Tag Archives: publishing

As a Result of Maintaining a Regular Blog…

mandala-tree-of-life

I have found a book.  It just appeared there. I wasn’t intentionally writing a book. I was just blogging. One day I decided to look closely at a pattern I saw emerging (among many patterns), and there I found a book! I found a book of poems, needing revision, sure, but almost fully formed, a book of poems about teaching, written in partially shitty rough drafts over a four year stint of keeping up a regular blog and publishing those shitty rough drafts during the course of National Poetry Writing Month and beyond.

It strikes me as a bit unorthodox. Maybe I’ve mentioned this conundrum before, but I’m a fiction writer, a fiction writer who does not write fiction on his blog site, but instead, writes poems and essays. I know most serious poets, or at least, most serious poets that I know, do not write poems on their blog sites, do not publish poems in that realm as they occur to them. That’s just not what serious poets do (whatever that means). I guess it means that serious poets typically draft and revise and revise and revise until they are happy enough to send out a poem. They keep doing this. Eventually, a number of their poems are published in lit mags, and maybe simultaneously or concurrently or subsequently they discover they have enough poetry for a manuscript. They assemble a book and ship that baby off to poetry presses. Or they go through a similar process while knowing ahead of the game that they are working toward some conceptual continuity. I just kept writing and posting poems, and four years later, I look back and find this cache of poems about teaching, most of which I kind of like, and most of which form a nice little arch that will neatly work in collection together as a bonafide book!

One could read all of those poems here. But my feeling about this is that when they are together in sequence, and after they’ve been polished up, they’ll be better. I’m going to immediately go out and try to find homes for some of them, compile my favorites, and make a manuscript. Maybe by the time fall rolls around they will have found their way out into the world. I’ll see what bites. Wish me luck.

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Combustion Deconstruction: Some Musings on the Fate of a First Novel

I started writing my first novel when I was, perhaps, 28 years old, I finished it coming out of an MFA program when I was 32, revised it when I was 35, began a long, demoralizing, tedious, and ultimately unsuccessful agent search, and then, when I was 40, I put the novel in the proverbial drawer where it sits today. I’m 48 years old.

Even before my first novel went officially into that drawer, I had begun my second novel and chipped away at that, slowly, over about a decade. That novel finished, I felt like there was no way I would have the energy to do with it what I had tried to do with the first, so I made the decision to go the unconventional route (which has actually become pretty conventional) and I self-published my novel, Monster Talk, with iUniverse.

I keep peeking at that first novel where it rests inside the drawer. Actually, it’s not in a drawer. It’s in a box on my desk labeled Combustion. That was the title I gave the novel, named after the book’s central premise, that at the turn of the 21st century, the planet’s population finds itself living through an epidemic of spontaneous human combustion. That was the idea that started the ball rolling. It’s a comic novel and the germ that spawned this particular premise was indeed the great comic faux documentary called Spinal Tap. Before I knew what I was doing, the initial question was about extending the phenomena of SHC beyond the deaths of a few unfortunate heavy metal drummers to a world-wide epidemic—somewhat akin to the current Zombie apocalypse fad, perhaps. Spontaneous Human Combustion, while it literally happens over and over again throughout the plot of this thing, works as a sweet and quirky little metaphor representing a whole host of modern problems. But actually, at the heart, at the core—the novel is really about sex.

So, again, I keep peeking at this box with my first novel buried inside. I’m proud of the book. I think it deserves a life; it deserves to be read—but I’m conflicted. It’s hard to reread, not because I don’t like it, but because it’s almost twenty years old! And partly because, (this is sad) I have become in my middle aged years less of a dare-devil than I was at 35, even conservative in some ways (although not politically), and while a certain amount of mellowing is probably a good thing, in the world of writing fiction I think it’s potentially terrible. I want to be able to read those naughty bits in public. I want to be fearless like I was when I was 35—because, I think, while the Spontaneous Human Combustion element is clever, fun, effectively rendered, the sex, and the main character’s hang up and obsession with sex, is the most strikingly accomplished thing about this novel—if I’m allowed to use the word “accomplished” to describe my own writing.

Ultimately, I’m in a quandary about what to do with this baby. It’s difficult to let it go. It’s difficult to say, “This thing here that I poured my heart and soul into over the better part of a decade, this thing I’m seriously pleased with despite the fact that it was written by a different Michael Jarmer, I’m just going to let it sit in a box.” And it’s also maddening to think about picking up that whole agent search thing anew. I’ve thought of a few things, a few possibilities, and I’ll run through them here, for my own edification, sure, but also as a list of potential opportunities for other writers still in the same boat with first novels in boxes, and maybe too, to give readers of this blog an opportunity to weigh in. I could:

1. Look for a small press to publish the novel. This is an avenue I did not fully explore when I was trying to place the book with an agent. I think small presses are likely publishing the best writing out there and are perhaps less constrained by market influences, more interested in art.
2. Self-publish, again. Whether I chose to go with iUniverse for the second time or some other vender, bookbaby or lulu.com for example, my first experience was mostly a positive one, and, with a minimal investment, I can accomplish the most personally pressing goal—to make the work available for those who want to read; it would be no longer sitting in a drawer or a box.
3. Revise, drop the artifice of the SHC hook, use the sexy material to draft a completely new animal. This sounds painful but potentially interesting and rewarding. This might be fodder for another blog later—but what is this impulse to create a hook, no matter how clever, no matter how successfully executed, as a vehicle for the real material of the novel? This, I think, is a central impulse of mine as a fiction writer, one that perhaps might be worthy of scrutiny.
4. Go all post-modern and write a piece of non-fiction about writing a first novel, the text of which would include the complete first novel, with commentary along the way about the process, non-fiction narrative connecting real life to plot devices and characters, and self critique. There’s a genre buster for you. What kind of book would that be? A weird one: Combustion Deconstructed.

So, there you have it. I’ve fleshed out the dilemma around what to do about the first novel in a box. It’s one of those things about which I feel a decision must be made. Writers with similar experiences, please chime in. Readers of the fiction and the bloggery of this particular writer, chime in. I’m interested in hearing your stories, your opinions, your thoughts, and/or your questions.

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Of Being Tired of Writing About Teaching

I think, at least for now, I’ve exhausted my brain and my “pen” regarding teaching, issues of public schooling, educational crisis, education reform. I know I will come back to it. It’s inevitable. But for the time being I feel like anything I have to say now will be a repeat of something I have said earlier and I run the risk of sounding like a broken record. To sum up: teaching hard, class-sizes too big, public schools good, underfunding public schools bad, standardized testing bad, intrinsic motivation good, extrinsic motivation not as good, cell phones bad, closing schools bad, fire bad, Frankenstein good.  See, already in my summing up I have started to drift away from the topic.

So what else is on my mind?  What’s worth blogging about? Feel free to chime in or to cast your vote.

I’m going to stop beginning every one of my blog entry titles with the word “of.” Of is so on or about yesterday. I want to write about writing.  I want to write, in particular, about what to do with my first novel, which is, in this very moment, sitting in a box. I want to write about reading.  I’m excited about the new book by David Shields called How Literature Saved My Life and I think I could write a blog entry or two about how that has been true in my life as well.  Maybe there’s a meditation on a key book or two.  Hell, I might even write a review. I want to write about music.  Maybe I’ll write about what I said I wouldn’t write about, my band and its endeavors.  Hell, I might even write a review of the new They Might Be Giants record, or the new David Bowie (which I do not yet possess), or the new Eels (which I do not yet possess)  Maybe I’ll write about records I would like to possess.

I’m afraid, but I would like to write about religion–and, being afraid, that’s probably the sign that I should write about religion.

You get the picture.  It’s time to transition.  It’s time for a change-up.  It’s time for a new conversation.  I don’t know if this is true or not, that topic consistency might be a selling point for a blog site, the thing that makes people keep coming back, but I think I’m going to risk losing a reader here and there in order to sufficiently entertain my own bad self.  I hope you all stay along for the ride.

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The Inaugural Video Blog

Wherein Michael Jarmer introduces himself, his novel, and the purpose of this particular blog medium; wherein Michael Jarmer learns about video recording himself, where to look, for example, where to place the microphone, how everything on the screen is the opposite of where it is in the room; and finally, wherein Michael Jarmer demonstrates rudimentary proficiency in video blogging.  Please let him know if you are interested in video performance/readings from Monster Talk.

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More Reasons Why You Will Love My Novel: Adventures in Self-Publishing and Self-Promotion Part Two

Let’s recap, why don’t we. I do not have a history of being a very capable or enthusiastic self-promoter. I have difficulty asking people, cajoling people, insisting that people come to see my band play a show, for example, or buy our records.  It’s not that I don’t think we’re worthy of their patronage, but that I feel somehow like I’m imposing on people. It’s awkward.  It’s immodest.  It’s uncomfortable telling people how great you are.  But now I am turning over a new leaf. I am so pleased to be publishing a novel and feel perhaps more confident in myself as a fiction writer than I do in myself as a musician, I hereby vow to shout my barbaric yawp across the rooftops of the world, to impose a little, to tell people how great I am in order to get people interested in my new book, Monster Talk.

In part one of this two-part blog entry, I established three initial reasons why you, dear reader, will love my novel.  I gushed about the cover, the art, the artist who created it, the lovely picture of myself on the back and the flap, the effective, succinct, and tantalizing synopsis on the other flap, and the engaging sample on the back cover of the hardback.  Reader, you are too smart to believe that a cover makes a book good, but you are also wise enough to know that good cover art and compelling cover text are both important aspects of the successful marketing of a novel, that, in fact, we judge books by their covers all the time.  Okay.  Monster Talk has a nice cover.

I also insisted that if you love Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, you will also love this novel, as its premise comes from that beautiful and so often misrepresented English classic.  And finally, I argued that whatever your predictions or preconceptions about a novel by me about a subject like this might be, you would probably be pleasantly mistaken.  In other words, I think, dear reader, that you will be surprised.

So for what other reasons will you love my novel?

#4. You like smart children and like them as main characters in stories.  You like novels that are respectful of the wisdom, intelligence, and perspective of young people.  And you like your child-main characters to be believable.  They don’t have to have magic powers; they don’t have to be wizards in training; they don’t have to be vampires–and they don’t have to be monsters.  

#5. You may not be a huge science-fiction fan or a lover of what we call fantasy fiction, but you love stories in which the super-real crosses over or connects with the fantastic.  You might enjoy magical realism as a genre.  And why is it, exactly, that this kind of thing turns you on whereas interplanetary travel,  space aliens, dwarves, elves and schools called Hogwarts leave you feeling unsatisfied? It might be, dear reader, that you read often for a higher purpose; you distrust literature that is purely escapist.  And while you know that ALL fiction to some extent allows us to momentarily escape the confines of our daily lives, you have an expectation that the fiction you read reflects or illuminates some aspect of reality, some issue that is relevant, something that you recognize and can identify with.  And you know that real life is often fantastic–the journey you’re taking in this life on this planet is often remarkable in the way that even a fire-breathing dragon can’t equal.  So you’re totally down with the metaphoric power of magical, unnatural, supernatural elements in an otherwise realistic piece of fiction .  Monster Talk is a realistic novel with a fantastic premise–and you’ll love that.

#6. You love serious fiction that makes you laugh.

#7. And finally, you love the fact that you are supporting an independent publishing venture.  You understand that small press and independent publishing is often where our literature is richest, and you value the democratizing effect that new technology has made possible in the world of the word. So, for all these reasons, you will love my novel.  Thank you, in advance, for your support.

And here are some quick links to on-line retail channels:

http://www.amazon.com/Monster-Talk-Michael-Jarmer/dp/1475915950/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338234633&sr=1-1

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/monster-talk-michael-jarmer/1110919984?ean=9781475915969

http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000540199/Monster-Talk.aspx

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Why You Will Love My Novel: Adventures in Self-Publishing and Self-Promotion

I’m telling the truth.  Yes, I will indeed tell you why you’ll love my novel, Monster Talk, available to the on-line book buying public very shortly, a week or two, perhaps, after the publication of this blog entry, and available immediately, like right this minute, at the iUniverse bookstore. But I want to begin by talking about self-publication and the unavoidable weirdness that follows, that of self-promotion.

So, if you’ve been following the blog you already know this, but if you’re just popping in for the first time, I’ll give you a short recap.  I’m publishing my second novel first through iUniverse because I don’t have the time on the planet to exhaust like I did on my first novel–trying to find an agent who will then try to find a publisher who will then make me do what I have to do anyway as a self-publisher:  promote my own thing.  I just re-read that last sentence, the part about not having time on the planet.  I don’t want you to misunderstand: I’m not dying–any more or less than anyone else who is about my age and health.  It’s just that I found that publishing through the conventional means might take me the rest of my life.  I have dismissed the illegitimacy issue.  I have looked at my work and decided it is good.  It is worthy of readers. I have embraced the brave new world of do-it-yourself-with-the-help-of-a-company-that-provides-everything-your-book-could-possibly-need-plus-the-means-to-get-it-into-the-marketplace technology. I have decided that, in the end, there is nothing different about publishing your own novel than producing and selling your own music recording, which is what musicians have been doing from time immemorial. That was the process and those are the subsequent conclusions.  Now, having fulfilled my new year’s resolution in just 5 short months, as of today I have a book out that people can hold and read or use as a coaster, paper-weight, door-stop.  It’s so good, though, I’m pretty certain people who buy it will be reading it.  You, especially, will love it and will want to share it with others.  More on this later.

So now I have to promote.  Promoting your own work, promoting yourself, trying to make your thing desirable to others, creating a kind of personal brand, is a strange, awkward, uncomfortable business.  On the surface, it’s really no different from writing an entrance exam or an essay, written or spoken, for a job opening.  You are a product, a product that has a variety of positive characteristics that someone else will want to take advantage of in exchange for some monetary or material reward.  As strange as that sounds, it’s pretty normal.   In the case of a work of art or a piece of music or a novel, there are some distinct differences.  I am not my novel.  My novel is not me.  It is an  artifact  that came from me, a collection of many moments moving through me over time.  You would think that would make it easier!  But alas, not all of us are adept at separating the art from the artist, and our babies are kind of like babies.  If someone hates our baby, we feel hated by proxy.  And that’s scary.  But despite that, if we want anything like success for our creative endeavors, we’ve got to get out there and shout our barbaric yawps over the rooftops of the world, saying, in essence, this thing I made is awesome and you need it and will love it and please give me money for my thing.

This thing I made, a novel called Monster Talk, is awesome and you need it and will love it and please give me money for my thing.  There, that wasn’t so hard.  Let’s see if I can keep this up for a while.

Why You Will Love My Novel:  

#1.  Look at this cover.  Lovingly created by my friend Curtis Settino, it is a quirky, inventive, and fitting illustration.

The novel’s main character is not someone who has a heart-shaped head–but the heart-shaped head captures an element that might be something else, beyond the cover, that you’ll love about my book.  More on that later, perhaps.  I want to talk more about this cover.  There are other things about the cover that you’ll also love, I think.  There’s a handsome picture of me on there.  You’ll love that, I’m sure.  I’m no beauty queen, but I’m no slouch either.  You’ll also love the text on the cover.  There’s a short little author biography, which you’ll love; there’s an excerpt on the back cover from the second chapter which, while setting up nicely the premise for the novel, thereby creating interest for you, the reader, will probably also make you laugh;  and on the back of the softcover and on the inside flap of the hardback, there’s a lovely little synopsis that will pique your interest without giving anything away.  I think you’ll really love this cover, and while they say you should never judge a book by its cover, all of us do anyway, and if you judge my book initially by its cover, you’ll probably end up wanting to read the thing and in the end you will end up loving it.

#2.  You will love the fact that my novel was inspired by another novel you love.  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is about the best, most underrated, most under appreciated, most misunderstood because of a history of cultural misrepresentation, most influential novel of 19th century English literature. And if you’re not down with the preceding, Monster Talk will help you get down with the preceding. You will love that.  If you are already down with the above, you’ll love it even more, because Monster Talk honors but doesn’t copy its predecessor. Except where it copies it.  A little bit.  You’ll love all of that.

#3.  There are so many things you’ll love about my novel, I could go on and on, but I’m going to try to stop at my usual 1000 word or so blog entry limit.  So let me just share one more thing you’ll love about my novel:  Whatever predictions you may have about a novel by Michael Jarmer inspired by the great gothic genius of Mary Shelley will likely be wrong.  And you’ll love that.  You are a beautiful and intelligent reader and you like surprises.  That’s all I have to say on the matter at this time.  Onward.  Yawp.  Please go to the following link:

http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000540201/Monster-Talk.aspx

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Second Things First: Publishing My Debut Novel

It’s happening.  I have set the wheels in motion.  I have submitted a final manuscript.  I have written the bio and the blurbs for the back cover and the inside flaps.  I have submitted an author photo.  I have enlisted an artist friend to design a cover.  I have let my baby go.  It’s happening.

It will be my first published novel but not the first novel I’ve written. I suppose, it could have happened in the exact same way, if I had gone the traditional route of agent and publishing house, that, querying two works simultaneously, the second novel might have found a home before the first; so I imagine that there’s really nothing strange about this at all.  But somehow it feels strange all the same, as if I’ve sent the one baby off to school and abandoned the other one on someone’s doorstep.  There’s a little bit of guilt about that.

Here’s the deal.  If you’re a person, like me, juggling a bunch of important things in the air, a marriage, a child, a teaching career, a vocation as a musician, and fiction writing, and you’re trying not to drop any of these important things on the ground, it’s going to take a half a million years to write a book.  It took me a half a million years to write my second novel, so, as it turns out, my first novel was conceived and composed a full million years ago–when I was a child!  That’s not true.  I was 30 when I started and maybe 37 when I finished.  Okay, I’ll tell the truth: that was really “only” a decade ago.  Thus, the decision to self-publish came also with this choice–do I publish my first novel, or do I publish my second novel first?

No brainer, you say? Publish the best one first, you ninny. Sure, that’s all easy enough to say.  But there are problems.

I wrote my first novel in the comforting embrace and loving arms of an MFA program for writers.  I had tons of readers, willing and otherwise.  I received scads of feedback.  I revised like a fiend while I was composing based on the response, facial expressions, and nervous ticks of my peers, thoughtful and wise criticism from faculty, the ubiquitous workshop experience, and the heady influence of master classes, lectures, and readings. That first novel may be a better novel, but it was written, I sometimes feel, by about a hundred people.  That’s not true.  I wrote the damn thing, but I wrote it, the whole thing, I think, seriously under the influence of others.

My second novel has been read in its entirety by two people, only one of which gave me a critical response, meaning feedback. And the novel has been read in part  by another three or four people who also provided some critical readings, but early on in the process. So I feel, right or wrong, better or worse, that this second novel is truly mine, in the way that maybe the first novel was not.

But I might, if I read them both again back to back at a stretch, come to the conclusion after all, regardless of the argument above, that indeed  the first novel is the stronger work.  Another problem rears its head.

The guy who wrote that better book–I’m not sure that guy is me.  I’m no longer him.  Twelve years is ancient history.  I had other concerns.  I had issues.  Different ones. I was not a father.  I was wild.  I was, philosophically speaking, immature, even in my 30’s I was unsettled and squirrelly, morally emerging, and ethically in training–and, I think, my first novel embodies all of that.  Do I want to share that other guy with the world?

The answer has to be yes. Yes, but not yet.  Not yet, mostly because the decision has already been made; it’s happening, remember. I’m publishing my second novel first because I like it, and it’s fresh, and it hasn’t been workshopped, and it represents me in the mostly Now, or, it represents several moments moving through me mostly in the Now. 

But I will publish that other novel, that book that is me but not me, because, ultimately, it was a true book then, as true as fiction can be, it still resembles me in many significant ways, and may, in the way that novels can do, perhaps speak to someone now (or whenever it arrives) who is more like how I was then, or who remembers how it was to be like that, unsettled, squirrelly, morally emerging, ethically in training.

The poet William Stafford said once that there were many things in his poems that he wouldn’t stand by in life.  I like that.  It gives the work permission to exist on its own terms–and if it was good then, it will still be good now or later, and it doesn’t have to represent the author accurately to be a viable work of art.  That baby has just as much right to see the world as that other baby does, this new kid.  So, yes, that first novel will one day see the light of day, but not yet.  For now, my debut novel is all about putting second things first.

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