Week 5: Delayed Gentrification and Earning Panhandler Money

I forgot to post for Week 4 literally because I drank too much. On the day I usually tinker with the blog, I got drunk instead. By the time I recovered, I thought I had actually written a post, not realizing my mistake until days later.

I can no longer sink deep into my cups for a prolonged period of time. I just can’t hang.

I’m only thirty-two but it’s an old thirty-two. Don’t judge. Have YOU ever strung together an iron man streak of fifty consecutive Sundays at Dollar-Pint-Night? No? Then shut up.

Moving on to my…MONTHLY WRITING INCOME.

I EARNED PANHANDLER MONEY.

I made zero dollars. I’d be better off selling newspapers on a street corner, charging an extra quarter for stolen pencils so my customers could complete their crossword puzzles.

Who am I kidding? I’m not man enough to steal pencils. I’d never make it in that business.

However, I did sell a copy of the Wigwam and another copy of “Space Potatoes.” Since I didn’t get a royalty statement yet, I’m not counting either sale. It might only have brought in enough money for me to purchase a crappy candy bar — perhaps a melting Peanut Chew that slid between the racks at Family Dollar — but it’s still something.

I’m just not counting it yet, that’s all, not until I can actually buy that grime-covered, moldy bar of chocolate.

Yet during my no-money-from-writing month I came to a stunning realization. I’m pretty sure I’ve become a hipster. Greg Donchatz was right about me, that quarrelsome prick.*

I’m from a formerly blue collar neighborhood in Philadelphia. Over the years, I watched closely as the hipster cancer metastasized, with scraggily, scooter-riding art history majors popping up between crack houses to build gastropubs, show off their twirly mustaches, and huddle outside craft beer bars chainsmoking American Spirits.

These underemployed twerps annoyed me for years. That is, until I realized I’m just like that wheezy 30-something bartender slinging beers at that craft bar, dying a little bit inside every time a patron doesn’t buy his twenty-five dollar painting that his boss agreed to put on the wall in exchange for not paying him for a month.

Where I’m from, or at least where I used to be from, thirty-two-year-old men were either 1.) Already grumpy old fucks with ten years seniority in the union, or 2.) Standing on the corner with a premature beer belly, downing tallboys, and trying to sell you blow.

If I had a choice, I’d pick number 2, but I’ve somehow slid through the cracks. I’m like that fucking Peanut Chew I can’t afford to buy.

I’m a borderline itinerant worker with a scrap of talent (even that is arguable, fucking DONCHATZ, YOU BEAUTIFUL BASTARD). I barely have an education, unless you count two years of vaguely working toward a creative writing major at a community college which, from what I gather, is worth about as much in the free market as your average art history degree.

Since I decided that writing horror stories (or possibly poop jokes) is what I want to do for a living, I’ve had enough jobs to rival Homer Simpson: kitchen bitch, UPS slave, loading trucks, kitchen bitch again, bouncer at a ghetto public high school, telemarketer, writing for small newspapers for gas money, stacking broken beer boxes, EMT, a bunch of other shit I forgot, and now, temporarily anyway, an indentured servant to the Post Office.

I am an underemployed 30-something desperately trying to earn an income in the arts — if ‘drunks-versus-tree demons‘ even counts as art — while living in a trendy neighborhood.

Holy motherfuckin’ mother of God. I’m a hipster. And I’ve likely been one all along.

All those years standing on the corner wearing oversized T-shirts and skull caps, hanging with petty criminals with shamrock tattoos, pretending that I enjoyed gangster rap music…it was all a lie.

I was a hipster all along. I was the proto-gentrifier and I didn’t even know it, planting the seeds for the rest of the mustached arts bums, and paving the way for the economic juggernaut that comes to any working-class hood once their hipster foot soldiers have invaded: YUPPIES.

And whenever I question my hipster genes, I need only to peer into the refrigerator to quell any doubts.

I have humus. Lots of it.

*Regarding author Greg Donchatz: This gentleman took issue with my review of his novel in, to me, very entertaining fashion. I’m a glutton for insults, what can I say? I urge anyone charitable enough to read my blog to follow him on Twitter because he seems like a genuinely nice person, dedicated father, and hopefully in the future, a very successful author.

Song of the Week: Big City Philadelphia, “How to Rob an Industry Hipster” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 3: Cigarettes, Beers, and Dr. Wife

Aaaaand there goes Week 3. Uneventful on the writing front, as expected.

And yes, not ten seconds after I wrote “uneventful” in that last sentence, Dr. Wife laughed at the dog, which caused her to choke on her beer, gag, and then yack into the sink. She seems okay (though my EMT instincts made me want to break out my old stethoscope and check her lung sounds to see if she aspirated any imperial ale).

Anyway, Dr. Wife’s not dead, the dog failed to get the rubber ball, and here I am, not quite two beers deep but itching for another smoke.

Which brings me to this week’s topic, seeing as how I have nothing else to write about: Cigarettes, and how awesome they can be for lighting that creative candle in your head (especially with a beer or two).

Yeah, I know how bad they are. Everybody knows. Shut the fuck up.

Important note: The Truth Initiative — those twats with the anti-smoking campaign — are insufferable. You’ve probably seen their commercials. The ones with the obnoxious music, corny uses of hashtags, and that ad in particular where they say smoking will kill your cat. It’s another attempt at the anti-smoking crowd to look cool. But they don’t look cool. You know what looks cool? A fifteen-year-old smoking a cigarette in the bathroom during third period.

AND. If any fifteen-year-olds are swayed by these awful commercials, they are pussies. The same way the kids who actually listened to those “Just Say No” ads were pussies. You want to get a kid not to smoke? Send him to the nursing home where all the ex-smokers are coughing up bloody mucus through the hole in their throat.

I hope to eventually quit, yet every time I see these commercials I light up in protest. Thus is the sheer, corny awfulness of your commercials. Suck on my discarded USA Gold butts. For every kid who says they’ll never smoke because of your commercials, I’m personally going to give a pack of cigarettes to a small child. The Truth Initiative is every nanny state pansy who taxes your can of soda, it is the sound of an activist screeching at you for using the wrong gender pronoun, it is the incessant BEEPING in your car when you don’t put on your seat belt. There is no way for that to be cool. Fuck you. End important note. 

Moving right along.

Writing and cigarettes go well together, that is, if you’re already a smoker. If you’re not a smoker, don’t start — unless of course you want to look SUPER COOL FUCK YOU TRUTH INITIATIVE — because it won’t help.

But if you are a smoker, they’re wondrous when done correctly. For me, while attempting to get in King’s 2,000 words per day, a smoke break when I’m 500 words deep is generally where I get my mojo. I tend to get nervous during those first few hundred words. The smoke break helps me calm down, contemplate what I’m going to do next, and get ready to bang out the next 1,500.

Although I have a strict rule. No cigarettes at all for the remaining 1,500. Fuck that. No breaks except if I have to piss. Poo breaks don’t count. One can always balance the laptop on his/her thighs even while dropping the most cataclysmic turds.

Naturally, drinking and smoking go hand-in-hand, but excessive drinking never goes good with writing. Unless you’re Christopher Hitchens, Hemingway, or Hunter Thompson — and you’re not — writing while shitfaced is a terrible idea.

If you’ve ever cringed at what you wrote on Facebook or in an ill-advised text message after ten beers, what do you think your fiction will be like? I’ll save you the trouble of finding out. It’ll be the equivalent of what you’ll leave in the toilet bowl when you kneel before the porcelain prince.

However, writing after a beer or two won’t hurt you. There’s been some kind of research that says so — or that a small amount of alcohol can get your creative juices flowing — and I’d cite it except fuck you, read the internet on your own.

I like to write little things while on those first two beers. Minor shit and, yes, sometimes I’ll go on to a third drink, but never while working on something serious.

But I’d venture to say that drinking and smoking while writing is counterproductive. I try not to combine the two while writing, but fuck if it doesn’t feel good to sit on the porch with a beer and a pack of smokes and consider what I’m writing.

I’ve literally had my best ideas while sitting peacefully alone — once on a small porch facing the neighbor’s house across the alley in Bethlehem, now on a larger one back home in Philly — enjoying the calming effects of alcohol and destroying my cardiovascular system with cheap cigarettes. Or maybe driving home from work nursing a beer, cigarette dangling from my lips, radio off, with nothing but a dark highway in front of me and the wind whistling through the window, open only a crack.

It’s like mindfulness meditation for the chemical enthusiast.

However — and it’s a big However — if you’re the type of lightweight twat who finds yourself fist-pumping, twerking, or otherwise being objectionable after a few Coors Lights, please don’t imbibe while writing. And maybe you shouldn’t drink at all, since you’re no good at it.

Short note: Everything I wrote in this post in regards to smoking while writing could just as easily be applied to chewing bubblegum. Except no writer chewing bubblegum has ever looked as cool as a writer smoking a cigarette (not that anyone will see you, because if you’re serious about this shit you’re writing in a dingy, secluded portion of your house, or maybe the laundry room at a homeless mission).

Another short note: I’m not spellchecking any of this because I broke my own rule. I’m on my fourth beer. Now it’s time for hockey. (Go Flyers. Capitals fans are just a bunch of lawyers and finance twats who got free tickets off their bosses.) If I do remember to spell check it, it’ll be in the morning. A big “If.”

Pic of the day: Dr. Wife, only vaguely aware that I’m about to take her picture. (She’s my rock, the Daenerys to my bald, drunken, short, pitiful Drogo, the reason why I’m not stealing copper wire from a construction site in South Philly right now.)

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Song of the day: The Hold Steady, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” (only because Dr. Wife is sitting across from me; her presence trumps any smoking or drinking related songs, of which I know many. Also, GoT watchers can eat a dick. I knew this song before you. #HipsterPoints)

 

 

 

 

Week 2: Pro Markets, Rejection Letters, Father Bob, and Flo Rida

Alright! Well that was a non-eventful first week trying to write for a living.

Though I did see my sales for The Wigwam go up by 100%. Sold one copy! Right on. Plus another for Space Potatoes. I’ll tally up those meager earnings some time in the future, once I get my statements from Permuted and Amazon.

Don’t tell the PA Department of Labor and Industry, however. Snitches get stitches. Of course, I’ll be giving up my paid vacation on unemployment benefits soon, as I’ll be starting a brief career as an indentured servant for the Post Office* in the near future until everyone’s favorite priest** gets me a more stable gig lifting heavy shit, or whatever it is construction workers do.

Ah, giving up unemployment checks is bittersweet. Working side jobs and writing non-stop has been a blast, but actually submitting my stuff to paying markets without repercussion is better.

Anyway, let’s get to the actual writing-for-a-living stuff.

I have to say, pro-paying horror markets are a motherfucker in their efficiency. I submitted a story to Pseudopod, the short story podcast, only to have them shoot it down within 48 hours. Then the venerable Black Static kicked what I believe to be my strongest story, “The Hooded Man,” to the curb with the quickness. Although the editor did tell me to send something else, which is a good sign, unless of course it was a form letter and other authors were told the same thing, in which case I don’t want to know because that was a nice bright spot on an otherwise grim week.

But seriously, I’m a writer who has experienced the old school industry and the new. When I began writing back in the early 2000’s, most markets didn’t accept email submissions. Snail mail was the rule. Back then, you’d wait three months, if you were lucky they were that fast, just for a form rejection.

I prefer knowing right away that you don’t want my shit, thank you very much. I’d rather keep it moving.

Though I do remember the first non-form rejection I ever had. I believe it was from Penthouse, or else some other smut outlet, back when adult mags paid a good wage for short stories. Under my given name at just 20 years old, I penned a 4,000 word porn piece entitled “Orgasm Man” that was, naturally, about a superhero who could bring any woman to orgasm.

One of my friends read it and said it gave him the weirdest boner. That’s a good thing, I guess, and probably the most honest feedback I’ve ever had from a beta reader.

Anyway, the editor wrote me back several months later. Clearly I’m yanking this from memory, as I sadly didn’t save the letter, but he said something like this: “Not bad, but strange. Also, we prefer our stories in the first person. Try again.”

And that shit was HAND WRITTEN. Score one for a young, prematurely balding Mack Moyer.

I’ve strayed from my point. Forgive me, I’m drinking.

Back to the subject at hand. Not boners, you perv, but my quixotic attempt to do this shit for a living.

I sent “The Hooded Man” to The Threepenny Review, which is a respectable lit mag, only because the story might be a better fit. It’s more drama than scares, admittedly, and based on my woebegone years spent as a pill addict. (Though I never lived in a box and if any Hooded Men chased me, they were likely trying to collect money that I owed, rather than of the supernatural variety).

It’s a long shot, I know, but one must shoot high some of the time, right? I also submitted another one of my better efforts, “He Rose,” to Strange Horizons, a strong horror magazine. I’m expecting a rejection from them as well, not just because they’re an awesome magazine, and not just because I’m a fucking writer who drinks and is thus prone to depression, but because I’m a realist.

Don’t expect the worst — “YOUR STORY SUCKS KILL YOURSELF,” says the editor — but expect something fairly disappointing. That’s what usually happens in life.

Now, speaking to depression and being a realist: The rapper Flo Rida.

I am not a hip hop fan. Actually, I tend to hate rap. But you know what I don’t hate? Happy things.

And that’s why I’m now a Flo Rida fan. This gentleman has made a song, I’m sure you’ve heard it, that’s about pounding drinks at his house. And he sounds superbly happy rapping about it.

Song of the Day: “My House,” by Flo Rida

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t find “My House” to be a work of art. I don’t think it’s structurally very good or even all that catchy. But motherfucker, listen to this song and tell me it doesn’t make you smile.

Compare that to Pearl Jam’s happiest song. It’s a great song, yeah, but it still makes me want to kill myself a little bit, and that’s never a good thing. (Well…)

*On the United States Postal Service: I remember when you guys were the shit, back when everybody from a blue collar background said, “Yeah man, get into the Post Office and you’re set!” Fuck you, Post Office. You changed, man. I haven’t even started the job yet but the prospect of conceivably working 360 days without a day off — or a guaranteed permanent position — has me already hating you.

**On Father Bob: And lo, did the humble carpenter and the Philly riverwards’ most capable bartender rise up to become the City of Brotherly Love’s most in-demand marriage officiant. He’ll marry you, yes, but also confound those at the reception while he (in inebriated fashion) regales one and all with his happy-go-lucky tales of (redacted for legal reasons) and even that time when he (redacted for legal reasons), all while wearing a legit priest outfit that will totally convince your grandmother that he is, indeed, “that cardinal from St. Anne’s who gave the homily last Easter.”

Week 1: I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

So if you haven’t read my lengthy preamble, I’ve decided to shit or get off the pot in regards to trying to write for a living.

My plan is this: For now, I have five finished short stories and very soon I’m going to begin submitting them to good paying markets. This means I’m avoiding getting paid in contributors copies, bumper stickers, coasters, posters, or what-have-you.

Then I have Sketches of the WigwamLike any small press author, I’m of course pushing the novel anywhere I can and have been for almost a year now, for all the good it’s done me. The Wigwam has a whopping eight reviews on Goodreads despite me sending it to every book blogger imaginable.

Ah well. To tell you the truth, I’m grateful for every one of those reviews, especially the bad ones. If nothing else, it lets potential readers know that I’m not spamming Goodreads stats with bullshit reviews from my mom. (Though I’m sure she’s more than willing. Mother loves me and she’d likely kill you if I asked her nicely. Not that I would…yet.)

And to be absolutely honest — and I’m not calling out anyone by name — I have one very positive review that, I’m quite sure, came from someone who never read the book at all. I’d rather have an honest bad review than a bullshit good one.

So I’ll chug along, plugging the Wigwam where I can, sending it to whatever reviewers are willing to read it, but at this point it’s not working. Sales have been dog shit. Perhaps I should come up with a new plan. (Like I said, I have no idea what I’m doing.)

I wrote in my aforementioned preamble that I’ve delineated levels of income. I’d like to start this quest off by making the writing equivalent of a living wage, not panhandler money. Though I’m open to it if that’s all I can get.

And while I do have those five short stories that I’m ready to fire off to horror rags, I have a sixth and, possibly, a seventh that I’m considering self-publishing, as I did “The Journey To Mount Kill Yourself” and “Never Chase Space Potatoes With Teenage Girls.” Though sales for those have been dog shit as well, mainly because it’s difficult to find review outlets for short stories.

I’d love to make enough cash off one of these magazine-bound stories to make a car payment. Yes, that’s what I think about when it comes to success in writing. Not speaking at a college. No appearances on popular podcasts. No douchey photo shoots in Writer’s Digest. Just a fucking car payment.

I dream low, folks.

To start, I’ll be utilizing Dark Markets to find short story outlets. Guys, if you’re a horror writer and you haven’t used Dark Markets, just stop and go to that site now. Chuck that fucking outdated Writer’s Market book, please.

Mini-deviation: Why on earth would anyone purchase a Writer’s Market book these days? You can find all that shit online anyway. It’s a glorified phone book for writers.

And though I write on Horror Novel Reviews as a labor of love, I will continue to use it to link back to the Wigwam and my both of my short stories on Amazon. But this will only be for my feature work, like ‘Horror and Hangovers‘ and stuff like that. I’m not that much of a whore that I’d spam links to my personal shit in a review of someone else’s work.

Karma, people. It doesn’t exist, but the idea is important.

I’ve also decided that, no, I don’t want any advice. The myriad strategies to making a living from this shit are maddening, if only because I don’t think any of them really work. Various sources advise you to advertise on social media, price your books strategically, or just review-swap your way to a fuck-ton of five-star Goodreads reviews.

I don’t buy any of it. Some of these strategies might work for a handful of lucky authors, but it certainly doesn’t work for everyone.

Also, I won’t say where or how I saw it, but I was privy to an online seminar* wherein the speaker urged authors to aggressively review swap. This supposed industry professional tells authors that exchanging glowing reviews with other authors is a sure bet to becoming the next best-selling author.

Bullshit, for two reasons. One, everyone does that already. Two, the very act of review swapping has made gauging reviews for self-published and small-press books worthless. I’ve purchased enough five-star indie books that were utter dog shit, thank you very much. I’d rather not add to the problem.

I also don’t want to become a book factory. Author Annie Bellet spoke on this podcast about her success in self-publishing her books, making upwards of half-a-million bucks in one year. Good for her. I’m not hating, but her strategy was to price the first book of her series at 99 cents (not that I’m opposed to that) then cranking out sequel after sequel, each priced higher.

Bellet’s logic is this: Readers buy Volume 1 dirt cheap, get sucked into the story, then don’t mind paying a higher price for the subsequent volumes. That’s all well and good, but Bellet explains how she had to churn out books, several in a year, to keep her sales up.

Look, I’m not knocking this woman at all. I’m glad she made some bank and I’m sure her readers enjoy her books. I’m just saying that, for me, I would NOT be able to write several books in a year’s time while maintaining any kind of quality.

I’m not saying Bellet’s books suck, but I’m saying mine would if I cranked them out at that rate.

Oh, I’m also sick of everyone having a series. Every goddamn indie book I read is “Part 1 In The (Whatever The Fuck) Saga.” Seriously, if Hemingway were writing today, The Sun Also Rises would be “Part 1 In Jake Barnes’ Journey To Get A Boner Again.”

No thank you.

Ah well. So my current plan is this: Combine traditional publishing, in regards to short stories and book publishers, with pushing self-published work. Perhaps I’m throwing shit at a wall to see what sticks. I won’t deny it.

Then again, I already told you that I have no idea what I’m doing.

Pic of the day: Rolling Rock cans and cheap smokes. 

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Song of the day: “Give Up” by Mishka Shubaly. 

 

 

 

*  I said “web seminar” because “webinar” sounds super douchey. If you disagree, you might be a douche. (Or you could be an incredible, loving, wonderful person. But you still sound douchey when you say it.