Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn. It’s Here. Read it. Love it.

the book is Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn and you should read it.

Hit Feedbooks for all FREE electronic versions of the book.

Send me an email if you would like a free .mobi copy for your Kindle so you don’t have to pay $2.99 on Amazon.

You may BUY the book HERE. Better than Amazon.

Lenoxparker at gmail dot com.

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Archived Shorts

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It Will Come

There is nothing like a long, slow, quiet period for a writer when, well, nothing gets written. I’m not concerned — it’s not like writing earns me a living and now I’m eating crumbs. I enjoy writing. It’s like when you go to a party and you just kind of sit there and watch everyone, have a drink or two, nibble on some chips, and don’t really interact. That’s what I’m feeling as a writer now: just hanging out watching, with no desire to chime in.

It has nothing to do with discipline–I don’t view writing as a chore or a task.

It has little to do with paranoia, depression, or other mental distress. While they may certainly be in the context of my and other writers’ lives, that’s always been there even when I was writing 1000+ words a day.

It’s just a period now that I don’t feel anything about. As if I’m on writer’s prozac, and devoid of any feelings for or against writing.

Which is too bad, because I miss writing, I like writing, and I enjoy reading my writing.

What sucks about the whole process–and you’ve read this ad nauseum–is the self-promotion. I think perhaps I’ve spent myself on that front. The self-promotion, as contradictory as that may be, is what may have exhausted the last shred of creativity from my bones.

I know just as well as anyone the importance of cultivating an audience of likers of my work, so don’t lecture me about how I must keep on keepin’ it on.

And sadly, I just can’t write stuff enjoyably without knowing there will be an audience for it. It’s the feedback, the discourse, the criticism, the applause that makes the process of putting a story out into the world enjoyable.

Someone told me a few weeks ago to write an write and write and keep it on my harddrive until I feel ready to share it.

Nah. That just won’t do.

Until I feel like mingling in the party again–and that’s just a mood thing–I’ll just stand on the sidelines for a little while longer.

It’ll come. I know it will come.

Thanks for reading.

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The Best Author Interview – Todd Keisling

Maybe I’ve been wrong all these years and my talent is not in writing, but in interviews. Nevertheless, author Todd Keisling responds to my inquiries about his writing process, and his new book, A Life Transparent, which I fucking loved.

The characters in ALT seem familiar to me. Even the Yawnings. It was eerily familiar as I read it. Why do you think that is?

I wanted the characters to be as real as possible. They’re people to whom the reader can relate in some way. I think we’ve all been in Donovan’s shoes at some point, stuck in a dead end job, wondering if that’s all there is to life. We’ve encountered people like Donovan’s co-workers. We know someone like Donovan’s brother, Michael, or Donovan’s wife, Donna. They’re the people who are living the lives they want to live, or yearn for something more but feel they’re being held back by a significant other. I tried to identify certain archetype figures and incorporate them into the story via these characters.

To me, the story’s pseudo-villain, Aleister Dullington, represents that nagging voice in the back of our minds, reminding us of our action’s consequences, pushing us in one direction even if we’re resistant to it. Even his minions, the Yawning, are manifestations of the way in which our boredom and mediocrity can consume us, thereby defining our lives for us.

I’d like to think those connections came through in the text in a subtle manner, and that what people find so unsettling or eerie about the story is their subconscious connection these things.

I realize that’s probably a convoluted, pretentious answer, but for now I’ll stick to it.

I’ll take it. You had a rough time with your first self-publishing printer. Did you take an opportunity to take another look at the writing in your novel before you republished it anew, with a professional editor?

I’ll preface this by saying my experiences with certain self-publishing outlets were my own. Your mileage may vary.

That said, yes, I did have a rough time. The book was initially published through Lulu back in 2007. Though getting set up in their system and securing distribution wasn’t expensive, procuring copies of the book was overpriced. Toward the end of my time with Lulu, I found it cheaper to buy the book from Amazon and pay my own royalty than to order directly from Lulu with the author discount.

That is completely fucked up. I wish more people knew about that kind of experience, and that there are alternatives. Go on.

In late 2009, while working on the follow-up novel, I decided to look at CreateSpace as an alternate solution. Around May of 2010, I finally started that transition process, and it turned into a huge mistake. There were a number of quality issues that led me to sever that relationship and pull the plug.

Kickstarter afforded me an opportunity to hire an editor and revise the book. I wanted to make a definitive edition, something that would be as high quality as I could make it. My editor made her first pass over the manuscript, after which I took her comments and rewrote the novel during a period of about two months. The end result was a slightly shorter, tighter work. It went from approximately 60k words to about 53k words. The story remained the same, but new scenes were added to flesh out the characters, and minor details were altered to better suit a lead-up to the sequel.

Looking back, I’m glad my editor and I spent that extra time with the book. It needed it (the manuscript was over 4 years old), and the end result is far superior to the original.

Kickstarter is a huge part of your renewed publishing effort. How did you set your budget for what your objectives were, and did you have a backup plan in case the funding didn’t come through?

The Kickstarter project saved the book. When things fell through with CreateSpace, I really didn’t know what else to do. My only other options were vanity companies like Author House and Xlibris (which seem like a total rip-off), and going to an offset printer (which is very expensive, and wouldn’t provide the distribution I needed).

So, you could say Kickstarter was the backup plan. If my project proposal hadn’t been approved, or if the project hadn’t earned out, ALT probably wouldn’t be available today.

I calculated the project budget by obtaining a fee schedule from Lightning Source. Then it was just a matter of doing some rough math. First I figured out how much the approximate product cost for each book would be (paperback vs. hardcover). Then I used that info to pick appropriate pledge tiers ($5, $15, $25, etc.) and the rewards associated with each. I settled on a total goal of $2000. That would be enough to pay the setup fees, editing rate, ISBN blocks, digital layout, and shipping & handling. I’m fortunate to be married to a graphic designer who knows her way around Photoshop and InDesign, so that wasn’t figured into the cost.

In hindsight, I probably should have gone for $3k. Midway through the project, I decided to go a step further and set up my own publishing house. The business fees ate into the funds. My shipping estimates for international rewards were also low. In the end, I had to go out of pocket
by a few hundred dollars. I will say that, had I not had to pay the setup costs associated with the
business side of things, everything would’ve come down to the penny from the Kickstarter funds.

What an experience! So many of us just skip the funding part, and then realize that we get out of it what we put into it.

What are you working on next?

The next book is a direct sequel to ALT. It’s called THE LIMINAL MAN, and it takes place about a year after the events of the first book. Currently, the manuscript is with my editor as she makes her first pass. We hope to go to print early next year.

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I Killed My Book

I killed my book D-E-D.

I killed the website. I deleted the e-book from Amazon. While the print is still available, I’m hoping that HR doesn’t get their hands on it. Although, I could pull that, too, but I’m keeping that on a respirator for some stupid reason. Sentimentality, I guess.

I erased my electronic tracks — I killed the blog I began under my real name that hasn’t been updated since I went underground in April 2010. I killed the other blog which was the serialized version of the book. I deleted my original personas on the various blogs I post on, though admittedly there still may be a couple still out there. If they didn’t come up on the first four pages of Google, I didn’t focus on them.

I have tried to erase anything in my online identity that may lead an HR department to feel offended. I am awaiting a job offer and learned they launched the background check last week. In a panic, I went on this deletion spree hoping to fend off any of the employer panic. (Why can’t those “official” work-related articles I published in trade rags come up in search engine results ahead of my book stuff, dammit?)

You probably thought I did this all last April when that new job threatened to fire me if I didn’t unpublish the book and quit blogging and tweeting. But the online presence of that book has taken on a life of its own, selling nearly 5000 copies and free downloading another few thousand. So to erase those tracks are undoubtedly harder to accomplish.

I will know for sure that if I don’t get the offer for this job that my book killed it, whether they use that excuse or not.

I’m not sure if it’s better or worse to know that this drama is all my own fault. I like to blame others for general tumult in the world, but this one is all on me. WHY THE FUCK DID I PUBLISH THAT THING UNDER MY OWN NAME? Really, what a stupid ass thing to do. Did I think I could write the terms of my own destiny? Who do I think I am? I can write an irreverent, offensive and heavily opinionated book, publish and market it and think that I will have no consequences other than some bad reviews and a few extra bucks in my pocket?

Stupid, stupid girl.

Oh sure, in a perfect world (the pretend one where I do write the terms of my own destiny) I could spew all that crap, call it my own, and be proud of it. But I haven’t allowed myself the freedom. This job feeds my kids and puts a house over my family. I have no safety net. I don’t need to spend a moment’s thought on what is more important, my stupid integrity or my kids’ education and shelter?

I can’t believe this is all coming up again, and it’s interesting to watch this series of events just as volatile and impactful as they were a year ago (see the reason why, here).

It’s not the end of the world. I will continue writing and being an irreverent dick sometimes, pissing people off and offending others. But I just won’t do it under my name ever, ever, ever again.

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Silly Old Fool

I played hookey today from work claiming ailments from a non-existent stomach flu. I went to the movies, got a massage, went to the gym, and drove around mostly. I went for a long walk on the desolate Asbury Park boardwalk. With all the dressed-up new boutiques and restaurants there I thought I’d be uncomfortable with hip company. But under the month-old piles of snow, the grey sky, and the shuttered buildings, it was still the eerily sad Asbury. And I was happy about that.

I went to the mall to buy my kids some used DVDs of the Batman movies (the good ones–with Christian Bale). I passed Hot Topic and a Captain America t-shirt caught my eye. So I went in and asked the kid for it and for a half a second I contemplated telling him it was for my nephew. Or something. I did say it. Because I’m a suburban mom, pushing 40. It’s winter so my sleeved-arms aren’t showing and I don’t feel the need to parade around without a jacket to show some 16 year old clerk that I’m still cool.

Or do I?

As I left the store, with the Captain America t-shirt for me, I saw a kid eyeing the vinyl over in the corner and shockingly there was a copy of a 7-Seconds 12-inch. I told him he should buy it because it’s an awesome record. He looked at me like I had 10 heads.

I have no credibility any longer. Regardless of the fact that I requested the masseuse this morning put on the Tron Legacy soundtrack from my iPhone instead of that awful muzak crap they play in spas. That’s meaningless because I am old. I am an old, suburban mom, and my weird habits of wearing Captain America t-shirts and listening to the Tron soundtrack at a mindnumbing volume just appear to be weird. Not even dorky. Just weird. Odd.

Why can’t I grow old? Get a football helmet-like haircut, wear comfortable shoes and expensive handbags, and drive a minivan like the rest of the suburban moms? Why do I feel like they are all old and I am not? I remember on walks with my grandmother years ago she would see someone with a short skirt or too much makeup and say, “Silly old fool.”

I think I am approaching the new millenium version of a silly old fool.

I really have no problem with that and it’s not a complaint by any means. However, my older kid is 4 1/2 and at some point my habits may cross the line of being totally uncool. What if he grows up to be a Republican, and wears Oxford shirts and plays golf and when he’s not playing golf he’s still wearing those fucking pants with ducks and shit on them? And that will be all my fault, because he thinks I’m a silly old fool.

* * *

I think it may have to do with integrity.

I am going to the borough hall tonight for a town meeting at which I am going to be grilling the fascist little mayor and his town council cronies for some half-wit plan to consolidate the police department with a town a few miles away. It’s a bad plan. And it’s not that I particularly love cops. But I’m leaving our dinner table tonight to make sure my voice is heard and that there is some counter to the small town cronyism that’s known somehow as governance.

That’s the lesson I hope my kid learns from me. Not that it’s necessarily ok to ditch work in the middle of the day and go to the movies. Not that it’s necessarily ok to get a tattoo of REVOLUTION in two-inch block letters across your back. Not that it’s necessarily ok to call people douchebags when they are acting douchey. Not that it’s necessarily ok to blow out your speakers listening to “subversive” music. Not that it’s necessarily ok to name our cat Puppy Dog.

But to speak up when you know deep down inside it must be heard, and not just to hear yourself talk — that’s the lesson I hope I can teach my kid through my actions.

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Review: A Life Transparent, by Todd Keisling

First, go visit the site and read the synopsis for A Life Transparent.

Second, keep in mind that I suck at writing book reviews. But here goes.

Creepy, bizarre, dark, and yet uncannily familiar, A Life Transparent indelibly links the reader with an experience we have all felt at one time or another: that our lives are stuck in mediocrity, we are ignored, and no one is listening. Author Todd Keisling lays out a story about a man who feels he is disappearing, quite literally. Packed with a sicko twist and wonderful double-ententre character names, the writing is detailed and deliberate and easy to read. After Donovan Candle, our main character, begins to slip into an alternate universe run by a powerful, Kafka-esque manipulator, his wife is kidnapped and he snaps out of his grindingly dull routine.

Running through the streets at night escaping terrifying goblins that he isn’t sure are figments of his imagination, Donovan encounters aspects of his own personality that he didn’t even know existed.  Keisling uses wonderful descriptors (grey sludge, flickering, monochrome) and fabulous character names (Yawnings, Dullington, Guffin, Candle) to create what we don’t even know is a dream or science fiction in a story whose tone is both terrifying and compelling.

Rarely do I find myself re-living parts, scenes, or senses from a book as often as I did in the days I was reading ALT. It stuck with me. Somehow the language bullied its way through my skin, so that I was uncomfortably living with the characters–good and bad and ambiguous. Speaking of ambiguity, we as readers may find that we are not quite trusting the characters that we are led to believe we should be trusting. This is a theme that undergirds the novel.

It’s hard to not crack up at some of the funky scifi stuff out there today, as a non-scifi loyalist. Hey, I like my superheros and Avatar-like stuff just as much as the next guy. But sometimes it takes itself too seriously. I did not expect ALT to creep up on me like it did with its dark creativity, solid writing, compelling characters, and salient themes carried throughout the story.

Rocking.

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The Time Is Now

Independent writers have the opportunity of a lifetime. We are on the cusp of a revolution in breaking open the audience for our work this holiday season. The day after tomorrow will be Independent Publishing 2.0. Millions of e-readers will be opened under the tree, and all of us writers are standing on the sidelines watching and hoping and wringing our hands that our work will be chosen to be downloaded.

And we need our shit to be good. Really fucking good. Like so good, that grandma may actually break her 40-year streak in reading crime novels and read your anthology of shorts. We have this opportunity to kill the conventional publishing machine (no, it’s not dead yet, don’t get so comfortable). It belongs to us. This revolution was made for us. Now. What are you doing about it?

We  can take convention and turn it on its ass. But only if we know entirely what we’re doing.

I’m all for breaking down the walls. But until we are experts in our writing abilities, we should not experiment too broadly.

(*I’m not making an empirical judgment though: there are a few writers who are so brilliant from the start that they can make and break the conventions all they want.)

(** And I am also not talking about the mode of publishing their work, either. This essay strictly addresses the style of experimental writing rather than the approach to marketing and publishing the work.)

If a writer is not flexible or creative enough to be able to learn the craft expertly before he begins to experiment, he may likely run into trouble. I did that a few times. I thought I was so stylie and I go back and read that stuff from back when, and it was not good. I was all into doing things differently, but I had no anchor. And I am not as intrinsically talented as some other writers who can do the most innovative things a compelling piece of art.

I don’t think that the independent writing community can afford to fall into line with conventional, mainstream publishing, however. There is a cultural need for innovation and creativity and we need to feed that. But we need to feed it with quality work, not off-the-cuff weird shit that just doesn’t have any compelling reason to exist because it just isn’t good.

Then this begs the question of what experimental work is good…and I’m not looking for a debate down that road. When I say something isn’t good, it generally isn’t original, or it isn’t compelling. But worst, an experimental work that isn’t good is generally contrived.

  • Writing with funky fonts and calling yourself a non-linear writer is just incongruent.
  • Writing a Twitter novel has been done, and so it is no longer necessarily unconventional.
  • Jumping on a bandwagon genre trend is not experimental.

There are so many brilliant and interesting ways of breaking the rules and creating compelling work. But I contend that unconventional work is compelling in its integrity. And excellent writers have the breadth of experience to approach experimentation seamlessly–rookies should stick to learning the craft of writing first.

We cannot afford to have independent authorship appear to be too disjointed, with inconsistent quality. I welcome work that comes from out of left field–but the body of work we produce is now out of the shadows and under much more public scrutiny. If all those folks who receive e-readers from the xmas stork encounter download after download of shitty work or dubious quality, we are all–as a community–wasting an opportunity to introduce independent publishing to millions of new readers.

The time is NOW. Let’s get our shit together. Let’s be more careful about what we put out there. I count myself in that group as well–I’ve been guilty of putting shit quality short stories out there and I am going to stop doing that. I only want the absolute best of the best of freaky, bizarre, or even conventional storytelling with my name on it floating around the interwebz.

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