Price Drop! Books Priced Cheap for Holiday Shoppers!

I know, I know. Holiday shopping is a pain. If you’re like me, you don’t want to set foot in a mall unless it’s to watch a movie. (Speaking of which, I saw Big Hero 6 other day, and it was not bad. My younger son choked up when he saw the part [spoiler alert] where the hero watches the video of his older brother, who earlier in the movie was killed in an explosion. It was so sweet! My little one’s love for his older brother is a powerful force. He denied it all, of course, claiming afterward that the only thing that made him sad was that not enough of the main characters died. Well, somewhere under that bravado is a soft sensibility. He’ll be like me someday! The big softie. I wanted so badly to see The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. I was outvoted.)

Cyber Monday is kind of a pain. It starts out fun, clicking away, shopping, shopping, adding to cart, adding to cart, and purchase! Christmas joy is on its way! And then it gets to be kind of a drag. American Giant, I love you man, but your emails are starting to overwhelm me. And Jen Bekman…we may have a problem. Don’t make me unsubscribe you. Please. We did some beautiful transacting together, once upon a time. I don’t want this ugliness to color the past.

Anyway! If you’re like me, you are tired of people selling things at you all the time. How much advertising? How many logos? How many requests? How many shiny emails? And yet…it’s inevitable! Because this is the season for giving. And, let’s be honest, getting. It’s just no fun to deal with crowds and payments and choices. When you don’t know what to buy someone, it feels bad. We love these people! Why can we not find one thing we think will make them happy?

Well, your troubles are over. Continue reading

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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!

Authors I Love: Penelope Fitzgerald

I’ve written before about the great Penelope Fitzgerald, an author who I think gets woefully overlooked these days. Which is too bad: I love her beautiful, understated style, her deadpan sense of humor, and sneaky-great themes. You should give her books a try if you haven’t already.

But really, why do I like her so much? There are a lot of books I like, and a lot of authors I admire, but something about Fitzgerald resonates deeply with me. I think there are three reasons:

  1. She was a late bloomer
  2. She wrote short books
  3. She was a great aficionado of failure

Those certainly hit close to home!

Yesterday I ran across a great article in the New York Review of Books about Fitzgerald, including this wonderful opening:

Just before Penelope Knox went down from Oxford with a congratulatory First in 1938, she was named a “Woman of the Year” in Isis, the student paper. She wrote a few paragraphs about her university career, dwelling solely on what had gone wrong.

Ah, Penelope. How can you not love such a person? I’ve been laughing all day, just thinking about it.

Here’s my own passage on failure (from The Race):

“Who’s he?” Tina said to the Governor in the foyer.

“My biographer!”

I explained that it was actually an autobiography – I was just helping him do some organization.

“Don’t sell yourself short!” the Governor said, gripping my shoulder.

I had not intended this comment to be self-deprecating – in fact it was something of the opposite. I wanted her to know that he had been writing his memoirs, that he was paying me – not that I was so drawn to his story that I, on my own initiative… I was not a vulture looking to feast on their marital carcass… but at that moment one of his boys crossed through the room we were standing in and disappeared into the hallway and the Governor chased after him to see how he was doing.

I stayed with Tina in the foyer. She clearly didn’t know what to do with me. I had no options but to stand there. Finally she invited me into the living room where we did not sit down but ventured into small talk.

It surprised me that she recognized my last name.

“Are you Mandy’s brother?”

“She’s a second cousin,” I said.

“And you live in D.C. now? What do you do there?”

I saw a flicker of approval, or at least curiosity. I was one of the ones who had left. Yet I was not such a success that she’d heard of me. I told her I was basically a lawyer.

“Basically?” She smiled faintly. I got the sense that she liked people. She hated her husband, but he was not in the room at the moment.

“I guess I am one,” I said. “It’s not something I ever thought I’d be.”

“A long story?”

I nodded.

She looked down the hallway. Now I saw her full smile; it dazzled me. “We’ve got time,” she said with a shrug.

“It’s strange,” I began, “to feel, every minute of every day, that you’re only pretending to be something that you’re not. I went to law school, I’m a member of the bar, I get paid to do the tasks that lawyers do. I meet with clients, go to court, conference with judges – and yet I never feel like it’s me doing these things. It’s not what I feel like I really am.”

She smiled warmly. “And what do you feel like you really are?”

“A failure,” I said.

#

The Race: A Novella by Jacke Wilson is available now at Amazon.com. A longer excerpt is available here.

Contest Winners! The Brilliant Readers Who Guessed the Cover Themes

So here was the contest: guess the cover art themes to my book The Race and win a free copy of the book.

As a reminder, here’s the cover:

Race_12_28_final (1)

I also gave a brief description that had a few clues. I was looking for two things, or maybe three.

The book is about American politics, which the blue background and white stars reflect (as if we’ve zoomed in on a corner of the American flag).

It’s also about twilight, as a politician’s career heads toward darkness. The black and yellow at the bottom reminds me of a Wisconsin highway at night, your headlights lighting up the road as you head toward the horizon with an open starry sky ahead of you. (A good image for the loneliness of the campaign trail, at least for this particular candidate and his erstwhile biographer.)

And finally, there’s the small star that’s hanging on. Falling? Rising? Just hanging on.

“There’s some dignity in that little star!” I cried to my designer when I saw it. “It’s hanging on in spite of all the odds. No one knows why!”

My main character is elliptical in that way. Why hang on? Well, maybe he’s not capable of anything else…

I know, I know: I get a little carried away. You have to remember that I love like these, from a great Kafka series:

trialmetamorphosisstoriescastle

Aren’t those great? The eye motif, so perfect for Kafka. And the art is bold and full of expression, and the meaning has some playfulness and thought to it.

Kafka is a hero of mine, and while not at all trying to compare myself to such a genius, I thought some of the absurdities of The Race had some affinities with Kafka (also Svevo and Poe). If the spirit of the art above could work for the covers of Kafka, I thought it would work for mine too. Hence, the lowly little star, struggling to maintain its place in the heavens.

Okay! Did anyone guess? Indeed they did! Readers nailed this.  Continue reading

International Feedback on The Race!

Yesterday I posted a quick little request that summarized my thoughts on the U.S. elections. And of course, I wrote a book about a politician, based on some personal experience I had ghostwriting the autobiography of one of our nation’s gems. The politician in my book, a former governor recovering from a sex scandal, exemplifies everything bizarre about our system.

What is it about democracy that produces such creatures? Is there something about the process itself that turns people into these aliens? Is it an American phenomenon or is it true of democracies everywhere?

Well, I’m happy to report that at least some of the ideas in The Race translate rather well. Here’s a report from a reader in India.

Some highlights:

I admire the governor’s character-someone who is more than determined to fight and make a comeback no matter what people think of him. Even after being humiliated by his Italian mistress, his sons and his wife he still goes strong with this character, smile and determination to fight against a stronger opponent.

Yes! There is something admirable about the governor. Something sympathetic. A pathetic creature. But dogged. He exists.

The story has its own pace and takes you by surprise on every shameless and unplanned statement the governor has to prove himself.

Thank you! I know this will sound a little self-serving, but it took me by surprise as well. I vividly remember the day when I thought, “Wait, we’re ending every chapter with someone telling him how much they hate him…well, all right then! Let’s get it on!

The story showcases a lot of American humour which clearly shows how people from different parts of the country think and behave differently in a particular situation.

Glad you liked it! It’s Wisconsin, for sure. But it’s also Anywhere, America.

All in all a hilarious piece of work…

Wow!

…with two different characters who come together to shape up the life of the governor in words and in turn realise how sensitive and greedy can human nature be at times.

Readers, could I ask for a better review? It’s so generous!

A great political comedy wrapped with insight on changing human nature.

Thank you!

You can check out The Race at Amazon.com and elsewhere. Paperbacks still less than 5 bucks, e-book versions still less than three. And of course, free books available to all reviewers. Aha, you say: I don’t review books for some fancy news organization or million-hit blog. Discrimination in action! No, dear reader, you’ve misunderstood. Any review counts – even on your own blog, even at Goodreads, even a plain customer review at Amazon. It all works for me!

My thanks to Janak Mistry for the wonderful book review (which I lost in the shuffle for a while – sorry for the delay, Janak!). And check out Janak’s writings about Tibet, we all need more Tibet in our lives.

Onward and upward!

Election Day Request

A request for Election Day:

On this national day of voting
Can’t we put aside our differences
And recognize the great source of our unity:
We all hate politicians

Go vote, everyone!

And then, after you’ve recovered from that, take a look at my book The Race, which is about a disgraced former governor trying to make a comeback after a sex scandal. He has it all: name recognition, funding, political savvy…and the hatred of a nation.

Onward and upward!

One Day Left! Free Books Almost Gone!

Quick note to remind you that the Goodreads Giveaway is almost finished.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Race by Jacke Wilson

The Race

by Jacke Wilson

Giveaway ends October 10, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

And when it’s finished? What then? Well, I suppose it’s back to you and me, reader. Amazon does have a discount on the books. The blog is always free. And review copies are still available. We’ll manage!