Wednesday, August 15, 2012

They Could Have Chosen Any Author in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area, but Instead They Chose Me

Friends, readers, countrymen, lend me your screens once more. I blog to you today to announce my first non-self published publishing credit. That’s right, after three and a half years of periodically submitting my work for the perusal and rejection of others (by that I mean writing contests), some of my work has finally been chosen. Although I wholeheartedly believe in publishing my own work, I still enter writing contests. Why shouldn’t I? If my work is chosen for a magazine or literary journal, it will automatically be seen by large numbers of that magazine or literary journal’s readership. I’m not some “screw the gatekeepers of traditional publishing” zealot. I use both traditional avenues and DIY methods in my pursuit of a life of earning enough money as an author to become a full-time author and still be able to provide food, shelter, clothing, and medical care for my family (that’s a doozy of a sentence- right?).
Anyhoo, here’s a link (Urbanite) to my creative non-fiction essay, published in the August 2012 issue of the Urbanite, a Baltimore based monthly magazine (my essay is the third one from the top of the web page). The title is Prom Date (the Urbanite doesn’t list specific titles for essays- it just lists them all under that month’s theme (Nerves)). Enjoy it along with the other selections. If you live in the Baltimore Area, pick up a copy from a newsstand, bookstore, coffee shop, or the like. They have interesting articles- and- they’re free, people!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Redundancy Gone Wild and Feral

As an author and writer of stories and tales, I have found and discovered that believable dialogue and conversation are essential and important to my stories and tales. Due to and because of my continued mission and endeavor to craft believable dialogue and conversation, I have developed the habit of listening and eavesdropping on others in order to both capture common and normal, as well as uncommon and abnormal, parlance and idiom.

What is with this guy- you might ask? Why does he keep using different words that mean the same thing? Why would he write “dialogue and conversation”, when those words express the same notion? Have no fear, reader. I wrote the first paragraph in the style that I did just to reflect what I have observed to be a plague in societal speech today- the plague of redundancy.
Yes, it’s true. For some reason, American society (I can’t speak of any other society, because I haven’t done the research of living in any other society) has become overrun with the verbally unnecessary, with the construction and utterance of phrases, when a single word would do. Let’s examine a few such utterances, starting with what I think are the most common offenses:
1)      Rewind back ( as opposed to what? rewinding forward)
2)      Return back (doesn’t return mean to go back, people?)
3)      Separate out (as opposed to what? separating in? separating together?)
4)      Continue on (doesn’t the word continue mean to go on?)
5)      Combine together (Hello? Let combine do its’ job!)
6)      Twelve midnight (just midnight, please! don’t make me shave my eyebrows and run down the street naked, with giant vinyl bat wings glued to my back, to get through to you!)
7)      Twelve noon (Please! Please! Just noon! Noon always come at exactly 12)
8)      Send out (as opposed to what? sending in?)
9)      Mail out (see send out, above)
10)  Regular Routine (the word routine can get its’ own point across, thank you very much. Believe me, it doesn’t need any help)
I could probably spend all day listing redundant phrases, but I’m not that much of a word Nazi. I will leave you with a list of other redundant phrases that are commonly used (though not as often as the top ten, in my humble opinion). Here goes:
Unexpected surprise (as opposed to what? the surprise that you knew about?)
Free gift (it’s not a gift if the person who receives it has to pay for it)
End result (really?)
Join together (come on now, folks)
Close proximity (proximity is close)
Basic fundamentals (do I really need to say anything?)
Advance preview (if you can’t figure out why this phrase is redundant, you don’t want to be helped)
Advance reservations (see advance preview)
Answer back (what does back really contribute to this phrase!)
Cease and Desist (both words mean stop- right? how could our courts betray us this way?)
I find the use of cease and desist as sanctioned legal terminology to be particularly unsettling. Ladies and gentleman, the fact that redundant phrases are used by our courts is symptomatic of a problem that pervades far beyond the proletariat. Could it be that our compulsively redundant speech descends from our forefathers?  Speaking of cease and desist, society as a whole should cease (I chose one and let it stand on its own, damn it!) this redundant epidemic. What is the problem, people? We have our own wonderful, versatile, constantly evolving language – but we don’t trust the words in that language to do their respective jobs? I don’t think Noah Webster would be pleased if he were around to witness this, this- Confederacy of Redundancy (can you guess the literary allusion? I love literary allusions!).
 Can anything be done to combat this harmless, but extremely annoying (at least to wordsmiths like me) epidemic? My friends, the cure starts with you. If we all commit to using only the word that is needed to express our thoughts, and not adding a synonym or part of the definition with that needed word, then perhaps we will someday manage to tame this plague of redundancy gone wild and feral (oops!).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Labor of Hate That Makes Me Want to Vomit

I hate self-promotion! I hate it with the passion that Casanova loved women; hate it with the fury of a rabid wolverine. I hate it like Cylons hate Humans, like Red Sox fans hate the Yankees, like reptiles hate winter, et cetera; et cetera; in a freaking cashmere sweater.
I consider self-promotion to be a necessary evil within the all-access paradigm of today’s creative arts world; I consider it to be a labor of hate. That’s right, labor of hate. I know the popular expression is labor of love, but I reserve that phrase for such noble pursuits as raising children, or actually writing stories and novels for writing’s sake. No, self-promotion is something that I have to do, sort of like men of a certain age have to get rectal exams. In both endeavors, one must spread ‘em and hope for the best.
Why do I hate self-promotion so much? The biggest reason is that time spent self-promoting and thinking of effective ways to self-promote keeps me away from the creative endeavor that I enjoy so much: writing stories. Man, I wish the publishing industry still operated like it did when writers I admire (like Stephen King and Walter Dean Myers) made their bones. Back then (so I hear, anyway), writers just kept sending out query letters and manuscripts until they found agents/publishing houses who thought their stuff was good enough to publish. Nowadays, it’s not just a question of whether a writer’s stuff is any good, but whether it is damn near guaranteed to sell. That’s what agents and houses seem to want- guaranteed sales. They want writers to have a freaking “platform” (a platform- what is this- a construction site?), before they invest any time and money into publishing the writer’s work. Even after a writer builds that “platform”, he or she is expected to do much of the promotional legwork. Oh, well. No use crying over milk I never tasted.
I want to eventually earn a living solely as a writer, so I’m out here- in the real and virtual world, hustling my wares, as it were. I blog; I do social media; I get book trailers made, and all that other self-promotional type of crap (By the way, I can’t think of a more ridiculous concept than a book trailer. I mean- you’re not going to watch the book- are you? Why not just read a few pages of the book to see if the story grabs you? Is that too 20th Century? Anyway, if that sort of thing floats your boat- check out the book trailer for my novel, Dirty Hands. I’d rather you just buy the book, though.). I just want everyone who reads this post to know that I really dislike doing it. Hell, my goal as a writer is to reach that status where my name sustains itself. I want people to know I have a new book or e-book out and buy it just because they’re accustomed to loving my work. I tell you, people, if I ever reach that status, I will gladly become a literary recluse. J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee had the right idea, in my humble opinion, folks. The only aspect of their reclusiveness that I reject is that they both stopped writing (or at least publishing new work). I don’t think I could ever stop writing, but I would have no problem in ceasing to intentionally draw attention to myself.

I hardly think I’m alone among my chosen creative populace in my distaste for self-promotion. Whether they profess it in a blog post or not- many authors are introspective, introverted, and just plain uninterested in discussing themselves. I mean, you have to pretty much be by yourself to write well, people. I don’t know too many extroverted people who enjoy isolating themselves in pursuit of a task.  In my opinion, an extroverted writer is just like overkill from God. The existence of such a person is completely unfair to others in the same field, like how Lebron James is the fastest, strongest, highest jumper, and best passer on a basketball court. I think that if you’re a great speaker, you should become a motivational speaker and leave the rubble of the publishing industry to us those of us who best express ourselves in writing. Oh, I forgot, a motivational speaker (or a reality T.V. star, or an athlete, or a guy who cut his own arm off to escape from being trapped by a builder) is more likely to get tapped for a big publishing deal than an aspiring author without a proven “platform.” But I digress. In conclusion (and reiteration), the ongoing process of self-promotion sickens me and I’m only doing it in hopes of reaching a level of literary notoriety that would preclude me from having to toot my own horn. If that ever happens, look out, folks!
I mean that, literally. You’ll have to look out for me. You’ll have to look really hard, because I intend to be 20,000 Leagues under the radar. (Get it? That’s a literary allusion, people.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Back in The Saddle Again, Baby

  Friends, readers, countrymen, lend me your screens. I hereby announce my triumphant return from the non blogging void to inform you of a huge change in my life (hold the applause and rose petals, please). I recently became a father, which really knocked many of my previous habits and practices for a loop. I must confess; the prospect of impending fatherhood and its realization led to my taking an unplanned and unsanctioned leave of absence from writing and promoting my books.
Yes, my friends. It’s true. For the first time since I officially declared myself a writer (which was a loooong time ago, let me tell you), I allowed the distractions of family and personal responsibility to overwhelm my writing career (such as it is). For the greater portion of my wife’s pregnancy I accompanied her to what I call “baby appointments”, including sonograms, birthing classes, sessions with our ob-gyn and pediatrician, ya-da-ya-da ya-da, the whole nine yards, kit and caboodle, and ball of wax. Coupling all that stuff with working a full time job meant writing got pushed to the wayside, without me even realizing it had happened.
 How, now, brown cow?  The smoke has cleared and my baby daughter is here. My baby daughter is here and she is my chief motivation for leaping back onto the writing saddle. What’s that you ask? How is my baby daughter my motivation for throwing myself back into writing? There’s a simple explanation for that, folks. When I look at my baby, cooing and flailing her little arms, while I wipe the breast milk she has just evacuated onto my person, I realize that in addition to taking care of her physical needs, it is also my job to instill values into her.
One of the main values I want to instill into my daughter, is that people should always do what makes them happy (so long as whatever brings happiness does not harm others, that is, people like that perverted monster Jerry Sandusky definitely should not do what makes them happy). Writing makes me happy. There, I said it. Writing makes me happy, so whether or not I am ever fortunate enough to earn enough money to support my family while doing so is immaterial. The way I see it, there will be one of two outcomes concerning my writing as my daughter grows up. Outcome 1- I actually strike it big enough in this writing thing to quit my day job, which will result in my daughter realizing the possibilities of supporting one’s self while doing what one actually loves. Outcome 2- I continue to plod along as I have for years, enjoying writing in my spare time while working a full-time job. Outcome 2 would still be a win-win for my daughter, because she would still see her father doing what makes him happy and realize the importance of always having that one special something in this world. Also, even if I only manage outcome 2, I will generally be a lot better to be around, because writers can be real jerks when they feel frustrated and bottled up.
 Yes, day to day life for the writer and anyone in his or her circle of life is usually much more enjoyable when the writer actually writes. In fact, it is just plain irresponsible for the writer and anyone who has to live with the writer to conduct themselves in manners not conducive to the writer scratching their literary itch. I mean- have you ever seen a bird that can’t fly? Their attitude sucks. A writer (a true writer, who doesn’t just sometime dabble for fun, but feels compelled to write) who hasn’t had their writing fix cab be a bear to be around (I’m talking rabid grizzly, people). My wonderfully supportive wife knows this is true about me, so she always allows me to disappear into my writing cave, provided that I’m present both mentally and physically when I leave the cave.
 So there you have it, folks. I’m back in the writing saddle, with my wife at my side and an adorable, fussy, contrary, bodily fluid ejecting baby on my hip. We’re gonna need a bigger horse!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Failure Heavy Eating

I eat failure for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desert, with snack sized portions between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I eat failure with a smile on my face, with everlasting gratitude. I eat failure with the fevered hunger of Oliver Twist in the workhouse, pleading, "Please Sir, I want some more." I eat failure covered by the pungent sauce of rejection, with a stolid glass of determination to wash it down.

Why do I devour failure so? I do it because it's good-no-great for me as an independent author in today's glutted field of independent authors. The more I fail (and by failure I mean slow book sales, people not showing up at outdoor festivals because of sheets of rain falling from the sky-seemingly until the moment I pack up and leave, so on and so forth), the humbler I remain. So long as I remain humble, I remain focused on producing the best work I can. So long as I remain humble, I remain determined and creative in marketing my work.

To any author or would be author reading this blog entry, know that failure is the norm in the literary world, failure is a ladder to climb toward success. Stephen King- one of the richest and most famous authors of all time- failed so much before he succeeded that he dedicated bulletin board space to tacking up his rejection letters. On his September 1, 2011 blog entry (, master literary blogger and hugely successful self-published author, J.A. Konrath wrote that it took twenty years and more than two million written words for him to achieve his current level of success. I've only been in the writing/publishing world for two years. I've not yet begun to fail! Unless you've been in the business for anywhere near the amount of time Mr. Konrath has, neither have you.

So my advice to aspiring/emerging authors is: Write as well as you possibly can and learn to embrace failure like a loved one returning home from a long abscence. No, learn to eat failure for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desert, with snack sized portions between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Learn to learn from failure. Learning from failure can only push you toward success. Trust me (though I've only had small tastes of it so far), success is delicious.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Good Book is a Good Book is a Good Freaking Book!

As anyone who knows anything about the publishing industry in this digital age knows (don't hold your breath for it to end if you hate it - it will never end!) , having an internet presence is very important to today's authors. One of the things an author can do to maintain/strengthen their internet presence is partcipate in literary/author dicussion forums ( such as those found at A few days ago, I was practicing what I preached in the previous sentence when I read a post that caused me to be "Fired up and ready to go" (candidate Barack Obama -2008). A participant who shall remain unidentified asked if any of their fellow self-published owners felt self-conscious about identifying themselves as self-published authors (try saying that three times fast).

My response to that question was swift and appropriate. I told the participant who shall remain unnamed that there is no need for self-published authors to identify themselves as self-published authors because a good author is a good author is a good freaking author! Likewise, a good book is a good book is a good freaking book! PWSRU seemed to suffer from the steaming toro dung assertion that legacy publishers (I learned the term legacy from reading J.A. Konrath's outstanding blog- have been trying to force feed readers and authors since the advent of print on demand technology. That assertion is that self-published work is inherently inferior to traditionally published work. As I expressed to PWSRU on the forum- I laugh at such blatant falsehood! Sure, reading self-published work can be a crapshoot, but no more of a crapshoot than reading traditionally published work. I mean, come on - there are a whole buttload of traditionally published books out there that have been "written" by reality t.v. stars. Some of the aforementioned group hardly seem literate- yet they're writing books?

The most significant difference between a self-published author and a traditionally published author is the method in which their books are produced, advertised, and distributed. Concerning qualtiy, there is nothing to stop serious self-published authors from having thier books professionally designed and edited. Therefore, to identify onesself as a self-published author is a useless and senseless action. Authors need only to identify themselves as authors. Whether or not there are any good is a matter of individual reader opinion. By the way, Charles Dickens self-published A Christmas Carol. Those of you who think self-published work is inherently inferior should let that marinate in your mind.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Drunken Inspiration

People often want to know what an author's inspiration is for writing a particular novel or story. This is true of some of the folks (unfortunately for my wallet, this is a select group) who have read my first novel, Dirty Hands. For the uninitiated, Dirty Hands is a crime drama detailing what happens after an accidental death at a drunken party. To be brutally honest, the inspiration from this novel came from my heavy drinking days in college.

As with so many young men and women, reaching legal drinking age flipped a switch in me. To say that I could knock them back with the best of them would be an understatement on the par of saying Barack Obama is a good speaker. I might not have drunk friends under the table, but I drunk myself under the table every time.There were numerous occasions when a friend would describe to me some of the ridiculous things I'd done while drunk out of my mind. Of course, I didn't remember most of what was described. I always felt like the person who told me about my drunken self was describing a third person's exploits to me. It couldn't have been me who smacked a stripper's ass hard enough to leave a palm print and came within a hair of being thrown down a long staircase by a bouncer who looked like an all the way Black version of Vin Diesel. It couldn't have been me dancing like John Travolta circa Saturday Night Fever in the middle of a Baltimore County Street.

I always shrugged off the recounts I was given, but inside I felt terribly embarrassed. I felt so embarrassed, in fact, that I would swear off drinking for as a long as a week.I feel very fortunate that no tragic circumstances befell me during my out of control drinking phase. Years later, I began to wonder exactly what trouble I could have gotten into. Thus, the seed of the novel Dirty Hands was planted. I'm glad that my first novel is in no way autobiographical.