The Indie Spirit: Martin Short and Harry Shearer

My name is Jacke Wilson, and I’m an indie author.

Yes, there’s a stigma attached to this. All those people saying: “Who do you think you are, Jacke Wilson?” and “There is no check on quality anymore! You can’t just SAY you’re a writer.” and “The self-publishing world is like an agent’s slushpile times a zillion!”

I’ve gotten over it. Mainly for the same reasons I gave in my support of NaNoWriMo. What’s the harm to you, Madame Slushpile? Who are you to stop me from writing and publishing what I want?

And also…I do have eyes, people. I’ve been to Barnes & Noble. I’ve seen what the gatekeepers have let through. If anyone think they provide a check on quality, as opposed to marketability…well, I don’t know what to say.

When I first cranked up this blog I posted several tributes to what I called the indie spirit. These were links to people – famous people, celebrated authors or artists – who took things into their own hands. Ezra PoundDr. JohnsonStéphane MallarméMarcel Proust. I had others as well – ten or twelve, I would guess. Some were people who adapted to technology before the rest of the field. Or who wrote a book that was claimed to be “unsellable” or “unpublishable,” but who found a way to sidestep the naysayers and get their voice heard somehow.

I posted a lot of these because I was trying to talk myself into why self-publishing was a good idea. Every success story heartened me; I drank them in, in the way someone afraid of flying might stop off at the airport bar for “shots of courage.”

Now that I’m on the other side (two books, a podcast, a blog, and lots more on the way), I consider my efforts a success. Success on a tiny scale, sure. But tens of thousands of readers and listeners is far more than I ever expected. Frankly, it’s more than most of my friends who have published with traditional publishers have. That’s the dirty little secret of literary fiction: A few Mobys. Lots of minnows.

And my experience has been better than theirs! Most of them hate their publisher: hate the contract, hate the lack of support they received, hate the cover of their book, hate the changes they were forced to make.

I am responsible to no one. I rise and fall with my own decisions. It’s liberating. It feels creative. It feels artistic.

Everywhere else in my life I’m governed by forces out of my control. But in this realm, where freedom is everything, I have it.

My friends have been told that their lack of success on the first book means that publishers won’t want to see their second. Does this have anything to do with quality? Is this how we encourage artists and writers in today’s world? It’s a ridiculous premise.

Most of my friends are so dispirited they’re ready to give up. I’m just getting started!

But set aside all that highfalutin’ puffery. Save that for the intellekshuls, as my beloved Flannery might say.

The main difference between the old way and the new way is this: I was getting nowhere the old way.

I had an idea for a novella-length piece of work. Ready to go! Fresh paper in front of me! Blue pen all revved up! Just a quick run to the agent websites to see where I’ll be aiming this when I’m finished…

Wait, what? A novella? About a hundred pages? You’re telling me not to bother? Nobody wants them? Publishers won’t look at them? Agents laugh behind your back for being so naive?

But…I like reading them. Don’t others like short novels? People are busy, no one has time for a novel…Wait, why the hell are you getting in our way?

Writers! Readers! The decision to connect or not should be their decision, not yours.

Because, Jacke. Just…because.

So then what? Set down my pen? Or decide to bring it out myself?

I brought it out myself.

And whatever you think about its quality, I think you would have to agree that it’s a better outcome than setting down my blue pen altogether. (If you can’t even meet me that far, if you’re going to tell me that I should not even bother writing anything if it’s a length that traditional publishers don’t want to sell, then we’re just not going to agree. Thanks for stopping by. You can go work out your daddy issues or whatever is forcing you into the comfortable thought that People In Charge Know What’s Best For Us. I’ll side with the artists, and the people, and the barbaric desire to create, every time.)

Here’s where Martin Short and Harry Shearer come in. Remember the Men’s Synchronized Swimming sketch? It struck the young me like a hurricane. I did not think I had ever seen anything this funny before.

I hope you’ve seen it. If you’re over forty, you probably have. If you’re a comedy fan, you probably have too. It makes it onto a lot of lists. In any case, it’s here if you want to take a look.

Here’s Martin Short describing his first year of SNL and the short films in particular:

I remember after we shot synchronized swimming, I said to Harry, What do you think we have here? Do you think these pieces are any good? And he said, “I don’t know, but all I know is that in L.A. I would have had two potential meetings about an idea and here at least we’re shooting stuff.” So he was thrilled about that, I remember.

Yes! Yes! And to that I can say, “Stigma? All I know is that in the past I’d have spent a hundred hours writing synopses and cover letters to agents and this way at least I have actual readers.”

So who cares if Grandma’s memoirs go online? Let’s let freedom ring! Let’s let creativity rule! Let’s seize the power! And the day! And the reins! Let’s seize whatever we can get our grubby little artistic hands on!

You’re telling me that books can’t make it in the world without the stamp of someone official? That the author’s imprimatur is insufficient? I refute it thus, Madame Slushpile!

   

Onward and upward, people!

Small Press Shoutout: Owl and Zebra Press!

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Longtime readers may recall the Small Press Shoutout series, in which I celebrated those independent, brainy, well-intentioned, focused, even more focusedadorable, craftsmanlike, inspiring, dazzling, successful, friendly, quirky, cutting-edge corporate governance-y small presses. Here’s a list, with links:  Continue reading

Goodreads Giveaway: Politicians Are Human Beings. Maybe.

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Hello everyone! Some of you may recall the last time I did a Goodreads Giveaway, where I shipped off five free copies of The Promotion. I think it’s fairly common to recap these things, with a mathematical analysis of how many people requested the book, how many reviews it led to, what the impact was on sales, and finally some conclusions about lessons learned. Far be it from me to prevent information from reaching you, my loyal readers! So with apologies for the delay, here’s the list of conclusions I reached from the first Goodreads Giveaway:

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Today’s Comment of the Week: The Paralegal Checks In

Wonderful Reader K.C. writes:

The Promotion is definitely my next read. My “day” job is as a paralegal and the description is genius. Can’t wait to read.

Oh boy! A paralegal! Reading about “when big law meets big trouble…” This should be interesting

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It kind of reminds me of that time I walked into the kitchen at work only to find a paralegal sitting at a table, eating potato chips and reading a book called Kill All the Lawyers. I made a joke about it, thinking she’d quickly try to hide the cover. I thought she’d be embarrassed, having been caught reading this book at a law firm.

I thought she might apologize. I thought her face might turn red.

Nope.

She looked at the cover, looked back at me, and shrugged.

And now, the powder keg of The Promotion rolls its way into a firm, looking for a good spark. I’m sure K.C. will find much to enjoy. I’m sure she works with some crazy people, and she will enjoy finding that all the lawyers in the book are crazy too. Unless only some of them are. Or maybe just one.

In any case, I hope she reports back on whether she recognizes anything familiar. (And for her sake, maybe I should hope she doesn’t…)

If you’re a lawyer and/or you hate lawyers, or if you just work with them and hate them (no or in that clause!), or if you’re indifferent to those questions but you just like the idea of a modern-day Edgar Allan Poe character let loose in a law firm to cause whatever mayhem he can while still trying to pretend nothing is wrong, you may enjoy The Promotion, the book that’s been called “an exceptionally fast read” and described as having “humor, depression, and hope all together in one short book.” Amazon’s running a sale on it, people. A buck for the Kindle version, and $4.49 for the paperback.

That’s right. It’s a promotion of The Promotion. A phrase I try not to overuse but which always reminds me of this, which makes me laugh, so I guess it’s okay:

“An Easy and Sophisticated Read”: A Review of The Promotion by My Little Book Blog

“An incredibly quick read…this is a book that makes the reader think…” – My Little Book Blog 

Wow, another great day here on the Jacke blog. I’ve been very fortunate with positive reviews, and the latest review of The Promotion (from Lizzy of My Little Book Blog, who also reviewed The Race a while ago) is another one to print out and hang on the refrigerator.

I love everything about this review; it’s hard to clip passages. But I’ll start with this:

One of the things that I loved most about the book was Wilson’s ability to create so much content in such a short amount of space. We see the main protagonist build, and build to a peak, before seemingly spiraling out of control, unable to deal with the facts he has been told. The mix of trouble and depression contrasted with anticipation and promise is built up astonishingly well.

Great! And what about the humor? I promised “intrigue and deadpan comedy” on the cover…

The dialogue is sarcastic and funny, but has a deep sense of a struggle, and of anxiety which gives the book a deeper meaning which kept me turning the pages till the very last sentence had been read.

I think that counts! And then the review has this, which has had me smiling all day:

As in all of Wilson’s work the writing is beautiful balanced between dialogue and description and is smooth in the telling which makes for a very easy but sophisticated read.

Man. This is about as flattering as I could imagine. It’s hard to top this as a description of what I’m trying to do. Providing an “easy but sophisticated read” could basically serve as my mission statement. To hear that it struck a reviewer that way—particularly one with as much enthusiasm for books as My Little Book Blog—is truly gratifying.

My thanks to Lizzy at My Little Book Blog for the excellent review.  Onward and upward, people!

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You can check out my response to reviews of The Race by My Little Book Blog (“warm and full of life”),  Small Press Reviews (“an incredibly astute novella about ego and politics”), and Radical Science Fiction (“Self-Deception Is Human”). Or you can read my thoughts on a previous review of The Promotion by My Author Within (“humor, depression, and hope, all together in one”). I’m terribly grateful for all of the fine reviewing I’ve received by these indie reviewers.

And of course, you can find The Promotion and The Race at Amazon.com (in Kindle and paperback versions). The Race is also available in other formats and locations.

Are you a reviewer? Leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll ship you a free review copy of either The Race (ex-governor of Wisconsin recovering from a scandal) or The Promotion (D.C. lawyer becomes obsessed with a woman he’s never met). Or you can enjoy the 100 Objects series, which is still going strong, which are all available for free here on the website.

“Humor, Depression, and Hope All Together in One Short Book”: A Review of The Promotion by My Author Within

The Promotion was my first book by Jacke Wilson, and now I am wondering if I have been sleeping under a rock not to notice this amazing author…” – My Author Within

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Wow! Another great day here on the Jacke blog. The first review of The Promotion has come in, and it’s excellent. My thanks to Mariam at My Author Within for giving the book such an intelligent read and such an enthusiastic thumbs up.

I’m tempted to just cut and paste the entire review, but I’ll limit myself to a few selections. Here we go!

It was an exceptionally fast read.

Wonderful! Not only is this the goal for just about any author, in this case I tried to push the accelerator pedal a little harder to reflect the narrator’s obsession and his spiraling out of control. Glad to hear it worked!

Since the book’s main setting was in a law firm, it was important for me to see that the author did research and included believable material. Jacke Wilson’s knowledge of legal world makes me think that he has some legal education at least.

Good guess! And in particular the book takes a look at the craziness of recruiting season, when aspiring young attorneys parade through, encountering a lot of grizzled old veterans. It’s an unusual dynamic to say the least. A great setting for an Edgar Allan Poe style descent into madness.

The author managed to include humor, depression, and hope all together in one short book.

Thank you!

This is the type of book that makes you think and evaluate your own life. As I was reading it, I kept thinking if my life is any better than the main character’s?

I hope it is!

The character development was done amazingly well. The story introduced us to many characters, and the reader can fairly accurately describe each one. The protagonist’s character is very well developed. As I was reading the book, I felt his pain, his loneliness, and depression. He is a person who wants his job to matter. He wants to leave a legacy behind. He is a person who is obsessed with passion and passionate people, which sometimes leads to his downfall and reason for being lonely in the first place. If I were to describe him with a short sentence, I’ll say that he is someone who is going through a mid-life crisis, and realizes that he has nothing to show for the years he lived.

What an excellent encapsulation of the main character. I’m so glad it came through! Even though he runs off the rails, I have a soft spot for him too.

Jacke Wilson wrote the book in such a manner that every reader will have a different interpretation and understanding of the story. At the end of the book I felt just like I felt during the finale of “Lost” TV show. I kept questioning myself, and trying to understand what really happened. It takes a certain skill to be able to write in such a manner.

Yes! I’m so pleased to hear that this is coming through. One set of readers disagreed—each of the three had a different interpretation of what happened, and none could persuade the other. And another reader told me she read the book and immediately started over. I’m flattered and honored.

And my thanks to Mariam of My Author Within, whose thoughtful and salient review of my odd little book has truly made my day. I noticed that her blog is currently on hiatus as she studies for the bar. Let’s hope her legal career goes better than the narrator’s—as I’m sure it will! (It could hardly go worse…)

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You can check out my response to reviews of The Race by My Little Book Blog (“warm and full of life”),  Small Press Reviews (“an incredibly astute novella about ego and politics”), and Radical Science Fiction (“Self-Deception Is Human”). I’m terribly grateful for all of the fine reviewing I’ve received by these indie reviewers.

And of course, you can find The Promotion and The Race at Amazon.com (in Kindle and paperback versions). The Race is also available in other formats and locations.

Are you a reviewer? Leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll ship you a free review copy of either The Race (ex-governor of Wisconsin recovering from a scandal) or The Promotion (D.C. lawyer becomes obsessed with a woman he’s never met). Or you can enjoy the 100 Objects series, which is still going strong, which are all available for free here on the website.

“Self-Deception Is Human”: Book Review of The Race (at Radical Science Fiction)

“This was a great little piece of political fiction…Wilson shows his writing chops – immersing us in a political world that doesn’t feel jargony, over-the-top, or formulaic.” – Nic Eaton, Radical Science Fiction

I was both pleased and intrigued when Nic over at Radical Science Fiction graciously offered to review my book The Race. Because although The Race is not science fiction, I’d like to think it shares a common set of themes with works in that genre.

Setting aside the horse race of an election, or the debates about this or that issue, what happens to the people involved? What’s universal about politics and politicians? What does a political campaign do to the people around it? What do a campaign and the politicians we elect (or not) say about our society? Or democracy? Or us?

Questions like these are why shows like Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica are so compelling. It’s not the space aliens or special effects (cool as they may be). It’s the investigation into the human condition.

This isn’t a new idea of course. I only point it out to show why it was unsurprising that Nic, a fan of that genre, zoomed straight to the heart of what I was trying to get at.

Here’s the title of the review: Continue reading