Thursday, December 29, 2016

Flannery O'Connor only wrote one story and it could have been written yesterday

This year I read, and in some cases re-read, the complete works of Flannery O'Connor. Like a lot of artists, she only had one theme, which she hammered compulsively, tweaking it and refining it and rewriting it over the course of two novels and 31 short stories.

She had three characters. A bad guy, often a con artist and sometimes batshit crazy. An aging Southerner, settled into a strict, frequently racist code that provides a roadmap for all his or her actions. And a high-minded urban atheist, who believes the first character pitiable and the second deplorable. At the end, all three are offered a symbol of grace, reminding them they're all sinners who need God.

And I thought, "Things just don't change much."

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Email all the time

[Ed. - While this conversation is fictitious, the numbers in it are not. But you know what? I bet your inbox is even messier than mine. I would love to hear any solutions anyone has.]

She asked, "Why wasn't this project done on time?"

I said, "I dunno. I didn't realize we even had a presentation scheduled."

"But I sent you the date in an email last week."

"I'm sorry, I probably missed it."

"You don't read my emails?"

"I try to. But yesterday alone, I got 187 work emails and 96 personal ones. If I spent even two minutes with each one, that'd add up to almost 10 hours a day reading email. And that doesn't include opening any attachments, clicking any links, or writing any responses. I can't devote that much time to reading email."

"So you don't check your email?"

"Of course I do. I spend more than three hours a day on it. I start by deleting the 60 or 70 that appear to be ads. Then I scroll through looking for meeting requests and anything relating to whatever major projects are already on my radar. The remaining 150 get skimmed or ignored."

"So when we need to talk to you, what should we do?"

"I don't know. I worry about it all the time. Any form of communication only works to the extent it captures attention. Face-to-face works best, but can you imagine 187 face-to-face meetings a day? Ditto for calls, texts, and threaded comments on project management systems. Any of them would cease to work the moment the larger team found out about them."

"So what's the solution?"

"The only solves I see are not communication-based. The first is to reduce the noise by accepting only larger projects. The second is to hire a bigger staff and field dedicated, autonomous teams."

"But all over America, clients are cutting budgets and agencies are trimming headcount."

I said, "Yeah, I know." And then we sat in silence for a time, contemplating careers as lumberjacks. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

How to get a free print copy of Sin Walks Into The Desert

I have seven copies of Sin Walks Into The Desert left over from its stint on the shelves at Tattered Cover. I figure I'll mail them out to the next seven people who sign up for my email list, which you can do in the righthand sidebar of this blog.

Sin is my most popular book. It's been well-reviewed and highly awarded. But it is desert noir. Sort of a moody vigilante story mixed with a dose of teenage melancholy. And as many reviewers note, Sin's uncomfortable fascination with guns colors almost every page. If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, please skip it.

But if it does, well, I already have the books stuffed into envelopes. I'm just looking for a few good addresses to write on the front. Thanks for your interest.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Making of the Colorado Springs Utilities holiday light sign

So proud of the team at VJ, Carson Nyquist, Rebecca Stumpf, our clients at Colorado Springs Utilities and the artisans at Jodie Bliss Studios for pulling this together in time for the holidays. The sign itself is installed at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Check it out if you get a chance.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sever, Writer's Digest and new short stories

Sever did not win the 24th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards, but it did get a very kind review from the judges. Writer's Digest allows you to publish their commentary, as long as you cite “Judge, 24th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards” and don't cherrypick it to make it sound better than it is. I figured I'd just publish the whole darn thing.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 4
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Plot and Story Appeal: 4
Character Appeal and Development: 4
Voice and Writing Style: 5

Aimed at a young adult or even teen audience, Sever pulls in the shadows around the characters quickly, suggesting that life can all go terribly wrong even before one gets out of college.

Narrator Leo Thomas tells us that in the town of Epshire where “Sophie” is going to graduate, four axe murderers (two of them serial killers) have nestled in. I wish the author had been a little more specific when introducing his characters. Nonetheless, I appreciated the growing parallel I felt the author suggested: to wit, that once college ends, it cuts off everything, just like death does. As this horror thriller progresses, I felt awful for Leo when he saw the mutilated female. I liked the way Leo goes about investigating and I liked his relationship with Becky. I became convinced, while I read the book, that Epshire was the center of all evil in the universe. The author did a good job convincing me.

I liked the front cover art. The back blurb is well worded. The author does not give away “Sever,” which is as it should be. I liked his voice, both telling the tale in that random college guy way, narrating all the dumb things college students do, and in hindsight, sounding spooked, looking into lakes and imagining monsters. The story was well told, though a bit choppy at the beginning.

I am a little disturbed that Sever is so consistently identified as YA. But I love, love, love the identification of the parallels between the end of college and the end of life. And the idea you have to kill the person you were to live in the waiting world.

Sever has won a different award which'll be announced sometime next month. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I have been writing short stories about the various killers that inhabit Epshire. I always send my short stories free to my email list, so if you want the next one, sign up in the sidebar of this blog.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Giving Is All We Get: new work for Enstrom Candies

Serious.



Funny.



Serious.



Funny.



It goes on like this for the next three months, folks. Across nearly 100 videos. Because if Giving Is All We Get, well, there's a whole lot of stuff we don't get at all. Campaign hub is at Enstrom.com. You better like this stuff. I gave up my tendon for it.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

#poweredbyindie: No one can take this away from me

Want to know a secret? I never tried to find a publisher. I never even considered it. I was DIY from Jump Street because I didn't want to tell marketable stories.

I wanted to publish whatever the hell I wanted.

My first novella, The Single Staircase, was plotted over years but written in just a couple months. It's 18,000 words of gritty, depressing, determined cop talk, mashed up with an Agatha Christie-style locked room puzzle. No publisher in the world would have touched it. But why would I have needed them to? It was exactly the story I wanted to tell.

So I got on to CreateSpace and KDP and figured out the process. And today the Owl and Raccoon series has fans all over the world.

Now, Sin Walks Into The Desert? That book, I could've found a publisher for. Desert noir isn't really a thing, but sexy tattooed loner kids with guns and grudges are pretty fucking marketable. But by the time I finished writing it, I was rolling. I loved my book. I wanted to make it real. Even more, I wanted ultimate responsibility for its success or failure.

Sin went on to sell thousands of copies, get picked up by the Thrilling 13 anthology, and win Shelf Unbound's award for Best Independent Novel of 2015.

At this point, any sane publisher would have been hounding me for more Sin books. But I wanted to jump genres. Sever is a melancholy memoir about college in the '90's, but with four rampaging ax murderers running around. Should it be marketed as YA horror or Gen X time capsule? I don't know. It's not my problem.

The most important thing is this. Every day I get to look myself in the mirror and say, "I did this. Maybe it sucks and maybe it's brilliant. Maybe it'll find an audience and maybe it won't. But I did this. And no one can take that away from me."

All because one day I decided to jump. To upload the file. To hit the publish button. To be #poweredbyindie.

[Ed. - This post is part of Amazon's #poweredbyindie month. I hear a lot of griping about how Amazon is a giant juggernaut that uses authors. But if Amazon didn't provide free publishing tools and a free sales platform, I might not be an author to begin with. The Single Staircase would still be a 122-page Word doc in a folder somewhere. So thanks, Amazon.]