Monday, February 25, 2013

A Slightly Negative Puppet Shows Review?

There's a brand new review of my short story collection Puppet Shows up at this site. The woman who runs it was nice enough to give me the option of having the review posted or not. I said absolutely, post it, and here's why:

1.)  Puppet Shows needs all the reviews it can get. It's amazing to me how many book bloggers won't even look at short story collections or comedic fiction, let alone a book that's both. Goddamn divas. Believe me, I've made a mental note of this for future projects. My next book is a YA paranormal romance. Trust me to screw it up by adding some pedophilia into the mix.

2.)  As Dani at Book Junkie Joint wrote, this is a very brave collection by a very brave author. I'm Captain Courageous, and yes, a hero to many for my book of comedic hilarities that seemingly tells most readers to fuck right off.

Comedy is subjective. I can't necessarily tell you why I can't stomach watching Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Dirty Whore of a Mother, but the idea that so many people watch that horseshit perplexes me. I'm much more of an Office/30 Rock, Family Guy/American Dad, Louie/Wilfred person, and many people don't care for those programs.

Thus, what I hope is that people who see this review might think I might be one of the people who will enjoy this. Because, yes, Puppet Shows isn't for everyone, but neither is bathing. Neither was W.C. Fields or Monty Python. Neither is Adventure Time.

And some people just don't like funny. I can't tell you how many rejections I've received that read, "This made us laugh, but it's just not the right fit for (Shitty Literary Journal Name)"

Anyway, one or two people reading this, that's why I said, yes, put the damn review up. So go read thatt, then read this one and the Book Junkie Joint one. Figure it out for yourself.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Writing Career So Far

So, anyway, when I got out of prison, I decided to become a writer. I was very excited when I started getting this writing published, which was about seven years ago – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, even some haiku – online and in print. Sure, the major journals always rejected me, but I wasn’t writing the kind of horseshit they like anyway. When the great Eric Spitznagel accepted something of mine for the Monkeybicycle humor issue way back in 2007, I thought that was it. That’s all I ever need to accomplish. I was now in a humor anthology with the likes of Sarah Silverman and Patton Oswalt.

But I wanted more, especially since I didn’t feel any more famous or accomplished once that issue came out. A year or so later I won a contest to have a poetry chapbook published by Coatlism Press. I had just thrown some poems together - some published, some not - came up with a name on the spot, Poetry is Dead, and I won.

I was motivated to let everyone know about this book – MySpace posts, Facebook posts, even Twitter posts at the time. I had just moved to Tucson, and somehow got Tucson Weekly to review it. I was amazed at the wonderful words I read, as well as those of Chika Onyenezi. Alas, I think Poetry is Dead sold maybe a half-dozen copies between my mom, my in-laws and yours truly, so few copies that I never saw a dime. The Tucson Weekly review hadn’t really meant anything.

Still, I forged on – writing more poetry, more fiction, more non-fiction, whatever I could write. I was writing for some Web sites, including the now defunct Flak Magazine, Slurve Magazine and The Buzz Media, and had an online chapbook The Gingerbread Gang published during Christmas 2010.

I was enjoying myself. I became a victim of liberal media bias, and was even nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a “Best of the Web” award. Then, in 2011, almost completely by accident, I had a second poetry chapbook published, this one called Long Blue Boomerang and published by Heavy Hands Ink Press. After PID, I said if I ever had another poetry collection I wanted to call it “Long Blue Boomerang,” a reference to the British sitcom The Young Ones and “The People’s Poet,” played by comedian Rik Mayall.

To my discredit, I did next to nothing to publicize LBB. I posted regularly about it on Facebook and Twitter, but I did not contact Tucson Weekly or anyone else about reviewing it because I though it wouldn’t matter. I was probably right, but I think I should have tried a little harder. Nonetheless, LBB sold probably even less than my first book, despite it being on Amazon and Lulu (the latter available for free) which the first one wasn’t. People ignored it in droves and I, once again, saw no money.

So I had two poetry chapbooks under my belt, selling maybe ten copies between them. The lesson was no one, even people you know – friends, family (with a couple of exceptions) – will read poetry, let alone purchase your books of it.

So I vowed to give up stupid poetry, and later that year I had an ebook called The Thief published. What was funny was that after “The Thief” was rejected as a short story by one editor because he felt the ending was too forced, this company, Untreed Reads, was absolutely wowed by the ending and wanted to publish it. I was happy, but again did very little to publicize The Thief. I think there’s one review on Amazon. Three people on Twitter, and maybe one on Facebook, told me they bought it at the lofty price of $0.99. I myself have received royalty checks totaling close to $2.00 for this book in the last year plus, which is two dollars more than if that other nitwit editor had taken it, as well as two dollars more than my poetry books earned me.

During the publishing of LBB and The Thief, and even long before that, all I really wanted was to publish a full collection of my bizarrely humorous short stories. Much like with LBB, I knew I wanted the title to be “Puppet Shows,” after one editor told me that I treat my characters like puppets.

That was in 2006. So I knew that my stories weren’t for everybody, particularly the stuffy editors of your semi-known literary journals. Still, between 2008 and 2011 there were some really great journals, from Gold Dust and Sein und Werden in the U.K., to decomP and Jersey Devil Press in the U.S. that published my stories, the ones I held so dear.

And, in 2012, Writers AMuse Me Publishing published Puppet Shows. The stories in it had all been rejected countless times. The collection itself was rejected plenty more times in the previous two years. But now my dream was being fulfilled thanks to WAMM.

This time I was going to go flat out, get as many people to take a gander at my book as possible. I had worked at least twice as hard on Puppet Shows as I did on anything I had published before. It was like one of my children. But I learned some things upon trying to get my dream read. Much like with poetry, not a lot of people enjoy short story collections. This was a little shocking to me considering how much I love short stories, particularly humorous ones, and that I had placed myself in the world of short prose for seven years.

Not only that but, as I should have expected, the comedy in Puppet Shows is perhaps an acquired taste. Not everyone enjoys this type of humor, as stated in this wonderful review. And those that do don’t read. They watch television and movies. I always seem to put myself in those conundrums.

So, while the reviews Puppet Shows has received have been stupendous, they’ve been few and far between. And, much like previously with my poetry chapbooks, reception by people I know has not been what I’d hoped.  I owe a dept of gratitude not only to the folks at WAMM, but my wife, my in-laws, my parents and siblings, some of my co-workers, a couple of friends. But, eh, short stories? Who needs those anymore?

Prior to the Puppet Shows publication I had ideas for fiction chapbooks I wanted to try to publish. These would have been chapbooks of goofy fiction and prose poetry with titles such as “The Elly May Parodies,” which featured satires like what appears in the Like Frozen Statues of Flesh anthology, plus others from Untoward Magazine like this one and that one; and “Message in a Bottle: The Fatty Arbuckle Story,” which would have included two of the pieces from the aforementioned Monkeybicycle issue. But I realize that even if I could get these out there, what would be the point? Thus, if anyone reading this would like to read either chapbook, I’ll send you a PDF for free, but you won’t see them available for sale. Nor do I think I want to try to have a second collection of stories published. It’s just not worth the trouble. Go read “Flipper Hands McCreary,” which is newly on Unlikely Stories IV. Purchase the Wake the Witch anthology to read my story “Trevor Talks.” One Amazon reviewer said it was “weird, but soooooo funny!” I don’t necessarily need either in a collection of my own.

For now, I’m trying to be a novelist. I have one I’m in the middle of writing. It’s been slow going, what with other writing and life itself happening. I’ve been working on it for three or four years now, and while the subject matter may keep me in complete obscurity, the genre should fetch a few more reviews than Puppet Shows has.

So that is all this longwinded post is about, three people. Like Robert Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Eric Clapton, I am at a crossroads, falling down on my knees, trying to flag a ride, the rising sun going down. Not really. I’m mostly just pooping.