Category Archives: story

It’s a brief story. Don’t steal. I’ll find you.

Fake Podcast Transcript: Not Succeeding

Host:  Hello fans.  This week, we’re going to be joined by Bob, who is a professional writer.  Bob is a novelist who has been quite productive over the past 20 years.  He’s written a variety of different novels, short stories, and literary pieces that explore the topics of human nature, friendship, and heartbreaking loss.  Welcome to the show, Bob!  Thanks for joining me here.

Bob:  No problem.  I uh, didn’t think we’d be meeting at Star . . .  (Host interrupts.)

H:  Shhh.  Let’s focus on the career, Bob.  There is a special direction your writing has taken recently.  Why don’t we begin with that?

B:  Uh, sure, yeah.  (Awkward pause.)  I don’t remember recitation as being part of learning algebra.  You?

H:  No, can’t say I do.  The novel.  One might say that you’ve dedicated your adult life to the process?

B:  You could definitely say that.  Sorry, what was your name again?

H:  Francis.  Moving on, you’ve recently changed your approach to the novel.  Would you explain for the audience what the change has involved?

B:  Sure.  For a long time, I was writing for the Vintage Contemporaries set, you know, literary crap about nothing in particular.  I wanted to talk about relationships, weirdos, misanthropes, the one who got away (then was gotten), so on.  I did this for about ten years, then came to realization that there’s a reason most of this stuff is not published in hardback.  The publishers make exactly zero on that crap.

H:  I quite enjoyed Montana Lemon Zest–one could say it was quite a zinger!

B:  I was on kind of a limoncello kick when I wrote that thing.  There was that and I realized that my old-days hero, Tom McGuane, lived in Montana.  There was always inspiration, which I’d come to realize something about.

H:  Do tell!

B:  What?  (Looks annoyingly at kid reciting an algebraic formula at the encouragement of a twenty-something male schmuck providing some kind of instruction.)

H:  Montana?  What was the allure?

B:  Oh, yeah.  I don’t know, really.  I hated everything I read in college, and McGuane wrote about alcoholic misanthropes, so I thought I’d do that.  It got me a New York deal, and I thought I was set.

H:  You’d think . . .

B:  Well, my landlord had a problem with it.  There I was, all set to bask in my success, and the fucker still wanted a rent check.  I showed her an advance copy of my book, and she was like, “where’s the rent?”

H:  They still gave advances back then, I thought . . .

B:  Oh yeah.  It was like two grand.  I spent it at Liquor Locker immediately . . . figured royalties would kick in, then the screenplay.

H:  Oh, I’m sorry!  Was there a film?

B:  Nope.

H:  Were the royalties significant?

B:  So you wanted to talk about what I’m doing now, right, Frank?

H:  Francis.  Yes.

B:  Well, after a few of the literary things just basically punched me in the nutsac, I decided that a different approach was in order.  I mean I work at the DMV, so anything would be better, right?  Thank fuck nobody looks for your name there . . .

H:  Let’s focus on the books, please.  You were saying?

B:  I needed to find a way to make some money, so the age-old idea was to write fuck books.  You know, romance, smut, whatever.

H:  Your literary works definitely showed your talent for the relationship side of things.

B:  Yeah, thanks.  What the fuck do kids do in school these days?  There must be like eight of these tutor-student bullshits in here right now?  Does Starbucks employ these people?  How much do you think having a kid read algebra out loud pays?

H:  To romance.  I must say that when I saw your name on the cover of an erotica title in Amazon, I was shocked.  The cover was quite standard, what with the nearly-naked, shaven, heavily-muscled man in a sport coat holding flowers.

B:  I fuckin’ hate the covers.  But you have to, you know.  It’s a chick’s market.

H:  How do you mean?

B:  It’s not just romance.  Dudes don’t read.  Something like 70% of the people who buy books are women.  I wish I’d known before taking up the mystery gig–that paid worse than the literary shit . . .

H:  Would you say that you’ve lost your passion for telling a story?

B:  I wouldn’t say that.  I don’t know what I’d say, really.  Fuck books are where it’s at, once you figure out how to sell one.  It’s like putting a puzzle together.  Once you get good at it, you can slap ’em together like puzzles for stupid kids.  What was the question?

H:  Passion for the story?

B:  Oh, yeah.  It’s dead.  I hate working at the DMV–there’s no romance in that shit, but it pays the bills, mostly.

H:  Have you researched the romance market?

B:  Oh yeah.  It’s great.  There’s some decent story, and not much fucking at all, really.  You just have to write one like every month, which is a bit of downer.

H:  Could one say that this is the state of fiction brought about by the eBook?

B:  Yeah.  (Turns to kid at table with balding adult tutor in tow:  “Math is not a verbal enterprise, genius!  Zip it!”)

H:  (In hushed tone:  “I come here a lot, Bob.  Please, be gentle.”)  On the point of the romance, what struck me about finding yours is that you decided to use your actual name, instead of a clever female pseudonym, like most romance writers.  What was your motivation?

B:  I figured there might be somebody out there who read one of my old books.  You know, back catalogue and what not.

H:  Did you find this to be the case?

B:  No.  Not at all.

H:  What are your plans going forward?

B:  I’m gonna get the fuck out of this place.  It’s like fucking detention or something.

H:  That’s a wrap, folks!  We’ve got Bret Easton Ellis on the schedule!

 

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Ug! Or: Please consider trade school, dear writer.

Dear Creative Writer,

I haven’t an iota of interest in your mind, heart, experiences, or delusions.  That said, please do not consider my lack of appreciation for your life’s blood an indication of the generally pointless pursuit of relentlessly polishing your creative writing toolkit.  It will surely serve you well in the future.  Just keep working at it, and never let anyone tell you that you’re not worthy!

You rely on inspiration because nothing else in life tells you that the choices you’ve made are right.  Your conclusions seem reasonable.  You entertain yourself with your own thoughts; few outside of the canine kingdom are really capable of doing this, so you should find reasonable solace and joy in this ability to make a party in your pants when no one (of any measurable substance) is watching.  Your mom/roommate/grandfather should be really proud of the efforts you make when you see the red mist of the writer; given the average writer’s proclivities for smoking and cirrhosis of the liver, the mist is actually probably more of a yellow, but you go, writer!

There’s a definite future for you.  Many writers have made it big over the past century; the fact that the names on the list of ten or so only change every 50 years should not deter your momentum.  Stay on that track, and you might just be the next John Steinbeck or Nora Roberts.  Granted, it takes a special person and a bit of luck to become one of the ten.  One should take the time to consider other opportunities in life that offer better odds at having a reasonably successful life:  fucking the U.S. President as a prostitute with a knack for covert video construction; winning any state’s lottery or Powerball; getting an MLS soccer player contract, just like that British douche with all the bitchin’ tats; discovering and monetizing a cure for just one of an endless array of cancer types (you might need some med school first, but just for this one opportunity).  Keep on writing, you soldier of the Underwood!

Maybe, just maybe, when you’ve been accepted by a publisher as a writer of compelling fiction, you will be awarded a contract for one to three books of your very own blood, sweat, and folly.  This publisher may offer you genuine money for the products of your overactive mind.  That money, quantitatively, will sound quite impressive when translated into Mexican pesos, which you should not see as such a bad thing; with the American dollar, you may not find the joy you’ve so mercilessly sought; you probably won’t be able to pay rent in Fresno, let alone Atlanta.  Find joy in the peso, then use whatever extras you have left, after moving to a country (Mexico is convenient and reasonably priced) that you can afford as a legit, published author, to buy some quality body armor (work from the top down, based on your income level) and with whatever you have left, if anything, enjoy some tequila.  Don’t bother paying extra for the “good” stuff, as it’s still just tequila, which is like what happens when they make pruno in a desert, where white bread doesn’t grow naturally.

Here’s to your success!  Don’t stop rubbing the letters off those keys; Hemingway and Stephen King made it, so you can, too!

Yours Truly,

Dearest Reality

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E-fucking-nough

Okay, so I may have lied a few months back when I said I was done with law school.  I went back in the fall, and came to realize that I was right last spring.  When you are in law school, and you are only doing respectable work in classes you like (as opposed to the opposite in other classes), something’s telling you to get out, rather than pick a specialty.  Law school is hell, and unlike most of my classmates, I can’t find a desperate need to keep going.  There is simply no reality-based value I can see as being worth so many more years of suffering and trying to plot out a career I simply would not fit into.  So there:  Fuck it for good.  Back to my normal life for good, which, after a year and a half of law school, I have come to find was pretty good . . .

When you’re sitting around in your living room during the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, asking yourself if your life is really this easy, and your answer revolves around the word “obviously,” you must realize that you’ve been kind of an idiot to fuck it up (with something so detestable as law school/reading law).  But that’s just what we idiots like to do:  fuck things up.  For fuck’s sake, I turned a Ford Falcon into a Corvette.  I ride a mountain bike with one gear.  I still ride a fixie, which is so not popular/hip anymore.  I just got into fuel injection . . .

Granted, reading law is not so bad–at my age, I actually quite enjoyed reading through many of the cases.  At my age, I was able to relate to most of them quite easily, either via first-hand experience or through shared experience.  Unfortunately, law is not in the story or the minute details (most of the time); it’s in the rules (why cases should be remembered) that result from some idiot judge’s hot-air based sense of all-knowing ego/awareness, and I’m not the best guy to make a life of rules, at least legal ones . . .  Worse yet, it would only be a short matter of time before I would be thrown out of a court.  So many judges seem like former victims, and are such dicks; it would be so easy and fun to push their buttons.  They are only part of the reason why I have no faith in the legal system (another problem!) . . .  That Netflix thing over the x-mas break didn’t help either.

So, I guess I just need to do what I do, which is usually something quite close to whatever the heck I feel like doing.

Stay tuned for pics of a structural transmission tunnel, a tubing-based firewall, and eventually, maybe an exhaust system that exits in a really stupid place.  One day, the stupid car might even have a floor.

I guess now I can also start liking words again.  Maybe I should try writing . . .

lgback

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Don Winslow’s The Cartel: Chronically Weird Timing with El Chapo’s Escape

So I just finished reading Don Winslow’s The Cartel, which came out a couple of weeks ago, apparently to make El Chapo’s most recent escape from his comfy home in a Mexican prison comically perfect for some serious book marketing.

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Essentially, The Cartel‘s main character, Adan Barrera, is based on the life and fun times of Joaquin Guzman Loera (El Chapo), among others (all good characters are amalgamations, duh), who’s got his own Wikipedia page here:  serious research.  Funnily enough, El Chapo’s job, under Wikipedia, is that of “Drug Lord”, in case the world needs a perfect definition.

This isn’t really a book review or anything, because really, who the hell reads books?  For the most part, it struck me as perfect in some kind of cosmically fucked-up way that El Chapo would escape so recently after Winslow’s book was released (like two weeks).  He might have actually planned it this way, as in Winslow’s book , Barrera is keenly aware of how the public views him as a drug lord–again, you’ve got to laugh here, especially when the guy gets on Twitter to defend himself against, and threaten Donald Trump.  There is no comedian or Hollywood script hack who can get away with writing shit this ridiculous (or ridiculously coincidental) . . .

To clarify and explain how El Chapo might have been (be, actually) a fan of Don Winslow’s writing, one must realize that The Cartel is the long awaited sequel to The Power of the Dog, which came out about 10 years ago.  When the first book came out, El Chapo, in real life, was in the midst of his long-term (business/money-building/life-improving) escape from prison (“maximum security”) in 2001.  During that time, he became a billionaire, a position that was cemented, reported, and respected in the totally respectable Forbes magazine in 2011 or so.  Then, in 2014, El Chapo was put up in prison again.  The dude had a shower in his cell.

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To conclude on the point of infotainment, one must realize that there is no better entertainment than that which is based on real life.  Don Winslow has a very apparent fascination with Mexican drug cartels, and he did a considerable quantity of research in writing about them (fictionalizing), so much so that he had leftovers/crossovers in The Death and Life of Bobby Z and Savages, among others.

Read some entertaining shit.  Learn from it.  Amaze your friends.  Notice things.

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Rules for Writing: #5

Rule #5:  Inspiration is for douchebags, dipshits, pansies, and others who thought the Iowa Writers’ Workshop would keep them off welfare somehow.

So today, some gasbag was allowed to post some longwinded claptrap about a connection between the I.W.W. (see words above) and the C.I.A. on The Chronicle for Higher Education (www.chronicle.com).  What the hell was I doing there, you ask?  I was looking for education, but what I found was just dumb…

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that life has given you a need for writing, and that if you were truly meant to do it, you must feel genetically, physically, mystically, or divinely compelled to do so.  This is bullshit, and you need to do some pushups.  More importantly, remember that nobody cares, because they don’t read anyway…

What the real #5 consists of is the following:  Discipline.  You, your life, and writing will never amount to anything without discipline.  Writing, for those who are either meant to do it or just want to do it, regardless of innate ability or pure need to suffer, is work, that dirtiest of dirty fucking words.  Work, work, goddamned fucking work.  If you’re doing it right, writing will make you cuss at the wall, because you’ll know that if things are going easily and smoothly like diarrhea after strong coffee, you’re fucking up.

What will people like John D. MacDonald, Ernest Hemingway, or William Faulkner tell you for advice (aside from “don’t die!”)?  Bust yo’ ass, bitches!  There’s that, and the fact that writing, whether it pays or not, can always be sponsored by your favorite drink.

So maybe the real #5 is this:  motivation.

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Rules for Writing: #4

Rule #4:  You’re not done.

You spent six years writing your manifesto, working diligently to squeeze out all of your innermost thoughts and heartfelt opinions on everything from Nazi Germany to tomato paste, and figure that there’s just nothing left to do.  Your masterpiece has been birthed, and should now be in the hands of a New York editor, who will more than likely only tell you of your genius, and thank you for working so hard to give the world such a magnificent present of perfection.

Nope.

To put it lightly, that 1000 words, I mean pages, will need to be cut to about 500.  This is mostly to get rid of redundancy, irrelevance, and general idiocy.  Start reading now, and learn to be honest with yourself.  This doesn’t need to be there;  remove that; delete, delete, delete.  It’s not gold, so you can afford to chuck it out.  Please.

Here’s the thing:  You always need another draft.  Times five.  Really.

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Rules for Writing: #3

Here I am getting fucking sick of rules.  You’re clever, attractive, know how to do a few things, and have conquered the opposite sex in a way that did not result in a fat lip or a prison sentence; this makes you above average.  You’ve got something to share, and people should listen; they should in fact pay you to listen.  But they won’t, unless you teach at a college, and they have no choice…

Rule #3:  Writing does not make people money.  Don’t think that typing is going to make you rich, comfortable, or even capable of living above roach motel status.  Like all heinous diseases, writing is good for saving money on shrinks, creating hardcore drinking habits, and a bad work history, but it’s no good for money.  Good luck is good for money; writing is good for not getting laid.  Nobody gives a shit about things that must be read.

There are very few “successful” authors out there who’ve made Ferrari-level money.  Don’t make these people your targets; in the same way a budding actor should not decide to become Tom Cruise (fake name, by the way), you should not decide to be James Patterson.  He’s him, not you; he was essentially chosen and convenient for the scuzz in New York; you will not be him.  There’s simply not room; keep your soul, and save it for a nice Ducati or KTM.

Don’t be jealous of Zadie Smith.  People who get big publishers while they’re virgins don’t tend to get far in life (or make money)–they’re frequently published as losses (gifts to the boss’s nephew or shit like that).  While I’m still waiting for word on Donna Tartt, for some reason, I do not envy her; her second book was a long-awaited turd.  Her third, well, I haven’t looked at it yet, but third rhymes with…

Granted, you could be an Anthony Swofford or a Josh Bazell; refer to the Tom Cruise thing above.  Get lucky first.

To put things in a cliche (nutshell), if you stick with it for 20 or 30 years, you might get somewhere (whatever that means).  Don’t think that divine inspiration, character, or general human sickness will get you there (refer to rules 2 and 1).  You’ve got to bust your ass, and realize that sweat just means you’re alive.

If you manage to not quit, and eventually become a competent novelist (no, not an eHow machine), you might decide to study marketing, and make a buck on your own (thank you, Internet!).  You’re better off with some other skills, however…

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