Monthly Archives: May 2011

Please Sign Up for My New Religion

Woe onto us.  The earth was not destroyed, and despite some backtracking on the part of Mr. Camping, judgment does not appear to be upon us.

Yet, verily I say unto you that the entrepreneurial spirit is upon me and I am CALLED to start a new Church.  This will be called the Church of Whatever You Fucking Believe. There will be no ministers, rabbis, priests, imams, gurus or sensei.  The precepts are simple: Believe whatever the fuck you want.  Worship as you choose.

You want a heavenly afterlife?  You got it, baby.  You need the threat of hellfire to stay on the straight and narrow?  Not a problem.  Perhaps you worship a god or two with an elephant’s head or a monkey’s?  Why not?  Maybe dead people can speak through you, or you think God is dead.  Or maybe not dead, just gone out for a pack of cigarettes a couple of millennia ago, and hasn’t been heard from since.

Each week a “service” will be held.  Services will be held on either Saturday or Sunday or Monday evening.  The exact day of that week’s “worship” will be chosen though rock, paper, scissors. Why Saturday or Sunday?  Because most people have off from work, silly.  Why Monday night?  Because it’s pretty dead and a lot of restaurants and shows are closed.   Please note, there has been some feedback:  Services will not be held in America on Monday nights during football season.

Services will be lead  by a random congregant who will be picked through a lottery.  Don’t worry; we know you’ve read that story.  The lottery winner will not be stoned!  Wait a second. You didn’t read the story?  Oops!  Sorry about the spoiler.

The random congregant leading that week’s service gets to give a sermon on whatever topic he or she chooses, and the rest of the congregation is expected to listen politely, unless he or she says something really offensive that pisses them off, in which case they can rattle noisemakers that will be distributed before every service and pelt the leader with Nerf balls.  Paint balls, however, are strictly prohibited by the Church of Whatever You Fucking Believe.

The service itself will consist of reading from religious texts, works of philosophy, blogs, Pride and Prejudice, Pride and Prejudice with Zombies, treatises on Lost, or Lost in Space, song lyrics, words of the prophets written on subway walls or tenement halls, shopping lists, and/or anything else chosen by that week’s lucky congregant.

At the end of the service, there will be a collection plate passed around.  Proceeds will go to feed the hungry, and clothe the poor, or to whatever cause that week’s congregant is pitching, or even into his or her own pocket as long as there’s full disclosure.  That is after a percentage for the use of the hall and a percentage to the founder emeritus of the Church of Whatever You Fucking Believe.  That would be me.

I Rarely Do this HERE, but . . .

loisaidacversmall4 Hi all,

Except for the ever present banner ad above, I don’t do much promo of my books on this blog.   However, I am taking the opportunity to thank those that have kindly reviewed Loisaida recently.  It’s especially gratifying that people who I “met” only through the work are now virtual friends.  Today, I just made the Big Time, a review on the popular, Big Al’s Books and Pals.   Big Al, you may recall, had a moment virtual of fame when a certain indie-author went postal after a fair but tough review of her now much parodied novel.  Needless to say,  I won’t be going over to curse him out for his review of my book.  He didn’t put it  up yet on the Amazon customer reviews, though I suspect it will be there shortly.  Meantime, anyone who wants to find out more is welcome to visit the book’s page which links to other reviews, purchasing information and a preview of the paperback at googlebooks.

Some Things to Consider Before Peddling Your Prose on Kindle

God might not be calling his elect up today, but something truly extraordinary is taking place.  The gray lady herself, the esteemed New York Times, has an essay in the BOOK REVIEW section extolling self-publishing.

Neal Pollack who describes himself as “midlist, midcareer” finds that for a writer in his position, “self-publishing seems to make a lot of sense.”

He plans to put out a novel that he doesn’t believe would be the “easiest proposition for mainstream publishers” as the theme doesn’t involve vampires, but Jews and basketball and the length is short.  He plans to charge $4.99 and believes this will quickly earn him the equivalent of a pleasant advance.

He thinks there may be expenses including of course cover art and plane fare if he decides to do “readings and on-the-ground media in New York and Philadelphia where the book is set.”  He mentions a “modest print run.” Good luck with that, Neal.

Neal references Amanda Hocking (of course).  He writes of Stephen King’s e-book experiments, but he seems to have no real clue about what savvy self-publishers already know.   He writes, for instance, that he wouldn’t recommend self-publishing to a “first time author.”  Yet, several first time novelists who found the gates closed on traditional publishing have done quite well on their own.

I’m not an expert, nor am I Amanda Hocking for that matter.  My own experiment with self-publishing has yielded only modest results, but I know enough to know that Neal might want to do a little more research before setting out.  If you happen to have stumbled onto this, Neal, might I ask you to examine a few of your assumptions and assertions:

Price point:  $4.99? Yes, that’s half what Amazon is charging on Kindle for your book, Never Mind the Pollacks, The Literary Music of Neal Pollack which is not exactly flying off the shelves, but $4.99 is still considered a lot for a self-published e-book even by a previously published author.  Stephen Leather and JA Konrath have turned their back-lists into gold at 99 cents a piece, and even the New Yorker’s Susan Orlean who will be entering the fray with a short work to be published with some hoopla by Amazon, will be charging no more than $1.49.   Yes, you have a following, but maybe not at the Kindle Store yet or for the type of book you are planning.  Most of the bestsellers on Kindle are genre novels — mysteries, thrillers, and those “teen vampire” books you make fun of.  Books like the one you are writing don’t appeal to publishers because the market is small, not non-existent, just modest and the gamble on a print run may be not be one publishers can afford.  E-books cost less to produce.  But there’s a glut of high quality, self-published books selling for less than $4.99, on Kindle. You may find your market there, but it won’t be huge and you’ll have to work for it.  Your competition won’t be the $9.99 bestsellers from mainstream publishers, but the already known “independents” selling at 99 cents to $2.99 a pop.

Are you really in a position to give advice to first-time authors? You advise first-timers not to try self-publishing, lest they wind up in a “virtual slush pile.” Have you read anything about how difficult it is for someone, even someone with previous publishing credits to get a contract on a first novel these days, especially something like the one you’re publishing — a book with no vampires or zombies? The gates are shut.  Yet, if you look at the top hundred Kindle sellers in the US and UK Kindle store, you’ll see many “indie” writers unknown to publishers.  And if you take a peek at the genre lists, you’ll see even more.  I’m no insider, but I am actual virtual friends with three “first-time” writers who are bestselling authors. Lexi Revellian’s book Remix, was in the top 100 in Amazon UK for months.  It’s now down to around 126, but her new one Replica is holding at 50.  Jake Barton’s Burn Baby Burn is #26 in the UK, and he has two others that aren’t doing badly.  Dan Holloway’s first “indie” literary novel, Songs from the Other Side of the Wall, got some good reviews but didn’t take off.  His thriller, set in Oxford, The Company of Fellows is holding its own in the top 50 in the category of “mysteries and thrillers.”

Think about that “modest print run” you propose and find some alternative uses for the print books you don’t sell — doorstops, kindling, etc:  Print runs cost money.  Many successful independently published writers aren’t even bothering with them, especially for shorter books.  Those that do, generally use print-on-demand.  Traditional printing is less expensive for a run of a thousand books or more, but it’s still going to be both a huge risk and a substantial out-of-pocket expense. I hate to break this to you, but getting your independently published book into bookstores is going to be difficult.  Prepare for rejection like you’ve never seen it.   As for your plan to do “on the ground media” in New York and Philadelphia, there are tons of local authors trying to get readings at stores and to get their books onto shelves.  It doesn’t sound like you’ve thought through the pitfalls, including the 55% discount and return policies that online and brick and mortar bookstores demand.

I’m not trying to be discouraging, Neal.  This isn’t an exclusive club. Nobody needs an invitation.  Granted, you have experience that many first-time self-publishers lack.  You’ve done book publicity before, you have a name and a following, and you are a professional.  But this is still a new game, and you’ll play better if you learn the rules before you jump in.  Your essay in the Times implies an access to media that most new independent authors lack, but I hate to break this to you, the readers of The New York Times Book Review aren’t necessarily the biggest e-book buyers or purchasers of the self-published. Your potential readers are in places like Big Al’s Books and Pals, Kindle Boards, and RedAdept Reviews.  Ever heard of them?  If the answer is no, you have a lot to learn.

How Maria Shriver Can Get Her Groove Back

Honestly, some people would say that as a “political wife” Maria Shriver, even if she didn’t know the details of her husband’s fathering a child with the help, still knew  she was married to an out of control narcissist with a woman problem.

Still, it wasn’t just about blind ambition.  She’s not a bad person.  She grew up in a family that not only worked, but believed in the value of doing good.   Her father invented the Peace Corps.  Her mother created the Special Olympics.  Not to mention the rest of the family.  Those are some heavy boots to fill, and Maria worked her whole life.

She’s still working. Here she is talking about “transitions” on the Youtube. (You’ll have to go there; unlike her husband, the link is unembedable.)  She’s wants to know how other women handled their big life changes,  but I’ve got some advice specific to her situation.

Sorry, Maria, if you are googling yourself, and who doesn’t? I’m not saying this to be unkind, but honey, you a mess!  And why shouldn’t you be?  The year you’ve had!  To begin with you’re 55.  Probably still having that unsettling hormone shitstorm. I’ve been there, girlfriend!  Second, your father died after struggling with Alzheimer’s. Your mom died in 2009, but let me tell you, when the second parent goes, it feels like your losing the other one all over again.    And no matter how prepared you thought you were, there’s always a ton of stuff to straighten out, not to mention the emotional dust bowl that gets stirred up.

Your husband just lost his job, except he can go back to his old one of being a movie star.  And it just hit you that while you were perfectly typecast for the role of political wife, movie star wife — not so much.  He used you while he was playing the Gobernator. Even your wonderful kids were props.  You played the role of the supportive spouse, defending him from charges of being gropy.  But you weren’t playing.  It was your life.  Kind of like that doofus Diana, not getting it even when Charles had that awkward, “whatever love is” moment with the reporters.

Did you know or even suspect he’d fathered a child with one of the “household staff”?  Not bloody likely.  It’s not just denial.  He may not have been the world’s most convincing actor, but he convinced you.  He played to your vanity the way narcissists do and gave you a chance to be a bigger star than any of your cousins.

And the audacity of the deception — a married woman, showing up pregnant for work, in your home.

Of course you didn’t know, baby.  Even a Kennedy wouldn’t put up with that shit, and you are only a Kennedy on your mother’s side.  Your father was a decent sort who knew how to treat women.

So hubby waits until his political career is over to give you the news.  He’s in transition too.  He’s now going to be an aging action hero.  At 63, he probably still has a couple of good leading roles left.  They had to kill off Sarah Connor for T-3, because maybe Linda Hamilton’s arms got flabby, but look at Harrison Ford or Sean Connery.  Does Arnold have the new wife picked out yet?  The way he picked you out?   Katie Holmes might be good, pretty, but non-threatening, won’t make a bigger entrance than him, but she’s not available.

Welcome to the First Wives Club, Maria!  What took you so long?

You didn’t leave on your terms.  By telling you about the affair and the child, Arnold was essentially saying, “Of course we can work it out, but you’d be humiliated and laughed at forever.”  It was a no choice/choice.  Like NBC moving you from Dateline to a new position as the weather girl on a local station in Iowa.

So here you are on your website talking to women about transitions and wanting to know how other women have handled them.  It’s days before the official announcement and you are already working, thinking of writing a book about it.  Why not?  That’s how you handled your father’s senility.

But here’s the thing, Maria.  You need to take some time.  You need a vacation from being you.  Stop, doing what Maria Shriver would do.  I get it, you’ve got kids.  Your youngest is only what 14, the same age as the little . . .

Take a breath.  Sure it’s a very tough time for the children.  That’s what big supportive extended families are for.  Drop them off at one of your cousin’s for a month or two.  That Caroline, she’s a rock.

Then get the hell out of Dodge.  Dump your celebrity.  There are places in the world where you if you introduced yourself as Maria Fitzgerald no one would question it.  Try Thailand or India.  I’m not talking about backpacking and Rough Guiding it, but don’t go with an entourage or a plan.  You could do worse than spend a couple of weeks at a yoga retreat.  Or might I suggest, a fasting cleanse on Ko Samui with daily facials, chi-gong, Iyengar yoga classes, and colonics?  You could drink coconut milk (as long as you don’t eat the shreds) on a lovely balcony with an ocean view and walk around unrecognized browsing in the traditional night market.  I know just the place. Do you a world of good.  Follow it up with a week or two of silent meditation at a Buddhist monastery.  They won’t make you do anything a good Catholic shouldn’t.

After that you could hit some place on your bucket list, maybe a beach of astounding beauty like the one they kept looking for in Y Tu Mama También, in some backwater you never even heard of.  I’m not suggesting that you hook up with a young local a la Charlotte Rampling in Going South, but there’s a good chance you could find an age appropriate ex-pat, maybe not one with the physical endowments of your ex, but probably one who won’t want much more than your company and will treat you with the respect you deserve.

Live a little, Maria, it’s your turn!

BFTJ — Tony Kushner Banned from Receiving Award from City College

If you can’t figure out what “bftj” refers to, just skip this post.

I’m in a mood.  The brilliant playwright, and proud member of the tribe, Tony Kushner  has been denied an award that was to be bestowed by John Jay College of the City University of New York. Rather than try to retell the gory details of this sad episode, I’ll simply refer you to the source article.  Go read; we’ll discuss later.

Okay.  I really don’t have much to say other than as a tax paying citizen of New York, I’m disgusted that a Board Member gets to hold everyone hostage in this manner, and I not only think it’s bftj, but also bad for intellectual and academic freedom, freedom of speech generally and even (dare I say it!) bad for Israel, because if the only permissible viewpoint is “the likud right or wrong” than Israel is pretty much doomed.

Tony Kushner, they deny an award to?  Tony Kushner, maybe the most brilliant living American playwright?  What is wrong with these people?  I don’t even blame the millionaire who started the mess.  It takes a whole board of wimps to vote someone down.  Do they all completely lack balls?

Rant over.  Feel free to comment.