Do You Want To Hear About The Novels I Might Never Publish?

Yesterday, I finished the first draft of a book – possibly one of the best books I’ve ever written.

You may never get to read it.

That’s because, when you’re a Professional Writer (TM), there’s a big gap between “What you write” and “What you can get published.” Most authors have a few books that got trunked because no editor wanted to buy them.

So when I bellow, “I have finished a 116,000-word novel!” and everyone rushes in excitedly to ask, “What’s it called?” and “What’s it about?” and “I can’t wait to read that!”, I feel guilty. Because publishing is slow and uncertain, and yes, I finished the first draft of The Sol Majestic in May of 2015, and diligent readers may remember that it came out two months ago.

And that was a speedy turnaround, my friends. And it actually got bought.

So usually, I don’t talk about my books in progress because I think it’s a walking Badfeels to get people stoked about writing that I honestly don’t know will ever see the light of day! But folks seem to be interested in my process, so what’s an author to do?

Then I remembered: I have a newsletter.

So here’s the deal: my newsletter will now be where my super-secret discussions of these mysterious works-in-progress will be discussed. I figure if you’re willing to have me email you every two months or so, you’re not opposed to me blathering about potentials.

So. I’ve finished a book that I call CORDED. It’s about rope-fucking and palace intrigue. I think it’s probably one of the least salable things I’ve ever created, and that’s saying something for a guy who sold a book based on time-travelling soup battles.

[If you sign up for my newsletter today], later in the week I’ll spill more details on this weirdie little book and the challenges therein. I’ll be like the pandas in the zoo – behind the glass, where you can watch me in real time as I perhaps fail to reproduce successfully.

And that’s where I’ll be sharing my progress.

(And should you want to ensure these novels see the light of day, literally the best thing you can do is buy my latest novel – and if you’ve done that, bless your heart, give it a bad review or tell a friend about it. The publishers will only buy my weirdy little books if the current ones continue to sell – and let’s be honest, The Sol Majestic got great reviews but it’s still a niche book, so it needs all the boosts it can get!)

There’s A Difference Between Being Enthusiastic With Someone And Enthusiastic AT Someone.

I don’t care for anime, on the whole. And I have been trapped in convention conversations where a woman is spewing anime information at me, and I tell her I don’t know that show, and she proceeds to tell me all about her love for some spiky-haired cartoon person and I have no idea what’s going on, and I would leave but unfortunately I made the unwise decision to wait in the same line as her.

I have also had excellent conversations about anime where I still didn’t care much for it, but the person discussed their love for some spiky-haired cartoon person and I went, “Oh! That’s interesting.”

The difference?

They paid attention to me.

In the first case, the woman wasn’t there to participate in a discussion – they had a firehose of facts they found interesting that they wanted to turn upon someone, and I was nearby. When I said “I don’t know that show,” they didn’t attempt to inform me why I should care about that show, but proceeded to tell me why they cared about that show – in the process, usually omitting facts that I would need to understand basic concepts like “What is this show about?”

In the second case, the woman was there to share a love with me, and as such they gave me a quick pitch for the show, and I said “Oh, that’s interesting!” and they proceeded to tell me about why this show was different from American shows, basically homing in on the aspects I asked questions in. Which made it a dialogue.

The basic difference in these conversations were twofold:

One was there to tell me how they felt about things.

The other was there to see how I felt about things.

And I bring this up because yeah, the nerdy “Don’t spew about your D&D character” is usually Socialization 101. (Not that there’s anything wrong with 101 courses.) But when I talked about how men often talk their way out of sex with women, there was an interesting sub-aspect to that:

See, men are often trained by society that they have to be interesting to women. Which… isn’t exactly wrong, because dick is cheap and abundant. A lot of seduction conversations are two-sided – the man is asking, “Will this woman have sex with me?” and the woman is asking, “Will this man give me sex that I’ll find fulfilling?”

So what a lot of men get taught to do is to spew their interestingness. They have a nice car. They work out. They have a good job. They broadcast all the things they have been taught that women find attractive (NOTE: this is not necessarily the same as what women do find attractive, which is why a staggering number of dick shots get sent prematurely), and they just sort of hope this cloud of Interesting leads them on the path to laiddom.

But in the process of doing that, they often forget to listen. They’re telling the woman how they feel about politics or news stories, but completely overlook how their partner is reacting to this.

And as I said yesterday, “If you can’t listen to her when she tells you about her job, you sure as well won’t listen to her when she tells you about her vagina.”

So you know, it’s not wrong to talk about your car or your fishing techniques or your politics. But it is wrong – at least, if you’re trying to forge a connection strong enough for a person to let you into their bed – to just firehose out a spiel that boils down to “I AM A VERY INTERESTING PERSON AND YOU SHOULD WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH ME” if you’re not actually going to notice when and what the woman says back.

Again. That’s close to Social Interactions 101. But judging from the many comments I got across the social medias yesterday, a lot of men still aren’t getting it. So lemme boil it down for you:

If you’re striking up a conversation in the hopes of sex, in many cases, listening will get you laid a lot more than talking.

Next up: Why Listening Isn’t Just Nodding Your Head And Agreeing With Everything She Says, Or: Why Am I Still Not Getting Any Interested Women When I’m Not Actually Contributing Anything To Their Lives?

I Want You To Give My Book A Bad Review. Honestly.

So I got my first one-star review on Amazon for my book The Sol Majestic, which called the gay teen romance “pedophilia.” (I think the guy was deeply confused about the characters, but what the hey.)

And I noted that that was the first review under five stars that The Sol Majestic has gotten, which should tell you one thing: It doesn’t have enough reviews. (Any book with enough reviews should rack up a mixture.)

To which someone replied, “Shit, dude. If you wanted bad reviews, you only had to say so!”

I do. I want all your honest bad reviews.

You know why?

1. Amazon Ranks Books On The Number Of Reviews They Get.
Right now, The Sol Majestic has 23 reviews. Once a book gets 50 reviews, Amazon starts treating your book better; it’s far more likely to recommend it to other people, it jumps in the search results, etc. etc.

(Some claim this is an urban legend, but in my experience, the big reviews gets the nod.)

Now, here’s the trick: Amazon does not care whether those magic 50 consist of good reviews or bad reviews. They just want sufficient feedback to determine that yeah, we have enough data to determine that people who liked this book also liked this other book.

So every time you leave a review, even if it’s “1 star dnf,” you are actually helping the author. This applies to other sites, too – GoodReads, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, your blog, etc.

2. I Want People To Have An Honest Idea About My Book.
Here’s a weird truth about the publishing industry: Most authors have a good friend whose books they don’t particularly care for.

It’s not that their friend writes bad books, but rather that we all have different tastes. My books tend to have protagonists who are uncertain and anxious; if you want strong protagonists who bull their way through every situation, you’re probably not gonna like what I do.

And that’s fine.

As an author, I’m not here to have my butt kissed – I’m here to deliver a book that you’re gonna enjoy! So if you read my book and say, “Hey, I thought he spent too much time describing the food in The Sol Majestic,” you know what leaving a three-star review mentioning that does?

It tells people what they’re gonna get in the book.

And that, my friends, is awesome. I’m often driven to see things by “negative” reviews – I remember when Mad Max: Fury Road came out and a bunch of MRAs were complaining bitterly that it was stupid how a woman’s character arc eclipsed Max’s, that sounded awesome to me. And it was! Because one person’s meat is another person’s poison.

So please. Leave reviews – honest ones. Don’t flatter me with five-star reviews you don’t stand by, don’t leave “funny” one-star reviews for unread books.

But if you have read one of my books – or any author’s! – you will be doing everyone a favor by heading over to a website and leaving your opinion. It helps everyone. Even if your opinion is negative.

(And if you’ve read The Sol Majestic and wanna help me boost that Amazon count up to 50, I would be very very grateful. Thankew!)

When I Do My Best Flirting

If you’d like a handy hint on How To Flirt, here is my personal experience on when I am always on my A-game for flirting:

When I don’t realize I am.

Seriously. Half the time I’ll be told, “You’re so flirty!” and I’m like “I THOUGHT I WAS JUST BEING FRIENDLY I LIKE JOKES WHY IS THIS FLIRTATIOUS” and they go, “Don’t you know?”

No. I don’t. I mean, it’s nice if you’re responding positively, but boy, my own flirtations are a complete mystery to me.

So if you think I’m flirting with you, I mean, I’m probably not opposed to being more intimate, but that’s not my intent. I just radiate some weird-ass aura. And I have no idea how to turn it off.

Memories Of My Yearbook

There was a girl I had a crush on, back in 1987. And my wife’s away, so tonight was one of those nights where I couldn’t remember her name, and I couldn’t remember if she was half as pretty as I thought she was, so I went back to get out the 1987 Norwalk High Year Book.

Even now, years later, there’s some faces I frown at.

I’d forgotten most of the 350 or so students, of course; I probably had some sense of who they were at the time, but memories fade around the edges. And there were some of my old friends, dressed in ill-fitting suits, some handsome, some doofy.

Then there were the dangers.

And it was odd, because I literally hadn’t seen some of these dudes for over thirty years, but part of my brain lit up to tell me “AVOID WHEN POSSIBLE.” Much of the yearbook was a catalog of bullies; either the angry jock bullies who’d fuck you up if you got in your way, or the snide bullies who’d snarl insults at you, or – worst of all – the friendly bullies who’d pretend to be on your side just long enough to wring a personally embarrassing admission from you, which they’d transmit to the crowds.

I wasn’t afraid of them. One of the weird benefits of being a nobody in a 1987 high school was that few people really wanted to fuck with you. But even after all these years, I had marked those young faces as assholes I didn’t want to be around, and even now, I remembered the senseless cruelties they could inflict if you hung around them.

Which was one of the weird aspects of high school. If it’s a job today, and I had to deal with those bozos, I could quit. Or talk to human resources. Or just decide hey, this job pays well and I got health care, so at least there’s a benefit in tolerating them.

But back in high school? We were all locked in with each other, with no real escape, so we became a bizarre sort of family. And like any family, there were people you knew to avoid, and some of these faces I had completely forgotten about until I went “Oh, Christ, that douche.”

I couldn’t even remember what that douche had specifically done. But I spent four years learning to not engage with him.

Likewise, and inversely, there were the kind faces – mostly girls – who I’d marked as safe spaces. I didn’t really have friendships with any women, not then, but there were a lot of women who I could occasionally sit next to in class and have a nice conversation with, or we’d shyly bitch about the same teachers, and as a result the details had melted away but the good feelings had not.

Which is, actually, a nice realization: thirty years later, I still think well of them. I hope they’re all happily in relationships that nourish them. And I hope all the bullies are burning to death on a tire fire – or, even more ideally, I suppose, look back upon their high school cruelties with a rueful “What the hell was I thinking?” and the knowledge that they’d buy me a beer at the high school reunion if ever they saw me there.

And infiltrated among those were all the crushes I’d had. It felt sort of squicky, because here were pages of seventeen-year-old girls, and to my fifty-year-old me they looked really super young and inexperienced, and so finding a part of me that went, “Oh, but aren’t they dreamy?” was a little fragmented. But I was seventeen when I first sighed over them, so I suppose it’s not too bad.

But there were the crushes, and I was surprised to find how ordinary they looked. In my mind they were in soft focus with that vaseline-on-the-lens gaze, with perfect hair and pert jewelry and pearl-white teeth, and honestly they were just regular teenagers. I could summon up the powerful attractions I felt to them at the time, but mostly, I think now the attractions I felt were just a combination of ordinary teenaged horniness and proximity. Which isn’t a bad combo – in fact, it’s the classic – but it was still weird to have those memories stripped away to face a pleasant, if pretty enough, reality.

And then there was me.

Why did I ever think I could pull off that mustache then?

What is it about teenaged boys that they’re so willing to pull off that wispy peachfuzz look?

And there I was, in my awkward suit, smiling – the babyfat still in my cheeks, my hair freshly combed, pimples hidden. We didn’t get a whole lot of room to write our thoughts down, so I – like almost every other kid in the school – had condensed my thoughts to a slurry of initials and shorthand in-jokes that I no longer remember.

I am impenetrable to myself. Which I always have been, I guess.

But I was happy enough. I try not to look in the 1986 yearbook, which is around somewhere, because in my junior year I had actually no friends. 1987 was an upswing year – I sat with buddies for the first time ever at the cafeteria, I played in a band, I had people to do things with on the weekend, I’d even gone to a Rocky Horror Picture Show – and my eager caption represented that, with a bunch of initials of my old friends.

I was happy to have in-jokes. Because if you don’t have friends, you don’t have in-jokes, you just have in.

And there I was, about to be let loose upon the world. I wasn’t ready, of course, but I don’t think anyone there was. I was young, stupid, about to do my best and to do a shit job of it, but hey, everyone starts on the ground floor. And I was so happy to leave that weirdo little confined prison of a high school, to leave behind having to tolerate the jerks and bullies, to go out on my own.

What I didn’t anticipate is that thirty years later, I’d be looking back on those years with a weird fondness. I don’t miss high school per se, but I do miss having everyone sitting at the same desks, the predictability of it all, the knowing that these were the people you’d see every day so you have to make friends with some of them. Not like the isolation of adulthood, where you didn’t have to be anywhere so you had to seek harder, and if you didn’t you could wonder where all your friends went by the time you were thirty.

Naturally, the girl I went looking for wasn’t there. I think her name was Jennifer. That will sure narrow it down.