This New Stuff is New and Also Stuff

In 2009, my first book, Anointed: The Passion of Timmy Christ, CEO, was published. Publishers Weekly had this to say:

“Steele’s biting satire takes on megachurches and their murky brew of faith and business. Nagged by his wife into interviewing for the CEO spot of a 2,000-year-old religious corporation, Timothy Webb becomes Timmy Christ despite himself. He’s shocked to learn that his primary responsibilities are to profits and image rather than his followers’ genuine needs. After a slapstick start, a scheming Judas, a protective, repentant Satan and a murderous Anti-Christ show up to deepen the tale. Timmy soon discovers that battling supernatural evil is only slightly more difficult than challenging the legal labyrinths of the Christ Corporation Council. Those who endure the initial over-the-top chapters will enjoy the notion of a Christ CEO wanting to be Christ-like, presented in a mix of raucous fun and deep questions.”

It was nominated for the 2010 Sidewise Award for Alternate Fiction. Pretty cool stuff. I like that people have to endure my writing.

In 2011, the follow-up, Flutter: An Epic of Mass Distraction was published. I had this to say about it:

“Oh, hey, I have another book out. Cooool.”

In 2013, I had … oh, um, nothing published. That’s a bit of a bummer. Actually, 2013 in general has been a bit of a bummer, so perhaps it’s best to leave the publishing for another time. After all, 2014 is another number! I mean, year. 2014 is another year. I never get that right.

Mind you, my lack of publication hasn’t been for a lack of trying, or writing, but more a product of circumstance as well as a determination to produce quality material. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time refining my craft.  I don’t want my work to be good.  I want it to be great.  I want it to be unforgettable. My determination to improve aside, there was this: On August 19th, Mercury Retrograde Press, publisher of my first two books announced they would be ceasing operations as of January 2014, which was quite sad news to hear for various reasons, not the least selfish of them being my desire to spin a third novel in the Timothy Webb Universe into their eager hands. The War Maiden, the origin story of everyone’s favorite Satan, Natasha, has a beginning written, a generous plot, and now a nice cozy shelf to sit upon. At some point, I’ll get back to it. Likely as an ebook series of novelettes. On the plus side, however, the MRP closing reverts rights of Anointed and Flutter to me, so I’ll be reissuing those as ebooks in 2014. Not sure if I’ll make any changes to the text. Perhaps some additional material will be added.  You’ll want to buy them even if you already own them, though, because you love me so much.

In the meantime, my attention has been transfixed on a bugger of a book. I refer, of course, to the most time-consuming and personally-invested manuscript I have ever worked on: The Storyteller, Book one of five, The Shadowheart. I have worked on this for close to three years, the idea a bit of a noodle in my head for close to a decade. I’ve talked about it, discussed it, written it, rewritten it, edited it (again and again and again ad naseum) and rewritten it once more. I’ve sent it to Beta readers, agents, and discussed the concept with several editors. And now it’s as done as I can get it. I love it. I think it’s brilliant. I think you’ll love it. I think you’ll never pick up a book again without wondering if the universe the story resides within is real. I think Oliver Miles will win you over, and his cadre of friends will keep you amused. I think, above all, if someone will publish it, I will be extraordinarily happy. The series is somewhere in the Middle Reader (8-14) and Young Adult genres, depending on who you talk to. Either way, it’s friendly to kids and to adults. There have been some bites on it, one significant, others mere nibbles, and I hope to secure something before too long. I’m still open to Beta Readers, providing you’ll actually read it and offer insights, but I’m not sure how much more work I can do on it until an Editor has it in hand. Regardless, I’ll be talking more about it now, offering some snippets here and there. So, be on the lookout. I seek your thoughts. Share away.

With The Storyteller sitting in wait, books two through five will be on hold, allowing me the opportunity to toss a few more literary grenades down the pipe. The series of novelettes of The War Maiden is in line, and likely to find a voice in 2014 (which I would publish myself), but my focus at the moment is squarely on a manuscript with a working title of Specimen A. Easily the most complex story I’ve worked on, I’m stepping out of the satire game, to bring a more contemporary voice to the Science Fiction genre. Or maybe it’s Fantasy. Or more Speculative Fiction. I don’t know. There will probably be a new genre in the next six minutes anyway. I should probably wait on that one. I’ve written about religion. I’ve written about the imaginative power of an artist. Now, I’m writing about the reality of human existence and the overwhelming power of a mind awakened. Until I’m further along, there isn’t much more I can offer, but suffice to say, reality isn’t what you think it is. You aren’t what you think you are. And they would prefer you not figure it out.

Other concepts floating about: The Almost Heroic Life of Joey Flapp, a silly little romp of adventure, hope, and exploding cows which I’m looking forward to; and, The As of Yet Unnamed But Forever Talked About Zombie Story About Life Decades After the Zombie Apocalypse and Was Once Called The Zombie Rocker but Now isn’t Because I’m Not Sold on the Original Tone. The latter is a long title. Less of a working title than a poorly conceived description in italics. I might even write it as a screenplay. I don’t know. This could have a lot to do with why I haven’t written it yet.

Anyway, point being, I have a lot I’m working on. Now that The Storyteller is complete, I can focus on these other projects. Hopefully, I’ll be able to line up publications going forward so that the gaps are non-existent. That would be ideal. As would your willingness to buy them.

I had intended to write about my blog changes, not the least of which is the alteration of the site’s address. My former website is no more, and all information will be directed here. But that didn’t happen. And since you’re already thinking about dinner, or what the kids have done now, or your own ideas that are far more engrossing, I’ll leave that for another entry.

In the meantime, here’s an early snapshot of a possible new Anointed cover, as well as the less than exciting reveal of my new nom de plume:

Just playing around with it for now.

Just playing around with it for now.

 

The Not Way to the Bye Way

Here’s a little note to all the writers out there who are attempting to get their books–self-published or otherwise–into independent bookstores: While social media may indeed be a useful tool in which to market/promote yourself/your work, it’s also a trap that prohibits you from making real, honest, contact with the booksellers who will sell your work.  Don’t allow yourself to believe that it has usurped the more professional form of contact that bookstores for years have relied upon.  Phones still ring in the store, and if they don’t, well, then you don’t need to worry about that store.  The mail, despite rising costs, is still delivered, and stores also receive a type of mail known as “electronic mail”.  You might even want to utilize the non-social media aspects of the internet, and find that store’s web page.  Even Google would suggest that route, and if it’s good enough for Google, it’s good enough for you.

Now, this all may sound straightforward and obvious, but the volume of writers who abstain from protocol in favor of the easier, less research heavy–and let’s face it–lazier route is staggering.  It’s as if the advent of social media has awakened schools of sleeping bats in caves that have been isolated from the whole of history and time.  They just fly out, screaming their little bat heads off, and drop their query poop all over you.  Case in point:

Don't Let This Happen to You

Usually, snark is to be expected from booksellers who find themselves annoyed by this type of query.  Close the bookstore, and the snark level will rise like the tide before a hurricane.  Combine the above with a “note” that looks as though it were written by a texting high-school student and you may as well curl up in a ball and wait out the assault.  The one thing you can expect is that any bookstore you contact through Facebook in this manner can be crossed off your list.  You will never be taken seriously.  You will never get your book in that store.  Much like agents and editors, a bookseller is swamped by requests on a daily basis.  The crap will be sifted and tossed aside without a second glance.  Take your queries to booksellers every bit as serious as you do to agents and editors.

Catching Up on the Writering

So Kate Gosselin is “freaking out “ over her show being cancelled.

I really don’t care.  I just couldn’t come up with an intro.

Although, seriously?  She’s upset because her career has been derailed?  Watch the video.  It’s amazing how much she sounds like…well, like Kate Gosselin.  Woman’s nuttier than a can of almonds.

It’s been some time since life has allowed me the time and energy to focus on writing, as well as the myriad other projects I want to work on.  Now that I’ve left my post at The Corner Bookstore, I’m going to dive headlong into the wordy pool and see what comes of it.  The primary objective right now is to finish Book 1 in The Storyteller series, which is tentatively called The Heart of Darkness.  I should, all things being equal, complete that manuscript some time in October (preferably before I head to Richmond, Va for The James River Writers Confererence).

As I manage that daunting task, I mean to pick up the pieces of the abandoned Bookstore series of videos (newest one below) and continue building a platform with which to turn my bizzaro experiences as a bookseller into a television pilot.  Think Arrested Development meets The Office and you’ll get a decent idea. Something that allows for a good bit of insanity but is more character driven than built around the location. I hope to have a new video up every Wednesday.

Additionally, I’ll have a few posts to add to The Adventures of Ducky Thomas, including his long overdue story of traveling to New York City.  That post, for what it’s worth will be called The Massive Warship, and has an awful lot to do with his visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The hope with Ducky is to translate his adventures into chapter books. I think the world needs stories about an adventurous duck. Ducky agrees.

Now that Flutter is out and selling, I will be returning again to the world of Timothy Webb and telling what may, or may not, be the final book in that series. I’m rather fond of Timothy and Natasha, so I may violate ever known rule of writing just to hang on to them. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, The Christ Corporation Series has a Facebook page. Like it. I’ll be posting updates there.

Finally, staring me in the face with the depth and deadness of a salivating zombie is a story that takes the traditional Zombie Apocalypse for rocking ride where it’s never been before. Not sure yet if I want to write the novel or the screenplay, but as I have information to offer, I’ll be tossing it up here on the blog.

…of which I will be visiting more often. Obviously, right?

So with nothing in my way but myself, all of these projects will be complete or underway within the next six months.  I’m piling it on and looking forward to what comes of it.

Oh, and in the near future I’ll be looking for you to determine what absolutely ridiculous show I show blog about on a regular basis. That one is wide open.  Anything from Springer to Gossip Girl, from The View to 90210. It’s not my call. It’s yours. I’m not sure who I hope to entertain more with that, but I’m quite positive it will be me.

That said, here’s the latest in The Bookstore series, called Potter is Hotter. Time to decide between Cullen and Potter. And pretty dresses.

The Bookstore #8, Publish What?

The latest in the ongoing series of The Bookstore is one that booksellers everywhere will relate to.  With the advent and ease of print-on-demand publishing, bookstores are hit repeatedly by that customer who want to have their book displayed in the store.  These customers are not only persistent, they refuse to understand why booksellers don’t want to stock their title(s).  Usually it has quite a lot more to do with the lack of editing and skill in the work than it does that the majority of these titles are deemed un-returnable, should they not sell in-store.  So, they’re stuck with a crap book with a crap cover that no one will buy for a dollar.  But worse than that customer is the one who has come to believe that booksellers–because they are so entrenched in the industry–have lead-ins to publishers that may be exploited at a moment’s desire.  And that’s where we find Eddie today.  Face to face with a customer who believes himself to be a writer, and is determined to make use of Eddie’s contacts and/or complete and utter understanding of what publishers want.

Offering a Word to the ‘Smiths.

On March 2nd, 2009, the first few whispers reached the blogs that Wordsmiths Books was closed.  No big farewell, no sell-down to a final closing date, nothing more than a note in the window baring a simple message:

I’ve pondered how to start this, but this is the best I can come up with. There is no great way to begin the end of a dream, and there is no gentle way to state that finality is upon you. That said, I regret to announce that, as of Monday, March 2nd, 2009, Wordsmiths Books will close its doors for good. I don’t do this willingly, and I would love to say that there were avenues of exploration yet to wander, possibilities that could avert this outcome, but that would be untruthful. I have explored every possibility open to me, but the sheer magnitude of the decline in sales alone (on the heels of our efforts to right the boat) from our current economic downturn has long since evaporated the fumes. Frankly put, there’s nothing left to make the engine go, and sitting on the side of the road with a thumb out doesn’t seem to earn you much grace as a business…

It’s been two years since I walked away from that store, and it still feels like a lost loved one.  Sure, pieces of it remain. I have the wonderful family of booksellers who worked for me, who remain in contact still; there are reminders fairly frequently from our customers who miss our events; there’s the clever little ghost that houses itself in Foursquare’s platform (I don’t know who did it, but thanks, and everyone else, do feel free to check in when your on the Square); and, of course, there exists a mountain of photos that remind me daily of the days spent toiling for my dream.

 

Photos Like This

It’s a mixture of sadness, and gratitude.  A blend of emptiness and completion.  I look at those pictures, and I wish Wordsmiths Books was still there, and I wish my family was still intact, and yet, we’ve all moved on to bigger and better things.  It has often struck me that we were brought together for a reason, and for a short time were allowed to share in this experience and carry it forward.  Then again, that could just be me.  I couldn’t have been blessed with a better group of people to spend my time with, and I remain thankful every day that they were in my life.  I’ve spent the past few days on Facebook thanking each of them individually, and I still feel I haven’t done it justice.

There are scores of others who were involved, in one way or another, with Wordsmiths, and I know that any attempt to thank them all would be futile, due to the fact that I am purely incapable of remembering what I had for breakfast, much less such a lengthy list of names.  So, naturally, I’ll do it any way, with apologies to anyone I forget.  To Collin Kelley (for his fab poetry events), Laurel Snyder (finalist for the E.B White Read Aloud Award!!!!), Wayne Fishell & Big Peaches (who gave us our soul Debby Harry style), Julia Carrol & Amy Lashley (for being the best cheerleaders/folk duo we could have asked for), Chris Warner (for his awesome sign), David L. Robbins (for his many contributions that stand as tall as he is, as well as for being a loyal and dedicated friend), Jim & Jessie Mundy (for the signed, framed, Wordsmiths Bag, from opening night), to The Georgia Center for the Book (for your support and trust), to Jennifer Brett (for your unbiased, fact-based story on the store’s closing), and to the many, many people who shopped our store, attended our events, and extended their hand when we called out for help, thank you.  There is no measure of words that truly sums up my gratitude.

If you’re up for browsing through it, here’s the original blog for Wordsmiths, during the 6-month run-up to the opening in June 2007.

It wasn’t ever easy, but when is owning a business ever?  I made mistakes in the process of opening that eventually haunted the store.  I made the decision in August 2008 to ask the public for help, for a business that had not even been open two years, and scores of people responded.  It was an emotional time, and to this day I still get choked up thinking about the overwhelming support we received.  The link to the blog above, the one detailing the store’s closing, is littered with comments that I didn’t read until last year’s anniversary that detail the belief that I did this knowing that the store was going to close (an opinion shared my by ex-mother-in-law, I regretfully recall now. Joy, there.).  That I willingly, and deceitfully, took money in order to simply buy me time.  There’s no point in arguing with fools, but I would like to say that I do not quit on anything unless it is beaten and dead (and even then I do it reluctantly), and I do not look someone in the eye and willingly lie in order to spare myself.  Wordsmiths was not dead (beaten maybe) until the economy bottomed out in October of that same year.  At that point we were turning in the right direction, slowly, like a ship turning against the storm.  But when people stopped shopping (in general) and put a cap on Christmas for 2008, we were toast.  And we weren’t alone.  Closing Wordsmiths remains one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Saying goodbye to my family was excruciating.  The image of walking away, turning the key one last time, and driving off (albeit in a very beautiful snowfall that I will always link with a sign of cleansing, and a new beginning) is forever imprinted on my mind.  The fact that the year following left me in a state of financial hardship like I’ve never known, had me contemplating my life’s choices, and ultimately contributed to the end of a marriage, does nothing at all to reduce the power and wonder of the Wordsmiths experience.  I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

And maybe someday, I will.

Wordsmiths Books was nearly everything I dreamed it to be, and I still believe that it lives and breathes in the memories of those who shared in it.  And on March 2nd of every year that I am blessed enough to live, I will raise a glass to its memory, to all that it offered me, and salute.  R.I.P to my little bookstore child.

The Bookstore, Episode 7 Lady Muslim

Here’s #7 in The Bookstore series. This one is based on a customer I encountered today.  She seemed perfectly normal, albeit odd as she wandered from spot to spot in the store, looking at nothing and everything at once.  Then she decided to tell me something.  Whisper something, actually.  And so, here she is, immortalized as only Xtranormal can.

Tweeting the Quack

This is actually a post from the Southern Authors Blog, A Good Blog is Hard to Find, but I would be doing it a great disservice if I didn’t post it everywhere, so, here it is.  May your day be filled with the glory of my brilliance.

And stuff.

——-

This is a duck.  His name is Ducky Thomas.  He is a duck named Thomas.

He’s stuffed full of cute, loves adventures, and is quite convinced that the world is the most fantastic thing a duck could ever hope for.  He also loves the cat who loves him most.

This is a video about a bookstore.  It has nothing to do with ducks–not yet anyway I guess I must admit–but does indeed have a lot to do with the point.

They both have something in common.  They have nothing directly to do with the books I write, but have everything to do with me as a writer.  They are independent of what is published, but a vital cog in the publicity of who I am.  And they aren’t the end or the beginning.  They are the journey.

There.  I’ve waxed poetic.  Now I can get on with the point.

We all know about Twitter.  If you have the time and patience, you can gather a following, make a name for yourself, your opinions, and your work.  The same can be said for Facebook, albeit in a more centralized, and long-term kind of way.  You’re going to make your friends, have your followers, talk about anything from The Simpsons and their obvious lack of relevance to Obama and his quest for health care.  You’ll be “liked”, have the “@” symbol thrown your way, tagged, or even re-posted/re-tweeted.  People will laugh with you, at you, talk about why your opinion is pointless and not at all as potent as what they have to say, and send messages to one another about whatever it is you posted last.  Above all, they will know you as a writer, and understand you as a person in ways readers never could before, and they will look forward to what you have to post next.

But they are merely one step toward lifting you, as a writer, into the conversations of the world.

We live in a digital age.  One in which communication is almost entirely of the written word.  We view Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Plancast, Tumbler, and so on as pure facets of publicity, meant to broaden our audience and stamp a nice, fancy, little brand upon our heads.  All of which is most certainly true.  But it’s not the mere existence of our digital selves on these sites that makes full embrace of what they offer us.  It’s what we write.  It’s how we use them.  It’s taking the blank slate and filling it with content that both evolves who we are as writers, and demonstrates fully what we can do with the words we are blessed with.  True, starting a blog and writing about anything–anything at all–is exactly the right approach.  But it isn’t the endpoint.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t intend on writing about the adventures of a stuffed duck, and I had no plans to begin at first a blog, and then a series of videos about life in a bookstore.  But the more I worked through my personal blog, the more I came to see each entry as a script of my life–pages of the mind fluttering from the inner sanctum of thought to the public forum offered to me.  Each entry was another showcase of what I could offer.  In a very real sense, each time I posted a blog, I was adding to my resume.  Obviously, it is every writer’s great hope that each book that is published will further enhance the aura and legacy of who they are (read in: you will become instantly uber-famous, and own two castles in a decade).  But it doesn’t have to end there any more.  In fact, the sheer number of books that are being published by extension of the popularity of a blog speak volumes to the time in which we live.  Used to be that you had to find a press to print your article, or a series of collected works in which to be included in order to broaden the scope of your work.  Now you have the internet, and whatever time you offer it.  Work it all in unison and not only do people start to pay attention–no matter how small your collective–but they start to anticipate what’s to come.  Then that audience can grow as people share what you have to offer–which is far less work than what you will put into creating it, given that the sharing aspect of it is usually accommodated by the gratifying click of a button.

It’s so very cliche, but the truth is, you never know who is watching, who is reading, who will share what you have to say, who is paying attention to as you scream from every corner of the internet you can crawl from, “HEY! PAY ATTENTION TO ME!”  So, go.  Do.  Find your inner duck.  And make every word count.  Your future readers will take note.

The Bookstore, Episode 6

Here’s the latest in The Bookstore series. This one is called French Stuff is Hot, and is a step further in the evolution of the characters. I’m just happy that Stacy isn’t bashing Anointed. I don’t know what I’d do if she didn’t like it.  Kill her I suppose, but even for a God that’s a pretty harsh reaction.  Anyway, and stuff, Jericho doesn’t know French.  He just knows it’s pretty hot.