Welcome to Sweet Weasel Words, home of author Crawford Smith.
I love writing, but am not particularly fond of creating and maintaining websites, so please be patient while I continue to beat this site into some sort of order.
I’ve just published a novel about a strange little town called Fester, Pennsylvania. I’ve been working on this story since 2008 – it’s great to see it finally get published.
See the Fester page for more details and a preview.
Still available is the fascinating Jackrabbit. This is a historical crime novel about the latter career of Depression-era gangster John Dillinger. This criminal’s life was indeed stranger than fiction – so much so that I had to focus on only the last five months of it to keep from overwhelming myself and the reader. Check out the Jackrabbit page for details.
Happy New Year to you all! Hope you survived the holidays intact, and that you may have even come away from the experience with some pleasant experiences and memories.
Family gatherings over the holidays can always be fraught, and there’s always the risk of having some difficult family memories come to the surface. Sometimes, good things come to the surface. This happened to me, and I’m pleased to share it with you now in the spirit of promoting a beneficial 2023.
I had written before about how the urge to self-express through self-publishing runs in my family, with both my brother and my uncle self-publishing books, and an aunt who is still working on a romance novel. As I visited with my family earlier in November, I received a copy of a book of poetry that had been self-published by my great-grandfather. I remembered hearing about this book when I was young, and thinking that it was very cool that I was related to someone who had written and published a book. So I was thrilled to get a copy of that book.
Titled Some Simple Rhymes, it was written by Great-Granddad, James Crawford Smith, sometime in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, not much more is known about it. Great-Granddad passed away in 1915, over twenty years before my father was born. I pestered Dad about the book, but he didn’t know much more about it that what I’ve already described. The title page doesn’t reveal much more:
The pseudonym “Jay Cee” was doubtless related to Great-Granddad’s work as a minister. A lot of the poetry in the book is of a religious nature as well, but not all of it. Here’s a good example:
GOOD-BY AND FORGET
‘Tis easy to say forget,
‘Tis easy to say good-by;
But the scenes we love, they are with us yet,
And the faces bright with the friends we’ve met
Are ever before the eye.
‘Tis easy to turn away
From the home we used to know;
But its form and outlines with us stay,
And its memories haunt us day by day
As the seasons come and go.
‘Tis easy to say farewell
To the joys of olden time;
But their pleasant echoes with us dwell,
And in oft recall still they tell
Their story most sublime.
‘Tis easy to cease to prize
Old friendships true and pure;
But the good they have done us never dies
And the thoughts of our loved ones ever rise,
And will while our lives endure.
‘Tis easy to be engrossed
With the busy scenes of life;
But we ne’er forget the peace we’ve lost,
And saddened hearts we count the cost
Of the weary toil and strife.
‘Tis easy to say good-by,
‘Tis easy to say forget;
But the past with its teachings cannot die,
And the years that have vanished still seem nigh
With the forms of the friends we’ve met.
Is it good poetry? I’m not in a position to judge, not having studied much in the way of poetry. I mean, it’s got a good meter and you can dance to it, but other than that, I’m not sure. The topics of the poems certainly a reflection of the time and place, and there are sentiments expressed that would certainly seem archaic and perhaps even offensive to some now.
Still, I believe that even the dated attitudes are intended with a spirit of love and hope. Great-Granddad was a minister in Port Townsend, Washington in the early twentieth century. At the time, Seattle was gaining its place as the main hub of shipping and industry in the Puget Sound area, while Port Townsend was slowly losing out. Nevertheless, it was still a thriving port city in the early 1900’s, with all of the vice and skullduggery that went along with it. Great-Granddad railed against that vice, as would be expected of a preacher of that era. However, he still managed to retain his hope for redemption and love for his neighbors. When he passed away, those he’d railed against – the brothel madams and gamblers and ne’er-do-wells of Port Townsend – all showed up to pay their respects to the man.
Would that I could write with the love and conviction that James Crawford Smith did. I appreciate that he left this legacy that can inspire me even now. Thanks, Great Granddad!
I’m sitting here enjoying watching an early December snowfall in Portland – and fervently hoping that it ends and melts by tomorrow!
As I mentioned in my last post, I sorta punted on November’s National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to produce 50K words of a novel during the 30 days of November. This works out to 1,667 words per day. This is not an easy task, at least not for me. I know some professional writers who can crank out three or four thousand words a day without breaking a sweat, but for me this sort of output is aspirational.
Last year, I participated in NaNoWriMo in a limited fashion, with a goal of 15K words for the month, or 500 a day. This wasn’t too odious, so I wanted to double the goal for this year. However, my schedule (and inherent laziness) didn’t allow me to participate last month, which was disappointing. I had really wanted to get 30,000 words further down the road in the second draft of my new MS, a novel called Laughingstock.
In order to make up for this deficit, I’m declaring December to be Local Novel Writing Month, or LoNoWriMo. In this case, the locality is limited to my writing space upstairs, or – if it’s snowing – the kitchen table, so I can look out over the backyard. The goal is to have 30K words by the New Year.
So far, so good. In fact, it’s only the 4th, but I’ve got 5,000 words down, so I’m slightly ahead of the game. If I can keep up this pace, I might be in a position to do the full monty of 50,000 words for next November’s NaNoWriMo. First things, first, though – onward to the New Year!
Fall came late to Portland, but when it finally appeared it hit like a ton of bricks. Cold, wet, windy bricks. After a summer of amazing authorial indolence, I’m finally get up off of my keister and getting some things squared away.
New Book Cover
First, I have a new cover forFester. I was conflicted about replacing the original, as I really liked it. My good friend Ken Huey did a superlative job on the cover. He gave me exactly what I asked for. The problem was that I didn’t really know what I should be asking for.
Right out of the gate, it was attracting flak along the lines of “you’d better hope than no lawyers from Warner/DC see that cover.” Apparently some felt that one of the figures on the cover resembled a character owned by a litigious multimedia conglomerate.
I shrugged that off, but the real hassles began when I started advertising on Amazon. The Amazon Ads content moderators felt that the cover was “gory,” for reasons I couldn’t discern and they wouldn’t explain. So, I yanked the ads and saved my advertising pennies to pay pro cover designer Stuart Bache to come up with a new design. I’m pleased with the new cover, even though I’ll miss the old one.
(And if you have a copy with the original cover, encase it in Mylar immediately and buy yourself a copy with the new cover. The original is sure to be a collector’s item in some alternate universes.)
New Novel Manuscript
I’m still moving ahead on the second draft of Laughingstock. I hoped to kick it into overdrive during NaNoWriMo this month, but alas it was not to be. First, a cross-country trip took the wind out of my sails right at the beginning of the month. Then, the ructions surrounding the cover redesign took up a lot of time that I otherwise could have spent writing. Finally, I’m a lazy bastard with dozens of excuses for doing other things when I could or should be writing.
So, what I will try to do is to have my own mini-NaNoWriMo in December. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to produce 50,000 words in a month. I know that that’s still a steep order, but I think I can crank out at least 30,000 words during December. I think it’s possible to do 1,000 words a day. Currently, I am re-writing the second act of the story arc, so those 30K words are going to have to be original stuff. Absolutely doable!
New Social Media
Given the poop-show that Twitter has become, what with the invasion of billionaire buttheads whose daddies didn’t love them, I’ve decided to bail on Twitter entirely. It is unlikely that many people will be upset or even notice. Seeing as how the plat form was little more than a timesuck (just like all social media), I doubt I’m going to miss it.
Keeping with the theme of moving away from the Sweet Weasel Words “brand” (shudder), and sticking to my own name, I will also shift to a new FB page: facebook.com/CrawfordSmithAuthor. I will continue posting on the SWW page for now, but intend to phase that out entirely by the end of the year.
Everybody have a great Thanksgiving, and I will be back soon with an update on all these marvelous doings!
Hola amigos, I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, so I’m going to do so right now, even though I have nothing much to say. To make it more interesting, I’m going to post in the style of the “Bullpen Bulletins” pages from early 80’s Marvel Comics, which I read assiduously right up until I got my learner’s permit.
ITEM! – The work on the second draft of Laughingstock has finally gathered a head of steam. I’ve collated and rewritten some of the chapters that will remain intact, which are of the comedian-protagonists early days of standup whilst in high school. I’m now on to material that will have to be heavily rewritten or composed for the first time. I’ve been doing a lot of research on how TV series are made for the second act of the novel.
ITEM! – I’m seriously considering reworking the cover of Fester to make it more marketable. Ken Huey’s original cover was fabulous, and he provided exactly what I asked for. However, at that point, I really didn’t know what I should be asking for. After a multi-pronged battle with Amazon’s advertising department over whether the cover image is “violent,” I finally gave up on advertising. Since then, I’ve decided to experiment to see if a different cover will make it easier to sell and keep those creeps from Amazon Ads off my back.
ITEM! – One of the reasons for this move towards a new cover was the fact that last month, I received a royalty payment from Amazon of one U.S. penny ($0.01). Of course, this is terribly embarrassing to admit, but since I figure that just about the same number of people read this blog as buy my books, I’m not in any danger om embarrassing myself in front of anyone who doesn’t already know how embarrassing I already am. Or something.
ITEM! – NaNoWriMo starts next month, and I couldn’t be more confused as to what I am going to do with it. A while back, I thought I could try the full 50,000 words in a month challenge. I had a decent outline for a sequel to Fester,and I thought I could use that as a springboard for the 1,667 words a day that would be needed to get the Full Meal Deal for the event. That is not going to happen, at least this year. I intend to plow on with Laughingstock, and perhaps try to write or edit 1,000 words a day for the month of November.
As for the full NaNoWriMo challenge – well, maybe next year.
Okay, first of all, I have Covid. This is crummy; I feel crummy. Not a small part of that crummy feeling is knowing that I have been as cautious as I could possibly be for the last two and a half(!) years of this plague. Fortunately, part of that caution has been getting any vaccination I could as soon as it became available, so the effects of the infection haven’t been nearly as bad as they might have been. Still crummy, though.
A big part of the crumminess is the isolation; not even being able to hug my sweet wife or squiggle the ferret (down to one now; another crummy part of the summer). You might have thought that the Covid-imposed isolation would be a boon for my writing activities. You would have thought wrong in that case. Hell, it’s a titanic struggle just getting this post committed to the page.
I have definitely hit a wall with the second draft of Laughingstock. I was jazzed when I finished up the first draft earlier this year; sat down and wrote a bunch of notes for how to improve it for the second draft; and promptly did next to nothing.
Part of the reason for that is I’m trying a new piece of writing software called Scrivener, after having used boring ol’ MS Word for umpteen years. The problem is that Scrivener is just too cool for school. It’s got all sorts of neat little authorial bells and whistles and features and stuff, and as a techno-geek of the old school, I can’t resist playing with them all – even if I’m certain that I will only use these features for a short time if at all. Scrivener has a lot of rabbit holes to go down.
Of course, that’s really only an excuse – and not a particularly good one at that. Not nearly as good as, say, getting a disease.
To lift my diseased spirits and try to provide some inspiration for continuation of Laughingstock, I’ve been listening to a lot of comedy. I’ve been a comedy geek for nearly as long as I’ve been a techno-geek (I’m into a lot of geekery; I’m somewhat of a Renaissance geek).
Last week, I was listening to Mitch Hedberg. If you’ve never done so, I’d recommend it. His was a unique voice, and it still makes me sad that a drug overdose cut that voice back in 2005. His comedy is not for everyone – he employs a lot of nonsequiturs and unexpected wordplay. That’s what I find so appealing.
As I learned from Mitch’s Wikipedia entry, he also employs a figure of speech called a paraprosdokian. According to Merriam-Webster, this is “a figure of speech in which the end of the sentence is surprising, or causes the reader to reinterpret the first part.” This is a useful tool in the comedian’s toolbox, as evidenced by Henny Youngman’s famous line “Take my wife – please!”
I was pleased to learn the word paraprosokian, because I had encountered on in the form of a bumper-sticker about a year ago. I was taking a walk in the neighborhood and my eyes glanced over a bumper-sticker on a parked minivan. I took two more steps while my brain processed what I had read, then I doubled over laughing. Here it is:
I suppose you have to get a laugh wherever you can these days; it’s good to know they’re all around if you have the right eye. Meanwhile, I’m back to the recuperation lounge with a huge freakin’ Ken Follett novel about cathedrals.
Before I get on to the main whinging, some good news: I finally finished the first draft of a new novel, tentatively titled Laughingstock. I started writing it in February 2020 (before Covid – remember that?) I’m pretty happy with what I got out of the “shitty first draft,” primarily since I pantsed the whole thing. With some sage advice, I managed to put together a pretty decent ending, which can sometimes be a challenge. As part of my pantsing strategy, I typically drive all of the characters to some oddball locale and see what they do. It worked (kinda) for Fester, and seemed to work pretty well for this story, too.
Now I just have to convert the SFD into a decent manuscript. The problem is that with pantsing, the first draft pretty much amounts to a super-detailed outline. There are major timeline issues and new characters that emerged during the latter part of the SFD that will need to be addressed. So for the second draft, I will essentially re-write the whole MS, occasionally adding pithy sentences or paragraphs from the SFD.
Book Advertising for Dummies Named Crawford
Now on to my main grouse-fest: advertising woes. At the beginning of the year, I decided I really wanted to go all-in on advertising for Fester. I had dabbled with Amazon Advertising in the past, and it seemed like the most likely way to get the book into readers’ hands. To that end, I coughed up big bucks for an “advertising for authors” course by a bloke named Mark Dawson.
Dawson is a successful author, with 20 titles published and sales of more than 2 million. In the course of his career, he figured out the best way to navigate the arcane system of self-service advertising on such platforms such as Amazon Ads and Facebook. I’d tried to work with these platforms before, and had limited success. They are very complicated and confusing.
So I ponied up the money and began diligently working through the modules. The course is very well-constructed, and Dawson continually updates the material, so it is always current with the vagaries of the advertising platforms. The lessons are clear and well-explained, and there are a lot of supplemental materials like checklists and cheat sheets. It’s really quite impressive. (Between his books, the courses and his podcasts, I have to wonder when Mr. Dawson finds time to sleep.) The course is solid.
The problem is, it didn’t work – at least not for Fester.
The main issue is that the course works best for authors who write book series and in very well-defined genres with avid readerships, e.g. romance or thriller. I am 0 for 2 in that regard. (To be fair, Dawson is upfront about these limitations.)
First, Fester doesn’t really fit into a neat genre: is it dark humor? Mystery? Paranormal? Young adult? Detective? Suspense? It really has elements of all of these, so it’s not easy to slot into a single genre, which makes identifying a cohesive target market exceedingly difficult.
Also, I can’t really produce a series in the normal sense of the term. I write really slowly (remember: over two years for the SFD of Laughingstock). Granted, there was a prequel to Fester of sorts in Powwows, and I have notes for a sequel but that doesn’t really qualify it as a series, per se.
The Cover of Doom
Then there was the cover. I had all manner of problems with the cover. This is not the fault of the artist; he gave me exactly what I asked for, and made it look awesome. The problem was that I had no idea what I really needed as a cover to help potential readers understand the myriad goofy aspects of the story.
Also, Amazon Advertising had issues with the book cover (see below), which they said was too violent. I’ve been over this in a previous post, so I won’t flog that horse but so much longer. One of the issues may have been that the people who review ads for conformance to advertising standards are in India, so there may have been a cultural issue at play. They may also have interpreted the shadows around the cops and the guy on the ground as pools of blood – although it sure doesn’t look that way to me. After repeated attempts to get someone at Amazon Ads to explain to me exactly what part of the cover constituted “excessive violence or gore, including, characters that have open wounds, are in the act of being attacked with weapons, dismemberment, [or] depictions of cadavers,” I got no response. After five attempts and no clarification, I decided to quit while I was behind and pulled the ads.
At that point, I had spent over $200 on advertising and sold exactly one (1) book. I probably would have been better off just using that money to buy copies of my own book and boosting the sales rank, which may have boosted other sales, via Amazon’s voodooesque algorithms.
All in all, it was an expensive lesson learned. I’ve got enough faith in Dawson’s system to give it a try with Jackrabbit– but not until I’ve retooled the cover. I guess the takeaway is Let the Buyer Beware. There are a lot of scams out there that prey on self-published authors. Mark Dawson’s course is definitely not one of these, but do your homework and make sure the system is right for what you write.
Hola, amigos! I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but things have been muy loco here at Sweet Weasel Words.
First, I’ve been spending the last several months posting a serialized version of a novella, called For They Shall Hurt. It’s a chilling story of friendship, misplaced faith and murder. It was an interesting process, although not without criticism. Some readers didn’t like to have to wait a week to read the next chapter. I like to think that I was imitating other authors who serialized their stories. For example, Stephen King’s The Green Mile was originally published in six serial volumes in 1996. In turn, King references Charles Dickens’ novels, many of which were serially published in magazines or as standalone “chapbooks.”
This is where any resemblance between Your Humble Author and the likes of King and Dickens ends. My decision to publish FTSH in serial form had more to do with the feedback I received from my writers’ group. I actually finished the first draft earlier this year, but I didn’t post the chapters until I had received feedback from my writing peeps at each week’s meeting.
Now that the novella is complete, I’ve turned my efforts to my next novel manuscript, tentatively titled Laughingstock. Right now, the MS is topping 115K words, which is about 25,000 more than I’d like to have for the final product. Also, I still haven’t finished the first draft; another 10,000 words is not out of the question.
In a previous post, I discussed the difference between “plotting” and “pantsing” in story construction. I am absolutely a pantser, and have really been pantsing the hell out of this story. Especially as the story approaches its conclusion, I’ve basically been driving all of the characters to the same place and seeing what the heck they end up doing. Now, I think I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can see a clear path to the end of the story.
The question for me is whether I should try to plot or outline that path that I can see through the haze, or just keep pantsing to the end. Doing the former would most likely speed up the writing process, which is a good thing. On the other hand, pantsing has gotten me this far, and I am loathe to abandon it now; similar to the way some baseball players don’t like to change their socks when they’re on a winning streak. (NOTE: I change my socks nearly every day.)
So I guess I’m not going to drop my pantsing for now, seeing as how I’m in the home stretch. I hope to be able to give a definitive report on this approach shortly.
Okay, gang, time for my favorite type of post: whining about book promotion and marketing. (Actually, I’d prefer to be fat and happy and selling a lot of books. It might be a while before I achieve that, so . . .)
As a goal for the new year (I don’t make resolutions), I decided that I was going to kick out the jams on book promotion and really try to do something about Fester‘s lackluster sales. There are different paths to different marketing goals, but as I was interested in boosting sales, it seemed like focusing on Amazon ads would be the best bet. After all, people on Amazon are almost certainly looking to buy something right then and there. For other platforms, such as Facebook, advertising would be more useful to increase brand awareness (whatever that is).
To get a better handle on Amazon’s complex advertising platform, I bought a couple of books and a spendy online course that offered to provide easy-to-follow steps to get a handle on this complicated process. I did my homework, came up with a very basic advertising plan, and eagerly navigated the Amazon ads console to set up four new ads, each of which had slightly different settings. The idea was to gather data to help determine how to better refine my advertising strategy.
The first three ads launched without a problem. However, for the fourth, I got an email from Amazon advertising saying that my ad had been rejected because the ad contained “excessive violence or gore.”
This was patently ridiculous. The ad – which was just the book cover – contained no such violence or gore. (You can see the book cover below.) I checked Amazon’s Creative Acceptance Policies, which admittedly I hadn’t bothered reading before, as the cover seemed pretty anodyne.
I checked the policies about what constitutes “excessive violence or gore.” According to their policies this includes but is not limited to (italics mine):
Brutality, graphic depictions of blood, open or sutured wounds, scenes of torture, dismemberments, or mutilations of bodies (including cadavers).
Overt references to or images implying or depicting rape and sexual molestation.
Clearly, this didn’t apply to the cover of Fester, so I filed an appeal. When the rejection was reviewed, it was upheld. The reviewer said: “When we reviewed the ad, we determined that the ad (Campaign Name: Fester – SP – Manual Category – Down) contained violent content. To ensure a good customer experience, we don’t allow ads containing images of human or animal abuse, mistreatment, or distress.”
I was genuinely nonplussed. The first perplexing thing was that the reason cited for the rejection of the appeal had nothing to do with the “excessive violence or gore.” I re-read the Creative Acceptance Policies, and notices the includes but is not limited to phrase. These are utter weasel words, which you’d think I’d be in favor of, given the name of this publishing company. Weasel words they may have been, but they were certainly not sweet. Basically, Amazon seemed to be saying that they could make the rules up as they went along.
This notion was reinforced when I considered that I had run ads for the same book five times previously (the three new ones plus two experimental ads from last year). All of these were accepted. Amazon was more than glad to take my money to advertise something from which they take a cut. Clearly, the “policies” were not being applied consistently. I figured that the first rejection was an overeager newbie, or an Amazon employee having a bad day. The judgment for the appeal seemed more like summary punishment for having dared question the mighty Bezos Machine.
After some back-and-forth on a FB group, I decided to go ahead and appeal the appeal. I was hesitant, as it seemed risky. I had three other ads running, and I didn’t want them to get yanked. If I kept fussing, I might get the book cover – and myself – on a permanent shitlist. After all, the nail that sticks up gets pounded down.
I also figured that the odds were in my favor: I was batting .833, with five out of six ads being accepted. If I just started over with new ads, I could probably just let them slip by whatever inconsistent scrutiny Amazon might apply.
I eventually decided to appeal the appeal and try to make an argument to Amazon. It seemed like the right thing to do; I will almost certainly be punished for it. If I lose the appeal appeal, I’ll probably just have to get a new book cover. Can’t really afford that right now, as I spent all my money on the fuckin’ advertising course.
At the end of the day, Amazon is the eight-zillion pound gorilla for the indie publishing community. Without Amazon, one’s sales channel options are significantly narrowed. So I will, if necessary, bend the knee to Bezos’ Bozos and offer my heartfelt contrition.
Back in November, I took part (in a limited fashion) in National Novel Writing Month. It was a great experience, and I met with a lot of really cool local authors. I’ve been writing with the same small group for (egad!) 13 years now, and it was great to broaden my local writing network.
One of the many things I learned was that there are two different approaches to writing fiction: “plotting” and “pantsing.” Plotting involves meticulously outlining the story, developing characters’ backstories and motivations, etc. Pantsing – as in “flying by the seat of your pants” – means just sitting down and writing with little or no planning.
I’ve done both. For Jackrabbit, I did a fair amount of plotting, as most of the story (at least the first 2/3rds) was based on historical events. I wanted to get those events right, as I knew that with historical fiction, readers could be especially particular about getting the facts just so. Also, I wanted to soak up as many factual details as I could, as it would inform the tone and story I was trying to establish with the parts of the book that were purely the products of my imagination. I did a lot of research and developed a detailed outline before I started writing the manuscript.
With Fester, it was the exact opposite: I just started writing. It was an interesting process, and it took the characters and the story in unexpected directions. A lot of times I’d sit down to write and thing, “What are these weirdos going to do now?” I really didn’t know the specifics until I was actually writing the scene and the results could sometimes be surprising. Bolly Bollinger ended up being a much more interesting character than I’d initially thought. I’m certain there’s a place for him in the proposed sequel.
I’ve been working on a new novel, working title Laughingstock. It’s about two comedians who grew up together and started performing stand-up as a team. Their lives diverge, and one goes on to comedy fame while the other remains in the stand-up doldrums. At the height of his success, the famous comic suddenly disappears, and his old friend goes in search of him, encountering all manner of ill shit.
I’ve been totally pantsing this story too, but I’ve run into a bottleneck with the antagonist characters. I was able to consistently crank out chapters during NaNoWriMo, but as the New Year turned, it began getting harder and harder. It finally got to the point where I was afraid I’d be writing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over – and then I’d go after Shelley Duvall with an axe. And that poor woman had enough of a time of it from Stanley Kubrick.
To cut Shelley a break, I decided to shift gears, and started working on a short story I’d had kicking around in the attic for a few years. I’m taking a step back from Laughingstock, to let some of the ideas ferment. I’m also going to apply some plotting framework to the pantsing story. I definitely need to work out the timeline better, as I have been taking a lot of liberties with timing and the order of events. I think that will help shake loose some of the antagonist characters – particularly the sociopath studio head and the psychopath director.
I’d really like to have a second draft of this novel done by year’s end. At the very least, I look to have a new short story ready to go. And if all else fails, I can get busy on a sequel to Reset.
Happy New Year, and here’s to hoping for a speedy recovery from the holiday season and maybe a glimmer of hope in the new year. This is a time of reflection and aspiration, where we look back at the mistakes of the past year, and look forward to the mistakes of the upcoming one.
As the Primary Scribe of Sweet Weasel Words, there were many things to celebrate in 2021. Well, by “many,” I mean two: publication of Powwows and the publication of Fester. Being a sole-prop APE (author, publisher, entrepreneur), every new title is an adventure and a learning experience.
Powwows was originally a story line from the monster first draft (~150K words) of Fester that was excised to bring the manuscript down to a tolerable size. I still liked the story quite a bit, so I hit on the idea of editing Powwows as a separate novella that would be released a few months prior to act as an “appetizer” by introducing the reader to the built world of Fester, Pennsylvania and make them eager to read the full-length novel.
In practice, I suspect I used up all of the goodwill in my friends-and-family fan base with Powwows. I got a fairly decent response from the gang about the ~18K word novella, but when the 90K word Fester hit the shelves, the response was, to coin a word, sub-monktastic. The attitude seemed to be “Oh, Christ, he’s published another one?” Plus, college football season was just starting up, so there was very little time for people to bother reading something I had spent 13 years crafting. OK, well “writing” might be a better word than “crafting,” but still…
So, take that as an object lesson: be careful of how you time your publications, so as to avoid reader burnout.
Looking ahead, what is in store for 2022? Or 2015? Well, I’m about 50K words into a draft of a novel called Laughingstock. It’s about two stand-up comics who get started in show business together as teenagers. As they grow apart, one experiences success in the laugh business while one continues to toil in small-time comedy backwater. As the successful one reaches the apogee of his success, he suddenly disappears. His friend embarks on a quest to find his friend – and take on the sinister Wolff Network.
I’m still not sure where the story is going to go, but I did get in the habit during National Novel Writing Month of seat-of-the-pants writing, which often takes the story in amazing and unexpected directions. I’d like to get the first draft of Laughingstock finished before mid-year.
Waiting in the wings is a sequel to Fester. During a trip to the unusual and interesting town of Astoria, Oregon, I came upon a fascinating story that would serve as a framework for a sequel. I came back from that trip with a 75% complete outline for the story. I was quite eager to get started on it when I returned from Astoria, but decided instead to forge ahead with the Laughingstock MS. I think this will allow the Astoria story to age on the shelf, as it were – and make for a more compelling story when I get down to writing it.
It’s been an interesting 2021; it promises to be an equally interesting 2022. That’s why I’m looking forward to 2015. Have a great year!