From the moment estributors like Smashwords.com opened its e-doors, the world of publishing changed forever ... we all know that ... but I'm NOT talking about the decline of the Big 6 or the obliteration of the "agent-acting-as-gatekeeper" model here. I'm talking about the loss of a QUALITY STANDARD in literary publishing.
Before these platforms were around, people could publish their own written works, but the process was arduous, time-consuming and costly ... and there were limited opportunities for the end result in terms of distribution. Meanwhile, publishing to paper was transformed a bit by print-on-demand, but there were hurdles to leap for POD in terms of cost, which acted as a barrier-to-entry for most.
There were still people who self-published prior to 2008, but they were relatively few and far in-between. The quality of their published works varied greatly, and for the most part, no one cared because they didn't represent any respectable percentage of books sold. It's also worth mentioning that back then, most of the people who self-published were those rejected by TRADPUB - this is especially true for works of fiction - and I think this still holds true today.
So what did the average self-published work look and read like back in the day? Bad grammar ... bad punctuation on cheap paper with shoddy printing wrapped by a cover design that looked like a young child created it. Notice, I'm not speaking about storyline, prose, characters, theme, settings, etc. Those are components of the ART of writing. What this article is about is the CRAFT of writing.
As I've mentioned before (and will continue to mention) ART is subjective, but craft is OBJECTIVE!
Jump to today and now you have quality paper and printing, but what about the rest?
Let me get to the point ... a point I'll continue to talk about and hammer at into the future, because I think this point will be a DEFINING ISSUE in this New World of Publishing revolution ...
There is a NEED for a QUALITY STANDARD in self-publishing!
It's apparent to this Pub owner that in doing away with the old TRADPUB query/proposal process, we've thrown the baby out with the bathwater! What do I mean? Well, let's look at the old process ... and when I say old, this process is still utilized today and will continue to be, at least for a time, but to a much less extent - primarily because nowadays people can circumvent it and just SELFPUB:
In the old days ... say, last year ... a writer like me would write a manuscript. Because I've never been published before, I'd have to adhere to a very narrow window of length - say @80,000 words for a full-length novel. So, manuscript length acted as one of the first barriers-to-entry. If my Ms. was much shorter than that, it wouldn't be accepted as a full-length novel by most agents (read: publishers). If it were much longer, it could very easily be tossed without being read, just from the "151,000 Words" written on the top of the cover page. Even if it was a masterpiece and somehow was read by an agent/publishing editor, the response would almost always be "great but you need to condense it" ... the frustrating call for a re-write.
Length was just one of the rules - yes, there used to be rules to publishing. Some were age-old, some were self-imposed by the particular agent or editor, but there were always rules. Manuscripts had to be flawless grammatically and punctuation-wise, double-spaced and adhering to a bunch of other specific guidelines. All that was BEFORE your prose, voice, characters, settings, etc. The gatekeepers wouldn't even get to that good stuff because of a typo or poor use of commas.
Two years ago, before I shopped my first manuscript, I spent about a year just trying to learn the rules. I went online and read about the query and proposal process. I purchased the _Writer's Market Deluxe Edition_ and the _Guide to Literary Agents_ and I read both cover to cover. Other than their lists of agents and publishers, there was a volume of rules, guidelines an advice in each of those books. I looked at countless samples of manuscript formatting, delving into such micro-topics as 'acceptable fonts' and 'chapter titling and spacing.' Then there was the query formatting ...
I YI YI ... before you were supposed to even create a query, I was taught to create an entire proposal - a much longer document which including everything from the 'back cover blurb' to a competitive analysis. I had to create a 1,500-word summary, a 500-word summary, a one-paragraph summary and a one-sentence description.
The query itself had to be impeccable - short and to-the-point, but it also had to include all the pertinent info. I studied dozens and dozens of examples and continually refined my queries until they were perfect, tight, squeaky-clean works of art!
And what did all that work produce? Just a dozen requests for full manuscripts and ultimately over 90 rejections. Ouch! I'll tell you what though - not one person who read my Ms. critiqued the quality of the writing ... my craft! They tossed me for the subjective reasons, "I didn't fall in love with your main character ..." or "I didn't fall in love with your storyline ..." Ya know what I'm thinking? There's a lotta LOVE-STARVED agents out there!
"Yo, agents ... if you're lookin' for love, there's a whole bunch of websites out there ... if you're looking for a little escape and to be entertained, my novel fills the bill!" That's what I wanted to say, anyhow.
But what did that query process really do? For the industry and the readers, it separated the workers from the chaff. I know of a host of writers who simply never attempted a second manuscript after going through the old query process only to be rejected. When the quitters quit, that only left the workers ... the "strivers" ... the folks I call the WINNERS - because the definition of a winner to me is a person that doesn't give up! What did it do for me personally? It made me examine, analyze and continually improve my writing craft ... and it still does because I still utilize the same process, even though I now SELFPUB!
My point: That old query/proposal process acted as a filter and a barrier-to-entry and since the only alternative in the 'old days' ... say like in the year 2008, was the costly and complicated self-publishing process, those filters were most effective in weeding out the chaff. Did they also weed out some talented folks and brilliant works ... yes and no, for in my experience, WINNERS never quit. So, in the worst case, the old process just delayed some of the worth-publishing writers and works.
What about nowadays? Well without any dam (read: any barrier-to-entry), the global population of readers are now faced with a DELUGE of garbage-laced slush that comes at them like a TIDAL WAVE of brown, smelly muck!
For the most part, the average reader can still count on a TRADPUBBED work to have a consistent level of quality. There's a certain polish ... a certain je ne sais quoi to a TRADPUBBED book or novel. You know what I'm talkin' about!
Now think of the average SELFPUBBED work.
Yeah ... I rest my case.
If we, (read: SELFPUBBERS) think most SELFPUBBED works are sub-par - what do you think the folks think?
I'll talk more about the old TRADPUB process in subsequent articles - mostly because as SELFPUBBERS, we NEED to save the baby! The bathwater we can flush down the drain - stuff like unqualified agents rejecting us because THEY think they know what will sell - or making subjective criticisms about our work and calling for re-writes. Excuse my old neighborhood mentality but "... who the bloody hell died and made YOU friggin' king or queen, Mr./Mrs. Kiss-my-butt-'cause-I-call-myself-an-agent?!
I feel better now ... I'll continue ...
In the last few years everything's changed. Here's a news release by Smashwords, just a couple of weeks ago on May 23rd:
"Smashwords achieved two special milestones in the the last few days. We reached 50,000 original ebooks published by over 20,000 authors [emphasis mine]. We're on track to surpass 75,000 titles by the end of year, up from 28,800 at the end of 2010, 6,000 in 2009 and 140 in 2008."
So, 140 titles in 2008 has turned into over 75,000 titles in 2011, and if the writer-title ratio holds up, there will be @30,000 authors writing those 75,000 works!
My opinion ... virtually 100% of those 30,000 authors WOULD NOT have been published by TRADPUB (in 2011) ... and that includes this Pub owner. Hey, you can't shoot a man for his opinion especially in his own establishment, so there it is. Now you know what TRADPUBBERS meant by their slushpile ... 75,000 titles and that's just the ones that will be published via Smashwords this year!
Getting back to the topic - I'll pose a question: Focusing only on the Smashwords 2011 titles/authors, how many of them do you think would pass a quality standard that just focused on rudimentary grammar, typos and punctuation? And for those of you who've started yackin' about an author's voice and prose and yadda-yadda-yadda - I'M NOT TALKING DIALOG!
I'll use myself as an example. For my debut novel, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, my editing process included three different people - yet, when my 12 year-old son Jared read it for a book report, he found 14 typos. <sigh> 14 typos may not sound like a lot in an 86,000 word novel, but to me it's 14 typos too many. Why? Because I wouldn't tolerate them from any TRADPUB novel I bought - and here's my ultimate point - there should be NO DIFFERENCE between the quality of a TRADPUB and SELFPUB work!
Listen, I count myself as one of the Patriots, just a rank-n-file member of the working-class SELFPUBBERS, which means I'm ecstatic with all the changes that have taken place in the literary publishing industry in the last couple of years. Nevertheless, I'm not a literary anarchist!
Does everyone have the ability to self-publish nowadays - YES; BUT should everyone publish every single jot and tittle of what they write without so much as spell-checking it? The answer, my answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!
Every time one of us self-publishes a literary work of inferior quality, we have diminished ALL self-published works! Why? Because people ... you know, the folks for which we supposedly write our works (and for which we expect them to pay their hard-earned $$$) look at SELFPUBBED works as a type of BRAND! A single brand. Honestly, whenever I read a SELFPUBBED work, I do so with a critical eye. I'm looking for the errors. I don't do that with TRADPUBBED books.
One of the first questions I'm invariably asked whenever speaking to someone who just learned I'm an author is, "Who's your publisher?" I hate the look people give me when I say, "I published myself." The look I get is usually whimsical and condescending.
What they reply is, "How nice!" What they mean to say is, "Just what the world needs, another poorly edited, sloppy pile of trash!"
What really hurts is the fact that for the most part, I agree with them.
That has to change.
Next in this QUALITY series - let's talk about the difficulties, challenges and potential pitfalls of establishing a quality standard in SELFPUB.
All the talk lately in the self-publishing community has been about Thomas & Mercer, the new Amazon.com imprint and particularly their signing of two legendary self-published authors, Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler. Both Joe and Barry have been kind enough to publish their online conversations about their signings - you can read their latest chat here. They're also going to publish their entire conversation on Amazon.com, so keep an eye out for it. As proprietor of this pub, I'll weigh in with my thoughts (since every Tom, Dick & Harry have already done so). Here's my take:
By launching their Thomas & Mercer mystery/thriller imprint, now and in the way they did, Amazon shows themselves as masters of Sun Tzo's philosophies in his legendary tome, _The Art of War_!
This imprint is an OUTSTANDING idea and one whose time has come! For those who don't know what Thomas & Mercer is, here's a snippet from Amazon's May 18th press release about it:
"Amazon.com today announced the launch of Thomas & Mercer, the fifth imprint from Amazon Publishing, focused on mysteries and thrillers. Thomas & Mercer launches with four books that will be released in Fall 2011: "Resuscitation" by D.M. Annechino, "Stirred" by J.A. Konrath and Blake Crouch, "The Immortalists" by Kyle Mills and "Already Gone" by John Rector ..."
It's the next logical step for Amazon. They're already the largest online bookseller, their online hub is massively known and allows them to self-market, promote and advertise, they have a fantastic publishing platform for SELFPUBBERS with Kindle Direct Publishing and their distribution channel is totally owned and controlled by them. That last point is most important since distribution has always been under the primary command and control of the Big 6 (even indirectly, they've always been able to manipulate distributors like Barnes & Noble and Borders) and as in any war, command and control is key. Make no mistake, Amazon has declared war on TRADPUB, but like wise students of Sun Tzu, they have won the war before even fighting the first battle. No doubt they will be met with stiff resistance, at least for the near future, by the infamous and, as Dean Wesley Smith and his wife Kris Rusch always point out, mislabeled "Big 6". The big publishing houses are backed by large corporations with deep pockets. If they decide to put up a unified front, they could succeed in slowing the momentum of T&M but they won't be able to stop the train ... as the saying goes, "that train already left the station."
I told you that Amazon are masters of "The Art of War." Let me show you what I mean by quoting the great general, Sun Tzu, and illustrating how Amazon has heeded his counsel:
"In conflict, straightforward actions generally lead to engagement, surprising actions generally lead to victory."
By launching this imprint with two of the best known SELFPUBBERS in Konrath and Eisler, Amazon has (for now) evaded enticing TRADPUB's biggest authors to jump ship. If Amazon would have waited to lure TRADPUB's whales, it would have given the Big 6 a heads-up. TRADPUB can't keep tabs on Konrath and Eisler's movements as they could their own stable. Plus, if Amazon would have gone after the real money-makers for the Big 6, they definitely would have waged a direct and bloody engagement. I believe the Big 6 were surprised with Amazon's timing and signings.
“Thus those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle ... . They conquer by strategy."
Amazon's strategy is masterful! They launch an imprint which will DIRECTLY compete with TRADPUB on every level but with generals (Konrath and Eisler particularly) that are not turncoats. Joe and Barry have always been patriots (some may call them rebels, I don't). In this way, Amazon doesn't provoke and they don't overtly array their armies for battle. Rather, they're seen as just marching their army directly through TRADPUB's territory, but more as a parade than a menacing force. Out of the box, all the Big 6 can do is stand on the sidewalk, watch and wave.
“In war, numbers alone confer no advantage."
As of today, when seen as one entity, the Big 6 still 'outnumber' Amazon when it comes to scale. However, because of TRADPUB's shortsightedness, stupidity and foolishness they missed the boat when it came to the revolutionary changes in the literary publishing industry. Their entire infrastructure is built on obsolete and soon-to-be obsolete models and processes. Barry Eisler coined the term "legacy publishers" - that is the perfect way to describe TRADPUBBERS now. Because their foundations are built on yesterday's process, their scale is meaningless.
Picture an army of 1,000,000 men all armed with swords and bows and arrows, facing just one super-carrier.
“To ... not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues."
The former describes TRADPUB and the latter, Amazon.
“What is of the greatest importance in war is extraordinary speed: One cannot afford to neglect opportunity."
Amazon is a company built on 21-century technology and innovation which allows the retail giant to continue to act with the speed of a small, nimble company. In contrast, TRADPUB is ruled by the Big 6 who are in turn, mostly owned and controlled by bigger companies with 20th century sensibilities. Amazon saw the HUGE opportunity and were adept enough to jump on it with T&M.
“A sovereign of high character and intelligence must be able to know the right man, should place the responsibility on him, and expect results."
By launching with Konrath and Eisler as their generals, Amazon showed true wisdom! They selected two of the brightest and boldest new authors who have already showed themselves fearless to the intimidation of the TRADPUB industry. Not only are they showing confidence in both men, they LISTEN to them and their advice! Eisler speaks about how he suggested changes to their contract and they LISTENED ... something TRADPUB has NOT done for the most part with any but their biggest authors. I believe Amazon will continue to pursue authors like Eisler and Konrath - writers who understand and utilize the newest processes of publishing and who continue to invent new ways of marketing themselves. NOTE: In their published chat, both Joe and Barry speak at length about the fact that they are NOT adverse to TRADPUB - they are NOT trying to destroy TRADPUB - and that, to them SELFPUB is not so much an ideology but an astute business decision. In other words, they will continue to utilize self-publishing when it's the prudent choice. As for their Thomas & Mercer deals, those deals were the prudent choice.
“If an enemy has alliances, the problem is grave and the enemy's position strong; if he has no alliances, the problem is minor and the enemy's position weak."
This one you might think would side with TRADPUB, after all they have decades of alliances with large-chain and indy brick-n-mortar booksellers as well as media outlets, big-name authors, agents, reviewers, etc. However, TRADPUB's alliances are not as strong as they may appear. In fact, their strongest alliance may be with their newest competitor ... Amazon! The Big 6 continue to sell a ton of books (both paper and eBook) via Amazon and their Kindle platform. As for their other alliances:
- Just like the Big 6 - major brick-n-mortar retailers like Barnes & Noble and Borders are suffering from their own shortsightedness and stupidity. Borders continues to operate one step away from total bankruptcy while B&N is being acquired by a rich man who already stated that he's not as interested in bookstores and paper books as he is the NOOK.
- Media outlets thrive on news and more and more, the most exciting news is coming from the rank and file of SELFPUB and from the new hybrids like Amazon's Thomas & Mercer.
- Big-name authors have become big names from TRADPUB, no doubt, but that doesn't mean TRADPUB will keep it's monopoly on them. Just like with Eisler and Konrath, big-name TRADPUBBED authors will make the prudent choice for themselves. Many might remain with TRADPUB, which is NOT a bad thing but others might move to imprints like Amazon (and there WILL be others) or SELFPUB. Dean Wesley Smith has always asserted that the wisest choice for ALL authors is to utilize both, if possible - TRADPUB and SELFPUB and now let's throw in the HYBRIDPUBS like T&M. They each offer advantages.
To sum up, although for now it appears that war has been declared on traditional publishing in general and the Big 6 in particular - I believe that it's TRADPUB and the Big 6 that perceive it that way - more so than Amazon, SELFPUB, or the folks do!
Traditional publishing will NOT survive in its present and past forms. They will HAVE TO adapt and to some extent they already are. There is no denying that a change has taken place in literary publishing. The balance of power has shifted. The once all-powerful Big 6 NO LONGER control the industry as they once did ... and they never will again. That is the way of things in a capitalist society. It is the natural progression of things.
Once upon a time, the word computer and the company, IBM were synonymous. When Microsoft came along and started designing operating systems and applications for 'desktop' computers, the IBM stogies decided to dismiss the new company, technology and industry. They stuck with what they considered 'tried and true' mainframes, and turned a blind eye to the needs and desires of the folks. IBM is hardly ever spoken about anymore.
“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana)
I'll leave you with the summary of a great book titled, _The Limits of Strategy_ by Ernest Von Simson.
"1992 was a killing year for the four computer companies most important to business buyers over the decade. All four had been dominant suppliers of minicomputers for the preceding fifteen or twenty years. But on July 16, the CEOs of both Digital Equipment and Hewlett Packard were pushed into retirement. On August 8, Wang Laboratories declared bankruptcy. In December, IBM halved its dividend for the first time ever, forcing the resignation of its CEO a month later.
How did this happen? All four CEOs were clever and experienced. Two were founders of their companies; the other two highly successful career executives in their respective companies. All four were simply overwhelmed. And while there was no single explanation for what happened, there were definite common themes.
They recur again and again in the many stories of this book. Are the deadliest changes unavoidable because strategy is too easily thwarted by cluster bombs like technological velocity, cultural inertia, obsolete business models, executive conflict, and investor expectations? The year 1992 is the fulcrum of this book, but the underlying theme is company transitions in the face of massive changes in markets, technologies, or business models - or, in other words, the limits of strategy."
Log Date: 05-31-11 I'm renaming my blog from "The World According to g" to – "SELFPUBBER'S PUB: For writers and readers of self-published works!" and wanted to tell you why …
Back on January 22, 2010, the day I started this blog, "The World According to g," I was only months away from leaving my 9to5 grind (actually it was more like 5am to9pm).
My wife had finally convinced me to pursue my dream of becoming a published writer. I was excited … still am, even more so now, but back then, I hadn't a clue about the literary industry.
I created my www.GerarddeMarigny.com website and decided to start a blog to allow others to get to know me a bit. I've always been the type that wanted to have some sort of friendly acquaintance with people that do business with me … and yes, selling the books that I write is my business. I've always approached it as a business and that's not a bad thing – not coming from a place like Ridgewood, NY.
When you come from an old neighborhood like Ridgewood and you owned a business – from the corner deli to the local funeral home – you ALWAYS got to know the people in the community … the people who shopped in your place of business. Of course there were always strangers that you'd serve, but even with them, you said Hi and maybe a little small talk – if they wanted to indulge in some.
I hate talking at people … and I hate hawking things at people. I know it can be an effective way to sell – constantly 'shouting' at people to buy what you're selling – generic mass email and social media replies and all the rest … but I like to practice the Golden Rule – 'Do unto others …" I hate being talked at so I don't talk at people … I talk to them.
… Which brings me to this blog. Over the last year and some months, I've used the blog to share some of my memories – funny ones and some poignant ones. I've talked a little about music, religion and a few notable people. I've talked about losing weight (my endless quest), all in trying to introduce myself.
Once I published my first novel, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, a day short of one year from when I launched my website and this blog , I wanted to shift the focus of this blog to introducing readers to my writing. Not just my novel but my writing style.
I started publishing some funny stories – anecdotes really and poetry (I'm intending on publishing a collection of my poetry, when I've written enough of them). I've gotten progressively more positive feedback from an ever growing community of readers who love the anecdotes and poetry – thank you so much for sharing your feedback!
The community of people who are supporting me is growing fast. I consider it a community, I consider my readers – friends - just as if I owned a deli and was selling great meatball heroes and I consider myself just a member of the community. I just happen to be the one making and selling the great meatball heroes – but no more or less important than everyone else who is getting sauce on their chins as they eat my meatball heroes (yeah, I eat them too, they can get messy).
So, I wanted to tell you about this new feature just like I would explain a new hero I was launching – say … "g's Chicken Cutlet Parmesan hero" (I better stop with the food comparisons, I'm getting myself hungry).
First, the facts about my community:
To date, just on my website alone I have 2,734 people from 72 different countries who visit my site and that’s growing by a few hundred every month now. Keep in mind, that started at 0 on January 21, 2010 and I've only had my first novel out since January 21, 2011. Not bad and thank you all who have shown me the love! All told I have over 10,000 people following me on my website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace and growing every day – so cool!!!
My community is made up of great people from all over the globe. The top 10 countries are, of course, the U.S., then (Oh) Canada, U.K., India, Brazil, Australia, France, Philippines, Russia and Vietnam, in that order. They're about 52% male – 44% female (and I guess the other 6% aren't sure), and they range in age from 13 to 74 (that I know of).
It blows my mind and makes me feel very grateful to God and you!
Okay, so about this new feature – "SELFPUBBER'S PUB: For writers and readers of self-published works!" …
I already write a regular self-publishing industry blog (you can read it here) but that one is really pointed at other self-published writers. I want to bring together both writers and readers of self-published works. I have much bigger aspirations (like starting a "National Association of Self-Publishers" (NASP) and an annual conference to go along with it) but I need to start humbly ... and my blog's the place to do that!
I look at it the same way I would if I owned a deli in Ridgewood and someone came in and asked, "Yo g, how's things?" You always filled people in with what's going on and people always filled you in with what's going on with them … I like that! They also let you know when they liked something and when they don't … I like that too! It helps me do my best to please the folks!
So, what's going on with me?
Most of you know that I self-published my debut novel, _The Watchman of Ephraim_. It has been a remarkable experience so far! I started writing at a pinnacle point in literary publishing. As in the days of when cars replaced the horse and carriage as the primary mode of transportation and the days of when TV replaced radio as the primary entertainment medium – a HUGE change is taking place right now in the book industry! The same type of change took place, starting about 10 years ago in the music industry. The 'big' record companies lost control of the distribution of music when the internet, specifically the World Wide Web took hold. People no longer had to shop at a 'record store' and they also didn't need to buy their favorite music from the big record company websites. They could simply download into their iPods or listen on an internet radio station or watch a video on YouTube.
The same is happening in literary publishing … and it's happening now! eBooks have changed everything! The internet has changed everything!
After spending a year trying to shop my first manuscript – the traditional way of getting published (for the last few decades) was to query agents to try and land one that would 'sign' you and then they would shop you to one of the big publishers. I sent out 34 queries and got 30 rejections (the other four didn't even have the decency to reply and reject me).
I thought the whole process was silly. When agents first came around in the literary field, they were only supposed to negotiate contracts for you, with publishers. You hired them! Nowadays, agents have been acting as gatekeepers for the big publishing companies … to me, totally a conflict of interest – and for that, I'm supposed to pay them 15% of my royalties, forever?!
I ended up shelving that first manuscript – not because of the rejections but because it wasn't the story I was trying to tell. Then I wrote, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, finished in December 2010 and once again I queried agents (still didn't have enough confidence in going it alone) – this time 54 of them - but this time I immediately got interest from a half-dozen. But this was where it all changed for me because I started reading about self-publishing.
The more I read, the more I wanted to self-publish. I could control what I wrote, how I wrote it, how I published it, WHEN I publish it … the cover design … everything! I love that!
I started reading the blogs of a great writer and publisher, Dean Wesley Smith and within a week of reading his critiques of traditional publishing and his endorsement of self-publishing, I was hooked!
I self-published _The Watchman of Ephraim_ on January 21, 2011 and I've never been happier, but for all that freedom, there are a bunch of responsibilities that I have to personally handle. When you self-publish, you're not just the lazy writer – you're the harried publisher!
Here's what I'm working on now and what I have in the works:
+ In my ongoing quest to make available the best quality novels, I just released the 3rd edition of _The Watchman of Ephraim_. My son Jared performed a fantastic editing job – finding 14 typos (not too bad for 86,000 words) and this after three other people edited the novel. It costs me time and money to publish new editions but I only want the best quality books out there with my name on them. NOTE: if you have already purchased an earlier eBook from Smashwords.com, you can download the new edition for free – do so, so you have the best edition available.
+ I'm about 60% finished with writing the sequel to _The Watchman of Ephraim_, called _Signs of War_. It's due out by September … specifically because, if you've read _TWOE_ you know the series begins on 9/11. I want to have _Signs of War_ available by the 10th anniversary of 9/11 – a date that's the climax of _TWOE_. _Signs of War_ continues the story of Cris De Niro, a billionaire hedge fund manager who lost his wife and unborn son in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. He dedicates himself to protecting the United States from its enemies domestic and abroad by acquiring a counter-terrorism firm. He renames the firm "The Watchman" from a passage he read in the Bible (Hosea 8:4) where he reads about "The watchman of Ephraim" Ephraim is the symbol for the United States in prophesy.
+ I'm planning to redesign my website, www.GerarddeMarigny.com. Remember, I do all the work, including creating and maintaining my websites, so it takes me time. I have a particular concept in mind – in any case, I intend on making the site look cleaner, friendlier and cooler! I'm intending to launch the new look by 9/11.
+ I have blog talk radio interviews scheduled for June 14 and December 21 with two great ladies/book reviewers – Fran Lewis and Marsha Cook. They should be fun – you can find out more from my Facebook page here.
+ June 15, Booktown is publishing an interview I had with Susan Whitfield at their site here.
+I also have the concept written for what I thought was going to be a stand-alone novel, but now it may be the third book in the Watchman of Ephraim series. I'm planning to have it out by either December 2011 or January 2012.
This blog rambled but I wanted to let y'all know about this new feature. It will be the focus of most of my blogs from now on. Yes, I will continue to publish the occasional 'funny-thing-that-happened-to-me' stories and of course, my poetry.
In following blogs, I'll be talking more about fellow authors – both TRADPUBBED and SELFPUBBED. Authors like Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler on the cutting edge and at the top of the heap in self-publishing. Also authors like Brad Thor, James Rollins, Vince Flynn, William Tyree, Kathleen Antrim, and others – all thriller authors that I respect. I want to also talk about a few yet-to-be-famous authors too (brother and sister writers working in the trenches next to me). I'll also report on the newest happenings in the world of Self Publishing. It's my world and now it's your world too if you're in my community!
I know this one was a long one – no worries – mostly much shorter after this one. I hope you all enjoy my new focus here. Let me know what you think!
That's it for now … gotta get back to Cris De Niro & company. Out …
There's power in humility,
And strength in compassion.
The quiet ones sit and listen
To fools who with their loud voices
Believe their wind wins the day.
But their torrents have no power
Over a humble spirit.
Gale forces can blow through the meek
And move them not.
Rip tides of the proud
Try to pull the poor in spirit into the deep.
Yet, they remain anchored,
Because the humble get their strength
From another place
Not of this world,
But of the one to come.
... The one they will inherit.
We are all here for only a moment in time.
We have only but a moment to make our mark;
To love and be loved;
To be forgiven;
To reach for the stars and in so doing,
To take God's hand and let Him pull us up out of the mire.
We can shout or sing or remain quiet and dream.
We can build or tear down
… things or people.
We can exalt ourselves over other human beings,
Or we can remain humble and live our lives anonymous to the masses.
But in the end, we will find that we were all each just a sixty-minute tale.
If to God a thousand years be but a day,
Then even the greatest of mortal man can triumph for just one hour.
I was sitting at my desk typing the last few words to an email when I saw a news flash on FoxNews.com light up on my screen. It read, "President to make an announcement later tonight." I said to my wife, "I wonder if they got Qaddafi!" Well, As we all know now, it was Bin Laden who we got – and by 'we' I mean America's Special Forces – the best trained, bravest patriots on earth!
After cheering along with Geraldo Rivera and high-fiving my wife, we both sat for a moment in silence. Lisa turned to me and said, "That bastard is finally dead and good riddance – he changed everything!"
I thought about that – he did change everything. Think about it. The world was different before 9/11. It seemed safer somehow. Bin Laden took that away from us!
Watch the movies pre-9/11 – the plots seem so naïve … the villains seem a bit light-weight. Before 9/11 we had Rambo and the Terminator and RoboCop. After 9/11, so many plots revolved around terrorism. Bin Laden caused that!
I remember Tom Clancy wrote a book called 'Debt of Honor' where the plot line was about someone crashing a plane into the White House. Most people thought that was impossible. America isn't that vulnerable! Most of us believed that right up until the first plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. To quote another Tom Clancy novel's title, in many ways 9/11 was "The Sum of all (our) Fears!" Bin Laden made us afraid!
9/11 destroyed so much business especially in and around New York City. My little transportation agency was devastated when a number of large customers stopped moving freight because of their New York City locations being considered unsafe after 9/11. Four years of hard work down the drain. Bin Laden was to blame!
None of this compares though … none of this compares to the pain that murderer caused so many people … so many Americans.
People lost their husbands, wives, sons, daughters, dads and moms. People lost friends.
Our lives changed that day – our freedoms were diminished that day and just as the generation of December 7th, 1941's was … the innocence of our generation was stripped away that day.
One man was most responsible.
… Tonight we found out that that man is dead.
I'm not happy … I don't feel joyous … I feel satisfied and I still feel very, very angry!
I take consolation in one fact though … Usama Bin Laden will NOT be remembered in the Kingdom that comes! All praise to Him!
God bless America's military ... God bless our Special Forces ... and God bless America!
You know how I know that my book is getting popular … from the amount of advice I'm getting from everyone! (grin) For those who don't know, back in January, I published my debut novel, _The Watchman of Ephraim_ (click the title and it'll take you to Amazon.com, where you can purchase it – thanks in advance! 9-))
Hey, I'm LUVIN' IT, so keep it comin' y'all! But I have to say, I'm really impressed with just how many people … have SO MANY ideas for my next novel!
So, I'm at one of my son's little league games last week – minding my own business … actually, yelling at my boy to 'ONLY SWING AT GOOD PITCHES!' … but I digress … and an acquaintance walks up to me …
Acquaintance: "Hey g! I just bought your book bro! Yo … it's GREAT! I love that guy Robert De Niro!
Me: "That's great bro, thank you so much! Yeah, I'm so happy that so many people like CRIS De Niro—"
Acquaintance: "Yeah man, he's my favorite actor! I loved him in The Godfather!"
(Before I could reply, a friend of mine walked over)
Friend: "Yo g … what up?! Your book is great man! I can't believe it!"
Me: "Can't believe what?"
Acquaintance: "You know what, I didn't know he lost his wife in the Trade Center, that sucks!"
Friend: "I mean, who would have thought YOU would write a book that good …"
Acquaintance: "Robert De Niro … yo g, how do you know him anyway? Do you know him from when you grew up in New York?"
Me: "Know, ROBERT De Niro? … Bro, I don't know ROBERT De Niro. You mean CRIS—"
Friend: "g, you know Robert De Niro? From where?!"
Acquaintance: (Unsure I'm telling him the truth) "You don't … then how did you know his wife died in the Tower? I mean, NO ONE that I know, knew that!"
Friend: "Wait, g, you know Robert De Niro and his wife died in the Tower? So THAT'S who CRIS De Niro is … I thought he was you and it was YOUR wife that died in the tower!"
(Just then, as if on cue, my wife strolls over … a rare occurrence, since we split up and go to different little league games of our four sons. As usual with her, she adds to the confusion)
My Wife: "Hey … you talkin' about me? Yeah, g killed me off in the first chapter!"
Me: "Actually, it was the second chapter … but it wasn't—"
Acquaintance: (Unaware that my wife is … my wife, checking her out and now twice as confused) "Wo wo wo wo … g … dude, I'm SO SORRY … you lost YOUR wife in the trade center too?! Is that how you know about Robert De Niro's wife?"
Friend: "You know Robert De Niro's wife, g?"
(Another friend walks over and high-fives me … I wasn't sure if he did so because my son did something good on the field or not … since …I'm no longer watching the game!)
Friend #2: "g, GREAT BOOK BRO! I can't wait for the new one to come out!"
Me: (proud but still very confused) "Thanks man, the sequel is called _Signs of War_ it'll be out in September—"
Friend #2: "g, I told my wife this and she agreed. You know what YOU HAVE TO put into the sequel—"
Acquaintance: (to my wife, I'm straining to hear) "So, you come here often?"
My wife: (now as confused as I am) "Well, I'm usually at our other son's game but it ended early—"
Acquaintance: (smiling at my wife) "Cool, so you have kids … wow!"
My wife: (now confused and concerned – her South Philly wit comes alive) "Uh … yeah, why else would I be at a little league game?"
Friend #2: (Stepping in front of me to get my full attention) "DOGS!"
Me: (Confused and distracted) "Dogs … right … what about … dogs?"
Friend: "I told my wife about an idea I had for your next book … either that or I may write a book!"
Friend #2: (Smiling ear to ear, obviously proud of his idea) "DOGS! De Niro needs a dog, bro! Everyone loves dogs!"
Acquaintance: (breaking his lustful gaze on my wife momentarily) "I love dogs!" (Turning back to my wife, using a Latino version of a Cary Grant impression) "Do you like dogs, senorita?"
Friend: "I hate dogs … my wife had a dog when we first met. I hated that dog! No … g … here's the next book … either you write it or I write it! It's about a man who loses his job with the city because the city has a bunch of morons working for it who gave the guy WAAAAAYYY too much work to do … AND THEN expected the guy to work on a Sunday once. So when I … I mean … when THE GUY didn't show up for work on that Sunday, the morons that work for the city decide to call the guy into their office and tell me … I mean … the GUY … they tell us … that either we work the FOLLOWING SUNDAY or … get this—"
Me: "You lost your job with the city?"
(I hear out of one ear, my wife saying, "I'm married!" to which the acquaintance replies, "So am I chica!")
Friend: (Surprised, he whispers into my ear) "How did you know? No one's supposed to know!"
Friend #2: "A pit bull or a dobey … my wife wants De Niro to have a poodle or a pug but no way De Niro has one of those 'girlie' dogs! I'm thinking a ROTTY!"
Me: (Doing my best to 'save' my wife, I step over to her and the acquaintance)
Acquaintance: (Seizing even that opportunity) "Senorita, let me introduce you to a VERY GOOD friend of mine, the famous author … g … what's your name, anyway?"
Friend: (Follows me over to my wife, still whispering in my ear – like a bee buzzing around my head … or my conscience speaking to me) "Do me a favor, g … don't tell anyone, okay?"
Me: (Confused, distracted, and slightly … .insulted that my acquaintance/fan doesn't even know my name) "Tell anyone what, your book idea?"
Friend #2: (Stepping in front of me again) "I was thinking … 'Diablo' for his name. That's my rotty's name. Whattya think?"
Friend: (STILL whispering in my ear, his lips are touching my ear, making me feel very … uncomfortable) "NO dummy, that I lost my job!"
Me: (at the breaking point and forgetting my friend's request) "YOU LOST YOUR JOB?!"
Friend #2: "YOU LOST YOUR JOB?!"
My wife: "YOU LOST YOUR JOB?!"
Half of the people sitting in the bleachers behind us: "HE LOST HIS JOB?!"
Acquaintance: (to my wife) "Give me your number?"
Friend: "Thanks g …" (Shaking his head in utter disgust and walking away)
Friend #2: "Think about it g … that's all I ask!" (Walking away, he turns back to me and yells in everyone's earshot) "DIABLO … ROBERT DE NIRO"S DOG'S NAME IS …DIABLO!"
The other half of the people sitting in the bleachers behind us: "Robert De Niro's dog's name is Diablo?!"
My wife: (Takes her turn whispering into my ear … it makes me feel … less uncomfortable) "SAVE ME!"
Me: (to Acquaintance): "Uh ... let me introduce you to MY WIFE …"
Acquaintance: (Not believing entirely that my wife is … my wife, but the thought embarrasses him just enough to start to walk away) "Well, whoever she is … she's beautiful! (After winking at my wife and walking away, he turns back and yells out to me) "YO G … I HOPE YOUR NEXT BOOK HAS ROBERT DE NIRO IN IT TOO!"
Everyone sitting in the stands behind me: "YOU'RE WRITING A BOOK ABOUT ROBERT DE NIRO?!"
My son: "Daddy, did you see that hit I got?!"
… so how was your day? (grin)
(Cris De Niro's Inner Battle ... and utter Victory!)
Before I can reinvent myself,
I must disappear.
Before I can gain an inch,
I must shed a tear.
Feel the rage in my heart;
No way to extinguish
the fire myself.
It would take a whole world of water
to put out my flames.
Of myself I can do nothing,
but with You there is nothing I cannot do.
Before I can see myself,
I must disappear.
Before I venture off
I must shed my fear.
Feel the rage in my soul;
No way to extinguish
the fire myself.
It would take a mountain of ice
To cool my burning.
Of myself I can do nothing,
but with You there is nothing I cannot do.
Anybody who knows me knows I'm a bit deaf. Too many years standing in front of too many speakers punching out too many decibels = Deaf g.
But that doesn't explain why I can't seem to understand anyone anymore!
Like the lady that works at the local Baja Fresh. For those of you who don't know what Baja Fresh is, it's a fast food franchise that specializes in Mexican food – especially the BORE_EAT_TOES (as my youngest son Noah calls them).
Here's the thing … I won't go there anymore. Why, you ask? 'Cause the last time I went there, the little (and I mean little, as in a Mexican Oompa Loompa) lady humiliated and shamed me into total defeat. With just one unintelligible question, a question I'm still utterly unable to answer. Here's how it went:
<The line was long both ahead of me and behind me. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter confidently.>
Me: "Hi, I'd like one Ultimate beef burrito please."
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <staring up at me devoid of any emotion> "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Me: <Not expecting …whatever she just said> "No, I want one ultimate beef burrito, please."
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <Now seeming to peer into my soul with her ink-black evil eyes> "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Me: <speaking ver-ry slow-ly and loud-er> "No! I WANT ONE UL-TI-MATE BO-REE-TOE … please!"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <not blinking, not laughing, not amused … but now vexing my SOUL> "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: "Blacbince o pintobince?"
<My eyes now bloodshot, sweat pouring down my forehead>
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <Blinks. I thought I had her just where I wanted her! But then she pursed her hateful brownish lips and regained her mojo> "… Blacbince o pintobince?"
Me: <I looked behind me for help – all I saw was a growing line of impatient people, looking back at me with no emotion, uninvolved, uncaring wretches! I asked myself, Could they be in league with Senora Mini-Witch?>
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <more aggressive> "Blacbince o pintobince?!"
Me: <Helpless, emotionally-naked, stripped of my dignity> No reply.
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <now doubling up - goin' for my jugular> "Blacbince o pintobince?!" "Blacbince o pintobince?!"
Me: <tears forming in my eyes> "I want to speak … to the manager!"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <cold … relentless … heartless … just noticeably grinning like a female, south-of-the-border, pygmy Hannibal Lecter > "Blacbince o pintobince?!"
Me: <lower lip quivering, manhood stripped away, in a last ditch effort I reached for my cell phone like it was some kind of medieval shield. I punched the speed dial button for my wife. I didn't even say hello to her, I just yelled into it, "WHAT … IS … SHE … SAYING??!!" then pointed it at the Mexican Oompa Loompa lady like it was a crucifix and she was a vampire>
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <silent>
Me: "SAY IT!!! SAYYY IT!!!! For all that is Holy SAY … it …"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <silent>
ME: <half-threatening, half-pleading, through my clenched teeth> SAY … IT … please, PLEASE … just SAYit sayit sayit sayit …!
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <silent>
Baja Fresh Manager: "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
The crowd behind me parted like they were the Red Sea as I turned on my heels, trying to regain some shred of my dignity and began to exit the establishment, in shame. As I got to the door, I turned and looked back at my short, mustachioed, chubbita nemesis. With my last iota of manliness, I thrust my chin up at her.
The Mexican Oompa Loompa lady finally showed some hint of human emotion … but it wasn't charity … it wasn't consideration or empathy … it was Mexican Oompa Loompa lady superiority!
She smiled broadly enough for me to see her gold tooth sparkling in the late afternoon sun as she silently mouthed "Blacbince o pintobince …"
I'm a friggin' author (my wife's complimentary way of putting it – as in, "So NOW, you're a—") which means I have to frequent my local post office to mail the signed copies that good folks are kind enough to order from my website. If you didn't know already, you can order signed copies of _The Watchman of Ephraim_ directly from my website at: www.GerarddeMarigny.com. The entire transaction is handled by PayPal, so it's secure and I even personalize your signed copy … but I digress …
Okay, I'm a fiction writer so yes, I do see story-lines in my everyday life – but my trip to the post office today would be more of something that Stephen King would write, like a chilling horror tale!
The post office itself is quaint – Henderson, NV is basically like a small town (at least to someone raised in NYC). Desert landscape surrounds the architecturally-pleasing building and you can even easily find a parking spot. That's where the tale of Mayberry RFD ends though!
Upon entering, my old-neighborhood upbringing kicks in so I immediately case the joint. I won't exaggerate (too much) so I'll admit – most days it's all quiet on the western front – but today, my worst fears were realized!
The line was unusually long – in Henderson, that means three people were there with me – but it wasn't the amount of people that terrified me, it was who the three people were!
Starting at the front desk:
College student/Unabomber type: I can't help listening to everyone's yapping. So first I focused my bionic hearing on the college kid at the front desk (actually I'm mostly deaf from a decade of being in a heavy metal band, so who knows what really was said).
Long straggly dreadlocks on a Caucasian, hmmm … baggy shorts (we live in the desert) … baggy t-shirt and sneakers that Richard Reid would be proud of (The Shoe Bomber, remember him?) But it was the way he was acting that started me vexing. Here's how it went:
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "May I help you?"
College Student/Unabomber-type: <wiping his finger under his nose and looking around> No answer
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "Sir, may I help you?"
College Student/Unabomber-type: <sniff> Now staring at the Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') – no reply.
Now I'm worried.
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "Sir, do you want to mail that package?"
Obviously, a rhetoric question I thought since we were … in … a post office.
College Student/Unabomber-type: <Places the crumpled box on the counter> "No."
Okay, now I'm really worried.
The Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') silently processes the package for shipment while never taking his eyes off of the College Student/Unabomber-type who proceeds to pay for the shipment then heads for the exit.
Me: <Whew! … But wait>
An older man with longish blonde hair, mustache and beard (only in Las Vegas) walked in just as the College Student/Unabomber-type exited. The old gentleman carried a briefcase and was wearing a slightly crumpled blonde suit with blonde cowboy boots (only in Las Vegas). He proceeds to get on the line directly behind me and announce to the entire post office in a voice that was identical to Howard Hesseman's in WKRP Cincinnati.
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: "Excuse me! I need to speak to the Postmaster General!"
I'm worried again.
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "I'm sorry sir, but the postmaster general doesn't work here."
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <impatient> "OKAAY, then let me speak to the Postal Superintendent!"
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "Sir, we have no postal superintendent in this post office."
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <Agitated> "Then let me speak to your manager, you DO have a manager, don't you?"
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): <Yells into the back while keeping his eyes glued to the Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots> "HEY DARLENE, WHO'S THE MANAGER TODAY?"
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <Very agitated>
Me: <Very worried>
Just then, the old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents turns to me and says: "Disculpe señor, pero ¿sabe usted si puede procesar papeles de inmigración en esta línea?"
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') to Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: "I'm sorry sir, but our manager isn't here today" (grin)
Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents now puts his hand on my shoulder and repeats: "Disculpe señor, pero ¿sabe usted si puede procesar papeles de inmigración en esta línea?!"
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <Really !@#$ agitated> "You don't UNDERSTAND, I'm here to report a CRIME … a FEDERAL CRIME!"
Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents: <Agitated at me> "Disculpe señor, pero ¿sabe usted si puede procesar papeles de inmigración en esta línea?!!"
Me: <I'm sweatin; bullets and I have to pee now> humina humina humina humina …
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <opens his briefcase>
I grabbed the Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents and HIT THE FLOOR, PLACED MY HANDS BEHIND MY HEAD AND INTERLOCKED MY FINGERS (an old habit from the old neighborhood, I don't want to talk about it)
The Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots proceeded to produce … his business card … and handed it to the Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') – both of them looking at me and the Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat – no longer holding a stack of documents, both of us now laying prone on the floor.
… 'cause I inadvertently knocked the stack of documents – apparently his immigration documents that he was asking me if he was on the right line to process – out of his hands.
I simply helped the old man pick up his papers, paid to mail the signed copy of my book and left.
How was your day? (grin)
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Dean Wesley Smith