The Very Best Way to Have the Worst Possible Publishing Experience – Part 2

Yesterday I started a rant about publishing novels.  I guess I only filled that word balloon halfway up with mad gasses and bull puckie.  So it isn’t fully inflated with noxious opinions of publishing, indie publishing, and getting a book into print.

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Having written a competent young adult novel that was well-reviewed by anyone who actually read it, I was faced with the question, “How do you get your work noticed to the point that more than just the members of your family will read it?”  So, I took another of my decades-old manuscripts and transformed it into a contest novel.  It was Snow Babies, the first of my Valerie Clarke novels.  (That’s Val in the cover mock-up to the left above.)  I entered it in the 2012 Chanticleer Book Reviews’ Dante Rossetti YA Novel Contest.  I surprised myself by being one of eleven of the hundreds of contestants that made it to the final round of judging.  Of course, it is a contest open to anybody who could write a novel-length glop of words and pay the entry fee.  But the final round contained only those novels that could be actually considered viable for publication.  While I didn’t win a prize in that contest or get the recognition that might bring, I had my novel confirmed as something worth getting published.  So I vowed to find a publisher that would not charge me for the publication of my novel.

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So this time I found myself working with a small press called PDMI Publishing LLC.  They absolutely loved my novel and gave me a contract.  I had high confidence that I would see the novel in print.  And, as a business, PDMI actively worked not only on printing authors’ books, but on promoting and marketing them, putting in appearances at various Comicons and Dragoncons and other nerdy Con-cons.  They even owned their own bookstore at one point.  They assigned me an editor, Jessie Cornwell from Seattle, and she was a delight to work with, bringing insight and wisdom into the development of my work.  But one small problem developed.  Just as my novel became fully edited and ready for the next step, the whole publishing company broke down and went out of business.  It was sad.  So many, including me, had invested a large portion of themselves into the whole novel business; writing, editing, printing, and marketing.  So many were left scrambling with their hopes and dreams spilling out of the bicycle basket of PDMI after the bicycle crashed into a wall.  I completely lost touch with my editor, so I couldn’t even offer her money that I didn’t have to pay her with anyway for her wonderful work.  Something else had to come along to keep my dreams of putting Snow Babies into the dreams of the reading public truly alive.

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By now you have probably come to the unpleasant conclusion that there will be a Part 3 to this horrible rant.  But for me, it is a good thing.  It will contain the eventual solution I came up with, and will lead to a cold-comfort happy ending.

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The Very Best Way to Have the Worst Possible Publishing Experience

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Publishing a book in 2017 is a real art form.  And there are rules for doing it.  Unfortunately, no one can explain those rules to you.  No one can even explain it logically to themselves.  It is a form of voodoo and bingle-bungle flim-flammery that only the anointed like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling can use to cast publishing spells with.

So I will not try to tell you how to get published in 2017, even though it seems I have done it myself three times this year.  I will only tell you how NOT to do it.  I am an expert on that.  I have the brain bruises to prove it.

First off, here’s my proudest achievement that came as a side effect of doing things in the worst possible way.

Click here to see the magic.

  1. “”The first mistake you need to make in publishing novels in the worst possible way is to turn to an overpriced print-on-demand service called Publish America.  For more information about just how shyster-iffic and icky this publishing scam in sheep-dip clothing is, just click here.  They published my first book in print, Aeroquest.  51ABNW+RWlL._SL500_AA300_

Publishing this novel was a mistake in itself.  I had only worked on it for a year and a half.  Compared to Catch a Falling Star which I worked on for seventeen years and had in my head since 1977, it was thoroughly underdone and only half cooked.  Good novels are either baked at 450 degrees for a decade or more, or composed of prime ingredients that you have been keeping in your mental cupboard since childhood.  The greedy, no good, evil publishers of this overpriced and under-cooked novel actually paid me a dollar up front and sixteen dollars in royalties total.  I didn’t pay them anything.  But they made one intentional formatting error in the climactic chapters of the story and wanted huge sums of money to fix and reprint it.  They never lifted a finger to sell it to anybody but relatives and people I named as friends.  It was a learning experience that thoroughly humbled me and taught me the primary lesson that “Mickey knows nothing about publishing a book.

2.  The second mistake you need to make to have a truly horrible experience in the publishing world is to make up your mind that you will pay for the process yourself, no matter how much it may take to do it, of both money and carefully carved out pieces of your soul.

Here’s the I-Universe propaganda.

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I turned to I-Universe as a publication choice for the first of my babies that have gestated for more than a decade before being born.  They have a submission process where they will evaluate your manuscript and tell you flat out if it is worth publishing or not.  If they tell you it is basically crap and worthless, they will give you a vanity press treatment and let you publish as-is your piece of crap story with no editorial or marketing support.  If they think your book is marketable, as mine was, they begin charging you additional publishing fees to work with editors, proof-readers, and marketers to make it all happen.  The bills keep piling up, but you get to work with editors who have worked in the major publishing houses for years (I-Universe was bought by Penguin Random House so they have many seasoned employees to call upon).  These editors will actually read your manuscript, offer real editorial input, and help you hone your work. They will also grouse about how the publishing business is disintegrating and offer betting odds on whether your book will make money or not that actually are rather distant from the shores of flattering praise.  The marketers will help you set up a blog and recommend promotional programs for more money than you can possibly sustain over time.  I only got a stock cover that didn’t look at all like the suggestion I gave them.

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I have to admit at this point that this particular topic makes me windier than usual, and though I am only about half way done, the rest of this rant will have to be saved for Part 2.   I am already at 700 words and only just getting warmed up.  The full blaze is yet to come.

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Holding My Book in my Hand

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If I never earn a dime from it, it is a wonderful feeling to see so many years of your life finally result in a book in print.

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Time Travellers

In role playing games I was always willing to go where no other game master has gone before.  Such was the case with the role-playing game Traveller and the matter of time travel.  No rules existed in the rule book to cover time travel.  But I didn’t let that stop me. I made them up as we went along.

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I got a boost when one of my players wanted to create a character based on Dr.Who.   The British series played on Friday nights on PBS in the 1980’s.  But that particular player, though very creative, was not a precisely cerebral type of kid.  He spelled it “W-H-O-E”.  So, forever after, we referred to the character as Doctor Hooey.

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Good old Hooey was always getting the group into impossible situations that took a great deal of thinking to get out of again. He had a penchant for crashing time machines.  And when he got the destination right, he would get the time wrong on the year, century, or millennia.  And when he got the time right, well, what do you know?  He got the place wrong.  The players never seemed to realize that I was taking them to planned adventures no matter what the dice rolls supposedly said.

Many such adventures would encounter weird and wild characters who would inevitably also become time travelers, whether fellow travelers for the sake of goodness and light, or as recurring villains.

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For example, Brech was a student space ninja traveling through space and time with the teacher characters among the players.  And by time traveling, they ran afoul of the Revenant, a time-traveling cyborg assassin who stalked the players for accusations of serious “time crimes”.  The cyborg turned out to be young Brech’s future self.  Which proved lucky.  Brech was able to establish a psychic link with his future self just as the cyborg was about to execute everybody, and Brech thereby turned a deadly enemy into an ally.

We tended to adapt movie characters who were time travelers into important NPC’s, and they did not all come from the Dr. Who show.  The characters shown above were Doc Brown from Back to the Future and Professor H. G. Wells.

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When I stole characters from Dr. Who, like I did with Lady Romana here, I tended to adapt them totally to my own game universe.  Romana was nothing like her TV counterpart.  In fact, only the name was the same.

We soon had so many time-traveling characters in their different time machines that we had to organize it all.  This we did by founding the organization known as the Time Knights of Gallegos.

And we needed a leader to coordinate the various initiatives through time and space.  For this we chose a specific NPC, the boy super genius, Ryan Beowulf.  He was a charming super-brained perpetual ten-year-old who worked with his own future self, the thousand-year-old Time King Beowulf.

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Traveller, it seemed,  was never more fun than when we were free to go rock and rolling through both space and time.  We had some harrowing adventures and even made use of my own vast storehouse of useless historical knowledge that can wow ’em in the moment and make them wonder why they needed to know about that upon further reflection.  Time traveling, like fez’s and bow ties, is cool.

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Life as a Texican

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We here in Texas are still the way God made us.

Stop cringing so much when you hear me say it.  Texas is where God goes to spend the Winter.  Everything is practically perfect in Texas.  The weather never varies more than 60 degrees in any single hour.  Our tornadoes and hurricanes are way bigger and way more destructive than you get in other States.  You think your school systems are producing learners who are spectacularly dumb?  They don’t even begin to compare with learning levels here in the Lone Star State.  Why, we are the Lone Star State mainly because we don’t want too many stars for our college graduates to count.    You think health care in your State is poor quality and high priced?  We have million dollar mortuaries that are profitably close, no more than a block or two, from every hospital.  We break records in the number of bankruptcy filings over hospital bills while our health insurance providers are making record-breaking profits!  You can’t beat that with a stick!  No, I mean it.  Look how big my stick is, and I couldn’t successfully beat it.

And we choose only the best politicians to represent us. Senator Ted Cruz is not only a former front-runner in the 2016 Presidential race for the GOP nomination, he’s the Zodiac Killer in addition to that.  Just ask the internet.  If the internet says it, it must be true.  And Representative Louie Gohmert of the Texas First District is so bald you can be blinded by the Texas sunshine reflecting off the top of his stupid head.  And his name reminds you of TV’s Gomer Pyle, someone Louie is almost as smart as.  And he’s a Texas Tea Party Congressman who does Tea Parties so well he makes the Mad Hatter jealous.  And Senator John Cornyn tells jokes that make country people laugh.  After all, he has “corny” in his danged name!

And Texas motorists are among the best in the country.  No, check that, they are the best!  No other State has the kind of yearly highway kill score that Texas has.  Believe me, pedestrians routinely get bounced off the hood and into ditches, slow-going vehicles and semi trucks are routinely forced off overpasses to beautiful fiery displays of chaos and carnage below.  Texas killer grandmas in their shiny Lincoln Continentals with the longhorn horns on the grill will kill you deader than the local rocks.  Nobody drives faster and more aggressively than a Texas killer grandma.

We have way more millionaires and billionaires than other stupid States.  And we outscore them all in the numbers of poor people and immigrants holding down three jobs at once and still needing food stamps to live.

Yes, everything’s bigger in Texas.  We’ve got all y’all beat all to heck!

 

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An Unexpected Gift 

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This post is a movie review for Thor : Ragnarok , though I don’t really plan on talking about the movie very much.   It was an excellent comic book movie in the same tongue-in-cheek comedy tradition as Guardians of the Galaxy.   It made me laugh and made me cheer.   It was the best of that kind of movie.  But it wasn’t the most important thing that happened that night.

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You see, I spent the weekend in the hospital thinking I had suffered a heart attack during the Thanksgiving holiday. I thought I was facing surgery at the very least.   I knew I might have had an appointment to play chess with the Grim Reaper.   It is a lot to worry about and drain all the fun out of life.

Well, one of the things that happened that day, Tuesday, my first full day out of the hospital and, hopefully, out of the woods over heart attacks, was that I received my new replacement bank card because my old one had a worn out, malfunctioning chip in it.  So, I took my three kids to the movie at the cheapest place we could find.  I tried to run my bank card for the payment, and it was summarily declined.  I had activated it previously during the day, and there was plenty of money in the account compared to the price, but it just wouldn’t take.  So I had to call Wells Fargo to find out whatever the new reason was for them to hate me.  It turned out that it had already been activated, but a glitch had caused it to decline the charge.  While I was talking to the girl from the Wells Fargo help desk, the lady who had gotten her and her husband’s tickets right before us put four tickets to the movie in my hand.

The middle-aged black couple had lingered by the ticket stand before going in to their movie just long enough to see a sad-looking old man with raggedy author’s beard and long Gandalf hair get turned down by the cheap-cinema ticket-taking teenager because the old coot’s one and only bank card was declined. They were moved to take matters into their own hands and paid for our tickets themselves.

That, you see, was the gift from my title.  Not so much that we got our movie tickets for free, but that the world still works that way.  There are still good people with empathetic and golden hearts willing to step in and do things to make the world a little bit better place.  The gift they gave me was the reassurance that, as bad and black as the world full of fascists that we have come to live in has become, it still has goodness and fellow feeling in it. People are still moved to pay things forward and make good on the promise to “love one another”.  I did not have a chance to thank them properly.  I was on the phone with Wells Fargo girl when it happened.  The only thing that couple got out of their good deed was thank-yous from my children and the knowledge that they had done something wonderful.  I plan to pay it forward as soon as I have the opportunity.  Not out of guilt or obligation, but because I need to be able to feel that feeling too at some point.

I do have one further gift to offer the world.

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After we got home from the movie, I opened an email that contained the cover proof for my novel, Magical Miss Morgan.  Soon I will have that in print also if I can keep Page Publishing from messing it up at the last moments before printing.  It is a novel about what a good teacher is and does.  It is the second best thing I have ever written.

Sometimes the gifts that you most desperately need come in unexpected fashion.

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Filed under commentary, compassion, happiness, healing, humor, illness, movie review, NOVEL WRITING, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Weekend Fun with Heart Attacks

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I’m not sure why I decided to have a heart attack over the holiday, but my body decided it was time and didn’t really give me a chance for input.   I should qualify it a little bit. I didn’t have an actual heart attack according to the final tests, but the preliminary tests were all red flags and shouting.

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So, I woke up in the middle of the night on Wednesday night with a pain in the left side of my chest.  My left arm was hurting and tingling with numbness.

Now, it is not something new.  I have arthritis in my rib cage and I tend to sleep on my left side.    So, although the pain was concerning, it was not reason to make a middle-of-the-night dash to the emergency room.  I eventually got back to sleep on my right side.  I was sluggish and ill the next morning, but I got a lot of house cleaning done and the chest pains were gone.

Thursday night the pains returned, but still not different than the arthritis pains that sent me to the cardiologist before, and not nearly as harsh and painful as the night before.   Again the pain went away in the day.

Friday night I picked up my son the Marine at the airport.  He was home on holiday leave.  We talked about my chest pains over a meal at I-hop.  He pulled rank on me and vowed to take me to the ER.  I talked him down to Primacare because it’s cheaper, still not believing it was real heart pain.

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The next morning Primacare didn’t go so well.  The EKG machine there predicted a major earthquake… or a typhoon, or something… and the Prima-doctor got all serious in the face.  “Do you want me to call an ambulance?  We are required to make the offer in these situations.”

“No, no.  My son is with me and can drive me to the Emergency Room.  I promise I will go.”

And so I did.

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At the ER they are very concerned that you don’t have anything in your pockets.  They quickly dressed me in a hospital gown and then surgically removed $200 (due to the wondrous way my insurance company has of not paying their portion of the bill).  So, lighter by that amount, they immediately hooked me up to their own EKG machine.  I had so many patches attached to the hair on my chest that I was guaranteed to be bald-chested when it came time to rip them all off again.  Then they  repeated the EKG testing done earlier in the day.  I swear, the same squirrel that was visiting Primacare when I was there earlier, sneaked into their EKG machine too and vigorously jumped up and down.  So, there it was.  The proof they needed that I had too much money left in my bank account.  And so they put me inside the hospital.

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Once inside, they rigged me up so one arm could be crushed by a BP sleeve every two hours, or more if they felt like it, and the other arm could be drained of blood so that they could tell if there was any further money in my bank account.

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Three days later, the enzymes in my blood said that what I had was mysterious and not a heart attack.  The stress test I had on Monday nearly killed me, and told them that I didn’t have enough money left in my bank account to keep in the hospital any longer.  I got out still wearing my arm band and allergy warning band as reminders that I really, really didn’t want to go back, but life is like that, and I still don’t know what caused it all, or if I will have to return to deal with it later on.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, healing, health, humor, illness, Paffooney