Monthly Archive: June 2012

Performance Vs. The Wizard of Oz



A few years ago, The Duchess decreed that we would take a trip to Paris, as wives are wont to do. I was, of course, powerless against her wishes, despite the fact that my own desire to visit the City of Lights hovered around zero – nothing against the city, of course; I’m just unconvinced that it matters whether I visit or not, and I can be overcharged for things by rude people right here in the New York City metro area. Still , Jeff merely pawn in game of life, so I started making my preparations for the trip, which included learning some French. I have a personal rule that states I must at least have some grasp of the language of the country I am traveling to. I will not be one of those American tourists who runs around saying “English, motherfucker: Do you speak it!??!”

I worked on French for months. I do not have a brain designed for foreign languages, so this was a struggle, but I did manage to learn at least basic French, enough to get by on. Proudly, I went to Paris with my wife … and promptly choked. Every time I tried to use my French, I screwed it up. Mispronounced things. Forgot words and phrases. Every attempt ended with a sardonic Parisian asking me if I was American, then speaking in English. Slowly, as if to a retarded boy.

I am not a Performer.

Some people thrive on the Performance, the pressure of having to do something in front of other people on demand. Some writers are like this. They can elevator-pitch a story to an editor in the middle of a conversation, they can sell an idea. I’ve never been good at that. I much prefer to keep my ideas to myself and then reveal them when I feel more confident, when I have something more or less complete and more or less coherent.

The downside to this, of course, is that sometimes you only find out that people think your idea is crap after you’ve spent 300 hours and tons of energy on developing it. This can be a bit of a kick in the balls. Believe me, it’s happened to me. I once wrote an entire novel based on a vague conversation with an editor only to have that editor send it back with a dead rat in a box. True story. Figuratively.

You have to work with what you’ve got. I know I’ll never be the guy who can make you want to read a book of mine based solely on my passionate pitch:

YOU: So, what’s the new book gonna be about? Vampires? Sluts? SLUTTY VAMPIRES?

ME: Well, um, I had this, er, idea, after eating too much Chinese Food and drinking too much whiskey – which, you know, never ever eat Chinese Food with whiskey it DOES NOT go together well AT ALL – and so I had this idea, where this guy, like nothing he does feels right to him, you know, like people tell him something’s fun and he tries it and it isn’t fun at all it’s awful and he eats things people tell him to eat and he hates it and stuff like that and slowly he starts to realize this is because everyone is lying to him all the time and oh! I forgot about the aliens.

YOU: Aliens?

ME: Yeah! They sing. And that’s pretty much it.


ME: I’ll let myself out.

YOU: Yeah, I can’t even look at you right now.

Oh well. When I do finish a book and deliver it to folks, I usually get at least 85% the reaction I want. Which isn’t bad! The point is, sometimes I’m pretty sure the idea, diffuse and vague in my head, is actually pretty good, it’s just my inability to speak it coherently that’s the problem. My inability to speak coherently has been a problem since I was 13, actually. Which, coincidentally is the year I discovered liquor. Funny, that.

Book Trailers

A few weeks ago, I started a little side business making Book Trailers (and writing and editing and picking up laundry – you know, FREELANCING! Hire me for something. Please. I’m begging you). I’ve made a bunch of book trailers for my own books over the years, as well as other videos, and I really enjoy it. Something about taking pieces of video or photos, some music, and some text and making a coherent thing out of it appeals to me (heck, I made an entire music video out of scraps of stock video). I figured, I enjoy it, people need Book Trailers made (I mean, seriously – have you seen some of the trailers out there?) – why not put out my shingle?

Since then, I’ve made 3 or 4 trailers for money and had a lot of fun doing it. This, of course, forces me to think about Book Trailers in a more specific sense. As in, what is my Philosophy of Book Trailers? There’s a group of words I bet you thought you’d never see. There’s a lot of debate about the effectiveness of Book Trailers, of course. Personally, I think Book Trailers are useful tools, but you can’t expect them to work miracles. They’re basically cheap, persistent advertisements. If you think of them that way, there’s no reason not to do a book trailer. For pennies you post a ad for your book, and it’s there for years and years, keeping your name and title out there.

Book Trailers can be very dumb, of course, and there’s a lot of miscalculation out there, so here’s my basic philosophy of Book Trailers:

1. Be short. I think going forward book trailers will be a replacement, in part, for the act of browsing through a book on the shelf, since there won’t be any books on shelves any more. No one spends more than a few seconds flipping through a book, so your trailer shouldn’t be much longer. A minute is a good sweet spot. Longer than that and people will just quit watching anyway. Shorter and you may not have time to set a tone and get some meat in there.

2. Be entertaining. Everyone wants a viral video, but Virals aren’t made, they just happen. Just shoot for entertaining. If you’re talking about a one-minute trailer you don’t have to be experimental or edgy or anything, just keep people interested. In fact, you probably don’t want to go too far out there in a quest to be cool, because

3. Be informative. Don’t mistake informative with dull, but people are watching your book trailer because they want to know about the book. Images and music can set the mood, the tone, the basic setting. Give your audience a taste. Actual lines from the book help, but a summary of the premise isn’t a bad idea either. You want to give people a reason to buy your book, after all.

Book Trailers aren’t an exact science. If they were I’d have a factory in Mumbai cranking them out and be a billionaire. They’re sort of a long-tail approach to marketing; your trailer may not blow up on YouTube overnight and get 30 million hits, but it will be there six months from now, getting hits, making people aware of your book on a steady basis. Keep them cheap, simple, and entertaining, and it’s well worth the investment, I think. Of course, I would say that now that I hope to make money from it. I’ve never claimed to be anything but a selfish, self-centered ass, so there.

Friday is Guitar Day

Epiphone Les Paul CustomI am going to continue to interpret The Internet’s silence regarding my guitar playing as evidence that y’all want more, more, more of my guitar playing. Agreed!



The usual disclaimer: 1. I admit these are not great music; 2. I claim copyright anyway, so there; 3. No, I cannot do anything about the general quality of the mix, as I am incompetent.

Haircuts in Hell

Let us discuss then the various and sundry ways that working out of your house can be a descent into madness.

I’ve been working from my home for about five years now. I’m lucky enough to have a small dedicated office (shared with The Duchess, but she’s not home during the day, so normally the room is mine to be naked and drunk in. I mean, write novels in. Novels. Me, writing. Not dancing around naked with a bottle of whiskey in my paw. Never in life.

Anyways, working from home is a strange challenge, even assuming you don’t have more cats than is healthy sitting on your desk and your lap and your head. We currently have five cats. Sweet lord, five cats. That’s the subject of a whole different post, though.

There are, of course, the usual and obvious pitfalls of a work-from-home lifestyle: The lack of grooming or proper dress code, the slow erosion of social conventions. The urge to just sit and eat and get drunk at two in the afternoon. Well, drunker. But I’m not here to tell you about the usual pitfalls of working from home. There’s much weirder stuff going on.

Some people can’t work from home, or so they tell me. Some people need the routine, the schedule, the contact with their fellow humans. Not me. First of all, I am an obsessive person – I make my own routine wherever I go. I don’t need corporate routines handed to me, baby. Second, I hate people. All of you. The day they told me I should go work at home with the cats, I was delighted, because cats don’t try to talk to me. Not when I’m sober, at least, and when it happens after a bottle of decent bourbon I am usually well aware it’s just alcohol poisoning.

But working from home will make you hyper-aware of your surroundings. You think you know your house? Your office? Your bedroom? Wherever you end up working, you will become a small god of that space. You will know everything there is to know about it. Every pore in the wood, every scuff on the wall, every sound of your next door neighbor. My next door neighbor wakes up every day at noon and plays Somebody I Used to Know by Gotye. Every day. Every. Day. I have no idea what’s going on in his life, but I can guess, because I work from home and I am a god in this small space.

My grooming has, in fact, fallen off. Which is saying something, as it was never very high to begin with. Shaving is a foreign experience for me, and when I am forced to shave due to polite societal requirements, I end up with an angry red razor burn in place of my beard. And I do tend to walk about the place naked, because, really, who am I dressing for? Cats? They don’t care. The UPS guys? he never looks at me, always turning his face away when I sign for things, so obviously that’s not a problem. Besides, I’m god in this space. I work from home. YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME IN THIS OFFICE, I HAVE SUPERPOWERS.

One thing about working from home: It’s an advantage for writing, because every day looks exactly the same, so you never get distracted. Commuting, or going to a new location every day engages your mind with novelty and you end up sitting there making observations and learning new facts about the world around you, which is just wasted time. I see exactly the same things all the time here, and thus I get a lot of writing done, because my brain literally has nothing else to do.

It’s not for the faint of heart, no. But if you have ever dreamed of purchasing a super hero costume and wearing it to ‘work’, working from home is your chance. Or so I’ve heard.

Liquor bottles, assemble!

Lost Weekend

I don’t know what I did this weekend. Last thing I remember is pouring a glass of whiskey on Friday around 6PM, and then I woke up today. Luckily there’s some found video to help me out:


Sweet lord. I need help.