesn’t have a cognitive disease, and that he’s free from the clutches of senility. I walk away from his home imagining he’s chuckling his ass off at the confused postman, or perhaps carrying on with the game of Starcraft I interrupted, fidgety hands moving at two hundred actions per minute while he mouths off the poor sod that challenged him. I was but a blip in his existence, a quickly dismissed annoyance in the grand tale of his life.

That is the reality I choose to believe.

I know kung fu,

– Israel

You Might Have Thought I Was Kidding….

I did say I would do it, and I ain’t the flaky type.

Behold the $2 frame

Behold the $2 frame in all its glory.

I wonder if a lot of budding authors do this. It feels important to cherish the new-ness of these experiences: I’ll never get my first rejection again, or write my first query again. Five years from now I’ll look at that frame and shake my head at my foolishness, and it will be good. This is a fantastic journey full of delightful frustration and disappointment!

On the other hand, that one time when I got punched in the face was a first-time experience I could do without. While we’re on that subject, I’d like to let the world know that I don’t need any more punches in the face, please. My experience quota is filled in that particular regard, as it is for faceplanting down cliffs, or getting lost in the woods, or being attacked by dogs, or falling in the wonderful clutches of explosive diarrhea. No more of any of those, if you’d be so kind.

Also,

Professional finish

Professional finish

Thumbtacks and string: the best picture-hanging method, or the absolute best picture-hanging method?

I’m the most skilled handyman in the planet.

Cats and Books – Print on Demand

I was terribly curious about Print on Demand and figured why the hell not. To clarify, I only wanted to print out a sample copy for private use. No intentions to sell anything here! After summary research I shunned the more mainstream stuff in favor of The Book Patch. It was a fairly painless process and it cost a whopping $12 plus shipping and handling fees.

I want to say I was quite thorough in researching first that this does not use up your first publishing rights. As long as you don’t sell it to anyone, you’re good. It’s the same as printing out your manuscript in your home’s printer.

Results! Luna is pleased.

Click for full feline greatness

Click for full feline greatness

I’ll admit I expected complete garbage, so I was very much impressed with the quality. The cover is somewhere between paperback and hardcover, while the interior is just as pretty as you’d expect a printed book to be. Too bad they don’t allow customization of paper quality — though the paper has the right feel, it would be nice to be able to use something more cream-colored.

Hairy fingers fans rejoice

Vanity at its best. Also it’s “theatrics,” not “theatricals,” and “he” instead of “him and other scribes.” That’s the kind of stuff that jumps out at you!

I’d recommend these guys to anyone, overall. The only snag I noticed is that the black and white printing isn’t very good for interior art designs, though maybe I simply used wrongly-optimized files. If you want to see how your book will look in print, this is definitely the way to go.

Which brings me to the actual, extremely useful aspect of this endeavor! This is an awesome tool for revisions. The draft I printed out with them was thought to be final after gruesome, lengthy editing, but so many things jump out at you from the actual printed page. I’d encourage everyone out there with a final draft to do this before starting to query (and I do mean final, editor-reviewed, ready-to-be-submitted draft: it would get way too expensive to do it all the time.) I didn’t regret it and neither will you, I swear on Andraste’s rump.

It’s also a very nice present for people that have believed in you through the writing of your novel, and I’ve put together a nicer, better formatted edition for them. And who knows, it could become an extremely rare collector’s item five hundred years from now. You must always watch for future generations, you see.

I’m still a little stunned that this technology exists at all. Print a book, any book, for hardly an hour’s worth of wages and some fiddling with suitably formatted files. It’s the future, people! 

Live well and prosper.

Thank you for thinking of us

No wonder there’s so many blogs out there, it’s all writing about yourself and how very smart and clever you are.

Not this time.

Dear Israel,

Thank you so much for querying us with your project.  Unfortunately, we did not feel it was the right fit for our agency.  While we are unable to comment personally on every query, please know we did give your work our full consideration.  Thanks for thinking of The Totally Awesome Agency and we wish you nothing but the best in your writing career.

Sincerely,

Peace, Love and Understanding 

Oh well. Though I doubt they based their decision solely on it, the mortifying typo I found in the query letter shortly after clicking send probably didn’t help. Oooops.

I find the biggest bummer in a rejection is the sense of futile time expenditure. It’s been taking me about two full days on average to research a promising agent and tailor their query. The alternative would be the unsavory practice of shotgunning queries to every agent out there that could be remotely interested, but it is greatly discouraged everywhere and it does feel … tacky. It’s alright, though—these are interesting times that I will endeavor to grok deeply so that I may cherish and praise them in retrospect.

That was a Stranger in a Strange Land reference! Man, so damn clever. Anyway, it’s not wasted time, because (I’d like to think) the query gets a little better with every submission. It follows, then, that I will eventually reach the Perfect Query Singularity and make the Universe collapse into paradox space.

That would be a very bad thing! I must be stopped. Only you can save the Universe, Dear Agent.

Too Much Information

My Dearest Brother suggested that I’m being too sincere in this blog—sincere to a counterproductive degree.

Now, I like to think I’m pretty good at taking criticism, just like there’s people out there that are really good at taking a punch to the gut. So after the inevitable, rapidly suppressed first thought of “no I disagree shut up,” I gave what I’ve written here a long, narrow-eyed look, trying to see what he’d seen.

And you know, it’s totally true. I probably shouldn’t say that my first draft was bloated and meandering, especially when I failed to mention that it was also pretty damn great, with snappy dialogue, spot-on emotions (mostly) and characters as deep as yo mamma’s—dammit, there I go I again. With many deep, well developed characters, is what I wanted to say. I probably should have stressed that Ms. Awesome Editor loved it, or at least many parts of it, in italics, yes indeed. It had enough potential and good writing to become the excellent book that it is now, and that doesn’t exactly come across in all my previous posts.

It’s hard to tell where’s the line between promoting yourself and being an obnoxious braggart. Done wrong or too often, humorous self-deprecation becomes stale or just fishing for compliments, and a positive-but-with-low-expectations attitude becomes depressing fatalism. Irreverence is my default state of mind, which might disguise the fact that I take making it as a writer Very Seriously.

Statements like the last one above make me cringe a little. Self-importance is such a plague on the internet—so unwarranted, so worthy of much eyebrow quirking and head shaking. I’m self-centered and self-important like everyone else, and I guess sincerity is what I use to fight it. If you are up-front with the flaws and the awful thoughts, I don’t know, maybe then it balances out the big-headed nonsense a little?

In an age when you can’t swing a cybercat without hitting anonymous acerbic sneers, jaded nonchalance, teethy malice hidden beneath saccharine politeness … sincerity is kind of scarce. And I have it, I have all of it, bahahaha!

Besides, I’m going to make a fool of myself anyway. I might as well own it.

Safe journeys, space fans.