Tag Archives: rants

Everything Aside–This Is How I Really Feel About Being Published

Let me open by saying that I am thankful for every sale, every reader, and every review. This rant comes, perhaps irreverently, at the same time as the news that Betrayal at Phobos is currently ranked second in sales with my publisher this month. I am grateful for the support system I have, which mainly involves my significant other, a handful of close friends, some former students, a couple of mentors, and my immediate family. It’s unfortunate that I’ve chosen to air my frustrations, but I just can’t keep my mouth shut about these issues any longer. I hope, at the very least, that this post proves instructional to those with hopes of becoming an author.

When I was a junior pursuing my BA in English, I had the good fortune of signing up for a creative writing class with a seasoned novelist who has been publishing on and off since the 1970’s. I got to know this professor, who many considered bitter and curmudgeonly, fairly well.  And he, knowing my dream was to write fiction for a living, sat me down after class one day and explained that writing is quite possibly the world’s loneliest profession.

I thought I understood what he meant back then. After all, when you’re twenty years old and still struggling to find your voice, very few believe you have anything worthwhile to say. If you can, you seek solace in a group of like-minded people that will bolster your courage and inspire you to continue on the path to publication. They listen when you bitch about how most adults today are content to read YA novels and rant about the injustice of the university shutting down its Humanities program. They provide a mental forum to which you may bring your ideas, however hackneyed they might be. If your friends are geeks, you might even get to test drive a character or two in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign before you waste 100,000 words on a novel starring “he who nobody likes” as the protagonist and “she of the ever shifting nomenclature” as the love interest. These are your best friends, your brain trust, your stalwart companions on the metaphorical life-quest you all obsess over whilst rolling dice and punishing your body with Jack in the Box and Mountain Dew Code Red.

But are they really? Or did everything just mean so much more to you than it did to everyone else?

The biggest problem with being a creative type—and especially someone who loves Science Fiction and Fantasy—is that you elevate your interactions with people to the grandeur of an epic.

Somehow, I managed a three-book deal with a mid-sized publisher. By the time my first novel was published, I had more than a few followers online: former students, people who had discovered my blog when it was Freshly Pressed, co-workers who also teach English or history, and the aforementioned boon companions. In my mind of epic metaphors and unreasonable expectations, I believed my triumph would be shouted to the heavens—or that it would at least go viral. This, of course, would be even more unreasonable if I hadn’t stood by so many of these people when they needed my help.

There are certainly high school graduates out there doing well now but who never would have made it if I had not stepped between them and their parents, or between them and the administration, or between them and themselves.  I can count a couple successful marriages that may not have happened if I had not smacked some sense into one partner or the other, usually the male. (I am also a damn good father, and anyone who doubts this does not know the first thing about me.) But failing even this, I have always stood for moral and intellectual pursuits while doing my best to keep my opinionated nature in check, which, for me, is more difficult than writing a book or teaching a college course.

In the end, none of this matters. You can’t expect those who died for you in D and D to show one iota of loyalty in reality. You can’t expect the college student you befriended more than a decade ago in a screenwriting class to be bothered to read your work now that it’s published—even when you offer to read his. You can’t even expect the students (and fellow geeks) you’ve dragged through high school kicking and screaming to show up for your book signing at the local library.

Oh, and you certainly can’t expect anyone on the Internet to do right by you. Over 2,000 illegal downloads of my first novel and counting. I’m a public servant, people—a teacher in what is statistically the most underfunded state in the Union. If you’re going to steal bread from my meager table, at least have the decency to write a review.

Here’s one thing you can count on: life isn’t really about doing the right thing, struggling, and being rewarded with a big payoff—that only happens in the world of fiction. So that’s where I’ve chosen to stay.

I am committed to the world’s loneliest profession. I understand now what that old “curmudgeon” was trying to tell me. The readers who will get something out of your stories are almost never the people you know personally. Those who were with you at the beginning will never see you as an author and will go to great lengths to ignore your accomplishments whether you publish through TZPP or HarperCollins. If you happen to inspire an epiphany somewhere in the world, it will forever remain unknown unless someone decides to write a review.

This presents a frustrating paradox: the first rule of writing is to consider your audience, but the odds are long that you’ll ever know who they are, at least not until someone invests many thousands in marketing you, and not some label, to get your work in front of them. When that happens, love and appreciate those fans, but never allow them to become the reason you write. The only person you can count on is yourself. Write for you.

If I’m honest, I get very few questions about my book series from legitimate fans. The most common question both friends and strangers ask me about being a novelist is, “So you’re published, but are you making any real money?” This is generally followed by, “Do they stock your book at Barnes & Noble? Oh, well why not?” These people don’t seem to understand that they, and not I, hold the keys to my success. All I can do is write the books. They also don’t seem to understand how incredibly rude this behavior is. What if I walked up to an engineer and asked him why he doesn’t make six figures working at Motorola? He’d probably break my nose. And you know what? I’d deserve it.

I, for one, am going to finish writing this book series regardless of who reads it and who judges me based on the size of my publisher. Eventually, the naysayers who didn’t support me will see me on the bestsellers’ list. It will likely be the only place they’ll see me from now on.

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10 Reasons Why I Hate Christmas Music

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Come now, Dan. ‘Tis the season for over singing and adult onset diabetes…

10) I’m sick to death of these modern singers trying to make their version of a tired old… err, I mean traditional Christmas song sound different by hamming it up. It’s Noel, people. Two simple syllables. Noel. Not Nooeeeee-hooo-eeelllll-eeeeeeeell-lllaaaaaa-weee-llllaaaae-llllaaa-welllll-ealll-wellll-ellla-wellll! And if it’s such a joyous occasion, why does your voice sound like a sobbing five-year-old with her finger smashed in a door?

All I want for Chri-iiiiieee-iiiieee-iiieeee-iiiieeeest-maaaa-aaaaaaas i-i-i-i-i-ss yoouuu-oooww-oooooowwww-oooooooowwww-whooooaaaaa-oooooooo-whooooooaaaaaa-oooooooo-WHOOOOAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!

Yeah, and you’re going to get your man back by howling at the moon like a retarded, tone-deaf werewolf?

The other day, I heard a version of The Little Drummer Boy featuring a female vocalist rolling her r’s with every rum pa pum pum. If her intention was to simulate a drumroll using onomatopoeia, she failed more famously than NATO. If her intention was to Latinize the song, she insulted Chicanos everywhere. If her intention was to make it sound like the Little Drummer Boy was firing a machine gun at the token livestock gathered for the Nativity scene, she succeeded brilliantly.

9) Am I the only one who notices the horrible innuendos, voyeurism, and zeitgeists that occur in the “modern classics”?

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas:

Somebody waits for you/

Kiss her once for me!

Wait… what? A minute ago, you were singing about the joys of the holiday season, and now you’re encouraging me to make out with some “ho” under the mistletoe just so you can watch? Is this how you get your jollies, Burl Ives?

Baby, It’s Cold Outside:

I simply must go/

The answer is no…/

Hey, what’s in this drink?/

Wow. What a charming, family oriented song about roofie-ing some poor girl you “rescued” from the snow storm only to imprison at your house (serial killer lair) until she gives it up to you. I guess they didn’t have date rape in the ’50’s when this song came out.

Hell, while I’m writing this, the DJs on the Christmas station are discussing STDs. I rest my case.

8) Christmas music actually advocates for absentee parenting.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas:

Dolls that can talk and will go for a walk/

Are the hope of Janice and Jen/

And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again!/

Yeah, the truth comes out. Teachers are glorified babysitters because you jerks don’t know how to handle your own kids.

7) I have to hear Elvis, who has no idea how to enunciate and sounds like the Godfather trying to sing with a mouth full of mashed potatoes. Or a hick trying to sing with a mouth full of deep fried peanut butter and cocaine sandwiches.

Elvis:

Uhllevavlue…

Backup Singers:

Oooooo-uuuoooo-eeeeee-oooo-ehwl!

Elvis:

C-c-c-hristmas…hubbalavout you!

6) Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart…

And the very next day, you made yet another version of this awful song. What’s worse is that I have no sympathy for you. You had a one night stand with some jerk at the company Christmas party or whatever (Tell me baby, do you recognize me?/ Well, it’s been a year, it doesn’t surprise me/), and I’m supposed to empathize with you? And you’re still not over it a year later? Oh, but you “found a real love” and can’t be fooled again–yet you’re still whining about this a year later!

What’s even worse is that I get this travesty stuck in my head and write my own lyrics, which are even too horrible to be posted here… (A Facebook lover with a fire in his fart…)

5) Carol of the Bells…

My five-year-old is terrified of this song. Apparently, so is Peter Griffin. Of course, it always reminds me of that stupid “Ding Fries Are Done!” YouTube video that was funny ten years ago before I had matured into the sensible, cultivated man I am today. 😉

4) It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

If that’s so, why is it a tour de force of all the overrated, mainstream vocalists that I couldn’t stand from every era involving vinyl? And Andy Williams, were you just totally trashed when you spit out, “There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long agooooo!”

In what Christmas tradition does one toast marshmallows over a fire and tell ghost stories? That’s called a camping trip, you moron! The only possible similarity there is the tree!

3) Edward Cullen…err, I mean Satan Claws…err, I mean Santa Claus is Coming to Town…

He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows where all the naughty girls are. He’s immortal and oft misunderstood. Could Santa Claus be a sparkly vampire?

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You’d better be good, and not just for goodness’ sake… Uuuaaggh! I’m so angsty!

2) Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time…

Paul McCartney, did you think that because you were a Beatle that you didn’t have to actually write anything good? That people would listen to utter crap that falls flat on every level and doesn’t say anything about anything just because you’re Paul McCartney? Did you write this song on the one-ply toilet paper at the hotel and just perform it right afterwards? I mean, you basically just put out: I’m Paul McCartney. And that’s enough. 

1) Didn’t see your favorite Christmas tune here? Maybe that’s because the radio in Arizona basically plays these same freaking songs over and over and over again, and I have to listen to it all for the sake of my girls. (I could seriously go for You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch, but at least I haven’t had to hear Alvin and the Chipmunks this year–yet.) The only one I didn’t touch on is Feliz Navidad, which is actually hysterical because my gringo kids, who apparently learned absolutely nothing from watching Dora the Explorer, think the guy on the radio is singing about the Hydra.

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Aurie: Feliz Navidad… Oh sumthin’ Hydra feliz di-dad!

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The Life and Times of Mr. Quack Quack

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Most of us remember that one special toy we had when we were little that bordered on being an imaginary friend. Mine was a plushie dinosaur I named Scary because my parents told me that “Dino” wasn’t creative enough. (He’s still around, in fact. They knew how to make toys in the 80’s.)

When Aurie, my oldest, was about two, she fixated on a giant pink hippo chair that she named Spiderman:

Hippo Spiderman

Not my kid, but was our hippo…

Giant pink hippo Spiderman’s demise had less to do with a manufacturing error and more to do with a feline companion we had at the time. Kitty, being a cat and thus evil as the nine hells, deluged sloppy turds, turds that smelled like week-old garbage tossed in salmon and expired mayo, all over Spiderman’s poor plushie lap. (Right about where that kid is, actually…)

It was a horrific end even Stan Lee couldn’t have seen coming.

I remember sneaking out in the middle of the night and hauling Spiderman’s big, dead, pink hippo ass to one of the apartment complex’s industrial sized dumpsters. The only onlookers at his interment were drug dealers and college students right out of a Kevin Smith movie, and these trenchcoated denizens of the ghetto regarded me strangely as I committed the atrocious act of consigning my daughter’s most prized possession to oblivion. So much shame.

Then, in the morning, came the inevitable question.

“Daddy? Where’s Spiderman?”

So Daddy (hey, that’s me!) went out and bought little Aurie a real Spiderman chair! Spiderman chair 2.0 said all kinds of interesting phrases when you sat down… in his lap. -.-

spiderman chair 2.0

Come sit on me! I’m not creepy or anything…

Little Aurie pretended to be happy, but it wasn’t really the same. Em and I, of course, were traumatized by this toy (he kept talking about his web balls!) that at first seemed like a viable replacement for pink hippo Spiderman but later reminded us of the kind of thing you’d see in the bargain section of a Fascinations Sensual Superstore.

A few months later, we moved out of the ghetto. Spiderman stayed there to “clean up the neighborhood”, and Aurie eventually forgot about him.

It was about this time that we bought Mr. Quack Quack. Aurie didn’t initially have that much of a connection to the toy, but Em and I pushed it. Em was afraid she was going to be into boys too early. I, ever the pragmatist, was more afraid that she was never going to find out that Spiderman is a total dweeb compared to Wolverine and Thor.

Spider Sense Wolvie

Spider sense tingling? Too late, bub…

And so it soon came to pass that Aurie had a Mrs. Quack Quack. And, for Easter, a Baby Quack Quack. A whole gaggle of Quack Quacks. She played house with them. A few years passed, and Kiera began to play with them too. Then came Mr. Gram, our Golden Retriever who made it his mission in life to misappropriate these beloved iconic family trophies for chew toys. Em patched a seam here, they went through the wash a few times, and Baby Quack Quack lost an eye to the dogs, but overall, I thought the Quack Quack family was a happy family.

Then, almost overnight, there were no more Quack Quacks about.

The other day, I heard from Em that Aurie, who is now in third grade, has a crush on some boy in her class. Apparently, he “makes her heart flutter”. That’s right. You heard me. Flutter.

This came a couple months after Aurie’s birthday, on which her grandmother gave her deodorant and a training bra. That’s right. You heard me. Deodorant and a training bra.

So, in what was probably a subconscious effort to ignore the real issue, I asked Aurie why I didn’t see her hanging out with Mr. Quack Quack anymore. Her answer astounded me, and I hope to God it isn’t some metaphor for how she sees our family life.

Aurie: Mr. Quack Quack? I go over to his house all the time, but he has plans.

Me: Plans?

Aurie: Yeah, that’s what he tells me. He always has plans. The last time I was there, he yelled at me in the Quack Quack language and chased me out with a mop!

Me: That wasn’t very nice of him, was it?

Aurie: It’s not his fault though, Daddy! Mr. Quack Quack is stressed. He has a hard life.

(At this point, I looked over at the plushie on the nightstand, and he appeared to be brooding… very Twilight Zone.)

Me: Umm… So, what’s so hard about Mr. Quack Quack’s life?

Aurie: It’s his situation, Daddy. He can’t find a job because he doesn’t speak English. All he can say is, “Quack quack!” No one understands him but Mrs. Quack Quack–he tells her things, and then she has to explain everything for him. But she can’t go to his job interviews with him because she works  all day and all night at a taco stand to pay the bills. They never see each other.

Me: Wait a minute! The Quack Quacks have bills?

Aurie: Yeah, they rent. They all live in a beaver damn with holes in it, and Mr. Quack Quack is always mopping. He needs a job really badly, but he can’t get one because all he can say is, “Quack quack!” Plus, he has to take care of his baby all day. Baby Quack Quack should be in kindergarten already, but they can’t afford it because he needs to go to a special school.

Me: Why does Baby Quack Quack need to go to a special school?

Aurie: (as if addressing the biggest idiot in existence) Because he doesn’t have eyes, Daddy. He needs to go to a special school like Helen Keller. Don’t you remember when we read about Helen Keller?

Me: …right.

Aurie: Mr. Quack Quack just needs some space right now. Besides, he’s a lousy cook. All he knows how to make are fishsticks and fish rolls, and Baby Quack Quack can’t stand them, but Baby Quack Quack can’t tell him because he doesn’t understand the Quack Quack language. Those mean beavers are probably going to make him a hobo soon, anyway. They’re going to break down his house with big logs because he can’t pay his bills.

Me: It sounds to me like Mr. Quack Quack needs to find a high paying gig so Mrs. Quack Quack can quit her job and take care of the baby. Couldn’t he interview at some place where the boss speaks the Quack Quack language?

Aurie: He tried that, but his car broke down on the way to the job. His car is a death trap.

Me: (curiously, and a little afraid) What’s wrong with his car?

Aurie: (after describing my p.o.s down to the last nut and bolt) So when his car broke down, everybody in traffic got mad at him. He shook his fist and yelled, “Quack quack! Quack quack! Quack quack!” But nobody understood him. Then the cops came and took him to jail. Mrs. Quack Quack had to leave the taco stand to bail him out, and that cost even more money. They didn’t even pay her in dollars that week. Just gross fish tacos. Baby Quack Quack pretended to eat them and then put them in the toilet…

This went on for another 20 minutes or so before I put Aurie to bed. I had been worried about training bras, deodorant, and a silly third grade crush. Apparently, I’d missed immigration, the recession, special education reform, kids not being able to communicate with their parents, and some really pissed off mafia beaver land lords.

Evil Beaver

Where’s the money, Quacks? Being late again might be… unhealthy for you. Oh yeah, and your fish rolls are shit.

Fat pink hippo Spiderman chair, wherever you are, I’m so sorry. There are no words. Please come back! :-((((

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