Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Moustache Crisis?

I grew up with a very specific idea of what a "midlife crisis" was all about. First, only men had them. I don't know why, but women didn't have midlife crises. They were doomed to suffer quietly at home, burdened by the weight of children and their man-children husbands. They were never allowed the luxury of a good, obnoxious midlife crisis.

No, it was always men, and it was always a particular kind of crisis. It involved a sports car (usually a Corvette, God knows why). It involved a gold chain and open shirt. And invariably it involved a woman "half his age." So there you had him ... an aging, somewhat pathetic Lothario, driving around in his loud car with his medallion perched on his belly under the steering wheel, his bored and sexually frustrated wife/girlfriend in the passenger seat applying lipstick in the mirror and trying to keep her hair in place.

I don't know how this ended up becoming my image of a midlife crisis, but it did. Was it because I grew up in the '70s? Was it because I actually knew that guy? I don't know. Yes to all of the above.

I'm 39 now, which is crazy to think about, because I don't actually feel a day over about 23 or 24. Well, actually, when I was 23 and 24, I had a 1-year-old baby and two jobs and made about $11,000 a year, so maybe that's not the best age to idealize. Life was freaking hard, a lot harder than it is now. Maybe it's more like I don't feel a day over about 12.

The point is, my own midlife crisis has been in my mind more and more as I near 40, and I'm really curious what shape it will take. I wonder about it sometimes as I'm driving between the various places I drop my kids off. Will I decide to start growing hallucinogenic mushrooms in my laundry room? Will I try to learn Chinese or get into classical music? Mostly, though, I wonder: will I buy a sports car, get a chain and take up with a woman half my age? These images we form in childhood are hard to kill.

No, I don't think so. For one thing, I don't give a shit about cars. I really don't. In fact, I hate them. If I never had to drive again, I'd be happy. If I could live in a city with public transportation, I'd gladly never put my foot on an accelerator again. And as far as taking up with a woman half my age ... oh God no. She'd be 19 years old, and please spare me. Not only do I really and truly love my current wife, but I already went through being 19 and I have no desire to do it again. Lastly, I don't even like jewelry. I don't have a watch, much less have any desire for a gold chain.

If that midlife crisis is out, then what?

I've been working like mad lately—almost literally around the clock. Sadly, when I work like this, my showering habits become somewhat erratic. Let's say that maybe sometimes more than one day will go by before I drag my ass into a shower. And even on the days I do shower, my shaving habits are even more erratic. I've been known to grow almost a full beard from sheer laziness.

Tonight, though, after I showered, I went to shave and looked in the mirror, and I found myself thinking about the kind of man I pictured myself when I was little. I always pictured myself in a suit (which is really funny, considering my previously mentioned showering habits and the fact that I work from home), fabulously wealthy, and for some reason, distracted all the time. Staring at the mirror, I realized fully that I was NOTHING like that guy. I mean, yeah, I'm distracted much of the time, but that's about it. Otherwise, there's nothing about my life that resembles the life I once thought I would live. No suit. No fabulous wealth. I'm not even a Republican, which for some strange reason was also part of the picture.

So I shaved for the first time in a week, scraping away the residue of my own benevolent self-neglect, and I thought, "Maybe I'll grow some crazy ass facial hair." And I didn't shave my moustache. That's right. I left the 'stache. Now this might not seem like the biggest deal in the world to most people, but to me—a guy who's never had a moustache, but who still tells jokes about moustache rides—it was perhaps as close as I've gotten so far to thinking, "My God, I'm getting old. Where did half my life go already?"

My hope is that I'll have the guts to grow a full handlebar moustache. Because one other thing I've discovered about aging is that you care less and less what other people think ... and maybe that's what a good midlife crisis is really all about after all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

So this will be quick

Because that's about how much time I have right now.

When I decided to e-pub Zig Zephyr and the Forever Diamond, I figured it would be easy-peasy. The book was already done, after all, so it was just a matter of formatting it, getting it up online, and that was it. Ha ha. Foolish man.

Here's just a partial list of the things that have cropped up in the last week ...

1. Rewriting and tweaking the product blurb a zillion times.
2. Revamping my entire personal website to make it more Zig-friendly, which meant switching Internet registrars and hosting companies, taking down my old website, and beginning to rebuild the site from literally scratch. I finally got it to a point where I can BEGIN working on it but I can stand the thought of people seeing it. (I ultimately decided not make a separate page for the book, but fold it into my regular website).
3. Write a sell-sheet slash press release and begin compiling a list of places to send it.
4. Set up a personal Amazon page
5. Oh yeah, and regular work.

The funny thing is, I'm not resenting this sudden crush on my time. It's actually fun. The way I see it, I'm building an infrastructure, and it's kind of like putting up an apartment building. You want it to be nice, and then once it's built, I'll be on the hunt for people to live in it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

This Week ...

So this is the week. I've finished the editing and proofing, got a cover done, and got the book professionally formatted for Kindle and Epub (thanks to Natasha Fondren, who did a great job and thank you very much, Natasha).

It's funny, because I find myself getting more and more nervous. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I'm nervous—I am letting this book out into the wild, after all, and it's been cooped up for so long—but I am. It's like in my head, I know all the reasons I'm doing this, and they're good ones, but then part of me is like, "Are you sure? Really and truly sure?"

Yes. No. I dunno. Yes.

Anyway, I think the next thing that will have to happen—besides cajoling friends into reading and reviewing—is to figure out a way to sow the seeds of a MG e-book market. Somewhere out there, there are a lot of kids who should be reading this book. I've always felt that way, and now I have to best figure out how to reach them. Should I do a POD print version? Can I do that without getting an ISBN, which I'm not ready to do? Is there a mobile app that kids are using to read books? What is it? I'll be blogging more regularly, btw, as I try to find answers to all these questions and more ...

And while I'm working on ways to find my MG e-book market, I'm planning on getting as many crossover sales as possible by classifying the book on Amazon as a paranormal vampire erotica romance. Just kidding.

Unless you think it'd work, in which case I'm totally doing it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Passive Aggression

I've largely disappeared from sight these past few months, but it's not because I'm holed up in a corner wrapped around a bottle of scotch. Rather, I've been working my way through a shift in thinking and, as a result, devoting every ounce of spare energy to a few new projects. To keep things simple, here's my thinking ...

1. I've been freelancing professionally for a long time now and doing pretty well at it. But it can be a grind. Some years you're up. Other years you're down. If you're not hustling for new work, you're sunk.

2. I've made a lot of money for various people and companies. Last year, I ghostwrote a middle-grade book for an author that went on to do quite well. It got lots of publicity and ended up being adopted into the curriculum of a HUGE school district (they bought 15,000 copies in one shot). Let's just say that watching this author do promotion and rake in tens of thousands of dollars after paying me not much wasn't exactly the easiest thing in the world to stomach—even though I KNEW the deal going in and set my own price.

3. Not only is the publishing world in the midst of a revolution, I personally have learned a lot over the past two years, almost accidentally. I've learned that I like web publishing A LOT, and that I actually have a pretty natural knack for SEO. And I almost accidentally built an audience for a blog that I only started because no one in my real life could stand hearing me talk about growing tomatoes anymore.

4. I think I've finally worked my way through getting my ass handed to me in the fiction world. I still haven't heard of any writer with a story like mine—two books, serious interest and multiple rounds of revisions with top editors at two major publishers, multiple trips to acquisitions at both companies, and ultimately rejections from both companies. It's been a lot to process, raising issues that really struck at the core of my writerly being.

So I put all these things into a pot and stirred and came up with two words. You'll never guess.

Passive income.

My goal for this next year is to develop passive income sources. I've got three projects working right now all aimed at that goal.

First, I'm developing a website. Instead of working for someone else, this is my website completely. I've spent the past few months immersed in web design, writing content, and putting together the basic site. It's about growing tomatoes. My plan is to finish building the site this winter, then add a forum (because veggie gardeners are forum fanatics), then import my tomato blog onto the main site and piggyback on its audience. Ultimately, once I've got some traffic, I'll expand the site to include all kinds of gardening issues. There's lots and lots of traffic out there for gardeners, so my revenue source will be web advertising. The basic site is only about halfway done, so for now it stays under wraps. I'll announce it when it's ready.

Second, because I'm a glutton for punishment, I'm still working on a novel that I hope to finish in the first quarter and shop to traditional agents and publishers. I have a pretty good feeling about this book, but I've learned how little that means. Ultimately, though, I will write the best book I possibly can and hopefully finally knock one out of the park.

Third, I'm going to self-publish the two books that almost made it. This was a surprisingly hard decision to make, and it took me literally months to work my around to it. I've been so fixated on traditionally selling a book for so long, I just couldn't imagine a world in which I would ever self-publish anything. But the world is changing, of that there can no doubt. I can see a future when agents and publishers are ONLY interested in authors who have a proven ability to sell books on their own—it will be the fiction marketing platform of the future. I've been telling myself there is no e-book market for middle grade books for a long time, and that's been true. But I've been watching it very closely, and it's starting to change. They are starting to move now, including self-pubbed titles. If it breaks, I want to be there.

Ultimately, though, here was the truth: I have two finished, polished novels sitting in my drawer, wasting away. I have two finished, polished novels that were vetted by industry professionals—editors who had (and have) books in the top ten of the NYT best-seller list. What do I have to lose by self-publishing these titles? Literally nothing. Even the cover art will cost nothing—I'm trading an editing job for covers. It's 100 percent upside ... and perhaps more importantly, it will finally allow me to release these books into the wild. The thought that these books would never find any audience causes me much more pain than the idea that I'm selling out. I'm giving both books another quick edit, and they'll go up as soon as humanly possible.

So there it is. I didn't get kidnapped by aliens. Rather, I've been trying to get off the hamster wheel, and I'm excited about it. Deeply excited. Here's to hoping.