Category: Sarcasm

Vanity Schmanity: Self-Publishing Shame

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“Writing is an act of ego. You might as well admit it.” William Knowlton Zinsser

 

An act of ego. Yes. Let’s get that right out there at the starting line. Writing, or for that matter, any art that is practiced must always begin in the depths of that small furnace of creativity that fuels the action of creating. It’s the same furnace where ego either burns you down to a liquid pile of defeat or forges you into a powerful blade that can vanquish doubt. Knowing this and choosing to wield your pen anyway, you will now face the next challenge; Self-Publishing versus Traditional Publishing. Or as some literary elitists prefer to see it; *Vanity Publishing* versus *Real Publishing*.

If you didn’t already think of yourself as a clever writer, you would only be writing in a private diary, locked with a key and tucked in a safe place where your sister won’t find it. The minute you hand your words to one other human being for their feedback you have taken the first step towards a life of more writing. That initial hit of praise can soar through your system like an opiate, making you crave another hit and soon.

So the big question I am wrestling is this: what is the definition of Vanity Publishing and is it still relevant in a world of eBook vs. paper book sales? I have a favorite author who also blogs and works the heck out of her writer platform. I get to peek into her day to day world like a viewer watching The Truman Show. Typically, I read her posts and find I’m nodding in agreement or laughing- as her posts are hilarious. The other day she wrote a piece on vanity publishing that pointed to a Florida bookstore that only sells self-published books by local artists. She referred to the store as a Vanity Bookstore. I’ve got to say, it rocked me back when I read those damning words.

Is that a fair statement? Vanity Bookstore? Or *Vanity Publishing* for that matter? Oh, don’t get me wrong. I know there is dreadful, self-aggrandizing drivel out there. Some of it, so bad that given a format it is deserving of, would rest at the bottom of Polly’s cage with cracked sunflower seeds obscuring the guano smeared letters. But, there is also a rising tide in the world of self-publishing and on its crest rides word gems and stellar stories. Those are told by amazing writers who want to put their work out there but shy away from the slave auction setting that has become Traditional Publishing.

Let’s get real. The big publishing houses will only select a tiny handful of authors to join their stable and of those, you can count on one hand which ones get the lion’s share of promo-money to get their books to reader’s around the globe. It’s a lotto win, not a guarantee of success when you are picked up by a publishing house. And even if you do win that lotto, you have a matter of weeks- less than six according to a New York literary agent-friend, and if your book doesn’t break the sound barrier within the pre-determined time frame then it will be put out to pasture like a lame horse. When that happens, your only chance of making money from your title is when stragglers trip over it at a bookstore, if they keep it on their shelves, or an eBook purchase when it’s offered at 99 cents. Or, you could wait until your contract with the publisher is over and then take back your work and go the self-publishing route, earning more than 80% of the cover price yourself.

What keeps rising in my mind in the great Indie versus Vanity Publishing discussion is that writing seems to be the only art form where people feel perfectly comfortable slapping a negative, mocking label onto your work because of the way it is served up to the public. Who are these *mean girl* people who revel in throwing down the V word like an insult meant to diminish the writer and their work?

Imagine this. You’re hanging out in Nashville on a Tuesday night. Looking for some food, cold beer and music you wander into the Bluebird Café over on Hillsboro Pike. A woman steps to the stage; slings her six string over her shoulder and cozy’s up to the mic. Over the next three and a half minutes you are transported to another plane of existence by her lyrics, her voice and the skill of her hands on the strings. Would it have ever occurred to you to say; even think, she’s a *Vanity Performer*. She isn’t signed to a record label. Hell, she even wrote her own song! Who is this chick and why is she taking up space on a stage meant for “professional” artists?

Hey! You with the shredded toe shoes! Yeah, I’m talking to you, skinny. Get off that stage and take your chine’s and demi-pointes with you, you poser. You aren’t signed with a ballet company so you’re a *Vanity Dancer*!

And you, with the paint brush and the forty-seven hour madness in your eyes! Take that canvas and go back to your garage where you belong! You don’t have an agent or a gallery representing your work so what are you doing at this fine art show anyway, you…you… *Vanity Painter*!

You catch my drift. Writing is the only art form that appears to be vulnerable to shaming through labels. Perhaps because the majority of the shamers have a degree in English that is currently in use lining Polly’s cage while they are paying their bills by hostessing at Applebee’s.

I’m asking the world in general to allow the Darwin theory to weed out the wheat from the chaff; survival of the fittest. Any individual with the ego, the courage, the talent and the tenacity to go through the process of self -publishing should have their day (or years or five minutes if it’s awful) in the published author’s glorious rays of sun. Once they upload their title into the Thunderdome that is Amazon Books, reviewers, trolls and meanies will either swoop in for the kill and pick their bones clean until they remove their title through sheer humiliation; or they will be raised up on shoulders with high praise; into the rarefied air of the best seller names where they can do lunch with Amanda Hocking in her Learjet as they wing their way to her private island in the Azores.

The waters of self-publishing are just as infested with sharks as traditional publishing seems to be. You could lose a limb either way if you don’t seek assistance in reading contracts and steer clear of companies that require exorbitant amounts of money from you along with your manuscript. There are also Fairy Godmother/father editors, graphic designers, formatting options, even promotional companies that can get your title out there for a reasonable fee. Many are not only legitimate businesses, but they can end up being life-long partners for you in your writing career.

Frankly, I can’t afford to be traditionally published at this point in my life, and so my titles will be self- published eBooks, and print-on-demand for those who prefer to read my words on paper. Call it whatever you want. The natural order of things will either crown me or kill me. Maybe I’ll be bleeding on the Thunderdome floor or maybe Amanda Hocking and I will be clinking champagne glasses at 30,000 feet. The point is, if my writing is fit to survive, it will. And if it’s not, well, you’ll never know unless I tell you that once upon a time I wrote a book.

Salt in My Wound

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Question: Am I missing out on some sort of secret, super delicious farm salt? Mountain salt, perhaps? Or maybe it’s prairie salt that I should be wanting…

I went to open a box of Triscuits and noticed that the label proudly announced, “Made with sea salt.” Wow. Really?

Technically, all salt is sea salt. Mined salt is nothing but seriously old sea salt that was trapped when the oceans receded from current land masses some 300,000,000 years ago. So… sorry gourmet sea salt peddlers, you’re going to need to come up with a better catch phrase.

That, or maybe I can start bottling and selling Earth Air and Wet Water. Yes, I think I will. Let me get to the patent office before someone steals my idea…………….
And this is what I do to avoid working on the damn speech I’m supposed to be giving this weekend.

Twerk or Treat

Seriously…what the hell is this costume about?
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I’ve been following a conversation thread a bunch of female writers are having about appropriate Halloween costumes for their preteen girls. They’re discussing the battle for common sense. One had mentioned that she was looking for a monster costume online and had to wade through “sexy monster” getups to find something a seven year old could wear who wasn’t a child prostitute in Bangkok.

Another listened as her own third grader chattered on about this or that being “sexy”. When she asked her daughter what that meant, she admitted she didn’t know. Mom explained that it was dressing in a way to make you attractive so that someone will want to kiss and hold you romantically. That shut the kid down pronto. Apparently, to her child, the word “sexy” was akin to “smurfy” or some other innocuous and kitschy adjective.

I saw this conversation thread while back in my Illinois hometown for my aunt’s funeral this week. The memories of Halloweens past were thick as a hand full of milk duds tossed into a greedy mouth.

Driving from the cemetery, I had to take Wolf Road, going right past my school friend, Merry’s, house. That’s the house where we all played spin-the-bottle for the first time at her Halloween Party; the big event of the season. Costumes required. It was seventh grade. 1967.

I wanted to wear something pretty and girly. Being the athletic, tomboy type, this would have been a major transformation for me given that my closet boasted a collection of competitive swimsuits, a pair of treasured kangaroo-skin track shoes with long and short removable spikes, a well-worn baseball glove, a rock collection and a bunch of freaky encyclopedias that I read like other kids read Tiger Beat.

My mom feared my inevitable blossoming into a young woman. After I got permission to attend the party, the costume search began. I was just looking for something pretty. Not slutty. Instead, she prepared a costume for me. I went to this party- this important party- as George Washington. Powdered wig, ruffled shirt, blue waist coat, buckle shoes. No shit. George freaking Washington. Not even Martha! Though I have seen portraits of her and it wouldn’t have been very different.

MORTIFIED. I was completely, utterly mortified. There would be boys there! BOYS! And the bottle thing! Kissing! Kill me now. No one will want to be kissing George Freaking Washington. I would be the only female not in a girly, pretty, sparkly, gown. I just knew it.

Merry answered the door in a spectacular evil witch costume; hideous warty nose and all. Relief flooded through me that she hadn’t chosen to be the Blue Fairy. A little while later, one of my junior high crushes walked in. He tottered on his high heels, adjusted the hem of the dress and shook out the curls of his bouffant styled wig. There he was; adorable, Kurt. He was a brown haired version of Kurt Russell; startling blue eyes and a soft dusting of freckles on his cheeks. Impossibly, his eyes looked even bluer with the slather of mascara and red lipstick that his older sister had put on him; all the while, laughing maniacally, I would guess.

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The evening took an instant turn for the better. I even got through the bottle-spinning-kissing-stuff and ended up wearing lipstick anyway. Red. It matched my cheeks when everyone clapped afterwards. Kurt and I won the costume contest and I went home feeling pretty good in spite of my initial mortification.

Two weeks from today, I’ll stand at my door and pass out a zillion bags of candy. I’ll see little Optimus Primes, ninjas, Wii Controllers, Dalmatian dogs and the inevitable blur of tiny hooker-pop tarts whose mother’s caved and let them dress that way because Miley twerked her way into their consciousness.

Those little girls will likely need to up the ante every following year on their “smurfy”, sexy costumes. In ten years, when they’re eighteen, what will they need to wear to feel “smurfy”? They just might end up being the same girls entertaining their creepy elderly neighbor guy at the local strip club.

You know, being George Washington that year for Halloween did not inhibit my ascension to female goddess status one single bit. I spent that evening, at Merry’s party, laughing and talking with everyone; guys mostly. Being a tomboy, they were the majority of my pals. In fact, I’ll bet I had a better time at Merry’s party, than the girls who ran to the bathroom every half hour to make sure their makeup was still looking good.

All this stuff went through my head as I drove past Merry’s old house last Tuesday. Merry, she moved out west somewhere. Kurt, sadly, died of a drug overdose before he was twenty. My mom and her nervousness about my emerging sexuality are long gone with the powdered wig and buckle shoes she’d made in an attempt to make me as gender neutral as possible. Sorry mom. Can’t stop the tidal wave.

I really do hope that parents can get across to their young daughters that there will be thousands of opportunities to dress inappropriately and that each time they do, they will spend more time worrying about their outfit than they will spend actually having fun with the people around them. Just like Miley, they should wait until they are twenty one to lose their minds and behave like they were raised in a brothel by crack addicted parents. Then, maybe these parents won’t have to suffer through years watching their daughter’s awkward grasp at becoming the “smurfy-est” girl in school.

Yes, do that, young tartlets. Leave the smurfing to the older girls. Please.

And save me some candy corn. I love those things…
Candy-Corn

Life is Run by Barney Stinson

I will never (insert horrible thing here)!

After you’ve been on the planet a while, you realize what an incredibly stupid thing that declaration truly is. On a fairly regular basis, I have acted in direct defiance of my own decree and boldly done the horrible thing, simply because I had changed my mind.

Last year, for example, I crossed my own line and got a tattoo. Oh, it’s not like a giant Popeye across my ass or anything. It’s small and it’s subtle and it means something to me. I had previously made a loud fuss about never, ever getting a permanent mark on my body and then life came along and slapped me upside the head, altering my opinion.

I should back up and say that the tattoo I got last year was not my first. It was the first one I voluntarily acquired. I have three others. They are tiny, woad blue dots that a mildly sadistic radiation tech marked right on the middle of my breastbone and then two, equally located on the same horizontal plane on the sides of my ribcage. I needed them for the techs to align the machine as I underwent treatments for breast cancer. They hurt like a bitch. Especially the one in the center as there isn’t much meat right there and I could feel the needle pressing to my bone. Not fun.

The one I got last year is a small, woad blue V and a smaller circle that sits just below the bottom of the V marking the zero point. I had it placed on my left wrist, just at the pulse point. I was in California attending a workshop and doing research for another book I am working on. The symbol means “NOW” in my Sci-Fi character’s native Arcturian (yes…an ET) language. I got it because every time I’d get in the shower, I would see the blue dots on me that kept reminding me of “then” and I was so damn sick of living in the past and the “close call”.

I had been drawing the little mark on my wrist for months as I was writing. One day, while sitting up on Mount Shasta looking at all that wonder, I glanced down at my wrist and I knew that it was, NOW. I dragged my friend, Trisha, into the Small Town Ink shop on the main drag of the town of Mt. Shasta, and she sat with me while John did his thing. When I got home with my new mark, my grown kids found it fascinating. Some more conservative friends raised a silent eyebrow. I’ve also had some women my age, give me a high five and then ask about placement suggestions for their own little tattoos. Never…ever…now.

A few weeks ago, I was holding the four month old kitten that I had brought home when the daughter said, “Remember when you said you would NEVER get a kitten? And that you would never, ever get a male cat because they spray and take over the Universe?” Yes. Yes I do. Now shut up. The little guy (Yes! A male. You shut up too) is a feral rescue from a rural Michigan farm area and however the miracle occurred, he is a completely adorable, healthy and sweet flame point Siamese mix. It’s been ten years since I’ve had a cat in this house. My former cats moved to Michigan with us from Florida. The last one, Sushi, a rescue from the Hemingway House in Key West and famously six toed, died at the ripe old age of 22. Her best pal, Mouse, another rescue, died a year earlier at the age of 21.

When I bring something home, I don’t screw around with the commitment thing. Hell, we had a 6 year old guinea pig here, which is like 200 years old in human years. Which was another creature I once said I’d never have in a house. I love having a kitten around again, especially when they crawl up to sleep on your shoulder with their face against your cheek. Oh, yes. Lucca is an epic snuggler. Lucca adores Matty, the Great Dane; who is doing very well now that we’ve identified her Addison’s Disease and are treating it.

Life is listening and taking notes when we make “I Will Never” declarations. It listens like Barney Stinson. It responds like Barney Stinson, as well: Challenge Accepted. If you’re going to be stupid enough to make never-ever declarations, at least make them about things that you are already, secretly waffling on. Then, when you cave in and do the horrible thing, which you will, unless you’re a Cylon with a pre-programmed mandate, some child that lives within you can happily gloat for having turned you to the dark side.

Here’s the thing about those kinds of declarations; as important as we thought they were when we originally made them, they slip into the sea of forgetfulness that is our brains and even when THE SITUATION is smack in our faces, we will not remember how adamant we were about our position on said situation. Our stupid brain wants what it wants and it wants it now. Sometimes, that’s a good thing, because we just might override our imagined limitations and prejudices and then we can have a snuggly kitten sleeping on us and a small sign from the heavens that reminds us to be here now.

Nom. Nom. Nom. Never…ever… Hey, these words are delicious!

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Lucca and Matty

Lucca napping

Road Trips and Blue Pills and Music…Oh My!

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If you follow my blog, you already know I’m kind of a music freak. In some alternate universe, I’m a HUGE rock star. In this one, I’m a huge fan. There are just a few types of music that I can’t handle. They usually involve sounds that resemble metal cheese graters shredding my soul into julienne pieces and 3.2 minutes of recorded Tourette’s syndrome rants about women’s Va-jaja’s, assault weapons and counting money. Beyond that, I can pretty much, lean into any kind of music you throw my way.

Though I’ve sited mostly older music in these posts, my playlists hold primarily new and amazing bits from young artists. This is a renaissance time for music and there are hundreds of young artists out there with phenomenal work pouring out of them. I’m listening to “Satellite Heart” by Anya Marina as I write this. Great song.
This morning, I finally set up my iTunes on the new laptop and got chills of joy as the zillion files floated down from the cloud and filled my library. It was like Christmas morning and I was 6 years old. Crank the JBL’s!

For some weird reason, I have acquired a ritual of listening to a few specific songs each time I take a road trip. I load a playlist for the drive as part of my packing chores and I faithfully add The Allman Brothers, “One Way Out”. It’s the musical equivalent of a 100 mph run on a vacant stretch of Route 66. Excited to see my old pal again, I clicked play and heard the familiar opening guitar riff slithering out of the speakers. Damn it to hell! Instead of my best road song, all I could hear was the background music in that fucking Cialis commercial where the guy is on a beach and about to hit the open road, so of course, he’s thinking about his erectile dysfunction problem.

I don’t know about you, but I hit saturation point with those commercials about five years ago. I mean, come on! Enough already! We get it! It’s called…aging.

There are some completely legitimate circumstances for the use of E.D. meds. SOME. We’re not stupid though. There is no way in hell that pharmaceutical advertising departments would pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the promotion of their pills to people who do not need them, if they weren’t earning billions in return. They’re sitting, right now, around their board rooms tables high fiving and laughing their asses off because they have successfully convinced a ridiculous percentage of the male population to “ask their doctors” for a little somethin’-somethin’ to jack up their weekend. What most of those guys actually need is a personality transplant and (surprise!) their partner’s just might work their own somethin’-somethin’ to insure an outstanding performance in the boudoir.

For the miniscule fraction of the population that is under 45 years of age and suffering ED, you are a major rarity. Factoid: most of the blue pills dispensed in America are used by NON-E.D. sufferers who are rolling the dice that they do experience an erection lasting more than four hours. These are the same guys who were huffing spray paint cans in junior high, mind you. Still at it I see. Another large percentage of the little blue pills end up as hand out favors at bang parties where guys with heavy gold neck chains and crystal bowls full of blow get their jollies with the young girls who dropped out of hair & nail school and now work the morning shift at the strip club across from Walmart on I-94.

Do you think this might be nature’s way of keeping wrinkly old guys from chasing after 25 year old girls who should be waking up next to Taylor Kitsch and not Larry King?

To be serious for a moment, 1 in 4 women, across the globe, will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. I really don’t think a product that makes guys hornier is what the world needs right now. Especially not when I have to sit through fifteen E.D. medication commercials during a three hour block of prime time TV and then I have to watch aging male senators casting a vote on the hill that takes away my right as a woman to govern my own body. If I made the rules there would be no blue pills at all as long as there was no right to choose. At the very least, the pharmaceutical companies could add a birth control element to the Viagra/Cialis/Crushed and powdered panda testicle potion or whatever the hell else men use to continue getting laid after their bodies have put on the breaks.

So, yeah. My Allman Brothers song is tainted…forever, with the acrid stink of corporate greed. I need a new song. You know how you can adore a particular fragrance and every time you smell it, your mood is elevated to a happy place? Well, some skeezy individual has bathed in my fragrance and now, I can’t smell it without the new visual accompaniment of the skeezer. “One Way Out” has been skeezed. I have to find a skeeze free song, quickly, because it’s summer and the road is out there waiting and I want to hear something that won’t plant the vision of Larry King with a boner when I crank up the volume and put the top down.

Suggestions? Send me yours.

Now, if I can just get the image out of my head of the antique bathtubs with the two naked people bathing side by side on a cliff overlooking the 6th hole on Pebble Beach…