Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Funds That Publishers Ostensibly Expect You to Fork Out

If one considers my trials and tribulations with publication, this article could come across as fairly negative – a sour grapes kind of thing. However, given the news of my recent new romance and how on top of the world I am, the actual reason I spill these truths is to poke a little fun and most importantly give heads up to unsuspecting new talent entering this profession. And frankly, haven’t I been doing that for years anyway?

                This topic is a little touchier, though. I reveal the magician’s secrets so to speak.

                The sad truth is the publishing business isn’t what it used to be. There have been countless forums that point blame all over the place, so I won’t belabor it with any of my theories of cause, but I think we can all agree that the mantle of author doesn’t carry the same prestige as when I wore a high school sports uniform. Actually, unless you’re the big NYT Bestseller, the industry has become a pyramid scheme from what I can tell.

                The real authors I know talk of days when advances were crowning validation that you’d made it. Of course, the publisher encouraged using some of it for marketing (a very foreign word to authors back then, not like now how it’s drilled into you). Today the skimpy advances out of New York for new authors, basically understating that he or she is a gamble, are expected to be used for advertising the title.

                With a typical small press, here’s the kicker, there are no advances, yet they still egg you on to break into your piggy bank and get wild on boasting your new release. One time on an email conversation with the marketing department of a press for one of my books, I got all excited when they dazzled me with T shirts, mugs, and stickers as possible advertising tools. As the correspondence built, it dawned on me that they were tiptoeing around saying that I had to foot the bills. Can you imagine what a star I felt like being nudged to spend my millions?!

                Here’s another thrilling investment for you aspiring authors clinching it with indy presses! You’ll more than likely have to buy your hard and soft backs even though you’re published. So, here’s to hoping those signings you broke your hump to set up with surviving bookstores go well otherwise that box of books winds up being some expensive Christmas cards.

                Early in my ‘success’ game, all motivated to get the word out about my big hit, I queried lots of review blogs from the prompting of my agent. I must have hit up 30 or 40. Only two answered me and they wanted – you guessed it – their cut. Everybody’s got their hands out, children.

                About eight years ago at a conference I attended, I wish I could remember his name, a gentleman on a panel said it was going to be like this, that authors would be on their own when it came to funding.

                Free enterprise is a right I and many men and women served in the military for, but you should be painfully aware that nowadays, not only is writing a time suck, but also a significant financial cost.

                On to more chipper subjects, dear friend of mine and well connected screen writer Cardinal Robbins will be sharing her compelling strategic moves in this biz.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Forget What You Know About Women and Sexy

During college, I had a fling with a fashionista who always had long red nails – part of her overall cosmetic mystique. I once told her I’d still see her (we’ll say for lack of spicier words) even without the scorching scratchers. Never will this leave my memory. She said, “I don’t do it for you. I do it to show off to other women.” She was nothing if not practical and that opened up an entire world to me which showed the competitive nature of ladies when it comes to looks.
We guys get a bad rap when it comes to beholding beauty. Sure, Kim Kardashian’s naked butt flaunted in front of us almost daily in a corner of our internet screen gets our attention. We are, after all, hairy trolls, but our radars are tuned to so many thing in a woman that are attractive.

Don’t believe me? I have here a list of super sexy women who are not touted as such nearly enough. This is how legit this is: My girlfriend gave her stamp of approval on this article! Also, I’ve run these names by several beer swilling buds and they said they would (you need to use your imagination here – I avoid F bombs on the Rock) them. Ladies, you more than likely have some crazy cute features. Don’t be afraid to capitalize on them this Valentine’s Day. Check out these vixens. Yes, vixens.
So, you had to have seen Mayim Bialik’s pic at the top. Think about how Amy Farrah Fowler doesn’t expose any of her goods next to the blonds adjacent to her on the Big Bang Theory yet my cronies used ‘bang’ to describe a certain fantasy act with her. If I were Koothrappali, I’d elbow Sheldon out of the way and study biology with his carefully controlled mate.

The labels ‘plus size’ and ‘full figured’ annoy me. I prefer ‘hot’ by itself. You can imagine how my caveman cohorts salivated when they saw this picture of Ashely Graham.

How could I scribe an article on a blog about writing without mentioning an author? If you type Stephanie Meyer in a Google search, it will bring up popular searches associated with her and one of them, no joke, will say: hot. This means thousands of dudes (and girls) are browsing Steph and tagging her as a looker. Pretty good for a geeky pencil pusher.

A sense of humor, glasses and or bright smile can drive a guy wild and these lovely ladies work combinations there of. Kathleen Madigan, Irish drinker, funny little pixie, is so cute! And Liz Lemon herself! What two fisted bloke with half a brain and libido wouldn’t get a little weak in the knees from the sassy smart Tina? Mindy Kaling – she plays a gynecologist on TV and of course the ‘let’s play doctor with Mindy’ remarks came out when I asked the Neanderthals what they thought.

Age makes no difference either. About Helen Mirren, I think Jack Black summed it up nicely at an awards ceremony on live TV when he called her hot and all the men applauded. 

It's this simple. Women are beautiful. Happy Valentine's Day!

Gusto Dave

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

When Do You Quit the Pursuit?

Oh, I suppose if you’re a Winston Churchill admirer, you ‘never ever give up’, but seriously, sometimes it’s just practical. For instance, if something feeds depression (that would never happen with writing!) then you should probably cut it out, yes? Here’s a twist: What if something better comes along? I ask that you digest those points for a just a moment.
                For me, the pursuit for novel publication has become counter-productive at a minimum if not outright asinine. Now, before I insult all writers, friends or foes alike, we’re talking about what’s most suitable for my little ol’ world. Perhaps it’s still a good fit for you. Maybe you’ll rethink it, though, after I reveal some of the traps of this ‘profession’ if you’ve not already gotten tangled in them. The reason I’ve come to this decision is I do not care for spending months on a project (sometimes years) to no avail. Progress is measured differently depending on who you are, but I wanted to earn supplemental income or do it for a living. The latter I understood from the get-go to be difficult, but you never know until you try. With manuscripts that number in the teens and twelve years later, I haven’t achieved either. There was lots of schmoozing, improving in the craft, unprecedented marketing stunts for my only publication, tireless submissions, and nothing has caught traction to help me realize my goal.
                If I reveled in every moment of creating a novel, it would be different. They say you got to love it. A good written word gives me chills – to read and to scribe. I even named my son after a literary reference! However, coming from a performance background, I’m a sucker for getting quick attention to my work. In novel land, you hardly ever get that. Barely anyone will read your stuff when you’re unknown.

                In the Be a Star series on this blog a couple of years ago, I emphasized the need for tenacity and love for the art, and I cited the stories of famous entertainers who exemplified these qualities to stardom. I have the passion and persistence. Time – not so much. And in the spirit of the Be a Star series, Jay Leno spent years trying to ‘get his break’. He auditioned for lots of acting roles while doing stand up at night and turning a wrench during the day to pay bills. Remember him in American Hot Wax? Anyway, he kept being told that his chin was too big. To Mavis, his wife, he resolved, “I’ll just have to find a back door in.” So, to my immediate situation, if I'm not getting anywhere, change the game – find the back door.

                When I started writing, horror was my genre. Soon, it became clear that macabre was the worst selling kind of fiction. Because of my love for writing, I adapted to hotter acquisitions: romance, fantasy, young adult, steampunk western, and urban fantasy. By the way, I received lots of praise on concepts and voice for all these new frontiers. Let me tell you something: Writing is like a selfish lover. I bent over backwards to please her, but she still rejected me. Worse, I lost my identity. I’m a horror writer, damn it!
                So, thus begins my new life. When I hinted in the first paragraph about something better than novel publication, that’s exactly what happened to me! I’m in love with Julie Pfennigwerth. She is my treasure…besides my gifted son. I pinch myself everyday. It’s not an understatement when I tell you I’m flying higher than any spirit. So why do I need the adulation of a novel deal? Put simply, I don’t.

                That established, Julie is a smart, accomplished writer. She has actually made money doing it, so my change of strategy comes mostly by her influence. Going forward, I’ll be chiseling out short stories, articles for magazines, blogs, and maybe the occasional children’s manuscript where you can wrap up a plot within 40k words. That should suffice for my writing fix and won’t chomp out all my time with loved ones, thus bumming me out if nothing comes of the finished copy.
                To be sure, I am very proud of my titles, published and otherwise. Heck, Tattoo Rampage garnered film representation by Jody Hotchkiss who gloated about my imagination and the villain…even though I haven’t heard from ol’ Jody in a couple of years. Another friend with impressive status in the entertainment business, screen writer Cardinal Robbins, continues to encourage me. I mean…wow. However, these little shots in the arm become addictive like heroin and distort reality. You may be good, but are you selling?

                Since I was a wee lad, Prairie Home Companion has been an inspiration to me. A few weeks ago on the program, Garrison Keillor spoke about his gravitation toward writing. He never wanted to be a novelist. Poetry and shorts were his love. And I thought: How smart is that? Keillor, who worshipped the Grand Ole Opry which served as a muse for the Lake Wobegon radio show, used his writing skills and pioneered his own path. I am a guitarist and singer with a booming voice. In the 90s, I made nice scratch on the side plunking strings in restaurants and coffee houses. In 2015, the Gusto Dave Show will return. I’ll be gigging shortly, massaging patrons with musical renditions, humor, and some of my anecdotes.
                Here on the Rock, we’ll still be interviewing agents and editors. A lot of them will probably be magazine publishers for my own appetite. When Janet or I stumble on good-to-know stuff for novel submission, we’ll share of course. As for myself, besides my goofy observations, I’ll be starting a series that exposes some of the trials and tribulations that you may not have anticipated with the novel game. The first coming: The Funds That Publishers Ostensibly Expect You to Fork Out.

Gusto Dave

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Jocks That Writers Should Emulate

Certainly there are stigmas with occupations like the socially awkward IT guy, the superficial salesman, engineers who are too literal, and so forth. I'd like to bury the hatchet between two notorious rivals, especially in high school, the dumb jock and the snobby writer.

This shouldn't be hard to do to meet in the middle. After all, Ernest Hemingway was a guy's guy. Not to toot my own horn, but I boxed for a bit. Frank Dorchak, one of my scribe buds, clearly hits the weights. And Jeanne Stein is a black belt!

The athletic organization that I point you to, believe it or not, is the NFL. It seems fitting since, amongst my RMFW and Pike's Peak Pals anyway, that our Broncs bit the dust in the playoffs. We fans twiddling our thumbs now, are looking for a reason to keep watching the grid iron, so why not some literary education from the big oafs in the tight pants? Yes, I'm serious.

First off, there's the running back who just wants to hit the shower, but the reporters hound him with the typical inane questions. Sweating, hobbling, he answers, "Well, you know...we gave it everything know our quarter back was on today...and you know blah blah blah..." This is freakin' gold. Gold I tell ya. That persistent 'you know' typical of lots of sports personalities is called a dialogue marker. You could slap such a verbal crutch on one of your characters and your readers would develop an ear for that person's dialogue. You could even skip the tag 'Evan said,' or 'Roxy smiled,' to identify the talker because the reader knows the speaker by the marker.

Then there are those commentators. Seriously, one of the things that turns me off of a manuscript is the lack of pizazz with word choice. Verbs are a great opportunity for colorful turn of phrase and newscasters like Collinsworth and Aikman are usually pretty good with the action words. On the Cowboys game, a touchdown with some ricocheting off of several blockers summoned, "He spun into the end zone," from the commentator. On an accurate sharp pass, you may hear, "And Manning bullets it to the receiver." Some of these may be a little purple, but at least they boast some know, man?


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

No Matter How Good You Are, This Should Be in Your Writer's Toolbox

If you're serious about writing, meaning observant of grammar, you probably don't make errors with homophones often. Daily, you choke at the struggles that other people have with you're and your on Facebook, but you know better than to correct these pedestrians. Maybe...just maybe...when texting quickly you'll mix one up from time to time. That's understandable, though, and if you don't, kudos!

However, beware! There are those phones that lurk out in shadows, waiting to sneak into your manuscript and expose you as a fraud. I've seen them in the work of good friends who have English MAs, unfinished pieces that they asked me to eyeball. In a recent manuscript of mine, Janet caught that I wrote chalk full when it's supposed to be chock full. I know the definition of passive voice, appositives, can dazzle you with my text book knowledge, but DOH, I missed these. Thanks for the catch, by the way, Janet.

Here is an awesome list. Go figure, it was on Wikipedia, but I like to run through it and recall if I used any of these that might be iffy in my print.

If you're waiting for something a little more snarky and comical from me, I assure you some postings are on the way. You know the story The Emperor's New Clothes? I'm the kid who squeals that the king is naked. I'll be pointing out the obvious yet hidden with some song and dance in 2015.

Gusto Dave

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It Takes Courage to be a Writer

I glory in tales of heroes and heroines, those who risk everything to gain or protect their passion, whether it’s love, conquering new planets, or righting a wrong. These stories resonate in my heart – I pray they always will.

In The Green Hills of Earth, a short story by Robert A. Heinlein, “Noisy” Rhysling, a blind and dying balladeer is catching rides back to Earth where he wants to be laid to rest. Yet he sacrifices himself to repair a malfunctioning space ship. His final song, before he dies…

…harsh bright soil of Luna -
Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet -
Saturn's rainbow rings -
the frozen night of Titan -
We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

Then there are Batty’s final words in Blade Runner:

“I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

Yes, Batty is the “bad guy,” but at that moment he’s captured his life as neatly as the pair of doves he holds in his hands. And he is transformed, as is Dekker, the “good guy.” Both want to experience “things you people wouldn’t believe.”

It takes courage to set emotions to paper and perseverance to claim the tale. It takes courage to be a writer. We might not wear armor and carry swords, but then again, I have traveled through space, danced on moons, and won the battle of battles. I’ve traveled back in time and flown P-51s. I've risked my life to save others, and I’ll do it all again tomorrow. I hope you will, too.

Janet Fogg

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Necflix: A Guide for Halloween Cinema 2014 by Gusto Dave

Today, we have a necropolis of film suggestions that are guaranteed to, if not shiver your bones, at least leave you satisfactorily entertained. And I'll throw in a couple of reading suggestions.

I'm going to go with the blue chip, power punch time investment first. King Kong, under Peter Jackson's direction, awed moviegoers. Chances are you've seen it since it's played on one of the thousands of HBO channels daily, but if it never made your rotation, the selling points are many. Great performances alone by Adrien Brody, Naomi Watts, Jack Black, and horror veteran Thomas Kretschmann will dazzle the first-time watcher. Kyle Chandler nails it, poking fun at stars, too. A very sympathetic monster pays a perfect tribute to the original 1933 version. The graphics are breathtaking. This film is appropriate for all ages, yet is STILL meant to be scary, which is easy to forget amidst all the adventure. One scene--I'll just say insects--crowns it as a horror flick.

His name is synonymous with Hannibal Lecter, but long before Anthony Hopkins made the evil psychiatrist a household name, he shined in a psychological creep fest and masterpiece entitled Magic. There have been a stack of movies which played on the spooky dummy theme (Chucky comes to mind) but most of them fall short of a deep story, or worse, resort to violence to sustain an audience. Magic, however, grabs heartstrings through the very sympathetic main character Corky Withers--sympathetic, but clearly depraved. Thus, an inevitable tragic wreck is coming and the watcher has no choice but to cringe and give in to his curiosity as to how it will play out. The dialogue between Corky and Fats the dummy is chilling. You'll start believing Fats is alive. In praise, Anthony Hopkins IS REALLY A VENTRILOQUIST. It's a complex role enough with the tormented Corky. When one considers that Hopkins is doing the voice of Fats the dummy, you'll see that his performance is actually better than that of the cannibal character. Magic was written by William Goldman of Princess Bride, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fame, by the way. This would be a great remake as long as another master actor lives the lead role and the director's helm is betrothed to a lover of the novel and original release. The trailer alone is eerie!

As a strict father--hard to believe, I know, considering my wild streak--I try to find appropriate frightening treats for my kid to watch. The Woman in Black delivered. It has all the right stuff, creaking floors, apparitions, things jumping out to startle you, but doesn't cross over the line. Big thumbs up.

Because I always suggest oldies, I thought I'd at least try to recommend something fresh. Proxy passed the test. This story is out there! For me to plug something that has lots of gore means that it has other merits. Such is the case with Proxy. Warning readers, this is a full tilt boogie splatter film. The main character miscarries due to a violent attack, but the characters are unique and I got to admit that each scene riveted me to the grand finale. Very independent and off the beaten path.

For books, I highly HIGHLY recommend Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted. It's been one of my favorites for years. Got the hardback. Chuck's gritty attitude is not for everyone, but his style is as loud as a punk rock guitar solo. This is a collection of short stories by fictious writers who are trapped.

And you could do much worse than my novel, On a Dark Desert Highway. It's getting rave reviews. Yep, it has a beast, a feast, dancing, sweat, mirrors, champagne, the device, candles, and most importantly, no way to leave. I assure you the ending will be one of the biggest surprises you've ever read.

For film recommendations from previous years, check out:

Happy Halloween!